Category Archives: Music

Band Pimping: The Rumble Strips

Odd and quintessentially English: The Rumble Strips.

The Rumble Strips write songs about being poor and wishing for more.  They’re young, cockney, and catchy.  And boy, are they good.

I first heard about the Tavistok, Devon, England, band back in my NME subscription days.  Yes, I was the nerdy American boy trying to be cool by having a (very expensive) subscription to the very English NME in high school.  They cover the very best (and some of the most derivative, but that’s just how indie rock goes, isn’t it?) of the skinny-white-boys-with-guitars bands genre, like my favorite, Arctic Monkeys, and also stuff like The Cribs and Razorlight — minor bands in the rock landscape, to be sure, but with a couple worthwhile songs to pass the time.

What stuck out about The Rumble Strips, fronted by Charlie Waller, is that they weren’t like the rest of those bands.  Their use of horns with minimal guitar brought about visions of Beirut covering Dexy’s Midnight Runners B-sides.  It’s odd stuff, but a hell of a lot better than another song built on an angular guitar riff.

Take this song, for instance.  It’s called “Motorcycle” and it’s not about girls, money, or partying, as most indie rock is.  It’s about wishing “this bike was a motorcycle” to get home faster.  It’s entertaining and the video is very fun.

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Band Pimping: The Bird & The Bee

George and Kurstin update '80s classics.

For anyone who’s ever worked a retail job, the adult contemporary sounds of Hall & Oates are very familiar.  That’s what the members of indie band, The Bird & The Bee, Inara George and Greg Kurstin, were thinking as they cut their recent album, a tribute to the ’80s roots-pop band.

The album, Interpreting The Masters, Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates, is extremely catchy as you’d expect from the original versions of these songs, but George and Kurstin add electronic flourishes everywhere and George’s voice sounds great singing these tunes.

This song, “Kiss On My List,” an update of Hall & Oates’ 1981 hit, is my favorite of the collection, which also features versions of “Man Eater” and “Rich Girl,” among others.

You know the drill.  Click, listen, enjoy/don’t enjoy, and comment with your reasons why.

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Band Pimping: The Lemonheads

For a band that is inextricably linked to the 1990s, The Lemonheads have cemented themselves as one of my Bands of 2010.  I’ve been listening to them a ton all year — thanks, job at a college rock station — and can’t get them out of my head.

The '90s version of The Lemonheads.

Frontman Evan Dando’s drug-addled, country-influenced pop was extremely influential the genre that blew up in the ’90s, and on modern-day indie rock, as seen by the likes of everyone from Ryan Adams to Band of Horses.

This song, “The Outdoor Type,” is one that could describe me (although, I do go outside relatively often) and is one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard.  Have a listen then go check out some of the group’s best albums, like It’s A Shame About Ray and Come On, Feel The Lemonheads.  Dando’s band is still touring, albeit with completely new members from the ones in this video, but they’re worth checking out.

And remember, God bless the Great Indoors.

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Band Pimping: Bad Religion

Buzz saw guitars charge headlong through a landscape of disdain for society, the government, or anything else on Greg Graffin’s mind.  This is the world of punk legends Bad Religion, and it’s a world I think you should frequent.

Punk's elder statesmen, Bad Religion.

Thanks to my cousin Greg’s awesome musical taste, I was turned onto the Southern California band at the very early age of 11 or 12.  A little young, perhaps, for the themes and language represented by the band, but I feel I’m better, smarter, and way cooler for it.

The band, fronted by the smartest man in rock, Graffin — the man has a doctorate in paleontology and life sciences from the University of California, Los Angeles — and featuring Brett Gurewitz, Brian Baker, and Greg Hetson on guitar, Jay Bentley on bass, and Brooks Wackerman on drums, formed in 1979 and has since gone on to produce some of popular music’s most scathing condemnations of the latent hypocrisy in modern religion and governmental practices.

This song, “I Want To Conquer The World,” from their album No Control, is an amazing look at some of the band’s pathos, and it’s a quick, catchy track that will stay stuck in your head for a while.  Check it out.


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Band Pimping: Alkaline Trio

Ah, memories.

I grew up on Alkaline Trio.  Back in the day — it’s disturbing to think of eighth grade and 2003 as “back in the day” — when I was getting into music, pop-punk and ska were the big ones I gravitated toward.

One of the biggest reasons for that early musical love was this here band, featuring Matt Skiba on guitar and vocals, Dan Andriano on bass and vocals, and a slew of drummers over the years, including the current (I think) man behind the kit, Derek Grant.

I fell off the Alk-3 bandwagon long ago, though occasionally my dorm roommate, Kevin, would blare them from his computer and we’d bond.  That is, when we weren’t making double entendres at each other, competing in hours-long Max Dirt Bike competitions, or trying in vain to get our suite mates to unlock the bathroom door.

However, I’ve been doing a fair amount of jogging this summer and bringing my trusty, portable iPod (you can pay me now, Apple) with me.  I set it on shuffle and let it do its thing while I huff and puff for a couple miles.

And whaddaya know, a few days ago my childhood heroes, the boys in Alkaline Trio, began playing and I haven’t been able to stop listening to them since.

So, excuse my long-winded reminiscing and listen to this song, “My Friend Peter,” from a collection of the band’s early EPs, and enjoy it for all its depressed-alcoholicy goodness.

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Band Pimping: The Hold Steady

Brooklyn's Finest: The Hold Steady

Imagine Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits decided they were going to utilize their immense skills and play God.  They would meet in a dingy roadhouse, drink a few pitchers, and will a legion of blue-collar musicians into existence.  If we lowly humans were lucky, Messrs. Springsteen and Waits would give us something like The Hold Steady.

Luckily, The Hold Steady found its way naturally without those rock deities I worship providing anything beyond inspiration.  The New York band recently released its fifth album, entitled Heaven is Whenever, and, as can be expected with this band, it’s excellent.

Frontman Craig Finn and his merry band of men continue their journey through pub rock and Beat poetry with stories about drinking and habitual drug use and the effects those extracurricular activities have on the denizens of their lives, and they do it in catchy fashion.

Songs like “Hurricane J” and “Our Whole Lives” have the history or rock ‘n’ roll pulsing in their veins.  They make me happy, and I bet they will make you happy, too.  But, as seems to be the band’s tradition, the first song on the album is the one that really draws you in.  Its name is “The Sweet Part of the City” and it is amazing.  Check it out.

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Band Pimping: The Black Keys

I’ve loved the Black Keys, a two-piece blues rock band from Akron, Ohio, for years and had been eagerly awaiting their newest album, entitled Brothers, for several months but was holding off on buying it to save money.

Blues rock mastery: The Black Keys.

Screw fiscal responsibility.  This album rules and it’s worth every penny.

The band took what they learned from their funky, Danger Mouse-produced previous album and combined it with their older sound and have come up with another gem.  Guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have added some psychedelic flourishes and some oddities (harpsichord?!) to their swamp blues stomp and it works to great effect.

This song, “Tighten Up,” is the first single that’s been all over alternative radio here in Chicago.  I love it, especially for the breakdown.  Listen, enjoy, you know the drill.

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Band Pimping: Califone

Every summer it seems I have a band or two to whom I cannot stop listening.  ’05 was Creedence Clearwater Revival.  ’06 was Kings of Leon.  Last year was a twofer of The Black Keys and The Doors.  And this year is no different, as I have been listening to Califone almost nonstop.

Their acid folk sound is perfect accompaniment for driving through traffic on a hot day.  It will calm you down when someone cuts you off; trust me.

This song, “The Orchids,” is a cut from their Roots & Crowns album, released a few years ago.  It’s great.  Give it a listen if you know what’s good for you.

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Band Pimping: Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips released a new album, Embryonic, a couple months back and at the beginning I thought it was all right but nothing special.  But I’ve been listening to it more and more, playing it for my radio show, and it has really grown on me.  This is a band that has always been a little “off” and this album in no different in that respect.  However, this new stuff is more focused on bringing out the psychedelic rock in full force.  It’s filled with all kinds of hard rocking tracks, particularly the album closer, “Watching the Planets”.  That’s an awesome song, but the one that’s really caught my ear lately is the fifth song on the CD, called “See the Leaves”, with its sound of impending doom on the guitar and bass.  If you want a song to listen to while driving very fast, there are worse options out there.

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Band Pimping: Archie Bronson Outfit

Everyone is gone.  Being in a college town during breaks is like living in a ghost town.  But I have the advantage of a job at the campus radio station, and I can come in whenever I want during these breaks and play music for the good people of Kirksville, MO.  Today is one of those days, and I became reacquainted with a band I hadn’t heard in a while: The Archie Bronson Outfit.

I’m sitting here in the DJ booth just tossing whatever CDs I want into the disc trays and letting ’em rip, and I came across the ‘Outfit’s new album, entitled Coconut.  If you’re into psychedelic rock at all, you need to give this group a listen.  This song, “Magnetic Warrior”, is a heavy, hard-charging tune and it’s just the tip of the iceberg on the album.  I’ll be playing some more of it tonight, that’s for sure.

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