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Special Issue 61 Bonus Reviews!: Keren Ann, Condors, Feist, Raspberries, Rotary Club, Shack, Soul Asylum, and Factory Records' Complete Graphic Album Book / Our Condolences to Two of our Own / New Issue of Big Takeover

13 January 2008

1) Quickly, before I give you eight fresh reviews that didn’t make it into our issue 61, below, myself and the entire staff/family of The Big Takeover would like to express our condolences to two of our own, JOHN DAVIDSON and NEAL AGENTA, on the passing of John’s wife JENNIFER and of Neal’s dad. Our hearts go out to both in their mourning. And a moment of silence for them both.

(pause)

And the very best of luck to both of them, and to John’s three children.

2) Now, just as quickly, here are the eight reviews. The five of mine did not appear in issue 61, frankly because I ran out of time in my seemingly endless writing job to do them in time before the issue had to be closed and sent off to the printer. But they all deserved better and I am glad to print them here rather than making you all wait several more months to read them in issue 62. Likewise, the other three, written by three of our other talented and valuable writers, did not appear in 61 for two other reasons: two of them, I discovered to my chagrin, we had double assigned and ended up with two reviews of the same thing. To not waste the efforts of our team, in those cases, we now let you read them below. The final one, you will see, is quite long, and was submitted in two different forms, the one included below, and the other one edited for space for the print magazine as found in the issue. By request, since we have the space here, let us give you the entire thing here for your edification. You will tell which is which reading those three below.

(A)

KEREN ANN Keren Ann (Blue Note/EMI) (by Jack Rabid) Reading STEPHEN SLAYBAUGH’s lukewarm Big Takeover #61 review of this cooling French femme’s fifth LP, we appear to value her former and current directions oppositely. Indeed, longtime fans prefer the “breezy lilt,” as Slaybaugh aptly put it, of 2004’s minor breakthrough Nolita to this tardy follow-up. Whereas I previously found her a tad slight, a pleasant but not powerful experience—an observation cemented by her unconvincing opening slot for the sturdier A GIRL CALLED EDDY (ERIN MORAN) at Fez in February 2005. I prefer this newly wispy, whispery, mysteriously sensual Ann, reacting to the divergent noise and energy of her adopted New York via echoey piano timbres, background ghost keyboards, weightless drums, and singing that feels fuller so feather-quieted. The one louder song, the mid-point, dark “It Ain’t No Crime,” sounds particularly striking surrounded by such rigid restraint fore and aft. Otherwise, Keren Ann is like a hushed Feist: singularly luminescent.

(B)

THE CONDORS Wait for It (Rankoutsider) (by Jack Rabid) This L.A. foursome are great high force power-pop/garage rockers with songs so catchy, they seem from bygone fertile eras. Perhaps they are, since they’re penned and sung by PAT DIPUCCIO, known for 30 years as POOCH, co-founder of the late Flipside fanzine. Our Pooch-y writes with the standards of someone who’s inhaled this stuff for decades, but his band hits like 20-somethings that mag fervently covered. One detects a dose of 1978-1987 SAINTS in the soul horns of “Set Me on Fire” (more next time!); and like The Condors’ debut Tales of Drunkenness and Cruelty EP (named after a KINKS lyric from “Sunny Afternoon”), the ’65 BYRDS/’77 FLAMIN’ GROOVIES ringing guitars of “Kiss That Girl Away,” and the Nuggets stylings of “Don’t Want a Girl Who’s Been With Jack” (hey now!!!) exhibit range. All good, given Pooch’s thickened pipes, canny JAM to JOE JACKSON hooks, entertaining lyrics, and the group’s loose, ballsy playing. (rankoutsiderrecords.com)

(C)

FEIST The Reminder (Cherrytree/Interscope/UNI) (by ELIZABETH BRADY) On The Reminder, Feist has clearly been given more room and budget to tinker around and play with her sound. Whereas her debut was basic singer-songwriter formula, this follow-up takes a somewhat more experimental direction; mildly experimental. Her beautiful and distinctive voice remains the centerpiece, and her ability to fluctuate between whimsical, contemplative, heartbreaking, and nostalgic styles makes it easy to like—and appropriately Feist-y. (cherrytreerecords.com)

(D)

RASPBERRIES Live on Sunset Strip (2 CD + DVD) (Ryko) (by Jack Rabid) What this triple-disc does is validate every excited word written about this heavy Cleveland power-pop powerhouse’s smashing 10-date 2004-2005 reunion tour, in these pages and elsewhere. It was all four members from the classic 1971-1973 lineup, playing the first Raspberries shows since a later lineup’s farewell, April 19, 1975 in Scranton, PA. Recorded (sharply, by MARK LINETT) at the last of the 10, at Hollywood’s House of Blues October 21, 2005, the rebooted band is exactly as they’d been for two nights at New York’s BB King’s Blues Club three months prior: locked-in, remarkably exuberant, and untarnished by time (songs about sex and boiling desire don’t spoil!). As a result, Live is particularly important, since that surprising comeback only hit seven markets, just the U.S Midwest, Denver, New York, and L.A. Now, here’s the rest of the world’s chance. Indeed, Live could be a vintage 1972 show, as the BEACH BOYS harmonies still lift the heavier guitar rocking WHO/BEATLES/Byrds stuff of their biggest hits (all here) like 1972 #5 blockbuster “Go All the Way,” 1972 #16 “I Wanna Be With You,” and 1973 #35 “Let’s Pretend.” But watching the included DVD, one sees bright-white-haired star frontman ERIC CARMEN (he looks gooood for 55 in 2005!) and his more weathered mates, and it feels odd that they sound so immortally young and turned on; toms-pounding, lefty-on-righty-kit cross-playing JIM BONFANTI and walrus-like lead player WALLY BRYSON match Carmen for chops. And though the group regrettably jettisoned smokin’ versions of Bryson, Confanti, and bassist DAVE SMALLEY’s pre-Raspberries band THE CHOIR’s Nuggets 1967 #68 hit “It’s Cold Outside” and three Beatles-songs/covers they’d included in New York, fresh versions of The Who’s 1965 U.K. #8 “I Can’t Explain” and THE SEARCHERS’ 1964 #13 “Needles and Pins” are reasonable recompense. The only complaint is that one has to purchase a deluxe edition to get all 21 songs from the audio on a DVD instead of just a paltry five on the regular release (why?!). Otherwise, Live is an ideal document, another black eye to those who opine that great old bands should stay dead. And though one wonders why they waited two years to release the package, its appearance did spark five more welcome shows in New York, L.A., and Cleveland—making Live even more valuable and timely. (rykodisc.com)

(E)

ROTARY CLUB Vis-à-vis (Woodside) (by Jack Rabid) Last decade, TOM DEVANEY was a Boston indie guitar-rocker in BETWIXT (with GORDON WITHERS, who recently released an LP of JAWBOX covers on cello), JACK FROSTING, and Shimmy Disc Records’ BULKHEAD. This decade he’s a reinvented Queens good guy (a terrific teammate of mine in a Brooklyn softball league) making his “solo” debut. Having been produced by KRAMER 13 years ago, here he hooks up with the equally estimable TONY MAIMONE of PERE UBU for production and bass. And though old bandmates keyboardist J. JOHNSON and drummer CHRIS WEINBERG reappear (bussing from Beantown to Brooklyn for Maimone’s sessions), these days Devaney plays appealing oddball acoustic folk-pop with accents of 80-year-old Americana country and blues. He cites MISSISSIPPI JOHN HURT, RAY DAVIES, SYD BARRETT, and LOVE as loves, but I’m thinking LEADBELLY, CHARLIE PATTON, and SKIP JAMES joining THE BAND for MEAT PUPPETS covers. Devaney’s thin, reedy voice fits his weirdo roots music, though one Western instrumental, “Circuitous Goldstein” (like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” meets “Me and My Uncle”), and a more straightforward pop-tune, “Manager in Here,” are standouts. (woodsiderecords.com)

(F)

SHACK Time Machine—The Best of Shack (Sour Mash U.K.) (by Jack Rabid) At first glance, this otherwise grand career-spanner seems frustratingly incomplete. What a logistically fastidious, but regrettable decision to ignore leader MICHAEL HEAD ’s lone “solo” LP as MICHAEL HEAD & THE STRANDS, 1997’s incomparable The Magic World of The Strands! All longtime fans know that it is 1) really no different from the other Shack LPs, in style or in personnel since both crucial Head brothers were present, and 2) universally regarded as their best record! And Shack have released only five LPs otherwise over their two decades, one of which, the 1988 debut Zilch, was all but disowned as it’s banished from here! Fortunately, the last four Shack LPs were also plenty good, especially the three made possible so far by the disbanded group’s reformation following _Magic World_’s ecstatic reception/reaction/reawakening. And more than 1999’s HMS Fable, 2003’s Here’s Tom With the Weather, and 2006’s The Corner of Miles & Gil individually, Time Machine makes a strongest case that these two talking Heads have been among the freshest songwriters and popsmiths of the last eight years. One after another, gems descend: long, languid, splendid and resplendent, playful, and in full belief of the power of the most romantic pop soundscapes matched to unfussy, tuneful harmonies. For a whopping 69 minutes via 17 golden-touched pretties, the Heads, steady drummer IAIN TEMPLETON, and a few bassists find a “magic” place where spiritual godfather ARTHUR LEE of Love (who Shack backed on a U.K. tour) communes with MCCARTNEY, LENNON, and HARRISON, via THE LA’S modern production (without the ‘50s rock and skiffle) with hints of NICK DRAKE, Beach Boys, and STONE ROSES. Even old fans will delight in the exquisite loveliness anew, while taking in two neglected non-LP singles and two brand new songs of equal quality to remind that Michael Head is anything but finished after three decades (going back to respected early ‘80s Liverpool foursome PALE FOUNTAINS, who, believe it or not, are reforming for two gigs this year). Tickling kisses of guitar music can’t feel much nicer, more gently moving, without the slightest hint of wimpiness or too much wispiness. This is music to restore your love for music, even at import prices. (shacktheband.com)

(G)

SOUL ASYLUM Welcome to the Minority: the A&M years 1988-91 (Hip-O Select) (by NEAL AGNETA) Any seasoned band, especially one whose career has spanned three decades, is bound to go through a transitional period(s) during such a lengthy tenure. Minneapolis’ long-running Soul Asylum may not have been the likeliest candidates for stardom, and understandably it didn’t occur overnight. Welcome to the Minority collects the two albums they made for A&M Records, with bonus tracks and a complete live show from 1990. Soul Asylum made the jump to the big leagues, partially due to the fact that their original roost, Twin/Tone Records, had a distribution deal with the label. From the sound of it, the band apparently had a creative freedom clause in their contract, but when big name producers ED STASIUM and LENNY KAYE stepped into the picture, things changed, though largely for the better. After three raw, ramshackle albums with Twin/Tone, the best being 1986’s Made to Be Broken, DAVE PIRNER and his ragged army were in need of recalibration, not to mention a little more proficiency. Stasium and Kaye were more than up to the challenge of whipping Soul Asylum into shape, without fettering the band’s vigorous flavor of Midwest, post-punk rock. The result was 1988’s Hang Time, an album that brought to the fore Soul Asylum’s increasing penchant for melody, as well as subdued textures. “Sometime to Return” and “Beggars and Choosers” rocked as intensely as, and with more acumen than, anything they had done to date, while the bittersweet tinged “Endless Farewell,” and “Cartoon” countered these cuts. Arguably, Hang Time is their finest moment. And the Horse They Rode in On is an entirely different story. The keepers, “Easy Street,” “Bitter Pill,” and “Be on Your Way,” have held up well over the years, but Asylum’s stabs at funk-rock and minimalism, not to mention some very dry ballads, yield a polished but unsatisfying body of work. They would recover of course two years later with Grave Dancers Union. The gravy so to speak, on Minority, is an uncut, Ann Arbor, MI, Soul Asylum performance from 1990. The execution is spot-on, but I’m not sure if it was wise to tee the proceedings off with SMOKEY ROBINSON and SCREAMIN’ JAY HAWKINS covers. Sure, there are some fan favorites absent—“Tied to the Tracks,” “Never Really Been,” and even “Sometime to Return”—but what songs are present never fail to impress.

(H)
factory records
The Complete Graphic Album: fac 461 (book)
(Chronicle Books)
(By JOSHUA GABRIEL) Lately it seems the obscure myth of Factory Records has become common knowledge. And while the post-punk revival has brought to light many overlooked classics, it has somewhat distilled the kinetic allure that was the mystique; that was partly our imagination. At least this artifact is an intelligent and readable display of the organization’s visual mystique, the allure itself: the sleeve designs. Chronologically detailed in full color with informative asides, each sleeve is presented with numerous illuminations that deepen the intrigue from a uniquely silent vantage point. Like the music itself, each designer crafts the image ideal of each act with a playfulness and deliberation that is often truly brilliant and perennial. Most movements, whether legend or fact, utilize varied aspects of art and music to transmit a vision, thus galvanizing into a unique whole. More than a record company? Yes, R.I.P. ANTHONY WILSON (1950-2007), an infinitely profound and substantial MALCOLM MCLAREN. (chroniclebooks.com)

3) Just a reminder that there is a new issue of Big Takeover magazine just out! Indeed, if you want a post-holiday gift subscription for yourself with the money your relatives gave you, or your friends or family whom you think would enjoy our pages (or one of our T-shirts, or any of our back issues, or our CDs), you can still order on our secure online store at

http://bigtakeover.stores.yahoo.net/

Remember, subscriptions are just $20 ($32 overseas and Canada), and our other stuff is even less. For our other stuff, remember, our t-shirts now come in three colors (black, white, and dark red) and six sizes (four men’s, two women’s), all but two of our back issues are still available (if you or your friends like a specific band we’ve featured), and we are now offering used, good-quality CD copies of the three out of print SPRINGHOUSE CDs (for a limited time) as well as sealed copies of EVEN WORSE, LAST BURNING EMBERS, DON McGLASHAN, DOUG GILLARD, and the brand new releases, NON-LINEAR THINKERS and EDP!

For those without a credit card who want to mail us a check made out to “The Big Takeover” for a holiday subscription or other gift check (using the prices on our store), that would be possible too, but you’d have to hurry. And here’s the address:

1713 8th Ave. Rm. 5-2
Brooklyn, NY 11215 USA

In any case, there was a lot of information on our new issue 61 in my last blog, repeated below if want to know more. And on behalf of myself and our entire staff at Big Takeover, we wish you the best New Year too.

Jack Rabid

p.s. here’s the info on the new issue again in case you missed it or in case you still need it!:
—Big Takeover #61 with THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS’ A.C. NEWMAN began shipping, so you should see it quite soon! Below is a quick description of its contents if you missed my last post!

Again, now is an excellent time to order it if you would like to receive it (go to http://bigtakeover.stores.yahoo.net/bigtakbacis.html), or subscribe if you’ve been meaning to; or renew your subscription if it has run out. And remember: BIG TAKEOVER ISSUES, BACK ISSUES, TSHIRTS, CDS, AND SUBSCRIPTIONS ALSO MAKE THE PERFECT HOLIDAY GIFT!

If you want to subscribe or renew, just go to bigtakeover.com, and click on the “subscribe now” button to take you to our secure online Yahoo store (and feel free to indicate which issue you’d like to start with, issue 59 (DECEMBERISTS cover), issue 60 (SHINS cover) the current 61 (New Porns), or, if you have all that, the late Spring, 2008 issue 62. It’s only $20 for four issues (save 23% off the newsstand price including average sales tax), or $32 for overseas. Or, for those in the U.S. you can send us a check made out to “Big Takeover” for $20 to the following address:
The Big Takeover
1713 8th Ave. Rm. 5-2
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(As ever, there are back issues, T-shirts, and CDs available there as well if you’re interested, for you, or your friends on the holidays!)

Here, again, is what’s in the issue:
Interviews: NEW PORNOGRAPHERS • MAXIMO PARK • THE SHINS, pt. 2 • EMMA POLLOCK (DELGADOS) • THE CRIBS • DON MCGLASHAN (MUTTON BIRDS) pt. 2 • LITTLE STEVEN (Underground Garage/Sopranos) • THE PIPETTES • FIELDS • THE POINTED STICKS • MARY WEISS (SHANGRI-LA’S) • ROGUE WAVE • OKKERVIL RIVER • SEA WOLF • SONDRE LERCHE • SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME • WHEAT • OK GO • HAZEY JANES • ARI SHINE • GREAT NORTHERN • TOMMY WOMACK • EARWIG • THE JONESES • TUNECORE DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION

Editorials: Rick Rubin, Radiohead, “Record Men,” and the Revenue Redirect * Ackerman: On the End of Record Labels * Sommer: On Blue Oyster Cult

Live Reviews: Jon Auer • Bad Brains • Booker T & the MGs • Elvis Costello • Decemberists • John Doe (X) • Roky Erickson • Fiery Furnaces • Long Blondes • Morrissey • Only Ones • Sea and Cake • Sloan • Ralph Stanley • Stooges • Richard Thompson • Toxic Reasons • Voxtrot • Hippiefest (Zombies/Rascals/Badfinger/Mitch Ryder etc.)

Hundreds of CD Reviews: Bad Religion • Bags • Blonde Redhead • Bongos • Bon Mots • Clash • Clientele • Bo Diddley • The Eat • Editors • Effigies • Feist • Flying Burrito Brothers • For Against • Adam Franklin • House of Love • Howling Wolf • Ed Kuepper • Interpol • Junius • Len Price 3 • Libertines U.S. • Loose Salute • New Model Army • Robert Pollard • Ray Price • Radiohead • R.E.M. • Saints • Stephen Hero • Wedding Present • Wilco • Wire • and more!

Hope you all buy it now it’s out!
And/or hope you subscribe, as that is still by far the best way to support the print magazines you love if you want them to keep going. It means a lot to them!
cheers!
Jack R

 

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