Song of the Week – Outta My Mind, The Arcs


As we get close to the yearend I start to think about some of my favorite albums of the last 12 months. One of the recordings on my list for 2015 is Yours, Dreamily by The Arcs.

The Arcs is a side project by The Black Keys front man, Dan Auerbach. The restless Auerbach – he’s also kept busy by producing albums for Dr. John and Lana Del Rey – pursued this to fill two weeks he suddenly had on his hands after Black Keys bandmate Patrick Carney separated his shoulder, forcing some tour date cancellations. (Auerbach also produced Bombino’s 2013 album Nomad, featured as the SotW August 31, 2013.)

For The Arcs, Pitchfork reported that Auerbach recruited “Truth and Soul Records founder Leon Michels, Black Keys touring bassist Richard Swift, Menahan Street Band member Homer Steinweiss, Amy Winehouse collaborator Nick Movshon, and guitarist Kenny Vaughan.”

This larger group allows Auerbach the space to “do his thing” outside the confines of the two piece, guitarist/drummer limitation he faces with The Black Keys. And it works. The basic DNA of the “Keys” is still there but the songs have more depth with the added instruments.

Today’s SotW is “Outta My Mind.”

Selecting this cut, the album opener (after a short instrumental intro), is a little bit of a cop out since it is the song that sounds most like The Black Keys – albeit with more instrumental depth and a tighter arrangement.

Auerbach exclaims:

I heard I lost my self-control
But everything I did just went and turned to gold

I’m old enough to know the game
But pushing buttons now is all that keeps me sane

Clearly he has something to say about his own success in “the business.”

The rest of the album breaks out of this blues/garage rock mold and is worth checking out.

Enjoy… until next week.

Television, Venus

Entranced by Cowgirl in the Sand and those various guitar sounds, I have to ask what happened when I heard this music back in 1977?

An urban art history version, huh!, of Cowgirl in the Sand, or maybe some other dueling guitar sound songs out of Neil and CSNY, Duane and Dickie, or something way more off kilter.

I love when Tom says, Richie says, let’s dress up like cops and see what we can do. That’s still scary today.

Hmm, now that I started this I’m thinking that Cowgirl is much more like Marquee Moon or The Dream Dreams the Dreamer, from Television’s second album. Whatever. Listen to it all. It’s not my fault.

Cowgirl In the Sand

Playing  a Neil Young song on this site is like putting lipstick on a pig. Young is the ultra dude of American rock, the shot of tequila in your eye, the collateral skag, unless he was getting quiet.

Plus, he’s a star. Like Dylan, Joni, and the rest.

But driving to Boston for the feast today I got put in mind of this song, which I typed almost all my college papers to (because the vinyl was longer than the usual pop record).

Sorry, this is mainstream, but these are killer guitars, some of which sound like the guitar I made out of a shoebox when I was in fifth grade. It made sounds, it didn’t endure. But this does.

French Rock: Les Shades, Electrique

I was thinking today about how sucky French rock and roll was.

We all love Johnny Hallyday, but he is no Edith Piaf. He is no Charles Aznavour. Edith and Charles have nothing to do with rock, because French is the language of longeurs and triste, and not the language of the hammer, the beat, the job, the drummer.

So, I Googled best French rock songs. The first one listed was not a rock song at all. Typical.

The second one is this one, which is okay. It’s not just a Jack White ripoff, it’s not just a simulation, it sounds of a place and time. Not a great tune, French is not a great language for rock (except for C’est Plan Pour Moi), but it’s growing on me each time I play it.



Song of the Week – I’m in Love with My Car, Queen


Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Queen’s classic album, A Night at the Opera. Everyone is most familiar with the first single from the album that also happens to be their signature song, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” But for those of you that have been reading the SotW for a while, you know I’m not going there. Instead, let’s listen to the b-side, “I’m in Love with My Car,” which was written and sung by the band’s drummer, Roger Taylor.

As the story goes, the song was written for Johnathan Harris, one of the group’s roadies, who was a car buff. (A note on the album cover says the song is “Dedicated to Johnathan Harris, boy racer to the end”.)

I always heard the song’s reference to an automobile as a metaphor for a woman, combining two of the most popular subjects in rock ‘n’ roll, cars and girls. But hey, what do I know… maybe I just have a dirty mind.

Enjoy… until next week.

PiL, Double Trouble

What century are we in? PiL was on that Stephen Colbert show last night. I forget what it’s called. The Tonight Show? Probably not.

I’ve gotten used to seeing Lydon on TV, chubby and stubby and how he used to be missing teeth, but isn’t anymore.

What I never get used to is how electrifying he is when he’s actually singing. This seems to be a crap song about hiring a plumber or something, which doesn’t go right because, well, who knows. The spouse didn’t do it right?

Or maybe it’s about something else entirely, but what matters is that the performance is pretty electrifying, and the sound is huge and, um, unusual for these times. Not nearly as dub as PiL was back in the day, but not punky at all.

And Lydon’s performance, intense and focused and a real performance (he delivers), brings it all home. I’m not arguing the moment is historic, memorable into the future, but it strikes me as a lovely blow against the empire. I’ll take it.

Link: Rockin’ With the Sequoias

My friend, Seabrook, wrote that book, The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory. It’s full of great writing and storytelling about the making of hit records. That was last month.

About five years ago Seabrook started a band with another friend of mine, Homans, and they called themselves the Sequoias, because they were tall. It was a good name.

Last Friday night, the Sequoias played the Bowery Electric. Last time I was there I was seeing the Upper Crust. Of course, the first time I went to Bowery Electric it was to see the Sequoias play at my friend Walker’s 50th birthday party. Back in those days, Walker was the bass player in the band.

I posted about the Sequoias last spring, when they played a show at the Correspondent’s dinner in DC, with Chuck Leavell playing keyboards on Gimme Shelter. They were pretty good that night, as they were at the Century Club around that time, for our friend Susan’s birthday, but the vocals were a bit of a hodge podge.

Last Friday, at the Bowery Electric, they featured a new vocalist, Rebecca Donner, who has a big swooping voice that embraces just about every bit of emotion it can, and squeezes ecstatically. They were also tighter, more rehearsed, and the keyboard man, John Colapinto, stepped up to sing Brand New Cadillac in maximum style, while Ben Dickenson sang some of the night’s rockingest guy vocals, as well as played drums.

So, this link is to an excellent New York Times story that improbably (until you think about it) ran today in the paper of record (and gets every fact as I know them right). Notably, that’s my daughter in the second picture, behind the woman having her book signed.

There’s a link in the story to a clip of Rebecca singing I’ve been loving you too long. Or you can click this:

Tommy James and the Shondells, “Mony Mony”

I was making dinner last night and started thinking for some reason about I Think We’re Alone Now, which is pretty much a perfect piece of pop songwriting art. I was not, by the way, making apple pie.

I put on a Tommy James and the Shondells greatest hits album, and they had many of them. But this is the one that surprised me. I’ve heard it way too many times, but it still sounds old and new, out of control and perfectly modulated, fresh and a part of my history. I’m not arguing it’s better than I Think We’re Alone Now or Crystal Blue Persuasion or even the very lovely Mirage, but this is a very funny and real corner of rock history that deserves some love.