Thursday, July 31, 2008

a change is gonna come.

interview by Kenyon Hopkin

A lot of times you see a list of a band's influences but the band that is citing them is either shit or nothing like them. Uncut is neither. They are the total sum of their influential parts - Swervedriver, Trail of Dead, Sonic Youth, Fugazi and early My Bloody Valentine. Proud to be hailing from Toronto, Uncut--Jon Drew (drums) , Chris McCann (guitar), Derek Tokar (bass, vocals) and Ian Worang (guitar, vocals)--have completed their second album, Modern Currencies (Paper Bag records]. It sonically kicks down the door of rock and so does the stop motion video for "Darkhorse," which features Care Bears getting militant. So far, the band has opened for the Walkmen, Sloan, Dinosaur Jr. and Bob Mould. In a few weeks, Uncut will face its biggest physical challenge yet-- Japan. While still in North America, Ian Worang shared his obviously educated insight on health care, influential 1990s band Swervedriver and what it means to be rock 'n roll. -Kenyon Hopkin [Kenyon knows how to write a feature story but doesn't have that kind of time. So here is the ever-popular Q & A. photo with books By Alex Collados-Nunez. photo with photos on wall by Alex Collados-Nunez and Sarah Louise Lock].

Advance Copy: I just watched Michael Moore's Sicko and now I want to move to France or Canada for the universal health care. How fair has it treated you in Canada? It seems so incredibly simple to deal with there.

Ian Worang: It is and it isn't. I think Michael Moore has a tendency to idealize Canada, which is flattering, but not entirely the best approach to take as a documentarian. For example, in Bowling for Columbine he comes to Toronto only to find that no one locks their doors. I have no idea where in Toronto he went. Having lived here my entire life -- both downtown and in the suburbs -- I have never left, nor known anyone, who left the doors unlocked.
But back to health care. It is free here, and it's great to know that if you're sick, for the most part, you'll get the best care available regardless of your economic status. It's a great feeling to be able to go get something checked out just to ease your mind. You can go to a walk-in clinic, without worrying about how you're going to pay for it, just to make sure that nothing is seriously wrong with you. One of my closest friends just spent 45 days in the hospital with a severe case of colitis, from which he almost died. Without free medical care he would have been economically devastated. That would have been the last thing he needed to worry about while he was recovering.

I've seen the dark side of the HMO system in the U.S. My father lived and worked in Buffalo and got sick. He repeatedly went to the hospital and was sent home with diagnoses like pneumonia and respiratory infection. Turns out he had stage four lung cancer and died, which was completely unnecessary. If the main goal of the doctors wasn't cost management, he would have received proper treatment. That shit is completely reprehensible to me. It's our responsibility as a society to take care of the sick and vulnerable, no questions, no debate, and it's barbaric to do otherwise. That said, our system in Canada is far from perfect. There are still "private hospitals" which sneak patients in to the top of the line for MRIs if they have the money. Waiting for medical attention can take hours. The hospitals are completely overcrowded and the staff completely overworked. There is also a strong push from the political right in Canada to move to a multi-tiered health care system, which is gaining favour all the time.

AC: How is the culture of music doing in Toronto? What are your favorite bands from there? And please don't say Broken Social Scene or Stars. Thanks.

IW: There's lots of great bands and a healthy music culture here in Toronto. My favourite Toronto bands at the moment are Quest for Fire (best band name ever), Metz, The Constantines, Brutal Knights and, without a doubt, Fucked Up. Toronto bands no longer in action, that I miss greatly, include Phleg Camp, Life Like Weeds, The Deadly Snakes, The Illuminati and Cursed. My mom really likes Feist.

AC: Would you ever live in the United States at this point?

IW: Nope. I have a great time down there, I love my family from there, I love my friends from there, I have great affection for the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Detroit. But I just couldn't do it. I never realise how Canadian I am until I cross the border. It's more different than you might think.

"I have no idea where in Toronto [Michael Moore] went. Having lived here my entire life -- both downtown and in the suburbs -- I have never left, nor known anyone, who left the doors unlocked."

AC: What caused the original Uncut to transform from electronic-based music to guitar-lead post-hardcore noise rock?

IW: The band started with just my roommate, Jake Fairley, and I messing around in our living room without really having a clear direction of what we wanted to do. He eventually moved to Berlin to pursue his career in techno. The first Uncut full length ("Those Who Were Hung Hang Here") has a number of songs from the Jake days that were reworked to be played as a band, so some of that original sound carried over. Once we started playing live, we naturally got louder and brasher, and continue to do so. I think early tours with Bob Mould and Death From Above 1979 rubbed off on us as well.

AC: In the song "Darkhorse" there's a riff near the end nearly identical to Swervedriver's "Rave Down". Has anyone else noticed that yet?

IW: Others have probably noticed that, but you're the first to call us out on it. I like to think of it as a loving tribute, rather than an outright rip-off. Technically, we likely owe Swervedriver 10% of the profits for that song. So, if you're out there reading this Swervedriver, we would be more than happy to mail you a cheque for something around $2 CDN. If you could hold-off on cashing until Friday (pay day!), that would be awesome.

AC: You played with Swervedriver a few weeks ago -- they were fantastic here in New York. Did that show rock the house or what?

IW: It was really great to hear all the old favourites again. However, there were a lot of meatheads at the show moshing to every song. Who even moshes anymore? It was like the first Lollapalooza all over again. It was surreal watching the pit in action while they were playing "Feel So Real." It just didn't add up for me.

"Who even moshes anymore? It was like the first Lollapalooza all over again."

AC: The video for "Darkhorse" is shorter than the actual song. It leaves out a verse and chorus. Is that because animation takes a long time to do?

IW: That's exactly what happened. We would make an edit and they would say "can you just take out a little bit more?" Every second of the song represented hours of filming, so we were totally sympathetic. We have the dolls and the little instruments from the video. Best band memento ever.

AC: How are you feeling about playing dates in Japan? What are you most looking forward to there? Are you scared to go in a plane that far?

IW: My mind is exploding in excitement. It's all I think about (and talk about -- I think most of my friends are sick of hearing about it at this point). I'm not so excited about the plane though. Mind you, we've done longer drives straight through in a minivan, so how much worse can this be? (It will likely be much, much worse.)

AC: Some of your lyrics sound like they have some kind of profound political-social edge or message. Does that ring true? Any inspiration from political thought or philosophers?

IW: I used to read a lot of stuff like Howard Zinn, Michael Parenti and Noam Chomsky. I went to school for politics. I currently work at a non-profit organization and my entire family on my mom's side has worked in the public service for generations. And I spent my youth with bands like Fugazi and Minor Threat. I think in that way, politics and social thought are a part of who I am, and that does creep into the songs. I find the theme of loss of community and neighbourhood (which for some reason I keep framing in images of violence, I'm not sure why) is something that constantly flows through the songs, much more so than the bigger picture issues like war and neo-imperialism.

AC: Most of your musical influences have redefined what you can do with the electric guitar. Do you wish to contribute to that?

IW: I wish I could do that, but I probably can't. I think that our songs do try to assert the idea that you can be serious about playing your instrument and being proficient, without being overly rockist. We're not going to get all Blueshammer, but we are going to have some guitar solos. There was (is?) a time where anything beyond basic proficiency would render you a pariah in the indie and punk rock circles, as though by being excited by your instrument and wanting to get better at playing it meant you were missing the point by taking the naiveté out of rock. I would love to know how is it more authentic to rub a butt plug on your guitar than it is to know what the mixolydian mode is. Both have their place. Not that I'm trying to say we're Mastodon or anything. We're still pretty basic rock.

AC: For serious, before you play a show what are you thinking about? Do you ever think, "oh man I am totally gonna rock the hell out tonight"?

IW: It depends on the show. Sometimes I'm thinking "oh god, I hope I don't fuck up." Sometimes I'm thinking "we're going to crush these people with volume." Sometimes I'm thinking "fuck this place, I want to destroy it."


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

new audio + video.
The Streets - "The Escapist." From Everything is Borrowed, out September 15, 2008. The first single off the fourth album from the Streets displays the soul-searching side of Mike Skinner, while again blending hip-hop and smooth R&B.
I Want to Believe
release: July 25, 2008
[worth: $4] There is an episode in the last season of the X-Files titled "Nothing Important Happened Today." That may as well been the subtitle instead of the misleading one chosen for the second X-Files movie. Throughout the original series, that statement grew to mean less and less about the existence of alien life and more and more about not giving up hope on fruitless things such as Fox Mulder's search for his long lost, alien-abducted sister. Given the show's ever-evolving mythology concerning aliens, conspiracy, super soldiers and colonization as well as the series ending (unsurprisingly) with no clear resolution, I Want to Believe, certainly for those obsessed with the show, had its expectations. Instead, we get just the opposite from creator Chris Carter. No aliens, no conspiracy, no anything. Not even agent Doggett saying something like "killing a man that can't be killed? Something stinks." We get little more than the poster of a space craft on Mulder's wall, suggesting that the whole topic is washed-up like a band once popular in the 1980s playing at a county fair. Although Believe is not without several one-liners from Mulder, Carter seems to have decided, without consulting the fans, that the mythology is dead and buried. But if you're going to drop that, at least make this 2008 version more exciting and suspenseful.

About a third of the film is devoted to Dana Scully's melodramatic conflict within herself on whether to do whatever she can as a doctor to help a sick boy or to simply let it go and allow him to die peacefully. Yes, i get it, she wants to believe that there is hope to save him. Whoop dee do. Meanwhile, a pedaphile priest who claims to be psychic is helping the FBI to find a missing agent. He finds body parts under the snow and tells the agents that she's still alive. The trailer for the movie suggested something significant was buried in the snow and ice (an alien ship, perhaps? a bizarre unexplained artifact? no such luck). No, it's just a severed arm. This movie is like a severed arm. Severed from the series in an attempt to make a few dollars and keep the hope of the X-Files saga alive. This is a frustrating 100 minutes where we wait for a revelation from Scully that there is a connection to a bigger and vast picture. Unfortunately, this never materializes and we are left with one of the most anti-climactic endings within the last few years. Yes, this was a decently made film with lots of snow in the background. The suspense and the uncovering of a mystery, however, is missing as much as Mulder's sister. -Kenyon Hopkin

Sunday, July 27, 2008

TK Webb & the Visions
Ancestor (Kemado)
release: September 2, 2008
style: sludgy blues rawk
[rating: ***] As the next logical step, TK Webb recruited ex-members of Love as Laughter. The Kansas City, Missouri/Brooklyn artist is real cool for the first few songs and then it sorta wears off. Maybe with the exception of "1000 horns," a spritual tune with an awesome chorus. "Teen is Still Shaking" is Jimi Hendrix teaching Built to Spill how to rock. Yo dudes, feel free to quote me on that. "Year 33" walks through a deep forest with shades of Nirvana, starting out just okay but improving from thick psychedelic riffs of emotion. The slow, sludgy eight-minute "God Bless the Little Angels" is out there in dreamland. For that reason, Ancestor deserves a second listen. -Kenyon

Lismore - "I'm Ready, Come Get Me." Absorbing the cold electro of Adult and the brashness of Shiny Toy Guns, "I'm Ready" unfolds from the most minimal of electro to a hot club track. [Mp3]
The Hush Now - "Traditions." After a near death experience, Noel Kelly [ex-Cerulean] moved to, naturally, Portland. Now he's in Boston for the Hush Now's gentle jangle indie rock which is clearly not shoegaze. Debut album in October. [Mp3]
Wrapping Paper - "Hold Up the Neon Sign" = joy to the world.
Ponytail - for people that are sick of Deerhoof. Ponytail is taking it to the next level of wild indie art spunk.
Return to Sender - [insert witty comment here about them being from Utah] - not a great band name and the vocals on the other tracks don't do what they should, but the post-rock of "88" stands out for being a tripped-out instrumental.

Friday, July 25, 2008

effin hot new audio + video.
Dri - "Two Are One." Sultry imagery invoking the softness of Zero 7 and Saint Etienne. Oh baby. Smoke Rings out now on Range Life records. The keyboardist for the Anniversary tours with Conor Oberst late July/early August.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Pack A.D.: Funeral Mixtape (Mint)
release: August 12, 2008
style: raw blues-rock
similar: White Stripes, Jon Spencer
[rating: ****] Until hearing the tamer songs on Funeral Mixtape, the vocals from this Vancouver duo have an uncanny resemblance to Jack White. And then it hits: it's a woman! While the comparisons to Janis Joplin aren't exactly valid, the Pack A.D.'s rocking electric blues is straight from the heart. It's pumping through their veins and then it bleeds out through the guitar and drums. Tops in its class. -Kenyon

Monday, July 21, 2008

WWE Great American Bash. July 20, 2008.
Nassau Coliseum, Long Island New York.

photos by kenyon and tara. clicky on photos to make bigger.

Misssstterrrr Kennedyyyy about to get his ass kicked.

Shelton Benjamin new U.S champion!

Y2J intro.

HBK, this whole thing was a bad idea.

break the walls dowwwnnnn!

get the balance right. whoa, a DM song. not suitable.

CM Punk intro.

Batista vs CM Punk.

Cena attempting the FU on JBL.

near the end of the "parking lot brawl"

you think you know me. Edge intro.

time to play the game.


best move- shawn michaels moonsault (back flip) from top turnbuckle onto chris jericho and lance cade onto floor.
biggest shocker- colin delainey turning on tommy dreamer
most outrageous- john cena vs jbl parking lot brawl, john cena driving forklift that is holding a car with jbl into coliseum.
biggest fall - john cena off stage and onto car
most beat up- shawn michaels
worst interference- kane interupting cm punk vs batista
most happy and surprised to see - mr kennedy
funniest thing shouted: "let's go jericho" during the womens match. best most fun chant "let's go hardy"/"let's go shelton".
biggest upset- hawkins and rider winning the tag team championship.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Black Kids
Partie Traumatic
(Almost Gold/Columbia)
release: July 22, 2008
style: indie on a major
similar: the Killers, Vampire Weekend, Los Campesinos
[rating: **1/2] George Bush doesn't care about Black Kids. Considering front guy Reggie Youngblood's restless confidence, i dare you to care about the Florida-based band. A quote from their press bio goes like this: "I've read that it's the kind of song every band dreams of writing. Rightly so," he says about lead single "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You." He notes that the difference between the US and UK fans is that they call Black Kids "awesome" as opposed to "wicked." And, regarding the band's quick success: "we did expect some sort of reaction." It's bad news when Liam Gallagher or Richard Ashcroft pat themselves on the back and possibly worse for the Kids. It's a turn off that hangs over Partie Traumatic, a batch of songs produced by ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler that shout "party!" but actually are lamenting about breaking up, trying to get with a girl and pissed that your friend is with the girl you want. To be fair, there are actually a handful of worthwhile solid tunes, namely "I'm not Gonna," and "I Wanna Be Your Limousine," a hidden dance track along the lines of the Bravery's "PSA." The group shares the romance of Pulp and sounds British enough too (notably on "I'm Making Eyes At You," which puts fear into killing the mystique of a love interest.) They're charming in the '50s girl group-inspired "I've Underestimated My Charm (Again)," though "Love Me Already" cries desperation to get the "whore" away from friend Theodore. Nah, i don't feel sympathetic. For a band that's got major buzz, boys and girls, keyboards and a love for so many genres of music, we deserve more than flashy synth, calling a girl a whore and arrogance. -Kenyon

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mercury Rev to release two albums in late September. Titles are Snowflake Midnight and Strange Attractor. In their article about this, Pitchfork called Mercury Rev's last album "disappointing." Pitchfork, you don't know sh*t about that album.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

¡Forward, Russia!
Life Processes
release: July 22, 2008
style: dance macabre
[rating: ****] Seizing the Britishness of Suede, the grandness of Muse and the experimental discordance of the Blood Brothers (who share the same producer), ¡Forward, Russia! follows the debut with nothing straight forward by any means. In fact it's so above me that i am unable to fully grasp the band's intellect. Handling the falsetto vocals and the heavy profound lyrics in songs such as "Gravity and Heat" are a physical challenge. The band that is now using song titles instead of numbers crosses over to so many places and they dare us to classify them. Life Processes is the best thing the band could have made at this very hour. -Kenyon
The Weight: Are Men (Colonel)
release: August 5, 2008
style: rockin' honky tonk country
[rating: ***] The thousands of people that state "i listen to everything but country" on their myspace profile would ignore this. i challenge any of them any time that they actually listen to everything. And not all "country" music is what you think. blargh! Those teetering the line of My Morning Jacket, Americana Bruce Springsteen or Whiskytown may find something to like on Are Men. "Man Alone" and "Had it Made" are indeed hella more Southern country than rock, but it's raw and edgy. "Johnny's Song" settles into a sympathetic sincere narrative to which all the band's friends can sing along. "Talkin" switches up to a Neil Young-vocal, as opposed to the gruffy, very Southern vocalist. Yee-haw? -Kenyon

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

significant new audio + video.
Primal Scream - "Can't Go Back." Album hits the ground July 21, 2008. If you think you know music but don't know Primal Scream, then you need to CHECK YOURSELF.
f-ing freaky classic vintage video.
EBN OZN - "Aeiou Sometimes Y" (1983)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Manda Rin of Bis to make solo debut. LP due in September 2008. Tell it to the kids.

Manda Rin, the girl from spunky-punk turned disco synth Scotland trio Bis, will release her first solo album, titled MY DNA, through This is Fake DIY records, September 8, 2008. She has four new songs at her myspacey and they're not far from where Bis left off quite a while ago with the 2001 album Return to Central. Although the lead single is "DNA" --a synth disco cheese affair-- the post-punk dance funk "No Language" sets the gears into motion. "Guilty Pleasure" is just that. This is all like, a naive Duran Duran fronted by...Manda Rin. Oh snap, i just remembered i met John Disco of Bis back in 1998! holy crap i forgot all about that.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

new video from the verve! new video from the verve!
"Love is Noise" - so far in 2008, the re-ignited verve has been flawless, except for playing too many songs off Urban Hymns at the concert. The show was otherwise catapulting, the new songs so far are not ballads, and the album cover is what it should be. And now this stunning video, which puts Richard Ashcroft in one shadowy room, the rest of the band in another shadowy room and another room with a thing that has flames coming out.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Crash: Pony Ride (Ryko)
release: August 2008 [U.S.]
style: sugary indie pop
similar: Tahiti 80, Black Kids, Keane
[rating: ***1/2] There are two sides to Finnish band the Crash. The friendly, disco indie pop side ("Pony Ride" and "Big Ass Love") and the more ambitious side ("Grace and "Thorn in My Side"). Both sides are soft enough for snuggling. While there's a slim chance the band's clean-cut smooth pop will break though to the general American audience, the Crash is capable of creating a buzz for at least a few months and landing music in bright commercials for soda, clothing and gum. -Kenyon
pacificUV: longplay 2 (Warm)
release: now
style: ambient
similar: Japancakes, Godspeed
[rating: ***1/2] Originally from Athens GA and now headed by Clay Jordan in Portland OR, pacificUV ranges from space psychedelia, noise jams and female vox ala Mazzy Star. The violins, piano, guitar and drums contribute to a varied though ultra lush collection. Several bases of ambient are covered, even nodding to the chill space rock Spacemen 3. -Kenyon
The Mood: Synaesthesia (Outright Rock)
release: July 1, 2008
style: indie pop
similar: Dressy Bessy
[rating: **] Another New York City-based band selecting California-sun indie pop, the Mood's six-track release has some delightful harmonies and songs such as "Eskimo Scientist" coming from a peaceful people. But as far as indie pop goes, Synaesthesia is too ordinary even with the late '50s guitar strumming in "Suddenly." i'm bored. Better go do a survey on myspace. -Kenyon

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Ten Kens- "Y'all Come Back Now" [give it a few secs to load]

debut album to be released in September on FatCat.
damn this blog is so cutting edge.

Friday, July 04, 2008

upcoming verve album cover revealed. and it's perfect.

they didn't put themselves on the cover. thank you God.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Bloggers will be going goose crap over Glasvegas. Mark and remember. They are seriously going to be shitting a building made of bricks over this top 5 of the year contender. If "Daddy's Gone" doesn't touch a soft spot in your heart, then you've got a very cold heart. You're probably a total meanie bitch too. The Scottish band's shimmering, dreamy rock travels the streets of 1950s doo-wop, fronted by a heavy-accented guy resembling Joe Strummer. Sure enough, they've done a live cover of "Be My Baby." i should have been in this band. i am so damn jealous right now. Kill me. They are currently playing a slew of festivals in Europe and opening for huge acts like Muse and the Charlatans. [photo cred: Sonia Grace] -Kenyon
My Milky Way Arms: s/t EP
(Milky Syndication)
release: June 24, 2008
style: indie electronic psychedelia
[rating: ****] MilkMan and Tim2K, the duo from Houston that comprise the mystical My Milky Way Arms, are playing by their own rules. These five tracks are a walk through a galaxy of swirling liquid fuzz, where vocals get buried deep. "Sunshine," only one fantastic example, piles on a thick blend of organic and artificial sounds which are mind-bending to say the least. -Kenyon

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ambulance LTD new tracks; record label in trouble.

Ambulance LTD, who i have shunned in the past for being a boring rip-off of cool rock bands from the past, are finally resurfacing with new demos. The New York City band, which has had to deal with the financial woes of its record label TVT as well as everyone but Marcus Congleton dropping out of the group, will be at Bowery Ballroom in New York July 24. Although there are still heaping doses of Velvet Underground--John Cale, in fact, was working with them--the new songs at the myspace ("Upsetter" "Ladyfingers" and "Ivy") are a calculated improvement. -Kenyon
BETH ORTON playing in Eastern Long Island!

07/02: Boston, MA @ Museum on Fine Arts (early and late shows)
07/03: Amagansett, NY @ Stephens Talkhouse
07/05: North Adams, MA @ Mass MOCA
07/06: Rothbury, MI @ Rothbury Festival
07/08: Toronto, ON @ Music Hall
07/09: Montreal, QB @ Que National
07/11: Philadelphia, PA @ WXPN Fesitval
07/12: Brooklyn, NY @ Celebrate Brooklyn