Mike Rep/Photo: Mary Jo Bole
By Dave Cantor
As suburban sprawl began its duplicitous creep, a kid named Mike Hummel and his family took up residence in Timberlake, a region southwest of Ohio’s capital. It was the 1960s.
Hummel, better known to scum punk collectors as the titular character of Mike Rep & the Quotas, stuck it out in a place he refers to as nowhere a few times in emails and over the phone. But if it weren’t for Timberlake and his parent’s affinity for R&B and 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, the character of Columbus’ musical topography would waver differently all these years later.
In addition to his family’s good sense, though, Rep reveled in a friendship that would wind up spanning decades and countless bands.
“When ‘Israelites’ came out on AM radio, it was a Top 40 hit in America,” Rep reminisces. “To us, it just sounded like a weird take on R&B. … The first time I met Tommy Jay was at a basketball court near where we lived, and we discovered it was both of our favorite song on the radio at the time.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Shawn Brackbill
On Kurt Vile’s last EP—“So Outta Reach,” sandwiched between the LPs “Smoke Ring For My Halo” and the new “Wakin on a Pretty Daze”—he sang: “Life’s a Beach.” For rock critics attempting to pin his philosophy (which I most certainly am), it’s a buffet. That Vile imbued the world of the generation he’s been chosen to speak for (whether he likes it or not) with such vigorous, sardonic ease in those words, and so many more before, was quite the epilogue to the release of “Wakin,” a seventy-minute wall of shimmering, hi-fidelity sound that chugs along with zero thought to an apology for “selling out.”
When Brooklynites Titus Andronicus voiced displeasure with his selling his “Smoke Ring” opening love song, “Baby’s Arms,” to Bank of America, Vile tweeted: “sorry titus. i did it to be like the carpenters.and to buy my daughter high end diapers. and to pay back my publishing advance. and because i never cared about that sorta thing. whoops,i even have a bank of america account.” On “Smoke Ring” track “Puppet to the Man,” he says: “I bet now/You probably think/I’m a puppet to the man/Well I’ll tell you right now/You best believe that I am.” Marxist integrity, Vile seems to say, is a privilege for the privileged. And trying to maintain it as an artist, with a family, in a musical marketplace that’s long been even more broken and confused than the recession the rest of us are worried about, is a pointless war of attrition; and one you’re going to lose. Read the rest of this entry »
In 2008, British soul singer Alice Russell caught the attention of critics and fans alike with her catchy “Got The Hunger” the lead single from her US debut, “Pot of Gold” (Six Degrees, 2008). She seemed to tag along with her country’s embrace of young female singers like the late Amy Winehouse and Adele, who capture the essence of American soul and use it in their own way—apparently drawing more inspiration from Motown than more current stuff made here.
On her new record, “To Dust,” Russell goes further by incorporating gospel sounds and more organic instrumentation instead of the previous disc’s predominantly electronic sounds. For instance, “A to Z,” is a powerful guitar-driven tune with smart vocals and a very catchy groove. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: John Mourlas
By Dave Cantor
Black-clad freaks, gather. We’re here today eulogizing Oyarsa and its untimely demise. The metal duo still had so much to explore. But Noah Coleman has seen fit to take his guitar to the unknown wilds of northern Idaho, where the only thing outnumbering trees and mountains are militia men, dedicated to wresting freedom from some invisible tyrant—some secret Muslim.
The death rattle, its fits and shivers, has made seeking perspective on Oyarsa’s final Chicago performance from musicians sharing the bill a healing thing—one that can’t replace what Chicago’s losing, but can serve as a coda to the band’s truncated career. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dave Cantor
The greatest myths are good stories. And tales behind the discovery of any band are just decent fiction—or at least realities tweaked well enough to conjure up towering imagery.
Sweden’s Goat isn’t issuing its Stateside debut because of outstanding European festival performances but rather because a band it shares practice space with just shot a video over to Chris Reeder, UK’s Rocket Recordings honcho, and he dug it. That’s only part of the story, though.
“Over the course of the next few months when we were putting the seven-inch together, the band themselves started communicating with us,” Reeder says about his earliest digital interactions with the Swedes. “Then we didn’t really hear anything else from them until about May … when out of the blue ‘World Music,’ all finished and mastered, landed in our inbox.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Dave Cantor
Paul Williams is dead.
And while the journalist’s March 27 passing has little impact on Akron/Family, its new disc “Sub Verses” or the fact that the trio, augmented by Los Angeles-based synth-junkie M. Geddes Gengras, is set to appear at the Empty Bottle on Tuesday, Williams’ death points to a necessity to discuss music differently.
Postmortem, the Crawdaddy! founder is amid some of the widest appreciation he’s been afforded in decades. It’s easy to resurrect the dead’s legacy and reflect on it in an age of digital cataloguing. But what the guy keeps getting credit for is commenting on music in a way that had less to do with picking out what time-signature’s being used and more connected with what those rhythms make a listener feel—how the emotive qualities in a recording work on the person taking it in.
Akron/Family drummer Dana Janssen may or may not be aware that Williams is no longer spinning vinyl and opining, but the Portland-dwelling percussionist says he hopes journalists can eventually write uniquely on his band. Read the rest of this entry »
Brooklyn-based Chicha Libre started out playing covers of obscure psychedelic songs from Peru, and on this four-song EP they come full circle with a collection of inventive takes on pop tunes reimagined into the chichi format, starting with a very personal take on the “Simpsons” that expands on the TV version by adding some improvisation and a more danceable beat. They recreate Love’s classically inspired “Alone Again Or,” as a song innovated by featuring a mariachi band in the middle section, something quite uncommon in the late sixties. They also pay tribute with “Guns of Brixton” and also include “Chicha Rica,” a song that I could not trace but I am sure comes from bandleader Olivier Conan’s treasure trove. Read the rest of this entry »
Throw on any Spindrift recording and it’ll easily summon a disturbing image of Quentin Tarantino lounging near a Los Angeles pool, drinking some fruity, alcoholic beverage and contemplating future exploito-projects. The band, led by Kirpatrick Thomas, began its life in Delaware prior to relocating to the West Coast. It hasn’t necessarily been an advantageous move—the ensemble still languishes in the culty realm between underground renown and total obsolescence. That’s not to insinuate Spindrift lacks a creative twitch, making the group a unique entity. There’s really nothing like it. Drawing from film’s dusty cowboy history and referencing enough psychedelia to have its adoptive hometown make sense, Spindrift traffics in short overwrought compositions. Read the rest of this entry »
Being able to maintain punk’s enthusiasm and jittery charm while inserting a bit of harmony is a unique ability only a handful of groups have been able to achieve over the last few decades—Alabama’s Thomas Function recently hit the fever pitch before disappearing. At about the same time those Southerners properly channeled Elvis Costello, an Irish guy named Brian Kelly, who was then living in South Korea, started sputtering out pop-heavy punk gems and eventually wound up issuing a few discs for Tic Tac Totally. Amid everyone within reach of a computer staring glassy-eyed at screeds about the importance of lo-fi, Kelly’s So Cow released a self-titled long player that easily towered over the masses of garageniks, toning it down just enough to be poppy. A few years later, no one mutters word one about lo-fi and certainly, no self-respecting band tags itself with the name. So Cow had the misfortune of being lumped in with all those also-rans, but has continued to explode the confluence of sweet and tart musics. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Meg Bitton
“American Idol” might have brought us talent like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and then-unappreciated Jennifer Hudson, but there were many other promising artists who ended up vanishing even if they did well on the show. While some flamed out soon and wound up playing minor parts in off-Broadway shows, some used the exposure to create a niche audience and build a solid career once the cameras were turned off.
An example of this is Ohio-born Crystal Bowersox, who was runner-up during the show’s ninth season (defeated by Chicago’s Lee DeWyze) in 2010. Signed to Jive Records that year, she released “Farmer’s Daughter,” and despite positive reviews and reasonable sales, she was dropped after RCA disbanded her label. She has since signed with indie label Shanachie Records (which also includes Ruben Studdard—another “Idol” veteran—in its roster) and is in the works to put out her sophomore album “All That For This” under the production of Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin. Read the rest of this entry »