Friday, April 28, 2017

Your Friday Moment of Lothar Mania!

And speaking as we were yesterday of sort of obscure bands that I was fortunate enough to see live -- how about Lothar and the Hand People?

Saw them -- then unsigned -- opening for The Byrds at the Village Gate in 1966...

...and they damn near stole the show. Absolutely amazing band, and snazzy dressers to boot. Don't recall if they did this particular song, but I've loved it since their first album came out in 1968, and it still slays me all these years later.

The folk-rock vibe notwithstanding, Lothar were pretty much the first real synth band, as you can plainly hear from this brilliant should-have-been-a-hit cover of a Manfred Mann track.

Incidentally, it is one of the great regrets of my adult life that no live video footage of these guys exists. But hey -- rock 'n' roll, right?

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thursday Completely Bogus Listomania

Okay, this dopey meme has been all over the intertubes for a day or two now, so I suppose it behooves me to add to the dumbness.


1. The Yardbirds

2. Talking Heads

3. Chrysalis

4. The Who

5. P-Funk

6. The Cars

7. The Searchers

8. Buffalo Springfield

9. Iggy and the Stooges

10. The B-52s

No arbitrary rules, except that a certain Shady Dame and Capt. Al are disqualified.

And a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be afforded the first person who guesses the band I didn't see correctly.

P.S.: If you don't know who Chrysalis were, go to YouTube and be changed.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Today We Are a CD!

Hey, I know it's an obsolete format, but the disc version of the reissue of my 90's band's album masterpiece (superbly re-mastered and with bonus tracks) is now available for purchase.

It's been downloadable since last December (iTunes, Amazon, and the rest of the usual suspects including Spotify, whatever that is) but the actual CDs are finally at our distributor; you can order the physical copies at CD Baby over HERE.

And because I love you all more than food, here's what was the concluding track on the original 1995 version. I think it's freaking killer, but obviously I'm prejudiced.

In any case, if you decide to order the thing, remember -- as they used to say at MAD magazine: "$12.97. Cheap."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business

All tuckered out, and I don't mean Carlson.

Regular totally dressed and peppy postings -- including some delightful news involving the music of a band whose bass player's name rhymes with Sleeve Nimels -- resume on the morrow.

Monday, April 24, 2017

In Search of Caitie Riff

Long-time readers of this here blog may recall that back in February of last year I completely went out of my nut over Debutante, the astoundingly assured (self-released) debut album by singer/songwriter/force of nature Cait Brennan.

And now comes her non-slump sophomore effort Third -- via the fine folks at Omnivore Records (where she belongs) -- which is, cheekily, named after a certain album by a certain Memphis band you may have heard of.

And which (much like Debutante was for me in 2016) is already my 2017 album of the year even though it's not even summer yet.

If you haven't yet heard Cait, Melissa Bratcher of Popshift reviewed Debutante and nailed it:

"Cait Brennan has an instantly recognizable voice, and, paired with her sugary power pop proclivities, makes the kind of music that stops me in my tracks. With an undeniable gift for writing hooky delights, she’s an heir to the throne of the greats: ELO, Nilsson, The Sweet, Rundgren. Her influences are all over her songs and Debutante is a sparkly kaleidoscope of AM Radio, 1970s pop, and confessional lyrics. It’s delightful.

I couldn't agree more, although at the time I added Big Star (little did I know) and Glam Era Mott the Hoople and David Bowie to the list of reference points; listening to the new record -- which in a lot of ways is considerably darker in tone -- I also hear flashes of Prince and early 70s pre-disco r&b and soul as well.

In any event, those previously mentioned long-time readers may also recall I have already gone on record as saying that "Bad at Apologies" -- the lead off track from Third -- has one of the greatest opening lines in rock history. Which is certainly true, and if there's any justice in this world, the song's choruses will also be sung by a stadium audience near you sometime very soon.

But (mirabile dictu) the rest of the album (recorded at the same Ardent studio as Big Star's masterpieces) is a real advance over Debutante; musically and lyrically richer in just about every way. It may not be an exaggeration to say that Cait and co-producer/multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo could be the most synergistically-matched team of artistic collaborators since those four kids from Liverpool hooked up with that older guy at EMI who had recorded The Goons.

I'm particularly enamored of "Goodbye Missamerica," which -- over the sounds of Alex Chilton's very own mellotron -- speaks rather poignantly in part to the current state of the US of A and Cait's personal backstory; "Benedict Cumberbatch," a big sort of Queen-inspired power ballad in which Cait tells a faithless lover that she's giving the song to the Dr. Strange/Sherlock star instead; and "Caitiebots Don't Cry," which is such an astoundingly smart piece of self-referential post-modern pop that you don't know whether to laugh out loud or go "I'm not worthy" or both. But there's not a song on the record that doesn't repay the time spent in listening. And hardly one that doesn't make you want to get up and dance around your house -- as John Lennon put it -- in wild abdomen.

Have I mentioned that Cait's vocals throughout are beyond amazing?

That duty pleasantly dispatched, I will end by pointing out that you can learn more about Cait and Third over at her official website HERE. You can also purchase said fine audio product over at Amazon HERE and what are you waiting for?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Your Friday Moment of Four Strings Good!

From 2016, please enjoy The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra and their quite remarkable cover of Thin Lizzy's classic "The Boys Are Back in Town."

I think at this point we can all agree that you can get an impressive amount of music out of those tiny things; that said, I really would like an explanation for the resurgence of interest in an instrument that -- for most of my lifetime, anyway -- had been mostly associated with the era of bathtub gin and flappers.

Have a great weekend, everybody. Especially (and this is a clue to Monday's post) you, Cait!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Your Thursday Moment of Well, This is Kinda Interesting

From 2012 please enjoy Hospitality and their sort of breathless alt-rock take on the Steely Dan classic "Rikki Don't Lose That Number."

Chanced upon this one yesterday when I posted the GWAR clip from the A.V. Club. Not particularly sure I'd want to hear any of this bunch's originals, but there's something about this one that got under my skin. It helps that the original song is pretty much a masterpiece, of course.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Your Wednesday Moment of Words Fail Me

Frpm 2012, please enjoy the irrepressible GWAR doing to "Carry On My Wayward Son" what, frankly, should have been done to the entire Kansas catalogue years ago.

Have I mentioned that words fail me?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business

A tad under the weather, actually.

Regular tanned, rested and ready postings -- including (on Friday) a review of the album of the year even though it's only April -- resume on the morrow.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Be a Patron of the Arts -- It's Fun!

Holy cow -- power pop genius and friend of this here blog Richard X. Heyman has a new CD coming out! And he needs your help!!!

If you don't know Richard's work -- either solo (or more recently with his ace band The Doughboys) -- here's an excerpt from the very first thing I wrote about him back in 2007, when both this blog and the world were young.

(TurnUp Records )

Let's start this with a mea culpa and an embarassing confession.

First of all, there's no question in my mind that this album would have made my Top Ten list in the 2006 Village Voice critic's poll save for the inconvenient fact that I didn't hear it until last week. Sorry. What's worse, I'm afraid, is that even though its auteur has been a wildly acclaimed power pop icon for two decades I'd never actually heard a note of his until then. Ridiculous, really, when you consider that my long-time critical colleague Parke Puterbaugh (who contributes excellent liner notes to the album) wrote not one but two rave reviews of earlier Heyman CDs when I was his editor at Sound and Vision (i.e., The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review).

Oy, as they say, gevalt.

But let's move on. For those who've been as out of touch as yours truly, here's what you need to know. Richard X. Heyman is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (one of the best, actually -- he's a killer drummer, unlike most of the breed) who's been making wonderful classicist pop rock (occasionally on major labels) since 1986. The album currently under discussion is in some sense a remake. What happened was that back then Heyman had twenty songs ready to unleash on the waiting world, but after recording six of them he couldn't afford any more studio time and decided to release what he'd finished as a mini-album (or EP, as they used to be called). On "Actual Sighs," ("Actual Size" back in the day) he's re-recorded the original six and finally gotten around to the orphans. As Puterbaugh points out, there's really nothing to compare to it in pop history except for Brian Wilson's revisiting of the Beach Boys' "Smile," except that (for me, anyway) "Actual Sighs" is more consistently terrific...
You can read the rest of the review over HERE. And because I love you all more than food, here's my favorite track from the record -- the spine-tinglingly gorgeous closer "The Gazing Moon."

Meanwhile, here's the KICKSTARTER LINK for the new record.

What are you waiting for, you bastids -- get over there and show the guy some love.

And when you do, tell 'em PowerPop sent you.

Friday, April 14, 2017

"Let's Let the Little Twerp Express Himself as Best as He Can"

For those of you who don't recognize the title quote, that's one of the many funny but mean things Sir Raymond Douglas Davies used to say on stage about his younger brother Dave Davies' solo turns..

I bring it up because I got to see Dave sans the other Kinks for the very first time this past Wednesday (here I am with World's Greatest Kinks Fan Frank Lima and the incomparable Dennis Diken of The Smithereens, who was the drummer on the gig)...

...and -- be still my beating heart -- Dave opened with this fabulous 1968 gem by his celebrated sibling.

I'd actually forgotten that song (which originally appeared as the B-side of "Days") until the other night, and boy does it kick all sorts of ass.

As for the show itself, it was mostly a lot of fun, although I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed that Dave was performing as a power trio (not to cast aspersions on his guitar stylings, which were splendid throughout the evening; I just would have preferred a crunchy rhythm guitar to flesh out the sound).

That said, to my regret, Dave omitted my all-time favorite song from his catalog -- one I wrote about about on this here blog back in 2009, and which I will repost now for obvious reasons.

From 1965 (and the only-in-America compilation album Kinkdom), please enjoy The Kinks, featuring Dave Davies on lead vocals, and the oh-so-sad-and-beautiful folk-rock ballad "Wait Till the Summer Comes Along."

I've adored that song (Dave's first writers credit on a Kinks record, if memory serves) since buying the LP above in a crappy reprocessed stereo version at Sam Goody in Paramus, New Jersey. But I hadn't listened to it in a while, and on revisiting it (and still finding it deeply touching, I hasten to add) I was immediately struck by a) how slapdash the Shel Talmy production is and b) what a wonderfully pretentious Sorrows of Young Werther kid's blues it is.

"I've been crying all the winter," Dave all but sobs in the song's opening line, and the clear implication is that his life has been nothing but endless heartache, self-lacerating guilt and tragedy, and frankly what's the point of going on?

Just to put things in perspective, its popstar composer was all of 17 when he wrote and recorded it.

Have great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business: Special Rock 'n' Roll Animal Edition

Got back late from seeing Dave Davies at the City Winery last night.

Regular posting -- including my thoughts on the show -- resume on the morrow.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

J. Geils 1946-2017

Oh crap, not another one.

I should add that, although their 80s pop hits were lots of fun, the real reason The J. Geils Band should be remembered is for their albums of blues and r&b derived stuff. They were as close to an American version of the early Rolling Stones as has ever been heard by sentient mammalian ears. And a lot funnier.

Have I mentioned that this death shit is really starting to piss me off?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Take My Prog-Rock, Please.

This has gone sort of viral, but if you haven't seen it, you need to.

Rick Wakeman's acceptance speech -- with Yes -- at the Rock Hall of Fame induction last week.

As Jack Nicholson famously said of Bob Dylan -- this guy's a riot. The jokes about his Dad alone are worth the price of admission.

Wakeman begins his stand-up routine at approximately the 7:00 mark.

You're welcome.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Stockholm Confidential: A Photo Essay

So, as you may have heard, a certain Shady Dame and I spent a few days recently in the Land of Ice and Snow, specifically in the lovely and gracious Swedish capital city. We had a truly spectacular -- or should I say spektakulär -- time, but I must confess I found the place a little odd, despite a lot of really great food.

Herewith, a visual record of some of the highlights of our trip. [Click on all photos to enlarge]

Contrary to what you might have heard, the Swedes are actually a vicious and warlike people. Here's an example of the kind of militaristic indoctrination Swedish kids are exposed to at an early age.

On the other hand, they have a deep respect for nature. Sweden is, in fact, the only country in the world where even the trees get their own cozies.

This was a sign at the lounge in our hotel. Apparently, the notorious Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been running a side business overseas while on the Supreme Court.

Like the Canadians, it seems the Swedes really like their moose.

They also really seem to like their Red Sea Pedestrians. This is the gift shop at the fabulous Swedish Historical Museum -- you'll notice that they're selling the traditional shofar, or rams horn, which we Jews wail on during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

And this was taken at one of the oldest Catholic cathedrals in the country. Why it has the Hebrew word for God as part of the decor I have no idea, but it shows a nice ecumenical spirit.

This is a typical Stockholm subway station. Some of the others, which I forgot to photograph, look like hyperkinetic acid trips carved out of the living rock.

And speaking of acid, we saw this at the Stockholm equivalent of MOMA. What I wouldn't give to encounter that on an actual interstate.

Noted without comment.

We had our first taste of those ubiquitous Swedish Meatballs at this joint, which has been continually in business since before the American Revolution.

Interestingly, not only had the decor not changed since then, but apparently Jan Vermeer was off in a corner painting a picture of the dining room while we were chowing down.

Saw this at a science-fiction bookstore in Old Town. A kindly American couple actually moved it lower on the shelf so I could get more flattering lighting as I photographed it. I am not making this up.

Have I mentioned that the Swedes really like their moose?

The gift shop at the Nobel Prize Museum. The national concensus is that Dylan's lyrics are better in the original Swedish.

And speaking of the Nobel Prize Museum, these lab coats were on display. Our guide told us that these were worn by future laureate Keith Richards while he was conducting experiments with drugs.

The Swedes are also a very considerate people. This is a canal behind our hotel -- note the life preserver thoughtfully provided for any locals who get existentially depressed and decide to jump in and end it all.

We glimpsed this sign in some sort of chi-chi shop window in upscale Ostermalm. I don't speak a word of Swedish, and I have no idea what this translates as, but who can argue with the confidence with which it's expressed?

And speaking of drunk history, I am very impressed with the fact that Sweden's most famous lady scientist (the country's Madame Curie) basically invented alcoholism.

An exhibit at the amazing VASA Museum, which is dedicated to the most embarrassing shipwreck in Swedish naval history. You learn something new everyday in this town -- for example, who knew that Kellyanne Conway was something of a national hero?

The gift shop at the VASA Museum. I think it's very cool that Soupy Sales' old sidekick Pookie the Lion is big in Sweden.

Have I mentioned that the Swedes really love their moose?

Friday, April 07, 2017

Annals of the Land of Ice and Snow: Special Hey, This is Bad! Edition

From 1965, please enjoy The Hep Stars -- featuring a young and beardless Benny Andersson (of later ABBA fame) on cheesy electric organ -- and their Top 3 (in Sweden) smash hit "No Response."

That was one of Benny's first songwriting efforts, and I think, to put the most charitable face on it, that we can say with some certainty that he did much better later.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Annals of the Land of Ice and Snow: And Speaking of Ubiquitous...

...the great R. Crumb really nailed the essential element of Swedish culture.

But seriously, ladies and germs, one of the few disappointing things about our recent nordic adventure was discovering that the Swedish Music Hall of Fame is no longer housed in the same building as the ABBA Museum...

...but is, in fact, relocating to a separate facility and is thus, for the moment, unavailable for beholding.

Oh well, we're going back next year, and hopefully it will have reopened by then.

In the meantime, from 2002, please enjoy the incredible The Soundtrack of Our Lives and the jaw-droppingly fabulous "Sister Surround."

Those guys are my favorite Swedish band ever, and they should be yours, too.

More Scandanavian mishegass on the morrow.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Annals of the Land of Ice and Snow: For a Dour, Existentially Depressed People, Those Swedes Sure Are Tacky!

So yes, on our last day in Stockholm, we took in the museum devoted to the country's biggest cultural export since those ubiquitous meatballs.


Now, just so we're clear -- I like ABBA. My beloved Floor Models famously (in Greenwich Village) covered their "S.O.S.", and "Knowing Me Knowing You" is a legitimately great song (The Wondermints, to their credit, agree. Bigly.)

That said, the museum is pretty...silly, I think is the word. Basically, it's like a kitsch version of the Rolling Stones Exhibitionism show, but if you like that sort of thing, it's certainly worth a trip. Here are my two favorite exhibits.

ABBA -- The Madame Tussaud's Edition. And impressively realistic.

And ABBA -- the puppets. Which are actually quite a little disturbing.

And speaking of a little disturbing, those puppets are the stars of ABBA: The Last Video. Which was playing at the Museum and which, after viewing it, a certain Shady Dame and I fled the building in terror.

It's true -- some things in life once seen can NOT be unseen.

More Swedish-themed mishegass on the morrow.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Closed for Monkey Business: Special Leaving on a Jet Plane Edition

Heading back home from the Land of Ice and Snow today.

Regular Swedish-themed posting returns for the duration of the week on the morrow.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Greetings From the Land of Ice and Snow! (Special Nobel Laureate Edition)

Some guy named Bob Dylan was playing Stockholm over the weekend -- and the concert hall was literally right next door to the hotel where a certain Shady Dame and I are staying.

We couldn't get tickets, but the local press thought Bob was at the top of his game. Here's the opening of the review of Saturday's show in one of Sweden's most prestigious journals of the arts.

De två konserterna på Waterfront den här helgen (han spelar även söndag kväll) är således 75-åringens första som nobelpristagare i litteratur. Och eftersom han som bekant inte dök upp på utdelningen i december är Svenska akademiens ledamöter på plats för att se till så att Dylan slutligen får sitt diplom.

Men den som till äventyrs hade hoppats att 75-åringen på något sätt skulle adressera detta från scen blir besviken.

Han säger de facto inte ett ord. Inget ovanligt i det, så brukar det vara. Och det här är på många sätt ännu en dag på jobbet för Dylan. Om än en inspirerad och rent av uppsluppen sådan.

Den som har sett honom på senare år känner igen sig. Mycket av setet kommer från ”Tempest”, senaste albumet med egna låtar. I övrigt väljer Dylan gärna nytt framför gammalt, från 60- och 70-talen får vi mest obligatorier som ”Highway 61 revisited” och”Desolation row” (i ”Sting-version”, som Fredrik Virtanen träffande uttrycker det)...

You can read the rest of it HERE. The gist of it is that Bob's lyrics are better in the original Swedish.