Archive for May, 2008

Conjunction Junction, Vol. 2

Posted in Uncategorized on May 28, 2008 by pulmyears

A few weeks back, I wrote about a game I like to play where I take at least two band or artist names, fuse them together, and then try and describe what the result would sound like (sort of like the music nerds version of Conan O’Brien’s If They Mated). You can see Volume one at the link here:

I invited you to send more to me via the comments section and that offer still stands,

Last time, Craig suggested a jam band theme:

Phishbone: you thought they had a heavy groove and then it was gone for awhile and then it came back

The Grateful Dead or Alive: Effeminate dance music for old hippies

Ratdog Star: Keaunu Reeves replaces Jerry Garcia

Wade suggested:

Neil Young Marble Giants: (nice pull out of YMG Wade!)

and Gang of Four Aces


Band of Joy Division – Early Robert Plant fills in for the late Ian Curtis to perform Mancunian-Black Country hybrid of blues alienation

Carly Simon & Gar-Funkadelic: Earnest singer songwriters get on the good foot with George Clinton.

James Last Poets: German easy listening versions of pre-rap Black power poetry slams (sung phonetically, of course, by a chorus of smile-voiced German singers.)

Afro Celt Sound System of A Down: Irish African fusion with anti-Bush political lyrics

Sugar Ray Stevens : hip hop tinged commercial “alt rock” novelty songs about hot button topics like Streaking.

And the big finish!

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings of Leon Russell: Retro Funk Soul with scrappy guitar rock, snarling vocals and boogie piano runs.

NOW, SEND ME YOUR OWN CONJUNCTION JUNCTIONS (click COMMENTS) and don’t forget to also describe what they would sound like!



Cheerleading The New Odds!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 20, 2008 by pulmyears

Today is the release date for Cheerleader, a new record by a newish band called The New Odds, which as the name totally gives away, is three quarters of the Vancouver nineties band Odds with a new guitarist named Murray (which in his wake is now officially a very rock and roll name).

Comrades in Rock: Meet The New Odds

(l to r: Doug Elliott, Pat Steward, Murray Atkinson, Craig Northey)

I am sure some of you knew of the Odds music (heck some of you, like myself, know them personally!) in Canada they had hits like “Someone Who’s Cool”, “Love Is the Subject”, “Eat My Brain”, “The Truth Untold” and “Make You Mad”. Well, they’ve been dormant since 1999 and in the interim, three of the band members Craig Northey, Doug Elliott and Pat Steward have all continued to support each others projects. A while back, these three started writing new songs that sort of fit the Odds sound requirements. Pat and Doug had been playing with Murray Atkinson, (a younger guy by about ten years who had recently won the Seeds contest, a talent contest put on by Vancouver rock station The Fox) and he was invited to add some chordage and solo-age to the sound. Barenaked Ladies invited them to rock at their Ships & Dip concert cruise, and they hastily called it The New Odds (with a nod to Spinal Tap’s New Originals). The name has stuck, although I noticed that they’ve recently started using the shorter TNO (like BTO) on their communiques and road cases.

Back in the Nineties, when a Bush was running to replace a Clinton and not the other way around, Odds were my favourite band that wasn’t my own. When I first heard their album Neopolitan, a little after it came out in 1991, I superficially compared them to my friend Matthew Sweet, since both of them were signed to Zoo Entertainment and they both liked power pop tinged rock songs with real world lyrics and a lot of compression on the vocals, but they were totally different bands and by the time of Bedbugs, and the sledgehammer crunch of “It Falls Apart”, I was sold for good. Around that time, my friend Kevin had a party and the Odds were there, Craig and I got talking and we haven’t stopped since. They made more albums, Good Weird Feeling and Nest, and then, just as the first Clinton was handing off the Whitehouse to the second Bush, it was over. Craig put out some solo work that I have also been a fan of, and I even got to play with Northey, Elliott and Steward in a session for our friend Blair Packham in Vancouver a few years back (the song, which I wrote with Blair, is called “Mr Bitter” and it’s on Blair’s Could’ve Been King CD)

As “comebacks” go, what makes Cheerleader interesting and exciting for me is that while they do indeed recapture their trademark harmonies, crashing guitars, sinewy bass lines and thunderous drum fills (Pat’s nickname should be “Hot Pocket”) they break NEW ground as well. Fans of the first Odds will immediately identify that sound in “Breakthrough”, “My Happy Place” and the Who-ish “Write It In Lightning.” But there’s a bunch of newer stylistic flavours in songs like “Leader’s of the Undersea World” that pits a reggae motif against a straight up rock gallup, or lopers like “Come To L.A.” with its Memphisy horns and Beck-like casual vocals against what sound like slack tuned guitars. It’s a VIBE man!. For me, though, a couple of highlights are in some of the newer spacier tunes. “Getting My Attention” tells a suburban story of graffiti vandalism and the futility of misdirected teenage rage over a calm and open groove that features guitars leaving spaces between the chords, spaces to think, spaces to play in, spaces to spray slogans in lime green spray over. “Always Breaking Heart” is an awesome, almost country-ish ballad about the liquid state of emotional imbalance. “River Is Cried” has a chorus that would make Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo cry. But my favourite moment on the album is the beautifully pragmatic romance (uh huh) of “Feel Like This All The Time” which tells the universal dirty secret of small town ambivalence, bordering on contempt, for one’s home town. I personally know what he’s talking about in couplets like “To melt the ice / There’s sand and salt / To rust the cars, and stain the asphalt / Past the franchise chicken joint / Out beyond the vanishing point / The best thing about this place is the sky….”

Have you ever felt that way? This ain’t no John Mellencamp.

Don’t know if you can get Cheerleader in the USA yet, but its available online, internationally I think, here.
Let me be among the first to lead the cheer, welcome home (such as it is) to the New Odds.

Crowded House, Fillmore, San Francisco, May 15, 2008

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2008 by pulmyears

FOUR’S A “CROWD” (CH 2008 left to right, Matt Sherrod, Mark Hart, Neil Finn, Nick Seymour)

Crowded House’s audience can really sing. In tune, on beat and with multi-part harmony. That’s pretty remarkable, think about it. Most rock audiences can hold a lighter up high for their favourite band, but how many can carry a tune? Or clap on beat (as a musician, a pet peeve of mine is when audiences “can’t find the one”)

Maybe it’s the remarkable melodies of Neil Finn, which are so lovely and natural sounding (deceptively so, I might add, more on that later) that they are indelibly stamped upon the brains of their fans (count me among them). And it’s not like Finn’s lyrics are all that straightforward either. Far from it actually. But at the risk of being a sycophant – oh who cares? this is my blog, why pretend to be neutral – the genius of Neil Finn is in the way he takes a simple melody, and lays it over seemingly logical chords which are often musically surprising, and THEN adds lyrics that are nothing close to literal or typical. There’s rarely a cliched phrase among them. To illustrate this, think about one of the band’s signature tunes, “Don’t Dream It’s Over”. I’ve been to countless Crowded House shows since 1987 when this song was first on the radio, and every time, the audience belts it out, full soccer crowd style, as though every word were from their national anthem. But who else can get an audience to chirp along to such lines as “Get to know the feeling of liberation and relief” or “My possessions are causing me suspicion, but there’s no proof.”

Sherrod & Finn last year in Los Angeles (lifted photo ©Losanjealous)

So that’s the songwriting part of it. Let’s talk about Crowded House 2008 as a band. Since reforming the outfit in 2007, Crowded House have been on the road for over a year, all around the world, and it shows. Bassist and bonhomie supplier Nick Seymour is back, so is utility man Mark Hart on guitar, keyboards and harmonies and new drummer Matt Sherrod who was invited last year to fill the Italian Plastic shoes of the sadly departed drummer Paul Hester who died by his own hand, tragically, a few years ago. Last year, I caught the new lineup in Oakland, augmented with Neil’s fantastic son Liam Finn (seriously, go to iTunes right now and download Liam’s recent I’ll Be Lightning album). While I was happy to hear them after years away (although I’ve been a vociferously loyal fan of all of Neil’s solo albums and the two he did with brother Tim) and was impressed with the new songs from CH’s 2007 album Time On Earth — they were in the moment and tight enough, but the vibe also seemed just a tad nostalgiac and rear-view mirrorish, like it was just miraculous that they were back to revisit the back catalogue. Nonetheless, I had a great night either way.

THIS YEAR’S CROWDED HOUSE is another thing again. Seasoned as they are after a year out on the boards (and buses), the four-piece has gelled into a lean rocking unit, with plenty of nuance and always those sweet, sweet melodies. And NEW SONGS, there’s a future here! The NEXT album should be even better, with new tempos, polyrythms and neat chords. (On this tour they had opening act, New Zealand legend, Don McGlashan, whom you may know from the Mutton Birds, adding the odd French Horn –or whatever that thing was– and shaker eggs etc).

Hits you’d know: Don’t Dream It’s Over, Weather With You, Something So Strong, Fall at Your Feet, Better Be Home Soon *and the old Hunters & Collectors song they used to always play, by Nick’s brother Mark Seymour, Throw Your Arms Around Me.

Songs you SHOULD know from Time On Earth: She Called Up, Don’t Stop Now, Pour Le Monde

NEW SONGS: I’m eager to hear studio versions of: 789, Turn it Around, Lucky

I came to the Fillmore that night with the basic expectation of another run through of some of the best songs ever written, played by one of my favourite bands of all time. Crowded House 2008 fairly exceeded these humble expectations and rekindled my optimism that, to paraphrase a line from Finn himself, I’ll never see the end of the road they’re travelling on. Don’t dream it’s over, for it appears to be just beginning.

Hey guys, don’t stop now.
Paul Myers

San Francisco, May 15

Elvis Costello Rocks Like A Momofuku!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12, 2008 by pulmyears

Is he slumming? I don’t think so, but so what if he is? He’s Elvis Freakin’ Costello!

So he did it. He head faked us, glancing one direction while heading the opposite one.
Only last month Elvis Costello told UK magazine The Word (probably tied with Mojo for best music monthly, IMHO) that he didn’t need to put out any new recordings for a while, blah blah, back catalogue and all, blah, blah, new father, blah blah, record business is bad right now etc…

All the while he sat on an “instant” album he’d had ready since the middle of February.

Then came the cryptic message on his official website. Something about releasing only a few pressings and leaving one copy each in a variety of music stores around the world, anonymously and supposedly without the stores even knowing they were there. (Wha? How would that work? And would the album be free if it wasn’t technically inventoried by said store? Anyway…)

But here it is now, in wide release on Lost Higwhay, the new Elvis Costello & The Imposters album, Momofuku. Don’t worry parents, the title’s not a rude slur, but a reference to the inventor of Cup Noodle, Momofuku Ando who died last year and to whom Elvis includes a written dedication to a man who “fed those who study” with his instant noodles.

After studying Momofuku for a few days, I find it to be impressive, reassuring and relatively noodle-free in its execution. It’s a confident set that befits a master songwriter who is, by now, a recording veteran who knows that capturing a great album can be a simple as taking good to great songs (check) rehearsing a great band of live musicians in a great sounding room (check) and having good recording engineers and proper microphones (check). If everyone knows what they’re doing – and they do here –just add hot water and the special flavour packets (no that’s the noodles, sorry) and serve.
Caution: the album you are about to enjoy may be hot.

It’s been said elsewhere, since the album came out last week, but this is the most Attractions-like album that the eclectic Mr. Costello has released since Brutal Youth (which actually WAS the Attractions after all). From the opening rumble of the first song “No Hiding Place” (and I listened to it in sequence the first time, in the car, so that may change when it comes on in my iPod listens) EC’s in fine, raspy voice and even his self-described “little hands of concrete” sound nice and gnarly on the dirty Les Paul he brandishes like a rusty sword. I hear shades of Imperial Bedroom, Get Happy and Blood and Chocolate (not as dark and angry though) and at one point the backing vocals end on a “Beatle” chord, a la EC’s work with McCartney himself (“My Brave Face”). Not to get all CSI about it, but I also detect trace elements of Ray Davies in “Mr. Feathers”, which slinks along Kink-ily as though performed by Tom Waits backing band on Rain Dogs.

The Imposters are, of course, the Attractions by any other name. Mainstay Steve Nieve is present and sounding like, well, Steve Nieve. Pete Thomas is here too (with his daughter Tennessee backing him on drums here and there). And Davey Faragher is now fully integrated in the bass role once filled by Bruce Thomas. Add in Faragher’s able vocal harmonies and we miss Bruce less and less. Speaking of vocals, there’s Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley adding to the chorus of big backing vocals, a welcome sweetening to the spare band arrangements. Costello wrote all of it but he co-wrote some of the lyrics, notably with women. He was assisted by Rosanne Cash with the words to “Song With Rose” and Loretta Lynn on “Pardon Me, Madam, My Name is Eve” both some of the best songs here, and both would have been welcome on King of America, although I reckon T-Bone Burnett would have gotten them sounding rootsier.
“American Gangster Time”, and “Drum and Bone” sound first take-ish, but like I said, these musicians are so well seasoned and in-the-pocket that this ain’t no demo session. I like the way he managed to digest a lot of his recent stylistic side-trips into the new songs. “Flutter and Wow” has more than one Burt Bacharach chord in the vocal harmonies, and of course Steve Nieve’s jazz inflected keys, which live up to the name, “grand” piano.

Finally, the liner notes end with “For M, D, & F”, presumably in reference to his three sons, Matt and his newer twins with Diana Krall, Dexter and Frank who inspire one of Momofuku’s most touching ballads, “My Three Sons”

This open apology for his “absent father” years and his declared rededication to raising his new boys lets us know that this year’s model, despite the familiar rumble of old Elvis and the flashback crackle of the Attractions sound, is not just slumming or trying to recreate his glory days. He is a mature musician and frankly the best rock songwriter alive in the here and now. Frankly, even if he was merely doing an imitation of his former sound, who gives a toss? His aim is still true, and he and the Imposters can still pump it up like nobody’s business!

Elvis Costello: Sorry Dylan fans, I’m voting Costello!

Conjuction Junction Vol. 1

Posted in Uncategorized on May 9, 2008 by pulmyears

Okay, here’s a light break from heavier topics and real news. It’s a game I’m going to call Conjunction Junction. The rules: Take at least two band or act names and fuse them together. Then give a brief explanation of what the resultant act would sound like.

For instance:

Sly and the Family Stone Roses
Madchester baggy band, with bi-racial funk pop and penchant for coke-fuelled Raves.

The Pixies Styx Frank Black and Dennis DeYoung fronted band performing alternative rock versions of progressive excesses, such as This Roboto’s Gone to Heaven and Frank Black’s all-screaming version of Babe.

Sniff N The Teardrop Explodes Julian Cope playing “Driver’s Seat” with B-list Supertramp impersonators.

Mos Def Leppard: Late 90’s hip hop meets 80’s lite metal pop. Surprisingly lively version of Pour Some Sugar On Me, B**tch!

Jars of Clay Aiken Effeminate red-headed Christian rockers, first runners up on Vatican Idol.

Okay, it’s a silly game, I grant you.

So before I tell you what

Third Eye Blind Lemon Jeffer-Son Volt

might sound like,why don’t YOU tell ME some musical conjunctions? Write them as COMMENTS to this post and I’ll repost them as Conjuction Junction, Volume 2 when we’ve got enough.

Liverpool Rocks to the Bongo Beat, and a plug for Kevin Kane!

Posted in Uncategorized on May 6, 2008 by pulmyears

I got an email about some shows that will be happening in Liverpool (and London) in the next while and while I won’t be able to attend, I thought I’d use this space to tell you a bit about the man organizing them and some of the artists who’ll be there whom you should check out (if you’re able to get to the ‘Pool).

My friend Ralph Alfonso runs a great little indie label called Bongo Beat, based in Vancouver. Ralph is also an excellent poet and jazz cat who produces and writes the great RALPH poetry magazine and has made records with his jazz combo of the same name.

Ralph Alfonso, librarian of cool…

Ralph has a great pedigree in alternative music, having been the manager of the Diodes back in the Toronto punk rock scene of the mid-seventies, they ran the infamous Crash and Burn club. Since then he’s given a lot of his day times to graphic arts and promotion for various Canadian record companies working everything from Metal Queen Lee Aaron to Payola’s Paul Hyde.

While working for Vancouver’s Nettwerk Productions, Ralph started up his own Bongo Beat label which slowly developed into something quite wonderful. An artist friendly micro-label that gives release to great music, often with graphics by Ralph himself. Last year, I was particularly happy to hear that Bongo Beat had released a new solo album by Vancouver’s Kevin Kane (founder member of the excellent Grapes of Wrath).

Kevin Kane, outstanding in his street...

Kevin Kane, outstanding in his street…

The album is called How to Build a Lighthouse and I’m a big fan of it, particularly the song “Last To Know” which chunkles and jangles like Big Star and the Posies but ultimately is pure Kane. I was a fan of one of Kevin’s earlier releases, Neighbourhood Watch, and he produced one of my favourite Zumpano albums Look What The Rookie Did.

And for full disclosure, I have done solo acoustic shows with him and even traded guitar solos and backing vocals with him on an album he produced for our mutual friends, Star Collector.

In addition to re-releasing Meryn Cadell‘s legendary Angel Food For Thought, Bongo Beat just re-released a seven year old Kevin Kane EP that I had never heard before called Timmy Loved Judas Priest (the title should trip the memory of fans of the movie Heavy Metal Parking Lot). So I ordered it from iTunes (why not support both Kevin and Ralph!) and I have to say it was worth it. The EP is basically a bunch of low key acoustic covers of songs like “Borderline” (the Madonna song), “Our Lips Are Sealed” (GoGos) and even Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows” and Kraftwerk’s under-appreciated gem, “Neon Lights” (one of my all time favourite Kraftwerk songs!). He is helped on a few backing vocals here and there, notably by Neko Case and Veda Hille. Have a listen to it at iTunes or wherever you usually go, then order it.

But all of this came up when I got an Audities digest mention of an “International Pop Overthrow” show in Liverpool (and one in London) later this month (May). I think it’s a safe bet that this sampling of some of Bongo Beat’s “wares” would be a great introduction to his excellent label if you’re over in the UK. And just because I’ve spotlighted Kevin Kane, don’t ignore the others on these bills, Dave Rave and Adrienne Pierce are great too, as is Ralph himself and while I’ve never seen Ari Shine, his new CD sounds cool.

Here’s what Ralph Alfonso sent out:

Thursday, May 22, The Intl Pop Overthrow Festival
The Cavern Club, 10 Matthew St, Liverpool

Bongo Beat Records Showcase
7:45 RALPH
8:30 Adrienne Pierce
9:15 Kevin Kane
10:00 Graham Brown
10:45 Plastic Heroes
11:30 Ari Shine
12:15 Dave Rave
Friday, May 23 , The Intl Pop Overthrow Festival
Lennon’s, 23 Matthew St, Liverpool
Bongo Beat Records Showcase
1:15 RALPH
2:00 Adrienne Pierce
2:45 Kevin Kane
3:30 Graham Brown
4:15 Plastic Heroes
5:00 Ari Shine
5:45 Dave Rave
Saturday, May 24
BBC Liverpool
BBC Performance Space
Live broadcast
“On The Beat” with Spencer Leigh
7-8pm (Bongo Beat segment)
(broadcast starts at 6:30)
* free admission

Adrienne Pierce
Kevin Kane
Graham Brown
Plastic Heroes
Ari Shine
Dave Rave

Then there’s this LONDON afternoon show in Covent Garden!
Sunday, May 25
Club night: Jealous Of The Daylight at the Gardening Club

Venue: The Rock Garden
Address: 6/7 The Piazza, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 8HA
Time: from 2pm to 7pm

Adrienne Pierce
Kevin Kane
Graham Brown
Plastic Heroes
Ari Shine
Dave Rave
** Expect 5 pound door fee

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