Sunday, April 26, 2020

LV-426 (Happy Alien Day)

Alien artwork by Tyler Stout

This is one of those posts you're either going to nod knowingly or think I'm one of the world's biggest geeks - and I'm okay with that. April 26 is lovingly known as "Alien Day" a reminder of the human loss of life of moon colonization LV-426 from the Aliens movie franchise.

Alien - Japanese One Sheet

LV-426 is 39 light years from the Earth. Renamed "Acheron" by settlers charged with terraforming the moon for future widespread human colonization. (It's dark and primordial yet full of promise. What better backdrop for horror in space?) A signal from the plant is received regarding missing colonists.

The lack of response, which we now know had something to do with an Alien infestation, triggered a Marine response. A Queen of the Alien race had formed a hive and either killed or cocooned the workers by the time the small marine force arrives. Little did the Marines know, aboard their ship, a human being had experienced this brand of evil before.

Alien artwork by Gabz

Somewhere along the way, Aliens became one of the great movie franchises in history. It speaks truly well of the concepts at play and (particularly) of the strength of these first few films. Aliens (1986) is the core of the series (and it's got Hicks after all!) and in this movie we see the strength, the potential and the failure of the human race. Similarly, Aliens offers up the hope and promise of the franchise. I recommend you watch Alien (1979) first to understand it all and to watch the development of the core character Ripley - and to see how a blockbuster sci-fi/horror movie can be made on a budget. Happy Alien Day!

Alien - Polish One Sheet

Alien '79 / Aliens '86 / Franchise

Aliens artwork by Rory Kurtz

Monday, April 20, 2020

André Obin "Disconnect the Wires"

NEW - It's good to see something new from an old friend during these dark days. Boston's André Obin is an electronic creator and one of the most gifted I've ever heard. 

The video for "Disconnect the Wires" was directed by Steve Sherrick and dropped via Cleopatra Records, the LA-based label famed for bringing fans dark industrial and goth sounds since 1992.  

André Obin
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John Prine at Newport Folk

John Prine was as charming as he was gifted. He was shamelessly effective at reaching audiences and holding them in an embrace of song. Today we run some photos from one of Prine's most celebrated late-career sets. Captured by my friend, photographer Steve Benoit (née Boston Concert Photography) this shining moment in time shines brightly once again..

In the heat of a summer day in 2017, John held court at Newport Folk Festival (with a smile as wide as the sun in the sky.) During the performance he was joined on stage with some of music's best - including Roger Waters, Jim James, Margo Price and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. 

John Prine and Friends at NFF 2017 
Thanks to our friends at National Public Radio! 

John Prine was perhaps the greatest human storyteller in modern music. It made little difference if the topic was a mixed up love affair or some existential reckoning with God. Other pieces did high art or low songs forward. But John brought it all together in a way that may never be matched. This piece is accompanied with a sense of so much loss. 

Rest easy John. And thank you. 

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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Pottery - Hot Like Jungle

The very first time seeing Pottery for me came in March 2019 as I caught them and Illiterate Light at SXSW in Austin. Both bands were so good. I while I had heard of Illiterate Light, Pottery were completely new to me - and their performance really leapt off the page! High energy, fun and tons of charisma. Fast-forward to today. Pottery this morning unveiled this new music video for 'Hot Like Jungle.' Illustration and Animation for the video by the band's own Paul Jacobs.

ONE TO WATCH - Hot Like Jungle will appear on Pottery's debut full length, 'Welcome to Bobby’s Motel' (June 26th) on Partisan Records and via Canada's Royal Mountain Records. (Last year's EP from the band, 'No.1' made my favorite records list.) Mark my words, this LP should be one of the brightest albums of the year. All the more power if we can get music lineups happening again. This band rips live! Pottery is Tom Gould, Paul Jacobs, Jacob Shepansky, Peter Baylis and Austin Boylan.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Jokerman was born on April 14

Recorded on this day in 1983

Standing on the waters casting your bread
While the eyes of the idol with the iron head are glowing
Distant ships sailing into the mist,
You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing
Freedom just around the corner for you
But with the truth so far off, what good will it do?
Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman

So swiftly the sun sets in the sky,
You rise up and say goodbye to no one Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,
Both of their futures, so full of dread, you don't show why
Shedding off one more layer of skin,
Keeping one step ahead of the persecutor within
Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman

You're a man of the mountains, you can walk on the clouds,
Manipulator of crowds, you're a dream twister
You're going to Sodom and Gomorrah
But what do you care? Ain't nobody there would want to marry your sister
Friend to the martyr, a friend to the woman of shame,
You look into the fiery furnace, see the rich man without any name
Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman

Well, the Book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy,
The law of the jungle and the sea are your only teachers
In the smoke of the twilight on a milk-white steed,
Michelangelo indeed could've carved out your features
Resting in the fields, far from the turbulent space,
Half asleep near the stars with a small dog licking your face
Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman

Well, the rifleman's stalking the sick and the lame,
Preacherman seeks the same, who'll get there first is uncertain
Nightsticks and water cannons, tear gas, padlocks,
Molotov cocktails and rocks behind every curtain,
False-hearted judges dying in the webs that they spin,
Only a matter of time 'til night comes steppin' in
Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman

It's a shadowy world, skies are slippery gray,
A woman just gave birth to a prince today and dressed him in scarlet
He'll put the priest in his pocket, put the blade to the heat,
Take the motherless children off the street
And place them at the feet of a harlot / Harley
Oh, Jokerman, you know what he wants,
Oh, Jokerman, you don't show any response
Jokerman dance to the nightingale tune,
Bird fly high by the light of the moon,
Oh, oh, oh, Jokerman

Bob Dylan
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Wednesday, April 08, 2020

On Losing Adam Schlesinger: The Bruce Driscoll (Freedom Fry) Interview

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreck havoc on our way of life, claiming the lives of some of our great creators. While much of the world is shuttered and living in fear, the virus has tragically claimed the life of beloved songwriter Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne, Ivy, and Tinted Windows.) One thing is certain: Adam's contribution to music extends much farther than "Stacy's Mom."  

To this end, I reached out to Bruce Driscoll (Freedom Fry, Blondfire) for a first-person account of one life's importance to the world of art and music. Driscoll recorded and toured with Schlesinger so what you're about to read is a fresh look at an amazing heart.

Bruce Driscoll of Freedom Fry remembers

Bruce Driscoll: "I first met Adam in 2003 at his New York studio, Stratosphere Sound. My band at the time was called Astaire, an early incarnation of Blondfire, and we were working with his Ivy bandmate and studio partner, Andy Chase, on an EP in the B-Room. The song was called “Weightless” and it needed some shaker on it. Andy said, “Let me see if Adam will play the egg on this. He’s amazing at playing the egg.” An oddly specific thing to do amazingly.

"Andy popped his head into the studio lobby and then Adam came in and introduced himself. He was game to play the egg and he walked into the booth and put the headphones on and laid down a flawless egg track through the whole four minute song. Afterwards I asked him if he had a trick to being so good at it and he said something to the effect of “I sort of bite my teeth to the beat as I play it.”  

Impossibly cool: Weightless from Alstaire spontaneously featured Adam Schlesinger. 

"Egg was far from the only thing that Adam could do seemingly effortlessly, Driscoll remembered. "I would later hear about how he could rattle off all the things he was going to do later that day while laying down a bass or guitar track as if it was nothing. He didn’t have to try, it just came out of him."

Driscoll with Schlesinger

Schlesinger co-wrote the theme for the 1996 Tom Hanks movie, 'That Thing You Do,' which earned him Oscar and Golden Globe nominations - landing his music prowess in front of far larger audience.

Driscoll: "I had known of Adam from his work in Ivy and also from “That Thing You Do.” Watching that film in the theater as an oldies radio obsessed teenager I can remember how that song floored me. It was like someone had managed to write a new Beatles song. Not an imitation, but one that actually made you feel the excitement the way their early singles did.

"For a time Adam had a label called Scratchie Records with his good friend and their third studio partner, James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins.) For a time we talked about potentially doing a deal for Astaire and I remember how encouraging Adam was when we played him our rough demos. He had a way of making you feel like anything was possible if you wanted it to be. Don’t play the keyboards that well? You’ll get it. You own a camera? You should make a music video.

"My lasting impression of Adam is a sort of brain collage of all wonderful moments. He was like a perfect pop song that ended too soon, just like “That Thing You Do,” on a bittersweet Major 7th chord.

A moment in time. Adam Schlesinger and Bruce Driscoll between notes.

Driscoll: "Astaire was asked to open for Ivy on their 2005 tour. Andy asked if I’d be interested in also playing keyboards and extra guitars with them and we could all share a tour bus to cut costs. We had somewhat lengthy rehearsals and this is when I started getting to know Adam a bit more.

"Ivy had been a band since the mid 90s and had an unending supply of stories that kept all of us side-musicians and crew constantly entertained. Stories about a producer who wouldn’t let them clean the tape heads while making a record so they had to sneakily do it and they got caught and got kicked out of the studio. Or stories about an irate tour manager who insultingly referred to (singer) Dominique (Durand) as “Frenchie.” It went on and on and it was hilarious. I feel really thankful to have been let in on so many of their stories.

"On that tour we used to end the set with “Edge of the Ocean.” One of my favorite Ivy songs. There’s a build towards the end where everyone is just pulsing on one chord for a while and it opens up back into the last chorus. It always, without fail, gave me chills when that transition happened."

Ryan: "As a creator yourself, what qualities of Adam's music stood out most for you?"

Driscoll: "One thing about Adam’s songs is that the melody always paves the way and the chords follow it. The songs aren’t bound by some kind of three or four chord loop. The Beatles and The Beach Boys did that too. From what I understand he sometimes liked to write away from his instruments to not fall into familiar, predictable patterns.

"The other thing that was always present is a strong title or overall concept. There’s always a central thesis to the song. It really manages to give it an identity and make it memorable.

Ryan: "Pop Songwriting 101 right? If there's one Adam song which you could claim as your own, which would it be?" 

Driscoll: "It's tough to choose. Probably Ivy's 'Edge of the Ocean.' It's just such a timeless song. There's a quality to it that really evokes strong emotions in me. Especially now that Adam is gone. It makes me think of Adam, Andy, Dominique, and being on the road. All those magic live moments before the stage lights went out." 

Ryan: I want to thank Bruce for "sitting down with me" during this social distancing quarantine. The news of Adam Schlesinger's passing comes during a new creative period for Freedom Fry. Driscoll and his creative partner Marie Seyrat announced a new album this week. And the first three tracks from "Songs from the West Coast" may be streamed today on the band's Spotify

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Friday, April 03, 2020

One of the Greatest Ever

The world lost one of it's great modern musicmakers today. Having grown up in a relatively small town in Vermont, I don't believe I came across Bill Withers until college. 

I clearly recall the first time I heard his music - immediately arrested by it's beauty, the very sound of truth and humanity. With "Ain't No Sunshine" I found myself (suddenly) with tears in my eyes. Nothing like that had ever happened spontaneously like that before. I had tapped into something eternal - thanks to him. 

With Mr. Withers there was no race, no money or issues - just a soul made bare and exposed to the world. Legend Bill Withers, dead today, at 81.  

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