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Sonic Youth with The Hold Steady – Theater of the Living Arts (Philadelphia, PA) – August 29, 2008
Although they played almost the same setlist as their headlining show at Battery Park on July 4th, seeing them play that setlist in a club much smaller than where they would normally play was enticing, hypnotic and at times overpowering. Openers The Hold Steady played a quick, raucous, forty-minute set that warmed up the crowd quite nicely.
Squeeze – Keswick Theater (Glenside, PA) – August 22, 2008
Concentrating mainly on their first four albums (and particularly on 1980’s Argybargy), the reunited Squeeze made its case as not only one of the finest new wave/pop bands of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, but as a great live band as well.
Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls (Mauled by Tigers)
Ignore the fact that they seem to draw the most negative comments (except for maybe DAN DEACON) on the influential blog Brooklyn Vegan. There’s a reason that the original release of their Lp (on the tiny Mauled by Tigers label) sold out in a flash. It’s really good and quite possibly my favorite debut album of the year so far. If you like the C86 sound, JESUS AND MARY CHAIN circa Psychocandy and especially early ‘90s twee-pop (think TIGER TRAP), you will love this and you’ll be humming “Wild Eyes” (also released as a 7” single), “Tell the World” and the terrific “Who Do You Run To” all day long after hearing this just a few times. At 25 minutes, the Lp goes by in a flash and if you weren’t able to get it the first time around, the great In the Red label is reissuing it in October.
Vivian Girls – “Wild Eyes” EP
Although the guy I ordered this 7” from never sent it to me (be wary of doing business with him; the label is Plays with Dolls records), I was able to hear this thanks to a kind person on the Big Takeover mailing list. Anyway, the great A-side is also on the album and the B-side (“My Baby Wants Me Dead”) would’ve fit in fine on the album as well.
Glenn Tilbrook – The Past Has Been Bottled: East Side Story Demos (Quixotic)
I picked this up at the Squeeze show, not even knowing that it had come out. How could I say no to alternate versions of songs from East Side Story, one of the finest albums of the early ‘80s? This is a collection of Tilbrook’s 4-track demos where he sings on all the tracks and plays everything, too. In all honesty, though, while this is a fun listen, it’s more of a curiosity for hardcore fans rather than an essential purchase. So, if you don’t have East Side Story (or for that matter, Argybargy and Cool for Cats) as well, skip this one and get those records first. If, however, you’re looking for alternate versions of songs that would end up on both East Side Story and on its B-sides (like “Trust”), then this is for you. There’s also another demos CD of material recorded from 1993 to 1998, but I haven’t heard that one yet.
The Black Watch – Jiggery-Pokery (Stone Garden)
I found this CD at a farmers’ market/flea market located about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia and close to the Delaware border. I think it’s fair to say that I didn’t expect to find it there, but since I’ve been reading about them for years in the magazine and hadn’t ever heard them before, I figured that I should give it a chance. Boy am I glad I did! THE GO-BETWEENS comparisons are definitely valid, though I also hear some early ‘80s ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN and COCTEAU TWINS in the mix as well. This album hits a lot of my musical sweet spots, so I guess it’s no surprise that I like it so much. I think I’ll like it more over time as well.
Jawbreaker – Unfun (Tupelo/Communion)
Although they were closely identified with the incredible D.I.Y. hardcore/punk scene of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s until signing with a major label and releasing their last album, 1995’s Dear You (hated at the time of its release but now looked upon as an emo touchstone), revisiting their landmark debut recently made me realize that beyond that, they were one of the ‘90s best bands (in any genre) and that they were both an incredible power trio (though much more in the tradition of HUSKER DU than say, CREAM or RUSH, for example) and a springboard for BLAKE SCHWARTZENBACH’s incredible lyrics and gravelly, RICHARD BUTLER-influenced vocals. “Want” is the all-time mixtape classic here, but others like “Imaginary War,” “Busy” (released as a 7” single) and “Down” are just as potent. The CD includes the hard-to-find Whack and Blite EP. No more add-on filler, these are 3 more incredible songs. After being out-of-print for a while, this record was recently remastered by drummer ADAM PFAHLER and will be released on his Blackball label soon.
Dog Faced Hermans – Hum of Life (Konkurrel/A-Bomb)
Although I’d seen the name for the almost two decades that I’ve been listening to punk, I’d never heard this band before coming across this post on the great Egg City Radio blog. It’s fair to say that it does sound like a bit like their contemporaries and close friends and associates THE EX, but that wouldn’t tell the entire story. The major difference is instead of primarily male vocals, there’s a female singer who actually often sounds like BJORK, giving it a feel not a million miles from KUKL, her early ‘80s post-punk band, as well. Anyway if you like your anarcho punk with a post-punk feel, I can definitely recommend this. All of their stuff seems to be out-of-print, though, but hopefully that will change at some point.
D.O.A. – Hardcore ‘81 (Sudden Death)
D.O.A. is one of the most loved North American punk bands ever and this album, along with 1980’s Something Better Change, is one of the biggest reasons why. Combining silliness and an offbeat sense of humor (traits that many of their peers lacked) with righteous political fury, a blazing rhythm section and JOEY SHITHEAD’s incomparable growl, this record has stood the test of time. The Sudden Death reissue also tacks on the great though not quite as potent Don’t Turn Yer Back on Desperate Times EP, which was recorded with a later lineup in 1984 for JOHN PEEL’s radio show on the BBC.
Extra Golden – Hera Ma Nono (Thrill Jockey)
Extra Golden are a band comprised half of members from Kenya and half from the U.S. They play traditional Kenyan music (sung in both Luo and English) mixed with rock and the result at times reminds me of some of the stuff on the Ethiopiques series. Like much African music, it clearly isn’t in a hurry and is happy to build on a groove for up to 15 minutes on occasion. If you’re into this sort of thing, it’s a very satisfying listen and they’re great live, too.
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