Fresh off a convincing performance at this year’s SXSW, Southeast Engine is ready to hit the road in support of its February release, From The Forest To The Sea. Adam Remnant’s groovy rock quartet had some help from the Wrens in getting signed to Misra Records in 2007. Three records later, the Athens, Ohio, crew continues to deliver a gypsy-friendly rock sound. From The Forest track “Black Gold” creeps with hints of dark political and religious references disguised in a feel-good, ’60s-inspired chorus shout-along.
Once you’ve been around the block with him a few times, you just call him Charles. You can still call him Frank Black or Black Francis (the latter seems to be in favor these days), but Charles Thompson has made it clear that he’s going to wear whatever nametag he likes and clock in whenever he feels comfortable. (Fortunately, he shows up for work a lot, both as a solo artist and with the Pixies, with whom he’ll play live dates this summer.) Grand Duchy is his latest venture, a duo with his wife Violet Clark that explores relatively off-road terrain for Thompson: high-gloss new wave and vampish synth pop. Debut album Petits Four(out April 14 on Cooking Vinyl) is playful and slightly Euro-affected, from the Dandy Warholesque “Lovesick Season” to the Clark-sung “Long Song,” which brings Kim Deal’s Pixies vocal turns rushing back to mind.
MAGNET reached Thompson and Clark at their home office in Eugene, Ore., where the couple seemed as relaxed and content in their kingdom as nobility will allow. Grand Duchy will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com this week; check in daily for posts by Violet and Charles.
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 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.) 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—11 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). When we checked in with Bissell six weeks ago, he took exception with our good-natured sarcasm and quickly ended the interview. After ignoring us for a while, Bissell finally gave us a progress report; it seems that while other bands get together and record, the Wrens stay apart and talk to each other on the phone. Or they do nothing at all. Or they update their Facebook pages. Three weeks ago, Bissell informed us he was “too busy” to respond to our questions, but he did promise us some exclusive Wrens mp3s in the near future. Two weeks ago, he didn’t even bother responding to our emails, prompting us to call him an unprolific Ryan Adams. That got Bissell’s attention, who last week apologized (profanely), told us the band is playing a show on April 10 and promised us an exclusive Wrens mp3 for today. Well, guess not. But there’s always tomorrow.
They’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.
13: Netherregions // Jetset, 1997 Using a primitive version of ProTools—OK, a four-track and some Radio Shack cassettes—the members of Home spent the first half of the ’90s in Tampa, Fla., issuing volumes I through IX of their lunatic stoner folk. By the time of opus number 13, Home had relocated to New York and become darlings of the (mostly media-constructed) lo-fi bedroom-recording movement. Home’s bedroom, apparently, didn’t have walls: Netherregions embraces everything from disembodied boombox jams to sprawling piano nocturnes to acoustic hippie warblings from singer/keyboardist Eric Morrison.
Catching Up: Founding drummer Sean Martin rejoined the fold for 2006’s Sexteen, issued on Oneida’s Brah label. Morrison operates a studio and oversees Screw Music Forever, a label and recording collective.
“Our Blue Navy”: http://magnetmagazine.com/audio/OurBlueNavy.mp3
You 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.
Norwegian design is alive and well. Employing the good kind of distortion, bright colors. (You’ll understand why when you go there; the eyes need relief from evergreen trees, blue sky and white snow.) These are some of my favorite graphic-design studios in Norway
1-Up: I worked with Joakim on the design for the DiSCiPLiNES album cover. I love his use of melting forms, colors, and best of all, he’s a horse thief; he slapped a photo of horse by Richard Kern right on our album cover. Had I not been been quickly vetted by Lydia Lunch, we would have been in lawsuit city. Mediocre artists borrow. Graphic designers cut, paste and make you figure out how to deal with it.
Yokoland: They are experts at incorporating childlike handwriting, found objects (scanned, photo’d and arranged to make letters) and, again, bright children’s-book colors for their work. They’re too expensive for me to use, but that’s because they are so damn fine.
Amp Design: These guys fed me some T-shirt designs that were so fucked up, they would have scared away anyone under 15 and over 50. In other words, perfect. They can get credit in the straight world, too, but let ’em loose, and they unleash all kinds of rave/Bosch nightmares. Excellent.