Category Archives: The TVD Storefront

Ryan Cabrera,
The TVD First Date

“I actually didn’t truly discover the beauty of vinyl till I was about 21 years old when I found my mother’s childhood record collection in the basement of my grandma’s house.”

I grew up with cassette tapes and whatnot but when I found that collection, it changed the way I listened to music forever. The first record of hers I played was the Woodstock performance and was obviously blown away. I dusted off every vinyl she had and took them home with me and a new sound was born in my ears.

Now when I’m home, my passion for the classics grows and grows every day ’cause I put ‘em on at night by the fireplace and play ‘em thru my Gramophone.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Heroine Sheiks:
Rape on the Installment Plan

I have a bad feeling that no one is going to read this review. But that’s not my problem. My problem, or I suppose it’s more of a gripe about a gross injustice, is that Cows/The Heroine Sheiks frontman Shannon Selberg has never gotten his just desserts. Minneapolis’ clamorous Cows put on the best live shows I’ve ever seen, and Selberg remains the most entrancing front man I’ve ever seen dominate a stage. Add a slew of wonderfully scabrous Cows’ LPs full of noise rock classics like “Hitting the Wall,” “Dirty Leg,” “Walks Alone,” “Allergic to Myself,” and “Cartoon Corral” and you’re left to wonder, “What does a maniacal genius have to do to become famous around here?”

Because the great American listening public repaid Cows (and its successor, The Heroine Sheiks) by consigning them to the fringes, along with other great bands from the Midwest like Killdozer, Halo of Flies, and Scratch Acid. It peeves me, it does. Here was an intelligent madman who wore a skinny penciled-on handlebar mustache, mousetraps on his ears, and a horrible wig beneath a battered cowboy hat but never cracked a smile. Instead he would puff out his skinny chest and belligerently stare down the audience, like Joe Pesci saying, “What’s so fucking funny about me?” Never in my life have I encountered a human being so simultaneously amusing and downright menacing.

When Cows took a metaphorical captive bolt pistol to the forehead in 1998, Selberg relocated to New York City and took a stab at acting before founding The Heroine Sheiks, a very different glass of milk from the brutal onslaught that was Cows. Selberg supplemented his trademark bugle with a cheap toy keyboard, and proceeded to produce songs that were less pummeling than slinky and slyly insinuating, although the band didn’t completely abandon noise rock. I remember speaking to Selberg by phone about The Heroine Sheiks’ debut album, 2000’s Rape on the Installment Plan (an homage to Louis Ferdinand Celine’s darkly hilarious novel Death on the Installment Plan), and he told me, I believe in all sincerity, that The Heroine Sheiks’ aim was to “put rock back in the fucking business.” Indeed, he predicted that their debut CD would become a make-out masterpiece, the next Let’s Get It On.

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Mariage Blanc:
No Autobiography Biography

“I met Josh in 2006 when we were both 22 years old. We had a lot in common, including the fact that we were both aspiring musicians who hadn’t really accomplished much yet in terms of meaningful musical output. We formed Mariage Blanc in 2007 and it seems almost surreal to me that the last seven and a half years have passed by so quickly.”

“Anybody who has ever been in a serious band at any point can tell you that it’s not unlike most of the other relationships people experience in the different realms of their lives: you bask in some pretty amazing times and endure some pretty low times, as well. Members come and go over the years, weaving in and out of your life. Dynamics change and so do the people involved. I can say without any hesitation that my involvement in this band over the years has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life, coming second only to my relationships with my fiancee, family, and friends.

A lot happens between your early 20s and 30s. During our time as a band, I’ve watched myself and my bandmates grow dramatically as both musicians and people. Invariably, this growth is accompanied by change. We came face to face with one of these changes when Josh and his fiancee made the decision to move from our native Pittsburgh to San Francisco last summer. It was a scary time for us. Josh and I have always had an understanding that we would continue this band until one of us is ready to stop, and while we were both fairly certain that the move wouldn’t mean the demise of the band, it was obvious that everybody (including myself) was nervous about the logistics of it all. Some friends and family were supportive about it; others seemed to doubt the likelihood of continuing a band under such circumstances.

For us, though, the bottom line was clear. We weren’t ready to stop, so we weren’t going to.

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Amy & The Engine,
The TVD First Date

“The first records I remember holding in my hands were Canned Wheat by The Guess Who and Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica by The Ronettes. Growing up, I was constantly exposed to classic rock and girl groups of the ’50s and ’60s, thanks to my dad’s eclectic record collection. With Motown melodies and classic rock guitar riffs filling my brain, I knew from an early age what I loved about music and what I wanted to carry over into my own songs.”

“I’ve always admired the straight forward love songs of the ’50s and ’60s, and the melodies and harmonies used to tell the stories. I think our first single, “Last Forever,” is my take on blending my classic rock roots with my love for the sugary melodies and sentiments of ’50s and ’60s pop.

Diana Ross and The Supremes’ Let The Sunshine In… I’ll admit, I was first drawn in by the cover art (I’m a sucker for pretty packaging and labels), but once the needle touched down, I was hooked. I still have that record in a box under my bed today.

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Graded on a Curve: Eternal Tapestry,
Wild Strawberries

Contemporary psych-rock veterans Eternal Tapestry practice in a branch of the style favoring seriousness of intent over faux-druggy tomfoolery. The Portland, OR group has scads of releases, but their newest considerably ups the level of ambition; Wild Strawberries, the band’s first 2LP, was recorded in a remote cabin over the course of a week and suitably finds them traveling into the aural wilderness. It’s out now on Thrill Jockey.

In tandem with the hippie movement’s proclivity for drug intake, the 1960s are designated as the apex of psychedelia. I’m not going to disagree, but I will add that most of the groundbreakers in the style took qualitative nosedives sooner rather than later by abusing not just substances but tropes swiped from blues, R&B, and to a lesser extent folk and country.

Some will decry it as heresy, but there are multiple units operating in the psych field right now that are the equal of their ‘60s antecedents, and one is Eternal Tapestry. While a few lineup changes have occurred over the years (notably Dewey Mahood leaving to dedicate his creativity to Plankton Wat), Eternal Tapestry currently consists of Nick Bindeman on guitar and vocals, Warren Lee on organ, Krag Likens on bass, Jed Lindeman on drums, and I’ll speculate Ryan Carlile is still around on sax and synth.

They’ve amassed a hefty discography, much of it on Thrill Jockey, though Guru Overload, a benefit for the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, came out last year on the Oaken Palace label. Wild Strawberries widens their scope not only in number of sides but in execution, and in psych terms it easily fulfills expectations of sessions conducted in a cabin located in a burg known as Zigzag.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Raincoats, (s/t)

I love a band that has no idea what it’s doing. I’ve always considered amateurism a virtue rather than a vice, and preferred a band that is capable of producing only a vile racket to the slick musicianship of so-called professional musicians. Which is why I adore The Raincoats, whose early gigs were so bad one eyewitness said that every time a waiter dropped a tray “we’d all get up and dance.” But amateurish as they were, The Raincoats had the good sense to turn their lack of chops into an asset, by writing a bunch of punchy songs that made the most of what they could do, namely produce a sound that was as perversely catchy as it was chaotic.

Personally, I suspect the motives of the guy with his waiter and falling tray. I believe he was a closeted Haircut 100 fan, and immune to the charms of the all-female post-punk band from London and their uncompromisingly anarchic, yet inexplicably melodic, sound. One listen to their 1979 self-titled debut should suffice to convince anyone in their right mind that The Raincoats were onto something totally unique. Sure, I hear faint echoes of Television, Talking Heads, Mekons, and the Velvet Underground in a few songs, but The Raincoats were beholden to none of those bands, just as they owed nothing to their punk predecessors, eschewing as they did speed and power for more off-kilter effects.

No, what they were doing was creating a sound all their own, and as a result they stand alongside The Fall and PiL in the ranks your wonderfully idiosyncratic English bands. That they never made as much of a dent commercially as The Fall or PiL is just one more glaring injustice of fate, like the fact that I wasn’t chosen in the NFL draft despite my own high estimation of my imaginary abilities as a running back.

The Raincoats’ sound is not easy to describe. Abrupt shifts in tone and tempo, multiple voices clamoring against one another, lots of truly off-kilter drumming and dissonant guitar scratching, and the wild pyrotechnics of violinist Vicky Aspinall all contributed to a sound that could swing from harsh to lovely in a heartbeat. And the difference between their sound and what was happening around them was deliberate; they wanted to set themselves apart from the rock tradition, which they considered both sexist and racist. They succeeded to the extent that they never attracted more than a cult following, which included John Lydon and, most famously, one Kurt Cobain.

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Mike Rutherford,
The TVD Interview

What do musical milestones mean to someone like Mike Rutherford? When you have invested nearly fifty years in one of the most iconic rock bands in the world, charted dozens of singles and sold 150 million+ albums, helped revolutionize the music video format, toured the world’s stadiums dozens of times over, and finally landed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame… where else is there to go? What else could you possibly do?

You just keep going. Mike Rutherford doesn’t like to live in the past. And while he is about to embark on a thirtieth anniversary tour with his band Mike + The Mechanics, he feels reflective rather than nostalgic. As Genesis was hitting their peak of worldwide pop stardom, Rutherford’s solo project became one of the most successful bands of the ‘80s. To celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Living Years album, and the thirtieth anniversary of The Mechanics, Rutherford re-recorded his biggest hit, the Ivor Award-winning single of the same name. The remastered The Living Years (released on February 10) also includes rare recordings from a 1989 tour, the inclusion of which inspired Rutherford to embark not only on a 2015 Mechanics tour, but to give some brand new songs of his a live stage.

On top of all of these musical milestones, Rutherford published The Living Years: The First Genesis Memoir. Far from being a Keith Richards-style tell-all, the book does delve deeply into the inside story of his musical life, as one might expect. But it diverges from there into a personal fascination of his: the parallels he discovered between his father’s memoirs and his own, and the stark generational divide that colored the relationship between the distinguished naval officer from his rock star son. It’s a unique take on the usual rock star tell-all that keeps things interesting. 

As Mike + The Mechanics get ready to embark on their massive U.S. and European tour that kicks off at The Birchmere and ends in Belgium, Rutherford touched on a lot of different topics in our interview: from the transformation of Genesis from progressive rockers to pop superstars, to how he prefers to record his albums, to what it’s like to make old songs feel new again for audiences all over the world.

When I was in England some years ago, I went on a coach tour through the countryside. We saw all sorts of beautiful ruins and other ancient architecture. Then the driver stopped our bus by your old school and announced, very seriously, “This is the school where Mike Rutherford and Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks and Anthony Phillips formed the band Genesis.”

Oh! Charterhouse, yeah! We live a few minutes away, so it’s still part of our world, yeah.

Growing up in the ‘80s, the Mechanics and Genesis were all over Top 40 radio. Did you ever feel any conflict about going from prog rock to a more pop-oriented sound? It seemed like a surprisingly natural progression.

Funnily enough, it didn’t quite feel like that to us, because when Peter left, the first two albums after—Trick of the Tail, Wind & Wuthering—were more progressive, so it happened over two or three albums, really. And then I still sort of questioned… well, what happened was a change in public perception. In the ‘80s, MTV came in and the hit single was so everywhere. The singles then had such a huge profile that they overshadowed the rest of the album. Of course, the singles tend to stick in people’s minds, so I think what happened was quite natural to me.

Some would argue that the mid-‘60s to early-‘80s was a unique period of time in popular music where the album was what was most popular; everything before and since has been about the singles.

Yeah, that’s true.

Speaking of singles, I listened to the new recording of “The Living Years” and wondered, how does that song resonate with you now, so many years from the emotions that inspired it?

I think the new track is paying respect to the anniversary. You can’t beat the original one, ever. It’s still very special to me. In a sense, the reason The Mechanics are touring is because about four years ago during some live shows I couldn’t believe how well some of the Mechanics’ songs went down on stage because The Mechanics… we hardly ever toured! We never did much touring ever so, in a sense, it was a new thing for me to hear all these Mechanics songs played on stage… and the audience really connected with them.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Pop Group,
Citizen Zombie

High on the list of unlikely reunions is The Pop Group. Known for boundary smashing fierceness shortening their initial existence while simultaneously enshrining them as one of the defining outfits of the post-punk-era, they were also rigorously ideological and by extension highly divisive. Therefore, any recommencement of activity would require continued commitment to prior ideals while displaying favorable musical growth in line with past accomplishments; Citizen Zombie, out now on LP/CD/digital, does a surprisingly good job.

Formed in Bristol UK in 1977, three founding members of The Pop Group are involved in this return to active business; vocalist Mark Stewart, drummer Bruce Smith, and guitarist Gareth Sager, the trio joined by longtime cohort Dan Catsis, who replaced Simon Underwood on bass in ’79. Amongst the first and most vociferous in critiquing the squandered possibilities of the punk uprising, they looked upon the Ramones/Pistols model not as the realization of a goal but as a springboard for a diligent and cross-stylistic approach married to lyrics, spoken words, and song titles of an unapologetically leftist bent.

It’s difficult enough for traditionally-inclined bands to pick up the pieces and rebuild an engine long dormant; the situation grows increasingly problematic when substantial ground was broken. Then again, maybe these observations are simply off target, the impulse to reunite deserving to be considered on an individual basis and minus the burden of living up to history. After all, The Pop Group rekindled for live shows roughly half a decade ago; had the gigs went dismally, it’s doubtful Citizen Zombie would’ve been made.

35 years have passed since For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? emerged on Rough Trade, and a huge aspect of the unit’s standing as groundbreakers, specifically the manic absorption of punk, dub, funk, free jazz, Afrobeat, and avant-experimentation, has become, if not the norm, than perfectly acceptable and not unusual; in fact, contemporaneously specializing in a style utilizing one hyphen or less actually courts being belittled as retrograde.

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TVD’s 9 weeks of vinyl giveaways, Week 2:
Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti (Remastered,
180 Gram Vinyl)

As we noted last week upon the launch of our first of 9 weeks of vinyl giveaways, it’s easy to forget that going on 8 years now when TVD was in its year one (as was Record Store Day) the vinyl medium wasn’t “back,” sales weren’t stellar, and indeed record stores were a fading lot. No, worse actually. Shops we’re closing at such a clip, their disappearance literally informed the launch of the site you’re reading at present.

And vinyl and record stores go hand in hand. Their shared intrinsic value is the cultural commodity and the bedrock of any local music scene. Don’t believe US though…hit up your locals and the marriage becomes crystal clear. 

But we too have been overwhelmed with the resounding popular and prevalent headlines as to vinyl’s big resurgence, yet they also arrive in tandem with far less rosy headlines such as “Starbucks to Open in Former Bleecker Street Records Space”—and worse, some very bad ideas when one advocates for record shops have, of late, become internet fodder. (Seriously, vinyl subscription clubs are the Carson Daly of record collecting.)

As such, picking up with an old TVD favorite, we’ve lined up 9 (count ‘em, 9) weeks of vinyl giveaways as we count down to Record Store Day 2015 to redouble our efforts to underscore the viability and the inherent need for your local brick and mortar record shops to remain the vibrant community touchstone that they intrinsically are. And while we kinda hate hanging out by the mailbox waiting for a record to show up (unless you’ve ordered it from a mom and pop or directly from a label!) we’re shipping out records for 9 weeks straight as sweet reminders that record stores are literally where it’s at.

For week 2 of 9, we’re delighted to send one of you a TVD HQ favorite.

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TVD Premiere:
Carmella, “Bare”

LA-based duo Carmella blends gothic vibes and electronica for what they’ve self-categorized as “cemetery pop.”

We have the pleasure of premiering their single “Bare” which showcases the band’s signature ethereal intensity. Beyond the powerful vocals and subtle production, one can find sonic solace in the hypnotic spaciousness of the music. Haunting synths and scattered electronic beats help the mystic imagery feel both mysterious and modern.

“Bare” is the second of three stand-alone singles set to be released throughout the first quarter of 2015. Carmella’s dark and alternative tonalities are certain to enrapture a wide spectrum of music lovers enthralled with Evanescence or Phantogram.

Carmella Official | Facebook | Twitter

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