The Mysterious Morgan Delt Brings His Trip To DC

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 21, 2016 by johnbuckley100
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Mere weeks after Tulip Frenzy proclaimed Phase Zero “Psych Album Of The Year,” Morgan Delt brought a kick-ass band to the Nation’s Capital to prove the rightness of that claim.  But instead of the delicate, filagreed sound produced by Delt and — I dunno who else was in the studio with him… his cat? — for his tour he assembled a band that can raise the sonic winds, flattening whole cities with its sound.

The set at DC9 began right on time, with the gorgeous “I Don’t Want To See What’s Happening Outside” kicking off the set as it does the album.  That song folded easily into “The System Of 1000 Lies,” giving us the sense that this was going to be Delt and band running through Phase Zero the way, say, Wilco ran through Star Wars on its last tour prior to opening up the back catalogue.

But Delt soon deviated from his latest album with a foray into his even trippier, weirder eponymous debut, and what quickly became clear was that, even as he sings in a milder voice live than he does on his two albums, his band packs a punch that brings to mind Wand, with that band’s towering drummer Evan Burrows pummeling the songs along like a nuclear power plant.  Yes, we were in full Olivia Tremor Control territory, yes, we could imagine the frail, small Syd Barrett up there, not the tall and angular Delt.  But this was a powerful combo, able to extend ragas even as the pretty melodies of Delt’s songwriting insisted on being heard.

We think we’ve identified the drummer as Lionel Williams, and let us just say he is a force to be reckoned with.  But so was the whole band.

Delt is a young artist, ambitious and with buckets of talent.  We hope that Phase Zero is just an intimation of the great things to come.  We hope the next time he goes back into the studio, these guys who played with him last night are in tow.

Suggested Alternative Album Cover Photo For The Mekons’ “Existentialism”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 11, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Speaking Of Bands And 40th Anniversaries, The Mekons Present “Existentialism” As A Book And CD

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on September 11, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Now this is getting ridiculous.  Fresh upon the release of the Fleshtones’ sublime The Band Drinks For Freeand hot on the heels of Television’s amazing performance last week at DC’s 930 Club, we opened up our mailbox to find Existentialism, a 95-page booklet with a 12-song CD tucked in, newly released by the Mekons.  What do these three bands have in common?  Perhaps only this: each was formed during the final year of President Gerald Ford’s hapless regency.

When last we vectored in on our old friends, the Meeks were releasing the distilled ferment from their sojourn to the Isle of Jura, off the Scottish Coast.  Jura was something of a gimmick and something of a miracle: a subset of Mekons, along with the formidable Robbie Foulks, did a brief tour of Scotland and took to an island sanctuary to record an album that was fun, but ultimately light, listenable if ultimately inessential.

It wasn’t Rock N’ Roll, nor of the quality of the 1990s masterpieces, OOOH! (out of our heads) and Journey To The End Of The Night, but it was a reminder of the Mekons’ greatness, of the power of Jon Langford and Sally Timms singing together, even if we missed Steve Goulding’s drums and Tom Greenhalgh’s sad sack warbling.  But just as that album was a clever one-off, like what would happen if the characters in a Shirley Jackson novel picked up pots and pans to play music to ward off the ghosts of a Scooby Doo haunted house, now comes Existentialism, itself a one-off, but of a more interesting, substantial nature.

Years ago, co-40th birthday boys, the aforementioned Fleshtones, recorded a live album and had it released on cassette mere hours later.  Existentialism took longer to release, but not to record, as it all came together one summer ago on a theater stage in Brooklyn, the full band — yep, Grenhalgh and Goulding, though apparently not Rico Bell — performing, like a bluegrass band, before a crowd and a single microphone.  And it works!

If e’re you forget that the Mekons can get a groove on, it’s disproved by the opener, “Flowers of Evil, Part 2.”  Not wobbling, though a certain amount of warbling ensues, and the band is in fine form throughout.  By the time we hear Langford singing about a familiar topic (“O Money”), there is only one band on earth that could have existed to produce this — just as only one band would have recorded a commentary on Brexit entitled “Fear and Beer.”  “1848 Now!” may be their best song since 2011’s “Space In Your Face.”  As a whole, Existentialism takes a straight line back to the Mekons’ punk rock origins, their being thrown in a studio by Andrew Last and Fast Records just to see what came out — metaphorically conveyed by the cover photo of their first rec, The Quality of Mercy Is Not Strnen, which delightfully depicts a monkey not quite get that line of Shakespeare typed.

But in a season when Acura has wondrously called up the Mekons’ 1978 single “Where Were You” in a commercial, Existentialism is a reminder that the Meeks are alive and well, the rag tag army able to reconvene episodically.  Like an old couple that have to role play to get the juices flowing, they may need a concept to do so — hey, let’s go to an island and lock ourselves in a makeshift studio! hey, let’s play an album of cool new songs live before an audience, record it and be done with it! — but in the end, man, is it worth it.

Television, A Friend From Many Stages, Return To D.C.’s 930 Club

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Speaking of bands who’ve been around for 40 years, Television played at D.C.’s 930 Club, and to say they were in fine form understates the impact of the Platonic ideal.

With only one song from 1992’s Television — “1880 or So” — and none at all from Adventure, this set was Marquee Moon all the way.  Only it was like Marquee Moon from the inside out: no “See No Evil,” and we heard “Prove It” and “Torn Curtain” before “Venus.”  A special highlight was hearing the gorgeous “Guiding Light,” and the closer of the set, “Marquee Moon,” was as good as we have ever heard it — and our hearing it live traces back to New Year’s Eve 1976.

Richard Lloyd has left the band, but Jimmy Rip — who has played with Verlaine since his 1980s solo tours — filled in and then some.  Yes, it was a little odd to hear a stand-in play Lloyd’s lines, but Rip is such an excellent guitarist in his own right, it was like hearing a gifted Branagh fill in for Olivier as Hamlet.

Richard Lloyd once famously said that with while some bands look to see whether they have the crowd moving, Television always judged its performance by whether the audience was motionless.  And yes, when Verlaine and Rip traded guitar lines, the crowd reaction was transfixion.  Verlaine was as loose as we have ever seen him, fronting Television or his own band (often comprised of a similar set of musicians.)  The volume was low, the torque was loose, and it was magnificent.

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The last time we saw Television play was at Georgetown, when they were pushing their 1992 eponymous  reunion album.  The playing then was a bit like this: quieter and more self-contained than those shows we saw as they were exiting stage left in 1978.  But then and now, there was plenty that was raucous contained at an adult volume.

We once had Tom Verlaine explain to us, while sitting in our apartment in New York for an interview for the Soho Weekly News, that Television’s two-Fender guitar sound was aimed at extracting the jaggedness of wild songs.  But last night, he and Rip convened a harmonic convergence — on the unreleased, and very long, “Persia,” the fusion music had the audience guessing where the Farfisa , violins, and synths were hiding, though it was only the two guitars.  And on that post-Bolero finish to “Marquee Moon,” the return to the melody was like a post-coital urge for more, unheralded by the drums.

Fred Smith, the Harvey Keitel of rock’n’roll, was his wonderfully understated self, and Billy Ficca proved anew why he’s the greatest jazz drummer to ever center a punk-era band.  But it was Verlaine, of course, who people came to see, and both his singing and his magically elusive guitar were a reminder that one of the greatest bands in history can still evoke the era in which we first saw them, all those years ago.

The Fleshtones’ “The Band Drinks For Free”: The Tulip Frenzy Review + Bonus Exclusive Interview With Peter Zaremba

Posted in Music with tags , , , on September 2, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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You’re walking down a darkened street when you hear the first sounds of a party in a loft above.  You are not in a glamorous neighborhood, there’s a bit of danger in the air, but the sound of a live band playing is intriguing. Wait, you say, is that Ten Year’s After’s “Love Like A Man”?  The band sounds pretty good so you follow the music up the stairs.  Inside the loft, the party’s in full swing, the guitarist and bass player are standing on top of the kitchen counter and while the singer alternatively plays Farfisa and his harmonica, the drummer is pounding away from his perch on the dining room table.  Someone hands you a drink and you take it, but the guy clutches your arm when you try walking away.  He points to the musicians, by now leading a conga line around the disheveled loft.  “The band drinks for free,” he says with a smile and wink.  You get it, and reach in your pocket to pay up.

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The Fleshtones celebrated their 40th Anniversary in May, and The Band Drinks For Free is their 21st album.  While this mythical, celebrated, hard-luck institution — memorialized by a great book (Sweat: The Story Of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band), a terrific movie (Pardon Us For Living But The Graveyard Is Full), and still out there on the road many weeks of each year — may be immortalized in cool cats’ memories principally as the most entertaining live band in history, the fact is that they have, over the decades, produced a string of incredible studio albums. We are pleased to report, based on intimate study of the group, that this new ‘un, out today from venerable YepRoc Records, ranks among their very finest.  By that we mean it ranks with The Fleshtones Vs. Reality, and clearly is on a par with other platters of miraculous songwriting and boss performances such as Beautiful Light and even Roman Gods.  It is unquestionably better than that last moment when the fickle spotlight swung the Fleshtones’ way, when Take A Good Look (2008) came out and provided a well-deserved opportunity for rock critters across the land to do what should have been done long before: pronounce the Fleshtones living gods.  It is hard to believe, but trust us when we say: the Fleshtones in 2016 are every bit as vital as they were in ’76, ’86, and ’96.

(There is only band with the longevity and storyline remotely similar to the Fleshtones, and it’s the Mekons, AFAWK the last continuously performing, semi-intact band from that magical late ’70s era.  But the Mekons have had shifting membership and while we pray they continue forever, it’s not the same thing — the Mekons seem to need a concept to record a new album (hey, let’s go to a Scottish island, or perform around a single mike in a Brooklyn club), while the Fleshtones, their line-up intact for more than a quarter century, just go on, and on, and thank Heavens they do.  Fleshtones songs, on some of their 21 albums, might seem rushed, or they might not fully gel, but they are never generic.  And unlike another band that goes on and on — the Rolling Stones — while we can’t wait for Mick and Keith to hang it up and go sit on the beach and count their Bitcoins, we pray the Fleshtones never hang up their plectrums.)

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The Band Drinks For Free sports fours songs by lead singer Peter Zaremba, four by guitarist Keith Streng, two songs by bass player Ken Fox, and two covers, including Alvin Lee’s great “Love Like A Man.”  Let’s focus on that cover for a moment, because it tells the uninitiated (wait, how can there be uninitiated when it comes to the ‘Tones? they’ve been around since the Carter Administration…what the Hell’s the matter with you?) much you need to know. How the Fleshtones approach “Love Like A Man” tells you a lot about their cock-eyed approach.  The original, from Cricklewood Green, Ten Years After’s great post-Woodstock album, is ponderous, lacks swing, though it is undeniably tuneful and great.  The Fleshtones treat it as a garage rock gem, a party song cut down from nearly eight minutes to 3:30.  It sets the tone for what’s to come.

On TBDFF, Peter Zaremba contributes some of the most fun songs of the band’s storied career, with “Rick Wakeman’s Cape” sounding like a cross between the Stones’ “2120 Michigan Avenue” and ? and the Mysterians.  On his songs plus the two written by Keith and Ken that he gets to sing, his voice is in fine fettle.  Keith Streng, who has stepped up almost as a coequal vocalist in recent years, has a remarkable voice — he’s like an athlete still able to roll along because he protected his body in the early years — and on the incredible “Respect Our Love,” he has the anthem he’s waited 21 albums to sing.

The tone of the record is elegiac, not quite nostalgic, as the Fleshtones reflect on a long career while still showing they have a full tank o’ gas.  This album swings, showcasing one of the great rhythm sections in rock’n’roll history with Bill Milhizer and Ken Fox propelling the songs on which Keith’s guitar and Peter’s Farfisa lay down their signature lines.  The backup singing of Vibek Saugestad rounds out the familiar boy’s choir with emollient tones, and Lisa Kekaula of the Bel Rays brings home “Love Like A Man” with the intensity of Merry Clayton on “Gimme Shelter.”

Tulip Frenzy has been along for the ride with the Fleshtones since we first saw them at Maxwells that hot summer night in ’79, and we’ve traveled cross country to write about them, hung in the green room while they opened for the Police, hosted them for barbecues, and dragged dozens of instant converts to see ’em.  We know whereof we speak when we say, 21 albums in, the Fleshtones have, in The Band Drinks For Free, their best album in nearly 30 years.  These guys are still going strong.  They still exemplify real rock’n’roll.  They are still worthy of their breakout record, their Madison Square Garden gig, their star on Hollywood Boulevard.  Now’s your chance to help — download the album today.

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But wait, who’s that there sitting on the couch?  Why, it’s Peter Zaremba!  Before we go, let’s ask him a few questions about The Band Drinks For Free.

Hey Peter, congratulations on the 40th Anniversary of the Fleshtones and the release this week of “The Band Drinks For Free,” your 21st album.  The gang at Tulip Frenzy rank it up there with “The Fleshtones Vs. Reality”, “Beautiful Light,” and “Roman Gods,” and it’s the band’s best platter since “Take A Good Look.”  Tell us about the magic that took place with Florent Barbier in the studio.

Peter Zaremba: First of all, thank you, I’m really flattered. Some of the folks at Tulip Frenzy are notoriously hard to please. We’ve got a great rapport with Florent -he’s a long time fan. We got to know him well while touring France with the band the Roadrunners in the ’90s. He was their drummer. It’s pretty comfortable recording at his place in Williamsburg, at least for Keith and me. We can walk to Flo’s. We’ve gotten pretty relaxed recording and don’t have a producer breathing down our necks and making us nervous. And we were much more prepared for recording – which was stretched out over a year and a half. In the end we had too much material. We even left the title track ‘The Band Drinks For Free’ off the album. How’s that for a radical move?

On TBDFF, you and Keith each penned four songs, Ken penned two, and you’ve got two covers.  Is that the basic pattern of Fleshtones songwriting over the past several records?

PZ – hmmm, I hadn’t done the math. Looks about right though. Like I said, we came in with a lot of material, so this kind of balances out our contributions. And we can always do another record with what’s left. Song writing is seeming to flow easier now after 40 years, unlike how we had to labor over our early tunes. I believe it was you who tagged ‘Shadow Line’ as a ‘pastiche’ in a review. Of course you were right. Anyway, we’ve finally stopped torturing ourselves over the songs and are enjoying writing and recording more. About time!

One pretty significant change on Fleshtones records since the ‘90s is Keith singing more.  What a voice!  Is this a function of Keith writing more songs, or him having discovered, around the time you guys started covering “Communications Breakdown,” his inner Robert Plant?

PZ – Inner Robert Plant and more! Actually Keith singing more is the result of a little thinking. He sang about half of our first album ‘The Fleshtones Blast Off’ because these were the first songs he wrote and just heard them that way. Then we decided I should sing all the songs. I was the lead singer after all. But them we realized I had difficulty singing some of the material, so we decided to start letting whoever can sing a tune the best just sing it. This is a process we’re still working on -making use of all of our vocal abilities, but Keith did let me sing his ‘How To Make A Day’ on the new album, something I was very honored to do.

We were deliriously happy to hear you cover “Love Like A Man,” our second favorite song from “Cricklewood Green.”  What’s the connection between your covering a Ten Years After song and your writing a song referencing Rick Wakeman?

PZ – I’m deliriously happy to hear us cover it too, and really love our version español ‘Ama Como Un Hombre’ which is actually the version we play live (the 45 will be released for coming Black Friday). It was Keith’s idea to do ‘Love Like A Man’ as if a garage rock band was covering it, although I think I obsessed on taking the song to it’s garage rock limits. There’s no real connection to “Rick Wakeman’s Cape” (which came to me in a dream) except it’s wound up on the same album, but there are no coincidences, right?

And by the way, did you really steal Rick Wakeman’s cape from Madam Tussauds?

PZ – haha, just mashing up all the ridiculous Rick Wakman imagery in my head (of which there is plenty), you know, him posing with the wax dummies of Henry’s wives for the cover of his album. Weren’t those in Madame Tussauds? I was there a long time ago with my sister. All I remember is they had Telly Savalas and those ghastly murder victims in the chamber of horrors. Maybe the Beatles, but they never went in for capes. Now I do.

There are some great cameo appearances on TBDFF.  Tell us about the band’s bringing in Lisa Kekaula and Vibek Saugestad to help out with vox/piano.

PZ – Well we’re lucky that Vibeke is married to Ken Fox, so she can’t say no. She also does a lot of backing vocals and helped with working out the notes of some crucial riffs. She has a musical background, unlike the Fleshtones. It was Keith’s idea to get someone like Lisa Kekaula of The Bel Rays to sing the final verses of ‘Love Like A Man’ which were originally intended for him. So we figured why not just ask her? We’ve played a lot with the Bel Rays and form a small mutual admiration society. She said yes and absolutely nailed the part -kicking the track up into the next dimension just like it needed.

There’s a distinctive elegiac tone to the album — not quite nostalgia but fond looking back on your youth and the band’s earlier days.  Is the mood of the band, entering your fifth decade, looking back on the Fleshtones’ remarkable legacy as well as the future?

PZ – I’m glad ‘not quite’ nostalgic. The mood is there. We’ve been around for 40 years and as humans have experienced a lot. It’s only right that this should be imparted to our music. At this point I like the idea of projecting an image of a band who should know better.

“The Sinner” is, as far as I can tell, the first blues song you’ve recorded.  Is this your “Yer Blues?”

PZ – It’s the closest thing we’ve ever done to the ‘white English kids playing the blues’ stuff like the Stones and Yardbirds that we loved so much growing up, although we did record our ‘Worried Boy Blues’ for, I think “Beautiful Light’ or was it ‘Laboratory Of Sound’ album. I thought we were finally up to it, although the guys thought I was nuts. I just figured we had to avoid all the bad moves that mar all the bad blues that so many other white bands did, especially in the late 60’s and 70’s. How did we do?

You’re touring China??  Do tell!

PZ -We sure are touring China – a totally un-foreseen development. We needed to expand the Fleshtones fan base a bit. We tend to go back to the same (wonderful) places year after year. Japan seems oddly impossible for us, Brazil fell through because of the collapse of their currency. Danny Amis of Los Straightjackets did get us back to Mexico for the first time in over 20 years last June but we needed more. So I asked Eric Beaconstrip, a Frenchman in the British band King Salami & The Cumberland 3 for some suggestions. His band really gets around, mostly through a world-wide network of rock and roll supporters. He suggested contacts in many countries around the world including the band ‘Round Eye’ in China. Now, playing China was never in the career strategy of the Fleshtones but Catchy of Round Eye was really happy to hear from us. He put together the tour ASAP. Once again, this is a case of rock and roll fans being today’s life-spring of music, instead of the promoters (although there are a handful of promoters who are keeping music alive around the world. I’m very sad that we lost one of them recently – our friend Nicky Trifinynadidis who was responsible for bringing the Fleshtones and so many other bands to Greece). So, the Fleshtones are on our way to China, can’t wait to bring them ‘Super-Rock’ -they don’t know what they’ve been missing!

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So, people of the world, you don’t know what you’re missing if you haven’t heard The Band Drinks For Free.  Get off the stick and get this album by one of the surviving wonders of the world, the miraculous, magnificent Fleshtones.

 

 

In The Foreground, The World’s Greatest BLT Sandwich

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 28, 2016 by johnbuckley100

A few miles down the Leigh Lake trail, Grand Teton National Park, and a sandwich made on a Wild Flour Bakery’s bagel.  It doesn’t get better than this.

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Morgan Delt’s “Phase Zero” Is The Best Psych Album Of 2016

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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When Bill Doss passed away in 2012, we despaired of ever again hearing an album that blew our mind quite the way Music From The Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle by The Olivia Tremor Control did when we first heard it 20 years ago.  But then earlier this summer, the mysterious Morgan Delt released “I Don’t Wanna See What’s Happening Outside,” which leads off his second album, Phase Zero, and if it’s possible to get the same rush the second time through, yep, this song did it.

Here’s everything we know about “Morgan Delt”: that’s not his real name, his eponymous first album was every bit as weird as a typical Olivia Tremor Control outing, he works as a graphic designer in California, Sub Pop were wise enough to lock him in a studio all by himself, and he’s playing September 20th at DC9 in the Nation’s Capital. Oh, and Phase Zero is a gorgeous, weird, melodic, inventive, soothing, trippy self-produced album in which he plays all the instruments.

“I Don’t Wanna See What’s Happening Outside” really does begin like a lost OTC track, and then fades into the boss “The System Of 1000 Lies,” like the best psychedelic album of your amped-up dreams.  The album is mostly those strangely treated six-string guitars, some keyboards for texture, and yeah, underneath it all, we suppose, are bass and drums, but think of this essentially as a longhaired guy singing gorgeously over slow and meandering highly electrified guitar lines, while floaters cross your vision and all solid walls have finely limned colors bleating and tricking your olfactory nerve ends.

We invoke, of course, the Elephant 6 bands, of which OTC was simply our (second) favorite (after the Apples In Stereo), but there is another, important reference point here, and it’s the trio of cross-indexed records made in the mid-70s by Cluster, Eno, and Harmonia (which consisted of the two guys in Cluster plus a guitarist genius pal.)  Their mostly instrumental early German electronica platters have been pulsing across our earbuds for many, many years, but never so intensively as in the last year when a deluge of Cluster and Harmonia recs became available to the non-Teutonic world, and yes, seems like Mr. Delt has been snuffling up these tracks for a long time too.

By the time the most excellent Phase Zero hits “Some Sunsick Day,” we are deeply into Eno’s “On Some Faraway Beach,” and we’re ready to come back to reality, weary, changed, a little emotionally wrought, no longer hearing through our nose and seeing through our ears, but satisfied that we’ve seen God, and his name is Morgan Delt.

 

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