Wrens Watch Special Report, Jan. 9, 2009: New Wrens Single Out Now!

wrenswatch922We’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 Hervé Villechaize.) Each week, we check in with guitarist/vocalist Charles Bissell to find out just what exactly the quartet hasn’t been up to.

:: Wrens Watch, Jan. 9, 2009
We were duped. It’s now obvious that the man who said he was Bissell’s father in Monday’s Wrens Watch was actually Bissell himself using a fake, overtly homophobic voice. He knew that we were close to breaking the story about a new Wrens single, and he just couldn’t let that happen. Well, Tricky Bissell almost got away with it, but he wasn’t accounting for our mole at Apple, S. Paul Jobs, tipping us off at the last minute. (Job well done, Jobs.) Available now on iTunes is “Pulled Fences,” a great midtempo number sung by bassist/keyboardist Kevin Whelan. The Wrens recorded it last year at Abbey Road Studio in London for satellite radio’s Live At The WorldSpace Sessions At Abbey Road. When we contacted Bissell to let him know that we aware of “Pulled Fences” and planned to stream it on our site, he had guitarist Greg Whelan (a former judge) hit us with a temporary restraining order. When we told Bissell that we have photos of a certain incident that occurred in the bathroom at the Khyber in Philly back in 1995, he promised that he would be providing Wrens Watch with “plenty” of exclusive audio for the MAGNET site in the very near future. Bissell also said that fans might want to go to the band’s website later today, as he and wrens.com webmaster William H. Gates are implementing some major changes. About freaking time.

15 In Philly: Dr. Dog

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.


It’s tough to envision Dr. Dog recording an album in the middle of a Philadelphia winter. The sand-between-your-toes vocal harmonies, psychedelic sunshine, sudsy ’60s pop and string-popping live sets—even at the band’s darkest, it doesn’t make much sense. But when the West Philly-based five-piece took a break from touring to dive back into the studio in early 2008, the jams came anyway.

“The Breeze” from Fate:

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The Godfathers: Birth, School, Work, Reunion Tour, Then Death

godfathers370Late-‘80s British post-punkers the Godfathers, best-known for college-radio fave “Birth, School, Work, Death,” are reforming their original lineup for a February U.S. tour, the band’s first in nearly 20 years. The group previously reunited on Feb. 14, 2008, for one of its traditional St. Valentine’s Day Massacre shows; this year’s version appropriately takes place in Chicago, scene of the famous crime.

“Birth, School, Work, Death” from 1988’s Birth, School, Work, Death:

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Andrew Bird Gives The People What They Want

andrewbird300Taking a page out of U2’s Guide To Releasing One Record As Many Ways As Possible, Andrew Bird is issuing the stellar new Noble Beast on January 20 via Fat Possum in a format sure to suit both your lifestyle and your bank account. Available for pre-order now is the digital version of the 14-song Noble Beast, which comes with two bonus tracks (“Section 8 City” and “10-You-Us”); it can be yours for $9.95. If you wait until January 20 to order it, it will still be $9.95, but “10-You-Us” won’t be part of the deal. If you want just the regular old CD version of Noble Beast, that will set you back around $12-$15, though there’s no bonus material. If you prefer vinyl, the double-LP Noble Beast costs about $22-$25, and though there’s no bonus tracks, there’s a fold-poster and a free digital download of the album. But if you are a real Birdhead, there’s only one Noble Beast for you: the deluxe edition, which comes with Useless Creatures (a bonus CD of nine new instrumental songs), extra photos, a fold-out poster and a 24-page booklet. It will cost you in the $26-$30 range, but can you really put a price on all the joy it will bring you? Tour dates after the jump.

“Oh No” from Noble Beast:

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15 In Philly: Pissed Jeans / Pearls & Brass

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.


Every band has a story. These stories, of course, intertwine with other bands’ stories to create a sort of mythology for anyone who cares to pay attention. Case in point: Pissed Jeans, from Allentown, Pa., and Pearls & Brass, from nearby Nazareth, used to run into each other at a DIY space in Allentown called Jeff The Pigeon, where no-name acts would play loud, eccentric shows for a sweaty mix of friends, fans and strangers.

“Fantasy World” from Pissed Jeans’ Hope For Men:

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Red Hot Chili Peppers Guitarist John Frusciante Preps 10th Solo LP

johnffrusciante360Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante is releasing his 10th solo album, via the Record Collection label, on January 20. The Empyrean, which Frusciante has described as a concept album (we’re still trying to figure out exactly what that concept is, but we’re a little dense sometimes), features guest appearances by actor Michael Balzary (My Own Private Idaho, The Big Lebowski), guitarist Johnny Marr (Cribs) and others. In addition to nine Frusciante originals, The Empyrean also features a cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song To The Siren” (a longtime MAGNET fave). Frusciante has no plans to tour in support of the album. To see how different Frusciante looks with short hair, check out an interview we did with him in 2004 here.

“Unreachable” from The Empyrean:

Hold Steady Gig To Benefit Baseball-Related Charity

holdsteadyh520bIn a match made in beer-drinking heaven, heavy imbibers and baseball aficionados the Hold Steady will play for more than a few like-minded Chicago Cubs fans at the third annual Len & Bob Bash on January 15 at Chicago’s House of Blues. Named for Cubs TV broadcasters Len Kasper and Bob Brenly, the event has raised more than $70,000 for Chicago Cubs Charities. Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman opens this year’s concert; previous editions featured Ryan Adams And The Cardinals, Son Volt, the Redwalls and the Felice Brothers.

“While the members of the Hold Steady each have their own favorite MLB teams, we are mostly fans of the game of baseball,” said frontman Craig Finn. “Thus, we are excited to have an opportunity to play this event for Chicago Cubs Charities and have another reason to think baseball during the cold and grey off-season.”

“The Hold Steady’s live show reaches out directly to the Wrigley Field bleacher crowd,” said Kasper, a knowledgeable music geek who’s probably the only MLB voice who knows the Hold Steady isn’t some obscure sabermetric statistic. “To have one of the hottest bands going today and one of rock’s greatest guitarists in Tom Morello on the same bill to raise money is awesome. I know Craig Finn is a big Twins fan, and Tom loves the Cubs, so we’re hoping it’s a big, baseball-meets-rock-‘n’-roll group hug.”

Tickets are available at www.hob.com. More tour dates after the jump. To read the in-depth feature we did with the Hold Steady around the release of 2006’s Boys And Girls In America, click here.

The Hold Steady doing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”:

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15 In Philly: Psychedelphia

Spend 15 years in Philadelphia and you’ll figure out that things in MAGNET’s native city aren’t always sunny or bursting with brotherly love. But underneath the tough exterior are some pretty sweet sounds. In honor of our anniversary, we pay tribute to our hometown scene.


The Psychedelphia era lasted roughly from 1995—when the Azusa Plane and the Asteroid #4 (pictured) began issuing seven-inch singles and Bardo Pond released its first album—to 2001, the year the Strokes played a Philly residency that effectively marked the ascendancy of the New York-centered post-punk era.

1999’s Sounds From Psychedelphia, issued on Asteroid #4’s Lounge label, is the definitive document of the scene. The compilation includes tracks from the Photon Band, A#4, Lenola and other bands influenced, in varying proportions, by Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, 13th Floor Elevators and other Nuggets, as well as shoegazers My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. In 1998, MAGNET’s fifth-anniversary concert reflected the local movement, featuring a lineup of A#4, the Azusa Plane, Bardo Pond, Lenola and psych-folk godfather Tom Rapp.

The Asteroid #4’s “Tricks Of The Trade” from Sounds From Psychedelphia:

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Philip Glass, Patti Smith, The National, Vampire Weekend Headline Tibet House Benefit

pattismith350Philip Glass, a composer known for his sometimes hard-to-stomach atonal work, certainly has an ear to the ground in his artistic direction of the 2009 Tibet House Benefit Concert. Now in its 19th year, the event will take place at New York City’s Carnegie Hall on February 3. Aside from Glass, the initial lineup includes Patti Smith (pictured) with daughter Jesse, the National and (sigh) Vampire Weekend, with additional performers to be announced in the coming weeks. Highlights from past Tibet House Benefits include David Bowie, Paul Simon, Sigur Rós, Bright Eyes, R.E.M., Emmylou Harris, Damien Rice and Ray Davies. Tickets are available by calling CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800. A reception with the evening’s honorary chairpersons and artists will follow the performance. Tickets for the reception, which include prime seats for the concert, can be reserved by calling Tibet House at 212-807-0563.

Patti Smith’s “Gloria” performed live in London in 2005:

Nick Cave Curates Awesome Australian All Tomorrow’s Parties

nick08340Yeah, that Flaming Lips-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties in New York in September will be wild and wacky (especially Dirty Three doing all of Ocean Songs). And the Breeders-curated ATP in the U.K. in May sounds intriguing (haven’t seen Throwing Muses live since 1991). But if MAGNET allowed for time off, we’d be on a plane this weekend to Australia for the ATP curated by The Man We Wish We Were: Nick Cave. Aside from Cave’s Bad Seeds, there’s Spiritualized, Robert Forster, Michael Gira, James “Blood” Ulmer, Bill Callahan, Dead Meadow, Silver Apples, Dirty Three (doing all of Ocean Songs; take that, Wayne Coyne), the Saints (doing all of (I’m) Stranded) and many more.

The current issue of MAGNET marks the second time Cave has been on the cover (you can order it here). The first was back in 2001, when writer Jonathan Valania traveled with Cave & The Bad Seeds to Denmark. Read it here.

“More News From Nowhere” from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!: