The XX– Forum Karlin, Prague, November 29, 2016

The XX show last night a Prague’s Forum Karlin blew the pants off the one a few years back at the big room at the Lucerna downtown.  The Lucerna show was fine performance and setlist wise but the sound was horrible.  At that show, there were none of the gut-rattling low frequency elements of the band’s work and so the music lost a lot of its punch.

Last night’s show was a different story.  The performances were inspired and Prague’s Forum Karlin proved to be a perfect venue for the band.  The place was literally filled to the rafters and the sound was impeccable.  They covered all stages of their career with a couple of new songs, songs from the first two XX albums and some highlights off of DJ/percussionist Jamie XX’s recent solo album.  In fact, Jamie stole the show toward the end of the set.  His contributions mixed in and even mashed-up with XX classics and really gave a kick to the proceedings.  I’m not usually one for DJ’s but this guy’s got some serious talent.

I’m looking forward to seeing what this young and able band releases on their next album. If last night was any indication, it should be worth the wait.

RAMONES

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For some reason I’m buying up Stooges and Ramones records like nobody’s business. I don’t know what happens when you’re a 42 year-old punk rock fan but I get the feeling that I’m about to find out.

Ironically, I’m writing this during an intermission in the Nutcracker ballet.

Albums of My Year – 2011

 

These are the albums of my year.  If they interest you, check them out.  They’re not the be all and end all of music.  However, this has been the soundtrack of 2011 for me.  I’m happy to say that many of them have been appreciated on vinyl.  That medium, more than anything else, has gotten me back to enjoying music and not just listening to it.  I had forgotten about the difference there for a while.

Anyway, here’s my 2011 in no particular order:

  • Alberta Cross – Rolling Thunder EP
    Hope this is a preview of the new album.  Driving rock that could derail into Kings of Leon in 2012.  Let’s hope not.

 

  • The Black Keys – El Camino
    Geez.  Hook mania.

 

  • Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys!
    Not their best by a mile but the 1st half is great and it picks up again at the end.

 

  • Gomez – Whatever’s on Your Mind
    An older, wiser, Gomez.  Not their best but a good dad record.  I am what I am.

 

  • Jane’s Addiction – The Great Escape Artist
    Nice effort from guys well past their prime.

 

  • John Hiatt – Dirty Jeans and Mudslides
    He’s still got it.

 

  • Kasabian – Velociraptor!
    English bloke dance-rock at its best.

 

  • Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo
    Dinosaur Jr. mixed with Dylan.  And Beck.  Laconic and awesome.

 

  • Peter Bjorn and John – Gimme Some
    The new Apples in Stereo for me.  Sweet power pop.  Hooks galore.

 

  • Portugal. The Man – In the Mountain In the Cloud
    Wasilla, AK.  They’ve got a period in their name.  ‘Nuff said.

 

  • Radiohead – The King of Limbs
    Weird album that rewards with repeat listens.  Rockers need not apply.

 

  • Wilco – The Whole Love
    A return to form for one of the best American bands.  Great stuff.

Spit Or Litter Is Back!

I can tell you that the band has been in the studio. In just three evenings, Spit Or Litter has composed three new songs. One is entitled “Wrong Side of Bed” and lacks lyrics other than a chorus and is in desperate need of a bridge. It was made from an obscure Replacements guitar sample that appears at the end of their cover of “Hey, Good Lookin’.” It’s a sample I’ve wanted to use for years and I think I’ve finally found a good place for it.

The second song is called “Had a Bad Day” (see the pattern?) and is a messy, pile of distorted guitar, fuzzed out bass and Moe Tucker-esque drum work. It was recorded within 10 minutes of getting home from work after a crappy day of epic proportions. However, with the completion of the song, there was no wiping the smile off of my face.

The third is called “Live in Prague” and it’s not live but it was recorded in Prague.

I just got a new mixer in the mail and plan to put it to good use during the rest of this weekend. I have no plans to do anything but sit inside and make a huge racket.  There’s some labor for you.

Vinyl Fetish

Nostalgia is a part of getting older, I suppose.  Maybe that’s why I was pretty dang excited to find myself in a record store the other day.  I was buying a buddy of mine his birthday present.  I don’t usually exchange gifts with friends but he bought me this unbelievable bottle of gin for my birthday and I decided to return the favor.  Anyway, I was in the Bontonland store in downtown Prague where I picked up his gift, a DVD.

Years ago, when I first started coming to Prague, I spent quite a bit of time in this store.  The prices were always weird.  Some things would be two times the price of the same thing back in the States and others would be half the price.  But there was just a lot of stuff I had never seen before.  Box sets that were unheard of in the US market but had made it to the heart of Central Europe.  There were enough Jazz DVD’s to boggle the mind.  It’s because of this place that I got to see John Coltrane on video in his prime.

But the real gems of this store were the small but not insignificant stacks of vinyl.  Records.  LP’s.

I have had a long, sordid love affair with this medium for as long as I can remember.  I listened to “book and record” stories on an Emerson record player when I was just a little kid.  GI Joe, Batman and The Rescuers were favorites.  They had awesome records and the artwork inside really sucked me in.  Many of the copies had yarn tied around the spine of the cover to keep the well-worn pages in.  To this day I can remember the cold feel of one particular old metal 45rpm spindle adapter.  It was sort of gun-metal blue and made a satisfying “clunk” when you put it on the platter.

As the years went on, I graduated from “book and records” to Disco Duck, the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack, comedy records in my folks stash and KISS albums borrowed from friends.  All the while, those black circles were spinning on my record player, and a deep seeded fetish was taking root.

However, if any group sealed my love of vinyl, it would be the Police.  I recall seeing the Synchronicity LP that one of my older brother’s buddies had loaned him to dub onto cassette.  It was translucent, purple vinyl.  My mind was blown.  The cover was black and white save for three primary color swipes of paint on each side.  The pictures seemed like some sort of riddle to why the Police kicked so much butt.  “Every Breath You Take” got turned up louder than any other song I had ever heard.  Over and over.

That album also paved the way for me as a collector.  The Police’s last album spawned many singles and I soon would be combing the record stores of downtown Lincoln, Nebraska picking up terms like “import,” “bootleg,” “limited edition” and “picture disc” while collecting these singles.  I was smitten.  My brother and I saved up all of our money from our window washing business and managed to build up a pretty sizeable, shared collection of LP’s, 12 inch singles and 45’s.  This was the root of my b-side love as well.  Ah, b-sides – that’s a whole other post.

Fast forward a few years to find me a poor, 18-year old in Madrid, Spain.  “Madrid Rock” by the Plaza Mayor sustained me through this year and I ended up coming home with a 10-12 inch stack of records at the end of my year as an exchange student.  The reason? My host mother had an awesome turntable but the other part was strictly economics.  Albums were $6-$8 on vinyl and $15-$20 on CD.  I bought Lou Reed albums up the wazoo.  Doors bootlegs became an obsession as well with some of them even pressed on marbled green vinyl.  “Achtung Baby” came out that year and I bought it the day it hit the shelves.  I listened to it once, determined that U2 had lost its way and sold it to a friend.  Now I love that album and vinyl editions from Spain go for about $200 on eBay.  Ouch.

So, my love of vinyl has been there for years.  I took a few years off from collecting but my obsession seems to be coming back in full force.  I just bought a (purple vinyl!) triple vinyl U2 album from the fan club and Super Furry Animals double LP of “Dark Days/Light Years” as well.  So it was fitting that while looking through stacks of CD’s in Bontonland this week, something in my brain pinged.  “They have records here,” I thought.  I found them, a flight of stars down in a corner bathed in harsh flourescent light.  Right in front of the “New Releases” section was LCD Soundsystem’s “This is Happening.”  I bought it right away.  Johnny Cash reissues, U2’s first four albums reissued on 180 gram vinyl were also in the stacks.  (Achtung Baby should be reissued soon.  I won’t make the same mistake twice.)  The good thing is, all of these albums are about the same price that they are on Amazon and cheaper than eBay.

Today I unwrapped the LCD Soundsystem LP, thereby reducing its resale value by approximately half.  I do not care.  This album has it all.  Gatefold sleeve.  Double LP.  Lyric sheet.  And even cryptic sentences etched on the smooth final 1/2 inch next to the center.  “Beauty is rare” was one of the etched messages that comes to mind.

Not in the case of vinyl.

Saved by Rock ‘n Roll

There’s a particular passage in Andy Summers’ One Train Later where he muses, “Is there anything better than music?”  I’d have to say I have asked the same question a million times in my life.  It is no exaggeration that music is responsible for the best parts of my life.  Forget the concerts or the late night listenings to sacred albums that leave goosebumps down to the tops of your feet – I’m talking about people.

These are the memories etched in my brain:

Album hunting with my brother in the olden days, tape exchanges in the less-olden days, CD burning in the recent past and hard drive scavenging in the present.

Laughing with my dad and the “don’t needta discuss muuuuuuuuuch!!!” karaoke sessions to the Best of Paul Simon.

Hearing my mom say that she wanted to hear Pink Floyd’s “Learning to Fly” when we went to run errands in the Pontiac 6000.

Discovering a copy of the Police box set in a girlfriend’s car and not knowing whether to make out with her or blare “Roxanne” in celebration.  (For the record, we blared “Roxanne” and “Message in a Bottle” then made out – she later became my wife.)

My daughter now sings, “I got a submarine, you got gasoline, I don’t wanna talk about wars between nations!”  It must be a really dominant gene…

My friends.  All of them.  Each friend seemingly identified by their own band in my mind.  One that fits them.  One that I turned them on to or that they did for me.  Little stamps of record covers, passages of songs, the smell of freshly unwrapped CDs and hours of conversation in and about and around the music.  But ever present in each one – the music.  Always the music.

So, it is no wonder that I once again stare in awe of my life as I’m about to go meet a childhood friend that has traveled to Prague from Okla-freakin’-homa all because we grew up on U2 together.  A year or two ago, he dropped me a line that saying he’s never seen U2 and if he did he’d be willing to travel wherever I was to experience it with me.  (Do shared experiences of books tie people together like that?  Paintings?  Food – maybe.)  I took him at his word and he wasn’t bluffing.  To make things even better, we’re going with my wife and yet another friend from Prague.  (He and I hatched the plan to see U2 during a drive back from Berlin after an Oasis show.)

Music.  Always the music.

In answer to your question, Mr. Summers – no, there is nothing better.

New Gomez Song

This morning, a bouncy, gritty, distorted, glitchy pop song was born on the Gomez web site.  It’s called “Airstream Driver” and, if I have to classify it, I’d say it fits somewhere between “In Our Gun” and “Split the Difference” in style.  But I’ve only listened to it once and Gomez is a tough band to classify.  The album “A New Tide” is out the end of March.

Consider my appetite whetted.