Friday, May 28, 2004

Here's a more thought-out review of TV on the Radio:

New York trio TV on the Radio is the kind of band that leaves reviewers scratching their heads. Their sound is fresh, and the songs are catchy, but they absolutely refuse to be pigeonholed. That forces us to describe them by throwing together a bunch of other bands, you know, like “Peter Gabriel meets Art of Noise, meets Sonic Youth all standing on a corner singing Doo Wop with Mahalia Jackson.

There’s no denying that singer Tunde Adebimpe sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel. Judging from some of the pretentious lyrics on the band’s mesmerizing debut CD, “Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes,” he thinks he can write like him too. But, regardless of what he’s singing, his voice has a bluesy, earthy quality that contrasts perfectly with the band’s otherworldly, swirling melodies and syncopated beats. On the CD’s best track, “Staring at the Sun,” Adebimpe and guest vocalist Katrina Ford wail like two choir members who are really feeling the spirit. Underneath is a clanging mass of electronic beats and handclaps, throbbing bass and ringing guitars. Other songs, like the opening track, “The Wrong Way,” and “Don’t Love You” follow the same formula, sounding like selections from some futuristic hymnal. Perhaps that’s the key for those of us who still want to fit them into a niche. It’s gospel, but from a Bizarro world.

To see and hear for yourself, go here to see the video for “Staring at the Sun.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I've had the privilege of seeing two phenomenal shows lately. On Sunday, May 9th, Miss Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings played at Kings Barcade. They were at Local 506 in Chapel Hill the evening before and the scenesters were a-buzz. This was a show not to be missed.

I didn't quite know what to expect, despite the fact that Mr. X had played their new CD for me earlier in the evening. Evidently it just went in one ear and out the other because I didn't even remember hearing it. The same certainly cannot be said about the show. Sharon Jones is an old-school Tina Turner-style soul wailer. She has a helluva voice, and she knows how to work the audience. She whooped and hollered, shimmied and shook while her backing band (three horns, drums bass and two guitar players -- one of whom, my friends and I agreed -- was really hot) kept a tight groove going. Even the most jaded scenesters were sweating and dancing their asses off. I found out later that after most of us left, the band came out and did another full set.

This past weekend was Artsplosure, the downtown Raleigh music and art festival. We missed Bobby Rush, but were just in time to see the Charlie Hunter Trio. Mr. X has seen them before, and he's a huge fan. I had never seen him before, and hadn't listened to much of his music. I did know that he plays both the bass and the melody on a crazy eight-string guitar. I can barely manage either of those, so I can only imagine the skill and discipline it takes to keep it all together.


Now I know dancehall is taking over America: The new Skippy commercial features a bunch of animated elephants dancing around a Carribean scene while another one toasts over a dancehall beat. It's a good marketing move on Skippy's part. What's better to eat when you're stoned than a peanut butter sandwich?

Saturday, May 08, 2004

I have now confounded at least two co-workers by telling them I like Mike Cooley's songs more than those of Patterson Hood in the Drive-By Truckers. Co-worker No. 1 was left slackjawed and nearly speechless -- he literally said, "I don't know what to say about that." Co-worker No. 2 laughed uproariously when I told him about No.1's reaction, then stopped suddenly and said, "I'm a bit astounded too."

All this has come about because I saw Drive-By Truckers for the third time two nights ago at Lincoln Theatre. I need to start writing in this thing as soon as I get home from a show, because I had so many brilliant ideas upon which to ruminate, but now can't remember that much. Anyway, my opinion, as expressed to Co-worker No. 2, was that I just like Cooley's deep countrified voice more. Plus Hood's songs seem too self-consiously redneck to me. In some ways his songs remind me of the writings of Clyde Edgerton, whose work I simply can't stand. Both come off as Southerners from priviledged backgrounds trying to write from a white trash perspective. Of course, I don't know Patterson Hood. He could have grown up dirt poor in a trailer for all I know. But even if that's the case, his songs still feel a little bit contrived. Co-worker No.2 countered that Hood is a storyteller; things are going to go over the top occasionally. Considering the brilliance of the Southern Rock Opera, I had to concede.

Unlike my feelings toward Clyde Edgerton's novels, I generally do like Hood's songs, especially when he's performing them live. DBT are at their best on stage because that's where they seem most at home. Thursday's concert felt like a homecoming, with fans making their own videos and recordings, and Hood giving props to people he knows in the area. They were even loose enough to perform a rocking version of "Hey Ya." The band's musicianship, which took a flying leap when guitar player Jason Isbell joined the band, has been bolstered even more with the addition of former Muscle Shoals session bass player Shonna Tucker. Co-worker No. 1 and his wife were at the show, staring raptuously at the stage and bobbing their heads to the music. I didn't want to shock him again by telling him that when it was Cooley's turn to sing, it reinforced my preference for his songs.

Friday, May 07, 2004

So, Franz Ferdinand. ... Jagged Scottish new wave reminicient of Gang of Four, Mission of Burma and Drums 'n' Wires- era XTC. Mr. X says it's nothing he hasn't heard before, and he's right. But it's something I personally haven't heard done well in the last 20 years or so. I actually like the similar- sounding Radio 4 better, but Franz Ferdinand's CD is something fans of the aforementioned bands should check out. Haven't heard much from Hot Hot Heat, though they also draw the same New Wave comparrisons.

The band I'm really excited about, though, is TV on the Radio. Unlike Franz Ferdinand, this is something I have not heard before. The only way I can describe it is techno doo wop blues. The closest comparrison I can think of is Television

According to the liner notes on their CD, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, the band itself consists of three guys, one on vocals and loops, one on vocals, guitar and loops, and the third on "music." Guest musicians sing, and play drums, flute and guitar. The music has kind of an ambient, industrial feel, while the vocals are soulfully confessional. The band's weak point is lyrics, which the band seems to have learned at the Michael Stipe School of Pretention and Vaguery. Here's a sample:

Cross the street from your storefront cemetary
Hear me hailing from inside and realize
I am the conscience clear
in pain or ecstacy
and we were all weaned my dear
upon the same fatiuge.

(Check out the cool video for Staring at the Sun, whose lyrics I just quoted.

Uh, yeah. Thank goodness singer Tunde Adebimpe has a good voice (a review on compared him to Peter Gabriel).