In The News: Neil Young, The Lemonheads, Tortoise, Eels, Broken Social Scene And Free MP3s

evan-dando550cFor those of you living under a rock ‘n’ roll, uh, rock, the biggest news that came out of SXSW is that Neil Young‘s highly anticipated (putting it mildly) collection Archives Volume 1 1963-1972 (Reprise) will be released June 2. While there are too many details about formats and whatnot to go into here, suffice to say there are reams of CDs, DVDs, booklets, posters and more. Pre-orders at will include a free preview version sent out before June 2, along with an exclusive seven-inch single of early songs “Aurora” and “Mustang” … From the sublime to the ridiculous, there’s Varshons (The End), a collection of covers from the Lemonheads (pictured) due June 23. The notion of a covers record in and of itself isn’t silly, and the takes on some of the artists Evan Dando and crew tackle—Leonard Cohen, Wire, Gram Parsons—are probably worth hearing, but did we really need new versions of songs by GG Allin and Christina Aguilera (“Beautiful,” penned by that god-awful 4 Non Blondes woman)? Download “No Backbone”Elvis Costello‘s upcoming Secret, Profane & Sugarcane will be released by Hear Music on June 2, a big day for new stuff, as you’ll see. Produced by T Bone Burnett during a three-day session in Nashville, it features “I Felt The Chill,” Costello’s second songwriting collaboration with country legend Loretta Lynn … Jenny Lewis kicks off a tour May 27 in support of her second solo record, last year’s Acid Tongue. From the Really? Why? Department, Welcome To Van Nuys, a film documenting Acid Tongue’s recording, is in the can awaiting release. Download “Acid Tongue”Iggy Pop takes on the language of love—or foreplay, at least—with Préliminaires (Astralwerks), another June 2 bow. Préliminaires, French for “foreplay,” is inspired by Michel Houellebecq’s 2005 novel The Possibility Of An IslandPandemonium Ensues (E1 Music), the new disc from Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook, is out April 7. Tilbrook will embark on a short U.S. tour (seven dates), mostly in the East … Beacons Of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey), instrumental jazz-noise rockers Tortoise‘s sixth LP, is out June 23. They haven’t been heard from with new material since 2004’s It’s All Around You … More June 2 news: Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs Of Desire (Vagrant), the first eels studio record since 2005’s Blinking Lights And Other Revelations, is out that day. Frontman Mark Oliver “E” Everett recorded the LP in his L.A. studio. Download the demo for “Somebody Loves You”Funland (Smog Veil), from “supergroup” Unknown Instructors, drops May 12. Among those professing the rock are Mike Watt (Stooges, Minutemen, fIREHOSE), David Thomas (Pere Ubu, Rocket From The Tombs), Joe Baiza (Saccharine Trust, Universal Congress Of) and George Hurley (Minutemen, fIREHOSE) … Oral histories are generally reserved for seminal scenes or artists that have been around a while, but that’s not stopping House Of Anansi Press from chronicling Toronto’s Broken Social Scene with This Book Is Broken, in stores May 16. The book, compiled and written by MAGNET contributor Stuart Berman, is drawn from interviews with the band and others and includes a number of gig posters and photographs.

Leonard Cohen’s “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”:

Lost Classics: Royal City “Alone At The Microphone”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

Alone At The Microphone // Three Gut, 2001

royal-city395Crawling through shit and mud to be with your beloved and your banjo never sounded lovelier. Like any classic album, Alone At The Microphone existed in its own imaginary world, both lyrically and sonically. Royal City emerged from its basement with dog-eared copies of the Bible and Milton to detail the depths of the spiritually downtrodden; in doing so, the Guelph, Ontario, band set itself apart from its more polite peers, predating freak folk and terrifying the alt-country set. Royal City’s journey through the profane included glimpses of the sacred, a realization achieved with beautiful starlit arrangements that dazzle to this day.

Catching Up: Royal City went on permanent hiatus in 2004 shortly after the release of follow-up Little Heart’s Ease. Singer/songwriter Aaron Riches is a theology student in Nottingham, England; guitarist Jim Guthrie continues to release solo albums and was a touring guitarist in Islands; bassist Simon Osbourne backs up drummer Nathan Lawr’s solo singer/songwriter project. A retrospective of unreleased Royal City songs (titled Royal City) is due on Asthmatic Kitty June 23.

“My Brother Is The Meatman”

MP3 At 3PM: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

painsmp34390cThe buzz surrounding the Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is quickly growing into a shrill forcefield of backlash—the NYC band played 10 shows at SXSW and has bloggers babbling about its Creation Records collection—but we’re here to help. Don’t be that guy/girl who still hasn’t heard the Arctic Monkeys. (I see that dude in the mirror every day.) Here’s the best song from the Pains’ self-titled album.

“Young Adult Friction” from The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (download):

Normal History Vol. 1: The Art Of David Lester

davidleaster1400Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 25-year run.

Lester: “The politics are not obvious” is a painting I did that a banjo player bought after seeing it displayed in 2004, when Mecca Normal played a barber shop in Olympia, Wash., and a bookshop in Seattle during a West Coast tour. The man later sent me a cassette of his banjo playing. He recorded just this one copy to send to me. This was art. This was political.

Josie Cotton’s B-Movie Guide: Why, Josie, Why?

Josie Cotton may have stolen the prom scene in a cult-classic film (1983’s Valley Girl, singing new-wave hit “Johnny, Are You Queer?”), but she never committed such cinematic high-camp crimes as found in vintage b-movies. Each day this week, Cotton surveys one of her favorite films and offers a song from her latest album, Invasion Of The B-Girls. Read our Q&A with Cotton and her memoir about “Johnny, Are You Queer?”


Here lies the unknown-yet-forgettable Black Klansman. It never fit into the theme of Invasion Of The B-Girls, but it was in such questionable taste that I had to include it. Suffice it to say, 1966’s The Black Klansman was a mistake by all concerned. No matter how well-intentioned, civil-rights activist/director Ted V. Mikels has left us with the moral equivalent of a Chia Pet. Even in the worst b-movies, you can always find a way to suspend disbelief. However, it is impossible to forget the fact that a full-on afro-sheened black dude is inducted into the Ku Klux Klan and no one seems to notice! The fact that no one would admit to knowing who wrote its kick-ass theme song, “Black Klansman,” was kind of funny but also a little sad because it deserves to be remembered. When I sang this song, the story of the Black Klansman insanely became my story, proving once again that emotions are not to be trusted.

Hunting down the renegade songwriters responsible for the material on Invasion Of The B-Girls proved to be an unexpected odyssey. A lot of them had died along the way—some, apparently, from embarrassment. We were dealing with now-defunct publishing companies and disbelieving heirs scattered across the country who had no idea what shady shenanigans their kooky artiste cousin twice removed had been up to out there in Hollywood Land.

To my amazement, no one had ever made a record devoted to theme songs from b-movies until Invasion Of The B-Girls. How could that be? There was a geek army of hardcore b-movie fans who knew much more than I would ever know, but fate had thrown me a grenade and I was going to run like hell with it. Did I lose fans doing this? Yes. Will I ever make back the money I spent? No. Was it worth it? Absofuckinglutely. This was my labor of love, harkening back to when I was a weird and socially challenged little girl. Godzilla, Mothra and aliens from Mars were personal friends of mine in this other world where I did fit in.

“Black Klansman” from Josie Cotton’s Invasion Of The B-Girls (download):

Continue reading “Josie Cotton’s B-Movie Guide: Why, Josie, Why?”

Lost Classics: The Dismemberment Plan “Is Terrified”

tapem200bThey’re nobody’s buzz bands anymore. But since 1993, MAGNET has discovered and documented more great music than memory will allow. The groups may have broken up or the albums may be out of print, but this time, history is written by the losers. Here are some of the finest albums that time forgot but we remembered in issue #75, plus all-new additions to our list of Lost Classics.

Is Terrified // DeSoto, 1997

Before Fall Out Boy, Hot Topic and emo, Washington, D.C.’s Dismemberment Plan provided the perfect soundtrack to post-college malaise. Terrified is the Plan at its ADD best: welding the unbridled energy of hardcore to the let’s-try-anything spirit of indie rock. (Imagine Shudder To Think crossed with XTC or Queen.) Frontman Travis Morrison embodied the brainy outsider but never begged for your sympathy: alone, naked and drenched in champagne on New Year’s Eve (“The Ice Of Boston”), bewildered by the indifference of the “six or seven kids” watching the band in a Fargo, N.D., strip mall (“Do The Standing Still”) and shrugging his shoulders at being the odd man out in pretty much every setting.

Catching Up: After the Plan’s 2003 split, Morrison released 2004’s Travistan and 2007’s All Y’all. Bassist Eric Axelson played in Maritime with ex-members of the Promise Ring before forming Statehood with D-Plan drummer Joe Easley. Guitarist Jason Caddell is now a producer and engineer and plays in Poor But Sexy. Axelson and Caddell have also spent time in the Gena Rowlands Band. The Dismemberment Plan reunited for two shows in 2007.

“Academy Award”:

Cracker Releases New Video, Album Due In May

As a preview to Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey (due May 5 on 429 Records), Cracker has posted a video for album track “Yalla Yalla” on YouTube. The video cobbles together clips of American fighting men and women stationed in Iraq, rocking out in and around tanks, aircraft carriers and barracks.

“‘Yalla’ is a common Arabic expression, loosely meaning ‘hurry up’ and often used by American soldiers,” writes Cracker frontman David Lowery. “Like every war, Iraq War soldiers have developed their own unique slang based on their experiences. Oftentimes these slang words creep into our nation’s vocabulary many years after the original conflict. ‘Yalla Yalla’ may not become as common as RADAR, AWOL or SNAFU but it will certainly be used by soldiers for many years to come. This song takes no position on the war in Iraq. It is a exploration and a celebration of a certain kind of bravado and swagger one finds in the speech of soldiers. I find it nicely matches the kind of swagger often exhibited by rock, blues and hip hop singers. I suppose that is why it was so much fun (and relatively easy) to take this arcane slang and acronyms and build a song out of it.”

There’s lots more to say about Sunrise In The Land Of Milk And Honey, but we’ll be brief for now: Guest performers and co-songwriters include Susanna Hoffs, Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous, John Doe and Drive-By Truckers’ Patterson Hood. The song titled “Hey Bret (You Know What Time It Is)” is not directed toward Flight Of The Conchords‘ Bret (who knows it’s business time), but is rather an in-joke between Lowery and Built To Spill/Caustic Resin dude Brett Netson.

MP3 At 3PM: Prefuse 73

prefuse360Multi-monikered hip-hop artist Guillermo Scott Herren (a.k.a. Savath y Savalas, a.k.a. Diamond Watch Wrists), best known as Prefuse 73, will be releasing his latest effort, Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian, on April 14 on Warp. Ampexian arrives just in time to set up lawn chairs on your roof this summer, where Herren’s deft, palatable R&B beats—infused with jazz trumpets and hiccupping electronic blips—will create a perfect ambience over an epic 29 tracks. The song “Preperation’s Kids Choir” is more hormonal than a 13-year-old girl, but its steady loops keep it planted firmly in your mind all day long.

“Preparations Kids Choir” (download):

Mecca Normal Embarks On 25th Anniversary Tour

meccanormal370bAround the world, people are losing their jobs, cashing their unemployment checks and hunkering down to weather the storm. Canadian singer/multi-instrumentalist Jean Smith’s response to getting a pink slip when the eco-friendly clothing store where she worked closed its doors is a bit more hopeful and creative. She booked a 25th anniversary tour for Mecca Normal, her duo with guitarist David Lester. It starts in their hometown of Vancouver at the end of March and finishes up in Providence, R.I., a month later, with stops split between conventional rock venues and classrooms where they’ll stage a combination lecture/workshop/art exhibit.

“How Art & Music Can Change The World” provides a venue for Smith and Lester to present their work in other media (she is a published author and a painter, he makes politically themed posters and comics), but it also let’s them try to inspire audiences to effect progressive change through their own creative work. Mecca Normal hasn’t issued an album since 2006, but the duo hasn’t been musically idle. Lester’s other band, Horde Of Two, recently released its first CD, Guitar & Bass Actions, while Mecca Normal has been reissuing older records on iTunes and developing a diverse new set of songs, some of which you can hear on its MySpace page. One, “Malachi,” commemorates a Chicago antiwar activist who set himself on fire. Others, says Smith, “are narratives based in the male/female dynamic; we’ve performed most of these ones and they get laughs. I actually have to stop singing and wait for people to stop laughing.”

Tour dates after the jump.

“Medieval Man” from Who Shot Elvis? (download):

Tomorrow we’ll be posting the first in a series of weekly drawings that Lester is doing of people, places and events from Mecca Normal’s 25-year run.

Sitting On Snaps (Matador, 1995) and Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1997) have been re-released on iTunes (Smarten UP! Records, 2009)

Continue reading “Mecca Normal Embarks On 25th Anniversary Tour”