Tag Archives: Vagrant

The Hold Steady – Hurricane J

MP3: The Hold Steady – “Hurricane J” from Heaven Is Whenever, out now on Vagrant.

“You’re a beautiful girl and you’re a pretty good waitress.” Craig Finn is still a hell of a storyteller. Dude manages to convey so much in so few words. I’m not willing to go as far as calling his lyrics Hemingwayesque, but his secret is leaving out the most important details and letting the truth fill in the blanks. “Hurricane J” is words of advice from a not entirely altruistic narrator to a pretty young fuckup. “You know I’ll never ask you to change, I’ll only ask you to try.” He may be jaded, but Finn has yet to succumb to cynicism, which allows him to pick up the story where Brian Wilson‘s “Caroline No” left off without sounding like a condescending creep. “You’re too hard already, you’ll only get harder.”

This is the same territory that the Hold Steady has been mining forever, but as long as they manage to pull out gems like this, I hope they continue to keep digging.

Hold Steady: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki, MySpace.

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The Hold Steady – The Weekenders on Letterman

Video: The Hold Steady – “The Weekenders” on David Letterman

A new keyboard player, an extra guitar player, but they sound great. Does professionalism suit the Hold Steady? I’m not sure. But Dave seems to be impressed. Their new album, Heaven Is Whenever, drops tomorrow on Vagrant.

The Hold Steady: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Conscience Killer

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Beat the Devil's TattooMP3: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Conscience Killer” from Beat the Devil’s Tattoo, out now on Vagrant.

This track is somewhat a return to the “Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll (Punk Song)” vibe that originally attracted us to BRMC in 2001. They’ve gone through a few permutations since then, including a bluesy acoustic phase, which is represented by the title track, the video for which you can watch below…

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

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BRMC – Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll (live)

MP3: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Whatever Happened to My Rock and Roll (Punk Song)” (live) from Live (2CD+2DVD), out now on Vagrant.

BRMC offers up a live version of their best song. Sometimes I wonder why they never got bigger. How can anybody not like this?

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, wiki

thenewno2 – You Are Here

thenewno2 - You Are Herethenewno2You Are Here (Vagrant distro)

[14:16] Phil: Listening to that Dhani Harrison album

[14:16] Jake: how is it?

[14:16] Phil: just started

[14:16] Jake: should i catch up?

[14:16] Phil: I’ll restart

[14:17] Jake: say go

[14:17] Phil: go!

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The Hold Steady – Boys and Girls in America

The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in AmericaThe Hold SteadyBoys and Girls in America (Vagrant)

What makes the Hold Steady great is their ability to write heartbreaking songs that tell of wild teen years, substance abuse, and jaded Christianity. Craig Finn hones his prowess as a lyricist in their third and best release, Boys and Girls in America, and in so doing makes the album of the year.

On this album, the Hold Steady improve their take on the “Springsteen” sound with a new maturity. The riffs are better, and overall they sound more musical than they ever have before. And Finn crafts some of his most poignant lyrics yet. Separation Sunday was linked by its stories of lost faith and its tales of characters who partake in youthful extravagance, getting wasted and having fun. But this album, instead of glorifying youth, looks back with remorse. The first verse of the album establishes that theme with a nod to Kerouac: “There are nights when I think that Sal Paradise was right / Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together.”

Finn’s best lyrics take him back to high school, a time he looks back on with sadness. He considers the betrayals of past relationships: “I’ve had kisses that make Judas seem sincere.” On “Massive Nights,” he regrets the nights of partying: “We had some massive highs / we had some crushing lows.”

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The Get Up Kids – Guilt Show

The Get Up KidsGuilt Show (Vagrant)

We’re going back. Way back…to the year…2002.

Do you remember where you were when The Get Up Kids released On a Wire? Neither do I. I did buy it sometime soon after, however, and enjoyed it; surprised at the signs of maturity that (occasionally) cut through the band’s noted triviality. The Kids actually devoted time to textures and arrangements and attempted, at least, a different side of a band always seen as expendable.

Guilt Show, unfortunately, isn’t about remorse over the band’s pre-Wire material. What’s worse, they erase any progress made with their last album and pander once again to mall-punks everywhere. The Get Up Kids offered acceptance with On a Wire that the short-lived explosion of mall-emo was over and the band were ready to move on with the rest of the music world. Two years later, however, isn’t enough time to dig Saves the Day and the rest of the gang up for a retrospective; and what’s more, who fucking cares that The Get Up Kids “infuse their brand of punk with new-wave progressions and a greater emphasis on the keyboard.” This shit doesn’t work.

Particularly offending are “Is There a Way Out” and “Conversation,” the album’s last two tracks. It’s bad enough that the first 11 tracks are of the hardly-passable pop-punk variety. That the last two are “epic” in nature (and trust me, “epic” is used loosely) is laughable.

The Bush administration may be out of work come November. What’s getting lost in the shuffle is that while Bush blew hot air over the literacy rate and insufficient schooling, Dubya failed to rid the 2004 landscape of such an obvious threat to the intelligence of our nation’s children. Avoid Guilt Show like the plague.

Paul Westerberg – Come Feel Me Tremble

Paul WesterbergCome Feel Me Tremble (Vagrant)

One thing Paul Westerberg should understand: repeating a chorus and a guitar lick for 3 minutes does not constitute a song. On Come Feel Me Tremble he does this far too much. Songs like “Hillbilly Junk,” “Soldier Of Misfortune” and “Making Me Go” barely make complete thoughts, let alone a song. Westerberg can usually get away with this, because his skewed viewpoint and spot-on guitar can override the repetitiousness. This time, he doesn’t always make it work. On some tracks, he either didn’t have enough to say or enough music to say it with. Lots of filler.

The irony is that Westerberg’s filler is pretty good stuff, and when he shines he can blow you away. “Knockin’ Em Back” is a standout, whipsaw-rock track and a perfect example of what Westerberg does best. Other strong tracks include the thoughtful “These Days” and “Dirty Diesel,” a Stone-sy blues rocker.

Bottom line? There’s a lot of inconsistency. But Westerberg’s off-kilter approach (and stumbling-but-catching-himself-at-the-last-minute execution) somehow makes it more than the sum of its parts. Even though you might skip a track or two.

Paul Westerberg – Stereo/Mono

Paul Westerberg/Grandpa BoyStereo/Mono (Vagrant)

Mr. Rabbit, Mr. Rabbit

Your coat is mighty gray

Yeah, bless God it’s made that way.

Every little soul must shine

Every little soul must shine.

—Paul Westerberg – “Mr. Rabbit”

There’s always been two sides to Paul Westerberg (and The Replacements), and with this 2-cd release we get both sides in one package. The burnout philosopher and gentleman junkie of songs like “Skyway,” “Swingin’ Party” and “Androgynous,” and the screaming rabble-rouser from such fist-pumpers as “Gary’s Got A Boner,” “Bastards Of Young” and “Red Red Wine.” Now the sides are clearly split—the two discs are called Stereo (by Paul Westerberg) and Mono (by Grandpa Boy). And both sides have grown a bit wiser.

On Stereo, Westerberg works hard at grasping the brilliant, melancholy hooks he used to toss off without thinking during the glory years of The Replacements. And for the most part he succeeds, but it does seem like he’s had to go twice as far to the well and maybe didn’t bring up as much as he used to.

That’s the only bad thing I can say about this home-recorded disc full of, as the liner notes say, “tape running out, fluffed lyrics, flat notes extraneous noises, etc.” Ultimately, though, it¹s a fascinating musical document, and well worth the listen. Clunky and flawed, Westerberg makes no effort to polish the finished product and you have to love him for that. Written and recorded at home and cut live, these tracks grow on you like some kind of musical Chia Pet. You can’t enjoy them nearly as much on the first listen, but by the second or third listen they’re getting into your bloodstream.

The only exception to the above is the 11th track, “Mr. Rabbit,” which everyone should rush out and listen to right now. It’s got a first-rate pop guitar hook you will want to play to over and over again, just to hear Westerberg belt out the chorus, “Every little soul must shine.” This is perfection, and Westerberg’s best single track in years.

Mono, the Grandpa Boy (Westerberg’s alter ego) cd, is full of straight-ahead rockers, all recorded in glorious mono. It’s good stuff, bluesy and raw, and as Westerberg says in his liner notes, “This is rock ‘n roll recorded poorly, played in a hurry, with sweaty hands and unsure reason.” It is indeed, and a lot of fun to listen to. Here Westerberg reminds us why he remains rock’s holy fool, doing stupid shit that would get anybody else nailed to the wall, like mid-song tempo changes and ending songs by just stopping cold. And he has a good time doing it, too.

Taken together, these cds nicely illustrate the one-two punch of a legendary rocker who’s always been something of a musical dichotomy:­ half bittersweet poet and half anarchist rock agitator. On Stereo/Mono, the two halves seem to be closer than ever to becoming a whole.

MP3s are available from Vagrant.