Monthly Archives: March 2012

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Flipper at the Lion's Lair - 3/29-30/2012

DenverThread Interview – Flipper – Steve DePace

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Flipper - A while ago (Photo:

Flipper - A while ago (Photo:

OK – Who remembers Flipper?

More appropriately: Who knows why they should remember – or at least be aware of – Flipper?

Get this: – It could be argued that without Flipper, there may have been no Nirvana, or much of the sloppier side of “Grunge,” or at least the whole scene would likely sound a little different (less sloppy, maybe?). Disagree? Let’s discuss (in comments).

In any case,regardless of what we all think, Flipper has left an indelible mark on music in its 33-years as a band on this accursed planet. A deep-cut-with-a-dull-blade, thick and juicy sludge trail, maybe – and one that may have laid the original tracks for sludge metal bands like Sunn-0))), Sleep, The Melvins and the like – but indelible nonetheless. And if that kind of connection can hold true, then we should all remember Flipper, and they should be held aloft in our music appreciation lists alongside heavy hitters like Black Flag and Black Sabbath, in reflection of their contributions.

I think that Flipper may indeed have been before its time in a sense. We were described as a Grunge Band in 1980, a full 10 years before it became a musical format. – Steve DePace

And – even if you disagree, or don’t even know whether or not you agree – you’re in luck, because Flipper is holding a two-day residence this Thursday and Friday – March 29th and 30th – at the venerated Lion’s Lair to kick off another long touring season (Europe – for about a million dates – is next). The seminal pre-post-hardcore-avant-sludge-proto-noise-punk band is celebrating two Punk Rock Art Show openings in Denver this week with the shows. First, on Thursday, March 29th, “Ruby Ray: Punk Passage” opens at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (445 S. Saulsbury St., Lakewood), and celebrates the San Fransisco punk scene of the late ’70s. Then, on Friday, March 30th, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver will open up “Bruce Conner: The Primal Scene of Punk Rock,” which focuses on the San Fransisco punk scene in 1977, with flyers, photos and videos.

Flipper at the Lion's Lair - 3/29-30/2012

Flipper at the Lion's Lair - 3/29-30/2012

Both of these shows kick off a five-month “revival” of Punk Rock (capitalized appropriately) around Denver, gravitating around the MCA (called, appropriately, “Search & Destroy“), including an evening with Bauhaus/Love & Rockets heartthrob/guitarist David J on April 21.

But enough of anything not about Flipper. In sync with the two-show Lions Lair residence, DenverThread spoke with Flipper drummer Steve DePace about Flipper’s history, now and future, and a few other things. Check it out – and get to these shows:

DenverThread: Wow – 33 years (maybe minus the 10-year hiatus after Will Shatter’s untimely death)! And with the exception of the 2009 re-release of Generic, the band appears to have been pretty quiet, except for a few live shows, right? Have you all been doing anything together since then?

Steve DePace: Well actually, we got back together in 2005 after that 10 year hiatus. A call from CBGBs prompted us to get back into action. We participated in the effort to save CBGBs with a couple of benefit concerts in August of that year. From there we did some great events in San Francisco and LA and participated in the promotional events surrounding the film America Hardcore. We played Toronto Film Festival and New York premiere after party and had Moby jump on stage with us for Sex Bomb. Then we reissued our back catalog worldwide and had Krist Novolselic (Nirvana) join the band for a couple of years. We did a tour of UK/Ireland with Melvins and recorded a couple of albums with Krist. Played a number of amazing shows with him, before he exited the band, due to not being able to tour very much, which we were gearing up to do. We now have Rachel Thoele in the band and we are off and running. We toured Australia/New Zealand a few years ago and we are now preparing to go around the world promoting Flipper’s music and celebrating 33 years of doing what we do.

Flipper Rules - still - in 2012, even. (Photo: Kevin Warnock)

Flipper Rules - still - in 2012, even. (Photo: Kevin Warnock)

DT: So what led up to this – a pretty damned impressive tour? Any one or two specific reasons?

SD: Well our singer Bruce has been working very hard to get himself in shape for the road. He has had a history of back problems which called for a serious surgery and lots of different treatments and physical rehab and conditioning to get himself back into fighting shape for the road. He is really an inspiration having gone through all that he has gone through and to get himself from where he was in 2005 when we first go back together, to where he is now, is really impressive. So with that and with Rachel onboard and all of us in a position of being able to commit to the time it takes to do the band thing full time, we are ready to do this and the timing is right.
DT: I’m a bit confused, because I see in different places on the ‘net that “Generic” is going to be re-released again this year by 4 Man With Beards – but it was released by the same group in ’09, right? Is there a new collection coming out – and, dare I ask, is there any new material on the horizon?

SD: It is the 30 year anniversary of Generic Flipper, which has been hailed as our definitive album. We are planning to reissue an anniversary edition at least on vinyl. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since that album came out. And to think of all the people and bands this album has touched in a special way and influenced is truly amazing! The list is impressive to say the least.

DT: Flipper stands (still) as one of the most influential surviving bands to come from the West Coast Hardcore scene(s) of the late ’70s/’80s. To what do you all attribute that far-reaching and powerful influence (You could say, rightfully in my opinion, that if there were no Flipper, Grunge may not have happened as it did – no Nirvana, for instance) – was/is Flipper far ahead of its time? Or just so damned carefree and iconoclastic that the output remains an enigma?

Bruce Conner and Ruby Ray are both amazing photographers that were out documenting the bands in the late 70’s and 80’s…. We are so fortunate for the video makers like Target 77 and photographers like Ruby and Bruce, so that now we can see how it was back in the day, and these amazing gallery and museum shows. – Steve DePace

SD: I don’t know exactly to what you could attribute the far reaching influence we have had on bands and individuals. It’s a magical thing that just happens, and all I can say is that Flipper is, and always has been unique and original. We make art, noise, and music that seems to strike a chord with people.

It is possible that if there had not been a Flipper, there may not have been a Melvins or Nirvana, or perhaps they may have been very different sounding. We are all influenced by something or someone, and if those influences are not there, then your output will be different. What ever your influences are, that is what is going to shape what you do. I think that Flipper may indeed have been before its time in a sense. We were described as a Grunge Band in 1980, a full 10 years before it became a musical format. We have been around for so long, we have gone through Punk, Hardcore, Grunge, Alternative, and now back to Punk. What’s next?

Flipper with Glass Hits, Friday March 30, 2012

Flipper with Glass Hits, Friday March 30, 2012

DT: Your Denver shows at the Lion’s Lair next Thursday & Friday are actually after parties for the opening of two photography/flyers shows opening in Denver on both days. What’s Flipper’s connection to the shows, and the artists involved?

SD: Bruce Conner and Ruby Ray are both amazing photographers that were out documenting the bands in the late 70’s and 80’s. Fortunately the punk movement was made up of artists of all kinds, musicians, photographers, video and film makers, and even more extreme artists like Survival Research Labs who were making crazy and dangerous machines, and performance artists of all kinds. We are so fortunate for the video makers like Target 77 and photographers like Ruby and Bruce, so that now we can see how it was back in the day, and these amazing gallery and museum shows.

DT: Flipper may be the first “post-hardcore” band, alongside Black Flag’s “My War” period, and so many people (Rollins included) attribute the fascination to Flipper’s heavy, sludgy sound. Others call that sound an annoying, simplistic, immature mess – but one that’s somehow intensely fascinating, even transfixing. WHat are the origins of the Flipper bulldozer? Obviously you all were more musicians than many on the punk circuit then – was it purposeful “art”? Or truly a lackj of care, coupled with a deep desire to piss off the audience?

SD: Quite simply, our musical style or heavy sludgy sound is a result of us just playing together. There was no plan or discussion on what kind of sound we would have. It is just what came out when we plugged in, cranked up the volume and played. I think that is the way it happens naturally, when you get together with other people to play. Someone plays something first, then everyone joins in and you have something, what ever that is… What we ended up with was a pretty grungy, heavy, melodic, sound. We did seem to piss off a lot of people, who may have expected traditional hardcore but in the end we created plenty of chaos to go around. And the people who complained, always came back for more.
DT: After the hardcore scene(s) died down in the mid ’80s – or after the sound seemed to get “legitimized” or annexed by the general public – Flipper kept going, sound largely unchanged. But – time seems to have shown (with the grunge thing, and the persistence of bands that seem more based in the beauty of noise than in traditional song structure) that the power behind the kind of nose Flipper is known for actually has longevity. Do you think that’s accurate, and why do you think that is?

SD: I know that we have spawned a lot of bands that do their own thing, but with a heavy dose of Flipper influence. There are also bands doing the heavy noise rock that aren’t necessarily influence by Flipper. I think we have a lot in common with some of the industrial bands or noise bands. Whether they were influenced by us or not, it’s cool to hear other bands doing that kind of stuff and doing it well. There are still bands covering our songs and doing a great job it. Melvins have covered a number of our songs, most notably “Sacrifice” and have done it with great integrity. Unsane just covered another song, “Ha Ha Ha.” It is on their latest album and sounds awesome. Unsane is out on tour with Melvins this summer. How cool is that, both bands cover Flipper songs and are out on tour together. Pretty damn cool…

DT: Back in those days – when bands like Flipper, Black Flag, Minutemen, Dead Kennedys and more were literally speeding across the States, constantly touring the most unlikely shitholes, basements and dives, the general consensus was always that these bands were “suffering for their art,” and getting paid barely enough to make gas money to the next town, where they’d (hopefully) find a friend’s couch or floor to crash on. Was that the case with Flipper – and, I guess, with all of those bands? Were any of those bands – was Flipper – making any real money in the long run?

Flipper - 2012 (Photo:

Flipper - 2012 (Photo:

SD: We were certainly one of those bands that survived from gig to gig. We weren’t selling merchandise back then. We got by on what we were paid from the clubs. I think we were lucky, because we always did ok. We never went broke on the road but we did sleep on a lot of floors and couches. We had great friends who would let us camp out for as long as we needed to, in New York for instance. There was definitely a network of people across the country that would put us up and help us out. We would also put the word out that we needed a place to stay, if we did a radio interview before a show. That always got us interesting results. Our tour truck was set up with a bunk for sleeping as well. We got by pretty well, I would say, for back in the day…

DT: What’s your take on the neo-hardcore, nu-metal, sludge and melodic punk genres? Many groups see the new punk rock (Warped Tour, X-Games shows, etc.) as a watered down, vapid shell of the real punk rock, full of songs with not much more heroic value or drive than typical pop songs. How do you guys feel about that? Are the younger generations now swarming behind the new stuff missing the whole passion behind it? Are they angry enough to get the connection, and do they actually have anything, in your opinions, to really be angry about, even?

SD: When punk became a musical format for the record industry, it instantly became worthless and irrelevant. It became pop music. The word punk became meaningless, and was used to sell a product that no longer had any value as a socially and politically rebellious art form. Every band had to fit the mold and sound the same. I will say this though. Fortunately, things are turning around and the smart kids are recognizing that what they are being fed is fake bullshit. Punk is not a format for radio, or even a specific style of music. Punk Rock was original and a movement and a rebellion. The Occupy movement is the closest thing we’ve had to real punk rock for a while. Punk shows used to be raided by riot police routinely in Los Angeles. Occupy groups all over the nation have been attacked and beaten down and pepper sprayed by the police for acting like Americans. Practicing our right to free speech and protest. Take a look at what is going on in America and around the world and you will see that the world is in need of another punk rock movement.
DT: To continue in the vein of the last question: Recent events – the OWC, “American Spring,” etc. – seem to offer the younger generations a set of reasons upon which to maybe develop a type of anger similar to that we felt when constantly rocking against Reagan. Do you thing their anger is legitimate, and if so, are you hearing any significant music that reminds you of that same revolutionary (rather than overwhelmingly under-informed and jaded) feel coming from anywhere in these movements?

SD: There is a punk band from Greece called Barb Wire Dolls. They moved to LA a couple of years ago and they are talking a lot about the occupy movement and the corporate greed on Wall Street and the destruction of our freedoms and liberties. Greece is in a really bad situation so they are speaking from the heart and the singer, Isis Queen has a lot to say on the subject. As I said before, I think the people taking part in the occupy movements around the world are the real punk rockers standing up for our rights as free citizens of the world. We have a right not to be stomped on by our governments and corporations that should exist to serve the people, but that has been grossly perverted and warped by greed to the maximum degree. It must be stopped.

DT: Steering away from the political – How do you all feel that Flipper’s sound has evolved over the years, especially in terms of the popularity of super-heavy sludge? Is Flipper’s sound still trying to piss off the audience, or is there more method to the madness in our old age?

SD: The evolution of our sound has had more to do with the different bass players we’ve had than anything else. We have had 5 different bass players over the years and when you bring in a new person it changes the chemistry of the band and the music. I feel like I have enjoyed playing with everyone and we have always managed to hang on to some element of our sound and has always been Flipper both in attitude and musical style.

DT: What’s next for Flipper, after this tour (one is tempted to think that the band will turn out some legitimate inventory now that you’re undertaking such a long tour)?

What we now call the 99% used to be referred to as the silent majority, but we cannot afford to be silent anymore. It’s gotten way out of control and we are all being enslaved by the powers that be and the Wall St madness that manipulates every aspect of our lives, from price of gas to housing crisis, to our food supply, and the destruction of our resources without any regard for the future. It’s all about making the profits now, and who cares about tomorrow.

SD: We are planning to continue on the live show front. More tours and interesting events are in the works. We want to do more things like we are doing in Denver, with incorporating all forms of art and music that come from the early punk scene. Multi media events with video, photographs, posters, original art, and music. It gives people a chance to get a feel of what the early scene was like with lots of people creating lots of different kinds of art, and documenting the scene with all those different mediums. Also we are planning some very cool record releases over the next year or two. In addition to the anniversary edition of Generic Flipper, we have an album of never before released studio material from 1983 and a live album recorded at CBGBs in the same year. We are also planning to write and record a new album at some point this year.

DT: Last one – and, of course, it’s optional: Who are you watching for President? Any statements about the state of these States?

Steve DePace

Steve DePace

When punk became a musical format for the record industry, it instantly became worthless and irrelevant. It became pop music. The word punk became meaningless, and was used to sell a product that no longer had any value as a socially and politically rebellious art form. Every band had to fit the mold and sound the same. – Steve DePace

SD: Well, Obama is really the only choice right? Who else… And that is not to say that he is perfect by any stretch. I think he came into office with a lot of idealism and then got hit with a heavy dose of reality. That is, who is really running things and who has the real power. The multi billion dollar corporations who own our political system and our elected officials. We need serious reform in our elections and in so many areas of our political, social and financial systems that are broken badly. Money controls everything and I think that people are just waking up to that reality. What we now call the 99% used to be referred to as the silent majority, but we cannot afford to be silent anymore. It’s gotten way out of control and we are all being enslaved by the powers that be and the Wall St madness that manipulates every aspect of our lives, from price of gas to housing crisis, to our food supply, and the destruction of our resources without any regard for the future. It’s all about making the profits now, and who cares about tomorrow. We are being lied to and brainwashed into believing that if we just do what we are told and never question anything we will all be just fine. They are training us with billy clubs and pepper spray into forgetting that as Americans it is our duty to speak up and fight against tyranny and when the government that we have put in place to serve us, no longer does, it is our duty to tear it down and replace it with something that serves the people. A system for accomplishing that was put in place, and it’s called elections. That is why it is so important for the power brokers to own that system. They put laws in place that make corporations (who have all the money), the same as a person, and therefore able to purchase our government representatives at the highest price, that only they can afford. They have all been purchased and are under contract to corporate America. It is time for revolution for sure, so the people have takentaked to the streets and are under attack by the police state for acting like Americans.


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Night of Joy - Hardcore Girls Are A Hoax

New Threads You Need Now – Night of Joy, Achille Lauro, Lee Ranaldo, Willis Earl Beal – more!

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Night of Joy, Achille Lauro, Black Postcards (Local);  Lee Ranaldo, Willis Earl Beal, Jeffrey Lewis (not local)

Well – This post we’ve got a bucket of sounds, and none too soon (having missed a while – our apologies)…. This one features a slew of locals – two from the same label (Hot Congress) and another totally DIY group that’s almost too new … but has promise. It also features a pile of national acts – a few coming to town soon, but all should be traversing your grey matter between you headphones – if not already, then soon….

Let’s dive in – locals first:

Night of Joy - Hardcore Girls Are A Hoax

Night of Joy - Hardcore Girls Are A Hoax

Night of Joy – Hardcore Girls are a Hoax

Night of Joy has been around the Denver scene doing everything themselves for a bit – and have always been mighty impressive. Pulling its sound from somewhere amidst the part of New York’s late ‘70s No-Wave scene led by Lydia Lunch’s Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Glenn Branca’s Theoretical Girls and of ‘80s Post-punk like UT and Big Black, and ‘90s The Breeders and Bikini Kill, Hardcore Girls are a Hoax (available now on Hot Congress Records’ site, officially released March 21st) is a solid, visceral ride.

Almost forcefully thrust through the 12 songs by a sledgehammered rhythm section laid out by bassist Bree Davies and drummer Fez Garcia, guitarist/vocalist Valerie Franz pulls sounds out of her guitar that make it seem like it’s been yanked into to life – and it’s none too happy. The squealing strings, impossible, hammered chords and purposely sloppy licks compliment her passionate, screeching, perfectly rough vocals.

At first Franz’s ambitious gravel growl could be mistaken for a posturing, Sleater-Kinney-esque anger. Wrong. She’s simply, forcefully passionate about these 12 songs – and it feels like she’s pretty passionate about the life behind them as well – and the vocals match the stringwork perfectly. Hardcore Girls is an ambitious, strong debut – also recalling a just a little Misfits and Minutemen as well as a little Sonic Youth in song construction – and, more than anything, it bleeds with the fun the trio obviously had making it.

Tip: Get a load of Davies’ Kim-Deal-eat-your-heart-out vocals in the twelfth song – a brilliant cover of one of The Breeders’ best. It started a whole week (and running) vinyl & CD revival of the Deal sisters’ work around here…

Check out Night of Joy’s video for the single John Candy below:

Night of Joy – “John Candy” from Brass Tree Sessions on Vimeo.

Achille Lauro - Flight or Flight

Achille Lauro - Flight or Flight

Achille Lauro – Flight or Flight

Achille Lauro are another band that’s been pretty active in Denver for a while – albiet a little longer than Night of Joy. They’ve built a pretty strong local fan base, too – a result of relentless gig-booking and local activism, no doubt. Well, that, and the fact that their music is imminently danceable, and actually makes you feel good – in an almost this-John-Hughes-tale-is-for-real way. The quartet’s latest record, Flight or Flight, also available from Hot Congress now, is a strong example of sweet, atmospheric rock, and replicates a sound that’s as much based in Sting’s jazz as Bjork and Yeasayer psyche-pop.

Live, the Mossman brothers – Luke on guitar/vocals and Ben on drums/vocals, along with Matt Close (guitar) and Jon Evans (vocals/bass) – make probably Denver’s best party band. That sound – hopeful, fun, careless – is caught pretty well on Flight, as as the songs’ clean, well-formed constructions. 

“Low Cha Cha” serves as a cautionary tail, the story of a clueless entourage-crasher, that stretches just a little too long – a brilliant echo of the annoying, time-wasting character. “Lightning” is destined to make more than a few party mixes – it evokes the perfect early Spring/Summer feeling of getting out into the quad and soak up the sun and throw around a frisbee. “Goddess an Island” is also a standout, begging for a top-down ride through middle of the city as the lights begin to go out in earnest. The whole record elicits unbidden feelings of relief, a “fuck it all, let’s just enjoy what we have now” feeling – without the impending fear of hangover.

Get your copy on Hot Congress’s website, and take a breather, then catch Achille Lauro at the Larimer Lounge on April 3. Meanwhile, enjoy this clip of “Lightning.”

Black Postcards - Inside the Shadow Box EP

Black Postcards - Inside the Shadow Box EP

Black Postcards – Inside the Shadow Box EP

The first EP from a local group just getting off the ground, “Inside the Shadow Box” shows a great deal of promise for Black Postcards. It’s definitely a good, somewhat psychedelic, heavily guitar-based work that showcases Candace Horgan’s skill. Horgan seems to wield the guitar like a fountain pen, writing strong, emotional prose in calligraphy, and then pure technical jargon with the same panache.

The single downside to the band’s overall sound is an unfortunately inescapable vocal comparison to Cat Stevens or Steve Winwood – which stand apart from the really strong songwriting and composition. In and of itself, vocalist Justin Newport’s performance is great – solid, strong, confident. But it just doesn’t go with the style of music Horgan and bassist/drummer/guitarist Adam Brinkman have worked together into such an appealing mix.

That said, the three songs ( and a remix) on this CD are inescapably infectious – and can hook you from the first listen. Maybe there’s a method to Newport’s unique pairing with the catchy guitar licks?

But that’s what first EPs are for, right? Listen to the EP opener, “Let Go…” and see what you think.

[wpaudio url=” Go ….mp3″ text=”Black Postcards – Let Go …”]

Black Postcards is playing out quite a bit now, and will be at Herman’s Hideaway on April 5th, and the Larimer Lounge on April 26th .


And now, on to more National releases that stand out about now:

Jeffrey Lewis - A Turn in the Dream - Songs

Jeffrey Lewis - A Turn in the Dream - Songs

Jeffrey Lewis  – A Turn in the Dream – Songs

(This one’s not so new – having been released last October – but is new to us, and worth a discussion. Sometimes even we have to circle back.)

If you remember Steven Tunney – also known as Dogbowl – with any sort of affection, you’re likely to warm up to Jeffrey Lewis. And, of course, if you’re a fan of Moldy Peaches (they “discovered” Lewis for Rough Trade around 2002), you’re probably already in his living room. Lewis, like Tunney, weaves childlike stories behind folky, singalong instrumentation led by his acoustic guitar that reflect heartbreak, rumination, rights-of-passage and commentary in the vernacular of strict adolescent logic. At least on the surface.

By his own admission, this collection of tunes is Lewis’s first time really wrangling pop songs – and he does the hook musically, it turns out, just about as well as he has lyrically and comically in the past.

Each of these 13 songs are small, poignant and incredibly catchy experiences in themselves, begging to be compared to Daniel Johnston’s brilliant lovesongs – and the comparison is valid. But Lewis comes across just a tad more conceived, rather than just spit out the way Johnston’s come across (perhaps the result of less medication, and an ultra-hip Brooklyn upbringing). Take the brilliant “Time Trades,” “Cult Boyfriend” and “When You’re By Yourself,” for example. These three are typical of the record, and fundamentally easier to swallow (even) than his earlier work – simultaneously more and less Mountain Goats, if you know what I mean. And the destined-for-classic “Krongu Green Slime.” To say too much about this one would be automatic spoiler material.

And – if you’re not familiar with Steven Tunney (Dogbowl, remember?) – but like Lewis, here’s a tip: Trey and find “Tit: An Opera,” or – even more grandiose and ridiculous – the novel Flan, and its accompanying CD of songs about the destruction of one person’s world, from a 6-year-old-in a 30-year-old-body’s perspective.

Here’s Lewis’s “Cult Boyfriend” from the record:

Lee Ranaldo - Between The Times And The Tides

Lee Ranaldo - Between The Times And The Tides

Lee Ranaldo – Between the Time and the Tides

The fact that Lee Ranaldo’s latest solo work opens with the line “Coming in from Colorado” should be enough for the uninitiated – at least here in Denver – to listen to it, and then stay for the characteristic guitar work and solid song writing. After a simple, unassuming noodle, the opener “Waiting On A Dream” almost immediately explodes into  something you’d almost expect on the next Sonic Youth record. It’s a perfect way to start this one, though, and it gives way to a truly varied, confident effort for the longtime noise innovator.

And that, actually, brings up a thought I couldn’t stop entertaining as I listened – over and over – to this record: With the uncertain status of Sonic Youth, as a result of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore’s breakup, and the fact that both Moore and Ranaldo have released strong solo efforts in the past year, how many of these songs would have been on the next SY record? In that light, it could have been difficult to listen to “Between the Times and the Tides” objectively… but the songs stand so well on their own.

The album’s first apex, “Xtina As I Knew Her” is a seven-minute anthem that recounts a story of heady post-adolescent house-partying, reminiscent of the film “The Virgin Suicides,” but more sinister. It also brings back a feel of “Daydream Nation” in its balladry, with a backdrop of wicked, looping guitar licks on what sounds like hundreds of channels. “Angles” carries a slight nod to Dinosaur Jr., with some extra noisy jamming that evokes ‘70s rock,  and “Fire Island (phases)” and “Lost (planet Nice)” both add a solid accessibility to the record with their strong, guitar-based pop hooks.

To balance any sign of levity, though, Ranaldo has included two psychedelic, biographic ballads in “Hammer Blows” and “Stranded,” acoustic numbers that – while they won’t likely define this record – show his introspective side, and a shade of Neil Young while he’s at it.

This is a solid, addictive record – whether you’re a Sonic Youth fan or not – and hopefully  stands as a hint to what we can see from Ranaldo in the future, regardless of that other band’s status.

Check out the album’s opener, “Waiting On A Dream,” here.

[wpaudio url=” On A Dream.mp3″ text=”Lee Ranaldo – Waiting On A Dream”]

Willis Earl Beal - Acousmatic Sorcery

Willis Earl Beal - Acousmatic Sorcery

Willis Earl Beal – Acousmatic Sorcery

The spectacle of Willis Earl Beal is on the rise, and deservedly so. Beal recently told Pitchfork that he wants to be “the black Tom Waits,” and if the position’s open, he’s a shoe-in. Add a dash of Jay-Z (if he recorded in a bathroom stall in the back of a dive), and more Jandek than Daniel Johnston, and you have an idea of where Beal is coming from.

He lives with his grandmother in the South side of Chicago, and is locally famous for posting hand-drawn flyers (now replicated on his website) that invite you to call him for a song, or write him to receive a drawing (and the drawings aren’t bad at all, either – look at the video below). His debut record, Acousmatic Sorcery, will drop on April 3, from Hot Charity – an imprint of the Adele-infused XL Records indie label – and it’s one to definitely watch for.

Painfully D.I.Y. (and by “painfully,” I mean something more akin to “brilliantly”), the 11 songs will lead you through a mind and spirit that knows no real reason not to do what he’s doing, and that’s what may give it it’s most endearing power. Acousmatic Sorcery is replete with a tantalizing lack of pretense, and feels real, rough and honest in a way not too many records feel nowadays. “Cosmic Queries” is a meditation that brings to mind both the late Gil-Scott Heron (vocally) and John Coltrane (evangelically). “Evening’s Kiss” is innocent, summer longing, and pairs well with the spiritual backyard soliloquy of “Monotony,” while “Sambo Joe From the Rainbow” evokes a young Nat King Cole, crooning in an afternoon hotel room over a ukelele.

Beal’s music is so easily visceral it’s almost hard not to have very specific visions in response.

Beal will be opening for SBTRKT on April 10, at Boulder’s Fox Theater, on his first tour. Check him out – and take a look at the video below for a teaser.


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Gira as the Steston-wearing noisemonger. (Photo: Beowulf Sheehan)

The DenverThread Interview: Michael Gira

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Michael Gira appears this weekend at the Oriental Theater. (Photo: Carlos Melgoza)

Michael Gira appears this weekend at the Oriental Theater. (Photo: Carlos Melgoza)

Gira discusses SWANS and more, before an upcoming gig with Wovenhand, The Howling Hex, March 24 at the Oriental Theater

When I discovered SWANS at a 1986 punk show at the Eagle’s Lodge (they played cuts from their then-current LP “Greed,” with two bombastic drummers, thundering bass and bulldozing guitar, Jarboe screaming and Michael Gira – barefoot, shirtless, drenched and suffocating himself with a mic chord and self-loathing howls of terror – or pain – or disgust) it was one of the shows that changed my life, and cemented my lifelong involvement in the interpretation of music – especially live music. And it wasn’t just because I was one of two people that I know actually enjoyed the show (my date being the other – and we still talk about that day).

It was because I knew I’d seen something musically that, in my young 20-year-old mind, made no sense. In the context of destroying buildings with sonic explosions, or of torture, or of avalanches of rock and mud tearing through entire villages – sure, in that context what I’d experienced made sense. But not as music. My body, though, felt otherwise, and that gut feeling has remained with me since then.

“It’s like a monk vomiting, somewhere off in the distant Himalayas.”

– Michael Gira, describing his and SWANS unique sound

Fast forward 26 years, and SWANS remains one of the most intriguing and influential musical artforms in my life. And they’ve gone through a world of evolution – from that aggressive, sonically crushing noise in the ’80s, through a terrifyingly beautiful and complex oeuvre of sonic sculpture as the ’90s progressed, to a recently reformed, fully formed and mature modern prometheus the likes of which would likely make Mary Shelley quiver with delight upon discovering – so complete a match for something so human, so man-made, horrifyingly misshapen – and perfectly sublime.

Suffice to say that, if you haven’t seen or experienced SWANS – even on record – do it. The visionary leader behind the seminal noise and eardrum-crunching band, Michael Gira (pronounced gear-AH, I now know), is beginning a tour of the western side of the US and Europe, and is stopping here at our beloved Oriental Theater this Saturday night, March 24th, for a solo opening spot to “warm up” for David Eugene Edwards’ local behemoth Wovenhand, and featuring The Howling Hex.

It’s a pairing not destined to happen again – to miss it would be a huge mistake. Gira was gracious enough to take some time to talk with me about SWANS, his views on illegal downloading, his music, David Eugene Edwards and more. Read on to see what we talked about….

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Radiohead, in an image from March 3, 2012

Live Review: Erik Husman Reviews Radiohead at the 1st Bank Center, March 13, 2012

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Local troubadour Erik Husman – of Erik Husman and the Golden Rule – was lucky enough this week to be able to stop in and take in Radiohead’s sold out Tuesday night show at 1st Bank Center, and was also gracious enough to write DenverThread a review of what will, no doubt, stand as one of the year’s standout shows. Enjoy!

– DenverThread


Radiohead, in an image from March 3, 2012

Radiohead (seen here in an image from March 3, 2012, in Florida) played a memorable, long set at 1st Bank Center Tuesday night (Photo: Creative Commons License)


Red Rocks Amphitheater, August 26, 2003, was the last time I saw Radiohead live, blissfully unaware that it would be nearly eight and a half years before I would see the visionary band return to Colorado (I realize a biased voice in music journalism is certainly frowned upon, but this band really has got it all together).

Fast forward to Tuesday night at  the 1st Bank Center.  Waiting in line, the typical banter helped me to realize that I wasn’t the only one who hadn’t seen the band live for a while, and was ready to see what they had to offer.  And that was a lot of “The King of Limbs.”  The band played every song on TKOL, and added a couple new tunes as well.

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