Archive for the ‘Impose Magazine’ Category

Shark?

April 11, 2011
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Hip Hop Hooray/You Don’t Love Me

[Oops Baby Records]

By Chris Brunelle » Shark? have released a slew of excellent digital EP’s over the last few years and have finally taken their garage pop to its rightful format of vinyl. Shark? kick ass. The songs are strongly written and effortlessly delivered. The vocals soar with unique character over a band that rocks in service of the greater good. There’s no bullshit.

A-side “Hip Hop Hooray” draws you in before you even drop the needle. Is this a Naughty By Nature cover? If not, what would a rock song sound like with that title? This gem starts with gnarly chord riff then leads into the grand full-band entrance as a snake charmer of a guitar line entrances, the bass rips under the bellow like a speedboat cutting through turbulent surf, and the drums rumble insistent on getting you out of your seat. Then Kevin Diamond modestly unleashes his vocal prowess. This guy can sing. His voice is full and strong while having that tinge of something a little strange and alien that sets it apart from your average bro crooner.

The B-side competes with the A-side. It may even beat it. If the A-side finds Diamond urging his love interest to own up to their feelings and run away with him, side B shows our hero accepting she’s lost that loving feeling. He plainly mulls over the relationship carnage with muted power. We’ve all been there, and Diamond paints it simply and perfectly. It’s understated yet speaks the whole story.

“Paramour” finds the band lying back during the verses, allowing the vocal to meditate over a propulsive rhythm section. The choruses explode with instrumental interplay. As the song closes, Diamond shows his bird can sing as he unleashes the true power of a howl, belting, “See me hidden in the shadows!” The hair on your forearms salute. Buy a copy of this very limited run before they’re all gone.

Originally published here.

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Swans

October 15, 2010
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My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky

[Young Gods]

Swans never do what you’d expect. They are a band of sonic liberation. They’re unshackled from the rest of the music world and even from themselves. They don’t stick to a sound or style, as is the case on their latest effort, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky. They embrace brash, violent, and heavy tonalities. They attack their music like it’s their enemy, like it’s the world around them for which they seem to have such disdain. But like any good paradox, with their music, they also find solace. There are many gentle numbers on this record that hold the same equilibrium of passion and worldly disdain.

The nakedness of the instrumentation on the softer songs yields to the vocals and lyrics, which ultimately give Michael Gira’s sentiments a more immediate, direct power. Indeed, My Father Will Guide Me… includes many pieces written within a traditional structure that at their core recall some variant of the Nick Cave songbook.

The album opens with “No Words/No Thoughts”, with chimes beautifully clanging like the dawn. Epic power sludge interrupts, conjuring the primordial soundtrack to the world’s birth. As the heavy-osity dissipates, the verse pulses and builds and slowly returns to power drenched heights. “Reeling The Liars In” plays like a Woody Guthrie campfire sing-a-long with near religious solemnity, while Michael Gira ringing out like a march to the gallows on judgment day for sinners of the tongue. “You Fucking People Make Me Sick” centers on the interplay of dulcimer and call and response vocals between Gira and the voice of a child, which mixes with haunting effect.

The closer, “Little Mouth”, plays like a sea shanty. The whimsical sway of the tide that drives the tune is a proper send-off for Swans, and reminds us that their journey is a tumultuous one.

 

Originally published in Impose Magazine.

TV Baby

October 5, 2010
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S/T Book and CD

OHWOW

TV Baby is the latest project from A.R.E. Weapons founding members and mainstays, Matt Mcauley and Brain McPeck. Despite having the exact same line-up and a shared instrumental sensibility, TV Baby and A.R.E. Weapons are very different projects. In the Weapons, McPeck leads vocally and with TV Baby, Mcauley takes the microphone reigns. A.R.E. Weapons vocals are often spoken or shouted, at times aggressively. With TV Baby, vocals follow a more traditional pop structure with melodic lines and words that are more lyrical, less matter of fact. T

So where McPeck may go aggro, Mcauley turns his darkness inward. He corrals a mix of careless positivity and a self-deprecating bad attitude that resonates a strong emotional chord in the gut. Matt Mcauley spits out some of the most engaging rock vocals in years, as his delivery careens effortlessly between intense, modest, heartfelt, icy, mellow, and charmingly flippant. Below Mcauley’s bountiful bellow, vintage drum machine tones sizzle with crispy and smooth propulsion. Thick buzzing synths and guitars that fly all over the map of sonic possibilities fill in the energetic musical meat.

When A.R.E. Weapons hit the scene back in the early 2000’s, they were considered part of the latest incarnation of the No Wave movement along with the Liars and the tri-Yeahs. With TV Baby, Mcauley and McPeck play with a sonic passion steeped in No Wave’s downtown history with hints of Suicide peaking through. In keeping with this history, the TV Baby album is part of an art book whose long list of visual contributors includes Jim Jarmusch and Alan Vega. Such a presentation emphasizes the importance of not only the effect of the art movement on No Wave, but also the creative perspective that is simpatico between these visual and audio artists. The book is full of television and TV Baby inspired art. The images deliver a queer and haunting effect, suggesting that the influence of television and pop culture touches all of us, but connects with many in a peculiar way. (We are affected by it and can’t escape it. When we are home alone it is our friend, even if we don’t enjoy what we end up watching.)

The book doesn’t overtly criticize television, it just explores the peculiar nature that comes from a world that is so connected and affected by an electronic device that primarily is used to entertain and sell stuff. The book and the album could easily stand separate but the resulting experience is much different. Together, you sense a reluctant celebration of what influences us. You may hear music influences in the music and it feels simultaneously celebrated and helplessly indifferent in the most captivating of ways.

The TV Baby album is a rare moment where a side project rivals the main project. Maybe the “side” effect has liberated all pressure for Mcauley and McPeck and allowed this excellent swirling mix of effortless and exuberant creativity to flow forth. TV Baby possesses the rare combination of a child-like playful creativity with the skill and fortitude of musicians who can deftly maneuver vocally and instrumentally wherever they like.


Originally published in Impose Magazine.

E of the Eels

August 24, 2010
E of the Eels
Photo by Rocky Schenck

The music of The Eels is often characterized by a gloomy point of view. This is not without good reason. Eels’ leader Mark Oliver Everett, known to fans as “E,” has endured his share of hardships. E’s father, Hugh Everett III was a renowned physicist who famously pioneered the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Theory. Such an advanced mind left little room for anything resembling human and fatherly interaction with his family. Hugh passed when E was only 19 years old.Just off the heels of the first Eels album, “Beautiful Freak,” E lost his sister to suicide. Shortly thereafter, E endured his mother’s battle with cancer that ended fatally. E has found his way through all of this with his music. It’s been a while since the heavy days of Electro-Shock Blues, but E’s never been a distant stranger to darkness. The Eels are back with the final album in the trilogy that started with Hombre Lobo and End Times. On the new Tomorrow Morning, E has recorded an unlikely record full of happy tones, love, and hope. E sat down with Impose to talk about this change of pace.

A lot of your music and life have been marked with darkness. On Tomorrow Morning, it seems like you are turning the page. I apologize if I’m sounding new-agey, but I hear you embracing a chance at optimism and hope. What brought you to this place lyrically and musically?

Well, I guess if you’re lucky, as you get older, you start to look around you and see the things you should be appreciating. And I suppose I’ve gotten to that point where I’m starting to do that with my life. And I can’t help but notice there’s a lot of very nice things about my life. I think having gone through all those hardships, it made it a lot easier for me to notice the good things.

Unlike other moments in The Eels that reflect happier tones, Tomorrow Morning holds a sense that everything really is going to be all right for you in your personal life. For me, this may be the first time I’ve heard this so convincingly in your work. Is this the beginning of a long line of feel good albums to come?

[laughs] I don’t know. Of course, that makes me think, “Wow, well we don’t really need that!” You know, I don’t want a long line of anything in particular. It’s impossible for me to predict right now. I’m sure I’ll find something to be miserable about eventually.

When gearing up to release an album like Tomorrow Morning, do you ever wonder if your hardcore fans will get bummed out if you sound like you’re in too good a mood?

Honestly I don’t really care how the hardcore fans are going to react because I think those kind of fans tend to look too closely at everything. I’m not here to cater to that kind of thing. I treat myself as the audience and I’m doing what I want to hear.And if other people like it it’s great. It’s a great feeling and I’m very thankful for it. But…whatever. [laughs] You can’t sit down and try and write a song to make a certain kind of listener happy.

Because your music is so personal in a way that seems like there’s a direct line between what’s going on with you and what the audience has access to, is it ever hard for you to be so open when you are performing live or even recording?

I have this thing where when I sit down and write a song, I just don’t have any filter. I try to get to the truth, to the heart of the matter, and then I try to get under that, and then I try to get under that. Just get down to the bone of the matter as far as I can.It never occurs to me, “Whoa, maybe I’ve gone too far,” until I step out onto a stage for the first time to sing some songs. Suddenly I think, “What have I done?” [laughs] When you have to sing in front of a room full of people, sometimes you can get a little embarrassed about it. Ultimately I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s good in the name of getting to the heart of the matter.

I’ve heard you talk about your reclusive tendencies in life. At the same time, the Eels project is marked with a history of collaboration. Do you see music as your means for socializing and connecting?

Yeah, completely. Music serves me on so many levels it’s crazy. My whole life is about music in every way. Right now we’re on tour and it’s really just an excuse to hang out with my friends because my friends are luckily all awesome musicians. That’s my social life, too.

How’s the tour going?

It’s going fantastic.

How far in are you?

About 2 or 3 weeks. We’ve got a long ways to go. It’s about 2½ months. But we’re having a ball.

Do the tours ever get tough for you by the end?

They usually do. This one’s so much fun, I don’t think anyone wants it to end. I don’t know if I’ve ever had that feeling before.

Is songwriting a process of therapy for you?

I suppose it must be because I’ve been compelled to do it for several years now. I’m sure that’s one aspect that I get out of it.

You’ve mentioned how you feel you’re now in chapter II of your life since writing your memoirs.

Yeah.

What do you want out of Chapter II that you didn’t get out of Chapter I?

Some peace and quiet. [laughs]

Are you getting that at all?

Uh, I am in little bits and pieces here and there. I wish someone could have told me when I was younger and everything was so tumultuous, that things would be as nice as they are now. There’d be no way to know that, but it would have been nice. It would have given me some hope. But I hope that I can give other people some hope by showing that things can turn out OK.

The Eels’ Tomorrow Morning is out August 24.

Originally published in Impose Magazine it can be viewed here.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

August 12, 2010
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Say No To Love
[Slumberland Records]

The Pains have taken the tender idealism of teenage years spent in bedroom seclusion to the studio, the stage, and the world, for all shy outsiders and lonely types to hear, and that makes “Say No To Love” a quintessential message from a band that seems so happy to be sad.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are descendants in a long lineage of twee, shoegaze, indie-pop, college rock. They’ve broken through with a sound that’s bi-passed the margins of zine culture and late night college radio programs where many of their closest aural ancestors always remained. In that sense, they’ve expanded the culture, reinvigorated it, in part thanks to the internet’s ability to connect those shy and sensitive types who find The Pains’ music to be a warm pillow in a cold world.

Like moments on their debut full-length, “Lost Saint” delves into references of subtle Christianity. This is not a story of a teenager in love with Christ in heaven, but of Saint Heloise who experiences inner grief from family, school, and strangers. Kip Berman delivers his laments with the same fey whisper, behind that wall of lush power drenched pop, advising, “Wound him with impassive eyes, he knows his wasted life.”

“Say No To Love” is infectiously tuneful. Lyrically, it plays like a letter to a friend in a bad relationship with tenderness and suggestions of hope. Berman sings, “When everything he does is wrong, and all you want to feel is ‘gone,’ go on.” The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart may be the name of the band, but it could easily describe the arcs of the characters in Berman’s stories. It’s also the sentiment that draws in his like-minded audiences.

Originally published in Impose Magazine it can be viewed here.

Creed Bratton

July 31, 2010

These days, people know Creed Bratton as a character on NBC’s hugely popular show, The Office. From mud orgies, to cult leading, from kleptomania, to not knowing his co-workers names, Creed gives audiences a spit take every time he’s on screen. Creed Bratton, the actor, was the lead guitarist for the 60s folk rock group The Grass Roots, who scored hits like “Live For Today” and “Midnight Confessions.” After feeling too artistically controlled by his group and his record label in the late 60s, Creed left the biz and set his sights on acting.

creed bratton

Creed Bratton is a fictitious character and a real person, and therein lies the secret formula. Creed took the time to share stories and laughs about his life, his new album, and how this may be the last season of The Office.

I was really taken with your song, “Original White Hat Guy.” Tell me about this character.

“Original White Hat Guy,” now that is one based on a real situation. I’m driving up from LA to Coarsegold, where I grew up near Yosemite National Parks. I had a Porsche back in the Grass Roots days, now I have a really nice Porsche car, too, but in between, I was struggling, it was one of my clunky ones I was driving. I stopped to get gas at this place called The 22 Mile House and it was like some Sam Shepard play.

It’s twilight. The sun’s dropping down and there’s hardly any sunlight left at all, and this woman’s wearing sunglasses. She was an attractive girl and I couldn’t help but notice that behind her sunglasses, she had a black eye. So she reached over to put the gas back in the pump and this guy grabbed her by the arm and bruised her. And I looked up and I saw this guy watching me watch her from inside the car.  And that was the catalyst for that, I thought, “I’d like to be the original white hat guy and take her away from all this stuff.”

But you don’t do that cause you’re gonna get shot. I know the people where I grew up.

Sounds like that kind of area where you take the law into your own hands.

Man, where I grew up, my neighbors were shot by some drunk Indian right through the screen door. He wanted their car and they wouldn’t give it to him. We all had guns. It was a dangerous place. It builds character, I guess… or makes you into a character like me.

Do you have plans to bring your band anywhere or do a tour?

Well I got an agent and a manager for the music stuff, but it’s just so difficult cause I’m shooting an independent film now, which is a musical by the way, which I sing in, called The Ghastly Love Of Johnny X. It’s really a trip. It’s gonna be like The Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Ed Wood meets all the schlock, 50s campy stuff. We haven’t seen a movie like this in a while and that’s what really attracted me to the project. I’m just finishing it right off. I got two days, I wrap that movie, then I go immediately to do a table reading for The Office, then we’re back in a week, boom!

We all know we hit the lottery with The Office.

The audiences have, too. It’s such a great show.

Oh thanks man. This could be our last year man.

Really?

Yeah. Steve’s not gonna do it anymore, he says, now with the kids. And I think seven seasons, that’s long enough, too, you know. And I wouldn’t want to do it without Steve. I mean, you never know. If they say they want you back, you would, but I can’t really see it without Steve.

Is it a riot working with him?

Oh my god! It’s so hard not to laugh. He’s so funny. He’s a comic genius. No doubt about it. The second and third season, even that far in, I was still biting the side of my cheek not to laugh. That little quivery deranged rodent look that Creed gets on his face sometimes, it’s not really acting, it’s just biting the inside of my mouth not to laugh. That’s what that look is.

Do you have any crazy stories from your days in The Young Californians, The 13th Floor, The Grass Roots?

You’ve heard about the one catching sharks in the hotel room, dropping acid and I couldn’t play, dropping my pants, and Bill Graham screaming at me from the side of the stage?

A good story though, a really good story, we are booked in Florida and our agent signed the contracts and got us down there to do two shows a night. We ‘d always do two shows, it’s a club, we take a break, and come back in and do another one, you know. This venue, we did the one show and they walk us out and say, “We’re gonna take a ride.”

“Well where are we going?”

“We’re riding to the airport cause you’re flying across the state to do this other gig, like an hour flight to another town.”

We said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, we aint flying in that little plane.”

He said, sure enough, “Yeah you are.”

So we called and got our manager outta bed, and he called and they looked at the contract, and we’re waiting, waiting, waiting, and he said, “Yeah, he fucked up. You gotta do it, you’re contractually obligated to do this.” So we said, “Shit.” We put our bass and two guitars in this little tiny plane, and we were flying at night, across the fucking Everglades! [Starts laughing] And of course we’re smoking dope.

And you’re probably thinking about Buddy Holly.

And we’re thinking about Buddy Holly. Thank you very much. I needed that. And all of a sudden you hear the guys going, “Uh huh, yeah I see.” And you hear the guy [on the radio] going, “Ok, Roger, approaching landing, amber light at east end of the runway, west end of the runway, green light.”

Well I look down and I see a blue and yellow light, I don’t see an amber and green light. And I go, “Hey you know those look like the right colors.”

The plane driver says, “Hey, you play guitar, I’ll fly the plane.” I said, “Look, really.” The guys [in the band] said, “Creed, what are you doing?” I said, “Well, just something hinky. And the guys said, “Come on! Come on!” And I went, “Oh fuck, alright,” so I sit back.

I know my intuition. I got really good intuition. I got good gut instincts. So we land on this funky runway that’s not supposed to be landed on. We blow out a tire. We end up in a ditch canal. We were right down in the water with the plane. We look over and you can actually see, and this is no fucking joke, alligator eyes sticking out on the top of the water. We’re going, “Great, we’re gonna fucking get eaten by alligators.”

They’re probably little alligators but when you’re stoned, THEY’RE FUCKING HUGE! Tyrannosaurus Rex going to kill you alligators.

And [the pilot], he’s livid. It’s his fucking fault. But he’s livid at me, cause he wants me to say something so he can get crazy. All of a sudden, over the top of the knoll, like a couple of Hum-Vee’s, and you see guys, with dogs, and military people with machine guns. We’re on a restricted military base. They put us in the brig with the pilot. They impound the plane. Needless to say we’re at the total wrong place. Later on we heard, “Well they told the guy the right colors, he just flew into the wrong base.”

Ok. I’m not gonna say I told you so. But we missed the gig. And then of course, we owed the gig. It’s not the producer’s fault. When I drop acid and can’t play, we gotta come back the next night and make up the gig for Bill Graham.

So, welcome to rock and roll. We think when we’re not in that beer stained mattress in the back of the van that we sleep on, and staying at Holiday Inns, when we think we’re gonna be flying around now, we’ve really made. It’s still crazy! But you wouldn’t change that stuff, that’s rock and roll. It’s great.

Bad situations make for a great story.

Yeah, regular old predictable stuff’s not funny. When you risk your life, that’s when adventure starts.

When watching The Office, you’d think that a lot of your character’s crazy back story is made up, but hearing all these stories, is a lot of it in fact inspired by real life event?

The basic character had a crazed past, a rock and roll past. There’s stuff, in polite company, I wouldn’t talk about. I’d lose my G-rated audience.

Basically my premise was that he was so burned out on drugs that he passed out on a Greyhound bus and ends up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He’s living in a dumpster and Ed Truck takes pity on him and gives him a job. He found out he didn’t know how to do anything, but he was so weird and intimidating that no one wanted to fire him. And they did try to fire him and he kept weaseling his way out of it, so they gave up and basically ignored him, you know. I don’t think you’re gonna find anyone in an office who basically doesn’t do any work. That guy in Dilbert, Wally, he’s one of my role models.

What would you say are your biggest musical influences?

Probably, back in the day, the first thing I can remember being turned on to was country western swing. My grandparents had a country western band at the time, you know Bobs Wills and the Texas Playboys, and you know, Hank Williams, and stuff like that. The first stuff I really liked a lot. I played a lot of classical. I played first chair trumpet for years through grammar school and high school. I liked classical music a lot. I liked Dixieland. I think Dixieland got my juices flowing a lot. And then of course once I heard rock and roll, then I was gone, that was it. Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Everly Brothers…

Did you play in your grandparents’ country western swing band?

No, but my stepfather played some drums, and my mother was a really good mandolin player, and I was playing guitar. My grandfather showed me some chords when I was 13, and then I just started listening to the radio and learning on my own. But we would all play on Friday or Saturday night when they were all drunk and I’d come in there, looking around, like, “What the hell is going on?” But I’d bring out my guitar and I’d play with my mother and she was a great mandolin player. And they’d just get three shits to the sheet, and uh [chuckles], three sheets to the wind and shit-faced. [chuckles] three sheets to the shit. You can quote me on that, Chris.

That’s gonna be a bumper sticker in a year, I think.

[Laughs.] And then we’d sit there and play all that old country stuff. “Across The Alley From The Alamo,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and things like that.

Was there a defining moment when you were listening to rock and roll?

All of a sudden, when I realized it was art and it wasn’t just entertainment was when I was in England in 1964, I heard Rubber Soul. And that was kinda like an epiphany for me. I was at a girlfriend’s house in Kensington High Street and I think I stayed in her room there for a couple weeks just listening to it over and over again, just mind boggling. I always loved music and it took me off places, but when I started thinking, ‘Hey you know, well this is something I’d like to do,’ was Rubber Soul. There’s something about the whole thing, the simplicity of it, the harmonies, there’s a magical synergistic thing going on with those guys on that album. It’s so simple, too. It’s so good.

On your latest album, Bounce Back, there’s quite a range in your lyrical content. What is it that appeals to you about mixing such varied styles and emotions?

People ask me, ‘Well what chose the style of music and what were you going for?” I write songs. I write ‘em and they come to me. I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes, 3 or 4 in the morning and write a song down, and wake up the next day and go, ‘Oh, I see it there, I wrote a song last night. I’ll be driving around and phone my message service at home and leave lyrics on it. I’m always writing down lyrics. I keep a pad wherever I go. Even on my hikes, in my fanny pack, I keep a pencil and pen in there to write.

The album title, Bounce Back, is a lyric taken from the song, “Rubber Tree.” But out of the context of that song, does that phrase refer to your personal journey in the performing arts?

Absolutely. People had really written me off. He had his shot. I’ve had people say, “You’re done. You’ve had it. You had your 15 minutes of fame with The Grass Roots. That’s it.” And I’d never buy into that, but people did. They’d say, “Why are you doing this?” I never thought it was over. I kept plugging away cause basically, what else can I do Chris? I write, I act, and I write. You know, so here I am on The Office with this album, and I bounced back. In my own personal life, I cleaned up my act from all the craziness I used to do. I bounced back from being a crazed partier. I bounced back with my acting career and I bounced back with my music. And it all sounds better and it is all better than it ever was before. So, Bounce Back, it’s a good title given where I am.


This article originally appeared in Impose Magazine and can be viewed here.