PHAWKER.COM – Curated News, Gossip, Concert Reviews, Fearless Political Commentary, Interviews….Plus, the Usual Sex, Drugs and Rock n' Roll


You Report, We Decide

News, Media, Politics, Music, Culture, Gossip, In The 215 And The Great Beyond

Q&A With Jesus Lizard Guitarist Duane Denison

December 30th, 2019


EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally published on 9/7/18. We are reprising it here in advance of the Jesus Lizard’s performance @ Union Transfer on Monday December 30th. Enjoy.

FrevelBY RICH FRAVEL Jesus Lizard ruled the indie noise-rock roost in the 90s releasing six albums of elegant psychosis before breaking up at the end of the decade. And now they’re back. I chatted up J-Liz guitarist Duane Denison [pictured, above left] for a bit over the phone. Hopefully I don’t sound too stupid. Duane sounds smart – I’m pretty sure he’s a smart guy. When he’s not Jay Lizzing, he’s a librarian in Nashville. We talked about his signature line of guitars, his memories of past visits to Philly, CD’s vs LP’s, how he saved his hearing from the damaging shrill of decades of rawk and role, and more. Sadly, I’ll be missing this Lizard show, I won’t be gettin’ no Yow sweat on me… I’m certain I’ve been to all their other Philly visits over the decades. They’re def a bucket list band… so stubhub that shit if you ain’t got tix yet…. I gotta play guitar that night at Connies Ric Rac in my rock combo, Mt Vengeance ( ) I’m certain there will be plenty of tickets left for our show. xoxo, Richie “dynamite hot flash” (thee FRAVE) Fravel

PHAWKER: Hey, this is Rich Fravel. I’m here in Philly. You got me okay?

DUANE DENISON: Yeah, yeah, hey. This is Duane. I’m here in Nashville.

PHAWKER: Right on. I’m recording this, so heads up.


PHAWKER: And just a heads up, I don’t do this. I’m a rock fan. Jon Valania [How many times do I have to tell you it’s MR. VALANIA to you?1? — The Ed.] who runs Phawker, the site, thought I’d be a good guy to talk to you for a few.Jesus Lizard Down

DUANE DENISON: Oh, that’s fun.

PHAWKER: I’ve got some questions written out, but don’t expect, you know, professional interview mojo from me.

DUANE DENISON: Okay, well, you won’t get professional from me either then.

PHAWKER: [laughs] Okay, I’m going to be kind of reading from my script and going through my questions, but you can go on any tangent you want. We can make this short and sweet, or as long as you got time for. Whatever works.

DUANE DENISON: Yeah, we’re just getting set up here, so yeah. I’m fine.

PHAWKER: Ok cool. Duane Denison from The Jesus Lizard you’re coming to Philly for a sold out Union Transfer show on September 8th. You’ve played in Philly at least a dozen times or more in various groups. I was working at – way back when – at The Khyber and at the Troc doing sound and stage work in the early 90s. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen The Jesus Lizard play. What’s your favorite Philly memory, if you can remember one?

DUANE DENISON: Laughs There’s too many. Philly- I’ve always liked coming there. It’s a hip, cool, obviously old East coast town. It’s just, you don’t get the— you don’t get the ego and the attitude that you sometimes get in places like, oh, I don’t know, New York.

PHAWKER: True that [laughs].

DUANE DENISON: Not that I’m dissing them. God, I played there with not just The Jesus Lizard, but Tomahawk and Hank3. Probably others. I like the funky, old venues. Obviously The Khyber, and then I love playing The Troc, and it was on the edge of what would have been Chinatown, right? Is that all still there?

PHAWKER: Yes, it’s in the heart of Chinatown, still doing what they were doing back then. Union Transfer kind of picked up the slack with — it’s kind of a much better room than some of the smaller venues with real deal sound, and professionals that show up on time. So I think you’ll have a little different than shows were in the 90s.

DUANE DENISON: Yeah, yeah. I just like it. I grew up just outside of Detroit, and so, you know, I’m used to that kind of a gritty vibe, kind of a funky, old school kind of feel to things, and I like that. No, it’s just we’ve got some great fans from there over the years, and it’s all just such fun. Some of it I can’t even talk about [laughs].

PHAWKER: Good! Jesus Lizard always seemed to be an unsustainable beast of a band, at leastJesus Lizard Down in my mind that would eventually just evaporate and disappear, but here you are on the road again. A lot of my friends have seen you tell their younger friends, you know, you’ve got to see them live. The albums are cool, but it’s a must-see-live event. Do you ask yourself often how much longer can you do this, or is that just not a question that comes up?

DUANE DENISON: It doesn’t come up. Well, none of us really do music totally full time anymore, which is kind of nice, so we don’t have to do it all year ‘round like I did for, you know, for 20 years or so. Not necessarily with just The Jesus Lizard, but with others, you know, 20-25 years of full time music. Which was great, and I’m lucky to have been able to do that, but as you get older the wear and tear of just traveling alone can be kind of tiring, and tiresome, and hard on your system. So to be able to do it this way, where, you know, maybe once or twice a year we go out and play a few shows and have a great time is really nice. I could do this forever. And it’s gotten to the point where like, you know, like, we’re rehearsing the next couple days at a nice, professional rehearsal studio here and, you know, I’m not giving myself a hernia carrying gear upstairs.

PHAWKER: [laughs] Right?

DUANE DENISON: You know all that kind of thing that when you come up from, you know, the independent or underground or punk rock world, you know, everybody does all that stuff themselves, and to be able to do it where you’ve got other people doing some of the heavy lifting, literally, is great. And other people are booking the shows and, you know, doing all that, so, and we’re flying into things, and, so, you know, we could do this for as long as we want really, or as long as there’s a demand. Obviously when it gets to the point where, you know, playing this kind of music— eventually you reach an age where it doesn’t seem real anymore. Where it doesn’t seem like how could you possibly seem either relevant, or how does it seem real when you’re that age and still doing that kind of things. That becomes questionable, but, I mean, look at other people. I mean there’s bands that are way older than us. An obvious an example is going to be the Rolling Stones, but other bands play and sound great, whether it’s Deep Purple or whoever, so, you know, I think some of the people who I considered heroes when I was young, like David Byrne for example. He’s out touring and playing and doing his thing, so, you know, if you’re a real musician and that’s what motivates you, and that’s what gets you excited and wants you to keep playing and developing, then that’s just what you do.

PHAWKER: I was at the last show in Philly and for me, it seemed like the early 90s. All the same faces from back in the day were there. All the pieces were there. Actually, the band was maybe even a little tighter than it was back in the day, but—Jesus Lizard Down

DUANE DENISON: Yeah, in some ways.

PHAWKER: When you look at the audience now what do you see? I’m most curious. Do you see that same guy from Philly who’s always in the front row? Is he still there, or is he that guy with his kid now, staring at you? Do you recognize people from days gone by? With a little less hair and a little bigger belly?

DUANE DENISON: Yeah, all of the above. But it’s a mix you know. In the old days it would be people who more or less looked like us: people in their 20s or 30s. Hipsters making the scene, or other musicians checking us out. That kind of thing, and now, you know, it’s a mix of young and old people. People do bring their kids when they can, and then people who didn’t see it the first time but they heard about it, and so it’s kind of gratifying, really. And good for them bringing your kids to see, you know, an honest to goodness rock band.

PHAWKER: I bring my daughter who’s 13— no, she’s 14 now, to shows once in awhile and she stares at me like, ‘Why the fuck am I here? Why are we doing this?’ But it kind of sinks in. I took her to Paul McCartney a few years ago and now, well, now she saw a Beatle, and whether she gave a shit or not, she can say she did 30 years from now. So be it.

Alright, guitar gear. This is a long, rambling sentence I wrote here, so hopefully we can pick and choose what makes sense out of it, but I recall the early Jesus Lizard shows seeing you with a strange aluminum guitar. At the time I didn’t know what it was. It seemed to be a Midwest thing. I learned it was a Travis Bean with an aluminum neck and body. I picked one up at a thrift store and just dicked around with it a little bit, but the balance was awkward for me. I’m just a Strat player, so it felt awkward. You now have a signature model, Duane Denison Chessie made with— you collaborated with the Electrical Guitar Company. Tell me a little bit about that relationship and tell me a little bit about what guitar you’re bringing out on the road with you?

DUANE DENISON: Yeah, well, it’s pretty simple. You pretty much nailed it. Yeah, I play Travis Bean guitars for most of the time. Not always. I’ve played other stuff too but that was the signature one, and ones that I recorded most of the albums, like Liar and Goat, with mostly Travis Bean stuff. Yeah it was actually, those had wooden bodies with aluminum necks, and then the pick up was set in aluminum. But yes, they are kind of heavy and they are kind of awkward, and eventually when I moved to Nashville I sold those and played other things for awhile, and Kevin Burkett who runs the Electrical Guitar Company approached me about making me aluminum guitars, and he does all aluminum, and so I was able to collaborate on that. Yeah, and we got my model. Semi-hollows, and we tried to get the weight down and tried to get the balance improved without sacrificing any of the sound. He told me the characteristics, and so I think we did it. He also has, he now has the licensing deal to make Travis Beans again.

PHAWKER: Wow, cool.

DUANE DENISON: But I find as I’ve gotten older my back and my neck just can’t play them anymore. The weight and the balance just throws me off, so I prefer the electrical Chessies, and that’s what Jesus Lizard DownI’ll be playing on this tour. I’ll be playing a white one, and I have a yellow one too that I might break out.

PHAWKER: Cool, I know- I think your model had a Bigsby on it?

DUANE DENISON: Yeah, uh-huh.

PHAWKER: Is that your- I don’t recall lots of whammy action on your stuff, but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.

DUANE DENISON: No, but it’s just nice to have. It’s nice to have a kind of – you can kind of make a chord waver and do things you can’t normally do.

PHAWKER: I gotcha. What amps are you bringing, and what are you practicing on?

DUANE DENISON: I’m just gonna use rented Marshalls. JCM 800s. There’s a consistency to them. In the old days I would play Hiwatts. I like a little more grind now. You can just overdrive the Marshalls at just a little bit lower volume. And then for practice I typically use PC electronics, their G force and a Midi controller. For somewhat of a different pre-amp and delay and chorus and tremolo.They’re very simple, but very high quality, great sounding rig.

PHAWKER: Okay, tell me a bit about battle wounds. From years on tour you always seem to be the stoic maestro overseeing the chaos of David Yow, but surely some shrapnel has come your way.

DUANE DENISON: [laughs] Oh God, everything, everything.

PHAWKER: Yeah? You name it?

DUANE DENISON: There was a tour in- we were in Europe. Probably in ’96 and I pinched a nerve in my back, and right before the show, right before a big festival in France, and I had to play, and I was hurting so bad it was making me nauseous, and I told them, keep a stretcher by the side of the amp in case I pass out. And I made it through the show. I hardly moved, and I was just sweating with pain the whole time, and then fortunately we had two days off in a row where I could just lay still, but I was just hobbling for the rest of the tour. But I finished the tour, and then, you know, came home, and got physical therapy and all that, and whatever. It’s manageable. It never goes away. That kind of stuff never goes away. So that was the first real thing along that line, and then about 10 years ago I got a hernia carrying a cabinet up a flight of stairs and it was the same thing. It was right during the middle of a tour. I kept going for a few weeks and eventually I was just limping, and so then I went to see a doctor on a day off, and he said, man, you really need to go home and get some surgery. And so I did, it took months to sort of recover from that, and it still aggravates me from time to time. I’ve had my knee kind of bothers me, well a lot of it is just aging, you know? As you’re getting older your joints bother you.Jesus Lizard Down

PHAWKER: I turn 50 this year. I hear you, you know. I hear you loud and clear.

DUANE DENISON: What you do for a living or what you do in your spare time. You know, my knees bother me. My wrist, elbows, joints sometimes bother me. Neck and shoulder pain. You work out, do your stretches, get a massage every so often, see a physical therapist if you need some more help and you get through it.

PHAWKER: How are your ears? Any permanent ringing?

DUANE DENISON: Ears are great, no, my ears are good. I’m always surprised at that, because we were a very bright band, and we were loud and bright. Lots of symbols. A Travis Bean through a Hiwatt is pretty bright and David [Sims]’s bass sound is pretty bright. But no, my earing is really good. I think most of that is because I started protecting my ears back in the 90s. I wore earplugs and things. I don’t have any custom stuff. You know, just better quality over the counter, and then I almost never listen to music on headphones or buds. I almost never. And I think that’s what hurts people’s ears more than anything. Everybody’s got earbuds. Everybody’s in their own little world, listening to music by themselves, and I like to listen to it in the air. I like to hear it whether it’s in the car or at home, in my home in my music room, or whatever.

PHAWKER: Yes, if we didn’t have speakers in our house, old school speakers, I know my daughter would not know what they were.

DENISON: My daughter’s the same way. She’ll take a shower and she’ll be playing it on the Bluetooth. She thinks it gets better, but the sound gets worse.

PHAWKER: The laptop speakers are how people are fashioning their records for nowadays, which is a shame. When you’re not rocking, are you indeed a librarian?

DUANE DENISON: [laughs] Yes. I work for the Nashville library system. That’s been going on for a couple years. I was full time music for decades, and then I just kind of thought well, the time between projects is getting longer, right? And there’s no excuse for me not doing something else, and working, you know, 40 hours a week that much, really isn’t. And I still have plenty of time to practice. Plenty of energy left. Time and energy left to work on music. And, you know, I save up my vacation time and whatever else and then go play shows and the people I work with or work for are totally cool with that, and they know, you know. They know my background and what the deal is, so it all seems to work out.

PHAWKER: So they get it. Is it rewarding? Do you like working with the kids, and helping a person out that needs just a push in the right direction?

DUANE DENISON: Yes it can be tiring and stressful sometimes, you know. People can be difficult, you know. People, you know. It’s a free service that we’re offering and yet people. There are some people that just go through life looking for things that— I don’t know.

PHAWKER: My ex was a librarian, so I got some experience from her first hand.

DUANE DENISON: Yeah, so you know, and anyone who does any kind of job where you’re dealing with people knows what that’s like. A lot of the time I’m not dealing with people in that way, so I can just do other things. You know, looking through things, looking things up, going through donations, you know, that kind of library work where you don’t wait on people, so it balances out. It’s fine.

PHAWKER: And you get health insurance and all those must-have things?

DUANE DENISON: Oh yeah. A benefits package you can’t beat. For years, you know, when you’re a musician you’re basically a self-employed contractor.

PHAWKER: Right.Jesus Lizard Down

DUANE DENISON: So of course you’re paying all that yourself. And you know that going into it. But it’s nice not having to pay for that stuff.

PHAWKER: Right. After this September run of dates, are there any plans for the future?

DUANE DENISON: No. There are no plans beyond this. There are no plans. This kind of came up fairly quickly. We had an offer – what drove this – we had an offer to play the Riot Fest in Chicago which is a big thing, and that is kind of what pushed everything else. Well, if we rehearsed and get it together for that, we might as well play more shows, and so we put the word out, and everything’s just kind of fell into place from there.

PHAWKER: Selling out Philly, you know, may be a bit more of a challenge than it was way back when but that seemed to happen very quickly this time, so that’s all good. Most of the shows have sold out or doing well?

DUANE DENISON: Yeah, I think maybe Austin is a bigger venue, and I don’t know if that one’s sold out yet or not, but, you know, it’s getting there, you know.

PHAWKER: Yeah, no, it’s great— great to see that you’re still going strong and people wanting to see it live. Let’s see. A couple other kind of wrapping up questions for you. Your favorite Jesus Lizard song, what would it be?

DUANE DENISON: Off the top of my head there’s one called “Then Comes Dudley,” which is kind of one of our more signature songs. Kind of a very definitive Jesus Lizard song in that you’ve got this bass and drum line and the guitar comes kind of chiming in, and there’s some odd sort of guitar sort of turnarounds in it. That one’s kind of a classic, and then “Boilermaker” is fun to play. It’s fast and it’s got different parts. Single line chord stuff, some arpeggiated stuff, kind of a challenge to play. A couple songs like we just did that mash-up of Chrome songs. It’s just called “Chrome” and there’s a solo in there that I can cut loose a little bit.

PHAWKER: Are they a part of the current set?

DUANE DENISON: Oh yeah, and “Bloody Mary.” That’s one of our earliest songs that we ever even practiced together. I’d like to think of it as family distinctive arpeggiated things and David Yow’s vocal performance is really good.

PHAWKER: You probably hear this a dozen times a week, but I don’t even have to think about it, but at least once a month for an hour words from “Mouth Breather” just pop into my head for no good reason. It’s just there once in a while.

DUANE DENISON: [laughs] Well that one people just like to sing the words, “I like him just fine be he’s a mouth breather!”

PHAWKER: [laughs] Are you a record collector, yourself?

DUANE DENISON: No, I have an okay collection of records, and I have more CDs than albums. I think because for a long time I was moving around a lot, you know, from Michigan to Texas to Chicago to Nashville, and vinyl takes— I’m not really, like, a vinyl junkie. I actually think CDs sound better.

PHAWKER: I’m with you. I go to the thrift store once a week and I’ll buy 20 CDs for a dollar, you know, and I’m like, you’ve got to be kidding me. This is insane.

DUANE DENISON: I still occasionally buy CDs. I have a CD player at home and in my car and I use it. I also have satellite radio package in my car that I like, and I have the turntables also so, you know, it’s covered, but I’m not like, no, I’m not a collector. I have a fair amount of stuff that I genuinely like. I don’t collect things just to collect them to put it that way

PHAWKER: Is there anything current that you’re kind of grooving to lately?Jesus Lizard Down

DUANE DENISON: Lately I kind of go between what I’m hearing on my pet radio stations. It’s funny I’ve got a satellite radio package with 300 radio stations, but I only listen to 4 or 5 of them consistently. Classical stations, 40s swing stations, couple of rock stations, maybe the outlaw country station, and a reggae station. And that’s what I listen to. And then things come through the library, they catch my eye. A CD or an album. For instance, the other day there was a new soundtrack by Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead. I forgot, it was a new movie, I can’t remember…Daniel Day Lewis. I can’t remember the name of it.

PHAWKER: Phantom Thread.

DUANE DENISON: That’s it! Phantom Thread, yes.

PHAWKER: Any plans for a comprehensive retrospective everything-we-ever-did box set.

DUANE DENISON: No, we did that more or less in 2009

PHAWKER: The singles, right?

DUANE DENISON: Well the singles, and then we reissued the whole back catalogue, and they had— it was remastered, and it had some improved packaging. It had a lot more expansive liner, notes, and photos and stuff, so I feel like we kind of have already been there. And then we did that book that came out on the Akashic called Book. So it’s all pretty well-chronicled at this point.

PHAWKER: That is kind of it, unless you got some parting words you want to share with the fine folks from Philly.

DUANE DENISON: No, I’m sure people in Philly are tired of hearing people talk about Ben Franklin, and the Liberty Bell, and Pats vs. Genos, and you know who’s from Philly who I like is Sam Fogarino from Interpol.

PHAWKER: Oh, he’s a Philly guy.

DUANE DENISON: Yeah he is, and I was with him one day in Philly, playing with his— he had a side project Empty Mansions and he took me to a different cheesesteak place that was neither Pat’s nor Genos. He said this is the real thing, and it was really good.

PHAWKER: Everyone’s got their hidden spot. At least in Philadelphia— got their own cheesesteak spot that’s the best.

DUANE DENISON: I remember playing the Troc one night, and I having nothing to do , and this is the only time that I’ve ever gone to a fortune teller and she gave me a stone. A special stone that would protect me from evildoers and people who wish me harm, and I swear to god I kept it in my flight case. I still have it, but I don’t use it. My little beat up flight case that I used for years, and I do think it did protect me, because nothing truly bad ever happened. The kind of catastrophic thing that often happens to musicians or people who travel a lot— it never really happened to me. So maybe I’ll go back there when I’m in town.


[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

December 19th, 2019



FRESH AIR: I’m Terry Gross. My guest Adam Sandler is famous for his comedy films and his work on “Saturday Night Live” in the ’90s. But he’s also given some terrific performances and dramas. He stars in the new manic thriller, “Uncut Gems,” which was written and directed by the Safdie brothers – Josh and Benny Safdie – who are also with us.

Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a jeweler in Manhattan’s Diamond District who always has a deal or a con going on and never stops talking. And he’s a gambler. He’s made a lot of money and lost a lot of money and is deep in debt to a loan shark whose men are after him. He’s trying to talk and gamble his way out of the predicament he’s in. The Safdies’ father worked in the Diamond District when they were kids, and they heard a lot of stories.

“Uncut Gems” won the Best Director Award from the New York Film Critics Circle. The National Board of Review gave Sandler the Best Actor Award and the Safdie brothers the Best Screenplay Award. The film has five nominations from the Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Feature, Director, Screenplay and Male Lead. MORE

RELATED: Dan Tabor’s Review Of Uncut Gems

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

CINEMA: Jedi Nights

December 19th, 2019


THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (directed by J.J. Abrams, 141 minutes, USA, 2019)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC At the end of The Last Jedi, we witnessed Luke Skywalker sacrifice his life so the remnants of the Resistance could escape aboard the Millennium Falcon. This was after Kylo Ren promoted himself to supreme leader by killing the mysterious Snoke, and offering Rey a place at his side ruling the galaxy. Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi made some bold choices compared to JJ Abrams’ fan service-y The Force Awakens. This created a rift between those fans that wanted a new drug and fans that wanted another hit off the Star Wars nostalgia bong. After director Colin Trevorrow (Jurassic World) was fired deep into pre-production on The Rise Of Skywalker, J.J. Abrams stepped into the breach to conclude the Skywalker trilogy he started.

The Rise of Skywalker finds Kylo Ren teaming up with Emperor Palpatine, who we find out has been hiding out on a secret Sith planet, orchestrating his will through his puppet Snoke this whole time. He offers Ren the means to conquer the galaxy — an armada of planet destroying starships he calls The Final Order – but only if he kills Rey. So, begins a planet hopping cat and mouse McGuffin chase as Rey hopes to find an ancient Sith artifact that will lead her and the Resistance to Palpatine, with Kylo and the Knights of Ren hot on her trail. The Resistance only has a narrow window to launch their final all-or-nothing attack as The Final Order readies to leave the secret Sith world and destroy any planet that doesn’t fall into line.

Skywalker is a dense watch, as Abrams attempts to mix info dumps, exposition and narrative to varying degrees of success and only makes sense if you’ve seen all the previous Star Wars films. The cast are all known quantities at this point with Driver being the clear standout this time around. Even with all of the changes, his is still the most consistent story arc throughout all three films as Ben Solo continues to be conflicted over which path to take. Carrie Fisher who had passed away before the end of production on The Last Jedi also posthumously returns in a leading role culled from unused footage from Jedi to help explain a major plot hole. It’s a noble gesture honestly, but it feels like fan service rather than a genuine path for Princess Leia Organa.

The crux of this dense narrative is a string of reveals that work at the cost of coherence and continuity with everything that has come before. I hesitate to call it lazy writing, because I understand it was creative problem solving, an attempted solution to an unsolvable problem. J.J. Abrams wanted everyone to leave the theater happy.  But by doing so he lost the momentum, and cohesion that Johnson had handed off to him. He turned in a film that while generally okay at best, it feels like filmmaking by committee and focus group, rather than as singular vision driven by story. While I thoroughly enjoyed the further exploration of Rey and Kylo’s relationship, which is the emotional core of the film, I felt like Abrams kept getting distracted by spectacle, the need for big final reveals and lore rather than the humanity that drives these films.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

WORTH REPEATING: The Impeachment Of Trump Is Too Important To Be Left Up To The Senate

December 16th, 2019


PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER: But the greater takeaway on the eve of the president’s impeachment has been just how far the rule of law has broken down in America. McConnell’s abandonment of the foundational notion of the Senate as a check on monarchical power has put a hard stamp on this betrayal, as we watch 243 years of democratic tradition plunge over the guardrails.

Congressional Democrats, who’ve done a mostly skillful job in managing the impeachment process so far, insist there is still leverage to establish rules for a fair trial in which the evidence against Trump can be properly presented and heard. There is hope that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer can work on McConnell to impose a fair framework, or that maybe three or four of the most moderate Republican senators will work with Democrats on the rules — regardless of how they’ll ultimately vote on removing Trump from office. Frankly, that hope seems unfounded. If you don’t believe, you might want to ask a chap named Merrick Garland.

John Dean has a better idea. Dean, you’ll recall, was Richard Nixon’s White House counsel. Caught up in the early days of the Watergate cover-up, Dean became a whistle-blower — initially to his boss, and eventually to the Senate and the nation, and in the 21st century he has burnished his reputation both as a truth-teller and sage commentator. A frequent analyst of Trump’s foibles, Dean is now promoting an outside-the-box solution to the impeachment quandary.

“Let’s impeach him now and NOT send it to the Senate rather keep investigating in the House, and add such supplemental articles as needed!” Dean wrote on Twitter this weekend. “Just let it hang over his head. If the worst happens and he is re-elected, send it to the Senate. But keep investigating!!”

Dean is not alone in suggesting this. There’s a growing sense among those who believe that Congress has a duty — both to the American people and to future presidents — to call out high crimes and misdemeanors that impeachment is actually the be-all-and-end-all sanction, considering that a kangaroo court awaits in McConnell’s Senate. Indeed, people with access to Trump say that — while he believes impeachment will help him in the 2020 campaign (and he may be right) — he also sees the looming vote as a huge humiliation. As it should be. MORE

RELATED: Philadelphia Inquirer Editorial Board “Impeach President Trump”

RELATED: The Growing List Of Major American Newspapers That Are Calling For The Impeachment Of President Trump

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

CINEMA: Hot Rocks

December 13th, 2019


UNCUT GEMS (directed by Ben & Joseph Safdie, 135 minutes, USA, 2019)

Dan Tabor_byline_avatarBY DAN TABOR FILM CRITIC There were several points while watching Uncut Gems that my Apple Watch began to go off letting me know that my heart rate was getting out of control, and that I needed to take a moment to “breath.” Watching the film in a darkened theater, I felt very much like its protagonist – trapped, anxious and fearing for my own sanity. It was during the third haptic Apple Watch alarm that I knew I was witnessing one of the best films this year.

Uncut Gems the newest film by the Safdie Brothers (Good Time) begins in Ethiopia, in the aftermath of a bloody mining accident. In all the chaos, a rare black opal worth at least a million dollars is smuggled out of the mine by a pair of entrepreneurial miners and ends up in the hands of New York diamond district Jewish jeweler Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler). Ratner who is a compulsive gambling addict, an adulterer and neck deep in debt is looking for an easy out with the rare stone. That’s when now-retired NBA star Kevin Garnett, playing none other than himself, is brought into his showroom and has a spiritual connection with the opal, and asks to borrow it for luck. This is during the 2010 playoffs between the Celtics and the Sixers.  When Garnett, pulls off a series best with the gem in his possession, he isn’t so quick to let go of the gem that is due for auction, as Ratner is just trying to make it through the Passover holiday with both of his kneecaps intact.

While I don’t consider myself an Adam Sandler fan, and haven’t sought out a film of his since high school, given the premise and directors I was intrigued to say the least. Unlike Robert Pattinson in Good Time, something remains pure and almost redeemable about Sandler’s gambling-addicted degenerate jeweler. This empathy seriously amps up the tension in the Safdie Brother’s trademark gritty underworld, as we see Ratner dig himself deeper and deeper still believing his big score is just over the horizon. It’s a tense watch, but one that gives the actor better known for his dick and fart humor the chance to show his detractors, just what he can do with the right material. Sandler is electric on screen with his manic take on a man struggling to keep his head above the surface in shark infested waters.

Sandler is surrounded by a cast that includes Idina Menzel, the always great Lakeith Stanfield and Kevin Garnett who all deliver very grounded takes, contrary to Sandler’s larger than life personae. Ratner feels at times like he is plugged into something almost ethereal once the gem is in his possession, which is similar to Garnett who we witness glimpses something spectacular, when he looks into the opal. It’s an almost mystical layer of subtext that for me brings something new to the loan shark film genre, a very dark sub-genre in Chinese cinema. Like other Safdie brother’s films Gems has a bleak documentarian look that to me felt like it was looking at New York as the unsafe urban jungle that was the playground of exploitation directors did in the ‘70s.

Uncut Gems is tense, sleaze-filled trip through the dark underbelly of New York’s Jeweler’s Row. Sandler is gloriously unhinged on screen in what is hands-down the performance of his lifetime. Gems is a complex narrative that has this ethereal subtext as well as an interesting cultural deep dive into Ratner’s relationship with his African American hip-hop and sports clientele. It’s a very nuanced script, with a lot of moving parts, that never leans into stereotypes, but also isn’t simply content with being a thrill ride. The Safdie Brother’s assisted by Ronald Bronstein have crafted a masterpiece that manages to get its audience to side with its tragically flawed protagonist and even root for him in a third act that left me speechless and almost gave me a heart attack, as Ratner goes for broke one final time.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]


December 12th, 2019

From Likewise, the debut solo album by Hop Along frontwoman Frances Quinlan, out January 31st on Saddle Creek.

PREVIOUSLY: Q&A W/ Frances Quinlan, AKA The Best Voice In Indie-Rock

PREVIOUSLY: Review Of Hop Along’s Bark Your Head Off

PREVIOUSLY: Video For Hop Along’s “Powerful Man”

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

SH*T MY UNCLE SAYS: Impeach The Motherf*cker

December 12th, 2019



BY WILLIAM C. HENRY Just when you thought the Feces in Chief and his Make America Gag Again minions couldn’t get any more mephitic:

1. The four-time draft dodging oval office outhouser has declared that henceforth he will play hind-endmost judge, jury and get-out-of-jail-free(er) in all things “war crimes related” … that have ALREADY been adjudicated by the armed services’ highest SMUScourts. Huh? Okay, I think I get it: it’s an inbred inclination of his to want to protect, preserve and defend all acts of deceit, immorality and/or cowardice.

2. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal Ukraine quid pro quo purveying patsy publicly asserted that his oval orifice client isn’t about to throw him under the proverbial bus … and besides, belched His Dishonor, “I’ve got ‘insurance.” I’ll bet you do. Did I mention that Rudy has recently been outed as trying to shove some dirty Ukrainian dough–which, by the way, has been ZERO-EVIDENCED as being Democrat sought or accepted–into his own oven. And now that very same execrable errand boy has gone (been sent?) back to Ukraine to squat with members of Ukraine’s disgustingly corrupt pro-Russia previous regimes in order to gather fabricated evidence for a phony anti-Bidens film documentary. Hey, Rudolph, how did that nose of yours really get so red-ish brown?

3. Attorney General William P. Barr, Trump’s personal Roy Cohn, has just farted that he “disputes” his own Justice Department’s Inspector General’s clearly stated finding that the FBI had sufficient evidence to launch an investigation into the Trump Campaign’s connection to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Well, if Putin’s Oval Office lapdog could be treasonous enough to throw the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and EVERY OTHER national intelligence gathering organization under the bus, he must be absolutely euphoric over having one of his most faithful cabinet stooge’s shit stains orange-up those yellow hammers and sickles on his crimson ties a bit. The latest: Because the aforementioned finding so blatantly rebutted Trump’s phony narrative regarding the cause and intent of its investigation, he’s now lashing out at Director Wray saying that the Director will never be able to “fix” the FBI. Well, eff you, you friggin’ rodent. It’s nice to know that there’s at least one individual near the top of your rancid Justice Department not subject to the Trump “fix.” Incidentally, Barrbarrosa, you can take your, and I quote, “so-called progressives” are also “militant secularists,” pro-religion hate speech, split it in two, and shove it right up your and your boss’s bigoted asses.

4. When you’re Louie Gohmert, a Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, and you’ve just listened to some of the finest, most dedicated, most intuitive Constitutional law experts in the country provide their informed opinions on whether the president of the United States committed impeachable acts, and you don’t possess the courage, the integrity, the self-respect–let alone the patriotism–to call out your stinking, traitorous, turd-brained, piece of garbage of a president for the putrid, sociopathic, pathologically lying, criminal, bucket of human waste that he actually is, what do you do? Why, of course, you disparage and demean the prestigious universities and law schools the professors attended as well as the highly esteemed institutions where they currently teach. Of course you do, you despicable slimeball, you scumbag, you sewer-dwelling, messenger-murdering, oval orifice suck-out!

5. But the greatest canker of all is how the Republican party continues to selectively purge its collective conscience of any and all things truly “American.” Principles like truth, morality, integrity, responsibility, decency, compassion and, yes, even patriotism, have been supplanted by such persuasions as: lawlessness and impunity at the highest levels of an administration; a willing, even welcoming, acceptance of such precepts as servility, gullibility, and kingship; as well as a seeming open enthusiasm to publicly fall prey to the heinous Hitler/Goebbels ploy of telling the colossal lie often enough so that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” Here are the FACTS, Mr., Mrs., & Ms. so-called Republican: 1) Trump is a pathologically lying sociopath. He has shamelessly LIED to the American people some 12,000+ times as of August of this year. He is a fucking liar, period. But that’s all right with you folks, isn’t it? 2) Trump is an immoral piece of sludge. If you need any evidence of that besides his fucking a porn star while his wife was recovering from the birth of his son Baron, maybe you need to get a little closer to your so-called Commandments. 3) He admires autocrats. Hell, he’s trying his damnedest to become one! He’s heaped praise on butchers and mega-thieves the likes of Putin, Kim, Erdogan and bin Salman while denigrating such democratic leaders as Macron, Merkel, Turnbull and May. And I haven’t even mentioned his public obscenities, his misogyny, or his stacking a TRILLION dollar$ in additional debt on the backs of your grandchildren and their children, or his poisoning of the air they’ll be breathing and the water they’ll be drinking. But you know all that and you still don’t give a shit. So why would you give a good goddamn about his draft dodging, his multiple bankruptcies, his Trump University scam, his food and clothing product branding scams, his thievery from his own “charitable” foundation, his secrecy regarding his taxes and his education, or his stiffing of banks and contractors? Geez, I wonder what Christ would think?

So, that’s all the good news for today, MAGA fans. Remember: It isn’t Republicanism. It isn’t partisanship. Hell, it isn’t even political. And, as sure as God made little grey elephants, it damn sure isn’t patriotism. What it is is good old fashioned human excrement. By the way, this just in: Final 2016 vote count: Hillary – 65,844,610; Donnie – 62,979,636. I just think the numbers bear repeating since you Fourth Reich folks seem to conveniently keep forgetting them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fed up early stage octogenarian who has actually been most of there and done most of that. Born and raised in the picturesque Pocono Mountains. Quite well educated. Very lucky to have been born into a well-schooled and somewhat prosperous family. Long divorced. One beautiful, brilliant daughter. Two far above average grandsons. Semi-retired (how does anyone manage to do it completely these days?) and fully-tired of bullshit. Uncle of the Editor-In-Chief.

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

BEING THERE: Twin Peaks @ Union Transfer

December 12th, 2019



Chicago rock stars Twin Peaks touched down in Philly this past Tuesday ready for another round of rowdy, jangly, good ol’ rock n’ roll at Union Transfer. The five-piece is touring on the heels of their latest album, Lookout Low, an album that shows signs of maturity in their songwriting yet retains the signature feel-good sounds that fans know and love them for.

Like the single track off the album, “Dance Through It,” fans jumped around the room in elation to classics like “My Boys,” “Walk To The One You Love” and “Butterfly.” Fans in the front row enjoyed an up-close and personal view of the band as the security barrier had been removed, snapping photos and swooning in between singing their hearts out. Songs written by Twin Peaks often depict coping with struggles like loneliness and heartbreak in both poetic and laid back fashions, yet their joyful melodies and playful stage presence time and again make their music an enjoyable, warm listen. It’s a well-balanced contrast that allows them to express themselves without being boxed into one thematic element.

The crowd raged on into the night as frontman Clay Frankel, bassist Jack Dolan and guitarist Cadien Lake James AKA “Tuna” shredded away. They encored with numerous more hits from Lookout Low, ending the night with the intense “Oh Mama.” In capturing the duality of emotions we can all relate to, life’s ups and downs, and injecting straightforward, good-hearted rock n’ roll, Twin Peaks again showed the crowd at Union Transfer what music is all about. – DYLAN LONG

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]


December 10th, 2019



EDITOR’S NOTE: This is interview first published back in July when Dave Alvin was touring in support of the 25th anniversary of the release of The King Of California. We are reprising this interview in advance of his appearance at World Cafe Live tonight as part of The Reverend Horton Heat’s Holiday Hayride, featuring 5,6,7,8’s and The Voodoo Glowskulls. Enjoy.

BYLINER mecroppedsharp_1BY JONATHAN VALANIA Americana standard-bearer Dave Alvin is a national treasure. His first band, The Blasters, formed with his brother Phil, schooled a whole new generation of young punks about the glories of early to mid 20th Century American music: Blues, rockabilly, country, Tex-Mex. As guitarist for X and The Knitters he continued bridging the divides between punk and roots music. He was always a hot-shit electric guitar player who let his brother do all the singing and songwriting, but by the end of the ’80s he struck out on his own and after a few albums of trial and error he found his voice as a singer and songwriter with 1994’s The King Of California, now recognized as a modern classic of the Americana/alt-country/No Depression scene. This year marks the 25 anniversary of its release. Alvin is currently on a tour in support of the just-released 25th Anniversary reissue of the album — remastered and re-packaged with bonus tracks — that brings him to World Cafe Live this Saturday (July 20th) Wednesday December 11th. Last week we got Dave on the horn to talk about the making of the album, some of the back story about the front and back cover art, his development as a singer and a songwriter, as well as a couple bonus questions about schooling The Gun Club’s Jeffrey Lee Pierce in the sepia-toned rapture of early 20th Century rural blues music.

PHAWKER: The now-classic King Of California is celebrating its 25th anniversary. It was recorded the day after DaveAlvin_KingofCalifoniathe Northridge earthquake, which was a pretty big deal Tell me, where were you that day or what was your experience with that quake.

DAVE ALVIN: Well it was actually– well, we recorded it the same day. And the quake came at like 4:30 in the morning, and we were due to be in the studio at 11 AM, and it– the effect that it had besides– basically a huge chunk of Southern California lost power with the quake, and then there was a lot of damage. The guy that was supposed to be playing bass on the record was a guy named Larry Taylor. Plays in Tom Waits’s band, and was in Canned Heat, blah blah blah. Larry’s house got hammered, so Larry was off the session. So we had to go scrambling to find a bass player and we couldn’t find anybody until the next day. So the first day of recording was done sort of without a bass player. The area around the studio was also hammered. Like a building right across the street, an old apartment building from the 1930s was devastated. And so it just had– the mood was kind of apocalyptic — sporadic power outages and crumbling buildings, you know? So it was, it just kinda had this mood of “Well, if we can get through this, then we’re meant to make this record.”

PHAWKER: In the press materials for the album you are quoted as saying ‘This was the album when I figured out to let the song tell me what it sounds like’ instead of the other way around — elaborate on that a little bit, explain what you mean.

DAVE ALVIN: Well, you know, when I grew up, professionally, writing songs for a band to play, a specific band to play, and for a specific voice — my brother Phil’s voice and the band was the Blasters– and whenever it, no matter what the band is, whether it’s the Rolling Stones or U2 or Soundgarden, you know, there are certain rules that bands have when it comes to the songs, every band’s rules are different. You don’t go into say, Soundgarden and say “Hey, I wrote a polka!” You know what I mean? And maybe the song is supposed to be a polka, you know? So with the Blasters what had happened was just basically I’d bring in a song, the band would rearrange it into a style or key that worked for them. What key is a good key for guitar playing as bass playing as opposed to singing, you know, that kinda stuff. So some of the songs on the King of California record were songs that I’d written for the Blasters that when I wrote them I thought of them as ballads, like sensitive ballads. And of course, you take it to the band and we turned it into rock and roll rhythm blues numbers. You know, loud.

And that’s fine, that’s all valid. But what I wanted to do on this record, because for a guy like me, I don’t know what record’s gonna be my last one. And I don’t mean that in a sense of mortality, I mean it in the sense of– in the business sense, you know, if the Rolling Stones decide to do an album of all polkas, their record label well let them make another record after that. You know what I mean? ‘Well, you know, Mick, we haven’t sold diddly of this Rolling Stones polka record, but what else you got?’ I don’t get that luxury. I mean, luckily I sell enough records now to guarantee that I will make more. But I still go in with the attitude of “well, this could be my last one because it may not sell,” and if it doesn’t sell then I’m at the Burger King asking you what you want on your burger.

So I wanted to get, when I did King of California, I thought, “Well this might be my last record and I wanna get these particular songs right. I just wanna get them recorded right so that when I’m dead and gone, somebody can say oh, that’s not a bad version.” You know what I mean? And so the way to do that, the way to answer your question, the way to do that is if the song says it’s a polka, then the song is a polka. If the song says it’s a ballad, then the song is a ballad. If it’s a blues DaveAlvin_KingofCalifoniasong, it’s a blues song, you know? And on and on.

PHAWKER: Now the bulk of the album was recorded live in the room, with everyone sitting in a circle around the microphones looking at each other hootenanny-style. But because the band the band was able to play quietly, you’ve talked about how this was the moment when you kind of found your voice as a singer — how your voice was able to lead the songs, pull the songs forward. You finally stepped out of your brother’s shadow as a vocalist I think with this record.

DAVE ALVIN: Yeah, as close as I can get to being one, yeah. The producer, Greg Leisz, who was is one of the greatest musicians I’ve ever known — Greg’s on every record just about ever made, it’s easier to listen to records that Greg is not on, you know…he’s not on Sergeant Pepper’s and he’s not on Exile on Main Street, but just about everything else of note, he’s on. So he’s had a lot of experience in the studio with singers and this and the other. And he was a close friend of mine and was good at hearing whatever was in my voice that was a good thing, and how to access it. And sometimes when you make records– you can ask any artist this, any singer– the vocals usually what’s done last, and the producers tend to be more worried about bass and drums. So recording the way that I like to record, which is everybody in the room at the same time, when you’re playing electric the vocals can take a backseat to the drums, you know? It’s like “Whoa, I can’t sing over that.” But in an acoustic setting, and with the right musicians, then yes, the vocals could lead the band into “okay, we’re gonna get loud here, we’re gonna get quiet here, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna do that,” and you know, just like as if I was James Brown or Van morrison or something.

It’s just, you need the right musicians that are playing the song and not playing their instrument, if that makes sense. Most musicians, probably myself included, are like “Hey I’m playin’ good! I’m hittin’ the right notes!” You know, ‘I don’t care about songs, I’m playin’ good!’ And so you need musicians that play the song, listening to the song. I’ve had guys that are great musicians come into the studio and say “Well, I don’t hear anything on this song. I think it sounds fine, you don’t need me.” That’s a great musician.

PHAWKER: Like the famous saw about jazz: it’s about knowing when not to play. Let me ask you about the circumstances that inspired the writing of “Born On The Fourth of July.” It sounds almost like you’re just literally sitting out on the steps, smoking a cigarette, looking down, the Mexican kids are playing down below, shooting off fireworks, and the song just kinda writes itself from there. Is that kinda…

DAVE ALVIN: No, yes and no. The event– it’s based on a true event in my life, but that was like, it was like ten years or seven years previously, it was back when I had been a fry cook, you know. And my girlfriend at the time and I, she had her day job and I had mine and it was, life was pretty disappointing, you know what I mean? I remember that that particular Fourth of July I wasn’t a songwriter at that point, I never– I didn’t even think that I’d ever be a songwriter, but I remember sitting there going “This is memorable,” you know? “This is memorable, I will remember this.” And so then yeah, seven or eight years later when I was a songwriter, a musician and no longer a fry cook, I always carried that image around, and it finally dawned on me, ‘okay, this is how the song goes, this is how you do it.’

And then once I decided this is the song, then it did kind of write itself, I was actually with my girlfriend at the time– my other, my entirely different girlfriend and an entirely different life, but we were with some friends at a bowling alley and she and I were just sitting there drinking beer watching our friends bowl badly and it suddenly just popped into my head, and I turned to my girlfriend and said “Let’s go home” and about two hours later called her up and said “Okay, this is why I took you home,” and sang her the song. So it did come, once I decided, this is a song that came quick.DaveAlvin_KingofCalifonia

PHAWKER: Tell me about the circumstances around the cover shot and the back photo. All this time, I’ve always thought you were sitting in a box car, sort of hobo style…

DAVE ALVIN: [laughs] I can see that, I can see that, yeah.

PHAWKER: But that’s not the case at all ‘cause I just saw the uncropped version of that photo and you’re sitting in the ruins of a building or something at sunset– tell me about that.

DAVE ALVIN: Yeah, it was the photographer, Beth Herzshaft, and I were driving around Central California taking photographs for a possible album cover and then we were driving down this two lane highway in the middle of nowhere up in this area called Cuyama Valley that no one knows about, and I looked over and to my left and out on this ranchlands I could see this old adobe ruin of a house. So, you know, turned the car around, and we trespassed, we opened up the ranch gate, drove down, literally it’s just sage brush and hillsides, nothing else out there. Drove down a mile, half mile to the ruin, started taking pictures, and it just happened to be right at sunset. So it was like we got that perfect sunset shot. So you know, it was a little bit of that California history with the adobe and all that, and also, you know, it just had a certain magic.

PHAWKER: And tell me about the back cover photo.

DAVE ALVIN: You’re looking at the San Andreas Fault right there. That’s a road, a little road– that road leads into a thing called the Carrizo Plain National Monument. The little mountain range there is called the Temblors, you know, for the tremors of the earth.

DAVE ALVIN: Can’t get more California than the goddamn San Andreas fault.

PHAWKER: Yep, that plays right into the album title. One last thing on the album here and then I have a Gun Club question for you, because I’m a big Gun Club fan.


PHAWKER: Hang on one second, my page of questions just blew away. On the 25th anniversary edition of this has some bonus tracks and one of them is the song, the beautiful instrumental called Riverbed Rag that for whatever reason didn’t make the album proper, and I’m looking at the liner notes here and it says that that’s inspired by exploring the San Gabriel River bed as a kid.

DAVE ALVIN: Well, because Greg Liesz, who produced the record, is doing all the dobros and lap steel and all that on the record, he grew up next door– well, the town next door to me, he grew up in a place called Santa Fe Springs, which is on the east side of the San Gabriel River in Downey where I grew up, so on the west side of the San Gabriel river, and when we first became friends that’s kinda what we bonded over — the San Gabriel river, basically this long river bed that goes from the San Diego mountains down to the Pacific Ocean, and so yeah I just kinda wrote up a little ragtime blues instrumental for Greg and I to play on. And the only reason it didn’t make it on the record– I wanted it on the record to kinda liven it up– some of the songs are pretty down, lyrically, and so then I wanted something to help bring things up, but the record was just too long with it included. But I think it’s a fine piece, we’re doing it live ‘cause it gives us a chance to play.

PHAWKER: This riverbed– both of you guys sort of played and explored there as kids,is that right?
DAVE ALVIN: Yes, sir, yep.

PHAWKER: Any interesting stories of, you know, did you find any buried treasure or a dead body…

DAVE ALVIN: Yeah, you could ask Greg about his. Mine was, when I was a kid that area was wild, you know? There were hobo jungles, as they used to call them, down there the banks were kinda lined with bamboo, real thick bamboo, so when DaveAlvin_KingofCalifoniayou’re a kid you’d go into the neighborhood bamboo jungles, and there was, you know, jackrabbits and rattlesnakes and coyotes and all that kinda stuff, just kinda like “Great! This is the greatest place on earth!” you know? “And hobos? Oh my god, rattlesnakes, rabbits, coyotes and hobos? Where do I sign up?” It wasn’t the Mississippi, it wasn’t Mark Twain’s Mississippi, but it was my Mississippi.

PHAWKER: Excellent, excellent. So I just wanted to ask you to relay– there’s this great interview you did with TK [16:05] called Bored Out where you were talking extensively about Jeffery Lee Pierce and early… all kinda stuff, that I was just reading through that’s just fantastic, and you talk about how you and your brother were the ones who turned [Gun Club mainman] Jeffrey Lee Pierce onto the blues. That before that he more or less had zero knowledge of the blues.

DAVE ALVIN: Well, I wouldn’t say he had zero knowledge. He had knowledge– it was limited to B.B. King, that kinda stuff, sorta the obvious people you get into when you first get into blues. What we schooled him on was country blues. He had never really gone deep in that, and so a lot of people when they hear country blues for the first time, the first time they hear Son House or Skip James, people like that, yeah, they can flip because that’s just such amazing music. And he would come over to where my brother and I lived, and we had a bunch of old 78’s and we’d sit around and drink and shoot the shit and play old records, and say ‘Okay, now you gotta listen to this guy, you gotta listen to this guy, see what he’s doin’ here? See what he’s doin’ there?’

DAVE ALVIN: And yeah, Jeffrey had been, you know, he was a reggae kinda guy for a while or was passing himself off as a reggae guy. And he was also a Blondie guy.

PHAWKER: Right. I believe he was the president of the Blondie fan club.

DAVE ALVIN: Yes he was, yes he was. A couple of the tracks on the first Gun Club album, “Preaching the Blues” and “Cool Drink of Water,” — you know, he learned those from us.

PHAWKER: That was a very seminal experience, I mean I think that really informed the beginnings of the Gun Club and the– to my mind, their greatest album, the Fire of Love album.

DAVE ALVIN: He wasn’t some technical wizard on guitar. But what he did with what he knew was great, he knew how to make it work. The Gun Club started using a thing that was in short supply in those days, which was dynamics. So that’s why especially that first album the dynamics were just excellent. Jeffrey Lee understood like James Brown Live At The Apollo was a favorite record of his, and that record is all about dynamics. And when to bring the band up, when to bring the band down. In those days, and strictly on that scene, it wasn’t a lot of dynamics. It was just ‘1-2-3-4- GO!’… and Jeffrey Gun_Club_Fire_Of_LoveLee figured out just not for the blues covers that he did, but for his own songs, he figured out whether it was “For the Love of Ivy” or “She’s Like Heroin to Me,” we can make up for the fact that we’re not the best musicians by playing the music really, really well. Really getting into, again, kinda what I was saying earlier about understanding the song, playing the song and not the instrument.

PHAWKER: To follow up on that, you mentioned this repeatedly in that interview that the Gun Club couldn’t draw flies in LA at that time, I don’t understand why?

DAVE ALVIN: Because they came along at a period of time– they weren’t punk enough for the hardcore kids. It wasn’t “ONETWOTHREEFOURONETWOTHREEFOUR,” you know, and in those days that was when– when the Gun Club, if they woulda come out two years earlier, three years earlier, it woulda been a different story in a way. But they came out when all the focus on the Southern California scene as far as punk rock goes, if it wasn’t strictly on Circle Jerks or Black Flag then it wasn’t punk rock. And so those kinda kids that were into those bands never latched on to the Gun Club. You know, The Gun Club would do gigs with those bands, and they would be — it would just be unappreciated, let’s put it that way. And then they weren’t rootsy enough or good enough musicians for the Roots Rock crowd, for the rockabilly crowd or the blues crowd or the country… so they had to find their own niche. And Jeffrey stood by his vision and that when it got to Europe and– it started in New York, where they had a little buzz in New York, but it was really in Europe because Jeffrey was enough of a madman — and the Europeans love American madmen. They don’t like normal Americans, but ‘Goddamn, that’s guys insane, you know, let’s watch him!’ In Europe by that time had already punk rock was basically dead already by the time the Gun Club got there they didn’t have to deal with that [punk rock snobbery] and the audience just kinda reacted to them just purely, “Hey that’s a really cool band.” LA was mired in that — you know, that’s one of those things that killed the LA scene was that cookie cutter thing of what’s punk rock, what’s not. Anyway, I got another interview coming in, so nice talking to you, brother.


[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

INCOMING: Jingle Bell Rawk

December 9th, 2019



More info HERE

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

REVIEW: FKA twigs Magdalene

December 8th, 2019



Since the early 2010’s, the artist known as FKA twigs has been stretching the limits of pop and R&B through a bizarre production style that is entirely unique to her, making her one of the most interesting and consistent figures in music at the moment. Her 2014 debut, titled LP 1, is a mind-bending album of glitchy, weird and warped R&B, but she really came into her own on 2015’s dark and harrowing M3LL155X EP. And then she went dark for four years, sparking endless online speculation about the reasons for her silence. In the spring of 2018, the mystery was solved when she posted an essay on Instagram explaining that she had six fibroid tumors surgically removed the previous winter and was in the process of recovery. Last month, she released Magdalene, her most confident and theatrical release to date. On “thousand eyes,” the album’s cinematic opener, choir-like vocals and an intense build-up leads to a moment of transcendent beauty, as twig’s voice cuts rapidly in and out to disorienting effect over sparkling piano keys. The excellent single “cellophane” (all the song titles on Magdalene are lowercase for reasons unexplained) is an unexpected left turn from the experimental future-pop we’ve come to expect from FKA twigs. Instead of her characteristic glitches and electronic textures, the song was stripped back, and although the track was accompanied by somber piano and strange, alien sound effects, the focus is on her voice and the production only served to pull you deeper into the trance. The whole album is full of completely disarming moments like these: the stunning woodwinds that appear at the end of ‘home with you’, the Kate Bush-ian vocal performance on ‘sad day’ and the dramatic build-up of ‘fallen alien’ that leads to the most intense moment on the record in its chorus. When the record falters, it’s mostly in low-impact moments that don’t really land, like her duetting with an annoyingly auto-tuned Future on “holy terrain” or the pretty but inconsequential ‘daybed’. Still, the three song stretch starting with the phenomenal ‘mary magdalene’ and ending with the beautiful ‘mirrored heart’ is probably perfect and it holds the most power FKA twig’s music has ever held, more than making up for the missteps it took to get to it. — CHARLIE COLAN

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

BEING THERE: GBV @ Underground Arts

December 8th, 2019



In a New York Times piece about birding published a few years back, author Brian Kimberling observed insightfully that making a list of bird species identified on any particular day, as birdwatchers do, is “a form of prayer, a thanksgiving for being alive at a certain time and place.” And posting that list online, he went on, “is a 21st-century form of a votive offering.”

Concert setlists are arguably no different. Created by a band to serve the practical purpose of coordinating each member’s participation in the show that night, the paper on which they’re written is transformed into a sort of rare and righteous sacrament the minute an incredible show ends, when fans rush to rescue the often filthy, trampled documents, and customarily and courteously allow the less fortunate souls among their ranks to photograph as secondhand souvenirs. Meanwhile, websites like serve as interactive catalog archives for these lists, a growing collection of holy digital votives for the live music zealot.

Not many bands honor this live music tradition quite like Guided By Voices do.

Setlists the size of newspaper pages are taped to the Underground Arts stage, featuring the hand-scrawled indices of some 60 song titles through which Robert Pollard and his indie-rock accomplices would make their way on Friday night, without much pause. Shortly after the show began, Pollard boasted about his own prolific oeuvre of over 100 releases since his career began in the early ‘80s, over three-and-a-half decades ago. “That’s more than Neil Young did,” he noted.

More is more, with these guys. All of that material allows for shows traditionally featuring dozens of songs sung by Pollard, guitarless and free to engage with a stage lip crowded with frenetic fanatics reaching for the man. At age 60, now, a full head of thick white hair distinguishes his elder-statesman-of-canonical-college-rock look, like a later-career Spencer Tracy — but punk-er. He shares his liquor and his beer, provokes and plays to the congregation’s demands, and drinks his drink. He tells stories, like the one about a guy who once asked him how he remembers all the words to all that music. “Not only that,” Pollard responded rhetorically, “but how do you remember all the words when you’re drunk — and with an appropriate degree of theatricality?”

The fever pitch crescendoed from high to higher throughout, and the chants of “GEE BEE VEE” demanding the band’s initial emergence at 9:30 resumed for their encore, too, some three hours later. Pollard and co. swept the front row for handshakes, as I perched on the tips of my toes, flattening myself against a structural column on the side of the stage to avoid getting flattened on the floor by the forward fifth of a sold-out crowd straining for a high-five, a spare guitar pick, or a precious copy of that monster setlist/prayer document: we were all alive at a certain place and time, and we rocked hard the entire night. And shit yeah, it’s cool! Or something like that. – JOSH PELTA-HELLER



[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]

BEING THERE: Lightning Bolt @ Union Transfer

December 6th, 2019



Lightning Bolt’s band name may be a visual representation of their sound. Other band names that could have been a good fit for the noise rock duo are – hold on, let me scroll through my list here – Total Lunatics™ or perhaps Fuck Rocket™. Unassociated recording engineer Steve Albini called one of their live performances the “best alarm clock [he’s] ever had” when they played on the doorstep of his neighbor John Peel’s house. Yes, the John Peel.

Lightning Bolt formed in college at Rhode Island School of Design in ’94. Drummer/vocalist Brian Chippendale heard rumors of a sick bassist on campus, so he reached out to Brian Gibson, and CRASH! BANG! BOOM! Lightning Bolt were formed. During their earliest couple of years, they played with guitarist Hisham Bharoocha, who went his own way to form Black Dice.

Lightning Bolt are known for adrenaline-pumped performances at blaring volumes, often playing guerilla-style on the floor at the center of the room, surrounded by the crowd. Gibson’s bass is highly distorted through a colorful signal chain of pedals, while Chippendale’s vocals are muffled in sheer volume, with his microphone stitched into his makeshift luchador mask. Last night, they took to the stage at Union Transfer for a change, switching it up from their usual Philly venue, the First Unitarian Church.

The first thing I noticed when the Brians entered the stage was that Chippendale’s mask was worn to shreds; months of heavy touring had rendered the mask a tattered, fleshy patchwork. Who knew Leatherface slammed the drums? My ears are still ringing and my brain and body have not fully recovered from being rattled around the pit. But no complaints here; the volume was just what a Lightning Bolt show ought to be – loud enough to drown out the sound produced when an elbow strikes a jaw, and there was plenty of that going around. One guy next to me had been clocked and I could tell because he appeared to be setting his jaw back into place before allowing himself to be swallowed back into the maelstrom.

Lightning Bolt played the usual classics like “Dracula Mountain” and the traditional set closer “Dead Cowboy” while mixing in newer material from the album they dropped in October, Sonic Citadel. It’s difficult to review a show like this because it was one long peak. Every song was an absolute banger. Chippendale addressed one particularly ecstatic fan in the front row, asking what his name is, and then telling him that he’d won the golden ticket. “I’ve got your ticket, Jared!” he yelled menacingly, and vowed to track Jared down after the show to take him backstage and throw him into his candy river. I hope Jared’s okay. – KYLE WEINSTEIN

[Slashdot] [Digg] [Reddit] [] [Facebook] [Technorati] [Google] [StumbleUpon]