Sunday, July 18, 2010

Live: Pavement, 6/25/10

Live Review:

Greek Theatre, Berkeley, CA 6/25/2010

Maybe Pavement ran out of money, or maybe they just got sick of not being Pavement. I'm guessing the latter. But despite what an un-"indie" and masturbatory undertaking a reunion tour can be, Pavement would be in character not giving a fuck either way. For those unfamiliar, Pavement's greatest non-musical accomplishment was igniting an amusingly one-sided feud with Billy Corgan over a line in this song (seriously, Billy?). The fact that Pavement endures, while Corgan seems to be keeping very busy embarrassing himself in public, is testament to the triumph of not taking yourself too seriously.

At the risk of diving into a gaping nostalgia trap, I went all the way to Berkeley for this one. These days I go to shows to hear music I haven't heard before, so it was a different experience, being one of about a thousand people who showed up to do precisely the opposite.

Then again, timeless as their music is, Pavement's heyday was before my time. I'd never seen them live before. As I suspected all along, that's the way their music is meant to be heard. So this was a new experience for me after all. What justifies their oh-so-90's slacker aesthetic is just how good they are, making it all look like they're not even trying. Especially Stephen Malkmus, who's got some amazing guitar chops but never tries to call attention to himself with that lookatmelookatmei'msucharockstar stage presence so pervasive among rock stars.

I could go on gushing, but I wouldn't be helping my case. The moral of the story is that seeing Pavement live is one for your bucket list. Some key data on this show: Original drummer Gary Young appeared and played for a few songs. I didn't catch their complete set list, but it included:

Cut Your Hair
Gold Sounds
Zurich is Stained
Rattled by The Rush
Range Life
Shady Lane
We Dance
Stop Breathin
Trigger Cut
Box Elder
(a new song?)
Two States
Summer Babe (Winter Version)

The opener was Quasi, a band I respect, though their music has never done a lot for me. It's always fun to see Janet Weiss's chops on the drums (See also: Sleater-Kinney, plus Malkmus' other band, The Jicks). This time, Quasi included Joanna Bolme on the bass (also a Jick).

A little nostalgia for your dome:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Live: Delorean, Teengirl Fantasy, Big Spider's Back, 6/6/10

Live Review:
Teengirl Fantasy
Big Spider's Back

Chop Suey, Seattle, WA 6/6/10

Late, yes, but I saw Delorean & Guests at Chop Suey. It was rad.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Live: Fuck Buttons, White Rainbow, 5/16/10

Live Review:
Fuck Buttons
White Rainbow

Chop Suey, Seattle, WA 5/16/10

On Sunday the 16th, I saw Fuck Buttons perform at Chop Suey. The opener was Portland-based White Rainbow. It was really rad.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

LIve: The Globes, Skeletons With Flesh On Them, Kids and Animals, PWRFL Power, 5/15/10

Live Review:
The Globes
Skeletons With Flesh On Them
Kids and Animals

Healthy Times Fun Club, Seattle, WA 4/15/10

There was another band that I missed, apologies if you are that band.

Not a lot of time for blogging lately; when I'm not busy working, practicing music, going to shows, playing Sega Genesis, dancing naked to Cocteau Twins or going on drunken group bike rides, well... There aren't a lot of those moments. I didn't even blog the my previous visit to HTFC; I may have to put a blurb in for it, just to make a record of it.

 So: To be brief: PWRFL Power: Twee as fuck, great songs, awesome use of awesome guitar chops. Kids and Animals: Fun stuff, Modest Mousey, youthful, energetic, all in all pretty good. Skeletons With Flesh On Them: Solid band, alt-countryish, solid performers, good songs. The Globes: I really dug The Globes. Super-tight performance, with a wall-of-sound gazeyness that reminded me a lot of Deerhunter.

Useful Internet links:

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Live: Typhoon, Last Slice of Butter, Universal Studios Florida, 4/30/10

Concert Review
Last Slice of Butter
Universal Studios Florida

Healthy Times Fun Club, Seattle, WA 4/30/2010

For my most recent visit to HTFC, I had the pleasure of seeing Typhoon, a young Portland band I'd never heard before. Their music is pretty, folksy, dramatic and earnest, like a lot of music I listened to a few years ago (Sufjan Stevens fans, take note). Not what I typically listen to these days - but their musicianship, complexity and originality won me over quickly. It wouldn't be for everyone, but it would take a hellishly jaded hipster not to be melted by them at least a bit before the end of the show. The band featured two drummers, two violinists, two guitarists, bass, some miscellaneous percussion (kitchenware included), an accordion, two trumpets, and likely some things I'm forgetting. This show comes on heels of a tour with French post-rock titan Yann Tiersen, best known for his work on the Amelie soundtrack.

Typhoon stole the show, but the evening saw a good performance from Universal Studios Florida, a pair of UW students well-known in the Seattle DIY scene, whose sunny, glitchy, loopy electronica earned them a Pitchfork interview in September. Second on the list was the very loud bass/drums duo Last Slice of Butter, who showed some great chops and an energetic performance.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Live: Spoon, Deerhunter, Micachu & The Shapes, 4/9/10

Spoon - Moore Theatre, Seattle, WA 4/9/2010
Plus Guests:
Micachu & The Shapes

Trying to learn from past experience, I brought a pair of earplugs to this show. Last time I saw Spoon live, before they released the album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, it was at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, and it was one of the loudest shows I've ever seen. This time, the earplugs never got out of their little box in my pocket. From my nosebleed seat in Seattle's Moore Theater, originally an opulent 1920s movie palace, I didn't need them. I might not have needed them had I been in the front row. The fact that a front row existed in the first place, not to mention the sound volume, signaled just how much Spoon's fan base has evolved in its growth since 2006. This production seemed to be catering to the fiftysomething crowd.

This was not lost on Deerhunter's Bradford Cox. The minute he stepped up to the microphone, he had one look at the rows of folding chairs on the floor, and said something like, "This is the weirdest shit I've ever seen." And later, "What is this, the Seattle High School talent show?" In the past, pairing Spoon and Deerhunter might not have been so odd. I imagine that Spoon ten years ago might have been something like Deerhunter today: Young, up-and-coming, fresh, hungry, new.

Fortunately, although Spoon's fans now include the normie crowd, the band is as eccentric as ever. On their latest album, Transference, Spoon shows as untouchable a talent as before for playing old-school rock 'n' roll that still somehow sounds new and hip. I wasn't too sure this would be the case after Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, their most radio-friendly but least interesting effort to date. On stage, while always excellent performers, they've only improved. They played a long set spanning most of their career (I was a little disappointed they didn't play "Metal Detektor" or any other songs earlier than 2001's Girls Can Tell). Singer Britt Daniel's unique brand of stage presence adds an entertaining touch. He's as cool and confident on stage as any singer I've seen. My first time seeing Spoon, I was with a friend who had a huge rock-star crush on him. When he walked into the lobby, she blushed and hid behind me. It's just unfair.

While Spoon didn't disappoint, Deerhunter was the band I came to see. While not so polished as Spoon, they brought an energy and edginess foreign to Spoon's newer work. Despite some things going wrong (a guitar amp died midway through their set) they worked through it well. At first, they stuck to some of their most accessible material. I was especially pleased to hear "Hazel Street," one of my favorite of their songs, but I was also hoping to hear the likes of "Cryptograms," "Microcastle," "White Ink," or something of that weird streak. At first, Deerhunter stuck to more accessible material.

Then they blew my mind. What started as a cover of The Stooges' "I Want To Be Your Dog" morphed into a long, noisy, wild jam, with Cox giving an improvised speech on Curt Cobain, noting that the anniversary of Cobain's death had only been a few days earlier. In Seattle, where Nirvana T-shirts are sold in tourist shops alongside "Sleepless in Seattle" baseball caps, Cobain is fetishized in exactly the way that arguably drove him to suicide. So hearing references to Cobain can get a little tiresome, but not coming from Cox, someone who clearly has a genuine appreciation for Nirvana, who spent his whole day crying at age 12 when he heard the news. "I never thought I'd live to be 27," said Cox, who is now 27 (as am I), Cobain's age at death. He said things like, "I used to dream that Kurt Cobain would come from the sky with his flaming guitar and split open the heads of the kids who used to make me suck their dicks." Heavy stuff.

Micachu & The Shapes also put on a noteworthy performance. Hailing from the U.K. with a DIY vibe, they're a band I'd like to learn more about.

My only major complaint about the event: While Spoon got excellent audio treatment, it sounded like the sound engineer was taking a nap during Deerhunter's and Micachu & The Shapes' sets. Certainly most people came to see Spoon, but you've got to give a little love to the openers.

Watch: Jonathon Fisk by Spoon

"I Turn My Camera On" by Spoon

Hazel St. by Deerhunter (unofficial video?)

"Golden Phone" by Micachu & The Shapes

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Album Review: Atlas Sound - Logos

Atlas Sound
4AD / Kranky, 2009
Paul’s Rating: 8.5/10

I’ve listened to this album many times over during the past several weeks, yet it’s difficult to know where to begin reviewing it. I think I’ve figured out why: Writing about any Bradford Cox project almost invariably turns into a biography on Cox himself. Atlas Sound – arguably even more so than Cox’s more famous band, Deerhunter – Is the Bradford Cox project. At least, this is the one for which Cox is sole proprietor. As Cox’ Wikipedia bio indicates, it has been since he was a child. And this time, he’s brought some friends along, most notably Animal Collective’s Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox and Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier.

From the very start, if not for the distinct tremor of Cox’s voice, this would not easily be mistaken for a Deerhunter album. Opening track “The Light That Failed” slowly churns around a delicate acoustic guitar riff, incorporating high-pitched bells and thundering bass with not a lot in between. In doing so, it trades Deerhunter’s shoegazey wall-of-sound density for an expansiveness traditional rock instrumentation could not easily create.

The guest appearances do stick out. The two opening tracks almost go out of their way to avoid hooks. They manage – barely – to dovetail into “Walkabout,” in which Lennox makes his appearance. Catchy and melodic, it sounds like a Panda Bear song, not an Atlas Sound song. It makes the album difficult to parse, because it’s a great song.

It’s at this point one gets the idea that if Cox the auteur does have some grand vision, it’s much more apparent through Deerhunter, while Atlas Sound might represent a separate avenue for experimentation. Most of Logos does bear some of Deerhunter’s trademarks. Atmosphere, ambience, all woven through with threads of driving rhythms and clanging guitars – are present throughout, although accomplished with different instruments and different methods. To fault the Logos for the one thing it lacks: cohesiveness, would seem unfair. Part of its strength is its diversity. It doesn’t seem Cox was trying to create a magnum opus, and that’s okay.

There is something to be said for the overall quality of Cox’s various projects, which is very high, prolific as he is. On top of that, Atlas Sound speaks to his shrewdness for marketing his music. By giving it a separate name, he allows Deerhunter its own identity. It’s fortunate that he hasn’t done so by keeping the rest to himself.