News

Vic Chesnutt

Feb 14 2015

Just reading about Vic Chesnutt is something that can´t stand alone if you want to fully understand and really get into his songs. Especially the content of the lyrics of this unique singer-songwriter who sadly passed away in 2009 aged 45.

Most of his songs are about how to deal with an adult life of being a quadroplegic meaning being paralyzed from the hip down after a drunk drive car accident in his late teens. But also childhood and youth dreams and -memories are present in his songs.

Before the car accident Vic Chesnutt was playing in local bands but during his long rehabilitation he found his own voice writing songs about what all songwriters do, in fact, their life. Nothing unusual here apart from the fact that in the case of Vic Chesnutt´s it would be a life of dealing with severe disability.

This was excactly what he did and feeling strong enough to perform his songs he started performing at a venue in Athens, Georgia where a well known singer in the most popular Athens band, R.E.M., heard Vic Chesnutt´s performance and persuaded him to make an album of his own songs. Michael Stipe himself would produce.
This started an unusual and uneven career which took Vic Chesnutt from unknown to well known by the stars as his songs were covered on a charity album called "Sweet Relief II" by artists as diverse as Smashing Pumpkins, Live, Garbage, R.E.M. and Madonna.

Normally you don´t need to judge a recording and performing artist by his physical abilities but in this case you´ll have to make an exception because the whole body of work of Vic Chesnutt is full of songs about a life of being a disabled musician and is mirrored in both his composing and indeed in his lack of ability to playing the guitar.

Vic Chesnutt now either performed solo or with a band of friends and family. This is reflected in his albums as uneven as his own career.

I must say that I prefer the albums with a backing band leaving Vic Chesnutt to do what he does best and most heartrending: singing.
Rudimentary as his guitar playing may be yet his voice is strong and full of emotion: regret, anger, sorrow and loss but it also contains a very dry humor and sarcasm.
How simple his songwriting may seem because of his inability to play usual fingering there is always a strong melody to carry his sometimes unbearable lyrics about looking back to his youth, being hospitalized, experiences from his long rehabilitation, but also about how to end a life of misery which in fact was what happened to him in the end: he committed suicide with an overdose of prescribed muscle tranquilizers in 2009.

 




I recommend listening to "About To Choke" and "Silver Lake" where Vic Chesnutt performs with a backing band "lo-fi"-style and this works very well with his songs.

http://www.recordpusher.com/search?q=vic+chesnutt

If you are ready to go deeper into his songwriting then listen to his early solo work "Little" and "Skitter On The Take-Off".

A small personal comment here is that in 2003 Vic Chesnutt visited the venue Dexter in Odense, Denmark as part of an alternative-folk/indie-rock package including Howe Gelb with his Danish band. Vic Chesnutt was wheeled to the stage lifted up on stage and handed his electric guitar.
He then gave a most touching performance for about 40-50 minutes backed by Howe Gelb and band.
A rare opportunity to experience this truly individual and original musician- in fact a performance I´ll never forget!



PGP

 

We are sorry that we have been forced to close for comments, but a lot of chinis sits are trying to use RecordPusher blog for spaming links to all kind of bullshit.

"...Ladies and Gentlemen, the one and only one... Mr. Magnificent One... Steely....Dan, or whatever...."

Jan 19 2015

I really can´t explain why I haven´t written about this band until now but to start 2015 off what can possibly be better than to make up for this?
I have in fact mentioned them briefly but only in connection with blogposts of some of the other bands I have posted last year.

Now I´d like to introduce one of my favourite bands of all time....Steely Dan. Just the name itself gives a certain oral pleasure when pronounced and have you ever read the cut-up novel Naked Lunch by beat poet William Burroughs you will also know what it is...

But the band Steely Dan is the brainchild of two intellectual musicians Walter Becker and Donald Fagen plus a band of skilled musicians who were augmented by both guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and singer Michael McDonald for the early live and recording jobs and later again some extra hired session musicians for certain instrumental solos or for a special sound that was needed in the studio.

The pair had been honing their songwriting skills while playing the piano and bass in 60´s band Jay And The Americans´ touring band in the late 60´s, dreaming of jobs as composers writing for other artists "Brill Building-style". Their harmonies and chords, however, were too strange for others to play and sing so their record producer to be, Gary Katz, convinced them to form their own band around these early songs. And so they did.
Several bootleg albums document these early pre-Steely Dan demo recordings but none comes close to the final more polished and indeed authoritative versions that eventually turned up on the first  officially released albums from 1972 and on.

In 1972 they got a record deal with ABC Records and recorded the debut album "Can´t Buy A Thrill" where the solo vocals were partly David Palmer partly Donald Fagen. Track one side one´s "Do It Again" was an instant hit with its easygoing latin feel and catchy melody. Also album track "Reelin´ In The Years" charted.
The album was also well received by the critics and Steely Dan became from now on darlings of the music press.

However, singer David Palmer didn´t get good reviews and producer Gary Katz told Donald Fagen into getting over his stage fright stating that he alone should sing Steely Dan´s songs.

If you only know Steely Dan from the late 70´s early 80´s "Aja" and "Gaucho" or even the recent releases you owe it to yourself to dig into these early albums because "Countdown To Ecstacy", "Pretzel Logic" and "Katy Lied" are all worth your investigation as well. Packed with good songs, good playing and singing as these albums are, Steely Dan here find their characteristic sound yet the albums are still varied songwise and show an interesting evolution of this excellent band.

 



The live band Steely Dan seized to excist around 1974 and like The Beatles, XTC and other good bands they retreat to the studio to refine and perfect their music by being their own worst judges ......eventually cut down to only two Steely Dans they now exclusively draw on a line of famous (mostly jazz)musicians to fulfill the sound Walter Becker and Donald Fagen had in their heads.
 
On 1977´s "The Royal Scam" you can enjoy guitarists Larry Carlton, Elliott Randall and Dean Parks and tenor saxophonist John Klemmer- but especially with 1978´s "Aja" a team of fantastic musicians makes an uforgettable album where pop, rock and jazz melt and blend together beautifully in fact make these terms obsolete...it becomes just "music"!!
A load of drummers are on "Aja": Steve Gadd (title track), Paul Humphrey, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Rick Marotta, Ed Greene and Jim Keltner.
Tenor saxophonists are Wayne Shorter and Tom Scott. Joe Sample and Victor Feldman among others play the piano. And guitarists galore:(old Dan´er) Denny Dias, Dean Parks, Lee Ritenour, Steve Khan and Jay Graydon and also Walter Becker himself.

So diverse were Steely Dan at this point that no fixed group could cover the different sounds and moods in their music.
Instead the above mentioned session players were summoned to do the material musical justice in the studio. And, it must be said, they did!

This masterpiece of a fusion of both pop (melody) and jazz (harmony) and musicianship is still a pure joy to listen to.
Have you never done so I recommend that you begin here with "Aja" and work your way backwards through the bands´ earlier releases.

When "Gaucho" was released almost three years later, in 1980, it was doubted then if it would ever materialize or perhaps end as one of rock´s lost albums but luckily in November that year it was finally released after a year´s studio time.

You almost had to be disappointed when listening to it at its release because you had been waiting for an album to better "Aja" which you knew was impossible but still what you hoped for...

If an album can be too perfect meaning "sterile" this was it.
Numerous takes of each of the songs had almost drained every drop of soul and feeling out of the music itself. It was an album both over the top and over-budget.
Perfect for using to test your Hi-Fi set by...but what didn´t help either was that the cynical lyrics for which Steely Dan were notorious. Here used to an even greater extent than on the earlier albums.

I find "Gaucho" easier to listen to today, after all. Mostly for its good tunes and in that sense it is an ok successor to "Aja".
It becomes in fact  an inspiration for many of the 80´s emerging acts.

Speaking of lyrics: when released the lyrics for the various albums were always up for analysis- what did they mean? It wasn´t always clear. What did this word refer to? It was really up to you to find that out for yourself then...nowadays and over the years Donald Fagen has been more willing to explain the meaning to most of the songs´ lyrics.
You can now google a Steely Dan song title and then get information and comments about this as to the lyrics as well as the music harmony.


A long pause followed- not a break-up as such only a hiatus for Steely Dan.
Donald Fagan recorded two solo albums, Walter Becker produced some records for others, then Donald Fagan produced a Walter Becker solo album and eventually Steely Dan was revitalised for a tour round USA in the mid 90´s. After this they have stayed together to record "Two Against Nature" (2000) and "Everything Must Go" (2003).
They have also played live here in Denmark twice and I was lucky to see them in great form at the Falconer Theatre in 2007 playing their music with a great live band.

The "Ladies and Gentlemen......" line at the top of this refers of course for those in the know to a (drunken/drugged) introduction to a fantastic live version of "Boddhisatva" Steely Dan played at a concert in Santa Monica, 1972. This track is to find on the B-side of 1980´s 7" "Hey Nineteen"
Indeed a proof of the Dan´s ability to play their songs live as well!!

http://www.recordpusher.com/search?q=steely+dan+


PGP

Demos...eller på dansk: "folket"

Nov 09 2014

Om Demos, kunstnerkollektiv, forlag, pladeselskab m.m.

De kaldte sig "folket"- godt nok med det græske ord for det: Demos...men når nogen beslutter sig for at starte en virksomhed op med distribution af kultur (det være sig bøger, billedkunst eller musik), som i sit udgangspunkt vil påvise social uretfærdighed i samfundet, som skal bruges i klassekampens ærinde og som endemål har at ville ændre "det bestående"- om nødvendigt gennem en revolution samt vil bekæmpe amerikansk imperialisme, overalt hvor den findes...ja, så er de fleste nok klar over, at vi her har at gøre med et forlag/pladeselskab, der befinder sig på venstrefløjen kulturpolitisk men også egentlig politisk.
Som tidligere medlemmer af Vietnam-komiteen var det kreative unge forfattere, kunstnere og musikere, kommunister og kollektivister, der ønskede med dannelsen af Demos at befinde sig iblandt folket og lave kunst for folket- kunsten skulle ikke være borgerlig og skabes i et elfenbenstårn højt hævet over pøblen ej heller udføres af kunstnere, som var medlemmer af det danske kulturparnas, der talte den etablerede kulturelite, men en folkelig kunst, der skulle være en del af og kunstnernes eget bidrag til klassekampen.

Tidligere havde (anti)atommarcherne, der startede allerede i 1960 og videre op gennem 60´erne været samlende for den gruppe af unge, der var bevidste om hvilke midler, der skulle til for at protestere og kæmpe imod den åbenbare overmagt.
Slumstormerne var imod den omsiggribende ejendomsspekulation især i København. Mange tomme ejendomme stod bare og ventede på at blive godkendt til kondemnering og det var disse ejendomme, slumstormerne flyttede ind i. Christiania opstod ligeledes i 1971 på denne måde, da Bådsmandsstræde kasserne på Christianshavn havde været rømmet siden 1968.
I sommeren 1970 havde "Det Ny Samfund" startet Thylejren/Frøstruplejren "på landet" så at sige- helt oppe i Thy.
Sen-60´ernes internationale ungdomsoprør nåede helt ind på Københavns universitet, hvor professorvældet blev forkastet af de mest politisk bevidste blandt de studerende, dette medførte bl.a. en helt ny og mere demokratisk styrelseslov for universiteterne samt åbningen af det mere progressive og tidssvarende Roskilde Universitets Center (RUC) i 1972. 
Den føromtalte Vietnam-komite dannet i 1965 fordømte fra begyndelsen USA´s indblanding i og videreførelse af krigen mellem Syd- og Nordvietnam.
Da Verdensbanken holdt sit møde i København i 1970 gik unge demonstranter på gaden og protesterede mod de rige landes udsultning af de såkaldte U-lande.
Kollektiver skød op flere steder både i København og de større by men også tit på landet. Maos Lyst er nok det mest kendte kollektiv, hvor alle medlemmerne kaldte sig Kløvedal til efternavn, men også nogle af de danske beatgrupper så nye muligheder ved at flytte sammen, ex. Alrune Rod og Gnags. Et kunstnerkollektiv blev også samlet i her sidst i 1960´erne ved navn Røde Mor.
Et mere genialt navn kunne vel næsten ikke tænkes, når man med to ord både kunne vise sit politiske ståsted såvel som hvor, man lagde sin solidaritet i forhold til ligestillingen mellem kønnene- Røde Mor bestod jo af medlemmer af begge køn!
De første danske musikfestivaler opstod bl.a. Nyborg Beat Festival 1970 og 1971 samt naturligvis Roskilde Festival i 1971.

 

 

 



Der var med andre ord grøde i den danske ungdoms bevidstgørelse i disse år, og Demos var bare ét af talerørene for nogle af disse bevægelsers holdninger.

Røde Mor ville udsprede nogle sandheder, som de så dem, om, hvorhen det danske samfund her i begyndelsen af 70´erne bevægede sig. Mere og mere i en retning som USA og Tyskland m.fl. gerne så, at Danmark skulle udvikle sig mod: allerede som medlem af Nato, snart skulle en afstemning om medlemskab af EF (senere EU) i 1972 gøre Danmark til fuldgyldigt medlem...
Med disse unge kunstneres egne ord: var man ikke imod imperialismen, var man for den og dens lakajer!
Dette var skrækscenariet Røde Mor så landet på vej imod. Og det var her kampen skulle komme til at stå!


Der måtte kunne gøres noget for at ændre denne forkerte udvikling! Røde Mor ville lave kunst, der ukompliceret fortalte, hvad man med stod for. Kulturen skulle være folkelig og hverdagsagtig.

Det betød, at Røde Mors billedkunst mest var udført som grafik. Dette var en billig og demokratisk måde at få kunsten (og samtidig budskabet) ud på til så mange mennesker som muligt.
Da Røde Mor begyndte at lave musik i 1969 var det oprindelig kun som underholdning til fernisseringer ved gruppens kunstudstillinger. Musikken var her mere i familie med 60´ernes protestsange end med The Beatles og Jimi Hendrix.

I sit manifest havde Røde Mor som mål at lave "en kunst, der var et våben i klassekampen."!!

Det viste sig, at der altid var en solidaritetskoncert, de kunne spille (gratis) til. Land og Folk-festivalen i Fælledparken var årligt tilbagevendende. (Land og Folk var et daværende kommunistisk dagblad!)
Dog også almindelige spillejobs, der gav smør på brødet til Røde Mors medlemmer, Troels og Lars Trier m.fl. som nu blev en mere fast sammentømret gruppe, der udgiver sin første plade Demos 1, "Johnny gennem ild og vand"-ep´en i 1971. Pladen bliver en salgsmæssig succes med 80.000 solgte eksemplarer. Rok Ork-lp´en (Demos 6) følger kort tid efter og markerer et musikalsk skifte til en mere elektrisk beatmusik, som man var begyndt at kalde den stil, grupperne på den danske musikscene spillede her i begyndelsen af 1970´erne. Med danske tekster og tydelige udfald mod dette og hint i både det danske samfund og internationalt.
Eksempler herpå ses i disse titler: Røde Mors anden LP Ta´ hvad der er dit (Demos 10) og på den tredie plade LP´en Grillbaren (Demos 17)taler titlerne "Al Magt Til Folket", "Til Allende", "Den Administrerende Direktør" og "Lad Hammer Og Segl Lyse" sit tydelige sprog.

Live optrådte gruppen nu endvidere med et sceneshow bestående af en grotesk teateragtig performance, hvor masker og andre rekvisitter understøttede Røde Mors sangunivers. Især var Troels Trier en sjælden set dansk performer, der virkelig kunne få gruppens holdninger ud over scenekanten. Når han med sin bevidst grove, hæse stemme sang "Rotterne Revolterer" vidste man godt det ikke var de små grå gnavere med lange haler, der var tale om!! Til at fuldende denne mere elektriske beatmusik blev Jens Breum(trommer), Peter Ingemann(Bas) og Henrik Strube(guitar) nu fuldgyldige medlemmer af beatgruppen Røde Mor.

Gruppen opløstes i 1978- et par år senere end Demos gik fallit! Troels Trier fik efterfølgende en fin karriere både solo og sammen med sin kone, Rebecca Brüel (ex. Jomfru Ane Band)  og da han/de ikke gad at optræde mere, vendte han tilbage til maleriet.

I 2002 gendannedes Røde Mor og en flot CD box med alle deres udgivelser blev i den forbindelse udgivet.

Hvad Demos´ pladeudgivelser angår så skelnede man ikke mellem LP plader, singler eller EP´er. Udgivelserne fik bare fortløbne numre, Demos 2 er således LP´en "Den Første Maj" med Benny Holst, en dansk socialistisk folkesanger, der satte musik og stemme til tekster af Jesper Jensen, også et kendt ansigt fra den danske venstrefløj. Demos 3 er en 7" single med Benny Holst o.s.v.

Karsten Sommer blev en af Demos´ "bagmænd" og var producer på mange af udgivelserne. Især vakte nogle unge grønlændere hans interesse i 1973, da han hørte deres version af beatmusikken...sunget på deres modersmål!!
Sumé hed gruppen og to LP´er blev det til for Demos (Demos 13 og 20), og da Karsten Sommer senere dannede plademærket ULO udgav Sumé også en LP her (ULO 1). Disse tre grønlandske beatplader er i dag legendariske, desværre dyre at finde antikvarisk, da de ikke solgte i det helt store oplag. Dog findes Sumut, den første LP i to udgivelser, den oprindelige med rød etiket og genudgivelsen med blå. Der er desuden et tekst- og fotoark hæftet inden i Sumut´s pladecover.

Kort skal her også lige nævnes Jomfru Ane Band, som egentlig var en teatertrup fra Ålborg!
Søstrene Sanne og Rebekka Brüel sang om Plutonium, så ingen var i tvivl om, at det var noget man skulle undgå! Atomkraft blev i Danmark heller ikke andet end en langvarig diskussion mellem forskellige synspunkter, hvorefter der endelig blev sagt "Nej!".
"Brødristeren" blev pladen med Jomfru Ane Band kaldt i folkemunde, googl selv og se hvorfor!!Den findes både på Demos (Demos 35)
 og genudsendt på A´mar (A´mar 12).

 



Alle Demos plader havde i øvrigt altid enten en plakat/grafik eller tekstark med diverse kunst indlagt i pladecoveret. Demos plader kunne ikke fås i alle pladebutikker og radioforretninger i 70´erne, idet Demos valgte at distribuere pladerne selv  (denne distributionsdel blev efter Demos´ fallit til Dansk Sam-distribution/ "Dansk Sam" i daglig tale). Dette gjorde det for besværligt for mange butikker at føre Demos-plader, og man undlod derfor at forhandle pladerne! Til gengæld kunne Demos-pladerne købes i alle landets socialistiske bogcafe´er, et fænomen, som også dukkede op i de større danske byer 1970´erne. 
Nogle af navnene i Demos´ stald udgav efterfølgende på andre danske pladeselskaber. Benny Holst og Røde Mor på Sonet og Jomfru Ane Band først på A´mar og derefter CBS.

Jeg har ikke tænkt mig her at remse alle Demos-udgivelserne op i denne blog, du kan selv google videre, hvis din interesse er blevet vakt!

 

Demos udgivelser på RecordPusher ...http://www.recordpusher.com/search?q=demos+


     PGP

Orchestra Luna... vaudeville rock?

Oct 17 2014

(Not to be confused with Dean Wareham´s 1990´s New York band Luna!!)

This obscure one album-only mid-70´s American band is difficult to pinpoint, being described as cabaret-meets Broadway-meets rock.
In my opinion there was not enough rock and it was not progressive enough to be a prog-rock band American style. Certainly not well oiled (West Coast) harmony soft rock and not jazzy rock a la Steely Dan either- in fact the closest I can come to think of is Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band (but who knows them nowadays?)- although being very British music hall... or perhaps Sparks at their most theatrical (best)...but what or who are Orchestra Luna then?
Ok, I´ll try to put it down in words so that you´ll grab your smart-phone instantly to look for their music- wonder if you can find it!

They came out of Boston. Their music is "progressive and nostalgic" say the liner notes on the self titled album and go on, "Orchestra Luna is a musical feast- a provocative gesture in a medium which thirsts for new directions"...well, we´ll return to thirst for new directions later on!

The music is like something out of the 1930´s vocal-wise, think Groucho Marx if he could sing or Joel Grey´s singing in the movie Cabaret (minus the mock German accent) but backed by harmonies like those in the 1940´s American musicals´ movies backed by a sharp playing band who really knows their way about on their instruments especially the guitarist Randy Roos. His fluid jazz-fusion guitar style saves the whole performance from being too nerdy and far out strange to enjoy but being indeed different to the American rock music of the day.

 



Perhaps it is just what it is? -being totally different from anything else in the 1970´s that caught my attention as being... well, "interesting" at least.
My good friend Henrik always inspired me in those days sometimes quizzing: who´s this? Sometimes stating the obvious: listen to my new record, the fantastic Zoot Allures or The Royal Scam. He could be teasing with the latest aquired taste of his (and indeed thirst) for "new directions" and it was on this occation I heard Orchestra Luna for the first time.
I must admit that it was Randy Roos´ guitar that saved my day. His jazz-fusion guitar was overwhelmingly well played in a Zappa´esque-yet-all-his-own style which in those days meant "passed" and was well fitted in with this strange mixture of musical styles- in a way it was the album´s glue!!

I wouldn´t write the whole band itself off as such as to being too much for me to stomach (after all Henrik was and is still my good friend!!) and lo and behold: the next time I stood in the London Notting Hill Gate branch of Virgin Records (great shop by the way in those days!!) in the second-hand section "it crawled into my hand, honest" (Thanks to The Fugs!).
I paid the wanted amount (1.79 GB Pounds) and on my returning back home I wondered why I bought this bloody record in the first place?!

But things can change as you may also have experienced listening to music. It is not something you can control entirely yourself. Music has its own rules and conditions and it will touch you if it has the power to do so! All you have to do is to keep an open mind when listening...

Of course I gave the record a chance or two before flogging it on to the next we-buy-sell-and-exchange record shop but you know what? The more I played the damn thing the more it grew on me!! I even managed to get to like the somewhat "over the top" vocals as more than a novelty. In fact especially the vocals made perfectly sense when you got into the songs. Being very melodic yet completely different to "normal" singing in rock music, in their very own musical bubble Orchestra Luna had created some very original material indeed and it worked well for them on this album.



As a small appendix here I have to expand on this subject by passing on the luck of the vinyl hunter. A while ago in a local shop I suddenly saw a record I had never seen before let alone heard of: the Randy Roos solo effort Mistral from 1978 and I just had to buy it. The music on it had nothing at all to do with the Vaudeville Rock of Orchestra Luna but it was a thrill to listen to his guitar playing again now in a more familiar setting. The added bonus of a then young guitarist Mike Stern was also a joy as was the music overall, nice jazz/rock fusion.
In fact it prompted me to search a little on the internet on the name "Randy Roos" and to my surprise he was still playing/teaching/recording music now as a lecturer at Berklee and owning the recording studio Squam Sound.
In my hubris I clicked the "E-mail us" area on the studio´s homepage writing my acknowledge to this great guitarist almost 40 years after his art first came to my attention and "that was that ", I thought. At least it was in my naïvitivity because a few days later a nice and touching reply arrived in my in-box. That Randy Roos was (always) delighted to be reminded of this period of time when playing guitar for Orchestra Luna- that he was glad I liked his album and that if should I ever find myself in Eastern America I could always "give him a shout", whatever that meant? Perhaps the two of us playing old records and drinking b**r all night long?!! All the same it shows him as a very generous and down to earth musician indeed!

Find Orchestra Luna on: http://www.unterzuber.com/ol.html and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orchestra_Luna
                                          Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFxZ4amQfeE&list=PLH1KenpO5oglvpTOPcK31fCLxw4htoqUI

Further on Randy Roos:http://www.berklee.edu/people/randy-roos  and http://www.squamsound.com/index.php?PageName=5
                                        Music: (with Scatterdust) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQ-twe1LH2U


 PGP

Avi Buffalo new album "At Best Cuckold" and live at Vega Ideal Bar

Oct 02 2014

Avi Buffalo, the band, has changed somewhat since their well acclaimed 2010 selftitled debut album on Subpop. Only drummer Sheridan Riley is still around with the aid of Anyhony Vezirian (keyboard) and Doug Brown (bass) as backing for Avi Buffalo, the touring band.

On the new record "At Best Cuckold" Avi Buffalo aka singer, songwriter, guitarist Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg has luckily delved into new territory compared to the typical indie/almost neo-psychedelic dream-pop debut four years ago and has grown a more mature songwriter (he is now 23 years old after all!) also exploring a folkie path thus finding a new voice (on Overwhelmed With Pride), deeper and darker, often in an acoustic setting with strings(!) and the odd fuzz guitar turned down low but still focusing as ever on the good melody. Don´t get me wrong! The breezy, otherworldly high pitched/falsetto-like voice of his is still there but slightly more measured and used for greater effect.
It sounds natural for Avi just to sing out his short stories of (lost)love, childhood memories and traveling as if his words effortlessly finds their melodic garlands by themselves or so it seems when listening to the new album. Indeed a more grown up performance altogether both soundwise more complex and also in the lyrics department- very promising for the future. The time gap between the debut and "At Best Cuckold" has done him good as regards his songwriting. At times you feared that the "difficult second" would never materialize, but here it is, so grab it...go and buy "At Best Cuckold".
If you don´t like the title go ahead make up your own ABC-joke!! And did you notice?...I even managed to avoid references to both (labelmates) The Shins and Neil Young, how about that!?

 


Imagine the smallest of venues you´ve ever been to: in the back room of a pub or a bar, in a basement under a restaurant or it could be in a loft somewhere. If the karma´s right you could be facing a rare musical experience. A crowd standing close to the band is often a shortcut to a great musical experience.
In this case Avi Buffalo had finally hit Copenhagen on Sunday September 29th performing at the intimate venue Ideal Bar in the ground floor of the Vega building. The support band got sick so what do you do then? Avi Buffalo asked their drummer Sheridan Riley to get behind the microphone, borrow Avi´s black Strat and sing a couple of her songs as Peg. Suddenly Avi joined on bass and Anthony Vezirian played the drums. It sounded like an impromptu performance, something that had previously only belonged to the rehearsal studio or at soundchecks at most but was now let out into the public...not bad in fact as the melodies sung in Sheridan´s powerful voice stuck to mind.

A small intermission before the main attraction and then Avi Buffalo in all their glory...well I don´t know about glory, they just got on stage- a platform about 30 cm above the floor and started with So What from the new album At Best Cuckold. A crowd less than two hundred people saw this combo of four young Americans performing approx. 10 or so songs selected from their two albums. And the audience liked what they saw to judge by their reception of the band.
One of the highlights of the show was Avi alone singing and playing electric guitar on Summer Cum. To prove his folkie leanings he also strummed the acoustic guitar for Two Cherished Understandings and Overwhelmed With Pride. Especially these two quiet songs sounded very well in the intimate surroundings of Ideal Bar.
Avi is the star no doubt about that. Sheridan Riley is a more than capable drummer adding dynamics to the overall sound of the band and also sings harmony with Avi. Nice!

 



You can always discuss the quality and the length of a concert: long concerts are not by definition good concerts and a short concert is on the other hand not necessarily bad, however, a too short concert is not fulfilling an audience´s expectation of getting into the music.....

This evening´s 45 minutes of pure melodic indie rock by this young band still building up a following was enough to satisfy the expectations so generously promised in the bands two albums. Without a lot of fuss (but only with a little fuzz!!) they just stood there and played with Avi´s rapport with the audience limited to a "Thank You!"- instead concentrating on his performance finetuning both his guitar and his band between songs: "One, Two, Three, Four..."

The Danish crowd consisting mostly of Citizens of Copenhagen knows a good and honest band when they hear one and Avi Buffalo won if not their minds- at least won their hearts over with this great concert. Only complaint from this reviewer: no Jessica neither in the setlist nor the encore!

 



PGP

Postcard Records... Scottish indie pioneer

Aug 13 2014

The British punk- and new wave movement of the mid-1970´s to late 1970´s was the beginning of many good things as it turned out to be promising for the future musically. 

Wheather you like the punk of Sex Pistols, The Clash or The Damned- the new wave of XTC, The Skids or Elvis Costello & The Attractions or later on the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal´s Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard or not, you got to admit that it certainly started the careers for a whole new generation of musicians and indeed gave us a lot of great music in years to come.


The so-called supergroups would continue their trodden paths and sell records by the truckload most notably Led Zeppelin´s 1979 "In Through The Out Door",  Pink Floyd´s 1981 "The Wall".
Queen´s 1981 compilation "Greatest Hits" would sell 6 mill. albums in the UK alone(!) yet it still sounded like music from the past played by established bands that struggled hard to better the work they had already done. Rock concerts were blown out of proportions and took place at stadiums or other large venues in order to facilitate a large audience thus making a healthy profit for both promotors and bands.

In this respect we must thank God, or at least Malcolm McLaren for his (in)famous creation: the Sex Pistols. The impact they caused in the music business can´t be exaggerated let alone the turbulence and scandals they caused in just over two years time. It has been said that all who went to the early Sex Pistols concerts formed a band the next day!

This new music- most of it just basic rock ´n´ roll really, played loud and simple but with aggression- needed the support from not only the fans themselves.
Concerts or "gigs" were one thing. Often (un)organized by amateurs, friends of the bands or the bands themselves. Often chaotic. But it was a whole new and fresh approach with these upcomming bands who played small venues like the basement at the Hope And Anchor- the famous pub/venue in Islington- or The Nashville Room, both London- allowing the fans to get close to the stage- something that was impossible at large stadium concerts.  

Before going to a punk concert the fans would dress up in a totally new attire: clan skirts with (lots of) chains, zippers, safety pins, a dog collar, a mohican hairdo and of course (8 or 14 eye) Doc Martens. For girls a black torn pantyhose was a must! And if you could possibly sneak in- just for the shock effect, of course- a swastica somewhere....
I believe it took a lot of courage traveling through London by the Tube wearing this gear showing the world that you belonged in this tribe called Punk.

 

"Original Postcard records courtesy my good friend Jan"



Apart from going to concerts the punks also wanted to take the music home with them as well and this is where the independent/indie label comes in!

The ethos of this new music was "Do It Yourself": "Learn a chord, now form a band", was the maxim of the day. Also when it came to releasing records. A task normally done by big international corporations who controlled the market now a whole new musical underground grew up all over the UK.

In the past only a few independent companies excisted. Island for one emphasising on prog rock, folk and reggae. Virgin who was both a record company, a chain of record stores and a post order company. Virgin founded its fortune on Mike Oldfield´s Tubular Bells and never looked back. Prog rock, Krautrock and finally...well never mind the B****cks!!


I´m not going in depth here about the Sex Pistols´ signing/un-signing EMI, A&M and finally Virgin or why (declared socialists!) The Clash strangely signed (major label) CBS or even how the novice label Stiff Records (founded on a £400 loan courtesy of the Feelgood´s Lee Brilleaux!) signed a young Elvis Costello before stricken with (or by) Madness!! You either know this or you can easily google it anyway...

Instead I´ll continue my musical trip to Scotland, if you don´t mind, by jumping forward to the year 1979.
As we have seen in my earlier blogposts on The Skids and Scars something exciting was happening all over Scotland too in the late 1970´s! And also in Scotland the indie labels were a big part of this!
We heard that Edinburgh had the Fast Product label and Dunfermline had No Bad Records (releasing the Skids´ first 7" single)
Glasgow now got their indie label too: Postcard Records.

Taking their motto from US label Tamla Motown by way of replacing the country calling their music: "The Sound Of Young Scotland". Open minded to this new emerging music Alan Horne signed local groups Orange Juice, Josef K., Aztec Camera and when Australian Go-Betweens went abroad to get signed in the UK they ended up auditioning at Postcard in Glasgow and who could say no to them? Certainly not Alan Horne who gave them a single(!) chance of moving on to bigger things...and they did!


It has been said that Orange Juice introduced shorts in rock music! Being very young but talented their Scottish new wave with catchy melodies, the soulful voice of Edwyn Collins and a distinct Gretsch rhythm guitar sound was recorded and released on the Postcard singles, "Falling And Laughing", "Blue Boy", "Simply Thrilled Honey" and "Poor Old Soul" before they went on and got signed to Polydor where they released the excellent "You Can´t Hide Your Love Forever" in 1981. Three albums followed and to this day singer Edwyn Collins still releases solo albums, plays live and produces records for other artists.

Aztec Camera was a bit different being almost a one man band. Roddy Frame was 17 when he recorded Aztec Camera´s debut single "Just Like Gold" He both sang and played guitar...in fact he had learned several chords before forming Aztec Camera!
After the debut single "Just Like Gold" and the next 7" "Mattress Of Wire" Aztec Camera signed to (London indie label) Rough Trade and released the brilliant debut album "High Land Hard Rain" in 1983.
Signed to Warner Bros. eventually in the 80´s and on, Aztec Camera finally became just Roddy Frame who released a number of albums as a fine singer/songwriter now again going indie on various labels.

Josef K. from Edinburgh, originally a new wave band playing Television, Talking Heads and Blondie covers in 1978 heard The Scars (see my blogpost on the Scars!) at a concert changed name from TV Art to Josef K. and started writing their own material.
An album, "Sorry For Laughing", was to be recorded but unfortunately there was little to laugh about when they had recorded the whole album for Postcard and then...withdrew it again because they felt the overall sound was to clean!! Only a few of this album were released.
The only Postcard album was to become their "The Only Fun In Town" recorded in two days Belgium where they went for a live sound now with the vocals low in the mix and brittle guitars...


The Go-Betweens enjoyed their entry on the British market, released "I Need Two Heads" on Postcard and then via indie label Rough Trade signed to Beggars Banquet.

The interest for these new bands on independant labels got so big that an indie chart for both 7" singles and vinyl albums were published in the English music press in 1980. The indie labels themselves formed a union, called The Cartel in order to have total control over the distribution of their records to record stores as well as being able to control the record production and the musical direction of their bands.


PGP

The New Romantics

Jul 29 2014

In the heyday of "The New Romantics", the new wave that swelled in England around 1980 with groups like Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Steve Strange´s Visage a young Scottish band Scars debuted in 1981 and was easily categorized as such just at a single glance at their (trendy/rediculous?) attire on the back of their debut album "Author, Author!" (see below)


...New Ro-man-ti....wait a minute! What the Hell was this?
Imagine that by now you had placed the vinyl record itself on your turntable and as "Leave Me In The Autumn" got started your usual boxing of bands, especially the new ones,(to feel safe should you be asked by your friends) now had to be re-categorized so to speak!

This was not pompous New Romantic synth-pop! What sounded from your speakers was a dark and dramatic sound with flanged cold, jangling guitars and with drumming heavy on the toms yet the songs were melodic and insisting with serious lyrics to match. Included was even a spoken version of (British author/poet) Peter Porter´s nuclear holocaust vision "Your Attention, Please!". It was after all the years of the cold war but,....where did this music come from?

In those days you either compared the new bands to "punk rock" or "post-punk". The next wave of punk was the oi-bands (named from Cockney Rejects´"Oi,Oi,Oi") like Sham 69 early on, 4 Skins, Infa-Riot etc....post-punk was Joy Division, Cure, Bauhaus, U2 even.....and The Scars (they later got rid of the The) sounded more like post-punk at least on their debut album "Author,Author!". A single released prior to the album on their hometown of Edinburgh´s Fast Product label showed a more aggressive almost punk-ish Scars still in their teens. Fast Product founded in 1977 had already released a number of interesting bands´ debut 7"s: Human League, Gang Of Four, Mekons and also The Scars´ "Horrorshow bw Adult/ery". Even Joy Division was included on a Fast Product compilation early on.

(I´ll look into the other Scottish label Postcard and the bands it spawned shortly so stay tuned!)

The major labels have always been ready to take over from the minor indie labels when they sense some new talent. Paying for the expenses of the all important debut album Virgin signed Human League and Mekons. EMI signed Gang Of Four and Phonogram signed The Scars for their Charisma/Pre imprint (Charisma´s new wave label Pre in England and Charisma in West Germany!). Charisma was originally known for releasing folk rock and prog rock. Now in 1981 they turned to post-punk with Scars and "Author, Author!"!!

Watch this nice little Scars documentary/video of the only Charisma 7" single culled from what was to become their only album as it happened:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_1qIrVS71o


How did they go on after this well received debut? They toured with all the interesting names of the time but relations within the band soured, the drummer Calumn Mackay went first and was replaced by Steve McLaughlin for the "Author, Author!" and then after five years of endless touring sometimes headlining the singer Robert King quitted and then it was soon to be the end of Scars.

I believe that a lot of bands didn´t make the cut with a follow up to their promising debut. You always have good songs to choose from for this but what about the next one? Then there is the chemistry within a band. If you are a group of friends forming a band you have to stay friends no matter how hard the pressure from being a band: touring/playing, writing new material, recording, rehearsing etc. in other words "work". If you only consider playing in a band as "work" then you still have to be able to work together and live close together when touring.


With a long awaited CD release in 2006 and the old vinyl still only available as second hand how has the music aged then?
Heard today Scars sure sounds early 1980´s trying a bit of this, U2-guitar only not as groundbreaking. A bit of that, Robert King has surely listened to both Bunnyman Ian McCulloch and Cure´s Robert Smith but gives a passionate go at being the great frontman of his band. He has partly an original voice that sometimes turn into a whine. But regarded as a record from the early 80´s it is interesting to compare Scars to other similar sounding bands of that period -already mentioned Echo And The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and lesser known act Modern Eon (who all came from Liverpool, by the way).


If you are into "the 80´s" or post-punk or early Simple Minds don´t miss to give Scars a spin!  X