The Jesus And Mary Chain Are Back From The Dead and The Hallelujah Chorus Is Awesome To Behold

Posted in Music with tags , , , on March 26, 2017 by johnbuckley100

It may be apocryphal, but James Joyce is alleged to have said about Finnegans Wake, “It took me 17 years to write it, and it should take 17 years to read it.”  I thought of that when, 19 years after their best album, Munki, was released into the wild, The Jesus and Mary Chain put out its followup, Damage And Joy.

When a band comes back from the dead — or in the Mary Chain’s case, from reforming only to tour, not release new music — they’ve already heard all the nice things said about them at their funeral.  The Reid brothers broke up their act in 1998 either because they’d brought it to what they thought was its conclusion, or they just couldn’t take another day together.  But of course, even before they went back on the road some years ago, the Jesus and Mary Chain have lived on in the form of all those bands who saw what they had done — graft Velvet Underground songwriting and guitar chords onto the possibilities of drum machines and new recording technology — and were inspired.

In the time since they metaphorically burned their guitars, a lot has happened, and we’re not talking about all of the nasty changes in our world since the boom days of the late Clinton Administration.  Jim Reid got sober.  JAMC’s festival shows led to semi-regular touring, and despite — or because of — they way they turned the amps to 11, a new generation of fans for whom Psycho Candy was as distant, in some ways, as The Velvet Underground & Nico, saw them as the masters that they were.  It became inevitable that they would release new recorded music.

We were unprepared for how great an album Damage And Joy is.  Purists may not like it because it’s not Finnegans Wake, it’s not difficult, it’s Dubliners: simple, easy to absorb, damn near perfect.  By the time December rolls around, we are certain it will remain high on our list of the year’s best albums.  It’s the Jesus and Mary Chain album we have waited for, somewhat anxiously, for a long, long time.

We confess that we never loved Psycho Candy all that much.  The juxtaposition of Beach Boys’ songs, Sterling Morrison guitar, and Ramones’ propulsion against an industrial squall was interesting, but in many ways unlistenable.  Darklands was where we fell in love, with its spaciousness and gorgeous songwriting coalescing into a sound we could embrace.  Through those early ’90s hits, we hung on as they created a machine that was an early precursor of EDM while maintaining its linkage to real rock’n’roll.  For us, Stoned and Dethroned was the keeper, the classic, the songwriting at a peak, the wrestling match between melodies and riffs, between Jim’s hoarse whisper-singing and William’s guitar textures becoming not only one of the ’90s highlights, but an album for the ages.  When Munki came out in 1998 — perhaps rock’s greatest year — it was the culmination and the end of the line, Jim and William’s ambivalence — and conflict — were captured in the songs that began and ended the album: “I Love Rock’n’Roll” followed by “I Hate Rock’n’Roll.”  But now they are back, and for the moment the ambivalence is gone.  Whatever happens from here, The Jesus and Mary Chain have returned from the dead, and the Hallelujah chorus is awesome to behold.

What His Administration Must Look Like To “The Closer”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 26, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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Leica SL, Vario-Elmarit SL 24-90, Kamokuna Lava Flow, Big Island

With The Arrival Of Cosmonauts And The Molochs In D.C., Our Long Miserable Winter May Be Over

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 24, 2017 by johnbuckley100

CosmonautsLast night may have signaled the turn, a more meaningful sign than that groundhog in Pennsylvania giving the thumbs up, letting those of us who’ve suffered through the invasion of our city by Trump’s clown posse know the end of our misery is nigh.  We are  of course talking about two of the coolest bands in the land hitting DC9, both of ’em playing sets that left us smiling, maybe even exultant.  Cosmonauts and The Molochs on a double bill signals the end of winter, a reason to quit moping about what’s happened to our country, our city. It was, in a word, sublime.

You can tell we are as out of touch as the Republicans in Congress because when the rumor first circulated through the Tulip Frenzy office complex that the Cosmonauts and Molochs were coming to DC — and playing together — we went to the Verizon Center ticket counter, only to learn they weren’t playing there.  So we figured it had to be a chilly outdoor show at FedEx Field, or Nats Park, or maybe RFK Stadium?  We were shocked they were playing a small club like DC9, our single favorite upstairs rumpus room.  But we gave the Tulip Frenzy staff the night off and encouraged everyone to go.  After an argument broke out about whether the Cosmonauts had pulled a crowd bigger than Beyonce, a former Park Service employee threatened to do a comparison of photos, like Obama’s inauguration crowd vs. Trump’s.  But then our official statistician settled matters by simply declaring the crowd size at “less than 1000.”  So there you have it.

We ranked A-Ok, the fourth Cosmonauts album, as #6 on Tulip Frenzy’s 2016 Best Recs list, and it really was an incredible album, both in its own right and as a London Calling vs. Give ‘Em Enough Rope step up from 2013’s wonderful Persona Non Grata. So we were really happy when they began their set with “Short Wave Communication” and all but three of the songs they played were from A-Ok.  Just as good, the two songs they played from Persona Non Grata were a medley of “Shaker” and “What Me Worry,” and the lone offering from If You Wanna Die Then I Wanna Die was the coolest T. Rex homage this side of fellow O.C. bro Ty Segall, “Super Reverb.”

When Cosmonauts started out, they rode the slipstream behind John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees, a band whose name gave away its Orange County roots.  But since their move to L.A. and with the extraordinary A-OK under their belt, Cosmonauts have done something remarkable: they have broken new ground, transcended their influences, and now they are a band that younger bands will be compared to.  In their own way, they have become peerless.  Last night live, their psych roots were showing, and for a band that used to describe themselves as “drug punk” — a near perfect description — the sound of a 12-string Fender posted against a lone Strat, with a throbbing, sinuous, groove-oriented rhythm section, all added up to sonic nirvana, even as maybe they were as loud as Nirvana playing an arena. Um, though they were in DC9…  All in, a fantastic band, and their arrival in D.C. — at long last — was an epochal event, even if the crowd was “less than 1000.”

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Before the great Cosmonaut’s set, The Molochs brought their blend of Brian-Jones-era-Stones-play-the-Whiskey-A-Go-Go to an adoring crowd.  We loved America’s Velvet Glory, as readers of Tulip Frenzy know from our January ravings.  Live, The Molochs are as interesting as any band playing Shindig circa 1967, though we miss the girls in the fishnet stockings dancing in suspended cages. There is a period-perfect jangle to their version of garage rock that skips right over LA progenitors from the Paisley Underground and goes straight to the ’60s sources.  Less than two months after the release of their album, The Molochs have just released a new E.P., which we didn’t know about ’til they told us afterwards when we asked where we could find that final song of their set — the one that blends “Sympathy For The Devil” with the Velvets’ “What Goes On”… yeah, think about that… — and they told us AVG Sessions EP was out now on iTunes.  Go, at once, and download their whole catalogue.

So on a morning when we woke up to the first Jesus and Mary Chain album since the Clinton Administration… and as word further circulates that Trumpcare and its authors are royally screwed… it may still be cold out, but things are looking up.

An Argument In Behalf Of Kauai’s Nomination For Most Beautiful Place On Earth

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 20, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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It has been our enormous privilege to see what many consider among the world’s most beautiful places.  It is a privilege, but not necessarily one stemming from income, to see these sites, as Americans have, in our parks and public lands, a bounty inexpensive to visit, if far from free.  No doubt there are spots on the planet not in the United States vying for the title of the most beautiful place on Earth, but it isn’t just jingoism to believe that some of the strongest competitors for that title exist here, and are, for now at least, accessible to all.

We once believed that Grand Teton National Park was the most beautiful place we’d ever seen, until we saw the Grand Canyon.  But we have always wanted to visit Kauai, and in particular, the Na Pali Coast, wondering if, when the votes came in, it would take the contest.  We’ve spent the past five nights on the island, and as we leave we think we have photographic evidence in support of its candidacy.  Herewith, some pictures to back up the claim, all taken with the Leica SL, from above (by helicopter), at ground level (hiking), and by sea (boat.)

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Nashville Garage-Rock Tyro Ron Gallo’s “Heavy Meta” Just Stove Our Brains In

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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From the album cover of Heavy Meta, you’d think Ron Gallo was getting ready to audition for The Jimi Hendrix Experience, what with the white guy’s Afro and all.  And that’s not a bad place to set certain coordinates — we’d love to hear him play “Hey Joe,” because he’s a solid singer and an ace lead guitarist.  Trust us when we say, we haven’t gotten so knocked over by discovering a new tyro of real rock’n’roll since we first heard Ty Segall’s Goodbye Bread.

Not to be confused with the ’70s paparazzi of the same name, Ron Gallo had us before we ever heard this incredible album.  See, in the new Uncut, which gives him the treatment he deserves — interview, record review, even a spot on their monthly featured songs — he identified Robert Quine as his musical inspiration.  That’s an excellent place to begin, and in fact, “Put The Kids To Bed” sounds a lot like Quine’s playing with Richard Hell and the Voidoids, while “Don’t Mind The Lion” could be a Lloyd Cole song with Quine playing lead.  But even though Gallo has many easy reference points — his voice can quaver like Devendra Banhart, various songs resemble what we imagine Damon McMahon’s punk projects separate from Amen Dunes sound like, and he’s enough of a classicist that on “Black Market Eyes,” the guitar figures quote at length from Small Faces’ “Flying”– this is an original, powerful artist with a crack three-piece and an album well-enough produced we know it won’t languish in the up’n’comer pile for long.

We can imagine others referencing in the same sentence Brendan Benson, The Cramps, maybe even Roky Erickson.  But let’s give Ron Gallo credit where it’s due: he has on “Heavy Meta” just launched headlong into the center of the rock’n’roll universe, with an album that anyone who loves Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, or even Jack White will immediately respond to.  Filled with energy and brains, this record is going to dominate the early innings of 2017, and we know we will be listening to this 29-year old phenom for years to come.

Opening for Hurray For The Riff Raff at the 930 Club in DC on April 23rd.  See you there.

The Peaceful Spot In Georgetown That Is The Setting For George Saunders’ “Lincoln In The Bardo”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on February 13, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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Today is the pub date for George Saunders’ first novel, Lincoln In The Bardo, which is set in Oak Hill Cemetery, above Georgetown.  In the novel, the spirit of Willie Lincoln, dead at age 11 in 1862, exists along with others in that netherworld between life and Buddhist reincarnation.  President Lincoln, convulsed in mourning, visits his son, and is observed by the other spirits.  We have visited Oak Hill Cemetery many times, and it is situated next to Dumbarton Oaks, its front entrance looking down upon Georgetown and the Potomac, its back acreage looking down upon Rock Creek Park.  It is a gorgeous, peaceful spot, and a lovely place to visit on a Sunday afternoon in turbulent times.  All images Leica M10.

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Immigrants Welcome

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 6, 2017 by johnbuckley100

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