Archive for September, 2010
Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys put on two shows at the Birchmere last night. One of them was superb.
The first show was their six-song opener, bashing their way through the punk rock from the glorious Street Songs Of Love. Alejandro is that rare artist whose most recent two solo albums are decidedly harder rocking, maybe even progressively harder rocking, than the albums that made his reputation. For a fellow who has charmed audiences for twenty years by touring alternately with a string trio or quartet and a real rock band that always had at least a cello, often a violin, and sometimes a cello, violin, and a pedal steel, seeing Al appear last night in a two-guitar-bass-drum foursome — like some throwback to The Heartbreakers (the Johnny Thunders version, not Tom Petty) — took some getting used to. It was powerful, but ragged. The softening dimensions of strings and pedal steel were missed. Other than a great new song, apparently written on the tour, I actually began to fear what the night would bring.
And then the acoustic guitars were brought out, and David Pulkingham was transformed into a street musician in Guadalajara, and it became magical, as it usually does with Alejandro. I’ve heard “I Was Drunk” played by several of Alejandro’s protean outfits — the all strings flavor and the rocking flavor, with the string quartet sometimes torquing the tension in the song up to the sky — but last night, two acoustic guitars, bass and drums, it may have been best. “Last To Know (Ballad of Buick McKane)” was similarly breathtaking.
The show ended with Alejandro and his Sensitive Boyos coming back to play “Beast of Burden,” sounding maybe more like Archie Bell and The Drells than the Rolling Stones. Alejandro announced that next year he’d be back to celebrate his 60th birthday with the full army, the fiddle players and all the rest. Great. Because the hard-rocking foursome does not fulfill his potential; the strings add a needed dimension for his songs, and his singing, to work. I love the fact that Alejandro, at age 59, is playing out a Lou-Mott-Thunders role with a killer four piece band. I love Street Songs of Love — it may be my favorite Alejandro album of all time. But I can’t wait to see him with the full blessed orchestra.
It’s too bad Leni Riefenstahl already used the title Triumph of The Will, which was about some rock festival in Nuremburg or something, because it’s the genuine subtext of Geoffary Barbier’s wonderful movie about the Fleshtones, Pardon Us For Living Because The Graveyard Is Full, available to watch in is entirety for free at the world’s coolest website, SnagFilms.com.
For what emerges from a story about the greatest working rock’n’roll band in the world, who have played in dives and palaces but most importantly, non-stop for nearly 35 years, is their indomitable spirit, their seemingly absurd persistence. Pardon Us For Living takes the band from its origins in Queens to its outsider status at CBGB when the cool kids were getting record contracts thrust upon them even as they were blown away by the Fleshtones as their opening act, to The Party, as Barbier refers to it — the IRS Records years when Roman Gods came out and the Fleshtones, freed from their bad contract with Marty Thau’s Red Star Records, appeared finally to be on the verge of making it– to the end of that dream in the 1980s, and then the relentless, impressive, world historical campaign, similar in scope to Mao’s Long March but with fewer participants, to the Fleshtones becoming that working band that shows up in your town and, even as you call in chits to get skeptical friends to come see them, changes people’s lives as even the most straitlaced find themselves in a conga line marching out of a bar at 1:00 a.m. while the Fleshtones, still playing music, get into their van and drive off into the night, music still coming out of the amps they’ve left behind, and which they have to come back for.
I first saw the Fleshtones at Maxwells in Hobokon in June of 1979, and I’ve seen them maybe 30 times since. That seems about right… an average of one time per year over the course of three decades, six presidents, at least three wars, children’s births, the rise and fall of the music industry, etc. They are still going, and going strong. I have never seen them put on a bad show, never left a club they’ve played in with anything less than a smile on my face and my head shaking, marveling at the manifest unfairness that (fill in the blank with this year’s darling) are selling out arenas and a band that spreads joy and sheer rock’n’roll genius are playing at (fill in the the blank with the shitty dive they’ve just played in.)
As this is written, The Fleshtones are going into the studio to record their 4,212th album. Maybe this is the one that will finally do it… that will reveal to the world how dull The Arcade Fire really is, and why it should be the ‘Tones who get the Madison Square Garden homecoming. Maybe. It’s this kind of optimism that has kept the band going, though they are eminently realistic and down to earth people: it has to be something more, too.
Pardon Us For Living shows that The Fleshtones keep going because they are filled with joy when they play. It is their higher calling to get rooms full of people dancing, sweating and laughing. They are carriers of joy. They have no self-pity, very little bitterness (except at the idea that history has not fully recorded their place in it), no rancor. “It takes a big heart/big enough to hold us together,” the Fleshtones once sang, and it’s clear that even as few bands have ever been as exciting live, no band — not one — can compete with the Fleshtones when it comes to heart.
The Fleshtones have now been the subject of a fantastic book — SWEAT: The Story of The Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band, by Joe Bonomo — and a first-rate rockumentary. Justice will only be served when the Fleshtones are voted into The Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. Start your petition now. Those of you on Facebook, get cracking. In the meantime, watch this movie, for free, on SnagFilms. And go see the ‘Tones when they next set up shop in your town and turn it into Hitsburg USA.
SnagFilms, God Bless ‘Em, Have Posted The Fleshtones’ “Pardon Us For Living But The Graveyard Is Full”Posted in Music with tags "Pardon Us For Living But The Graveyard Was Full", SnagFilms, The Fleshtones on September 17, 2010 by johnbuckley100
The coolest website in the world serves up the coolest band in the world. Take the rest of the day off. We won’t tell the boss.
We somehow messed up posting the widget, but LINK BELOW TO SEE THE FILM.
Kismet might seem to be at work this week, given that Black Mountain releases a new album, Wilderness Heart, that sounds like a great Led Zeppelin record, and Robert Plant releases an album, Band of Joy, that is as fresh as produce from a farmers market and maybe just as tasty. It can’t be an accident, though, that another one of the Black bands — The Black Angels — have alighted once more on Earth, flapping their wings and spreading their own gospel of paranoia, intrigue, and thundering drums. You see, they’re going out on tour with Black Mountain, and it’s not bloody likely the two bands “accidentally” released albums the same day.
When their eponymous debut came out midway through the last decade, followed by the sublime Passover, we thought The Black Angels were charter members in the psychedelic punk club, playing atmospheric space rock with a kick. But the new ‘un, Phosphene Dreams, has these shape-shifting songs that punch their way through the fog to reveal melodies, hooks, and heapin’ slabs ‘o chewy goodness, like the best baked spiked brownies.
Reference points here are as disparate in nature, if similar in time frame, to their Austin forebears The Thirteenth Floor Elevators and The Doors. Some time ago we might have thought of them in the same category as The Warlocks, although maybe playing axes not so bold. On Phosphene Dreams, though, The Black Angels play like they’ve locked the doors of the Shindig set and they and the whole studio audience have quaffed a flagon of soma…and the shadows we see on our black and white television are mesmerizing to an extent that only later do we realize it wasn’t the fault of that rabbit ear antennae.
Can’t wait for The Black Angels to open for Black Mountain at the 9:30 Club on November 7th.