Monday, June 29, 2009

Sonic Youth Live: Saturday, June 27th 2009, Tour's Opening Night

As you may have guessed from an earlier post, I am a huge fan of Sonic Youth and I had the great pleasure to see them kick off their latest U.S. tour at the Vic Theatre in Chicago. They were, at the very least, incendiary. Not since seeing the Stooges reunion tour have a seen such a focused fury from rock elder statesmen.

Now a five-piece (again), with former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold in tow this time, Kim Gordon had the freedom to rock the mic, dance, or even play guitar instead of just bass duties. She demonstrated much more showmanship than in the past when she was hampered by her instrument, and Ibold's presence live, as well as on the latest record, allowed that.

Gordon, with husband and guitarist Thurston Moore, guitar guru Lee Ranaldo, classic punk rock drummer Steve Shelley, and Ibold rattled off 10 of the 12 new tracks from The Eternal including the raucous "Sacred Trickster," and future classic "No Way," along with what Moore referred to as "hits" like EVOL's "Tom Violence," and "Bull In The Heather," from 1994's Experimental Jet Set and No Star. Unlike most bands their age, Sonic Youth doesn't revel in the past so much. Their preference is to show they've still got teeth and plenty of bite left. The beauty of them as a band is that even though they're coming up on 30 years together, they still feel as though there is some, er, sonic landscape that they have yet to explore and mine. Even when delving into the back catalog, what they pull out are more hidden gems like "The Sprawl," and "Hey Joni," from 1988's Daydream Nation instead of the more obvious "Teen Age Riot," or "Silver Rocket,". The complete omission of 1990's Goo was a tad upsetting. They also played no tracks recorded in the previous 13 years, preferring instead to go all the way back to "The World Looks Red," from 1983's Confusion Is Sex and Sister's "Pacific Coast Highway," was another very welcome surprise.

The old tunes fit in really well with the predominantly new set, proving that Sonic Youth is just as vital and viral today as any other day in their history. It was an honor to be a part of such a small piece of it.

The Setlist

  1. Sacred Trickster
  2. No Way
  3. Poison Arrow
  4. Calming The Snake
  5. Tom Violence
  6. Malibu Gas Station
  7. Antenna
  8. Leaky Lifeboat (For Gregory Corso)
  9. Hey Joni
  10. Anti-Orgasm
  11. Massage The History
  12. Pacific Coast Highway
  13. What We Know
  14. The Sprawl
  15. Bull In The Heather
  16. The World Looks Red

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Heaven & Hell - The Devil You Know

Heaven & Hell
The Devil You Know

As a huge Black Sabbath fan, it took me a long time to warm up to Ronnie James Dio but I am proud to say that I am on board. While this album is subpar when you consider landmark albums like Sabbath's self-titled debut, Paranoid, Master Of Reality, Vol. 4, Heaven And Hell. and Mob Rules. Those albums basically were the invention of heavy metal as we know it. For that, I can cut them some slack. However, they don't need much. While it is true that this album doesn't match up with classic Black Sabbath, the fact is nothing can. This album is much stronger than what any other bands can cull together these days. So I say, check it out and enjoy.

Track Grades
  1. Atom And Evil – 8.5
  2. Fear – 7.9
  3. Bible Black – 9.2
  4. Double The Pain – 8.8
  5. Rock And Roll Angel – 7.8
  6. The Turn Of The Screw - 7.4
  7. Eating The Cannibals – 8.6
  8. Follow The Tears – 7.7
  9. Neverwhere – 8.3
  10. Breaking Into Heaven – 8.0
Overall Grade=8.22

Future Of The Left - Travels With Myself And Another

Future Of The Left
Travels With Myself And Another

The lasting question I get from the sophomore effort from Future Of The Left is, “What if Jello Biafra was the lead singer of Les Savy Fav?”. The results are somewhere in between Dead Kennedys and Les Savy Fav. The album's musical content and subject matter are extremely enticing. The vocals detract from the music a bit but they do punctuate the lyrical content. Travels With Myself... is a very topical record focusing on the issues the Dead Kennedys and Bad Religion have been mining for 30 years but doesn't even approach being stale. Speaking out on government, big business, and Catholicism are timeless practices. It certainly helps to do it tongue-in-cheek. Overall, this is a very strong and furious effort that is worth picking up.

Track Grades

  1. Arming Eritrea – 9.0
  2. Chin Music – 8.7
  3. The Hope That House Built – 7.8
  4. Throwing Bricks At Trains – 7.5
  5. I Am Civil Service – 9.2
  6. Land Of My Formers – 8.6
  7. You Need Satan More Than He Needs You – 7.7
  8. That Damned Fly – 8.2
  9. Stand By Your Manatee – 8.1
  10. Yin/Post-Yin – 8.0
  11. Drink Nike – 8.1
  12. Lapsed Catholics – 8.3

Overall Grade=8.27

My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult - Death Threat

My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult
Death Threat

Just as I was ready to give up on TKK, they posted Death Threat's title track on their Myspace page. And I was hooked. While that track is perhaps their best in 20 years, the rest of the album fails to sniff the greatness of that track. The band relies far too much on wah guitars, synth bass, and porn flick rhythms. I understand that that's the idea but the band's greatest strength has always been their mix of sex, drugs, and evil. After their disco nonsense on Gay, Black & Married and their lackluster Casio keyboard fest, The Filthiest Show In Town, the only thing the band seemed to have going for it was cool album titles. TKK's entire career has been peeks and valleys. They began with classics like “Kooler Than Jesus,” and Confessions Of A Knife (top 5 all-time Wax Trax release) and sunk with Sexplosion. But even that album yielded the gem, “Sex On Wheelz,”. Every record would have at least one stand out track until 2005. And a career, of late, that consists of far too many re-mix albums shows they haven't been trying. Hopefully, this isn't a peak but more a crawling out of a valley.

Track Grades
  1. WitchPunkRockStar – 7.2
  2. Invasion (Of The Ultra Modelz) – 6.2
  3. Death Threat – 9.9
  4. Spotlite Hooker – 6.0
  5. Lone Road – 7.0
  6. Who R U Now? - 5.2
  7. Foxxy Rockit – 5.0
  8. The Ultimate Nude – 4.8
  9. Bottoms Up – 6.3
  10. Psychik Yoga – 6.6

The Jesus Lizard - Inch

The Jesus Lizard
Touch & Go
9x7" Set

The Jesus Lizard was an immensely important and powerful band in the '90s. This collection is really just a sampling of their fantastic catalog and was available only on Record Store Day. It's definitely more of a collector's item as you can get these tracks on CD on the Bang compilation and the Goat and Liar albums. In fact, if you don't have those, are interested, and are still reading this, what are you doing? Go get them. Bang is available everywhere. Liar is available on vinyl here. Goat will be re-issued and remastered by Shellac's Bob Weston and released 9/22/09.

Track Grades

  1. Chrome – 9.0
  2. 7 vs 8 – 8.8
  3. Mouth Breather – 9.4
  4. Sunday You Need Love – 8.4
  5. Wheelchair Epidemic – 8.7
  6. Dancing Naked Ladies – 8.6
  7. Gladiator - 8.3
  8. Seasick - 8.2
  9. Puss – 8.8
  10. Glamorous – 8.5
  11. Deaf As A Bat – 8.6
  12. Lady Shoes – 8.7
  13. Killer McHann – 8.4
  14. Bloody Mary – 8.9
  15. Monkey Trick – 9.2
  16. (Fly) On (The Wall) – 8.5
  17. White Hole – 7.7

Overall Grade=8.63

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
S/T, Young Adult Friction, Everything With You
LP/CD, 7", 7"

I am going to be hard-pressed to find a better debut this year, or most years. As a child of the '80s and fan of My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus & Mary Chain, this is quite a treat for me. Shoegaze has had a bit of a revival with bands like Airiel and others delving back into that territory. But no band has done so beautifully and melodically as The Pains. Each song drips with sweet sadness. Every year, a new band comes out that I want to champion. Two years ago, it was The Besnard Lakes. Last year, it was Titus Andronicus. Though those bands didn't exactly blow up, I have a really good feeling about these guys. I should enjoy them now before everyone knows them and I couldn't care less anymore.

Track Grades

  1. Contender – 9.5
  2. Come Saturday – 9.3
  3. Young Adult Friction – 8.9
  4. This Love Is Fucking Right – 8.9
  5. The Tenure Itch – 9.1
  6. Stay Alive – 9.2
  7. Everything With You – 9.4
  8. A Teenager In Love – 9.0
  9. Hey Paul – 9.5
  10. Gentle Sons – 9.8
  11. Ramona (B-side of Young Adult Friction) – 9.2
  12. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (B-side of Everything With You) – 8.8

Overall Grade=9.22

Sonic Youth - The Eternal

Sonic Youth
The Eternal
Double LP/CD

Since this site is going to be devoted to reviews primarily, there is no better way to start than with Sonic Youth. SY is the one music artist that I respect more than any other. That coupled with the fact that this is their first album on an indie label since Daydream Nation (or as I like to call it: The Alternative Bible) and this should have been an instant classic. While it is certainly not that, The Eternal does measure up to their recent output. The album also serves as kind of a cross-section of the band's history with songs that song like they could have come from several different eras of their career. There are also more prevalent traces of influence on SY than there seemed to have been in a while with musical reference to Television (the interlude on “Antenna,”) and literal to the Germs (Bobby Pyn was the original stage name of Germs singer Darby Crash). There are some bonafide gems on this record. “Sacred Trickster,”and “No Way,” are potential anthems. While not the ultimate triumphant return to indie that The Eternal was billed, the fact is that Sonic Youth has never wavered in their approach to making records. And there is no need for a triumphant return when you've never really gone anywhere.

Track Grades

  1. Sacred Trickster – 9.7
  2. Anti-Orgasm – 7.8
  3. Leaky Lifeboat (For Gregory Corso) – 8.4
  4. Antenna – 8.9
  5. What We Know – 7.8
  6. Calming The Snake – 7.6
  7. Poison Arrow – 9.1
  8. Malibu Gas Station – 8.2
  9. Thunderclap (For Bobby Pyn) – 9.3
  10. No Way – 9.2
  11. Walkin Blue – 7.5
  12. Massage The History – 8.7

Overall Grade=8.52