If when I leave, I’m not partly deaf and very sweaty, it’s not a show. Miike Snow and their opening band Penguin Prison got the job done. But there is more to them than sweat and beats. Miike Snow is not just dance music. It’s feeling something profound and contemplating it with your body. Shake your ass, pump your fist, twirl your friend, whatever, it doesn’t matter how your body says it. Just say it. The music will guide you. Miike Snow makes music for perspective and ridiculousness. You can hear it in their songs. They appear to be built on a singular concept that is then nurtured by philosophy, electro-pop, poetry, humor, lyrics, beats and some tight production, until it comes together to create pleasure and depth. Pleasure and depth is what they left pulsating on the floor of The Electric Factory last night.
The guys came out and did a short intro in black hoodies and gold masks. It seemed unnatural and forced, but they jumped back in mask-less, locking in the crowd with “Wave” and “Cult Logic”. The audience just ate it up. And by audience, I mean: Holy Hipster Haven, Batman! Skinny jeans and all, the floor was a wave of synth-pop energy. Andrew Wyatt went back and forth from commanding leader to, equal participant, at times in front of the crowd, howling, long signature hair twisting in his face and sometimes sitting in the back at the keyboards almost in complete darkness guiding anonymously with his lyrics.
There did seem to be some sound issues, which a couple of times had me wondering; can music that is best loud be too loud? I think maybe in this case, yes. A slight turn of the knob could have cut out some distortion. But you got to give the people what they want (including me) and we all were rewarded with ringing eardrums.
A great combination of the latest album Happy To You and their previous self titled, and deeply loved album, kept the pack satisfied and energized. The crowd pleasers were “Paddling Out,” Black and Blue” and “Burial.”
“Sylvia” sounded amazing, sending melancholy romance down my spine. And their live version of “Black Tin Box” was actually really likeable. The album track is deplorable, but they aced it on stage.
Wyatt wrapped it up by beating senselessly on his synthesizer as they closed their set with “Devils Work.” They returned closing their encore with “Animal,” sending the crowd into a frenzy, knowing it was their last taste for the night, they milked every last drop out of it.
The set, less than an hour, felt short and a bit rushed. The performance played like shorter versions of the albums. I would have liked something unexpected, a Depeche Mode remix perhaps? But I was thoroughly exhausted at the end so I guess I got what I asked for. Thanks Miike!
Penguin Prison (a.k.a. Chris Glover) was a pleasant surprise at the Factory. I was worried that his super glossy sound would be too clean for a likely offbeat audience. But the skeptical audience soon found its grove and embraced the NYC electronica. Penguin Prison reminds me a lot of The Virgins, with just a little too much production.
The set was danceable and loud. The songs memorable, light and catchy, pretty much everything you want from your pop. Glover definitely left his mark and closed his energetic set with his latest single “Multi-Millionaire” and announcing another Philly show May 17. Check them out.
Saint Patty’s, with all of its fun and partying, was the perfect day for Shorty Boy-Boy to release his newest 7”, Candy Man/Smoking Tea. And fresh from his first trip to SXSW in Austin, Texas, the local musician and his band were ready to rock out with a flurry of short and sweet indie pop jangles that had the Johnny Brenda’s crowd on their feet, stomping the night away.
Shorty Boy-Boy or, Josh Pannepacker, a down-to-earth dude with scruffy blonde hair, always has that same pleasant smile on his face. Whether it’s everyday life or on stage, Pannepacker is all about having a good time — something that shines clearly in his music. With the focus being on the fun, the band’s brand of catchy-garage-rock mixed with pop charm is nothing short of infectiously danceable.
Shorty Boy-Boy’s set was driving throughout. “Dolphins”, a dreamy number literally about dolphins swimming in the ocean, featured a tidal wave of riffing rock n’ roll that was torrential enough to make your head nod and your feet bop, but didn’t go so far to drown you in sonic bliss. Later on, an assortment of percussion instruments (and one very fine Dora the Explorer toy guitar) were handed out to the crowd in a crate before the group played a slower jam, “I Don’t Want A Job,” prompting the entire crowd to clang along drunkenly with their maracas, tambourines, and shakers.
One of the songs off the new 7”, Smoking Tea, which they performed was in a category all its own. Complete with neon clad, shutter shade wearing, on-stage dancers, all of whom had a coordinated dance number to boot, the song was a celebration in itself. A true party song at heart, an ambush of balloons were set on the crowd during the jam, with the strobe light sparkle keeping sure that everyone was feeling at least a little loose and tipsy throughout the set’s final stretch.
Shorty Boy-Boy’s trademark “party rock” won’t have you LMFAO-ing all night, but it’s punchy drums, driving guitar licks and hooky lyrics will definitely have you shakin’ what your mama gave you.
After the show, Pannepacker elaborated on the whole party aspect of his show.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more than to play for people who like to have a good time and dance. It’s just too cool. It’s just how we like to do it”
Pannepacker also described the Candy Man/Smoking Tea 7” that the whole show revolved around. “It’s just got this hot railroad track stomp to it. You can just put in your earphones and kick all around the city.”
And that’s just what the crowd did, romping their Saint Patty’s night away to the party that is Shorty Boy-Boy.
tune-yArds The Best Old News Around
tune-yArds, a.k.a. Merrill Garbus’ second album WHOKILL, is what some call “experimental indie.” I once heard a friend describe it as “clown music” I guess suggesting that the melody would work well with bumbling painted faces, chaotically packing themselves into tiny, yellow cars. That couldn’t be further from the truth. While it’s difficult to describe the type of music that Garbus creates you can hear its origins in Afro-pop, folk, indie, rock, hip-hop, R&B, dance and even some yodeling for good measure.
While this may sound like sloppy leftovers-stew, the music is methodically arranged and intentionally planned. Although the melody may keep you guessing, there is a definite system and balance to Garbus’ seemingly frenzied production.
Her lyrics at times are easily interpreted. In the song “My Country,” she says, “When they have nothing/ Why do you have something?” Garbus sees great inequality within our country. Many of Garbus’ songs are political or philosophical. Violence, sex and self-esteem are especially prominent in her writing. She presents the relationships between these issues, and her struggle to rise above them.
Garbus’ voice is powerful and demands your attention. Behind her androgynous façade and voice, you hear that Garbus is a woman through her lyrics. Her power and strength in the track “Bizness” makes your skin tingle as she builds to her climax shouting demands as she sings. There is a sense of self-confusion in her melancholy lyrics, yet the melody’s tone lends itself more toward freedom, or spiritual growth, through anger. There tends to be a dichotomy between the meanings of the lyrics and the sounds of the music in many of her songs. It is as if releasing her rage into the world through her music allows her to reach an explosive release, and you are with her the entire ride.
On the other side of the spectrum, the track “Wolly Wolly Gong” is a creepy lullaby with puzzling lyrics sung in a soft, haunting manner, “Go to sleep my baby/Sleep deep now before the wolly wolly gong/For your sleep is guard ‘gainst the cold and hard/ A soft shroud of safety in a world gone wrong/‘Cause they will try to arm you/That’s what they do”
Garbus is able to jump back and forth between strength and vulnerability. She is brutally honest with herself, laying it all on the table, leaving nothing to hide. It is spectacular.
In this album she stays true to her lo-fi indie soul, although with the addition of bassist Nate Brenner and engineer Eli Crews, the album is more refined, the edges less rusty than her debut album “BiRd-BrAiNs.”
WHOKILL although deep with meaning makes a hell of a “driving-in-your-car-blasting-it-loud-as-shit,” kind of album. It has strength, empowerment, African dance beats, and sing along, or at times yell along qualities. It inspires movement and makes dancing feel like a natural result of the music.
While the album itself is perfectly capable of standing alone, seeing tune-yArds live is the real treat. Although I wonder if her sudden and growing fame will diminish the type of relationship she has with her audience.
Last summer tune-yArds played Johnny Brenda’s to a packed house. The club is beyond small, but the audience adoring. Garbus came on stage in her socks, a homemade ripped, neon splattered t-shirt, war paint on her face, messy hair and immediately won over her audience with a bit of self-deprecating humor and bit of “I am gonna rock this show for you,” confidence.
While on stage before each song Garbus meticulously records the different sound effects, including sirens, singing notes, simple vocal sounds, drum beats, screams and whispers into her microphone. She then loops or uses pedals to call up which ones she needs as she performs her songs live. It’s really an art form and she pulls it off perfectly, literally never missing a beat. Basically she is her own sound mixer, creating live on the spot recording original sound for every new performance.
This summer tune-yArds will be playing our very own, Root’s Picinic, as well as, indie Mecca, The 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. I imagine it will feel infinitely larger to Garbus who has so far personalized her show for her small, dedicated audiences. Whether or not she will be able to retain the deep connection and demand the patience she requires form her audience, in order to record live in a venue as large as the 9:30 Club is yet to be seen. This tour will be a huge difference from her previous one. On stage, because of the format of her performance, she gives you more of herself than we may be use to seeing. It may seem frightening to be so revealing and demand such patience from a larger audience. However, if her album WHOKILL teaches us anything about Garbus, it’s that she can overcome, and face change and growth head on through her music.
Diamond Rings aka John O’Regan is FINALLY releasing his debut album entitled Special Affections with Secret City Records. On October 26th get ready for the irresistible indie pop of Diamon Rings. You have probably already heard the track “All Yr Songs” and now you can snag another little glimps into this up-coming album with the track “Something Else”.
Sea of Cowards is not a neat little package of an album. In fact it seems to be pulling at the threads left by The Dead Weather’s debut album Horehound, but this only makes it that much more appealing. Jack White and his second super group manage to take their mad scientist approach to blues-rock a step further in this album. Sea of Cowards doesn’t house radio hits or sentimental sing-a-longs, but it manages to contain a shit ton of attitude, frustration and unedited in your face rock’n’roll.
Alison Mosshart (VV of The Kills) sounds more at home in this album. “The Difference Between Us” fits her like a black leather fingerless glove. She then pushes the boundaries with no apologies in “Gasoline.” Mosshart and White share the floor each respectfully out for blood.
Not to be over looked is Queens of the Stone Age’s own, Dean Fertita (also toured with The Raconteurs) who’s guitar and keyboards set the tone for the albums ménage-a-trois of pop, blues and psycadellic rock.
This is definitely the darkest and most raw of White’s recent projects. For some it may feel unfinished and self-indulgent. To others it will feel honest, dirty and daring. It all depends on if you like your music shaken or stirred.
Sea of Cowards will be released tomorrow (May 11, 2010).
Upon first listen of Delorean’s album Subiza, which is available on Itunes for digital download due to popular request, I was having a tough time figuring out what I was listening to. After listening to a few tracks, I decided to not worry about how I was going to label it and just to pay attention to the sound of it, and what made it so hypnotically catchy and yet still unique. Was it the steady beat that seemed to pound in every song, inviting even the most timid head to bob despite whom may be watching? At no point during the album’s 42 minutes was I overpowered by the choruses or disappointed by the bridges, which can be misplaced or out of place entirely in electronic music. The album had a constant, deliberate pace, but broke out of formation every now and then with playful grooves like “Simple Graces” and “Come Wander”. It managed to stay cohesive though, with the deep thump of the bass and kick running like a backbone through each song. I particularly enjoyed the finisher track, “Its All Ours”. It opens with a hypnotic jungle beat, which breaks into a bright verse. I don’t mean to sound cheesy, but I’m going to anyway- it sounds like a sunrise. Although I was overall impressed and intrigued by the album, I felt the vocals were a bit over-compressed and too heavy on the reverb during some songs. How many electronic songs can you listen to before the drums start to sound the same and each song just kind of runs into the next? For me, it doesn’t take that many, so keeping me interested is commendable. Each song had a distinct sound and feel though. More importantly, each song sounded like a Delorean song, not like 4 minutes of mindless drum and synth loops.
This record is not a far cry sonically from Aryton Senna. The 2009 E.P. sounds like the prologue to a fantastic daydream, but the band wasn’t entirely happy with it musically according to a recent XLR8R interview. The band wanted to expand from their roots in disco-punk or whatever-you-want-to-call-it and focus on the electronic aspect of their music, since the club music scene is also a large influence. Hence, Subiza is the result not of a band changing direction , but rather exploring and uncovering the hidden paths and altering and personalizing the obvious ones.
I am so excited for this album! Listen free to Sea of Cowards today only (April 30th). It’s streamming all day click here to listen.
Although I had not heard of them until hours before I went to interview them, Creepoid was worth the time and gas. I went to their Manayunk home/rehearsal space to catch up with the creeps and hear them play some tunes. I was impressed by their professional sound and the amount of weed consumed in one hour. Creepoid will be playing a show this Sat 4/17 with Kurt Vile at Beautiful World Syndicate. Should be an awesome show!
HEFF: So tell me a little bit about the band. To be honest I had’nt really heard of
you guys until very recently.
P: Well, Anna and I are married and we are in another band called The G. Pete used to play in it too and he ended up leaving the band. There was a really bad snowstorm this year where we were stuck inside for a couple days and Sean slept over and got real drunk and we had this 1956 reel to reel tape machine and we recorded some songs as like a two-piece and then Anna joined in and Pete after that. We recorded this 7” EP that we just released at our first show last week.
HEFF: Brand spankin’ new! The name, Creepoid?
P: Um… well I mean he’s a pervert (points to Petejoe) and he’s a weirdo (points to Sean) so, like we just figured Creepoid.
HEFF: It works. Very literal.
P: Everybody used to call Petejoe, like all the girls in Austin, called him Creepjoe
HEFF: So, what do you do that is particularly creepy or pervy?
S: You’ll find out (laughs).
P: In high school he used to ask girls out and then drive to an industrial park and be like, “so what’s up?” and just park. And even if they just hung out and talked he is still that creepy guy who took them to the industrial park.
HEFF: Do you have anything to say in your defense?
PJ: I am not denying… I’m just saying the details may have been altered.
PJ: I am really not that creepy!
P: It was a long time ago. That’s why we can joke about it.
HEFF: Directed to Sean: So they said you’re creepy too?
P: No No No just a weirdo!
HEFF: My bad. A weirdo.
S: See you don’t have to be worried about me. I am just weird.
A: Well you have to be a little worried.
S: Nah. I don’t know how I am weird. Of course I don’t. If I did I wouldn’t do it.
P: He has a weird collection of photos… animal books. You know he is like in his mid-twenties.
HEFF: Like children’s books?
**They all begin disputing whether or not they are children’s books.
P: He is just a weird dude. Like he was always in those advanced classes in high school.
HEFF: So he is smart?
P: Uh yeah.
A: Sean is weird because everyday at dinner time we go “Sean do you want some dinner?” And he goes, “Nah….well ALRIGHT!” Then we’ll all be eating and he’ll come up and take a little plate and be like, “Is this cool, is this cool?”
HEFF: So, so far you are smart and polite and like animals (laughs)?
PJ: (Laughs) It’s the worst!
S: Oh and I wear glasses!
P: And he plays bass with his fingers… weird!
HEFF: Creepy! What do you label your sound as?
P: We think of a really cool part of a song and then try to play it as slooooow as we can. Slower than as slow as we can and it still comes out…
PJ: Plus it’s easy to grasp the idea of something if it’s slowed down anyway… No matter what we did with computers we always started with these reel to reels that he said.
P: So, I don’t know what those kids in California… like the garage, bedroom pop or whatever the fuck they are calling it now but like we do it with old ass tape machines in dirty basements in the east coast.
PJ: The tapes themselves are old tapes that had been previously recorded on.
P: Like old Christmas music.
PJ: The more you record on a tape… it lessens the quality of it.
A: Everything is supposed to be dirtier.
PJ: We were really careful about how we used the tape that was available first.
P: I wouldn’t say we go out of our way to sound dirty it’s just been shown to us in a way that works well.
HEFF: Cheap and efficient. But it worked out and sounds cool.
P/PJ: Right… yeah.
HEFF: So, say you got signed by a label and they wanted you to make a real recording that didn’t sound so lo-fi, would you do it?
P: We would be so happy because we wouldn’t be paying for it!
PJ: I would like just not have to pay for such an expensive hobby.
P: I would love to mass-produce our music. You know, this has only been our first 7” and we sold out of the test presses, all thirty of them. We just got 300 in the mail and those are already starting to go. It’s all moving so fast. I’d really like to have a label pick it up so they could be like “yo, lets do a whole record of all the singles you have.” They are all home recorded and then from there I would look into going into the studio. I’ll take what I can get.
PJ: Even if we just continued ourselves, and then they paid for the tour.
P: Well touring is kind of a problem because Anna is a college professor at two different schools in the city and Sean has a good job… a real job (graphic designer) and I am a private contractor.
HEFF: How do you guys write the songs?
P: It is collaborative. We do everything together since the band has been a band but the original couple songs on the EP… when Sean was in his louder, more aggressive, guitar rock, noise rock band he would eat mushrooms and lock himself in his bedroom and record songs by himself…
HEFF: Maybe this is why you’re weird?
P: (Laughs) Yeah! But those actually became the really good like hooks and changes on the EP. I am excited to see how the new stuff will turn out. So it’s cool when you have even more people doing mushrooms!
HEFF: What do you guys think if the Philly music scene?
P: It’s so all over the place right now and everyone is in their own little world and especially still being in our other band The G. We play so many different shows. We’ll play at The Ox or something like that and then Kung Fu Necktie. Two weeks ago we played a show at the Barbary with Best Coast and it was sold out but a couple days before that The G played a sold out show with Love Is All and Japandroids. So, it’s like we are still playing the same shows but a little different.
HEFF: Is The G similar sounding?
P: It’s like a complete Sonic Youth worship band.
PJ: It is not to be confused with like a side project though.
P: But the Philly scene is awesome. I know I like that band Far-Out Fangtooth.
HEFF: What are you guys listening to now?
S: Reigning Sound.
PJ: I’ve been listening to Heavy Hands LP.
P: The Strange Boys. They’re friends of ours from Austin but I just picked up their LP. They are a really great band. I’m psyched they are touring with Spoon and shit… Dinosaur Jr. is always on the turntable. I just got a Nintendo…two Nintendo top loaders at a thrift store. It was twenty-five bucks, came with the power glove and 38 games. It’s the shit. Lately, before I go to work and climb on scary roofs and shit I’ll take a bong rip and play Nintendo and listen to Dinosaur Jr. Mario three… I still can’t beat that fucking thing.
HEFF: You could upgrade to a Wii.
S: Oh no, too many buttons.
P: No, we play horseshoes outside.
HEFF: Outdoor kids. What do you guys think of the term Hipster?
PJ: My grandmother told me I was (0ne) a couple years ago. But this was the same lady that wouldn’t let me inside of her house on my sixteenth birthday because I had a Dead Kennedys shirt on and she was like, “that’s a disgrace to our Irish heritage.” She freaked the fuck out and kicked me out.
A: That is such a hipster thing to say. You are such a hipster (laughs).
HEFF: Generally negative feelings toward the term then?
A: (Totally joking) Well I lived in Brooklyn so like yeah. I think everyone doesn’t want to say they’re a hipster but then at the same time doesn’t want other people to NOT think of them as a hipster.
PJ: My drug dealer from Austin, used to call me a hipster. He was like well you’re always downtown and you’re always doing shit. What the fuck does that mean, man? I work downtown!
Friend of Band: Do you like how they never actually answer your questions?
HEFF: It’s true but it’s okay.
Another Friend: I always think about how on Seinfeld, Elaine called Kramer a hipster doofus and I don’t want to be that guy!
P: It is a problem if you are perpetually a hipster.
S: You can only be a hipster for a certain amount of time.
A: We are leaving that time. On our way out.
P: You know how I know I am getting old? I no longer own any His Hero Is Gone records…
A: And you don’t drink 40s anymore.
P: Yeah I don’t drink those anymore. I drink New Castle. It’s my jam! And since I’ve gotten older I don’t collect noise tapes any more.
A: Yes you do! What are you talking about?
P: (Laughs) Eh whatever.
HEFF: So then you’re not that old yet.
A: He just turned 27.
P: Yeah my birthday was yesterday.
HEFF: Happy Birthday!
All: No! It was Monday.
P: I don’t remember!
A: Getting old.
HEFF: Then I retract my Happy Birthday.
PJ: Ohhh retracted.
HEFF: Any last words?
S: Well I am curious. Is it safe to say you haven’t really heard us?
HEFF: Oh no I have… But like a few hours before I came here. I liked what I heard though!
P: Tell everyone to come to our show! Tell them to check out Phonographic Arts, shop at Beautiful World Syndicate and try to get the new Creepoid record, Yellow Life Giver and we’ll have a new tape and or 7” out soon! We will be heading out on tour at the end of May, East Coast tour with Sore Eros from Boston.
HEFF: Anything else?
P: Smoke weed everyday.
Mission of Burma made my brain melt this past Friday night at the First Unitarian Church. Who knew these old men could bring it so hard? Known for their ridiculously loud shows and raging songs, Mission of Burma did not disappoint.
There have been so many times when I go to a show where the band members, to put it lightly, are no longer in their prime and it is evident in their live music. But when Mission of Burma played it was as if I were in a seedy bar in D.C or Boston in the early 80’s rocking along with all the other anti-establishment, angsty youth. They sounded amazing; their unblemished musicality and louder than life songs were just as I would imagine them to be in their heyday.
They began their set with “Set Up” and never backed down until the lights were out. “123 Partyy” and “Dirt” really got the crowd pumped. They played a great set with both old and new songs, all of which were played to perfection.
There were visible signs of aging, like the Plexiglas protecting Roger Miller from the defining drums, shortness of breath, wrinkles, grey hair etc… But their sound was unaffected.
This enormously influential band continues to make music and inspire current bands. It is not very often that a band can maintain its unique sound for this long and still create new music that is just as good. So, I can’t wait to see what is next for them and in the meantime I will get my earplugs ready for the next time they are in Philly.