28 February 2008

CD review: Bad Luck City - Adelaide (2008)

"I am stealth, I am secret, I've got a cover and I'm going to keep it."

So goes the line in Bad Luck City's song "Stealth." But it's hard to imagine this band's music really staying secret any more than one could imagine anybody staying seriously undercover "hunting ETs and chupacabras...by moonlight and candelabra."

Like many of the songs on the album, "Stealth" is serious and spooky, but balanced with a smart sense of humour, albeit something of a tragic sort of giggles. Light and dark take turns so deftly they almost seem the same thing. "Stealth" is about a self-proclaimed demon hunter, drink by drink and verse by verse, becoming more blurred as the story moves along until the demon and hunter blur into union. The layering of Hayley Helmerick's (Monofog) and Dameon Merkl's vocals brings a captivating and insidious execution to this song. But with no less than ten guaranteed FCC censor's heart attacks, this song won't be sailing the public airwaves.

From the slow and haunting melodies to the heart pumping, crescendo rising ones, every song on Adelaide is threaded with a delightful sort of creepiness. Weaving the line between recitative and ballad, the lyrics deliver stories of a longing stalker in "Suffer the Day," the forlorn "Widow Frances Colver," a regretful morning after "The Night Before" (a great cover of the Lee Hazlewood song) and the tragic tear-jerker end of a race horse "Distaff." All these, vignettes and snapshots of dark but lightly familiar characters and scenes. The music likewise, inseparably surrounds and carries the words. Even the artwork on the cover reflects Adelaide's setting of mysterious and dramatic places captured in a manner of playful yet elegant pencil-line accuracy.

With six people in the band not counting the additional vocalists and players of piano, trumpet and such on the recordings, you might think there'd be some unruly scrapping for attention and center spotlight. But no. Musical deference prevails. Pair that musical courtesy and talent with the remarkably clean mixing of sound and everything comes out sounding great.

Photo courtesy of Bad Luck City.
Album cover artwork designed by Jonathan Till.

Bad Luck City CD Release Show! This Friday!

Bad Luck City is rad
man, that sextet is cool
Radio 1190 loves Adelaide
and the Truth does too

Friday 29 February 2008
at the fabulous 3 Kings Tavern
with Monofog and Oblio Duo

27 February 2008

Preservation Dolls?

Actually, this is not a review of Tuesday night's New York Dolls show at the Gothic Theatre.

I was thinking about it though. I mean, New York Dolls! I love that band. A great band in their day, and those recordings still hold up as great today. Even if you take issue with that opinion, you can't deny them their status as a Highly Influential Punk Band. The glam and the hair, yes, the attitude and the music... all the genuine article.

I love so many bands from that era. Even though I wasn't of that era. Well, I was around but when these bands were writing their songs, I was just a baby learning to read. Still, when I got wind of this punk rock thing in the early 80s...it was life changing stuff. When I saw Iggy Pop and the Pretenders, it was great, but still the experience felt diminished by virtue of the fact that I was only seeing them in 1987. Again with the Ramones and Blondie and Tom Tom Club on their "Escape from New York" tour in 1990. One of the best line ups I've ever witnessed, great shows, great bands, but still steeped in slightly bitter "after the fact." I looking over my shoulder watching out for that creepy feeling of "nostalgia."

'Round about 1990 I took a trip to New Orleans and went to the Preservation Hall. I didn't know too much about it except that it was some old jazz dive where the serious old jazz bands used to play. Cool. Except that I was surrounded by a bunch of sandaled midwesterners in hawaiian shirts weilding flashing Minoltas. The musicians performing were old black jazz musicians and I felt bad for them making their living in this surreal way. The music was good, but in that context, it felt all wrong.

Nowadays I get to feeling uneasy when some of my favorite old bands start the tour bus up and well, I'd like to see them perform, but then I wonder if I really want to see them right now. It's tricky. Although twenty years ago was closer to the fact than now, I got into some of the the early punk rock bands because it was somewhat preserved, in audio recordings and such, so why do I feel so uneasy about these cats coming back around again for more kids to get into?

I don't have a definite answer. I have been and expect I will be struggling with this troublesome aging rocker issue for a while. I've no doubts I've got company too.

22 February 2008

Round 'em up for the Cowboy Curse show

I’ve heard from reliable sources that this’ll be Cowboy Curse's last show for many a month as they take time to tend to other creative endeavors… so you might should get up and go. I’ll be there.

That's at Bender's this very Friday evening.

It's all about me, really.

I admit being partial.

This is one of my privileges of remaining at an unpaid fanzine level of writing. I can exclusively write about only the stuff I like, or feel like writing about. Even if it seems I only write about my friends’ bands, (which incidentally isn’t completely accurate,) I think it’s an honest way to write. I don’t write about a band simply because I read about them in some music magazine from somewhere, saw on a list, or that someone else already told me was pretty good. Don’t get me wrong, this is how I find out about a lot of good stuff out there too. But if I’ve heard about it this way, unless it’s made some unique impact on me, I probably don’t have a lot to add to the conversation. I feel I’d just be tatting off a rewording of what I already heard. There are places for that, spreading the word and all, but I rarely do it.

Go to the source.

I far prefer to write about things where I have first-hand knowledge. It's my opinion that if you’ve seen something first hand, and on more than one occasion, you’ve got more depth of perception and more likely that you’ve got something of substance to say. If I know the environment and the other people in that scene, I’m going to have a greater perspective than some performer or band I’ve only seen once. And if some of the musicians I write about are my friends too, well it isn’t odd to become friends with people whose work you admire. Is it?

It is impossible.

“The heart of a melody can never be put down on paper.” I read this quote somewhere and I don’t know who to credit, but it sounds right to me. One can never get in words to the places where music can easily reach. Some people can write technically about music, and that can be useful, but it comes about as close to the heart of a melody as a list of ingredients describes what it’s like to eat your favorite meal. Though you might try to be objective, bringing music that matters to you in a review to other people really is never objective, but always personal.

It is love.

I think many times the better review turns out to be slightly more about the receiver of the music than the giver or the music itself. Even so, the attempt and the struggle to describe the heart of a melody in words, with some luck, compels fellow music lovers to find that melody and give it a listen for themselves. I’m grateful when I read something that makes me want to listen. And that is why I keep trying to describe the music I love.

15 February 2008

Planes Mistaken For Stars Final Show

Yet another chunk of marble is being carved

For the illustrious Denver Music Scene Graveyard.

What could be the epitaph for Planes Mistaken for Stars?

Perhaps, "We're glad for all that time spent in bars."

If they've been a part of your personal music history too

Stop by and tell the boys, "Hey" and "Thank you"

04 February 2008

looking forward to this

I'm admittedly a little partial, but this should be a very good show. I am totally looking forward to it. Also, I've seen the new Overcasters t-shirts and stickers and they are awesome. As of this writing there is no other way to hear this band than to get yourself out to the show and hear them. I know it's cold outside but if you love it when the music is so huge you forget everything else, you should get out for this one. And as you see, the vast and enchanting sounds of Blue Million Miles and Sonnenblume will also be there for your musical pleasure. Click on the links for a listen. Friends, I hope to see you there. Rock!