Archive for Sonic Youth

Are Brooklyn’s The Men Chosen Incarnations Of Our Fave Deceased Bands?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on May 25, 2012 by johnbuckley100

The Dalai Lama was chosen, it is said, because as a pup, he correctly identified the right glasses owned by a recently deceased lama.  Is the rumor true — okay, we started it — that The Men correctly chose Brendan Canty’s drum stick, Bob Mould’s ear plugs, and Thurston Moore’s plectrum when, mere boys they were then, the punk rock lama’s tested whether they were true incarnations of these cosmic punks?

All we know is that when we heard Open Your Heart, which was released last month, a shiver of recognition went up our spines.  Back down again, too.  The ghosts of Fugazi, Sonic Youth, and Husker Du were present in the room, even as the speakers vibrating made books fall from shelves, and the whole house shook like the ending of an Indiana Jones movie.  And there’s something else going on here, too — a little bit of Warlocks-style modern SF psyche. A Philly cheesesteak smear of Asteroid #4. And then there is this strange harmony guitar thing that makes us think of Cream and Hendrix.  Did we mention that, like White Denim, they are perfectly at home throwing in the odd cowpunk song, too?

The Men opened for Ty Segall and White Fence at Webster Hall two weeks ago, and now fresh after having released Open Your Heart, apparently have hightailed it to fresher climes to record the next one.  They may be mere boys, but these guys are mensches.  By the time The Men hit DC9, we will celebrate the 5th of July as the real American holiday.  Let’s give it up for The Men.

The Official Tulip Frenzy 2009 Top Ten List

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Just in time for your holiday shopping… the gang at Tulip Frenzy World HQ has voted.   The best albums of 2009 were:

1.  Sonic Youth    “The Eternal”

They are not young, though they’re certainly youthful, and while some of Sonic Youth’s most devoted fans would recoil at this judgment, Tulip Frenzy thinks 2006’s Rather Ripped and this year’s The Eternal are the best records they’ve released since the mid-’80s.  Incredibly sharp, able to turn on a silver dime, Sonic Youth have still got the basic formula of punk rock punctuated by sudden aural entropy.  Beat that.  And this year, no one could.

2. Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound  “When Sweet Sleep Returned”

We have asked ourselves if this is love on the rebound, if the reason we were so drawn to the second Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound album is because the other bestest neo-psychedelic band in the land, First Communion After Party, failed to release an album this year.  But it’s not true.  When Sweet Sleep Returned is equal parts spectacular San Fran guitar attack and dreamy loveliness.  This is a band that can rock as hard as The Warlocks, and then pivot to an interlude of, well, inter-‘ludes. This one filled our head with sunburst and other sounds throughout much of the summer and fall.

3.    Robyn Hitchcock   “Goodnight Oslo”

Yes, we’d probably enjoy Robyn Hitchcock singing an entomology textbook, and sometime over the past 30 years that he’s beguiled us, we probably have.  That he’s never sounded more self-assured, that his band has Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey playing in it, that(for the most part) he actually dropped the irony and insect bit to sing incredibly punchy pop songs wound ’round the twanging Byrdsy lead guitar he’s been brandishing since the Soft Boys rendered this Frequent Spinner Miles on our office playlist.

4.  Neko Case   “Middle Cyclone”

Here’s how important Neko Case is: because she wanted to push her own album this year, two of our favorite bands — The New Pornographers and Calexico — essentially sat the year out, the former because without Neko, why play?  the latter because they were backing her up.  Forget Neko’s pipes, her incredibly loud tomboy holler, this is a songwriter in the Flannery O’Connor tradition.  Middle Cyclone is a career highlight, and what a career this is proving to be, parked in the middle of the base path between and the hippest rock around, daring someone to tag her out.

5.  Reigning Sound   “Love And Curses”

It didn’t top their imperfectly heralded masterpiece, Time Bomb High School, but the Reigning Sound’s Love and Curses had me the moment I realized Greg Cartwright’s my favorite rock singer probably since John Lennon.  Just thinking about how a garage band laboring in the grease and sawdust of Asheville, NC could put out a record that spans the whole of rock’n’roll, with a dollop of blue-eyed soul, a sprinkle of punk, and a scoche of roots rock for good measure unpacked smiles wherever they were heard.

6.  Tinariwen  “Imidiwan: Companions”

We’re still trying to fathom how the most compelling Delta blues band we’ve heard since the Jelly Roll Kings conquered Arkansas could have emerged from the Touareg lands of Mali, but by now Tinariwen has figured out how to mix the village singalong with the ululations of the women folk atop an undulating beat that feels like you’re hanging on to a fast camel.  Never expected to spend this much time listening to music from the Sahara.  We’re glad we did, even if they may be a Khaddafian plot more diabolical than his hiring Italian models just to listen to him read the Koran.

7.  The Decembrists  “The Hazards Of Love”

We got over the need for concept albums around the time the Kinks stopped touring behind Preservation, but in another cultural mashup, The Decembrists, citizens of Portland, Oregon, released the best British folk album since Fotheringay.  Awfully pretty, ambitious, and bold, the only grabbing of the stereo dial this prompted when it came on in the car was to turn the volume up.

8.  Pearl Jam   “Backslider”

What does it say about music in Anno Domini 2009 that the finest punk rock extant was from Pearl Jam?  We are as sincere as they are; we’ve never been snide about these guys, and do not put irony on a higher shelf than straightforwardness, of which they’ve also carried a copious supply.  Apparently, boys just want to have fun, and it really sounded like they did making this excellent return to form.

9.  Wilco “Wilco”

Wilco, the album, was a bit of a let down for Wilco, the band.  But even when they miss the mark, they hit the spot, with an album that sounded like master musician Nels Cline wasn’t too proud to invoke his inner Wilbury.  Look, we expect something more from a band that, since 2001’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, has been in a league of their own. As it is, Wilco, the album, kept up the streak of us playing Wilco, the band for half the year’s weeks, and when you think about it, dominating 26 weeks of any given year for this long is like Threepeating the NBA Finals or something.

10.  Cracker  “Sunrise In The Land of Milk and Honey”

It’s not the soft spot we have for David Lowery that got this one clinging to the bottom rung of Tulip Frenzy’s Top Ten list.  Sure, after listening to enough Pearl Jam, you might want some irony, and Lowery’s served it up in spades, both in this Southern combo and among their West Coast brethren, Camper Van Beethoven.  The actual irony is just how much that Pearl Jam album reminded us of the near-equal grip Cracker has on those punkrock power chords.  You can’t have too much fun, and we thank the Lord on a regular interval that this too is Cracker’s attitude.

Not Trying To Tip Our Hands On Tulip Frenzy’s Album Of The Year

Posted in Music with tags on November 11, 2009 by johnbuckley100

Hey, the year’s young.  There’s at least three weeks for someone to produce an album better than anything released by Sonic Youth, Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound, Robyn Hitchcock, and all the rest of the contenders.

Let us just say that this is an excellent moment for Sonic Youth to have released on iTunes a set from an in-store promotion at the Soho Apple Store.  With most of the songs emanating from The Eternal, we’re reminded what was on our playlist all summer long. So the version of “Leaky Lifeboat (For Gregory Corso)” has a vocal performance that makes us think Kim and Thurston were looking longingly at that new 27″ iMac, and not concentrating on harmonies, it’s a pretty impressive set, especially the version of  “Anti-Orgasm.”

Wish I could have been there, because I missed ’em when they were in DC this summer, and I would have loved to have heard the band that made the bes… I mean, a really good album that looms high in the office betting on who’s going to walk off with the vaunted T.Frenzy “Album ‘o The Year” gold cup.

Sonic Youth’s “The Eternal”

Posted in Music with tags , , on June 10, 2009 by johnbuckley100

When Sonic Youth’s Rather Ripped came out a couple of years ago, wouldn’t you know there were objections to its conventional structure, as in: no songs that noodled.  That it was accessible was a sign of something: if not selling out, then maybe slowing down, as if the Western Massachusetts air was mellowing Kim and Thurston.  Or maybe it was just a sign that Sonic Youth, like many their age, knew what to do and were playing for keeps. Now comes The Eternal, which shoots for the basket and makes it without so much as touching the net, a three-pointer of coherent songwriting, no noodling, and pulsating bass lines.  Don’t worry, chords are off kilter, and tuned to the usual Sonic Youth algorithm, and seriously, have the ever sounded better?

I’ve dutifully bought my 67 Sonic Youth albums, but lost the thrill sometime after “Expressway To Your Skull.”  There were signs of life post-Goo, but The Eternal isn’t just good late SY, it stands up with anything they’ve done since, well, “Death Valley ’69.”  There are traces of Elastica in “Anti-Orgasm,” and genuflections to Fugazi in “Leaky Lifeboat (For Gregory Corso).”  This will be scored by the cognoscenti as a bummer, but The Eternal would make a good entry point for those not in the know.

Since the early ’80s, Sonic Youth have had a remarkably stable lineup, and even as they’ve evolved from, well, youth to elder statesman status, they’ve not lost a step, nor a scintilla of hipness.  Twenty-eight years and 16 long-players on, they sound like they’re just warming up.  Eternal, indeed.  And thank Heavens for it.

The Warlocks’ “Mirror Explodes” And The Shards Shine Darkly

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by johnbuckley100

When L.A. psychedelic masters The Warlocks released 2003’s Phoenix, it was filled with enough exuberance for a Modern Lovers album.  “Shake The Dope Out” even kinda sounded like “Roadrunner.”  And then there was “Baby Blue,” as sweet a confection of SoCal Britpop as anything produced by BJM or members of the Paisley Underground.

But things got darker from there, witness the titles of their next two albums — Surgery and Heavy Deavey Skull Lover. This was disappointing, because at their best, The Warlock’s were the Alpha dogs of the nascent American neopsychedelic scene — big brothers to the Black Angels, regional counterparts to Vancouver’s Black Mountain.  They are the grandparents of First Communion After Party, the ones that show up and leave cigarettes in the punch bowl and ashes right next to the rosary that was the gift of Aunt Martha. They could bash their way darkly through six-minute guitar fests with Bobby Heksher singing like some exile from The Darkside, like maybe the member of Spaceman 3 who was left on launch pad because he was just too heavy to get into orbit.  Call him Spaceman 4.

Now comes The Mirror Explodes, and it’s the best thing they’ve done in six years. Maybe the concoctions they consume keep them from ever returning to the relative innocence of their Phoenix days, but they’ve sure resurrected themselves from the ashes. Okay, so the opening song sounds like late ’80s Sonic Youth, and surely “There Is A Formula To Your Despair” was swiped from Kramer’s apartment after an early Galaxie 500 session.  But these are compliments, man.  They’ve got a little of their swagger back, even if it’s 33 RPM swagger in a 45 RPM world.  The Mirror Explodes, and after you duck, you realize things are shining brightly all around the room.

Why Sasha Frere-Jones Really Is A Great Rock Critic

Posted in Music with tags , , , on July 9, 2008 by johnbuckley100

If you are someone who, like me, gags each and every time you read the wooden prose of Jon Pareles, wherein he talks about “Mr. Reed’s guitar vamps,” etc. it really is a delight to read Sash Frere-Jones in The New Yorker.  Yeah, he’s a little full of himself.  Name a really great rock critic who isn’t?  From John Mendelssohn to Byron Coley, Lester Bangs to Robert Palmer, the best rock critics have always made one step back, laugh, and go “What the…”  And Frere-Jones has the gift.  I hadn’t listened closely to the drums on Led Zep’s “Good Times, Bad Times” for years until Frere-Jones, writing about the reunion concert last autumn, shined the spotlight on the late John Bonham’s polyrhythmic perversity.   And then came his preview of the Feelies/Sonic Youth show in New York last week.  Here’s how he described the link between the two bands: “To be wildly reductive about the whole thing: the Feelies are the logical extension of the breakneck strumming in the Velvet Underground’s “What Goes On,” while Sonic Youth are the logical extension of Lou Reed’s solo.”  That is so good that if ever The New Yorker casts him out onto Times Square, look for Tulip Frenzy to host an online bake sale, just to keep the boy going.

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