Any regular reader of If It's Too Loud... will know that I'm fairly obsessed with Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys. One of my other favorite things is exploring abandoned places. The Live From Nowhere video series pairs bands performing live with abandoned locations. In the greatest news of the week, Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys have recorded a video for Live From Nowhere. They wrote a new song just for the space, which is an abandoned (and possibly haunted) movie theater. "Animals Like Me" is a creepy intense slow burn of a song, and the accompanying video just adds to the vibe of the song. It's intensely lit with perfect use of shadows, plus it's shot like the viewer is creeping around, spying in on the private performance. You can watch the video for "Animals Like Me" below. To find out more about Live From Nowhere, check out their Facebook page. For more on Walter Sickert & The Army of Broken Toys, check out their Facebook.
We haven't brought you a Friday Freebie for far too long, but, luckily, today's is a great one. As I'm sure you're all aware, Belly is back after a 20+ year break. They are currently working on new material and have started a PledgeMusic for fans to pre-order their upcoming new album, but for right now Tanya Donelly and company are giving out a four song sampler of live material and rarities. Out of the four songs, the only live one is "Dusted." The rarities are absolutely fantastic and must haves for any fan of Belly. The first two are from the 90's glory days of film soundtracks: "Thief" was originally from the Tank Girl soundtrack and "Spaceman" came from the Twister soundtrack, which I guess was a thing? The final song on Belly Noise is the absolute must have. It's a cover of "Trust In Me (The Python's Song)" from Disney's The Jungle Book. You can get your own copy of Belly Noise right now over at NoiseTrade. In order to pre-order the brand new album from Belly due out next year, head over to PledgeMusic. We certainly can't wait for new music from Belly, and we can barely believe it's actually happening.
Forgotten Fridays is an occasional feature here at If It’s Too Loud... where we go back and find the lost records of our glory days. We played these on our college radio shows, put them on countless mix tapes, and then forgot they existed. We go back and remind you of their existence, and help decide if they were any good. Oh, the mid 1990's. It was the glory days of the compilation album, where labels would just throw a bunch of bands on a cd, knowing that as long as you liked two or three of the bands, you'd but the entire album since there was no way you'd ever have any other way to get a copy of the exclusive songs. One of their favorite ways to put one of these together was a tribute album. You'd get a bunch of bands that would usually never be associated together, often covering an artist you'd never expect. One of these tribute albums was Twisted Willie, which is a mostly alternative tribute to Willie Nelson. Including Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings on a tribute to Willie Nelson makes perfect sense, although the Johnny Cash version of "Time of the Preacher" gives Cash a backing band of Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, and Alice in Chains' Sean Kinney, so this is hardly a classic country version. Other bands like the Supersuckers, Reverend Horton Heat, and X make perfect sense since they've always been tinged at the very least with classic country. But then you get the oddballs, like L7. Their version of "Three Days" is a little more melodic than L7 normally are, but it still sounds like L7 except for a bizarre (and fantastic!) twangy breakdown in the middle of the song. The Presidents of the United States of America might have seemed like a weird band to play a country song, but looking back twenty years later and their take on "Devil in a Sleepin' Bag" fits right in their regular catalog. Other weird choices that somehow work include songs by Jello Biafra, Kelly Deal, and Jerry Cantrel. While the alternative heroes of the 90's playing classic Willie Nelson songs might have seemed weird in 1996, looking back and it makes perfect sense. Willie Nelson's music has always been universal, and, even though 20 year old me would never have admitted it, country music infected a lot of my favorites from back then. Twisted Willie works in ways most other tribute compilations of the time don't. Plus, a lot of the songs feature Willie joining in, because of course they do.
My gushing fandom of The Dead Milkmen has been well documented here at If It's Too Loud..., so I'm obviously thrilled that this week saw the release of a new EP, Welcome to the End of the World. One of the biggest changes with The Dead Milkmen since their return has been their move away from "joke" songs. Hits like "Punk Rock Girl" and "Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance to Anything)" always had them unfairly labelled as a novelty band by some. Their newer material, while still including a biting sense of humor and social satire, could never be called novelty music. Which leads the newer material to be more traditionally punk than the classic material. While most bands, especially punk bands, tend to get slower, quieter, and more melodic as they age, The Dead Milkmen are getting louder. One of my favorite style of songs that The Dead Milkmen have always done are gleeful songs about horrible things. The EP's title track, "Welcome to the End of the World," is a driving mid-tempo angry but somehow joyous song called "Welcome to the End of the World." It's not all heavy songs on the EP. "The Coast is Not Clear" has a bit of a disjointed New Order feel to it. "Tomorrow Should Have Been Here Years Ago" is almost a drum and bass song, if drum and bass was done by aging indie punk bands from the 80's and 90's. And it wouldn't be a Dead Milkmen release without a freaky surf rock track, which we get in "Battery Powered Rat." Welcome to the End of the World is out now via The Giving Groove. You can get your copy on vinyl or a digital version here. For more on The Dead Milkmen, check out their website.
Whenever a show I'm planning on attending gets cancelled, I always end up with a feeling of panic and a need to find another show to fill the void. After Jessica Lea Mayfield cancelled her tour and show this week at Great Scott, I started scouring the listings to see what else I could attend. Once I saw that blog favorite Weakened Friends had been added to the already tempting Monday night show for The Courtneys, I knew that would be the one. This was my third time seeing Weakened Friends in a little over a year, and their live shows keep getting better. I wouldn't say it's because they're getting tighter as a band. They are a bit, but they're still just sloppy enough to be completely charming. "Miserable" and "Main Bitch" are still complete highlights of any set, with new song "Hate Mail" soon to be a much beloved addition, even without J Mascis on the live version. Weakened Friends seem to be having a blast when playing, particularly bassist Annie Hoffman as she bounces around the stage. Guitarist/singer Sonia Sturino was in rare form, reminding the crowd that they could die at anytime, so we should all enjoy every day equally. Weakend Friends are beginning to hearken back to this glorious but brief time in 1997 where it was completely ok for indie bands to want to be successful. Not huge rock stars, but at least enough to quit their day jobs. Versing was the band I knew the least amount walking into the show, but I left as a new, obsessive fan. The Seattle band was playing for the very first time in Boston, and we need them back as soon as possible. Their sound reminded me a ton of early Superdrag mixed with The Dismemberment Plan. But loud. Songs like "Call Me Out," "Body Chamber," and "Nirvana" completely won me over. (I'm not completely sure how I feel about a Seattle band calling a song and album "Nirvana," but we'll leave that for another time...) I have a feeling you'll be hearing us rave about Versing for a long time to come. The Courtneys headlined the evening, and weren't quite what I expected them to be. The newly released album, The Courtneys II, is the epitome of 90's influenced alternapop, but live they seemed much more restrained and raw than the sheen you can hear on the album. It reminded me much more of early that dog instead of the more pop influenced sound that I expected. As much as I enjoyed their performance, it's always hard to completely focus when an unexpectedly fantastic opener like Versing has just mesmerized you. Plus, after two more energetic and frenetic performances, The Courtneys were a wee bit too downbeat for what I needed to keep me going after 11:00 pm on a Monday night.
We're officially two weeks away from Halloween, so it's time for bands to start releasing special Halloween songs. Chicago's The Flat Five have presented us with a version of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," set to music. Instead of merely reading the classic poem with some moody music in the background, The Flat Five have turned it into a swinging, groovy song. This is the kind of song that would have been a huge megahit in 96-97 when retro cool was all the rage. It has the strangest vibe to it where it somehow feels like swing, beatnik, and something out of the 60's Batman show all at the same time. Odds are that this won't be the next "Monster Mash," but it's a ton of fun. You can listen to The Flat Five's version of "The Raven" below. The single is available now via Bloodshot Records. You can get a physical copy here, or a digital version through Bandcamp. For more on The Flat Five, check out their website.
My time management was really, really poor this weekend from a blogging standpoint. I watched three crappy movies and an awesome one in It Follows (which has a killer soundtrack/score, by the way) instead of doing the requisite stuff for First Listen this week. Please forgive me, especially given as there's 20-something new releases out there this week.
Melkbelly - Nothing Valley: Latest entry in the female-fronted alt-rock thing, but really deserves your time. Shades of Dinosaur Jr here, easily my favorite release of the week.
William Hut and Gisli - 22: His best solo effort (duo, really) in a long time, and is the closest to classic Poor Rich Ones we’ve seen in a long time on his half. The Gisli half is gorgeous in entirely different ways, but both are worth it.
Beck – Colors: His best album in a long time, and one of the more enjoyable listens he’s put out at that. This is what I think of when I think of Beck, and it’s surprising he can put out something like this after being at it for so long.
WORTH SOME TIME:
Lenka – Attune: I still don’t know who she’s supposed to appeal to, but no matter – she’s good at what she does even if she’s probably not going to be your first choice popster.
Terra Lightfoot - New Mistakes: A good listen, but it can’t decide if it’s more roots or more alt-rock, and that lack of clarity dragged it down a lot for me.
Robert Plant – Carry Fire: If you liked Raising Sand, this is largely along those lines. It’s hard to separate the man from the album, though – if this were someone who wasn’t Robert Plant doing this, I bet I’d like it more.
Pale Honey – Devotion: Considering how good their first album was, the direction they go here ends up being disappointingly unmemorable. One of my most anticipated albums of the month, and I don’t really know what to say about it.
Based in Chicago and released on a French record label, Dan Rico's latest 7" is pure 70's power pop joy. "Flesh & Bone" is heavily influenced by T-Rex, which is always a good thing. In fact, it could pass as a long lost T-Rex outtake. It's a mid-tempo groove with swagger to spare. The b-side, "Gold Volvo," is another fantastic song. It's a ballad, but has an odd Prince meets Big Star feel to it. You get that hyped up Prince vibe mixed with the sweetness of a song like "Thirteen." This might sound like an odd mixture, but it's fairly perfect. There's also a digital bonus track. "Anyway You Want Me" is another ballad, this one squarely in the Cheap Trick/Big Star side of things. You can listen to "Flesh & Bone" below. The 7" is available now via Shit In Can Records. You can get your own copy at Bandcamp. For more on Dan Rico, check him out on Facebook.
Even though I consider myself a pretty die hard Bowie fan, I really know very little about how his music came to be. I know some of the names of his collaborators, but I don't know what they did. I always had the assumption that everything was David Bowie and he more or less defined how everything sounded. That's why Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story was such a revelation for me. Mick Ronson wasn't with David Bowie from the very start, but as the guitarist for the Spiders from Mars, his influence was wildly important to Bowie. Every so often the film seems like it is veering towards telling the story of David Bowie, but the director avoids this and truly tells the story of Mick Ronson, only using Bowie as background and context. It shows how Ronson helped turn Bowie into a true rock star, by bringing a heavier, more rock n roll sound into his music. Ronson arranged a lot of the strings on Bowie's music, and even though Bowie was credited as the producer of Lou Reed's Transformer, Ronson was the one who knew how to run the boards and did a good amount of the production work. Even though the Spiders from Mars only lasted 18 months, Ronson worked with Bowie on The Man Who Sold the World, Aladdin Sane, Hunky Dory, and The Jean Genie. It also shows off his post Bowie work with artists like John Mellancamp, Morrissey, Bob Dylan, and Tina Turner, up to his too early death in 1993. Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story is great for those of us who are trying to expand our knowledge of David Bowie besides what we know from just listening. It's also perfect for die hard Bowie fans who might have all the information since it's filled with amazing archival footage and pictures. Plus, it has interviews with Bowie discussing the importance of his work with Mick Ronson. Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story is available now. You can pick up a copy of the DVD or Blu-Ray here or through Amazon.
Following up on 2013's Spare Parts, John Davis (formerly of Folk Implosion) is about to release a new album under the name John Davis & The Cicadas. This one is a concept album about "... corporate corruption in the food industry and related issues like (im)migration, mass incarceration, public health, and the stock market." Most of the songs were written back in 2010 and 2012 but were recently recorded in North Carolina where Davis now works as a public school teacher. One of the songs we can now hear, "Contamination In the Grass," is about how society disregards the soil we count on for so much of our needs. It's a moody song that is synth heavy while still feeling rootsy. Concept albums can go horribly wrong, but this one could end up being interesting based on "Contamination In the Grass" and "HFCS." You can listen to "Contamination In the Grass" below. John Davis & The Cicadas' new album, El Pulpo, will be out October 20 on Shrimper/Revolver. It can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp. For more on John Davis, check out his website.