When he’s not leading the Decemberists, Colin Meloy has been known to tour as a solo acoustic act and issue EPs featuring spare covers of songs by Morrissey, Shirley Collins and Sam Cooke. On the 17-track Colin Meloy Sings Live! (Kill Rock Stars), he gives the solo treatment to Decemberists favorites as well as snippets of songs by the Smiths, Fleetwood Mac and Pink Floyd.
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It can be lots of fun being in the culture-vulture industry. People you don’t know give you albums you didn’t ask for, sometimes you get into shows for free, and so on. But on very rare occasions, you also get in on the ground floor and watch as a swell band cracks a level of exposure it’s deserved for a while. So let us now praise Man Man, a motley cadre that has landed, after two albums which received limited release, on Anti- Records, home to such career cranks as Tom Waits, Merle Haggard and Eddie Izzard. Rabbit Habits, the band’s third full-length, coheres into something like a consistent aesthetic: Surrealist lyrics are wedded to instrumentation both historical (horns, marimbas) and semi-modern (electric keyboards, improvisatory percussion), and the whole thing’s whipped into lurching street-parade tempos or mournful, plaintive groans. Man Man’s music is fashioned quite literally from every damned thing at hand; the impeccably mastered Rabbit Habits, in its feral way the tightest of the band’s albums, sounds like the noisy work of a single organism thrumming and wailing on all the instruments in the studio at once. The same goes for the band’s unashamedly enthusiastic live shows, which can make you feel like your spine has been shot full of Freon. Granted, you either enjoy that sort of thing or you don’t, but if you do, Man Man’s your meat.
MAGNET spoke with singer Honus Honus about pigeonholing, pop music and freezing his man (man) parts off while recording Rabbit Habits.
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It’s been six long years since the last Breeders album—2002’s decidedly underwhelming Title TK, which resulted in Elektra dropping them almost immediately following its release—but let no one say that co-founder Kim Deal hasn’t been plenty busy in the interim. The former Mrs. John Murphy rejoined the much-beloved Pixies for one of the most anticipated (and successful) reunions in alt-rock history, penning the band’s 2004 single “Bam Thwok” and spending the next several years playing old favorites and obscurities on a seemingly endless world tour. During various stolen moments on tour and at home, Deal wrote the songs that would eventually become the much-improved Mountain Battles, perhaps the most eclectic body of music she’s recorded to date. Ranging from sophisticated twilight-time pop (“Night Of Joy”) and souped-up Tex-Mex (“Regalame Esta Noche”) to faux-country (“Here No More”) and flat-out, overdriven rawk (“Overglazed”), Mountain Battles zigzags from one stylistic locale to the next without blinking an eye. In the process, the record turns longtime engineer Steve Albini’s bare-bones production work into a virtue and spins Deal’s ADD-afflicted worldview into gold.
MAGNET phoned Deal at her Dayton, Ohio, home and found her in a typically garrulous frame of mind.
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Robert Forster was always the darker, more literary Go-Between, the Lennon to Grant McLennan’s McCartney, as was often noted during their three-decade partnership. The Evangelist (Yep Roc) is Forster’s first album since McLennan’s untimely death in May 2006, and while it continues in the vein of previous Forster solo releases (the last one being 1996’s Edwyn Collins-produced Warm Nights), it is also a ghostly Go-Betweens album. Bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer Glenn Thompson of the final incarnation of the G-Bs join Forster, and Audrey Riley provides string arrangements, as she did way back on 1986’s Liberty Belle & The Black Diamond Express. And Forster finishes three songs that McLennan had written before his passing. It adds up to collection of haunted and haunting songs, from the understated, mandolin-driven “Let Your Light In, Babe” to the strummy, talky title track to the jangly and catchy “Pandanus.”
Forster spoke to MAGNET in New York City at the Hi-Fi bar on Avenue A, which he called “Go-Betweens Headquarters” because of the band’s songs on the jukebox and memorabilia on the walls.
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Bob Mould has become more cheery than he was on brooding, post-Hüsker Dü solo albums such as 1989’s Workbook and 1991’s Black Sheets Of Rain. The 47-year-old Mould now laughs a lot and seems more pragmatic than the guy who swore he’d never play his Minneapolis trio’s tunes again and was all-around gnarly when asked about anything other than his solo career and subsequent band, Sugar. But then again, everybody was pissed off in the ’90s, including fans disappointed in Mould for breaking up Hüsker Dü in order to make acoustic folk/rock and MOR punk. After playing pop/punk with Sugar, Mould dropped the sweetener and made heavy-duty electronic records and crafted complex solo efforts while maintaining the smartly harsh ruminative lyrical stance that made him both a prick and a saint. Suddenly, Mould began to look back, something he seemed incapable of doing. Mould’s current backing band coaxed him into doing Hüsker Dü tunes, which were taped for a documentary DVD, Circle Of Friends (MVD). He also signed to Anti- to release the new District Line, his most varied solo effort of acoustic blues, hard-ass guitars and subtly electronic tracks. And he’s laughing.
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As the old blues chestnut insists, if it wasn’t for bad luck, eels’ Mark Oliver Everett (better known by his monosyllabic moniker, E) wouldn’t have no luck at all. Having lost his father as a teenager, the Virginia native made his way to Los Angeles in the ’80s, releasing a few underheard solo albums before unexpectedly hitting it big with the quirky alterna-anthem “Novocaine For The Soul” in 1996. Then the loss came in waves: Everett’s sister, who had battled schizophrenia most of her life, committed suicide later that year, and in 1998 his mother died of lung cancer. (Moreover, Everett’s cousin was a flight attendant on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.) eels are commemorating a decade’s worth of work with the best-of Meet The Eels Essential Eels Vol. 1 and its odds-and-sods companion piece, Useless Trinkets (both on Geffen/Universal), which document Everett’s struggle to retain his humanity and humor in the face of insurmountable sorrow.
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As frontman for Galaxie 500 and Luna, Dean Wareham lived and prospered through two decades of indie rock. MAGNET spoke to Wareham about his memoir, an honest and surprisingly juicy behind-the-scenes look at bandmate squabbling, life on the road and the perils of cult stardom.
Dean Wareham speaks in a soft, cultured voice, punctuated by a lot of easy laughter. His frankness is a little jarring, so far is it from the cryptic tenor of the songs he wrote for Galaxie 500 and Luna. But then, Wareham has just spent a year and a half penning Black Postcards: Unreleased B-Sides And Notes From The Road (Penguin Press), a memoir of his years recording and touring with those now-defunct bands. And in order to do that, he’s been opening up lots of old wounds.
If there’s a more immediately terrifying phrase in English than “open-mic poetry,” it’s “rock memoir,” a mongrel bastard of a genre that encompasses everything from muckraking oral histories to ghost-written stroke jobs. But Wareham’s fame, such as it is, has always hinged on the fact that his bands never achieved the popular acclaim his critical rep might’ve suggested. As such, the enigmatic quality of his music, released on both indie and major labels, has always been very much a part of his public persona. And there’s a big chapter of his professional history—the acrimonious split with Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, his bandmates in Galaxie 500—about which he’s never spoken in detail.
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To nobody’s surprise, neither age nor the dissolution of Guided By Voices has slowed the prolific output of Ohio’s most famous schoolteacher-turned-songwriter. Robert Pollard has simultaneously issued two new solo albums, Coast To Coast Carpet Of Love and Standard Gargoyle Decisions (both on Merge), with help from producer and collaborator Todd Tobias. He’s also putting the finishing touches on a coffee-table book of lyrics and collage artwork titled Town Of Mirrors: The Reassembled Imagery Of Robert Pollard (due out next year) and recently staged an exhibit of his visual art at Studio Dante, Sopranos star Michael Imperioli’s New York City theater.
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With a commanding, imposing voice, Siouxsie Sioux turned what looked like a one-night stand into a musical career that’s still going strong. Sioux, born Janet Susan Dallion in 1957, formed a primitive version of Siouxsie And The Banshees to open for an early Sex Pistols show at London’s tiny 100 Club in 1976. Who would’ve guessed this ad hoc support band would outlive the evening’s headliner by almost 20 years? The eerie drone of the Banshees was a harbinger of brooding U.K. post-punk outfits the Cure, Joy Division and Bauhaus. After a career that included 15 top-30 hits in the U.K., Sioux pulled the plug on the Banshees in 1996 to focus on the Creatures, the side project she’d formed with husband (and Banshees drummer) Peter “Budgie” Clarke. Now comes Mantaray (Decca), Sioux’s debut solo album. No matter what the label on the can says, it’s pretty much the same peppery soup inside. Crackling guitars and pounding drums protectively surround Sioux’s vocals as though they’re safeguarding the princess of some long-lost Inca tribe.
Admittedly a bit “gaga” after a day full of radio interviews, Sioux spoke to MAGNET from London.
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By the time you’ve finished reading this, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore will have probably produced, recorded or released another album or written another book. Recently, Moore issued an acoustic-guitar-driven solo LP (Trees Outside The Academy, on his Ecstatic Peace label), penned a tome on New York City’s downtown scene (the forthcoming No Wave) and spent the summer playing 1988 SY masterpiece Daydream Nation in its entirety to festival crowds.
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