Lost Classics: Space Needle “The Moray Eels Eat The Space Needle”

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.

:: SPACE NEEDLE
The Moray Eels Eat The Space Needle // Zero Hour, 1997

spaceneedle360During its 1994-97 existence, this Long Island outfit only mustered two albums before falling victim to label ineptitude and commercial indifference. Space Needle seemed disorganized, at one point overlapping with Reservoir (drummer/vocalist Jud Ehrbar’s solo vehicle) and Varnaline (guitarist/vocalist Anders Parker’s extracurricular gig). Yet by the time of The Moray Eels, Ehrbar, Parker and guitarist Jeff Gatland had achieved a visionary, vision-inducing sound. Gone was the lo-fi bedroom prog of 1995’s Voyager; in its place were 13-minute skronk fests, Frippertronic-esque reveries and violin-laced indie pop. That The Moray Eels was delayed for a year while Roger Dean dithered over sleeve art depicting dragons flying over a moonscape, though, seemed emblematic of Space Needle’s fortunes.

Catching Up: Ehrbar recorded two Reservoir records and played on most of Parker’s releases, but he’s been quiet of late. Parker issued four albums as Varnaline and two under his own name and collaborated with Son Volt’s Jay Farrar as Gob Iron; he has four new albums in the can awaiting release details. A Space Needle retrospective, Recordings 1994-1997, was released in 2006.

“One Kind Of Lullaby”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/OneKindofLullaby.mp3

From The Desk Of Tommy Keene: Chris Slusarenko Of Boston Spaceships

tommy-keenelogo150frTommy Keene has been playing guitar hero for more than a quarter-century, both on his power-pop solo albums (his latest is In The Late Bright, out this week) and as a sideman for Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg. Keene, apparently weary of all the critical acclaim, agreed to dole out some of his own praise. He’s guest editing magnetmagazine. com this week and compiled a mix tape for us with a free mp3.

slushyv370Keene: I had the pleasure of being an auxiliary member of an exciting new band, Boston Spaceships, last year, playing guitar on their fall tour. Chris Slusarenko, along with vocalist Bob Pollard (MAGNET readers may know him) and drummer John Moen, is one of the chief architects of this awesome new combo. I recently spoke to Chris, who was also a member of Guided By Voices, about this project.

Keene: How did the idea of a new band with you, Bob and John originate?
Slusarenko:
Bob was having his art exhibition in New York City last year, and I was admiring this collage that has always haunted me called Brown Submarine. We started talking about how we needed to hear this collage as an album. It was the same thing that happened when we decided to do the TakeoversTurn To Red album. We got so obsessed with the collage as an album cover that we had it blown up to 12-inch vinyl size and drove around town looking at it. So Bob compiled 14 of his songs, some old and some new, and we started cranking on them. After the album (Brown Submarine) was done, Bob decided it didn’t sound like a side project but an actual band with the three of us as full-time members. He hadn’t been in a band since GBV, and he said it seemed appropriate for Boston Spaceships to be the next one to leave a legacy.

How do you and Bob decide which tunes will be Spaceships songs and which ones Bob will use for his solo records?
Bob decides which songs will be used for which projects. His solo albums tend to be a bit more mature and darker in tone. Boston Spaceships has a more pop side, but it’s a lovingly weird pop side. The songs are shorter and full of youthful, sometimes naive, energy.

I think the production on the albums is really strong. Where do you record them? Do you labor on guitar and drum sounds, or do you just turn on the tape and let it rip?
We recorded Brown Submarine with Brian Berg and The Planets Are Blasted with Jonathan Drews, both of whom live in Portland, Ore. They’re insanely talented, and it’s really easy to explain what I’m looking for in terms of sounds and approach. I can say, “This song will have ‘A Woofer In Tweeter’s Clothing’ ending” or “I want it to sound like we lost the mic in the back of a cave and I died looking for it,” and they get it. John’s drum parts are done really off the cuff—we tried to approach the drums like early GBV, where it’s done in one or two takes and we’re on to the next one. Since we don’t have our own recording studios, I just work on all guitar, bass and keyboard parts acoustically until I can get into the studio. Then I only have three to five hours to get all the ideas out, but it makes coming back for the next session excruciatingly exciting.

Does Johnny Moen have a lot of input as to parts and arrangements? You two seem to have a good working relationship and chemistry.
In terms of the parts and arrangements, it pretty much starts at Bob’s house. Before we start recording, I sit down with Bob a few times and we listen to his acoustic demos on the speakers at his house (called “The Bigs”). We get hammered and talk about ideas, influences and approaches. The next day, when I look at my notes, almost every tune always has the phrase “kick ass” next to what needs to happen with it, especially as the booze kicks in. Then I just go home to Portland and obsess about the songs. I listen to them over and over. I try to get all the little parts of his demos down so they still have that Pollard feel and magic in terms of phrasing and energy. I’ve known John since 1988 while he was in the Dharma Bums, and we’ve played together in the Cavemanish Boys and the Takeovers. Playing with John is always fun. He’s got drive and swing, which make the songs really leap. He’s also an insanely quick learner, which is a total blessing. There’s a lot of his personality in those drum takes.

When can we expect another monumental Spaceships tour? West Coast peeps especially want to know.
I don’t know yet. If and when it happens, it wouldn’t be until our third album comes out in October. It’s called Zero To 99, and it’s pretty fierce and catchy. Lots of Pollard hits and haunts; I mean, when you flip over an album and you see song titles like “Mr. Ghost Town” and “The Question Girl, Alright,” you kind of have to hear it.

Boston Spaceships’ “Go For The Exit” from Brown Submarine (download here):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/gofortheexit.mp3

Free MP3 From Broken Spindles

broken375Broken Spindles‘ sole member Joel Petersen sloughs off the Robert Smith membrane he acquired as bassist for hipster dance-rock staple the Faint on his recently released third album, Kiss/Kick. On the remixed “Beatdown Breakup (Cassettes Won’t Listen),” laptop-pop auteur Jason Drake (a.k.a. Cassettes Won’t Listen) backslashes the Broken Spindles tune all the way to minimalist electronic bliss, working the same vein as the Notwist or a riff-saturated Fischerspooner. Although he recorded Kiss/Kick at the Faint’s Omaha recording studio, the optically intense Petersen insists Broken Spindles is independent from his other band. Petersen kicked off his tour February 19 in the national capital of masquerade, Las Vegas.

“Beatdown Breakup (Cassettes Won’t Listen Remix)” (download here):

The Felice Brothers Ready New Album

felice540b11Coke or Pepsi? Jack or Jim? Avett or Felice? Insulted by the pedestrian grouping together of these distinct commodities? You should be. The sweeping classifications of the “the” garage bands (Strokes, Hives, Vines, et al) from less than a decade ago resurfaced last year with multiple bands of “brothers” competing for affection. Front-runners of the pack the Felice Brothers return this April with a follow-up to the 2008 self-titled release that propelled them up the charts of AAA radio. The Brothers’ fourth album, Yonder Is The Clock (Team Love), derives its title from chapter nine in Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger and, according to the band, “is a nod to all of the American ghosts that lend their narrative and characters to the forthcoming release.” Felice Brothers tour dates after the jump.

“Wonderful Life” from The Felice Brothers (download here):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/WonderfulLife.mp3

Continue reading “The Felice Brothers Ready New Album”

From The Desk Of Tommy Keene: Crosswords

tommy-keenelogo150frTommy Keene has been playing guitar hero for more than a quarter-century, both on his power-pop solo albums (his latest is In The Late Bright, out this week) and as a sideman for Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg. Keene, apparently weary of all the critical acclaim, agreed to dole out some of his own praise. He’s guest editing magnetmagazine. com this week and compiled a mix tape for us with a free mp3.

crosswords525bKeene: I’ve always loved board games, trivia games, you name it. (Like Clue—I can never get anyone to play that one with me.) I started doing crossword puzzles some years ago and have gotten to a modestly proficient level. My favorite is the Los Angeles Times’—I can finish Monday’s through Thursday’s editions and Sunday’s on a good day. In the summer of 2007, I noticed an ad in the Times for contestants for a new game show about crossword puzzles. I thought, “What the heck?” and called them up. They scheduled me for an audition the very next day. I arrived early to check out my competition: a few young hipsters, some housewives and lots of nerdy bookworm types you would expect to show up at these things. I overheard a few conversations, and it seems like some of these people were actually professional game-show contestants: “Yeah, I almost got on The Weakest Link, but at the last minute they went with someone younger and prettier.” “Oh, you were on Millionaire? So was I.” “I won $12,000 on Jeopardy, though I can’t audition again for another six years. Bummer!”

They shepherded us into a room where we sat at tables and took the audition quiz, which consisted of questions flashed up on a screen in front of us: “What’s a four-letter word for nervous?” Let’s see … “edgy”? “What’s a 12-letter word for unscrupulous?” Good god, what? I wasn’t feeling too confident as they graded our papers, and sure enough I wasn’t one of the people they asked to stay behind. It was fun, though. Three weeks later, I got a call from one of the contestant coordinators: “Tom, your score was super, super close. Would you like to come back and re-audition?” So I found myself back at the studio with nothing to lose; lo and behold, this time I was asked to stay behind! The next part of the process was a videotaped interview. After trying to be as animated as I could be and telling them I was a rock musician (and had been on Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and David Letterman), they seemed impressed and booked me for the show.

Do you know when you’re watching one of these shows and the contestants always give that tired line, “Gee, this is so much easier at home”? Well, you don’t know how true that really is until you’re there. The game consisted of buzzing in and answering the correct crossword answers while you were at one of the two front stations. Those in the back, of which I was one, were called spoilers. If neither of the front two peeps could answer the question, you could buzz in—if you got the answer right, you would trade places with them and could accrue money. The person with the most money at the end of the last round in one of the front spots would then go on and try to solve the master puzzle for the big money. The clue that I spoiled, of course, ended up being rock-related, in a way: “What’s a three-letter word for German rainwear?” Everyone was stumped; I rang in: “mac.” Correct! “Tommy for the spoil, come and take the front spot!” How did I know that? The Beatles’ “Penny Lane”: “And the banker never wears a mac in the pouring rain, very strange.” (Thanks, Paul!) So I won the game and made it to the final round. I was doing really well when I got hung up on a few clues and failed to solve the big puzzle in time. I ended up winning $1,250—not bad for a day away from the rock ‘n’ roll office.

The Beatles’ “Penny Lane”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/PennyLane.mp3

Lost Classics: Ex Models “Other Mathematics”

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.

:: EX MODELS
Other Mathematics // Ace Fu, 2001

ex-models350bFor all the hype surrounding Brooklyn’s jittery post-punk revival after the turn of the millennium, breakout band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs turned out to sound pretty normal. Ex Models, on the other hand, jabbed in all directions: speed-metal drumming, hairpin tempo turns, skronky thrash guitar and Shahin Motia’s Devo-like yelped vocals. And despite the tightest, loudest live set this side of Shellac, Ex Models couldn’t compete with budding scene personalities Karen O and Angus Andrew (Liars). Other Mathematics, the trio’s debut, featured 13 songs—most under two minutes—that sounded like a metallic blitzkrieg on the Talking Heads’ catalog. It was either a migraine or an adrenaline rush.

Catching Up: Ex Models issued two subsequent albums, 2003’s Zoo Psychology and 2005’s Chrome Panthers, and a tour documentary about the band is in the works—view the trailer. Three Ex Models (Shahin and Shahryar Motia, plus drummer Zach Lehrhoff) also record and perform as noise-metal outfit Knyfe Hyts; two of the group’s self-released CD-Rs are being reissued by Jagjaguwar on vinyl, and three new Knyfe Hyts singles are due soon. Lehrhoff is currently playing bass in Pterodactyl, whose sophomore album, Worldwild (Brah), will be released April 21.

“Girlfriend Is Worse”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/GirlfriendIsWorse.mp3

Free MP3 From Stinking Lizaveta

sl2375cA collective slap to the forehead occurred at MAGNET HQ when we realized our recent 15 In Philly coverage (a 15th-anniversary look at hometown bands) neglected even to mention Stinking Lizaveta. The West Philly trio has been playing instrumental prog/metal since 1996, and hardly a week goes by that the group—brothers Yanni (guitar) and Alexi Papdopoulos (upright bass) and Cheshire Agusta (drums)—doesn’t appear onstage at some local divehole. (In Philly, you don’t go see Stinking Lizaveta; they see you.) Steve Albini put them on the bill for All Tomorrow’s Parties in 2004, and Fugazi’s Joe Lally issued one of SL’s records on his label. So what’s MAGNET’s excuse for the glaring omission? We’re kind of scared of these people. They are technically superior musicians and they look like they have ties to the Russian mob. Besides, we’re sure our neighbors over at Decibel have it covered. Download the title track from the upcoming Sacrifice And Bliss (At A Loss, due March 31) here or stream audio below. Warning: The riffage will dislodge your Thor/Viking helmet beginning around the 2:00 mark.

“Sacrifice And Bliss” from Sacrifice And Bliss:

From The Desk Of Tommy Keene: Sally Crewe

tommy-keenelogo150frTommy Keene has been playing guitar hero for more than a quarter-century, both on his power-pop solo albums (his latest is In The Late Bright, out this week) and as a sideman for Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg. Keene, apparently weary of all the critical acclaim, agreed to dole out some of his own praise. He’s guest editing magnetmagazine. com this week and compiled a mix tape for us with a free mp3.

sally-crewerg366Keene: As I was bumming around SXSW in 2008, I was reintroduced to Sally Crewe, whom I’d met a couple of times over the years, as she was married to a friend of mine. Sally and I and a bunch of others ended up one night at a karaoke place on the outskirts of Austin; there was a party going on, complete with people drunkenly singing along to Iron Maiden songs. Sally invited us to hear her group, the Sudden Moves, play the next afternoon at a party away from the maddening throng of festival-goers. What immediately struck me about her was that she was cute and feminine but looked great holding a guitar, and she could really rock. I’m a bit of a closet rock misogynist—sometimes girls with guitars just look like they’re uncomfortable—but Sally reminded me of great female rockers like Chrissie Hynde and Polly Harvey. After the show, she was saying how they had a European tour coming up in the fall opening for the Wedding Present and their present bass player refused to travel. I blurted out, “I’ll do it,” and Sally said, “OK, you’re on!” So began my career as a bass player, although I’ve been playing bass a lot lately, especially on my last couple of records. We did three shows in Scotland and four in England and had a blast, but we suffered a little bit from Opening Act Syndrome; the Wedding Present’s punters liked to show up quite late.

Sally’s songs are melodic, punchy and sometimes quite short. I’m very envious of that, as it’s really difficult sometimes to get everything in that you want in under two minutes. But she delivers. And, most importantly, they rock. Pick up her new record, Your Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, and tell ’em Tommy sent you.

“Sleepyhead” from Your Nearest Exit May Be Behind You:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/Sleepyhead.mp3

TiVo Party Tonight: The White Stripes, Chris Isaak

tivowhitebEver wonder what will happen during the last five minutes of late-night TV talk shows? They let musicians onstage! Here are tonight’s notable performers:

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC): Chris Isaak
We can’t confirm that all-American ham Isaak is doing a musical performance; though he does have a new album (Mr. Lucky, due Feb. 24), he also appears on Leno as a correspondent from time to time and may be pimping his upcoming talk show, The Chris Isaak Hour. Sadly, it’s on the Biography Channel. Happily, it will be better than Elvis Costello’s Spectacle.

Late Night With Conan O’Brien (NBC): The White Stripes
It’s typical of MAGNET to offer the dissenting view of pop-culture events, but hear us out: For the torch-snuffing of Conan-era Late Night (tonight is Conan’s last hurrah, though he doesn’t take over Leno’s Tonight Show slot until June), the White Stripes “reunite” to perform. We don’t like it. Jack and Meg last played together in September ’07, cancelling subsequent dates due to Meg’s anxiety. Get that drama away from here. Besides, the White Stripes are music-biz establishment, and Conan was always a haven for the dregs, er, not-ready-for-Letterman alt/college-rock bands. Safe, boring choice.

The White Stripes’ “Icky Thump” from 2007’s Icky Thump:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/IckyThump.mp3

Seen Your Video: Shudder To Think

video3Your music video may have only played once or twice on MTV, but it’s on permanent rotation on YouTube. We watch videos and TV performances—the good, the bad, the hilariously dated—with musicians to find out what they were thinking. MAGNET’s Robert Ham sits down with Shudder To Think’s Craig Wedren to discuss the homoerotic music video (banned in Canada due to “unnecessary cannibalism and necrophilia”) for 1994’s “Hit Liquor.”

[metacafe]http://www.metacafe.com/watch/sy-14208648/shudder_to_think_hit_liquor_official_music_video/[/metacafe]

Shudder To Think‘s 1994 album Pony Express Record was, by anyone’s estimation, not your typical major-label debut. It seemed powered by its own internal logic of odd time signatures, glam-rock influences and stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Considering the band was entering a musical world still coming down off its grunge high, it was a pretty daring piece of work. Pony Express Record didn’t fare too well commercially for Epic, and the promotional video that the band filmed with friend and director Jesse Peretz to introduce Shudder To Think to middle America didn’t help the cause much. The “Hit Liquor” clip is filled with intense homoerotic imagery as well as shots of guitarist Nathan Larson furiously hacking up bits of meat. With a good 15 years of hindsight at his disposal, Shudder frontman Craig Wedren was kind enough to give us his thoughts on the creation and execution of this strange little clip.

Continue reading “Seen Your Video: Shudder To Think”