The light at The Mother Hips free concert in Driggs, ID was literally golden, with none of the haze from the heat that’s been affecting the West of late filtering out the yellow. We came across a stand where hula hoops were hanging. It was a gorgeous evening in America.
Given how strong the last two major Brian Jonestown Massacre albums have been, and how successful was their 2014 summer tour of Europe, we weren’t at all surprised that Anton Newcombe would feature on our favorite album so far this summer. That it’s not a BJM album, but a collaboration with a young singer and songwriter from Toronto named Tess Parks that has given the hard drive on our music machine a workout is something of a revelation.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have been, for Parks’ first album, Blood Hot, which came out in 2013, was superb, and seemed well steeped in BJM dynamics: dreamy guitar lines, songs constructed around repetition of verses, choruses, but few bridges. (If you’d told me “Gates Of Broadway” was a Massacre recording, and as he did so successfully with Sarabeth Tucek, or Miranda Lee Richards, Newcombe simply was featuring a woman singing his songs, I’d have believed it.) Apparently, following the BJM 2014 tour, Anton invited Tess over to his place, and from the moment they met, a May-September collaboration was joined. Since last fall, using YouTube as the distribution medium, we’ve been getting glimpses of their work together, and now that we have the whole album, it all makes perfect sense. I Declare Nothing may be viewed as either a worthy one-off side project for both, or — and this is our hope — something to be repeated as often as Otis Redding and Carla Thomas making hits together.
This is the first album recorded in Newcombe’s Berlin studio, and it is sonically supple. “Cocaine Cat,” the first official release, showcases a sound as rich as any BJM record, which is a high compliment. Not every song is as strong as the opener, “Wehmet,” or as thrilling as “Melorist,” but this is a collection of songs so powerful that it renders laughable the complaints of critics in NME and Uncut who mewl piteously that “it just sounds like a BJM record.” Um, yeah, that’s the highest compliment.
Parks sings all the songs, and we hear Anton’s voice on just a couple — his presence is felt on everything else. Tess Parks’ voice generates comparisons to Hope Sandoval, and sometimes that’s justified. Her singing is a little less enticing when she digs low for a gravelly bottom — when she’s trying to affect scratchiness, she sounds more like the teenage Alex Chilton growling his way through “Give Me A Ticket For An Airplane.” But on “Mama,””Voyage De L’ame,” or a gorgeous, affecting song like “Friendlies,” which closes the album, the combination of Parks’ emotionally gripping voice, Anton Newcombe’s guitar strumming and the pace makes these as powerful as anything ever put down on a Mazzy Star record, never mind the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Seriously.
This is a beautiful, magical collaboration, reinforcing our sense that Anton Newcombe’s genius hasn’t yet revealed his greatest work, and that Tess Parks will be beguiling us for years to come.
In 2013, this image we took of a DC ice cream man was chosen in a juried competition at D.C.’s Leica Store, and happily we posted it online. Someone who knew the ice cream man saw the image hanging on the Leica Store’s walls, told him about it, and a few weeks later, we met him on the Mall and handed him a print. He’s a nice guy.
So you can imagine how we felt when someone alerted us to this story posted by The Onion last week. There was our ice cream man photo, appropriated, albeit with credit to Tulip Frenzy. But still. And of course, there is no way we would have approved this use in a satirical post.
Then yesterday, while going through our Twitter feed, we saw from American Suburb X “A Brief Interview With Saul Leiter,” which of course we clicked on, since we love Saul Leiter’s work. In fact, we love Saul Leiter’s work so much that in 2014 we posted on Twitter our homage to Saul Leiter, which we called “Homage To Saul Leiter: The Kiss”:
Imagine our surprise, and yes, mortification, when we saw that our image was illustrating the interview with Leiter. American Suburb X took it down when we pointed this out, and told us that they’d gotten it off of Google Images. And yep, the way Google sucks content into the machine, by my having posted the picture as an “Homage To Saul Leiter: The Kiss” somehow it now showed up in HIS image feed. Ugh.
The Internet giveth and it taketh away. Our son has reported Instagram photos he’s taken being appropriated by others. This easy skimming of images for use by others is, we suppose, something we have to accept. Our examples aren’t exactly like Richard Prince making millions off of a stolen Sam Abell photograph, but the whole thing sucks.
We overheard someone in the audience next to us say that the last time Courtney Barnett played DC, it was at DC9, a venue considerably smaller than the 1000-and-change-sized 930 Club. Given the roars of approval — as loud as we have heard them in 20+ years going to shows in this venue — and the quality of the performance, it seems almost inevitable that she’s going to make the leap to venues a quantum larger.
We love the Australian singer and guitarist’s debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, as readers of Tulip Frenzy well know. Sometimes we prefer her real introduction to the States, 2014’s The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas. Mostly, though, the hesitancy we had before fully embracing the album was that we were unprepared for the transition, the way the sound had been torqued tighter, louder, with more pop urgency. It would be like riding in your favorite ’73 BMW 2002 and suddenly getting into its most recent 3 Series descendent: familiar, but scary in way, once you put your foot to the pedal and saw how it had been modernized for the Autobahn.
Last night, she played virtually the entire new album, plus a number of our favorite songs from the double EP, and we realized how they both connect, and why we think she’s the strongest talent to emerge since Ty Segall five years ago. For what we liked most about The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas was the way she updated the sound of a particular era of British pop music that coincided with the emergence of punk but preceded Power Pop — those early albums by Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Nick Lowe. Last night, that particular proto-Power Pop song sensibility was apparent — though powered along with a thunder more like Nirvana than any other trio we can remember.
Barnett is a great storyteller, but that may make her sound twee, and she’s anything but: she and her band kick harder than any Aussies we can think of since Radio Birdman. From “Elevator Operator,” which opened the set, to “History Eraser,” which finished the encore, the Courtney Barnett 3 played like a band with twice the instruments. There may come a time when they’ll need sidemen to fill the arenas she’ll headline. Yeah, after a thoroughly entertaining show last night, the first of two sold-out shows at 930, we have no doubt that’s where she’s heading.
Washington, D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade is the single most joyous event that takes place annually in the Nation’s Capital. Gay and straight, young and old, all come out to celebrate — and this year seemed, by far, the biggest such celebration ever. Here’s a collection of images taken along the parade route.