Tuesday Evening

Is a lineup change for the Cure really news? The latest adjustment came Friday with Roger O'Donnell (keyboards) and Perry Bamonte (guitars) leaving the band. Or they were fired. Or Robert Smith got hungry and ate them with a nice Chianti. Whatever, Robert Smith is the Cure and always has been. Next.

Kraftwerk are in town tomorrow night at the Hammerstein Ballroom and Newsday has a preview. I did some research and found that this will be only the fourth time the band has played in New York. Kraftwerk played their first Manhattan show in 1975, returned in 1981 and didn't make another appearance until 1998. So if you have a ticket, this may be your only chance to see them for quite some time. Thanks to TwingoKraftwerk.com for the tour facts.

Another interesting Kraftwerk site is the Kraftwerk F.A.Q. If you need to brush up on your history before tomorrow night, this is the place to start.

The Guardian (UK) reviews Coldplay's X & Y and is not impressed:

as the umpteenth song swells from a lone piano and mournful falsetto vocal into a rush of drums and echoey guitar clang, you start to wish Coldplay had done something, anything, a little unexpected: accepted visionary producer Timbaland's public offer to work with them; recorded something quirky and lo-fi; called in the Dagenham Girl Pipers for a jam. Instead, the uneasy feeling that their ambitions may now be more commercial than artistic is difficult to avoid.

If you've seen Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, perhaps you'll agree with me that the most cheesy moment in the whole film (and there are many) comes at the end when Darth Vader screams "nooooooo" after stumbling around like Frankenstein's monster. Well, someone has mixed this lame wail with the Liam Lynch song "United States of Whatever" and the results are hilarious.

First Impressions - Amusement Parks

I've never been fond of the term Shoegazing, but it's the first adjective that comes to mind when listening to Amusement Parks on Fire's self-titled debut album. Scan the www.jasminlive.mobi media reviews on the band's website and you'll see that pejorative term make several appearances, along with predictable comparisons to My Bloody Valentine. There is certainly a resemblance, but APOF are seldom as ethereal or warped as MBV. Other influences, like Foo Fighters or even Dinosaur Jr. also make an impression, pushing APOF's sound out of dreamland and into harder, grungier territory. I've carefully avoided grunge and its offspring for many years, but APOF's blending of styles works surprisingly well. They achieve just the right balance of droning noise and power pop.

It figures that I would start getting into APOF right after they played three NYC area shows last week. If anyone went to any of these shows, please let me know what you thought.

The APOF website has two radio sessions and two videos available for download in Real audio/video format.

X-Wife in the UK

It's been a while since I mentioned X-Wife on here, but they're actually playing their first-ever show in the UK tonight, at London's Notting Hill Arts Club. They've got two more UK dates scheduled, and then a few others back in Portugal:

5.30 - London, Notting Hill Arts Club

6.01 - London, Karma Club

6.02 - Brighton, Pressure Point

6.03 - Vila de Rei, Festival Rock Vila de Rei

6.18 - Pedrogao

6.20 - Porto, Casa da Musica

7.23 - Lagoa, Algarve

More details are available on their site. That June 20 gig in their hometown of Porto is an opening slot for LCD Soundsystem, which should make for an awesome show. Any of these shows are worth catching though, I think X-Wife are even better live than on album. Feeding the Machine was a mainstay in my CD player for most of last year, ultimately ending up in my top 10, but I remember them just as much for their mid-November shows in NYC. They were the band's first gigs in the US, and the band was sharp, edgy and super tight. They did a live session on WFMU on the same trip, which is archived here. (FYI - I started as a random fan but lost some objectivity when I helped them with those NYC gigs.)

Try out "Eno" (MP3) and "Rockin' Rio" (MP3) to get a taste of the album, which Other Music did a pretty great job of describing back in November:

This is one of those straight-outta nowhere albums that falls into our laps and dares us not to recommend it to everyone. With the never-ending line of "sounds like the last big thing, but with a little bit more of (blank)," it's nice to hear a decent rock album with songs on it instead just a few trendy ideas. Apparently, X-Wife hails from Portugal and apart from some airplay on WFMU and some upcoming shows in NYC, they've had no other exposure here in the States.

Without coming across as a Clinic soundalike, X-Wife shares that similar quality of having multiple rock influences, well-digested and mixed together to form a full-grown song. Drum machine that's played like a real drummer, vintage keyboard blasts and melodies (with simultaneous nods to Stereolab and the Cars), not-sure-what-he's-saying-in-the-chorus-but-I'll-sing-along-anyway catchiness, and a singer that sounds like some cross between Jim Reid and Johnny Lydon (via Luke Jenner?) with a drop of androgyny for good measure. On top of it all, this album keeps you listening and enjoying the songs, not wondering how much some talent scout was paid to groom their sound. A record you can play at the party, but won't mind on the road trip too! Recommended.

And there's a good chance we'll have some new X-Wife material to listen to later this year - looking forward to that.

Two quick weekend events of note:

- The Wind-Up Bird tonight at Pianos (9:30 PM). If you enjoy ambient music at all, you should check this out. And if you think ambient music is boring, a chaturbat show like this might be what it takes to change your mind. I'm not sure if he'll still be doing the four speaker thing, but I have a feeling it'll be worthwhile either way. Goes Cube and Paul Michel are on beforehand, Single Frame and the Dirty Projectors afterwards.

Ken Ishii at Rothko on Sunday. Ishii was actually the headlining DJ the first time I went to a club (the long gone Twilo), so I'll always have a soft spot for him; it helps that he's a pretty banging techno DJ. I honestly haven't kept close tabs on Ishii but I do know that it's pretty rare he spins a club as small as Rothko, and for as little as $10 (in advance). If Sunday's MF madness at the Roxy isn't your thing, this could be a good alternative. DJ Lera and Kazu Okura are also on the bill.

Happy Birthday Miles Davis

Brooklyn Vegan tipped me off to the fact that yesterday would've been Miles Davis's 79th birthday. I love Miles. I haven't listened to much jazz in a while, but 4-5 years ago I went through a serious phase. I had just taken a great jazz class, and the Ken Burns series fueled things further. I didn't get too obscure or comprehensive, and I'm still very much an amateur, but I threw a wide net over the basics - Coltrane, Mingus, Armstrong, Rollins, Monk, Parker, etc. And the one I kept on coming back to was Miles.

What I love about Miles Davis is how often and relentlessly he reinvented himself. His tireless innovation yielded a discography in which my four or five favorites sound little like each other except that they are each unmistakeably Miles. Kind of Blue kicked things off for me, as it should have, when I saw it cheap and was told it was required listening. Of course, it is, and it's still one of my favorites - the original late night album. In A Silent Way is the other landmark, when his band went electric. The lineup on both records is staggering, filled with guys that could (and would) carry albums on their own. By contrast Miles is very much the focus of his orchestral work with Gil Evans, and his playing and solos are more than up to the task. I never thought I'd dig those albums but then I heard them, and now two of my favorites come from that phase - Sketches of Spain and Porgy and Bess. To be in the studio for those sessions, to see the band jamming with an orchestra behind them, would have been amazin.

"Gone" is from the orchestral Porgy and Bess, in fact it's the only song on the album that's not a Gershwin. Instead Gil Evans wrote it, and it blends in perfectly. Philly Joe Jones tears it up on drums for pretty much all of the song. I love his intro parts, and how easily Miles slides out of them on flugelhorn.

Miles is on his usual trumpet on the 19-minute unedited "Shhh/Peaceful," which is taken from The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions. In A Silent Way was very much a studio creation, painstakingly stitched together by producer Teo Macero. "Shhhh/Peaceful" was never played as it was initially released; the unedited version didn't come out until this box set, and it's fascinating to hear the differences. Full sections and themes were excised, others (like the familiar intro) were completely transplanted, and both versions stand tall on their own.

(There's a bit of noise on both these rips, especially the second one, but they're still worth hearing. Apologies - my laptop is being testy today. I'll try to get something cleaner up later.)

Mega Mega Mega

- If you're looking for a Kraftwerk afterparty, Martin Gore of Depeche Mode will be spinning a rare DJ set at Hiro next Wednesday. Advance tickets are $10 and on sale now. "Rare" DJ sets always make me wonder how good the DJ will be, though I can give Martin the benefit of the doubt. But how great it would be if he played nothing but grime?

This is pretty cool - "idea-based artist" Leif Inge stretched out Beethoven's Ninth Symphony to 24 hours, but without any pitch distortion. Read about and stream 9 Beet Stretch here, or download it here. It reminds me of William Basinski's excellent ambient music, in fact I listened to it for two hours this morning. (Perhaps that says something about my morning.) Thanks to Crazy Rhythms for the tip.

The Fountains of Wayne played a surprise show at the Delancey on Monday and Catherine's Pita was there. Sounds like the show was a dud, unfortunately.

Last night's big Boredoms show at the Bowery Ballroom was very much the real deal, though, according to More in the Monitor.

Head over to Fluxblog to grab the Robyn song "Konichiwa Bitches." Excellent tune, and that's before the killer Chappelle reference of a title. Who knew Scandinavian pop stars could ape hip-hop so well?

Stereogum fills us in on the Brian Jonestown Massacre's Anton Newcombe's seriously harsh words on Eric Clapton, and I am once again reminded that I really need to see Dig.

Check out this classic interview with Sonic Boom (of Spacemen 3), done by Gerard Cosloy in 1988. Hilarious stuff. An excerpt:

Gerard: Can Spacemen 3 perform live with the aid of drug?

Sonic Boom: Yeah, we can. We never have, but I'm sure we could if we tried.

Underworld have a new album due in August, and that a DFA remix of the Chemical Brothers is in the works.

Spoon, Q And Not U, VHS or Beta, and the Dears are the extent of the rumored Siren Festival line-up so far, according to Brooklyn Vegan. Spoon would be a great headliner, but I hope I don't like any of the Siren bands too much. Crappy sound and sightlines usually make Nathan's the highlight of my Siren experiences.

I'll have more to say on it later, but the new Sleater-Kinney album is without question one of the best things I've heard all year.

New stuff

What can I say about Deerhoof that I haven't said before? Well, Sunday was my third Deerhoof show and the first one where I really knew what to expect. The first time blindsided me with their awesomeness, the second was the first where I knew the songs well (and appreciated how much they messed with them live), and the latest was the first time I walked in able to focus on more than just the drums. Greg Saunier's drumming is insane, utterly captivating to the point where he's mostly what I remember from the first two shows. He's worth the attention, but this time I made sure to notice guitarists John and Chris. (Satomi is impossible to miss.)

It helped that the songs were different this time around - much extended, and not as explosively spastic. I'm guessing a good chunk of them were new, and if so I'm intrigued by the direction they're going on. The sharp and precise interplay of the guitars drove the songs just as much as the drums, if not more so. There were moments that were positively jazzy (in a fairly f'ed up way). Saunier's fills and playing still owned though. Watching him never lose the beat while doing practically everything possible to screw with it, on a stripped down kit no less, never gets old; the man is a virtuoso. Satomi's antics worked well too, they felt more relaxed than at the other shows. She's the number 1 reason some people don't like Deerhoof, but she was great on Sunday.

I would've loved some more old songs though. The new stuff is relatively sedate by comparison, and my favorite moments were when they rocked out - especially "Giga Dance" and "Dummy Discards A Heart," a second encore to celebrate the end of their tour. I was really psyched to hear it. "Milk Man" (MP3) was also great, as it always is. Overall, I'll admit this was the least impressive of the Deerhoof shows I've seen - probably a result of high expectations. It still was very good, and I'll still be there next time, and I managed to convert a friend in the process. Seeing them live always does the trick.