Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oct/Nov issue of Perfect Sound Forever now online

Hear some of the songs from artists in the new issue here at Last FM.

In the latest issue of Perfect Sound Forever, you'll find (among other things):

* Notes from its underground
"Fed-up, dissatisfied youth from Helsinki to Santiago still call upon 'Cliff's Notes' readings of Nietzsche and heavy doses of paganism/anti-monotheism while girding themselves with the stock Black Metal uniform of cumbersome spiked gauntlets, macabre face paint and silver talismans. This is then followed by deadly serious promo photos in the torch-lit or
snow-blanketed forests where wolves lurk freely. Throw in an illegible band logo that looks like exploding medieval armory, plus a stark denial of RGB color, and you have the visual backdrop for roughly 90% of the bands to have appeared since the seismic events of the early '90's."

* Local and world rock/punk from Mexico that's traditional and not-traditional
"Even if you've never been to Mexico (like me), once you hear Cafe; Tacuba, you can tell that they seem to be, as some say, from everywhere. Since the beginning, the members have been singer/guitarist Ruben Albarran Joselo Rangel, guitarist Jose Rangel Arroyo, keyboardist/guitarist Emmanuel del Real Diaz and bassist Enrique Rangel Arroyo (Jose's brother), who first met up when they were graphic design students. Add to this a bit of punk and there's Cafe Tacuba... No, wait, a bit of punk, a
bit of funk and there's Cafe Tacuba... No, no, let's take it from the beginning."

* Punk/new wave cartoons lost in Penn state
"For most of their existence, they employed up to three keyboardists and a drummer aligning themselves more closely with L.A.'s synthpunk Screamers (coincidentally one of the great lost bands, having never officially released anything) than anyone else. But while the Screamers employed the same sort of cartoony angst of their Southern California punk and hardcore neighbors, the Cardboards preferred kitschy humor (including titling a song "(You're the) Apple of My Eye (But We Can't Elope)") with occasional detours into unhinged psychological catharses."

* X frontwoman goes it alone
"When not trading off vocal harmonies with John Doe in X, she's published books, exhibited journal collages, fronted other bands (Auntie Christ, Original Sinners) and left Los Angeles for Idaho and, more recently, Missouri. Exene has also shown a more introspective side on acoustic solo outings, like Old Wives' Tales and, twenty years later, Somewhere Gone (now out on Bloodshot). She was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but it isn't slowing her down."

* Where the action is outside of Chicago
"Champaign and Urbana are situated on a railroad line called "The Central" which goes to Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans. The Central has lines into St. Louis and Indianapolis and it runs the entire length of northwestern Mississippi's Delta. It was very pleasant to live in Champaign/Urbana from 1994 to 2005 and a big pleasure to have occasional (if limited) participation in the local blues scene which to a great extent could be described as 'authentic.'"

* His theories and how they fed his rhythm invention
"Cowell (1897- 1965) was an American composer who is most widely known for his early piano music featuring tone clusters, dissonant closely spaced chords that he iconoclastically performed with his forearms. His early works are representative of the American ultra-modern movement, which he helped foster along with composers like Charles Ives, Charles Seeger, Ruth
Crawford Seeger, and Carl Ruggles. His treatise on music theory and composition -- New Musical Resources -- is a seminal work that influenced later music in the 20th century and continues to affect the work of composers today."

* Road rules learned from Elephant 6
"My gig with the Visitations started when the former guitarist flaked out two weeks before a nationwide string of
performances, meaning that I was sort of a switch as well. I had been a bartender in Athens, GA, where Lucas was working the door. One night, cleaning up, he told me that if I could learn at least ten of the songs off the new album within a week, then I could take said flaky guitarist's place and go on tour."

* Interview with bassist Alexander Hacke and his partner/collaborator
"Hacke may be better known for the experimental, abrasive, cacophonous music he has created with Neubauten since 1980, made on scrap metal custom-made instruments and building tools, as well as conventional rock musical instruments. But together with de Picciotto, they are also a powerful and imaginative, creative couple whose artistic creativity refuses to be encumbered by any stylistic boundaries or mediums whether it be in film, theatre, music, video, installations."

* Interview with the drummer from Tom Petty's original, and recently reunited, band
"Jumping back and forth between fame and quiet life, drummer Randall Marsh certainly knows the sensation of the fast and slow beats of the music industry. In the early '70's after moving to Gainesville, Florida, Marsh unknowingly stumbled upon fame with a band called Mudcrutch, with a young bass player named Tom Petty about to explode in his songwriting abilities."

* Virtual goldmine of lost oldies
"Exploring You Tube's oldies universe can go far beyond mere nostalgia if you get the fever. My You Tube trek reminds me of an accident some years ago with a very transient roommate. The poor guy got so overwhelmed by New York City that he split on me, behind my back, after only three days. To compensate me for his abrupt departure, he left behind a suitcase of dusty old 1960's 45's, all non-hits he stumbled upon in an abandoned warehouse. I rifled through the forty-odd little records and couldn't find one hit. I had to play them and find my own hits"

* Extensive interview with singer/songwriter/producer
"Robert Ellis Orrall was signed to RCA records as both an artist and a songwriter in 1980 and had early chart success and a Top 40 hit with "I Couldn't Say No," a duet with Carlene Carter, then married to Nick Lowe. He eventually moved to Nashville and had a series of hits (some written for other artists like Clay Walker and Shenandoah) and some performed by himself."

* Hamill/Evans/Banton interview on their reunion
"Thursday, June 25, 5:30pm, several hours before Van der Graaf Generator were slated to go onstage, and the atmosphere in Cleveland was electric. I was soon to have the privilege of interviewing the members of the band--Guy Evans on drums, Hugh Banton on organ, and Peter Hammill singing and switching between keyboards and guitar--but for the moment my goal was to find a convenience store and buy a bottle of juice."

* His 'Stiff Live' cuts & recent tour with Amy Rigby
"Amy (Rigby) and Eric had each looked at me, as if wondering who I was and why I'd come. Was I friend or foe? Would I want to say hi? I hadn't wanted to say anything. I admire them, but I haven't been keeping track of their work--hers since 1998, his since 1980. I haven't even heard their CD together. I showed up out of solidarity and curiosity, and I've stayed at the back
of the room."

* Extensive discography overview
"The name Stomu Yamash'ta generates an extremely wide variety of reactions from music aficionados. To some he is the early '70's avant garde percussion prodigy, whose depth and delicacy grace definitive recordings of works by Takemitsu Toru and Peter Maxwell Davies. To others, he's a leading player in the jazz-rock fusion supergroup Go starring Steve Winwood, Klaus Schulze, and Al Di Meola. Perhaps a few will recall his occasional but thrilling contributions to film scores."

We're always looking for good writers and/or ideas so let us know if you have anything to share.

See you online,

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Lost Fingers- more than a novelty

Especially with YouTube in play, none of us are immune from novelties anymore. We like to share and post videos of animals playing instruments or a weird version of a pop hit or a (maybe unintentionally) bad version of a hit song. Every once in a while, a curio will come along that transcends this and is actually better than the initial joke it seems based on.

On their second album, Quebec trio The Lost Fingers makes its concept obvious- it's called Lost in the 80s (now available in the States on Tandem.Mu) so you can pretty much figure out which time period they're covering (hint: it's not the 1880's). Maybe the closest comparison is French duo Nouvelle Vague, who do bossa versions of punk/new wave/post-punk tunes (Clash, PiL, Buzzcocks, Dead Kennedys, Blondie). Of course, there's also Seu Jorge's French versions of David Bowie songs and the Bad Plus' take on "prog" (also including Bowie but also including Rush and Tears For Fears (?) and Burt Bacharach (??)) as well as Blondie and Nirvana. Lost Finger's m.o. is gypsy jazz (ala Django Reinhardt) and pop, which sounds kinda weird and coy but definitely isn't once you get to hear it.

On this album, Fingers roam all over the Gimme Decade's map from power ballads to dance music to mid-tempo ballads to metal anthem to house, in a generous sampling of what those years had to offer, for better and worse. The thing is, depending on your tastes, many of the originals they chose from are kinda crappy. This makes it even more of a revelation that they can transform it into lively old-timey music- to steal a line from "Hey Jude," they can take a sad (and bad) song and make it better.

Unlike Nouvelle Vague, Fingers have no use for underground music here but what they find in 80's pop and dance is interesting. Fingers understands that to make the music work in their style, they have to focus not just on the words as a connecting piece but also the hooks. For some of their best songs here, they savor the hook much more respectfully than the original artists themselves.

So while they mistakenly try to match the tough rap over Techtronic's "Pump Up the Jam" to little avail and similarly, mimic the bluster of Bon Jovi's hair-metal classic "You Give Love A Bad Name" (which gets saved by the bluegrass-speed breaks), they soon pick up momentum after taking AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" at a much too languid pace (which Hayseed Dixie does much better at).

UK pin-up girl Samantha Fox's lusty "Touch Me" becomes a lively, finger-snapper which savors the words and chorus much more than the non-singer did. Stevie Wonder's yawny ballad "Part-Time Lover" picks up in pace and becomes much more likable as Fingers dig the scatting parts much better and finds a joyous tone that Stevie himself seemed to have temporarily lost at that point. Kool and The Gang's "Fresh" also improves at a faster pace and a sexier savoring of the lyrics there. Jacko's "Billie Jean" isn't necessarily improved (that'd be tough) but it's funny to hear singer Christian Roberge imitate MJ's breathless gulps over a doo-wop chorus. George Michael's "Careless Whisper" also improves with the upbeat pace and the band bearing down on the hook much more than Michael/Wham! originally did- they use the same method to rescue "Straight Up" from Paula Abdul too. Their take on Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" is hilarious if only because they transform the goth/electronic classic into a lively cabaret atmosphere, making the song sound world weary in another way.

Producers might want to note how and why Fingers score successes here, though they'd also point out that the originals happen to be hits (albeit from a few one-hit wonders). Also, a request for the trio- for a follow-up, could you dust off and liven up "I Just Died In Your Arms," "The Safety Dance" and "Take On Me"? They'd be naturals for you.