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Preview: Boston Phoenix - Music

Boston Phoenix - Music





 



Toon tunes

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Toon tunes
The reality behind the virtual Puffy AmiYumi

"It’s like Christmas in August," gushed Sam Register, vice-president of development at the Cartoon Network, as he described over the phone last summer the large box packed with Mattel toys that had just been delivered to his LA office. Inside were dolls, action figures, and playsets — a whole new product line — based on Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, the network’s animated show inspired by the real-life Japanese pop sensation Puffy AmiYumi. And Register wasn’t kidding about Christmas: the toys hit shelves just in time for the Christmas buying rush as the show went into heavy rotation, moving from two to five nights a week and positioning itself as the network’s most popular show outside of the Adult Swim block.

The series — a cross between Powerpuff Girls and Josie and the Pussycats — is imbued with the playful spirit of The Monkees or The Partridge Family. It follows the antics of peppy, poppy, pink-haired Ami, prickly, punky, purple-haired Yumi, and their semi-bumbling mana...




Tween and clean

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Tween and clean
Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Foxx find their grooves

Followers of the increasingly crowded tween-rock scene had much to look forward to when Lindsay Lohan issued Speak (Casablanca), her debut album, 13 months ago. For one thing, she had an impressive track record, having contributed a handful of excellent bubblegrunge tunes to the Freaky Friday and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen soundtracks. (This is more than can be said for Kelly Clarkson, whose mushy American Idol performances hardly presaged the triumph of Breakaway.) More important, by the time of Speak’s release, the vicissitudes of Lohan’s personal life were already well known to readers of Star and US Weekly. If Ashlee Simpson could mine the kind of drama heard on her 2004 debut, the reasoning went, we’d be in for some real fireworks from Lohan.

In the event, with the exception of "Rumors," an excellent disco-rock single about the actress’s love-hate relationship with the gossip press, Speak was irredeemably dull — hardly the ...




Comic belief

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Comic belief
Eugene Mirman’s DIY stand-up scene

Each week in a Lower Manhattan space called both Rififi and Cinema Classics — a combination bar, video store, and comedy club — comedians Eugene Mirman and Bobby Tisdale host "Invite Them Up." It’s a kind of Little Rascals talent show for emerging comics and musicians, not much different from what happens at Cambridge’s Comedy Studio, one of the local rooms where Mirman honed his skills before relocating to New York City.

The shows have a no-frills, homespun feel that’s captured on the new live three-CD-plus-DVD set Invite Them Up (Comedy Central), which was recorded and filmed over three nights in May 2005. Like the Comedy Studio, the Rififi nights are a kind of safe harbor where regular audiences come expecting anything and the performers have the right to bomb without their careers, fledgling or otherwise, blowing up.

The package features 23 comics and three musicians, and as you’d imagine, there’s a lot of dross — enough to exclude at least one entire CD from the set. But the idea he...




Blues schooled

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Blues schooled
Elvin Bishop gets his groove back

Elvin Bishop is best known for his 1976 hit "Fooled Around and Fell in Love," a sweetly romantic song with a slide-guitar hook that replaced "Stairway to Heaven" as the closing number at your parents’ high-school dances — or maybe your own. He recorded four more albums with his Elvin Bishop Group after that, but as the ’80s began, he became a footnote in pop history.

That’s okay with Bishop (who plays Scullers January 18), because by then he was already a legend in the blues world as a charter member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. When he says, "We introduced blues to the white public at large," he isn’t exaggerating. The Butterfield band’s first three albums, including the raga-inspired psychedelic touchstone East-West (Elektra), fueled the passions of a young audience by making the sound of Chicago part of their own musical vocabulary. And the group’s 1965 debut fired the imaginations of Eric Clapton and a host of other white musicians who were just beginning to find their way in a styl...




Solitary man?

January 6 - 12, 2006

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Solitary man?
Getting to the heart of Neil Diamond

It’s easy to forget just how hard it’s been to pin down Neil Diamond over the years. If Rick Rubin is to be believed, it took close to a decade just to get Diamond to agree to collaborate on the American Recordings–style project that finally bore fruit with 12 Songs (American/Columbia) debuting at the four spot on the Billboard chart back in November. But Diamond was an elusive figure in the pop world long before Rubin came along. He’s known as a songwriter’s songwriter, a product of the Brill Building who was on hand for the birth of rock and roll. But unlike his Brill Building peers — even the ones who went on to become performers, like Carole King — Diamond’s also known as a performer’s performer, a glitzy pop star in glass-bead-studded, half-open shirts capable of breaking attendance records at arenas around the world. And, like so many of his singles, with their classic A-sides and forgettable, even embarrassing B-sides ("Red, Red Wine" backed by "Red Rubber Ball"), the contradict...




From Belfast to Boston

January 6 - 12, 2006

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From Belfast to Boston
The explosive impact of Stiff Little Fingers

One night in the early ’80s, four lanky kids stepped out of a cab and ambled down Necco Street with biker jackets and Belfast lilts. As Stiff Little Fingers neared the night’s venue — the Channel — the city of Boston left a deep impression on frontman Jake Burns. "There were handwritten posters pasted on lampposts that said, ‘This is the third or fourth time Stiff Little Fingers have played in this city and we never get to see them cuz we’re under 18,’ " recalls the singer-guitarist over the phone from his current home in Chicago. "It was written by kids who were organizing a petition for us to play an all-ages show. That blew me away."

Stiff Little Fingers had come to Boston bearing explosive reports from the front lines of the conflict in Ireland — reports that left an indelible impression on the local punk scene. More than two decades later, the anthems on SLF’s first three albums, newly reissued by Rykodisc along with the live album Hanx!, remain woven into the bristly fabric of Boston roc...




Deep cuts

January 6 - 12, 2006

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Deep cuts
Rediscovering the edge in the Everly Brothers

On a list of artists whose legacy has been ill-served by the dozen or so hits by which they’re remembered, the Everly Brothers could lay fair claim to the top spot.

Take their third Cadence single, a rockabillified cover of Ray Charles’s "This Little Girl of Mine," released right between the iconic "Wake Up Little Susie" and "All I Have To Do Is Dream." The a-side reached No. 26 in early 1958, but has never found favor with the nation’s oldies-format programmers.

And the b-side is even more obscure. It’s not the song’s fault. "Should We Tell Him" has all the elements of the Everlys’ early formula: propulsive acoustic guitars, Chet Atkins’ pinpoint leads, Don’s limpid solo vocal turns in the verses, brother Phil’s high harmonies, and lyrics that elevate adolescent problems to high pop drama. The protagonist "takes his best girl dancing/to my best friend’s mansion," only to overhear them whispering, "Should we tell him?/To let him go on trusting isn’t fair." When he runs to ...




Liverpool’s latest

January 6 - 12, 2006

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Liverpool’s latest
The overlooked brilliance of the Coral

Last year, though word barely reached the States, the Liverpool scene came back to life, with the Zutons, the Stands, and the Coral leading the resurgence. The first two of those bands reflected the jumble of sounds and styles that have passed through the rough and tumble port of the North Britain city. Who Killed the Zutons? (Sony), dumped a Spanish galleon’s worth of musical nuggets into 13 playfully energetic songs buoyed by bolting rhythms, tooting saxophone, and brash rock-and-roll nerve. Drawing from similar waters, but with a darker, early-’60s British R&B flavor, the Coral had, over the course of five albums, developed a mysterious and exotic aura, with their Zombies-meet-the-Animals update of forlorn sea chanteys, sci-fi effects, bizarre rhythms, moping ballads, and dry Liverpudlian wit. And, when it was released last year, The Invisible Invasion (Deltasonic/Sony) seemed poised to gain a foothold for the band in the US. They seemed more focused than in the past, and the disc offe...




Grave diggin’

January 6 - 12, 2006

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Grave diggin’
Biggie Smalls’s Final Chapter

By the time most rappers drop their fourth album, either everybody’s paying attention or nobody is. In the case of Christopher "The Notorious B.I.G." Wallace (a/k/a Biggie Smalls) — gunned down in LA in 1997 — and the new album, Duets: The Final Chapter (Bad Boy), the truth may be somewhere in between.

Lukewarm responses to Biggie’s posthumous work can be traced back to his nemesis in life, Tupac Shakur. After Shakur’s passing, labels began sifting through his apparently endless collection of unreleased recordings and have subsequently released nearly 10 albums of half-baked, mediocre material. Though Shakur is still widely considered one of the greatest rappers of his time, most rap fans wouldn’t give a "new" 2Pac release a second glance at this point.

But the people closest to the Notorious B.I.G. (namely, his mother, Voletta Wallace, and longtime friend and producer, Sean "Diddy" Combs) have done a much better job of protecting Biggie’s reputation. Since his death, only one Notorious ...




Third impressions

January 6 - 12, 2006

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Third impressions
Do the Strokes have anything left to say?

"With new bands I always listen to the third album," says the Kinks’ Ray Davies in the January issue of Mojo, regarding his curiosity about how Franz Ferdinand will follow up their sophomore effort. "That’s the real key to know what’s going to happen." Generally speaking, Davies is right. Assuming we’re talking about a band that had some sort of success with their first two albums, the third may signal a desire to stick with what works or the inability to grow artistically. Other times, it marks a departure or an attempt at maturation — think the Clash’s London Calling or Radiohead’s OK Computer. Neither scenario is necessarily negative or positive, but, as Davies points out, you often can get a good idea of where a band are headed by listening to their junior-year joint.

So what’s up with the third effort from the Strokes? Well, before we get to that, here’s a quick refresher course: for the most part, the songs on their 2001 debut, Is This It (RCA), were brilliantly stra...





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DAVE GHETTO

January 13 - 19, 2006

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DAVE GHETTO
LOVE LIFE?
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IMOGEN HEAP

January 13 - 19, 2006

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IMOGEN HEAP
SPEAK FOR YOURSELF
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CURT KIRKWOOD

January 13 - 19, 2006

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CURT KIRKWOOD
SNOW
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OTIS TAYLOR

January 13 - 19, 2006

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OTIS TAYLOR
BELOW THE FOLD
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SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR

January 13 - 19, 2006

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SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR
BLESSED
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Team spirit

May 27 - June 2, 2005

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Team spirit
Team Sleep awakens, plus Pinback at the Paradise and more
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Soft sell

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Soft sell
Tiger Saw’s quiet music for swelling hearts

You know the indie-spectator stance: arms folded, beer tightly clasped, eyes narrowed in perma-skeptic stare. Tiger Saw cut through that shit. Like on New Year’s Eve at P.A.’s Lounge, when lead Sawman Dylan Metrano winds up the Newburyport collective’s late-evening set with the choral road ode "Postcards & Letters" by gently beckoning the audience to sing "Home is never really that far/Keep a song with you wherever you are.’" As this seven-piece incarnation of Tiger Saw echoes these lines, plodding forth at the slug-tempo’d pace of 50 bpm, a sleepaway-camp-style sing-along spreads through the room. Even a couple of woolly-hatted kids in the back who’d been murmuring together hush themselves and belt it out, "Home is never really that far . . . " You half-expect someone to flip the switch on a fake fireplace hidden behind the drum set — this is some serious log-burning, cockle-warming stuff.

With their banjo-tramping traveling songs, their Carter Family slowcore, and their whispery ...




Live, long, and uncut

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Live, long, and uncut
Columbia opens Miles Davis’s Cellar Door

The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 is the eighth posthumously released Miles Davis boxed set delivered from the Columbia vaults since the "Miles Davis Series" program began in 1996, and that’s not counting re-releases and special editions of single discs. The best of the boxes have been repackagings (with extras) of classic multi-album dates: the Gil Evans albums, the Coltrane sessions, the "second classic quintet" recordings (with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams). The results have been less satisfying with the expanded, multi-CD boxes of what were originally single-album projects: The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions, The Complete In a Silent Way Sessions, The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions. If these sets suffer by comparison, it’s because the albums that were drawn from them, the compositions that made them famous, were created in the editing room. They don’t exist in nature.

This may sound odd in the post-hip-hop rock-and-roll era, where it’s taken...




CELEBRATION

January 13 - 19, 2006

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CELEBRATION
SIREN SONGS

On their homonymous debut, which was produced by TV on the Radio mastermind David Sitek, the Baltimore trio Celebration create a multi-layered din that’s more memorable for its creepy effect, Katrina Ford’s husky-to-shrill-on-a-dime vocals, and David Bergander’s fidgety-but-dancy drumming than for its songs. So it wasn’t much of a surprise that the band translated better live last Thursday at Great Scott.

Ford, striking in head-to-toe black and Karen O–ish with bangs in her face, shimmied, shook, shuddered, and shrieked both on and off stage, alternately waving a tambourine high over her head and bashing it on her leg while her voice jumped from delicate breathiness to soulful depth to all-out squeal. But despite her crazed-siren act, it was husband and long-time collaborator Sean Antanaitis who stole the show even as he sat with his back to the crowd for the entire set. Apart from drums and percussion, Antanaitis played all the instruments: bass, guitar, organ, and electric piano, often simultaneous...




KAY HANLEY

January 13 - 19, 2006

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KAY HANLEY
Homecoming queen

Jangly pop rock has been a Boston staple for almost forever. And with Letters to Cleo, Kay Hanley stood for a time at the top of Boston’s jangle-pop heap. She and her husband, ex-Letters guitarist Michael Eisenstein, may have relocated to LA, but when Hanley returned to T.T. the Bear’s Place on January 5, she was greeted by a packed crowd who hadn’t forgotten past triumphs. With backing from Eisenstein on guitar, Joe Klompus on bass, and Gravel Pit/Gentlemen drummer Pete Caldes, Hanley got the home-town-hero treatment as they warmed up for their Hot Stove, Cool Music gig at the Paradise three nights later.

Hanley seemed relaxed and happy to be home. She opened a playful, high-energy set by dedicating "Cellars by Starlight" to long-time friend (and Phoenix writer) Brett Milano. The song, from a split single she and Scamper (an up-and-coming local band) released this month, is a bright, keyboard-laced number full of handclap rhythms and an anthemic vocal hook. Although she complained of losing h...




THE WAILERS

January 13 - 19, 2006

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THE WAILERS
A MARLEY CELEBRATION

Following Bob Marley’s death from cancer in 1981, the Wailers have survived in various forms over the years, all of which include no original members and only one key player from their peak years: bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett. As a result, the post-1981 incarnation has been seen as little more than a novelty act, at best a way to commemorate Marley and celebrate his music. The Wailers did try to separate themselves from the Marley legacy with a run of albums like 1996’s Jah Message (RAS), but they were always overshadowed by artists like Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh. Add to the picture Barrett’s recent legal struggles with Island over unpaid royalties and it was hard not to see the band booked to play the Paradise January 6 as one struggling with past demons.

But on the heels of two new Marley releases — Africa Unite: The Singles Collection and the two-disc DVD Bob Marley and the Wailers Live! — there’s renewed interest in the Wailers. A capacity crowd filled the Paradise, a...




Top 10 local CDs

Jaunary 6 - 12, 2006

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Top 10 local CDs
For the week of January 1 (compiled from Newbury Comics)

1_ Dane Cook, Retaliation [Comedy Central]

2_ Dane Cook, Harmful If Swallowed [Comedy Central]

3_ Loren & Wally, Best of Loren & Wally [WROR]

4_ Ray LaMontagne, Trouble [RCA]

5_ Staind, Chapter V [Atlantic]

6_ Ray LaMontagne, Live from Bonaroo 2005 [Junket Boy]

7_ Clap Your Hands Say Yeah [self-released]

8_ Dropkick Murphys, The Warrior’s Code [Hellcat]

9_ Lightning Bolt, Hypermagic Mountain [Load]

10[tie]_ Dresden Dolls [8 Foot Records]

10[tie]_ Dropkick Murphys, Blackout [Hellcat]

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Been here and gone

January 13 - 19, 2006

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Been here and gone
Radar Eyes say goodbye, Headband dance on your grave

The final area show by Radar Eyes began like any other Friday night at P.A.’s Lounge. In the establishment’s left ventricle — the room with the bar — twentysomethings mingled, cheep beer and Keno cards flowed freely, and gray-haired regulars sipped whiskey in the corner, until muted bass and drums indicated it was time to move, en masse, to the room on the right side — the one with the instruments. Radar Eyes guitarist (and Sam Beam doppelgänger) Uriah Theriault played DJ on the P.A.’s jukebox, spinning Yardbirds, the Band, Hank Williams — hints of the influences that have altered the band’s sound over the past year. Formerly a quartet devoted to thunderous Sabbathy riff rock, the Eyes took the stage having trimmed a guitarist (Joe Ledbetter, who was nonetheless in the audience). They played a set of new and remarkably rootsy tunes, their signature Blue Cheer assault replaced with overtones of cool blues and finger-pickin’-good country swagger. As Theriault plucked away, he flashed secretive smiles an...