Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CD Review: Archie Powell And The Exports - Back In Black

When I mentioned Archie Powell And The Exports’ upcoming CD Back In Black a few weeks ago here on BHT, I predicted it would have more power pop songs on it than the AC/DC album with the same name. After all, Archie Powell And The Exports have two previous releases, Skip Work and Great Ideas In Action, that are filled with catchy melodies and satirical lyrics. Little did I know that the group’s “desire to capture [the] sound and spirit of their high-energy live show”* would bring about such aggressive changes.

This new effort uses harder arrangements and a fair amount of primal screaming to focus on the devastating effects of unrequited love. Powell, who writes just about all the songs, creates a character who’s so distraught that he’ll never touch or kiss his dream girl that he locks himself up in his room, indulges in lurid fantasies, and contemplates suicide. There are some crazy things on this CD. At times, it’s like Powell turns out the lights, puts a flashlight under his chin, and runs around screaming. “And in my mind I’m still not convinced I’ll ever be fine,” he sings on “Electrocute My Heart,” which is one of the better and less manic songs on the new CD.

The stream-of-consciousness horror and (not specifically stated) depravation of “Scary Dream” is delivered via Powell’s rapid-fire delivery and the driving beat of guitars and drums. “Everything’s Fucked” also sports a rampaging arrangement, providing further proof that Archie Powell and The Exports have the chops to perform at this level of intensity. Still, Back In Black isn’t entirely a successful transition.

Powell sometimes swaps his usually clever lyrics for cryptic images of insanity or self-destruction. Plus, his Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil screaming on songs like “Lean” just doesn’t cut it. “Mambo No. 9” is a powerful and catchy instrumental, so adding screams there is just gouging the lily. On the other hand, “Tattoo On My Brain” is a dark masterpiece that sizzles with lines like, “Just a tattoo on my brain/Remind me how you made my agenda for going insane /You can tell that it’s a train wreck/All this gray will have some color in a hot sec.” “Jump Off A Bridge” showcases quick rhymes set to an off-kilter and fun arrangement; “Holes” and “The High Road” are also standout tracks. Powell settles down a bit at the end, with the light and melodic “Everything’s Cool.”

Ultimately, Back In Black gives Archie Powell And Exports some hard-edged indie rock cred, but here’s hoping this new approach becomes part of the band’s palette rather than the dominant color.

* From the official Archie Powell And The Exports press release. 


Sunday, April 20, 2014

You Can Read It In The Sunday Papers

Slumgullion got squeezed out of the schedule this week, due to International Pop Overthrow, Record Store Day, and the holiday. But here are a few odds and ends regarding the entertainment scene.

Chad And Jeremy are celebrating their impressive career with a British Invasion 50th Anniversary tour that features special guests Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer, Mike Pender’s Searchers, and  Denny Laine. Six dates have been announced for September, in Montclair, NJ; Philadelphia, PA; Westbury, NY; Alexandria, VA; Pittsburg, PA; and Valley Center, CA. The Westbury show is on the verge of being sold out.

Congratulations to David Bash on bringing another successful round of International Pop Overthrow to Chicago. In a classy move, Bash dedicated this past Friday night’s showcase to Jim Ellison since it was the late Material Issue singer’s birthday. Phil Angotti performed an Ish song during his Friday night set in honor of Ellison. Bash is off to his hometown L.A. for a little R and R, and then he’ll be bringing IPO to Detroit from April 24th through the 28th. If you missed IPO - Chicago, you can find a thumbnail sketch of every act that performed here in earlier posts here on BHT.  

I had a brief window of opportunity yesterday morning to visit Reckless Records downtown for Record Store Day and then came right back home again to leave for a family get-together at my sister’s house. At RSD, I added to my collection of 10" EPs by getting Meltdown With The Ramones. Also got some free CDs and vinyl, including a four-song CD by The Strypes. A tip of my Underground Garage cap to the staff at Reckless Records for being so efficient and friendly.

According to Mark Guarino's article in a recent Sun-Times article, the Reckless Records in Wicker Park will move to a new location close by that will be three times the size of its old location. That’s good news for the indie record biz.

For those who missed singer-guitarist Phil Angotti and Friends performing Simon and Garfunkel’s entire Sounds Of Silence LP as part of the Record Store Day festivities at Laurie’s Planet Of Sound Records yesterday, he’ll be part of Ellis Clark And Phil Angotti’s Pin Ball Wizard Orchestra - A Special Mod Tribute to The Music Of The Who on June 7th at Mayne Stage at Chicago’s north side.

Also at Mayne Stage, Tommy Keene and Pezband will be sharing a bill on July 2nd.

American English will be bringing their Beatles tribute show to Durty Nellie’s in Palatine next Friday night. Led Zeppelin tribute band Kashmir is also on the bill.

But did he call her Queen Bee? According to writer Paul Sullivan in today’s Chicago Tribune, singer Lorde recently had a chance to meet former Kansas City Royals star George Brett, who was the inspiration for her mega hit song “Royals.” 


Friday, April 18, 2014

IPO - Chicago; Saturday Night Preview

Can they top this? Magatha Trysty fans might get preview of the next CD tomorrow night.

International Pop Overthrow wraps up its 2014 stay in Chicago tomorrow night, April 19th with an impressive lineup of Midwestern bands. Here’s the schedule. 

8:00 Crybaby: This five-piece rock band from Sleepy Hollow, IL brings an authentic blue/roots sound to songs like “You’ve Gotta Move.” 

8:45 Bob’s Your Uncle: This four-man group plays hard-edged pop with an emphasis on harmony vocals and strong melodies. Their latest release is titled Xplod-i-mite.

9:30 Magatha Trysty:  It’s been a kick watching this indie rock quartet’s progress since I first saw them at an IPO - Chicago show a few years back. Magatha Trysty’s sound is fueled by the dynamic tandem vocals of keyboards player Catherine Louise and guitarist Chris Bevard and taps into vintage new wave on songs like “Clairvoyant” and “Art Zero.” The group’s Your Clothes Will Wear Themselves came in at number 4 on my Top Releases Of 2012 list, and they’re currently working on a follow-up that Bevard tells me will be even better. 

10:15 Semi Twang: This critically-acclaimed Milwaukee band has been performing country/alternative music since 1985. Lead vocalist John Sieger is a prolific songwriter whose compositions have been covered by The BoDeans, Robbie Fulks, Dwight Yoakam and others.

11:00 The Pounders:  IPO founder David Bash recommends this Detroit band to people who like “high energy pop with a dash of jangle.” Their influences includes Elvis Costello, The Who, Burt Bacharach, and Radiohead. The Pounders released the full-length CD You And What Army, featuring the singles “Please Operator” and “The Latest Fashion” in 2011.

11:45 The Romeros Charismatic lead vocalist-guitarist Mike Vanderbilt performed a solo IPO-Chicago gig a few nights back, and he returns tonight with his garage rock band The Romeros. This marks the 10th year they’ll be gracing IPO - Chicago with energetic songs like “You Got Me” and “Brand New Girl” from their two CDs. A fitting act to bring this annual festival to a rollicking finale.


Record Store Day 2014

Record Store Day, an annual celebration of vinyl in all its 7, 10, and 12 inch glory, returns tomorrow, April 19th. The number of recording artists participating has grown over the years, and record stores now also seek to attract customers with live entertainment, and in some cases, fast food. People hoping to snag some of those limited edition or colored vinyl releases will need to get up extra early and be prepared to stand in line outside the record store of their choice. There’s a complete rundown of all the one-time treasures being offered this year on the official Record Store Day website. 

The challenge is getting around to the best deals and entertainment. Last year, WXRT air personality Terri Hemmert joked on her show about needing a helicopter to accomplish that, but a time-traveling TARDIS from Doctor Who would be even better. Hemmert will be making a guest appearance at the Val’s Halla Record Store in Oak Park tomorrow morning, and then later, at around 3:00 PM, at Lauries Planet Of Sound on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago.

There will also be a full schedule of live bands at Laurie’s:
Between 12:00 and 2:00 PM: Fake Limbs and Savage Sister;
2:00 PM: The Mountain Goats/John Darnielle
3:00 PM The Lemons
4:00 PM: Phil Angotti and Friends performing Simon And Garfunkel’s Sounds Of Silence LP
5:00 PM: The Handcuffs
6:00 PM: Silver Abuse
7:00 PM: Mazes

Singer-guitarist Ellis Clark will celebrate the release of his two vinyl albums this year by performing busker style outside the Vintage Vinyl in Evanston at 11:00 AM.

Reckless Records has various live bands scheduled at its Broadway and Milwaukee Avenue stores. Circuit Des Yeux will be performing at 3:00 PM at the Milwaukee Avenue location, followed by Dance Mania DJs at 4:00 PM; and Kim Deal, Kelley Deal, and Morgan Nagler at 6:30 PM. The Broadway location will have Ghost B.C. Convocation at 1:00 PM; Lord Mantis at 3:00 PM; and Video Bug at 4:00 PM.

The Rock Island Public House in Blue Island be have djs playing vinyl from 8:00 PM to 3:00 AM as part of These Old Men They Play Records

As for the records, there’s bound to something for everyone, including jazz, Country & Western, indie rock, heavy metal, and classic rock. WXRT jumped into the game last year with a vinyl version of its Live From The Archives, Volume 14, and the station will be offering Volume 15 on vinyl at select locations this year. I couldn’t begin to offer a comprehensive list of worthy selections, so here’s a short list of some of the more interesting records that will be for sale:

R.E.M. - Unplugged: The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions on 12” vinyl
Creedence Clearwater Revival -  The 1969 Singles EP on 10” vinyl
David Bowie - “1984” Picture Disc on 7” vinyl
Shocking Blue - “Send Me a Postcard” on 7” vinyl
The Animals - Self-titled EP on 10” vinyl
The Ramones - Meltdown With The Ramones EP on 10" vinyl
The Standells “Dirty Water” on 7” vinyl
The Specials - “Sock It To Em JB”/”Rat Race” on 7” vinyl

Once you’ve studied the Record Store Day website and compiled your own wishlist, you may need a few pointers on what to expect. 

Get there early. These rare editions sell out quickly. Some will immediately show up on eBay.

Bring your list with you. The stores I’ve been to keep all the records behind the counter, and you’ll be in line for a while before you’re waited on.

Finally, prepare for sticker shock. I’ve haven’t been able to find anyplace online that lists prices, so won’t know how much these records cost until the clerk places them in front of you. Some will be relatively cheap, while others can get expensive. Ask the clerk for one or two titles to start with; you can always request more if you’re still within your budget.

Happy hunting.


IPO - Chicago Preview: Saturday Afternoon

Photo from Freetoed's Facebook page.

Tomorrow is the last day of International Pop Overthrow’s  2014 visit to Chicago, but there are two showcases to check out. The afternoon showcase casts a spotlight on the upcoming generation of musicians, along with a guy who has been associated with IPO almost as much as its Founder/CEO David Bash.

Here’s the lineup for tomorrow afternoon. Acts are from Chicago unless otherwise noted. 

2:00 One Mighty Colin: These five young guys and gals are from the Rock Academy of Dupage, and perform cover versions of classic rock songs like Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” or Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time.”

2:25 Freetoed: This indie rock quartet, led by vocalist-guitarist Adam Muran, has logged several IPO - Chicago appearances. Influences include Wilco, Ryan Adams, and The Avett Brothers. At last year’s IPO - Chicago, Freetoed was missing its drummer, but still created a full-bodied sound via acoustic and electric guitars, and mandolin.

3:30 Slenderband: This group of four young dudes also appears to have sprung from the Rock Academy of Dupage. A YouTube video posted of the band shows it doing a nice version of Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend.”

4:15 Twins: Contrary to the name, there are four guys in this Waterloo, Iowa-based band, although Luke, Harper, and Joel Siles appear to be related. (Devin Ferguson is the fourth member.) Twins will most likely play tunes from their new CD Tomboys On Parade since it was released on April 1st. Their influences are a promising mix of Brit Invasion acts like The Beatles, Kinks, and The Who, along with power pop masters like Cheap Trick, The Paul Collins Beat, and The Plimsouls. These guys will have some traveling to do tomorrow; their Facebook page also shows them playing a 10:AM Record Store Day gig in Davenport, IA. 

5:00 Jeremy:  This single-named, Portage, Michigan-based singer-guitarist comes close to rivaling Dave Rave’s amazing IPO attendance record, having played the festival in several cities over the years. Jeremy draws inspiration from the 1960s and has released CDs on his own Jam label. His latest All Over The World, featuring energetic songs like “Cool Your Jets” and “Chain Reaction,” was released about 10 days ago. He can always be counted on for some powerful and extensive jamming during his live performances.

5:45 Dad’s Magazine: This group features musicians who’ve been in other notable bands, such as Food And Drug, Swinger, Sun Sawed In Half, The Webstirs, and Dad Factory. Influences include Guided By Voices, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, The La’s and The Ramones.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

IPO - Chicago - Friday Night Preview

I’ve been posting these International Pop Overthrow - Chicago 2014 previews for a week now, and once again, I’m amazed at the variety of talent IPO Funder-CEO David Bash is able to bring to this festival. But if I had to pick one night from this year’s schedule as a prime example of how impressive IPO can be, it would be the one that takes place tomorrow night, April 18th, at the Red Line Tap.

For traditionalists, you’ve got Phil Angotti and 92 Degrees, two of the three Chicago bands that took part in the first first IPO in Los Angeles back in 1999. (Angotti performed with The Idea; the third band was The Critics.) The Abbeys have performed at every single IPO - Chicago since it first started coming here in 2001. Anglophiles will enjoy Ben Jones and The Rifle Volunteers, while those with a taste for quirky music are bound to love The Ye-Ye’s. Trevor Pritchett and Josefina Asconapé from The Choir are newcomers to IPO, but they’ll fit right in with their harmony vocals and catchy indie/powerpop arrangements.

Here’s the schedule for tomorrow night. All bands are from Chicago except where noted otherwise.

8:00 Ben Jones And Rifle Volunteers:  Anyone who enjoyed Beat Root’s performance at IPO - Chicago this past will want to check out Ben Jones and The Rifle Volunteers tomorrow night because they were the band backing vocalist Andrea Magee in Beat Root. As IPO Founder David Bash told me in an article for the Illinois Entertainer, “Ben Jones played IPO - New York a few years ago and absolutely fell in love with the city and, by extension, the USA.” Ben Jones And The Rifle Volunteers create catchy, soul-tinged pop tunes “Reach Me” and “Shangri-La” on their new release Shangri-La.

8:45 The Choir: Trevor Pritchett and Josefina Asconapé of the duo The Choir aspire to create jangle pop, and that certainly comes across on songs like “Down And Out In New York And L.A.” and “One Word From Your Giant Lips.”
9:30 Phil Angotti: This singer-guitarist and one-time member of The Idea has taken a more introspective turn on songs like “My Old Records” from the 2011 CD People And Places, without sacrificing his knack for catchy melodies. He can also rock out, as he did on “I See Spaceships” from his 2013 effort Life And Rhymes. Angotti has also become a gifted mimic of other artists through his frequent tribute shows (The Bee Gees, The Monkees, Paul McCartney, etc) around town, so don’t be surprised if he springs a few cover versions on the audience tomorrow night. He’ll be covering the Simon and Garfunkel LP Sounds Of Silence as part of the Record Store Day festivities at Laurie’s Planet Of Sound Records on Saturday.

10:15: The Abbeys:  This band’s founding members, singer-guitarists Mike Cohen and Jeff Janulis, have spent years weaving Everly Brothers type harmonies together, so it’s no surprise they also have a band called The WhatEverly Bros. With The Abbeys, they can range from hard-edged power pop to the more bluegrass influenced tunes like “Say Them With Me” from their 2013 release File Under: Twang. Cohen’s satiric sense of humor surfaces on “Nobody Moves,” a slap at the narrow-minded crowds performers occasionally encounter in rock clubs, and “Johnny Cash Station,” which  slings a few barbs at C&W themed amusement parks C&W themed amusement parks. The band recently posted on Facebook that tomorrow night’s show could be their last show for a while.

11:00 The Ye-Ye’s:  This five-woman band covers 1960s hit songs, and sings them in French.

11:45 92 Degrees: This power pop trio of vocalist-guitarist Steve Steffens, bassist-vocalist Mike Galassini, and drummer Dane Svoboda has been an integral part of IPO- Chicago right from the start. It’s been a while since 92 Degrees released anything but the classic power pop songs like “I Love Her” from their vinyl EP, Money Makes The World Go ‘Round and “She’ll Never Know” from a self-titled CD co-produced with Jeff Murphy on the Shoes Black Vinyl label are as vibrant as ever.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

IPO - Chicago: Thursday Night Preview

Joseph Michael’s portrait of James Clark from The James Clark Institute website.

There are only three night and one afternoon showcases left before International Pop Overthrow moves on to rock the good people of Detroit. For the full schedule of the acts that have yet to grace the stage of the Red Line Tap on Chicago’s far northside, check the official IPO website. And as I’ve stated here numerous times, that website is also a great way to discover new music.

Bands are from Chicago unless noted otherwise, and some out-of-town visitors will definitely add to the fun tomorrow night, April 17th. Here’s the schedule.

8:00 James Clark This Toronto-based singer-guitarist returned to the studio just last month to start work on his sixth release under the name The James Clark Institute since 2004. He draws inspiration from Ray Davies, Elvis Costello, and John Lennon. “Company Hearse,” released last year on 7” vinyl, is a catchy, biting song with ringing guitars. It’s not clear whether his IPO gig tomorrow will be solo or with a full band. He does well either way.

8:45 The Injured Parties This power pop trio is led by Larry O’Dean, an eclectic singer-guitarist and former member of the band Post Office. He enjoys mixing humor with melody on songs like “Zingermans Deli” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” from The Injured Parties’ 2009 CD Fun With A Purpose. They’re in the midst of recording a second CD, so there could be some new tunes in their set tomorrow night.

9:30 The Red Wigglers  This six-piece rock combo includes two horn players and is led by vocalist Megan Tormey.

10:15 Lannie Flowers This Texas quintet visits a number of stops on the IPO circuit, bringing joy to power pop purists along the way. Vocalist-guitarist Lannie Flowers, backed by a full band, creates catchy songs that are reminiscent of The dB’s and Elvis Costello, as well as mid-1960s Top 40. “Looking For You,” from the band’s second release Circles, is a guitar-driven gem that has the immediate impact of a hit single. In 2013, Lannie Flowers nabbed four honors at the LA Music Awards.

11:00 Rollo Time This power pop band’s 2010 CD, Victims Of The Crown was filled with catchy tunes like “’Til It All Comes Down.” Singer-songwriter Jon Raleigh was formerly with The Time Beings. Influences include Cheap Trick, Smashing Pumpkins, and Off Broadway.

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