Monthly Archives: April 2011

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Nick Rhodes hasn't changed a whit after three decades in Duran Duran. Their show was brilliantly satisfying, if a little long of tooth at times, las Wednesday at the Ogden (Photo: Nathan Iverson, HeyReverb.com)

Live Reverb Review – Duran Duran at Ogden Theater, Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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Nick Rhodes hasn't changed a whit after three decades in Duran Duran. Their show was brilliantly satisfying, if a little long of tooth at times, las Wednesday at the Ogden (Photo: Nathan Iverson, HeyReverb.com)

Nick Rhodes hasn't changed a whit after three decades in Duran Duran. Their show was brilliantly satisfying, if a little long of tooth at times, las Wednesday at the Ogden (Photo: Nathan Iverson, HeyReverb.com)

 

Nick Rhodes hasn’t changed at all in more than three decades. Neither have John or Roger Taylor. Simon Le Bon? Aside from growing a rough beard that makes his face just a little more round (and a voice that’s missing some of it’s youthful squeal from time to time), he also looks timeless. Up close in the tightly packed confines of the Ogden last Wednesday night, the original members of Duran Duran might have looked even better than I remembered them when they were helping to lay the foundations for MTV.

And their performance didn’t disappoint, either. Through sixteen songs over 80 minutes, the iconic group delighted a gathering of fans that looked like they’d been at the same party since the video of “Hungry Like The Wolf” came out.

 

 

Read the entire review, and catch many more of Nathan Iverson’s photos, at Denver Post Reverb!!!

 


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The Outfit - Broken West Wishbone Test

New Threads – From Denver: Deadbubbles, The Outfit; from Oakland: tUnE-yArDs

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This week we offer a look at a few new threads that run the gamut in sound and intention, and we like just about all of it. From a well-deserved (if awfully early in the their life) tribute to Denver’s Deadbubbles, to The Outfit’s indecipherably titled debut – still full of promise, to tUnE-yArDs, an act that needs to be in your headphones by virtue of both its innovation and unlikely attraction – or maybe its sheer weirdness. Read on, and listen to a few – we’ll leave that last judgement up to you.

Deadbubbles' Tribute - "Reclamation Now!"

Deadbubbles' Tribute - "Reclamation Now!"

Deadbubbles – Reclamation Now! A Tribute to Deadbubbles

Deadbubbles‘ frontman Arlo White tends toward gritty, proto-punk sort of vision, one that fits his look, spirit and personality to a “tee.” When it’s not reeling from drummer changes on a Spinal Tap-ian scale, his band has  been a perfect mashup of early Stooges-era proto-punk with a glam attitude and White’s appreciation (read: obsession, at least reputedly) for Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard. The songs on the band’s two releases are short, simple and powerful anthems based around Paul Humphrey’s resilient power chords stapled onto no-nonsense rhythms and White’s ‘70s rock vocals.

And, in the true egomaniacal form you might say is intrinsic to the visionary lifestyle, White recently began soliciting local bands to appear on a tribute album. No matter that the band had then only been in existence since 2006 – homage knows no time limit. The result: Reclamation Now!, a strong disc that features a collection of thirteen covers (plus one hidden live track from a 2007 show White did with Drowning Dolphins) by local bands that not only pays tribute to Deadbubbles, but in some cases even lends even more legitimacy to some of the band’s work.

The gamut of musicianship in itself on the disc is impressive enough to get a copy, and it features a widely varied mix of genres. The Babysitters’ opening cover of “Dream Hard!” from Deadbubbles’ debut album “Reclamation Forklift Provider,” starts off as a pretty close mimic of the original, but evolves quickly into a Breeders-esque version with even more inspiration than White was able to put behind it. The childish jaunt of “Zoo Kicker and I” is covered twice, and both are wildly different.  While Matt Shupe’s version floats along in an almost Echo & The Bunnymen-meets-Jonathan Richman folkiness, The Firebird 4000 Project pull off a version that recalls early Beck four-track mixes with an almost Elephant Six flair.

Twelve of the thirteen covers on the record came from Deadbubbles first album – which likey attests to the strength of the more indie nature behind it. The one tune from “Frienemies” that is covered is a brilliant homage to the Stooges-ian punk by local legend and Elvis Presley pal Ralph Gean. Take a listen to both and see what you think.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Deadbubbles_Straightliner (Ralph Gean).m4a” text=”Straightliner – by Ralph Gean”]

 

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Deadbubbles_Straightliner.mp3″ text=”Deadbubbles – Straightliner”]

As a tribute, “Reclamation Now!” works well, and paints a great picture of Deadbubbles’ comedic complexity. Better, as just a disc, the project makes for an impressively entertaining listen – whether or not you’re the least bit familiar with the band.

Stay tuned for an upcoming feature on the tribute and the re-birth of Deadbubbles this Spring and Summer. This band is still clawing its way into fullness, and we’re counting them as one to watch in the Denver scene.

 

The Outfit - Broken West Wishbone Test

The Outfit - Broken West Wishbone Test

The Outfit – Broken West Wishbone Test

The Outfit want to “. . . make music that people can connect to and, possibly, move to.” With their debut album, “Broken West Wishbone Test,” which comes out next month,  they’ve moved a whole lot closer to succeeding on both accounts. This four piece of locals makes a huge sound on the new record, thrown up into a wild cyclonic pitch by Casey Banker’s signature big guitar sound and Eric Johnston’s wailing, but anchored by Pat Lawless’s relentless bass and RJ Powers’ locomotive drumming (for the record, Mike King is now the bass player for the band, and has been for quite some time. Long story is that, for the recording of the record, Lawless joined the band in LA in ’09, but then quit, and was replaced by King. Whew!). Unfortunately, but not surprisingly for a young group, they seem to get a little lost in that conquest for bigness. It’s only a momentary lapse, but it is one toward which the album’s incomprehensible title seems to hint.

From the wholly misleading guitar flicker at the first seconds of “Intro,” clear through the multi-catharsis of “Out of the City” the rhythms are solid, pounding and growing. Johnston’s vocals start to recall Mark Lanegan (from ‘90s Seattle band Screaming Trees) and Kings of Leon‘s Caleb Followill – low, smoother, mostly confident in the lyrics. Meanwhile, Banker flails overtop with his signature Buzzcocks-featuring-J-Mascis guitar and King and Powers build, destroy and rebuild the foundation.

Overall, the result is a strong record, though it seesaws in and out of focus, and shows some derivative  – two minor drawbacks that should just be chalked up to freshman jitters.

When they’re strong, the songs feel invincible, but the band begins to meander at time and loses momentum, which is picked up again in another song. “The Cold,” for instance (which they’ve posted for your perusal on their Facebook page) is full of poppy hooks, and just the right length. It’s a palate cleanser after the sometimes too-heavy “Old Riot” that just seems a hair short of the angry, exhausted mark it seems to be trying to hit. “Strange Bones” is another piece that comes close, but just falters with a little too much of Banker’s constant, though always impressive, axe presence. After the frenetic riffs of “Softsided” wipe that clumsiness away, the rise and fall between great and almost-there songs continues. Heaviness drowns “Hi-Lo,” which is just a tad too close toKings of Leon for me, but the Strokes-induced “Washed Out” redeems the flow. The melancholy of “Cavalier” thankfully succumbs to the pogo of “Crave,” and so on.

The Outfit are currently involved in a kind of collision that’s hard to take your eyes off – it’s a good thing, not a cataclysm  – and I wouldn’t recommend looking away just yet. This record shows a band ready to explode, just as soon as they polish a few thorny inconsistencies.

The Outfit will be celebrating the release of “Broken West Wishbone Test” at a party onMay 6th at Larimer Lounge, along with local bands Colfax Speed Queen, The Knew and The Dig.

Check out “Crave” while you buy your tickets for the release show!

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Outfit_Crave.mp3″ text=”The Outfit – Crave”]

 

tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l (out April 19, 2011)

tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l (out April 19, 2011)

tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l

Could you put together a more seemingly incongruent mix than John Cage, John Coltrane and a ukelele? The thought brings to mind a project infused with Laurie Anderson/Yoko Ono innovation and frolic. Unique? intriguing? Sure. But entertaining? Not always. In fact, more likely frustrating.

Yet, Oakland’s Merrill Garbus and her band tUnE-yArDs make the mixture a perfect emulsion, and add strong Afro-pop rhythms behind millions of time signatures along with a sexy and ironic wit to boot.

Garbus’ project – named with the goofy upper-lower casing shown – released their sophomore w h o k i l l” (also punctuated and spelled EXACTLY in that challenging way) on April 19 (TODAY!), and had already been making plenty of waves on NPR, SXSW and in other rock worlds, mostly because they simply don’t fit.

Anywhere.

But that lack of correlation, often so easily frustrating, actually provides a comfortable match, almost from first listen.

Once you get past the initial double-takes and knee jerks that prevent you from leaving the record’s sphere of sound, its charm is already subcutaneous. Garbus coos, howls, whispers, whistles, whoops and hollers, recalling vocalists as disparate as Nina Simone, Harry Bellafonte and Elizabeth Frasier, as well as an entire African chorus. The melodies, full of ukelele, horns and more – clashing early on – are strung wildly across and through discordant rhythms peppered with all kinds of drums, sticks, bells and other percussion instruments.

It shouldn’t work.

Like a lot of Coltrane’s meditative improvisation, it should sound like a mess, at least at first. Unlike Coltrane, though, tUnE-yArDs doesn’t require that you learn to scuff off rational thought to truly feel the groove they’re laying down. All you need to do is let it take over, and in this case it’s simple. Almost immediately addictive, “w h o k i l l” is good enough to even outweigh the frustration of typing the title. If ever a band’s sound came close to replicating the semantic universe verbally illustrated by e. e. cummings, this one may be it.

tUnE-yArDs will visit Denver for a show at the Hi-Dive on May 4. listen to “Gangsta” and get a dose of Merrill’s universe, then go and see it.

[wpaudio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/themes/mimbo/sounds/Tune_Yards_Gangsta.mp3″ text=”tUnE-yArDs – Gangsta”]

 

 

 


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Live Threads – Reverb: Wye Oak at Larimer Lounge, Saturday, April 2, 2011

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Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner brought a blues-y heaviness to the Baltimore band's folk rock at the Larimer Lounge last Saturday night. (Photo: Nathan Armes, heyreverb.com)

Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner brought a blues-y heaviness to the Baltimore band's folk rock at the Larimer Lounge last Saturday night. (Photo: Nathan Armes, heyreverb.com)

At the Larimer Lounge on Saturday night, Jenn Wasner mentioned that she and bandmate Andy Stack of the Baltimore band Wye Oak, were tired. And justifiably so, having come from Salt Lake City that day, and in the very beginning of a 10-day stretch of their current tour that travels through the midwest and up into Montreal before they get a night off.

This apparent exhaustion, however, didn’t seem to make any difference in the duo’s performance.

A more valid reason the two should be tired, in fact, was the fury and passion they poured into an hour-long set. Often lumped in with indie or folk rock bands, presumably due to a tendency to alternate between screeching distortion and sparse minimalism on record, the pair was anything but mere folk that night. Wasner wailed meditations on solitude, love and aloneness and masterfully wrangled her guitar, while Stack covered the rest. Stack’s ability to multi-task the entire balance of such a huge sound — playing a trap set with both feet and his right hand while pounding on keyboards for both bass and melody with his left — was stunning to watch.

 

Read the entire review, and see more of Nathan Armes‘ photos of the show at HeyReverb.com!


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New Threads – Inactivists release “The War on Jazz Hands” to a hungry public at the Walnut Room

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Inactivists new record, "The War on Jazz Hands"

The Inactivists celebrate the release of their fifth studio album, "The War on Jazz Hands," at the Walnut Room tonight, April Fool's Day. Enlist and support your troops!

If there’s one thing we need less of in this world, it’s got to be those annoying flapping fingers at the end of swirling hands, and a more worthy cause for war probably doesn’t currently exist. And yet, as a country, we’re dang near broke. But I already digress . . .

This sentiment comes from the title of The Inactivists’ latest record, “The War On Jazz Hands.” The Denver band remains one of the local scene’s hidden treasures, and the title’s an adroit summation of their personality and style: playful like They Might Be Giants with an adult humor that hovers around that of Ween, but remains more explicitly juvenile. And yet, they’re always musically complex, diverse and accomplished, in the only way that would ever allow a true theremin artist – in this case the accomplished and extremely talented Victoria Lundy – to fit in.

Inactivists will be unveiling “The War On Jazz Hands” at the Walnut Room tonight, Friday, April 1st, in a CD release party that will include Little Fyodor and Babushka and The Skivies. Doors are at 9, and tickets are a mere $7 – which is a great deal at thrice the cost!

Frontman Scot Livingston’s wry, pedestrian humor – a style that at times delves down to a middle school mindset – makes Inactivists’ music more than just banal and giggly party accompaniment (something they come dangerously close to from time to time). The compositions are funk- and jazz-ified mathrock pieces built around rhythms laid down in true art rock form by drummer Kelly Prestridge and bassist Matt Sumner. And, though they often follow a  predictable blueprint- at least lyrically and melodically – it’s that formulaic ease that enhances the juvenile subtext and makes the result both hilarious and palatable.

From homoerotic ramblings about the life aboard a pirate ship for months at a time – limited of course to male shipmates – in “Rum, Sodomy and the Lash,” to a meditation on a hippy-laden, vegan scenario for the up and coming zombie apocalypse in “Vegan Zombies,” to lounge lizard ranting about personal failure in “I Fail At Life,” The Inactivists seem to have covered a fair swath of the cultural landscape on their new record. And the songs are so much more than just Broadway standup – they’re clearly meditations worthy of comedic koans.

There’s even a terrifying psychedelic homage to longtime celebrity players on “The Hollywood Squares.” “The Center Square” features a creepily chanted “Charles Nelson Riley” over and over, interspersed with other celebrities like Kitty Carlisle and Lyle Alzado, atop a dizzyingly hypnotic tune that incites a spiral into nauseating visions of afternoon television from the ’70s and ’80s. Livingston, like me, looks to have spent many an hour passing time in front of the show, conniving  ….

“The Center Square” features a creepily chanted “Charles Nelson Riley” over and over, interspersed with other celebrities like Kitty Carlisle and Lyle Alzado ….

The group also shows undying support of the Denver scene by covering two local bands’ works: “You Make Me Hard,” by Little Fyodor, and “Defrenistation Imbroglio” by Yerkish. Like all great covers, these two are done in a style all Inactivists’ own, and made into entirely new tunes. “… Hard” is transformed from its frenetically angry and explosive greatness into an equally great – though exponentially more creepy – porn movie soundtrack. “… Imbroglio” creates an atmosphere of political thriller in its portrayal of the demise of a political figure, but Inactivists make the situation seem lighter than the Yerkish version, and more hilarious. And, also like great covers, they both still retain their original angst and promise.

BONUS: If you buy the CD, be sure to download the free second disc. Built to the tune of a tribute album, the second disc contains reworked versions of all the songs on the first disc – minus the two covers (though they start off with samples of the originals, followed by some truly special hidden treasures).  And, in true satirist style, the band created this disc with some offbeat commentary in mind.

These aren’t tunes that The Inactivists merely looked to trusted friends and musicians to cover. They’ve all been farmed out to online musician entrepreneurs – or “some of Nashville’s least expensive songwriter demo recording services,” as the band’s website proclaims. And they’ve all been worked, “professionally,” in the fashion of old school demo studios. The results are pretty spectacular. There’s a funkified version of “Vegan Zombies” that easily challenges any blaxploitation film theme, and an over-the-top countrified version of “I Fail At Life,” which is just a tad too close to a potential back-from-the-grave hit for the Billy Ray Cyrus genre, to name a few gems.

If you want to hear real evidence of the inherent professionalism, combined with over the top verisimilitude, in the song-poem recording industry, get a load of the cover version of the title track. The sexy crooner wrapping what could only be luscious, lipstick-drenched lips around such a smokey and sensuous voice seems deeply, deeply rapt as she sings the anthem with the urgency of a WWII war-bonds pitch. The disc two version of “Press the Space Bar” features a similar performance, complete with a unique pronunciation of the word “cholera,” that makes listening to the entire 4’31” totally worth it.

The second disc versions make a collection that holds its own in legitimacy almost as well as the first, actually. As an experiment in satirical humor and social commentary, the two together make a killing statement, and a tremendously satisfying foray into the Zappa-esque world of musical theater.

Inactivists will be unveiling “The War On Jazz Hands” at the Walnut Room tonight, Friday, April 1st, in a CD release party that will include Little Fyodor and Babushka and The Skivies. Doors are at 9, and tickets are a mere $7 – which is a great deal at thrice the cost!


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