Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Offspring - Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace

The Offspring - primarily Dexter Holland and Noodles Wasserman is a west coast punk band that has achieved mainstream success consistently since the mid 1980s. The band's latest outing, Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace, is in my opinion, one of their strongest records. This is the Offspring in full force, harking back to the a lot of the earlier work. There is no goofy stuff here. The songs are urgent, well thought out and frankly, good.

Frantic guitar playing, staccato drumming, catchy hooks, a driving riffs basically fill the record. These are not simplistic 3 chord punk songs, but really much better arrangements. There is variety of urgency, mood and tone.

The highlight of the album is Hammerhead - an anti war song sung from the point of view of a soldier. The Offspring avoid cliches and simplistic lyrics instead opting for more creative ways to get their point across. The breakdown in Hammerhead is rock and roll genius - it's not complicated - just good.

If you like good punk, and the Offspring, then this is a must have record.


The Damned - on US TV

Sheer brilliance.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Moaners Blackwing Yalobusha

The Moaners are a two piece blues band from Chapel Hill NC, although they are much more than a pure blues outfit. Their sound is a blend of Sleater Kinney and raw delta blues. SK were (they split up) one of the greatest indie bands out there. The Moaners almost pick up where SK left off and drench the sound in raw, bare bones blues. This is not your Stevie Ray Vaughan style texas blues, but your down and dirty gin joint in the middle of Mississippi blues.

The band is basically just drums and guitar, but the musicianship is awesome. The guitar work is minimal, abstract, tasteful and unexpected. There are no tired (and boring) BB King blues licks, but instead slide overlayed with distortion, dissonant notes and spine tingly rhythms. The drums are scary. Rather than just the simple stomp of the White Stripes, the rhythm drives much of the creativity and variation in the music.

Blackwing Yalobusha is the band's second album, and is excellent. This is not easy listening, but it is some of the most interesting music I've heard in a while.

Highly recommended. (9/10)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

British Sea Power at the Cats Cradle, May 6, 2008

My second time to see BSP and again at the Cradle. The support band was the Rosebuds who have a pretty good local following as they are from Raleigh. Before them was a one man act, Jeff Lewis who is a folkie/comic book artist. He's pretty out there - one song was basically a singing narrative of his comic book of the rise of communism in china. Like I said - wacky stuff - but entertaining.

This is the first time that I have seen the Rosebuds. They're OK. Not great. A bit, well boring. Nice little pop/rock ditties, but a real absence of something different. I didn't walk away humming any tunes.

Next came BSP. They are sporting a different line up - with Abi Fry on violin and a new guy playing horn and occasional guitar.

This is the set list:

Intro (All In It) [DYLRM]
Lights Out for Darker Skies [DYLRM]
Atom [DYLRM]
Fear of Drowning [DOBSP]
Canvey Island [DYLRM]
Waving Flags [DYLRM]
The Great Skua[DYLRM]
A Trip Out [DYLRM]
Down on the Ground [DYLRM]
Blackout [DOBSP]
No Lucifer [DYLRM]
True Adventures [OS]
Spirit of St. Louis [SOSL EP]
Carrion [DOBSP]

The gig was mainly comprised of songs from the new album "Do you like rock music" which is a great record in of itself. There was only one song from their second album, "Open Season" which although is the weaker of the 3 records, still should have seen more representation. But I think the big disappointment was the limited amount of material from the first album. I know bands want to move on to new stuff, but for us fans in the US, we only get to see them every other year, so it would be nice to get a more representative serving of their best stuff.

The sound wasn't that great at the Cradle either. It was pretty distorted and muffled. This isn't a reflection of the venue, as when they played there last time the sound was very good. I don't know what was going on this time. I suspect that having a violin and trumpet playing throughout most of the songs doesn't help much. These instruments are competing for the same frequencies as the lead and rhythm guitars and as a result they tend to muddy that part of the frequency spectrum.

But the band seemed to be on good form. They did a spot of crowd surfing at the end which was a little strange, given that most of the crowd had been pretty sedate (there were a lot of Rosebuds fans there).

Overall, still a great band and a good night out. But not as good as last time.

A few pics taken by someone else..