Archive for February, 2015

Takseng Monastery In The Morning

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 25, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Another image rediscovered from our lost Lightroom catalogue.  Leica M8, Bhutan, 2007.

Rediscovered Takseng-3

The Black Ryder’s “The Door Behind The Door” Is Achingly Beautiful

Posted in Music with tags on February 25, 2015 by johnbuckley100

For their fans, the wait for The Black Ryder’s follow up to 2010’s Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride has been nigh on interminable.  We can only imagine the travails, the journey, that got the band finally to be able to release, on their own label, their beautiful follow-up album, The Door Behind The Door, which came out yesterday.

Aimee Nash and Scott Van Ryper moved from Australia to Los Angeles around the time of their first album’s release, and between then and now, they split as a couple, but held together as a musical entity.  We’re glad they did.  Former members of Australia’s Morning After Girls, they retained on their first album the most interesting elements of that band’s early U.S. release, which was called Prelude EPs 1&2.  But where the Morning After Girls was a shuffling of the deck with Brian Jonestown Massacre and Dandy Warhol cards emerging side by side, the first album by The Black Ryder was a shoegaze epic, with the guitar squall of My Bloody Valentine served up alongside gorgeous evocations of the Velvet Underground.

The core of The Door Behind The Door was released as individual songs over the past few months — “Seventh Moon,” “Let Me Be Your Light,” and “Santaria” — and there is nothing, honestly, on the rest of the album that can compete with those three.  This is slow, artisanal rock music crafted by hand in dreamy, melodic, high caloric confections.  The rest of the album punctuates the mood with acoustic guitars picking up speed before giving way to Spiritualized anthems (“Throwing Stones”) or classic rock mid-tempo ballads.

The exception is the closer,  “Le Dernier Sommeil (The Final Sleep),” which is 12 minutes of symphonic film music, something that if you heard on a Jonny Greenwood score you’d grok and enjoy, but wouldn’t bat a lash at.  In this context, it is interesting as a choice of what to put out as the closer on a long-awaited follow-up to one of the best records of the decade.  Almost one-fifth of the album is given over to the composition, which is beautiful, but at the end of which we are left hoping that, unlike MBV, The Black Ryder get back in that studio and turn out the next one.  Please, sir, may I have another?

We eagerly await seeing them in May at the Austin Psych Fest.

Rediscovering The Tough Guys Of Bhutan

Posted in Leica Images with tags , on February 22, 2015 by johnbuckley100

I had — have — a Lightroom catalogue issue. (Having moved libraries of images from across two upgrades of iMacs, somehow I can’t get access to images, such as this one, taken in 2007.)  Yesterday, during the snowstorm, I found the old SD card on which some, not all, of my Bhutan images from that year were stored.  It was a revelation to have these images (taken on a Leica M8) once again.  Young monks at the Wangdue Phodrang Dzong, which burned down in 2012.  I wonder what these guys are up to, eight years later.

Tough Guys

What Recent Live Albums By Phosphorescent, Ty Segall Band And Capsula Say About Those Bands, And Live Recordings

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on February 18, 2015 by johnbuckley100


Phospherscent at the 930 Club, January 2014

Time was, live albums meant something, whether it was the commemoration of a killer tour (Get Yer Ya-Yas Out), or just that a record company either was owed an album (Band Of Gypsys) or needed to fill time ’til that epic studio album was done (Live At Leeds.)  Weirdly, live albums have accounted for some acts’ big breakthrough (Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick.) Yet as recording technology and digital distribution made it easy to do, some important bands who play great live — Pearl Jam, Wilco — began putting out damn near every live show.  Which devalued the category, and in a weird way, their live shows.  (Right, if all is available, it loses meaning, and if it doesn’t matter whether it’s live or Memorex, going to the concert is more about getting out of the house than hearing the music.)

We had to wait 16 years after the Clash broke up to get the first collection o’ songs recorded in concert, and both From Here To Eternity and Live At Shea Stadium pretty much suck.  The comparative handful of live tracks that have gotten out from Dylan’s Never Ending Tour tease us, as we know there must be a future Bootleg Series release in which the motherload will become available.  The point here is that official live albums now are a bit like filler, they no longer really excite, they usually just feature different versions of songs that likely sounded better in a studio minus the adrenaline and improvisation that comes from that band you love capturing on tape the magic of that show you missed, or better yet, saw.

So why are we so thrilled to hear the new Phosphorescent album, Live At The Music Hall?  The simple answer is because Matt Houck has produced some very good albums in the past five years, but none of them has entirely hung together… there has always been a bit too much self-indulgent filler.   We were lucky enough to see Phosphorescent live last January, and not only does this record capture the brilliance of songs like “The Quotidian Beasts” and “Song For Zula,” it is perhaps Houck’s first record that hangs together the whole way through.  So in this case, the live album adds a coherence to his work that his studio stuff doesn’t.  Hail Phosphorescent Live At The Music Hall, in which an important, underrated artist and his amazing live band play his songs the way they were meant to be heard.  It’s a little bit like White Fence’s Live In San Francisco: the live album that justifies your patience through the studio albums that never quite got you there…

Ty Segall 1-3

Ty Segall at the 930 Club, 2014

Ty Segall doesn’t need a live album to tell you anything about him you don’t know from his records, but *his* Live In San Francisco, released a few weeks ago, does offer those poor souls not in a touring city a sense of what utter freaking mayhem ensues when the Ty Segall Band hits town.  We don’t know the meaning of this album coming out under that name, as the show we saw them play in October was under the aegis of Ty Segall, not the Ty Segall Band.  And come to think of it, this live set contains more of Slaughterhouse than any of Ty’s solo (truly solo) recs. But as a snapshot in time, something we will harken to no mater where Ty’s career takes him (the Pantheon, no doubt), we will come back to this, fer the sheer fun of it all.

In the case of Phosphorescent, if we were Christgau and this was a consumer’s guide, we’d say this is the place to invest your hard-earned shekels.  With Ty, you just need to go get an extra job and buy everything he has put out since about 2011 — live album included.  But this should not, by any means, be the first, essential purchase. (That would be Twins.)

Capsula 2

Capsula at The Black Cat, 2013

With Capsula, though, a band that we have previously called The Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the WorldDead Or Alive is definitely a great place to begin, as it quickly proves we’re right, is an infectious party platter, and truly should be valued for the way it points you to their best studio albums (2006’s Songs & Circuits, with 2011’s In The Land Of Silver Souls being a close runner up.)  It gives longtime fans the joy of listening to these amazing musicians without having to travel to Bilbao, where the Argentines now live.

Capsula’s live album fills the role of a great many previous live albums: having put out seven excellent records, in English and Spanish, including a note-perfect (that was the problem) version of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, a live album was an inevitability, a notch in the belt, an artifact needed for the formal record.  Capsula is a great live band, and this proves it.  And if you’ve never heard them before, start here.  Unlike Get Yer Ya-Yas Out, this is not the Capsula album we’ll be playing in 45 years.  But as a glimpse of what a powerful sonic machine they are when they get going, yeah, it’s a good ‘un.

Snow Is Only Good When You Pay For It

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 15, 2015 by johnbuckley100

My wife believes that snow is only great when you visit it, not the other way around.  We thought of that this morning, in solidarity with our friends in Boston.  It reminded us of how great snowshoeing in Jackson Hole can be — and how awful it is to be in a city digging, digging, digging out from blizzards.  Leica Monochrom, 28mm Summicron Asph, New Years Eve 2012.

Teton Monochrom 2012

Parquet Courts’ Black Cat Show Was Raggedly Sublime

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on February 8, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Parquet Courts

These days, Parquet Courts face the inverse challenge to what they were dealing with in late 2012, when Light Up Gold put them on the map.  Back then, the question was whether the manic splendor of their live shows could be bottled and served up on vinyl, beer reek intact.  Two albums and an E.P. later, the question last night was whether a young act that has created some of the greatest recorded music of the past two years could have the tonal precision of that sound and those songs translate well live.

Regrets, we have a few, and when queried on our death bed, we know that ranked high among them will be our not having put Sunbathing Animal on the 2014 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List (c).  And that wasn’t even their only album last year!  We must have been birdwatching or something, but somehow we missed the release, late in the year, of Content Nausea, which while not a Parquet Courts album proper — it was essentially a dual album made by Andrew Savage and Austin Brown — revealed a band that in a single year had emerged as a recording act justifying its titular sobriquet as “The Most Interesting Band In America.”  So how would *this* sound translate in a packed Black Cat where Parquet Courts were now headliners?

Andrew Savage’s voice was rubbed raw — he said it was due to an ill-advised karaoke competition.  When it all worked, such as on simpler thrashers like “Ducking And Dodging” and “Borrowed Time,” the skewed and sweaty dive bar ethos rang true, the house rocked, the crowd roared, clouds of sweat were formed.  But songs more dependent on getting the perfect vocal and guitar tone (say, “Black and White”) suffered a bit and brought to mind the irony that this magnificent punk band might best be heard through its studio output.

If Tom Verlaine were the Dalai Lama, and the body of monks were assembled to choose his successor, unquestionably Austin Brown would be the prodigy who would correctly identify his plectrum from a pile of confederates.  Our love of Parquet Courts circa 2015 stems from their having moved from Denton, TX to Brooklyn, NY and, as they gathered chops, decided to channel the sounds of circa 1977 Television on an epic night in the Bowery.  They are so much more than a band offering a derivative of New York at the end of the ’70s — to begin with, few are the artists who place as much energy and emphasis on intelligent lyrics as Andrew Savage does.  That they’ve thoroughly incorporated the Marquee Moon dynamic — not just the guitar work, but the dumb-boy choruses as well — makes us revel in their glory.  And this: hearing a song like “Everyday It Starts” — which on Content Nausea had basically fill-in drums, but last night had the full propulsion of Max Savage living up to his name — makes us realize these guys, when at their best, could give the Entertainment-era Gang Of Four a run for their Bitcoin.

So it wasn’t a perfect show because Andrew Savage wasn’t in the finest vocal fettle, and having seen them in front of 100 people in 2013, we know how amazingly they can play live when the stars are aligned.  And our expectations have been raised by the genius exhibited on their prodigious recorded output.  But if one wanted to confirm or deny whether the Parquet Courts were deserving of being Spin Magazine‘s 2014 Band of The Year?  Yeah, based on last night, totally.

Tulip Frenzy’s Annual Public Service Photograph

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 7, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Doesn’t this just make you feel a little better?

Oh, it makes you feel worse?  Sorry!

Public Service

Radio Birdman Box Set Revives The Greatest Punk-Era Band You Never Heard Of

Posted in Music with tags , , , on February 7, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Imagine that while the CBGB bands were mastering “Gloria” and the Sex Pistols were practicing how to spit, a teenager from Detroit moves to Sydney and soon forms a band in homage to his hometown heroes, the Stooges.  Let’s have them become really good musicians, no, I mean, ace musicians, and play songs like “Surfing Bird” well before Johnny and Joey could Blitzkreig Bop.  Let’s imagine that in the antipodal shadow of London and New York, this band figured out a way of crafting Ray Manzarek-sounding keyboards into a killer two-guitar lineup with a singer who crossed the manic charm of David Johansen with the chops of Jim Morrison.  Got it?  You are beginning to grok what a marvel Radio Birdman were.

Citadel Records Australia has just released a Birdman box, which contains both the Australian and Sire (U.S.) versions of their glorious Radios Appear, their posthumously released second album, Living Eyes, assorted outtakes and — this is primo — a live album recorded in Sydney in 1977 (just before they went to London and discovered that suffused with contempt for colonials and punk-rock chauvinism, the Brits couldn’t figure out how to properly place them.)

The Radio Birdman box, expensive as it is, is more than worth it for those of us who have carried their torch since first hearing them in 1978 — worth it for anyone who wants to explore an alternative narrative to what is ordinarily told about that enchanting era that spans from, roughly, when Television were formed to the release in 1979 of Wire’s 154.  One of the great joys of the late ’70s was the rediscovery of those Detroit bands, of surf music, and Radio Birdman, with their Easter Island/cargo cult distance from the main alternative culture of the era somehow served it all up together in a pastiche no one else could come close to.  And you’ll be shocked, shocked to hear this, since rock’n’roll always rewards those who deserve it, they never got their due.

If Radio Birdman hadn’t happened, we’d have to make their story up. As the American Deniz Tek schooled his new pals in Sydney in the Motor City sounds of his youth, he wrote killer songs that all harkened to an America he missed, and his bandmates had to just take his word for it when singing about “Murder City Nights” or eating Eskimo Pies.  If you want the quickest summary of what Radio Birdman were all about, consider: they did a punk version of the Hawaii Five-O theme song; their version of the 13th Floor Elevators’ “You’re Gonna Miss Me” not only is the best ever, it actually led to the rediscovery of Roky Ericsson. Songs from Radios Appear like “What Gives,” “Do The Pop,” “New Race,” and “Anglo Girl Desire” were as tuneful as anything on The Clash or Rocket To Russia, and played twice as fast by musicians who could swing.

In 2006, the band reformed and finally hit the Black Cat in D.C.  They hadn’t slowed a single step!  Yeah, Chris Masuak, who was a kid the first time round, had his head shaved in accommodation to the years, and singer Rob Younger maybe looked a little less likely to be hitting the surf at Bondi.  But man, could they still play!  You don’t have to get the entire box to recapture the spirit, but do get Radios Appear.  No record collection that has Never Mind The BollocksPink Flag, and the Ramones’ Leave Home is really complete without it.

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