Category: 1980s

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay Mark Lanegan Releases a Slow-burning and Atmospheric Blues

Over the past few years, I’ve spilled a fair share of virtual ink covering Mark Lanegan, the Ellensburg, WA-born, Los Angeles, CA-based singer/songwriter and guitarist, known as the frontman and founding member of Seattle-based grunge rock pioneers Screaming Trees, and an acclaimed solo artist, who has collaborated with an eclectic array of artists and bands — including  Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain on an unreleased Lead Belly cover/tribute album recorded before the release of Nevermind; as a member of the renowned grunge All-Star supergroup/side project Mad Season with Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready; as a member of  Queens of the Stone Age featured on five of the band’s albums — 2000’s Rated R, 2002’s Songs for the Deaf, 2005’s Lullabies to Paralyze, 2007’s Era Vulgaris and 2013’s . . . Like Clockwork; with The Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins; as well as former Belle and Sebastian vocalist Isobel Campbell on three albums. Additionally, Lanegan has contributed or guested on albums by Melisa Auf der Maur, Martina Topley-Bird, Creature with the Atom Brain, Moby, Bomb the Bass, Soulsavers, Greg Dulli’s The Twilight Singers, UNKLE and others.

Last year, Lanegan released his 11th album Somebody’s Knocking. And while continuing an amazing run of critically applauded releases, the album’s material found the JOVM mainstay and grunge legend turning to some of his most formative musical influences and profound loves — electronic music.  “I’ve always been into electronic music since I was a kid,” Lanegan said in press notes at the time. “I think the reason those elements have become more obvious in my music is that my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older. The bulk of what I listen to now is electronic. Alain Johannes and I had actually written “Penthouse High” for Gargoyle but then it didn’t really fit on that record. I have been a huge fan of New Order and Depeche Mode forever and have wanted to do a song along those lines for a long time – a blatantly catchy, old-school dance-type song.”

Although Somebody’s Knocking came together during an 11 day session in Los Angeles, much of the album’s deepest musical influences are decidedly European, including the album’s two other writing partners Martin Jenkins, who records as Pye Corner Audio and the aforementioned Rob Marshall, who contribute some newer, murkier forms. Reportedly, Lanegan approached working with each of the album’s writing partners from the perspective and lens of a fan, vocalist, and interpreter.

2020 will be a momentous year for the JOVM mainstay and grunge rock legend: Lanegan’s memoir Sing Backwards and Weep will be published by Da Capo Press on April 28, 2020 — and his 12th solo album Straight Songs Of Sorrow will be released through Heavenly Recordings on May 8, 2020. Featuring guest appearances from his longtime Gutter Twin collaborator Greg Dulli, Warren Ellis, the legendary John Paul Jones, Ed Harcourtand countless others, Straight Songs Of Sorrow is inspired by his own life story, a documented in his memoir. 

Sing Backwards and Weep reportedly is a brutal, nerve-shredding read, centered around Lanegan’s unsparing and unadulterated candor recounting his journey from troubled youth in Eastern Washington, through his days as a drug-fueled member of Seattle’s grunge rock scene to today with Lanegan finding peace and salvation within himself. While the book documents his lifelong struggle to find peace within himself, his forthcoming 12th album emphasizes the extent to which he realized that music is his life. 

“Writing the book, I didn’t get catharsis,” he chuckles. “All I got was a Pandora’s box full of pain and misery. I went way in, and remembered shit I’d put away 20 years ago. But I started writing these songs the minute I was done, and I realised there was a depth of emotion because they were all linked to memories from this book. It was a relief to suddenly go back to music. Then I realized that was the gift of the book: these songs. I’m really proud of this record.”  In press notes, Lanegan affirms that each of Straight Songs Of Sorrow’s 15 songs references a specific episode or person in the book — albeit, some more explicitly than others. 

Whereas the previous two Mark Lanegan Band albums, 2017’s Gargoyle and the aforementioned Somebody’s Knocking found Lanegan pairing his lyrics to music written by collaborators, most of Straight Songs Of Sorrow was written by Lanegan — with the exception being the collaborations with Mark Morton. Two other songs have shared credits — and those two songs were cowritten by Lanegan’s wife Shelley Brien. And much like the book, the album ends with its hero overcoming adversity and struggle and turning, battered and beat up, but cleansed, towards a bright new day. 

Centered around atmospheric synths, strummed acoustic guitar, Straight Songs Of Sorrow is a slow-burning track that’s one part bluesy lament, one part tale of survival and redemption from life’s battered and beaten up. Interestingly, as Lanegan gets older, his vocal range inches closer to Howlin’ Wolf — a gravelly rumble that manages to convey aching despair and hard-fought and harder-won wisdom, that comes from living a messy life, full of dissolution and fuck ups. And as a result, the song may arguably the most personal song the JOVM mainstay and grunge legend had released in some time time. 

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Over the course of his 30+ year recording career, Greg Dulli has developed and maintained a reputation as a poet laureate of the bizarre whims and cruel tangents of desire and all things dark, mysterious and brooding as the frontman and creative mastermind of The Twilight Singers and JOVM mainstays The Afghan Whigs.

Although Dulli has been involved in a number of collaborations and projects throughout his lengthy career but interestingly, enough, his official full-length solo debut Random Desire is slated for a Friday release through Royal Cream/BMGRandom Desire can trace its origins to the aftermath of The Afghan Whigs’ most recent album, 2017’s critically applauded In Spades: Patrick Keeler was about to take a short sabbatical from the band to record and tour with his other band, The Raconteurs. Dulli’s longtime collaborator and bandmate John Curley went back to school. And the band’s longtime guitarist Dave Rosser tragically died after a battle with colon cancer.

Dulli wound up returning to his teenaged bedroom roots, finding inspiration through the model of legendary, one-man, multi-instrumentalist band visionaries like Prince and Todd Rundgren, with the Hamilton, OH-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter writing and playing almost every part of the album — from piano and bass lines to drums. Much like he’s always done throughout his career, the music came first and the lyrics completed later. Written and recorded in several different locations including Dulli’s Silver Lake home; Crestline, CA, in the mountains above San Bernardino; and New Orleans — with the bulk of the album being done at Christopher Thorne’s Joshua Tree, CA-based studio.  While Dulli handled most of the album’s instrumental duties, he managed to collaborate with an all-star cast of musicians including his Afghan Whigs bandmates Jon Skibic (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, his Twilight Singers bandmate Mathias Schneeberger, Dr. Stephen Patt (pedal steel and upright bass) and Queens of the Stone Age‘s and The Mars Volta‘s Jon Theodore (drums).

I’ve written about two of the album’s previous singles — the swaggering “Pantomina,” which delved into the psyche and emotions of a deeply fucked up, dysfunctional narrator, who has a series of fucked-up dysfunctional relationships, and the atmospheric and brooding “It Falls Apart,” a sinuous track that seems to evoke the swooning, rug-has-been-pulled-out-from-under-you sensation of the end of a relationship and the things left unsaid.

Random Desire‘s latest single is the cinematic and Ennio Morricone-like “A Ghost.” Centered around strummed acoustic guitar, shimmering blasts of pedal steel, an expressive and gorgeous string arrangement a gypsy-like shuffle and Latin percussion, “A Ghost” can trace its origins back to when Afghan Whigs were working on In Spades. “It did not work then, so I just put it back in the ‘working on’ folder and then pulled it out last year and recut it…,” Dulli says in press notes. “It started to come together when I went down to New Orleans. The song just reminded me of a journey across the Sahara or something, like a gypsy version of Ennio Morricone.”

Dulli will be embarking on a tour to support his long-anticipated solo debut. The tour begins with a Ireland, UK and European tour throughout March and early April. The Stateside leg of the tour begins in Minneapolis on April 24, 2020 and it includes a May 6, 2020 stop at Webster Hall. Check out the tour dates below.

2020 Tour Dates

March 19 – Róisín Dubh – Galway, IRELAND

March 20 – Whelans – Dublin, IRELAND

March 22 – SWG3 Warehouse – Glasgow, UK

March 23 – Gorilla – Manchester, UK

March 24 – Islington Assembly Hall – London, UK

March 26 – Paradiso Noord – Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS

March 27 – Muziekodroom – Hasselt, BELGIUM

March 28 – Trix – Antwerp, BELGIUM

March 30 – Luxor – Cologne, GERMANY

March 31 – Lido – Berlin, GERMANY

April 02 – Hotel Cecil – Copenhagen, DENMARK

April 03 – Debaser Strand – Stockholm, SWEDEN

April 04 – Parkteatret – Oslo, NORWAY

April 24 – 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN

April 25 – Metro – Chicago, IL

April 26 – St. Andrew’s Hall – Detroit, MI

April 28 – Beachland Ballroom – Cleveland, OH

April 29 – Woodward Theater – Cincinnati. OH

April 30 – Mr. Smalls – Pittsburgh, PA

May 01 – The Great Hall – Toronto, ON CANADA

May 03 – Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA

May 05 – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC –

May 06 – Webster Hall – New York, NY –

May 07 – Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA

May 09 – The Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC

May 10 – Cat’s Cradle – Carrboro, NC

May 12 – The Loft – Atlanta, GA

May 15 – One Eyed Jacks – New Orleans, LA

May 16 – 3Ten @ ACL Live – Austin, TX

May 17 – Granada Theater – Dallas, TX

May 19 – Bluebird Theatre – Denver, CO

May 22 – Doug Fir Lounge – Portland, OR

May 23 – The Showbox – Seattle, WA

May 26 – August Hall – San Francisco, CA

May 28 – Palace Theater – Los Angeles, CA

 

New Audio: JOVM Mainstay Hot Snakes Releases a Defiant Anti-Work Anthem

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written quite about the acclaimed — and downright legendary — punk act Hot Snakes, and as you may recall the act can trace its origins to when its then-San Diego, CA-based founder Swami John Reis founded the band in 1999: that year, Reis’ primary gig Rocket from the Crypt went on hiatus after longtime drummer Atom Willard left the band. Coincidentally, the band was also in between labels. And as the story goes, while searching for a new label and drummer for Rocket from the Crypt, Reis started his own label Swami Records and began experimenting with other musicians, which eventually led to the formation of two acclaimed side projects — Sultans and Hot Snakes. 

Interestingly, Hot Snakes began in earnest when Reis recorded a batch of material with Delta 72′s Jason Kourkounis. Reis then recruited his former Pitchfork and Drive Like Jehu bandmate and collaborator Rick Froberg to contribute vocals. Most of the material that they recorded wound up comprising their full-length debut Automatic Midnight. Although Reis and Froberg had collaborated together for years, Hot Snakes proved to be a logical challenge: Reis was in San Diego, Froberg had relocated in New York to start a career as a visual artist and illustrator, and Kourkounis was based in Philadelphia. As a result, the members of the band had sporadic and intense recording and touring schedules, which featured Beehive and the Barracudas’, Tanner’s and Fishwife’s Gar Wood on bass. 

And while Hot Snakes’ sonically and aesthetically bears some similarities to Reis’ and Froberg’s previous work, the band’s sound leaned towards a more primal, garage rock sound, influenced by Wipers, Suicide, and Michael Yonkers Band. Along with that, the band developed a now, long-held reputation for a completely DIY approach to recording, touring and merchandise — with the band releasing their earliest material through Reis’ Swami Records. (Unsurprisingly, Hot Snakes’ debut Automatic Midnight was the first release through Reis’ label.)

After the release of 2002’s Suicide Invoice and 2004’s Audit in Progress, the band split up in 2005. In 2011, they reunited for a world tour, which eventually set the stage for the band’s fourth album, 2018’s Jericho Sirens, which was coincidentally, their first album in over 14 years. Recorded in short bursts in San Diego and Philadelphia during 2017 and features Reis and Froberg collaborating with Wood and drummers Kourkounis and Rubalcaba — both of whom have been on prior Hot Snakes albums but never on the same one until now. And as Reis explained in press notes for the album, one of the most rewarding aspects was continuing his  collaboration and creative partnership with Froberg. “Our perspectives are similar. Our tastes are similar. He is my family. And what more is there to say? My favorite part of making this record was hearing him find his voice and direction for this record. I came hard,” Reis says.

Thematically, Jericho Sirens’ material commiserates with the frustration and apathy of our daily lives while pointing out that generally we haven’t had a fucking clue about anything. As the band’s Froberg said at the time, “Songs like ‘Death Camp Fantasy’ and ‘Jericho Sirens’ are about that. No matter where you look, there’re always people saying the world’s about to end. Every movie is a disaster movie. I’m super fascinated by it. It is hysterical, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It snowballs, like feedback, or my balls on the windshield.” Sonically, the album found the band incorporating some of the most extreme fringes of their sound while staying true to their long standing influences. including AC/DC.

Late last year, the band released “Checkmate,” a decidedly AC/DC-like track, centered around booze-soaked power chords, howled lyrics and a chugging yet forceful rhythm section. Interestingly, while being the first bit of new material from the band after the release of Jericho Sirens, the track was the first of a series of four 7 inch singles that will lead up to the band’s highly-awaited fifth album; so each single is a seasonal release. Hot Snakes begins 2020 with their Spring 7 inch installment, the defiant anti-work/anti-working for the man anthem “I Shall Be Free.” Centered around slashing, face-melting power chords and chugging rhythms, the track continues a run of decidedly AC/DC-like singles with a boozy air. 

The recently released video features some trippy, line animation by Swami John Reis’ 13-year-old son Tiger Reis that morphs into stick figures, tanks, rockets, a skeleton and even airplanes that move and undulating to the accompanying music. 

Formed back in the mid 80s, the Paisley, Scotland, UK-based alt rock/indie rock act Close Lobsters — Andrew Burnett, Bob Burnett, Tom Donnelly, and Stewart McFayden — first came to prominence with “Firestation Towers,” a track that appeared on NME‘s C86 compilation.

Shortly, after the release of that compilation, the Scottish alt rock quartet signed to Fire Records, who released their debut single “Going To Heaven To See If It Rains” in October 1986. Their second single “Never Seen Before” was released in April 1987 and the single managed to further cement their reputation as one of the region’s leading emerging indie bands at that time. Building upon a growing profile, the band went on to release two albums: 1987’s Foxheads Stalk This Land, which was released to praise from Rolling Stone, who wrote that the album was “first-rate guitar pop from a top-shelf band. Close Lobsters could have been just another jangle group, but they have a lot more going for them than just chiming Rickenbackers” — and 1989’s Headache Rhetoric. 

By 1989, the band’s popularity on US college radio led to an appearance at that year’s New Music Seminar and an extensive Stateside tour. After successful tours across the UK, Germany, the States and Canada, the band went on an extended hiatus. Fire Records released the Forever, Until Victory! singles retrospective in October 2009. (Interestingly, the retrospective’s title is derived from the reputed last sign-off in a letter Ernesto “Che” Guevara wrote to Fidel Castro, “¡Hasta la victoria siempre!”)

After a 23-year hiatus, the members of the Scottish indie rock act reunited to play 2012’s Madrid Popfest, Glasgow Popfest and Popfest Berlin, which they followed up with 2013’s NYC Popfest.  May 2014 saw the band playing Copenhagen Popfest, and the release of the first batch of new recorded material from the band in 25 years, that year’s Kunstwerk in Spacetime EP. The EP’s lead single “Now Time” received quite a bit of attention. After releasing one more single in 2015, the band went back on hiatus.

Slated for a February 28, 2020 release through Last Night From Glasgow and Shelflife Records in the States, the john Rivers-produced Post Neo Anti is the first full-length album from the Scottish indie rock band in 31 years.  Recorded between 2014 and 2019, Close Lobsters’ forthcoming album finds the band collaborating with the producer of their 1986 debut — and in some way, the album reportedly is a long-awaited return to form. Now, as you may recall, last month I wrote about “All Compasses Go Wild,” Post Neo Anti‘s first single, an anthemic bit of jangle pop that brought Starfish-era The Church and The Smithereens to mind. Continuing in a similar vein, the album’s second and latest single, the slow-burning, jangle pop “Godless.” And while managing to recall The Church — I think of “Hotel Womb” off Starfish in particular — the song captures the desperate and uncertain times we currently live in, and the hopes that many of us have for a better, fairer place. (Will it happen? That I don’t have a ton of faith in. But there’s work to be done.)

Natasha Khan is a Brighton, UK-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer, known as the creative mastermind behind the acclaimed solo recording project Bat For Lashes — and for being the vocalist for Sexwitch, a collaboration with the members of British psych rock act TOY and producer Dan Carey. Born to an English mother, Josie and Pakistani squash player Rehmat Khan, Natasha Khan traces some of the influences of her musical career to attending her father’s and her uncle’s Jahangir’s squash matches, which she felt inspired her creativity: “The roar of the crowd is intense; it is ceremonial, ritualistic. I feel like the banner got passed to me but I carried it on in a creative way. It is a similar thing, the need to thrive on heightened communal experience.” Her father left when she was 11, and she taught herself to play the piano, which quickly became an important channel to express things, to get them out.

Khan’s debut single “The Wizard” was released digitally through Drowned in Sound Records and on seven-inch vinyl through her own imprint, She Bear Records. By 2006, she caught the attention of Echo Label, a record label owned by Chrysalis Records that acted as an incubator for emerging artists and assisting their careers while moving them to major labels. Echo released her debut, 2006’s Fur and Gold. The following year, Khan and Echo signed an international licensing deal with Parlophone Records, who re-released Fur and Gold that year. The album reached #48 on the UK Albums Charts and since its release, it’s been certified gold. Building upon a growing profile, the British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer played at Glastonbury Festival and toured across the States. The album was shortlisted for that year’s Mercury Prize, losing to Klaxons’ Myths of the Near Future, despite being critically applauded and named a heavy favorite to win. She won ASCAP’s Vanguard Award, which resulted in her performing at their “ASCAP Presents . .  .” SXSW showcase.

2008 continued an incredible run by the British singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist as she was notated for two Brit Awards — British Breakthrough Act and British Female Solo Artist. She opened handful of dates for Radiohead, and she released a cover of The Cure’s “A Forest,” which appeared on the Perfect as Cats charity album.

Khan’s sophomore album, 2009’s David Kosten and Khan-co-produced Two Suns was inspired by a trip she took to Joshua Tree, CA. The album focuses on her desert-born alter ego Pearl, whose personality she adopted while living in New York. Sonically, the material was inspired by the Brooklyn bands that had started to receive attention nationally and internationally at the time — in particular, TV on the Radio, MGMT, Gang Gang Dance and others. Interestingly, the album also found her collaborating with the members of Yeasayer, who contributed bass and beat programming. The album debuted at #5 on the UK Albums Chart and has since been certified gold as a result of “Daniel,” which peaked at #36 on the UK Singles Chart. “Daniel” later won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song and was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for Breakthrough Video of the Year. Additionally, Khan received her second Mercury Prize nomination and a second BRIT Award nomination for British Female Solo Artist.

Summer 2009 saw her play at Glastonbury Festival, Somerset House and the iTunes Festival, which was followed by a special edition of Two Suns, which was released ahead of her October UK tour an included a cover of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody.”

Khan’s third Bat for Lashes album, 2012’s The Haunted Man debuted at #6 on the UK Albums Chart, her second consecutive Top 10 album, an effort that has since been certified silver. Khan was nominated for her third Best British Solo Female BRIT Award and was nominated for two Ivor Novello Awards — Best Song Musically and Best Song Lyrically for album single “Laura.” That year saw her play at Coachella Festival. She also opened for Blur and Depeche Mode.

During a surprise 2015 Green Man Festival set in Wales, Khan debuted her collaboration with Dan Carey and TOY — Sexwitch. That September, the project released its self-titled debut through Echo and BMG, which featured six covers of 1970s psych and folk from different parts of the world.

2016 saw the release of her fourth full-length album The Bride, an album that was nominated for the Mercury Prize.

Khan’s fifth album Lost Girls was released last fall through AWAL Recordings, and the album continues a run of concept albums: in this case, the material was centered around an off-kilter coming of age film, in which bands of marauding female biker gangs roam the streets — and teenagers make out on car hoods. The female characters throughout are parallel to the protagonists of her previously released albums — most notably, the street tough, darkness-driven Pearl from Two Suns. The album’s main character Nikki Pink, was one of the album’s central Lost Girls. And at its core, the album thematically is a loving and romantic homage to all things Los Angeles, being a child of the 80s and the films that influenced Khan. Sonically, the album found Khan mixing sounds she’s long loved — heavy bass lines, synth arpeggios, Iranian pop beats and cascading chorus which help evoke an achingly wistful air.

Khan recently released a four song live EP recorded at London-based venue EartH that features a stripped down versions of “Daniel,” “Desert Man” and “The Hunger” off Lost Girls featuring Khan accompanying herself on piano and organ. The EP’s first official single is a slow-burning,  stripped down, atmospheric cover of Don Henley‘s “The Boys of Summer” centered around twinkling keys and Khan’s expressive vocals.  Khan’s Bat for Lashes cover retains the song’s awareness of the passing of time, the end of youthful innocence — of a darker, more uncertain adult world just over the horizon.

Interestingly, the EP comes just before Khan embarks on a Winter North American tour — and it serves as a taste of what fans should expect: intimate renditions of the material off Lost Girls, as well as never performed songs and some surprises.

 

New Audio: The Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli Releases a Shimmering and Brooding New Single

Best known as the founding member, frontman and creative mastermind behind JOVM mainstays The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli has a well-established reputation as a poet laureate of the bizarre whims and cruel tangents of desire and all things dark and brooding.

Although Dulli has been involved in a number of projects during his 30+ year recording career, his first solo full-length album under his own name Random Desire is slated for a February 21, 2020 release through Royal Cream/BMG. Random Desire can trace its origins to the aftermath of The Afghan Whigs’ most recent album, 2017’s critically applauded In Spades: Patrick Keeler was about to take a short sabbatical from the band to record and tour with his other band, The Raconteurs. Dulli’s longtime collaborator and bandmate John Curley went back to school. And the band’s longtime guitarist Dave Rosser tragically died after a battle with colon cancer.

Dulli wound up returning to his teenaged bedroom roots, finding inspiration through the model of legendary, one-man, multi-instrumentalist band visionaries like Prince and Todd Rundgren, with the Hamilton, OH-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter writing and playing almost every part of the album — from piano and bass lines to drums. Much like he’s always done throughout his career, the music came first and the lyrics completed later. Written and recorded in several different locations including Dulli’s Silver Lake home; Crestline, CA, in the mountains above San Bernardino; and New Orleans — with the bulk of the album being done at Christopher Thorne’s Joshua Tree, CA-based studio.  While Dulli handled most of the album’s instrumental duties, he managed to collaborate with an all-star cast of musicians including his Afghan Whigs bandmates Jon Skibic (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, his Twilight Singers bandmate Mathias Schneeberger, Dr. Stephen Patt (pedal steel and upright bass) and Queens of the Stone Age‘s and The Mars Volta‘s Jon Theodore (drums).

Now, as you may recall, late last year, I wrote about “Pantomina,” Random Desire’s swaggering first single, which delved into the psyche and emotions of a deeply fucked up, dysfunctional narrator, who has a series of fucked up, dysfunctional relationships — but at its core, there’s a hard-fought, world-weary wisdom. The album’s second and latest single is the atmospheric and brooding “It Falls Apart.” Centered around shimmering guitars. twinkling and tumbling keys, atmospheric synths, a propulsive rhythm section, and Dulli’s husky delivery, “It Falls Apart” is a sinuous track that seems to evokes the swooning, the- rug-has-been-pulled-out-from-under-you sensation of the end of relationship and the things left unsaid and unexplained. 

New Video: Greg Dulli Pays Homage to Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” in Cinematically Shot Visual for “Pantomina”

Best known as the founding member, frontman and creative mastermind behind JOVM mainstays The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, Greg Dulli has a well-established reputation as a poet laureate of the bizarre whims and cruel tangents of desire and all things dark and brooding.

Although Dulli has been involved in a number of projects during his 30+ year recording career, his first solo full-length album under his own name Random Desire is slated for a February 21, 2020 release through Royal Cream/BMG. Random Desire can trace its origins to the aftermath of The Afghan Whigs’ most recent album, 2017’s critically applauded In Spades: Patrick Keeler was about to take a short sabbatical from the band to record and tour with his other band, The Raconteurs. Dulli’s longtime collaborator and bandmate John Curley went back to school. And the band’s longtime guitarist Dave Rosser tragically died after a battle with colon cancer.

So Dulli returned to his teenaged bedroom roots, finding inspiration through the model of legendary, one-man, multi-instrumentalist band visionaries like Prince and Todd Rundgren with the Hamilton, OH-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter writing and playing almost every part of the album — from piano and bass lines to drums. Much like he’s always done throughout his career, the music came first and the lyrics completed later. Written and recorded in several different locations including Dulli’s Silver Lake home; Crestline, CA, in the mountains above San Bernardino; and New Orleans — with the bulk of the album being done at Christopher Thorne’s Joshua Tree, CA-based studio.  While Dulli handled most of the album’s instrumental duties, he managed to collaborate with an all-star cast of musicians including his Afghan Whigs bandmates Jon Skibic (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Rick G. Nelson, his Twilight Singers bandmate Mathias Schneeberger, Dr. Stephen Patt (pedal steel and upright bass) and Queens of the Stone Age‘s and The Mars Volta‘s Jon Theodore (drums).

“Pantomina,” Random Desire‘s swaggering and self-assured first single is centered around layers of buzzing power chords, a handclap-led hook and lyrics that alternate between sardonic, desperately lonely, and triumphant — often within a turn of a phrase.  Much like his acclaimed work with The Afghan Whigs and The Twilight Singers, the new single delves into the psyche and emotions of a deeply fucked up, dysfunctional narrator with fucked up, dysfunctional relationships — but there’s also a hard fought, world-weary wisdom at its core.

Directed by longtime Afghan Whigs visual collaborator Philip Harder, who stars as Bob Fosse, along with dancers, Paula Vasquez Alzate, Desare Cox, Elayana Waxse, Maggie Zepp, LaTanya Cannaday, Karen Yang, Mia Bird and Reyona Elkins, the recently released and gorgeously shot video for “Pantomina” captures the life behind-the-scenes and on-stage with an intimacy and familiarity of  performer, before going to the frenetically shot performance and the collapse, then death of its hard-living, harder working choreographer protagonist. As Greg Dulli says in press notes. the video “is a homage to the movie All That Jazz. ‘Pantomina’ feels like a show tune to me.”

Formed back in the mid 80s, the Paisley, Scotland, UK-based alt rock/indie rock act Close Lobsters — Andrew Burnett, Bob Burnett, Tom Donnelly, and Stewart McFayden — first came to prominence with “Firestation Towers,” a track that appeared on NME‘s C86 compilation.

Shortly, after the release of that compilation, the Scottish alt rock quartet signed to Fire Records, who released their debut single “Going To Heaven To See If It Rains” in October 1986. Their second single “Never Seen Before” was released in April 1987 and the single managed to further cement their reputation as one of the region’s leading emerging indie bands at that time. Building upon a growing profile, the band went on to release two albums: 1987’s Foxheads Stalk This Land, which was released to praise from Rolling Stone, who wrote that the album was “first-rate guitar pop from a top-shelf band. Close Lobsters could have been just another jangle group, but they have a lot more going for them than just chiming Rickenbackers” — and 1989’s Headache Rhetoric. 

By 1989, the band’s popularity on US college radio led to an appearance at that year’s New Music Seminar and an extensive Stateside tour. After successful tours across the UK, Germany, the States and Canada, the band went on an extended hiatus. Fire Records released the Forever, Until Victory! singles retrospective in October 2009. Interestingly, the retrospective’s title is derived from the reputed last sign-off in a letter Ernesto “Che” Guevara wrote to Fidel Castro, “¡Hasta la victoria siempre!”

After a 23-year hiatus, the members of the Scottish indie rock act reunited to play 2012’s Madrid Popfest, Glasgow Popfest and Popfest Berlin, which they followed up with 2013’s NYC Popfest.  May 2014 saw the band playing Copenhagen Popfest, and the release of the first batch of new recorded material from the band in 25 years, that year’s Kunstwerk in Spacetime EP. The EP’s lead single “Now Time” received quite a bit of attention. They released another single in 2015 before going back on hiatus.

Slated for a February 28, 2020 release through Last Night From Glasgow and Shelflife Records in the States, the john Rivers-produced Post Neo Anti is the first full-length album from the Scottish indie rock band in 31 years.  Recorded between 2014 and 2019, Close Lobsters’ forthcoming album finds the band collaborating with the producer of their 1986 debut — and in some way, the album reportedly is a long-awaited return to form. “All Compasses Go Wild,” Post Neo Anti‘s first single is an anthemic bit of guitar-driven jangle pop that immediately brings Starfish-era The Church and The Smithereens to mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the course of this site’s almost 10 year history — yes, almost 10! — I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the New York-based electronic music duo and JOVM mainstays Beacon. Now, as you may recall, the duo, which is comprised of Thomas Mullarney III (vocals) and Jacob Gussett (production, keys, synths) have developed a reputation for a minimalist approach and sound that draws from R&B, house and electro pop paired with Mullarney’s achingly tender falsetto.

Beacon’s third album, 2018’s Gravity Pairs found the duo writing material that went off in a completely different direction from their previously released work. They embarked on open-ended writing sessions in which they adopted a more liner style of songwriting instead of thee loop and texture-driven method they had long used. And the initial demos they wrote were essentially built around piano chords and guitar phrases with vocal melodies, which they then edited into a number of iterations, which found them looking through each individual version from a multitude of angles and directions.

Naturally, the duo expanded some songs and pared others back. Much like the bending of light through a prism, the abstract, deeply patient, almost painterly creative process eventually turned the material they wrote into a space in which seemingly different colors, tones and textures — minimalist ballads, elaborate pop spirituals and driving dance tunes — can coexist simultaneously and at different speeds, spreading out like a sort of spectrum. And with each iteration, the duo discovered they could easily expand upon how they presented the material within a live setting: they could play the same material in a straightforward fashion — or they could play the same material in a different fashion that added or subtracted color and shading, depending on the circumstances, their moods and their desires. And while pushing the duo’s songwriting and sound in new adventurous, new directions their work has remained imbued with a vulnerable and aching yearning.

Since the release of Gravity Pairs, the duo have been extremely busy. Last year they went on a successful North American tour with Nick Murphy. They shared a series of stripped-back studio sessions — and they released a remix album featured edits by Elkka, Helios, and CRi. 

Interestingly, Beacon introduced covers into the Gravity Pairs writing process as a way of breaking out of melodic patterns while discovering new sonic spaces within others’ songwriting. The JOVM mainstays start off the new year with a run of live dates in Europe, which includes a January 21, 2020 stop at the Paradiso in Amsterdam — and their first ever studio recorded cover, a cover of the Pixies‘ “Wave of Mutilation.” Inspired by the slower tempo and phrasing of the UK Surf B-side, which showcased the original’s mutability, Beacon’s slow-burning piano-led meditation finds the duo amplifying the playfully morbid surreality of Black Francis‘ lyrics, said to be about the phenomenon of Japanese businessmen taking their own lives after their businesses fail in the 1980 while being hauntingly gorgeous.

“We wanted it to feel uncanny and have the recognition of the original unfold slowly for the listener rather than being obvious or immediate,” Beacon explains in press notes.

The JOVM mainstays will be embarking on a European tour through January. Check out the tour dates below.

Beacon Europe Tour 2020

01.17 Berlin, DE – Musik & Frieden
01.18 Hamburg, DE – Uebel & Gefährlich
01.19 Copenhagen, DK – Vega
01.21 Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
01.22 Cologne, DE – Helios 37
01.23 Brussels, BE – La Machine
01.25 Warsaw, PL – Hydrozagadka
01.26 Prague, CZ – Cafe V Lese
01.28 London, UK – O2 Academy Islington
01.29 Paris, FR – Supersonic
01.30 Bucharest, RO – Club Control