Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I had a birthday this month and my good pal Matt was nice enough to buy me a ticket to see Ian Svenonious's new project "Chain and the Gang" perform at Space 1026 in Philly.
I first heard of Ian through my friend Mike and his crew back when I was a teenager. As supporters of the insanely creative Washington D.C. scene, Ian's band "Nation of Ulysses" quickly became a band that was often heard when we all hung out and blasted records late at night. At times, and at the very least, certain songs would make the track listing on countless mix tapes exchanged between our friends. NOU was great. They were essentially a punk band (who liked being considered a political party versus a musical group and) who wrote songs about conspiracies, unique and varied political stances, international relations, and even love. Their shows were rumored to have been nothing short of intense, with Svenonious's stage presence rivaling that of D.C. label mate's Guy Picciotto's (Fugazi) legendary dangerous on-stage antics. We're talking broken bones.
Ian went on to dabble within several experimental projects once the arrival of popular alternative rock destroyed his chances of touring and catching on the way he initially envisioned NOU would. One of those bands was "Cupid Car Club" - a band that would only release one 7" and contribute a few songs to a couple K records compilations released at that time. The imagery and vibe (another concept group that encouraged membership) of the release was similar to that of NOU, taking guitarist Steve Gamboa from NOU with him. Another change was that Delta 72's Kim Thompson would add vocals while playing bass. This would mark the beginning of Svenonious's preference to female bassists/singers. The band didn't last long as work with Make-Up took priority and eventually strangled CCC and left it for dead.
The Make-Up (sometimes referred to as simply "Make-Up") would become the most successful group to date in Svenonious's career. Gambona would join this time on drums for another round with Ian and groovy bassist Michelle Mae would come aboard. The band's catalog would become impressive quickly, with over fifteen releases (four being full length studio albums) and about a dozen appearances on compilations. They also released an amazing short film in 1998 Blue is Beautiful wherein the members perform live, experience a run-in with customs while crossing international lines, all while shot on 16mm camera.
Seeing the Make-Up was a real treat. They played at an eating club at Princeton University in New Jersey. It was Thursday March 2nd, 2000 and the other bands that performed were All Scars and the Gunga Din. Ted Leo introduced them M.C. Style and the second that the funk, garage bass kicked in Mr. Svenonious was wailing at the top his lungs like a hysterical James Brown. Clad in a vintage suit and sporting thick black sideburns with a wild bouffant hairstyle, he quickly climbed into the crowd with the assistance of a small wooden stool that he barged out onto stage with. He tugged at people's collars begging people to "reach deep down inside and find the seed that each one of us has planted in us". We bopped, danced, screamed, and rocked to the garagey riffs and "Gospel Yeh-yeh" ways of The Make Up. It was incredible. But it didn't last forever...
Ian released a solo record in 2001 under the name David Candy. The album: Play Power. Some bubble gum rock meets sixties espionage music and all tied together by "David's" restraining order worthy lyrics. Super creepy words with incredibly tasteful samples and riffs, Play Power is a complete success. There is also an incredible cover of the theme song to Rosemary's Baby. Even if you hate everything on the album, the cover song alone is worth the price of the record.
Ian continued with another band with a similar idea to that of The Make-Up, keeping Mae on bass but tapping more into the more colorful, less serious indie scene. They ironically first called themselves the Scene Creamers but quickly became Weird War. Their most popular song AK-47 can be seen performed in Brandon Canty's Burn To Shine Vol. 1 01-14-04. This band has proved to be another very productive project (releasing four studio albums on Chicago indie label Drag City) and has made no mention of disbanding.
Ian Svenenious's newest project to date is "Chain and the Gang", and seeing them was fantastic. Down with Liberty... Up with Chains is the album name, and jailhouse rock is their M.O. With songs ranging from conspiracies reviewed both outside the big house walls and behind bars, these crooks rock with a bland emotionless power that only hard time could be to blame. Imagine garage meets R&B meets Vietnam era classic rock with some hints that Svenonious aka "Chain" still has some gospel soul running through his poisoned veins.
I stood right up front and instantly did whatever I could to avoid eye contact with Ian. He historically enjoys incorporating the crowd in his somewhat improvised performances and being up front, I was basically asking for it. It turned out great, as his hugs and yells and pointing affected just about everyone,leaving no one to really stand out other than himself. What a time.
P.S. Do yourself a favor and watch as many episodes of Soft Focus as you can and read The Psychic Soviet.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Silent film style video shot in the vein of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, featuring a great song by a well known band. This video is for a song off of their much overlooked 2000 full length release Machina/The Machines of God.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Dear Sunny Day Real Estate,
Although you've mostly served as soundtracks to past relationships gone bad, tonight I tried my best to see in you in a new light and was successful in doing just that. Tonight's positive experience may have something to do with the fact that my first live SDRE experience in 1997 did not include Nate Mendel, (my bass playing idol as a young teenager in the mid nineties) and tonight did, or simply the fact that I got a solid unbiased chance to check you guys out with the simple company of good friends. Regardless, the anxiety surrounding my original worries of my favorite band as an awkward, dark teenager subsided the instant I heard the first riff of LP2's first track "Friday" kick in.
Your music kept me up at night as a kid, pondering the origin and thought processes you carried out when writing your music, and later I found myself hypnotized by Jeremy's ability to channel a pure emotion through his vocals when nearly speaking in tongues to wail the mysterious words found within the tracks of your second LP. Jeremy's words touched me like no other band could at the time and I felt as if I was experiencing a colorfully gloomy ride through life in some parallel dimension while all the changes in his life were occurring.
I remember meeting the first girl I loved through a radio broadcast of your song "Seven" back in 1995. I remember driving through New Mexico in 1996 on tours of the dessert while listening to LP2 on my headphones. I remember my initial fascination with "How it Feels...", and then things begin to fade. It was hard for me to embrace that third album knowing that Nate had left to play with "his other band" but I gave it a chance and it grew on me. After that I gave up, did my best to live my life, and didn't really look back.
When I heard of the reunion earlier this year, I did everything I could to get a ticket. I wanted to see you guys in NYC because that was the place I sped to in 1997 when I had just received my drivers licence. Tonight was epic. Terminal 5. 56th and 11th. It wasn't only because you played self-released or Sub Pop-era material (essentially Nate-era material sans "Guitar and video games"), it was for "Grendel", "Spade and Parade" (one of my all time favorites), and the new song you introduced us to. The new song felt like the dark hard pop elements of Diary came crashing into the dreamy atmospheric landscapes found within LP2. It was perfect.
Not only were you guys tight and real, but you came together with more energy than the past four shows I've seen you play over the course of the last twelve years. Thank you for being a forerunner in a genre of music I still get into, thank you for being the first band to get me into obsessively collecting vinyl, and thanks in advance for all the new memories. I wrote down all your songs as you played them tonight and intentionally refused to listen to you guys for the past several months to experience tonight as honestly as I could. The words came to me the second you took the stage.
SDRE, "although you hit me hard I'VE come back."
Song about an angel
Guitar and video games
Spade and parade
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
The drive up to Boston was a pain thanks to CT rush hour traffic that came to a crawl for about twenty miles at one point. We passed way too many fast food joints and once the sun went down, we made it into Boston. My cousin Matt and his lady Ashlee were nice enough to put us up, show us around town, and even recommend some really great record shops that weren't on our list to visit.
Needless to say (as depicted above), the stores were a hit. One of the most noticeable trends among the stores was the availability of mid period punk, indie, and post punk records as well as an expected surplus of local labels (Throbbing Lobster, Taang!, Modern Method, etc). We scooped up as much stuff by both bands we knew were great and bands we instinctively knew would be at least decent and we headed back home late Saturday night. I had set myself up to expect to find mostly hardcore and classic punk records in Boston, but left quite impressed. Boston is keeping up on great music just fine with no prospects of slowing down.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
This weekend was great. I bought records off of some guy in a part of New Jersey that I have never been to before, checked out a bunch of NYC flea markets and record stores (and scored a handful of amazing records!), AND was lucky enough to have my buddy DAN SANTORO make my passion for those "obsolete discs" an official commitment. There are a lot of great things going on between my best pals and me concerning music and good times right now, and it's an understatement for me to say "I am excited".
Thursday, September 10, 2009
So a few nights ago I was getting ready to cash in for the night and I thought about some of the records that I really wanted to add to my collection.
The Fantastic Planet soundtrack has managed to hang around at the top of my needs list for some time now. I was ready to ask my parents if they could shell out some cash and get this for me for my birthday or for Christmas - that's how badly I've wanted this thing. Well anyway, tonight a little dream came true. Not only did I find the soundtrack to one of my all-time favorite psych cartoon films, but I actually scored the original French gatefold pressing. Le Planete Sauvage, which translates exactly (and differently from the American version) as you think it would, sounds très incroyable on vinyl!
If you have the patience, please enjoy the movie clip below before some angry film man makes me take it down.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Here's an interesting record collecting curiosity. After going through some crates of recently purchased rock 45s, out fell this little guy.
The packaging looks like a type of seed pouch that a gardening center would carry. It's a Philco-Ford Corporation product ("Hip-Pocket Records") and the back instructs: "FOR SINGLE PLAY PHONOGRAPH ONLY". Inside, there is a fitted piece of paperboard and a four inch, two-sided flexi record. Side 1 is Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" and Side 2 is "Midnight Special" by the same artist.
It's just too bad it couldn't have been a track by his earlier project "Them" or even a Van Morrison single off of Astral Weeks. Now THAT would be Hip (pocket)!
Friday, September 4, 2009
After investigating a large collection of 12" hip hop singles that were for sale, we headed down to Delaware. I have had very few positive experiences concerning purchasing 12" collections for a few reasons. Firstly, they are almost always destroyed because they are DJ'd and partied on harder than most records (except maybe some funk, heavy metal, or certain psych records where the listener(s) were generally pretty hit up when enjoying them).
We heard enough about the titles,condition, and quantities to make the three and a half hour round trip, and it was a success. I did, however, feel like I had entered another world when we got there. Just some huge emptiness in the air...and some local crackheads trying to swindle us out of some money. Regardless, we ended up with a car full of solid mid-period hip hop (and a couple earlier OG cuts), and the rest of the evening was quite "chill".