Results for Boston
This week Jim and Greg have one of their favorite Chicago punk groups, The Effigies, performing live in the studio. It's been nearly 21 years since the pioneering post-hardcore act has released any new material, but on April 12 the band released Reside, a reunion record that Jim and Greg love, much like that of their Boston post-punk contemporaries, Mission of Burma. They explain that the band does not miss a step from where the band left off in 1986. You can hear the songs band members John Kezdy, Robert McNaighton, Paul Zamost and Steve Economou performed on the show, plus bonus tracks here.
Lead singer John Kezdy recalls the band's difficulties being one of the pioneers of punk rock in the Midwest. Unlike their east and west coast peers, they didn‘t have an established punk scene to join or legendary venues like CBGB or Maxwell’s to perform in. Now, rather than touring throughout the year, the older members of the Effigies have important day jobs. In fact, Kedzy is an Illinois state prosecutor, a job that he explains is the "easiest moral option."Go to episode 88
Aimee Mann Mental Illness
Aimee Mann began her career as the lead singer of the Boston synth pop band 'Til Tuesday in the 1980s. Since then, she's had a successful solo career, most notably with her 2000 album Bachelor No. 2. She's just released her first solo record in five years, Mental Illness. Jim thinks that this is one of Mann's best efforts. He loves her minimal use of instrumentation and thoughtful lyrics. While he's not a fan of the singer-songwriter genre, he digs Aimee Mann and gives Mental Illness a Buy It. Greg is also a longtime Aimee Mann fan, and thinks this record is one of her all-time best. Her intelligent lyrics and melancholy vocals make Mental Illness a superb album. He gives it a Buy It.
Mission of Burma Unsound
Next up, Jim and Greg review Unsound, the new record from Boston post-punk pioneers Mission of Burma. Mission of Burma in its first incarnation was sadly short-lived. Guitarist Roger Miller's tinnitus ended the band pre-maturely after just one album and one EP of avant-garde noise and pop melody. The reunited Burma has already produced four times as much material as the original, most of it - to fans' delight - just as good as the old stuff. Does the trend continue on Unsound? Jim says absolutely. Four albums into their reunion, Burma has proved itself the equal of contemporaries Wire. The songs on Unsound are consistently good, and band members continue to experiment by switching up the instrumentation. Key for both Jim and Greg is that the members of Burma still seem to be having fun. Unsound gets a double Buy It.
Passion Pit Manners
The next album up for review is Manners, the debut from Boston-based Passion Pit. The electro-pop quintet is helmed by Michael Angelakos. It's his falsetto that dominates the album, in addition to the lush, swirling synths. In fact, the music is a little too lush and sugary for Mr. Kot, who wishes there were a few more moments of calm. He gives Manners a Try It rating. Jim was certain Greg would be all over this record. He hears the music as a successful, indie take on '80s disco and gives the album a Buy It.
Valentine's Day Emergency
Jim and Greg open up the Rock Doctors' clinic for the next segment. They take an appointment with two listeners for a Valentine's Day emergency. Andrew and Kelli are a young couple from Chicago with only one major relationship problem: music. While Andrew is music obsessive, always on the search for something new and underground, Kelli is happy sticking with her favorite radio favorites. And as Andrew points out, for the most part his girlfriend's music is stuck in that dreaded decade: the 70s. Kelli admits to a fondness for bar music like Boston, Styx and Journey, but is open to new stuff as long as it's upbeat and fun. She finds a lot of her boyfriend's tastes (Wilco, Radiohead) to be too cerebral and boring. So, it's Jim and Greg's task to find something they will both enjoy.
Greg prescribes The Latest by Cheap Trick. He knows a lot of people dismiss this band for being cheesy, but he stands behind their smart lyrics, progressive compositions and terrific drumming. It seems like The Latest should be the perfect remedy, however neither Andrew nor Kelli are tremendously fond of it. Surprisingly, this record is even too cheesy for Kelli. And while Andrew admires the band for rocking out so hard for so long, he won't be attending any Cheap Trick shows anytime soon.
Jim prescribes the self-titled debut by La Roux. He loves the British duo's smart electronic pop. Jim didn't see anything like La Roux on either Kelli or Andrew's chart, but thinks radical treatment is necessary. He's right; the couple loves the record. Kelli got her dose of dance music, and Andrew got his artiness. And they won't have to break-up over rock anytime soon.Go to episode 219
This week on the show, Jim and Greg share their recent experiences at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Our hosts joined over 10,000 other festival registrants to attend music industry panels, conduct interviews, and most importantly, see new bands. In the four days they were there, Jim and Greg heard a lot of music. They share some of the best with you.
First is The Dresden Dolls. Jim went to see the Boston group and fell in love with their blend of German cabaret performance style and '80s synth-pop melodies. You can hear a little bit of "Modern Moonlight" off their upcoming release, Yes Virginia.
Next up, Greg discusses one his finds: Art Brut. He enjoyed this British band's straightforward melodies, catchy choruses, and witty monologues so much that he saw them twice in Austin. This critic even scrawled“New Kings of Rock”in his notebook following one performance. Jim joined him to see the band at the Pitchfork/Windish party, where they shared a bill with RJD2, Spank Rock, and one of Greg's other discoveries, Swedish indie pop quintet Love is All. Art Brut, who just recently played a sold-out show at the Metro, entertained the entire staff so much that they were invited to appear on the show the week after the festival wrapped. Listen for that interview in the weeks to come.
In between running from show to show, Jim and Greg took a brief moment to sit down with The Beastie Boys. The hip-hop pioneers were down in Austin to promote their recent concert film, Awesome; I Fucking Shot That, and spoke to Jim and Greg about making the movie, sampling, copyright laws, and the longevity of their career.
Back to the rundown of our hosts‘ favorite Austin discoveries. Jim’s next pick, The Black Angels, actually hails from the Texas state capital. After reading Jim's book on psychedelic rock, members of the band contacted him and explained that they were right up his alley. They were right. Jim, who caught some of the dark, Velvet Underground-influenced music in the sterile environment of Austin Convention Center, was totally blown away. To describe the band, he quotes their website which begs the listener to "Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again." Whoa, man…
Greg loves coming to Austin to see bands that may not get to the States otherwise. One such band is Serena Maneesh. The Norwegian group is one of many contemporary bands compared to My Bloody Valentine. Often referred to as“shoegazers,”these musicians are often literally standing, staring at their shoes, while producing a heavy, overdriven, almost symphonic guitar sound. Serena Maneesh is certainly channeling this influence — however, as Greg explains, this band is also quite performative. Our host describes how the lead guitar player, theatrically dressed as a gypsy showman, was joined by an“Amazonian”bass player. Only during SXSW can you see this in Texas, notes Jim.
We next hear some audio of Jim recorded down in Austin. He is describing one of his favorite acts: Tim Fite. Some may remember Fite's previous incarnation in Little T and One Track Mic and their one hit, "Shaniqua." But after getting signed to Atlantic and touring with Outkast, Little T went nowhere. Now, Fite has reinvented himself as a 1920s southern preacher/rapper who combines an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound with irreverent lyrics and hip-hop. Gone Ain't Gone is forthcoming on Anti-/Epitaph, making Fite label mates with Neko Case and Blackalicious.
The Swedish band Love is All (mentioned above) is another of Greg's discoveries. This Swedish indie-pop group is one of many European bands who are rediscovering American music. This band is particularly influenced by musicians like James Chance and the Contortions and Lydia Lunch who fused both jazz and punk. Love is All became Greg's go-to CD while he was driving around the city of Austin.
Listeners can now hear what Jim and Greg really sound like at SXSW: definitely over-tired, and perhaps over-served. Our hosts caught up with Sound Opinions H.Q. immediately after going to see Rhys Chatham at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, an experience they described as slightly mind-blowing. The avant-garde guitarist has basically been living in exile in Paris for the past decade, but emerged in Austin with a newly-formed guitar army: eight guitarists including Doug McCombs of Eleventh Dream Day and Tortoise, Ernie Brooks of The Modern Lovers and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Jim reports that Chatham recently received a grant allowing him to realize his long-fantasized 100-member guitar ensemble.
One of the SXSW events Greg always tries to attend is Alejandro Escovedo's Sunday night show. This year Grady was one of the opening acts. Greg found their huge, overpowering sound on par with that of Chatham's guitar army. He also compares their sound to that of ZZ Top's early days. Listen for yourself as Greg plays a sample of their 2004 release Y.U. So Shady?
White Whale is Jim's final discovery. He caught the band at the Merge showcase, a label that usually delivers for this critic. He was again not disappointed. White Whale, whose members have been in a number of other indie rock bands including Butterglory, Three Higher Burning Fire and The Get Up Kids, impressed Jim with more than just its name. He found their sound to be a mix of Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and also reminiscent of Elephant Six bands like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. So far their music can only be heard on Myspace.com, but White Whale may turn out to be another SXSW success story.
Greg's final pick is a band called Katahdin's Edge. He caught the group after originally trying to see a Finnish band who couldn‘t make it into the country. He was blown away, and despite getting thousands of free CDs for his day job, Greg was compelled to put down his own money for a Katahdin’s Edge album. This trio from Providence is an example of how jazz and rock can fuse in a great way. Rather than take an academic approach to jazz, Katahdin's Edge had a rock and roll, party edge that Greg really appreciated.
Greg was also caught on tape before and after seeing the biggest hype of this year's festival: The Arctic Monkeys. This has been quite the year for the young British band. In January they broke records for first-week sales in the U.K. with their debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In addition, they‘ve been proclaimed by many in the press as the greatest band to emerge from the U.K. in years. That’s a lot for a new band to live up to, but Greg was pleased with what he saw. While the Arctic Monkeys may not be what their hype claims, the music was well-rehearsed, packed with rhythm, and downright“ferocious”according to our host. Plus, the lead singer already seems to have the rock and roll attitude down.