BY JEFF LEVEN
In this haphazard time between the hedonistic joys of fly-out week and the monastic angst of finals, the least The Record can do for you is offer some ideas to fill the time. Here, then, are ten recent albums to check out, ten shows to consider attending and ten random projects you can do to fill in the gaps in your musical repertoire:
Ten Shows To See This Month
1. Upper Crust, November 7 (Linwood Grill) – The Upper Crust are a bunch of guys who dress up in Louis XIV gear (powdered whigs, powdered faces, ascots, frocks, the whole nine yards), perform under assumed names like Lord Bendover and the Duke D’Istortion, and play gnashing AC/DC style cock-rock. In some twisted corner of the kitschy absurdist soul within each of us, it really doesn’t get much better than this.
2. Gillian Welch, November 8 (Avalon) – Since 1996, Gillian Welch and her hyper-talented partner David Rawlings have been crafting stark, rootsy American music that resounds not only from the depths of some rustic Appalachian past but also carries with it the raw cutting edge of the current roots revival as it brings bluegrass and alternative country flavors to the greater masses. Austere and confessional, Gillian’s music will undoubtedly bring a warmth and intimacy to the stage at the Avalon as she features work from her most recent album, Soul Journey.
3. Mike Doughty, November 9 (Paradise) – Soul Coughing’s laconic empresario takes his nouveau beatnik game to the Paradise. Expect a little snappy patter, a little hipster posturing and a lot of loose, limber, nearly funky kaleidoscopic songs.
4. Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen, November 12 (Orpheum) – Guitar gods of the world unite! Quasi-symphonic, blindingly fast, astoundingly technically immaculate virtuoso guitar-playing is the order of the evening as three of the instrument’s titans vie for supremacy. Malmsteen is baroque and bombastic, Vai is wacky and arch in his post-Zappa fusion and Satriani is a lyricist in instrumentalist’s clothing. What they have in common is their ability to play rings around mere mortals. Enjoy.
5. Belle and Sebastian, November 13 (Orpheum) – You don’t have to be precious and draped in corduroy to appreciate the wistful, wispy, lispy and warm ball of softness, melody and songwriting that is Belle and Sebastian. And better yet, their last disc, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, is easily among their best.
6. Rancid, November 15 (Avalon) – Yeah, they probably sold out on the last album and, yeah, it isn’t anything the Clash didn’t do first, but Rancid will still blow the doors out on Landsdowne Street as always.
7. Robert Randolph and the Family Band, November 19 (Avalon) – It’s hard not to get really, really excited about a deliciously rollicking jam-band built around a little bit of old-school gospel steel guitar playing, a little bit of bass and a whole lotta soul. Go and be moved.
8. Tell Us the Truth Tour (featuring Billy Bragg, Lester Chambers, Tom Morello and Steve Earle), November 23 (Berklee Performance Center) – A free-wheeling left-wing rally on a ten-date tour, this protest against media consolidation may not be for everyone, but if unrelenting folk energy is your bag, the combination of Bragg and Earle alone makes it pretty hard to resist the music no matter what your thoughts on the message might be.
9. Paul Oakenfold, November 25 (Avalon) – Aside from being the guy who introduced a good chunk of English and American kids to house music, Oakenfold remains one of the genre’s most sought-after live experiences, making this night out a party to remember.
10. Mary Lou Lord, November 28 (Mideast) – After being discovered playing on the streets and subways of Boston, Mary Lou Lord’s ascent to relative celebrity hasn’t taken her far from her roots, save that she can now bring a full band around with her without worrying about searching for a plug. Seeing them at the Mideast, you’ll just have to imagine the rumble of the Red line but the song remains the same.
Ten New Albums to Check Out
1. Ryan Adams – Rock N’Roll/Love is Hell, Pt. 1 – Ryan’s next big pop album paired with the supposedly Smiths-esque mope-fest that Lost Highway balked at releasing as anything other than an EP, this brace of albums should give a sense of the range and ambition of modern music’s greatest brat-savant.
2. Plastikman – Closer – Minimalist and claustrophobic late-nite music from this titan of the Detroit techno scene. His first in five years!
3. The Strokes – Room on Fire – Despite the unrelenting hype, it’s hard not to be curious what sort of sophomore effort Fab, Julian and the other Sweathogs were able to come up with.
4. Paul Westerberg – Come Feel Me Tremble / Grandpaboy – Dead Man Shake – One album is a series of concert cuts from his last solo tour while the other is a rootsy blues n’ grit album under an assumed name. Together they are the next flurry in Westerberg’s recent basement-tape renaissance.
5. Joe Strummer – Streetcore – Strummer’s swan song, this posthumous debut will serve both as a final volley in an amazing career and a painful reminder of just what we’ve lost. Notable for its inclusion of “Long Shadow,” a song originally written for Johnny Cash, and also a stripped-down cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”
6. Guided By Voices – Human Amusement At Hourly Rates: The Best of Guided By Voices – A compilation of the weird, wild and wonderful ebbs and flows of Pollard and his shifting cast of characters, this one disc undoubtedly is an exercise in herding cats. For the neophyte, it’s a perfect place to begin to bite off more than you can chew while the already converted might reach for the 5-disc alternative, Hardcore UFOs.
7. Café Tacuba – Cuatro Caminos – Mexico’s visionary, ambitious and intuitive titans of all things under the sun deliver the magic all over again in their most recent release. Equal bits Radiohead, Clash and XTC and 50s boogie, they offer up “world music” in the most literal sense.
8. R.E.M. – In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 – A quick ramble through the second half of the band’s career, this disc is a modest reminder of just how ubiquitous an unassuming and self-sufficient musical collective can get if their songs are good enough.
9. Basement Jaxx – Kish Kash – Free-wheeling dance floor rompfests from the Jaxx, who, this time with the help from a few apt cameos (Siouxsie Sioux, Dizzee Rascal), deliver the goods yet again.
10. No Thanks! – The Seventies Punk Rebellion – While it’s strange to admit that it’s about time that punk rock got it’s own lovingly-rendered Rhino box set, here it is and it’s hard to resist the fact that it’s a pretty fantastic tracklist – an anthology of astounding stuff that never took itself to be all that likely to be anthologized.
Ten Random Ideas to Expand Your Musical Repertoire
1. If you know who Elliott Smith is, have a moment of silence for his untimely, tragic, self-inflicted death. If you don’t, please please please treat yourself to Either/Or, XO, or any of his other discs, soak in the glory of his musical honesty and then have that moment of silence.
2. If you don’t play a musical instrument, borrow a friend’s guitar or bass or just bash on the Hark piano a couple of times and see what you can do with it – a lot of songs become more interesting/impressive when you realize what it takes to put them together.
3. Gather some friends together and try to do that Wizard of Oz thing with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Argue endlessly about whether it really works.
4. Check out one of America’s first and best college radio stations – WPRB, Princeton at www.wprb.com and listen to a webcast for a while. For more mainstream stuff, check out San Francisco’s legendary KFOG at www.kfog.com.
5. Rent “Stop Making Sense,” the Talking Heads concert video that not only launched director Jonathan Demme’s career, but also made David Byrne one of the best-remembered quirky, jerky icons of the ’80s.
6. Search high and low for a copy of the battle tape between Kool Moe Dee and Busy-Bee, one of the earliest and most dazzling hip-hop rivalries.
7. Get Johnny Cash’s autobiography (aptly-titled Cash) out of the library and read it for an insight into the life of an American legend.
8. Browse a couple of random music magazines at your favorite newsstand just to see what you can see.
9. Find a friend with satellite cable and check out the glorious big hair moments on VH1 Classic.
10. Listen to your new Elliott Smith album again and be thankful that we got to hear at least some of the music that was inside him.