Archive for February, 2010

February 20, 2010
Neumos
Seattle, WA

On Sunday morning I heard Grandmaster Flash, Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, Ice-T, and others speak on the origins of underground hip-hop, punk rock, and its subcultures.  I knew seeing Epitaph Records’ latest addition Alkaline Trio play a sold-out bar—with zero tolerance for crowd surfing or stage diving—later that day would spark obvious critiques (warranted or not).  I’m not easily influenced by any sort of “punk rock code of conduct” per se, but the modern day contrast here ended up being (expectedly) apparent.

Thankfully the crowd was predominantly underage for the reason that adults (if drinking) were restricted to the upper level without the ability to see the stage or crowd (for the most part).  I arrived early, unsure how early an all-ages show might start or finish, since at home in Van it could be over by 9:30pm (no joke).  While I waited for the opening act to get going, I was impressed to notice This Addiction for sale on both CD and vinyl days before its release.  Kudos to Epitaph/Heart & Skull Records (the band’s new subsidiary record label) for the move.

Dear and Departed—a band for which I had rather low expectations—started as the mob started to pile into Neumo’s. They delivered their brand of emotional, new-wave influenced pop-rock.  Yearning to sound as intriguing as The Cure while failing further than a modern day AFI—it was at least complimented by a tight performance and remarkable sound that was noticeably fine tuned throughout their set.

I maintained my upper balcony, stage obstructed position as I felt it was an improvement over a stance below, yards away, behind a sea of Hot Topic brood.  I hadn’t heard Cursive, the evening’s sophomore act, before tonight.  I expected another fitting, teen-friendly or emo act to precede the evening’s pop-punk princes.  I was delighted to see and hear something altogether different than either act before or after them.  Don’t get me wrong—I bussed down here to see Alkaline Trio—I just didn’t have the highest expectations based on their core audience.

Comprised of a gent on keys, a couple on bass and lead guitar, a front-and-centre amigo on drums, and a guitar laden front man, their tom heavy, wah-wah guitar and complimentary whiny (and sometimes falsetto) vocals produced a groovy post-punk sound that was instantly captivating.  They clearly maintained the seal of approval from two thirds of the Trio as Matt and Dan watched favorably, side-stage.

Matt, Dan, and Derek wasted no time plugging new material as they opened with their latest catchy single, “This Addiction,” as well as “Dine, Dine My Darling” from their forthcoming album.  They are—in my opinion—one of each vocalist’s stronger album cuts.  Although I enjoyed hearing these tunes as much as a personal faves “We’ve Had Enough” and “Fatally Yours” (which was dedicated to Judd Nelson), I didn’t hear the clarity (especially with the vocals) that I’d heard for the opening acts.

The setlist was surprisingly heavy on classic tunes such as “Fuck You Aurora,” “Goodbye Forever,” “Sadie,” and another beloved offering “Continental.”  That being said, one of the evening’s highlights was hearing “In Vein” from 2008’s Agony and Irony, which breathed new life as hundreds of kids shouted “woah, woah” in unison with Matt as Dan took care of leads.  The amount of singing heard from the crowd tonight was one of the loudest I’d ever heard.  These kids knew and sung every last word.  I’m not sure if was the fact that I was looking down on them, the band’s vocals being a little tougher to make out, the fact that these fans were simply some of the most stoked I’d ever seen, or a combination of the above but their spirit definitely helped make the evening.

I’d hoped for a slightly different set but the legion of spectators would obviously disagree.  Matt and Derek did however switch drum and vocal duties for a tune that didn’t garner as much of the crowds attention but it sure as hell did mine as “Attitude” by The Misfits was covered as the first song of their encore.  To top it off, possibly my favorite Skiba penned tune, “Blue in The Face,” finished things off with Matt commencing on his electric (versus the solo acoustic album cut) and the others completing the trifecta.  Matt drove the final nail as he finished with the words “So what do you say? / Your coffin or mine?”

…Weasel Was Here

Visit these artists online:

Alkaline Trio – alkalinetrio.com
Cursive – myspace.com/cursive
Dear & Departed – myspace.com/thedearanddeparted

Alkaline Trio “Blue in The Face” live (electric)

Alkaline Trio “We’ve Had Enough” music video

Category : Renegade Rock Review | | Date : February 27, 2010

I had reservations about hearing Johnny Cash’s second posthumous album American VI: Ain’t No GraveAmerican V: A Hundred Highways was already a heartbreaking record to ingest; the man in black sounded as if he were on his deathbed (which he was).  It was difficult listening knowing that this powerful figure—that voice—had passed.  The strange thing, however, is that knowing that Cash is gone now makes hearing “new” music easier.  There’s almost a certain comfort in knowing that he was strong enough to put out something worthy of his legacy.  American VI is more than worthy.

“Ain’t No Grave” would have been a haunting song in life, but it is positively devastating in death.  The sound of chains scrape against the stark accompaniment as Cash defiantly makes a stand against lying down and going without a fight. He rages against the dying of the light as he proclaims, “There ain’t no grave that can hold my body down.”  Like “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” the simple message is like a death knell; it takes command over the ears and demands attention.  I had chills the first time it came over my speakers.

The title track alone makes this release essential, but it’s the following track that solidifies it as a classic: “Redemption Day” defiantly triumphs over killers and corrupt leaders proclaiming freedom for “child and man and woman.”  He sounds angry, and yet there’s forgiveness in his voice.  “I weep for those who suffer long / But wept for those who’ve gone / Into rooms of grief and questioned wrong / But keep on killing.”  These words are not taken lightly—salvation can still be found by all.

Rick Rubin’s spare production, the ace in the hole for every American release, as usual is superb.  Rubin knows that Cash is the star here and he puts him and the acoustic guitar front and center.  These songs may not have been written by him, but as he was wont to do, he makes them his own.

The single original track, “I Corinthians: 15:55,” is fittingly appropriate and it’s easy to tell what was going on in Cash’s world when it was penned.  Piano and strings permeate as he asks, “O death, where is thy sting? / O grave is thy victory?”  It’s beautiful, and as he so often did, he beckons the listener to contemplate life (and naturally, death).

A rerecording of “A Satisfied Mind,” a song I became familiar with via the Kill Bill 2 soundtrack is featured, and while the arrangement is essentially identical to its previous incarnation, Cash’s older, frail voice lends another air of levity.  “For the Good Times,” a Kris Kristopherson original, is a hopeful song that I can’t help but think is being sung directly to his wife June Carter (who had recently passed when he began these recordings).  “Don’t look so sad, I know it’s over / But life goes on and this old world will keep on turning / Let’s just be glad we had some time to spend together.”  In the closing number, “Aloha Oe,” he’s able to say “hello” and “goodbye” simultaneously, parting “until we meet again.”  It’s a sweet, comforting way to end a glorious career.

Make no mistake—this project is no cash-in.  It ranks among the best work he’s done in the American series.  As sick and seemingly broken down as he was at the end of his life, he had the strength to record these songs.  If you consider yourself a fan, do yourself right and take the train heading straight.  Johnny Cash may be gone but his music lives on.  Take the man’s word for it: “It’s wonderful now / I don’t hurt anymore.”

Key tracks: “Ain’t No Grave,” “Redemption Day,” “I Corinthians: 15:55”

out of 5 weasels.

(press PLAY for a free 30 second preview MP3, or track name for lyrics in a new window)
Play 1. Ain’t No Grave
Play2. Redemption Day
Play3. For The Good Times
Play4. I Corinthians 15:55
Play5. Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound
Play6. Satisfied Mind
Play7. I Don’t Hurt Anymore
Play8. Cool Water
Play9. Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream
Play10. Aloha Oe

Johnny Cash – “San Quentin” (Live from San Quentin Prison)

Johnny Cash – “Hurt” (music video)

Visit Johnny Cash online: www.johnnycash.comwww.myspace.com/johnnycash

Never trust a prairie dog. Support the artist and find out for yourself. WestCoastWeasel.com encourages purchasing American VI: Ain’t No Grave locally at Red Cat Records in Vancouver, B.C, any independent record store of your choice or online here.

Category : Turncoat Turntable | | Date : February 24, 2010