Rock and Roll
Welcome to the first installment of a new series I like to call “You Should Know This Album.” YSKTA will feature records from years gone by that may have slipped under your radar at the time of the release, or perhaps that was the time when you were going through your digital zydeco faze. Either way, for the most part these will be albums that also slipped under my radar at the time and most likely have only surfaced in my life after a late night drunken conversation with someone where they say: “What? You write a music blog and you’ve never heard that record? You’re such a loser and a sham.” This first one I stumbled upon on my own though…
Shellac – At Action Park - Released October 24, 1994
Like many music nerds, I have somewhat of a permanent sonic boner for Steve Albini. The dude has been at the studio boards for hundreds upon hundreds of records over the years, including Nirvana, The Breeders, PJ Harvey, Iggy Pop, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Gogol Bordello, Silkworm, Cloud Nothings, and a whole other list of people who are renowned for making magnificent soul-bleeding rock and roll. Thus it never even occurred to me to think that Albini ever had time for his own music. But that he did, and all branches of his musical career stem from his 80′s output in his band Big Black. Think post-punk weirdness meshed together with straight-punk sincerity. But it was with his early 90′s creation, Shellac, that Albini really put his heart on wax. They’ve put out something new every few years for the past couple decades, and rumors are that there’s a new one on the way, but the definitive piece for any true record-store geek’s collection is At Action Park.
This is one of those albums that unites the hardcore kids and the indie-scenesters in a blissful coalition. It’s viscous 3-piece attack on sound. Yes, the guitar attack is destructive and forceful, but it’s also locked into some outright grooves. At times it almost feels like Rage Against the Machine, but intentionally much more rough at the seams, minus a rapper and staunch on not having any message at all – you know, real deal garage rock dream of the 90′s shit. And while the songs don’t really have much of a standard formula, (don’t expect a chorus, or even really a verse for that matter,) they each have an individual life force to them that is clearly missing on other music of similar genres. If those early Dinosaur Jr. albums always sounded hook-less and redundant to you, than this record will re-establish your affinity for the power of simplicity. The greatest thing about discovering At Action Park though is realizing what a pivot-point record it is. This is the album that serves as the bridge between Built to Spill and Fugazi, or between Tool and Nirvana. This is the essence of musicians making music for themselves and not caring about who it offends or what it’s lacking to bring it to a wider audience. And honestly, what else would you expect from someone who has his hands so deep in the recording game? When you’ve heard thousands of bands try to put create their own individual sounds, you get a good idea of what it is that you yourself want to create. This is one of those CDs that you play while driving and you don’t even realize when it starts over – it has no weak spots and thus no telling points of when it should end. If you like your rock gritty or you’ve been searching for a good record to play really loud when you’re overwhelmed with anger and frustration, then do yourself a favor and bring this into your life.
When it was announced a couple months back that Jim James would be playing the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on May 14th, I immediately bought a set of tickets, presuming that the gig would sell out in a heartbeat. But here we are now, less than two weeks away, and it seems that there’s still plenty of tickets available. Sure it’s on a Tuesday night, but after seeing My Morning Jacket play to 5,000 people last year at Edgefield, I figured there would be a huge draw for the show. I suppose that when it comes down to it, MMJ is simply another one of those bands that the collective outfit far outweighs any popularity that a solo member of the band may hold. It’s the same reason that Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman is playing shows for 200 people these days. Honestly, I’m not gonna gripe about being able to see Jimmy James in a room with apt breathing space, but it’s a drag for both him and fans of the Jacket – because his solo album is fucking fantastic. Here’s a quick rundown if you’ve missed it…
Quite frankly, Regions of Light and Sound of God is a far better album than either of the last two MMJ records. There’s a looser, pressure-free vibe to it and it hopefully serves as a beacon for what direction the bigger band should be taking with their music. The single, “Know Til Now,” gives a fairly accurate preview of the whole – a sort of electronic leaning soul groove. But the lean is far more towards the soul than towards the electronic. In fact, the majority of these tunes would feel completely natural coming off a MMJ stage if it weren’t for the stark lack of guitar riffery. “A New Life” starts off with the slow, acoustic nature that has found its way onto several of the band’s newer tracks, but the hook on the chorus is ten times catchier and more gut-wrenching than anything you’d hear in similar sonic tracks like “Librarian” or “Wonderful.” If you found yourself bored or discouraged with what MMJ has done after trying to follow up on Z, then this solo record will renew your confidence in James’ songwriting capabilities. And in actuality, “Of the Mother Again” has one of the dreamier guitar hooks I’ve heard in quite some time. Don’t think of this as being connected to that Yim Yames’ George Harrison tribute, or even anything near what The Monsters of Folk tried to do – this is stripped down MMJ in a beautiful, raw form. Just as James ends his solo gigs with MMj songs, I would definitely expect upcoming MMJ shows to include a few tracks off this solo record. Don’t let it pass you by.
Sure, last night’s Dr. Dog and Dawes show was promoted as a “co-headlining” bill with both bands playing solid 90 minute sets – but whoever thought putting Dr. Dog on first made a bad choice. Quite simply put, they’re one of the most exciting bands to ever see live, bouncing around in a way that makes me envision their calf muscles as boulders. With a non-talkative Sunday night crowd, the band sounded amazing in the sometimes muffled Crystal, and played a take-no-prisoners set of Dog classics – full of nothing but bumpers that almost seemed like the band wanted to prove who the real headliner was. When Dawes emerged, they sounded great, but they just don’t have the songs or the power to match the Dog’s set. The crowd would enthusiastically cheer after each song, but the level of movement in the audience became next to nothing, and after a half hour a good chunk of the crowd started to head to the door. I would have felt bad for Dawes, but I was still hyped up over the “opener’s” set. Here’s the list…
1) Heavy Light
3) The Breeze
4) Hang On
5) Do the Trick
7) That Old Black Hole
9) Shadow People
10) Heart it Races
11) Jackie Wants a Black Eye
12) The Ark
13) The Way the Lazy Do
14) These Days
15) The Rabbit, The Bat, and The Reindeer
The most wholeheartedly bumming music news for me so far this year was the recent announcement that Daniel Blumberg has quit Yuck. Their 2011 self-titled debut album is one that I would easily put into my Top 20 post-2000 records list. It reminded me of Pavement, it gave me confidence in the slacker-rock resurgence, and I played the living shit out of it for a solid year and a half. In fact, I played it so much that when I listen to it now it makes me fondly reminisce about a time in my life which was only a year ago, and to fondly reminisce about such recent times is an odd sensation to have. Here’s the thing though: as much as Yuck is cohesively a fuckin’ amazing band, they’re very much led by the English drawl of Blumberg. Sure, he collaborated with fellow guitarist Max Bloom on several of the tracks, and Bloom even sang lead on one cut, but Blumberg, the reclusive fellow clad in denim was quite blatantly the focal point of the band. The band has just announced that it has started recording its sophomore album sans Daniel, and the question arises within me of whether I really will care what it sounds like. The nature of a frontman leaving is such an odd thing to deal with when it comes to a young band.
When Zach De La Roca was done with Rage Against the Machine, I was thoroughly intrigued (but disappointed) with Audioslave because I had crafted such a deep subjective relationship with the members of that band. It’s the same reason I waited and waited to hear Zach’s solo work, One Day as a Lion, which I was much more pleased with. And then there comes the situation of Stone Temple Pilots, who recently announced they have officially fired Scott Weiland. Sure STP was always fun – but do I really care about hearing that band with a new frontman? To be honest, when I just looked up the names of the other band members I realized that I had never heard them ever before in the past 20 years. Likewise, would I have any desire to hear whatever project Weiland forms next? Not really… more so than whatever his ex-bandmates put out, but I don’t really care what that junkie tries to create with somebody else. They were collectively that band, and I don’t think they can have any success without each other. So in other words, despite how cordial or crappy the split may be, it’s really fucking tough to continue without your main guy. Sure AC/DC were able to pull it off, and Van Halen kind of pulled it off, but what about these young cats in Yuck?
I think the main essence of the situation is that it’s hard for any band to really break onto the scene these days. So I’m sure that while the remaining members of Yuck would probably like to continue with a different band name, they can’t attempt to start from scratch after all the recognition they’ve gained with their name. On the other hand, Blumberg has had his individual name put out there enough that he can potentially survive with a new endeavor, which this morning we learned he is about to try. His new solo project is going to be released in July, and he’s calling the new group Hebronix. The album is called Unreal. You can stream the title track below and it’s fuckin’ fantastic. In fact, it’s so great, and such a positive extension of the Yuck sound, that it’s making me wonder what Yuck is going to be able to manifest without him. I’ll give their new record a chance when it comes out, but if nothing grabs me right off the bat then I’m definitely sticking with team-Hebronix. Sure I hope that both albums will be great, but I’m having doubts by hearing how much I love this new track from Blumberg. It’s interesting to hear how he talks about the future of Yuck in the interview I did with him last year… Read the full thing HERE and give the new track a listen below…
There aren’t many places these days where a guy can rock his 1991 Damn Yankees tour t-shirt and not raise a few eyebrows, but a Bob Seger show is right at the top of the list. And no, I’m not talking about some hipster ironically sporting a thrift-shop find – I’m talking about a bro proudly showing his affection for the Nuge. Such a sight was simply another part of the landscape for the Silver Bullet Band in Portland last Saturday night, and just one of the many reasons I couldn’t wipe an ecstatic grin off my face for two days straight. I’ve seen a lot of natural born entertainers over the years, but Seger may have taken the cake. The man is unabashedly overjoyed with life, and to not fall under his spell while seeing him on the stage is a feat no mortal man can achieve. Remember that uncle who used to sneak you beers at the family reunion when you were a teenager? That’s Seger. You know the one dude in the pack of Harley-riders who clearly doesn’t beat his wife? That’s Seger. Ever have one of those bosses that give you the day off without asking because he knows you went to see The Allman Brothers the night before? That’s Seger. He is the epitome of the stand-up working man, and he also knows how to rock out harder than most fellas a third his age.
Unfortunately, my late arrival meant I missed all of Joe Walsh’s opening set, but it did mean I walked in just as the lights went down. I grabbed a quick beer and headed to my seat where I was predominantly surrounded by aging women with faded rose tattoos on their necks – yeah, this was gonna be a good night. Now I’ve thrown my fair share of triumphant fists in the air, but it was hard to keep up with this crowd. Nobody in the room however, could even compete with Seger’s steady assault on the air above his head. One hand on the microphone, and the rest of his knuckles pointed at the sky – that is the man’s casual stance. If he wasn’t in that formation, then he was running around the stage beaming his shiny fake teeth like they were a war medal. Oh, and pointing. Sweet Jesus does the man know how to point. Backup singers got a showcase line? They’re getting pointed at. Guitar solo? That’s a pointing. Alto Reed taking his legendary sax solo in “Old Time Rock and Roll?” You better believe he’s getting pointed at. But the band is having the time of their lives as well – how could they not? They’ve got these songs on lock, and as a whole the entire Silver Bullet organization was straight up killing it. You’re not going to find a tighter rock pocket than the one that forms when the drummer from Grand Funk Railroad is on stage. To quote Homer Simpson: “The competent drum-work of Don Brewer? Oh, man!”
And the hits? Well, they just kept coming. I had almost forgot what an amazing combo “Travelin’ Man” into “Beautiful Loser” is, but the woman in front of me doing her best Stevie Nicks impersonation as she sang along assured me that I’ll remember forever. A couple new tunes fit into the rotation seamlessly, with lyrics about being on the road and all the other Seger cornerstone images you’d expect. An unexpected cover of “California Stars” by Wilco via Woodie Guthrie was perfectly Segerized and held up great amongst a sea of heavier rockers. Even “Like a Rock,” a solid decade after its run as the theme song for Chevy trucks came off as the solid ballad of its original intent. The only tune I wanted to hear that he didn’t play was “Shakedown,” which 25 years later apparently still can’t be separated from its life at the tune from Beverly Hills Cop 2.
By the time “Katmandu” came exploding out to close the show, the 67 year-old had been playing for a solid 110 minutes straight. He’d take a short breather before coming out for the combo encore of “Against the Wind” and “Hollywood Nights” – both as epic as you could possibly expect. But wait… no “Night Moves?” Oh no… the house lights are still off… boom second encore! “Night Moves” and then “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” to bring it all home. This is what a good ole’ fashioned rock concert is truly supposed to be, and despite a few changes in the set-list, I doubt you could distinguish much from this night and one of his shows from 40 years ago. Some people just have the right formula from the start.
In honor of my giddy exuberance for seeing one of my all time favorite bands to ever exist in the universe play at the tiny Doug Fir Lounge tonight in Portland, I thought I’d do an “official” ranking of their albums. Folks are always asking me where to start with Built to Spill, and I usually get flustered in the moment as my love for the entire catalog rushes through my head. And truly, there isn’t really a “bad” Built to Spill record out there, let alone really a bad song. So while I could escalate this list to include anything that Doug Martsch has ever done, and every EP they’ve ever released, I’m gonna keep it strictly to the main albums – which conveniently equal 10 as of now. Once you’ve brought all these into your life, then you can get the solo album, and the Halo Benders albums, and the Treepeople records, and for the love of God the vinyl EP of “They Got Away,” but for now let’s start here. Here are the greatest Built to Spill albums. From worst to best…
This mid-2000′s record was the only time where things just didn’t seem to really click. It could have been the exclusion of Phil Ek as producer, or just the drain of the Bush-era, but it’s definitely my least listened-to record of theirs. Although, closing track “The Wait” is one of my all-time favorites.
Sure, technically this one probably shouldn’t be on the list since it’s actually more of a collaborative record with fellow Boise band Caustic Resin. However, both bands have shared members at various points and we can’t neglect to have this album which opens with the classic “When Not Being Stupid is Not Enough.”
The first record has its moments where Martsch is obviously way in love with Dinosaur Jr., but that is in no way a bad thing. It doesn’t really have a specific stand-alone tracks, but it’s still a classic Portland late-afternoon, happy-hour bar album. Maybe the best background record the band created.
Basically a compilation record of singles and outtakes from the first few years of the band, this album contains my go-to version of their classic track, “Car.” It’s a lot rawer than the other studio version, but has a lot more spunk to it. Also has the great “So & So, So & So From Wherever Wherever.”
The really cool kids will try to tell you that this second full-length album is their finest work – before the band got all “polished up.” It definitely is the first time we realize that Martsch is gonna put his entire bleeding heart and soul into his music, and that he has the potential for being the soundtrack to your life.
A solid record from front to back, and a worthy successor to the brilliant Keep it Like a Secret in 1999. Opening track “Strange” is probably my go-to song in life to get my head back to normal after moments of deep sadness, frustration, or anger. Maybe the most forgotten and hidden gems of any album.
A perfect glimpse of the true power. A few tracks from both Perfect From Now On and Keep it Like a Secret, a brilliant version of the original Halo Benders’ track and my favortie song of all time, “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain,” awesome take on Love as Laughter’s “Singing Sores Make Perfect Swords,” and a 20 minute “Cortez the Killer.” Essential stuff.
Nearly 20 years deep, and the guy makes one of his greatest albums ever. The brilliant “Hindsight,” the incredibly brutal “Things Fall Apart,” and the overwhelming faith that bands can still be amazing and prolific as they get older. A great starting point for new listeners.
There’s always debate between this and my number one for which is more amazing, but there’s no doubt this albums is a key part of my DNA. It always felt to me like a record of J. Mascis fronting the Grateful Dead. There’s a reason they did a 2008 tour playing this record in its entirety – “Made Up Dreams” is as close as you can come to a perfect song.
Surely the easiest way to convert any newbies to the band. Despite some folks thinking this was the over-polished, quasi-sell-out moment for the band, this is actually when the true power of Built to Spill came into fruition. Every song is a stand-alone classic – “Sidewalk,” “Timetrap,” the genius “You Were Right” – this is the record that made me fall in love with this band for the rest of my life.
Here’s “Strange” -
Low-fi as all fuck. That’s what sums up the latest official video release from the wonder-boys in Dr. Dog. Essentially their buddy took the first video he ever made as an awesomely young child and set it to the music of “Do the Trick” off this year’s Be The Void. You know those awesome Star Wars toys that you lost down a sewer drain when you were 5 and that are now worth several hundred dollars? Well this young entrepreneur had the motivation to make an entire stop-motion reproduction of Empire Strikes Back with them. Flash forward 30 years to where he adds a couple digital light-sabers, and suddenly the innocent imagination of that creation meshes perfectly with the honest reality and low-fi dream-scape that is Dr. Dog’s music. The embrace of the innocence is essentially the tying factor with both pieces of art here. This video isn’t intended to win any awards, or even to go viral – its only intent is to make you sit back and enjoy the wonders of youth and life and this goddamn friggin’ amazing band. Enjoy.
It seems odd that we’ve come to a time when a three-guitar rock band from Brooklyn sounds refreshing, but in a landscape dominated by laptops and synthesizers, Los Encantados are just that. Embracing the love and melodies of the greatest punk/50’s revivalists, but adding a little something called chops and talent, these guys have established themselves in just over one year’s time as one of the new bands coming out of New York actually worth paying attention to. Fresh off the release of the 3rd and final chapter of their debut album, The Same Damned Soul, I talked with the band’s front-man, James Armstrong, about the shockingly natural formation of their music, and how their dream gig lies somewhere between playing with a Miami gangster-rapper and a bisexual glam-rocker from London.
Adam King: So how did these songs move from your bedroom to the stage?
James Armstrong: Well, I had initially wrote The Same Damned Soul by myself as kind of an audio Valentine type thing for this girl. After a while, I eventually let a couple of my friends listen to it…it got passed around through some more friends and band members that were in different bands, and they passed it on to band members and then one night we just decided to go to our practice space and play the songs that I had written. And that’s kind of the short story of how we started playing together.
You guys had another band going and then morphed into this band?
Yeah, one of the guitarists in the band, Kevin, he has a garage-rock band that I played guitar in at the time, and still play guitar in as well. And all the other members are members of very official projects, and all those bands before Los Encantados was a thing, we had all shared the same practice space. But I just never had shown them the songs that I had written before. Yeah, so we just nailed down a date and went through the songs, and initially we were just gonna do this one show and play the whole project from start to finish, and following that show we got booked on another and we just kept on rolling from there.
Were all the songs on The Same Damned Soul written before you released the first EP?
Yeah, we recorded it all at once. All nine songs.
Why did you decide to release it in three parts then?
It was partly just because I think, or we think, it’s a little bit easier to consume as a listener – to have it in three little short bursts. And the arc of the record kind of mirrors out, well it flows nicely through seasonal changes, so those were the main theories, that there’s really sort of three peaks.
Did the album work with on the girl that inspired it?
Yeah! For a while…(laughs) You know everything has an end point…it was a good one.
I know you guys are working on this new album – is the new record still just you writing the songs or are you slightly more collaborating with the other guys in the band on it?
Yeah, it’s a bit more collaborative. I still primarily write them and then bring them to rehearsal to flesh them out. The first one, the first song is basically me in my bedroom just recording, so I think the next album will be a little bit more dynamic and there’s a lot more varied instrumentation, and a little bit more produced. It will be a little bit different.
Are you guys working with the same producer that you did on the EP?
No, the EP was my buddy Sammy Gallo – he did those. The new album we’re producing with Tim Wagner who’s the co-founder of Dither Down records, a dance-label in New York. He plays with other projects and DJs and stuff. I really like the sound of the dance records he puts out, like the drum sounds and the bass, and he’s got a lot of experience in the music scene besides producing records and working in the studio. So he’s great to work with, and he’s really got an awesome ear for great sounds.
I hear a bunch of influences in the songs, but in all of them there’s something about the whole vibe of the band that’s undeniably a New York sound. How much of a direct influence do you think that the city itself has on your writing, and how important do you think it is for the band to be based from there?
I think more than anything, there’s just so much here. You get to see so many different bands live. And not just bands, there’s art and cultural experiences and it keeps you inspired and makes you feel more a part of what’s currently going on. I was born in a super small town in Scotland called Nairn, it’s about 5,000 or so people, and I moved around the state sides as well, but that was my home base. And being so remote and removed from all the music you love…it’s cool and it’s fine, but it’s kind of a weird feeling, you yearn to be immersed in this scene that you think‘s going on, so I’m glad that I’m over here now and being more of a part of it and experiencing it first hand as opposed to through reading Kerrang or Spin or something like that, you know?
With there being 10,000 bands in New York right now, do you ever think about what you need to do as a band to rise above the mix of getting thrown in as just another hip new Brooklyn band?
Um, not like gimmicky shit. (laughs) I think just continuing to play as much as possible. We rehearse a lot, and I listen to as much music as I can, and just try to improve my writing. But besides that, the only way that I would want to be recognized apart from any other band is just by the quality of the music we put out.
I dug the end of the 3rd EP where things get a little darker and more poignant. Do you find that for some of the bands you listen to, that the darker things resonate deeper with you, or is a mixture of things?
I think both. I like bands that can do both even within the same song. Like Jesus and the Mary Chain kind of have that thing where it’s dark and kind of noisy for the most part, but they still have this pop sensibility that kind of lightens it up. I like that a lot, that stuff resonates with me a lot.
Are there new bands out there that you gain as much inspiration from as some of these older bands that you’re into?
Oh, yeah for sure! I mean, within our own city even… Japandroids are a really great band. I like a lot of dance music as well. I’ve been DJing since I was 15 or so. I took time off writing rock stuff to just DJ, and I go back to it sometimes. I think the dance scene in New York is really cool – there’s a lot of great stuff. I love Wolf and Lamb – that sound is so awesome. Like inspired off of 90’s R&B but with Housebeats.
Do you think of Los Encantados as being a dance band?
No…not necessarily – I mean not like EDM. People dance at our shows, but we’re a rock based kind of group. We’ve had remixes on our songs and I like having that, just having the variation.
Suppose that a current Top 40 band asked you guys to do a co-headlining tour with them. What would be the ideal band in that limited range that you’d want to do it with?
Oh man, Top 40? Shit…(laughs) It’d be pretty funny getting on a hip-hop tour, like Rick Ross. That’d be pretty ridiculous. If I could open for Rick Ross I think my dreams would be met for the year.
Suppose in some out-of-time other dimension, Television, The Modern Lovers, and David Bowie all ask you to join their respective bands at the same time.
Which one do you join?
I would go for Bowie. Definitely. It’s funny, interestingly, last night at rehearsal I was saying my favorite rock lineup is the Spiders From Mars tour era Bowie, you know with Mick Ronson and Mike Garson. I think that would be like a fucking dream. Almost as good as Rick Ross.
So the Bowie/Rick Ross combo tour would be it all right there –
Oh man, that would be too much.
So for the first time ever, the Rock Hall is allowing fans to cast ballots for their Top 5 nominees going into the 2013 class. This doesn’t mean that the fans’ picks will actually win, but it means they’ll count on the official ballots. It’s a pretty stacked lineup this year, but I’m gonna rank the entire 15 nominees in order of valid significance. Go vote HERE.
- The Canadian prog-rockers for years have been the go-to music nerd’s complaint about the Hall of Fame. I always presumed that the reason they never got inducted is that one of the secret qualifications for entry is that your music has been used to get somebody laid in the past. Attending a Rush gig in the 70′s was probably more of a guarantee that some girl might vomit all over your bed than have sex with you though. But whatever, they are pretty fucking nasty, have a long list of great songs, Neil Peart is ridiculous on drums, and they do things like cook hundreds of rotisserie chickens on stage while they play. And who hasn’t air-drummed the fuck out of their steering wheel to “Tom Sawyer” before?
The Wilson sisters have been rocking harder than a majority of men on the scene for quite some time. Nancy is still legitimately one of the greatest guitarists on the planet, and also still looks incredibly hot for someone pushing 60. She’s actually my number one over-50 crush. This one seems like a no-brainer to me.
3) DEEP PURPLE
Huh? They’re not in there yet? I mean the riff for “Smoke on the Water” has to be the most recognizable guitar line of all time. They should be in there based on that simple chord progression alone, let alone there ability to write songs that dudes who drive Thunderbirds crank at full volume.
4) THE METERS
Easily the greatest in-the-pocket band of all time, their stripped down NOLA funk is a constant reference point for any and all quality rock, funk, and soul bands from the past 30 years. They’re one of those bands that if you don’t have at least some of their music on your iPod, then I don’t really want to be friends with you.
5) JOAN JETT & THE BLACKHEARTS
I mean hell, her biggest hit was called “I Love Rock and Roll” for Christ’s Sake. And she actually managed to make ripping rock music throughout the 80′s when most of the male acts were wearing way more makeup than her. Along with the Wilson sisters, this should be the year of some women inductees.
6) PROCOL HARUM
Everybody’s had at least one late night moment with “Whiter Shade of Pale” right? Sure, it was the beginning of symphony-rock, but these guys are friggin’ legends. They just miss my Top 5 by a slim margin to Jett.
7) ALBERT KING
It seems to me that most of the great blues guitarist all deserve a place in the hall. There wouldn’t really ever had been rock and roll as we know it without some of Albert’s tracks. Um, “Born Under a Bad Sign”? C’mon.
Well hot-damn, I had no clue there was a new Dr. Dog EP awaiting my tears and laughter but Wild Race just appeared today and you can stream it live right now. I’ve got it below, but it’s one of those weird restricted videos so I have a feeling it might disappear soon. Opening with a killer Scotty tune that presumably got cut from this year’s Be the Void, (the chorus is “be the void”) my initial reaction was, Goddamn these motherfuckers just keep em’ coming. I’ve said it many times before, but Scott McMicken is my favorite songwriter on the face of the Earth these days. I really don’t even care what Bob Dylan has to say anymore; I feel like Scotty’s much more in tune with the quasi-reality I call day-to-day life and his songs always seem to seductively tickle untapped parts of my soul.
The second tune starts at 3:12 and is another solid Scotty rocker based upon the line “It ain’t just the sun that’s gotta go.” Not as poignant as the first track, but still rather friggin’ dope.
Track 3 (6:41) is a slow Tobe crooner where he more directly addresses his constantly broken heart as compared to the scattered metaphors he usually gets wrapped up in. I have a feeling this one could have been on Be the Void as well but got shelved so that the fairly similar “Lonely” could be on there instead. Deep fucking passion on this like normal though.
Track 4 (9:23) is forged on one of those heart-wrenching drop-beats and constantly frequents the line: “Let’s put up our exit for sale.” The 3-part harmonies are nailed and highlight the fact that big Frank is another integral part of this band. The chorus gets repeated more than I’m used to with a Dr. Dog song, but I give em props for really wanting to drill that idea into your head of tossing away the escape plan. It’s a good idea – it makes me feel fuzzy and it’s a much-needed concept for a time when everybody’s always concerned about the way out. Why not just keep shit together?
Track 5 (14:18) seems like one of their more collaborative tracks, but still has Scotty’s vocals at the forefront. They couldn’t write songs like this before Eric Slick joined the band on drums, and he holds down the odd time-changes like a real-deal cream-dream. There’s a killer echoed-out guitar fill early on here as well as some of those awesome analog synth wiggles we all hear when we’re wide awake at 4:30 in the morning. This tune is a little all-over-the-place but 2nd listen will lock it in your head well. “Resting Easy” in the “Silent Place” is the general notion of this tune, although the tune is rather full and sorta-chaotic.
Super solid EP overall, but tracks 1 and 4 will be the ones I’m bound to visit over and over again. This band has been on the top of their game for a long fucking time now, and they show no sign of falling off. Now if they could just get a sound-man who understands their on-stage dynamics, everything would be perfect. Seriously though, the last couple times I’ve seen these guys the sound has just been completely blown the fuck out and always leaves me aching for the crisp sounds that I know the mics aren’t picking up correctly. Either way…the dog y’all.