Ezra Furman Covers The Replacements

ezraI’m not sure exactly where I sit on the Ezra Furman fence; I think I’m straddling as we speak. That might change now that he’s chosen to cover a Replacements song, and not just any song, but perhaps my favorite track from the band, period: “Androgynous.” It’s a pretty decent job too, thus why I figured I would be okay with sharing it with you (as if there were any rules). You’ll be able to find this version on the deluxe release of his latest album, Perpetual Motion People; I’m thinking this tune might just convince you to pick it up yourself.

ACL Festival: Spoon vs The Replacements

The Replacements Perform At Metro StudiosACL Festival is only a week away, so those browsing their schedule have probably started to realize there are some huge conundrums.  Who do you go see when two great bands are going head to head? The biggest “oh my god what were they thinking” moment comes with the battle to see Spoon vs. The Replacements.  Yes, Spoon is riding high after a great album this year, and they’ve got a historically strong draw in Austin.  That alone warrants them a viewing.  But, but, BUT!!! They’re playing on Sunday against legendary act, The Replacements.  Yes, you might not get the original line-up, and you might get the rumored Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day) helping out, but dammit if you don’t want to miss this set.  No offense to Spoon, but they’ll be around for some time to come; I might not, however, ever get the chance to see The Replacements again…and I’ll cry if they play the tune below.  So what is one to do? Current hit-makers vs. legendary band? There’s only one choice.

My winner for this battle is The Replacements. One could even propose the idea that without one, the other wouldn’t exist.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/05-Androgynous.mp3]

Download: The Replacements – Androgynous [MP3]

Titus Andronicus – Local Business

Rating: ★★★½ ·

You’ve really got to root for Titus Andronicus?  They’ve taken on their own approach to working within the indie rock community, and regardless of pitfalls of other acts, they always seem to come out on their own terms.  Local Business is their third LP, and while it’s story line may not be as grandiose as The Monitor, it impresses greatly, musically and lyrically.

For me, I almost always notice the music first, nowadays.  Perhaps that’s why the guitar line that opens “Ecce Homo” stuck out to me the most on my first listen; it’s almost got a Replacements feel to it, cutting edge, yet relaxed.  Then, of course, Patrick enters the picture delivering his stance as a man looking on from the outside, angry about the way things have played out, for himself and others.  Personally, by the fist song, I’m already fascinated by the clarity of the vocals, but what’s stuck out a great deal is the musical shift.  This album is all about a more classic rock n’ roll sound.  The guitars are turned up, as usual, but they take on less of a post-rock feel, especially if you look at the second track on Local Business, “Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter.”

That being said, I also think there’s a harder edge punk rock ethos laying beneath the songwriting.  Sure, that’s always been present, but in listening to a track like “Titus Andronicus vs The Absurd Universe” you can tell by the ferocity in the vocal delivery and the ringing guitar that this is all about creating music that’s in your face; it’s brash and lyrical, yet there’s still melody lurking. Even “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape with the Flood of Detritus” has a subdued element of punk rock, although the guitar line that cuts through the number provides a more sentimental classic rock element.  Oh, and you can sing along too, rather easily…a staple of punk’ simplicity, and Patrick Stickles’s songwriting.

For me, the heart and soul of Titus Andronicus still lives in their mini-opus rock numbers.  “I Tried to Quit Smoking” is something I can relate to on a personal level, but the slow start of Patrick singing over piano and minimal drumming draws listeners in from the start, and that sentiment stays with you, that is until the band begins to sort of dial it in near the latter half with some noodling on various instruments.  It also provides a good counterpoint to “My Eating Disorder,” which appears earlier on Local Business.  This one’s almost as long, but it’s more of a bar-room brawler, giving you a bit of a shuffle whilst moving in and out of the track itself.  One listen and you’ll be anticipating the night when you get to scream “my eating disorder is inside me” at the top of your lungs.

Now, if you’re looking for the Monitor Pt. 2, you’re not going to find it here.  Honestly, that’s a good thing, considering the world raved about that album.  It shows me, as well as other fans, that the group’s still sticking to their guns, still operating on their own terms.  They don’t need to recreate themselves, and they don’t need to sound like Titus Andronicus.  They can forage new territory on their own, yet still come out with incredible songs that beg to be sung in the live setting or at the top of your lungs while you’re screaming down the highway.  Local Business is a good record. Hands down.

New Jam from Outside World

I went checking in on Brain Idea, a band I totally dig, and found that some of the members had begun a new project titled Outside World.  Man, I was surprised at just how great their latest single was; it’s got an old school rock n’ roll sound, filled with infectious hooks and a bit of ramshackle to it. The group’s about to release a new tape for Night People titled Seaside Nowhere, and this song’s going to feature.  If you were once a fan of the Replacements and Superchunk, then this band’s going to find a place in your heart immediately.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/01-Due-to-See.mp3]

 

Solid Rocker from Young Guv + the Scuzz

As if Ben Cook wasn’t busy enough with Fucked Up and Marvelous Darlings, he’s gotta keep his own project, Young Guv going right?  Well, he’s joined up with some of his favorite musicians in Toronto, deemed the Scuzz, and recorded A Love Too Strong 12″, which will hit stores on July 31st.  It’s always interesting to listen to Cook’s work, as it definitely has a softer side than one would expect from the guitarist in Fucked Up.  This song reminds me of The Replacements a little bit, although there’s a softer edge to it overall–even with the Scuzz backing.  I’m pretty stoekd to hear the final product because this song is just killing it on my stereo right now.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/01_Heal_Over_Time.mp3]

Download: Young Guv + The Scuzz – Heal Over Time [MP3]

John Wesley Coleman – The Last Donkey Show

Rating: ★★★½ ·

John Wesley Coleman might not be a household name all over the place, but he’s kept himself busy shooting videos, writing songs and hanging out.  Such a storied life leads to his association with the troubadour sort, but when listening to his latest effort, The Last Donkey Show, his work seems a lot more focused, making way for one of his best collections of songs.

Immediately upon pressing play, you experience the whirling-dervish that is John Wesley Coleman, as the organ pounds, the vocals yelp in and out, and the writing all comes together; it’s a confident man we find here, happily doing his thing behind the microphone.  You’ll find yourself pushing ahead to the album’s single, “A Clown Gave You a Baby,” which is a lot more straight-forward than the title might suggest.  The chorus alone will show you just how much Coleman’s progressed as a songwriter, making his unpolished voice sound as warm as you’ve ever heard it.  Such signs are a positive start to The Last Donkey Show.

For me, it’s always been the playfulness with which JWC approaches his songs–not just in the title.  “The Howling” takes a dark ballroom ballad in its sonic tones, using various horns to accompany the vocals.  The repetition of “howl, howl” drives home the narrative, yet it also shows his willingness to lean on his outlandish creativity in his writing. Such tracks are significant because they demonstrate the variance you’ll find throughout the entirety of The Last Donkey Show–a great strength.  A song such as “Misery Again” definitely appeal to the sad-bastard sort, but in a quirky way that puts John in a class all his own.  It’s possible it might just be a good country ditty done by the troubled sort, yet I’m inclined to appreciate this softer side, especially after playing the album’s closer, “Flower in the Dark” on repeat over and over again.  This is definitely a ballad like few songs Coleman’s written before, using slide guitar to accent his carefully picked guitar lines.  It’s as honest a song as I can remember, and it immediately makes you press repeat, hoping to capture the magic of the track again.

Still, there’s enough of that ramshackle pseudo-Replacements approach to rock n’ roll living on The Last Donkey Show, especially with songs like “She’s Like Dracula.”  The guitar approach definitely feels like something Westerber would have thrown down, but it’s the use of horn blasts and extra flourishes that makes it all John Wesley Coleman.  You see, this whole record is all over the place, but I think that’s what has grown to make this man so endearing to his fans.  His work doesn’t stay in one place for long, so it never goes stale.  He’s willing to push himself, as well as the expected boundaries of the troubadour genre, demonstrating to us all that we’re fortunate enough to witness such a great talent alive and rocking in our lifetime (and in my hometown!).

The Last Donkey Show is available from Goner Records now, and you can check out the video for “Hanging Around” right HERE.

Friday Top 5: Same Name Songs

Hey, it’s me Jon. Back for some insightful commentary on popular music. JK JK LOL!! I’m actually here with another thinly veiled excuse for rambling nonsense and forced humor. Today’s list is about songs that have the same title (not to be confused with cover songs). For no reason in particular, I have decided to give myself bonus points for selecting songs with maxim musical disparity. Read on if you dare.

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Superchunk – Majesty Shredding

Rating: ★★★★½

When you’re putting out records by the likes of Arcade Fire, Spoon and Destroyer, one would think you could easily get influenced by the great songwriting, unless of course, you’re Mac McCaughan, founder of Merge Records.  But, let’s not forget that Mac’s been jamming with his band Superchunk for close to two decades, and their newest album, Majesty Shredding, shows that no matter how often they pop up, they’re always going to be awesome.  Period.

Perhaps this whole record owes to perfect timing, but then again, as soon as you hear the squall of feedback that opens “Digging for Something,” you are met with a barrage of powerful gunshot drums and pure pop sensibility.  Mac’s voice sounds as youthful as ever, and who’s going to argue when he’s tossing up sing-a-long choruses so tasty?  Of course, the band isn’t solely intent upon giving you quick guitars that cut straight to that pop spot in your heart, they’ve got other offerings.

“Rosemarie” takes a softer approach, almost one that lives in the vein of The Replacements, which is completely acceptable, if not utterly awesome.  The balance between Mac and Laura sounds as tight as ever, and they’re not tossing in frills just for the sake of doing so; there’s a purpose in every single musical note on the plate.  You’ll find “Crossed Wires” coming at you in the similar territory, using the most basic formula with guitar interplay to keep it more than interesting.  Hopefully everyone will find themselves enjoying the clarity of the vocals, enjoying the fact that you can turn this album way up, and scream along to the fact that we’ve all got “crossed wires.”

Its funny, as you probably won’t look at Majesty Shredding and think to yourself that this band is breaking new ground, kicking all those tired genres to the curb, but at the same time, they’re not just resting on their laurels, sitting back waiting for you to love them. “Learned to Surf” opens with some great guitar work thats both angular and heavy, things we’ve seen other people do, but not this earnestly.  Superchunk will also throw traditional ballads, of their own personality, at you, like in “Fracture.”  This is the first time you can see a bit of the age in Mac’s vocal performance, not that we’re seeing this as a bad thing by any means.  Even with that, it’s a song that seems forever innocent, almost timeless.  Shouldn’t it all sound just like this?  And, if you want that in your face rocker, then you can visit “Rope Light” late in the record, just in case you weren’t sure how much you would love this album.

Occasionally we find a band like Weezer rehashing the same tired sound, but nothing about the work on Majesty Shredding seems dated, or even throwback.  Time has treated Superchunk with the appropriate amount of wisdom, allowing them to craft an album that isn’t trying to be anything other than good, simple as that.  It’s god ballads you can sing to in your car, its got rockers to get your energy going, and its just a joy to listen to a band who has no intent other than to offer up a great collection of songs that can stand the true test of time. Bands like this make it easy to write about; they just offer up good old fashioned killer rock n’ roll.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/1-01-Digging-For-Something-1.mp3]

Download: Superchunk – Digging for Something [MP3]

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