cool hand bak

Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

On The Day The Dark Was Falling

Today's the day, it's finally here! I was in Seattle at midnight last night to be one of the first to purchase Sleater-Kinney's new album, The Woods. Personally, the wait has never felt longer for any other album than it has for The Woods, but I'm proud of myself for making it to the release day without giving in and listening to the album, which has been readily available for at least a month. Hell, I didn't even listen to the single, "Entertain", when it was offered as a free download on their website. I wanted it to be a completely fresh, immediate, intoxicating experience when I finally ripped the plastic off and popped the album in. Thus far, I've been too busy to listen to it with complete and undivided attention. In fact, I've only made it all the way through once, but I'm working on my second time as I write this. I'm not going to share any initial impressions, just because I don't want to have anything to retract later, but I will say that I continue to believe that Sleater-Kinney are the single greatest band making music in the world today.

I've no mp3s from The Woods to share, in part because I've already posted "Entertain" (scroll down!) and in other part because you need to buy the album! Still, I wanted to commemorate the day The Woods was born. Now I'll turn the mic over to the ever commanding Janet Weiss. These are her words from her gracious last post to Sleater-Kinney's blog:
This is the last half hour the world turns without The Woods precariously in it. The wait for May 24th, the release date of our psychedelic love child, has seemed longer than usual. We've done too much talking about this record. I could go crazy trying to explain how songs fall from the sky into our laps. Sure, we work hard, but ultimately, we are lucky for our chemistry, for the love we have for eachother, for our differences. We definitely tried to break free this time, to shake our heads wildly with our eyes closed. And when it's raining and I'm sitting on the porch with my headphones on, it seems like we did. Welcome to The Woods, dearest listeners. I'm proud you want to come in and hear what we made. xojanet
Furthermore, here be some tour dates. Sleater-Kinney put on one of the best shows imaginable, so if you've never seen them before and you're even remotely curious, do check them out.

5.24.2005 Music Millenium (In-Store) - Portland, OR
5.31.2005 Sonic Boom (In-Store) - Seattle, WA
5.31.2005 Moore Theatre - Seattle, WA*
6.01.2005 Crystal Ballroom - Portland, OR*
6.02.2005 Crystal Ballroom - Portland, OR*
6.04.2005 Warfield - San Francisco, CA*
6.06.2005 The Catalyst - Santa Cruz, CA
6.07.2005 Glass House - Pomona, CA*
6.08.2005 Henry Fonda Theatre - Los Angeles, CA*
6.09.2005 Henry Fonda Theatre - Los Angeles, CA*
6.10.2005 Shoreline Amphitheater - San Francisco, CA
6.15.2005 First Avenue - Minneapolis, MN^
6.16.2005 Riviera Theater - Chicago, IL^
6.17.2005 Beachland Ballroom - Cleveland, OH^
6.18.2005 Phoenix - Toronto, ON^
6.19.2005 La Tulipe - Montreal, QC^
6.21.2005 Higher Ground - Burlington, VT
6.22.2005 Avalon - Boston, MA^
6.23.2005 Roseland - New York City, NY^
6.24.2005 Trocadero - Philadelphia, PA^
6.25.2005 930 Club - Washington, DC^
6.27.2005 The Late Show with David Letterman - New York City, NY
6.29.2005 Millenium Center - Winston-Salem, NC
6.30.2005 Sundown In The City Series - Knoxville, TN
7.01.2005 Variety Playhouse - Atlanta, GA

As if that weren't enough, I think more tour dates are on the way. The first two in-stores, as I understand it, are record signings only, S-K won't be brandishing their instruments. The dates with a * next to them are with the wonderful Mary Timony opening, whereas the dates with a ^ find Dead Meadow starting things off. I'll be at the Portland shows. I'd like to add that one of the best S-K shows I ever saw was at the Glass House in Pomona. It was such a great venue and the kids there were really into it, so if you can make it to that show you're probably in for something special.

On an unrelated, but equally important (to me, anyway) note, today happens to be the birthday of the greatest songwriter who ever did walk in chains, by which of course I mean lived. Happy Birthday Bob Dylan! May you stay forever awesome, and keep kicking out the jams! I know your tour with Willie Nelson begins tomorrow, so have fun and stay out of trouble.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Guess Who's Back!

Unbeknownst to you, dear readers, the lack of noise around here lately is a direct result of my having started a new job two weeks ago. I'm not going to say much about it, except that the work load is significantly greater than what I'm used to. Until I get back to my natural rhythm, I'll try to put up a few tracks here and there, but there probably won't be very much substantial writing.

Despite the fact that I hardly had a single free day last week, I was able to make it into a record store to purchase a few new releases. I'll dedicate this post to sharing some songs from those albums. Most of these have probably already been floating around, but I thought I'd give them the cool hand stamp of approval.

The Evens - "All These Governors"

Love might be in the air for Mr. Dischord, but it seems to have tamed him only slightly. And I'm already looking forward to his and Amy's next record. Visit The Evens' Dischord page for more information.

Mary Timony - "Friend To J.C."

In a word: wow. And, just like that, my love for MT deepens. Fucking yes! Visit Mary's website.

Edan - "Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme"

Has anyone called this Public Enemy meets The Flaming Lips yet? If not, let me be the first. I've found my summer jam! Visit Edan's website.

The Hold Steady - "Your Little Hoodrat Friend"

Judging by my perusal of the album so far, "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" is not the standout track from Separation Sunday. However, it is the track that The Hold Steady have made available for download, which is why it gets posted. Visit their website.

Spoon - "I Turn My Camera On"

Here is what I've overheard to be called "minimal sex-pop" from a band that only releases albums the same years as Sleater-Kinney, as Carrie observed in their recent blog entry. Visit Spoon's website.

Mercury Rev - "In A Funny Way"

I laid my money down for The Secret Migration despite the atrocious artwork, the four year absence and the negative reviews. If anyone can surmount such obstacles, it's gotta be Mercury Rev, and "In A Funny Way" is a good start. We'll find out about the rest when I actually get around to opening it. Visit the Rev's website.

There you have it, that's most of what I've been listening to lately. What about you all? What sort of fuzzy warbles have you been feeling? Rock the comments!

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

And This Was Their Finest Hour

Hopefully I don't have to tell you that The Kinks' Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire is one of greatest albums ever recorded. The Kinks are in now, aren't they? So I don't have to make a case for Arthur, complete with evidence and what not. Instead, I can concentrate on pure gushing. Fun for all involved.

I was one of the lucky ones. Many years after its release in 1969, Arthur was my introduction to The Kinks, and it remains my favorite Kinks album. I think what amazed me first about Arthur was the extraordinary number of tones and moods the album moves through, with the lyrics and melodies sure, but with Davies' singing and the band's playing as well. There's the giddy fuck-it-all, let's-have-some-fun laziness of "Drivin'", the mock comfort turned quiet rage of "Shangri-La", the rumble-tumble, morale-boosting "Mr. Churchill Says" and the seemingly straightforward costs-of-War lamentation of "Some Mother's Son". I say seemingly because, truthfully, nothing is straightforward about this album; it happens to be one of the most emotionally complex albums I've ever come across, with subtle variations taking place not just from track to track, but usually several times within each song. It gets to the point where one must rightfully conclude that Davies' songwriting on Arthur, especially for sardonic wit and uneasy insight, is unparalled by all but Bob Dylan. All of that and there's a decidedly English narrative told in perfectly sparse storytelling to pay attention to. Gooseberry tarts anyone?

The Kinks - "Young And Innocent Days"

When I first started this post, I only wanted to write about "Young And Innocent Days", the song from Arthur on repeat in me brain lately. In the textbook of rock music, "Young And Innocent Days" deserves to be the chapter on yearning. Maybe the melody feels a bit hesitant at first, but the second verse brings the other Kinks, the second chorus brings the drums and by now the song has cohered into one of the most poignant mediations on the loss that always accompanies growing up. This is succinct, universally evocative songwriting of the highest caliber. Ray Davies' way of singing, especially on the two lines that comprise the chorus, is enough to make me want to see behind the curtain: I want to know exactly, scientifically even, how he manages to effect me so dramatically every time.

The Kinks - "Arthur"

Arthur is the album's greatest lyrical achievement, moving at it does from one immortal line to the next. The best of the bunch is "Somebody loves you, don't you know it", which could be the crown jewel in most songwriter's catalogues. Married to "Arthur"'s inventive melody though, the line really soars to new heights. When played loud, the handclaps and gospel-tinged celebration of the last minute and a half of the song can only be described as glorious.

The Kinks - "Mr. Churchill Says"

The fact of the matter is it's all there in Ray Davies' voice. Not to take anything away from the band, who are spot-on throughout, but the power of Arthur rests to a large extent on the unique expressiveness of Davies' singing. If the song is about complacency, I'll be damned if Davies doesn't sound complacent. "Mr. Churchill Says" is a perfect example. A classic case of "doth protest too much", the narrator of the song is all blind patriotic bravado, the one guy in the trench who really believes in the war because, hey, Mr. Churchill said to. The schoolboy chant near the end of the song brilliantly brings it all home to roost. Don't miss the "do your worst and we'll do our best" yell.

So, by now you realize you need Arthur, right? Well, don't settle for anything less than the best, be sure to get the 2000 Castle reissue which contains 11 fantastic bonus tracks, including the unforgettable "Plastic Man" in stereo and mono. It should be readily available from your neighborhood corporate superstore, or from Amazon. As for getting to know The Kinks online, your best bet is this Unofficial Kinks Web Site.


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