Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Have a Roman Candle Christmas

Roman Candle's Oh Tall Tree in the Ear made our list of ten best albums of the last decade (at least I think it did; feel free to check). The members of the band are in the studio with their kids working on a long-player promised for 2012. In the interim, they've written and recorded "It's Christmas, Go On and Say Hello," three minutes of yuletide cheer. Get it as a free download at the band's website.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Dave Hause & Cory Branan at Johnny Brenda's Tonight!! (plus a Long Overdue Report on The Replacements Movie & Tribute Concert)

A couple of weeks ago I made the trek to New York to see a screening of the new Replacements documentary, Color Me Obsessed. If the idea of driving two hours in the rain with two other degenerates to see a music film in a dank, crowded subterranean shithole about a drunken bunch of stumblebums who were touched by genius, and knowing that the film contains exactly zero music by said stumblebums - well, if that's your idea of a good time, I've got one thing to say to you... welcome friend. This movie features talking heads doing nothing but trying to explain the unexplainable - what made The Replacements great? As the saying goes - if I have to tell you, you'll never know. But the film is a clunky, heartfelt, ultimately sweet valentine to the last great rock and roll band - you'll laugh, you'll shake your head and god damn if you don't get goose bumps just remembering how mighty they could be.

So see it if you get the chance. Right after the screening, there was a tribute concert that was pretty good, but lacked the careening unpredictability that made The Replacements either the world's greatest or world's worst rock and roll band, often in the same night. There were some head scratchers - Steve Wynn sleepwalking through "Never Mind", Robert Gordon's flabby and meandering "I Will Dare" (a waste of a big moment) and Matt Pinfield (the dj!) flop sweating through "Waitress in The Sky". Bree Sharp's Vegas-y "Unsatisfied" gets a pass because quite frankly I am not really sure I can say anything bad about her.

But there were also some real standouts - Kevn Kinney making "Here Comes A Regular" his own as a southern fried lament and Craig and Tad from The Hold Steady falling just short on "Within Your Reach" but knocking it out of the park on "Color Me Impressed", while Tommy Ramone gently found the sweet pathos in a moving solo take of "If Only You Were Lonely". Danny Sage seemed pleasantly befuddled as he brought some New York scuzz to "I'll be You" and "Answering Machine", while host Jesse Malin was perfectly reverential with "Achin to Be" and "Alex Chilton". But the highlights of the evening were Titus Andronicus' Patrick Stickles nailing the confused desperation of "Sixteen Blue" and Dave Hause's super-charged take on "Anywhere is Better Than Here" and an electric and show stealing "I.O.U." The all hands on deck finale of "Bastards of Young" was a fitting sloppy mish-mash highlighted by the Little Billy antics of Patrick Stickles and his video recorder.

Which is a very long way of saying go see Dave Hause tonight in his first full band Philadelphia show in quite some time. We raved earlier this year about Resolutions, his 2011 marriage of punk rock spittle and sensitive singer songwriter-isms that is one of the year's best albums. Tonight he'll be joined by Cory Branan, whose literate story songs sit somewhere between John Prine and the softer side of Lucero. And it's ten bucks. Get off the couch, lazy ass.

Dave Hause (11:00)
Cory Branan (10:00)
Turning Violet Violet (9:00)
at Johnny Brenda's
1201 N. Frankford Ave. (near Girard)

Dave Hause - "Years From Now" (from Resolutions)
Dave Hause - "C'mon Kid" (from Resolutions)
Dave Hause - "Another Town" (Steve Earle cover)

Cory Branan - "Troublesome Girl" (from The Hell You Say)

Love this band, love this song, love this video

This is Deer Tick conjuring the spirit of vintage Replacements while playing an homage to the Rolling Stones. The song is "Main Street." The album is Divine Providence. And if you're the kind of person who has been to this blog more than once on purpose, you should own it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Paul Weller: "Around the Lake"

We're big fans of the Mod God around here, and his album Sonik Kicks is set to arrive on March 26, 2012. The first single "Around the Lake" is a classic Weller stomper, checking in at an economical two minutes, twelve seconds. Enjoy.

Paul Weller, "Around the Lake"

Monday, November 28, 2011

Honey Pies, You Were Meant To Be Near Me

The Honey Pies are an Australian four-piece that makes the kind of breezy, 60's R&B-inflected pop and buzzy, punk-inflected rock that never goes out of style, but never quite comes into fashion. They'll be releasing their second long-player Carpe Carp at some  time in the future described only as "soon." While you wait for soon to come, enjoy the first single "Girl," an irresistible ray of sunshine.

The Honey Pies, "Girl"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Welcome to the new Teenage Kicks

This used to be a semi-dormant rock and roll blog. Now it's a semi-dormant rock and roll blog with style.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lester Speaks

I had read thousands upon thousands of his words, I had seen him portrayed in Almost Famous, but until stumbling upon this on YouTube, I had never seen video of history's most notorious rock writer.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

New Craig Finn!!

Craig Finn will be releasing a sure-to-be-impossible-to-find 7" single, "Honolulu Blues", as part of Record Store Day's Black Friday boondoggle. It's the first taste of his forthcoming solo album (out soon) and the single also features b-side "Rented Room". Both songs will be avialble digitally 11/29. Thanks to Finn's English label Full Time Hobby for the streams below.

"Honolulu Blues" reminds me of... you guessed it, The Hold Steady, and the racket they kicked up for their greasy take of Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window".

The Hold Steady - "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window" (from I'm Not There)

Streams removed per request of label.

Austin Has Always Had The Best Music, Now They Have The Best Halloween Too

Patty Griffin and her squeeze welcome some local demons.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Behold The Power of Rock and Roll

Butch Walker killing it at Union Transfer in Philadelphia earlier tonight.

photo: Hudak

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fierce Bad Rabbit Tonight!

Here's a late heads up for all you Philadelphia couch potatoes looking for a reason to leave the house tonight - the pride of Fort Collins, CO, Fierce Bad Rabbit, scampers into the M Room as the headliner on a four band bill including Oh! Pears, Dad Rocks and Attia Taylor. Fierce Bad Rabbit are touring behind their excellent, brand new 3 song EP, Live and Learn, whose well scrubbed rock finds kindred spirits in the harmony heavy americana of Mumford & Sons, Dawes and Band of Horses. Lead singer Chris Anderson has a voice that would sound perfect on AAA radio. Let's hope those programmers take notice.

And I'm all in for a future all Rabbit tour - Fierce Bad Rabbit, Frightened Rabbit, White Rabbits and Pepper Rabit.

Fierce Bad Rabbit - "You"

M Room

15 W. Girard



Thursday, October 13, 2011

fun. with Deer Tick!!!

While that headline would work for any Deer Tick show, it takes an absurd literal turn Friday night as emo-freindly heartbreakers fun. share the stage with your favorite scuzz rockers at the University of Pennsylvania's Harrison Auditorium. Me? I really love both bands but I wouldn't have put them together on the same bill on a dare.

You know that girl whose nose is a little crooked, wears skinny jeans and ragged t-shirts, buys you a beer when you're down, can stay out late and not complain, has nerdy glasses and knows everyone? Who doesn't read but is whip smart, smokes when the moment is right and never seems alone? The one all the guys want and all the girls want to be? Well Deer Tick is that girl. And they've even got a cute friend. Let's call her Divine Providence and she's BOS. Fresh of a surreal appearance on Letterman, they'll both be in town for what's sure to be one of the weirder pairings in recent memory. I am asking the music gods right now for duet featuring John McCauley's boozy creak paired with Nate Reuss' woozy falsetto. I vote for either "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" or "I Got You Babe". Let's call it He & Him.

fun. (complete with lower case "f" and a period as part of the name - a Google nightmare) are a couple of years removed from their dizzying debut, Aim and Ignite, which sounded like Freddie Mercury preening with the Beach Boys during a Broadway casting call, but it worked. They've got a new album in the works and so far have dropped one single "We Are Young", a collaboration with Janelle Monae that shows the band heading in a busier direction with eyes on the dance floor (expect many remixes), but with vocal harmonic histrionics intact.

Deer Tick's Divine Providence (out 10/25 on Partisan Records) is a career high point - a mix of their homespun citylbilly freakouts mixed with some of the foamy explosiveness of their tightrope-walking live show. Opening with the primal stomp of "The Bump", it seems like McCauley and company realized it was OK to relax and have fun in the studio. "Main Street" fulfills the promise of those Replacements comparisons and sounds like a lost Tim track. First single "Miss K" is a Byrdsy cum Costello valentine to a darlin' girl, easily the most radio friendly thing they've ever done.

Deer Tick - "Main Street"
(from Divine Providence)

fun. (w/ Janelle Monae) - "We Are Young"

Here's the show info, and tickets available here:

Deer Tick and fun. - 10/14 @ 8:00 PM
Harrison Auditorium - 33rd and Spruce Sts.
Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Lydia Loveless (Again)


In my post yesterday, I inadvertently linked to another mp3 rather than "Steve Earle", the stalker fantasy rave-up by 21 year old upstart Lydia Loveless, who makes her Philadelphia debut Friday night at Fishtown's M Room. So today we bring you "Steve Earle" plus a track from her 2010 Peloton Records debut, The Only Man. You can order Indestructible Machine here and The Only Man here. Both are highly recommended.

Get thee to the M Room Friday night.

Lydia Loveless - "Steve Earle"
Lydia Loveless - "Always Lose"

And here's Maria McKee sounding positively unhinged on "East of Eden" from Lone Justice's debut - I'll bet Loveless is a fan.
Lone Justice - "East of Eden" (from Lone Justice)

Monday, October 03, 2011

All the Girls Say "Steve Earle, Steve Earle"

2011 is the 25th anniversary of Steve Earle's Guitar Town, so I guess it's also the 25th anniversary of my being able to stomach country music. Prior to that, it was classic rock, punk rock, power pop and AM radio that filled my listening hours. Guitar Town is not only one of rock and roll's great debut albums, it was also a gateway drug to Waylon, Merle, Willie, Gram and a thousand others.

Earle has quite the career since - Grammy winner, drug addict, actor, divorce attorney's dream, novelist, activist, absentee father, record producer, playwright - but it's the songs that keep us riveted. That and the mystical puzzle for the ages of how he pulled Alison Moorer.

And now 21 year old Lydia Loveless (who name conjures up a goth country diva) has written "Steve Earle", a fitting "tribute" that paints Earle as a stalker of sweet young things who "won't stop calling me" and "just wants to write some songs", but all Lydia wants is for Steve "to please introduce me to your son", the ultimate backhanded compliment. And it's just the tip of the iceberg for Indestructible Machine, Loveless's brand new firecracker of an album, out now on Bloodshot Records. The album traffics in that Old 97's galloping backbeat, but recasts Rhett Miller as Loretta Lynn.

But mostly this album recalls the glory and go-for-broke-ness of the debut Lone Justice record, especially on the roiling "Bad Way to Go" and the unapologetic war cry of "Do Right." Loveless may not possess Maria McKee's wondrous range, but that's really praising by faint damn. Loveless is a take-no-prisoners storyteller, the freshest new female alt-country voice in recent memory.

Just for fun, I've also attached another "Steve Earle", this one by sappy country megastars Sugarland. This one sounds like Elly May Clampett first stalking then squawking Steve Earle. And finally a gorgeous, brand new cover by Kasey Chambers of Earle's "Nothing But A Child". Enjoy.

Lydia Loveless - "Steve Earle" (from Indestructible Machine)
Sugarland - "Steve Earle" (from Love on The Inside)
Kasey Chambers - "Nothing But A Child" (from Storybook)

Friday, September 30, 2011


Two things I know about the Chicago band Filligar: (1) their drummer Pete sends the kind of direct, concise and polite emails that cut through the inbox clutter; and (2) they play the kind of loose-limbed, four on the floor rock and roll that never fades away even as trends come and go. We gladly direct you to the band's website where you can download two fine new tracks for free. "Knock Yourself Out" is a slow-burning hip-swayer, and "Dead Wrong" is a spirited blast of rock and roll joy.

While you're at the website, be sure to visit the tour section to see how the band is reviving the classic concert poster one show at a time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Happy Birthday to Us

Buddy Holly and Chrissie Hynde share the same birthday as Teenage Kicks. Johnny Brenda's, the best rock on the planet, is celebrating their five year anniversary. Michael and I have bonded over many things (The Hold Steady, 70's AM radio, Springsteen, college hoops, family histories), but maybe the real Teenage Kicks totem is a band non-celebrating it's 30th birthday (where's all the love for Sorry Ma?), The Replacements.

Westerberg is the greatest songwriter of the last 30 years (apologies to Steve Earle).

Dig the 14 year old Tommy Stinson.

RIP Bob.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rock and Roll Can Kiss My Ass...

As Teenage Kicks (quietly) celebrates our fifth birthday (stay tuned for a couple of contests next week), on Saturday we'll be hightailing it down to the new World Cafe in Wilmington, DE to catch Marshall Crenshaw celebrating the 30th anniversary of his stone classic debut album. A primer on creating the perfect pop song, Marshall Crenshaw has been a constant companion on every road trip for Mr. & Mrs. Teenage Kicks (speaking of Mrs. TK, happy anniversary baby!). And wait, it gets better! The Bottle Rockets, promoting their new acoustic disc Not So Loud!, are opening the show and will serve as Crenshaw's Crickets to his new wave Buddy Holly. Concert wood alert!

But tonight, halfway across the country at The Turf Club in St. Paul,MN is the superb triple bill that has us salivating - Tommy Keene, Slim Dunlap (Slim!) and Minnesota's best kept secret High on Stress. Tommy Keene has been so good for so long that I hereby declare him a national treasure. His latest, Behind The Parade (out now on Second Motion Records), is exactly what you'd expect - 10 blasts of revved up guitar pop nirvana. Slim Dunlap is best known as the post-Bob guitar player in the Replacements and a charming, if slightly wobbly, frontman in his own right. High on Stress open the show (then pull a Bottle Rockets as Slim's band) and their jangle crunch is highlighted by main man Nick Let's sardonic wordplay and world-weary delivery. Their 2008 release, Cop Light Parade (no relation to Behind The Parade), pretty much tells everyone to kiss their ass - I love High on Stress.

Marshall Crenshaw - "Cynical Girl" (from Marshall Crenshaw)
Bottle Rockets - "Kerosene" (from Not So Loud)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lou Reed is not being egotistical when he says he may have just created the best music ever

Lou Reed and Metallica have collaborated on a new album called Lulu, to be released October 31. And according to Lou, the result may be even more spectacular than you might expect: "The [music] is awe-inspiring. It’s maybe the best thing done by anyone, ever. It could create another planetary system. I’m not joking, and I’m not being egotistical."

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Five Years

Earlier today, Trip sent me a note asking if we were about to hit Teenage Kicks’ fifth anniversary. So I looked it up, and it turns out that said milestone is . . . today. You can accuse us of a lot of things, but not of hyping our own history.

Five years is a blink. But it’s also a chasm. It’s the time between Meet the Beatles and Abbey Road. It’s enough time for the entire world to change.

It’s also enough time for lives to change in significant ways. When we started, my kids’ ages were five and two. Now at ten and seven, their activities and tastes (hello, Nickelodeon!) dominate my free time in ways I never expected, as do other things I never expected, like running the occasional half-marathon or taking a stab at writing long fiction.

That’s my way of saying that I used to pour a lot of effort into this place, but that I don’t anymore, and please don’t blame me.

I still love music, and I’m even trying to learn it (my third piano lesson is coming up), but it doesn't consume me quite like it used to. Still, it can still possess me in unexpected ways. Over the past four months, I've listened to the Beatles more than at any time in my life, and I’m working on reading a couple thousand words about them. Forty years after they went away, they’re blowing my mind all over again.

And bands like Dawes and Ezra Furman and the Harpoons give me faith that rock and roll, even in a time of great technological and creative upheaval, will continue to thrive as long as there are talented young people who want to connect with others in the most powerful way possible.

Five years is a blink. But it’s also a chasm. Clarence Clemons has played on two original Bruce Springsteen albums since we started. Now he’s gone.

The spirit of Springsteen and The Hold Steady, more than any other acts, animated this space like no other in our original burst, and provides the framework of our worldview. It’s a deep love of what came before and a fervent belief in what’s coming next. We love our old records, but we can’t wait to hear the next thing to grab us by our collars and shake our bearings loose.

Five years is a blink. But it’s also a chasm. When we started, I hadn't even met Trip in the flesh. Now he’s my blood brother, a bond formed over rock and roll, the occasional beer, college basketball, the community of friends we've formed, and a shared sense of what’s good and right in the world.

Thanks to all of you who have spent some of your valuable time with us. We and our friends are like the drums on “Lust for Life.” We pound it out on floor toms. Our psalms are sing-along songs.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

William Elliott Whitmore - Field Songs

William Elliott Whitmore's Iowa farmer perspective infuses darkly soulful songs with dirt under the fingernails realism put across with an extraordinary big, booming voice. Each song is a call to arms, inspiring the listener action and reaction. Reminds me of Jay Farrar - an old soul frozen in a young man's body.

Field Songs evokes old time spirituals, songs of faith sung by slaves to try and ease their burdens. "Let's Do Something Impossible" implores the listener to reach for something grand, something unthinkable like escaping Alcatraz, defeating Custer or Hitler, or just betting it all on one horse to win it all. Just dream big. It seems to be the most hopeful statement from Whitmore to date.

The sparse instrumentation (a gently picked banjo, a barely strummed guitar) puts the focus on Whitmore's bruising vocals, and he hangs on to words like he's afraid to let them go. The vocals can be folky soothing like John Gorka, punky soulful like Willy DeVille or bar room broken akin to Lucero's Ben Nichols. At 8 songs and 34 minutes, Field Songs scores a quick and decisive knockout, landing blows for the oppressed and depressed everywhere.

William Elliott Whitmore - "Hell or High Water" (from Animals in The Dark)

William Elliott Whitmore - "Don't Pray on Me" (Bad Religion cover)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deer Tick Releases "Miss K", Plans to Conquer World

Deer Tick today dropped "Miss K", which quite simply sounds like the best thing they've ever done, and it may only be the second best John McCauley song this year, # 1 still in lockdown by Middle Brother's "Daydreaming". Deer Tick has been steadily morphing with each release, from the spazzy punk folk of War Elephant, the country rock of Born on Flag Day and the moodier but bracing alt-soul-scuzz of The Black Dirt Sessions, where the volume was turned down while the intensity soared. And now we can get our drink on while we await what promises to be the greatest Deer Tick of all, Divine Providence, out October 25th on Partisan Records.

John McCauley is on fire, with Deer Tick tearing up clubs across the country, festive solo shows, the ridiculous greatness of Deervana and as the heart and soul (and breakout star) of Middle Brother. McCauley is forging a reputation as a monster songwriter, with a scabby, craggy voice that delivers songs with a white-hot intensity calling to mind Paul Westerberg, while Deer Tick's manic, booze-fueled live show is drawing comparisons to The Replacements.

Here's what main Tick McCauley has to say about the upcoming record:

"Man, you can practically smell the sweat and the beer! Shit, you may even hear a guitar or two break somewhere in there!. It's got a little Exile, it's got a little In Utero, it's got a little Nilsson Schmilsson, but it's 100% Deer-Fucking-Tick in our purest, and most carefree form."

Based on the above, I proclaim Divine Providence one of the best records of the year and I've only heard one song. Let the hype begin!

Deer Tick - "Miss K" (from the upcoming Divine Providence)

Middle Brother - "Daydreaming" (from Daytrotter)

Deer Tick - "Still Crazy After All These Years" (Paul Simon cover)

Deer Tick - "Nebraska" (Bruce Springsteen Cover)

Deer Tick - "Beautiful Girls" (Sean Kingston cover)

Deer Tick - "Mexican Home" (John Prine cover)

Deer Tick - "Unwed Fathers" (from Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows)

Deer Tick - "Dead Flowers" (Rolling Stones cover)

Deer Tick - "Summertime Blues

Deer Tick - "Waitress in The Sky" (Replacements cover)

Deervana - "All Apologies" (Nirvana cover)

Deer Tick - "Christmas All Summer Long"

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Red Button For President

Double digit unemployment. Iraq. Afghanistan. Bailouts. Sex Scandals. Mind-numbingly bad reality TV. Every time you turn on the TV, open up the newspaper or fire up the latest app to keep you up on current events, it seems that only news can break your heart. Well saddle up losers, because it's time for the antithesis of all that with the return of The Red Button and their shimmering new release, As Far As Yesterday Goes.

Singer-songwriters Seth Swirsky and Mike Ruekberg's first Red Button disc, 2007's She's About to Cross My Mind, was one the finest debuts of the last decade. If names like The Beatles, The Zombies, The Left Banke and Big Star mean something to you, you can place your order here. If compilations like Poptopia and Yellow Pills ring your bell, you won't believe records like this still get made in 2011.

As Far As Yesterday Goes plays like an unwritten John Hughes movie, with looming heartbreak leavened by day-glo horns and impossibly sunny arrangements. Each chorus, each handclap and each strum screams pure pop. There are 60's nods everywhere - the "I Should Have Known Better" harmonica riff that powers opener "Caught in The Middle" to euphoric heights, the heavenly, Turtle-y "ba-ba-bas" of "You Do Something to Me" and album thesis "On A Summer Day" that plays like a full on celebration of Small Faces ultra-modness crossed with the elegance of Bachrach/David classic.

Fitting closer "Running Away" uses its Cat Steven cadence to posit that "it's never been harder to tune out the noise, the world just gets louder, can't hear my own voice", but ultimately the fight or flight is internal, everything else is just noise. And part of that loud world is The Red Button, whose timeless melodies cut through the noise to offer bite size bits of respite in the form of three minute paeans to help ease and understand the pain. They have my vote.

On A Summer Day - The Red Button from Seth Swirsky on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

RIP Rob Grill of The Grass Roots (1943-2011)

If the call letters WFIL and WIBG bring a slight pang to your middle-aged heart, chances are you know Rob Grill's voice, which was silenced Monday at aged 67. It was Grill's voice that pushed The Grass Roots bubbly, dancey bubblegum folk to the top of the charts. To a 12 year old shrimp who didn't know about the Summer of Love, Bob Dylan or the burgeoning influence of FM radio, it was 560 or 990 on the AM dial that ruled the day.

The Grass Roots, along with other great AM singles bands of the late 60's/early 70's like CCR, The Guess Who, Badfinger, The Box Tops, Bread, Chicago, The Jackson 5, Rare Earth, The Raspberries, Slade, The Spinners, The Stylistics, War and The Fifth Dimension, mounted an assault on the charts with irresistible 3 minute pop songs that still sound fresh 40 years later. Rob Grill's high, sturdy voice wrapped itself around melodies with lyrics concerning the vicissitudes of love, whispering "Midnight Confessions", lamenting "Two Divided by Love", trying to avoid "Temptation Eyes", but "Sooner of Later" deciding it was best to "Live For Today". Between 1967 and 1972, The Grass Roots spent 307 straight weeks on the Billboard charts. Nice run.

So tonight, sit back, dial up the memories of George Michael or Banana Joe Montione, and let Rob Grill and The Grass Roots remind you that rock and roll, still going strong after 55 years, is still best served up in three minutes blasts of teenage symphonies to god.

The Replacements - "Temptation Eyes"

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Songs in the Key of Perjury

My buddy T.J. is spending the next four to six weeks in a Washington, D.C. courtroom covering the trial of Roger Clemens, who is accused of lying before Congress when he denied using performance-enhancing drugs during his days as one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers. For his listening pleasure during the downtime that inevitably comes, here’s a Rocket on Trial playlist.

“Rocket Man,” Elton John. A cliché, for sure, but obligatory.

“The Needle and the Damage Done,” Neil Young. See “Rocket Man.”

“The Weight of Lies,” The Avett Brothers.

“Tell Me About Your Drugs,” Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians

“I Don’t Believe You,” The Thermals

“Evidence,” Thelonious Monk

“Rough Justice,” Rolling Stones

“Give Me Some Truth,” John Lennon

“Don’t Worry About the Government,” Talking Heads. Actually, Roger, do worry about the government.

“Can I Get a Witness,” Marvin Gaye.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Willie Nile & Scott McClatchy - Tin Angel Tonight!

Come out Friday night (that's tonight if you're reading this today, yesterday if you're reading this tomorrow) to The Tin Angel for the veteran troubadour double bill of Willie Nile and everyone's favorite little brother, Scott McClatchy.

Willie Nile has been making great records for over 30 years. Not especially prolific, his latest album, The Innocent Ones, is only his 7th studio album since 1980, but his fourth since 2004. So I guess we are in the midst of a Willie Nile renaissance. His music is marked by passion, humility, grace and a sly sense of humor, ready to explode in a lightning bolt of energy. He seemed at one point to be both a "new Springsteen" and a "new Dylan", but although his first two albums (Willie Nile and Golden Down) are singer-songwriter classics, he never found much commercial footing. Friday's concert is sure to showcase a handful of favorites (I'm hoping for "Vagabond Moon" and "I Can't Get You Off of My Mind") along with new ones like the anthemic "One Guitar", which is being recorded by several artists who will each put their version up on itunes with all proceeds going to charity, including 50% to the T.J. Martell Foundation.

Scott McClatchy is local Philly musician whose latest album, A Dark Rage, is a career best. This album kicks up a Celtic storm, with tin whistles, fiddles, uilleann pipes (that's right, uilleann pipes - you got a problem with that?!) and anthemic, million man choruses raising a righteous fury. Whether singing about a wayward bachelor party ("Cigarettes, Breath Mints & Visine"), domestic bliss in under two minutes ("Forever With You") or social unrest (the rollicking title cut), McClatchy takes you a journey not only to the heartland but right to the heart.

Willie Nile and Scott McClatchy appear at The Tin Angel (20 S. 2nd St. in the heart of Old City) on Friday, June 24. Tickets will be available at the door or you can buy them here.

Willie Nile - "Vagabond Moon" (from Willie Nile)
Willie Nile - "Run" (from House of a Thousand Guitars)

Scott McClatchy - "A Dark Rage" (from A Dark Rage)
Scott McClatchy - "Forever With You" (from A Dark Rage)

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Good to be the King

When I got an email from Stewart Copeland, I thought we had a big scoop on our hands. It turns out it was the other Stewart Copeland, guitarist for Tennessee indie pop band King Arthur. Though Stewart violated rule one of mp3 submissions by saying that he’s a really big fan of our blog (really? This little ol’ thing?), I clicked through anyway, and I’m glad I did. The band’s four-song EP Ad Inexplorata is a charmer with its heart in all the right places, and you are encouraged to give it a virtual spin.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Toasting Our Friend

It's not nepotism if I post it, so please enjoy "Toasting My Friends," the new video from Teenage Kicks' favorite left-handed, gracefully graying troubadour, Scott McClatchy (and to get the full effect, you should really watch the video at Scott's site; it gets chopped off here).

And if you love the rockin' penny whistle, there's more where that came from on Scott's excellent long-player, A Dark Rage, available at Amazon and on iTunes.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dawes, Dawes, Dawes - Nothing is Wrong

Since I am crushing on their brand new album, Nothing is Wrong, in a pretty unhealthy way, I feel it is my civic duty to inform you that you have three chances to catch Dawes today. Two are free and the third one is a perfectly matched sad-eyed bill with M Ward and Bright Eyes guaranteed to fill your daily quota of heartbreak and joy.

For those who place those first four Jackson Browne albums on some mystical higher plane (and really... who doesn't?), all I can tell you is you need to snag Nothing is Wrong TODAY, preferably at Main Street Music where Dawes performs a crazy intimate acoustic show for 60 lucky wristband holders. Or you can drink your lunch at World Cafe Live for WXPN's Free At Noon show with the boys. Or cough up some of your hard earned and get an americana dream bill at The Mann.

Taylor Goldsmith is on a roll - first with Dawes' debut North Hills, then Middle Brother's giddy romp, on to backing up Robbie Robertson and now laying waste to the sophomore slump with an album filled with such effortless, conversational songwriting that even lyrics about "piling on those mashed potatoes" and grabbing an "extra chicken wing" work perfectly. There are 11 songs and each one will be your favorite for at least a while. If he gives you a stock tip, buy without hesitation.

Nothing is Wrong is the Jackson Browne album you've been waiting for since The Pretender.

Dawes at World Cafe Live - 12:00 (sign up here)

Dawes at Main Street Music - 5:30 (need a wristband to gain admittance, call 215-487-7732 for more information)

Dawes (with Bright Eyes and M Ward) at The Mann Music Center (Dawes on 7:30)

Dawes - "Time Spent in Los Angeles" (from Nothing is Wrong)

Dawes - "Love is All I Am" (from North Hills)

Dawes - "Lawyers, Guns And Money" (live Warren Zevon cover)

Dawes - "Hula Hula Boys" (live Warren Zevon cover)

Dawes - "Pretty Good" (live John Prine cover)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Amanda Shires Sweetly Shines

It is so hard to get heard over the din of an ever-expanding media maze of itunes, video games, facebook, twitter, radio, TV, commercials, movies, concerts and clouds - what's a girl to do? If you're Amanda Shires, you do it yourself. Although a veteran of tours and recording projects with such alt country luminaries like Jason Isbell, Justin Townes Earle, Billy Joe Shaver, Shires is just beginning to get noticed for her burgeoning solo career.

As evidenced by an early set (8:00 sharp start!) tonight at Philly's Grape Room, Amanda Shires is a nimble fiddler who packs a wallop in her tiny frame. Taking the stage as a duo with Nashville songwriter Rod Picott on acoustic guitar, she thrilled a couple of dozen patrons with her hushed, melancholy Texas twang that recalled a less craggy Lucinda Williams with the emotional purity of prime Nanci Griffith.

With a set chock full of strong originals like the missed opportunity lament "When You Need A Train It Never Comes" and the whistling, banjo flecked lover's longing glaze of "Swimmer...", her stark, elegiac take on fellow Lubbock-ite Butch Hancock's "If You Were a Bluebird" felt like one of her own.

Amanda Shires latest album, Carrying Lightning, is a top-notch singer-songwriter album, and is available at amazon and itunes. You can check her out on tour here, and those lucky campers at the Philadelphia Folk Festival will get an earful (and eyeful) at the Wednesday night Campers Only show in August.

Amanda Shires - "When You Need A Train It Never Comes"

Amanda Shires - "Swimmer...."

An added bonus, check out this superb take of "If You Were A Bluebird" from a recent radio show:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The New Connection Tonight (5/27) at Johnny Brenda's with Southwork and National Rifle

Come out tonight for a sure fire triple bill at Johnny Brenda's (how many time do we have to tell you JB's is the best rock club on the planet?) featuring the stellar Philly trio of Southwork (11:15), National Rifle (9:15) and Teenage Kicks pick-to-click The New Connection (10:15).

The New Connection has the pop smarts of The New Pornogrpahers, but filters their songs through various lens, including the prog-pop of Yes, the piano swells of Ben Folds, the irresistble bop of your favorite punky reggae party and the lush harmonies of Philly psych stalwarts, Dr. Dog. All these elements mesh effortlessly on their brand new self titled record they'll no doubt be showcasing tonight.

Go and get yourself connected. Make 'em play the dreamy "Yours" and get lost in the gorgeous chorus.

Johnny Brenda's - 1201 N. Frankford Ave.

Take the Money and Run

There’s been some press lately celebrating the tenth anniversary of Our Band Could Be Your Life, Michael Azerrad’s book detailing the stories of thirteen American indie rock bands in the 1980s. I haven’t read it since shortly after its release, but I recall the book being fascinating, entertaining and maddening. What I found maddening was how bands seemed to cease to exist once they signed with a major label, or at a minimum how they seemed to become minimized in importance, as if moving from one business model to another diminished them or made their music less good. But several of the bands, like Sonic Youth, Husker Du and Dinosaur, Jr., made terrific records for majors. And if you forced me to choose between the albums the Replacements made for Twin/Tone and the ones they made for Sire, I’ll take the latter. As a listener, I care about the sonics, not the economics.

In a recent interview, Azerrad continues to tout the indie ethic while broadsiding indie bands who cash in anyway they can:

Your book details an “us-versus-them” mentality in the eighties underground scene which really doesn’t seem to exist anywhere nearly as much in contemporary indie bands. Does that mean these recent bands aren’t quite the heirs one would hope for? Have they sold out?

The line’s definitely blurred. Now you have this little Brooklyn indie band called Matt and Kim, or Neon Indian, who have recorded for Green Label Sound, which was Mountain Dew’s label. Mountain Dew is awful stuff. Or Spoon’s music, selling Jaguars. I guess part of it is pragmatic: “Well, we’re not selling records so we have to get our music heard, and to get some money to make more music, we have to license this song for a car commercial.” I’d really like to see the economics of that because it seems like a lot of indie bands do quite well on the road selling concert tickets. I wonder how much they really need the money.

“I wonder how much they really need the money.” I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean. How much they need to rent an apartment this month? This year? Enough to buy groceries? To have health insurance? How about enough to pay for braces for the kids they haven’t had yet?

If anyone should know that the shelf-life of the average band – even the average very good band – is tragically short, it’s the guy who chronicled the Minutemen and Mudhoney. It’s nice to think that members of a band like that can make a good living recording and touring into their dotage, but for most of them, it ends. And few of those endings come with a golden parachute.

Buffalo Tom was better than 99% of the bands that came out of the era, and they still record and play. But bandleader Bill Janowitz is now a real estate broker Monday through Friday because there’s no economic security in being in an indie rock band.

The truth is, a few months away from our 25th anniversary as a band, we still manage to get out there and tour every once in a while, playing to a peak of 1500 in Brussels, or to a low of maybe 75 people in Portland the other night. But like the indie bands outlined in Michael Azerrad’s book Our Band Could Be Your Life — bands that, in the mid- to late-1980s, paved the way and formed a foundation for groups like us — we still have a devoted, if modest audience. We, in turn, have influenced many bands. And all of that that encourages us to keep trying to balance the cottage industry we have in music business with grown-up responsibilities like families and jobs. But it is increasingly difficult, financially, physically, and mentally, to tour or play to diminishing crowds. Of course we understand. Most of our audience is also in their 40s, and have kids and demanding careers. They live out in the suburbs, most likely. And we have to play weeknights as well as whatever weekend nights we can book. And who wants to go stand around in the rock clubs of their youth on a Monday or Tuesday night?

My advice to every young band out there: Sell as many Jaguars today as you can. Nothing is promised for tomorrow. Providing your kids braces doesn’t make you less of an artist.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Army Navy Called in To Save Power Pop!

A couple years ago we touted west coast power pop savants Army Navy's fab redo of disco queen Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From" the best cover song of 2008. We can live with that choice.

Today the boys announced that album # 2, The Last Place, would drop July 14 on their own Fever Zone Records. Lucky emusic nerds get an exclusive four week window to be the coolest kids on the block starting June 14. Check out "The Long Goodbye" from the new record and try to keep from swooning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pure Pop for Old People

I recently encountered a quote from the late English poet and jazz critic Philip Larkin that struck a little too close to home. Before I was born, Larkin decried modern jazz and other forms art contemporary art because they "take what was once among our pleasures, and place it among our duties."

My urge is I to repudiate the thoughts of a man who derided Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, who couldn't abide Charlie Parker, who just wanted to bob his head and tap his feet. But I understand what he meant.

When I hear Animal Collective or TV on the Radio and scratch my head, I know I'm on the wrong side of history, though I suspect that I might one day catch up. After all, it took four or five years of bemusement before I embraced OK Computer, and now it's indispensable (perhaps I'll feel the same about The King of Limbs five years from now). I don't want to be the fogey who drones about the old days, but I also won't lie: last year's Deerhunter album isn't without its charms, but I'd still rather spin Beggar's Banquet.

One of the great pleasures of my adult life has been this blog and the relationships that have grown up around it. For the first couple of years, we were on fire; the joy we got from rock and roll spilled out uncontrollably. And then one day I decided to put my email address up on the site, and it has never been the same. Since then, we've been inundated with messages and mp3s from bands and promotions people we would otherwise never have heard of. There are gems in there, but there's a whole lot of stuff I don't understand, and a ton more I never hear; this is a hobby, not a job, and there's no way I can get through it all, so eventually the inbox gets cleansed sound unheard.

Life gets busier, too, with kids and commitments and tilting at the occasional windmill, as I did in the first few months of the year. But even as I've neglected this space, I haven't given up on rock and roll, though I routinely find myself looking for comfort, not adventure. When in doubt, I always fall back on the Rolling Stones, and January was spent with my nose in Life, Keith Richards's impossibly entertaining and frequently maddening memoir, in which the man who is rock and roll to me crashes cars, starts fires, throws knives, devours drugs and then whines when Mick Jagger doesn't trust him to make business decisions. In February, I dug deep into the Darkness on the Edge of Town box set, mesmerized by video of Springsteen in his fighting-trim prime and by audio of the classic album he left on the cutting-room floor. Then March was devoted to the long-awaited reissue of Nick Lowe's Labour of Lust, an endlessly tuneful and wry record that sustained me through the nervous nights leading up to a local election. But it only reinforced my feelings of being a man-out-of-time to listen to Lowe's "Switchboard Susan," a song about a girl with a job that doesn't exist anymore.

In an effort to bring myself into the here and now, a couple of weeks ago I went to see The Arcade Fire play. I don't think I had seen another band at the same sort of creative and commercial peak since U2 in 1987. Win Butler and his wife Regine Chassagne led the eight-piece collective through a spellbinding show that crested with "Wake Up," an all-time set-closer. The band's thoroughly modern take on what is essentially folk music featured members moving from instrument to instrument, keyboards to hurdy gurdy, drums to guitar, bass to piano. I was about ten rows back in a regal old amphitheater packed to close to its 8,000-seat capacity when the crowd exploded into the wordless sing along of "Wake Up," and I felt something I hadn't felt in years, being in the center of something powerful, contemporary and seemingly without antecedent. In the moment with the band of the moment.

At show's end, as the lights came up and we began to shuffle out, Richard and Linda Thompson's "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," a married couple's powerful reinvention of folk music, now thirty-seven years old, came over the PA, and I laughed because I had never made the connection. What's old is new again.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Oh Brother...Gritpop Lives!

Miss Liam's sneer? Believe Beady Eye could use a little zip? Pine for the fabricated Blur vs. Oasis hype? Think youth should be served? Then fire up the stereo and crank this "song of the summer" contender up... LOUD! It's Brother or Brother (UK), depending on your residence, and they are four pasty mutts from Slough (UK) planning world domination. You have been warned. Hat tip to Lou for the heads up.

Brother - Darling Buds of May

(from forthcoming LP, Famous First Words, due July 2011)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dave Hause - Resolutions

I heard "Clash City Rockers" on the radio earlier this week and its startling face-smack triggered a flood of emotions - remembering sweaty, desperate punk rock shows, recalling the steely-eyed yet approachable humanity of Joe Strummer, but most of all reveling in how the Clash's awe-inspiring debut never backed down, never gave an inch and was unapologetically earnest while dolloping out bolts of righteous rage.

Dave Hause reminds me of that feeling - you get the sense there's no backup plan, rock and roll is the only thing there is to do. Talk to him for five minutes and you've got a friend for life. The songs on his solo debut Resolutions are about coming to grips with the moment when idealized notions (conquering the world with punk rock) meet maturing truths (how to marry art, family and adult obligations) in a fantastic mess of frayed nerve endings and still-to-be finished stories. Hause loses some of the scorched earth franticism of The Loved Ones, but guess what, the guy has a GREAT troubadour voice, full of emotion, evangelism and empathy. I was sold on this record when I first heard this line from the title track - "I want to play some Al Green records and spend more time with Tim".

Opener "Time Will Tell" sets the stage for looking back ("All my records feel like yearbook pictures, there's fondness but I can't remember where I've been") while the plot to move forward is formulated. Along the way there's a sobering wreck that drives home that life on the road is always tempting fate ("Pray for Tucson"), an organ driven shoulder to lean on in the anthemic "C'mon Kid" and ultimately a celebration/roll call of friends too good to be forgotten or cast aside ("Meet Me at The Lanes"), where ultimately we all wind up where we should ("So come on sing along, you got no better place to go"). Hause's naked uncertainty has yielded one certainty - this album will remembered when year-end best of lists are compiled.

Dave Hause appears this Saturday for two shows (sorry... both are SOLD OUT) at The Side Chapel at The First Unitarian Church on Chestnut St. (near 21st).

Dave Hause - "Pray for Tucson" (from Resolutions)

Dave Hause - "C'mon Kid" (from The Revival Tour Collection 2009)

Dave Hause - "Another Town" (Steve Earle cover)

The Loved Ones - "Louisiana" (from Build and Burn)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Record Store Day 2011 - You Can't Put Your Arms Around an MP3

I would say 98% of the United States is blissfully unaware of Record Store Day. But to the other 2%, Record Store Day is a national holiday - time to step away from the computer (oh the irony as I sit at my desktop PC typing this), take out the earbuds, power down the ipod and head out to your local record store... provided you are still fortunate enough to have a local record store.

There will be plenty of collector cool but hardly music essential Record Store Day releases - but if you're letting your geek flag fly (guilty!), I am sure there are a couple of releases you just HAVE to have. Above are some of the more Teenage Kicks friendly releases - I'll be spending most of the day at Main Street Music in Manayunk, where, for the price of zero dollars, you'll get three local bands (Brown Recluse, Cabin Dogs and Creepoid), free beverages, free food and plenty of sale priced vinyl and cds. So please visit Main Street Music or your favorite haunt and sift through cds, flip through some vinyl and maybe even engage in some actual face to face music discourse. Just breathe in that record store smell.

Main Street Music - 4444 Main St.

Philadelphia, PA


1:30 - Cabin Dogs

3:00 - Creepoid

4:00 - Brown Recluse

Beach Boys - "Good Vibrations"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Give Larabee 216 Seconds!

It's amazing what you can do with 216 seconds. You can boil an egg, eat a hot dog, skim yesterday's Phils' highlights, take out the trash, even drinkthreebeersfast... but most gloriously you can get lost in a pop song. In this give-it-to-me now, attention deficit, jump cut, itunes instant gratification age we wallow in (if only for a moment), many mourn the death of the album, the grand artistic statement. Not me. Give me great songs. Give 'em to me fast and hard.

My friend Dave espouses the Five Second Theory - you will know in the first five seconds of a song whether it has a chance to make a lasting impression. I'm on board with that theory. Yeah, you'll miss a few great ones, but think of all the turds you'll be spared.

Matt Maguire, driving force behind Philadelphia's Larabee, leads off his brand new EP, Expose A Little Wire, with 216 seconds of pop bliss, the jittery, harmonica driven jangle fest "Little Liar". Easily passing the Five Second Test (trademark pending) with an adrenaline-laced guitar volley spiked with a skittish harmonica jolt, "Little Liar" is a classic, attention grabbing track 1.

Maguire is aided and abetted by former Buzz Zeemer/Flight of Mavis drummer Ken Buono, who helped pull this project together prior to his recent Nashville relocation. Their shared love of power pop and alt country filters through Expose A Little Wire, which also features the mid-tempo plea of "Cold Dark Night", the maudlin country waltz of "9:58 PM" and the Jayhawks-meets-Buckinghams closer "Forever's Ending".

Expose A Little Wire is available on itunes, Bandcamp, Amazon and cd baby, but Philadelphia locals should rush out to Main Street Music in Manayunk this Saturday and snag a copy and support Record Store Day. Do it.

Larabee - "Little Liar"

Other great ways to spend 216 seconds:

The Spinners - "One of a Kind (Love Affair)"

The Lovin Spoonful - "Darling Be Home Soon"

The Fratellis - "Whistle For The Choir"

Rilo Kiley - "Silver Lining"

Mark Cutler - "Cousin Mary's New Car"

Willie Nile - "Police on My Back"

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Goodbye Picasso, Hello Manayunk

For anyone looking to the get their alt-country on Thursday night, head down to the Grape to catch the New York (via Florida, London and Nashville) based flannel-flying Goodbye Picasso. Their melancholy debut, The Book of Aylene, is song cycle about a group of guys trying to become a band, peppered with the shrapnel that comes with long drives, long nights and even longer days. No songs sums this feeling of looking back/looking ahead rootlessness than the sublime "Notes And Measures", an achingly gorgeous meditation on change.

There are echoes of the fragility of Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker, but enough stylistic shifts (the horns on "Silhouettes" and "We Make Great Enemies (Reprise)", the bluesy vamp "Don't Want Nothin") to keep the listener engaged.

Goodbye Picasso plays The Grape Room in Manayunk Thursday, April 7. The band's website says show time is 11:55. I'd call 215-930-0321 to confirm.

Goodbye Picasso - "Notes and Measures" .

Goodbye Picasso - "The Devil, The Bottle and Me"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ezra Furman's Mysterious Power

Back in December 2009 I saw Ezra Furman and The Harpoons at Johnny Brenda's, the Holy Grail of rock clubs. And the one thing I remember about that night was a new song they played that I assumed was called "Mysterious Power". Every now and then I'd think about that song and wonder if it was really as good as I remembered or if the intoxication of venue and Kenzinger's had created a romantic ideal of a song that could never live up to the hype.

Well, guess what? The new album by Ezra Furman and The Harpoons is called Mysterious Power. Hot diggity dog! And while I've set the bar impossibly high, the song does not disappoint. The song appears to sum up the power of music and being alive in just over three minutes, all delivered in Furman's odd nasal yelp reminiscent of a sweetly unhinged mix of Gordon Gano, Neil Young and Jonathan Richman and set to a loping Kweller piano romp. You will love this song - it will make you feel glad to be alive.

Mysterious Power is out this Tuesday, 4.5.1, on Red Parlor Records

Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - "Mysterious Power"

Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - "We Should Fight" (from Inside The Human Body)