Sunday, February 28, 2010

No Justice For The Poor

Another song from the elusive Mighty Ballistics Hi-Power:

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Yeah, she's a cool chick, baby

There was a time when admitting you actually liked Yoko Ono was an invitation to ridicule or worse. It was hard enough in the 70s to find other kids who liked Captain Beefheart, but HER? That (insert sexist and/or racist insult of your choice) who (supposedly) broke up the Beatles? How can you take that screeching seriously when you could be listening to GOOD rock music like...Ten Years After or the Steve Miller Band? So, as a 15 year old, I wore out my copies of Fly and Approximately Infinite Universe, but couldn't share them with anyone, because in the 70s, nobody got it. So, many decades later, it was a rewarding sight to see Oakland's sumptuous Fox Theater packed with people of all ages who had come to check out one of this year's Noise Pop Festival's most prestigious bills, headlined by a charming 70-something woman who happens to have put out one of the best albums of 2009.

We arrived in the middle of an opening set by Deerhoof (my third time seeing them, Davis's first) just as they were powering through a cover of "Pinhead" by the Ramones. Deerhoof, I must admit, were a band it took me a while to warm to when I first saw them, with their odd mixture of sugary cuteness and prog-rock chops. But after a long, creative career filled with nutty humor, otherworldly melodies and mad precision, it's impossible to deny their absolute mastery at what they do. Watching Satomi Matsuzaki and her bandmates bounce back and forth in perfectly synchronized pogo/bunnyhops while drummer Greg Saunier flings his whole body at his drumkit is a live rock experience like no other. They seemed to pull a lot of songs from their classic Milk Man album as well as new material and a few more astonishing covers: "Hitch-Hike" by LiliPut and, as an encore, an uncanny rendition of Canned Heat's "Going Up The Country" with Satomi on drums.

At the end of the set, we discovered that we had been given the wrong seats and, rather than high up in the balcony, we were supposed to be down on the main floor, only a few rows from the front. What a difference. Davis went up to ask if we could give Yoko a copy of What Is Truth? so she can hear the Content Providers' cover of "Kite Song". (One of my favorite songs at 15 that none of my peers could appreciate then) She was told to wait after the set was done and one of the road crew would accept it and pass it on. We did this later, after the show, and sure enough, a roadie happily took it. Hope you enjoy it, Yoko.

We settled in while a montage of Yoko Ono's life played on the screen, from cute little kid to mischievous performance artist to collaborator with unbelievably famous guy to grieving widow to elder stateswoman of philosophy, activism, and New York art. When it ended, various band members came on: the three members of ingenious Japanese band Cornelius, ex-Cibo Matto musical director Yuka Honda, and, a dead ringer for both of his parents at the same time, Sean Lennon, followed by the lady herself, who was immediately engulfed in rapturous cheers.

An eerie, hushed acapella verse of "Walking On Thin Ice" B-side "It Happened" led right into the grinding, exuberant "Waiting For The D-Train", as loud, clattering and thrilling as riding a New York subway for the first time. Smiling sweetly and letting out her unique yodel/warble/cry while the band rocked ferociously, Yoko looked and sounded joyful. The world had finally caught up with her, but she wasn't replicating her past; it was fresh.

Constantly switching instruments and musical styles, the new Plastic Ono Band added all their diverse talents to a surprise-filled set of new and old material. "Walking On Thin Ice" sounded as it should, with Sean pumping out the disco bass line; "Will I" replaced the ticking clock accompaniment of the recorded version with a web of delicate acoustic fingerpicking; "Calling", one of the best songs on the new album, was hypnotic, psychedelic and exciting.

Sean introduced "one of my favorite songs by my mom", "Death Of Samantha", by recalling their recent New York show where they were joined by former Ono collaborators Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann, and admitting it was a bit intimidating to share the stage with said old rock stars. (Wonder if anyone from Elephant's Memory, who did such a great job on Approximately Infinite Universe, was there.) But when the song began, Sean's piercing lead guitar made it clear he could easily leave boring old Clapton in the dust. A brilliant angst-ridden torch song with the repeated lyric "People say I'm coooool......yeah, I'm a cooooool chick, baby", it's a mystery why "Death Of Samantha" is not on regular rotation on "classic rock" stations everywhere.

Yoko reminisced about the making of the Fly album and how excited John Lennon was when the track "Mindtrain" was recorded while everybody else blanched at the idea of a 17-minute track. That night's version was a bit more condensed, but captured the essence of the original with its crunching train rhythms and Yoko gleefully repeating "Dub dub! Dub dub!" ad infinitum. If John had been here, he'd have been grinning ear to ear.

The set went through everything from abstract sound improvisations to smooth electronic pop to aggressive guitar music, all wedded to Yoko Ono's quirky voice and childlike Zen wisdom. And then there were the encores.

First, Deerhoof joined in for "Don't Worry Kyoko". Then a whole gang of guest artists, including the excellent Petra Haden, joined in for a spontaneous "Give Peace A Chance", prefaced by Yoko's explanation of how those seemingly random verses were originally written: by taking today's paper (and it has to be today's, that's the rule) and pulling out key words and sticking them in after "Everybody's talking about....." Giving various guests different sheets of paper and cueing them when it was "their" verse, it ended up being kind of a shambles, but it didn't matter much, because all that really matters is that chorus, right? "All we are saying..." So people, are we ready to give it a chance yet? Or are we still waiting for that D-train?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

You don't have to understand a single word to know he means it, maaan

Not one to let a little stroke-induced aphasia hold him back, Chris Knox (along with his band The Nothing) belts it out at St. Jerome's Laneway Music Festival in Auckland, New Zealand. What a trouper. And what an unstoppable rock and roll spirit. Truly inspirational.

Under construction

We're working on a fresh new playlist for Ear Candle Radio, which hopefully won't take more than a month to finish off. You can look forward to lively sets for getting on the good foot and letting go, a set for these high pressure days, musical debates on the value of belief, a trip to Tuva, Cambodia, Afghanistan and elsewhere with Frank Sinatra, and many more crazy ideas and surprising music.

In the meantime, the station is set to random shuffle. You might catch some new additions among the firm favorites that have graced our airwaves the past couple years. And while we're at it, if you have something utterly amazing that we just have to hear, the time has never been better to drop us a line. We are, as we mentioned, assembling a new playlist as we speak. There's a chance you may have just what we are looking for.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fear, Inc.

"We're all so secure/when you play with our fear" (Lyrics added to our cover of "At Last I Am Free" from 2003...not written by Chic)

So, are we a nation of cowering wimps now? Or are we just playacting because we've been told that's the patriotic thing to be? A thought-provoking article we found while reading Mick Farren's blog. Check it out. And stop that sniveling! (SLAP)

Here's an instrumental meditation on the subject:
FEAR, by the Experimental Bunnies

(A track from Music From The Integrity Tone Scale. To find out more about the scale that inspired the album, take a stroll over here.)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

A salute to all the happy odd couples out there:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Crashing Into The Future is now up on iTunes (our official announcement)

The rooster crows, the tiger roars, and something rocking this way comes.

Our newest band on Ear Candle Productions, the Granite Countertops, have unleashed their 12-song debut album, CRASHING INTO THE FUTURE.

The Granite Countertops are dark, whimsical, tender existential action heroes J Neo Marvin and Davis Jones, plus honored guests Matthew Grasso, Lizzie Borden, Junko Suzuki, Mark Parsons, and Stephen Abbate. The music ranges from noisy motivational dance tunes and flamenco/raga/trip-hop protest to populist cowbell rock, conflict-habituated jazz-dub, dissonant garage love ballads and trenchant chatty dronefests. 10 new original numbers, plus two covers of songs by Robert Wyatt and Donovan. It's a sonic pocket zeitgeist for 2010, and we can't wait for you to hear it.

Tantalizing previews and buy buttons can be found here.

And song lyrics and detailed song credits can be found here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ear Candle Radio's Top 20: January 2010

1. Subtonix - Vertigo - Tarantism
2. The Mountain Goats - Prana Ferox - Sweden
3. Bob Dylan - Suze (The Cough Song) - The Bootleg Series, Vols. 1-3 : Rare And Unreleased, 1961-1991
4. The Temptations - Masterpiece - Psychedelic Soul
5. Suicide - I Remember - Suicide
6. Them - Mystic Eyes - The Story Of Them featuring Van Morrison
7. Peter Jefferies - White Prole - Electricity
8. The Rutles - Nevertheless - The Rutles
9. CAN - Yoo Doo Right - Monster Movie
10. The Raincoats - Balloon - Moving
11. The Stooges - I Got A Right - Rough Trade Shops Rock And Roll
12. Richard & Linda Thompson - The Great Valerio - I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
13. LaVel Moore - The World Is Changing - Eccentric Soul: The Young Disciples
14. Judy Nylon - Others - Pal Judy
15. The Impressions - Soulful Love - The Young Mods' Forgotten Story
16. The Fall - A Lot Of Wind - The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004
17. Deletist - Blakelok - Relive
18. Leonard Cohen - Stories Of The Street - Songs of Leonard Cohen
19. Alan Price - O Lucky Man! - O Lucky Man!
20. Big City Orchestra - Beggettle - Reach For The Moon