Monthly Archives: April 2011

Yellow Humphrey: Perfect weather music

Yellow Humphrey's Featherweights

If you’re in Philly, you’re experiencing what the Bay Area experiences 200+ days a year: absolutely perfect weather. In Philly, we get 10 of these. In a good year.

Is it any coincidence that Yellow Humphrey are having a record release show for their debut Featherweights on such a perfect day? Leadsinger Gretchen Lohse first sent me “Low Roses” on April 4th (high 79°, no humidity), and I complained bitterly about having to listen to its thrilling, vernal charms on a beautiful day… in an office. And Featherweights really is the perfect complement to a gorgeous spring day: as light as the title, a folkcountry touch, Gretchen dancing around notes like Zooey Daschenal with the fullness of Neko Case, and a fulsome ratio of the melancholy that all liminal seasons contain. One day, spring too shall pass.

So take note, Philadelphia: you only have eight days of perfect weather left. And quite a few of them should be spent with Yellow Humphrey.

Yellow Humphrey, “Low Roses” [Pay what you want at Bandcamp]

Yellow Humphrey w/ Young Nick Krill & Magic Mike and Eliza Hardy-Jones (of Buried Beds and Spinto Band)
Friday, April 29, 2011 TONIGHT
Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N Frankford Ave, Philadelphia
$10 [Tickets]

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Turkeys, Hamm’s, and Pepperoni Eyes: Personal & The Pizzas at the Knockout

Between 2/26 and March 7, two Narcs were out vacationing working on a piece on Portland’s and San Francisco’s music scene. This second of three parts finds our young adventurers in search of San Francisco’s best New Jersey-style pizza.

Knockout flyerIt’s always a nice surprise: You go to a show to see one band, but another band on the bill gives such a killer performance that the other sets pale in comparison, and you wonder why you weren’t there to see that band all along.

During Noise Narcs’s visit to San Fran back in early March, we hopped on a bus on a Wednesday night and headed down to Bernal Heights to hit up a show at the Knockout. It’s a no-frills dive bar & venue, with the bar and the stage/dancefloor separated by a cut-out wall. A tight grid of album covers adorns the top section of the bar side of that middle wall, and below that, “LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL” is painted right-to-left in backward letters, which become legible when you look into the big mirror above the bar.

Hamm'sThe bar had an okay selection of draft beers, but the most popular beverage choices seemed to be Tecate tallboys and 12-oz cans of Hamm’s, which was a new one for me in the pantheon of cheap, hipster-certified brews. Wikipedia says it’s a Minnesota beer but that it had plants in San Francisco:

The Hamm’s brewery in San Francisco opened in 1954 at 1550 Bryant Street, close to the Seals baseball stadium. The brewery closed in 1972. In the early 1980’s, the beer vats were rented out to punk rock bands, and it was a used as music studios until the building was renovated and turned into offices.

Also, you must check out this old Hamm’s commercial.

When we first walked in, we caught the tail end of Tim Cohen’s Magic Trick. The little we heard was gentle, pleasant rock; it would turn out to be quite a contrast for what was up next.

As the second band was setting up, a few things diminished our expectations for their set: (1) The drummer took his sweet time to tune his snare, and played a loud flam after each turn of the drum key; (2) The guitarist’s strap was made of chain — like, regular chain.

Personal & The Pizzas

Rocking Wayfarers, the lead singer/guitarist, greeted the crowd with, “Alright, you turkeys. We got some music for ya,” and launched into some straight-ahead rock’n’roll, a I – IV – V tune called “Pepperoni Eyes,” as in, “Pepperoni eyes / She’s got those pepperoni eyes.”

Personal & The Pizzas, “Pepperoni Eyes”

[Buy]

The band was called Personal & The Pizzas, as in, “I’m Personal, and this here’s my band, The Pizzas.” The jokey name, dumb lyrics, and strict adherence to the Stooges/Ramones formula of no-frills, two-and-a-half minute songs could have gotten old fast, had it not been for the band leader’s compelling stage presence and the gusto with which he served up his Jersey greaseball shtick.

When an audience member rudely called out the bassist — a tall, lanky, balding, gum-chewing dude in a leather jacket — for sporting a slightly uneven handlebar mustache, the singer turned to his bandmate and said, “You just stand there and look pretty and blow some bubbles for me.” It might not be that funny on the page, but when delivered with an exaggerated Jersey accent from another era (cf. intro to “Brass Knuckles”), it killed.

The band has an album, Raw Pie, out on Oakland’s 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. It’s a slice of what they’re about. But for the full meal, this is a band best experienced live.

Personal & The Pizzas, “Brass Knuckles”

[Buy]

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RIP Poly Styrene

In 1976, Poly Styrene (Marion Elliott-Said) of Brixton, after catching the Sex Pistols play an early show, placed an ad in a couple British music papers in search of “Young Punx Who Want to Stick It Together.” The result was the album Germ Free Adolescents by X-Ray Spex and the hit single “Oh Bondage Up Yours!”

The first wave, braces-wearing, daughter of a dispossessed Somali aristocrat, proto-riot-grrl, Hare Krishna convert succumbed to cancer on Monday at the age of only 53.

Check out an early interview on youtube here.

Check out the video for the single “Virtual Boyfriend” from her recent solo album Indigo Generation here.

X-ray Spex, “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” [Buy The Anthology from Amazon]

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Indie Rock Is Dead: Paul Krugman’s Posting on Arcade Fire

On his blog, Paul “Cassandra” Krugman posted on Arcade Fire last night. I’m just going to repeat that: Paul Krugman wrote about Arcade Fire.

I’m ashamed to say that I wasn’t even aware of the band until the Grammys — but hey, I’m 58! And as I suspect is happening with Brad, as an aging baby boomer I find it vastly reassuring to see that there are honest, creative artists still making their way up amid the commercialization. And their live performances are truly addictive. So:

Two notes. 1.) Starting today, Noise Narcs will cease its coverage of last week’s Pitchfork and instead cover last week’s Keynesian economics. 2.) James Fallows, you better step up your game from Pomplamoose.

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Show Spotlight: Low TONIGHT (4/25) at the First Unitarian Church Sanctuary

Five reasons to go see Low tonight at the First Unitarian Sanctuary:

1) Although not a return to “form,” Low’s new album C’mon is a return to excellence. Although they’ve moved on from the utter bareness of their early albums, the progression into their new, lusher sound has reached jawdropping maturity.

2) Tonight’s rain is actually a reason to go: temperatures and humidity will drop enough to not make the First Unitarian into a sweatbox.

3) The First Unitarian Church Sanctuary. The best place to see music for cheap in the city by seven country miles. Especially when #2 is in effect.

4) The timbre of Alan Sparhawk’s voice.

5) The unearthly warmth of Mimi Parker’s.

Low – Especially Me by subpop

Low w/ A Stick and a Stone
Monday, April 25, 2011 8:00PM
First Unitarian Church Sanctuary, 2125 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia
Tickets [$15]

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Happy Easter, Christians!

I am Senor Chang, and I'm so ill! This is a warning: I can't be killed.

Jacques Slade, “I Never Die” [youtube] (from the Community soundtrack)

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New Philly Releases: Eat Your Birthday Cake and Bridge Underwater

Do you miss Grandaddy’s quiet, winding brand of indie rock? If not, please have a technician check your Missing Awesome Things that Are No Longer Around unit: it’s clearly on standby. But if so, Philly’s Eat Your Birthday Cake ride Grandaddy’s groove so damn hard and well it’ll make your needle skip a beat. On Monday, May 2nd, Eat Your Birthday Cake will release Enemies for free download and limited edition CD-R. And it’s a doozy. To celebrate the album’s release, they’re throwing a block party in Fishtown, hosted by Cloud Entertainment, at 219 Mercer Street on Saturday, May 7th. [Facebook Event] Your grandaddy would have wanted you to be there.

Eat Your Birthday Cake, “Rock Stars” [Facebook]

In other great Philly release news, Bridge Underwater totally zagged when I thought they were gonna zig. Their latest single, “Share Time,” ditches their Beatles via Elephant Six sound to embrace… ’90s Weezer/grunge? And nails it? Who woulda thunk it?

Bridge Underwater, “Share Time” [Bandcamp]

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Your 420 Post: Argent, “Liar”

It’s not like I’m obligated to post one, but if you were expecting a 420 friendly tune, then the following should serve nicely.

After the lackluster sales of Odessey and Oracle, one of our favorite misspelled albums, The Zombies tragically dissolved. Distinctive vocalist Colin Blunstone left to work in the insurance industry for a little while before ultimately returning to music, but keyboardist/song-writer/sometime-vocalist Rod Argent quickly formed his own band, Argent, which would go on to release several albums throughout the early seventies.

Several tracks off the 1970 self-titled debut would sound right at home on an Odessey and Oracle follow-up, for example, “Schoolgirl,” “Dance in the Smoke,” and “The Feelings Inside.” All are very highly recommended.

"Come right in! Your keys go in that bowl there. We were just listening to Argent on our Koss headphones. It's 1970."

But then there’s a track like “Liar,” which would turn into a much bigger hit for Three Dog Night when they covered it that same year.  It is not like the Zombies, but I like it. To begin with, the driving blues riff sounds more like something Alvin Lee was doing around that time with Ten Years After, but there’s also an edge that, to me, makes it way more of a freak-out than anything the Zombies did together.

Enjoy.

Argent, “Liar”

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Skeleton Dead premiere: New songs, debut album “done and dusted within the month”

Just got an email from the British duo of Skeleton Dead, who we first fell for back in December. Not only have they released two more sparse, gorgeous neo-trad folk tracks on their Soundcloud, there’s also album news: “We’re currently finishing off the album – should all be recorded, mixed, done and dusted within the month.”

“Lock the Doors” starts with an ominous thrust of crawling echo that would fit well with “U Smile 800% Slower,” before a car engine turns over and the tale of a murderous burglar begins over jangling guitars and slowly progressing organ. But underneath the bright, gentle instrumentation, the echoed retardation never leaves: drifting in and out, providing ballast and biting menace.

Lock the Doors by The Skeleton Dead

“Taken by the Tide,” is Skeleton Dead’s most sunshine-y song by a country mile. A train-like acoustic rhythm guitar is overtaken by a warm electric that would fit well in a ’50s ballad or a Cass McCombs song. “If we’re taken by the tide / I can’t say that I’ll mind.”

Taken by the Tide by The Skeleton Dead

These two additions make Skeleton Dead’s album one of our most anticipated of the year. And for our UK readers, they’ll be playing some dates in June. So keep an eye out.

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The old Stones vs. Beatles argument has been decided

…by this 1964 Rolling Stones Rice Krispies commercial.

Rolling Stones, “Rice Krispies Jingle”

Sorry, world, find something else to argue about.

[Via Bill Wyman’s excellent Slate piece about the end of musical rareness, which for some bizarre reason pretends that MOG, RDIO, et al don’t exist]

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