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SOUNDTRACK: Y LA BAMBA-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

I have been hearing a lot about Y La Bamba lately and for some reason I didn’t realize that they sang in Spanish (which is why I thought it was an odd name for an English-speaking band).  I know WXPN has been playing some of their songs, perhaps I only heard “My Death” and “Orca” which are in English and which they did not play at NonComm.

But they do sing in Spanish and they bring a wonderfully diverse sound to these Spanish lyrics.  And they are not simply casually Spanish either, as their mission statement explains “BEING A CHICANA, MEXICAN AMERICAN HAS BEEN AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE A STRENGTHENING JOURNEY. I AM LEARNING HOW TO CELEBRATE MY BEAUTY, HISTORY, BE AND HEAL FROM WITHIN IT.”  Nor are they exclusively Spanish. “I WRITE IN SPANISH BECAUSE IT WANTS TO BE SUNG, I WRITE IN ENGLISH BECAUSE IT WANTS TO BE SAID.”

Lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Luz Elena Mendoza is the daughter of immigrants from Michoacán, and she has channeled into her music her Mexican-American heritage and her many frustrations with American culture.

And she demands the audience’s respect.  I would have found this particular set very uncomfortable as Mendoza, called out talkers in the back of the room, demanded silence and respect.  I’m all for silence and respect for bands during shows.  In fact I wish more bands would demand it, but this was really uncomfortable to listen to and I wasn’t even there.

Demanding silence form the drinkers at the bar, she said “I don’t come here to waste my time, […] you hear me?” She waited for the crowd’s attention. “You hear me? […] OK. Because that’s real. I’m not here to be cool, to give you something that you think might be cool. I’m here to give you my parents’ story.”

This is all pretty awesome, but since nearly all of the songs they sang were in Spanish, I’m not sure how much the audience really got out of what she was singing.

The blurb describes their music as a “mix of indie-punk, música mexicana and raw emotional storytelling” while Mendoza sings and raps in Spanish and English, railing against misogyny, patriarchy, and white ignorance.

Y La Bamba were at their most intense last night when Mendoza rapped in unison with keyboardist Julia Mendiolea, including on their fiery opener, “Paloma Negra”(“Black Pigeon”).

There’s some gentle echoing guitars (Ryan Oxford) and some bouncy synths underneath their very fast rapping.

As the raging “Paloma Negra” concluded, drummer Miguel Jimenez-Cruz instantly slid into a sly tresillo groove that marked the introduction to “Boca Llena,”

Later, “Bruja de Brujas” introduced all kinds of cool sounds in the bass (Zack Teran) and the percussion.  It was funky and fun.  The song ended with a

a wash of echoing cymbals and guitars that finally coalesced into the arrival of “Cuatro Crazy,”

This was the first (and only) song sung in English.  It was quiet with the two singers singing in a gentle falsetto over washes of guitar.

A blend of phasers, distortion and delay lines infused the band’s guitar and vocal sounds with an electric energy, and helped Mendiolea’s synth provide a brooding ambient backdrop for the spoken-word “Santa Sal.”  This was spoken in English, but it had some echoing and it was a little hard to follow.

It was during the introduction to “Una Letra” that Mendoza started to get angry with the crowd.

As she introduced the ballad “Una Letra,” Mendoza explained to the crowd, “It’s about domestic violence. It’s about my mom writing a letter to me, wishing […] for me to have the good things that she couldn’t have. And if those don’t want to hear this story, and you’re here to listen, then I don’t know what you’re doing here.”  Mendoza and her bandmates gently repeated, “No se sabe. No se sabe, se comprende.” — “You don’t know. You don’t know and you don’t understand.”

Again, she has every right to be annoyed that she’s telling these personal stories and people are apparently ignoring her.  But again, it’s hard to “hear the story” if you don’t understand the language.

This is when she launched into her “I don’t come here to waste my time, […] you hear me?”  tirade.  But It felt a little better when she sent her anger to someone who should know better.

“I’m very disappointed in Morrissey,” she went on to refer to a 2018 interview that Fiona Dodwell conducted with the former Smiths frontman, for which he has received intense backlash. In the interview, Morrissey aligned himself with a UK political movement known as For Britain and dismissed the many critics who have deemed the movement extremist and racist.  Morrissey performed at NonCOMM just a few hours before Y La Bamba on Tuesday night, before a crowd that presumably included some of the same listeners who attended the Y La Bamba set.  “I’ve been a huge fan of Morrissey and I just heard him talk,” Mendoza continued, “He thinks that ‘racism’ is just a childish word that we use against one another. He’s a white man with so much privilege! I am so disappointed!”

I had wondered if anyone would allude to Morrissey’s recent politics statements and thought no one had.  But Mendoza did not hold back.

I don’t know if Morrissey had anything to do with the next song but “Soñadora” shimmied ans swayed and Mendoza’s voice soared to new heights. “Corazón, corazón,” she and her bandmates chanted.

What is particularly unsettling is that on the recording, people sound respectful, but apparently she is unhappy with the crowd.

Before a gentle solo rendition of “Entre Los Dos,” she said

“I politely ask for everyone’s silence,” she said. But as the bar and the back the room remained noisy, she continued, “Because what are we doing here? … People wanna have their drinks, but I’m really asking — just giving benefit of the doubt — just everyone’s silence. To actually listen to what’s happening….  If you saw, ‘Y La Bamba is playing,’ and you saw what record I put out, and you got to read the story — you got to hear that it’s for women.” This prompted shouts of approval from several voices in the room, but Mendoza seemed intent on getting the attention of even more of the crowd. “You know? Right? Right? Isn’t that what we’re here for? … Let’s remember that, OK? Come on, we’re not children anymore. You know what I’m saying?”

She strummed her guitar softly and continued on with the song, but stopped singing again at one point to remind the room, “I’m not gonna play my song until everyone gets the point … I’m making my point, and I’m gonna make my point everywhere I go. It’s not really about like, you know, hearing me sing, it’s about listening. Like, yeah, if I get to sing, cool. But it’s about listening … and it’s really hard. Like, nobody even knows what I’m talking about back there. No one.” She then addressed those closest to the stage. “But I see you! I see those who are in the front. I see you. I hear you, with your heart.”

Of all of the comment she made, I though this was the most powerful and could be used in any context

After Mendoza completed “Entre Los Dos”, Jimenez-Cruz began a low drum roll and Oxford’s electric guitar shuddered back to life. Before the band began their final two numbers, Mendoza looked to front row of the crowd with resolve. “You guys wanna help me sing this song?”

“When I show up here, it starts right here.  When I ask for silence I really wanna be taken seriously.  When I am out there walking out on the street, I am not going to count on it. “

That’s pretty powerful and reasonable thing to say.  But she seems so pissed when she says it that it’ hard to know how to respond to her request that everyone sing a long to a pretty melody of “dadada da da da”  “Riosueltos” is a great rocking rap-filled song.  It was my favorite of the set, with its cool bass and guitar.

The set ends with “De Lejos”an upbeat dancey number with some great wild guitar work.

Before this show I was curious about Y La Bamba, but I can tell they are not a band I need to see live–I wonder if she’ll demand the same respect at XPNFest, when people are not there just to see them.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “Green Ash Tree”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

I don’t normally write about poems.  Certainly not ones that appear in magazines (this blog would be all poetry if  did that).  But for a summer reading issue that features three poets, since I wrote about the other two, I figured I should include this one as well.

Of the three, I feel like I “got” this one the least.

A tree never dies
except in our neighborhood.  Green ash,
stripped in old age, all branches
cleanly lopped by saws: a torso standing

Upon being aware of this poor specimen (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MORRISSEY-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

Morrissey was (to me) quite a surprise performer at NonComm.  It seems way too “exposed” for him.  When I mentioned divas not mingling with fans, it was Morrissey I had in mind.  I don’t know if he mingled anywhere at NonComm, but, speaking of divas, he does not have a live stream available.

I had the radio on when he performed and heard a bit of his set.  I was impressed with his voice.  It doesn’t sound like it used to in his heyday, but it still sounds strong.  He seems to have modified the songs to allow his somewhat deeper, gravellier voice to work well with them.

I was supposed to see Morrissey last time he came to Philly.  I even had a ticket. But better than a Morrissey show, I got a Morrissey excuse–the show was cancelled.  On the night of the show!  So I don’t feel the need to see him now.  I wonder if he’ll actually make it to his show this summer.

Since I can’t re-listen to his NonComm set, I’ll have to rely on the (lengthy) blurb that The Key has written.

Morrissey was as cynical, self-obsessed and self-assured as ever at NonCOMM on Tuesday night. “I have to warn you before I begin,” he offered slyly as he took center stage. “I have never in my life been this close to another human being. So If I don’t do something illegal, I will do something extremely… enjoyable.”

The World Cafe crowd responded with a roar, and the band burst into a rowdy rendition of “Alma Matters” from Morrissey’s 1997 album Maladjusted. His croon was grave and full-throated, and the band matched his machismo with pounding drums and several wailing guitar solos early in the set. Morrissey strutted across the stage, full of pomp and in his element; he danced with his microphone stand, clapped along to the band, and took every opportunity to denounce his critics, including in song. “So, the choice I have made may seem strange to you. But who asked you anyway? It’s my life to wreck, my own way,” began his opening number. The Manchester native dressed himself in all black, with a t-shirt proclaiming “MEAT IS MURDER” (also the name of a 1985 LP by his former band, The Smiths) and dressed his band in blood-red tees that threatened “BE KIND TO SEALS OR I’LL CULL YOU.” (These shirts are also available on Morrissey’s website.)

But for all his sarcasm, egotism and brash political inclinations, the Philadelphia crowd still hoped to show Morrissey plenty of genuine affection. Dozens of fans standing in the front row reached out to hold his hand each time he stepped downstage; one of his most ardent fans attempted to climb onstage before being shoved back down by a security officer, and another fan got so far as to step onto center stage and lock Morrissey in an embrace before security managed to pull them away from the singer.

Did this really happen?  Is there footage?  He didn’t cancel the rest of the set?

The crowd enjoyed a set spanning Morrissey’s career, including “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” from 2009’s Years of Refusal, the Pretenders cover “Back on the Chain Gang” from 2017’s Low in High School, and the Jobriath cover “Morning Starship” from his upcoming album California Son.

Recently, as Morrissey has begun making public appearances to promote California Son, journalists and fellow musicians have criticized him for his outspoken support of For Britain, a UK political party that many have deemed extremist and racist. On Monday night, Morrissey appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform “Morning Starship,” and he wore a lapel pin featuring For Britain’s trident logo. On Monday night at NonCOMM, he wore no pin and made no mention of the controversy, although he seemed bent on repelling all those who might judge him (as usual).

I was very curious if anyone would say anything about him or to him about what he;’s been saying lately, but apparently not.  Left-wing Morrissey fans (like me) are able to turn compartmentalize.

In between two songs, he gave the crowd a snarky smile and chuckled, “As I thank you now, I have many critics. I have many critics. As you know, I have many critics,” he repeated, before concluding, “They’re all idiots!” With that, he exploded into his most contemptuous number of the night, “If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look At Me.”  “See if I care! See if I care! See if I care!” he taunted in each verse. Growling lead guitar propelled this song toward its climactic finish, which was marked by Morrissey’s send-off, “Don’t get your knickers in a twist!” (These lyrics do not appear in the recorded version from 2009.)

Morrissey also performed one Smiths track — “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” from Meat is Murder — before finishing with “The Bullfighter Dies” and the menacing “Jack the Ripper.” During the closer, white strobe lights struck him as his deep laugh echoed through the hall. Then, while the clanging guitars faded and the stage smoke dissolved, he smugly proclaimed, “I love you. Goodnight.” He tore his shirt in two, ripped it off and tossed it into the crowd, then departed.

Wait, he tore his shirt off?  For real?

I need more pictures to see what really happened.  And I’d like to hear “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” to see if he or Johnny Marr now sings songs from The Smiths better.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “Extinction Sonnets”

I don’t normally write about poems.  Certainly not ones that appear in magazines (this blog would be all poetry if  did that).  But for a summer reading issue that features three poets, I thought I’d make an exception.

Especially for this one.

And it seems quite apt for Morrissey.

This depressing series of five poems is five sonnets written to extinct species.

The Monteverde Toad (Costa Rica)

This one offers some modicum of hope:

like fallen stars How lost the scientists
wondering where you went and why. Perhaps mist

there’s still hope that one day you’ll be found
like buried treasure: patient, underground.

The Baiji Dolphin (China)

[once] esteemed as a goddess: one glimpse then gone–

this time you’re drowned for real, will not return
no matter how much incense people burn.

The Black-Faced Honeycreeper (Hawaii)

The Honeycreeper is not yet extinct but is very close. Hence

rarest bird in the world

hidden on remote Haleakala

They say that you are “unusually quiet.”
Well, lonely as you are, why would you sing?
You pretty thing, pretty thing, pretty thing.

The River Otter (Japan)

Once abundant at as reeds in the waters
where you swam and played and raised your young for years,
you’ve disappeared victim of casual slaughter
because humans must wear fur.  Profiteers…

The Pyrenean Ibex (France and Spain)

extinction’s a mystery
we’ll never understand.  But full of guilt
or full of pride, we tried to fix history
by cloning you.  No luck.

The end of this poem summarizes the whole series and summarizes humanity, too.

The things we killed
can never be restored, we know that now.
What we don’t know is who dies next, and how.

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SOUNDTRACK: BAILEN-NONCOMM 2019 (May 14, 2019).

A couple of years ago I had a pass to NonComm, but ultimately I decided not to go.  I had never been to World Cafe Live and, while it sounded like a fun time, it was just so many mid-week nights and lots of leaving early, that it sounded more exhausting than fun.

I have now been to World Cafe Live and I can imagine that the (less divaish) bands are hanging around talking to people (and radio personalities) which is probably pretty cool.

I love the idea of these sorta personal concerts, too.  But I have since come to see that they are 20-45 minutes tops.  Hardly worth driving 90 minutes (one-way) for.

But since the shows are streaming you can watch them live.  Or you can listen here.

Bailen is a trio made up of siblings Julia, Daniel and David Bailen.  The have an interesting mix of rock and country with folk leanings all serving as a backdrop for their stunning harmony vocals. 

They opened with “Rose Leaves,” which features lead vocals fro Julia and lovely harmonies from David.  Those harmonies continued on “Something Tells Me” in which both of them sang the whole song in perfect synchronicity.

“Going on a Feeling” is a much faster song with, again, dual vocals for the verses and then some cool Fleetwood Mac-esque vocals for the chorus.  There’s some really gorgeous wordless-harmonizing during the middle of the song and the a fairly rocking guitar solo from Julia.  That’s Julia on guitar for all of the songs as well as Daniel on bass and his twin David on drums.  So they’re sort of like the mixed-doubles version of Joseph.  Daniel says they couldn’t find any friends to be in their band, so it’s just family members.

After a jokey “thank you for choosing NonComm over ComicCon,” they play “I Was Wrong.”  The song has been getting a lot of justified airplay on WXPN and I really like it.  I really like the riff and the way it counterpoints with the smooth chorus.  It’s also catchy as anything (and their voices are stunning–even live).

It’s fun to hear a young band play a festival like this and talk about meeting some of the other bands.  I think it’s David who says, “we’re technically opening for Morrissey… with some stairs involved.”

“Your Love is All I Know”  sounds even more Fleetwood Mac the way the guitar and drums open the song.  There’s some country leaning in the sound,  but then another ripping buzzing rock guitar sound rocks the ending.

Their set ended with “Not Gonna Take Me.”  One of the guys sings the main lead vocal.  But when Julia adds harmonies after a few verses, it’;s magical once again.

I can see Bailen getting huge and yet, I can also see them being too hard to market.  Which is a shame because their music is superb.

[READ: May 3, 2019] “The Second Coming of the Plants”

The July/August issue of The Walrus is the Summer Reading issue.  This year’s issue had three short stories and three poems as special features.

I have enjoyed Gartner’s stories in the past. I liked the premise of this story but felt that, even at its short length, it was too long.  I get that the over the top language is done for effect, but plants can be boring too.

The premise of the story is that plants have taken enough from people and animals and are ready to dominate the earth.

There are three parts to the story, with the first being “Twilight of the Insects.”  This section is very long compared to the other two.  In this one, we hear about the plants kingdom’s rage.  Rage at letting “the insects carry on our fornication for us.”  Especially since “some of us virtually all vulva and vagina, penis and gland.”  They are the true hermaphrodites. The Mighty Hermaphrodites! (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 2, 2019] Christian Lee Hutson

I had not heard of Christian Lee Hutson before this show. I had no idea that he was in the Better Oblivion Community Center band (multi-instrumentalist) or that he has written songs for BOCC and boygenius (and that Phoebe Bridgers was producing his album).  So he has a lot of connections in this Community.

He looks rather Southern California.  With his sweeping hair and good looks he could be an extra on the new Veronica Mars series).  But he sings in a lovely accent-less voice. His voice and his guitar lines are clean and classic.  His melodies sound ageless, aside from his more contemporary lyrics (like on Northsiders):

We were so pretentious then
Didn’t trust the government
Said that we were communists
And thought that we invented it

Morrissey apologists
Amateur psychologists
Serial monogamists
We went to different colleges

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 22, 2018] Johnny Marr

My friend Garry got me into The Smiths in high school. I had been exclusively into metal before that, but there was something about the guitars and lyrics of The Smiths that I really enjoyed.  And I quickly became a huge fan of Johnny Marr.

The Smiths broke up in 1987 and that was that.  Johnny Marr has since gone on to play with dozens of bands, including Electronic, The The and Modest Mouse.  He has also been releasing solo albums along the way, but I didn’t really listen to any of those.

Because of my love for The Smiths and much of Morrissey’s solo work, I tried to see Morrissey last year.  Of course that show got cancelled.  So I assumed I’d never get to see any members of The Smiths live (I have no idea what the bassist and drummer have been up to).

Then I saw that Johnny Marr was doing a one-off in New York City for his new album Call the Comet (which was getting great reviews).  I tried to get tickets but didn’t.  Oh well, no big loss.  Then a few months later, he announced a small U.S. tour including a stop in Philly.  He has only played Philly in 2003, 2013 and 2014.  So this seemed like my only chance.

I don’t know much about the guy himself.  Morrissey, as we all know, is a prat.

But what about Johnny?  Is he an aloof 80s alt rock star?  Like hell he is.  His merch all says “Johnny Fuckin Marr.”  He was chatty and funny.  He had on a great shirt and smiled a lot.  He was generally a load of laughs.  Who would have guessed?

But the real question is, Is Johnny Marr to stuck up to play Smiths songs?  Like hell he is.  Actually I didn’t know if he’d play any Smiths songs. But i was pretty psyched when he played six of them.

But he was there to promote Call the Comet and so he started out with a new song called “The Tracers.”  It had a repeating “whooo whooo” refrain and a rocking guitar part.  Knowing what I know about Marr, I never expected his songs to rock out like this.  And yet they did rock out.  Virtually every song he played was rocking and full-bodied.  And his backing band was fantastic James Doviak played guitar and keys.  I enjoyed that he supplemented Marr, playing mostly rhythm guitar but occasionally taking on some of Marr’s signature sounds as well.  Despite the shades, he never stepped into the bright lights

Johnny then delighted me and everyone in the room by playing the opening chords of The Smiths’ “Bigmouth Strikes Again.”  This is one of the first Smiths songs I’d ever heard and it was amazing to hear it live.  The crowd went berserk (so many old men dancing!) and then Johnny sang.

Johnny is no Morrissey and he does not try to be. He does not sing like Morrissey, but he does have the same Mancunian accent so while it was no Morrissey it was not exactly wrong either.  The delivery was less arch but was still right.  It was an awesome treat.  If that was the only Smiths song he played I would have been happy.  But he had a few more tucked away.

He followed that up with the new song, a B-side to “Hi Hello” called “Jeopardy” which had a rockin riff and trippy vocals.  Then he played “Day In Day Out” which has an acoustic-sounding guitar.  Doviak didn’t switch guitars, he juts switched effects which was pretty cool.

Johnny sang from the center of the stage where the soft lights were on him.  Sometimes he was obscured by white, other times, he was faintly visible.  But every time he took a guitar solo he walked up to the front of the stage where the spotlights shone on him and we could see him in all of his leather jacketed or heart-print-shirted glory. The only bad thing was that the really tall men (are all former goths really tall? At least none of them had Robert Smith hair) would put heir heads together blocking my view to scrutinize his playing, leaving me looking at pomade and bald spots.

He said, “Hi guys, how are you all doing.”  He then corrected that he wasn’t only talking to the men.  He’s from England, if he was only talking to the men, he’d say “hello darlings.”  This was an introduction of sorts to “Hi Hello.”   And then came the opening riff to “The Headmaster Ritual.”  So there would be more than one Smiths song!  This song, in addition to having a great guitar riff also has a notable bass line which Iwan Gronow played perfectly.  It was like hearing the band (except that Johnny sang “same old suit since 1982”).

The next cover was a huge surprise because I had forgotten that Johnny was in the duo Electronic (with Bernard Summer from New Order).  Neil Tennant was a guest on “Getting Away with It” (Neil did not guest at TLA, of course).  It was odd because I knew this song pretty well but it sounded so different. The original has lots of keys but this song had far more guitar than synth (and no Neil Tennant).  But the guy next to me (short with a nice head of white hair) danced like a fool.

“Hey Angel” has some great guitar soloing.  Then Johnny switched gears to play a beautiful “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me.” It was interesting as he sang the words and I wondered what he thought about Morrissey’s lyrics.  They are so distinctly The Smiths, but would he have ever written anything like that himself?  Certainly he doesn’t now.  Did he feel weird singing it?  I can’t imagine that Johnny Marr has felt that way in decades 🙂

He joked that politics was fun eh?  Given Morrissey’s recent proclamations, who knew where he was going with this, but he just proceeded to say that “Bug” was dedicated to “you know who.”

Then he asked, “Any requests?  Bet you weren’t expecting to hear that!”  People shouted some favorites and he responded “That’s no one of our songs, sir.” And then finally he said, “What’s that you say sir ‘Get the Message’ from 1991.  Yea I think I can do that.”  This was another Electronic song although I wasn’t as familiar with it (but that other guy sure was).

“Easy Money” from his previous album also sounded familiar.  Perhaps it had some airplay a few years ago.  The guitar chords were very Johnny Marr but the riff was heavy and the verses were very synthy.  Either way it was pretty great.  He followed it up with another song from Playland, “Boys Get Straight.”  It was also a solid rocker, with great drums from Jack Mitchell.  Clearly I need to check out his solo albums.

Just as I was wondering how long of a show Johnny Marr would do, he started playing the most iconic riff in all alternative rock.  “How Soon is Now” was just amazing.  Johnny played the echoing chords and Doviak plays the searing note  The only downside to the whole thing was that I could barely see him or Doviak the whole time.  However, being in the same room as the guy playing those chords was more than enough.

That was a set ender and frankly could have been a concert ender, it was something I’d hoped for and I got and I was satisfied.

But they did indeed come back for an encore.   As has become traditional, the encore included two songs from the new album before getting onto real encore material.

He played that chord and we all knew it was “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.”  I never thought I’d hear a room full of middle-aged men sing “to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die!”  It was amazing.

When that song was over he told us that we were the last night on his tour so how about one more?  (It turns out he played the same two songs back to back on all of his shows.  In fact it was the same setlist all tour, but he did make us feel special).

And who cares if he was lying when the opening notes of “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby” rang out and once again, we all freaked out.  It was an awesome end to the show and left all of us singing and happy.

I had basically written off Morrissey bailed on us last time.  I basically felt that I would maybe go see him if he ever came back, but possibly not.

But now that I’ve seen Johnny Fuckin Marr play “How Soon is Now” what do I need Morrissey for?

 

SETLIST

  1. The Tracers 
  2. Bigmouth Strikes Again š
  3. Jeopardy (b-side of single)
  4. Day In Day Out €
  5. New Dominions 
  6. Hi Hello 
  7. The Headmaster Ritual š
  8. Walk Into the Sea 
  9. Getting Away With It 
  10. Hey Angel 
  11. Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me š
  12. Bug 
  13. Get the Message 
  14. Easy Money 
  15. Boys Get Straight 
  16. How Soon is Now? š
  17. encore
  18. Rise 
  19. Spiral Cities 
  20. There is a Light That Never Goes Out š
  21. You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby š

Call the Comet (2018)
Playland (2014)
š The Smiths cover
Electronic cover

 

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815SOUNDTRACK: NAP EYES-Thought Rock Fish Scale (2016).

Nap Eyes’ second full album doesn’t deviate too much from their first, although the songwriting has gotten stronger and the band branches out in small ways.

I love the simple but effective bass throb that runs though “Mixer.”  The lead guitar isn’t quite as noisy as on the previous, but the song doesn’t suffer from the lack.  Overall the song, and the album, feels more immediate, which is a good thing.

“Stargazer” is catchy right from the get go–a simple but cool guitar riff and some nice rumbling bass.  And after the first verse, the second guitar plays a nice harmony of that immediately catchy riff.  Plus, the lyrics feel even more pointed:

I have seen people go by me with such
Determination that it’s sick
I’d like to go the places they don’t know how to get to
But I can’t remember the trick
So I wait around and venomously crown myself
Serpent king of my sins
But if I go down I’m not taking you with me
It’s only myself in the end

“Lion in Chains” has a very Velvet Underground feel, in the best way–Nigel’s voice is closer and clearer and the it’s great the way deadpan chorus soars as he tries to keep it tethered.  I also love the interesting/mundane way he songs about things: “here at the arcade I spent about 45,000 dimes.”

“Don’t Be Right” changes the tone quite a bit–a loud plucked guitar and smooth bass push the song along quite briskly until the chorus slows things down with the wry observation: “Don’t be right – it isn’t good for you / You may not realize it, but it’s not / When you’re right, you barely know what to do / Just sit around thinking and cry a lot.”

“Click Clack” has a smooth opening which shifts after two verses into a loud jangling chord with a Lou Reed via Morrissey delivery:

Sometimes drinking I feel so happy / but then I can’t remember why / I feel sad all over again // sometimes drinking I don’t know my best friend for my best friend

and then it resumes with the most Lou Reed delivery yet

The longest song on the album is “Alaskan Shake.”  It has an almost country feel–a one-two bass line and a lead guitar played with a slide.  Around four minutes the song shifts directions briefly with some loud chords but then it shifts back with that loud slide guitar.

“Roll It” is a faster song, although the tempo slow down half way through is really striking.  It’s even more so when it seems to double down on that tempo change after another verse.  You almost don’t want the song to resume the fats tempo, but I like that way it wraps back up on itself to end.

The album (shorter than the first) ends with the two and a half-minute “Trust.”  Even though this album is shorter, it explores a lot more terrain and is a wonderful step from the first.

The band has a new album coming out next month.  I’m really curious to see what direction they go in especially since the new album cover looks very different from these first two.

[READ: July 21, 2015] “The Course of Happiness”

This was the 2015 New Yorker fiction issue.  It featured several stories and several one-page essays from writers I like.  The subject this time was “Time Travel.”

Erdrich takes time travel in an entirely unexpected way.  She says that being from the midwest she should probably  imagine all the good she could do if she could time travel–vaccinating people against old-world diseases or killing a young Hitler, but she says that all of that is too much to consider. (more…)

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[POSTPONED/CANCELLED: December 4, 2017] Morrissey

I have been a fan of The Smiths since my friend Garry introduced me to them back in the 80s.  I enjoyed much of Morrissey’s solo output (to varying degrees).  Obviously, I never saw The Smiths live.  I had never really considered seeing Morrissey live until my recent concert-going binge.

When he came around to Philly a couple of years ago I joked that he was probably going to cancel, so I didn’t bother getting a ticket.  But he didn’t cancel and my friends who went said he was great.

Over the past couple of months (alright, years) he’s been saying a bunch of really stupid-ass shit.  The kind of stupid-ass shit that should upset his fans, but probably no one else.  His fans are all a little to die-hard to care, though, so he’s sort of yelling into a vacuum.  Making headlines that people who hate him say “see he’s an ass,” and fans say, “oh never mind him.”

Well, I decided that this was the tour I’d go see him.  Fully cognizant of the fact that he might cancel the show.  And early on, he cancelled a show in L.A. because the temperature wasn’t right.

He played Madison Square Garden the night before this show and all was fine. (more…)

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