All posts by Jake Brown

Quasar Wut Wut Breaks My Heart

When it was over, Jeff turned to Jolie and asked her how long that song had lasted. Jolie said about four and a half minutes. I was shocked. I would have set down my beer and put my hand on the Bible and sworn that Quasar Wut Wut had just played a twenty-five minute extended jam on the Rolling Stones’ “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker).” Apparently, the band has figured out a way to distort Time, which is good because even after twenty-five minutes of it I still could have used more.

When you’re friends with the guys in a band, you don’t want to compliment them too heartily about their cover songs for fear that they’ll interpret that to mean you don’t like their originals. With the Quasars this is not the case. Their own songs are great: weird without being obnoxious, and original without being pretentious. And if some of their compositions veer a little too close to the carnival or near some eastern european festival, then the next one will be a straight up rocker. They mix it up. And that’s good.

But they seem to cut loose a little more with their covers, as if they’re giving themselves the chance to rock out without worrying about being flashy. Guitarist Matt Schwarz never got as crazy on his originals as he went on “Heartbreaker.” And I mean Eddie Hazel crazy. He was amazing. For a moment there, he was a guitar god. For me right then, he was the best guitar player in the world. Why doesn’t he do that on his own songs? Is he afraid he’ll sound like Ace Frehley? Is that a bad thing? I don’t know.

Everything came together on “Heartbreaker.” Brent Sulek’s singing was right on and soulful. He must have been channeling Otis Redding at Monterrey (you know what I’m talking about: shake!). Jordan Frank and Matt Schwarz’s Doo Doo Doo Doo Doos sounded perfect and creepy, just like they should. The drummer had the Quasars playing twice as fast as the Stones, which made everything even better. Jolie tells me there was a moment when they all turned to each other in the middle of the song, acknowledging that they too realized that they were making some magic.

I’ve been questioning my feelings from the moment they stopped playing. Can’t tell the guys how truly great they were or else I’ll sound like just another dumb kiss-ass fan. Is it even possible that they were as great as I thought, or was I just out of my head? I honestly don’t know the answers. But I do know that in a crummy little bar in Detroit, those four guys shook the earth for either 25 minutes or four and a half minutes.

Either way, when I left the bar I had to wonder for a moment whether all the burned-out buildings surrounding me were actually caused by the earthquake that had just taken place in my head.

I love the Lucksmiths

I love the Lucksmiths and you should too.

I’m not sure if I can explain it because I don’t really like a lot of pretty sounding stuff. I used to. I used to be all into British pop and Paul was even my favorite Beatle at one time. But not anymore. Now I like dirty, noisy, passionate stuff that was played by a bunch of delinquent teenagers. Or stuff that sounds like that. I barely ever break out those Smiths albums that I worshipped in high school.

So it’s odd that I would fall for the Lucksmiths. Maybe it’s because I saw them live before I heard their albums. So I had a chance to see them do what they do before I got a chance to scoff at their pretty melodies and clever lyrics (far, far too clever to be considered hip, by my definition). But to see a three-piece playing in a coffee house so quietly that I had to strain to hear them was truly a refreshing concert experience after having my ear drums blown out by dozens of garage bands in smoky, obnoxious bars.

Their set up is unique, and I’m a sucker for that. The lead singer stands in front of a microphone and a snare drum with a tambourine duct taped to a hi hat, and plays with brushes. The other two play unaffected bass and guitar. Softly. Simple as that.

And they blew me away. Somehow, the clever lyrics didn’t seem too clever; they’re young and Australian after all. The songs were so nicely written and well-crafted that I had to set aside my cynicism and just listen (for once in my life). Lines such as, “She’s the opposite of coffee/ the last thing I need first thing in the morning,” jumped out and stuck with me for weeks.

While musically they could hardly be more dissimilar, they remind me of the young Who for some reason. It might just be because the guitar player has a big honker and writes all of the songs. And that the lead singer has those freaky, penetrating eyes. But they’ve got a kind of serious but self-deprecating attitude that wins you over. Call it Maximum Lullaby.

And now they’ve got a new album out called Why Doesn’t That Surprise Me, and it’s as pretty and soft and clever as ever. They do some interesting things with instrumentation this time around with songs that include strings, melodica, banjo, electric piano, horns, etc. It sometimes sounds lush but not overproduced or cheesy. It’s good and it’s worth hearing, but I’ve got a personal fixation with Happy Secret which I think everyone should own. You can download a song from an ep called “T-Shirt Weather” from their label’s website. It’s fairly representative of what the Lucksmiths are all about. Check it out and let me know what you think.

NWA vs. Playboy

I found a very cool, long article on NWA. Check it out. It was commissioned by Playboy in 1991 but never published. Remember the state of hip hop — and specifically the NWA offshoots — in 1991? Ten year ago, homies…

Lester Bangs on Zawinul

And here is one more review by Lester Bangs. This one is a double review of a couple jazz albums. It originally appeared in the August 5, 1971 issue of Rolling $tone, and hasn’t been published since…

Continue reading Lester Bangs on Zawinul

Elton John vs. Eminem

Jolie was hoping that Elton John and Eminem would do “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” God, I wish!

Check out what Phil’s roommate Moby had to say. Interesting point about extending boundaries, no?

Lester Bangs on Chuck Berry

Here is the latest installment in the series of reviews by Lester Bangs that have remained unpublished since their original magazine appearance. This one is also from the August 9, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone. This time it’s a Chuck Berry review.

Continue reading Lester Bangs on Chuck Berry

Lester Bangs’ Cat Mother

As I mentioned yesterday, here is the first in a series of otherwise unpublished reviews by Lester Bangs. This one is from the August 9, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone, the one with Brian Jones (who just died) on the cover. The band is Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys (who?), and Bangs gives them a positive review.

My favorite part is this paragraph:

“Can You Dance To It?” affirms once again, atop a great chugging funk beat, the perennial Rock and Roll tradition: “If you feel alright/ You know you’re gonna dance, dance, dance all night!” Right! Some of those zombies seen slumping around at rock concerts trying to maintain their cynical, bored cool should be forced to listen to this song again and again until they get the message, the original and essential message of our music, which is: “Shake yo’ asses, people!”

It took me a while to scan this, fix the scanning mistakes, and minimally html-ify it, so while there are more to come, it might take some time. So enjoy!

Continue reading Lester Bangs’ Cat Mother

Coming soon: Lester Bangs

My man Jeff recently entrusted me with a stack of old Rolling Stone magazines from 1969 to 1977. Most of these contain otherwise unpublished reviews by the likes of Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Richard Meltzer, and Peter Guralnick. FYI, none of the stuff Lester Bangs wrote for Rolling Stone appears in his book of collected works, Psychotic Reactions & Carburetor Dung, or anywhere else for that matter. So I think I’m going to scan some of those reviews and put them up here somewhere on the site. I’ll be doing this without license or permission, so if you run into Jann Weiner, keep your mouth shut, ha ha. Coming soon…

There used to be a wonder in your eyes

There used to be a wonder in your eyes

You used to laugh a hundred times a night

So long since you really seemed alive

We miss you

We mean it

—”Harvesting”

The Sinatras have been legends of the Kalamazoo music scene for a dozen years or more. They are all grown ups now, and they don’t play out that much, so getting to see them live is a rare treat. It also tends to be a hit-or-miss affair, since they apparently don’t get together very often to rehearse between shows.

The previous time I saw them, which was about a year ago, was a real disappointment. The Atomic Numbers opened up for them and totally rocked out with their unlikely mix of the Stooges and Badfinger. The Sinatras were impressed and kept egging them on to do encores. By the time the Sinatras finally took the stage, they played like they didn’t really give a fuck. It was a bummer.

But a couple weeks ago I got a chance to see them again, and this time they didn’t let me down. Not at all. In fact, they blew me away harder than any band I’ve seen a hundred times should be able to do.

There was a moment during an instrumental freak out at the end of their cover of “She Said, She Said” when I felt like I was in the presence of God, the very definition of my concept of “glorious noise.” It amazes me that three guys can make this much sound.

A lot of it comes down to Scott Stevens’ drumming. Watching him play is as close as any of us will ever come to seeing Keith Moon in his hey day. They set a cinder block in front of the bass drum so he doesn’t beat himself off the stage. And even with the heavy chunk of cement, by the end of their set he had inched his kit forward about a foot.

Ron Casebeer and Karl Knack both write great songs, and they must have a couple hundred of them in their repetoire, so it’s crazy how bad we all want them to play “The Kids Are Alright.” There’s just something about watching them do this song that transcends the typical bar band covering a popular song — something magic about the sped up tempo or the slight vocal changes, I don’t know. You can’t put your finger on it, and I probably shouldn’t try.

For me, the Sinatras bring me back to time when I believed I was going to be something that I don’t really believe in anymore. I don’t even really know what it was that I thought I wanted to become, but something happens when I’m standing in that crowd with my eyes closed, nodding my head to the cymbals, and listening to that band. It mellows my mind to the point where I feel peaceful and excited and nostalgic and optimistic all at once. And how often does that happen these days?

They apparently have an album’s worth of material already recorded and almost ready to go. I’ve been hearing that for a few years now, and I’m not very confident that I’ll ever hold it in my hands, but I’m really hoping everybody will get their shit together and do what it takes to get this thing out soon. The handful of singles and compilation appearances and live bootlegs just aren’t cutting it for me anymore. I need more. Give it up.

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