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Music Reviews

The Stooges

The Stooges

Live at Goose Lake, August 8th, 1970

Third Man Records

Ever wish you had a time machine so you could witness legendary music events? Like, you could catch the Beatles honing their sound in Germany, or watch that Sex Pistols gig that inspired generations of bands, or check out the Stax/Volt revue showing Europeans just what soul music was all about. Or you could check out the Goose Lake Festival, a three-day festival billed as Michigan’s Woodstock that featured the Stooges playing their new album Fun House in its entirety. Now that Third Man has released you can save your time machine for more noble pursuits, like killing Hitler or riding a dinosaur. Notable for being the last appearance of original bassist Dave Alexander, Goose Lake shows the Stooges in all their sloppy, explosive glory, even with a few technical missteps. There’s some on-stage tuning, there’s little crowd interaction (at least audibly), but when the band hits, it’s explosive. Alexander was fired soon after this show for getting too high beforehand to play properly, although it’s not super noticeable unless you’re listening for it (which after reading the liner notes, you probably will be). The band as a whole seems to take a while to gel – by the time they get to “1970,” the explosiveness of the studio album seems to finally click, even if it sort of seems to fall apart at the end of the song. Not to say Goose Lake isn’t a great document. Iggy’s opening scream on “TV Eye” channels all the primal energy of the band, and the remastering job clears up the muddy sounding boots that have been circulating for years. “Funhouse” in particular is a showcase for the band, with the rhythm section providing a solid support for Steve Mackay’s sax battling with Ron Asheton’s guitar until it segues into “LA Blues.”

Definitely worth picking up, Goose Lake makes a great addition to the original Stooges albums and when it hits, shows just what all the fuss was about. Plus, it will save wear and tear on your valuable time machine.

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The Lacking Organization

Episode 109: Digger

Episode 109: Digger

Go ahead and call your band Great Grandpa. You better have something pretty weird up your sleeve.

IN THIS EPISODE

Allah-Las, Beach House, The Boneless Children Foundation, Chicano Batman, Cory Wong, De La Soul, Dry Cleaning, Enon, Funky Butt Brass Band, Great Grandpa, His Name Is Alive, Iggy Pop, The Incredible Jimmy Smith, Joe Pastrana & His Orchestra, Juana Molina, Lower 48, Madness, Melkbelly, Mr. Elevator, Negativland, The Obscuritones, Peter Bjorn and John, The Police, Post Animal, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Royal Fingers, Scout Niblett, Shopping, The Wrens

For more information and a full playlist with notes, visit the.lacking.org/podcast/2020/0109-digger

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Music Reviews

Dreamerz&Co

Dreamerz&Co

Demons

Dreamerz&Co is not exactly a band but Adriaan Dorresteijn with a revolving group of musicians from in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, they have a rather distinctive creative approach and consistently sound like a band on every release. Their music is a strong blend of blues, classic rock, and many other influences. All of these different stylistic elements converge beautifully into the mix, allowing them to create a listening experience that’s diverse and exciting for the audience.

Their most recent single is the ominously named “Demons.” In spite of the darkness of the title, this song is actually quite uplifting. The track kicks off with a guitar line, and it moves into a musical territory that’s almost like a blend of funk, rock, and blues. I love the vintage flavor of the production, which makes me think of artists as diverse as Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, and even Iggy Pop, only to mention a few. This is a fun and direct cut to listen to, and every element is balanced. The guitars are edgy and creamy, the drums are even and solid, while the bass really lets the groove move. I also admire the vocals with the smooth keyboard parts adding some extra details. Recommended.

www.dreamerzco.com

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Music Reviews

Fea

Fea

No Novelties

Blackheart Records

It’s cliché and sometimes downright offensive to reference a band by its members’ identities. In simpler terms, as the great L7 once said, “gender is not a genre.” They’re right. On the other hand, identity is, well, identity. It’s who we are. We can embrace it or ignore it. San Antonio-based Fea chooses the former. The self-styled ‘Riot Grrrl Chicana Punk’ named their band the Spanish word for ugly. Formed by former Girl in a Coma drummer Phanie Diaz and bassist Jenn Alva, Fea made their perspective clear. The first two tracks from their self-titled debut were, respectively, the menacing “Mujer Moderna” and the rollicking “Feminazi.” That album was filled with four-to-the-floor stompy punk accompanying sharp lyrics sung in Spanish and English. It’s fitting that Joan Jett signed the band to her Blackheart Records, and it’s no surprise that Iggy Pop gave them a shout-out in Rolling Stone.

Fea maintain that same energy and feminist sensibility but expand musically on their sophomore release, which was produced by L.A. punk legend Alice Bag. The 10-track, 30-minute No Novelties features more intricate arrangements and harmonies. New guitarist Sofi Lopez seamlessly shifts from catchy riffs to snaky guitar lines and back again, often within the same song. Vocalist Letty Martinez hits all the right notes whether singing in English an ode to touring life in the opener, “Itch” or in Spanish about the wage gap in the call-and-response, “Ya Se.” Hell, the first single, “Let Me Down” features a three-part vocal harmony over a slippery beat. While the album makes clear that Fea are indeed No Novelties, the closing track really drives home that point. The surf rock-twinged “Girl Band” illustrates the absurdity of unsolicited questions and comments about being female musicians. Martinez sings, “What’s it like being in a girl band? / Is it anything like being in a regular band?” Multiple voices respond, “Close!” before a squealing riff cuts into the chorus, “No novelty / hey!” How ’bout that for an identity – no novelty.

blackheart.com/fea

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Music Reviews

Mekons

Mekons

Deserted

Bloodshot Records

Oh, what a joyous cacophony of sound is this! In over 20 albums since they formed up in the late 1970s in Leeds, the premier punk rock/country and western/dub/EDM collective the Mekons have resolutely stuck to their guns, giving not a whit about the fashions of the day, traveling down musical pathways, smashing things up a bit, and then heading down the road. This time Jon Langford and crew ended up near Joshua Tree in California, a bunch of socialist punks adrift in the American desert, and the result is every bit as strong a record as 1985’s Fear and Whiskey or Honky Tonkin’ from 1987.

Starting off with “Lawrence of California”, all the hallmarks of the Mekons sound are apparent – rampaging guitars, strident vocals and above it all, the heavenly sound of Susie Honeyman’s fiddling. “Harar 1883” follows, a message from Arthur Rimbaud from Ethiopia – “I wrap my scarf around my head/tight against the desert dread”. “Into the Sun” reminds you of the early Mekons, with pogoing guitar and bass ala Gang of Four with dollops of synth adding a dance touch. A lovely bit of country follows, Mekons-style with “How Many Stars” – “Captain, captain tell me true/Does my sweet William ride with you” atop a leisurely loping tempo and Honeyman’s violin.

Deserted is all the strengths of the Mekons writ large. Being surrounded by acres of nothing but the sand and spooky trees of the California desert suits them, giving no distraction, your mind is able to ramble and wander, and few groups have been as relentless in exploration as the Mekons. I mean, how many others could have a song such as “Weimar Vending Machine/Priest?” which lazily begins with Iggy Pop buying a bag of sand in Berlin and ends up as a homage (maybe?) to Mark E. Smith, leader of The Fall who died in January of 2018. Or not. Who knows? Nothing in the career of the Mekons has made any sense to anyone but themselves- the listener takes from them whatever appeals in the moment, and if you don’t like it, stick around, because they are going to change it up again next song. And that, my friends, is genius.

bloodshotrecords.com

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Music Reviews

The Hunt Sales Memorial

The Hunt Sales Memorial

Get Your Shit Together

Big Legal Mess / Fat Possum

There is dark humor in Hunt Sales music. It’s right there in the name of his band, The Hunt Sales Memorial, which sounds like it should be a tribute band to a long-dead bluesman or one of those ghost bands still on the road playing the music of departed jazz greats. But Hunt Sales is still alive. Calling his first album as a solo artist Get Your Shit Together is a command he’s probably been hearing and telling himself for most of his life. In his official bio, Sales says, “I’m gonna fucking tell you who I am. What I really am is my kids’ father and my wife’s husband. And I’m a heroin addict. A bad heroin addict for 40 years. I’ve been a crackhead. And I’ve been a criminal. Those are the facts. But I don’t do drugs anymore. I’m sober now. All I do is make music – so let’s not be late for the show.”

Hunt Sales isn’t going to harp on his past associations, but he was playing with Todd Rungren’s Runt when he was just a teenager. Later on, he and his brother Tony provided the foundation for some of Iggy Pop’s best solo work and later were David Bowie’s band-mates in Tin Machine. Knowing Sales’ history is an important piece of the story, but not the most important part. As he sums it up in his press bio, “Yeah, yeah, yeah – Lust for Life is fine, it’s great. But what are we doing today, motherfucker?”

What Hunt Sales is doing is kicking off a solo career at a time in his life when most people are looking to get that house by the lake and kick back. Sales has the drive of one of those Hill Country bluesmen that the folks at Fat Possum brought to our attention. Sales is playing music because he has to. It’s all he really knows how to do. It’s what makes life meaningful.

The songs here are primal blend of gutter punk, Austin Americana and Memphis soul. Since Sales has lived the Street Hassle life, his songs reflect his years of hustling and waiting for the man. “Sorry Baby” is a funky blues shuffle that starts as a traditional I done wrong song, which quickly takes a dark turn, “I’m sorry baby, I’m sorry baby, I put that needle in my neck, instead of being home making love to you.”

“Shamikra’s Got the Hook Up” and “I Can’t Stop” are slice of junkie life rockers. “I Can’t Stop” is a mid-tempo grinder riding on a fat guitar riff. “Shamikra” channels the spirit of Chuck Berry for a back street boogie where it’s always 1959. The primal blues stomp of “It Ain’t Easy” finds Sales struggling out from under years of poor choices, acknowledging, “it ain’t easy doing the right thing.”

If there is one song on Get Your Shit Together that rips your heart out, it’s got to be “One Day”. The song is a down-tempo confession of doubt and loneliness. Hunt sings about the things he’s going to do better, like think about himself a little bit less and not being to proud to ask for help. The gut check comes on the bridge where Hunt sings about missing his mother and father. He sings, “I miss you so much, but you ain’t here, and I’m so alone.” Those lines get to me because it rings so true. I think anyone who has lost their parents feels that way sometimes.

Get Your Shit Together is a surprising debut album. It’s raw, honest and gritty and fun. This release came out of nowhere and floored me. Welcome to your third or fourth act, Mr. Sales.

biglegalmessrecords.com

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Music Reviews

James Williamson and the Pink Hearts

James Williamson and the Pink Hearts

Behind the Shade

Leopard Lady Records

When you’re a retired electrical engineer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, what are you going to do for fun? Why not round up some young buddies and make a kick ass record? The Pink Hearts are primarily singer Frank Meyer (Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs) and vocalist, violinist Petra Haden (That Dog). Williamson did all of the guitar work and a lot of the bass parts and Michael Urbano played the drums.

Behind the Shade is a fun romp. “Riot on the Sunset Strip” kicks things off with the sort of primal rocker you’d expect from someone who was once a member of the Stooges. The hard rocking continues with the fun love song, “Judith Christ”. “Pink Hearts Across the Sky” makes an abrupt shift to a yummy, strummy slice of Americana with Petra taking over primary vocals. The stylistic shift set the expectation for a rock record that has scope.

The fulcrum of the album are “Destiny Now” and “This Garden Lies”. The songs are not only in the middle of the playing order, but they define the arc of the album. “Destiny Now” is a pretty song sung by Petra about facing your demons. The lyric sounds like it could be from a spy novel. I love the line, “I bought you some phony passports.” Petra’s violin adds some nice coloration to the tune. “This Garden Lies” has words that I interpret as being about the pernicious spread of falsehood in the world. A lilting Mariachi trumpet line that reminds me of the Minutemen buoys the tune. These two tracks focus the themes of hope and despair that run through the disc.

The album closes with the sole cover tune, “Died A Little Today”. Haden sings this haunting Alejandro Escovedo penned tune. It’s a somber meditation on mortality that leaves the hard rock behind for a closet orchestra feel. For Williamson who has lived through so much, the notion that every day we’re a step closer to the exit, must resonate.

straightjameswilliamson.com

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Screen Reviews

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

directed by Sophie Fiennes

starring Grace Jones

Blinder Films, Sligoville, Amoeba Film

Grace Jones really knows how to wear a hat. Jones found fame in late 1970’s singing hits like “Night Clubbing” and “Warm Leatherette.” She modeled, sang, and starred in questionable action movies. Today we follow her to native Jamaica where she’s recording with local musicians. Her working vacation mixes family visits with multiple performances of her hits and yet-to-be hits. Being Grace Jones takes more effort than you can imagine. Her extensive, caring family is full of sinners and saints. She does nothing by half measures. And she’s cool being interviews in the nude. The performance segments are grand, the family stuff difficult to decode with the Jamaican accents and lack of any explanation. Make sure to stick around for the credits, there’s one final number and her costume is a must see.

www.floridafilmfestival.com

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Event Reviews

Lana Del Ray

Lana Del Ray

with Kali Uchis

Capitol One Arena Washington, DC • January 25, 2018

In a world of pre-programmed, overhyped, auto-tuned and pompously packaged pop music Lana Del Rey is on this earth to satisfy inner musical souls. Viva la difference of Lana Del Rey.

On a frigid Thursday night in the nation’s capital, Del Rey, her small band, two back-up singers/dancers and championship voice soothed and set a mood for a nearly two-hour, 24 song playlist (you read that right – 24!) that tore a hole through the very definition of pre-packaged pop.

Out to support her new Grammy nominated album Lust for Life (the Lana version, not Iggy’s) she played and slayed the 85 percent full Capital One Arena. All but the nosebleed seats were filled with Lana loyalists.

The recorded version of Del Rey is what her fans came to hear, but it was the live version that they left appreciating – and adoring. Del Rey fans are largely high school girls and boys and college aged men and women who love the songs and get the lyrics. The gender split on the night was just about 50/50. They enthusiastically screamed for their “Queen” or their “Mom” to come to the stage following the capable, but predictable performance of opening act, Ms. Uchis.

Her stage was covered in palm trees wedged between California colored beach boulders, multiple tiers, and two gleaming white oversized beach lounge chairs. Del Rey’s set designers were on point with video. There was a dominant video wall behind her as tall and wide and the stage that projected beautifully edited and blended videos from her deep catalog. The second wall was as wide, but not as deep and served and the stage flooring, projecting the rolling tide and sandy beach to set the mood. Finally, there were two flying screens on either side of the stage that projected ’60s noir shots of Del Rey – all black and white, all night. The contrast between the richly colored video and the black and white live shots was dreamy. Del Rey sauntered on stage at exactly 9:00 PM dressed in a simple black velvet, mid-thigh, sleeved dress and Gucci dragon boots. She was played on by Henry Mancini’s “Experiment in Terror” and her homage to the ’60s was off and running.

She opened strong with “13 Beaches” and followed neatly and quickly with “Pretty When You Cry, Cherry” and a pin-drop beautiful version of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair”. A musical set builder, Del Rey spent time between groups of songs sharing experiences about those selections. She told the audience how honored she was to play in Washington, DC and perform at the seat of power and hoped her songs could contribute in some way to the greater good. If that was a signal toward activism through music and lyric, it was hard to tell.

She gave a Joan-Baez-worthy performance (think beauty and gorgeous voice combined with powerful lyrics) over a three song stretch of the “National Anthem” and a custom written piece called “God Bless America And All The Beautiful Women In It” which was a nod to the recent women’s march on DC. She closed the statement with “When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing”. With her vocal style and grace, it was clear that each of these songs was meant to be more conscious raising than fist-raising.

The title track to Lust for Life was in the very middle of the show set and then we went skipping through a group of familiar hit songs like “Ultraviolence”, “Young and Beautiful”, “Summertime Sadness” and the deeply emotional (and the one that started it all) “Video Games”.

Del Rey closed with “Off to the Races” and passed on the obligatory encore and opted to go down front to meet her fans, sign autographs and take selfies to the backdrop of an instrumental version of “Burnt Norton”. While posing for pictures with other fans, one Del Rey devotee remarked loudly and breathlessly, “She’s so humane – She’s so amazing.” By all accounts, she was and is.

Categories
Screen Reviews

D. O. A.: A Right of Passage

D. O. A.: A Right of Passage

directed by Lech Kowalski

starring Sex Pistols

In 1978 Punk was “A Thing” but its longevity remained unclear. This non-official doc follows the Sex Pistols around London and on to their ill-fated American tour shot in glorious VHS. Punk was a firehose of anger ruled by short songs and unbridled frustration about the moribund British economy. This amazing feat came from an unemployable bunch of drug addicts who could barely play their instruments; but they had publicity genius Malcolm McLaren plugging them. He knew the critical issue of publicity: Notoriety outweighs talent 100 to 1. Lo-fi and low budget, punk got amazing traction and the movement is still here today, now tamed and exploited by modern record labels. And as for Sid, Neil Young summed it up best: It’s better to burn out than fade away.

Down in the special feature “Dead On Arrival: The Punk Documentary That Never Was” someone moans “Why didn’t Warner make their own film and do it right?” But they didn’t; and that gives this admittedly rough doc its soul. Punk hadn’t caught the attention of the record industry, and they had no idea what to do with a troupe of ill behaved, marginal musicians who were changing the world. While the pistols are the center of attention, we get early performances by Billy Idol, Iggy Pop, the Clash, X-ray Specs, and a flock of other early burrs under the saddle of the industry. They changed the world, or at least the world of pop music.

Highlights? They’re everywhere. Iggy Pop’s backing vocalist pulls an Oscar Meyer wiener out of his pants. Nancy tries to keep Sid awake for an interview as he nods out. The fans in Tulsa, Oklahoma are ready to kill after being ripped off for their ticket money. The tour bus doesn’t look street legal. None of the songs are synced up. The film drips with scratches and artifacts, the women are repulsive, the men are rude, and the whole film is a wonderful slap in the face of slick pop culture. People spit. They share drug kits. Their pants are torn and the whole shebang look like homeless people parodying rock and roll. The promoter from Tulsa is a total redneck; he tried to cancel the show before the Pistols play, but folds after a bluff about suing him seems real enough. My favorite moment come from a wonderfully uptight British boffin explaining how the punks weren’t important because they didn’t play to his rules and properly complain to the Queen about the economy.

We end on a sad note with the Nancy and Sid interviewed in a dumpy hotel in New York. (The Chelsea, as I recall.) She’s bitchy and he’s nodding out and that’s as punk as you can get. Helpful subtitles let you know what the lyrics say, and there’s not narration other than quotes from people on screen. You can make your own conclusions, but the result is now fixed: starting a punk band carries the same risk as starting a hipster coffee house: You may make it, or you may fail, but no one questions WHY you’re doing it. If you were a gleam in daddy’s eye back in 1978, here’s what you missed, and what he almost experienced. Go make your own revolution, this one is his.

mvdb2b.com