Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice has been given the “cover story” treatment in the online-only NME this month:

As is mandatory for any shows in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Wolf Alice’s final shows for ‘Visions Of A Life’ have been given a little festive twist. For the most part, it’s incredibly subtle – two Christmas trees stand either side of the stage, unlit until the encore. As the final notes of ‘Giant Peach’ subside, a blizzard of “snow” falls from the ceiling and Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ blares through the PA.

“Snow machines are very different to what I thought they were,” Theo says, sprawled across the couch in the venue’s green room. “I think we all thought they were foam. It’s just fucking white paper really.”

“I wonder if it looks like snow,” frontwoman Ellie Rowsell ponders, too close to the deluge when it falls to get the same view of it as the rest of the venue. One thing she is certain of – it gets everywhere. “I found a piece in my knickers this morning,” she laughs. “It was kind of plastered to my arse.”

The band had previously joked to NME about hiring a Michael BublĂ© impersonator for the night but there’s an absence of any guests or even Christmas covers. Despite that, there are some treats along the way to get dewy-eyed over – live debuts for ‘VOAL’ tracks ‘After The Zero Hour’ and ‘Sky Musings’, and two old tracks resurrected for the occasion (‘Storms’ from the 2014 EP ‘Creature Songs’ and ‘Fluffy’ b-side ‘White Leather’). The latter in particular has got Ellie feeling nostalgic. “I had a little moment playing it the other day cos I listened to the lyrics almost hearing it as an older me,” she explains. “I felt really sorry for my younger self and I felt a bit sad. Like, ‘Oh god, why was I so pathetic?!’”

It’s a great article, if only because it shows them at the crossroads in which they find themselves as artists. They have two great, classic albums out and now the pressure is on to follow them up with something as good, if not better. This is where a lot of bands slide back or fall apart, so it can’t be an entirely happy time for anyone associated with the band.

Anyone who thinks that there aren’t great bands out there has been ignoring the likes of Wolf Alice. They are classic rock and roll, updated to include everything that’s good about making guitar music.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Electric Fetus

I see that the Electric Fetus, a record store in South Minneapolis, has been given a “best in the nation” rating by Rolling Stone, and it jarred a lot of memories for me.

Twenty-odd years ago, it wouldn’t even be in the top five for best record stores in the Twin Cities. It was always a good record store, in my opinion, and great for catalog titles, but definitely not one of my go-to stores.

In no uncertain order, I preferred these options:

  1. Garage D’or in South Minneapolis. I bought so many rare and interesting things here, it’s not even funny. My double cassette version of the Church’s Hindsight came from there, and I remember how the clerk “forgot” to put it in the bag. Thanks again, dirtbag, but I still have it. Oh, wait, I had to go get it on CD as well because, hello, cassettes? Anyway, one of my favorites.

  2. Let it Be in downtown Minneapolis. Easily, the most comprehensively stocked store in the ‘Cities. Tons of great stuff. Never had enough money to go there much, but you could get AMAZING stuff there.

  3. Roadrunner Records in Bloomington. A regular stop on the way home and an important store. I got the Electrafixion album there, and tons of other stuff. They were great when I traded in stuff.

  4. Oar Folkjokeopus. I actually spent more time in the co-op they had in the basement, but oh well. An incredible selection of 45s by obscure bands was had there, and I remember getting bootleg R.E.M. albums there. A must.

  5. Tatters and Platters. A defunct gem, but essential for anyone who cares about music and fashion. This is where you could get second-hand clothes and first-rate music, specializing in British romance and new wave. Is there anything wrong with wanting obscure singles by Love and Rockets? Nope.

I thought Down in the Valley sucked, and I felt like I got ripped off any time I went in there. I remember what it was like to go into Sam Goody’s (sucked!) and I remember a pawn shop on West Lake Street where they had tons of great, great records. I used to go into Hymie & Hazen’s a lot, and that place was really for the jazz crowd who liked 78 rpm records. If you were into heroin and confusion, hey, there you go. Special mention for the store in St. Paul whose name I cannot recall, but I shopped there in the late 1990s before I left the Twin Cities for good and came back.

Positively Fourth Street in Dinkytown was where I went a few times, but, really, I can’t remember it being anything more than disappointing. Same for Flip Side in St. Paul, which, back in the day, had an outsized reputation.

Best Buy and Circuit City had a retail war in the 1990s. There was a time when you could get ten dollar albums at Best Buy, and their bins were always heavily stocked. You go in there now, and they can’t get rid of CDs fast enough. And Circuit City is long dead and buried. There was a brief heyday there, and then it all went south. It gave way to Tower Records (I shopped at the one in Annapolis, Maryland) charging $19 for the new Gomez record. No thank you, jackasses.

As I was moving on from the ‘Cities, there were Cheapo stores everywhere, and the main thing they specialized in was buying up all of the CDs no one could afford to keep. They created this underground economy for people who bought an album, taped it, and then traded it in for cash. All of that collapsed thanks to Napster. Yay!

I went to the Fetus several times, but moved on quickly because it catered to the classic rock / KQ92 crowd. I needed the rare imports and the British stuff. They just didn’t have it.

My memory is fuzzy because I just don’t think about Minneapolis anymore. Did not enjoy living there, do not have good memories, but I still have tons of vinyl, CDs and cassettes that I have never parted with. All of that was purchased in the Twin Cities. I have maybe added thirty or forty pieces of vinyl since I stopped shopping for records by 1994 or so. If never end up back there, I’m fine with it. I live within 90 minutes of standing inside of Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas and, to me, that’s the best record store I’ve ever been in. Waterloo will cure what ails you.

Oh, and this will blow your mind. I read through this thread and saw stuff I had to come back here and add. How did I forget Northern Lights?

Friday, December 7, 2018

Pete Shelley 1955-2018

No one did more to make people who were weird, queer, different, or creative welcome in the world of music than Pete Shelley. His death was announced yesterday, and I felt like something had been torn away too soon.

Shelley never stopped making music and he was able to play until the end. That’s what the promise of punk rock really way—never stop doing something new.

There are far too many songs, and far too many albums to count. I loved them when the reformed in the 90s and I thought Do It was one of the greatest comebacks ever, reminding me of how important it is to give people a chance to come back after they've gone away. They were more than the singles; the Buzzcocks were an album band and they were tremendous live. Shelley being out in front of them with Steve Diggle meant that you were going to have your skin peeled off dealing with what was coming at you.

I am sorry I never saw them in person. I have at least nine different live albums by them and they are all classics, all incredible and full of power.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Mark Knopfler Does Not Tolerate Bullshit

Really, it’s as if no one knows anything about anything these days:

This past spring, Mark Knopfler set the classic-rock community into a tizzy thanks to a series of carefully orchestrated power moves against the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His band, Dire Straits, was one of the six acts included in the 2018 induction class, but our resident Sultan of Snub couldn’t give two damns about the (trumpet playin’ band) honor: He refused to attend the ceremony in Cleveland and publicly gave no reason as to why, despite his bandmates imploring him to say something, anything, to their fans confused by his seemingly anti–Rock Hall stance. (The ceremony would’ve also doubled as the band’s first reunion in over 20 years.) He never relented, birthing one of the most confusing and uncharacteristic Rock Hall inductions in its history, and making this Vulture writer speculate wildly about the ideology behind his snub. Does Knopfler hate accepting awards? Or international travel? Did fellow inductee Ric Ocasek steal his girlfriend in the ’70s? Please, just tell me!

Well, apparently, Knopfler does not hate accepting awards, as he was nice enough to show up at this year’s SSE Scottish Music Awards (?!?!) to accept the Living Legend Award. Yes, he is a legend — we present 3:28–4:13 of “Sultans of Swing” as evidence — but, but … why this award and not the Rock Hall?! According to his acceptance speech, we guess it’s because of his fondness for the country. “When I was a little fellow lying in bed not far from here listening to the music of the River Clyde, the noise of the fog horns and the ships, I used to absorb all the sounds of Scotland,” a local outlet quoted him as saying. “A songwriter couldn’t ask to be born in a better place.” You know a better place where a songwriter could visit? Cleveland!

God, that’s obnoxious and trite.

Anyone surprised to find out Knopfler is gracious about something that matters—an honor given to him by the music community of Scotland—doesn’t know anything at all.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Ride Unplugged

Ride are continuing their 30th Anniversary Acoustic tour tomorrow in Bristol. It’s a shame these shows weren’t extended for an American audience, but oh well.

Here’s the full itinerary:

You can still see them in London and Manchester, and hopefully they’ll find a way to keep playing and to keep making music. Everything they’ve put out so far has been brilliant.