Garnering gold-record status in the U.S. and even greater sales overseas, It’s A Shame About Ray has nevertheless failed to achieve hallmark status within the ’90s alt-rock canon. Though time has not proven kind to Evan Dando’s musical legacy, this re-examination of Ray might be the first step toward changing that. Released in 1992, a year dominated by grunge behemoths such as Alice In Chains’ Dirt and Stone Temple Pilots’ Core, a Lemon-heads album was an unlikely addition to the modern-rock playlist. Success came via a goofy cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” a bonus track tacked onto later pressings of Ray after it became a fluke hit single. Ray is more notable for its title track (co-written by Tom Morgan of Australian band Smudge) and “Allison’s Starting To Happen” (a charming ode to pubescent girls). If all this hoopla from a former Winona boy toy now seems antiquated, Ray still sounds remarkably fresh, retaining its bouncy, subdued edge with a sense of humor the Lemonheads’ peers painfully lacked. Bonus Material: B-side “Shaky Ground” and nine Ray demos. A DVD, its contents originally found on 1993 VHS collection Two Weeks In Australia, harkens back to a time when 13-song albums could spawn eight music videos, including one featuring a Johnny Depp cameo. [www.rhino.com]
After three decades, Mission Of Burma justly remains one of the college-rock era’s most influential groups. The Boston quartet honed an artier sound than its peers, fusing a British-informed snarl with Cleveland-inspired drive, bolstered by analog-tape manipulator Martin Swope’s sonic experiments. Mission Of Burma re-formed in 2002 with Shellac’s Bob Weston replacing Swope, and Matador is reissuing the group’s early work to sit beside the band’s pretty good recent albums. Two of these reissues, 1981 alt-rock blueprint Signals, Calls And Marches (which also contains benchmark single “Academy Fight Song”) and 1982’s harsher-sounding Vs. are still essential listening; but Signals oddly inverts the bonus-track order to run chronologically so the actual EP begins on track five. Third album The Horrible Truth About Burma was recorded during the band’s final tour in 1983 (before guitarist/vocalist Roger Miller’s tinnitus forced his initial departure from the group) and released two years later; it’s less important than its predecessors, though it contains bassist/vocalist Clint Conley’s excellent “Peking Spring” as well as Pere Ubu and Stooges covers. Billed as “definitive versions,” these releases are superior to Rykodisc’s remastering job from 1997 but don’t seem as “definitive” as that label’s Mission Of Burma, which bundled “Academy” with all of Signals and Vs. on one disc. Bonus Material: Signals contains two bonus tracks; Truth has one. Each album has liner notes with making-of interviews (without Swope) and DVDs featuring live footage. [www.matadorrecords.com]
On first inspection, there’s nothing that unusual about Meric Long when he sloshes in from a rainstorm to take shelter in his neighborhood taqueria in San Francisco’s Mission District. Look closely, however, and you’ll spy huge, pointy talons jutting out from his fingerless gloves.
“They’re my dragon nails—fake but really strong,” explains Long, who employs them in plucking a tinny old National guitar in his anachronistic folk/punk duo the Dodos. “I used my real nails for a while, then we left on tour; after two shows, they just broke. So now I even have a manicurist, but I poke through everything.” He claws the air for emphasis. “I can’t help it! I’m dangerous, I tell ya!”
Look even closer, beneath the ash-pale 27-year-old’s shaggy black bangs, and some subtly exotic features become evident. “My mom is from Tahiti, but she’s Chinese,” says Long. “And my dad’s from Oakland, but he’s white as snow.” For an entire summer, Long relocated to Tahiti, worked at his uncle’s bread shop and soaked up as much culture as he coud, which could account for the far-off, tribal feel of Visiter (Frenchkiss), the Dodos’ second album.
Continue reading “The Dodos: World Beaters”
Juno brought worldwide attention to his former band, the Moldy Peaches, but Adam Green isn’t in a cute, folk-pop mood anymore. By Kory Grow
“I was walking down 14th Street the other day and just realized that I was full of shit and that I’ve never done anything close to what I wanted to do in my life,” says New York City resident Adam Green. “Time to take some more acid, I guess.”
Green, who turned 27 in May, has had a lot to consider over the past few years. Since the age of 18, he’s been a professional musician constantly on the verge of mainstream success. Having cofounded quirky, anti-folk ensemble the Moldy Peaches with singer/songwriter Kimya Dawson in 2000, Green launched a concurrent solo career two years later. While the Moldy Peaches enjoyed critics’-darling status, Green’s solo albums, which have traversed folk, country and indie rock, have received mixed reviews at best. Whereas the Moldy Peaches played endearing, if sickeningly cute, tongue-in-cheek ditties like “Who’s Got The Crack,” Green’s solo songs were more mature, aiming for grandiosity. (Not to mention his Tourette-like river of expletive-laced lyrics: “There’s no wrong way to fuck a bitch with no face,” Green sang on his second album, 2003’s Friends Of Mine.) Though Green is accustomed to putting out an album a year, his label, Rough Trade, applied the brakes after 2006’s Jacket Full Of Danger, barring him from releasing an album last year. This is when things began to go awry.
Continue reading “Adam Green: Anyone Else But Him”
White vinyl, brightly colored sleeve art, ragged vocals, two short, sharp songs: What’s not to love about this seven-inch? An up-and-coming act in Atlanta’s pop/punk scene, the Coathangers take giddy pleasure in knocking swoony girl-group conventions on their backs. As befits a band that once recorded a song called “Nestle In My Boobies,” the Coathangers’ playful approach to pop forms is at full throttle here; b-side “Dreamboat” is the funnier track, but “Shake Shake” is a small, hard gem of a tune, its roughly mixed sound wedded perfectly to the plaintive grouse of the chorus. [www.suicidesqueeze.net]
In Swans, singer Jarboe was always the spooky bit of beauty that accentuated and made human the sheer terror of multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira’s sonic holocaust. Post-Swans, whether collaborating or on her own, Jarboe is a sonic counterpoint to the doomy squall that generally accompanies her. Her voice, with all its raw expressiveness, is seldom “pretty.” On J2, Jarboe teams up with the ambient metallurgy of guitarist Justin Broadrick (Jesu, Godflesh). The amorphous spaciousness of Broadrick’s style allows her to almost completely dispense with song-like structures and indulge her most glossolalian tendencies; “Tribal Limo,” for instance, verges on a doom-metal version of Okinawan choral music. The two alternate between hinting at melodies, and on “Romp” and “Magick Girl,” the listener is teased with shards of semi-accessible structure. But for the bulk of J2, Broadrick’s glacial tones and Jarboe’s near-wordless singing evoke a dark heaviness that’s as beautiful as it is scary. [www.theendrecords.com]
In the ‘80s, long before mp3s or MySpace, bands hunkered down with cheap gear, cranked out demos, dubbed them onto shitty-bias cassettes and passed them around to friends and fan-zines. Sometimes they saved up enough scratch to press an LP, but more often than not a group would poke its head out of the primordial soup just long enough to blurt, “We’re here,” then sink back into obscurity. Case in point: the artifact at hand, originally issued in 1986 on the Old Age/New Age cassette label. Ohio’s Tommy Jay worked with musicians such as Mike Rep (whose fuzzy production and tape manipulation appears on albums by Guided By Voices and Times New Viking) and underground bands such as Nudge Squidfish, Ego Summit and the (Ohioan) True Believers. Jay cut most of Tom’s Tall Tales Of Trauma’s 21 songs in the early ‘80s, and as a compelling, lo-fi documents of Buckeye State ingenuity, they’re profound. You get everything from chugging garage rock (“Accept It”), twisted folk (“The Bugmen”) and Bevis Frond-like jangle (“I Was There”) to a guitar/flute/congas take on Joni Mitchell’s “Dreamland” and a sensual version of Lou Reed’s “Ocean.” Bonus Material: Eight tracks, including 1979 True Believers single “Accept It.” [www.columbusdiscountrecords.com]
Depicting a nerdy guy, a chubby guy and a normal guy shooting the shit obliviously while a party rages around them, Born Ruffians’ wonderfully stuttering video for “Hummingbird” (the first single off their debut album) casts the energetic, underage-looking lads as an indie-rockin’ Superbad. The only problem with that parallel? Red, Yellow And Blue is good. As in Supergood. On the Toronto trio’s eponymous 2006 EP, singer Luke LaLonde’s breathless barks, bassist Mitch DeRosier’s frantic riffs and drummer Steve Hamelin’s rolling fills suggested a future of lo-fi, Pixies-dusted punk/pop. This prognostication proved half right. Where before the Ruffians trafficked in rough edges, here they trade almost exclusively in the shimmy. Shack-shakers such as “Barnacle Goose” and “I Need A Life” rush by on fleet-footed rhythms, group-shouted vocals and machine-gunned guitars, while the ridiculously catchy “Foxes Mate For Life” and “Kurt Vonnegut” would surely rule any radio station smart enough to put them into rotation. For fans of top-shelf indie rock, it’ll be something more like McLovin at first spin. [www.warprecords.com]
—Noah Bonaparte Pais
There’s something perversely charming about Kelley Polar’s puckish mucking-about with electronica/post-dance conventions. If you can’t dance to it, what the hell do you do with post-dance music? But over the course of I Need You To Hold On While The Sky Is Falling, the cool effect wears a little thin. Originally toasted for his creative additions to house releases by the Metro Area production crew, New Hampshire’s Polar dropped a string of excellent singles under his own name in the early years of the new millennium. The song-by-song format is still where he does his best work, and there are a few outstanding cuts on his second full-length. The moody “Chrysanthemum” and the caffeine-jittery “A Dream In Three Parts” work both as deft production showcases and pop songs. But removed from the club or the house-music group settings that provide the best context for the kind of formal experiments Polar attempts here, much of I Need You sounds slight, like a symphony heard through earpiece headphones. At 43 minutes, its charms will be best appreciated by electronica fans knowledgeable enough to appreciate what Polar is doing when they hear it all on its lonesome. That’s not a criticism (the same applies to Kraftwerk, for example), but it means I Need You is best suited to a slim minority, even within the electronica fan base. [www.environrecords.com]
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.
Continue reading “Q&A With Robert Forster”