Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ringo Deathstarr - Colour Trip

My appreciation for the band Ringo Deathstarr began in the summer of 2009. I had seen their name on the club listings around town previous to that, but like with many things, didn’t get around to giving them a listen right away. All that changed when I heard the songs “Some Kind of Sad” and “Sweet Girl,” both of which were on their debut 5 song EP. Being totally blown away by those songs (and the rest of the tracks on there) I made a mental note to see them live when next they came back here to New York. My opportunity came in October of that year for the CMJ festival. The band had booked a week of shows and I attended nearly all of them. Simply put, they are one of my favorite bands. Now they have a brand new, full length album. It is truly a joyous occasion. Here is my track-by-track impressions and analysis.

FX distorted percussion introduces "Imagine Hearts," the opening track off of Ringo Deathstarr's full-length debut album "Colour Trip." The twisted sonics are only beginning here, as guitars begin and sound like they've been pressed on warped vinyl. In spite of these potential cause-for-concern sonic mutations, it all sounds quite appealing. With a clean, un-enhanced driving bassline that pulls just a tad from My Bloody Valentine's "Soon," the vocals are delivered by female bandmember Alex (Galexy) Gehring in a smoothed-by-sandpaper way. There's brief moments of the Scottish highlands touched upon as well.

"Do It Every Time" finds frontman Elliot Frazier drawing on his deep "Jim Reid" voice (with a wink and a nod to that bands song “The Living End”). Not content to stay just there, Galexy is soon called to duty, providing fem-vox counterpoint, especially on the repeated "do it everytime" refrain. “We’re falling apart again. She took my cardigan. Ripped out my heart again,” finds Frazier playfully updating the Reid’s lyrical style a few decades to include the current fashion staples. The guitar break is sharp and uplifting. There are layers, William Reid wah-whazzle. What's not to love?

"So High” brings the peppy, skipping down the streets of London vibe and takes what pre-Loveless My Bloody Valentine did on "Never Say Goodbye (as we chase the clouds away)" and gorgeously updates this seemingly innocent boy-girl call and response genre. There is a perfect atmospheric guitar passage (so reminiscent of "Sweet Girl" from their debut EP), between the vocal tradeoffs and the repeated “I’m so high” is the vocal liftoff. "Bubblegum and ecstasy, made me feel the power, if you walk around with me, I will show you how."

"Two Girls" pivots off the opening thunder drums to cathedrals of angelic female vocals. The rhythm stays locked down hard so guitars can pulse and expand your ear canals. Shards of inappropriate sonics bathe you in an alien light. The monster has come to life and wants to multiply. Wicked tambourine rattle clacks the two and four of lyrically unintelligible verses. Acoustic guitar breaks serve to clear the audio palate, allowing additional mutated electric guitar washes to make a more dynamic impression.

Drummer Daniel Coborn live at Fontanas, October 20, 2009
is bass heavy and drum rude. Elliot's vocals, however are majestic and downright romantic. Do I have to mention that the overall sound quality of this recording is exquisite? Please let me do so now. "Have you seen the shapes of the kaleidoscope?" is the opening lyrical question. "Why did you run, when I turned your eyes around?" Ah, if only the answer to that could be easily figured out. "Got a crush on you - what can I do?" is as much statement as question. [Cromwell's Side Note: I would only add to this sentiment - please don't do anything to destroy this feeling. That's a direct message from me to anyone I currently have a crush on (and most likely, you know who you are). Please don't screw it up for me. I have no expectations - only aspirations.] Getting back to the song, there is a wistful feeling to it all. Not all that dissimilar from what a band like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart does best. Of being sadly pensive, especially about something yearned for. "Send me a post-card from nowhere."

"Day Dreamy" rides the tambourine snake, surrounded by beams of backwards guitar and Belinda Valentine-like "oooohs." Brilliant lyrical moment - "she was just a teardrop - I was just a waste of time." I would be remiss in my connect-the-dots obsession if I didn't mention at least something from MBV's "Loveless" as a reference point - let's say, "Blown A Wish" (there - now I feel better).

"Tambourine Girl" had already been in steady rotation on my personal playlist due to the fact it was initially released in limited edition as one side of a split single with The Depreciation Guild. Merging a heavy leaden foot with peppy pop counterpoint, “touch me, touch you there” is the sentiment expressed. The initial primary riff is a grinding slog of factory machinery – think Iggy Pop’s “The Idiot” and the song “Mass Production” as a kindred spirit.

“Chloe” rolls out Elliott’s breathy vocals, shadowed by Alex’s Belinda-esque “ooohs.” In fact, “oooh, next to you” is the repeated sugary phrase employed. More unnatural factory machinery textures infect the corners and shatter any semblance of complacent serenity. Even when it gets pretty, the rude undercurrent is never far from you.

“Never Drive” takes Elliott’s breathy and deep voices and merges them together. A static snare drum rattle and bass guitar pattern lay out a solid groove for melodic guitar patterns that are almost sweet – almost. Are they still a bit dirty? Of course!

“You Don't Listen” could be slipped quietly onto a reissue of “Psychocandy” and called a lost track – and everyone would believe it. Hell, I wish it had been on the original! Oh, well - we've got it now. Drums n' handclaps underscore buzzing bees guitar lines. "There is nothing left to decide, when I look into your eyes. Take me to paradise - close my eyes your sweet surprise. I won't call you on the phone. You don't listen to Ramones. I don't like you anymore. You will never understand what I need."

The final track “Other Things” is somewhat unusual track for this band, as it’s rhythm track emphasizes a mechanized, clacking percussion. The vocals are sugary and angelic, while majestic guitars wash all over. “So what if we don’t have money? we have some other things,” is the charmingly innocent emotion expressed. "You know we got each other babe - and that's the important thing." Wonderfully pitch bended guitars are further enhances by higher pitched extended guitar notes. Alex's vocals have FX on them, making her sound more like Ronnie Spector than Best Coast.

Lake Johnson, Brooklyn - October 23, 2009

Cake Shop, Manhattan - October 21, 2009

With the conclusion of my track-by-track analysis, I can only state that this is an amazing record. Its one I've waited two years for now and I couldn't be happier with the results. If you love the bands I've mentioned as references (and whom they make no secret of referencing themselves) you'd be crazy not to go out and get this record.

It makes "reunions" by those other bands far less important or even necessary. Ringo Deathstarr has the mantle now and they are running full steam ahead with it.

Crumpled set lists tell the story

Meeting Alex at Fontanas, October 2009

Essential Links:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nicole Atkins - Mondo Amore

Nicole Atkins has a brand new album out

It is called Mondo Amore

It's been a long and winding road from album one to album two, but now it's finally here.

Here is my Deli Magazine review of it.

Which can be found online, here:

This is the album cover

I've seen Nicole perform live many times over the last few years, and thought it would be cool to post up some of the photos I've taken from those shows. Inbetween the pictures I've posted the text of my review of Mondo Amore, (in case the photo here is too small to read).

Nicole Atkins returns to the New York (and world) music scene with her long-awaited second album "Mondo Amore." Opening track "Vultures" presents a lyrical landscape riddled with fear and loathing.

"Cry Cry Cry" emerges with a shuffling drum pattern, gospel backing vocal chorus and clean muscle shoals guitar work.

"Hotel Plaster" returns to familiar crooner-core territory, as violins add previously unexpected textures. The slow passionate vocal performance is enhanced by a male voice duet, mixed just under Nicole's.

"You Come To Me" is a straight ahead rocker, snare drum and reverberated guitar driven. Rising piano notes create an upward motion for Nicole's impressive pipes.

"My Baby Don't Lie" recreates a classic down-home jug-band-on-the-back-porch feel that British blues rockers like Led Zepplin loved to emulate. The record then segues into more familiar sonic territory before returning to the original southern fried vibe.

"This Is For Love" uses fiddling violins for maximum background effect, cleverly blending them into a country rock format

but it's "You Were The Devil" that delivers Nicole's most sensuous vocal performance on the album: inside a twangy western motif, the subject matter emphasizes the albums overall theme - love, loved - then lost.

"War Is Hell" explores this emotional experience further. Nicole's vocals underscore exactly what she does best - the torch song.

"Heavy Boots" effectively uses cathedral organ and piano to dramatically highlight this tale of leaden footwear. "The warriors are waiting outside for you on the street. The hungry virgin eyes with scorpions in their smile. They are no match for me."

"The Tower" re-imagines Led Zepplin's "Dazed & Confused" minus the extended stoner jam (though live her band at points have gone even there) - there is a tasty guitar solo, though. This may also work as a break-up song.

Guitars, smiles and striped apparel

Come and let me torch you

The singing troubador

Havin' a chat at Socrates Park in Queens, NY. June, 2008
Nicole Atkins plays The Bowery Ballroom on February 9
Other things I have written about Nicole Atkins: