Monthly Archives: January 2013

Borrowed Time: A line from Television to Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts

Now based in Brooklyn, there is very much to love about the transplanted Texans who form Parquet Courts. Comparisons to other bands have been plentiful, and Parquet Courts have been generous with information about their many influences. They have cited the influence of Guided By Voices, Pavement, The Fall, and even a number of fiction writers. So it is surprising not to have come across any material noting the wonderful and clear similarities between the music of Parquet Courts debut, Light up Gold, and the treasured 1970s genius of Television’s Marquee Moon.



Right up front there is the shared garage-rock ethos: both bands feature gritty, dual-guitar attacks; a consistent “yeah, that’s right!” sneer in the vocals; and alternately thick muscular beats and spare but bright cymbals. New York City is also surely a catalyst. Television could have come from nowhere other than NYC and helped to define a whole decade of American punk. Parquet Courts refused to come from anywhere other than New York, and they are energetically propelling the traditions of American punk.

There are positive elements of music that are capable of creating “time travel” experiences for listeners. (This is a thread that runs through my posts.) Check out Yr No Stoner, a wonderful track from Light up Gold.



If you’re like me, you can close your eyes and imagine CBGB. Patti Smith is in the house.  Richard Hell is itching to get up on the stage and start jumping around.

Guitarist and vocalist Austin Brown

Guitarist and vocalist Austin Brown

I am eager to continue following this band and Light Up Gold has stayed in the rotation since its release on the WYR/Dull Tools label back in January.

As a comparison, check out the classic Television song See No Evil from Marquee Moon. The vocal deliveries and the weaving of the guitar lines have some real similarities.

Posted in Music | Leave a comment

Let’s turn down the static world…

The year is not yet half over but there are already a few tunes that will certainly show up on ‘favorites’ lists when we are bidding 2013 farewell. Some super strong songs through mid-May:

kanye Black Skinhead by Kanye West (built around a mindblowing reimagining of Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll)

Eschew all your preconceptions about, and current cultural references to, Kanye West. Then link to the video below of the great artist tearing it up on SNL. The intensity and the commitment on display cannot be manufactured. This is truth as delivered by Kanye West, and the best analogues for this performance are athletic. The comparisons that will mean anything will come from sport: think of Pele balletically contorting for a bicycle kick on goal; Reggie Jackson ripping a third, clutch homerun in a post-season game; LeBron James hitting a gamewinning three pointer at the buzzer. He was electrifying.

Kanye is just killing it – always himself – always owning the performance – and also laying it down ala Malcolm X, Isaac, and Sly: “For my theme song / My leather black jeans on /My by any mean on / Pardon I’m getting my scream on.” How is something so shocking as this even still possible? Prepare yourself for the thrill of Black Skinhead:

Jon HopkinsOpen Eye Signal by Jon Hopkins

When you were a little kid, you occasionally had dreams where you were running. And your running became almost like flight. Remember? You ran, picking up speed, and after a number of paces your body was so solid and light that the lengths of your steps widened almost impossibly. You just barely touched your foot down before propelling your churning body back up, springing forward from the ground. Floating forward.

Jon Hopkins will release the record Immunity on Domino in early June. If you want to have the waking musical equivalent of your old running dream, hit this link for his tune Open Eye Signal. It is eight minutes of wonderfully entrancing music:

wax idolsSound of a Void by Wax Idols

Wax Idols is a Bay Area outfit making choice music that is very welcome (and new) to me. While sounding brilliantly fresh and original, they give me the desired “time travel” experience that the best music can give. In this case Wax Idols transport me back in time to the rich and dark early-1980s. They are led by a tornadic creative force, Hether Fortune, who openly draws on the influences of my beloved Siouxsie (and the Banshees) and Daniel Ash (Tones on Tail, Love and Rockets, Bauhaus.)

Fortune is the architect of a remarkable release from March 2013 called Discipline and Desire, out now on the Slumberland Records label. She and her band blaze, and they deserve your attention. The sound is brand new and also somehow like something from your heavy rotation between 1981 and 1986. I can’t get enough of it.

Listen to their magnificent song Sound of a Void:

  mbv  only tomorrow and if i am by My Bloody Valentine

The band comes together like parts of a sentient, warm-blooded machine on m b v, My Bloody Valentine’s long-awaited February self-release.  The magic of this band for me is not just its inventiveness, its sonic variety, or the wild guitar mixes. It has been their ability to marry a sincerity and vulnerability in their vocals with swirling, muscular, and decisive rhythms.  My Bloody Valentine creates an artistic experience that goes way beyond listening. It is a whole way of feeling.

Check out their beautiful song only tomorrow

and if i am

Posted in Music | Leave a comment

The Jazz Age by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra


In the 1970s Roxy Music made groundbreaking, influential art rock. By the early 1980s when they released their eighth and final record, they were producing super romantic, lush adult rock. When the music was originally being released I listened to it mostly passively, finding it interesting and pleasant enough. For the sake of comparison to other experimental British art rock, my friends and I mostly loved David Bowie and Pink Floyd, and we sort of liked King Crimson and Jethro Tull. My engagement with Roxy Music was somewhere around half way between these loves and likes, but I was not buying Roxy Music records like I did Bowie’s and Pink Floyd’s. By the time I was an undergraduate in college in the mid-eighties, I found the music and the attitude of ten + years worth of Roxy Music much ‘cooler’. I began to recognize how important the early experimental Brian Eno / Bryan Ferry music was – while also coming to love the more mature sounds of Avalon and then Bryan Ferry’s solo work after the band’s final release in 1982.
Ferry’s music from the 70s and 80s can transport me still. When I hear it incidentally, familiar faces from college days pop to mind, and I think of formative, carefree times. I remember vividly how Bryan Ferry’s unapologetic theatricality, his romantic, fancy dress, and the cool slicked-back hair all came together with his big frame, angular features, and sleepy eyes through his velvety voice. He was cool in a way that seemed so grown up and so unsnobbily ‘above’ the cool of pale-skinned, black-clad goth performers I was loving at the time like Robert Smith, Soiuxsie, Daniel Ash, or Nick Cave. His voice seemed to me to be so romantic and sincere and smooth – all so effortless. What a voice.
So, Bryan Ferry, the sensuous voice behind Roxy Music, has a newish release, and it is an instrumental. That’s right, no vocals! It is one of the most wonderful releases of the last six months. The Jazz Age by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra is a triumphant re-imagining of thirteen of his songs as 1920s orchestral jazz. Many of the band’s most recognizable tunes, as well as some of Ferry’s own solo work, have found a place on The Jazz Age. Whether taking an early Roxy Music tune, like the glam-rock Do the Strand, or a late and more mature song from the band like Avalon, there is a wonderfully cohesive style that runs through the whole disk. It makes me think of 20s music as styled by Count Basie and Louis Armstrong.
It works so well, The Jazz Age transports me to a time I never experienced. Listening to this wonderful piece with eyes closed, you can easily imagine the ice cold feel of a martini glass stem between your fingers. You can almost smell the the room filled with perfume and tobacco smoke. You can sense the cool metal cufflink at your wrist and the swish of dancing silk and lace on your partner’s straight line evening dress. You can feel the 20s roaring right around you.
A link to the Don’t Stop the Dance youtube video:
You may recognize these titles from the track list of The Jazz Age:
Posted in Music | Leave a comment

Have another cigarette and have another cigarette…

Remember how much you loved The Psychedelic Furs? You did. You loved them. They made you feel great. Even their name made you happy. So apt, so evocative, so druggy and cool — few rock bands have selected a name as perfectly fitting*.

The Psychedelic Furs

Actually, you love them still. Super dark and rich in the center, The Psychedelic Furs’ early sound was somehow still bright and gossamer at the edges.  And, to be sure, I am only thinking about the band’s early output which often was completely brilliant — from their punk-inspired beginnings (the self-titled masterpiece debut, The Psychedelic Furs,) through their fourth record, (the uneven Mirror Moves). From there, they suffered the sort of tragic popularity that is so unfortunate for many fans: a popularity that dulled the band’s edge – a tragedy that befell a few other great outfits in the late-1980s.

The early recordings give me the “time travel experience” that I love so much in some music. Listening to it now can still make me dizzy with delight. The zeitgeist of The Psychedelic Furs first few records does not weigh their sound down negatively, though. It is transcendent. The music still works so well because it is direct and original; it has dark rock-n-roll swagger; and it’s sincere, moving, and important.

All of this...

All of This and Nothing is an excellent track from the second LP, Talk Talk Talk. This tune exemplifies the band’s wonderful mixture of snapping beats, drunken saxophone, ringing guitars, and ethereal, whooshing production. All of this tied together with Richard Butler’s assured and smoky voice.

Sister Europe

And Richard Butler was impossible! He achieved and maintained an unattainable version of cool and somehow he managed to seem accessible. There was a flicker of at least vague possibility that he was the type of guy who would sit down and share a cigarette and a beer with you. His voice is absolutely distinct and his lyrical interpretations are unimaginable by another performer. He had a straightforward androgyny that pushed to the front of his performance and set a clear tone, stating from the start with his appearance and his actions that he was a performer both honest and unforced. You can see him shaking it all up and spilling it out in Sister Europe:

* Of course, you’ll think of some other great, fitting band names. Like Lush, maybe. Or The Velvet Underground. Now go listen to The Furs!

Posted in Music | Leave a comment