Rewind Review: The Duke Spirit – Neptune (2008)


I first heard The Duke Spirit (Liela Moss – vocals, keys, percussion, Toby Butler – bass, Luke Ford – guitars, Daniel Higgins – guitars, organ, Olly Betts – drums) on BBC 6 Music (the greatest radio station in the world) somewhere around 2010 when they played the title track from the Duke Spirit’s 2005 debut album Cuts Across the Land. I nearly wept and thought, “Where has this band been my whole life?”

I found their 2008 release, Neptune, in a bargain CD bin at a Bloomington, Indiana wrecka stow. It opens with a brief hymn that repeats the lines “I do believe in something you know.” You can take that a couple different ways: Either Moss is telling us she has faith in something we know as truth; or she’s defiantly telling someone, perhaps us, that she has faith despite what we might believe.

The first full track, “Send a Little Love Token,” sums up everything I love about the band: Powerful vocals that evoke Patti Smith, hammering piano, big drums, and shoegaze guitar. “The Step and the Whale” is about Moss realizing too late that she’s sabotaged a relationship. It’s a sharp song for her voice, Butler’s bass sounds like something from an old Cure record, and the rest of the band puts down stuff the Jesus and Mary Chain would envy.

“Dog Roses” might be Moss remembering why she sabotaged the relationship and remembering that it was a good idea after all: “I hope you stay in charge of your mouth…When nothing’s fluid you drink yourself through it. Outside you chalk-draw yourself.” “Into the Fold,” a good rocker, is about rebuilding a relationship (“This heart could heal, if you had courage just to say what you feel.”).

“This Ship Was Built to Last” is a combination sea shanty and shoegaze track. Trust me, it works. The combination of the distorted, echoing guitar (especially after the epic bridge), Moss’ chanting vocals, and coxswain drumming is excellent.

Someone must’ve pissed off Moss when she wrote “Wooden Heart,” because it’s a searing diatribe against a former lover, but delivered with a torch song blues feel. “I would understand your heart if I could feel it,” she sings as guitars reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine riffs snake around her.

She’s not angry in “You Really Wake Up the Love in Me.” Quite the opposite, actually. “You taste so good today you’d get love from anyone,” she sings as Betts puts down some of his best licks on the record and the guitars go into full psychedelic madness by the end. “My Sunken Treasure” is borderline power pop. “Lassoo,” with its nice horn section, is the excellent power rock the Duke Spirit does so well, combining fierce vocals with raw rock instrumentation. It continues with “Neptune’s Call,” in which Moss is feeling frisky again (“I tasted the salt on you. Now I have a tongue tattoo.”). The closer, “Sovereign,” is almost a lullaby.

The Duke Spirit have a new album, Kin, due out later this year. I look forward to it. The first three released tracks are a nice blend of their styles: shoegaze, soul, rock. Neptune picks up where Cuts Across the Land left off, and the band is still moving forward.

Keep your mind open.

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Rewind Review: Kaiser Chiefs – Education, Education, Education & War (2014)


In the liner notes for Kaiser Chiefs’ (Ricky Wilson – vocals, Andrew White – guitar, Nick Baines – keyboards, Simon Rix – bass, Vijay Mistry – drums) Education, Education, Education & War, each track is listed with a year, staring with 1921 and ending with 2014 (when the album was released).

The band comes out swinging with “The Factory Gates” (Year – 1921) – a song about the plight of British factory workers trapped in their clock-in, clock-out lives. “They tell you day after day to walk through the factory gates. What you make on the factory floor, you take straight to the company store…’Til they can’t break your will anymore. You are contractually tied to death’s door,” Wilson sings with the gusto of a man ready to smash his cubicle and walk away from his job.

“Coming Home” (Year – 1951) is a fine example of Kaiser Chiefs’ power ballads, with big instrumentation and clever lyrics about a relationship that might be toxic to both people involved but might also be the best thing they’ve had. “Misery Company” (Year – 1939) is about a young officer wanting to stay off the front lines and going mad at the thought of spilling human blood (as noted by the chorus of hysterical laughter). White’s guitar sizzles on this track.

Mistry’s drums hit hard on “Ruffians on Parade” (Year – 1947). It’s easy to hear this as a song about the high the UK was on after World War II ended, but it’s actually a song about how a lot of us have turned into jerks in a world affected by terrorism. We’ve given up privacy and some of our freedom for the illusion of safety and consumerism (“At the last stand of the day, we lost more than we saved. In the dark of the arcades, we spend more than we made.”). “Meanwhile Up in Heaven” (Year – 1970) challenges us to free ourselves from this trap (“And your mind is the key. It is the key that sets you free.”). It’s another big ballad that casually strolls into power pop, although Rix’s bass is particularly fat on it.

“One More Last Song” (Year – 1991) is about post-1980’s greed, and it has a nice, nearly psychedelic keyboard breakdown in it by Baines at one point before the guitar, bass, and drums roll back in to make it a nice rocker. “My Life” (Year – 2000) is a sharp tune about someone moving on after the end of a relationship that had run its course (much like the 1990’s had and everyone looked forward to a new millennium and new opportunities). The band cooks on it and Wilson’s lyrics are Zen-like in their portrayal of someone waking up from their illusions (“I walk along the sand with my shoes in my hand to the daylight, and I realize the fishermen are heading out to ocean. The café owner turns on the urn, flips the sign round to open, and it goes on.”).

“Bows & Arrows” (Year – 1962) could be about a couple who rely on each other to get through everyday life or about two buddies in Viet Nam who rely on each other to stay alive – or both. It has one of the standards of any Kaiser Chiefs record – the chant-along chorus (“We the people created equal, and if that’s true then we’re not the only ones.”).

“Cannons” (Year – 2014) is a damning tirade against Big Government, Big Brother, The Man, the 1%, or whatever you want to call them. Kaiser Chiefs again remind us that we have compromised much for the feeling of security (“They’re making all the difficult decisions, politicians and children first, followed by their personal physicians who say you will be happy if you expect the worst.”). The song ends with a poem, “The Occupation,” read by actor bill Nighy, and speaks of people letting things fall apart around them while the rich get richer.

“Roses” (Year – 1980) is a low key (at least in the beginning) ending to the record, as Wilson sings about the failure of his generation, most of whom didn’t live up to their claims they were going to change the world or not fall into the rat race (“The bottles in the drug store were all just piss and ink. The flags you wore are rags under the sink.”). It’s not all gloom and doom, however. The song turns into a lovely song about hope (“It’s dark where the roses grow.”) with lush keyboards by the time it’s finished.

Education, Education, Education & War is one of the angriest albums I’ve heard in a while, but also one of the cleverest. Kaiser Chiefs have always been able to hide scathing lyrics in near-pop songs, and this album has some of their best deceptive work.

Keep your mind open.

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Les Claypool + Sean Lennon = The Claypool Lennon Delirium


Les Claypool of Primus and Sean Lennon of The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger have teamed up to create a new psychedelic-prog rock project called The Claypool Lennon Delirium.

TGOASTT opened for Primus on their last tour, and Claypool and Lennon would often jam on tour before, during, and after shows.  Claypool had hoped to put together another Oysterhead album after Primus’ last tour, but “the stars wouldn’t align” (according to the CLD’s website) and Lennon told him he didn’t have any immediate plans.

The initial tracks of the CLD’s album, Monolith of Phobos, are a trippy mix of Primus, TGOASTT, Beatles, Zappa, Beefheart, Pet Sounds Beach Boys, and acid jazz.  This should be an excellent record (due out in June), and their summer tour should be a must-see.

Keep your mind open.

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Kiefer Sutherland to release outlaw country album.


Yes, you read that right.  Actor, producer, and director Kiefer Sutherland will be releasing his debut album Down in a Hole sometime this summer.  Sutherland has already released tour dates to promote the record and has been playing gigs since at least last year.

It turns out Sutherland has been involved in the music industry since 2002 by producing and releasing records by musicians he liked.  He also collects classic guitars.  He wrote a couple songs and those songs eventually bloomed into a full album.  I don’t know if the title track is a cover of Alice in Chains‘ classic, but clips of Sutherland’s live performances are good.  He has an excellent backing band and his rough voice is perfect for outlaw country.  Down in a Hole should be an interesting listen.

Keep your mind open.

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Vans Warped Tour 2016 tour dates and line-up announced.


The annual Vans Warped Tour has released its tour dates and line-up for 2016.  The show has become a who’s-who of punk, metal core, screamo, and ska acts.  The biggest draws so far are Atreyu, Bullet for My ValentineFalling in ReverseGood CharlotteLess Than JakeNew Found Glory, Reel Big FishSum 41, and Yellowcard.

Keep your mind open.

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Bestival Toronto line-up announced.

Bestival logo

Bestival Toronto has announced its initial line-up for their early summer festival.  The two biggest draws so far are The Cure and Tame Impala.  They also have interesting things planned like the “Inflatable Church” and the “Day of the Dead Cocktail Bus.”

Keep your mind open.

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The Five Foot Assassin’s mission is complete. RIP Phife Dawg.


Rest and peace to Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor of A Tribe Called Quest.  Phife Dawg was a powerful MC whose flow bounced off Q-Tip‘s like they were winning  a doubles tournament at Wimbledon.  Phife Dawg’s style of rapping was in the everyman vein.  He made you think you could rap, even if you had no flow.  He was effortless.  His loss is a hard blow to hip hop and music fans everywhere, but we have his rhymes with us forever.

Keep your mind open.

Lollapalooza Chicago 2016 line-up announced.


Lollapalooza‘s 25th anniversary show line-up has been announced, as well as the daily line-ups.  Radiohead and LCD Soundsystem were major scores and long-rumored.  Other fine artists on the bill are Jane’s Addiction (naturally), Die AntwoordBloc PartyThe Joy Formidable, and Wavves.

Keep your mind open.

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Night Beats – Who Sold My Generation


It is fitting, crucial in fact, that the name of the newest Night Beats record isn’t Who Sold My Generation? It’s Who Sold My Generation. No question mark. Night Beats (Robert Levon Breen – bass and backing vocals, Danny Lee Blackwell – guitar, vocals, piano, percussion, bass, James Traeger – drums) aren’t asking who sold their generation to career politicians, multinational banks, and corporations. They already know. It was sold by “spitting news anchors,” people selling toxic junk as food and drink, those in power who let that power corrupt them, and, mostly, damningly, their generation for allowing it to happen.

“Celebration #1” is a spoken word manifesto over a freak-out beat, blues bass walk, and dark alley guitar. “When they come into your down, the sons of a sold generation, they’ll grab what isn’t nailed down,” Blackwell sings. Millennials don’t expect things to be handed to them, but they are tired of their future being bartered, sold, and stolen. They are here to take it back.

“Power Child” makes sure you know this is a Night Beats record because it is full of their usual great grooves, reverb, slick drumming, and sound that would be just as fresh if they’d originally opened for MC5. Blackwell’s shredding solo on it closes out the song, leaving you wanting more. Don’t worry, because “Right / Wrong” is just as good. I always like the vocal effects Blackwell uses. It’s hard to discern sometimes where his normal singing voice ends and where distortion and reverb begins, and I think that’s great.

“No Cops” is the first single from the record, and it’s a burner with Been’s bad ass bass, Traeger’s floor-stomping drums, and Blackwell’s guitar that seems to be everywhere at once as he sings about a couple days in the city gone horribly wrong. It’s nice to hear the band branching out into border rock territory with the Spanish lyrics in “Porque Manana,” which could be translated as “Why Tomorrow?” Since there’s no question mark here either, I’m guessing it’s actually “Because Tomorrow.” Act now, because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed to any of us.

Traeger plays drums and a maraca at the same time on “Sunday Mourning,” creating one of the best beats on the record, and Been’s bass line on it holds the song together so well that I imagine he’s a bricklayer when he’s not on tour. Been is the newest member of Night Beats, and his addition has taken the band to another level. His bass work is a hot mix of boogie blues, psychedelia, and funk. Not to be outdone, Blackwell’s guitar on “Sunday Mourning” might make your jaw fall off your head.

“Shangri Lah” and “Bad Love” reveal the band’s love of surf music. “Burn to Breathe” is a slow burn of excellent psychedelia that calls back to the 1960’s better than most modern psychedelic bands can even attempt.

The Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville” is about a young man about to be sent to Vietnam. Night Beats rock far harder than the Monkees, of course (although “Clarksville” is a great tune), but I can’t help wondering if “Last Train to Jordan” might be the band’s tribute to members of their generation who served in the Middle East.

“Ain’t gonna wait for tomorrow, ain’t gonna wait for tonight,” Blackwell sings on “Turn the Lights.” Again, complacency is the enemy of us all. The song has a great harmonica solo. So, as a sloppy player of the Mississippi saxophone myself, I love it.

The album closes with “Egypt Berry” – perhaps the most raucous rocker on the record. Pay attention, upcoming bands: If you’re wondering how to end your album, you might want to take a lesson from Night Beats. End with a song that combines Arabian-flavored guitar, Elvis Presley rhythm section beats, Johnny Cash bass, surf cymbals, and a false ending that gives you one last hit before you go.

This is already in my top records of 2016 so far and will most likely be in the top ten for the entire year. Night Beats get better with each record, so buy this and their whole catalogue. Do not hesitate. Hesitation helped sell a generation to one percent of the populace. Night Beats have warned us to not let it happen again.

Keep your mind open.

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The Kills’ “Ash & Ice” due out this summer.


The Kills‘ fifth full-length album, Ash & Ice, is due for release on June 03, 2016.  The first single, “Doing It to Death,” is already available for download and purchase and puts electro beats with their usual smoky, crunchy guitar riffs and sultry vocals.

They’ll start a tour on April 07, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee and play shows all the way through mid-August.  Catch them if you can.

Keep your mind open.

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