This song is a little old, but caught my attention on Satellite radio, then I forgot it. More recently it popped up in the film Cyrus. Australian duo Empire of the Sun’s track, “Walking on a Dream” is kind of chill wave-y and reminds me a little of Steely Dan and “Caribbean Queen” by Billy Ocean for some reason. Thoughts?
Curtis Lane is the debut album from Active Child, the namesake of L.A songwriter Pat Grossi. Blogs and journalists are bubbling with giddiness and positive reviews for Active Child. I assume the warm reception is because this EP comes across like a more elegant, ethereal Animal Collective. The first song, “I’m in Your Church at Night” sneaks into the speakers like a church hymn and then builds with echoing 80’s drums, graceful synthesizer, and Grossi’s angelic croon (He was actually a member of the Philadelphia Boys Choir). The opener may have the most cinematic scope of the 6 songs on this disc, but they all carry a somber, haunting tone that enriches the impact of Curtis Lane and hints at the prospects of an interesting newcomer on the scene.
M.I.A’s new, grinding cacophony MAYA is an album crafted for the new “connected” society. Themes and sounds are piled in a shaker, swirled violently and poured out in clumpy snippets of odd melodies and mish-mashes of style and presentation. It is like MAYA was made by and for the ADD, short attention span of the modern human. The album shifts and jerks mercurially from boastful hip-hop and college party anthems to subversive political propaganda.
From the albums title MAYA, spelled out in slashes – /\/\ /\Y/\ – to song titles like “Space,” “Caps Lock,” and the fun, slammin’ Afrika Bambaataa sounding “Internet Connection” along with social media references like “XXXO’s” “Tweeting me like Tweety Bird on your iPhone” MIA is reporting from the crossroads of information and art. This is a place suited to both the hipster partier and incendiary politico within her.
“Lovalot” seems to tell the tale of repressed Muslims, shedding light on what pushes youth to become martyrs. She slurs “I fight the ones that fight me” and her south London drawl on the chorus, “I really love a lot” come across like, “I really love Allah.” Her first single “Born Free” charges aggressively with punk agitation and apoplectic, electronic fervor serving as a global anthem to fight oppression.
MIA’s affinity for noise pop – she loves Sleigh Bells and signed them to her label – is evident in the overloaded approach to this album. In fact Derek Miller from Sleigh Bells works the giant guitar sound on “Meds and Feds” although the riff sounds like a rehash of “Treats” from SB’s album of the same name. MIA works with Diplo again among others and applies some noise pop to her already jittery arsenal of heavy beats, fondness for clicks, whistles and sirens, and mash-up of cultural influences; from Arabic vocals and instrumentation to incorporating the heavy dub scene in Brooklyn.
MIA’s political overtones, you know the self-righteous tone liberals get with too much college and NPR, seems to be diluted by songs like “Steppin’ Up” where she declares “You know who I am / I run this fuckin’ club” and “Teqkilla” with raps about Captain Morgan and doing too much coke. The “sticky icky, icky weed” part is pretty cool though. Despite all the layers and splintering sounds, the party songs, and the political call to arms, it is the straightforward, softer edged pop songs that stand out. “It Takes a Muscle,” “It iz What it iz,” “Tell me Why’” and “Space” are less abrasive and hum along with smooth pop grooves. While MAYA is criticized for being “all over the place” it is a true representation of the times and becomes more understood with every listen.
People always ask me why I like the Smashing Pumpkins. It’s not a 90′s alt rock nostalgia thing at all. They (Billy Corgan) embrace everything I ever loved about music: anger, sadness, love, and volume. Corgan assimilates everything from Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath to Blondie, My Bloody Valentine, and The Cure. I hear things from The Beatles and Bowie to Boston, Joy Division and Slayer or even Steve Miller and Fleetwood Mac in SP’s music. It’s metal, goth, glam, alternative, indie, pop, it’s grandiose, and it’s simultaneously self-indulgent and self-deprecating. The Pumpkins are heavily psychedelic and progressive with touches of Yes and Rush mixed in and wild Morrison-esque rants and poetry sprinkled throughout the chaos. All of this varied influence comes through in some of the most innovative and voluminously prolific rock ever recorded and performed.
Billy is a true artist and songwriter, but he is also a true axe-man. SP shows are dominated by his ferociously loud, howling mad guitar (unbelievable drumming is part of it too). People get caught up in “1979″ and “Disarm,” but forget the real guitar god stuff. He embraces a bygone era by channeling the flamboyance and passion of the old school like Hendrix, Townsend, and Page. You think of him as this awkward, pear-shaped misanthrope with a nasal-y voice, but don’t overlook the commanding showman and fierce guitar player he is.
Case in point:
The mighty SP tore through their set for a sold out crowd at The Ritz in Ybor on Wednesday. The venue was beyond capacity and it’s constant temperature hung around or near the same as the 4th circle of hell. Billy was rocking so hard that he actually blacked-out and hit the deck momentarily during “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” The crowd, although drenched in sweat (some in vomit), stayed with the band until the last crunching, screeching guitar note bellowed from sound system.
“Ava Adore” You know it’s going to be a crazy night when the second song goes like this.
“Bullet with Butterfly Wings” Billy actually howls so hard after the crowd sing-a-long he blacks out, hits the ground, then stands up in a millisecond of confusion, gets his head straight, and jumps right back in. Rock ‘n Fucking Roll! I thought it was stage antics until a later Tweet by Billy said, “I blacked out and wiped out.”
“Owata” a yet to be released song
1. Astral Planes
2. Ava Adore
5. As Rome Burns
6. A Song for a Son
8. Bullet With Butterfly Wings
9. United States
10. Bleeding the Orchid
12. Cherub Rock
13. That’s the Way (My Love Is)
15. Stand Inside Your Love
17. Tonight, Tonight
This is a cool song that uses clips from a 70′s short film called “Clown.” It’s basically the tale of a lovable little scamp and his ineptitude as a dog owner. No, cute kid has a cute dog named Clown which he loses. What the video doesn’t show is the boy eventually finding the dog, but Clown is now leading a blind man so the kid decides to leave him. I think there is a lesson to be learned there, but if some blind dude had my dog I’d be all like, “What you doin’ with my dog you blind motherfucker?!” and punch him in the chest. That’s harsh. Maybe I would just secretly replace his Folgers crystals with a large sewer rat.
Now that’s how you fucking do it! You play some old songs, some new songs, some “classics,” some re-worked versions of songs and extended jam outs of others. You come on for an encore and do a catchy upbeat rocker that is your latest release then slide into a searing, passionate concert ender – shake the rafters with distortion, melt people’s faces, lay your axe on the monitor in a swirling haze of sonic chaos and wave goodnight. That’s how it’s done SON!
Kill that gee-tar! Kill it!
Fans got to the House of Blues in Orlando as early as 11:30 AM to wait for a chance to get a wristband that allowed them into the super-secret soundcheck concert. Here the Pumpkins would do their soundcheck and test out a handful of unreleased music waiting to find its place in the line of Teargarden by Kaleidyscope releases.
Bad City opened the evening with volume and energy. They sounded something like White Lion meets Ratt or Shotgun Messiah or the Crue – just cock-rock to the core, but it was fun. Next up was Chicago’s Kill Hannah who seemed to have a semi-strong fan base there for them even though they sound like a Stabbing Westward cover band.
The Smashing Pumpkins took the stage just before 10 o’clock and crushed the House of Blues with volume and intensity. The HOB was a sardine can of energy for the duration of the 2+ hour show. Fan feedback was positive and upbeat for the new songs like “Tarantula,” “Song for a Son,” and “Freak” as much as they were for alternative rock pillars like “Hummer,” “Cherub Rock,” Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” and a fiery, grooved-out rendition of “Ava Adore.”
The new band is rock solid with Jeff Schroeder absolutely shredding and sharing lead duties with Billy. New bassist, Nicole Fiorentino, is as good as any bass player SP ever had and she has only been there for 2 months. Mike Byrne, musical prodigy and 20 year-old replacement for Jimmy Chamberlin on drums, is absolutely phenomenal and was able to carry the incredibly heavy load of a live Smashing Pumpkins gig. The band was tight and playful as Billy and team shot glances, smiles and laughter back and forth. From my vantage, no one got the dreaded “You fucked that up” scowl that Billy can shoot from time to time – except maybe a sound guy off on stage right for the first few songs. Even then, Billy seemed to laugh it off. Before lighting into a sintering “Cherub Rock” Corgan joked that the show was over because he had some hookers and blow waiting for him in his big limo. He was going to listen to some Lady Gaga and do some line lines off a hooker’s back. “That’s why I got into this,” he joked. Billy seemed relaxed, yet energized while the new members not only played from the Pumpkins catalog, but were comfortable enough to add their personal touch to make the songs their own. The new SP is for real.
The 5th song of 44 from the monumental Teargarden by Kaleidyscope is out. The last 4 were captured in the EP Songs for a Sailor and “Freak” marks the beginning of the next EP, The Solstice Bare. “Freak” sees Billy returning to form; innovative guitar, poignant lyrics wrapped up in a grinding, yet catchy rocker complete with a scathing socio-political vantage. The opening line is particularly incisive considering the recent trouble in the Gulf, a place where Mr. Corgan has family and musical ties.
The mighty SP is currently on an intimate club tour that is receiving positive reviews despite even more change within the band. New drummer Mike Byrne is filling the enormous shoes of Jimmy Chamberlin nicely and bassist Nicole Fiorentino replaces new mother Ginger Reyes. Billy is so happy with the energy and attitude of this new line-up that he held up the search for a new keyboard player in order to rock out with a lean, mean four piece. Since the band’s return in 2007 they were the subject of controversy and anger. Billy insists on surging forward with new music while most fans want nostalgia shows. On top of that, their live shows have been 2.5 to 3 .5 hour prog-metal face melters which further alienated some attendees. Personally, I thought it was completely rad.
The new band is playing a wide range of the Pumpkins spectrum from Gish to this song, “Freak” in raw, succinct shows just under 2 hours and are treating fans to intimate soundcheck concerts during the day consisting of unreleased music. Bill Corgan and friends will be at the House of Blues in Orlando on Monday July 19 and The Ritz in Ybor on Wednesday. If you are discounting them, you better not. Here’s some live footage to psych you up.
“Tristessa” from Record Store Day at Amoeba Records in L.A
“As Rome Burns” from The Viper Room – Tour kickoff
“Make it Happen” from the special pre-concert soundcheck concerts on this tour.