Tag Archives: Post Rock

Shoot Out the Lights: Holly Golightly & The Brokeoffs at IOTA

Just how retro is the strain of handmade country-blues peddled by Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs? During their ramshackle hour-long set at IOTA last night, the guitarist/percussionist/singer Lawyer Dave introduced two different tunes as “a song about domestic abuse,” and in neither case did he follow-up with a Chris Brown joke.

Violence between lovers has always been one of the major themes of this music, of course. No one goes to counseling in the blues! Continue reading

Viva Christmas! El Vez and Los Straightjackets at the 9:30 Club

Chestnuts roasting. Jack Frost nipping. Yuletide carols being sung by the self-described “Mexican Elvis,” and folks dressed up like luchadores — mask-wearing Mexican wrestlers. Isn’t that how that one goes?

Well, that’s how it went at the 9:30 club last night, where Los Straitjackets — an ace surf-rock quartet out of, um, Nashville, despite their custom of performing in those sharp Mexican wrestling headpieces — were the house band for a bizarro 90-minute Christmas party hosted by East L.A. novelty singer/activist El Vez, who made good on his promise to spread “Santarchy,” and James Brown-like front splits, to the masses.

You could even call it a traditional program of holiday fare, assuming the Burlesque is the tradition you mean. Continue reading

New Frame: The Swell Season at the 9:30 Club

The Swell Season 2009

Tree People: Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard

They broke up.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, for whom life imitated art imitating life when they fell in love playing lovers in the kinda-sorta-semi-autobiographical sleeper romance Once a few years back, are no longer an item. But on the evidence of “Strict Joy,” their first album together since they picked up an Oscar for Best Original Song last year, they remain creatively simpatico. Continue reading

Imperfection as Ideology: Kurt Vile at the Black Cat Backstage

Kurt Vile

It’s perfectly reasonable to be suspicious of a musician with as mighty a moniker as Kurt Vile. If that was a stage name (it’s not*) the intimation would be of the most confrontational, petulant punk, but the Philadelphia-based Vile’s defiantly primitive, accident-prone songs are lazier and hazier than that, rarely straying from the long and droning road but hinting at melodic paths untaken. Imperfection is his ideology.

At the Black Cat Backstage last night, Vile ambled through the final date of a month of shows with his three-piece band, The Violators, for what he said was the largest crowd he’d played. Double digits, still — right-sized. He opened the 70-minute set with a solo take of “Peeping Tomboy,” which, like so much of the spectral folk side of his songbook, seemed to waft in from some phantom radio. Even when the combo joined him for the stouter stuff — like “Freak Train,” the self-explanatory centerpiece of his just-released Childish Prodigy album — the cacophony was more ethereal than kinetic. Continue reading

Live Last Night: The Gaslight Anthem at the 9:30 Club

The Gaslight Anthem

Look, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Strummer didn’t invent this stuff, either. The greased hair and the leathers and the overdriven takes of Mad Men-era rock standards already had a blanket of dust on them a generation thick by the time The Boss and The Clash got around to them.

Jersey pomade-punks The Gaslight Anthem are the most persuasive current exponents of this tradition, and they don’t hide it. Hell, they called their latest album The ’59 Sound. At a sold-out 9:30 Club last night, they ripped through that nostalgic long-player in its near-entirety, frontman Brian Fallon balling up his handsome face to yowl about Redemption and car crashes and good girls in trouble with archaic-sounding names like Gale and — of course! — Mary. Continue reading

Diamond Hard, Osmium Heavy: Them Crooked Vultures at the 9:30 Club

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As long as John Bonham and Kurt Cobain stay dead, there’s probably no more intriguing a musical home* for their former bandmates John Paul Jones and Dave Grohl, respectively, than Them Crooked Vultures, newest and superest of the supergroups.

At the 9:30 Club last night, rock’s own Justice League stuck to what’s been standard procedure since its debut two months ago, performing 85 minutes of unfamiliar, tempo-sliding, sternum-rattling rock, diamond-hard and osmium-heavy. Classics in waiting, possibly, but no covers. No encores. No compromises.
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Blue is the Color of Steve Martin’s Grass

Steve Martin's The Crow

We know what you’re thinking: Oh, great, another celebrity banjo album.

Actually, yes. The Crow, the collection of banjo tunes written (save for one) and performed by Steve Martin — uh-huh, that one — is truly wonderful. It says so right on the cover. And our opening joke is an, er, homage to one that a barely-legal Martin had in his stand-up routine in the mid-60s, way before Saturday Night Live or the movies or the New Yorker essays or the Kennedy Center honors.

“You’re thinking, ‘Oh, this is just another banjo-magic act’,” he’d quip. Back then, he banjo-ed out of desperation, lacking enough surefire jokes to fill out his contracted 25-minute set. Continue reading

Live Last Night: Los Lonely Boys & Alejandro Escovedo

There’s no single, foolproof test for diagnosing musical overconfidence, but hiring Alejandro Escovedo as your opener is a definite risk factor. Escovedo is a songwriter’s songwriter, an alt-punk-country-etc. warrior who nearly had to die of Hepatitis C six years to begin to get his due. His albums since have been the most vital of his three-decade career.
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Live Last Night: Regina Spektor

ReginaSpektor_Fidelity

“So that’s what you look like!” roared The Voice halfway through Regina Spektor’s set at Constitution Hall last night, when the Russian-by-birth, adorable-by-design songstress rose from her piano to play keyboards on “Dance Anthem of the 80s.”

Rude, yes, but also baffling. Spektor is a wellspring of quirk, and her Dadaesque lyrics offer metaphorical cover without limit. But the stripped-down show gave her no place to hide. Continue reading

Live Last Night: Pink

Pink

Never to break up with Pink! She’ll do an album about it (last year’s Funhouse), it’ll go platinum, and pretty soon she’ll be in the middle of 10,000 people at the Patriot Center, just like she was for two lusty hours last night, telling God and everyone how much she doesn’t miss you. Continue reading

Discographically Speaking: U2 (part two)

Mr. MacPhisto & U2, 1993

Wherein on the occasion of U2’s latest ginormous roadshow descending upon our Nation’s Capital — well, Landover — your humble narrator attempts to quantify the relative merits of the U2 discography, minus live albums, compilations, EPs, soundtracks, side projects, mixtapes, or bootlegs.

Continuing from yesterday’s lesson RE: U2’s seventh through twelfth-best albums, we resume our countdown with No 6, after the jump.
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Discographically Speaking: U2 (part one)

U2

You might think that assessing the relative merits of every album by my favorite band since childhood would be no thang for a seasoned pro like me. That’s where you’d be wrong, Bono — er, boyo. Rating the U2 catalogue turned out to be as difficult and time-consuming as it is pointless.
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Live Last Night: Son Volt at the 9:30 Club

James Walbourne isn't pictured.

James Walbourne isn't pictured.

‘Scuse me, son, but I haven’t seen you hanging around with Chrissie Hynde lately?

Indeed. The pale, intense young fellow stage right at last night’s robust Son Volt gig at the 9:30 club was one James Walbourne, the British guitar prodigy whose serrated-edge leads make the current, boot-cut incarnation of The Pretenders so much fun. He’s even more valuable an addition to Son Volt, whose solid but often grayscale tunes — which aspire to be the iPhone era incarnation of Woody Guthrie’s dust-bowl ballads — tend to need the extra hooch more than Hynde’s do. Continue reading

Live Friday Night: The Breeders at the Black Cat

2009_08_breeders

If The Breeders were thought of as indie rock in 1993, when “Cannonball” was all over MTV and Last Splash was speedily going platinum, they’re really indie now. They self-released their latest offering, the four-song EP Fate to Fatal, even posting a video on their website of twin sister-singers Kim and Kelley Deal silk-screening the vinyl album sleeves by hand.

Their Friday night set at the Black Cat was a similarly homespun, unfussy affair, making no apologies for its wobbly pacing or slight duration: 65 minutes, with plenty of momentum-sapping interstitial fumbling. But the individual performances? Perfect in their imperfection, like so much about this band. The sisters’ elfin harmonies and the itchy maelstrom of Kelley’s guitar would home in on the same frequency for two-to-three-minute salvos of buzzing nirvana, collapsing again at the end of each tune.
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Guitar Hero: M. Ward at the 9:30

M. Ward at the Glastonbury Festival, 27 June 2009.  Photo by Cavie78; used under Creative Commons license.

M. Ward at the Glastonbury Festival, 27 June 2009. Photo by Cavie78; used under Creative Commons license.

There’s an Old Navy’s worth of sartorial similes in which one could dress the songs of Portland retro-elegist M. Ward. But the one that fits best is to liken them to jeans or T-shirts “distressed” to look and feel older and more lived-in than they really are.

Ward’s ethereal, meant-to-sound-“found” alt-country-rock is soothing and undemanding; just soft-focus enough to hold his spot on the hipper-than-thou Merge Records label. It’s well-crafted. It’s listenable as the day is long. It just isn’t terribly exciting, particularly on a Friday night at an all-standing venue like the 9:30 club.
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21s Century Hoedown: Green Day at the Phone Booth, Reviewed

Green-Day

Do-It-Yourself is forever cited as the governing mantra of punk, and sure enough, it inspired Green Day leader Billie Joe Armstrong to put his own band together 20-plus years ago. But on the evidence of the sturdy Bay Area trio’s combustible circus at the Verizon Center last night, Armstrong’s progression from Buzzcocks-style petulance to Townshendian hero rock had at least one side effect: He’s discovered the benefits of outsourcing.

In a stunt that felt more American Idol than American Idiot, the 37-year-old guyliner-wearing frontman summoned a half-dozen fans to share his stage. There were the two dudes he had up, separately, to sing competing versions of “Longview,” the 1994 megahit that brought punk’s DIY ethos into the bedroom. Later, he pulled up a sweaty young comer in white tube socks to play guitar on “Jesus of Suburbia.” The kid’s awkward appearance made it feel twice as triumphant when he nailed the song.
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Live, Like, Three Nights Ago: Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett

We’ll just get this out of the way, music lovers: Tony Bennett is, er, classic. As in: He was discovered by one Bob Hope. He’s got more years onstage than all the guys in Animal Collective put together. His guest appearance on The Simpsons was way back in Season Two.

So, yes. He is advanced. Eighty-two, in Earth years. But when he crooned “The Best Is Yet to Come” at Wolf Trap Thursday night, how could you not believe him? Continue reading

Live Last Night: Beyonce

Beyonce 'I Am' Tour 2009

Sorry, Washington, but after careful evaluation of the evidence submitted by our esteemed panel of experts, it is the finding of this commission that you simply are not ready for this jelly.

Gliding down from the pop firmament, then Baltimore, then finally from the Verizon Center ceiling, Sasha Fierce had a tough act to follow last night: her own. ‘Twas mere months ago she came to serenade the new President, albeit in her more modest alter ego of plain old platinum-selling Beyonce Knowles from Houston. Continue reading

Live Last Night: No Doubt

No Doubt

The band had seasoned their bright FM pop with just enough reggae to make it seem mildly exotic. It won them the world, then they retreated at the height of their fame. Their comeback roadshow dispensed with the usual, dreary half-dozen new songs (they hadn’t written any), instead having their gorgeous blond singer – now a fully formed solo star – cut straight to the old favorites. Continue reading

Live Last Night: Elvis Costello & The Sugarcanes

Elvis Costello 2009
No matter how many Will Ferrell flicks or Stephen Colbert Christmas specials Elvis Costello turns up in, the circa 1978 image of him as the logorheic and self-immolating Angry Young Man endures.

But in the latter two-thirds of his wildly eclectic career, he’s evolved into something more like the Martin Scorcese of music, as much a historian and curator as he is an original artist. Continue reading