21 February 2008

The Man's On the Guest List

Drive-By Truckers
Brighter Than Creation's Dark

New West Records, 2008

Before purchasing the latest Drive-By Truckers album, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, I consulted the guru of all things mud, blood, and beer: “So, brother o’ mine, should I pay American greenbacks for a physical copy of one Drive-By Truckers CD? Or should I download it (legally, of course) and enjoy it without the restrictive mp3 format?"

“Oh,” he says to me, “you should definitely get it. But I must warn you, it’s a country album. It’s no The Dirty South.”

I laugh heartily, suddenly aware that I do not own ANY physical DBT CDs—all that I have has been ripped from said brother.
“And,” he continues, “there’s this weird song in the middle that sounds like a John Prine ripoff.”

The song he is referring to is “Bob,” a Mike Cooley composition that, at the moment, is one of my favorite songs on the album. It does sound like a John Prine ripoff, but the character of Bob is an endearing one: he’s not “light in the loafers” and he always keeps his momma’s yard “just like she wants it.” Still, it’s not the low-key country-tinged sound that might have turned me off from BTCD, but rather the hole in the band that should have occurred with the departure of Jason Isbell, one of the three genius songwriters behind the band for nine years.

The band fills up the space with songs by Shonna Tucker (Isbell’s ex-wife and DBT bassist). For the most part, they’re passable and keep the album moving (“I’m Sorry Huston” is the best of the lot). But at 19 songs and 74 minutes, you immediately begin to think about what should have ended up on the chopping block.

Fortunately, that’s the album’s strength. I can’t come up with one song—not ONE—that I would like to eliminate. Sure there’s filler, but DBT’s filler is better than most band’s radio singles. It’s abrasive to hear back-to-back Cooley songs when you’re used to an Isbell number in-between and while Cooley is a master of narrative and wordplay (“chicken wing puke licks the candy apple red off his corvette”), Patterson Hood is the one who finally cracks everything wide this go-round. Songs like “The Opening Act,” “The Righteous Path,” and “That Man I Shot” are the ones that matter here. They matter because they have more than just rock and balls—they have substance and adrenalin. Sweet, fist-pumping adrenalin. Hood can swing from a snarl to a yawp like he does on “Goode’s Field Road” or serenade you with his John Ford homage “The Monument Valley.”

Of course, everything else is damn near perfect as well. And I’m slowly beginning to emulate Brad Morgan’s drumming style with his booming floor tom and lack of ride cymbal. But DBT are one of those bands built for longevity, no matter what incarnation they come in. It may be tempting to pay fleeting attention to their new release but we owe it to this band to stick with them—they would never give us less than everything they had. And right now their music sounds an awful like American music—if such an untainted thing exists—should sound: long, loud, and still sweet.

Video--"That Man I Shot (Live)" (Thanks, Stereogum)

14 February 2008

Mobius Band is for Lovers

One of my new discoveries in late 07 (thanks to Stereogum and their OK Computer Tribute album, OKX) was Brooklyn's own Mobius Band. I was fortunate enough to see them down the street at The Map Room in December on a Monday night (the place was near deserted).

Check them out for free: they're offering a free Valentine's Day download EP of six cover songs (big props for covering Neil Young and Daft Punk). And get their new album Heaven on the always-classy Misra Records.

And, just as with Band of Horses and so many other bands, I have photos of the concert that have yet to be posted on Flickr. One day I'll catch up...

Happy V-Day, folks.

13 February 2008

From Here We Go Deaf

Reportedly, EITS are going on self-imposed hiatus after this tour. Download a live concert here, courtesy of the good folks at NPR.

12 February 2008

What Do You Grow at a Music Farm?

Band of Horses @ Music Farm, Charleston, SC

I've been waiting for Band of Horses to convince me they were more than just another flashy band on Sub Pop. I thought that that time might never come. I thought I would have to begrudgingly smile and tell people, "Yeah, Band of Horses are great and we're proud they call this state home." I didn't want that to happen, but I was as prepared for it as I was a George W. Bush victory in 2004. Thankfully, Sunday night's show at the Music Farm proved me wrong.

Originally scheduled for the much smaller (i.e., intimate) Village Tavern in Mt. Pleasant, SC, the show was rescheduled for two days earlier (from Tues, Feb 12 to Sunday, Feb 10). But apparently a slot on Conan O'Brien takes precedence over a homecoming show and thus, we all ended up highly confused, standing in lines patiently for doors to open (Where did you buy your tickets from originally? What "Will Call" list are you on? Did you already pay? We don't know if the show is sold out.) No harm, no foul, though--at least they showed up. The band had to cancel two dates in Florida due to flu and Ben Bridwell losing his voice.

I wandered around outside while Tyler Ramsey played Red House Painters-esque tunes. And felt bored shitless while Cass McCombs and the Middle Class plodded through a set that I thought would never end. But by 10:15, when the house lights went out and Bridwell announced to a screaming crowd, "Hey everybody, we're Band of Horses and we're from here!" and the first sleepy lull of "Is There a Ghost" chimed out of his Gibson, followed by a three-guitar, six-man wall of sound, you couldn't have kicked the smile off my face.

I could have left after the first thirty minutes: the aforementioned "Is There a Ghost," followed by "Islands on the Coast," and the aptly titled "The First Song"--still one of the best opening tracks on any album I've bought in five years--was what I came to hear. (Admit it, we all go hoping to hear that one song.) And I screamed, and clapped, and did the white-man rock bounce. And I didn't even want to punch the college frat-fuck next to me for saying that he couldn't wait to hear "that song from 'One Tree Hill.'"(That's "The Funeral" for anyone keeping track at home.)

In truth, the crowd was a bit subdued for the final show on their North American Winter tour; not to mention a show in their hometown. But the band didn't seem to notice. And Bridwell had a smile ripped across his face the whole time like a man who loves music as much as the fans do. And he does, too, from what I can see--playing three covers in a 100 minute set seems excessive, but he did it and didn't care what the rules were. As long as the music was loud and everyone felt good about being together, he felt good about showing it. So, when the encore came and he asked us if we wanted to stick around for two more songs, no one complained--even when they closed out the night with a cover of Chicago's "Feelin' Stronger Everyday." There's a metaphor in there, buried skin-deep, I believe. But there was definitely no irony to it. And that only makes me appreciate their music even more.

Concert photos up on Flickr soon.

The Set List:
Is There a Ghost
Islands on the Coast

The Great Salt Lake
Weed Party

The First Song
Our Swords
Cigarettes Wedding Bands
J.J Cale cover (?)
Part One
Keyboardist played a song that I did not catch the title of
The Funeral
Wicked Gil

Ode to LRC
Act Together (Rolling Stones/Ron Wood cover)

No One's Gonna Love You
The General Specific
Marry Song
Feelin' Stronger Everyday (Chicago Cover)

10 February 2008

Well, Is There A Ghost?

Heading down to the revamped Music Farm in lovely downtown Charleston tomorrow night for the final night of Band of Horses Winter tour. Originally the show was planned for The Village Tavern in Mt. Pleasant, SC (the new home of the band after nine years in Seattle). I am looking forward to it even though I only liked about half of their first album, Everything All the Time.

The new album, Cease to Begin, however is a much more solid, relaxed effort in my opinion. Where before I felt like the band was trying much too hard to call upon the spirits of Built to Spill and out-reverb My Morning Jacket, now I hear less influence and more of a band growing into their skin.

The moment the album sunk its hooks into me was coming home from Baltimore this past October and riding on the Metro in the early morning, watching folks scramble to get to church while others just slept off hangovers from the night before. It felt like there was a ghost over everyone, in every place I moved.

I'll have pics from the show to post later. Cheers, guys. Thanks for coming back to SC.