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CINEMA: Zombies All The Way Down

October 17th, 2019

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ZOMBIELAND: DOUBLE TAP (dir. by Ruben Fleisher, 99 minutes, 2019, USA)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR It’s been over a decade since the release of Zombieland, the charmingly dysfunctional family comedy that just so happens to take place during the zombie apocalypse. The Ruben Fleischer directed film was the front runner of our current zombie resurgence, soon followed by the juggernaut that is The Walking Dead, which over nine years has run its course both as a show and as a fixture in the pop-culture landscape. Thanks to TWD I think every variation of the formula has been attempted in every media manifestation imaginable at this point. Ten years after, Fleischer is back with original writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, who were busy with the Deadpool franchise in an attempt to breath some new life in a film about our favorite Post Z survival squad.

Zombieland: Double Tap takes place 10 years after the original with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and Wichita (Emma Stone) still together and now taking up residence in the White House. After spending a decade in close quarters, tensions are running high in the group as Columbus proposes to Wichita, and she gets cold feet and runs off with Little Rock in the middle of the night. A month later Wichita is caught sneaking back into the White House looking for guns and ammo in the hopes of tracking down Little Rock, who has since run off with a pacifist named Berkeley. This sets our heroes off on a mission to track down Wichita’s sister who is on her way to Babylon, a haven for those looking to live non-violently through the zombie apocalypse.

New additions to the cast include Rosario Dawson as Nevada, the owner of an Elvis themed hotel and Zoey Deutch as Madison, a ditzy blonde who survived the zombie apocalypse in a Pinkberry Yogurt Freezer. While the ensemble hasn’t skipped a beat with their clever comedic banter and rapid fire one-liners, it now has more of a retro flare this time around since pop culture references are forever stuck in 2009 in Zombieland, with this film even digging heavy into the 90s. Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick are as sharp as ever with a narrative that feels superficial and cribbed from the first season of the ill-fated Zombieland TV show. This entry is definitely leans more into the comedy, not taking full advantage of the familial relationships between the characters that really resonated with audiences the first time around.

The big question you can’t help but asking after watching Zombieland 2 is was this film really necessary? About 10 years ago, this film would have been a no-brainer, but now it feels a bit more like a nostalgia exercise that would show up on a streaming service with The Walking Dead having double tapped the zombie sub-genre two or three seasons ago. Don’t get me wrong, it was great to reconnect with these characters, which are a lot of fun. But at the end of the episodic story it leaves you wondering what was the point of the film as the characters simply drive off to their next adventure with no real consequences or any real growth. I guess if you loved Zombieland you should probably check this out in theaters, but if not it will more than make for a good Netflix movie night.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Danny Brown Uknowhatimsayin¿

October 17th, 2019

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For those unaware of Detroit rapper Danny Brown, who has just returned after a three-year hiatus with a new album called uknowhatimsayin¿, I would like to give a brief test. Play five seconds of his song “Downward Spiral,” the opener to his 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition. I predict you will either close the tab immediately, or be sickly fascinated. The double punch of the dark, looming instrumental and Danny’s yelpy delivery will either immediately turn you off or pull you in. Or better yet, do the same test with his song “Ain’t it Funny,” probably one of the wildest songs I’ve ever heard, complete with harrowing, blaring and booming noises, Danny’s characteristic screech and dark, disturbing couplets like “Staring in the devil’s face/ But you can’t stop laughing” and “Nose bleeds on red carpets/ But it just blends in.” The stuff like that is what made Atrocity Exhibition such a transfixing listen and led to its status as a modern classic, setting the bar high for whatever Danny would follow it up with. But with that album being such a bold and experimental departure from the sounds Danny was toying with on his 2013 record Old, it at once feels disappointing and reassuring that he became more comfortable on his latest release uknowhatimsayin¿, and instead of his new album having a strong concept tying everything together like Exhibition did, the new record is mostly just a collection of songs. However, that isn’t to underplay the power of the songs here, because the outcome of Danny retreating more into his comfort zone is probably his most plainly enjoyable music yet, yielding some pretty amazing songs as well.

Back in April, Danny Brown announced that his upcoming album would be produced by Q-Tip of the legendary A Tribe Called Quest, and his beat-making and executive production elevate the record to another level entirely. The singles “Best Life” and “Dirty Laundry,” both produced by Q-Tip, sound amazing, and it looks to me that the producer and rapper compliment each other perfectly. The production work, handled also by Atrocity Exhibition producer Paul White and with production credits to JPEGMAFIA and Flying Lotus, can also unfortunately sometimes outshine the actual vocalists. I’ve always liked Run the Jewels, but Killer Mike’s feature on the song “3 Tearz” doesn’t live up to the hype set by the insane JPEGMAFIA instrumental and Danny Brown and Mike’s partner El-P’s verses. uknowhatimsayin¿ finds another dud in the inane title track, mostly consisting of Danny repeating the phrase “Know what I’m sayin?” until brain death occurs. There may be a few misses in the 11-song tracklist, but the record mostly hits. “Belly of the Beast” has a great hook by Obongjayar and some of Danny’s wittiest wordplay (“I’m anemic with the ink, you a Stevie Wonder blink”) and the Flylo-produced “Negro Spiritual” has a dry-throated JPEGMAFIA chorus and amazing guitar and bass work done by Thundercat. But really, the single “Best Life” is probably the best song on the record, the one that explains how far Danny has toned himself down over the past few years. “Cause ain’t no next life, so now I’m tryna live my best life” mostly explains the transition from the wild, drug-addicted, toothless monster we knew on Atrocity Exhibitions and past releases to the more optimistic and cleaned-up version of Danny Brown we see now. I would hesitate to call uknowhatimsayin¿ a maturation as many critics have called it, because Danny is still his funny, profane self here. Here, he just sounds more reined in, and definitely more focused than before. And although his new record may just be a collection of really great songs, it didn’t need a grand concept to work- it just needed to be good. And by that criterion, it succeeds. – CHARLIE COLAN

DANNY BROWN PLAY THE THEATER OF THE LIVING ARTS ON NOVEMBER 11TH

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INCOMING: Hairway To Steven

October 16th, 2019

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AOIFE NESSA FRANCES: Blow Up

October 16th, 2019

From Land of No Junction due out January 17, 2020, on Ba Da Bing.

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THE LOCUST ABORTION TECHNICIAN: Q&A W/ Gibby Haynes, Frontman Of The Butthole Surfers

October 16th, 2019

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally published on July 19th, 2020.

Valania AvatarBY JONATHAN VALANIA Saints be praised! Butthole Surfers frontman/madman Gibby Haynes will be performing Surfer classics at the RUBA Club on Thursday October 24th, backed by the kids of the Paul Green Rock Academy — and we are totally there for it. To help get the word out, we got Gibby on the horn for a wide ranging, no-holes barred interview. If you are new to the Gibby/Surfers’ weird-ass corner of the universe, I suggest you read my beginner’s guide Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Motherf*cking Butthole Surfers But Weren’t Sure It Was Even Legal To Ask before digging in.

One more thing before we get started. We first did this interview last Friday. Saturday I realized it didn’t record for reasons still unclear. Sunday I sheepishly texted Gibby to tell him tragedy had struck but I was happy to do it all over again — “you know, for the kids” — though I would totally understand if he didn’t want to and I apologized for wasting his time. Gibby texted back: “Call me.” Lord knows Gibby Haynes is not a role model, but he is a gentleman and a scholar. Long may he weird.

DISCUSSED: Fatherhood, penis reconstruction surgery, LSD, how to burn down the Chesnut Cabaret without really trying, the JFK assassination, growing up with a dad Gibby Haynesnamed Mr. Peppermint who was in Dealey Plaza when JFK was assassinated, his forthcoming Young Adult Lit novel Me And Mr. Cigar, living with Timothy Leary, the University of Texas Tower Massacre in 1966, the curse words of children, Woody Allen, the Great White Fire, getting thrown out of the Viper Club for heckling Johnny Cash, the future of the Butthole Surfers, the death of the flaming cymbal, the meaning of regret and why playing Butthole Surfers songs with the kids from Paul Green Academy Of Rock is such a gas, gas, gas.

PHAWKER: I actually met you in the late ’80s in the lobby of the now-defunct New York City night club The World where the Butthole Surfers were supposed to play with Spacemen 3, but they were denied work visas because someone had a drug charge or something like that and didn’t play. That is one of the great regrets of my life — that that dream show never happened.

GIBBY HAYNES: Oh, we were supposed to play with Spacemen 3? What a drag.

PHAWKER: Yeah, you don’t remember that?

GIBBY HAYNES: No.

PHAWKER: Oh my god, that was going to be the greatest fucking show on Earth! But anyway, I remember telling you – you had asked where I was from – and I said Allentown, Pennsylvania. And you were like, “Allentown? Didn’t something really bad happen there?”

GIBBY HAYNES: [laughing] I did, uh did it? I don’t know.

PHAWKER: Yes, yes lots of bad things. Lots of bad things happen everywhere. I only mention this because I use that as my go-to ice breaker line when I meet someone from somewhere else and it’s very effective. I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for that.

GIBBY HAYNES: Right on.

PHAWKER: So you’re living in Brooklyn these days, correct?

GIBBY HAYNES: Yes I am.

PHAWKER: Okay, what is a typical day in the life of Gibby Haynes these days?

GIBBY HAYNES: Oh, well, I wake up. If it’s during the school year, I make lunch for my kid before I take him to school — basically my life revolves around my son nowadays. He’s really my family.

PHAWKER: His name is Satchel?

GIBBY HAYNES: Satchel, indeed. He’s named after – people always say the same thing, “Was he named after GibbySatchel Paige?” And I say, “No, he was named after Satchel Bernstein, Satchel Paige’s manager.” And a lot of times, they go, “Really?” And I go, “No.”

PHAWKER: How old is he?

GIBBY HAYNES: He is nine. And the interesting thing is that Ronan Farrow’s original name was Satchel Allen, but he hated his dad so much that I guess he eventually decided to change his name, and we found that out – we found out that Woody named his son Satchel after we named our kid Satchel. And then we found out that he named his other son Moses. So we named our son after two of Woody Allen’s sons names, without knowing that we did it.

PHAWKER: Yeah that’s some kind of weird cosmic joke the universe is playing on somebody.

GIBBY HAYNES: [laughing] I wonder who.

PHAWKER: Last time we talked you were telling me at the time that kids these days know every curse word in the book.

GIBBY HAYNES: Yeah, they do.

PHAWKER: You told me a story about one of your son Satchel’s friends who was complaining about a mutual friend saying that if his father wasn’t standing there — meaning you — he’d tell Satchel exactly what he thought of mutual friend. You encouraged him to speak freely and he said?

GIBBY HAYNES: ‘He’s a motherfucking asshole!’ or something to that effect [laughing]. He definitely said ‘motherfucker,’ which is like the pinnacle of like – I mean they don’t know what fucking is, but they know that ‘motherfucker’ is a bad word. Like they think to say “Oh, fuck,” but they don’t know what sex is. A lot of them hopefully don’t. But with the Internet, I’m sure they do. You know, I don’t think he’d tell me if he’d seen…he might’ve, well I found, well I’m not gonna say it. One time I had looked at my phone, and it had been googled, “sex in a cab.”

PHAWKER: [laughing] How do parents these days deal with the Internet and small children? I’m curious, what policies, if any, do you guys have?

GIBBY HAYNES: Oh we pretty much let him go at it. We don’t filter anything, and I’m not sure if that’s a good policy or not, but fuck, he’s gonna find out anyway. I don’t know what would be the most horrible thing that could happen. Like, what would he see…I mean it would be pornography or something. He might find a text that Paul Green sent me, which might be devastating to his development.

PHAWKER: [laughing] He could see a penis reconstruction film at a Butthole Surfers concert on YouTube.

GIBBY HAYNES: Yeah, there’s some stuff of me on there too. He could find out the truth about his dad, wouldn’t that be horrible?

PHAWKER: While we’re on the subject of penis reconstruction films, I asked you about this last time, could you just explain what that film that was almost always projected on the band at every Butthole Surfers shows back in the ‘80’s and early ‘90’s – some kind of penis surgery.
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BEING THERE: The IDLES @ Union Transfer

October 16th, 2019

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Photo by MATT SHAVER

Bristol post-punk outfit IDLES is not the heaviest band out there, and they certainly aren’t the edgiest. They are, however, indubitably one of the angriest bands around. The fundamental rebelliousness that is the driving force of punk rock music, in the case of IDLES, manifests itself through a twisted (though profoundly humane) depiction of love. You heard me right: the thematic heart of IDLES’ punk-ness is a kind of re-imagined Flower Power. Their two debut full-length records, Brutalism and Joy as an Act of Resistance are both unashamedly anti-fascism and an unconditionally inclusive call for community. From powerhouse lines like “This snowflake’s an avalanche” on the track “I’m Scum” to the screaming middle finger to masculinity “I don’t wanna be your man!” after four minutes of repressed rage in “Colossus,” it’s not difficult to see and agree with IDLES’ urge to obliterate all that WASP nastiness through authentic love for your fellow human being.

I saw them perform an extremely intimate show with an unparalleled mosh pit at First Unitarian Church last year, pushing probably around a 200-person crowd. In just over a year, IDLES has upgraded to a sold-out show at Union Transfer last night, and quite frankly I was anxious to see how the band— and the crowd— would adapt. Let me tell you up front: the onstage energy from these guys was unreal and among the best of the concerts under my belt, not to mention an all-but-consuming moshpit, from which the only escape seemed to be the bar, bathroom, or balcony. Antics included but were not limited to a live guitar thrown into the crowd while the amp cord was fed and retrieved by stage crew, and a “loving embrace” among the fans that would be known as a Wall of Death anywhere else. Banter included Joe Talbot, lead singer, dedicating the song “Television” to his daughter with the message, “it’s about ignoring the c*nts, the patriarchy that makes you feel ugly, small, and stupid.”

“Rottweiler” was the closing tune, just as it is on the album Joy. The song proper lasts about two and a half minutes followed by a two minutes of heavy, instrumental outro. Last night, this ending translated well into the live version as Talbot left the microphone to pound extra toms on the drum kit for a total run time of at least six minutes. During this, I was one of many to bring the mosh pit to a halt, and I personally began making my rounds and hugging my peers, particularly those who I’d given (and been handed back) an especially rough time. I’ve always felt that a moshpit is at its best when the participants try to have fun and let out their excitement instead of trying to hurt each other. In the context of an IDLES concert, there’s a truly palpable element of love thrown into the mix— a perfect example of the band’s redefinition of angry punk rock tropes.  IDLES has proved their ability to keep up with their increasing popularity, and through some aggressive, beautiful form of love, brought another successful show to Philadelphia. – PEYTON MITZEL

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THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN: Q&A W/ Author And BoJack Horseman Creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg

October 15th, 2019

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IMG_3564BY PEYTON MITZEL I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why the animated Netflix series Bojack Horseman, now in its sixth season, resonates so strongly with me. It’s an animated metafictional critique of stardom about a washed-up sitcom star named BoJack, who also happens to be an alcoholic horse, struggling to find functional happiness in the crushing shitstorm that is the world these days — so it’s not exactly telling me my life. And yet, despite the fact that I was 17 when I started watching the show, I found myself relating to the roughly middle-aged characters and their hardships, even though half of them are some species of talking animal — with voices provided by the likes of Will Arnett, Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, Paul F. Tompkins, and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul.

In short, the show is about BoJack attempting to reconcile his boozy, demon-riddled existence with the pursuit of happiness and all that it promises. The possibility of positively impacting those around him and receiving genuine love in return, not to mention learning essential adulthood skills like self-control and self-care, becomes a carrot on a stick for the titular horse who spends most of his time falling off the wagon and dealing with the repercussions.

In addition to chronicling BoJack’s eternal search for peace and meaning, the show features an abundance of diverse characters in terms of sexuality, gender, race, economic status, political affiliation, and personal history, further complicating an already densely-layered commentary on contemporary life. Bojack Horseman has always been an outlier among the fluff and sameness that pervades our entertainment-obsessed world, all of which the show satirizes in the course of documenting the trials and tribulations of complicated characters. But above all things, it’s just damn funny.

In advance of the October 25th premiere of the sixth and final season, I was lucky enough to secure an interview with Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the show’s creator, who just published a collection of short stories over the summer called Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory. We talked about the state of television, how the writing process for a Netflix series compares to years of short fiction work, drilled down on particular stories from the collection and specific episodes from BoJack. No matterraphael_bob-waksberg_c_julie_lake how the closure, or lack thereof, arrives with the conclusion of BoJack Horseman, it’s good to know that Raphael Bob-Waksberg is not ready to close off his creative valve: this collection of short stories will always be there for us, as well as his new series Undone, about the surreal aftermath of a woman’s near-miss with death, and whatever bittersweet existential micro-crises await on the horizon.

PHAWKER: Just before we start off I just wanted to say this is my first interview ever.

RAPHAEL BOB-WAKSBERG: Oh!

PHAWKER: I’m a big fan of BoJack, I have been since it started, and the editor of PHAWKER just asked me one day if I would wanna do this interview if he could set it up, and you know, here we are.

RAPHAEL BOB-WAKSBERG: Okay, well, you’re doing good so far.

PHAWKER: Yeah, thanks. I really enjoyed reading the book. I’m wondering what your writing process or routine for the book was like and if it resembles the process for BoJack at all?

RAPHAEL BOB-WAKSBERG: Yeah, um, in some ways it does, in other ways not at all. I mean, even I would say it doesn’t necessarily resemble itself, because I wrote this book over a very long period of time, and over different periods of my life, so it was like it was written kinda between the breaks on BoJack, some of it was written before I even sold BoJack, some of it was written back when I lived in New York, a lot of it was written here in L.A. So really it varies from piece to piece, you know, some of the pieces I didn’t even know what I was writing necessarily—if I was writing a short story or what shape it was going to be. But my writing process in general, you know, when I’m not working on a show, when I’m working on something, either a show to be sold, or these stories, or anything else, you know, I try to work away from home, I’ll go to like a coffee shop or a library or something, where I don’t have access to the internet, I try to leave my phone in my car. [laughs] If I have my phone on me , I will get distracted. And then I just try to, you know, work, I guess. And it’s helpful sometimes to have a collection of short stories you’re working on, because then if you get stuck or bored with one, you can just move on to a different one and let that one breathe for a little bit.

PHAWKER: Right. I mean that makes sense, there are a lot of different aspects and ideas that get hit—I found myself relating to a lot of different—a lot of those different topics, and it makes me wonder what the audience is for that book? And if it relates at all to BoJack?

RAPHAEL BOB-WAKSBERG: I don’t know who it would be! I guess that’s a question for the PR department or the marketing department rather than me. I think the audience is—I was mostly writing for myself, and stuff I thought was interesting, or funny, or sad. And I guess the audience would be people who respond to my writing. I guess—yeah, fans of BoJack would probably like it and I think fans of short stories in general, or people who have experienced love might enjoy it.

PHAWKER: Right, there’s some pretty experimental stuff in there. The story “Lies We Told Each Other” is made up of a couple’s false statements that they’ve made throughout their relationship, and there were two in there that struck me particularly: the first was “I’ve never felt like this before.” and secondly it was “This moment, right here, is the happiest moment of my life.” They made me think of the way that pop music pushes this notion that love is relentlessly euphoric, and, in writing the book, did you want to kinda shoot that idea down about love or is the way you write about love getting at something bigger?

RAPHAEL BOB-WAKSBERG: Yeah! You know, I think love can be euphoric, certainly, and I think in those moments, Bojack_perhaps, those characters were truly experiencing that euphoria, you know? I think there’s something—what’s fun for me about that story in particular is kind of “What is a lie?” And, you know, the idea that some of these lies are deliberate untruths, and some of them are ways in which they’re revealing more about themselves than even they intend. But I think love is hard work, and I think that a lot of what this book is about is kind of the treachery of love, or the dangers of love, or the work of love, and I think, you know, the question that maybe posited by this book is “Is it worth it?” You know, given all that it does to us. And I think some of the stories seem to argue that, “Yes! It is worth it!”, and some of the stories…[laughs]…well, maybe it’s not. Ultimately the reader should decide for themselves what argument resonates more with them.
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NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

October 14th, 2019

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Artwork by SCOTT LAUMANN

FRESH AIR: The recent biopic Rocketman painted a Hollywood version of Elton John’s life, but a new memoir, Me, comes straight from the artist himself. In it, he describes how, as a young man, he was determined to enter the music business, in spite of some misgivings about rock ‘n’ roll in his household. As he tells Fresh Air, “My dad, of course, hated it.” And yet, that disapproval only fueled his will to succeed. Me recounts many more stories from the pop superstar’s personal life, including how proposing to a woman helped him realize he was gay and how saying yes to a line of cocaine at a ranch in Colorado led to a long battle with addiction: “Of course, it was fool’s gold. That was the start of a love-hate relationship with it for 16 years, basically.” In conversation with Terry Gross, John explains how that habit and others eventually landed him in rehab, where he got the chance to start over. “I hated the way I behaved. I hated how I treated people. I hated what I’d become. But I’m grateful that I had it, because then I learned how to become who I am now,” John says. “I’m proud of who I am now. I like who I am.” MORE

PREVIOUSLY: Screenwriter Lee Hall (Billy Elliot, War Horse) assembles Elton’s life not as a straight rocketman_xlgline but a zig-zagging mosaic of thrilling vignettes, ripe for all those big surrealistic choreographed production numbers where characters suddenly break into song and somehow, against all odds, it works. Big time. In fact, Rocket Man is at its best when it goes big — and it always goes big. More rock opera than PBS Frontline, the movie plays fast and loose with history’s timestamp in the pursuit of more satisfying storytelling, which is the beauty of the much-maligned biopic genre given that absolutely everyone’s life is a sad, slow walk from greatness to enfeeblement. BORING! The power and the glory of Rocket Man — which is to say the fun of it all — stems from the fact that it isn’t Ken Burns or Errol Morris telling you Sir Elton’s life, it’s Andrew Lloyd Webber. MORE

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Q&A: W/ Black Keys Drummer Patrick Carney

October 11th, 2019

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Lara_MickleBY LARA MICKLE After a five year hiatus, the Black Keys are back with a new album called, simply enough, Let’s Rock, and a tour that stops at Wells Fargo Center on October 14th. Re-connecting their basement-rocking roots, Let’s Rock channels a distinctly bell-bottomed 70’s rock vibe by keeping it stone-cold simple and using no instruments made after 1978. Last week we got bespectacled Keys sticksman Patrick Carney on the horn. DISCUSSED: What the hell they’ve been up to for the last five years (a lot, it turns out); making babies; producing other people’s albums; seeing Wu-Tang Clan at the home of the Grand Ole Opry; why there’s an electric chair on the cover of the new album; how the Keys buried the hatchet with Jack White over a baseball game; and the demise of politics in the U.S.A.

PHAWKER: What have you been doing with your time in the five years since Turn Blue came out?

PATRICK CARNEY: Well I produced a record for Michelle Branch, and then I ended up dating her, and then I ended up having a baby with her, and then I ended up marrying her so that’s what I ended up doing mostly with my five years. I produced records for quite a few bands actually, I probably worked on about six or seven albums and Dan worked on probably ten or twelve albums, including a solo record and a record with another group he had briefly called The Arcs. So we both were really busy although we weren’t on the road. I think the reason why we took time away from the band was because we started thinking that every time we made a record we thought that we’d have to go on the road and play a hundred shows in a year, you know? It’s just a lot to process,and we did that. We did 125 shows in 2010 and 2012, and in 2011 and 2013 we did about 50 shows, and then Black_Keys_Lets_Rock2014, we did 80 shows, so we just had nothing but touring for basically four and a half years. So after our last show was booked for Turn Blue we just took some time off. After three years of the time off we were back in the studio working. It seems like a longer break because our last record came out and there was a five-year gap between records, but there was only a three-year gap between [us] working together.

PHAWKER: Was there a specific reason for the hiatus or did it just work out that way?

PATRICK CARNEY: It just was that we took a break, and just kept growing, and we kept doing other projects that required more and more time; for instance, that first year 2016, I was working on Michelle Branch’s record, and then 2017 I was touring it, and then 2018 we had already started making plans to get back together to make another record. So it wasn’t that big of a break really, it was just enough to do a couple of big projects.

PHAWKER: What made you and Dan decide it was time for a new album?

PATRICK CARNEY: I mean we’d been in touch the whole time that we were not playing together. I think once we figured out a plan that would work for touring, and that Dan was comfortable with, then that’s kind of when we set the date to go back to the studio. It wasn’t a big meeting or anything, we were just playing it by ear.

PHAWKER: Jack White’s record label, Third Man Records applauded your release of Let’s Rock, does this mean there is no longer beef between you guys and White?

PATRICK CARNEY: There’s no beef, there’s no more beef. We’re like Wendy’s, looking for the beef. That just proves my age, that’s a reference to a commercial from 1986. No actually, Jack and I watched the Cleveland Indians play the Detroit Tigers in the season opener this year. I watched some of the game with him at his house.

PHAWKER: What did you make of Jack’s most recent album Boarding House Reach?

PATRICK CARNEY: I mean obviously the guy is one of the most talented rock musicians out there. I think everything that he does is really interesting.

PHAWKER: The new album has a distinctly ‘70s vibe, what prompted that? What were you guys listening to in the run-up to writing and recording Let’s Rock? Were there particular albums you guys discussed for reference points for the new album?

PATRICK CARNEY: I honestly think the reason that it has that… I mean it has that vibe accidentally kind of, letsrock_blackkeysbut we didn’t use really any instruments that were made after 1978. Everything from the drums, to the symbols, to the microphones; the only thing we were using that was more modern was a computer, but even that, we weren’t really using the computer to make anything sound differently. And we didn’t use any synthesizers, or anything that has evolved over the years. We used the highest form of rock and roll equipment from [around] 1974 so I think it was just accidental really.

PHAWKER: So there weren’t any albums you guys were listening to that you used as reference points for this?

PATRICK CARNEY: Not really, we’re always listening to our favorite records. I have a firm belief that my favorite period of high-fidelity recording is throughout 1973 or ‘74. There’s a 10cc record, I don’t even really like the record that much, but I love the way It sounds from back then. Things like that, where we’re just able to listen to records sometimes for the songs, sometimes for the sounds. But we weren’t really referencing anything unusual that we wouldn’t normally reference. Usually, when we went to go listen to music we’d end up just watching ridiculous videos on YouTube.

PHAWKER: The day you guys recorded this album a Tennessee man was executed, his last words were “Let’s rock!”. Who was this guy? What was he executed for?

PATRICK CARNEY: Well, I don’t even know. I know that Dan was just struck by the fact that this guy was asked what his last words were before he was put into the electric chair, and he just said Let’s Rock. I think he [Dan] just felt like that is maybe the most profound statement, and the most moronic statement. But it basically sums up rock and roll, so it became the record title, and then we put the electric chair on there and it kind of just became full Spinal Tap.

PHAWKER: What was the last album or song you heard that blew your mind?
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BEING THERE: Bon Iver + Feist

October 11th, 2019

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Photo by GRAHAM TOLBERT

Pasted on every door of the venue were warnings of extreme strobe lighting. The heavy promise of a twisted psychedelic dream that would channel both the cabin fever seclusion of Bon Iver’s early music and the cryptic auto-tuned voice of 2016’s 22, A Million grew closer with Feist’s preparatory words, “Your hearts will be turned into a flock of pastel geese flying into the future,” at the end of her opening set. With the sudden darkness and quick flashes of hallucinatory art across stage-bookending screens as the i,i intro “Yi” played in the background of Bon Iver’s entrance, that vision seemed like it might actually become reality.

For all of his new Kanye-inspired vocal tracks and synthesizer experimentations though, Justin Vernon will probably never live down his reputation as that guy who made a record by himself in the woods one time. But after releasing i,i, with Bon Iver, he and the band announced that they would embark on an arena tour in support of the record – a far cry from his falsetto coffee shop origins in a disparity that was dishearteningly obvious last night. While Vernon’s newer music undoubtedly deserves its place at the same level as its inspirations in other electronic, rap, and metal arena acts, the ubiquitous promise of Bon Iver’s dramatic mind-altering showmanship was only half full.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the performance was its stagnation. Each band member stood atop a pedestal, somewhat caged in by triangular frames of light on each platform. Given the complex instrumentation, looping, and layering that Bon Iver’s music requires, the musicians probably would have had difficulty moving around in any setup, but these beams of light trapped them in a way that enforced a separation, a notion that they were to be watched rather than engaged with, especially in a venue where every member of the audience was seated.
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BEING THERE: Hop Along & Tierra Whack

October 11th, 2019

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Photo by ALEX PATERSON-JONES

Philly loves their own. The crowd, crammed into a warehouse somewhere in Northern Liberties last night, went wild for the performances of three Philly-born artists’ Hop Along, Tierra Whack and Orion Sun, at the opening of the 4-day House of Vans event. Indie rock band Hop Along—which is comprised of two siblings, front-woman Frances Quinlan and her brother Mark  on drums — opened for Tierra Whack. Live, Frances’ voice is an enigma— think a chain-smoking baby, crude and rustic, pulsing in its ragged rawness. That voice’s full-throatedness pierced the venue, making the audience empathize with the pain located in the fairy tales she sang about. Frances sang all the songs off 2018’s Bark Your Head off, Dog, along with some of their best-known tracks (including “Powerful Man” and “Tibetan Pop Stars”), but the most thrilling moment of Hop Along’s set was “Prior Things,” during which guitarist Joe Reinhardt erupted in a raging guitar solo, head-banging furiously.

Philadelphia-rapper Tierra Whack emerged from backstage looking like The Queen of Hearts—wearing a woven, cherry-red crewneck sweater, a Pepto-pink skirt patterned with big, red hearts, and her whole head of hair fully blown-out behind a striped, red headband. When she launched into “Only Child” (a single released earlier this year, which she sang along with all the tracks from her debut album, Whack’s World), the venue unanimously erupted into roaring in cheers, with  everyone raising their arm or middle-finger. Then Whack shared the spotlight: first, she brought on a “special guest” (a live baby turtle she called “Bruce”); then her DJ—who bore a striking resemblance to Eminem—joined her onstage, energetically bouncing and rapping alongside her and, in one swift move, tearing his shirt off.

Later in the night, Whack even welcomed a couple audience members onstage to freestyle before the crowd. She offered to film the first guy’s freestyling with his phone and then told the audience to shut up and listen when the second guy choked, in a manner that was encouraging and unexpected coming from those no-bullshit vocals you get in her music. When the second guy rapped—the audience held their breath—he was talented, impressing Whack, and they embraced at the end. She proceeded to hurl free pairs of Vans and T-shirts into the audience. I was initially skeptical how the 1-minute tracks from the 15-minute-album Whack’s World would translate into a live performance, but I was won over by end. – JASMIN ALVAREZ

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Photo by ALEX PATERSON-JONES

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ALBUM REVIEW: Redd Kross Behind The Door

October 10th, 2019

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If any band on Earth can deliver us from evil, it’s Redd Kross. The brothers McDonald, pride of Hawthorne, California, have been bringing sonic sunshine to punk’s heart of darkness since 1978 and their seventh full-length release, Behind the Door, is here to tell you – yeah, you! – to stop tweeting, step away from CNN, and get your ass back to the party. It’s a goddamned all-American rager and it’s not over till Redd Kross says so, which won’t be anytime soon judging by the 11 rambunctious cuts on Behind the Door, which brings them to Underground Arts on Saturday as part of a 53-city (!) fall tour with proto-grunge sludge gods the Melvins. (Steven McDonald, bassmaster in both bands, is working double-duty.)

The band’s cited inspirations for Behind the Door sound like they came right from SNL club kid Stefon: “K-pop, glitter gangs, embarrassed tweens, long-term relationships (and) a mysterious character named Fantástico Roberto.” While non-ironic adoration for all things pop cultural has been part of Redd Kross’ oeuvre since the beginning, so has their signature blend of sweet harmony and guitar-driven ferocity.

To wit: The opening track, a power-popped makeover of Henry Mancini’s “The Party,” boils over into “Fighting,” a ball of a headbanger that clocks in at a mere 2 minutes, 24 seconds. The title track, an apparent reference to the 1974 B-movie ripoff of The Exorcist (Linda Blair being a McDonald brothers’ muse) is archetypal Redd Kross: take a little Cheap Trick, mix in a lot of KISS, sprinkle with candy-coated melodies and raunchy mega-riffs, turn up to 11, and serve piping hot.

Behind the Door’s closer is another cover, a rowdy remake of the Sparks quirky “When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way,’” and is the perfect way to end the party on a high note.  While we flounder through the Orwellian shitshow that is life in these United States at present, Redd Kross is here to remind you that somewhere, it’s a sunshine day where everybody’s smilin’and the party is just getting started. – JOANN LOVIGLIO

REDD KROSS + THE MELVINS + TOSHI KASAI @ UNDERGROUND ARTS OCT. 12TH

PREVIOUSLY: Q&A W/ Jeff McDonald Of Redd Kross

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TELEVISION: Last Night On It’s Always Sunny

October 10th, 2019

The gang finds out that Philadelphia City Council has proposed a law to decriminalize public urination, but one councilwoman has vowed to vote it down. The gang likes the idea of being able to urinate publicly with impunity, so Dennis devises a plan for the guys to “obtain” the naysaying city councilwoman’s house keys and set all of her clocks back so she misses the public urination decriminalization bill vote. But then Dee arrives to ruin the fun. Turns out this is “Dee Day” and for the next 24 hours the gang must devote all of their time and attention to Dee and do whatever she says.The planned key heist quickly goes awry on account of Frank eating too many clams and Mac being… well Mac.

Meanwhile, back at Paddy’s, Dee forces Dennis and Charlie to perform a show which features all of the classically awful and stereotypical characters she’s created over the years. Dennis and Charlie are forced into a passionate kiss during Dee’s production and they are repulsed by the embrace. Charlie explains “I know we’re supposed to be cool with this because that’s where society is headed, but I’m not ready.” Mac and Frank are also supposed to be in Dee’s show, but once they find out that the script requires them to perform a massage parlor scene with a ‘happy ending’ Frank vomits his clams all over the stage.

Next up, Dee takes the gang bird watching, in a public park, and in honor of this outdoorsy event she has the guys dress up as crocodile wranglers. Furious with the gang’s failure to carry out his plan, Dennis takes it upon himself to make it all work on his own. For whatever reason, Dennis believes this plan involves him having sex with the councilwoman, but of course he fails miserably. However, Dee saves the day by slashing the Councilwoman’s tires causing her to miss the anti-urination vote. Mission accomplished! – LARA MICKLE

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