The Chain, Broken

Two of the things that have long fascinated me are (1) what makes a band a band and (2) why performers continue to perform long after ordinary people move on to something else in their lives besides that which created their livelihoods.

As for the first point, the issue is that of membership and then lack thereof: if there is a “critical mass” that makes a band what it becomes known to be, does the absence of one or more individuals change the chemistry, as it were, of the band? Does the band contain an individual or individuals such that with out them the band would be something other than it had been? For example, consider The Beatles. If Lennon or McCartney had left the band while it still existed, would it have still been The Beatles? What about Harrison or Starr?

The existing members of a band (or perhaps their manager and/or promoters) typically, when losing a key member, find someone who seamlessly integrates so that there is little difference: Consider Journey post-Steve Perry and Yes sans Jon Anderson: their replacements are cover band material extraordinaire.

Lindsey Buckingham was, in effect, recently fired by his band mates in Fleetwood Mac. And he was, in effect, orally and audibly replaced by two people, Mike Campbell, formerly of the Heartbreakers, and Neil Finn, he of Crowded House.

Presumably, Campbell and Finn got their positions (jobs?) because they would be resonate with what can be considered the “sound” of “Fleetwood Mac,” a band that Buckingham was part of for 33 years: 1975 to 1987; 1997 to 2018. After all, Buckingham was instrumental, literally and figuratively, when it put out Fleetwood Mac, which solidly established the band in a way that resonates today (“Say You Love Me,” “Landslide,” “Rhiannon”) and Rumours (“Go Your Own Way,” “The Chain”).

With the departure of Buckingham, the five-person group has become six.

Continue reading The Chain, Broken

New L.A. Witch – Baby in Blue Jeans

Video: L.A. WITCH – “Baby in Blue Jeans”

L.A. WITCH – Baby in Blue Jeans (Official Video)

From L.A. Witch, out now on Suicide Squeeze.

Oh man, while their last single we covered (“Drive Your Car”) was a badass rave-up garage stomper, “Baby in Blue Jeans” is a slow burner with hints of early Spaceman 3 or some of the trippier elements of the Brian Jonestown Massacre. It’s psychedelic without employing any of the cliches associated with that descriptor. And now it’s got a gritty video to fit the mood.

L.A. WITCH: twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Goshen Electric Co video: The Gray Tower

Video: Goshen Electric Co. – “The Gray Tower”

Goshen Electric Co. – The Gray Tower (Official Video)

Single b/w “Ring the Bell” due November 2 on Secretly Canadian.

Goshen Electric Co. is what happens when Strand of Oak’s Tim Showalter spends a half a day in the studio with the members of Magnolia Electric Co (Mike Benner, Jason Evans Groth, Mikey Kapinus, Mark Rice, Peter Schreiner).

The digital single will include an extended, nine-minute version of “Ring the Bell” from Songs: Ohia’s Didn’t It Rain (2002) and Magnolia Electric Co.’s Trials & Errors (2005).

It’s been more than five years since Jason Molina died and it hasn’t started hurting any less. Showalter feels the loss as deeply as anybody. “There was such an intimate relationship with his music -– it felt a lot deeper than just liking a song,” he’s said. “You live in these songs.”

Showalter and the band toured Europe, calling themselves “Songs: Molina – A Memorial Electric Co.” This seems like an appropriate tribute to a singer and songwriter who is terribly missed.

Magnolia Electric Co.: amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Goshen Electric Co video: The Gray Tower

50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 19

Rolling Stone issue #19 had a cover date of October 12, 1968. 32 pages. 35 cents. Cover photo of Mick Jagger by Ethan Russell.

The biggest news in this issue for those of us who care about the history of the magazine is an item that appears on page 6 under the simple headline: Regrets.

Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. regretfully announces the departure of Mr. Ralph J. Gleason from its Board of Directors. Mr. Gleason has also resigned his position as Contributing Editor on the staff of Rolling Stone.

In his letter of resignation, Mr. Gleason stated that he could “no longer accept responsibility for an editorial and reportorial policy with which I am not in sympathy and over which I have no control.” Although he had no hand in editorial decisions or policy making since June, his resignation was received in the beginning of September.

Gleason was one of the founding members of Downbeat Magazine and was also the Editor of Jazz Quarterly, a now defunct music magazine. He continues as a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Joe Hagan’s Sticky Fingers tells us that Gleason “felt ‘seriously exploited’ by Wenner, who had only paid him $35 since Rolling Stone began” (page 119). That said, Gleason would return with a new Perspectives column for issue 22 in November, and would continue to write for the magazine until his death in 1975 at 58.

Features: The Rolling Stone Interview with Mick Jagger by Jonathan Cott and Sue Cox; Van Dyke Parks: Little Demand for Genius by Jerry Hopkins; Booker T & The M.G.s (Part 2) by Jann Wenner; Big Sur Folks’ Festival by Our Correspondent; Sky River Rock Groove by Our Correspondent.

News: John Sebastian Leaves Spoonful, Soloes as Singer and Composer by Sue C. Clark; Graffiti Get Stones in Hot Water; October Sees Steve Miller Change; Buddy Miles Express Moves Fast; Elektric Ranch Is Established; Tiny Tim Sues Bouquet Records; Bad Scene Goes Down on Strip.

Columns: Visuals (“Black Art”) by Thomas Albright; “The Pump House Gang” by Elizabeth Campbell; “Electronic Roll” by Ed Ward. No Random Notes column or anything by Jon Landau.

Continue reading 50 Years Ago in Rolling Stone: Issue 19

New Tracyanne and Danny video: Cellophane Girl

Video: Tracyanne & Danny – “Cellophane Girl”

Tracyanne & Danny – Cellophane Girl (Official Music Video)

From Tracyanne & Danny, out now on Merge Records.

Another globetrotting video from Tracyanne Campbell and Danny Coughlan, this one featuring lead vocals from Coughlan who says, “I worked in a plastics factory for a while in my teens, and there was a woman, I guess in her late twenties, who would turn up for her shift looking like a film star despite the hair net, white wellies, and love bites on her neck. We all had crushes on her and adored her. I guess it’s a fond look back at a simpler time of adolescent infatuations.”

Tracyanne and Danny: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New (Old) Costello: Suspect My Tears

Video: Elvis Costello & The Imposters – “Suspect My Tears”

Elvis Costello & The Imposters – Suspect My Tears

Directed by Mustashrik. From Look Now, due October 12 on Concord Records.

“Suspect My Tears” is ostensibly by Elvis Costello and the Imposters. Elvis is certainly front, center and foremost on the orchestration, for a full-throated orchestration it is. And, no doubt, Nieve, Thomas and Faragher are playing their instruments on the performance.

But the real sound comes from Burt Bacharach, the man with whom Costello collaborated on 1998’s Painted from Memory.

Now look at that date for a moment: 1998. That’s 20 years ago. A life and then some in professional music. When the two created that album Costello was 44. Bacharach 70. The two, remarkably, still have it.

When some people hear the strings, hear the back up vocals that might sound completely suitable for a Dionne Warwick single, hear the torch-song-like singing, their reaction might be: Costello has lost it.

But so far as “Suspect My Tears” goes (I’ve yet to hear the entire Look Now so I can’t comment on the other cuts), it is simply that Costello has gone back to a type of music that has the sort of emotional resonance that arguably has its roots in “Alison.” That song appeared along with “Welcome to the Working Week,” “Mystery Dance” and “Waiting for the End of the World” on 1977’s My Aim Is True. Arguably “Alison” is an anomalous cut on that disc, yet its lyric stands as the title of the whole thing.

So maybe Elvis is going back to his roots in some ways.

Costello has created a body of work over the past 40 years in a way that few of his contemporaries have. For example, take Graham Parker. He and the Rumour put out the same hard-driving “Pump It Up”-like music when Costello was with the Attractions. And Parker had and has the same lyrical gift that Costello has and a seemingly similar sensibility or worldview. Yet Costello has created everything from works with a string quartet to the soundtrack for a British TV show to country music to some of the most resonant rock of all time. Parker went solo, minimal, and then back with the Rumour (and now the Goldtops). Parker is an acquired taste that once imbibed continues. Costello is someone who seems to be constantly changing in some ways, yet clearly consistent. There seems to be more musical relevance and endurance, but the relevance is timeless.

“You’re not the only one who can turn it on
“When you need it
“I’ll cry until you suspect my tears.”

People don’t seem to write too much music about heartbreak any more.

So this is a rare thing. A rare, sumptuous, beautiful thing.

And if those adjectives aren’t the sort of thing that you associate with Costello, if Painted from Memory doesn’t strike you as the work of two brilliant collaborators, then God Give Me Strength.

Elvis Costello: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Laura Gibson video: Domestication

Video: Laura Gibson – “Domestication”

Laura Gibson – 'Domestication' (Official Video)

From Goners, due October 26 on Barsuk.

You know how we feel about cults around here. We love ’em!

Laura Gibson told NPR, “The song ‘Domestication’ took form as a fable, the story of wolf trying and failing to live as a woman. I was thinking a lot about shape-shifting. Wolves and dogs seemed to haunt my lyrics on Goners. […] Though I’d meant ‘domestication’ in the animal sense, when it came time to make the video, I liked the idea of using the term in the homemaking sense. I’d been obsessed with this photo I’d found of the pastel women of the FLDS cult, and wanted to build a world and a story around the aesthetic — something like the speculative societies of Margaret Atwood or Ursula Le Guin. At the end of the story, I wanted the women to act like wolves.”

I’m guessing the photo she found was this one:

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

That photo was going around a few years ago when Amy Berg’s documentary Prophet’s Prey came out.

Laura Gibson: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Robyn Hitchcock video: Sayonara Judge

Video: Robyn Hitchcock – “Sayonara Judge”

Robyn Hitchcock – "Sayonara Judge" (Official Video)

Directed by Hugh Hales-Tooke. From Robyn Hitchcock, out now on Yep Roc.

Everybody knows that he’s been obsessed with Syd Barrett but it’s weird when Robyn Hitchcock sounds like post-Barrett Pink Floyd. This could almost be an outtake from The Wall.

Losing my face, losing my friends, losing my temper
Losing my place on the map, losing my home

“I first saw Robyn Hitchcock in my hometown, Cambridge, in 1976,” director by Hugh Hales-Tooke told Rolling Stone. “He was playing with a fairly early incarnation of the Soft Boys. It seemed fitting for Cambridge to be the place for Robyn Hitchcock to emerge. He was doing something strong and unique but with a strong connection to Cambridge, the home of Syd Barrett and early Pink Floyd psychedelia.”

Robyn Hitchcock: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Death Valley Girls video: (One Less Thing) Before I Die

Video: Death Valley Girls – “(One Less Thing) Before I Die”

Death Valley Girls "(One Less Thing) Before I Die" (Official Video)

Directed by Kansas Bowling. From Darkness Rains out today on Suicide Squeeze.

On March 24, 2018, “Mad” Mike Hughes successfully launched himself into the sky in a homemade, steam-powered rocket. Elon Musk’s got nothing on this daredevil.

Director Kansas Bowling was there and the new Death Valley Girls video combines her footage from the day with additional footage of ritual sacrifice and mourning. Everybody grieves differently. Kansas Bowling does it with a fish.

Bonnie Bloomgarden said, “We heard of this guy that wanted to shoot himself into the sky in a home made, steam-powered rocket ship to prove that the Earth was flat. Kansas Bowling asked us if we wanted to go film the launch. At first we thought we didn’t care at all about flat earthers, or the flat earth theory, but then we met Mad Mike Hughes. Mad Mike is an amateur rocket scientist, lawyer, limo driver, dare devil, Guinness Book world record alum, conspiracy theorist, and is now running for governor of the state of Nevada. After going to three launches in the desert – two attempted, and one successful – we learned a lot. While we don’t agree with his politics at all, we are glad we met him, and that we learned one more thing before we die.”

You can see more footage from the launch on YouTube and some of it even includes cameos by Bowling and the band.

“(One Less Thing) Before I Die” features guitars that sound like they could’ve come straight from Sonic Smith and Wayne Kramer. And that’s high praise.

Death Valley Girls: bc, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Death Valley Girls video: (One Less Thing) Before I Die

New Marc Ribot and Tom Waits video: Bella Ciao

Video: Marc Ribot – “Bella Ciao (Goodbye Beautiful)” (ft. Tom Waits)

Marc Ribot – "Bella Ciao (Goodbye Beautiful)" (feat. Tom Waits)

Directed by Jem Cohen. From Songs Of Resistance 1942 – 2018, out now on Anti.

It’s always news when Tom Waits does anything. Especially when he records a version of an old anti-fascist resistance anthem from the Italian Civil War.

One fine morning I woke up early
Find the fascist at my door
Oh, partigiano, please take me with you
Bella ciao, bella ciao, goodbye beautiful

This comes from a new collection of protest songs from guitarist Marc Ribot, who recruited a bunch of singers (including Steve Earle, Tift Merritt, Syd Straw, and Meshell Ndegeocello) to voice historical songs and a few originals.

Explaining “Bella Ciao” Ribot says, “Mussolini’s voodoo economics led Italy into a generation of poverty and a senseless war with hundreds of thousands of Italian casualties—including over 30 thousand Partisans. This song tells the story of one of them. At a tender moment when he or she is saying goodbye to her lover (Bella Ciao=goodbye, beautiful) and trying to imagine what it means to fight for freedom. I played Tom a bunch of the tunes and he immediately bonded with that one. “Of course, he brings a certain gravitas to everything he does—my Italian friends say he sounds exactly like an old ‘partigiano’ (resistance fighter)!”

Portions of the album’s proceeds will be donated to The Indivisible Project, an organization that helps individuals resist the Trump agenda via grassroots movements in their local communities.

Tom Waits: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Marc Ribot: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Rock and roll can change your life.