Company Men: Tone, Menomena Score Modern Dance

menomenanewslatIf you’ve ever attempted to bust a move to Mogwai or the Kronos Quartet, you might be aware that a pop-and-lock routine just won’t do. Modern-dance troupes, however, have found the cinematic end of the underground-rock scene useful, commissioning music from Washington, D.C.’s Tone and Portland, Ore.’s Menomena.

Tone, a 15-year-old instrumental ensemble whose members’ lineage stretches back to punk bands the Teen Idles and Government Issue, began working with the Bowen McCauley Dance Company in 2004. In January, Tone provided the music for Amygdala, a Lucy Bowen McCauley performance at the Kennedy Center.

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Mates Of State: The Sound Of Settling

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Some bands become unsteady when they put down roots, but husband-and-wife duo Mates Of State discovered better songwriting through parenthood. By Brian Howard

It’s a blisteringly cold winter afternoon in East Haven, Conn., and Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner are discussing what they did on New Year’s Eve.

“We went to a friend’s party and played this game called Mafia,” says Gardner. “Whenever I explain the game, people are like [sarcastically], ‘That sounds like a great time.’ But it’s really fun. You get cards, and you’re either designated as a mafia member or a citizen. Nobody knows what you are, and you basically argue your way out of being accused; you lie if you’re mafia. And then people are killed.”

“It’s basically about being able to lie to your friends,” explains Hammel, perhaps trying to dignify the parlor game as a hip, happening New Year’s Eve activity. “Kori got wasted, too.”

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Hudson Bell: No Man’s Land

hudsonbellebIf you ask Hudson Bell where he’s lived, he’ll reel off a list of Southern cities: Oxford, Baton Rouge, Lexington, Little Rock. If you ask him what he remembers, the answers may elude him. Just take note of how Bell recounts the grim tale of his guitar teacher’s suicide.

“My view of the story was that my sister took me to practice, I go downstairs, and all the lights were out,” he says in a thick drawl. “I was calling out his name, and he wasn’t there. What really happened was I never went anywhere. I was sitting there practicing in my room, and they called and told me what happened even before I went.”

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Glenn Tilbrook: Squeeze Play

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When Amy Pickard heard that her friend, former Squeeze singer/guitarist Glenn Tilbrook, was planning a solo tour of the United States in an RV, she immediately wanted to make a documentary.

“It seemed crazy to me, because when people think of RVs, they think of senior citizens, retirees or trailer-court white trash,” says the 37-year-old Pickard, a Los Angeles-based indie filmmaker who grew up in Dayton, Ohio. “And Glenn is none of these things. He is so quintessentially English, it just seemed like such a fish-out-of-water thing to me, especially when I envisioned him at KOA campgrounds.”

Tilbrook’s RV adventures can be seen in the endearing Glenn Tilbrook: One For The Road DVD; the film has also been shown on VH1 Classic. This up-close-and-personal documentary follows Tilbrook on his first solo tour of America in his beloved, though undependable, home on wheels. As the salesperson says of Tilbrook’s newly purchased CruiseMaster, “Things always go wrong with RVs.” Indeed, 30 minutes after Tilbrook drives the beast off the lot, it conks out. This is just one of the minor inconveniences that befall Tilbrook and his entourage: girlfriend/business manager Suzanne Hunt, Pickard and a camera operator. Through it all, Tilbrook remains terminally upbeat and good-natured.

“I wish I had some showbiz tantrums on film that I could use to bribe him,” says Pickard. “That was one of the things that shocked me: He was so easygoing. I think it comes from a lifetime of touring with other people: crews and band members who you might not like but have to get along with in tight quarters. There was never a time when he needed to be alone to go create. It’s not Nick Drake in an Airstream.”

Aside from on-the-road detours, which include Tilbrook’s first-ever foray into a Target store, the film captures him as a dedicated singer/songwriter who loves playing to his adoring fans. One For The Road features acoustic performances of Squeeze favorites including “Tempted,” “Black Coffee In Bed” and “Pulling Mussels (From The Shell).”

Although Pickard only chronicles Tilbrook’s first U.S. trip in the RV, he eventually logged 32,000 miles over nearly five years of various tours in the CruiseMaster, not to mention 27 stops at repair shops. (The RV died for good in the summer of 2004.)

“America is a wonderfully diverse country,” says Tilbrook. “Touring like I used to—large tour bus, hotel, plane—you exist in a bubble and don’t get to see much of the country and your surroundings. But with the RV, I’m able to stay in lovely campgrounds and cook my own meals and experience the country in a different way. It’s fantastic. I can’t imagine going back to the old way of touring, and I wouldn’t want to.”

Pickard, a Squeeze fan for more than 20 years who interviewed the band for her Dayton public-access TV show in 1991, thinks there are lessons to be learned from One For The Road, which consumed her for nearly five years. “The message of the film is to do what you love, love what you dom,” she says. “People might look at Glenn and think he’s not successful because he’s not selling out Madison Square Garden or on the charts. But if you see the film and see the connection he has with the audience and that he absolutely loves what he’s doing, how many of us wouldn’t give anything to be Glenn, performing songs you have created?”

—John Elsasser

Mudhoney: Fuzz Lightyears

mudhoneycareer5025Grunge started with Mark McLaughlin.

In 1981, McLaughlin wrote a letter to a Seattle fanzine excoriating local high-school band Mr. Epp And The Calculations as “pure grunge … pure shit.” Mr. Epp was a band named after McLaughlin’s math teacher and, not coincidentally, featured McLaughlin on guitar. Nonetheless, there it is: After all the rock genealogy, after the explosion, after all the post-mortem inquisitions as to why it all went so horribly wrong, “grunge” as we all know it started with a Bellevue, Wash., teenage punk.

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Liars: No Scrubs

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There’s an urban legend maintaining that if Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon is played in synchronicity with the film The Wizard Of Oz, the two function as mirror images of the same surreal dream, complete with the odd coincidental passage that would seem perfectly plausible if you were properly “influenced.” (Folklore or not, “Brain Damage” playing at precisely the same moment the Scarecrow sings “If I Only Had A Brain” is a bit creepy.)

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Mogwai: Sea Monsters

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So there Mogwai was, recalls guitarist Dominic Aitchison: fresh off a transatlantic flight to Orlando, gearing up for the American leg of its 2004 tour opening for the Cure. Scotland’s loudest avant-noise band tramped sleepily over the tarmac, through customs and into baggage claim, where bored chauffeurs and cabbies stood around holding signs bearing the names of their pickups. One sign in particular caught the quintet’s attention.

“It said, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Beast,’” says Aitchison, savoring the sound of the words. “We hung about as long as we could. We craned our necks all around, but they never showed.”

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Kelley Stoltz: Home Alone

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It must be the difference in hemispheres. In the Land Down Under, night is day, summer hits in winter and the water spirals the opposite way down sinks and toilets. Furthermore, Kelley Stoltz is king. Well, almost.

“We just played for 350 people in Melbourne,” says the 33-year-old songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. “That’s about as many as I get at home in San Francisco. And if I venture down to L.A., it’d be about 30. So it’s pretty weird.”

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The Hard Way

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If you can’t kill ’em all, join ’em. MAGNET presents six brand-new heavy bands that seek metallic glory by simply destroying: the Sword (pictured), Early Man, Pearls And Brass, Goblin Cock, Rosetta and Torche.

It’s not like we’re asking you to drink goat’s blood.

In fact, it would be misguided—wrong, even—for MAGNET to get all Metal Maniacs just a few pages from our regularly scheduled profiles on fashion-forward post-punks, well-mannered pop artists and alt-country songwriters. The brief explanation for this section? Here are some new, heavy rock bands we think you’ll like.

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The Back Page: Thinking Outside The Box Store

back-page71510So you’re leafing through the ads in the Sunday paper and what to your wondering eyes should appear but the new Cat Power CD for $7.99. At Best Buy. This, you figure, is a great thing. Cheaper than iTunes, way cheaper than the $12.99 they’ll probably be charging at the local record store. And look: You can pick up Broken Social Scene, the Arcade Fire and a couple other titles at the same ridiculous price. It’s almost free, and therein, gentle indie rockers, lies the problem.

A quick confession: I have been guilty of buying music and DVDs, as well as appliances and such like, at Best Buy. Oh, I resisted at first. When they built the monstrous new store up the highway from my house, I avoided it entirely for a few years. Better to spend money with local businesspeople, I figured. Better to support the stores and shops run by entrepreneurs with an investment in our community. I wore down.

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