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)