Surf rock has found its way far from the west coast. Barcelona based five-piece, Holy Bouncer recently released their single “Anticipation,” a groove that takes the staples of the genre and fuses them with surprising new accents.
So far, Holy Bouncer has released four official tracks and a few covers online, like the Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.” Although their catalog may be slim, every track seems wholly composed, traversing through different tones—from ripping solos to more mellow interludes—underscoring the group’s sound as one full of startling twists.
Take “Anticipation.” It starts slow, ambling through a catchy riff. A few bends on the guitar signal an energetic break—the only place the song’s going is up. The wait for this melodic explosion lingers through the first verse, then suddenly, the track evolves into a full-on crescendo of howling vocals and bright guitar solos. A kid’s choir enters later singing the chorus, showcasing the band’s penchant for bringing the unexpected. The video is simple, splicing studio shots with live recordings, presenting fun in its most elementary form—playing good music.
Recent unexpected deaths remind us not only of our ultimate shared mortality, but our general inability at such times to express loss. And that’s where music comes in.
“Birdhouse,” the latest video from the Cleveland band Seafair that we’re proud to premiere today at TVD, uses the band’s strengths to pledge love and continued devotion to those departed, in a most tuneful way.
Like many of the band’s songs, it’s built on the snap of Ryan Kelly’s drums, over which the acoustic guitar and bass of Michael Flaherty and Joshua Riehl are deepened and colored by the tastefully done violin and cello of Andrea Belding-Elson and Tara Hanish. Atop all of that are the warm and rich vocals of Chayla Hope, who also provides keyboard touches.
Visually, the clip for Seafair’s “Birdhouse” is as lyrical as the sound, with its indication of memory marked by a stack of shared favorite vinyl, the flipping pages of a book, or especially the flocks of birds coming in to land. Throughout, the visual constant that’s front and center is its chief symbol of remembrance—not some mournful shroud or stone marker, but that most hopeful sentinel of spring and flight, the birdhouse.
Ten bonus points and a dead baby if you can tell me which album John Lydon called his favorite of all time. All time! That means he likes it more than KC and the Sunshine Band’s The Sound of Sunshine or the Eagles’ Hotel California even! Unimaginable! Well, if the dead babies reference didn’t tip you off, which it certainly should have, the former Johnny Rotten’s favorite rock album in the whole wide world, including the Sammy Johns record with “Chevy Van” on it, is Alice Cooper’sKiller.
1971’s Killer followed hard on the heels of that same year’s breakthrough LP for the band, Love It to Death. Which I prefer to Killer, but who cares? I’m not John Lydon. Anyway, Killer cemented the band’s reputation for writing songs of macabre weirdness, which they milked for all they were worth with a live show that included decapitations, gallows, giant snakes, the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, 7,000 showgirls wearing glitter-encrusted Nazi jackboots and porcupine-spike bras, a full-scale reenactment of the crash of the Hindenburg, and an elderly Dr. Josef Mengele playing cowbell. Okay, so I exaggerate. But the band’s gory and fantabulous live show delighted teens while deeply disturbing parents, who were convinced that Cooper’s magically morbid extravaganzas were going to instantaneously transform their kiddies into wild-eyed axe murderers. Which made the kids love it even more!
I’ve said before that the perfect LP would have combined the first three tracks of Love It to Death—in which guitarists Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce play like men possessed by the Devil—and the first two tracks and “Dead Babies” from Killer. But that’s not the way it went down, and I have to (resentfully) live with it. I suspect they had slave-like contractual obligations with their record label that obligated them to put out two albums in 1971, when they’d have been much better served by only releasing one. That was how things were often done back in the day, when record companies behaved much in the same way as antebellum southern plantation owners.
“The first record I ever bought was ABBA’s eponymously titled album. I was 14 and I listened, enraptured, to ‘Mama Mia’ over and over and over again. Now I have a bigger collection of albums that I listen to on my little Crosley suitcase-record player. It’s been with me for the past five years and it turns every space I’m in into a home. I don’t like to listen to MP3s—they’ll do in a pinch if I need something fast, but they don’t feed my soul the way a vinyl record does. Music sounds different on vinyl; more alive, more present, more sacred. More real. With vinyl, the act of putting on a record becomes an interaction instead of a one-way kind of consumption.
When I have it my way, vinyl is all that I have. It’s more of an effort to get the music I want on vinyl, and it takes more time, but there’s also that element of finding music that you didn’t even know you needed. I always look through the bins at secondhand stores and garage sales. For some reason, there are always ten times more Johnny Mathis records than any other in those bins. Can someone tell me why? I have a few, just because it seems like a prerequisite to a record collection. And I feel bad for all of the orphaned Johnny Mathis records. They’re great.
Underneath the overlapping narrative of established musical innovators can be found an even more complex web of figures less well-known but just as crucial to the advancement of recorded sound. Tony Conrad is one such contributor; although we lost him to prostate cancer on April 9 his art, wholly ahead of its time and spanning from experimental film and video to robust drone-based early minimalist musical settings is destined to span centuries. For years the highest profile doorway into Conrad’s sound world was his 1973 collaboration with influential Krautrockers Faust, and Outside the Dream Syndicate’s fresh reissue on LP/CD provides an easy opportunity to get acquainted with an avant-garde master.
Like a lot of folks, my first exposure to Tony Conrad came in relation to the Velvet Underground. Specifically, the entry-point related to his participation in the Theater of Eternal Music aka the Dream Syndicate, a ’60s minimalist group featuring La Monte Young, his wife Marian Zazeela, Conrad, original VU drummer Angus Maclise, and John Cale.
For many Velvets fans Conrad’s name is of little more than trivial concern, with the book that named the group reportedly belonging to the filmmaker/musician, but for a small pocket of devotees the work of the Dream Syndicate; slim, mysterious and commercially unavailable for decades, represented an unattainable object of desire.
By the time the bootleg tape-sourced Inside the Dream Syndicate Volume I: Day of Niagara was issued to much controversy in 2000 by Table of the Elements, the same label had already released Early Minimalism Volume One, a 4CD set of ‘60s material, Slapping Pythagoras, a ’95 recording with contributions from John Corbett, Jim O’Rourke and David Grubbs, and the initial ’93 repressing of Outside the Dream Syndicate, so much of the intrigue surrounding Conrad had dissipated.
Growing up, Lisa Loeb was obsessed with vinyl. But when her career took off in the ’90s, cassettes and CDs were the most popular formats.
Before her upcoming Spring performances, Lisa took the time to talk with TVD about finally getting to release on vinyl and the perks of having an audiophile husband.
With a lot of your upcoming tour dates you’re doing two shows a day, one for kids and one for grownups. Is it fun to play for two different audiences in one day?
I’m just getting into doing it. We finally realized I should try doing more combinations where we do both, kids and grownup shows, in the same place, or at least the same city, same day. Sometimes clubs and venues don’t want you playing more than one show in the area because they feel like it competes with itself, but I do get a lot of crossover audiences. A lot of adults, who are fans, will come to the grownup show and also come to the kids show. But I have a very full life, so it’s nice to be able to do double duty and play two different shows in a day and hit two different groups of my audience. So, I’m trying that out. I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be fun.
Are your performances for kids a lot different from those for grownups?
Yeah. Well, they’re really similar in the way that I have a setlist of songs I think I want to play, but there’s always space for requests. And each show is different depending on what the audience is like. They’re similar in that way, but they’re totally different in the songs that I play. For grownup shows I play songs from my albums or new songs I’ve written. I’ll usually throw in a couple of kids songs in those shows because there are a lot of parents who know my kids music now and they want to hear it. Or even just to get the word out for those who do have children and don’t know I make music geared towards kids, but songs adults will also enjoy. So, I throw in a song here and there. And the word play is really fun, so grownups have fun listening to it. It’s a nice relief from hearing a lot of songs about love and breakups.
And at my kids shows I usually stick to all my kids music. I play a lot of nursery rhymes now, because I have a new nursery rhymes record out. Even before that I played a lot of classic kids songs, but also a lot of my original music. Or summer camp songs that I like to share with kids, where they can participate and we can all sing together. Every once in a while I’ll throw in a grownup song. I try to remind adults that if they want to hear something during the kids show they need to let me know or else I’m just going to do kids songs. Sometimes I’ll play a school and the teachers will want to hear a grownup song. They’re not totally inappropriate for kids just a little bit of a different feeling. But it all seems to work out.
Petra Haden has accumulated a long list of credits in her 20-plus years as a professional musician; alongside her proficiency on a variety of instruments including main axe the violin is a unique and welcoming aptitude as a singer, and fortunate ears received an eclectic dip into her vocal talents via the largely a cappella 1996 debut Imaginaryland. It paired well with 2005’s Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out, a voice-only reconstruction of the stone classic from the titular British band, and in a fine turn of events both releases have been given fresh vinyl pressings through the auspices of the perennially classy Hoboken, NJ label Bar/None. Get ‘em while they’re hot.
Generally the first thing related in essays of Petra Haden’s background is her deep familial roots. Being a triplet sister fathered by the great jazz bassist Charlie Haden isn’t the sort of information that gets cast aside, especially since Rachel and Tanya are also musicians; the three have recorded as the Haden Triplets, in fact. Older brother Josh further adds to the equation as the longtime leader of the group Spain.
Sheer acumen as a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist has secured Petra’s role in a wide range of bands and projects; she’s a former member of The Decemberists, was half of duos with Bill Frisell, Miss Murgatroid (aka Alicia J. Rose) and Yuka Honda (as If By Yes), and has contributed to recordings by The Twilight Singers, Victoria Williams, and Sunn O))).
She made her initial splash as violinist-vocalist next to bassist-vocalist sister Rachel, guitarist-vocalist Anna Waronker and drummer Tony Maxwell in that dog. As a draftee of the David Geffen Conglomerate the indie/alt outfit released three well-regarded full-lengths from ’93 to ’97; while they did find an audience in the midst of the flood of product hitting record store shelves across the decade, with the exception ’97’s minor Modern Rock hit “Never Say Never” they lacked the chart motion desired by the majors.
“I don’t think I appreciated the artistry behind an album until I started collecting vinyl.”
“One of my friends had boxes of records he wanted to get rid of before he moved to a different state and he dumped them at my house and I got to look through – judging an album by it’s cover was always fun and spinning the mysterious ones was enjoyable too. Not to mention, the album art of the seventies is just so amazing. (Can we talk about Captain and Tenille?)
I proceeded to steal a bunch of vinyl classics from my parents and then finally became a regular at neighborhood record stores. I bought modern and vintage records and some would come with surprises. I got a Simon and Garfunkel record that came with an absolutely brilliant double exposure poster of the two of them with the 59th street bridge. And I absolutely loved Radiohead’s In Rainbows packaging. I love the hands-on experience of vinyl and the opportunity for bolder artwork choices.
When it comes to the bands representing the “Philadelphia Sound” that came to dominate the soul charts in the early seventies, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes were inarguably the best. Signed to Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International label in 1972 and featuring the mind-blowing baritone of lead singer and soul legend Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes recorded masterful soul, R&B, and disco tunes that were alternately inspirational and heartrending, thanks chiefly to the band’s myriad musical talents, the stellar production of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, and the almost phantasmagorically powerful pipes of Pendergrass, who at his most passionate could both cause people of the female persuasion to swoon and blow the wooly off a mammoth.
I picked Collectors’ Item: All Their Greatest Hits! for two simple reasons; (1) it really does cull the biggest hits from the band’s golden years of 1972-1975 with Philadelphia International, before Pendergrass defected to pursue a solo career, and (2) it has one of the cheesiest album covers I’ve ever seen, a horror of pastels with the band in blue leisure suits (with Harold in lime green!) huddled together as if for protection against the dubious painting skills of one Victor Juhasz. I have half a mind to buy the album and frame it on my wall next to a black light painting of a unicorn.
Melvin & The Blue Notes were a vocal group, and the music on their songs was provided by the legendary MFSB, a stable of more than 30 musicians based at Philly’s Sigma Sound Studios who also worked with the Spinners, Wilson Pickett, the Stylistics, the O’Jays, and others. They’re chiefly remembered for their great proto-disco track “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia),” which was to become the theme song for Don Cornelius’ Soul Train. How cool, I ask you, is that?