Saturday, September 27, 2008

From Coathangers to Queers, it has been a busy week.

If good concerts were gasoline, Atlanta would not have a care in the world, because I have seen three quality shows in as many nights.

Thursday, The East Atlanta Graveyard's "Rock 'N Roll Kills" extravaganza welcomed The Coathangers. Though their first few songs were plagued by sound problems, the girls adjusted quickly and played a lengthy set mixing their older material with brand-new, and better, songs. The Coathangers' improvement as both musicians and songwriters is a testament to their willingness to constantly play shows. Hopefully, The Coathangers' well-deserved success will inspire other young, local groups who should work hard now so they can reap the benefits later.

Unfortunately, many in attendance will remember the other ,um, visual entertainment on the stage instead of The Coathangers' set. While the band played, dodgy fetish porn which was likely a Georgia State production was projected on the wall behind the stage. Fans who could not hear the vocals on "Tonya Harding" had no problem watching the urine drinking scene from some horrible indie porn flick.

One night later, Lenny's hosted a free show headlined by Gentleman Jesse and His Men. After Vera Fang, Independence, and the always entertaining Howlies, Jesse and his men closed out the night with a solid set featuring instant classics from their debut 7" and album. As usual, no one outside of Jesse and Dave's other band could have put on a better show. The new lineup with Adrian from The Hiss and Warren from Beat Beat Beat is settling in well. Hopefully, we'll soon know if Gentleman Jesse mk. 2 can record as solid a single or full-length as the original lineup.

Saturday wrapped up a solid week with an appearance by two legends of unusual origins and Atlanta's best two-piece punk band when The Queers, The Independents, and Jesse Nobody shared the Earl's stage.

Jesse Nobody plays energetic, fast-paced punk in a style that leans more toward hardcore than pop. This young group already has a fan base, called "White Panthers," and a plethora of punk scorchers like "Gots Go" and "Nihilism." The band's namesake seemed genuinely thrilled to be on the same bill as The Queers, and he really made the best of this opportunity by getting the crowd pumped for a night of great punk rock.

One of Joey Ramones' many contributions to the world was his discovery of South Carolina's The Indepenents. Their energetic set included everything from their own catchy tunes to covers of "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "Suspicious Minds." Their lead singer really sticks out in my mind because 1) he looked like a thinner version of pro wrestling legend The One Man Gang and 2) he seemed to have a great time as he got the crowd involved in each song.

The Queers headlined, and they always deliver. Like their heroes The Ramones, these guys blaze through song after song and do not waste much time on idle stage chatter. From classics like "Punk Rock Girls" and "I Don't Wanna Be a Granolahead" to the mandatory cover of "Sheena is a Punk Rocker," New Hampshire's finest punk rock band kept the raucous crowd pogoing and singing along. Are The Queers a glorified Ramones cover band that happens to have original songs? Yes, but that is why I like them. I never got to see The Ramones live, so I certainly appreciate seeing the next best thing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

An intimate setting gone bad?

A sparse, minuscule crowd can kill a show in a top-notch venue, as witnessed by the 12 or 14 people who picked Derek Lyn Plastic and The Panty Snatchers at the East Atlanta IceHouse last night over the Carbonas and Gogol Bordello shows elsewhere in town.

The IceHouse has a lot of history in Atlanta, as it has been both an actual icehouse and also the now legendary Echo Lounge. The refurbished, clean stage area should make for a concert experience comparable to some of Atlanta's larger venues once the word gets out about this new venue.

Once the show got started around 11 p.m., hard-rocking newcomers The Panty Snatchers hit the stage. The band blazed through the five or six songs in their currently limited repertoire. Their set was more bass and vocals than anything else, but that likely reflected the sound-man and not The Snatchers. If you like Das Manics, or if you'd get a kick out of seeing a guy swing his Cousin It-styled long hair while "rocking out", The Snatchers might be worth a listen.

The show stealer in this two-horse race was Derek Lyn Plastic. Though Derek and his band's set seemed to abruptly end without them even playing the title track from the new She's Got a U.T.I. 7", they put on a good show considering the lack of an audience probably made it seem like they were rehearsing in someone's home (assuming there's a house out there adorned with glaring strobe lights).

Atlanta punk legends A.P.A. were advertised to headline, but Chet Knight apparently called in sick. Last night's show was made possible by Knight, the IceHouse's booking manager. Even if A.P.A. had played, they likely would not have totally overcame the practicing-in-the-living-room feel that surely comes with playing when only five or six people are standing near the stage.

The intimate-setting-gone-bad feel of this show was no fault of the bands or the venue. I'd rather blame it on the people who had the foresight to go see The Carbonas instead since Atlanta's finest played last night at the nearby Drunken Unicorn.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tomorrow's best show option, and that's saying something.

The Carbonas are great, but they can be seen some other night because Derek Lyn Plastic is opening for APA.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wall to wall concerts

I can't talk about last night at Eyedrum without being rude about hippies and their hygiene habits. Fortunately, The Coathangers made the whole evening worthwhile with a brief set consisting mainly of their newest songs.

Sunday's soiree was just the tip of the concert iceberg for this week, as 7inchatlanta faves APA and Derek Lynn Plastic are playing Wednesday night at the East Atlanta Icehouse (the former Echo lounge), The Coathangers will play again Thursday as part of Tuk and Nico's 'Rock and Roll Kills' weekly extravaganza at the Graveyard, Gentleman Jesse will highlight a free show Friday night at Lenny's, and Jesse Nobody will get to open for The Queers Saturday at The Earl.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wreckless Eric plays the Star Bar, DLP goes unplugged

A true powerpop pioneer was paired Wednesday at the Star Bar with an acoustic set from a local punk rock songsmith and a brief appearance by The N.E.C.

Up first was Derek Lyn Plastic without his band-mates and with an acoustic guitar. Derek cranked out about 14 straight songs, as he made the last two notes of each tune segue right into the next song. Since the acoustic set turned the Star Bar into a non-lame version of Eddie's Attic, I could not help but hear audience chatter behind me. One woman said that DLP's set was amazing, and her friend responded by saying something about Buddy Holly. Granted, I am not sure if this person thought Derek looks like Buddy or sounds like him, or if they want our local songsmith to meet a similar fate. Regardless, Derek garnered a Buddy Holly comparison.

Wreckless Eric was up next. He was joined by his wife, Amy Rigby, for a lengthy, drum-free, laptop-enhanced set. As expected, the pop veteran mixed classics like "Whole Wide World" with cuts from the new album he has recorded with Rigby. He also threw in a few covers and a song with an overly pretentious guitar solo (on the same night he slammed Lynyrd Skynyrd, ironically).

To be fair, the Wreckless one did put on a good show even if it outlived my attention span, and he really packed the Star Bar with unfamiliar, older faces. His onstage, between-song banter and his hissy-fit about people chatting during his set were also entertaining.

Rigby also put on a good show, and proved that Wreckless Eric's better half is a better singer.

Once the crowd parted and only a few Atlanta music diehards and a couple of barflys were left, The N.E.C. played a brief set which at its best moments sounded like surf-punk fused with Sonic Youth.

Gentleman Jesse did not play as advertised, so it was hard to not feel disappointed at the end of the night. Regardless, last night's attendees learned that acoustic rock and folksy crooners are not always boring.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

CCBB's debut mixes catchy pop with potty humor

Band: Cars Can Be Blue
Title: All the Stuff We Do
Label: Happy Happy Birthday to Me
Release Date: 2005
Format: CD

Long before their latest release, Doubly Unbeatable, and their most excellent partnerships with bands like The Barberries and Hotpants Romance, Athens' Cars Can Be Blue unleashed 20 humorous pop gems on the unsuspecting public with 2005's All the Stuff We Do.

Becky Brooks and Nate Mitchell should not be branded as merely a comedic duo. Granted, they are funny enough to cut tracks about subjects varying from dating Batman to talking sense into self-righteous hippies, but they also are more than capable of busting out well-crafted pop songs.

Pop highlights from this album include the catchy "I Like," the playfully bitter "Do You Remember?" and the fast-paced "You're So Cute." "Cat is Out" is also a superb track with an infectiously catchy hook, and would not be out of place on CCBB's newest, and better, album.

As expected, other tracks involve plenty of penis and masturbation jokes. Tracks like "She Needs It" and "Dirty Song" might cause you to make unpleasant faces at first, but you'll be singing along by the third listen. When that inevitably happens, you'll feel more Baptist guilt for singing these songs than you did when you first discovered Pansy Division.

"Abortion" is political in nature beyond the pro-life/pro-choice issue because Becky crudely references the predicaments faced by Americans without health insurance ("have no health insurance because I'm working part-time, have to kill this baby before it's a crime"). Nate's faux alt-country vocals on this track are a nice touch.

The only knock on this release is that it is not as well-written as CCBB's newest album. As stated before on this blog, the songwriting on 2008's Doubly Unbeatable is top shelf, partly because certain songs seem to be Becky's way of unleashing real anger. Come to think of it, songwriters seem to be at their best when they are pissed off at the opposite sex (Dylan, Costello, Brooks, etc.).

Though their newest release is better, both CCBB albums are worth several spins.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Off with the mustache. On with his best release to date.

Artist: Derek Lyn Plastic
Title: She's Got a U.T.I.
Label: NMG Records
Release Date: September 8, 2008

Local songsmith Derek Lyn Plastic unveiled his fifth and most diverse 7", "She's Got a U.T.I.," Monday during one of 97 Estoria's free shows.

The first track, "Swim!," is stripped down and practically keyboard-free unlike a lot of Derek's earlier recordings, which means the song sounds like it was plucked from one of the shows he has played locally this summer as part of a keyboardless three-piece act. Derek now has a keyboardist in the fold, which likely will make a solid live act even better.

On the title track, keyboards make a comeback as part of the backdrop of this surprisingly lengthy, mid-tempo song which proves that Derek and his bandmates can be downright eclectic. The backup vocals toward the end of the song are also a nice touch.

The flipside begins with "Run With Me," an infectious, guitar-driven tune with a catchy, repetitive hook. The closer,"Let's Get High," speeds things up and is reminiscent of several punk scorchers from Derek's first four records.

Overall, all four songs are different enough for this release to be considered an eclectic mix (which is considerably better than an eclectic mess). This should be no surprise for fans of a guy who plays the occasional acoustic show at the 5 Spot.

It should also be noted that the 7" includes an insert with a picture of a mustachioed Derek, another reminder of successful summer shows like the first night of Fringe Binge.

Going back to Derek's release party, it was a good though brief show that drew a sizable crowd consisting of everyone from a couple of guys from the Black Lips to folks who seemed to be more interested in the Broncos-Raiders game.

This really is like The Slits

Artist: Hot Pants Romance
Title: It's a Heatwave
Label: Happy Happy Birthday to Me
Release date: July 2008
Format: CD

Finally, an all-girl band from across the pond that garners comparisons to The Slits and actually deserves such high praise.

That praiseworthy band, Hot Pants Romance, hails from Manchester, England and has a new album called It's a Heatwave distributed in the states by Athens-based Happy Happy Birthday to Me (HHBTM) Records.

Why are they like The Slits, then? Do they play white reggae ? Did they play world music before that term even existed? Are a couple of them of them related to someone from The Sex Pistols? Did Keith Levene teach one of them how to play guitar? Not quite. The Slits comparison is deserved because these girls play stripped-down-without-being-totally-naked punk songs comparable to the primal (in a lady-like way) energy heard in Ari, Tessa, Viv, and Palmolive's early Peel Session recordings.

A pair of fast-paced tunes, "Hotpants No Chance" and "Sugar Dip" open Heatwave, and are followed by several quality tracks.

"Heatwave" is a quick, repetitive tune filled with fast-paced vocals and torrential drumming, while "Effin' and Jeffin'" is another blast of youthful energy accented by background screaming. This screaming does not exactly sound like Dolly Mixture-style background vocals, but it suits these girls and their music just fine.

"Stop Escaping" changes the pace a bit as it is a drum and tambourine-heavy tune that alternates between call-and-response vocals and harmonies.

The next track, "I Don't Wanna," is a surprisingly beautiful acoustic track which shows that these girls can do more than bang a drum and holler.

"Baby Blow My Fuse" swiftly brings back the same hyperactivity and attitude heard in earlier songs. It also features simplistic, clever lyrics like "You said my lipstick was the best you tasted, come on baby let's get wasted."

On "We Used to Meet," a drum and vocal intro merely builds up to an energetic climax. On this track the girls develop an interesting pattern between vocal solos and harmonies.

The closer, "Don't Go," is reminiscent of the opening track, as it is a fast-paced, guitar driven punk song with a catchy hook and infectious harmonies.

When Hotpants Romance came to town a few weeks ago, they were the highlight of a show that also included comedic labelmates Cars Can Be Blue and 7inchatlanta favorites Baby Dinosaurs vs. Extinction.

These ladies do not do many things musically, but what they can do is done well, and they are likely the only band of their kind in Manchester. They are unique even within a small clique of underground bands, kind of like The Slits were 31 years ago.

DLP's meth-head madness is part of a solid back catalog

Artist: Derek Lyn Plastic
Title: Methamphetamines
Label: Florida's Dying
Release date: 2006

Derek Lyn Plastic, DLP for short, and his band had several solid releases prior to the hot-off-the-presses "She's Got a U.T.I." 7", including this four-song blast of drug-addled angst, pop-sensible keyboards, and scoarching guitars which should appeal to any fan of DLP's live shows.

With the title track, Derek tells a tale about boredom-fueled drug use. Behind Mr. Plastic's vocals, it sounds like a mid-tempo punk song is colliding with swirling keyboards from a pop tune in what can best be described as an aurally pleasing car crash.

"Waste My Time" swiftly wraps up the a-side with a keyboard-driven song played at breakneck speed. You'd have fly to Brazil and catch a hardcore act there to hear a different band cram this much energy into a song that likely fails to approach the two minute mark.

The flipside begins with one of my favorite DLP tunes, "Walk the Dead." Forget all that hardcore and punk talk, because the keyboardist gives off a faint scent of glam influence in this song.

The closer, "All My Fault," is a brief yet complex ditty that begins with a wall of sound and ends with Derek's fading vocals.

"Methamphetamines," like DLP's other releases, is required listening for any self-respecting fan of the Atlanta scene.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Two promising bands, one split 7"

Band: The Greatest Hits/ The Tough Shits
Title: Split 7"
Label: Desert Island Discs
Release date: August 2008
Vinyl color: Brown (I like to call it 'beer-colored')

Desert Island Discs' latest split 7" features two very different, and very promising, young acts in The Greatest Hits and The Tough Shits.

The Greatest Hits, one of the standouts from Washington state's bountiful harvest of powerpop bands, recorded two rocking new tunes for this split 7".

"Electric Blanket Boogie" combines Nils Forever's vocals, backup harmonies, and guitarwork reminiscent of glam bands like The Sweet into a powerpop gem.

On the fast-paced "Comin' Down Again," repetitive vocals make Nils sound frantic as he spins another glam-inspired yarn. A rulebook-breaking guitar solo toward the end of this tune keeps the pace before Nils drives the song home and pleads for another hit.

Both songs were recorded and produced by Steve E. Nix (the Dave Rahn of Washington since he pretty much plays on or produces every worthwhile single that comes out of his state) and Johnny Sangster

Split-mates The Tough Shits hail from Philadelphia and bring a totally different sound to the table, as their bluesy-garage sound is similar to Canada's Demon's Claws or Atlanta's Black Lips.

On "Flash Art", the Black Lips comparison is warranted through the band's gruff harmonies and ever-present sense of humor as they spill their opinion on tattoos. There's even a hint of Motown influence sprinkled in for good measure.

"I Heard She Kisses On the Mouth" wraps up this release and was definitely inspired by early Beatles tunes and '60's rock and roll dance parties.

Are The Tough Shits as good as The Black Lips? No, but they draw from similar influences and likely have just as much fun on stage.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

B-movie fest featured a wide array of bands, including Gringo Star and The Coathangers

Saturday's Tromapalooza event at Lenny's brought together a strange mix of bands for an event hosted by Troma Films co-founder Lloyd Kaufman.

In case you are unfamiliar with Troma, they are the good folks who brought you the Toxic Avenger series, Tromeo and Juliet, A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell, and Surf Nazis Must Die. This year marks the 35th anniversary of Troma Films.

The show started before 8 p.m. just to accomodate all the bands, and folks either did not expect the show to start that soon or they did not want to see Standing Behind You With Knives. As far as guitar-driven hard rock with Cookie Monster sounding vocals go, I suppose these guys are as good at that style as anyone in town.

Up next was the two-piece hard rock sounds of So-So Death, who actually were quite good, and electro-poet and one man band The Subliminator. His angry rants about society are powerful enough that he could pass as a technologically sound John Cooper Clarke. Subliminator's set was aided visually by a compilation of video clips and collages strung together by local musician Adam Bruneau.

After Subliminator's set, it was Adam's turn to hit the stage with the rest of the wig-wearing guys from Omelette. Their zany version of progressive rock hearkens back to Frank Zappa, which I suppose is best complement a band like Omelette could get.

The bands I'm used to seeing at venues like Lenny's and a pleasant surprise closed out the second half of the show and really made the night worthwhile.

Knife and the 4th Ward Daggers played a short set of their punk and powerpop influenced ditties. They play good ditties, by the way. Ditties so good that I'm hoping there's a 7" in the works. The crowd had grown by this point in the night, and Knife and his crew seemed to be the right band to get the b-movie party kick-started.

Baby Dinosaurs vs. Extinction played their four or five songs and continued to show improvement. The keyboard and hoola-hoop may be gone, but these ladies and gent still know how to be visually and aurally entertaining.

Up next was Gringo Star, and they stole the show. I had never seen them live, looked at their Myspace page, or listened to any of their recordings, so I did not know what to expect from this band. What I got was a throwback band influenced more by old rhythm and blues bands from the '60's than by punk or pop. They even broke out a cover of "Little Red Riding Hood" and constantly swapped who was playing what instrument without missing a beat.

The grand finale was The Coathangers, who hit the stage well after 1 a.m. The girls put on a good, though brief, show which featured newer tracks like "Killdozer" and was void of classics like "Tonya Harding" and "Parking Lot." A super sped-up version of "Shake, Shake" may have been the highlight of the night, and I hope they keep it at breakneck speed as that change made a good single great.

Paul Collins' Beat, Beat Beat Beat, and Gentleman Jesse teamed up for a fun midweek night out

Last Wednesday night at The Earl, a Beat Beat Beat comeback, a new Gentleman Jesse lineup, and the long-awaited first Atlanta appearance of Paul Collins' Beat made for one of the best shows, top to bottom, our town has seen all summer.

The show kicked off with Beat Beat Beat's first Atlanta appearance in months or, as Josh put it, their "first comeback show." Seeing the original five back together was a treat, as they dusted off older songs and also cuts from their stellar album. Songs like "Eyeballs Jones" and "Don't Tell Me Now" sounded as good Wednesday as they did a year ago when Beat Beat Beat was one of the best bands in town.

Gentleman Jesse and His Men were up next, meaning that Warren played back to back sets. Warren, Jesse, and Dave were joined this time by Adrian from The Hiss, and together they cranked out tunes from the new album and the classic "I Don't Wanna Know" 7" as well as the previous lineup would have if a couple of long-distance moves had not broke up Jesse's original Men.

It's hard to trump Gentleman Jesse and His Men, but Paul Collins of The Nerves fame and his Beat did just that. I'm sure Jesse does not mind taking a back seat to the Beat, since he said from the stage that his band would not even exist without the influence of Collins' music.

The Beat did what you would expect a seasoned act to do-- they played the songs the audience knew by heart and sprinkled in enough songs from their latest release to make buying the album from their merchandise table seem tantilizing.

Jesse was asked to get on stage at one point with Collins, who rocks way more than a balding man should. Warren, one of the guiding forces behind bringing Collins to Atlanta, and Josh from Beat Beat Beat also got to share the stage with Collins' powerpop legends during a brief encore.

By the end of the night, I doubt anyone regretted going out to a concert in the middle of their working week.

I have no pictures to go along with this post, so here's some hardcore lip-synching to ensure my readers get a full-on multimedia experience.

I'm still alive

Sorry for the recent lack of posting. I've been without a reliable internet connection for about a week, but I have four new entries to post as soon as I remember to bring my zip drive to work. Those entries include Avenue Rose and Hot New Mexicans 7" reviews and also reviews of last week's Paul Collins' Beat show and Tromapalooza.