All posts by Jason

Pogues-Fairytale of New York

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I spent a good deal of time discussing Christmas songs with my next door neighbor Tim the other night, and we both agreed that no song better describes, as Liz Lemon put it on last week’s excellent 30 Rock, “the horror of Christmas,” better than the Pogues’ classic “Fairytale of New York.”

Gritty, desperate and offensive, the banter back and forth between the song’s narrators perfectly captures the image of two lovers fighting over broken dreams and shattered hopes, which, for all the joy this season brings, are pretty much unavoidable as trees go up and festive lights are lit. “I could have been someone,” Shane MacGowen bellows, to which Kristy MacColl answers, “Well, so could anyone.”

Listen to “Fairytale of New York,” and compare to No Use For a Name’s fantastic cover.

Turn Back O’ Man-Devil Like Me

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Photo courtesy of our tight bros at Electricmustache.com

It’s hard to say anything clever about Turn Back O Man, Phoenix’s premier gothic-Americana combo, when the guys have  said it all themselves. Their bio boasts comparisons to Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Nick Cave, labels the band “a group of sexy, dangerous, incredibly intriguing men,” and name-drops a laundry list of acts the members have shared the stage with, including M. Ward, Giant Sand, the New Pornographers, Calexico, Magnolia Electric Company, American Music Club, Neko Case, Califone, Devotchka, Jason Lytle (Grandaddy), Smog, Pernice Brothers, My Morning Jacket, and “other artists too impressive to even mention.”

But none of that would mean squat if the band, lead by singer/songwriter Daryl Scariot, didn’t have the songs to back such bravado up. “Devil Like Me,” taken from their debut EP, should make clear that the rogues and scoundrels facade works wonders for the band on record, a sinister, hilarious murder ballad, showcasing not only Scariot’s ensnaring wordplay, but the skill of his crack band-drummer Shane Kennedy, Matt Wiser on pedal steel and, on this recording, playing a particularly mean bass, Dario Miranda.

As our friends over at Electric Mustache said, Turn Back O Man are one of the best bands in Phoenix, as “Devil Like Me” will attest to.

The Smith Westerns-Be My Girl

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Joining their pals and current tourmates Girls at the forefront of bratty, lo-fi pop bliss, are The Smith Westerns, another band that as far as I can tell justifies their buzz.  “Be My Girl,” is their standout track, a ramshackle bust up at the sock hop, with sloppy jangle-guitars, don’t care vocals and a perfect melody.  I’ll freely admit I’m a sucker for this stuff, and were I not DJing at the Yucca, I’d love to make the trip down to Tucson’s Club Congress for their date with Girls and the equally righteous Hunx & The Punkettes on the 26th.

Charlotte Gainsbourg-IRM

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Next week finally sees the US release of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s IRM on Because Music.  The album has already gained some major attention: The video for “Heaven Can Wait,” directed by Kevin Schofield, was featured as one of Spin Magazine’s Best Videos of 2009.  Produced by Beck, I half expected to the album to recall the moody soundscapes of his album, Sea Change, but the title cut seems to contradict that idea; “IRM” is a glitchy, dance-floor ready number, with Gainsbourg’s multi-tracked vocals coming across particularly icy.

I’m actually waiting for the record to drop legitimately to hear the whole thing.  If you’re anything like me, this single will have to tide you over for a bit.

The Quick: Mondo Deco

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More great stuff from Radio Heartbeat Records, who’ve already wowed me by re-issuing awesome stuff from Milk n’ Cookies, Radio City, 20/20 and Hubble Bubble.  The Quick work the intersection between glam, power-pop and punk.  Produced by the legendary Kim Fowley (Runaways, Modern Lovers), the record is a high energy, bratty, melodic slice of glittering pop.  I’d recommend heading to Eastside Records to get it, they seem to be the only local store the label distributes to.

And for further reading, check out our friends at Aquarium Drunkard’s awesome post about Fowley, and his oft-overlooked solo work.

Vintage AZ-The Psalms

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The story of Long Wong’s imminent return to Tempe as a live music venue brings with it not only the requisite amounts of media drama and hope for the Phoenix Metro Area’s live music scene, but also discussion about how “cool” the scene actually was in it’s Mill Ave. heyday.  I can’t speak with much authority about those days; my exposure to the whole scene was mostly limited to my mom’s then boyfriend blasting stuff like The Refreshments around her apartment. By the time I found myself going to shows in the late-nineties/early two-thousands, I was frequenting more punk establishments, like The Nile and Nita’s Hideaway.

But I’ve always had a measure of respect for The Gin Blossoms, the flagship act of that era. While the Blossoms jangle-pop inspires chuckles or outright scorn from most Phoenix musicians under forty-or-so, dismissed as antiquity, I’ve always really enjoyed their song-craft, owing a lot to my favorite group, Big Star, especially the compositions of Doug Hopkins, the band’s original guitarist, who was fired by the band during the recording of their major label full-length, New Miserable Experience. Hopkins committed suicide not long after, reportedly smashing the gold record her earned for the band’s breakthrough single “Hey Jealousy,” a tune he penned.

Pre-Gin Blossoms, Hopkins had played in the rougher-sounding Moral Majority, writing charming sounding songs like “Eddie’s Going Faggot” and “B.Y.U. Fight Song.” While that band’s recording have yet to surface, he followed their breakup by forming The Psalms, who’s recordings are floating about the interweb.  The Psalms foreshadow the jangle of the Blossoms, but come across far more New Wave influenced, recalling The Cure and New Order.  My search into Arizona’s punk, power-pop and garage past (aided significantly by Marc Reid and local blogs and sites such as AZ Local and Lost Horizons) has revealed plenty of interesting acts, which I plan of discussing more in the future, but The Psalms have proven to be the most immediately arresting, a particularly bad-ass sounding chapter of Phoenix’s musical history.

Famous L. Renfroe: Children

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Can’t tell you much about Famous L. Renfroe, other than a few basic facts: He recorded this record in 1968, providing pretty much every sound save the drums and excellent back-up vocals, and released a limited run of records on his own private press. Beyond that, not much is certain, other than obvious:  This record rules hard.  Renfroe was a pretty eclectic fellow; the songs augment the standard blues form with heavy doses of soul and gospel sounds.

Big Legal Mess, in conjunction with Fat Possum Records, issued the obscure album last year on CD, pressing it this year on vinyl.  I was seized with the desire to hear it after a couple of reliable sources praised it, and ordered it on wax at Zia Record Exchange.  Listen to the MP3 below for some reference, but trust me when I say this gem is best enjoyed spinning on the turntable, sitting in the back yard with a beer, enjoying the beautiful autumn weather.

Dfactor: Shake It

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Phoenix rocker Dfactor is one busy guy.  In addition to ceaselessly recording lo-fi power pop, he maintains a hyper-active blog, Waved Rumor, where he details everything pop-culture, occasionally detouring to deliver charming, curmudgeonly rants about kids at shows paying more attention to their cell phones than the gig.  Like his lyrics, everything he does is blindingly sincere. Buddy-boy even thanks his family for the “time and space to slash” in the liner notes of his new full-length, Slashing the Sunlight.

“Shake It,” the second track from the album is a favorite of mine: two and a half minutes of sloppy, Flamin’ Groovies-via-Guided By Voices pop rock, too brazenly earnest to ever get props from the “cool kids,” but guaranteed to get even the most cynical toe tapping.  You can listen to and download the entire album at his website.

Weezer: Live in San Diego, 2001

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I came across this excellent bootleg last week, which finds power-poppers Weezer at a pivotal time in their musical evolution: Following the extended hiatus that befell the band after the commercial failure of Pinkerton, this show features the band blasting out old favorites and debuting songs from the soon-to-be-released Green Album, live in 2001 to a ravenous San Diego audience.

At this stage, it was hard to say exactly where Weezer were headed artistically, but I remember friends ditching school the Tuesday Green came out to run to our town’s lowly record store to pick it up.  I waited till after class, but it was one of the first times I felt important buying a record. I was a member of the cult that had sprung up following the Pinkerton fiasco – one of the nerdy rock kids who took all my cues from that tortured art-pop masterpiece and its predecessor.

This set finds them rocking the Green tunes a lot harder than they ended up on the record, and the songs from Blue and Pinkerton sound energetic, as do a couple of pretty fantastic non-album tracks like “You Gave Your Love to Me Softly” and “The Christmas Song.”

We know now that following Green‘s detached nonchalance, the band tried on cheeky pop-metal with the disjointed Maladroit before sailing into Top 40 waters with the subsequently terrible Make Believe and Red Album Their new record, Raditude, out Nov. 3, features the band at their absolute worst (despite that it’s sleeved in my favorite album cover of the year).  Even “Can’t Stop Partying,” featuring Lil’ Wayne, isn’t interesting in the batshit-crazy way most things involving Weezy are. Instead, it feels lazy, and even insulting as Rivers Cuomo deeply mocks the genre he’s trying his hand at.

But let’s forget that for a moment, and take a listen to a time when it felt like Weezer were about to return home and take their rightful crowns as kings of dork-rock.  The fact that they didn’t is inconsequential – listening to these tunes it’s easy to imagine a parallel universe where Weezer still cared about their sweater clad, horn-rimmed followers, blessing them with hair metal guitar solos and earnest melodies, bestowing on their listeners a sincerity they’ve abandoned in reality.

[ZIP]: Weezer | Live in San Diego, 2001 (17 tracks, 65.1 MB)

TRACKLIST:
1. I Do
2. My Name is Jonas
3. El Scorcho
4. You Gave Your Love to Me Softly
5. The Good Life
6. The Christmas Song
7. Island in the Sun
8. Don’t Let Go
9. Hash Pipe
10. In the Garage
11. Tired of Sex
12. Say it Ain’t So
13. Buddy Holly
14. Undone (The Sweater Song)
15. Why Bother
16. Only in Dreams
17. Surf Wax America