Monday, January 29, 2018

Live + On Record: The Dirty Clergy, Uni, HNRY FLWR, Blame Candy, Like Herding Cats, herMajesty, Bill Dwyer

The beginning of a new year presents opportunities to look ahead at what's coming in the way of new music.  While pursuing those avenues of impending releases, hidden gems of previously overlooked works frequently reveal themselves.  In the case of established rockers The Dirty Clergy, both of those scenarios exist.  While the band is now hard at work laying down tracks for a 2018 release, their currently available output gets a closer look here at this site.

Their most-recent available album “Rattlesnake” contains 14 tracks of brilliantly executed rock music.  The chugging rock swagger of “Decades” celebrate looking back at those highs when you felt so alive.  Glockenspiel enhancements on the melody gives a Springsteen-eque feel to it all.   “All I Need” builds around a classic four chord guitar pattern.   Passionate crooner vocals about “needing some time and I'll be fine” coupled with a retro melody creates at 50's nostalgia trip with updated fuzz-buzz guitars.   “Gold” establishes the progression via a dominant bass guitar, vocals and initially sparse instrumentation.  The buildup rises purposefully, all the way until an ultimate emotional release.

A thought provoking video accompanies the single word (and letter) “I.”  As the deliberately paced guitar chords begin, a young female is seen looking into a bathroom mirror, soon covering her face with a mask.  A number of creative quick cut and reverse motion techniques are employed within the imagery.  Reaching the classroom (where “Today's Lesson” is “Plato's Allegory of the cave”) it soon becomes apparent that all the students are wearing one type of an mask or another.   All the while the song itself unfolds with an introspective clarity, where “imaginary friends of mine, the live, they love, they laugh, they cry.”

While the song leans towards the gentle side, the videos overlying message is how we are all so often herded into groups of uniformity.  A clever turn shows one mask wearer quickly removing it to reveal a second underneath just in time to “fit in” with a different gathering.  “I hear you laughing the the hall, playing those mind games after all” are the accompanying lyrics.  The powerful musical build to conclusion reveals the mask being discarded, to the vocal line of “I – don't know me.”

Find out how to get a copy of the bands current album here via their Bandcamp, where you'll also find links to all their current social media outlets too.

* * * * *

Friday, January 19th served up a perfect chance to shake off the winter doldrums and head out to a show.  The combined forces of already much beloved Uni, monster guitar riffing Blame Candy and new favorite HNRY FLWR at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory made for a perfect storm.

Brooklyn art-rock ensemble HNRY FLWR opened the evening's festivities.  Centered around the songwriting of musician David Van Witt, debut album "Flowerama" was released this past summer.

Backed by a well-rehearsed quartet consisting of bass, guitar, drums and keyboards (with the frontman playing guitar as well) Van Witt established a commanding presence within his James Joyce's Ulysses persona.

It takes a certain level of confidence (and commitment) to open your set with a long, slow dramatic piece, but the Flower emerged in full bloom in front of a rapt audience.

The pace shifted as the show progressed, however - with more uptempo material making its way into the set.

Middle-eastern strains are introduced through the artists unique vocal processors on favorite track "As Above, So Below."  With its syncopated bass guitar and drum pattern, Van Witt sings how "some kids are up for whatever, but I'm making plans."  While the overall rhythm keeps your feet moving, clever lyrical turns like "faith in religion is dying as fast as it's growing to die in it's name" connect on an entirely different level.

Additional introspection emerges within the synth and bass guitar propelled “Down In Carolina.”  What starts out as "I get paranoid when I'm alone" morphs into "I'm a curious kid when I'm alone."  The two sides of discovery - of what is (or isn't) out there comes into question throughout the narrative.  Once again, a creative use of vocal processors create a musical solo with voice alone as the primary instrument.

-  -  -

Although not included in this evening's set, recent video single "Little Brother" (featured in a show preview I wrote recently on The Deli Magazine) deserves mention for its honest look at childhood innocence and the competitive environment that serves to change it.

Find out more about HNRY FLWR here

* * * * * 

It's no secret that the singular driving force behind this site has become captivated with the emerging powerhouse band Uni.  Since becoming aware of their existence, everyone of their New York shows has been witnessed.  This evening only served as the next chapter in this evolving story of dedication to their quest for world domination.

Opening with brand new song “The Girl Who Has It All,” skin-tight silver suited bassist Charlotte Kemp Muhl and flamboyant guitarist David Strange delivered a heavy-metal doom-rock groove in tandem. Quick stop openings provided drummer Andrew Oakley space for satisfying percussive bursts. In between stabs at the stand-alone synth tone generator in front of him, Nico Fuzz delivered the verses in falestto.

Ample extended instrumental passages abound (something to truly love about this band) and David makes the most of this extended riffing time. While Nico uses his voice as another instrument (effects-laden soft-wailing) that heavy drop D riff is repeated for maximum exposure.  A prominent descending bass pattern emerges, underscoring the influence musician CKM has on this bands songwriting.

They followed that surprise opener with the riff-heavy mid-tempo chugger “DDT,” a song they've been playing for a while now, and one that takes on interesting subject matter.  With lyrics that go “My world it was so out of place. 64 stitches, I wanted to see – I get hiiiigh (that's a repeated vocal hook).  “Sent on down to the salvation store – Cadillac's broke but the bitch wants more – she get's by – she get's by.”  It all leads to a bridge section which Charlotte and Nico sing in tandem - “hey honeybee do whatever you please around town” (separated by a brief yet tasty guitar riff) “now we can see that the petals are breaking it down.”  Returning to the butt-rock heavy intro riff ( da – da da da – da da da – da da da), Nico twists sounds out of his stand-alone synth-box.

David drops some lead guitar riffs there, ultimately leading into a clever chorus stating “I could say awful things to you, but I won't do that.  I could tell you the hurtful truth – no time for that.”  With a second verse that goes “DDT and a black coffee – Vietnam was just for TV – I get hiiiiiigh ah, ah – I get high,” the suspicion that this song isn't totally (or even much) about a banned chemical insecticide is realized.

After another of bridge and chorus, the song stretches out into a prog-rock instrumental section (something this band does a lot, but somehow seems to get ignored in all of their press) where after the bass guitar and drums reestablish the hook riff-and-rhythm – the band then doubles down on even more quick-cut, forceful beat punctuation.  Sharp rhythmic stops leave opening's for David to drop guitar riffs into.  Nico jumps into this mix with effects-laden high-pitch vocals before they hit that catchy chorus one more time.

Check out their excellent version of this song from their recent "Jam In The Van" session:

-  -  -

For the well known funky crowd-pleaser "Orgy On The Moon" a T-Rex made it's way into the audience, stomping around and leaving adorable "Barney-like" havoc in it's wake.

The 1-2 punch of recent double A-side 7" single "What's The Problem" and "Adult Video" followed, with the audience singing along to both of those incredibly catchy choruses.

-  -  -

Portrait of an artist up close

The recently released animated video for their song "Mushroom Cloud" has been garnering an increasing level of much deserved attention for the band.  While the doomsday scenario of nuclear war is something nobody wants, we appear to be living under that threat now more than ever.

“I like to drive around – inside a garbage truck – don't let it bring you down – come wallow in the muck."  These cryptic lyrics are subsequently punctuated by a driving down, descending bass line against snare-drum press rolls. “It's not a soft machine – it's not a fire drill – oh there's no time to think – I have a hole to fill.”

It's not long before Nico pulls out an aerosol spray can and lighter, shooting flames up into the air.

Torching the air above a bemused audience.

An allusion towards the face melting we'll all experience if those bombs are launched.

Check out the band's quick release live video of all this from the show:

-  -  -

The band immediately kicked in to their even heavier cut “Greed.”  It's a slithering snake-like groove that features some savory keyboard work from Jared Samuel.  Midway through, Nico lept off the stage and ran through the audience flinging star shaped glitter everywhere.  While that was going on, David ripped a blistering guitar solo.

-  -  -

A star is adorned

Kemp looks on with approval as Nico testifies

For the sweeping power ballad "Your Eyes Say It All," Nico donned a triple-faced mask, emphasizing the visual allegory.

Synth textures added by CKM for this performance.

With Nico strapping on an electric guitar and David swapping out his double neck for a single neck Gibson, the band closed out the night with their sprawling opus "Electric Universe."

Fun stickers at the merch table

Catch Uni on their mini east coast tour.  Info on that here.

* * * * *

Closing out the night were the over-the-top flamboyant, musical virtuoso rockers Blame Candy.

Fully embracing the visual accouterments of glam rock in all it's showy glory, the band put on a well-rehearsed show in front of an eager audience.

It's quite apparent there's dedicated fan-base here, where much of the material played seemed all too familiar with the packed crowd.

Because of their flashy appearance, it takes a few songs in before you discover the serious (and quite accomplished) musicianship on display.

In particular, dynamic frontman and lead guitarist Chris holds nothing back as he takes advantage of every opportunity to shred like Frank Zappa.

In fact, these extended guitar solo breaks are built right into the songs, and each member of the band gets an opportunity either show off their chops (all of which are quite substantial) or engage in a personal solo or two (and that includes the bass and drums).

It's arena rock at it's most ostentatious, however anyone who's ever attended a Joe Satriani concert knows that's exactly what they'll be getting (and what they eagerly signed on for).

The band also plays their fair share of tight, tandem vocal, cleverly choreographed rockers, much to the delight of their loyal fans and new converts seeing them for the first time.

As the show's excitement level continued to grow with each successive song played, the high point is reached with “Life Like You” (their most recognizable recording).  It's an incredibly catchy number that drives off of a chiming, descending back-and-forth guitar riff. That instant hook drops back for the intimately crooned lyrics that go “life like you, has never been a breeze, you need to act so cool, so impossible to please.” That large hook will repeat between lines that progress to the conclusion “your little fantasy is too much for me.”

It all leads up to the big, sweeping, sing-along chorus that states how “I'm not gonna live my life like you. No, I'm not gonna live my life like you!"

Check out the song and official video for it here:

Special mention to this videos director Titanic Sinclair, who appears to have a close working relationship with the band.  Sinclair is also well known for (or is that -  should be blamed for) the "internet sensation" Poppy.

Find out anything else you might want to know about Blame Candy here.

Social Media Recognition

-  -  -

Very cool afterparty at Lower East Side venue Sister Midnight.  Props to style icon @kristingallegos for hosting with appealing charm and cool retro rock and roll fashion sense.

* * * * * 

Just under a week later it was back down to the LES in Manhattan on Thursday 1/25 for a show at nearby venue Berlin.

Having caught on to the nuanced music of herMajesty this past year (who's work was initially chronicled here on this site as part of the year end Best Of 2017 feature), anticipation had grown for another live show experience.

JP and his band did not disappoint, opening with a note perfect rendition of "New Killer Star," the stand out lead track and single off of David Bowie's 2003 Reality album.

Moving immediately to original material, they played "Fashion Trance" (the second standout song from their My Body Your Mind, E.P., which has garnered an impressive 8,371 plays on Soundcloud as of this writing) and followed that with most recent single "I Saw The Dog."

JP introduced the next number as "something new" and proceeded to play a composition called "Lisbon Street."   Dipping back into the My Body Your Mind EP, close-out track "Crystals" was given an impeccable live presentation.

A truly inspired version of Patti Smith's "Dancing Barefoot" followed that, which not so coincidentally is the flipside to their double-a-side single "I Saw The Dog" release.  They played another song titled "Open Up Your Arms" before going deeper into the catalog, drawing from the Images from the Vanishing Night EP.

“Operator (NYC)” throttles forward with a pacing and feel of peak-period 80's new wave pop.  JP's passionate, slightly-raspy vocals adds a bit of Richard Butler's Psychedelic Furs style to his existing late-period David Bowie homage.  The guitars flutter with delay (that sound popularized by The Edge in U2) while bass guitar pulses create an appealing movement underneath.  Lyrical images of “pretty boys” that “stumble through the door” emerge, as they're “searching for the last chance – to make this right.”  It all leads to a dramatic crest where ardent vocals exclaim “shine so high – shiiiiine – so high.”  There's a clever syncopation with the percussion, creating an unexpected rhythmic variety.

“Let's get together by the old canal. There's a piece of heaven there” JP sings on next song “World Smiles.”  A buoyant sense of optimism and hopefulness emerges in a chorus that implores “let the world smile one time – and all the shiny precious times.”  The band closed out this particular night with their final song "Turn To You."

Catch herMajesty live when they play Alchemy in Providence, RI on March 29th.

* * * * * 

Long-time friends of this site Like Herding Cats were next, and nothing less than their usual high-quality show was expected.

Opening the show with Dom on keyboards, the band delivered an impeccable set of music.

Playing a number of songs from the much anticipated in-the-works follow-up album, "Turning New," "Affliction" and "Morning Sun" were given a unique reading in this basement venue.

Similarly, familiar live favorite "Easter Song" and "Sacred Hearts" benefited from the room's atmosphere and attentive audience.

Midway through the set, Dom dedicated his song “Years Gone” to the memory of dearly departed Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan and condolences to his friend Ole, who was her partner.  It was the most reverential moment of the night, with Dom and bassist Tim singing those meaningful lyrics in tandem.

The band really hit it's groove with their well-known composition “Touch.”  It appears effortlessly executed as Dom and Seb's dual guitar's deliver the shimmer, while Kevin's precise percussive hits are air choreographed by Tim, before he turns to his impressively rich sounding bass synth.  One writer once wrote about this song that “the mood is gentle and dreamy, like early Depeche Mode, or The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, with whom the band shares a pensive lightheartedness,” and I would have to agree with them.

Having first heard the band play a brilliant cover of Echo And The Bunnymen's "Bring On The Dancing Horses" here, it was an added thrill to hear them do it again here on this night.  Closing the show with "Falls Apart," the band once again impressed with their inspiring sound.

Follow the adventures of Like Herding Cats here.

Also, check out the musical history of drummer Kevin McAdams here.

*   *   *

Opening the night's festivities was a relatively new band named No Swoon, who put on a swirling dream pop show.  Follow their exploits here.

All three bands got together to take a post show portrait.

It was also someone's birthday

* * * * *

Tapping into the ever enduring appreciation for the folk-style music that is most often referred to as “Americana,” Bill Dwyer shares his latest song “Boomerang.”  Making full use of that rich 12-string acoustic guitar sound synonymous with the genre (think Kid Rock's latest works, or even the acoustic stuff Guns N Roses put out, like their mega-hit “Patience”) Dwyer lays it all out with his rough-edged vocals.  It's a quintessential road song with lyrics that go “so many days go by, and highways cold, and the miles are so long, but I keep driving anyway.” Leading up to the ultimate conclusion that “if my heart should ever stray away, it's like a boomerang for you babe. You know I'll always come back around.”  Even though he's a Massachusetts boy, there's a distinctly southern vibe to it all.  It's like the spirit of Ronnie Van Zant has entered Dwyer's soul, as he sings “this world is full of things, and the changes keep piping up like a hot spring – ya just gotta know when to get off the train.”

Watch and listen here:

The song is out now on label on Nashville label Lamon Records, (an indie since 1962).

It's available on ITunes, Amazon, etc and is being distributed thru Sony via The Orchard.

* * * * *