New Smashing Pumpkins On The Way?

I'm back from the convention, and more deranged than ever!


New SP, huh? I have mixed feelings; Billy is clearly flailing about without other musicians to indulge his increasingly shitty compositions. First Zwan nosedived -- to be honest, I never even understood what people liked about them -- and then didn't he release some atrocious solo album? And meanwhile Jimmy Chamberlin, all cleaned up and totally high on life, released this AMAZING solo jazz-rock album just filled with crackling, explosive drumming. And James went on to work with A Perfect Circle, which somehow seems so appropriate for him (I would still love to see more of his dark side). And D'arcy was supposed to be just chilling on her farm with her weirdo P-USA husband. So when I hear they're together again after the hot-and-cold crapshoot that was Machina (and the wonderfully rebellious but low-quality Machina II) I get scared: namely because their old material has such intense personal relevance to me, and every crappy song they write since then is just, like, a puppykick.

But you know what? I like the nervous tension of not knowing what's going to happen. It's one of my favorite feelings, whether I get it from flirting, watching movies, or following bands.

Undead Review: Annie

I'm gonna be away for a much-needed break this weekend (yes, this music reviewer is secretly an anime nerd). Which means that instead of the usual live reviews, on the 31st you can look forward to a CD review column including new releases by Deb Hornblow, End-Time Illusion, Omega Vague, and others. In the meantime, here's my last living-dead CD review (i.e. one that fell on the cutting room floor somewhere along the way!). Hope you enjoy it -- have a good weekend.

Big Beat/Atlantic, 2005

What, Lassie? Pop’s been kidnapped?

Let’s be straightforward: Annie’s not going to save it, but she occasionally succeeds at transforming it into something enjoyable once again. Her debut, Anniemal, makes blissfully few concessions to the media, and the hype surrounding her release is largely grassroots. For starters, unlike Kylie (to whose voice Annie’s bears more than a passing resemblance), Annie puts on no airs about being one of the “beautiful people.” There’s no glitz or self-absorption; her persona on Anniemal seems the type you could meet in a bar or a class. And while her lyrics are hardly deep, they’re not vacuous, either. They actually tell stories rather than seduce that same old faceless, hypersexualized “you.” Like The Cardigans and Vanessa Carlton, there’s some substance mixed in with all the sweet.

Song-wise, Anniemal is hit-and-miss. The single “My Heartbeat” is catchy, understated retro, and “No Easy Love” rides an infectious bumpty-bump groove. Then again, “Come Together” takes seven minutes to go all of nowhere, and if the premise of a pop song called “Chewing Gum” doesn’t piss you off right from the title, the chew-boys-up-and-spit-‘em-out lyrics will. Please, ignore the reviewers who would make such songs into witty feminist reversals of male sexual privilege. They’re not. Anniemal is not dissertation material. Unlike M.I.A., whose (more danceable) 2005 release Arular also snuck its way into the hipster cachet, Annie is expressly apolitical. She wants to party, have sex, and sell records, and these themes carry the album.

Dance music is working its way back into the subcultures that expelled it as corporate tripe. Hey, if you’re too skinny to mosh, and too uncomfortable standing with your arms crossed for twenty-minute Explosions in the Sky songs, you gotta move to something, right? And between 2005’s surge in dance-punk and the cash cow known as The Postal Service, radical, indie-minded people are finally starting to feel less guilty about shaking their brilliant asses. Annie won’t herd pop skeptics off to the dance floor—but she might just inspire them to sing her songs into a broomhandle while sweeping. And that’s a step toward getting those “guilty pleasure” types to believe that there’s good pop out there—which there is, in spite of mass media messages to the contrary.

Undead Review: The Deadly

The Deadly
The Wolves Are Here Again
Pluto Records, 2005

There’s enough bad metalcore these days to send the staunchest scene stalwart screaming towards Emoville. And with labels flourishing from the influx of “new jack” capital, it seems like new, hot bands are coming out every week. How’s a hardcore kid supposed to stay on top?

Maybe, to some extent, we’re not. The over-saturation of heavy music right now might not be a bad thing—because as much as it reeks of being the new fad, it also places that much more responsibility on the bands to turn listeners’ heads.

The Deadly turned my head. There’s an instant similarity to the Blood Brothers: both bands place screamy vocals and plucky bass riffs in the forefront of their sound. But where the latter are raucous and spastic to a degree that alienates most listeners who, uh, don’t have rabies, The Deadly have enough heft and chunk to their riffs for the sane to glom onto. What’s more, they’re fucking catchy. Right from the opening riff of the CD, it’s clear that bouncy, catchy rhythms á la Coheed and Cambria dominate The Wolves Are Here Again.

The lyrics may be a bit hashed-over by this point. I mean, is the sexual sarcasm of “Make Me Rich”—“so you want to make out again well we’re stealing every heart we can”—really going to send any ex-lovers to the emergency room? But then, who really listens to hardcore for the lyrics anyway? The nitpicky downsides are a disappointing read-along and a lyric booklet full of typos; but these are balanced out by the unconventional, beautifully executed design work. Every hardcore band, including your mom’s, seems to have a logo with blood drips and splatter marks. The Deadly opt for disturbingly clean design, and photographs of high-rises and chandeliers that reek of too much order. Sometimes spitting in the face of the trend can be good for one’s dignity.

Diamondback Featured on I-84 West's Electronic Billboard

Driving from Hartford back to the Local Commotion Compound, ducking through lanes of rush hour traffic, I look up and who do I see on the big billboard (near Hartford Elf Storage) than cover band extraordinaire Diamondback.

Come to Hartford. It's fun, I swear!

UJIMA, Cipher's Online Community

hey y'all,

some of you may remember me mentioning a band called Cipher a while back. I did an interview with them in Clamor Magazine -- you can peep it in my previous Local Commotion posts.

Anyway, Cipher has created an online community and message board called Ujima. Anyone with an interest in activism, progressive politics, building communities, or finding common ground between various socio-political movements will want to get on board. I just signed up and it looks excellent. I would assume that as Ujima grows and matures, the bulk of its members will be hardcore and punk kids who dig Cipher's music -- but whether you're into hip hop, jazz, or hardcore, you'll be able to appreciate the vibe and the momentum that's already under way there.

Come talk to us!

May & June Music at Chiane's

May 19 The Sawtelles
May 26 Carrie Reeves (Phenomal Strong Vocals) Really Powerful

June 2 Anne Ganem
June 9 Carrie Johnson
June 16 Space People (Young kids, good and funny)
June 23 Jesse Meade
June 30 Jerrod Cattey (Young, Jazz Trio)

Get there around 7 or 8. BYOB!

Undead Review: Żegota

Sinnerman/The Anarchist Cheerleader Song 7”
Crimethinc, Inc., 2005

Doesn’t good album packaging just turn you on? I mean, let’s be real: it’s like opening a sexy letter from someone who handmade an envelope just for you. The textures and images in Żegota’s latest 7” will remind you that music isn’t just about hearing; it’s about touch, it’s about work, it’s about physical sensation and spectacle as well. Sinnerman’s lyrics are printed on beautiful ridged brown paper; the vinyl itself finds a home in a photo of mannequin-like figures spreading their arms and taking flight. One can’t help but think of the hands that packaged these records; indeed, the back of the record sleeve meticulously describes and thanks the people involved in the countless phases of assembly.

Such gorgeous packaging makes me wish from the bottom of my heart that the songs lived up to their sensuous introduction. Sadly, they were an anticlimax. “Sinnerman,” the traditional that comes down via Nina Simone, doesn’t translate well into hardcore punk. Well, let’s be honest: it doesn’t translate well into rock. The problem is less Żegota’s execution and more their idealistic notion that a gospelly spiritual could be rocked with panache. The song describes a sinner frantically seeking refuge on the day of judgment, not realizing it’s too late to repent. The levity of the lyrics seem betrayed by the standard bass-drums-guitars rock setup; whereas a jazz band or choir could really scare the shit out of you with this material, Żegota merely scaremongers.

Of course, a title like “The Anarchist Cheerleader Song” makes one hope for rousing choruses, circle pit brotherhood, and pithy, street-punk chants. Nope. Not to be found. Żegota’s idea of a fists-in-the-air lyric? “A, give me an A.” What a bummer! The endeavor may have been punk in attitude and communal in execution, but even the revolution’s most strident cheerleaders will have a tough time adding these tunes to their songbook.

Undead Review: Stamen & Pistils

Stamen & Pistils
End of the Sweet Parade
Echelon Productions

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the soundtrack for 2004’s Garden State was Iron and Wine’s cover of The Postal Service’s “Such Great Heights.” Well, let’s be specific: the surprise wasn’t the covering so much as the fact that The Postal Service’s techno-ey glitchpop translated wonderfully into a whispery acoustic arrangement. If the two acts were to jam together, they might sound like Stamen & Pistils. The D.C.-area group melds acoustic guitars and hushed voices with foamy, purring computers. The vocals and lyrics are introverted, while the electronic noise is talkative, at times deafening.

Occasionally The Sweet Parade’s concept exceeds its execution: the singing is gawky and untrained, and S&P prioritize fiddling with ambient textures over articulate songwriting. But on the whole, Stamen & Pistils break such imaginative ground that one is left counting possibilities rather than annoyances. By casting their electronics as warm and charming narrators, these musicians’ voices and instruments become cold, uncompromising antagonists. It’s the complete opposite of the typical folk-pop arrangement—which may not drive you back for repeat listens, but it’s certainly reason enough to watch what happens next.

Music fans will dig this.

It creates a "radio station" for you based on your likes and disklikes. Really easy to use, and awesome sound quality! FREE!

Thanks for the link, Olympia, you cyberslut whore.

Undead Review: Discordance Axis

Discordance Axis
Our Last Day
Hydra Head, 2005

If you think your metal’s been getting faster in the past couple of years, you’re not hearing things. Discordance Axis is almost single-handedly responsible for the recent popularity of grindcore, a spinoff of death metal that uses the fastest drumming humanly possible. No, seriously—the fastest. (It’s called “blasting,” and it involves an alternating one-two punch on the kick snare that, at high speeds, sounds like a machine gun.) Grind musicians are basically endurance athletes, and DA led the charge with their phlegmatic growls and dissonant anti-chords. Their songs rarely last more than one minute, but who can blame them when they play so sickeningly fast?

Our Last Day is more a tribute than an actual DA recording—the band broke up shortly after the release of 2000’s opus The Inalienable Dreamless, arguably the pinnacle of the grindcore genre. New fans should start there rather than here; the odds and ends that comprise Our Last Day are more likely to interest those with a more developed interest in the genre.

Two previously unreleased tracks open the album, and the rest is devoted to covers of the more popular songs in the DA catalog. But this is no chintzy tribute album—amazing bands like Melt Banana and Mortalized rewrite the songs entirely, taking bold liberties with the original material. The most unexpected treat on the album are the contributions by Cide Projekt, a rabid fan who programmed covers of DA songs with the synthesizer sounds from a Sega Genesis console. The robotic drums and plucky synth lines are minimalist as fuck. But by stripping away all the vocals and distortion, these particular tracks reveal just how powerful DA’s songwriting is. (Cide Projekt’s songs forced even my metal-hating friends to admit that, with the screaming vocals out of the way, they liked what they heard.) There’s a crackling tension between Dave Witte’s straightforward drums and Rob Marton’s spiraling guitar riffs; the latter seem to swirl around the former at such a dizzying rate that even computerized drums threaten to fall off-tempo at any moment. Unsurprisingly, it’s that same creative tension that eventually drove the band apart.

Eliot Spitzer, You're My Hero

A lot of people (including me) rant and rave about how control of the media has been taken away from the people, and no longer represents their interests.

Here's proof.

I've been tracking the radio payola scandal for a while now, and this is another big-yet-obvious revelation. According to this Yahoo News article, Sony and Warner have already agreed to big-money settlements, and today Universal did as well.

Why are they paying? Because they've been bribing radio station employees to rotate certain songs more heavily. They've also been engaging in "fraudulent call-in campaigns" to skew a song's popularity.

Some of the Universal artists whose songs were payola'd: Nick Lachey, Ashlee Simpson, Brian McKnight, Big Tymers, and Lindsay Lohan.


On the downside, the stuff these labels were giving to radio reps and Program Directors was pretty tame (Yankees tickets, Miami hotel rooms, preferred seating at U2 concerts). I was kind of hoping it would at least be hookers and blow.

Invocation Of Nehek Announce Breakup, Farewell Show

This just in from

Invocation Of Nehek has called it quits. The Connecticut group released one album with Prosthetic records. Guitarist Robb Cyr comments:

"Over the last 5 years ION has had so many great experiences, and we have met so many awesome people, and we are truly grateful for all of it, we sadly have come to a point where it was just time to move on. Although this is a sad moment for us, we know that it is best. When this band started it was meant just meant to be something fun to do on weekends, ION exceeded all of our expectations, trust me you don't name a band 'Invocation of Nehek' and expect to get a record deal or tour the country. We are all still great friends, and will support each other in any new projects. Keep your eyes peeled because you certainly haven't seen the last of all us. We'd like to thank everyone that we have met along the way and that has helped us out in some way shape or form. It was an amazing experience that we will never forget."

The band will play one final show on June 10th at the Sons of Italy in Torrington, CT with Necrosis and Wrenchintheworks, among others.

Shitty news, but then again ION has been plagued with lineup change problems for a long time now.

There are lots of other good local bands on the June 10th bill, too. They include These Days Are Ours, the posi-core group featuring members of On Paths of Torment; Shroud of Turin; and Porphyria.

Just recieved word from Nick Necrosis that the original ION drummer (Tom) and vocalist (Robb Sheol) will be coming down to perform the band's old material. The new drummer and Lou will perform the new stuff. Should be a good send-off.

The Terrifying Haunted Graveyard of Wandering Dead Record Reviews



Well, as you may or may not know, being a freelancer, I occasionally generate stuff that for one reason or another never gets printed. Sometimes it falls through the cracks; sometimes there's not enough room in the publication; sometimes the tone or content just doesn't jive with the rest of the publication's material. For whatever reason, I end up sitting on pieces -- usually record reviews.

What I'm going to do is toss them up here for your reading pleasure. The releases they cover are a little old, but they're still worth checking out. Let's start with one from The Kills.

The Kills

No Wow

(RCA/Rough Trade)

If you took away PJ Harvey’s antidepressants, she might make an album like No Wow. It’s the darkest, evilest non-metal album I’ve heard in a long time. Thing is, it’s sexy. Doubly so when you count the fact that it’s made by a boy-girl duo that’s more Jolie-and-Pitt than Jack and Meg White. Chalk it up to VV’s feline vocals (which may be too Harvey-esque for some, but hey, it’s not like she has much of a choice). Underneath, Hotel’s gritty guitar sounds like an overdriven bluesman. They use a drum machine for their rhythms, but they know how to make it sound driving and organic. Head-nodding, raunchy, slanky electro-pop.

The Afro-Semitic Experience

... kicks ass.

I wrote a review of their latest CD, Plea for Peace, a little while back, but it's not going to run in The Advocate -- so enjoy it here!

You can find more info about ASE at bassist David Chevan's website:

The Afro-Semitic Experience
Plea for Peace
(Reckless DC Music)

I’ve had a while to sit on ASE’s latest LP—and that’s a good thing, because Plea for Peace raises a bevy of questions. At the top of the list was whether or not the intersection between African and Jewish musical traditions was fertile enough to merit a fourth ASE album. Were these cats really on to something, or was it merely a gimmick that would expire if one ceased to consider the band’s name, the players’ races and religions? The album’s title felt fraught as well—especially in this time of international conflict. How would a “plea for peace” translate musically? And would that plea be clear to the average listener without forcing them to consult Cliff’s Notes on the connotations behind each piece?

Two facts become apparent after repeat listens. First, the playing on the album is immensely skilled, and, in its best moments, infectiously joyous. Second, between the disc’s ultra-hi-fi production and the spotless, over-rehearsed feel of the pieces, the first half of Plea for Peace retains a scholarly inflexibility, suggesting that this musical Voltron may find its origin in academic junctures, rather than organic ones. I found myself thinking the whole endeavor might be more aptly (if less poetically) titled Plea for Cooperation, since, by a stroke of Orwellian logic, the stuffy, unilateral peace suggested in the first tracks is just as creepy as unilateral war (if not more so).

But the theme of peace as a living, tenable concept finally rings true beginning with track 5—the sonorous “Introduction to A Song for When the Temple is Rebuilt.” Not coincidentally, this track features the album’s first musical acknowledgement of malice. With the introduction of an antagonist, peace—hitherto abject and abstract—springs to life full of pathos and rugged desire. The “Song” that follows offers substantive suggestions for conflict resolution. The track’s reliance on a hand percussion backbeat, rather than a traditional jazz drumkit, suggests that the work of “rebuilding” is human, practical, graspable. And Stacy Phillips’ guitar solo traverses angular Eastern scales that meld with the African-flavored percussion while retaining a foreign dignity. Respectful integration is the key.

Thankfully, it is this idea of peace that illuminates the latter half of the album. If “Song” is the centerpiece of the album, the title track is the capstone—an absolute jazz victory that was undertaken as a rehearsal, and ended up being the final take. Warren Byrd’s form is unmatched as he channels mellifluous piano work from some beautiful otherworld. And David Chevan’s bass solo is the very heart of the album—for in it, the “plea” finally reveals itself not to be one founded in desperation or simplistic idealism, but rather in vulnerability, in the human needs for love, safety, and warmth that bind us into a community.

James Arbys is booking some killer shows.

Here are some upcoming show flyers. The May 6th show in particular looks incredible; The Red Chord, Doomriders, and Ed Gein are all amazing.

Shroud of Turin posts new song

Peep it at:

100 Pageviews in 3 Days!


Now if only more of you assholes would post comments! What are ya, mute?