Listening To “The Best Show”: 1/20/09 Episode

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A weekly recap of The Best Show On WFMU, Tom Scharpling’s call-in/comedy/music show broadcast every Tuesday night from Jersey City. The three-hour program is available for free download at iTunes.

By way of belated introduction/inauguration of this now-regular feature on the MAGNET site, let’s give it up for Omar, the Best Show scrivener who does the official recaps over at recidivism.org. That’s where the holy texts are stored for the initiated. Those are the stone tablets. Listening To The Best Show is for the civilians, the unconverted and the more music-oriented audience that wastes time at the MAGNET site (and then doesn’t bother to subscribe or buy a back issue. Ingrates.) Even though Scharpling’s Army may rattle its sabres, we are journalists—at least in the same sense that the television critic for your local newspaper is a journalist; that brave, couch-bound voice who whines about too many CSIs, hails the return of American Idol every season and scratches his head over each new Lost plot twist. In summation, there will be hurt feelings. You always hurt the ones you love.

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The Oranges Band: Hiding In Plain View

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The Oranges Band Are Invisible is the latest release from the Oranges Band, which makes sense: We were wondering what happened to these guys. You know them: Led by singer/guitarist Roman Kuebler, who served as the bassist in Girls Can Tell-era Spoon. From Baltimore, ably repping the town before all that Wham City garbage, when all that was there was the Ottobar, Oxes, Lungfish and the National Aquarium. Signed to the Lookout! label, which all but folded not long after the release of the Oranges Band’s excellent 2005 album, The World & Everything In It. The Oranges Band began recording Invisible more than a year ago (check out the studio blog at Popmatters) and finally self-released the album in November without much in the way of promotion. The group’s catchy post-punk riffing remains, but it’s now in the hands of the newest member of the Oranges, ex-Guided By Voices/Cobra Verde guitarist Doug Gillard. In addition, frontman Kuebler has started a song-of-the-month club for his solo material (under the name Romania). For a dollar a month, you can download his songs at Every7th.com.

“Gordon’s Nightclub” from The Oranges Band Are Invisible:

Q&A With Superdrag’s John Davis

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When Superdrag frontman John Davis put the then-final incarnation of the band on hiatus in 2003, it certainly seemed permanent. Davis had recently undergone a religious transformation and was prepping his 2005 self-titled Christian-rock debut. (Don’t be fooled by that lazy description; while it might take some getting used to the lyrical theology, the record is nothing like the rest of the genre. And the follow-up, 2007’s overlooked, harder-rocking Arigato!, is even better.) “I have a totally different kind of heart about things and a different way of looking at things,” Davis said in a 2005 interview with MAGNET. “I felt like a phony getting up and singing some of the stuff … I didn’t feel like I was being honest. When that realization hit me, I didn’t feel like I could go on.”

So it came as a blessed surprise when news began filtering out that the original Superdrag lineup—Davis, drummer Don Coffey Jr., guitarist Brandon Fisher and bassist Tom Pappas—would be reuniting for a set of shows in 2007 and 2008. While it may have been tempting to view this as yet another defunct group hopping on the reunion-tour cash-grab express, the passionate concerts—both revelatory and celebratory—cast aside any such aspersions. And it gets better: The reconstituted Superdrag is releasing Industry Giants on March 17, the original lineup’s first LP since 1998’s Head Trip In Every Key, regarded in some circles as the band’s pinnacle. (We’re partial to 2000’s moving In The Valley Of Dying Stars; Pappas departed prior to its recording.) The boys are also playing another round of gigs that have a lot to live up to (dates below).

Davis sat down to answer a few questions about Superdrag’s rebirth. Davis will be the guest editor of magnetmagazine.com all this week. Check back for his daily posts on favorite music, film, food and more.

“Everything’ll Be Made Right” from Industry Giants:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/EverythingllBeMadeRight.mp3

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Wrens Watch, Feb. 2, 2009

We’ve been fans of New Jersey’s finest since even before their first album came out back in 1994, so let’s just say we’re used to sitting around waiting for them to take their sweet-ass time putting out new music. (Three albums in more than 14 years makes the Wrens about as prolific as Boston, which is kind of like being as tall as Danny Woodburn.) As reported in a Wrens Watch Special Report, January 9 marked a huge milestone for the guys: guitarists Charles Bissell and Greg Whelan, bassist Kevin Whelan and drummer Jerry MacDonald. They issued “Pulled Fences,” their first new (well, sort of new) song since 2003’s The Meadowlands. Perhaps motivated by finally releasing something, the band convened—not in a real studio, but in Kevin’s basement—two weeks ago to begin work on its new album. And not only that, the Wrens recorded an actual song (which you can download for free here), causing the fine folks at Pitchgum and Stereofork to make it headline news. So we were pretty optimistic that the band was well on its way to finishing up its LP when we checked in with Bissell.

:: Wrens Watch, Feb. 2, 2009
MAGNET: First off, a belated happy birthday. So when are you shooting to be done with the new album?
Bissell: Shooting to be done? [Laughing] We’re still at the shooting-to-get-started point. We barely have anything working in the studio—our computer died, among a million other things—and we’ve only done the one song.
Nice. Not to sound like a broken record—you do remember what a record is, right?—but maybe you shouldn’t be doing all this stuff yourselves. Maybe you can find a professional who actually knows how to use a computer, etc.
We know how to use a computer. We spent most of the week fixing a glitch on our website that was telling people we couldn’t ship our new T-shirts to U.S. addresses.
Don’t you think you could have spent that time on something more important, like, you know, recording music?
Like I said, the computer we record on broke. The computer I use for browsing the web is fine, thank god, so I could read all the stuff written about our new song. We do need to get a new computer for recording, though. I wonder if anyone has a Power Mac G5 they wanna give us.
Ha ha. What’s next? You’re going post a news item on your site asking fans for a new computer?
[Long pause] Hmmm. That’s actually not a bad idea.
I was kidding. You can’t do that.
Why? I mean, it’s our street corner of the Internet. Why can’t we panhandle on it? Uh, I gotta go. I need to update our website.

Eight Days A Week: New Order

Of all the evergreen subjects covered by rock ‘n’ roll (girls, street fightin’, cruisin’, California, love, god), the days of the week hold their own in terms of the sheer number of good songs meant to fete the seven that exist. (Plus the weekend, of course: whether we’re livin’ for it, workin’ for it or taking a Tuesday point of view of it.) MAGNET’s Corey duBrowa presents the best songs written about each day of the week.

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:: MONDAY: New Order’s “Blue Monday” (1983)
From their signature squelchy synth programs and lead bass riff to their oft-sampled electronic drum fill, the artists formerly known as Joy Division busted loose with this seven-plus-minute track back, inadvertently creating the best-selling 12-inch single of all time in the process. What New Order created was a Saturday-night ode to the darkest depths of Monday and hearts growing cold—just ask anyone who partook of the Big Eighties nightclub scene whether they shook their groove thing to this track back in the day. The accompanying video (part Weimaraners losing their shit in a Keith Haring painting, part “Genius Of Love” redux) is the visual backdrop for a song supposedly inspired by such past-their-sell-by-date disco hits as Donna Summer’s “Our Love” and Sylvester’s classic “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” Wanna know where Madchester came from? Start here.

“Blue Monday”:

Grandaddy Clause: Charles Simic

jasonlogoeAfter the dissolution of beloved sci-fi pop outfit Grandaddy in 2006, frontman Jason Lytle left behind California’s blue suburban skies for the peace, quiet and sobriety of Montana. This week, Lytle re-emerges with news of a solo debut and a part-time seasonal job as guest editor for magnetmagazine.com.

Read our new Q&A with Lytle about his forthcoming album, Yours Truly, The Commuter (Anti-), here.

simic350bLytle: For all those years I was self-conscious of the fact I had a hard time “getting” poetry, Charles Simic was my entry into the world of poetry. I was always concerned that it didn’t resonate with me. A big part of it is that he’s still somewhat modern—he’s probably in his 70s [born 1938]—and talks about current things. I like a lot of his shorter bits (thanks, ADD), such as “Factory,” “Late September” and especially “Talking To Ceiling.” It’s not written in some other language to where I’m alienated from it. Like me, he has a hard time sleeping and just wanders around. And I just get it.

Simic reads “White Room,” “Mirrors At 4 A.M.” and “The Friends Of Heraclitus” at 2003’s Key West Literary Seminar:

For an in-depth piece on Lytle circa the end of Grandaddy, read our 2006 cover story here.

This concludes “Jason Lytle Week” here at magnetmagazine.com. Thanks to Jason for turning our readers on to some really cool stuff. Go to the store and buy all his Grandaddy records and his solo debut when it comes out May 19.

TiVo Party Tonight: Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band

tivogrcEver 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:

Super Bowl (NBC): Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band
The band, which is reportedly doing this show for free, isn’t saying what it will play in its allotted 12 minutes, but Vegas oddsmakers like this set list best: “Glory Days,” “My Lucky Day,” “Badlands” and “Born To Run.” We say: Don’t bet on it. And here’s hoping Little Steven doesn’t have a wardrobe malfunction; no one needs to see that.

“My Lucky Day” from Working On A Dream:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/MyLuckyDay.mp3

In The News: Leonard Cohen, My Morning Jacket, Radiohead, Death Cab For Cutie

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Legendary singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen will play his first U.S. show since 1993 on February 19 at New York City’s Beacon Theatre. Given this rare occurrence, the show is sold out, but Ticketmaster benevolently invites you to pay through the nose through one of its scalper partners. Cohen is also slated to play the Coachella festival in April … Another singer/songwriter, Miranda Lee Richards, will release her new album, Light Of X, February 10 on Nettwerk. The LP was produced by Rick Parker (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Von Bondies) … In more singer/songwriter news, Justin Townes Earle’s second record, Midnight At The Movies, is out March 3 on Bloodshot. A four-month U.S. tour begins February 21 in Indianapolis … Just in case you were wondering what another singer/songwriter might be up to, Madeleine Peyroux’s spring tour begins March 6 in Albany, N.Y. Peyroux is donating $1 from each ticket sold on this jaunt to local charities through the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence … Americana heavyweights Dave Alvin, Calexico, Alejandro Escovedo, Los Lobos and others pay tribute to a fallen compadre with A Man Of Somebody’s Dreams: A Tribute To The Songs Of Chris Gaffney, out March 31 on Yep Roc. Gaffney passed away in 2008 after battling liver cancer … Speaking of Yep Roc, X’s John Doe is teaming with the Sadies for the label’s Country Club, an album of country covers due April 14. In addition to songs by Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Roger Miller, the set includes three Sadies originals and a new tune from Doe and X partner Exene Cervenka … Grammy-nominated Death Cab For Cutie (pictured) announced a spring tour that will kick off March 7 in Miami and conclude May 6 in Atlanta. Support acts will be Cold War Kids, Matt Costa and Ra Ra Riot. Check local listings for which openers play in your city … My Morning Jacket has issued Live From Las Vegas, an iTunes-exclusive EP. The six songs are taken from a gig at the famous Palms Hotel And Casino and include the previously unreleased “Dear Wife” … Radiohead completists, mark March 24 on your calendars: Capitol/EMI is re-releasing the band’s first three studio efforts—1993’s Pablo Honey, 1995’s The Bends and 1997’s OK Computer—with plenty of extras. The “collectors edition” versions each feature a second disc of rarities, demos and live recordings, while the limited-edition “special collectors edition” packages also toss in a DVD and postcards … The intricate Seattle indie rockers in Minus The Bear take it down a notch with Acoustics (Suicide Squeeze), a seven-track acoustic (duh) EP of newly recorded versions of fan favorites, available February 17. Originally released last year as a tour-only CD, Acoustics is now a 5,000-copy, vinyl-only proposition, on baby-blue/crème wax for those of you who find that important.

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds’ “Tower Of Song” from 1991’s I’m Your Fan: The Songs Of Leonard Cohen By…:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/TowerOfSong.mp3

Grandaddy Clause: A&E’s “Intervention”

jasonlogoeAfter the dissolution of beloved sci-fi pop outfit Grandaddy in 2006, frontman Jason Lytle left behind California’s blue suburban skies for the peace, quiet and sobriety of Montana. This week, Lytle re-emerges with news of a solo debut and a part-time seasonal job as guest editor for magnetmagazine.com.

Read our new Q&A with Lytle about his forthcoming album, Yours Truly, The Commuter (Anti-), here.

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Lytle: Intervention is a documentary series about real people on the verge of the destruction of themselves and their families. They’re told it’s a documentary made about them, but it’s all a build-up to this intervention that’s coming at the climax of the show. They walk into the room and everybody’s there. I started watching it when I was having problems, and it made me feel better about myself. Sometimes you think the people are gonna pull out of it, and you’re rooting for them. Then you find out that, with one week to go in rehab, they relapsed, they lost their whole family, and they wound up back on the street. It can be inspiring if they make it, but a real eye-opener if they don’t.

For an in-depth piece on Lytle circa the end of Grandaddy, read our 2006 cover story here.

Eight Days A Week: Kris Kristofferson

Of all the evergreen subjects covered by rock ‘n’ roll (girls, street fightin’, cruisin’, California, love, god), the days of the week hold their own in terms of the sheer number of good songs meant to fete the seven that exist. (Plus the weekend, of course: whether we’re livin’ for it, workin’ for it or taking a Tuesday point of view of it.) MAGNET’s Corey duBrowa presents the best songs written about each day of the week.

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:: SUNDAY: Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (1970)
With all due respect to Morrissey’s “Every Day Is Like Sunday” (perhaps the oddest and most ill-considered song ever appropriated by NFL properties for the sole purpose of extolling the virtues of 300-pound men grinding each other into horseflesh on the gridiron each fall), it’s this song—a country-chart number-one for Johnny Cash penned by former Phi Beta Kappa/Rhodes scholar/U.S. Army captain Kris Kristofferson—that best captures the spirit of the day god supposedly rested. “Well I woke up Sunday morning, with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt/And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more for dessert.”  Who among us hasn’t lived this moment? Perfect in every conceivable way.

“Sunday Morning Coming Down”: