Bands seldom have names that describe what it is that they do. In fact, more often their names have nothing much to do with the kind of music they play. Canada’s The New Pornographers obviously don’t do what their rather risqué name suggests. Neither does Portland’s electronica band STRFKR do whatever you may think they do once you put all the missing letters back into their name. So when I came across a New York band called Endless Boogie, I didn’t know what to expect. I’d got a lead on them from a blog and when I checked them out I realised that they might be one band that lives up to its name. Read more
“The brashest, ballsiest, most beautiful women to ever step up to the mike,” screamed the strap-line on an article in GQ’s October issue (the US edition) that landed on my desk last week (you can see that I have seriously high-brow reading preferences). So, naturally, I went straight to page 175 to check out the story headlined, The 25 Sexiest Women in Rock. There were few surprises. It had everyone that you could think of. From the astonishing Tina Turner, who is 70 now and yet as sexy as she was 50 years ago, to Alexis Krauss, the tattoo-sleeved fourth grade teacher-turned-lead singer of the contemporary noise pop band, Sleigh Bells. Of course, there were other great women on the list: Marianne Faithfull, whose wild bohemian lifestyle and love-life in the sixties greatly overshadowed her patchy musical career; Cher, about whom there are unbelievable stories involving plastic surgery; Joan Jett, the edgy punk rock star, whose biopic was released this year (Dakota Fanning plays her in the film, by the way); and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and one of the reasons why I tolerated the band even after it shed its bluesy past and embraced playing-to-the-gallery pop.
When one of your favourite pieces of music becomes Muzak, piped into an elevator or played in the background at an airport, you can sometimes feel indignant. When I heard the Garcia-Hunter track, Crazy Fingers (off The Grateful Dead’s 1975 album, Blues for Allah) playing in a muted sort of way at an American airport, I was genuinely upset. I mean, come on, when we used to listen to that album it had to be in a darkened room, everybody had to be quiet and the use of additives was, well, let’s just say not actively discouraged. And here I was at a bustling JFK terminal and I could almost hear the late Jerome J Garcia’s voice going “Your rain falls like crazy fingers/ Peals of fragile thunder keeping time/Recall the days that still are to come some sing blue….” and so on. Only it wasn’t him singing but a synthesized, unreal sounding electronic tune of the song. Read more
There’s a 1999 three-disc album called Everything Is Nice: The Matador Records 10th Anniversary Anthology. If you like indie, alternative bands, you ought to own that album of 43 excellent tracks by a bunch of super talented bands and musicians. If you’re a die-hard indie fan, I’m sure you probably have the Matador anthology or, at least, have heard of it. If not, here’s a sneak peek at that 12-year-old album. Artists featured on the album include indie star acts like Pavement, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Cat Power and Modest Mouse but also lesser known bands such as Chavez, Bardo Pond, Solex and Khan.
When three bands that you like release their new albums on the same day, you have a problem of plenty and a difficult choice to make. So, on May 4, when The Hold Steady released Heaven is Whenever, The New Pornographers put out Together and Broken Social Scene popped out the curiously named Forgiveness Rock Record, their first album in five years, I went and bought digital versions of all three online. After some fretting over which one to listen to first, I chose Broken Social Scene. I was glad I did that. Read more
The first time I heard Jakob Dylan was in the mid-1990s when his band, The Wallflowers, released their breakthrough album, Bringing Down the Horse. I had bought a cassette that I played once on the long daily commute I used to do those days in Bombay and got immediately hooked to songs like 6th Avenue Heartache and Three Marlenas. My companion then and (usually) co-passenger also loved the album but I suspect that in her case Jakob Dylan’s looks also had something to do with her affection for his music.
I have gushed before about The National’s Matt Berninger and his deep baritone voice and their songs with highly literate and intimate, if a bit self-absorbed, lyrics. The two albums of the Brooklyn-based band that I like—Alligator and Boxer—do routine overtime on my playlists. I like the sad (yet not soppy) undertone in many of their songs and the nice dose of intellectualism and wit. It would be fair enough to say The National is among my favourite bands.
There are some bands that divide rock music fans into two unambiguous groups. One group that knows all that is worth (and even not worth) knowing about them; and, the other that hasn’t even heard of them. I can think of a few bands that are like that. Take Joy Division. These British harbingers of post-punk melancholic music were a band that was nipped in the bud (1976-80) when frontman Ian Curtis killed himself but their influence was huge. Yet, they’re a band that either you’ve heard and adore and know everything about (including how bad Control, the 2007 biopic on Curtis, was) or you’ve never even heard of them.
I don’t know how many people read this column regularly (four, perhaps?) but ever since Download Central began a little over a year back, I’ve heard one common response: “Why do you write about bands that we’ve never heard of?” This has become such a refrain that I’ve often felt a twinge of self-doubt. Am I really writing about completely obscure bands that no one knows or cares about? If that was indeed true, what was the point of writing the column?