Monday, April 30, 2012

New Wave for the New Week #151

Claiming influences as varied as The Birthday Party, Motörhead, and Leonard Cohen, The Sisters Of Mercy came together in England as the '70s turned to the '80s.  Through a troubled and sporadic recording career that spanned  a decade yet only resulted in three proper albums, The Sisters Of Mercy created some starkly memorable, deeply moody music that often gets lumped in with the Goth scene but was much more than that.  Yes, you can hear the echoes of Peter Murphy's horror-flick pretensions in Andrew Eldritch's rumbling growl, but there are equal parts Jim Morrison rock-n-roll preening and Nick Cave swagger mixed in as well.  Their music verged at times on pseudo-psychedelia, rocked hard when they so chose, and could become the stuff of nightmares with surprising ease.

The Sisters Of Mercy began to gather steam through a series of early singles including "Alice" and "Temple Of Love," as well as The Reptile House EP, all of which were recorded by the group's original lineup: Eldritch on vocals, Gary Marx and Ben Gunn on guitars, Craig Adams on bass and a drum machine they named Doktor Avalanche.  In 1983, shortly after "Temple Of Love" was released, Gunn left the band due to personality conflicts with Eldritch, and was replaced by former Dead Or Alive guitarist Wayne Hussey as the band recorded their first full-length album, First And Last And Always, released in early 1985. Bolstered by outstanding tracks like "Black Planet" and "Walk Away," the album found a receptive audience at home in the UK and became an underground hit here in the States.  They toured in support of the LP, but during the tour Gary Marx quit, blaming an inability to get along with Eldritch (you may notice a pattern emerging here).

Unphased by Marx's departure, Eldritch, Adams, and Hussey went to work on recording their next album, but soon found themselves at odds over which tracks would make the cut.  With a partial album in the can, Adams and Hussey walked out.  The pair intended to rechristen themselves The Sisterhood, but Eldritch beat them to the punch by releasing his own record under that name.  Adams and Hussey then settled on the less provocative name The Mission and began doing their own thing.

Having thwarted the usurping of his band name in any form, Eldritch enlisted bassist Patricia Morrison, formerly of The Gun Club, and in 1987 released the second Sisters Of Mercy album, Floodland. Eldritch may have been difficult to work with, but he sure knew how to make great records!  Floodland was a bit heavier than First And Last And Always, but was every bit as good - if not better.  "This Corrosion" and "Lucretia My Reflection" found regular airplay on college radio and MTV, and were legitimate chart-toppers back home in the UK.  "This Corrosion" remains the best track in The Sisters Of Mercy catalog; a searing rocker that crossed playlists from punk to metal to hard rock with an irresistible "hey now, hey now now" chorus that stays lodged in your brain for days. Brilliant.

Morrison soon went on her way (I'll leave it to you to guess why), and Eldritch went about reassembling his band.  This time he brought in two guitarists, Andreas Bruhn and Tim Bricheno, and enlisted Tommy James (formerly of Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik) to play bass.  Loyal drum machine Doktor Avalanche remained the only "band member" to last with Eldritch from the beginning.  This group issued 1990's Vision Thing LP.  A bit more sprawling and unrestrained (the lead single, "More," runs over eight minutes!) but just as good, the album unfortunately got lost in the dust of a squabble between the band and their record label.  Eldritch soon announced The Sisters Of Mercy were going on strike, and would not record again until WEA released them from their contract.

The label went ahead and issued Some Girls Wander By Mistake, a 1992 import-only collection of the first lineup's singles, but The Sisters Of Mercy held their ground and never recorded again (even though finally in 1997 WEA officially released the band from their contract).  Instead, The Sisters Of Mercy have continued on as a strictly live band - mainly Eldritch and whomever he recruits for each tour.  Over the years they have introduced several new songs in their live sets.  Perhaps one day we'll get a proper collection of them released on CD.

Until then, here are a pair of The Sisters Of Mercy's shining moments:  the first album's "Black Planet" and the magnificent "This Corrosion."  Enjoy!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Help Give Amy Gore A Kickstart

Amy Gore & Her Valentines made the cut for my Best Records of 2011 post with their debut single, the excellent "Drivin' Around."  At the time, I wrote:
It's a solid chunk of whaddaya-wanna-do-tonight-I-dunno-whadda-you-wanna-do guitar rock, with a simple but insidiously catchy chorus and sound that holds great promise for a full album's worth of goodies from the band. Soon Amy?  Please?
Well, "soon" is now - or, at least, it could be, if we all pitch in and help.  Amy and her band have been working on shaping a full album, but doing so entirely on their own dime.  Amy put the word out on Facebook last week that the band is turning to fans to ask for support through the Kickstarter website:

Kickstarter has a great concept.  If you have a creative project of some kind, be it an art installation, a film, music, whatever, and you need funding, you set up a page on Kickstarter describing what you're doing and how much total funding you are seeking, with a deadline to reach that goal.  If you are willing to support creative endeavors, you can browse the various projects or seek out specific ones and pledge any amount from $1.00 on up.  If the project pulls in enough pledges to meet or exceed the funding goal, the artist gets the pledged amounts; however, if the deadline arrives and the funding goal has not been reached, the pledges are not collected and the artist gets nothing.

Often, those seeking funding will offer rewards to those who are willing to pledge, based on the amount of contribution.  Amy & Her Valentines, for example, offer everything from a "virtual high five" for a $1.00 pledge to a signed copy of the finished CD, early download access to the songs, and a hand-made button for a pledge of $50.00, to a private party performance by the band for a $10,000.00 pledge.

To make the new album a reality, they are seeking $4500.00 by May 10, 2012.  At the moment, the tote board sits at $835.00 with 26 days to go.

I think it's a great opportunity to help a very talented group of independent artists get their music out there, and I'm sure any amount you can offer will be greatly appreciated by the band.  Take a listen to "Drivin' Around" below, and if you like what you hear, please consider helping out.  You can follow the link to Amy's Kickstarter page here, or use the widget below the clip.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What A Show!

Finally have a chance to sit down and share with you Sunday night's fun in Washington DC.  A venue I'd never been to before, one band I have become an absolute fanatic of, and one band whose material I'm just getting to know but am being blown away by - those are ingredients for a fun evening, and that's exactly what I got!

In my many years of seeing shows, I had never before actually seen the same band twice in a row.  The closest I had come was in 2010, catching Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine on a Friday night in Philly and a Sunday night in Baltimore of the same weekend, but that Saturday night I had seen Gorevette and The Donnas. What a weekend that was!  Well, check back-to-back shows by the same band off my bucket list, and the honors go to One-Eyed Doll (natch, if you've been paying attention lately)!  My last live show was One-Eyed Doll and Orgy in Baltimore last month; this weekend, I was lucky enough to see the dynamic Doll duo again, this time playing with the simply astounding Peelander-Z in DC at a cool little hole-in-the-wall called DC9.

My brother and I headed south early for the show, knowing we had a little over a two-hour drive and wanting to leave enough time to find the club, grab something to eat, and give ourselves enough of a buffer for unforeseen traffic issues (that 695 beltway can be a beast at times, even on weekends).  As it turned out, we pulled into DC with almost two hours to spare, and quickly found the block where DC9 is located, or should I say "hidden."  We circled the block at least five times, knowing that we had to be in the right place because we spotted Kimberly and Junior from One-Eyed Doll busily unloading their equipment.  Finally we located the club - a tiny, nondescript storefront tucked in among other businesses on 9th Street.  A few more circuits around the neighborhood helped us find parking, and we decided to just set up camp at DC9 for beers and burgers before the show.

When I describe DC9 as a "hole in the wall," I mean it in the best sense.  It doesn't look like much at first - in fact, with its dark interior and minimal signage, it almost looked like it was closed.  Right inside the street-level opening is a bar; on past it were about half a dozen old vinyl-upholstered booths.  The place looked straight out of the 1960s - there was even a working old-style cigarette vending machine (the kind where you pulled out the knob for the brand you wanted, for those old enough to remember when those machines were standard issue in bars and restaurants.)  My brother and I pulled up seats at the bar and enjoyed some really good sandwiches, fries, and fried pickles - a first for me.  There were two more levels to the place.  Our bartender, Jessica, told us the bands would be on the second floor, which she said was rated to hold up to 200 people (more about that later); there is also a roof-level deck, which we headed up to just before the show.  A nice enough place - I've certainly seen shows in less well-kept establishments!

At the point they opened the doors to the second floor for the show, my brother and I were two of four people waiting.  Junior had come out to say hello, and joked that "if it's just going to be the four of you, you'll get a great all-request show. We just need you to create a mosh pit in front of the stage." 
As it turned out, it was a small crowd.  I did a quick head-count at one point and there were about 30 people, but sometimes those smaller crowds lend themselves to better shows.  In the case of One-Eyed Doll, it really allowed Kimberly to interact with everyone throughout the set:  bringing one person on stage to sing "You're A Vampire" to him, dressing two more in costume for "Fight," having us vote for which song we wanted to hear by doing an odd running-in-place dance, and spinning us around to stare at the sound guy while she "surreptitiously" made an on-stage costume change (Kimberly: "La la la, nothing going on back here, keep looking at the sound guy, la la la...").  Throughout their set, she spent as much time in the crowd as she did on the small corner stage, and she seemed energized by the interaction.  Other than doing the standard opening with "Committed," we got a completely different set than we did in Baltimore a month ago.  One-Eyed Doll continue to simply amaze. 

Now, I am going to try to describe Peelander-Z to you.  If you are familiar with the Japanese "Action Comic Punk Band," you already know what I mean when I say I will try to describe them: their show simply has to be seen - er, experienced - and even then you're left bewildered.  But, you're also left smiling, exhausted, and wanting more.  You want insanely catchy high-energy music?  They deliver that in bulk.  Sunday night they stormed through Peelander-Z standards like "So Many Mike," "Taco Taco Tacos," "Get The Glasses," and "S.T.E.A.K." at top speed, never missing a beat.  You want costumes?  They took the stage in Rezillos-esque space suits; band members and associates appeared dressed as masked Mexican wrestlers, giant squid-like monsters, and bowling pins.  You want crowd participation?  They had the entire crowd - literally every last one of us - take part in a massive simultaneous limbo beneath a rope held by people in tiger masks; they handed tin bowls and sticks to random fans to keep rhythm; the guitarist walked across the crowd's hands from the stage to the bar on the other side of the room and back; there were sudden baseball and bowling games; there was great celebration of those who, like me, were wearing glasses.  At one point, they pulled people up on the stage to take over for band members on guitar, bass and drums.  Then they wrapped up the whole night with an utterly unexpected but wonderful cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."

30 people (by the end of the night the number had grown to maybe 60-65) may sound like a low turnout, but honestly the second floor was not huge. Had there been many more it would have been uncomfortably crowded.  I can't imagine how the place could hold 200 people, regardless of what the bartender said!  But where many bands might have been discouraged or might have given half-effort performances given the small crowd, both One-Eyed Doll and Peelander-Z gave their all and made it a party-like atmosphere.

This was the kind of show that reminds me why I'm willing to travel to see a show in a tiny venue two hours away from home.  You can see a thousand and one wanna-be arena-rock bands who charge exorbitant ticket prices, tell everyone to "put your hands in the air," ask if you're "ready to rock," and run off the stage and hide in their dressing rooms never actually meeting their fans, much less interacting with them.  You can pay your money and sit in a seat and clap along politely, but for all that you might as well just listen to the CD at home.  But when you leave a show revved up, excited, exhausted, and chattering away about what you've just experienced; when you've actually been a small part of the show itself; when you get the chance to meet and talk with the bands and get the sense that they are just as eager to meet you as you are to meet them; and when you can do all that for a $10 ticket - well, why wouldn't you?

As always, I insist that you go see One-Eyed Doll when they play near you.  I also highly recommend experiencing Peelander-Z.  Easily two of the most fun bands I've seen in a long time.  As always, check the Facebook page for more pics from the show, and if you haven't already, please consider "liking" the page as well.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Wave for the New Week #150

There is both beauty and elegance in simplicity, yet at times simplicity itself can become quite convoluted.  Consider three musicians from Großenkneten, Germany (keyboardist Stephan Remmler, guitarist Gert 'Kralle' Krawinkel, and drummer Peter Behrens) who, over a five-year span, made some of the most severely minimalist music imaginable:  though gloriously simple in approach with their three-chord skullthumpers created from preprogrammed Casio keyboard tracks, basic guitar riffs without a hint of anything resembling a "solo," and drum kit stripped down to only kick-drum, snare and hi-hat, these three managed to create a nearly impenetrable discography of albums and EPs with overlapping songs, titles, and occasionally cover art, often released in numerous variations, and in both German and English versions.  The band name they chose was indicative of their simplistic approach as well.  What else do you call a band of three musicians besides Trio?

The discographical confusion caused by their beyond-bare-bones approach began right out of the gate:  each of their first three releases are essentially untitled; they are each referred to most often as Trio.  The first Trio, a three-song 10-inch EP issued in 1980, laid the groundwork for what was to come with its thunka-thunka rhythms and repetitive lyrics.  The cover art, such as it was, consisted of the band's logo with two hearts, one crossed out, looking as though it had been hastily scrawled in black Sharpie on a generic white stock sleeve.  The following year's Trio was a full album that included all three songs from the original release and sported nearly identical cover art, save for the addition of the band's actual address and telephone number printed below the logo.

In 1982, Trio recorded their most well-known song, "Da Da Da I Don't Love You You Don't Love Me Aha Aha Aha," which would become a hit single in at least 30 countries (and, 15 years later, see a resurgence in popularity here in the US when Volkswagen used it in an advertising campaign).  "Da Da Da" was so popular in Europe that the Trio album was reissued at first with copies of the single included, and later with the song appended to the album.  Also in that year, a third release appeared, again called Trio.  This six-song EP again repeated two of three songs from the 1980 EP, repeated one song from the 1981 album, and added an extended version of "Da Da Da" as well as another new single, "Anna - Letmein Letmeout."  This time the cover art abandoned the address and phone number, replacing them with three crudely drawn portraits of the band members and the legends "Contains the hit Da Da Da" and "Specially priced mini LP," again all done in black Sharpie on white stock sleeve.

Around the same time, a live album appeared. Live im Frühjahr '82 presented the band playing songs and telling stories before an enthusiastic crowd.  No new songs were debuted here, but everything was sung in German (most of their songs can be found in both German and English variations - and occasionally with both languages combined).

Their next full-length album, 1983's Bye Bye, brought new material to the mix. Their next single, "Boom Boom," kicked off the record in fine style; their skeletal cover of "Tutti Frutti" is exactly what you'd expect; the hauntingly beautiful "Tooralooralooraloo (Is It Old and Is It New?)" will catch you off guard.  In addition to new stuff, "Da Da Da" is back again, as is "Anna," but in a slightly revamped version.  The standard issue cover art was abandoned for this project in favor of a sleeve with eight blocks on the front which were sold as advertising space, resulting in innumerable sleeve variations.  Finally, the album was released in America under a different title, Trio and Error, with entirely different cover art that more closely matched the standard Trio album jacket.

With me so far?  Good, because there's more!

Trio's final proper album, 1985's What's the Password?, broke the mold completely.  Fuller production, additional instruments, and an actual photo of the band on the cover made this the black sheep Trio album.  Not surprisingly, long-time fans were turned off.  Though Peter Behrens appears in the cover photo, he did not actually play on the record, having had a falling out with the other two.  By year's end, Trio was done.

Almost immediately, a retrospective album, 1981 - 1985: 5 Jahre zuviel ("5 years too many") appeared; ten years later would come two more "best ofs," each of which were titled Da Da Da. The first Da Da Da was a 1996 European release; the second Da Da Da was a cash-in on the popularity of the title song via the Volkswagen ads. Essentially a reordered CD reissue of Trio and Error with a few songs added, it used the exact same cover art as the 1982 Trio EP, only with the notation "Specially priced mini LP" removed.  Finally, 2000's Triologie offered the most complete career retrospective to date.

Trio was a wonderful band whose music, stark as it was, was witty and clever, but as you can see trying to track down the exact record you want can be a chore (I didn't even mention the various singles and 12-inches!).  Take your pick and take your chances.

This week, we enjoy Trio's two most classic singles, in versions not often heard in the US:  First up, of course, is a mixed German and English version of "Da Da Da," following that is the German version of "Anna - Letmein Letmeout."  Enjoy!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What Are You Doing This Weekend?

If you live in Philadelphia, PA, Baltimore, MD, or Washington, DC (or close enough to get to any of the three), I am once again going to urge you to go see the most awesome live band you will ever see, One-Eyed Doll!

Tomorrow night (Friday 4/13), they will be in Philadelphia at The Fire on Girard Avenue; Saturday night they'll be in Baltimore at one of my favorite venues to see a show, The Ottobar, and Sunday night they play DC at at DC9.  They are touring with Japanese (via New York) "action comic punk band" Peelander-Z.  Both bands are big on audience participation, so this should be a fun series of shows.

I really wanted to try to pull the triple-shot, but it looks like Sunday night in DC is the only show I'm going to get to.  (My old transportation issue again - maybe One-Eyed Doll will be the thing that actually inspires me to learn to drive after all these years...)  But, if you're able to get to any (or all) of the shows, by all means GO!  As I mentioned in my post about their last trip to Baltimore, One-Eyed Doll put on an incredible performance. You will not be disappointed, and at roughly $10 - $12 a night, how can you go wrong?  That's huge entertainment value for your dollar!  And tell Kimberly and Junior that I sent you!

If you go, and you'd like to share your review of the show here on the blog, I'd be pleased to publish a guest post or two.  Let me know either on the comments section here or on the Facebook page!  If you're in DC Sunday night - see you there!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, April 9, 2012

New Wave for the New Week #149

Back in the '80s, there was a nifty little punk rock record shop here in Lancaster called Web Of Sound.  It was one of three havens for finding underground music in town - The Web was geared more towards the sixtiesish garage-y punk bands of the mid-decade who worshiped at the alter of The Seeds, after whose legendary 1966 album the store was named; BBC Records catered more to the New Wave hairspray kids chasing down the newest Smiths imports; Stan's Record Bar had a storefront on North Prince Street since my Mom bought her Elvis Presley singles there as a kid, and seemed to have at least one copy of everything you could think of (and if they didn't, they'd order it for you) - especially those even-then ridiculously high-priced colored vinyl punk 7-inches.

Stan's is the only one still standing, but The Web in its heyday was not just a record shop, but also a gathering place for the local scenesters, and, a place where you could get Bill or John or Rex behind the counter to play a record for you.  Not just a snippet of a song or two so you can decide if you want to buy it, but actually play the whole damn record!  And so it was that on one slow Sunday afternoon, hanging out at Web Of Sound, that I convinced Rex to spin Breakfast With The Holes by Les Black's Amazing Pink Holes.

Les Black and his band (Cheese Borger on bass, Kurt Turd on guitar, and Freddy Pants on drums) started making noise on the Cleveland scene around 1980, and quickly became known as one of those bands you either loved or hated.  Proficiency in musicianship was never important to The Pink Holes; they were snarky, foul-mouthed brats whose lives were steeped in punk rock and pop culture.  Had they picked up spray paint cans instead of instruments, they would have vandalized the neighborhood in extremely sloppy but wickedly funny graffiti.  Instead, they played extremely sloppy but wickedly funny music.

They released two records on their own Eldo Farms label. 1984's We're Glad We Are What We Are presented The Pink Holes to the world with a side of studio recordings and a side recorded live at a New Year's Eve gig at The Lakefront in Cleveland.  Both sides contain more covers than originals.  The originals make it clear that high art is not the aim here - consider "I.A.G.A.H. (I Ain't Got A Head)," the title track in which each member takes a turn rhyming his name with something foul, or the classic "More," in which we are directed to "..drink more liquids and eat more shit" because that's what we do every day.  Sure it's juvenile and stupid, but it's also fun and hysterical.

It's in their choices for songs to cover, though, that Les Black's Amazing Pink Holes really hit their mark.  Early on, a fairly straightforward (well, as straightforward as The Pink Holes can get) cover of "Ring Of Fire" belies what can happen to a song when these guys decide to gut it.  They slop through a killer rendition of the theme song from "Land Of The Lost;" The Shangri-La's "Heaven Only Knows" gets a snickering run through; "Proof Is On The Pad" is, in fact, the old Stridex jingle.  And it's worth the price of admission to stick around for their unlisted version of "Cum On Feel The Noize," which they seem to be making up on the spot.

Better still is the record that introduced my ears to the band, 1985's Breakfast With The Holes.  A six-song EP that boasts a free toy surprise inside on the front cover, Breakfast eviscerates "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and "Long Tall Texan," celebrates Brooke Shields, explains the band's name in under a minute, and commits to vinyl the most uncomfortably funny Oedipal complex imaginable.  The whole thing closes out with the bizarre but wonderful "Baseball Park Fun," and a secret backtracked message that really only makes sense on vinyl.  Brilliant.

Although the band has soldiered on for going on three decades, they released nothing else until 2004, when an odd single showed up: Les Black's Amazing Pink Holes with Herschell Gordon Lewis on vocals (!) performing the theme to Lewis' 1964 splatter flick 2000 Maniacs!  To add to the oddness of this sudden release, of which 2000 were pressed (of course), the vinyl is actually a 6-inch single rather than the traditional 7-inch, and was pressed on splattered vinyl.

Both of the original Pink Holes records were reissued in 2000 on the SmogVeil label with bonus tracks.  Breakfast With Holes appends several early demo recordings, while the slightly retitled We're Glad We Are What We Are Revisited offers the full live show from which the original album's second side was culled.

For this week's NW4NW entry, enjoy two clips from Les Black's Amazing Pink Holes.  First up, a very early (circa 1980) video for "Proof Is On The Pad."  Then, The Pink Holes with Herschell Gordon Lewis on "2000 Maniacs."  Enjoy!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

The 2012 Major League Baseball Regular Season officially opens tonight at 7:00 with the Cardinals v Marlins - the Phils open tomorrow against Pittsburgh!

So let those two glorious words ring out throughout the land: "PLAY BALL!"

bugs bunny - Baseball Bugs

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

New Wave for the New Week #148

There's an old saying that people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, and only time will tell you which.  A similar rule could be applied to bands that you hear:  some artists you hear and they evolve into favorites for life, while others may have only a stretch of two or three good albums before they start moving in a direction you don't care for.  And then, there are the bands that show up only for a reason: that one album, or one incredible song.

Camden, England's Passion Puppets are a fine example of the latter.  Appearing essentially out of nowhere in 1984, Passion Puppets' album Beyond The Pale sported an awesome single, "Like Dust," that was seized upon by college radio DJs across the land.  With its spaghetti-western guitar twang, chunka-kachunka percussion, and chant-along chorus, it's a schizophrenic record:  Brit kids with Echo & The Bunnymen haircuts trying to be as American as The Del Fuegos or Green On Red, just missing the mark but still coming up with something pretty damn nifty in its own right.

Then, just as fast, they were gone.  No follow up, no info, nothing.  "Like Dust" hung around in the back of the minds of those of us who loved it back then, occasionally showing up on New Wave compilation CDs here and there, until it and its parent album were surprisingly reissued on CD in 2006, with a few B-sides and unreleased recordings tacked on for good measure.  That disc has now fallen out of print, but both it and the original vinyl can be found pretty easily.  Worth picking up.

For this week's NW4NW entry, here is the clip for "Like Dust."  Enjoy!

Enhanced by Zemanta