Archive for The Fall

Ought’s “Sun Coming Down” Is A Left-Field Entrant For Album Of The Year

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 20, 2015 by johnbuckley100

Most bands that invite comparisons to The Fall — from the Pixies to the Breeders to Pavement — are so categorized because of the guitar sound.  Montreal’s Ought, who last week released a pretty stunning sophomore album, Sun Coming Down, travel a different path: guitarist and singer Tim Darcy sounds remarkably like that great misanthrope, Mark E. Smith, whose nasally sprechengesang once emerged from the speakers we listened to far more often than contemporaries such as Bono, Paul Westerberg, and Black Francis.

Ought packs a wallop, and mostly tunefully.  Trying to place them taxonomically would likely have them slotted near the Parquet Courts, but it’s hard to get around the fact that Mr. Darcy revels in his singing-talking of repeated phrases to such an extent the Fall are never far from mind.

And that’s a good thing!  If your memory goes back to the ’80s, it was a long slog from the emergence of X early in the decade to the arrival of the Pixies at the end, with — let’s face it — only The Replacements, Fleshtones, REM, U2, the Mekons, and Elvis Costello generating much enthusiasm in between.  A trio of albums in the mid-part of the decade — The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, The Nation’s Saving Grace, and Bend Sinister — stood heads and tails above all contemporaries.  And now comes Ought, one-time college chums in Montreal who clearly spent a lot of time studying those records and the Manchester band’s earlier output, and we give them an A+ for their diligence and enthusiasm.

Sometimes a band sound like their heroes and, while fun to listen to, you can dismiss them for second-rate imitation, a derivation without promise.  And sometimes there is a band like the Velvet Underground that spawns an entire multi-generation genre such that their derivates become a favorite category in and of themselves: from the Modern Lovers to the Talking Heads, from the Jesus and Mary Chain to Luna and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.  Listening to Darcy sing, “What is that sensation” over and over on “Beautiful Blue Sky,” and being able to place it perfectly in the context of the earlier band, we feel alright, we feel optimistic, we know we’ll be listening to these guys for a long time to come.

The Fall’s Great Brix Smith Has A Surprising Second Act

Posted in Music with tags , , , on September 19, 2013 by johnbuckley100

Long before The Dandy Warhols would yearn for “A Girl As Cool As Kim Deal,” there was Brix Smith.  In the entire, 35+-year run of The Fall, by far the best period were those years — 1983-1989 — when Brix Smith played lead guitar and sang in her husband Mark E. Smith’s band.

And there you kind of have it, right?  The two best bands from the 1980s, The Fall and The Pixies, both represented by iconic women.  Brix was pretty, sexy, competent on guitar, and when she was in the band, the Fall were amazing.  The Wonderful and Frightening World Of The Fall was the high point, for us at least, of mid-’80s music, though we’d love to have a barroom debate over whether it was better than The Nation’s Saving Grace and Bend Sinister, which followed it.  Brix was the driver of those great riffs, from “Cruisers Creek” to “L.A.”, but she also sang just enough that the strange, barking, white rapper’s vocals that erupted from her husband somehow went down a little easier.  And when she left the band, both our attention and the band’s performance drifted.

And now The New York Times has done a profile of Brix, who these days is a fashion star in London.  Who knew?  And who knew, actually, that she was a 19-year old Bennington girl, there concurrently with Jonathan Lethem, when she foisted a cassette of her band in Mark E. Smith’s hands — we can see his buzzard’s eye being raised as a pretty young American college girl comes on to Smith, who even then was a creepy misanthrope — and a short time later found herself in the lineup of the premier punk band of its day.

It’s a great piece, this profile on Brix, and a great story.  Even greater was the music, and that she now seems like a character out of Ab Fab is just plain funny.  So yeah, before rockers wanted to date a girl as cool as Kim Deal, there was Brix Smith.  And we’re glad she’s back, and doing well, and happy for the memories of when she was an integral part of the mid-’80s best band working.

Darker My Love’s Lighter Approach In “Alive As You Are”

Posted in Music with tags , , , on September 5, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Darker My Love’s new album is such a different affair from their first two, the wonder is they didn’t release it as a side project.

It got us to thinking.  About how Graham Greene used to write some novels as, well, novels, and others as entertainments — a way of distinguishing contrapuntal notes of seriousness and whimsy in his oeuvre.  And about how in recent weeks Google’s Eric Schmidt made news offering up his approach to youthful indiscretions, namely to offer all young adults the chance to change their name, and thus wipe the slate clean from arrest records, or typical beer-party Facebook postings.

So the question on the table is whether it would have been better for Darker My Love to have issued this third record under an assumed name.  Or at least a different name, since it presupposes a completely different band is at work.

Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing Darker My Love needs to run away from  — either for the left-field masterpiece that Alive As You Are turns out to be, or for their prior work. After all, their eponymous first album and the not-so creatively titled 2, were nothing to be ashamed of.  In fact, few are the bands that have played so assuredly as Tim Presley and his colleagues — psych punk with melodies, harmonies, and still an occasional nod to The Fall.  (In fact, half the band have degrees from Mark E. Smith’s rock’n’roll finishing school, as impressive in some parts as a diploma from Harvard.  And with a lineage that includes stints in The Nerve Agents and The Distillers, no one should question Darker My Love’s ability to play punk rock.)

Nothing prepares us, though, for the Byrds’n’Burritos approach of  Alive As You Are.  A re-listen to the first two albums does give hints of immersion in previously unnoticed tunefulness that reminds us of the Elephant 6 bands; on this new one, we find delightful echoes of Olivia Tremor Control in “18th Street Shuffle,” and when the peddle steel gives way to Norwegian wood, slices of Apples in Stereo. For those keeping score at home, that’s maybe the handiest reference point… the Elephant 6 bands.. a metaphorical portal through which Darker My Life enters mid-60’s California jangle. But then we also hear bands like The High Dials and Beechwood Sparks… you know, bands who seem to have spent as much time listening to The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Rubber Soul as they ever did to the Pixies or Nirvana.

It’s possible that Zia McCabe (see below) is right that people don’t like bands growing so much that you can’t recognize their signature in later work.  For we notice that “Alive As You Are” has not been greeted with rose petals from some of the rock crit cool cats who miss the power chords and monster riffs.  It’s okay, as rock crits and other kids are often caught flatfooted when the context changes this drastically.  And veering from The Fall to Gram Parsons is the sonic equivalent of a journey from Alaska to Key West, more than 3/5s of a mile in 10 seconds, a journey so fast we usually hear sonic booms, though in this case we mostly hear harmonies and pretty melodies.

There is something classic at work here, something great in its own right. It seems that Darker My Love have taken the same Sneaky Pete detour that bands of an earlier generation once did, heading from the city to Marin, leaving behind the hard rockin’ early work for a trip through the purple sage.  Whether it’s a lark or a hard left turn into the wild is what’s unclear.

Whatever it is, I find it fascinating. This is a band with the chops, breadth, and balls to give 60’s country rock a whirl.  Mark E. Smith may be shaking his head at what his former proteges are doing, though I’m guessing he’s grokking it just like we are. Let’s hoist a wheat grass smoothie to a band willing to confound all, while producing an airy, technicolor bit ‘o something rustic that’s far grittier than mere nostalgipop.

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