Strung out on drugs, abandoned by their record label and on the verge of collapse, Dimitri and Melanie Coats—the husband/wife team behind Burning Brides—decided not to fade away. Moving from Philadelphia to L.A. and adding drummer Pete Beeman, the band reclaims hard-rockin’ grunge from the whining, goateed dolts with Hang Love (Modart/Caroline), making it evil and weird again.
Since first appearing on the British scene in the mid-’70s as a founding member of new-wave act XTC, Andy Partridge set about failing his way to the top of the pop charts. While XTC did experience modest success—a U.K. top-10 single (1982’s “Senses Working Overtime”) and a U.S. modern-rock number one (1989’s “The Mayor Of Simpleton”)— Partridge has emerged as an influential figure who has somehow eluded the fame and fortune accorded to lesser peers.
Partridge nevertheless has assembled an enviable body of work. He ceased touring altogether after suffering a breakdown onstage at a 1982 XTC concert in Paris; Partridge’s then-wife had thrown out his supply of Valium, resulting in a debilitating battle with stage fright that would haunt him throughout his career. While XTC has been largely dormant since 2000’s Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), Partridge remains as busy as ever. He recently released Fuzzy Warbles Collector’s Album (encompassing nine volumes of XTC-era outtakes, demos and radio rarities) and Monstrance (an experimental two-CD set with XTC/Shriekback keyboardist Barry Andrews and drummer Martyn Barker). Both releases appear on Partridge’s own Ape House label.
MAGNET caught up with the 53-year-old Partridge at his home in Swindon, a sleepy southwest suburb of London.
Wheat’s failure to launch on a major label resulted in four years of silence, a re-examination of the rock ‘n’ roll dream and a new vision for its soft-focus harmonic pop. By Matthew Fritch
In some ways, it’s not much of a return when Wheat appears onstage at a bar in Cambridge, Mass., around midnight. It’s not like the Pixies reunion. Hell, it’s not even the second coming of Buffalo Tom. Wheat’s first show in three years occurs at TT the Bear’s Place, not at the larger venue around the corner, the Middle East, which the Afrobeat group Antibalas has sold out tonight. Wheat didn’t get the cover story in the local alt-weekly, but the band scored a nice feature on the inside pages. And TT the Bear’s is pretty close to capacity, assisting the typical college-aged Boston crowd in its weekend ritual of getting blitzed.
With their heart-on-sleeve mix of bluegrass and punk, the prolific members of North Carolina’s Avett Brothers are on the road to success. But even as the miles click by on their latest tour, the Avetts remember to slow down and enjoy the view. By Tizzy Asher
Traversing the country in a tour van can feel like being at sea. The highway thunks beneath the wheels like waves lapping the bow, and oases of gas stations and convenience stores appear like tropical islands. Perhaps this is what has caused Scott Avett, banjo player for Concord, N.C.’s Avett Brothers, to ruminate about sailing. As his van rolls along the freeway from South Carolina to Georgia on yet another leg of the Avett Brothers’ latest tour, Scott contemplates French sailor Bernard Moitessier.
Since his 1998 self-titled debut, Rufus Wainwright has indulged his love for lush, operatic pop, a passion that culminated on two-album suite Want One (2003) and Want Two (2004). He’s also the loudest and proudest major-label pop singer to have never been in the closet. But nothing was ballsier than his decision last year to re-create Judy Garland’s historic 1961 comeback performance at Carnegie Hall. To even suggest that the then-33-year-old Wainwright might come close to Garland’s stature ruffled a few feather boas (including, rumor has it, Liza Minnelli’s). Yet not only did Wainwright get raves for his Carnegie Hall performance, he then took it on the road. American Beauty director Sam Mendes shot a documentary about the experience that’s due later this year, as is a live album. Just before the Garland performance, Wainwright was also busy finishing his fifth album. Recorded in Berlin, Release The Stars (Geffen) is unusual for Wainwright in that it’s preoccupied with humility and reinvention—particularly that of a North American in Europe on tracks such as “Tiergarten” and “Leaving For Paris No. 2.” It’s not surprising that a Canadian living in New York City with a German boyfriend would find expatriatism such an attractive theme. But for such a timeless, romantic writer who has normally avoided political themes in his work, the decline of the American empire weighs heavily on Release The Stars. —Michael Barclay