Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Pretzels for the President

Boz reviews the Radiators' Trouble Pilgrim

TROUBLE PILGRIM is the sound of a band reconnecting with all the musical roots which initially inspired them, but as people with life experience rather than as teenagers. The Flaming Groovies in particular stand as a comparison to the resultant sound - a blend of very many raw underground influences with the more sophisticated likes of The Byrds, Love, Bowie, Elvis Costello etc... It could of course be assumed that the band had already arrived at this sound much earlier.... many of their odd-bits - BUYING GOLD IN HEAVEN (80), TAKE MY HEART AND RUN (80), PLURA BELLE (87) would sit comfortably within this collection of tracks.

The opening track TROUBLE PILGRIM is a rigid garage workout and in many ways ( EPs aside ) the perfect introduction to where the band have landed soundwise. Not content with the basic band ( although that’s pretty much what you get live ), they’ve embellished the rawness throughout with 12 string guitars, vintage synths, organs and even Glockenspiels and French Horns. There’s little doubt this expanding of possibilities in the studio was learned and noted while working on GHOSTOWN with Tony Visconti, but here it’s driven by their own experience rather than the guiding hand of a hotshot name producer.

More at the link. Boz, the reviewer, contributes great editorial cartoons to my local paper. Also does artwork for various punk bands of my acquaintanceship.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"For I am a poor and a wretched boy, A chimbley, chimbley sweep."

Tales from the Dark Side

The Decemberists let their inner weirdos shine, with songs that hark back to a literary tradition of gruesome morality tales and also embrace more modern abominations such as the Shankill Butchers. Singer Colin Meloy talks to Jim Carroll

A COUPLE of years ago, Colin Meloy had a day job in a bookstore in Portland, Oregon. "I remember one day seeing this children's storybook, The Crane Wife, coming into the store. I had an idle hour and I flicked through it and I was really taken by the story." When it came time for his band, American indie folk-rockers The Decemberists, to record their fourth album, that old Japanese tale about a poor peasant who nurses a sick crane back to health kept coming to mind. It seemed to be the perfect starting point for an album which Meloy felt could be both epic and quirky.

"It's an amazing story, and I suppose what I find interesting is that you have all these different themes about greed and curiosity and love running through it, which have an universal application beyond what that one tale is about."

The Crane Wife is a hugely ambitious undertaking for The Decemberists, one of the most thoughtful and bookish of America's new indie school. The album consists in the main of longform songs reminiscent in some ways to their earlier work, The Tain, which was based on the Ulster mythological story once also musically explored by Horslips. The Crane Wife is a major league outing from a band raising their game on every level.

Meloy has always taken an interest in ancient fables and tales, particularly the more gruesome ones.

More at the link.

I've been a fan of The Decemberists for about three years now. If my discovery of Horslips was nearly accidental, the path to The Decemberists was almost random in its happening. They first popped up years ago under a Googling of "Horslips-News" in an article in the Boston Globe. "And just who is this upstart Portland band who thinks they can do a concept album on the Táin?" I said as web engines ferreted out the official site. "Oh," sniffed I, once there, "Playing next week at the Great American Music Hall are they? Well. We'll just have to go see about THAT."

Came home with three of their albums.