“For me, vinyl has always been the only true representation of a record album. When I grew up, it was the era of the cassette tape, giving way to the CD. But, my parents didn’t have much extra money, so our version of a stereo system was an old console hi-fi from the ’60s with a built-in turn table and AM radio tuner that they had somehow come across years earlier. I also had four older sisters who seemed to posses the pinnacle of cool music. So for the most part, all this music that I was being exposed to as a child was on vinyl.”
“I remember my parents had an eclectic mix of vinyl, from my mother’s Joni Mitchell, Beatles, and classical albums to my father’s jazz records, and then all the stuff my sisters had. I know I destroyed my share of records as a small child trying to get them on and off that console hi-fi.
In hindsight, my parents had quite a bit of patience to let me ‘put a record on’ by myself, and probably some forethought to the importance of self-guided music discovery. I never knew what new sounds would come from the next record I’d put on the platter, so I kept listening to the next one, and the next one… I am sure it sounded technically terrible, but I remember the records on that old hi-fi creating a warm, comforting, and entirely enveloping experience.
Last of Our Kind is the first album in three years for The Darkness. It’s hailed as one of their finest records yet, and a maturation of their sound. “It is the best rock album you will hear this year,” says singer Justin Hawkins. “It is the best rock album you will hear until next time The Darkness makes an album.” It’s difficult to argue for a more appropriate title; they don’t make rock bands like The Darkness anymore.
“We’ve always been a cult band,” bass guitarist Frankie Poullain tells TVD, but that’s quite an over-simplification (and he knows it). It’s been over a dozen years since Permission to Land blasted rock music out of its same-y, neo-garage rut. Its influence punched the genre in the face and reminded people, who were too young to remember, what it was like for rock to be a fun, profane, exhilarating spectacle. With Last of Our Kind, The Darkness again unleash tongue-in-cheek bombastic rock music that delivers in spades and (figurative, possibly literal) pyrotechnics.
Frankie opined on many different things when we caught up with him in the middle of The Darkness’ latest world tour. He talked to us about what it was like to feature over five hundred Darkness fans on the album’s title track, why the band nests sincerity in their kitsch, and why they continue to love the challenge of defying expectations.
You’d built your reputation as a live band before you ever had a record deal. Now that you’re on your fourth record and your own label, how have things changed?
Well, we’re more empowered. It’s gotten to the stage where we don’t rely on other people; we take control of every aspect of what we do, which obviously is what a lot of bands are doing these days because there’s less room for mistakes these days—there’s less of a comfort zone, or a buffer zone. The profit margins that bands used to make that the record companies make them make—which basically comes from manufacturing CDs, which are very cheap to make—now you haven’t got that luxury anymore. This is good, because now we can focus more on the music and it’s more… realistic.
It’s good, or we wouldn’t be alive anymore. One [band member] hasn’t made it this far, unfortunately. That’s why the album has a slightly more defined… well, it starts off reflective… it’s more emotional, probably, than most of our albums, probably to do with that situation, which is tough. You can tell from the subject matter of some of the songs; there are personal things going on there, too. Then there’s also stuff like “Mudslide” and “Barbarian” as well. It’s a nice mix of things, and we’re very proud of it. The consensus seems to be that it’s our second-best album.
There seems to be something in the air at the moment—surf-rock is coming back in a big way and we can’t say we’re complaining. The most recent rockers on our radar to pick up on the trend are Scottish grunge-tinged twins, The Van T’s.
These girls have created a sound full of attitude, swag, and grunge-fueled guitars. Their latest free release “Growler” is a prime example of this—kicking off with a snarling bass line before reverb heavy guitars come into play, followed by the girls’ unique and captivating vocal delivery.
The Van T’s, aka Hannah and Chloe Van Thompson, describe themselves as “all you ever wanted from a ’90s dream.” It becomes immediately apparent when you listen to “Growler” that their influences range from not only the ’90s alt-rock scene, but also the ’50s, mixed in with West Coast surf sounds to create a wonderful cocktail of genres complimenting each other brilliantly.
Wild Billy Childish has played in many bands, with Thee Headcoats arguably the biggest. Flaunting ’60s beat rock swagger, ‘70s punk energy and a prole-art thrust of unquestionably British persuasion, for roughly a decade the trio of Childish (guitar and vocals), Johnny Johnson (bass), and Bruce Brand (drums) produced an unrelenting stream of material. Keeping up with it all could be a daunting task, but Elementary Headcoats: The Singles 1990-1999 admirably sequences 50 tracks across two compact discs or three vinyl records; first issued in 2000, on October 16th it’s back in print through Damaged Goods.
Author, poet, painter, photographer, filmmaker, publisher, and of course musician: Chatham, Kent, UK’s Billy Childish remains a crucial figure in various movements, and foremost amongst them is punk rock. By the formation of Thee Headcoats in 1989 he was already a veteran of a half-dozen outfits, the most well-known being the Pop Rivets, The Milkshakes, and Thee Mighty Caesars.
In sonic terms Childish is oft and fairly categorized as an indefatigable extender of the garage impulse, but just as importantly he can be assessed as an exponent of Brit DIY, a phenomenon linked to the rallying cry from the b-side of the Desperate Bicycles’ ’77 single- “it was easy, it was cheap—go and do it!” Scores took the advice either directly from the Bikes or through inspired peers, and subsequently Wild Billy’s activities gushed more abundantly than any industry would deem appropriate; in 1984 The Milkshakes released four albums…on the same day.
Childish’s longevity is largely defined by a constant tinkering with inspired simplicity. Proving impervious to fashion, he’s influenced numerous trendsetters along the way, and folks considering punk as an era or phase rather than an undefeatable style are likely to rank him as a curiosity or a fly-in-the-ointment. His racket is well summed-up by a verse from Alternative TV’s “Action Time Vision,” a tune tackled by Thee Headcoats in ’93 and one of this set’s highpoints: “Quarter notes don’t mean a thing/Listen to the rhythm, listen to us sing.”
Amoeba Records owners believe it’s high time they add pot dispensary to Berkeley store: “In the fight to stay alive, indie music companies like Amoeba Records are having to get creative to keep their heads above water. One way to keep the business in the black? Offer a side of marijuana to accompany the music.”
High School club goes vinyl: Indian Hill High School students in Vinyl Club share passion for records. Members also deejaying at various events. “As far as some Indian Hill High School students are concerned, vinyl still rocks.“
Crosley C-Series turntables targets more discerning vinyl lovers: “Known for its plug ’n’ play all-in-one turntable systems, such as the hipster’s favourite, the Crosley Cruiser, the American manufacturer has now released a more serious range of record players for ‘vinyl lovers.'”
Vinyl Records Are Making A Comeback: “Records are not just being revitalized for people who grew up with them, both Sound Garden and HIONFI said they see people in middle school, high school and college come in to purchase records.”
“Cassette tapes make surprise comeback: Those things you used to listen to on Walkmans and car stereos before CDs came along have been discovered by a new audience of consumers, and apparently there are some purists and older folks who like rewinding and fast-forwarding to find their favorite songs who have been buying them all along.”
Vinyl sales take off as it recovers its groove: Figures released by Gfk Chart-Track, a London-based company which has been compiling the Irish charts since 1992, show that 47,463 vinyl LPs and 3,728 vinyl EPs have been sold so far this year. The combined sale of 51,191 is 60% ahead of the 30,605 sold in the same period last year.
Legendary house producer—and one that Chicago is proud to call its own—Derrick Carter kicked off the evening with a two-hour set of constant dance-worthy moments. Jamie XX followed with his own 120 minute set of acute orchestration, peppering hits from one of the best albums of the year, his In Colour, with rarities that will soon achieve a regularity of play thanks to his epic live DJ sets.
While Chicago was spoiled with a Derrick Carter opening set that was worthy of a closing one, Jamie XX is still worth the price of admission should he be coming to a town near you this year. If nothing else (and there is certainly much) Jamie XX has resurrected the disco ball from its disco prison. Trust me, the light show is a vision.
Downsizing is usually not the case for bands. But songwriter Joshua Hanson has cut the size of his band Yellow Red Sparks by a third.
The band began in Orange County, CA., as a folk rock trio with its first release A Play to End All Plays in 2012. Now Hanson, paired only with bassist and singer Sara Lynn Nishikawa, can more directly get out his tuneful, personal songs of ache and mystery that won him the International Songwriting Competition earlier this year.
Drummer Darren Goldstein still seems to be around, though, as when his military beat kicks off “Violet,” the track that The Vinyl District is pleased to premiere right here.
The typically melodic track about the lure of a woman after two decades leads to the chorus, “I’ve known Violet 20 odd years, And she haunts me now.” It’s the penultimate track from the new six-song Yellow Red Sparks EP, “New Fangs Old Pangs,” due out October 16 on that similarly downsized format, the EP.
All jokes aside, New Jersey is a pretty great place. While it has a lot to offer as a state, it also has a rich musical history of which many people remain unaware. Everyone knows Sinatra and The Boss, but there’s much more.
Tune in to Garden State Sound with Evan Toth to explore the diverse music with connections to New Jersey. You’ll hear in-depth interviews with some of Jersey’s best music makers and have the opportunity win tickets to some of the best concerts in the state.
Many have been through Atlantic City, the rest know it—they are aware. But, few can identify it as a home, a base, a place where they grew up. John Arthur and Cristofer Slotoroff from The Deafening Colors met as mere teens. They know each other well and they know New Jersey, they are ready to use the Garden State as a model for their canvas.
Is Carousel Season a New Jersey concept album? Kind of. It starts by driving a heart full of damage down the “Parkway South” and brings us past Atlantic City and to other locations that hug the Atlantic Ocean. It’s an album of myriad textures and sounds: voices (John) and all other instruments (Cris) beautifully harken the California Sound—via NJ—and haunt your speakers.
Hey, out of towners: play this record to get a better idea of what it feels like to pull a fast Cadillac onto the Atlantic City Expressway on a dark afternoon weekday during late winter. It’s shiny, beautiful, well-constructed, but it’s also a little creepy, parched, foreboding.” —EZT
Kinky Friedman is a bona fide legend and Renaissance man. The country singer-songwriter responsible for such great songs as “Ride ‘em Jewboy” and “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” the author responsible for a score of mystery novels starring one Kinky Friedman, private detective, and a candidate for higher office on several occasions, you never know what Friedman is going to get up to next.
His latest triumph is a studio LP, his first in well over three decades, called The Loneliest Man I Ever Met. And it’s a surprise. Absent are the hilarious off-color tunes that made him notorious–the target of attacks by feminists, the Jewish Defense League, and Austin City Limits, which made Kinky’s the only show it ever declined to actually broadcast.
Instead of ribaldry and casual blasphemy, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met is a dead serious affair, featuring three completely wholesome Kinky originals and a handful of G-rated covers by the likes of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, Warren Zevon, and several others. Okay, so the Zevon song (“My Shit’s Fucked Up”) isn’t G-rated. But Kinky wouldn’t be Kinky if he didn’t step over the line at least once.
I got a chance to talk to Kinky by phone, and he was in prime form, quoting Winston Churchill and the “Hillbilly Dalai Lama” Willie Nelson and in general declining to edit anything that came out of his mouth. It’s what makes him so endearing. The fella just obviously doesn’t give a shit.
Of all the honky-tonkin’ hillbilly shit-kickin’ country-western stars ever to write a song about occupying a lonely bar stool, Moe Bandy is one of my favorites. And not just because he has a name that would be more appropriate for a Borscht Belt comedian. No, I love him because he sings mostly about honky tonk infidelity, and who doesn’t love a good cheatin’ song? He’s the King of Barstool Mountain, says it right in a song. He also delivers one of the finest lines in honky tonk mythology, to wit, “I just threw my last bottle at the juke box.” That, friends, is country music poetry at its best.
Bandy, a former rodeo bronco-buster and bull-rider turned sheet metal worker—a job he held for 12 years while trying to get his music career on track–finally broke and was huge in the late seventies and early eighties, but it’s been a while since any of his new songs have been played on country radio, which is his fault because he sanded off all his rough edges and got slick in order to stay abreast of the times, and it backfired. Now he stays close to his club in Branson, Missouri, and plays for a crowd that still loves to hear such cheatin’ numbers as “I Just Started Hatin’ Cheatin’ Songs Today” and “I Cheated Me Right Out of You.” To say nothing of the great “Just Good Ol’ Boys,” a non-cheating song on which he was joined by Joe Stampley—the pair that gave us “Where’s the Dress?,” an amusing novelty tune about Boy George that pissed off a lot of people, including Boy George himself.
I’m not going to lie to you; when he isn’t bemoaning the women he’s lost due to his thirst for liquor and wandering eye, he’s fully capable of singing maudlin numbers that I can’t abide. Like “Americana,” a slice of slick patriotic treacle that causes my gorge to rise. So awful it got played at George Bush’s inauguration, “Americana” is a celebration of small-town America and the virtues of patriotism, and it makes me feel like an America-hating commie son of a bitch, especially since I grew up in a small town and know damn well that far from being idyllic places to raise your kids they’re hotbeds of boredom, bigotry, and in-bred ignorance.