Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: Blood And Guts Eating

kstringfellow1110fYou probably know Ken Stringfellow as the co-leader of Northwestern power-pop all-timers the Posies or as a sideman for R.E.M. or latter-day Big Star. He’s also a solo artist (we’re particularly fond of the soft-rock American beauty that is 2001’s Touched) and is currently preparing the debut by his Norwegian garage-rock band, the DiSCiPLiNES. Each day this week, magnetmagazine.com guest editor Stringfellow will be filing reports from his home on the European continent.

pigshead4701I have always been the adventurous type, looking for the exotic, the succulent, the challenge of the bizarre, especially in food. This led to such things as eating enormous (almost) cockroaches—deep fried but not all the way through—in Thailand and a hapless snail about the size of my fist—pulled off the wall of the tank, sliced and served, still writhing in pieces—in Japan. I’m always pleased to find a taqueria off the beaten path with new bits in to add to the mix. And in France, I have truly found my home.

The French are like snobby eskimos; not only do they have no problem wearing fur, but they also make sure not one cubic centimeter of any animal is wasted. Everything is up for grabs. In September, the shotguns ring out in the countryside and, it should be noted, the stray cats all disappear. Not just game animals are harvested. Everywhere you go, someone is raking the beach for clams; bashing tiny oysters open directly on the rocks with a hammer, squirting in lemon and scooping them up with their fingers; following a snuffling beagle searching for truffles; bringing incredible varieties of mushrooms into the local pharmacy for identification. The French are still hunter-gatherers. My mother-in-law seems to gather plastic grocery sacks. You never know.

Since living here, I’ve discovered:
Boudin noir: blood sausage, not crackled and fried like British pudding or Spanish morcilla; this is soft and cool and deep crimson, not black.
Oreille, groin, pied de cochon: the ear, snout and foot of pig, respectively; they are essentially cured like bacon, and the ear has a crunchy cartilage center and (often) hairs sticking out of it.
Salade de gesiers: Yep, salad with chicken/duck gizzards on top.

Of course I knew about tripe, but recently I had it on couscous, at a place next door the Élysée Montmartre, before going in to see video-game-metal experts Dragonforce. I’m also fond of rognon (kidneys), ris de veau (sweetbreads, which are not the brain, as I grew up thinking, but actually thymus and pancreas of veal) and boiled cow tongue (a winter favorite).

I’ve yet to try:
Sanguette: essentially an omelet made with chicken or duck blood instead of egg. I haven’t found a restaurant serving it, but trust me, somewhere, one exists.
Miot/millot/mieau: I don’t even know how to spell it, but my mother-in-law’s boyfriend will occasionally start the day with this French breakfast that seems devised by Homer Simpson, the master of cutting to the chase. You place in a bowl the following: stale bread, cubed; two or three glasses of yesterday’s expired red wine; two to four tablespoons of sugar. You stir a bit and eat with a spoon like Special K. Like, every wrong thing, right? And the guy is 80 and can take a full-force karate kick to the gut from my daughter and laugh about it.

Lost Classics: Pre-New Pornographers Carl Newman

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.

zumpano548bAs the New Pornographers’ critically acclaimed catalog makes obvious, Carl Newman is a sucker for ’60s AM-radio pop and ’70s FM-radio pomp. And he always has been—except that a little more than a decade ago, he segregated these twin affinities to vastly different bands. He first arrived as the singer and one of six guitarists for Superconductor, a messy amalgamation of Vancouver scenesters who released two albums of prog-metal mayhem that were endorsed by Robert Pollard and pretty much no one else. (Superconductor was nonetheless prescient in its anticipation of the now de rigeur Canadian indie-collective template.) With his concurrent other band, Zumpano (pictured), Newman stepped out from behind Superconductor’s thundercloud of noise and laid bare his fondness for the Beatles/Bacharach songbooks, a move that was so antithetical to prevailing lo-fi aesthetics that Zumpano was initially characterized as a latecomer to the dying lounge-core party.

:: ZUMPANO
Look What The Rookie Did // Sub Pop, 1995

If this sounds like a retro artifact, it’s only because its best songs (“The Party Rages On,” “Temptation Summary,” “I Dig You”) were on par with the Brill Building breezy-listening pop that inspired them, possessing the sort of pristine, heartfelt, melancholy melodies that were all but banished from the airwaves by 1995. To paraphrase one of the group’s heroes, Zumpano just wasn’t made for its time, but the superior songcraft on Look What The Rookie Did drew a direct line to Newman’s future as a New Pornographer. (Well, that and the fact the album title came from a gay skin flick.)

Catching Up: Zumpano’s second album, 1996’s Goin’ Thru Changes, would be its last. Anyone who’s read MAGNET in the past 10 years knows where Newman went next. However, let’s not forget the man who gave the quartet its name: drummer Jason Zumpano, who plays with Sparrow and Attics And Cellars.

“The Party Rages On”:

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: “Caché”

kstringfellow1110fYou probably know Ken Stringfellow as the co-leader of Northwestern power-pop all-timers the Posies or as a sideman for R.E.M. or latter-day Big Star. He’s also a solo artist (we’re particularly fond of the soft-rock American beauty that is 2001’s Touched) and is currently preparing the debut by his Norwegian garage-rock band, the DiSCiPLiNES. Each day this week, magnetmagazine.com guest editor Stringfellow will be filing reports from his home on the European continent.

cache550aWell, the France you know and love—Godard, Gainsbourg (the lecherous male one), Mon Oncle futurism, Gaulouises—forget it. It’s gone. Gauloises aren’t even cool anymore (they’re made in Spain), and everyone I know here smokes Marlboros. French music is horrible chanson; think Celine Dion (but more histrionic) or Mika (who isn’t even French; Lebanese by birth, lives in London). All those natty suits, philosophers who get treated like rock stars, cool-looking Citroën 2CVs and DSs—they’re all on the rubbish heap or pushing up existential daisies. So, it makes sense that Caché, the best French film I’ve seen in the last few years, is, in fact, Austrian. Filmed in Paris, starring Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche. No musical score. Many of the shots are static views of a Parisian doorway (for reasons I won’t spoil here). When a film this good is so poorly received in the U.S., as Caché was, you know it’s on the right path. I also recommend writer/director Michael Haneke’s The Time Of The Wolf, which is absolutely certain to confirm your worst suspicions about humanity’s likely reaction to any major crisis. Be prepared to run images and ideas from these films over and over in your mind for weeks afterward.

TiVo Party Tonight: Marianne Faithfull, Gomez

tivomarianne22Ever 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:

Late Show With David Letterman (CBS): Marianne Faithfull
It is not in our nature to be unkind toward music-biz survivors or friends of Jarvis Cocker. So we won’t dwell too much on the curious aesthetic twist that Faithfull’s rusted-out vocal cords bring to the material on her 22nd album, the recently released Easy Come Easy Go. Best we can hope for tonight is a co-vocalist (Cat Power, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright and Cocker all sing on the album) and a hometown connection (“Children Of Stone,” by Philly folkies Espers, is among the songs covered on Easy Come Easy Go).

Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (NBC): Gomez

MP3 At 3PM: Jason Lytle

jasonlytle1390You know Jason Lytle: the ex-Grandaddy songwriter/ frontman who keeps ELO-influenced bedroom-pop symphonies under his trucker’s hat. As detailed in our 2006 cover story and recent Q&A, Lytle decamped from Grandaddy and the West Coast for the wide-open spaces of Montana and even sweeter sonic vistas. His debut solo album, Yours Truly, The Commuter, arrives May 19 on Anti-, the haven for indie prestige artists. Download album track “Brand New Sun” below; Lytle is scheduled for a series of tour dates with labelmate Neko Case in June.

“Brand New Sun” from Yours Truly, The Commuter (download):

The Over/Under: Elliott Smith

elliott-smile5002

Corey duBrowa can clearly remember two pivot points in the career of Elliott Smith: the first solo show he attended (Sept. 17, 1994, at a long-forgotten Portland, Ore., all-ages venue called Umbra Penumbra, where Smith played a combination of acoustic Heatmiser material and some new songs that would later appear on solo debut Roman Candle) and Smith’s posthumous Portland memorial (Oct. 25, 2003; the event and everything leading up to it was first published by MAGNET as a free-form essay called “The Moon Is A Lightbulb Breaking”). Throughout his career, Smith recorded way more material than ever made it to the public’s ear, some of which comprises the “underrated” portion of this week’s The Over/Under. The rest of which, we eagerly await …

Continue reading “The Over/Under: Elliott Smith”

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: Katzenjammer

kstringfellow1110fYou probably know Ken Stringfellow as the co-leader of Northwestern power-pop all-timers the Posies or as a sideman for R.E.M. or latter-day Big Star. He’s also a solo artist (we’re particularly fond of the soft-rock American beauty that is 2001’s Touched) and is currently preparing the debut by his Norwegian garage-rock band, the DiSCiPLiNES. Each day this week, magnetmagazine.com guest editor Stringfellow will be filing reports from his home on the European continent.

katzen520Stringfellow: Katzenjammer, a band like no other, are doing really well in Norway. A brightly colored, instrument-trading, swing/balkan/Texan/Norwegian music ensemble comprised of four women, great singers and players, and their trademark balalaika bass. The DiSCiPLiNES have had the pleasure of playing shows with them several times over the course of our Norwegian tours. They were too shy to speak to the first times, but gradually I got them to join us for dinner, and after a bit of Amarone, they were chatting away. Note: They are the only people I know who could solve the Don’t Break The Bottle puzzle, a sign of great intellect, dexterity and/or desperation for a drink.

“Hey Ho, On The Devil’s Back” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/HeyHoOnTheDevil’sBack.mp3

Lost Classics: Drive Like Jehu “Yank Crime”

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.

drivelikejehu550:: DRIVE LIKE JEHU
Yank Crime // Interscope, 1994

In 1991, the self-titled debut from Drive Like Jehu was passed around the alt-rock cognoscenti like a talisman. The band’s principals—Rick Froberg and John Reis—hailed from San Diego semi-legends Pitchfork, and Jehu updated that band’s driving, post-Fugazi sound with a more complex approach. Drive Like Jehu struck a nerve and, for a minute or two at least, seemed like the most important band around. Until, of course, Reis’ other band (Rocket From The Crypt) erupted and prompted Interscope Records to offer ridiculous amounts of money to RFTC and Jehu for signing on the dotted line. Yank Crime was the band’s sophomore effort, major-label debut and swan song, an explosive tangle of careening tempo changes, hoarse-throat vocals, barely contained guitar histrionics and mindful aggression. Its appearance on a major label’s roster was as mind-boggling then as it is nostalgically naive now. Of course, Yank Crime, along with RFTC’s three major-label outings, proved to be money pits for Interscope.

Catching Up: Undeterred by label indifference and the demise of Jehu, Reis persevered with Rocket From The Crypt and, in 1999, re-teamed with Froberg in Hot Snakes (a.k.a. The Best Side Project Ever). Froberg moved to New York to work in visual arts; he’s now in Obits, which just released their debut on Sub Pop. Drummer Mark Trombino produces and engineers bands. Bassist Mike Kennedy played in Corrugated. In 2005, Reis disbanded RFTC in order to focus on his record label, Swami; he briefly fronted Sultans and now leads the Night Marchers.

“Luau”:
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/Luau.mp3

Live Review: East Hundred, Philadelphia, PA, March 27, 2009

east-hundred-7450Three months ago, my editor introduced me to East Hundred’s first full-length, the charismatic breakup soundtrack Passenger, and since then I’ve looped it on repeat every time I’m in the office. At this point, he probably wants to lock me in the mailroom. [Actually, that’s because I want you to do the mail. —ed.] One of the better emerging Philly bands (read MAGNET’s recent profile of the group), East Hundred doesn’t quite square with a local indie-rock taxonomy that includes Dr. Dog, Man Man and the War On Drugs. The quintet branches off with its own brand of catchy, keyboard-laced alternative pop/rock. On Friday night, they played a gig with Seattle products Say Hi and Telekinesis at Philly hipster HQ Johnny Brenda’s.

Unfortunately, even the venue’s superior acoustics couldn’t save East Hundred when a guitar amp went kaput in the middle of the set. After a few minutes of confusion (the audience promptly used the unexpected intermission to grab beers and check iPhones), the group managed to punch out a few more songs before time ran out. What I saw, however, in East Hundred’s salvaged performance stirred my latent childhood dream of singing in a band; it’s similar to how I felt about Gwen Stefani in the late ’90s, before she tried to rap. Diminutive vocalist Beril Guceri exuded an outsized stage presence punctuated by her sweet, wistful vocals.

“It gets very hot up there when something like that happens,” said Guceri after the show, referring to the STD (Supreme Technical Difficulty). Considering the singer’s history of stage fright, she and her bandmates kept their cool as they ironed out the glitch.

—Maureen Coulter

“Slow Burning Crimes” (download):
http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/SlowBurningCrimes.mp3

Ken Stringfellow’s Foreign Correspondence: Le Motel

kstringfellow150dYou probably know Ken Stringfellow as the co-leader of Northwestern power-pop all-timers the Posies or as a sideman for R.E.M. or latter-day Big Star. He’s also a solo artist (we’re particularly fond of the soft-rock American beauty that is 2001’s Touched) and is currently preparing the debut by his Norwegian garage-rock band, the DiSCiPLiNES. Each day this week, magnetmagazine.com guest editor Stringfellow will be filing reports from his home on the European continent.

motel415Stringfellow: My neighbors happen to be Paris’ ultimate hipster bar. Not “hype,” the word Parisians use for exclusive (read: crap) discos. (As a compliment, oddly.) There’s no 6’2″ bouncer with a headset preventing you from entering Le Motel. There isn’t even a line out the door, proving that quality is something that only attracts quality and the masses will always be queuing for abuse at some shite turtleneck-wearing techno barn. The music is always good, usually DJs, but they have a tiny stage that manages occasionally to accommodate full bands. The bar is in the back, so you have two zones to choose from. It’s tiny, but except on those nights where it’s absolutely crammed with young, good-looking indie rockers (jeez, I feel like Karl Lagerfeld when I say something like that), you generally can find your spot, get served by very friendly, cool people—usually the owners. You can order a wooden cutting board with sliced saucisson, cheese and pickles for a snack. It’s a no-bullshit bar, and it has no seediness whatsoever, so it really doesn’t feel like being in a bar with a capital B. Go here and search through the bands; you can see an interview and live performance by the Posies, where we discuss the origin and meaning of each song we are about to play. This was filmed during daytime hours at Le Motel in 2007.