Midnight Oil announce first world tour in over 20 years.

How’s this for a bombshell?  Australian rock legends Midnight Oil announced not long ago that they had some big news coming soon.  Most of us figured it would be a new album, but they’ve announced a globe-spanning world tour instead.

The Great Circle tour is going to be a celebration of the band’s work and will start and end in their home country.  The band will play everywhere from Brazil to the Czech Republic in-between those dates, so catch them if you can.  I plan to catch them in Chicago.

Keep your mind open.

Rewind Review: Fountains of Wayne – Traffic and Weather (2007)

Fountains of Wayne (Chris Collingwood – lead vocals, guitar, banjo, Jody Porter – guitar, vocals, Adam Schlesinger – bass, guitar, keyboards, vocals, Brian Young – drums, percussion) are perhaps the most clever songsmiths you might not have heard (or realized you’ve heard, as they’ve had multiple hit songs) and make great rock that salutes the Average Joe and Jane. Traffic and Weather is no exception.

Starting off with “Someone to Love,” the band gives a hopeful ode to those of us who “should be out on the scene” Thursday nights, but are instead “sitting at home watching The King of Queens.” They encourage us not to give up on finding someone to get us out of our funk. “’92 Subaru” is one of the great “Average Joe is actually a bad ass” songs that Fountains of Wayne do so well. It’s about a guy who buys said lame car, but has full confidence he’ll be able to trick it out and score more ass than a plush chair. It also has a nice solo from Jody Porter.

“Yolanda Hayes” is about Collingwood trying to score a date with an Average Jane woman who works a miserable job at the DMV. The title track is a crisp yet crunchy rocker about local news anchors confessing their love and lust for each other on live air. Schlesinger’s weird synths make this track bridge the gap between new wave and power pop.

“Fire in the Canyon” brings in some country music flair, which is no surprise since Collingwood has written songs for country artists. “This Better Be Good” has Collingwood confronting an ex-girlfriend about her choice in a new guy (“I saw you holding hands with some guy wearing light blue Dockers pants, and I thought I might just give you a chance to explain what the hell is in your brain.”). He turns the question back on himself with “Revolving Dora,” in which he confesses he’s smitten with a girl who might be off her rocker. The addition of Schlesinger’s piano is a nice touch to it.

“Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim” is a sweet song about two lovers at the end of a rough trip and realizing that not even such a misadventure and lost baggage can defeat their care for each other. The vocals get synthesized and funny on “Strapped for Cash,” in which Collingwood sings about owing a guy fresh out of prison a large amount of money and failing at every turn to avoid him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if “I-95” was inspired by the band touring the U.S., as a good part of it involves the description of an amazing truck stop, but the song is about a determined lover who will make a nine-hour drive behind a slow-moving van just to see his girl. “The Hotel Majestic” was probably a place the band played while touring, and it’s a catchy song to boot (love those handclaps!). “Planet of Weed” is a fun poke at stoners and probably on thousands of mix tapes in Colorado by now.

“New Routine” is about people crave excitement and not realizing their drudgery might be inspiring others to break out of their own ruts. “Seatbacks and Traytables” is another countrified track about long tours and mistaking one town for another over the course of the long haul.

\You’ll like this record if you like power pop and witty songwriting. Fountains of Wayne are one of those bands that should be in your collection. You’ll wonder what took you so long.

Keep your mind open.

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Tinariwen – Elwan

The name of Tuareg rock legends Tinariwen’s (The Deserts) stunning new record, Elwan, translates to “the elephants.” It’s a reference not only to the magnificent animals, but also lumbering forms of bureaucracy, the 1%, and world problems that can’t be ignored.

“Tiwayyen” starts off the album with the crisp desert guitar and tribal beats we’ve come to expect and crave from Tinariwen. The beat slowly builds until it drops out like the sun finally dipping below a dune. “Sastanaqqam” (“I Question You”) is the first single off the album (and one about the love of the Tuareg people for the desert) and will hook you right away with the killer beat and chanting vocals. It will rip you out of the water when the guitar kicks in at the 37th second. I knew this album was going to be fantastic when I first heard this song before the full album’s release and that guitar burst out of my speakers.

“Nizzagh Ijbal” almost sounds like a Johnny Cash record at first with the simple guitar work, but the warm desert wind blowing through this track is from Saharan Desert instead of the Sonoran. The opening drums of “Hayati” cry out for you to dance around a fire. “Ittus” is Tuareg blues. Seriously, the guitar work and vocals aren’t much different from a Lightning Hopkins song.

“Tenere Taqqal” is another mellow track with languid relaxing beats, even though the lyrics are anything but mellow.  They speak of a loss of joy, the deaths of innocents for unjust causes, and a lack of solidarity. The opening vocals of “Imidiwan n-akall-in” might put you in a trance. The floating guitar work and the slick beats will if they don’t. “Talyat” will slow you down no matter where you are or what you’re doing. Play this if your morning commute is driving you crazy or you need to reset after a hectic day. “Assawt” gets you moving after the previous track mellows you out for a little bit. Your toes will tap to this, trust me.

“Arhegh ad annagh” is like most of the record – hypnotic. I want this on my iPod if I ever get to stand in the Saharan Desert at sunrise. It flows well into “Nannuflay,” which might be the most psychedelic-sounding track on the album. Elwan ends with “Fog Edaghan,” which feels like a nighttime prayer.

You can get lost in this record. It’s a lovely journey on a search for peace and a connection with things beyond materialism and preconceptions. It is a bridge across nations and cultures. It is a journey you should take.

Keep your mind open.

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Rewind Review: Sun Voyager – Lazy Daze (2015)

Good grief, Sun Voyager (Kyle Beach – drums, Carlos Francisco – guitar and vocals, Steve Friedman – guitar, Stefan Mersch – bass) doesn’t screw around.

Their sharp EP, Lazy Daze, is a solid bit of stoner / psych rock with killer riffs, heavy drums, and plenty of reverb for reverb lovers like yours truly.

“God Is Dead” kicks off the jams with a cool bass lick from Mersch that only stoner rock bands seem to know how to play. Francisco’s vocals get weird and warped and the drums slow down to near-sludge levels. I don’t know if “Black Angel” is a salute to the band, the Velvet Underground, 1970’s biker movies, or all three, but it sure sounds like a mix of those three and the guitars burn through the whole track.

“Gypsy Hill” mentions “space and time,” which is appropriate because the song has the effect of warping both. I like how Beach’s drums are fairly clear in it while the guitars and bass stay fuzzy. Sun Voyager goes Zen on “Be Here Now,” slowing down the tempo but upping the cosmic feel. The song builds to a near crash at one point, but they rein it in before it breaks. The title track goes from psychedelic rock to stoner sludge about halfway through it and is gloriously distorted and drenched in reverb.

These chaps have released a couple singles since Lazy Daze, so I hope that portends for a new record soon. The world always needs more stoner psych.

Keep your mind open.

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Rewind Review: Jiboia – self-titled EP (2013)

 

I first heard the Middle Eastern / Indian influenced “electro-drone” (for want of a better term) of Jiboia at Levitation Chicago last year when some DJ’s played a song by him between sets. “Who is this?” I thought and instantly put my Shazam app to use (since that’s the thing to do nowadays).

Jiboia’s self-titled EP is a wild mix of trippy synths, frenetic beats, and pro-rock guitars. The first track, “Eingana,” is full of all those things, and Jiboia shreds quite well on it. “Manasha” starts off with 1980’s video game-style beeps and beats, but Jiboia’s soaring guitar work soon takes over the track. “Ayidda-Weddo” is like something you’d hear in a late night cab in Calcutta if the driver were also a computer hacker in his spare time. “Kungpipi” is almost a Kraftwerk track with its heavily processed beats and simple yet effective synths, but the droning bass and wild guitar work take it to a bit of a dark psychedelic place.

The standout is “Uadjit” with guest vocals from Ana Miro. Her chant-like siren song gets into your head, as do the electric near-dubstep beats. I don’t know if Ms. Miro has done other work with Jiboia, but I hope that’s the case. They’re a great duo.

This is a strange bit of psychedelic world music. You have to be in the right mood for it, but it’s perfect for when that mood strikes.

Keep your mind open.

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Rewind Review: Gaby Novak – Pjeva Gaby Novak (2003 reissue)

 

I first discovered the sultry jazz voice of Croatian singer Gaby Novak while watching the excellent Croatian film H-8… from 1958. Her song “Sretan Put” is used to stunning emotional effect in the final act of the film. I was hooked and had to track down more of her music.

Pjeva Gaby Novak (“Gaby Novak Sings”) from 1959 is a great place to get on board if you want to experience her lovely vocals. “To Je Blues” (“Learning the Blues”), with a big band behind her, immediately puts her in the ranks of Nancy Sinatra. You can’t help dancing during this; or during “Karavan,” which has sharp, almost Latin percussion throughout it.

Her cover of “Netko Bdije Nada Mnom” (“Someone to Watch Over Me”) has the soft jazz piano and saxophones you’d expect, but her Croatian vocals are the sound of underground jazz clubs fueled by vodka and clove cigarettes. It’s over too soon. “Prodavacica Uspomena” (“Souvenirs”) is as peppy as fun as the previous track is bittersweet. You’ll want this on every late night cocktail party mix tape you make from now on until the end of time.

“Ponesi” (“Oh Venus”) is a little bit trippy and sounds like a lost cut from a Matt Helm movie soundtrack. I’m sure “Ljubav I Poljupci” (“Love and Kisses”) is still played on jukeboxes across Eastern Europe, as its infectious melody and goofy fun saxophones are a great mix with Novak’s vocals. “U Proljetno Vece” (“In the Spring Evening”) has Novak’s sexy voice keeping the band rooted, as they seem to want to burst into swing jazz any second.

“Mjesec Kao Igracka” (“Month as Toy” – roughly) is another sexy tune that sounds like it was fun for the band to record and Novak to sing. It reminds me a bit of Japanese jazz-pop from the same time period, really. “Sretan Put” (“Have a Safe Trip”) is the haunting, beautiful song that hooked me on Novak’s work, and it’s perfect for rainy late night drives and dropping off your lover at the airport. “Malaguena” is big, bold, and could’ve been a Bond theme in another life.

I’m sure “Ljubav Ili Sala” (“Love or a Joke”), with its exquisite horn section floating like a cork on the moonlit stream of Novak’s voice, was the soundtrack to many romances in Croatia in the mid-1960’s. The album smartly ends with a real swinger – “Draga Djevojka” (“Dear Girl”). Big horns, groovy drums, and Novak’s playful call and respond vocals with her band all add up to a song that will settle in your hips.

Gaby Novak had a magnificent career in Croatia and Europe, but she’s little known here. She deserves to be up there with your favorite jazz singers from the west, so do yourself a favor and give her a listen. You won’t regret it.

Keep your mind open.

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Burger Boogaloo 2017 announces lineup with John Waters returning as host.

BURGER BOOGALOO, JULY 1-2 IN OAKLAND, ANNOUNCE 2017 LINE-UP!

IGGY POP, JOHN WATERS, X, BUZZCOCKS, GUITAR WOLF, AND MORE!

“I’ve been a punk at heart even before there was such a thing and hosting Burger Boogaloo always ups my street cred. I’m the oldest juvenile delinquent there.”
– John Waters

Today, Oakland’s favorite music festival (as voted by the readers of the East Bay Express), Burger Boogaloo, which happens July 1st & 2nd at Mosswood Park, announces its line-up for 2017, and whoo-boy it’s a doozy. The most ambitious lineup yet, Burger Boogaloo is celebrating its 5th year at Mosswood by announcing Iggy Pop, Buzzcocks, X, Guitar Wolf, and many more will be joining this year’s festivities. And naturally, the event will be hosted by the inimitable John Waters yet again (his third year as host! If that’s not a seal of approval, we don’t know what is!). Every year the Burger Boogaloo surprises the audience with its unique, over-the-top stage sets and productions. Last year the Mummies drove in to the park in their 1966 Pontiac Bonneville Mummies Mobile, and played their headlining set on top of the car. What surprises are in store this year? Who the hell knows?

Because Mosswood Park has always been so generous to the Boogaloo, this year, the festival donated 100% of the first week of early bird ticket sales to the park to help rebuild their recreation center, which burned down last year. If you’d like to contribute to Mosswood Park’s Rec Center fund, you can do so here. Burger Boogaloo would like to thank all who purchased those tickets for their donations to Mosswood.

Tickets go on sale at 10 AM PST/1PM EST, with 2-day general admission passes for $129 and VIP 2-day passes for $199 (includes a swag bag with mixtape, a college diploma, and more, as well as unlimited exit/reentry privileges!). Single-day tickets can be purchased for Saturday and Sunday at $99 and $69, respectively. Tickets can be purchased here: http://burgerboogaloo.com/.

 SATURDAY, JULY 1ST
Iggy Pop
Guitar Wolf
NoBunny
Baby Shakes
Bloodshot Bill
Personal & The Pizzas
Wounded Lion
Car Crash

SUNDAY, JULY 2ND
Buzzcocks
X
NRBQ
Roy Loney (Flamin’ Groovies)
Shannon & The Clams
Quintron & Ms. Pussycat
La Luz
Jacuzzi Boys
Glitter Wizard

Burger Boogaloo Online:
http://burgerboogaloo.com/

Rewind Review: The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965)

I know what you’re thinking: “You’ve never heard Rubber Soul before?” I have, but I’ve never owned a copy. Now you’re thinking: “You’ve never owned Rubber Soul before?” It’s true. I haven’t because I have some of the songs on mix tapes and multiple tracks from it can be heard on local FM classic rock radio eight days a week. I finally found a decent price copy at a local wrecka stow and snagged it.

I don’t know what I can write about Rubber Soul that hasn’t already been written, but it’s one of their best and my favorites. I like how it bridges the gap between their bubble gum stuff and their complete psychedelic freak-outs.

Opening with a track like “Drive My Car” is genius because it gives the listener (and DJ back then) a surefire hit right out of the gate. Those same DJs and fans must’ve been flattened by “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” when it followed with Harrison’s sitar riffs. “You Won’t See Me” harkens back a bit to their earlier pop days and hints at Paul McCartney’s future material with Wings.

Speaking of hints, “Nowhere Man” is a precursor to the political statements the band would eventually make when they had even more freedom to do whatever they wanted in the studio. “Think for Yourself” is almost a dirty blues dis on a woman, and “The Word” is early hippie rock mixed with funk. “Michelle,” with its English and French lyrics, was another surefire winner in the UK and Europe.

The country groove of “What Goes On,” with Ringo Starr on lead vocals, was probably another surprise to Beatles fans back in 1965, but I’m sure the casual fans breathed a sigh of relief when “Girl” followed, as it sounds like a throwback to their early records and love songs with John Lennon and Paul McCartney sharing lead vocals. “I’m Looking through You” is almost a flipside of “Girl,” in that the girl in question is no longer an object of love but one of confusion and frustration.

Lennon and McCartney could very well have retired after “In My Life,” because it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever given to the human race. We’re all glad they didn’t, but it’s a song that would’ve probably made me hang it up if I were a songwriter in 1965. I would’ve thought, “Well, I can’t top that.”

“Wait” is a fun rock ballad, and “If I Needed Someone” gave George Harrison a crack at lead vocals for a change. I love how the album ends with “Run for Your Life,” in which Lennon tells his girl that he’ll kill her if she cheats on him. It’s a shocking song from the guys who used to sing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”

The Beatles wanted to shake things up in 1965, and they did. Rubber Soul changed everything (a feat the Beatles did multiple times) for them and us.

Keep your mind open.

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Turn to Crime – Secondary

Detroit’s Turn to Crime have given us a cool record, Secondary, that I’ve read described as “record store clerk rock.” It’s not a bad description, because the whole album is full of stuff that would make you stop in your tracks and ask, “What is this?” if you heard it in a record store.

Starting with the funk bass and krautrock guitars of “Dead Man,” Secondary brings to mind beatnik dance parties and art happenings. Remember happenings? We need more happenings, and Turn to Crime seem to be providing the soundtrack for them with this record. “Chasing” is part-industrial, part-Warren Zevon and about being fed up with love, relationships, and drama (“I don’t feel like chasing you around,” they sing.).

“Get Your Pills from Tony,” a song about a drug dealer, has dark wave synths, distorted guitars, and sounds like an early Devo track. “Fall Down” brings psych-synths into the mix, showing that Turn to Crime is willing to give anything a go if it sounds good and is pure to their vision (and wait until the drums kick in!). The title track is outstanding with its hypnotic guitar riffs and late 70’s new wave synths.

“Her Love” is almost a Gary Wilson track (in terms of the lyrics about “real love”), except that it has underlying fuzz that’s absent in Wilson’s work. It’s a nice switch from the psych / no-wave guitar-driven material on the earlier tracks. “Don’t Let Go” is similar in theme (Don’t let love go once you’ve found it.), but the weird, warped guitars and vocals take the song deeper into no-wave rock. The album ends with “Mary Jean’s Chocolate Pie,” a song about a special dessert only served once a year. It’s weird and just what you’d expect from Turn to Crime by the time you get to the end of the record – a strange ending for an interesting record.

This is the quirkiest and most intriguing record I’ve heard in months. I need to track down more stuff by these guys, and I think a live show by them would be cool to say the least. Turn to Turn to Crime.

Keep your mind open.

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Ron Gallo – Heavy Meta

I first heard Ron Gallo when I saw him open for Screaming Females last year. I was impressed by his mix of punk, blues, and garage rock and picked up his EP, RG3. That EP was one of my favorite records of 2016, so I was eager to hear his full-length debut, Heavy Meta. I’m sure it will be right up there with my favorite records of 2017.

Beginning with his sure-to-be classic, “Young Lady You’re Scaring Me,” Heavy Meta gets off to a solid start with Gallo’s sizzling surf sound guitar and near-crazed vocals about a crazy lover he fears but just can’t ditch. “Put the Kids to Bed” is a 1960’s psychedelic freak-out / freak-on as Gallo pleads with his lover for a kinky quickie even though he realizes they may have passion but love has long since checked out (“When we were young, we said, ‘One day, honey, you and I we’re going to share a grave.’ I didn’t know it’d come so soon.”).

“Kill the Medicine Man” is blues filtered through a lava lamp in Marc Bolan’s living room. “Poor Traits of the Artist” continues the crunchy fuzz that Gallo and his band mates have not only embraced but mastered stunningly early in their careers. “Why Do You Have Kids?” is a hysterical diatribe against people who can’t take care of themselves trying to take care of children. “The kid’s got nothin’ to look up or forward to, no chance,” Gallo sings. We all know someone like that, and Gallo blares out the words we desperately want to say to him or her.

“Please Yourself” reveals Gallo’s love of sixties garage rock (listen to that near-bop beat for starters). “Black Market Eyes” switches gears and becomes a ballad that would make Wolfmother envious with its desert rock-like sound and rough-edged vocals. “Can’t Stand You” is an angry kiss-off to an ex. “Started a War” is a lazy psych-rock reverb dream about a woman storming out on Gallo for reasons he can’t figure (“Started a war, and all I said was nothin’.”).

“Don’t Mind the Lion” is about another woman Gallo wishes he could comfort after she’s fallen on hard times. The album ends with “All the Punks Are Domesticated,” in which Gallo offers a eulogy for everyone who thought they were going to stick it to the Man and change the world but have instead sold out and opted for smartphone screens and a world in which “Pop-Tarts climb the pop charts” and “No one really has anything to say.” He’s mostly right. Hardly anyone wants to do anything dangerous in the world of art and would rather talk about him or herself than have a conversation about anything that might challenge the fragile ecosystem they’ve built around them. Gallo even thinks that he’ll “be forgotten in two generations.”

He won’t be if he keeps up albums like this, however. He’s not only made a good rock record (which we need more than ever these days), he’s given us a glass of cold water in the face. Wake up and do something. Start with getting this album.

Keep your mind open.

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