'Round the Dial: The dead of winter
Wednesday 03 January @ 17:30:05
If there is such a thing as "the dead of winter," post-New Year's definitely has to be the definitive definition. When you're a kid (depending on your upbringing), New Year's means waking up to a living room full of tattered party hats and those stupid noisemakers, half-empty glasses and the echoes of late-night/early morning revelry (or arguing, once again depending on your upbringing) still ringing in the silent dawn. Either that or church, and given those choices I'll take the dysfunctional family and cold pizza over dire sermons and growling bellies any day.
When you're older, it's an evening of parties, fuzzy memories and soon-to-be-forgotten, naive hopes and dreams culminating with another reminder that you still haven't done shit with your life AND you have a skull-splitting headache. Eventually, you begin to find excuses to not go to those parties, not make those resolutions, not rest all your future hopes and dreams on the turn of a calendar page. In the end, you're either not around for any more grand, over-populated New Year's celebrations (or anything else) or you learn to accept the ritual as a rather pointless but grudgingly welcomed respite from the deepest, darkest depths of nature's cycle.
Me, I've long passed the stage where marking the turning of the calendar year absolutely has to include standing in rooms full of strangers, making uncomfortable small talk and imbibing massive amounts of liver-damaging substances. Oh, I still imbibe, I just do it at home, with the heat and my stereo cranked up high and my future expectations set to more realistic levels. So while ya'll were out whoopin' it up and kissing '06 goodbye, I sat down and went through some CDs I'd either missed or gotten in the mail too late to include in my recent columns—good stuff, too, for the most part.
I'll spare you the details on the ones that were too horrific to even sit through once, and toss off the few that might have something good to say (and know how to say it musically) one day in the future, and stick to the ones that just seemed to make the evening a pleasant, warm listening experience.
So here we are—just you and I and these shiny little discs full of other people's hopes and dreams and expectations. When the first rays of dawn on the first day of 2007 start peeping in, it's off to la-la land with my head under my pillow and the first four seasons of "House" playing on low volume ...
So It Goes
Now, Here, This Records
This one just had the misfortune of having been misplaced in this mess I call an office, or it would've at least garnered a mention on my Best Of 2006 list last week. Produced, mixed and engineered by board-wiz/musician Ed Ackerson at Flowers Studio in Minneapolis, Historionics is a genuine groundbreaker of an album, and with the band planning on hitting the road soon, there's no time like the present to remind music nuts about this up-and-coming local outfit.
Helmed by brothers/songwriters Adam Payson and Travis Arthur and ably backed by drummer Micah Thor and bassist Brian Gruidl, SIG comes off with a post-new wave blast that produces a feeling akin to being bounced around in time musically; from the heady, experimental days of the '80s to some unknown, heretofore undiscovered future genre in the blink of an eye.
Opener "Get On With It" immediately establishes the band's original, past/present musical assault, with futuristic, robotic blasts of synth, ringing guitars and an undeniable post-disco throb. These guys remind you of the best of experimental, new-wave-y outfits from the era they draw their initial inspiration from—from the obvious (The Cars, The Clash, The Phones) to the subtle (The Fall, The Alarm, 12 Rods), all while managing to avoid any of those band's personal quirks or personal and/or political aspirations.
"Robots Are Dead" is (lyrically) a rocked-up, Devo-esque coda to The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star," while "Seven Dials" is a soul-warming, hypnotic slice of power pop a la The Church. I'd even go so far as to say that SIG is forging a sound here that hints at the direction INXS might have gone had they continued in the mod-pop vein of "Don't Change" and had Michael Hutchence not given new meaning to the term "just hangin' around."
All in all, So It Goes are a solid, pro outfit with guitars and keys that range from soothing to paranoid in a flash, bolstered by smart, poetic lyrics and unabashed New Wave romanticism, all backed by a constant, gut-thrumming bottom end. Catchy, hook-a-riffic modern rock 'n' roll with a hell-in-a-hand-basket attitude and honest, well-crafted production and musical craftsmanship. Maybe the past is the future after all ... Check 'em out at soitgoesband.com.
The Song He Was Listening To When He Died
Hailing from the talent-rich pool of Austin, Texas, Michael Hall delivers a doozey of a release with TSHWLTWHD—reveling in a sound that's eerily akin to the wonderfully-skewed rock 'n' roll circus punch of Stan Ridgway (ex-Wall Of Voodoo), with a bit of Vic Chesnutt-inspired lyrical witticism and a heavy dose of high desert humor thrown in for good measure. This album is a delightful mish-mash of genuine, from-the-gut surprises. This is definitely not country music, or even "Americana," but it goes a long way towards embodying the true, damn-the-torpedoes spirit of some of the masters of those genres, and Hall's self-created genre defies categorization while living and breathing the musical heritage of his stomping grounds.
Though there's a bit of Townes Van Zandt-ish melancholy buried amongst the frequently hilarious couplets sprinkled throughout the record, this modern-day rock 'n' roll cowboy's open-hearted, tongue-in-cheek self-deprecation definitely overshadows any possible allegations of preciousness or emulation here. Hall (and a huge cast of talented compadres) is a master at switching subject matter and musical styles at the drop of a (ten gallon?) hat—and he knows it, and your knowing he knows it gives it an even more memorable impact.
A quick run-through of the comfy, rollin' an' tumblin' grooves of the Flatlanders-inspired "Amelia," the light, airy mood of the otherwise dark title track (guy dies listening to his favorite song and even then still can't get it out of his head) and the beat-box/spoken word masterpiece "I Had A Girl In Dien Bien Phu" all prove he's not only a musical force to be reckoned with, but also an artist just waiting for the right attention from the right people.
My personal fave on the album has to be the thought-provoking, belly laugh-invoking anthem "America," though. Here, Hall ruminates in a serious tone for a moment about his love for America, lines in the sand, blah blah blah, then drops the (lyrical) bomb: "I carry America with me as I go from town to town ... not the country, but the rock and roll band ... they rode Sister Golden Hair, all three at one time!" Highly recommended. Check Michael's stuff out at michaelhall.org.
The Bloody Hollies
Who To Trust, Who To Kill, Who To Love
Alive Natural Sound
Buffalo-to-San Diego garage rockers The Bloody Hollies' third release, the ferociously titled Who To Trust ... is a balls-to-the-wall, out-and-out thrasher of an album right out of the gate. Though vocally they casually recall The White Stripes and their ilk, this band has all the chops, the deep-seated hunger and none of the cutesy, trendy schtick of those outfits.
Kicking off scratching, yowling and battering with the bizarre, catchy rush of "Mona," The Bloody Hollies (how could you go wrong with a name like that?) hitch your caboose to their full-throttle train before you even have a chance to buy a ticket, and the ride only gets wilder from there on out.
A three-piece (other than accordion accompaniment by Troy Troyus on "Mona" and "Hurry Hurry Hurry") comprised of singer/guitarist/harp-man Wesley Doyle, axe-man Joey Horgen and skin-meister Matthew Bennett, the band churns out such a dazzling, ear-dizzying, feedback-augmented brew of sound there are times you'd swear there's four, five or six guys belting out these classics-to-be.
Bottom line with The Bloody Hollies is that they're a driven, lyrically-inspired gang of fellow blues/punk/rock lovers who've somehow managed to combine their most deeply ingrained influences (Howlin' Wolf, Junior Kimbrough, long-forgotten Deep Southern troubadours with names like Limpin' Larry Jones and One-Eye Jackson) with the obvious (pre-major label Stooges, The Count Five, varying punk influences ranging from The Minutemen to Dead Boys to 999) and their own genuine love for amps that go past "11" to create a sound that's both in-the-moment and comfortingly familiar at the same time. Recommended track: "Satanic Satellite." Check 'em out at bloodyhollies.com and be prepared for a righteous, soulful punch in the rock 'n' roll belly.
That's all the room we've got this time 'round, my little tipplers, tumblers an' trippers—tune in next time, same space, same time for more killer new releases, including Jon Dee Graham, Trainwreck Riders, Paranoid Larry, and (maybe) Jack Logan. 'Til then—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/CDs you'd like to see mentioned in this space, or you'd just like to complain that I wasn't around to accidentally pour beer down your back this year at a party, send replies to: Tmygunn77764@yahoo.com. ||