Archive for October, 2011

Record Reviews

Posted in Music Reviews on October 20, 2011 by Billy Shears

Baxter Dury. Happy Soup. Regal Recordings. 2011.

Son of legendary pub rocker and all around rock’n’roll character Ian Dury, Baxter Dury has big (albeit not literally, literally very small) shoes to fill. Beloved by a nation, Ian Dury carved out a unique niche full of humor, clever wordplay and an amalgam of music hall/punk/pub rock/funk, as well as helped keep Stiff records afloat and subsequently influenced a generation of bands as diverse as Madness, Blur and Billy Bragg. So does the prodigal son tread in father’s shadow, following the same staggered path? Not at all, as it turns out. Whereas dad was kind of noisy, boisterous and loud, son takes near the complete opposite approach. Though the accent and register (in places) is at first fairly similar, over time it becomes it’s own thing. Over lazy summer-y beats, Baxter’s Dury’s characters slink out of alleyways and pubs, and whisper their truths through our narrator, whose droll, laconic and measured delivery is just enough to draw in the listener, and the simple but effective beats are ones that stick in the head well after playback is over. It’s as if Michael Caine’s persona from the 60s cut a record over 80s samples funneled through the present. There are also a considerable number of tunes that feature accompaniment from Madelaine Hart. The mood created by Dury’s bedraggled diction and the more breathy female vocalization is a nice trade off that keeps things from becoming too redundant. Highlights are the stamped 80s vibe of “Afternoon,” where Dury’s wistful recall sounds as if he’s about to doze off, the first single, “Claire,” as well as the opener “Isabel,” which begins with a “Ghost Town”-ish beat, that sets the standard for all tunes that follow. Really, not a bad cut on the album, and it works as a complete statement the way most albums these days do not. A contender for best of 2011.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. “The Death of You and Me” b/w “The Good Rebel” & “If I Had a Gun.” Sour Mash Records. 2011.

It’s been awhile. Been a bit since the world last heard from Noel Gallagher. Post-Oasis split, whereas brother Liam took  the decidedly British “back to work” angle and churned out the first Beady Eye record, Noel remained largely underground. And whereas Beady Eye are cut from the rock-ier side of the Oasis canon, Noel delivers the types of tunes that, over the last few albums, he’s had the most success with – the more wistful, reflective songs. I assumed this was going to be the case, and had predicted that I was going to dig Beady Eye more (though the album wasn’t amazing, I really liked bits and pieces of it, and think Liam and co have produced 5-6 really good tunes) Noel’s efforts surprised me. “The Death of You & Me” is definitely on the same branch of the family tree as was “The Importance of Being Idle” but also brings a unique bit of Burt Bacharach to the table. Swelling chorus, oom-pah middle break and decent lyrics make it a winner. B-side “The Good Rebel” isn’t as good, but I liked the “Rain” refrain, a nice nod to, big surprise, The Beatles. Lyrically not amazing, but the vibe of the tune is a solid one. “If I Had a Gun” is more relaxed and reflective, semi-“Acquiesce” and settles into a really nice tune. It contains one of my favorite of Noel’s recent lyrics in the “‘scuse me if I spoke too soon/my eyes have always followed you across the room” pre-chorus go to. If these 3 songs are any indication of what the album holds in store, Liam and co. should be sweating it out and tightening up the Beady Eye ship for record two. Noel has shown, without any boasting, and at a deliberate pace of his own accord, that he’s not afraid of any gauntlet being thrown his way. The saddest part of all of this is, if you took 5-6 of the Beady Eye tunes, and these 3 Noel songs, you’d have the best Oasis record since Morning Glory. Knowing that is not the case, I’ll take the heights Noel hits here, and hope for the best. (Review of the full-length, which is obviously out there, will be forthcoming. Was not available when I wrote this review, and don’t want to post-pone posting these reviews to add it.)

London Diehards. Great Britain. Rock’n’Roll Disgrace. 2011.

It’s simple, really. With this release, The London Diehards have delivered the most resolute, steadfast ep of the last several years. The declaration of Great Britain is a familiar one to fans of oi! – to live life without compromise, to be proud of being who you are, and to do so in the face of those “unnamed but always popping up in oi! tunes” masses. Their plight, however, is the changing of the times, and the politically correct lynch mob (promoters, reviewers etc) who seek to stifle bands such as these, for reasons real or imagined . And it is the band’s message, set against this plight, that defines the medium in which this ep is delivered. Simple. Hard. Catchy. Direct. Just like the classics. Oi! has always been a genre for airing such grievances, and this “us v. them” tone that permeates the record is adversarially refreshing, to be honest. It’s been awhile since I’d heard a band this annoyed with the state of its countries’ affairs. Side A kicks off with the hammer “City Streets,” and moves right into the subcultural defiance of “One Way of Life.” The B-side is where the  aforementioned sloganeering really kicks in. “No Compromise” throws down the gauntlet and “PC Mafia” reaffirms it. Sound-wise, the production is top notch; loud and clean. The die cut sleeve is a top design, and the record overall is high quality. Pressing of clear vinyl is already gone, I’d suggest grabbing one of these before they disappear, like the Britain that the band so pines for has seemingly done.

Sydney Ducks. “Stray Dogs” b/w “He Lives For Today.” Sydney Town Records. 2011. 

At this point in the game, Sydney Ducks join Hammer and the Nails, London Diehards, Marching Orders & 45 Adapters as my favorite of the newer crop of oi! bands to emerge in the last few years. Utilizing a clean, and inventive guitar sound which pulls from influences as diverse as power-pop, psychedelic and prog rock, the tunes pack an original sounding punch that is sorely missing from today’s scene. This, their first single, showcases two of their songs – The A-side, “Stray Dogs” finds them at their most straightforward. Opening with a nice blast of CCR-styled guitar, the tune settles into familiar subject matter – “out on the city streets” – but is delivered with enough panache and punch from Carl’s scabrous vocals; it rises above 99% of what the genre offers. The B-side follows in the footsteps of bands like The Jam, The Smiths, or even Oasis – bands whose B-sides rivaled or often bettered the A-side. “He Lives For Today” is my favorite Sydney Ducks song. It not only showcases their melodic, near mod-ish sound, but the middle breakdown is probably the one single highpoint of anything the band has thus presented – a swirling, Beatles-ish piece of psych that Paul Weller at The Jam’s most experimental would have been proud of. Really impressive. Rather than mince words, I’ll offer this – the single is a must have, and an essential look at a band on the rise.

Stomper 98/45 Adapters split. Randale Records. 2011.

45 Adapters are stylistically one of the more interesting bands out there today, and these two tunes definitely showcase the R&B/pub rock side of the band. “What’s Right” opens up with a straight rock’n’roll riff that would have made those bands like Dr. Feelgood and Ducks De Luxe take notice, and builds on that riff throughout the song. To me, this is the path the band should carve out for themselves – a powerful slice of punk infused R&B. Really nice. “Nothing to Prove” builds on that same premise, and ups the ante a good bit. The song sounds, dare I say, near “boogie” in it’s delivery. Top notch. These are definitely two of my favorite 45 Adapters songs, if not my favorites. This release builds on the promise this band offers and makes me tersely await future output. Stomper 98 are now veterans of the oi! scene, and they deliver stable results as is expected. Basic, classic sounding German oi! with saxophones is what we’ve come to expct from this band, and that is what we get. No more, no less. Opener “Anti-Social” (not a cover) is the heavier of the two tunes, and plods along nicely, utilizing an anthemic chant. “ISP: One Crew, One Family” is, as others reviewers have noted, very 4-Skins-y, and bounces along with help from the ever present saxaphone. A worthwhile purchase showcasing the unique pubrock-ish oi! sounds of 45 Adapters and the basic German sounds of Stomper 98.

Naked Raygun. Single Series #3. 2011.

Naked Raygun remain Chicago’s favorite sons, representative of the best the scene has ever offered, and are arguably the most important band the city has ever produced (that happens to be my opinion). Their recent output (three 2 song singles) has done nothing to tarnish that legacy, and succeeds where so many other classic bands fail when offering new material; rather than putting out embarrassing, vainglorious crap, Naked Raygun have delivered 6 quality tunes; in fact, I’d say 5 of them are near excellent, with “Burning Red” from this release vying for best song of the bunch. Written by Pierre Kezdy, who has always had a flair for a classic tune, it opens with some dauntless ringing guitar that holds it together for the entirety of the tune. Jeff Pezzati is in fine voice, and the tune is anthemic and soaring, but is not singalong “whoa oh” as Raygun sometimes rely on. An engrossing, enthralling entry in the Raygun storybook. The B-side “Black Eyed Blue” doesn’t fare as well. Though it’s not bad, it’s the least interesting so far of any of their recent tunes. I’d still call a Naked Raygun single with one amazing entry and one lackluster a victory, and fans of the band will want to make sure they hear the stunning “Burning Red.”

Night Birds. The Other Side of Darkness. Grave Mistake Records. 2011.

From the first time I heard Night Birds – tunes like “Killer Waves” and “Paranoid Times” – they quickly ascended to the top of my playlist. Their style was something refreshing in a glut of same-y. A definite nod to Southern California surf culture, and to bands like Angry Samoans, Adolescents and the snottiness of early Descendents, the tunes were fast, scornful and pissed off and at the same time, tight and catchy. With this, their first LP, expect more of the same. The formula hasn’t changed at all, and why would it?  Tunes Like “Neon Gray,” “Landfill Land,” and “One Eye” continue on with the established winning maxim with similarly successful results.  “Can’t Get Clean,” and “Paranoid Times” get repeat appearances here, but there’s more than enough original material for this LP to more than hold it’s own. If you’re a fan, then you know what you’re in for. Strap in, it’s a fun ride. Again, a nominee for Best of the Year.


Pearse McGrath: Rolling Stone Interview.

Posted in Interviews on October 20, 2011 by Billy Shears

Republished here for the first time since 1970 is Jann Wenner’s legendary Rolling Stone interview with Pearse McGrath. In it, Pearse opens old wounds, then licks them clean, airing out his soul for all to digest.

Nothing if not a fighter, Pearse talks about growing up in Quincy, recording at Abbey Road with George Martin & Glyn Johns, and lunching with Matt Duffy. “Raw” is an overused adjective when describing emotional interviews such as these, but here, it truly fits.

Pearse McGrath. The Rolling Stone Raw Life interview.

McGrath circa 1971

Saturday Night: Since the story begins, as it were, in Quincy MA, tell us a little about Quincy and growing up there. In Quincy, such luminaries as Kevin O’Maley & Jimmy Flynn define ambassadorial excellence. Thoughts?

Pearse: Ahh Quincy. City of Presidents. A haven of derelicts, ne’er-do-wells and lost souls. And that’s just Wolly. Oddly enough I never knew Bev until a few years ago. That maggot grew up right near me too. Notable scenesters include: 2 presidents, Springa from SSD, Beakey from the Quincy Scallion (the MOST Quincy), that Illeana Douglas chick with the banged up face from Stir of Echos and a slew of subpar humans.

Saturday Night: How did you transition from young Pearse in Quincy to this godforsaken scene?

Pearse: A lethal combination of skateboarding, no parental supervision, a city with the highest under-age drinking rate in the country and Jimmy Flynn. 

Saturday Night: What was going on in Boston when you first started hanging out as far as bands, spots shows etc?

Pearse: Boston had a real strong scene. Lots of shows (mainly hardcore), few different spots to see them (although they would always get either shut down, or something would happen and the venue would decide it wasn’t worth the hassle). Too many bands to mention. Use your wildest imagination.

Saturday Night: You play bass. What was the first band you played in? How’d all that start?

Pearse: First band was The Lovely Lads. First show was at The Bombshelter in Manchester, NH with Dementia 13, The 86’ed and all those dudes. I had a bass for a few years prior to that just to fuck around with. Our second show was at The Chopping Block in Mission Hill. We were the last band to play a full set there as it was closed down not long after and the band after us (Over & Out? A hc band that Melillo had on his label ‘Stab & Kill’) had their set cut short due to a bouncer getting beat up with a padlock.

Saturday Night: The Lovely Lads were definitely one of the more talented bands to come out of Boston over the last ten years. How did that group get together? Why did you guys call it quits?

Pearse: At a house party at my old apt (Gentlemen’s Zone RIP) Joehawk asked if I was interested in starting an oi band. I was and the rest is godawful history. He said he had a few tunes to get started with and we could scrape together a few more people to work on ’em.

Originally Brendan was on drums, the Hawk and Sean Bredberg (Think I Care / New Lows)played guitar and I was on bass. Sean actually wrote “King” off the demo and had the name “Riff Raff” to which he later put to good use in his brother’s band. We had one practice like this in Chris Strunk’s practice space behind Little Steve’s Pizza.

Brendan then switched to vocals and we got Mike Hayhurst (Shot Dead, The Fellas, Downhill Fast) on drums. Sean left to concentrate on Think I Care. Eventually Edson (xfilesx) got on the drums and Mike devoted his time to being the classiest human on the planet. Not being sarcastic, he lives in LA and runs the best liquor store around. Sent me a bottle of Viking Blod Mead not long ago that was the business. James Whittle from Say Goodbye jumped onto 2nd guitar also. After Edson moved to NYC, Evan stepped in on drums. That was the final line-up.

Saturday Night: So your current band, Rival Mob, are one of the more popular beat combos in the hardcore scene. How did this band develop? What’s going on with you guys right now?

Pearse: Rival Mob was just The Lads doing HC tunes. We figured it was time to end things. We (Lads) played a few shows, got a demo and cd out and it was time to move on. Rival Mob’s first show was at the Elks Lodge in Cambridge and we were actually on the flyer as The Lovely Lads still I believe.

We’re (Mob) currently working on songs for an LP for Revelation Records and playing some shows. Would love to play the Midwest but it always seems to fall apart when we try and set it up. The other dudes in the band are all in like 300 other bands so it’s not easy to book anything ever.

Saturday Night: What exactly *IS* the state of hardcore out there? It seems to be to be a mix of great & terrible. Admittedly, I’m fairly checked out as far as hardcore goes, but it seems like the good bands are really good but some of the others are not what I’d ever consider hardcore by my limited definiton?               

Pearse: There are way too many bands. There’s a few that are really good and a bunch that are alright but the majority are pretty weak. There’s not enough room for all of it. Cull the herd. Trim the fat. Salt the earth.

Saturday Night: So we both nerd out to all things Oasis/Brothers Gallagher. I’m going to ask you this point blank: Beady Eye or High Flying Birds. God save us all for having to choose.

Pearse: Hard question. Liam is my man. In his prime his voice was unbeatable, but he’s def past his prime. Beady Eye is decent, some strong tracks and a shitload of filler where High Flying Birds is pretty solid all the way through. I don’t think anyone is gonna argue over who the songwriter is in the family. Noel doesn’t write any rockers anymore though which kinda sucks. Too much acoustic strummin’ around. If he didn’t try and be like his idols all the time it’d be better. I’ll just take both until they get it out of their system and get back to Oasis.

Saturday Night: Besides hardcore/punk blah blah, I know you dig a host of other genres. What kind of stuff is among your favorites right now; things that are outside the box?

Pearse: Not much right now honestly. I can’t think of a single thing that’s really stuck out lately. Just podcasts and movie soundtracks until decent shit comes out. 

Saturday Night: Brit-pop alert: take me through (and I know this is painful) the fall of The Rifles? Or have they fallen?

Pearse: Ouch. This is tough. They were the best band around for awhile. New album is over-produced. They need to get Joel back singing. They’re not done, though.

Chipotle with these two sounds fine to me

Saturday Night: How is eating lunch regularly with Matt Duffy? Would you say his grip on lunchtime delicacies is stronger, weaker or about the same as his handshake?

Pearse: It takes the term “power-lunch” to unheard of levels. Chipotle is the main spot. The amount of Smoked Tabasco Sauce and Mr. Pibb Xtra consumed is sickening. His grip is firm on this one.

Saturday Night: I’m going to singlehandedly credit you with the Game of Thrones obsession that a lot of people within the scene now have. Gimmie a line on how that started, what you think of the books and HBO series? It just wouldn’t be proper to talk to you and not mention this.

Pearse: I can’t take all the credit, my man GRRM has to get some claps too since he wrote it. But enough about him. Those are my favorite books. Picked them up when I was unemployed and spent my time wandering around Boston and ending up in bookstores a lot. Never even heard of them before, just grabbed GoT and got started. If you even knew how nerdy I get over those things (wrote in to podcasts, went to book signings, threatened people online over arguments regarding characters who died before any of the books even take place, etc.) you would be disgusted.  

Saturday Night: What other kinds of things are you up to these days – what’s occupying your time?

Pearse: New apartment, solid girl (what up boo), getting a decent TV set up in my living room for maximum good old fashioned American laziness and hanging with Ken at The Corner Pub in Chinatown.

Saturday Night: I once had a cool bum literally give me a Celtics shirt off his back in your neighborhood of Dorchester – so, similar to John Joseph’s walking tour, what do you think about giving a walking tour of Dorchester?

Pearse: That’s a good idea. A real good idea. I won’t do it. 

Saturday Night: The Banshee. What gives?

Pearse: No clue. Weirdest bar on Earth. Russian billionaires, a guy with the record for being arrested the most times, dogs running around, midgets, tons of fucking girls and either Oasis or Carnivore on the jukebox. Guy can get some real thinking done in that place. 

Saturday Night: So in general, what’s going on in Boston these days? How’re things? Who are newer bands to watch out for? Cool happenings to take in?

Pearse: Nothing, Pretty good, Magic Circle and TC’s are my answers in that order. 

Saturday Night: In closing, Pearse you are universally loved. To phrase this question in a timely Stone Roses reunion-style, can you give the readers any tips on how to be adored?


Saturday Night: Any momentous shout outs, feel free!

Pearse: Shout out to the weird trail of blood going from JFK station down the backstreets all the way to Dot Ave and to you, Sean. Thanks buddy see ya soon.