Saturday, March 31, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 6: Uncle Tupelo - Live at The Vic Theatre, Chicago 1993

I'll be out of town for most of the next week, leaving TTT in Rich's capable hands, but I wanted to throw up one more boot before I hit the road -- to leave with a flourish, you might say. I'll be out in the woods with my boys for 4 days, too -- a little camping, a little fishing, the occasional nip from a bottle of Maker's -- which means I have Uncle Tupelo on my mind. For some reason, road trips always remind me of Uncle Tupelo, maybe because there's no better music for driving down a Southern highway with the windows down.

Of course, Tupelo was one of the most influential bands of the last 20 years -- after all, the entire "alt country" movement for a time was referred to as "No Depression," after their groundbreaking debut album. But in large part, the breadth of that influence wouldn't be widely acknowledged or fully appreciated until after the band finally succumbed, in the spring of '94, to the long-simmering acrimony between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar. (Thankfully, we got Wilco and the first, fantastic Son Volt record out of that deal.)

This is probably my favorite Uncle Tupelo boot, although there are a few others that could vie for that title. It was recorded, but never broadcast, by radio station WXRT at The Vic Theatre in Chicago in October of 1993, early in the tour that supported the band's final record, the now-classic Anodyne. The sound is terrific, the band is in fine form in front of an adoring, almost-hometown crowd, and the setlist hits just about every highlight of their career, including most of the tunes that the suddenly brilliant and prolific Tweedy was turning out towards the end (although "Gun," his absolute turning point as a songwriter, is conspicuously absent). It also sounds to me like they're still having fun here, which is why I chose to share this show over the widely bootlegged, and more historically significant, final show in St. Louis the following May. One listen to this show and it's not hard to understand why Uncle Tupelo were, and still are, so revered. But it is tough to believe that within 6 months after this performance, Tweedy and Farrar will no longer be able to tolerate being in the same room together. Ah well, it was damn sweet while it lasted.


Front cover
Back cover

Disc 1:
Fifteen Keys
Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down
True To Life
Watch Me Fall
The Long Cut
Atomic Power
New Madrid
Steal The Crumbs

Disc 2:
We've Been Had
Give Back The Key To My Heart
Looking For A Way Out
Life Worth Living
Truck Driving Man
Sin City
Suzie Q

Thursday, March 29, 2007

North American Scum

My favorite kind of humor is often described as "intelligent lowbrow," a category into which Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, etc. are routinely grouped. The idea is that, even though the comedy may be based on the lowest common denominator (hint, hint), it takes more than a simpleton to get what's going on.

If there is a musical equivalent of intelligent lowbrow, it may just be LCD Soundsystem, the rowdy project of whizbang studio rat/DJ/soundman James Murphy. Theirs is a music that has all the indie cred and punk ethos of all your favorite bands, but just dares you not to put-your-hands-in-the-air-like-you-just-don't-care.

LCD Soundsystem's eponymous debut remains a staple at the Friday night dance parties at my house, and the band's new release, Sound of Silver, may just make the punk-funk LCD a household name. The best thing about the record may be that it is both one of the most interesting albums to come out this year and easily one of the most fun, booty-shakin' records you've ever heard.

James Murphy, who originally hails from the Garden State, may look like Lloyd Cole's disheveled kid brother and "sing" like a more coherent Mark E. Smith, but on "North American Scum," he instructs "those of you who still think we're from England" that "we're not, no." Meanwhile, the record's opener, "Get Innocuous!" comes off like a paean to Kraut rock, but you gotta love that live drum sound under all the icy keyboards. "Time To Get Away," on which Murphy's house party singing style is front and center, will have you reaching for your cowbell to play along faster than you can say Will Ferrell. And "North American Scum" may just be the anthem of the year, the perfect marriage of punk and funk. I really can't wait to hear that song played the next time we host the Olympics. Funny what it takes to stir a little nationalistic (er, continental?) pride these days. (wink)

While the song "All My Friends" probably has The Killers scratching their heads and wondering whether their sophomore record really took them in the right "direction," the song "Someone Great" is a real highlight of the set. With its cheesy 80s keyboards, its new wave melody, and Kraftwerk blips and bleeps, it's approximately one million times better than anything that could ever get played on mainstream radio today. Nonetheless, it would've been a staple on MTV and Ted Turner's Friday Night Videos about 25 years ago and sounds just as fresh today. Not everything on Sound of Silver may reach the heights of "North American Scum" and "Someone Great," but unlike most funky records, the whole of it makes for an incredible listen (and dance). It's easily one of my favorite records of the year so far.

MP3: LCD Soundsystem - "North American Scum" from Sound of Silver
YouTube: "North American Scum"

As an added bonus, I thought I'd slap the video on here for the classic "Daft Punk Is Playing At My House" from LCD Soundsystem:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Elvis Costello & The Attractions - Live at The Agora 1977

This one doesn't require a whole lot of explanation. It's Elvis Costello. It's the Attractions. It's 19-freakin'-77. And the songs from My Aim Is True and This Year's Model (plus killer b-side "Big Tears") get a raging workout in front of a little club audience in Cleveland, in primo sound quality (from the pre-FM tapes). You should already be grabbing this baby.


Front cover
Back cover
Inside 1
Inside 2

01 Welcome To The Working Week
02 (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
03 Hand In Hand
04 Waiting For The End Of The World
05 No Action
06 Less Than Zero
07 The Beat
08 No Dancing
09 Big Tears
10 Blame It On Cain
11 Little Triggers
12 Radio Radio
13 You Belong To Me
14 Pump It Up
15 Lipstick Vogue
16 Watching The Detectives
17 Miracle Man
18 Mystery Dance

Monday, March 26, 2007

Yawny At The Apocalypse

There are two reasons for the dearth of posts from me this past week. The first is the stomach virus that has laid me low for days now. The less said about that, the better, believe me. The second is that I knew my next post would be about Andrew Bird, whose new record, Armchair Apocrypha, was released last Tuesday (but had leaked onto the 'Net months ago). Plain and simple, Andrew Bird's music can leave me at a loss for words.

That hasn't always been the case. In the late 90s, when he was a sideman for The Squirrel Nut Zippers and fronted Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire (the son of one of my law partners was the bass player in the latter), I certainly marvelled at his virtuosity on the violin, was impressed with the clever, affectionate homages to old time music -- 20s jazz and caberet, Django Reinhardt and Kurt Weill -- that he was able to craft with his bandmates, and thought he was an intriguing (if also pretty eccentric) live performer. But did I think his talent was truly exceptional? Not really.

All of that changed in the fall of 2000, when I got the rough mix of a record called The Swimming Hour, which would turn out to be the final album by the Bowl of Fire. Suddenly, the loving early-20th Century pastiche of their prior records had given way to something else altogether -- gorgeous, inventive melodies, lush symphonic arrangements, pointedly personal lyrics and soaring lead vocals that recalled Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke. This was flat-out inspired, beautiful pop music, as influenced by The Beatles and The Beach Boys as by Louis Armstrong or Fats Waller. I was positively floored.

Since then, and despite the demise of his original band, Andrew Bird hasn't missed a step. 2003's Weather Systems was a modestly low-key and lovely solo debut, while 2005's The Mysterious Production of Eggs was uniformly brilliant, packed with amazing songs and as lushly arranged and produced as The Swimming Hour.

You can probably see where I'm headed with this. Armchair Apocrypha is another jaw dropper, packed with Bird's singular brand of melodic, literate and gorgeously embellished pop. Highlights include the slow-burn-to-sizzle opener, "Fiery Crash," on which the epic string arrangement -- so buried in the mix that that you practically need headphones to hear it -- makes the little tune sound like it's daydreaming of something much bigger, the keening "Plasticities," all pizzicato strings and fuzzbox guitar, and the splendid "Heretics," which combines all of the best qualities of Bird's music -- a terrific song, layered violin tracks, dense production and his unique voice -- into one of the best tracks Bird has ever created. But those are just my favorite cuts as I write this, and there's not a dud in the bunch. Andrew Bird is the real deal, and this record is destined for all sorts of best-of lists at the end of the year.

MP3: Andrew Bird - "Heretics" from Armchair Apocrypha

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Can't Hardly Wait

THE NATIONAL - "Fake Empire" from Boxer, out on May 22

SUFJAN STEVENS - "Free Man In Paris" from A Tribute to Joni Mitchell, out on April 24

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Back To Black

Pitchfork hates her. Paste loves her. I actually think she's pretty entertaining. The final arbiter, Metacritic, tends to agree. Amy Winehouse is a British soul singer who sounds like a cross between Martha & the Vandellas, or maybe Ronnie Spector, and Slick Rick. I decided to check her out after the Paste review (which doesn't appear to be online yet), and I have to say that I pretty much agree with them. Possessed of an utterly bewitching voice, if somewhat affected, she updates a classic '60s American soul sound with modern R&B to produce an entirely refreshing take on popular music. It almost makes you wonder why it took a Brit to come up with this. But never mind that. Winehouse's Back To Black is a great, lush record; "lush" both in the sense of "luxuriant" and "inebriated," as exemplified by the lead single "Rehab," which is posted below. Ms. Winehouse, whose alcoholic exploits are already becoming the stuff of legend, is also possessed of a filthy mouth ("we need to find the time / to just do this shit together / before it gets worse" from "Just Friends," an ode to casual sex), but it works well with what she's trying to accomplish. The whole effect may be a bit contrived, but like I said, it's most entertaining, and a nice change of pace.

MP3: Amy Winehouse - "Rehab" from Back To Black
YouTube: Amy Winehouse - "You Know I'm No Good" from Back To Black

Holy crap, but a lot of good music came out today. TTT has a lot of digesting to do, but I suspect there'll be discussion of Andrew Bird, LCD Soundsystem, Modest Mouse, Low, etc. to get to pretty soon. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 4: The Beatles - Stars of '63

The Beatles are easily the most bootlegged band of all time -- in fact, I'd love to know what percentage of their lives between 1962 and 1970 wasn't caught on tape and can't be had on a CD these days -- so as this series continues, I'm sure we'll revisit them often. But let's begin with something early, short and really, really sweet.

John Lennon often said that this was his favorite live recording of The Beatles. In October of 1963, with Beatlemania in full swing in Britain and swiftly spreading across Europe, the group appeared on a Swedish radio show called "Pop '63" and played a wicked 7-song set before a small studio audience. As was typical at the time, the setlist was a mix of Lennon-McCartney originals (McCartney kicks things off with a rollicking "I Saw Her Standing There") and covers of American rock and roll hits (by artists like Chuck Berry and Smokey Robinson) of the sort that had inspired the boys to pick up their guitars in the first place. The special thing about this performance -- other than the sound quality, which is pretty amazing, especially given the vintage -- is that it was recorded in a studio, away from the thousands of screaming girls who no doubt made the actual concert in Stockholm impossible to hear. So what strikes you with this tape, unlike other live recordings of The Beatles in this period, is the stunning musicianship -- the frequently overlooked fact that the early Beatles were, first and foremost, a shit-hot bar band, forged by hundreds of little club gigs played in places like Liverpool and Hamburg over the better part of 2 years. Friends, these cats could flat-out play. (Check out George's blistering leads on "Roll Over Beethoven".) By the grace of God, they also just happened to possess a magical chemistry and unparalleled charisma, not to mention two of the most gifted songwriters and vocalists who ever plugged a guitar into an amplifier.

Two-and-a-half months after this performance, The Beatles would hit New York, play the Ed Sullivan Show and, well, you know the rest.

Although the translation is a little spotty, you can learn more about this historic recording here.


Front cover
Back Cover

01 intro
02 I Saw Her Standing There
03 From Me To You
04 Money
05 Roll Over Beethoven
06 You Really Got A Hold On Me
07 She Loves You
08 Twist and Shout
09 interviews*

(*The interviews on this disc, at least one of which was recorded post-Shea Stadium about 2 years later, have nothing to do with this performance. I guess the bootleggers at Swingin' Pig felt guilty about the brevity of this set and wanted to throw in some bonus material. In any event, since the interviews are listed in the artwork, I've included them here.)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Odds and Sods

NPR has last Wednesday night's performance by The Good, The Bad & The Queen, at the 9:30 Club in D.C., available to stream or download. Excellent stuff from one of my favorite records so far this year. has posted (far too few) audio excerpts from the wonderfully freewheeling interview that Michael Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills gave at the magazine's offices last Monday afternoon, hours before R.E.M.'s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I especially enjoyed hearing about the squalid conditions the band was living in when Rolling Stone named Murmur the best album of 1983, over Michael Jackson's Thriller.

A huge, slip-cased coffee table book that details "EVERYTHING related to the Beatles recording sessions, including beautiful, almost-pornographic photos of every mixing board, mic, tape deck, etc. ever used in a Beatles session," and costs over a hundred bucks? Yes, please! (tip from DJ Cayenne at BGB)

Need a cheat sheet on release dates for upcoming CDs, music DVDs and even books about music? Pause & Play has you covered.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Can't Hardly Wait

Advance tracks from some forthcoming releases we're looking forward to:

ARCTIC MONKEYS - "Brianstorm," from Favorite Worst Nightmare, out on April 24

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE - "Michael and Heather At The Baggage Claim," from Traffic and Weather, out on April 3

KINGS OF LEON - "Black Thumbnail," from Because Of The Times, out on April 3

Something So Strong

Another update on the Crowded House reunion: The band is wrapping up work on a new studio album, Time On Earth, and rehearsing in the UK before taking the new lineup on the road for the first time in 10 years, starting with the Coachella Festival on April 29. TONIGHT they will perform both new tracks and old favorites in a live interactive webcast, starting at 6pm Eastern in the U.S. To log on and see that performance, go here. (Apparently, they also will take time during the performance to read out comments and answer questions from fans. You can e-mail comments and questions to:

Friday, March 16, 2007

Whiskey, You're Me Darlin'

Time to start getting warmed up for St. Patrick's Day and prepare yourself for my favorite sport, Competitive Drinking. Nobody parties like the Irish, and tomorrow, we're all Irish. What's your style? Shots of Jameson? Guinness? Both at the same time, a la Shane McGowan? (Interestingly, I once heard that Shane's drink of choice is tequila and grapefruit juice -- mmmm). What makes your Irish Eyes smile? Drop a comment and let us know how you plan on celebrating. In the meantime, here are a few tunes to get you in the spirit, so to speak.

MP3: The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"
MP3: The Pogues - "If I Should Fall From Grace With God"
MP3: The Marlarkey Brothers - "Whiskey, You're The Devil"
MP3: The Tossers - "Nantucket Girl's Song"
MP3: Flogging Molly - "Drunken Lullabies"
MP3: Cruiskeen - "Whiskey In The Jar"
MP3: Flogging Molly - "Rebels Of The Sacred Heart"
MP3: The Pogues - "Irish Rover" (Live from Boston, 1987)
MP3: The Dropkick Murphys - "Kiss Me I'm Shitfaced"

P.S. How are your brackets holding up?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

We Have a Winner!

So, we held the drawing this morning at TTT world headquarters, high above Midtown Atlanta, and the winner of our inaugural Wrapped Up In Books contest is a gentleman called HAMMERtodd who lives in Lafayette, Indiana. His excellent entry was "The Book of Love" from 69 Love Songs Vol. 1 by The Magnetic Fields. But HAMMERtodd hasn't provided an e-mail address, so we currently don't know where to send the books. (The pic at left is his Blogger avatar -- I've posted it to grab his attention if/when he drops by again.) Yo, HAMMERtodd, congratulations, and drop me an e-mail (use the link at the top of the page) so I can ship your books to you! (We even arranged to get them signed by the authors at the event last night, so it's almost like you were there.)

UPDATE ON 3/16: We've found some leads and have some feelers out, but still no contact from HAMMERtodd. If he doesn't turn up by Monday morning, the 19th, we'll draw again for a new winner.

UPDATE ON 3/17: HAMMERtodd found!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

If They Asked Me, I Could Write A Book

Just a reminder that today is the last day to enter our Wrapped Up In Books contest (we'll be drawing our winner tomorrow morning), and that the Wordsmiths Books / Criminal Records event is at 7:00 PM tonight at Aurora Coffee in Little 5 Points (with the in-store performance by Paolo Nutini right after, next door at Criminal). Enter the contest, and then head to L5P tonight and get some culture. 'Cause we've all been talking and you could use some.

Monday, March 12, 2007

We'll Know When We Get There

When Uncle Tupelo divorced in 1994, a lot of their fans chose sides. On the one hand, there was Son Volt, Jay Farrar's band and the obvious No Depression torchbearers. On the other hand was Wilco, the slightly disheveled little brother, made up of the majority of the Uncle Tupelo members and arguably the bigger heart. Son Volt's first release, the classic Trace, came strongest out of the gate, picking up right where Uncle Tupelo's Anodyne had left off. Wilco's initial release, A.M., failed to yield a massive single like Trace's "Drown," but revealed Tweedy as a natural band leader with tons of potential. Somewhere along the way, Son Volt began to stall on its sameness, just as Wilco slowly went on to increasing levels of creative wonder. [Note: This is not the time or place to discuss Sky Blue Sky.] Farrar released the solo record Sebastopol (which I thought was brilliant) in 2001, but seemed to stall out himself shortly thereafter.

In 2005, Farrar dusted off the Son Volt brand and released Okemah And The Melody Of Riot, on which Jay was the only member of the original Son Volt. Honestly, it wasn't a record that I listened to more than a few times. It was decent, but nothing new, and the fact that I couldn't get it to load into my iTunes doomed it to the storage area of my record collection. Having actively committed to the other line of the Uncle Tupelo split, I figured Okemah represented the end of my diminishing Jay Farrar/Son Volt flirtation.

Then Son Volt released The Search last week, and even though the reviews haven't been overwhelming, with a work-related trip down to Valdosta and not a lot of new stuff to listen to, I felt drawn to see if anything might be going on. And I am most please to report that The Search is well worth the investment. From the get-go, you get the impression that the band has tapped into new inspiration. The album-opening "Slow Hearse" (even with its drum part nicked from Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart") explores new artsy territory, while the trumpets in the "The Picture" provide a surprising release of that initial tension.

The record hits its stride with the must-have "Circadian Rhythm," with its haunting backwards guitar line, and the spacious "Beacon Soul," both of which have the sound that was once the bread and butter of R.E.M., bitterweet melodies that seem to be tied to the gothic South. Also not to be missed is the great duet with Shannon McNally on the longing country ballad "Highways and Cigarettes."

Jay may still give you predictably consistent melodies and unnecessarily obfuscatory lyrics, but the sound of The Search is pleasing nonetheless. The whole record is familiar without ever being boring, and Jay seems to have regained his stride with strong new musicians and a new palette with which to paint his tales of hard-living Americana. The Search moves across a throughly enjoyable landscape, and even though the recognizable signposts may have received a coat of paint or two, they still feel like home. And with the record comfortably loaded onto my iPod, it's already getting heavy rotation. Son Volt definitely deserves a second (or third) look.

MP3: Son Volt - "Circadian Rhythm" from The Search

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 3: Radiohead - Glastonbury '97

Ten years ago this summer, on June 28, 1997, Radiohead headlined the annual Glastonbury Festival in southwest England. Rain had drenched the grounds for days, leaving the festival-goers in one huge, miserable mud pit, and prompting many of them to head home early. But when Radiohead hit the stage that Saturday night, armed largely with songs from their last two records (The Bends and OK Computer, which had been out for only 2 weeks), they were a band on a mission.

In a critics' poll a few years ago, the British magazine Q named the ensuing show the greatest gig ever. Not the greatest Glastonbury set of all time, or even the greatest Radiohead show. The BEST GIG EVER PLAYED BY ANYONE, EVER. (As another Q article later put it, "Knee-deep in mud, Glastonbury 1997 should have been a disaster. Instead Radiohead played the show of their lives.") Of course, such lists, constantly generated by the British music press, can be pretty silly, and it's impossible to say that a particular show by a particular band was the best one ever played (or even to tag one Radiohead show as their best ever, when they tend to be nothing less than spectacular night after night). But one listen to this performance will have you struggling to think of a better one. This is what a band sounds like when it is absolutely on fire, when every little thing is working just like they planned it -- the band is tight and ferocious, Thom Yorke is in gorgeous voice throughout, and the set is perfectly paced and packed with songs from two records that would go on to be considered absolute classics. And yes, they play "Creep," too.

Circulating commercial bootlegs of this show (which would provide artwork with a track list) are single-disk editions that include only the edited version of the show that was broadcast later by BBC radio. But I'm giving you the entire show, from the BBC source tapes. Trust me, having the entire set is way better than having some bootlegger's cheesy covers for your CD case.


Front cover - from an edited version of the show
Alternate front cover - from an edited version of the show
Back cover - none available for this complete version of the show

Disc 1:
01 Lucky
02 My Iron Lung
03 Airbag
04 Planet Telex
05 Exit Music (For A Film)
06 The Bends
07 Nice Dream
08 Paranoid Android
09 Karma Police
10 Creep
11 Climbing Up The Walls
12 No Surprises

Disc 2:
01 Talk Show Host
02 Bones
03 Just
04 Fake Plastic Trees
05 You
06 The Tourist
07 High and Dry
08 Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

It's Been Such A Long Time

R.I.P. Brad Delp.

Just try not to be too hard on Kurt for stealing your riff.

MP3: Boston - "More Than A Feeling"

MP3: Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

F*ck Tha Police

"Roxanne" my ass. THIS is the reunion news of the year:

This year sees the start of the re-release campaign by Universal and Warners of the entire Squeeze back catalogue. These releases are something that Chris and I are really proud of and so in support of this, we have decided to do a limited amount of shows as Squeeze. All information about releases and dates will be posted up here on a regular basis. - Glenn
Oh please come back to the States together, gents, before you pack it again.

MP3: Squeeze - "Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)" (live at The Bottom Line, NYC, May 30, 1980)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wrapped Up In Books - A TTT Contest

Our new friends at Wordsmiths Books in Decatur, in association with our old friends at Criminal Records in Little 5 Points, are putting on a great literary/music event next Wednesday night, March 14, and to promote it, they've generously given us a prize pack to give away. First, the goods on the event:

At 7:00 that evening, authors John Sheppard and Evan Mandery will discuss music, celebrity and pop culture, as well as playing some illustrative tunes from their iPods, at Aurora Coffee in L5P. Shepperd is the author of Small Town Punk, the funny, semi-autobiographical story of kids trapped and bored in a landscape of Walmarts and Pizza Huts, but buoyed by their love of old-school punk rock. (More info is here.) Mandery's new book is Dreaming of Gwen Stefani, a comic novel that explores the dark side of celebrity obsession. Then, as soon as the literary portion of the evening concludes, proceedings will move next door to Criminal Records, where soulful Scottish singer-songwriter (dig the alliteration, lit geeks!) Paolo Nutini will give an in-store performance. It should be a great, esoteric evening of book and culture chat, coffee and music. The phrase "free wine" has also been tossed around.

Now the contest: Wordsmiths has given us a set of these books to give away, and you don't need to attend the event or even live in Atlanta to be eligible to win (although you do need to live somewhere in the U.S. -- the TTT treasury can't handle international shipping just yet). In a comment below, just answer one question: What's your favorite book-related or literature-themed song? "Paperback Writer" by The Beatles? "Everyday I Write The Book" by Elvis Costello? C'mon, there must be hundreds of 'em -- let's see some creativity out there. We'll toss all the entries in a hat and draw a winner out at random the morning after the event (so next Thursday the 15th). Be sure to give us your e-mail address with your comment (no one will see it but us) -- if you win, we'll need to contact you and arrange to get you the goods.

Finally, if you want to double your chances of winning, our main man DJ Cayenne at Baby Got Books has a set of books to give away as well.

MP3: Belle & Sebastian - "Wrapped Up In Books"

Between The Click Of The Light And The Start Of The Dream

The good folks at have thrown us some extra bandwidth this month, gratis, so I figure we might as well try to use it up. For starters, we'll put the exclamation point on our coverage of Arcade Fire Release Week with this absolute gem, the band's studio session for the Canadian Broadcasting Company on October 2, 2004, not long after Funeral was released. This was the first time I had ever heard them play live (I didn't see them myself until about 3 months later), and I remember it being one of those moments where I had to stop whatever else I was doing and just listen. It's short, but it was being blasted all over their native country by the CBC, and maybe for that reason, it's still one of the most passionate and sublime performances I've ever heard them give.

Arcade Fire - CBC Session 10.02.04
01 No Cars Go
02 Neighborhood # 7 (Seven Kettles)
03 In The Back Seat
04 This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads cover)
05 Haiti

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Odds and Sods

Salon's Audiofile podcast this week is a chat with Shins frontman James Mercer.

The new Wilco record, Sky Blue Sky, has leaked all over the place, over 2 months before its May 15 release date, but you can download one track, "What Light," right now with their compliments.

Speaking of upcoming releases, mark your calendars, White Stripes and Ryan Adams fans. The Stripes have wrapped up work on Icky Thump in Nashville and promise to deliver it "as soon as corporately possible," while Mr. Adams will deliver Easy Tiger on June 5. Just the one this year, Ryan?

Recent show reviews at Pitchfork have featured some really exceptional photography by a New York artist named Kathryn Yu. She has a blog that features some of her work, and regularly posts photostreams at Flickr as well. Her shots of the Arcade Fire shows at Judson Memorial Church last month were the first ones to catch my eye.

The long lost Dylan-Seuss sessions -- genius!

Finally, "Ms. Lefevre," a cheesy video made in 1996 by a Vancouver punk-pop trio called Maow. Why should you watch it? Because their drummer was a little hottie named Neko Case, that's why.

Kathryn Yu recently shot Neko, too. (Thanks, Jo, for the Neko-Maow tip.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

The King's Taking Back The Throne

With the pre-release media coverage having reached a crescendo in recent days (including a long and fawning profile in Sunday's New York Times Magazine), it seems pointless to write yet another review of Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. Suffice it to say that it's finally out tomorrow, and yes, it's really, really good -- not as immediately engaging and consistently transcendent as Funeral, but a gorgeous, stirring record that not only fulfills the promise of the band's 2004 full-length debut (which is destined for “classic” status), but leaves no doubt that this will be a band to follow, admire, obsess over and adore for years to come.

In fact, if Neon Bible doesn't seem quite the masterpiece that its predecessor is, perhaps it’s only because this band can’t surprise us anymore. Funeral was a revelation from out of nowhere, a bolt of brilliance from a band that almost no one had ever heard of. This record, in contrast, has to be the most eagerly anticipated and over-hyped release of the year, or perhaps the last several years. So it has everyone expecting greatness, if not predisposed to look for flaws and lead some sort of backlash.

Fortunately, flaws are in short supply here. This is glorious, impassioned music by a band of exceptional vision, power and originality. I love it because it contains so many great songs -- "Black Mirror," "Keep The Car Running," "Black Waves/Bad Vibrations," "The Well and The Lighthouse" and even an amped-up new version of old favorite "No Cars Go." I would have been more than happy, though, if all it had given us was "Intervention," the biggest, most epic thing they've ever done. You can hate on them all you want for being such media darlings, for being so universally anointed, after only two records, as standard bearers for indie rock. But if the booming pipe organ on "Intervention" doesn't thrill you to your core -- if the moment at 2:54 when Win pushes his vocal up an octave, and Regine starts singing his lines back to him, doesn't make the hair on your arms stand up -- then there's something wrong with you.

MP3: Arcade Fire - "Keep The Car Running"

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Classic Bootleg Series Vol. 2: The Clash - Chaos In New York

Given the name of our little blog, it seems only fitting to go from Dylan at the peak of his powers to The Clash at the peak of theirs. And there are so many tremendous Clash boots, it's tough to turn the spotlight on just one. But when it comes to finding a recording that captures everything that was special about the band, from the performance to the context in which they delivered it, it's tough to beat this one from their legendary 17-gig residency at Bond's Casino in New York, during the tour to promote Sandinista! in the summer of 1981. An article on Wikipedia sets the scene pretty well:
This bootleg was recorded live at Bond's Casino on June 4, 1981 in New York City.

The club was formerly Bonds department store, which had been converted into a large second-floor hall. Promoters kept the name because there was a large Bonds sign on the outside of the building. As The Clash had not yet broken out into mass popularity, eight shows were originally scheduled: May 28, 29, 30, 31 and June 1,2, 3, and 5, 1981. However, given the venue's legal capacity of 3500, the series was blatantly oversold right from the first night, leading fire marshals for the New York Fire Department to cancel the Saturday, May 30 performance. In response, the band condemned the brazen greed of the promoters while demonstrating unprecedented integrity to each and every ticketholder by doubling the original booking with a total of 17 dates extending through June. Strict interpretation of the fire laws meant that audiences were relatively small and the concerts had a feeling of intimacy that future Clash shows in arenas could never recapture. Audience members clambered onto the stage to join in singalongs. New York musicians, including Pearl Harbor, assisted and overseen by Andy Dunkley, provided disc jockey services as the audience entered and gathered.

The concert captures The Clash on the cusp between being a cult band and their short-lived major market penetration. As always with The Clash, even in their arena days, ticket prices were set relatively low.
I had the privilege of seeing The Clash twice, although slightly later and in bigger venues. If musical time travel were possible, these shows at Bond's would be way up there on my list of destinations.


Front cover
Back insert
Booklet outside
Booklet inside

Disc 1:
01 London Calling
02 Safe European Home
03 The Leader
04 Train In Vain (Stand By Me)
05 White Man In Hammersmith Palais
06 This Is Radio Clash
07 Corner Soul
08 The Guns of Brixton
09 The Call Up
10 Bankrobber
11 Complete Control
12 Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)
13 Ivan Meets G.I. Joe

Disc 2:
01 Charlie Don't Surf
02 The Magnificant Seven
03 Broadway
04 Somebody Got Murdered
05 Police and Thieves
06 (Working For The) Clampdown
07 One More Time
08 Brand New Cadillac
09 The Street Parade
10 Janie Jones
11 Washington Bullets

Thursday, March 01, 2007

While You Were Sleeping, I Caught You Dreaming

Britta Phillips (formerly of Atlanta) is really hot. Dean Wareham (formerly of New Zealand) is really cool. Perfect. Both, incidentally, are former members of the great (New York-based) band Luna, which is the subject of the incredible documentary Tell Me Do You Miss Me. If you ever wanted to be in a rock band but gave up your dream to do something more practical, Tell Me Do You Miss Me will make you feel better about your decision.

Dean and Britta (now a married couple) chucked Luna to work on their own thing. Luna was a magnificent band, equal parts Television and Velvet Underground, with a specialty in intricate guitar interplay and understated rock. Dean and Britta are an icy evolution from Luna's sound. Harking to an early '70s vibe, Wareham is a laid back Lou Reed, while Phillips is a purring sex kitten that even Hef would be proud of.

Dean and Britta's new record, Back Numbers, represents a more fully realized version of their laconic, sleepy sound. The couple's first record, the atmospheric L'Aventurra, set the tone as a slowed-down, sexy, chill-out duet record. Back Numbers takes it a step further, replacing Luna's guitar interplay with a somewhat more modern, atmospheric keyboard-blurb texture. Back Numbers is a small hours masterpiece, perfect for that period of time after the party's over and everyone's gone. Beautiful stuff.

MP3: Dean and Britta - "You Turned My Head Around" from Back Numbers
MP3: Dean and Britta - "Words You Used To Say" from Back Numbers

Check out the Cheryl Ladd-like video for "Words You Used To Say":