Archive for Television

Wand Brought Their Sweet “Plum” To DC9, And Played The Most Exciting Show In Memory

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on October 9, 2017 by johnbuckley100

Wand 2017All images Leica Monochrom and 35mm Summicron v. IV

The D.J. was playing Television’s “Marquis Moon” when Cory Hanson climbed up on DC9’s stage last night and strapped on his Stratocaster.  He played along for a moment, which makes sense when you consider that our early warning on how powerful Wand’s new album Plum would be was when Hanson told Uncut, “I was reading about how Television wrote Marquis Moon and they’d go into their rehearsal space five days a week for four hours a day.  So I decided to go in six days a week for 10 hours a day.  We pushed harder to see what would happen.”

Wand released “Blue Cloud” a few weeks before pushing Plum out the door, putting us on notice that not only was Wand ready to rehearse like Television, they wanted to beat them at their own game.  And from the moment last night that Evan Burrows furiously kicked into “White Cat” and Hanson and new addition Robbie Cody began trading guitar lines like Verlaine and Lloyd, it was clear they had.  As great as Television were (and are), Billy Ficca is no Aynsley Dunbar, and Burrows is unquestionably the greatest drummer playing in a band today.

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We feel like Wand has grown up before our eyes, from their 930 Club debut in 2014 opening for Ty Segall to their stunning show at the Black Cat in 2015.  From the release of Ganglion Reef to Plum, they’ve grown from songs with titles like “Flying Golem” and “Reaper Invert” to becoming surely the only rock band extant to write a poignant song called “Charles De Gaulle.”

On their first two albums, born like Catholic twins maybe 10 months apart, their early roots showed the influence of mentor Ty Segall, with Black Sabbath chords played at speed metal tempi.  But Hanson’s always had a melodic grounding, and any band that could put “Growing Up Boys” on their first album was destined for great things.  With Plum — with shows like the one they put on last night — their destiny has arrived.  We can’t think of a better album released this year, nor a better show than we saw last night.

Since they were here last, Sofia Arrequin was added on keyboards and vocals, and with her arrival Wand’s sound has shifted from synth-heavy support for Hanson’s fluid guitar and pretty voice to a band playing with the fluidity of White Denim, the guitar interplay of the Soft Boys.  They’re a unit built around the core propulsion of a breeder reactor, but could only be riveted tighter if they rolled out of the Boeing factory.

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Cory Hanson has the preppy good looks of a Kennedy, and he came out in similar garb to what he was wearing last year when he and Burrows – for a few months putting Wand aside — toured as part of Ty Segall’s Muggers.  Since then, Hanson’s released a solo album as distant from Wand in it’s delicate sound as fellow Angeleno Shannon Lay’s Living Water is from her punk band Feels (also once produced by Ty Segall).  Taking a vacation from the thunder of Wand’s first two albums, and the ambitious prog-pop of their third outing 1000 Days was clearly good for the band, as were the additions of the two new members.

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Wand is at the height of their powers, but writing that we know they still have plenty of room to grow.  Some strong albums have been released this year by both Ty Segall and West Coast giant John Dwyer, whose Oh Sees made our August.  But among the West Coast’s finest, Wand’s come out on top, the best young band working today.  We stand back in awe at the prospect of what they’re capable of.

Television, A Friend From Many Stages, Return To D.C.’s 930 Club

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2016 by johnbuckley100

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Speaking of bands who’ve been around for 40 years, Television played at D.C.’s 930 Club, and to say they were in fine form understates the impact of the Platonic ideal.

With only one song from 1992’s Television — “1880 or So” — and none at all from Adventure, this set was Marquee Moon all the way.  Only it was like Marquee Moon from the inside out: no “See No Evil,” and we heard “Prove It” and “Torn Curtain” before “Venus.”  A special highlight was hearing the gorgeous “Guiding Light,” and the closer of the set, “Marquee Moon,” was as good as we have ever heard it — and our hearing it live traces back to New Year’s Eve 1976.

Richard Lloyd has left the band, but Jimmy Rip — who has played with Verlaine since his 1980s solo tours — filled in and then some.  Yes, it was a little odd to hear a stand-in play Lloyd’s lines, but Rip is such an excellent guitarist in his own right, it was like hearing a gifted Branagh fill in for Olivier as Hamlet.

Richard Lloyd once famously said that with while some bands look to see whether they have the crowd moving, Television always judged its performance by whether the audience was motionless.  And yes, when Verlaine and Rip traded guitar lines, the crowd reaction was transfixion.  Verlaine was as loose as we have ever seen him, fronting Television or his own band (often comprised of a similar set of musicians.)  The volume was low, the torque was loose, and it was magnificent.

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The last time we saw Television play was at Georgetown, when they were pushing their 1992 eponymous  reunion album.  The playing then was a bit like this: quieter and more self-contained than those shows we saw as they were exiting stage left in 1978.  But then and now, there was plenty that was raucous contained at an adult volume.

We once had Tom Verlaine explain to us, while sitting in our apartment in New York for an interview for the Soho Weekly News, that Television’s two-Fender guitar sound was aimed at extracting the jaggedness of wild songs.  But last night, he and Rip convened a harmonic convergence — on the unreleased, and very long, “Persia,” the fusion music had the audience guessing where the Farfisa , violins, and synths were hiding, though it was only the two guitars.  And on that post-Bolero finish to “Marquee Moon,” the return to the melody was like a post-coital urge for more, unheralded by the drums.

Fred Smith, the Harvey Keitel of rock’n’roll, was his wonderfully understated self, and Billy Ficca proved anew why he’s the greatest jazz drummer to ever center a punk-era band.  But it was Verlaine, of course, who people came to see, and both his singing and his magically elusive guitar were a reminder that one of the greatest bands in history can still evoke the era in which we first saw them, all those years ago.

Parquet Courts’ “Sunbathing Animal” Is Out, And Summer May Now Commence

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on June 4, 2014 by johnbuckley100

When Parquet Courts play, we’re transported to a distant time when the best rock’n’roll in the world emanated not from Brooklyn, but Lower Manhattan.  They know this — they are very self-aware — and they play their 1970s Television roots to a fare-thee-well.  For a band of primitives, Parquet Courts know precisely what they’re doing.  And it is glorious.

They kick off the spankin’ new Sunbathing Animal with “Bodies Made Of,” and we are immediately in the hypnotic two-guitar grip of Lloyd and Verlaine playing “See No Evil,” with the underlying riff of “96 Tears” adding a garage-band reference to the ur-punk swing.  By the time we get to “Dear Ramona,” we have a magical invocation of Frank Black’s “Ramona” and Television’s “Venus,” replete with the dumb-boy glee-club and its “huh?” chorus.  And it just gets better from there, songs of a minute-thirty length alternating with seven-minute opi.

Parquet Courts do what the most thrilling punk bands of the late ’70s routinely effected, a gambit to which so few bands since then have been able to pull off: they play with such utter authority within their limitations that you can’t figure out whether they are genuinely constrained or art-school geniuses slumming on a project.  They manage to be raw and thrilling one moment, pretty and beguiling the next, and they understand the weight of a broader cohort of songs — a live set, an album — in which they can power through skronk and immediately return with the most melodic tune, picked out by the two guitarists (Andrew Savage and Austin Brown) who play with such consonance you would swear they are a pop band in secret.  If it could be said — yeah, we said it — that Wire was a band that was always at their most interesting just when their reach exceeded their grasp, let us state here that Parquet Courts are both conceptually ambitious but also seemingly in control: they pull off that magic trick where it seems they are playing beyond their ability, but really that’s all  just part of the act.  Or maybe the act is to make it seem like it’s part of the act — the very asking of that question giving an indication of their conceptual intelligence.  There may be no more thrilling punk band in the world today.

The spoken-voice “singing”probably seals Parquet Courts’ commercial fate, or at least it would if we were living in an era where radio mattered.  In a Spotify playlist world, it is possible these guys are inches away from global domination.  We just don’t know.  What we do know is that when Light Up Gold, their first widely released album, came out at the end of 2012, we immediately placed it in the 2013 Tulip Frenzy Top Ten List (c).  We know that when we saw them live last summer with Woods, we felt the warm wash of nostalgia flushed by the excitement of discovering something wholly new.  We know that with Sunbathing Animal, Parquet Courts have released an album that will induce sophomores at Brown to drop out en masse, their move to Williamsburg inspired by just this one thing.

Even though Parquet Courts should be seen in a beery fog of a thrashing crowd, feet all sticking to the parquet floor, their new ‘un is an album all the coolest sunbathing animals will play through ear buds, while the summer sun beats down on the tar roofs of Brooklyn, the beaches of Saint Tropez.  Better reach for the Coppertone, as the finest band plying the Austin-Brooklyn axis keeps you riveted to their 14-song revelation.

Richard Hell Is A Stand-Up Guy

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on November 29, 2013 by johnbuckley100

So funny, we’d been thinking this morning how unhappy we are not to be in Brooklyn tonight to see Television play at Rough Trade.  And then we got this email…

For a long time, we’ve loved listening to Richard Hell’s music, particularly the two albums he recorded with the Voidoids — Blank Generation and the original Destiny Street.  But since the ’90s, we’ve also enjoyed reading his fiction (Go Now), and then his excellent memoir, I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, which we absolutely adored.

Today, Richard contacted us out of the blue to let us know that he had just re-issued his compilation SPURTS AKA The Richard Hell Story because… well, we’ll let him tell it:

What happened is I became aware a few months after the original release that it was degraded because, due to a miscommunication, all the tracks on it had been terribly limited/compressed, sucking out the dynamics and vitality of the original tracks and reducing them to a blare. (If you’re interested, there’s a more detailed account below of the long process of dealing with this.) The new versions are especially significant for the large number of the tracks, like the Neon Boys numbers and “The Kid With the Replaceable Head” and the DESTINY STREET and DIM STARS cuts, etc., which basically aren’t available anywhere except on SPURTS. 
The new masters were made this fall at Sterling Sound by Greg Calbi (the maestro of masterers, who actually mastered the BLANK GENERATION album for Sire/Warners in 1977). He was good enough to let Don Fleming and me sit in. We used the very best original sources, some actually higher quality than on the 2005 sessions, but the main thing was to keep the pure powerful full-range sound, sans the nasty frequency-squeezing added at the last minute in 2005.
 
I feel bad that all the customers of the last eight years paid for something inferior and now if they want the good stuff will have to pay again. But there’s nothing I can do about it but apologize. It’s my fault. 
 
Warner/Rhino agreed to substitute the new tracks at all merchandisers, and they started the process November 19. They’re now up at most of them, including iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. So far the song titles are not individually described at these places as new masters (and there’s various other scrambled misinformation, such as still listing the release date as 2005)–though at most sites the album title states “(Remastered)”–but you can be sure it’s the full 21 newly remastered cuts when you see that the song “Downtown at Dawn” runs 5:59 or so; on the original Spurts it’s 4:07. I’m working on trying to get the separate tracks labeled “2013 remaster” so they can’t be confused with the old bad tracks, but it’s hard to get the business bureaucracies to trouble. Also, eventually the jewel-boxed CD at Amazon will be replaced, but we don’t know how long that will take. 
 
As to how the original re-mastering went wrong… It was a mis-communication at the very last stage of the original remastering process done for SPURTS. We had all the tracks tweaked to spec–drawn from the best available originals, made as consistent as reasonable with each other, etc.–when I made the point to the technician that I wanted the CD, as a unit, to play at the loudest practical volume. I just meant that the tracks, as already prepared for the final pass of the mastering process, should fall as close to redline as possible so that when the manufactured CDs played they’d be at least as loud as anything else in a playlist… It was a trivial thing. But the guy misinterpreted what I was saying, and proceeded to add this excessive limiting/compressing to all the tracks, so that the volume within each track would be more consistent and every track therefore would come out louder. At this point I wasn’t paying much attention, because I didn’t think I needed to–everything was routine. It was only months later that I realized what had happened. A huge amount of the life of the tracks had been sucked out. I always hoped and planned to eventually fix this, but as long as the CD was in its original printing I knew it would be a problem, because the company wouldn’t want to destroy those. Also it would cost me a good amount of money (it ended up costing $3000+), not to mention time and effort. Anyway, when I saw that the CD had gone to print-on-demand early in 2013, I realized it had become practical to substitute good re-remastered versions. So that’s when I contacted Rhino/Warners…
 
For reference, here is how the new CD in mp3s is offered at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Richard-Hell-Story-Remastered/dp/B00GICU8QU/ref=sr_1_2?s=dmusic&ie=UTF8&sr=1-2&keywords=%22richard+hell%22
Going to this trouble to make things right with his fans is a) a very classy thing, and b) a smart thing for an artist to do.  After all, you want to be known by your best work, your best effort.  This was the thinking behind his Destiny Street Repaired, in which he went back into the studio to re-record the original album, which he found deficient because, well, he was deficient at the time.  We did not think that move was so successful, preferring the original.  But getting The Richard Hell Story with its trove of Neon Boys (AKA proto-Television) cuts, and Dim Star (w/Thurston Moore) songs, not to mention his work with the Heatbreakers and the Voidoids into listenable shape — well, this is pure delight.
Did we mention it was Black Friday and that you do have that list of friends you need to buy albums for, no?

 

Best New Band/Album Ever, August 2013 Edition: Houndstooth’s “Ride Out The Dark”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 3, 2013 by johnbuckley100

The Portland (OR) band Houndstooth have just released their first album, Ride Out The Dark, and through our jeweler’s loupe, we spy a gem.  It captures that magic moment in 1966 when folk bands all went electric and their ace guitarists began noodling at length, as the female vocalist swayed at the front of the stage.  Or maybe it captures that magic moment in 1976 when Richard Hell had left Television and some hipper-than-thou Downtown rock crits put ’em down as  a Southern boogie band, just because Verlaine and Lloyd liked stretching out the songs with gorgeous psyche fretboard wandering.

Actually, it’s to a Southern band that they compare themselves, which is odd, as they’re about as much a Southern band as Wilco is.  Sure, on “Wheel On Fire” we hear some harmony guitar, but really, they sound a lot more like a Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, or Brooklyn’s Widowspeak, than Wet Willie, or even the Alabama Shakes.  Yeah, there’s an affinity to Alabama Shakes in that there’s a glorious raw guitar sound, but Katie Bernstein has a pretty, not particularly dramatic voice, and no one would confuse her for Janis Joplin.  As readers of Tulip Frenzy know, we like Widowspeak, but find them wanting, a bit too slight and ethereal, and here’s where Houndstooth’s so delightful: talk of folky pysche notwithstanding, the band has grit, the backbeat kicks, and on a warm summer night we’d love to to be on the slope downward to the outdoor stage as the sun sets and guitarist John Gnorski settles into one of his extended riffs, eventually levitating everything, the band, the stage, the crowd.

Something tells us we’ll be listening to Houndstooth a lot for the rest of August, and in the months/years/eons to come.

Richard Hell’s “I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 19, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Like many of rock’n’roll’s greatest vocalists, Richard Hell doesn’t have a very good voice.  As one of the greatest punk rock musicians, he couldn’t play his instrument very well.  For a guy who left Television before it made arguably the best album of the 1970s; left the Heartbreakers before L.A.M.F.; and whose output — not including the almost unlistenable Dim Stars record (bad sound quality) — is only the two records he put out with his band, The Voidoids, he sure does cut an outsized figure.  Even if all we had to go on was his song “Time,” from the Destiny Street album, or maybe his version of Dylan’s “Going Going Gone,” or (the lyrically reprehensible, since it would seem to promote incest) “The Plan” from Blank Generation, Richard Myers (Hell) would hulk in the corner of our rock Pantheon, casting a very large shadow.  And with the release of I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, he’s now produced one of the most honest, funniest, best written and compelling autobiographies of any rock star ever — a book that holds its own with Keith Richards’ Life and Dean Wareham’s Black Postcards.

We enjoyed his novel Go Now, which came out in ’97, so we were prepared for a well-told story.  And what a story!  Whatever you think of him — talentless jester who was all style over substance, or seminal figure who helped launch the CBGB wave — credit him with balls.  Running away from boarding school with his pal Tom Miller, whom the world now knows as Tom Verlaine; moving to NY as a teenager without a high school diploma, and somehow surviving junk and basically three decades without a new record; Richard Myers reinvented himself as Richard Hell and helped create not just punk’s style — the torn shirts and safety pins that would be shamelessly ripped off by his admirer, Malcolm McLaren, when he was inventing the Sex Pistols — but some fair measure of it ethos: true heart and burning energy trumping anything so bourgeois as actual musical chops.

From what’s available through bootlegs and other artifacts, Television circa 1974 was a tug of war between Verlaine’s genius on a Fender guitar and Hell’s propulsive antics.  Neither really could sing, and both were pretty pretentious.  But Verlaine was a guitar god, and Hell was something else.  You read his account of leaving Television, and joining up with Johnny Thunders in the Heartbreakers (not to be confused, as it was, with Tom Petty’s band), only to leave to form the Voidoids with two of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, Bob Quine and Ivan Julian, and you keep waiting for the story to become a triumph. Keep waiting to hear how he got it together and achieved his dreams, fulfilled his promise.  And of course it didn’t happen.  By the time we got to New York in the late ’70s, Hell had already failed to sustain the momentum created with the amazing first Voidoid’s album, Blank Generation.  We only got to see him twice — once fronting the Raybeats at the NY Rocker 1979 holiday party (and that was a scream; Hell singing while the space-cowboy uniformed, No Wave surf instrumentalists backed him up), and then at the Peppermint Lounge around the time Destiny Street provided the Hell/Quine combo its swan song  — and by ’84 it was all over.  He blames other factors in addition to junk, but heroin addiction trumps all other factors in stories like this.  Heroin addiction may start as a manifestation, not a cause, of one’s problems, but by now we all know how quickly it piggybacks into rendering things the other way around.

The book is a great read.  His take down of his former high school chum Verlaine is vengeance served cold — with the meanest twist of the knife being not his remembrance of things past, but the book’s end, when he runs into his old friend, by now middle-aged, buying books from a dollar bin on the streets of Lower Manhattan.  While his Zelig-as-Casanova rounds of all the eligible women in ’70s New York gets old, he’s honest to admit relationships with two of rock’n’roll’s most horrific people, Nancy Spungeon and Anya Phillips, neither of whom met good ends.  In fact, the soundtrack for the book is less anything Hell recorded so much as it’s Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died,” as so many of the players succumbed to both drugs and natural causes… Lester Bangs and Peter Laughner and Lizzy Mercier Descloux and Johnny Thunders and Dee Dee Ramone and Bob Quine and on and on.

But not Hell.  Hell’s a survivor.  And a great storyteller.  And a man who understands that his greatest asset, circa 2013, is what he witnessed nearly 40 years ago, when Lower Manhattan, not Brooklyn, was the center of the universe, and things were grungy and sexy and fun.  You could think of Richard Hell as a man who with a modicum of talent played with a line up of the best guitarists of his generation, and created a small body of work that both will live for the ages and provide a clue about that brief moment when a handful of New York bands changed the world.  Or you could think of him as a very clean tramp, who has written a book we will enjoy as much as any of his collaborations with Bob Quine.

Parquet Courts’ “Light Up Gold” Is Either The Last Great Album of 2012, Or The First Great Album O’ This’n Year

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 6, 2013 by johnbuckley100

When you listen to Parquet Courts’ Light Up Gold, you can almost smell the sweat fog in the tiny Brooklyn clubs where the material was honed, and you unconsciously lift your feet from the floor to make sure spilled beer hasn’t affixed you to something far less glamorous than parquet.  We can easily understand why so many people who have appropriately lost their minds in fandom for the young Texan migrants to Area Code 718 keep referencing  the Modern Lovers, but really, there is a far, far more apt mid-’70s comparison to these young garage rockers.  Playing Light Up Gold back to back with Television’s Marquee Moon only reinforced the brilliance of the latter, not least of which how amazing the sound was on the first Television studio release.  But if you have ever heard the Brian Eno demo of Television circa ’75, with Richard Hell still part of the band, you’ll begin to grok the raw’n’thrilling state these tyros presently inhabit.  Yeah, Richard Hell pre-Voidoids, without the showoff articulation of Ivan Julian and Bob Quine on guitar, but the otherwise loss of the ability to do anything but pogo in excitement at the ruckus they’re creating?  You got it, real rock’n’roll, with Light Up Gold being re-released approximately now, giving it a 2013 release date even though it came out nigh on two months ago.

We saw reference to them in the January Uncut Magazine while in an airport waiting room, and downloaded the album by the time Group 37 was being loaded onto the flight.  People looked at us funny as we bounced in our seat, shouting aloud above the headphone roar.  You’ll react the same way too, especially if you go see them this Wednesday night at D.C.’s The Rocketship.

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