Sunday, April 29, 2018

Steve Albini review of Spiderland by Slint

I feel like can never find this when I search the web...so adding it here:

Slint - Spiderland
This 1991 Melody Maker review could have been written today.
“Since about 1980, America has been host to an ever-increasing parasitic infestation of rock bands of ever-dwindling originality. It seems there is no one left on the continent with an aspiration to play guitar that hasn’t formed a band and released a record. And that record sounds a little bit like Dinosaur Jr.

Trust me on this; all but maybe three of those records are pure bullshit.

My primary association with rock music is that I am a fan of it, though listening to the aforementioned nearly killed that. In its best state, rock music invigorates me, changes my mood, triggers introspection or envelopes me with sheer sound. Spiderland does all those things, simultaneously and in turns, more than any records I can think of in five years.

Spiderland is, unfortunately, Slint’s swansong, the band having succumbed to the internal pressures which eventually punctuate all bands’ biographies. It’s an amazing record though, and no one still capable of being moved by rock music should miss it. In 10 years it will be a landmark and you’ll have to scramble to buy a copy then. Beat the rush.

Slint formed in 1986 as an outlet and pastime for four friends from Louisville, Kentucky. Their music was strange, wholly their own, sparse and tight. What immediately set them apart was their economy and precision. Slint was that rare band willing to play just one or two notes at a time and sometimes nothing at all. Their only other recording, 1989’s Tweez hints at their genius, but only a couple of the tracks have anything like the staying power of Spiderland.

Spiderland is a majestic album, sublime and strange, made more brilliant by its simplicity and quiet grace. Songs evolve and expand from simple statements that are inverted and truncated in a manner that seems spontaneous, but is so precise and emphatic that it must be intuitive or orchestrated or both.

Straining to find a band to compare them with, I can only think of two, and Slint doesn’t sound anything like either of them. Structurally and in tone, they recall Television circa Marquee Moon and Crazy Horse, whose simplicity they echo and whose style they most certainly do not.

To whom would Pere Ubu or Chrome have been compared in 1972? Forgive me, I am equally clueless.

Slint’s music has always been primarily instrumental, and Spiderland isn’t a radical departure, but the few vocals are among the most pungent of any album around. When I first heard Brian McMahan whisper the pathetic words to “Washer”, I was embarrased for him. When I listened to the song again, the content eluded me and I was staggered by the sophistication and subtle beauty of the phrasing. The third time, the story made me sad nearly to tears. Genius.

Spiderland is flawless. The dry, unembellished recording is so revealing it sometimes feels like eavesdropping. The crystalline guitar of Brian McMahan and the glassy, fluid guitar of David Pajo seem to hover in space directly past the listener’s nose. The incredibly precise-yet-instinctive drumming has the same range and wallop it would in your living room.

Only two other bands have meant as much to me as Slint in the past few years and only one of them, The Jesus Lizard, have made a record this good. We are in a time of midgets: dance music, three varieties of simple-minded hard rock genre crap, soulless-crooning, infantile slogan-studded rap and ball-less balladeering. My instincts tell me the dry spell will continue for a while - possibly until the bands Slint will inspire reach maturity. Until then, play this record and kick yourself if you never got to see them live. In ten years, you’ll lie like the cocksucker you are and say you did anyway.

Ten fucking stars.”

—Steve Albini.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The art of the "farewell" tour.


There is a trend in music the last few months.  Artists retiring from touring.  Without a ton of looking in to it Elton John will do a three year “final tour”.  More on that in a second.  Neil Diamond suddenly stopped due to health issues.  Joan Baez, Paul Simon, Kenny Rodgers and Slayer have all said “we are done” after their respective runs.

First lets cast off any thoughts you have on the artists mentioned.  What I mean is, I don’t care if you don’t like xyz.  That is really not the point.  Another reaction might be “thank god”.  Again, not really the point.

Of all the bands mentioned there I have not seem them live and I am not sure I “need” to.  Honestly I’d sit through any of them with Slayer, Simon and Rodgers being my top picks.

Lets start with announcing the farewell tour.  We as consumers have all been burned.  We are looking at you “The Who” as suspects #1.  Some of the artist have said “our last formal tour” still leaving room for one off shows here and there.

As a fan of music this seems to make the most sense.  Sure I get it, years on the road take their toll.  Health, wanting to be near family are the big things you hear with these artists saying its time to slow down.  Face it, none of these artists are staying in a Motel 6 and driving a van with 200K miles on it.

Look at what Springsteen has done on Broadway, or Billy Joel doing a series of shows per month in NYC not far from his home.  It would be like a long work day for the average person.  Get up, drive to the venue, sound check, eat, do the show, hang out for a bit then head home. In your bed, seeing your kids off to school the following morning its all very appealing I am sure.

Elton doing the long run I have to applaud.  Again, just going off memory he is pretty much playing most of the places you’d expect.  US, Euro, Australia etc.  Probably South America too.  It seems silly to take three years to do this, but he is doing it at his own pace and when you think about it it’s sort of cool.  Not only that he can..but he can still “ease” in to it.

As a fan of all genres of music it’s not hard to see the up and coming bands doing their thing.  Load in, play, load out, drive.  Rinse lather repeat 200+ times a year…for 45/60 minute sets.  That has to be very difficult.  Even if you look at pop acts, they might have a tour bus right out of the gate and play radio shows (again 45/60 minute sets) they still have high level of burnout.  The older I get the more I applaud what goes on OFF stage as much as on stage.  Again, for the bands that are doing tours on their own, with a van and one friend helping.  Let’s face it most bands probably have part time jobs on the side, struggle to get time off to tour, have a fan that was already pretty tired before the tour began and they try to jam a bunch of shows in over a two week period.

I exchanged an email with a band that resides outside of Chicago a few years ago.  Fell in love with their record and wrote “will you be coming out east?” and I got a nice response but it wasn’t anything like I expected.  It basically said “we work full time jobs, we all took our allotment of vacation time and this is what we can do for now, sorry we can’t come your way”.

Making music and playing music is HARD.

If you have a chance get to the big “final” shows but make it a point to catch a new band, or arrive early for a support band.  There is just so much out there you HAVE to find something you’ll dig!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Vets Auditorium, Providence RI



Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Friday, February 2, 2018
Veterans Auditorium, Providence RI

One of the artists I have recently found myself very interested in is Jason Isbell.  Isbell released a record in 2017 that was one of my favorites called “The Nashville Sound” with his band the 400 Unit.
Giving complete transparency I saw a feature on Isbell during a segment on CVS Sunday Morning and was very curious.  From that point I became ravenous.  I have a few friends that are fans of him so when I’d ask “have you heard Jason Isbell” I was typically met with an enthusiastic “yes, of course”.
I was able to connect the dots back on February 2nd when I was able to see him perform live at the Vet’s Auditorium in Providence.

The theater was a nice mid-sized venue.  Clean and acoustically sound.  Isbell and his band were so on point it was almost disorienting.  I could hear “EVERYTHING”.  It wasn’t just this wall of sound where you could pick a bass part out of, or an extended guitar solo.  I was able to hear all the instruments and I found myself completely captivated for the duration.

Isbell for me has landed on the “must see” list, where if he is local to me I just need to see him/his band again.  He is just such a likeable guy and humble too.

Can’t say enough good things. 

Here is the full set list if you are in to such things.

Hope the High Road
24 Frames
Go It Alone
Something More Than Free
White Man’s World
Molotv
Last of My Kind
Cumberland Gap
Tupelo
Flagship
Codeine
Chaos and Clothes
Stockholm
Flying Over Water
Cover Me Up
Anxiety
Never Gonna Change (Drive By Truckers)
E:
Super 8
If We Were Vampires

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Randomness fall 2017

Just a ramble I guess…

I was thinking recently about how times change.  I guess that is just a nice way of saying  I am getting older and the world is speeding past.  Heck, as I type this record I realize that “Thriller” by Michael Jackson was released 35 years ago today.  Was I not just a wee lad when that was released?  Was it not tops on my holiday wish list (on tape no less..which is making a comeback as well??)  It really is okay.  Time is going to happen, it is just when you sit back and realize what you chose to do with it.

One of the things I was reflecting on was how blogging was a big part of what I was doing for a bit.  I met some nice, interesting people when I was doing this a bit more “on the regular”.  It was the earliest form of social media to me.  I had a network of friends and co-workers.  We’d write, we’d comment and if we were lucky we’d get pinned on the side bar as a “blog I dig” type thing.
Most of those that I was once following have long abandoned the craft.  Moving to social media for a quick fix, or in some cases seeming to disappear altogether.   I do have to say I miss looking for new posts and seeing what people wrote.  Often read only by a small group of people.  Occasionally I’d stumble upon people that were looking to make a career of writing and many of them, at the very least had a manuscript published!  Sorta cool.

I also followed a guy that had hilarious posts and he now is a sports writer and has over a million twitter followers.  Hopefully some of his old posts he hid/deleted!  I still giggle at some of the stories.
Writing, for me, was something I don’t mind doing…but I need a proofreader desperately!

2017 is drawing towards a close.  I am not sure I can do a “favorite records” of the year the way I’d like to.  My new job (now 2.5 years on) has not afforded me a lot of time to listen to music.  My commute to work is pretty short as well (I know..first world problems) so having that attention to give, even for 35 minutes, can be hard to find.  Couple that with I tend to buy 2-3 things at a time and give them a listen when I can.  Still I think 2017 has been pretty strong.  I should, at the very list do a list of the cds that got the most plays.  We shall see.

In the world of hockey I continue to do a fair amount of timekeeping.  Its getting easier and the pay has been pretty great.  With high school season kicking off soon I hope to maybe find/log some hours doing that.  I say that now, but sitting in a cold rink when it gets chippy might be one of my least favorite things in the world.  Just finish the game you big dummies…I want to go home.

About all I wanted to write today..(for the first time in weeks)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

DunkFest USA 2017

(Had this saved on my computer and never posted)..

Dunkfest USA
Higher Ground, Burlington VT
Saturday Oct 7th and Sunday October 8, 2017

There are a couple of things to set up when talking about this particular event.  First, it’s a very popular that has been hosted in Belgium.  Most of the acts that play fall under the “post rock” genre (largely instrumental) music.  When I saw that a US version as going to be staged I felt I needed to go.
And boy am I glad I did.
The event ran for two days at The Higher Ground, a pretty good sized club in Burlington Vermont.  The venue has two rooms. (based off what I can find a 300 capacity and 1000 capacity room, separated by a lobby). The music ran both days from 230pm until midnight…it was a long day.
But damn it was great….
I arrived at the club having missed just the first 2 bands.  Part of it was hotel check in issues and the like, but once I was there in the club I was in for the long haul.  Going in I felt Sunday (day 2) was the strong of the days, at least for me personally.  I was more than happy to sit back and learn some new things, find some new bands and enjoy…and that I did.
This Patch of Sky FINALLY came to the east coast.  This was a big pull for me. I’ve been wanting to seem them for ages, and they are active on social media so I feel like I always knew/know what’s up with them, but had yet to see them.  They released a new album less than 30 days before this show and they were in FINE form.  The band has a cellist, so there were new elements being played.  If you were new to the band it was probably as confusing (at the start) as it was refreshing to mix things up.  The lone bummer from them was the seemingly cut short set (I swear they had at least 10 minutes) but I did read another review that said they had some tech issues, but I didn’t see/hear anything.
The band that most surprised me though was Astronoid.  When they guys came on stage it was not what I was expecting.  Big hair, big amps and one guitarist used a “Flying V”.  Not really something you associate to the genre.  Once they started I was hooked.  It could have been that the two bands (both in the same room and opposite room) were more on the mellow side these guys blew the roof off.  It was loud, it was fast it even had soaring vocals???!  Odd..but I loved it.  Refreshing..yes…and a sweet kick in the ass as we all approached hour 10ish and band 21 of 22…we needed it.
Pelican wrapped up day one exactly like I had expected.  Powerful.

Day 2
Now that I had a day under my belt I knew how I wanted to approach the next day.  I was a little lazier in getting to the club on day two, instead taking in some of the sights and sounds of Burlington.  Despite being overcast (and a time of rain that seemed to fall sideways) it’s a really cool city.  I found two record shops and a decent place to grab some lunch so those were additional wins.


The End of the Ocean took to the stage and by the first song of the set Tara (the keyboard player) had toppled over.  She fell, the keyboard with her and everything.  She was just rocking out THAT HARD.
Coastlands were a ton of fun.  They really worked the second stage well and were even nicer at their merch booth (heck I went back to see them and chat).  One of the few bands that came from Portland just for this event (yes…other side of the US) and they made the most of their time.  I enjoyed their set very much.

Junius was next on the main stage.  Phil, from Caspian, was sitting in on bass.  I was excited to see him as I didn’t know much about the band.  Sadly they didn’t do a ton for me.  The stage presence, outside of Phil, was pretty tame.  Even the lead singer had his hoodie up and it was overwhelmingly dark on the stage.  I wanted to like them more than I did sadly.
The evening ended with a thunderous set from Russian Circles.  The stage seemed to glow red for their entire set and they don’t even take a microphone to say hello, but man they can deliver a heavy set.

The Good – Any band that was “new” to me was great.
Reasonably priced merch (most bands were $10 on cds, shirts were cheap, posters and sticker (free)
Being able to leave venue for fresh air/food
Restrooms were not totally nasty
Staff at venue.

The bad – (it wasn’t bad..but its not how this game works)
Lack of in house food choices
Seating with good sightlines in both rooms
2 too many bands per day.  It’s LOOOOONG


I really hope this comes back.  It was such a great weekend of hearing familiar stuff, finding new stuff and just being surrounded by like-minded folks made for a tremendous time.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Some great music these days..

Lots to be excited about these days.  The most time I can “sit” and listen to music is at work, and usually I am not at my desk so its hard to catch up.  The last week I’ve had a “light” week and have been able to sit and listen to things.  I still have a few new releases in their cellophane wrapper though!
A while back CBS Sunday Morning did a piece on Jason Isbell.  I had heard of him and sorta didn’t really waiver one way or the other, but for the 7 minute piece was was enthralled.  I went right out and bought the latest album and played it as often as I could.  I really was probably my “summer” cd.  I played it in car, when I worked in the yard and when I sat on the patio staring at a fire pit.  I was just ‘too late’ to catch him on the first wave of his tour, but have tickets for February and I am pretty excited.  I’ve grabbed a few others from him and each has something I seem to be looking for.  Late to the party, but I brought chips and I am ready to hang out for a while.

Caught Elbow the other night in Boston. (I gotta do a review).  They are touring to support their new album “Little Fictions”.  At first I wasn’t super drawn to it (again so many things pulling for my time) but leading up to the show I made the effort to “pay attention” and after 1-2 solid listens I started to really love it.  The album gets stronger as it goes and seeing/hearing things live even more so.  Why this band seems to contine to elude US audiences on a grander scale is baffling to me.
Still wrapped up (and the good thing is what I’ve been hearing is all pretty positive) are the latest from Beck, the 3rd (or is it 4th) release of the year from King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and the Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile album.

Might have a down week again this week..so..hopefully more to come!

Sunday, November 5, 2017


Elbow
Paradise Rock Club
Boston, MA
Wednesday November 1, 2017


Support: C Duncan

Elbow has been a band that I’ve grown to appreciate more and more.  Wednesday was the third time I’ve seen the band live and the 2nd time after I vowed to “never miss them again”.

Arriving to the club (sold out) C Duncan was on stage.  One guy with what appeared to be a keyboard/laptop type set up.  He was on his 2nd to last song and what I heard didn’t overly move me, but he got a good response from the audience.

My buddy and I settled upstairs.  The Paradise has a lot of history and one of the things its known for is the massive poles that are in the WORST places for sight lines.  A few years ago the club did some renovations and put in an small balcony area and moved the board up there.  Well, for whatever reason Elbow put their gear on the main floor.  They had big “staging” areas too for guitars/bass and a LOT of floor space was unused.  Sold out shows at the Paradise are a drag..there I said it.

Thankfully Elbow helped me quickly forget all that.

Opening with “Any Day Now” which is the first track of the bands 2001 debut album.  It was a dark and moody (and perfect) take on the track.  You could almost hear people audibly gasp that they were playing the tune.  They kept it “old” by then going in to “The Bones of You” from the 2008 release “The Seldom Seen Kid”  we then got “Fly Boy Blue” and finally the first track from the newest record (Little Fictions) in “Head for Supplies”

“My Sad Captains” brought a (continuous) sing along with the wonderful line “What a perfect waste of time”.  Frontman Guy Garvey is just such a great front man.  He didn’t run around the stage, but he made good use of it.  His stories in between just about every song were more charming than annoying.  You actually looked forward to the story about how as song was put together, or why etc.

The whole show was just a series of highlights, further confirming their “must not miss” status.  “The Birds” as a buddy noted is a track that “I could listen to for 2 hours” and “Little Fictions” with its Radiohead-esque final few minutes just pull you right in.

Of course a big payoff song is “One Day Like This”.  This track ended the main set and will forever be a set closer for the band, it is just so perfect.  Garvey got the audience to “hum” early on.  The floor hummed in one key, then upstairs another key.  Then the song began so when the sing along came up Garvey commanded working “harmonies”.  I know that singing at shows can be seen in various ways, but this just HAS to happen when this song goes down.  Honestly one of those tracks where I wish I could transport the most cynical music fan just to experience.  It is just a perfect few minutes.

The band left the stage and came back for three more tracks.  “Grounds for Divorce” was another track that whipped everyone in to a frenzy and the night was ended with that.

The full set list:
Any Day Now
The Bones of You
Fly Boy Blue/Lunette
Head for Supplies
My Said Captains
Leaders of the Free World
Switching Off
All Disco
Magnificent (She Says)
Mirrorball
The Birds
Little Fictions
Kindling
One Day Like This
E:
Station Approach
Lippy Kids
Grounds for Divorce

The band doesn’t seem to tour the US very much (at least in my opinion) so catch them when you can.  I know I won’t miss em if they are local.