Archive for January, 2011

The Decemberists Tour Begins (Beacon Theater, 1/24/11)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 25, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Fresh off the release of their strongest album, The King Is Dead, The Decemberists kicked off their new tour last night at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan.

They played with as little affect as their new album of straightforward, homespun roots rock, plunging in with “Down By The Water.”  Much has been made of the way, following their folk-rock opera The Hazards of Love, the band has simplified, even countrified their sound, and it’s true. Trading nods to The Smiths for declared reverence to R.E.M. is a big step forward, especially for a product of Portlandia.

Too many bands with a decade’s work behind them will rush through their new album to get to the old stuff, which is guaranteed to please the crowd.  But by sprinkling much of The King Is Dead across the span of a 90-minute set, The Decemberists invited comparisons of the new songs to the old, and showed how strong the new ones are.  “Rise To Me” was a highlight of the concert, as much as it is the highlight of the new album, and while the Gram Parson/Whiskeytown pedal steel orchestration isn’t new — it’s as time tested as an old growth forest in the Columbia River basin — the simple reach for beauty shows a songwriter with a lot less to prove, comfortable in his own skin.

The Decemberists are a good band, bordering on a great band.  So good, we did not miss Gillian Welch, whose vocals so gloriously mix with Meloy’s great voice on The King Is Dead; for the tour, the band has added a multitalented woman (did not catch name — readers pitch in here…) who plays fiddle, guitar and sings clear and true.  What we got was a band that has worked its way through an ambitious youth and for the moment at least, has found sustenance in the traditions of its own country (not the folk rock imported from the Fairport Conventions of Old Europe), a band that serves up tasty helpings of artisanal nourishment, wholesome, healthy and fresh.

This tour is one to catch.

(All photos Leica X1, cropped.)

Tulip Frenzy, And The Leica Noctilux, Sample Jackson Pollack

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 16, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Sold to the first bidder for $38,000,000 in cash.

Leica M9, Noctilux, whaddayathink, wide open.

Ah, And Now Graham Lewis’s Take On Early Wire

Posted in Music with tags , , , on January 16, 2011 by johnbuckley100

From the same issue of Uncut:

On forming Wire:

(Wire) weren’t a punk group.  We didn’t join up for that… We weren’t interested in doing rock’n’roll – that was the ’50s..  We were interested in making a piece of art, and that was the group.  Bruce talked about it being a living sculpture.


Winter’s Bone

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 15, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Remnant of elk, Boy Scout collected, wrapped by Christmas lights, night blinking.

Morning haiku.

Leica M9, Noctilux.

Wire’s Colin Newman Has The Last Word On “Post-Punk”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 15, 2011 by johnbuckley100

As a sidebar to a pretty great review of Wire’s excellent new Red Barked Tree, Uncut  does a mini interview with Colin Newman.  We quote:

You made a big break with your older material when you reformed in the 1980s, didn’t you?

Newman: It was about context.  Pop historians talk about “post-punk” but there was no such thing.  What there was was pop.  People were bored to death with punk rock: if you were more adventurous, you were getting into music from different countries.  Bruce’s decision to re-invent the band wasn’t conceptually a bad idea, but we were misunderstood.

Sale

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 13, 2011 by johnbuckley100

A few hundred pink Sale stickers put to good use.

Leica X1, ISO 100, f/2.8 @ 1/40th of a second.

Wire’s “Red Barked Tree” Is The First Great Album of 2011

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 13, 2011 by johnbuckley100

During Wire’s 20-month Classical period (December ’77 – September ’79), they covered so much ground it’s hard to know even how to categorize them.  If a single band, in the blink of an eye, could be emblematic of both the punk and post-punk era, it was Wire.  In fact their evolution from Pink Flag — with its incredibly catchy three-chord rhumba served in one-minute slices — to 154 — which brought a level of art-rock sophistication to a party not even better musicians such as The Clash were invited to — brings to mind that Audi commercial where man evolves from slugs on the beach to a roaring R8 all within the confines of a 30-second spot.  Their evolution was supercharged.  And almost as suddenly they disappeared.

Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo) once assigned this writer to review Wire’s 1981 live album, Document and Eyewitness,  for NY Rocker and while memory is fleeting, we distinctly remember the lede being something to the effect that “never has a band been so interesting as at the precise moment when its reach exceeds its grasp.” Their ambition exceeded their facility in a manner that was riveting.  They may not at first have been brilliant musicians (though by “Lowdown,” the fifth song on Pink Flag, Bruce Gilbert proved to be a marvelously greasy guitarist), but they have always been a brilliant band.  Now, 35 years on from their formation, their grasp is considerable, but they are no less interesting than they were in the days when they all had full heads of hair and could fit in skinny tee shirts.

Wire’s history is one of ellipses and return.  They sat out much of the early to mid-’80s, and in the ’90s, the stage lights were essentially dark.  Gilbert and Lewis formed Dome.  Colin Newman had a series of solo albums.  But while Bruce Gilbert is no longer with the band, their essential core of Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, and Robert Gotobed (nee Robert Grey) have returned to the scene, not once but twice, and with a sound that is completely recognizable to fans of their second album, Chairs Missing, and their legendary third, 154.

While Wire’s return in the late ’80s was interesting, there was something about the tinny use of synths and drum machines that screwed up their sound, as much as it screwed every other band’s sound, until the Pixies delivered us from studio evil.  Their return in 2008’s Object 47, and now with the stunning Red Barked Tree, reveals a soundscape woven from natural fibers, whole-grained though electric, built on post-punk but still eclectic.  We miss Gilbert’s guitar, but Lewis, Newman and Grey recreate much of the band’s signature sound: simple drums that snap, elegant (Gilbert) and punk but oft-times pretty (Newman) vocals, with textured pop melody punctuated by the visceral.

There are bands that get cited as seminal, as influential; bands whose most ardent followers are other bands.  Few bands since the start of the punk era have kept the respect of their fellow musicians as Wire has.  Red Barked Tree is the single best album they have released in 30 years — the best thing since Wire’s Classical period ended with 154. Like an actor’s actor who continues to marvel with his craft and approach to character, eventually (in the Hollywood ending) to get the attention he deserves, it would be a good thing for our mass karma as a species if the world woke up and took notice of Wire.  Like, now.  They’ve disappeared before, twice. Their return has, admittedly, been more frequent than certain comets.  But we should not take Wire for granted.  This would be an excellent moment for the uninitiated to grab the sparking line, and for old fans to recharge.

%d bloggers like this: