Category: rock

Live Footage: Xiu Xiu Covers ZZ Top on AV Club “Undercover”

I’ve long been a fan of The Onion AV Club, as I think they’ve consistently offered some of most incisive and hilarious criticism of movies, movies and pop culture, written by some of the country’s smartest critics and writers. And it shouldn’t be surprising that for a long time I longed to write for them. Now, since moving exclusively to the interwebs, the folks at The Onion AV Club created the Undercover video series.  The concept behind the video series is pretty interesting — every season, the website’s writers and editors devise a list of songs that they would love to hear some contemporary artist or band cover.

The website’s staff then invites artists and bands over to their Chicago studio, where the invited band chooses a song from the AV Club’s list for that particular session — and then the band or artist records it in a live session. Here’s where things get truly interesting: Once a song is chosen and then covered, it’s crossed off their list, reducing the number of songs anyone else can cover that season, so if an artist or band is invited later on in their season, their choices may be much more limited than a band that was invited earlier. By doing that, it prevents having several invited artists or bands from covering the same sets of songs over and and over and over again.

And while revealing the influences and tastes of many contemporary acts, it also forces artists out of their confront zones, sometimes to a gloriously weird result — such as  They Might Be Giants’ boisterous  cover of Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping” and Screaming Females‘ feral, punk rock cover of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Gwar’s thrash punk covers of Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams (And Into My Car),”  and  Pet Shop Boys’ “West End Girls,” which are so fucking awesome, that you need to check them out below) or to the “oh shit, I never thought that artist could pull that song,” like  Sharon Van Etten and Shearwater’s collaborative cover of Tom Petty and Stevie Nicks’ “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” And as you can imagine, sometimes the covers are straightforward — and other times, the band or artist brings a unique, never thought of take. Adding to the unpredictability of the series, they’ve had Shearwater cover Bowie’s Lodger in its entirety.
Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of this very strange year, you may recall that to start off the eighth season of Undercover, The A.V. Club invited the Seattle, WA-based indie rock blogosphere darlings Minus the Bear to their newly redesigned Chicago studio, where they played a forceful and lovingly straightforward cover of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room.” Adding to a pretty interesting season of covers, The A.V. Club invited renowned and incredibly prolific experimental indie rock act Xiu Xiu into the studio, where they contributed a tense, manic, almost Devo “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”-like cover of ZZ Top’s smash hit “Sharp Dressed Man,” complete with a wild drum accompaniment that brings new life to an oft covered song. 

Along with their John Congleton-produced 11th full-length effort FORGET, which was released earlier this year, the members of Xiu Xiu will be releasing a split 7 inch with Italian band (r) and it’ll feature both bands covering ZZ Top. 

As Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart explains in press notes, “It took me a long time to come around to ZZ Top. When I was a kid i thought they were a joke band and their beards and campy sexuality freaked me out. Later on Xiu Xiu tours we would and still do always listen to the Black Flag tour diary Get In The Van wherein Henry Rollins mentions playing ZZ Top to all the punks in England, telling them it was the new Exploited record and watching them cry. 

This was funny and I thought hmmm .  . .

Then after watching a long jag of music documentaries, Billy Gibbons, of ZZ Top, time and time again was a commentator. He was always incredibly smart, clearly deeply devoted to the history of music and insane looking.  

We were asked by the AV Club cover’s series to play a song from a list they had chosen. Everything on the list was a bunch of 90s RnB that I was never into or lame-o indie rock EXCEPT for ‘Sharp Dressed Man.’

The stars had aligned. I had no idea what a radical guitar part it was and what a pleasure it was to learn, by the end of the song I had to have 4 different fuzz and distortion pedals on to make it as zonked out as it needs to be. 

Walking down the streets of Torino on tour and talking with dear friend and long time collaborator Fabrizio Palumbo of (r) and his husband Paul Beauchamp. I mentioned we were covering the song. They said very matter of factly, “‘Xiu Xiu as ZZ Top and (r) as ZZ Bottom. Let’s do a split 7 inch.’”

He sent in his perfect minimal, experimental, goth, cabaret version of ‘Gimme All Your Lovin.’ A perversion made in heaven was born. “

Earlier this month, I wrote about the  The Liza Colby Sound, a New York-based rock act comprised of Liza Colby (vocals), Tom McCaffrey (guitar), C.P. Roth (drums) and Alec Morton (bass) that has developed a reputation both across town and elsewhere for a swaggering and soulful take on blues rock, and for their frontwoman’s stage presence, which some  some have described as Tina Turner prowling the stage like Iggy Pop. And as you may recall “Cryin” off the band’s soon-to-be released EP Draw was a sultry, whiskey soaked, power chord-based rock song that paired Colby’s soulful pop star belter meets  Janis Joplin vocals with anthemic hooks and a propulsive backbeat; but as Colby explained in press notes, the song is rooted around a duality between muscular insistence and vulnerability, “‘Cryin” is the devastation of heartbreak. It’s an explosion of emotions. The manic, mixed with moments of complete composure. It’s thinking you have a winning hand and realizing it was shit.”

The band’s latest single “White Light” finds the band pairing slow-burning power chord-based blues-inspired, classic rock with a psych rock-like melody, nodding at Led Zeppelin‘s “How Many More Times,” and “Ramble On,” complete with an anthemic hook but throughout the song, the song’s narrator questions what it is to actually be human. As Colby describes the song it’s a “psychedelic journey through the human existence.”

 

 

Comprised of Molly Sides (vocals), Whitney Petty (guitar), Leah Julius (bass) and Ruby Dunphy (drums), the up-and-coming Seattle, WA-based quartet Thunderpussy quickly exploded into the national scene with co-signs from Rolling Stone and Pearl Jam‘s Mike McCready, as well as string of attention-grabbing, blistering live shows.  And from their latest single, the incredibly self-assured, ass-kicking and name-taking “Speed Queen,” the buzz around the Seattle-based quartet is well-deserved, as they specialize in sultry, scuzzy and anthemic power chord-based rock that seems to be inspired by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Joan Jett, among others.

As the band notes, their latest single is a motorcycle love story that mirrors and draws from the relationship between Whitney Petty and Molly Sides. Petty adds, “I got the title from an old coin laundry joint in Seattle that was full of high powered dyers labeled ‘Speed Queen.’ I always imagined a ‘Speed Queen’ as this mythical character with a checkered past, who led a female motorcycle gang. Then when I started writing the song, it became clear that I was writing about my partner — Molly Sides.”

The band is currently in the studio with Sylvia Massy, who’s worked with Johnny Cash and Tool, working on new material that will be released in 2018 — and based on “Speed Queen,” you’ll be hearing quite about these ass kicking ladies.

New Video: The Liza Colby Sound Releases a Sultry Video for New Single “Cryin'”

Comprised of Liza Colby (vocals), Tom McCaffrey (guitar), C.P. Roth (drums) and Alec Morton (bass), The Liza Colby Sound have developed a reputation across town and elsewhere for a swaggering and soulful take on blues rock — and for their frontwoman’s stage presence, which some have described as Tina Turner prowling the stage like Iggy Pop. “Cryin,'” the latest single off the band’s soon-to-be released EP Draw will further cement the band’s growing reputation for sultry, whiskey soaked, power chord-based rock as the band pairs Colby’s soulful, pop belter meets Janis Joplin vocals with anthemic hooks and a propulsive backbeat; but as Colby explains in press notes, the song is rooted around a duality between muscular insistence and vulnerability, “‘Cryin” is the devastation of heartbreak. It’s an explosion of emotions. The manic, mixed with moments of complete composure. It’s thinking you have a winning hand and realizing it was shit.” And interestingly enough, as a result, the song carefully walks a tightrope of bitter acceptance and steely resolve, and complete emotional breakdown. 

Directed, shot and edited by David J. Barron, the recently released video for “Cryin'” features frtonwman Liza Colby in a swimsuit/body suit and heels, strutting and vamping like “Single Ladies”-era Beyonce while singing the bluesy song with a powerful and overwhelming earnestness and vulnerability. 

Throwback: Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher” — or Happy First Day of School

Most of New York City’s Public Schools started today, and unsurprisingly, as a product of  New York City Public Schools — PS 206 in Rego Park, Stephen A. Halsey JHS/JHS 157 in Rego Park and Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows — today brings back all kinds of memories good, bad and indifferent; but thankfully, mostly good. 

As an adult, I also know a number of caring and dedicated educators and teachers, who will be molding the minds and inspiring the next generation of artists, writers, thinkers, doers, musicians and rabble-rousers, as well as parents of the next generation of artists, writers, etc. etc. 

So with that in mind, I wanted to bring back what was a briefly annual tradition — of dedicating Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher” for those dedicated educators and teachers. And we all know, that one of those little knuckleheads will be hot for one of their teachers because — well, I bet you were at some point, yourself. 

Happy first day of school, everyone! 

Live Footage: Royal Blood Performs “Lights Out” on “The Late Late Show with James Corden”

Comprised of Worthing, UK-born, West Sussex, UK-based Mike Kerr (vocals, bass) and Rustington, UK-born, West Sussex, UK-based Ben Thatcher, the British rock duo Royal Blood can trace their origins to when Kerr and Thatcher met when the duo were briefly members of the local rock quartet Flavour Country, in which Kerr played keys and keytar; however, the band can trace their official origins to sabbatical that Kerr had spent in Australia, where had started Royal Blood with Matt Swan (drums). And as the story goes, when Kerr returned to England, Thatcher had picked him up from the airport and they quickly decided to start a band together. Initially, the duo had a difficult time landing gigs and according to Kerr, they played a lot of open-mic nights with acoustic singer/songwriters. But after further developing their sound at Brighton Electric Studios, the band was signed to Warner/Chappell Music, and as a result of sharing the same management company as blogosphere darling act Arctic Monkeys, the duo began to receive a steady amount of buzz before the release of their first official single. 

Kerr and Thatcher’s sophomore album How Did We Get So Dark? was released earlier this summer and the album debuted at Number 1 on the UK charts. Since its release, the album has garnered over 30 million streams across Spotify and Apple Music and has sold over 250,000 copies, while receiving praise from the likes of USA Today, Rolling Stone, NME, Entertainment Weekly, and Forbes. And adding to a growing international profile, the band played the main stage at last week’s Outside Lands Festival, and will be opening for Queens of the Stone Age for a series of dates in the fall. (Check out those dates, as well as the band’s headlining Stateside dates below.) 

But before I forget, album single “Lights Out,” recently reached Number 1 on the Rock Radio charts, as the Number 1 Gainer, marking the second time the band has reached Number 1, and as soon as you hear the song you’ll see why it’s been dominating the charts, as it further cements the band’s growing reputation for crafting blistering and swaggering power chord-based arena rock. 

As I’ve mentioned a number of times on this site, I frequently multitask while writing about the various songs, videos and other materials I post — and while at lunch, I was eating, writing about a particular band and once I was finished I stared to tweet about something or another when I came across “Here Comes The Light,” from the Birmingham, UK-based rock duo Glass Cut Kings. Comprised of Paul Cross (vocals, guitar) and Greg McMurray (drums, vocals), the Birmingham-based duo specialize in arena rock-friendly, power-chord based rock that sounds indebted to Silversun Pickups, The Black Keys, Foo Fighters and others, complete with rousingly anthemic hooks. Naturally, what caught my attention was the fact that for a duo, they create an enormous and forceful sound — and those guitar riffs remind me of 70s glam rock.

 

New Video: Introducing the Psychedelic-Inspired Sounds and Visuals of OOLALA’s “Falling Out of the Universe”

Although they’ve dubbed themselves a space rock trio, the Philadelphia, PA-based rock act OOLALA’s Tim Sonnefeld-produced and Fred Kevorkian-mastered debut album The New RockRoll Cosmology reportedly draws from psychedelic jazz, stadium rock, glam rock and heavy soul while thematically focusing on both universal and deeply personal themes. “Falling Out of the Universe,” the first single off the band’s soon-to-be-released debut was released earlier this year to praise from Philebrity, Philadelphia’s longest-running city blog and others for a scuzzy and bombastic, scorching, riff-driven song that sounds as though it were influenced by T. Rex and The Black Keys but with a sleazy, backroom shuffle.

The recently released music video for the song features the members of the Philadelphia, PA-based trio performing the song in front of weird color lights and special effects to evoke the sensation of UFOs and psychedelics — and of time’s relativistic nature; but with a mischievous sense of humor.