Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Jack the Rabbit Stages A Triumphant Return - Sleepyhead, or NYC in the 90s

"If Syd Barrett had not departed for another dimension, this is how Pink Floyd would have sounded in 1999."
-- some Portugese (?) guy at a place that bills itself as The History of Rock Music
[disclaimer: this quote is not true; this guy is nuts -- but his arrogance is so out of control we need to respect him]

Chris O'Rourke
Rachael McNally
(Mike Galinsky) - old bassist
Dan Cuddy - current bassist

absurd that someone else is writing about these guys; check out the June 12, 2007 post


Saw these guys with my cousin Beez a few years ago in a Jamaica Plain bar named....can't remember the name. They had just switched bassists from their long time buddy Mike Galinsky to Dan Cuddy, mostly because Mike didn't want to leave NYC, and Chris and Rachael did.

Core band members Chris O'Rourke and Rachael McNally (who are married, incidentally) packed it up and moved Sleepyhead to Boston with some 4 odd albums, a number of singles and some compilations under their belt. This is the background.

The night we saw them in Jamaica Plain was one of their first performances they had played since basing their crew back in Massachusetts, and they were on fire. The studio space was limited, and the venue was intimate and they scorched through a set of tunes which were unfamiliar, but exceedingly entertaining. O'Rourke's guitar was screaming, even as he tempered the sound with his disarming voice. McNally held down the beat and added her sometimes gorgeous, sometimes spacey supporting vocals, and took the lead on a few songs. Cuddy thumped away seamlessly like he'd been playing with them since the mid-90s.

There's not much you need to know about this band except that they're impossibly underground, extremely hip and have talent to boot. They're ambitious in their endevours, and that's one of the most magnetic aspects of their vibe. I'll throw in a few tracks at the end of this post, as always, to give you a taste where they're coming from. They've come a long way on their musical journey, from a post punk era band in NYC in the early 90s to their current status as mature, talented and conscientious rockers in New England.

The best kept secret is this. Each album released has been significantly different, and better, than the last. The Brighter Shore, their last issue, was the closest they've gotten yet to their true potential. And the big news is that there is another album which has been in the works for about 5 years now which should be released sometime in 2008, I expect. (The recording and producing work was de-railed on two occaisons by additions to the O'Rourke/McNally family.) This next album, by all reports, will be their most impressive yet, and you should definitely keep an eye out for it. Get on the bandwagon now, and it'll be legitimate when you're cranking their next album at full volume. Go find their old albums. My fellow blogger linked above has some details on how you can find them.

You could write volumes on the angstful indie scene in NYC in the 90s, but most of that stuff ended up being whiney rubbish. Sleepyhead, however, transcends the scene. Here's some proof:


-- check out the Rosalita-esque theme (by the way, I have reports this is a big hit in the Rathmines village of Dublin):
Big Fat Cigar

-- another gem from the Brighter Shore, a real indie anthem:
Citizen's Band

-- yeah, listen to these lyrics again:
Perfect World

-- track 1 of the album...believe it:
Song For The Pied Piper

See you at their next album release party.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Pretty Sweet BBQ disc and other father's day goodies

About a month ago, Jack The Rabbit wrote a piece regarding BBQ cds which are to be played on summer days when you have nothing to do but sip on a Sam's Summer, toss the football around, and take down a few burgers. The cd that I wish to discuss today should not be played in this setting. Instead, it is the ultimate cd to be played post BBQ, when everyone's still sitting out on the deck, still consuming brews, checking out some stars, solving the worlds problems. The CD is Sam Cooke, One-Night Stand: Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963. I discovered it when my buddy played it post-BBQ on such a night as described above in Rio Grande City, Texas. On the CD, Cooke simply puts on a show; after you listen you'll probably never listen to one of his studio albums again. You feel like you're there. You feel the crowd getting into it, as they sing along on "Chain Gang." You feel Cooke feeding off their energy, and delivering his raw, yet silky smooth voice. And as Cooke says, "Don't fight the feeling."

And as a bonus, it kills in the 50 and over age group. I gave it to my pops for father's day, and we threw it on after dinner (on the deck) and mom and pops were straight groovin. Anyway, pick it up, throw it on, and if you feel like dancing, I won't fault you for it.

Track List

1. Soul Twist/Introduction
2. Feel It (Don't Fight It)
3. Chain Gang
4. Cupid
5. Medley: It's All Right/For Sentimental Reasons
6. Twistin' The Night Away
7. Somebody Have Mercy
8. Bring It On Home
9. Nothing Can Change This Love
10. Having a Party

Along with the Sam Cooke tunes, the old man received what I called "Dad's Rock 'n' Roll Mix." Often, when I play my dad tunes, he'll say, "I like it, but it's not really rock 'n' roll (keep in mind my dad's version of Rock 'n' Roll is Beatles, Stones, Clapton...not Replacements, Nick Cave...although I did put a song on by The Replacements front man...so I don't really know where I'm going with this)." So I threw together a mix with a little more punch, a little more tempo and a little less of my beloved nancy pants tunes (I still threw in a few of these however..just for a balanced cd). Here's what transpired:

1. Eddie's Gun - The Kooks
2. Midnight In Her Eyes - The Black Keys
3. Another Sunny Day - Belle And Sebastian
4. Oklahoma - Bob Schneider
5. Four Winds - Bright Eyes
6. Been There All The Time - Dinosaur Jr.
7. Chips Ahoy - The Hold Steady
8. I Want To Hold Your Hand - Al Green (This is a must have)
9. Josephine - Brandi Carlile
10. You Can Tell Georgia - Joe Purdy
11. When You Were Young - The Killers
12. Float On - Modest Mouse
13. Mr. November - The National
14. Love You In The Fall - Paul Westerberg
15. Murray - Pete Yorn
16. Consolation Prizes - Phoenix
17. London Girl - The Pogues
18. To Be Young - Ryan Adams
19. Australia - The Shins
20. Past In Present - Feist
21. Yellow Datsun - Neva Dinova

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Kooks-Pure Pop

I first heard of The Kooks last summer on the blog I Am Fuel, You Are Friends (which all three of us are huge fans of) when Heather posted a little 4 song Kooks sampler (Naive, Sofa Song; Crazy, and California). I quickly absorbed the four songs and listened to them non-stop. I tried to order the album, but for some reason it was only available on import from Japan (I think) and cost around $40...so despite the awesomeness of the tracks, I passed. A few months later, a very special lady somehow got their debut cd, Inside In/Inside Out for me...hopefully not having paid $40 to buy it from a Japanese bookstore. But now, the album is available stateside, through the convenient medium of itunes, and I'm here to tell you about it.

The album is 18 tracks of rockin pop tunes, all with catchy guitar riffs, bold vocals from lead singer Luke Pritchard, and appealing lyrics telling tales of these barely 20 year-old (or younger) band-mates' nights out and the girls they meet in their native town of Brighton, England. Apparently these guys are all the rave in Britain, and are starting to make some noise in the states as well (sold out all of their U.S. shows on their current tour). Their big singles overseas are Sofa Song and Eddie's Gun. Both are very good representations of the type of sound you'll get from The Kooks on this album. Both feature strong guitars at the forefront and Luke yelping about trying to get under girls dresses. The single I've heard floating around certain radio stations in the U.S. is "Naive," which offers more of the same of this successful formula.

But beyond the singles, there are plenty of other tremendous tracks in this 18-song burst of energy. "She Moves In Her Own Way," slows down the tempo and intensity (and adds a bit of hand-clapping) for another catchy number. The next track, "Matchbox," picks it back up a notch, but also shows evidence of the band's wide array of influences when they slip in a little reggae feel to the middle of the song.

And it's this last point, the wide array of influences, that I think intrigues me most about this band. They claim to listen to everything from Marvin Gaye to Gnarls Barkley (aforementioned "Crazy" is a cover of the Gnarls Barkley hit), and Pritchard claims that their next album will attempt to include every genre, no exclusions. Also, the fact that every member of the band shares the songwriting load ensures that the songs won't stay static.

And if none of these reasons convince you to buy the album, consider this: the one cover they have on the album is Mason Jennings' "California." A Britpop band that covers a folksy crooner like our boy Mason Jennings? I take that as a good sign. On their website, Pritchard says when pop is good "there's nothing better." The Kooks make good pop.


Sofa Song

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Bob Schneider - Live at the Nutty Brown Cafe (Austin, TX) 5/26/07

It finally happened. Little Gun and I made it to the music mecca, aka Austin, Texas, to see one of our all-time favorites, Bob Schneider, play to his home crowd. We saw BSchneids play two of our three nights in town and it was amazing. Our first night in town was Saturday where he played the Nutty Brown Cafe a few miles out of the city.

We showed up early enough to get a table and eat some delicious kobe beef burgers and down a couple of Shiner Bocks on the enormous patio deck before Bob came on. Actually, we finished eating well before "Johnny," the painfully amateur solo guitarist, opened the show. But for the time being, it was a beautiful Texas night and I was enjoying the delicate taste of fine Texas beer.

Before I start in on the concert, I have to paint a picture of the venue: a LARGE outdoor patio that bumps up to a backyard with a separate bar and soundstage in the middle. After a collection of about 15 picnic tables in the yard portion, a concrete floor adjoins a permanent stage adorned with faded gray logs that have been attached around the base of the stage. I kept thinking I was in Iowa at an extended-family function in the country. Families chatted during the opening act while kids played with trucks, toy guns, and bouncy-balls on the concrete floor. High school kids sat together, enjoying the freedom of summer and the joys of youthful flirtation under a newly threatening gray sky.

I've been a big fan of Bob's since I first heard "The World Exploded Into Love" about four years ago and have since tried to see him live many times. I caught him for the first time with Jack the Rabbit in NYC at the Knitting Factory this past October for a solo show that basically turned into a night of Boddington's and yelling out favorites (which Bob played until about 2 am). My brothers always joke that Bob only sings about "blue skies, bubblegum, and cherry pies." While true, these lyrics do show up in some songs, BSchneids never takes himself too seriously and has plenty of songs that explore religion, drinking tequila in Mexico, relationships, along with songs titled "Big Butts and Blow Jobs", "Perfectly Shaved Asian Teens", and "Assknocker." Basically, Bob doesn't give a shit what you think of his music; he's going to play whatever he feels like -- and I wouldn't have it any other way. His blend of Texas rock, sometimes alt-rap, and feel good soft spots all combine to make Bob Schneider one of today's most underrated artists (outside of Austin, that is...).

While waiting for Bob to come on, Little Gun and I decided to think of what car he drives. I said a Dodge Charger, Little Gun Said an '88 Monte Carlo, and Jack the Rabbit said a '94 Pontiac Firebird via text message. I think that about covers our vision of Bob as a Bill Brasky-type character.

As the clouds began to build, so did our anticipation for Bob. He came out as casual as the atmosphere of the venue and began to play my currently-most-played song "Oklahoma." Even a few drops of rain here and there could do nothing to kill my mood. I was in Texas, with my best friend, listening to one of my favorite artists, and drinking a beer outside. Life was good.

Bob's set was varied and he played plenty of old favorites throughout the night. As Little Gun and I talked earlier in the night, we discussed how random instruments can instantly lift a good song to great song status. My favorite instrument in this category was the mandolin, and sure enough, after a great "Come With Me Tonight," the mandolin came out for "A Long Way to Get" (as well as some fancy whistling work by Bob). Another live Bob favorite, "The Paraplegic Blues" also got a little mandolin action, as Bob brought out the harmonica and rocked.

It seems BSchneids has been moving more towards his rap style as of late with some songs like "Cheaper," "Rollin'", "It's Alright 'Cause I Love You Baby," (with Bob's seemingly favorite toy that can only be described as a mouth keyboard...) and - my favorite - "Mudhouse." I like when he throws these songs into his sets because it keeps everything fresh and the audience on their toes. Bob doesn't have a Jack Johnson-like style that you can define. He goes all over the place, with hard rock tunes like "Everything I Have...", "Holding in the World" and "The Californian" ; soft-lullaby songs like "Big Blue Sea", "Piggyback", and "Metal & Steel"; and funky up-tempo songs like "Round and Round", "Mix It Up", and "Cap'n Kirk" all in one performance.

All in all the night was great, albeit a little wet, and my Austin experience had only just begun. As Bob closed with a lively Scabs (Bob's former band) fan favorite "Tarantula" that had the crowd dancing and singing wildly, and a great cover of "Is This Love," I was hoping for a worthy encore. While not disappointed with "Cap'n Kirk" and "Big Blue Sea," neither were captured on the live cd that is featured below. I guess they had to shut down the recording to get cds burned in time for people to buy them, but I wish they could've made it on because they were a great way to finish off the night.

(*note, the recording is also missing "Love Theme from Mork & Mindy", "My One True Love", and "Getting Better" between songs #13 and #14...this is where the split for the double cd came in...but here's a great performance of Bob singing "Love Theme from Mork & Mindy").

So here is the live recording of the show for your enjoyment. You have to see Bob if you get the chance, be it solo or with his full band. He always puts on an entertaining performance that will leave you feeling like "the world exploded into love."

Bob Schneider - Live at the Nutty Brown Cafe (Austin, TX) 5/26/07
  1. Oklahoma--I Don't Know For Sure
  2. Come With Me Tonight
  3. A Long Way to Get
  4. The Paraplegic Blues
  5. Piggyback
  6. Heart Holds Diamonds
  7. I'm Good Now
  8. Cheaper
  9. The Californian
  10. The Californian (cont'd)
  11. Everything I Have Don't Mean Nothing to Me Now
  12. Bullets
  13. Holding in the World
  14. Rollin'
  15. Flower Parts
  16. It's Alright 'Cause I Love You Baby
  17. Medicine
  18. Round and Round
  19. Mix It Up
  20. Boom Box
  21. Metal & Steel
  22. Tarantula
  23. Mudhouse
  24. Is This Love
  25. (Goodnight)
I highly recommend a visit to Bob's official website where you can listen to most of his entire discography for free, as well as some pretty entertaining commentary on each song. Also, head on over to BobSchneiderLive.com for a large collection of old live shows that you can stream for free. A bunch of these shows are at Saxon Pub in Austin, where we saw him play that Monday night (which Little Gun will probably be posting on in the near future).

Friday, June 1, 2007

The National - Jack The Rabbit's New Favorite Band

Over memorial day weekend, Little Dynamite flew down from NYC to meet me in Austin for plenty of live music, Shiner Bock and breakfast tacos. The details of this trip and the music we saw and heard will be documented at a later date (probably in some sort of 5 part series). The purpose of this post is to talk about the cd that we listened to almost exclusively in my car (1998 Toyota Sienna mini-van...thanks for asking). The band was The National, and the cd was their 2005 release Alligator, which apparently was praised by music snobs everywhere, but I somehow missed out on until now. Now, I don't think that JTR is aware of this band's greatness, and I'm pretty sure that they will be his new favorite band. So, this post is dedicated to showing him why they will be his new favorite band because he could not be in that mini-van with us in Austin. Without further-ado.

1) They write beautiful, catchy music: This aspect of the band might be overlooked by most (due to the strength of points 2 through 5), but at some point within each song lies a sweet melody that keeps you coming back for more.

2) Front man Matt Beringer's delivery: Beringer's baritone (or as my mom said, mono-tone) delivery is most reminiscent of Leonard Cohen, but it is definitely a unique voice; and a unique voice is something that JTR values in an artist (ex: Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Craig Finn of the Hold Steady).

3) Their style: They can pass for a rockin' garage band ("Mr. November," "Abel" off of Alligator), play slow beautiful tunes ("Gospel" off of their latest, Boxer) and anywhere in between. Regardless, they never lose their intensity.

4) Lyrics: This band might just be arrogant enough for JTR. They have some fantastic one-liners, and it's evident they know it because they usually repeat them throughout the song. They also quite beautifully romanticize the subjects of their songs ("We'll run like we're awesome, totally genius/We're the heirs to the glimmering world;" from Geese of Beverly Road or my personal favorite, "I'm put together beautifully/I'm a perfect piece of ass" from All The Wine).

5) Coolness: For evidence of coolness go to blogotheque.net, watch The National's "Start a War" video and watch Beringer (I'm gonna let Little D go in depth about blogotheque.net because he introduced it to me; and Little D, go to The National's website for more videos by Vincent Moon of blogotheque fame).

This has gone on way to long. I'll probably post more next week about The National because I'm seeing them next week in Detroit, MI. For now, pick up Alligator and then quickly thereafter buy their latest, Boxer. You know Jack The Rabbit will.

Until I post some tracks, check out some myspace. "Secret Meeting" is friggin fantastic.