Monthly Archives: June 2014

Needle Drop:
Those Mockingbirds,
“Model Myself”

Those Mockingbirds’ hybrid alternative rock is likely to resonate with fans of both country and emo grunge. Their southern accented riffs are complemented by sugary harmonies, making for a wonderfully raw listen that is both engaging and accessible.

Their new single “Model Myself” busts out of the gate with a colorful guitar line, preparing the listener for the storm of lyrical fuzz and plaintive melodies that quickly follow. It is a blinding showcase of the bands strengths; well-crafted hooks imbued with heavenly distortion. The song is laid down with taste and confidence and is an excellent barometer of the other material on their newest full length release Penny the Dreadful.

Penny the Dreadful is out July 1st and boasts ten tracks that easily veer from lush, singer-songwriter blues to grandiose garage rockers. While I wouldn’t classify their sound as eclectic, Those Mockingbirds deliver a wide variety of sounds, and would not be surprised to hear one of these tracks crack the Top 40.

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Dot Hacker:
The TVD First Date

“Growing up, and as far as I can recall, there was this massive edifice in the living room…Dad’s records.”

“It was a full bookshelf, about seven feet tall. I remember it being where all of these amazing sounds and images came from. From the Culture Club to the Beatles. Records! I could tell me father didn’t like me having free reign over what he obviously spent and great deal of time building, organizing, and maintaining. Of course, that made me want to get up in it even more, but I had to do it carefully, secretly, and above all, (very) respectfully. I treated these colourful twelve-inch squares each like fine works of art. My love and reverence for records was born.

My generation’s, well…that, was CD’s. I did the same as my father with my CD collection. Exactly the same. The same careful, alphabetical, fastidious organization. As a kid, whenever a little extra money showed itself, I’d always buy special records on vinyl, or take a day and go margin binning. Slowly building a little collection of my own.

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Ian Anderson,
The TVD Interview

“That’s vinyl. That’s what it’s all about—trying to get the best of a bad job.”

It’s a fine thing to draw the rancor of one of rock music’s innovators. I mean that sincerely. While it is difficult to know if Ian Anderson was simply being cantankerous or if he truly feels that vinyl is the purview of right-wing political extremists… it doesn’t much matter. And it is unlikely that his fans will notice or care. It’s never been about opinion with Anderson—it’s always been about the music first and foremost. Vinyl as a format is as much about knowing your limitations as it is about enjoying them. Anderson enjoys neither limitations nor conventions, which should come as no surprise to…well, everyone. 

Ian Anderson’s agnosticism towards vinyl is consistent for a musician who thought nothing of treating rock music as bizarre pantomime/symphony. Nobody thought of playing the flute with the gusto of electric guitar until Ian Anderson came along; never formally trained, Anderson was just as ragged and brilliant with the flute as any of his contemporary “guitar gods” were with their instruments. With Jethro Tull, Anderson did everything he could to exorcise the fey from the flute, making it something fairly menacing and, even, metal. (Don’t let any Metallica fans know I said that.) He continues the tradition in 2014 with his latest opus, Homo Erraticus.

To his well-deserved credit, Ian Anderson has done little in past years to rest on his laurels. His feelings about the world in which we live and the people who inhabit it are evident in this TVD interview as they are in his new album, Homo Erraticus—the “wandering man”—a pre-and-post-apocalyptic musical tome that, like its creator, dwells somewhat obsessively on the present (and ongoing) conundrums of immigration, climate change, and mindless conflict.

Yet it’s the past that is the vehicle for the story. The sound of Homo Erraticus is almost startlingly Tull in its instrumentation and in its Biblical overtones. “It’s not Thick as a Brick 3,” Anderson proclaims. Yet the concept album marks the third coming of the character of Gerald Bostock, who first appeared in Jethro Tull’s 1972 opus, Thick as a Brick and, in 2012, Thick as a Brick 2. Today, Bostock has a blog and a Facebook account and a Twitter handle, so it could be said that Anderson’s characters and stories—while rooted in the past—have not resisted the future.

Anderson is about to embark on a yet another world tour in Europe this summer and the US in the fall. We were lucky to chat with him as he was preparing to bring his music, both new and old, to audiences worldwide. 

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Shell Zenner Presents

Greater Manchester’s most in the know radio host Shell Zenner broadcasts the best new music every week on the UK’s Amazing Radio and Bolton FM. You can also catch Shell’s broadcast right here at TVD, each and every Thursday.

“I’ll have my #shellshock to share with you today! If you haven’t heard the newie by Boxed In yet, YOU MUST!

There will be the usual accompaniment of new and emerging music as I spin some of the best new Alt releases. Love music? Don’t miss it.” —SZ

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Graded on a Curve:
The Gun Club,
Fire of Love

The Gun Club underwent myriad changes in personnel during their existence, but the one constant element was founder Jeffrey Lee Pierce. In 1979 he formed a group whose impact is still being felt today. The best place to begin investigating Pierce’s achievement is at the beginning, and on July 8th doing so becomes a whole lot easier through Superior Viaduct’s compact disc reissue of The Gun Club’s classic 1981 debut Fire of Love.

Whenever OFF! undertakes a tour there’s undoubtedly a smattering of older heads reliably if reluctantly finding themselves getting a little misty around the eye sockets when the band pencils in “Jeffrey Lee Pierce” for the set list. Deservedly so, for that song, all 1:21 of it, is a tribute to an important if undersung rock contributor, and not by a fan but from a close friend. Indeed, the intro to the cut on Live at the 9:30 Club finds Keith Morris steeped in emotion, his preamble roughly as long as the track itself.

Now, some folks might get a bit miffed over certain umpteenth-generation hardcore whippersnappers only knowing of Jeffrey Lee Pierce because Morris wrote a song about him. But easy there, partners. We all tend to occasionally idealize and even embellish our paths of musical discovery, mainly due to the reality sometimes being as bland as simply plucking a cassette from a discount bin. That was this writer, fishing a severely marked-down copy of the third Gun Club album The Las Vegas Story from a massive box of cut-out tapes in a mall chain store back in 1987.

Perhaps somewhat more interesting is what led me to make that purchase. I first learnt of The Gun Club through an article published in an anthology/anniversary issue of Flipside magazine. Having been exposed to punk not long previously, restlessness over the music’s generic inclinations had already set in, and simultaneous to the almost daily unearthing of new delights.

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TVD Live: Arctic Monkeys at Jacobs Pavilion, 6/22

PHOTOS: JARED PERRY Let me take everyone back for a moment to 1995. August 10, 1995 to be precise.

This was the day my musical taste began to take shape and my life changed forever. That’s far from hyperbole too. On that late summer evening in 1995, I saw my first concert—Weezer at the Nautica Pavilion.

That night, my scrawny little 13-year-old self had his mind fucking blown by live music for the first time. I remember it vividly too. My dad worked security and kept one eye on me and my friend while we parked our asses on the bleachers under strict orders not to move.

The opening jangle of “Surf Wax America” from that night still rings in my head now. My brain swimming with how fucking crowded the show was and everyone was freaking out to the same thing. I remember the giant =w= logo behind the stage and how larger-than-life it made the band seem. Those flashing lights and loud chords sparked a passion to see as many shows as possible through my high school and college years.

It’s crazy how some things stay the same, even as time moves on.

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TVD’s Top 20 Acts of Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2014


CHARLES GREY AND MORGAN SWANK FOR TVD | Yes, it’s very hot. But there’s a lot of great music, and you might bump into a friendly face.

People travel from all over to hear the sounds and see the sights, and you’re just as likely to meet an ignorant horde of party people as an individual who is hoping his favorite artist plays that one B-side at the smallest stage at the festival.

Bonnaroo in its strengths and weaknesses really is about surviving the conditions of weather, overcrowding, and the occasional bad company to enjoy a great show with total strangers in the context of the exciting and abundant energy that surrounds the event. We broke down the top 20 acts we saw at this year’s festival.

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Graded on a Curve:
The Great Kat,
Wagner’s War

I’ll say one thing for The Great Kat; she’s certainly not lacking in self-esteem. The guitar-shredding High Priestess of neo-classical thrash has not only claimed to be the reincarnation of Beethoven, but in what may well be my favorite rock quote of all time once said, “I am bringing my genius to idiots who cannot go out and reach it for themselves because they are too stupid.” If only all hubris were that hilarious.

Born Katherine Thomas in 1966 in Swindon, England, but raised in NYC, The Great Kat is a Juilliard-trained violinist turned thrash metal guitarist who has made it her mission to produce speed metal “reinterpretations” of classical works by the likes of Rossini, Beethoven (see 1990’s Beethoven on Speed), Vivaldi, Wagner, and plenty of others. I happen to find the whole idea knuckleheaded in the extreme, and the worst thing to happen to rock since that unholy triumvirate of Emerson, Lake & Palmer saw fit to adapt the works of classical composers for their own nefarious and unbearably pretentious ends.

I have always been disgusted by the whole raison d’être of progressive rock—namely that rock’n’roll is a childishly simple and primitive musical form that requires an infusion of classical elements—or classically trained musicianship—to elevate it to the level of “real music.” I happen to believe that three chords are two more than you really need to play great rock and roll, and such musical elitists/rapscallions as ELP and The Great Kat make me want to reach for my Killdozer. Elvis Presley said it best when he said, “I don’t know anything about music—in my line, you don’t have to.” There will always be a place for musicianship in rock music, but at bottom I concur with Johnny Thunders, who said, “Rock’n’roll is simply an attitude. You don’t have to play the greatest guitar.” You don’t have to know jack squat about the circle of fifths, Abdämpfen (I think this has something to do with dampening your sound, presumably by letting your guitar steep overnight in a vat of Dunkler Bock), or abandonatamente. You just need to know how to make a righteous din.

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The Nearly Deads,
The TVD First Date

“I’ll be honest…I don’t even own a record player. I’ve been asking for one for Christmas for a few years now…”

“Years and years ago, everyone had a record player. Nowadays, not only are they hard to find, but they are kind of expensive for a starving artist like myself. I get most of my music on Spotify or iTunes. However, that doesn’t mean I still don’t want to experience music on vinyl. I say ‘experience’ because that’s truly what it is. Listening to a record start to finish on vinyl is something you take time to do, to truly savor the sounds and warmth of the tones. It’s on my agenda to one day have my own player. I actually only own one record personally, an Original Soundtrack recording from Singin’ in The Rain!

Not many people know this, but my background is in music theatre, opera, and classical music. Whenever I’m sifting through old records at McKay’s in Nashville, TN, I’m ALWAYS hoping for a Bernstein conducted piece. Or a Puccini opera. Or some rare original performance of a Stravinsky piece, like The Rite of Spring. There’s absolutely something amazing about hearing these classical performances on vinyl, because back then, they had no choice but to record them to vinyl. And every performance is different. So I love that McKay’s has tons of classical records. You NEVER know what you’re going to find. And there are some rare performances floating around out there.

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Needle Droppings:
The Buoys, “Timothy”

You’ve got to hand it to the Buoys. Upon scoring a one-single deal with Scepter Records back in 1971, the Wilkes Barre-Scranton, PA band decided to use their one shot at a Top 40 hit and pop stardom by recording a perky and cheerfully upbeat-sounding little ditty about—cannibalism. That’s right, cannibalism. As in, “People/People who eat people/Are the loneliest people in the world.” Written by Rupert “The Pina Colada Song” Holmes, no less!

The idea was so seemingly mad, so bizarrely ill-advised and self-defeating, that it had to be a shuck. And it was. It was Holmes’ devious notion that “Timothy”—which was recorded in Scepter Studios in Manhattan, in the same space that would later become Studio 54—would so appall everybody it would be banned from every Top 40 station in the land. In turn generating such publicity—negative granted, but like they say, any publicity is good publicity—that the Buoys would quickly become a household name.

But the ruse backfired forwards, as your average ghoulish teen couldn’t get enough of it, and while plenty of radio stations did ban “Timothy,” every time one did another one picked it up. Until in the end the song—about three miners trapped in a cave-in, only two of whom emerge, patting their bellies and belching contentedly, at the end—actually rose to #17.

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TVD Live: Paul Rodgers with the Royal Sessions band at Town Hall, 6/19

PHOTOS: EBRU YILDIZ | At a point in between songs during his New York performance of recent project and album release The Royal Sessions, Paul Rodgers remarked (half to himself, half to the packed house before him), “Isn’t this music cool? I love this music.”

This music, covers of classic blues and soul tunes such as “I Thank You,” “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” and show-stealer “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember,” was really, really cool. After all, the Sessions band, an assortment of top musicians from Memphis, gave us a tighter-than-tight horn section and an electric bongo player.

But the majority of the evening’s cool points most definitely went to Rodgers himself, because he made every move and every note look and sound easy, causing the average concert-going nerd to narrow his eyes, stroke his chin and think to himself, “Hmmm… so casual, smooth, easy—heck, anybody could sing these R&B standards and sound good, right?”

Wrong! Because only Paul Rodgers, singer of such rock classics as Bad Company’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and Free’s “All Right Now,” could make these standards sound so good. Indeed, it could be said that Rodgers’ Royal Sessions project created (cue megaphone amplification) “The PERFECT… STORM… OF SOUL.”

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Graded on a Curve: Jobriath,
As the River Flows

For roughly thirty years there was no cult following for Bruce Wayne Campbell, the pioneering if doomed singer-songwriter/glam rocker known to small pockets of the planet’s inhabitants as simply Jobriath (invented surname Boone). Times have changed, however; Eschatone Records’ As the River Flows collects Jobriath’s ’71 demos, and while consistency still escapes him, the ten selections do combine into a modestly enlightening achievement.

Like many fizzled next-big-things Jobriath was nearly unknown in retrospect. About a year after getting clued in to the man’s existence I stumbled onto a pristine and unpriced copy of his eponymous ’73 Elektra debut. Carefully inquiring with the proprietor over the cost, I took it home for a mere buck, since the owner had never heard of him. In place of fervent worship for an undeniable (if only fitfully artistically successful) groundbreaker was an aura of failure inspired by an unfortunate combination of too much hype, obstacles of prejudice, and raw but unsharpened talent.

Jobriath wasn’t just a flop it was a highly expensive one; try $500,000 on for size. The discount glitz of the next year’s Creatures of the Night was released sans promotion and continued the nosedive. Having been discovered and shrilly over-promoted by the multitasking and massively self-aggrandizing bigwig Jerry Brandt (by comparison Clive Davis seems fairly down to earth), he was rapidly dropped by Elektra for lack of sales. He later lived on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel and worked as a cabaret singer under the apt pseudonym Cole Berlin. In 1983 Jobriath died, stricken by AIDS and basically forgotten.

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TVD Live: Guided By Voices with Bobby
Bare, Jr. at the Regency Ballroom, 6/11

It was my first time seeing Guided By Voices live, and it was a long time coming. Most of my hipster indie rock friends have been praising this band over the past decade, plus calling it a show for the ages. There was an enormous beer cooler on stage in front of the drum kit, which halfway through the show started to make sense. “We get drunker, better and younger as we go along,” exclaimed frontman Robert Pollard just before he twirled his microphone round and round Roger Daltry Style.

The “classic lineup” of guitarists Mitch Mitchell and Tobin Sprout, bassist Greg Demos, and drummer Kevin March ruled the stage at the Regency Ballroom. I haven’t spent much time celebrating the band’s impressive 20-plus studio albums, and I had no idea that the average length of their songs was about two minutes. “What a fantastic approach to songwriting,” I told my wife who was in attendance with me as it was her first time ever hearing the band. I followed up, “If you don’t like the song they are playing, at least you know there’s another one coming up in about 90 seconds.”

I thought the band was fantastic though. There was a certain Robin Zander/Rick Neilson chemistry between Pollard and guitarist Mitch Mitchell, with a bit of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious thrown for attitude. Having never seen them live before, it would have been very easy to think they are from the UK, as their songs borrowed greatly from the sound of the ’60s British Invasion, and I swear I heard an English accent happening at one point.

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TVD Live: Sharon Van Etten at the Beachland Ballroom, 6/20

PHOTOS: JARED PERRY | When approaching an artist like Sharon Van Etten, there is an interesting paradox in play. On one hand you can’t ignore the subject matter that shows up on her records. Heartbreak. Pain. Illness. Mental struggles.

On the other, why should we pay such close attention to these themes? Sure, the subjects of the songs seem deeply personal to the artist and provide context for the art, but isn’t good songwriting just good songwriting? Just because a song is personal, as opposed to fabricated stories, doesn’t automatically give it credibility as more “authentic” or any bullshit like that.

While most of what I’ve read about Van Etten’s recorded output is about how melancholy the songs are, I have a different take. I find her work to be truly life affirming. While not minimizing what she has gone through, I think it’s fair to boil it all down to “shit happens.” This is fucking life and I think we’ve all either been through this stuff or know someone who has. I don’t think the heartbreak on her records is the story at all—it’s how it’s presented and packaged.

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Needle Droppings: Pentangle, “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme”

Of the countless musical horrors that have come our way since, say, 1966, I can think of none more simultaneously noxious and hilarious than Pentangle’s deadly earnest hymn to hymen defense, “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme.”

A traditional cautionary tale for lassies on the importance of due virginity vigilance—as in defend that vagina, with a brick if necessary—dating back to at least 1689, “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” is also known by other titles such as “The Sprig of Thyme,” “Maiden’s Lament,” and “Heed Thee Not the Booty Call Lest Thy Be Sad and Blue.”

Everything you need to know about “folk baroque” troupe Pentangle is (1) they choose the name Pentangle because it’s the device on Sir Gawain’s sword in the Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and (2) I have never heard a Pentangle song I didn’t find instantaneously and almost supernaturally annoying. I would sooner listen to Foreigner’s Greatest Hits in its entirety than a Pentangle song—any Pentangle song—which is frightening when you think about it.

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