I wrote about these guys a few years ago, posting one of their new wavey songs with an excellent video. That was then. After they made that good song their drummer left, and rather than replace him they remade themselves as a bizarrely earnest harmony band. They stand on the stage, no matter how big, closely together so they can hear their partners and make incredibly lovely harmonies. They played tonight in the park by our house, and we were jazzed. This is music that is far from rock, but also music that has no genre. I think sometimes they sound like Mumford and Sons, revivalists with big ideas, but they resist that. They aren’t old style. They’re still new-wavey, only they eschew the drum kit (they have a kick drum) and they love their voices, which they surely should. Moyer will roll over tonight. Good for him. So, YouTube fed me this one I didn’t know. I like this band.
I remember driving in the car somewhere with my dad, maybe to the library, which is a place we went every week. What I remember is trying to explain how much I loved this song, the Lulu version, even though every part of me that had any aesthetic sense of value versus cheese knew that it was Top 40 folderol. I might have phrased it that way, that’s the sort of kid I was. But I didn’t hear this version until today. When Al Green proves that with Willie Mitchell almost anything can work. Excellent song. h/t Darrin Viola.
I didn’t know Duncan by name, but he was a vocalist and guitar player in the Quicksilver Messenger Service, one of the great San Francisco bands of the late 60s. Quicksilver made a great impression on me with the brilliantly adolescent and epic first song on their first album. QSM were nothing if not quintessential hippies, living on a commune, jamming constantly, living on health food and drugs, as this obit describes. But Duncan had an earlier incarnation as a musician in The Brogues, whose I Ain’t No Miracle Worker was included on Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets collection.
Kind of a perfect song.
But maybe it’s not a problem. There is a lot to like about this song. Dreamy and meandering with a wash of rhythm underneath, it’s kind of lovely, which makes it like loud folk rock. In any case, here’s a heads up. I keep listening to this, seduced by the wiry guitars and solid drums, and realize I’ve wandered into a pretty powerful description of sexual power and the dynamics that ensue.
I feel callow, but am glad to be here.
I feel callow, but am glad to be here.
There’s a new movie out from Danny Boyle, who made Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, called Yesterday, about an indie Indian rocker who has an accident and wakes up in a world without Beatles. As in, a world in which he knows the Beatles music but no one else knows of it. I don’t know if this is a good premise for a movie, I have my doubts, but it surfaced this charming story of Peter and Gordon, guys who should have been remnants, but who kept getting hit songs, starting with this one Paul McCartney wrote when he was 16. This story in Slate is terrific filling in the details.
I loved Martin Scorcese’s Dylan documentary, No Direction Home. It seemed unusually synced to Dylan’s creative spirit, a major statement about where his talent came from. And also about where, more generally, talent comes from. Scorcese’s new Dylan movie is a weirder thing. Alan Light wrote a good piece in the NY Times about its provenance. I was new to New York when Dylan started prowling the clubs in 1976, playing impromptu shows at the Bitter End that featured a cast of new characters playing Dylan’s music on random nights. I had friends who went, though I never did. I suspect money was an issue, but whatever. This was also the time when Patti Smith and the Heartbreakers and the Ramones and Television and Talking Heads were playing in the East Village, and Steve Forbert and the Roches were playing at Kenny’s Castaways, just over from the Bitter End. Plus Max’s. We didn’t lack for music in those days. So what’s striking about the new movie is the intensity of Dylan’s performances all the way through. This was true in No Direction Home as well, in the film/video it is impossible to miss the intention and direction he brings to every action he takes, every nuance he conveys, even while professing he wants to run a circus. His intensity isn’t his only talent, but the intensity he brings to these performances is the talent that raises him above most. Obviously this isn’t a story of remnants, but it is a story of a superstar and his band playing at being remnants, playing small halls, disregarding commercial considerations, and making a rock ‘n’ roll tour into a work of art. Highly recommended. On Netflix. The version of Hattie Carroll in the movie is fantastic, equally Dylan and Joan Baez, who shines singing harmonies, and so is more exuberant and vivid than this also excellent version that lacks Baez, but is still an amazing song.
This band, from Portland Maine, is playing nearby tonight. I’m not going, we’ve got an oratorio being performed by 30 canoeists in the Gowanus Canal at the same time (can’t miss that), but I did check them out. I’m a sucker for this sort of rock, a rock that has hooks and a beat, a catchy melody and clever wordplay. This one is from 2016, so it’s a good sign they’re still working at it. Plus, really good band name. First video I ever saw with a color grading credit. Very video forward.
Okay, I never wondered what the Stones covering Dylan would sound like, but now I know.
Jody Rosen has written a long and worthwhile story about masters archives, jumping off from a fire that burned about 120,000 masters of the Universal Music Group in 2006. He does a great job explaining why the masters of albums by Elton John and Nirvana and Muddy Waters and John Coltrane, among many others, are valuable even when you can stream their music online. But then he gets grittier, and talks about Don Bennett, whose masters burned in the UMG fire, and whose career is almost impossible to survey. He was a vocalist in the Chocolate Watchband, which I’d heard of, but he also had a solo career, which has almost completely disappeared. The point? Lots of music that is disregarded at first turns out to be valuable later. So, here is the Chocolate Watchband. And a plea for Rosen to digitize the album he bought and get it out there!