Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Justice: +

Sometimes it's easy to lose track of the teeth and spit of the bass and the crinkle of the drums on an electronic record. Layers of production can obscure the organic -- or at least faux-organic -- sounds of a ripping performance. Not the case on the debut full length from French house duo Justice, whose complex, dark and heavily pop-rock-influenced dance tracks unfold over the course of the album -- and sometimes the same song -- from banging disco grooves to instrumental electro funk space operas and minimalist, throwback hip hop. Opening track "Genesis" imagines the ominous origin of some threatening space villain complete with beat-driven light saber battle, laser beams blasts, a spooky disembodied chorus, funky disco-guitar and a cracking one-two beat. On "New Jack" Justice utilize their trademark technique: laying down a keyboard beat and ghostly vocal sample groove then cutting it up beyond recognition with scratches of manipulated static. The standout track, however, and probably the song of the summer, is "D.A.N.C.E." a Michael Jackson "P.Y.T" homage that sounds like the freshest party track from futuristic 1982.

Originally Published in the Boston Globe.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

MOBILE: Tomorrow Starts Today

Montreal Dance Punk
Canada is, like, so hottt right now. It won’t be long before labels start dragging their omnivorous nets through the lesser depths of the country’s music scene. Get ready then for a wave of Canuck bush leaguers with European affectations and Americanized populist ambition. Or so I thought before putting this on. Boy was I wrong. Two seconds into the blazing “Tomorrow Starts Today” -- all propulsive, jerky dance beats, dark waves of down stroke guitar and snotty call and response vocals -- I’d found my new summer jam. (Note to friends: expect to find this on all my future playlists). Sure, they say they’re influenced by the Cure and New Order, (yawn) and the record is all slick production -- mainstream modern rock for the coked up photoblog set -- but when the choruses are this big and fun who cares about original. Original is never this easy to dance to anyway. (The Militia Group; www.themilitiagroup.com)

Originally Published in Alternative Press.


Mall Punk goes to the Beach
Newsflash: Yellowcard play cookie-cutter pop punk that is nearly indistinguishable from any of a dozen other bands reviewed in these pages. The gimmicky violin buried almost inaudibly in every mix notwithstanding, there’s little to set them apart. Except, of course, their inability to write anything less than giant, rock your face off choruses. All of that is on display here: soaring hooks, crunchy pogo-riffs, emo-light counterpoint vocal melodies, circular, ascending guitar/violin motifs and vaguely life-affirming lyrics like “I’ll never give up, no I’ll never give up.” Strangely, they sometimes lapse into a weird sort of modern rock karaoke here with Incubus affectations on “Light Up the Sky” or the Blink 182 vocals on “The Takedown.” Anyway, this record will still sound great at the mall, or at the beach, or -- even better -- at a mall near the beach! (Capitol Records;
www.capitolrecords.com) Originally published in Alternative Press.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Franklin Cafe

"This is like a New England thing," bartender Dennis Cargill said, pushing a tall, colorful highball onto the bar, rocks clinking suggestively against the glass. "When you were good your mom would take you to Brighams for a rickey. This is like the alcoholic version." It strikes us after sipping the Franklin Café's (278 Shawmut Ave., 617-350-0010. franklincafe.com.) take on the Rasberry Rickey (Stoli Razberri, chambord, soda and lime juice, $8) just how right he is. Although now that we're adults, we can drink as many as we want! Too bad the Franklin's seasonal drink list is so deep it's hard to decide where to begin (and when to stop). We suggest the Tangerine Gimlet (Johnny Love Tangerine Vodka, cointreau, simple syrup, basil and lime, up, all drinks $8), a drink that should force the mojito into retirement. The key, says Cargill, is that the syrup itself is infused with basil. A bit harsher is the Diabolique (Fig-infused bourbon with an orange twist, rocks), although the fig tugs at the sting of the bourbon. Bowen's Best Iced Tea (Hennesey, White Lillet, Jasmine Tea, Lemon) is another sinfully refreshing front-porch-in-the-summer cocktail, but the big surprise of the night came with the boring old Dark and Stormy (Goslings, Ginger Beer, Tamarind Puree), which we were avoiding out of D&S fatigue. "This is easily the best one I've ever had," our companion said. Usually the rum floats on top, but here it was evenly mixed while the ginger maintained. The tamarind puree added a spicy, exotic angle. It's hard to surprise jaded palates without going over board, but mission accomplished. They even got to get us to enjoy gin -- the vegetables of alcohol -- with the Ginger Rodgers (Gin, Muddled Mint, Ginger Simple Syrup, Lemon, Ginger Ale), a drink that fizzed sweetly on the tongue. Mom would be proud.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tuesday, Get 'er Done

MUSIC Carrying on
He's since gone onto rock 'n' roll mega-stardom with mopey grunge-metal heroes Soundgarden and the recently defunct commercial radio juggernaut -- and Rage Against the Machine-hybrid Audioslave -- but to us
Chris Cornell will always be that deep-woods hippie banshee wailing about going hungry with Eddie Vedder in the "Temple of the Dog" video. On his own once again, he's just released a second solo album called "Carry On," featuring -- inexplicably -- a cover of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean." Hopefully he'll throw that one into the set tonight. Sometime movie star/ full-time weirdo Juliette Lewis and her band the Licks support. 6:30 p.m. Tickets $25-$35. Bank of America Pavilion, 290 Northern Ave. 617-728-1600. livenation.com

Dead to the world
Many of us still have nightmares about dissecting frogs in high school biology class. It's no wonder then that many medical students develop curiously morbid relationships with their cadavers in first-year anatomy classes. "Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality From the Human Anatomy Lab" is a strangely moving tale about author
Christine Montross' friend Eve. A friend whose intestines and organs she's held in her hands. Friends don't get much closer than that. In the part memoir, part scientific treatise, Montross suggests a warmth uncommon in such a clinically detached setting. She reads from the book tonight at 7. Free. Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St., Brookline. 617-566-6660. brooklinebooksmith.com

NETWORKING Mix and match

All of you young professionals out there who complain about not being able to meet people at bars need to do one of two things: stop going to bars or sign up for one of the Boston Young Professionals Association mixers. Tonight the community networking and charity group with more than 10,000 members and 150 events a year brings the party to the roof deck of the Baseball Tavern in the Fenway. Its website says it's a "guaranteed good time!" No word on if that's a money-back guarantee. Tickets $10, $5 members. 6-8 p.m. The Baseball Tavern, 1270 Boylston St. 617-437-1644. bostonypa.com

Quick Picks

Karaoke If the karaoke selections at the Harvard Square rock 'n' roll dive Charlie's Kitchen are anything like its jukebox, expect to hear a lot of boozy renditions of everything from punk rock to . . . punk rock. Nothing makes those great Charlie's hamburgers go down like a wasted dude murdering the Clash. Join the fun every Tuesday. Come early to sign-up. 10 p.m. Free. 21-plus. 10 Elliot St., Cambridge. 617-492-9646.

Tickets Unlike with recorded music these days, you still have to actually pay to see a live concert. Maybe it's because you're all getting their songs for free, but it seems like big-ticket shows are more expensive this year. Today from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. you can work around that with Live Nation's Ten Dollar Tuesday promotion, during which a limited number of tickets to some upcoming Bank of America Pavilion and Tweeter Center shows are on sale . Go to ticket master.com for details.

Food Feeling left out, tomato connoisseurs? Fear not: Beacon Hill restaurant 75 Chestnut (below) has you covered. Beginning tonight and running though Saturday its chef has put together a menu of locally grown, tomato-heavy dishes like fire-roasted and chilled vine-ripened tomato soup and a domestic rack of lamb on char-grilled tomato-arugula salad and tomato-thyme sorbet. 75 Chestnut St., Boston. 617-227-2175. 75chestnut.com


Comedy During the 1970s, George Carlin seemed like a grumpy old man in training. Now that he's actually over the hill, he's angrier than ever. Thankfully the continuous stream of powerful idiots fouling up the country and culture will probably give him enough to complain about until he's 100. He'll perform his stand-up act Thursday. Tickets $36-$55. 8 p.m. 18-plus. Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach, N.H. 603-929-4100 casinoball room.com

Music The Grammy-nominated duo Floetry, comprising Marsha "the Songstress" Ambrosius and Natalie "the Floacist" Stewart, bring their act to town on Thursday. Not sure what a floacist is, but if it's something to do with smooth, hip-hop-like R&B like "SupaStar," the pair's chilled-out romance groove collaboration with Common, we want to hear more . Tickets $20. 8 p.m. 18-plus. Paradise, 969 Commonwealth Ave., 617-562-8800. thedise.com

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Chromeo: "Tenderoni"

The electrofunk genre explosion continues with this track from Montreal's two man assault team Chromeo. It's one part synth bass and talk-box robotic indifference, and ten parts pure funk. Just don't call their vintage affectations retro. There's no faking a groove this smooth.

Listen here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bar: Deep Ellum

The amazon.com of beer

Inertia governs our drinking habits. The process of discovery often seems overbearing. Everyone likes the idea of trying something new in theory, but when we finally get the bartender’s attention, all of our good intentions dissipate, and we end up ordering the same old thing.

That shouldn’t be a problem at Deep Ellum (477 Cambridge St., Allston. 617-787-2337. deepellum-boston.com). The extremely knowledgeable staff is passionate about beer and eager to share that knowledge with the guests. And so we were treated to a veritable history lesson from bartender Jen Heineck and waitress Ronit Hasson on a recent visit. ‘‘The beer list is intimidating,’’ said Hasson. ‘‘The people expect us to guide them.’’ Which they did, ably, spanning the history of German and Belgian beer, ancient mead-making, and the lifespan of yeast.

‘‘We love to get people excited about beer,’’ said Heineck. ‘‘There’s a story behind each one. We’re like the Amazon.com of beer, you know, ‘recommended if you like .....’ So if someone orders a well-known beer like a Hoegarden, I’ll get them to try the Erdinger’’ (German Heffe-Weisse, 5.2 percent alcohol by volume, $7).

We also tried the Belgian De Ranke Guldenberg Abbey Style Ale (8.5 percent, $8), an extremely hoppy but subtle blond ale. Next up came the Czech Krusovice Swartzbier Black Lager (3.8 percent, $6). It has a low alcohol content, but its dark hue and heavy coffee nose are deceptive. Sweet, but not overpowering, it has an almost butterscotch taste — a little more complex than your average commercial swill.

When we mentioned that we usually preferred IPAs, the Californian Pizza Port Wipeout IPA (7 percent, $10) was proffered. ‘‘A good IPA should be hoppy, but not all you taste,’’ explained Heineck. ‘‘Think of it like baking. Malt is like your flour, and hops are your spices.’’ The beer itself was quite strong. Zesty and bitter, but with little indication of how hard it was going to hit us later on. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

Originally pubished in the Boston Globe.

Enrique Metinides

I avert my eyes from car accidents. Seeing fights in bars usually makes my stomach turn, and I really have no interest in war journalism. But when a friend turned me on to the photography of Mexican photojournalist Enrique Metinides recently, I was instantly riveted. Metinides, who caught the bug at a very young age when he photographed his first dead body, went on to become one of Mexico City's most well-known tabloid photographers, taking shots of plane wrecks, electrocutions, murder and suicide victims, and everything in between. His work amounts to a haunting series of tragedies: the explosions of grief, yes, but also the banality of destruction. Many of the shots look posed, almost hyper-real, as if the most basic stuff of everyday existence is too tidy to carry the weight of misfortune the photo implies. It's usually the onlookers in the shots who supply this feeling. We catch them taking in the mess that we ourselves have come to look at, and we're all implicated. Should images of pain be this beautiful? There's not enough space here to answer that, but all I know is that I can't stop looking although I really, really want to. My nightmares will be a little more vivid tonight. Search for his photos online right now, and see if you don't have the same problem.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Author Michael Fournier

Continuum Books 33 1/3 series is basically a music nerd’s dream on the page. The idea is simple but effective: one author, one seminal album, one story. Mass native and longtime music critic Michael Fournier’s “Double Nickels on the Dime” tackles the widely influential punk band, The Minutemen.

So who is this book for, die hard Minutemen fans only, or would music fans in general find something of interest?

The Minutemen were huge music fans, and thought they were wearing their hearts on their sleeves. In their eyes, the references they made in their music were obvious homages to their influences, but in practice were so wrapped in code and specifics that the humor largely went over the heads of their fanbase. I think music fans speak in their own vernacular — I know me and my friends do, especially on Monday nights when we get together to geek out. Minutemen fans will dig my book, but the common threads of friendship and secret languages/histories will make it fun to read for any fan of music.

Who is the Minutemen fan anyway?
I didn’t have any idea before I went out on tour. I’m in Seattle right now, a few hours before me last West Coast reading, and I’m still not able to pigeonhole the band’s fanbase. There have been teenagers, beatniks, peaceniks, hippies, punks, skaters and academics at my readings.

You started out publishing your own zines in New Hampshire. Have blogs watered down the medium now that it’s so easy to foist your opinions on the world?

Blogs can be a lot of fun, but they’ll never have the artifact status that zines do. It still blows my mind when I look at back issues of Forced Exposure and see which records were coming out in the fall of ‘84, you know?

Speaking of blogs, on yours you mention you’ve reviewed every album you own in alphabetical order. Are you some kind of masochist?
I didn’t think I was until I got to the 40-plus Jandek albums in my collection.

Have you read many of the other 33 1/3 series books? Have a favorite?
I’ve read a bunch. I enjoyed the one about the MC5’s “Kick Out The Jams” album, and thought that the Radiohead installment was beamed in from another planet (in a good way). I’m looking forward to reading the new Captain Beefheart and PJ Harvey volumes. The forthcoming Public Enemy book is gonna be awesome --it will detail every sample used on “Nation Of Millions.” Dorks ahoy!

You teach a “history of punk rock” course at Tufts. What is that like?
My course, like the Minutemen, emphasizes that punk is whatever we make it to be (except punk never has midterms or paper assignments).

Originally published in the Boston Metro.

Bill Maher

Is there anything Bill Maher isn't 100 percent right about? No, there is not. Whether it's Iraq, the war on drugs, and the craven hypocrisy of our leaders, or healthcare, big pharma, and the food industry (the true Axis of Evil), the host of "Real Time With Bill Maher" on HBO is always spot-on. We could use more of his ilk in the so-called real press these days. Sure, he's funny, too, but we're in the market for righteous (and rightful) indignation more than cheap laughs lately. You'll probably get both when he performs tonight at 8 and tomorrow night at 9:30 at the Berklee Performance Center. Wear something nice, please, as the shows are being taped for HBO; Saturday's will be broadcast live. Tickets, $49.50, $55. Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Ave. 617-747-2261. berkleebpc.com

Plymouth Independent Film Festival

You ever wonder what movies the pilgrims were watching when they arrived in Plymouth? We'd like to think that if they didn't put them in the stocks, they'd be proud of their geographic descendants who have turned the historic seaside city into the home of a burgeoning independent film festival. Now in its third year, the Plymouth Independent Film Festival will screen more than 40 movies this weekend, including 17 by Massachusetts filmmakers. Tonight at 7:30 at the Plimoth Plantation Museum, check out "Make Levee Not War," a collection of interviews with survivors of Hurricane Katrina, followed by a Q&A with writer and producer Ted Maguire. At the awards ceremony on Saturday, environmental activist Jan Schlichtmann (the inspiration for the Oscar-nominated film "A Civil Action" ) will receive the festival's Maverick Award. All that plus workshops and free outdoor movie screenings on the waterfront. Tickets: $8 per film. $40 for a day pass, $42 for weekend pass, or $225 for a festival pass. Show times and locations vary. 508-801-2530. plyfilmfest.org

Souls of Mischief

Best known for their early '90s classic " '93 Till Infinity" -- the Source magazine called it one of the top 100 rap albums ever -- California's Souls of Mischief are only slightly less well known for making a certain young man think he was a skateboarding rapper for a brief period in high school. Both worthy accomplishments. Later rapping as part of the hip-hop collective Hieroglyphics, a group that also included Del tha Funkee Homosapien, the members of the Souls of Mischief have managed to stay fresh after all these years. Strap on your backpack for the show tonight at 9. Tickets $12-$15; 18-plus. Paradise Rock Club, 967 Commonwealth Ave., 617-562-8800. thedise.com

Mobile: "See Right Through Me"

The Canadian version of the Killers absolutely kill with the song of the summer. It's a hurtling blast of stadium rock pathos, huge drums and piano swells and the type of generic, but still potentially life changing lyrical uplift you can't get this side of the Goo Goo Dolls. Listen here.

Siena Farms

If you’re fans of the outstanding Mediterranean and Turkish food at Oleana in Cambridge, you probably wonder where they get all of their beautiful ingredients from. Turns out chef Ana Sortun and her husband Chris Kurth have a farm in Sudbury where all of the restaurant's in season vegetables are grown and harvested daily. You might not be able to whip anything together as nice as their Cucumber & Melon Fatoush with Za'atar & Farmer Chris' Fresh-Fresh Greens, but on Tuesday, July 24, you can give it your best shot when Kurth brings his wears to Whole Foods in Brighton as part of their local farmers series. 4p.m. Whole Foods, 15 Washington St., Brighton. 617-738-8187. sienafarms.com.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Matt and Kim

OK, let's see. Jerky rhythms? Check. Precocious lyrics and shouted vocals? Check. No more than two members in the band -- one male, one female? Check. Oh, and they're from Brooklyn, too? Hipster Bingo! Matt and Kim pretty much have all the bases covered to become the next darlings of the indie-rock music-blog set. Their minimal synth-driven songs and lo-fi production values, not to mention their huggable persona, make them totes crush-worthy. Fall for them tonight. With Magic People and Howarewe Hawaii? Tickets: $10. Show starts at 9; 18-plus. Middle East Upstairs, 472 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-864-3278. mideastclub.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Justice: "D.A.N.C.E."

With its funky slap bass and retro keyboard blasts, "D.A.N.C.E." is an homage of sorts to Michael Jackson's "PYT." Perhaps coincidentally, the French house duo Justice enlists the services of a London children's choir for the playground-style vocals on this banging disco track.

Listen here.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Going to the movies alone

You know that weird loser sitting by himself in the movie theater? That's me. And from the reactions I get when I tell people I do this a lot, you'd think I was skulking around the theater in a trench coat and ski mask. "By yourself!?" they ask. "Don't you have any friends?" Yes and no. The tortuous agony of getting two or more people to decide on anything just isn't worth it. One friend likes cheesy action films; one won't see anything without subtitles. So my solution has been to just ditch the friends. Who needs 'em? It's nice to have someone to discuss the film with afterward, but now with so many movie message boards on the internet, IRL friends are mostly obsolete. Unlike sporting events or concerts, films aren't meant to be a collectively shared medium. Just me versus the bright lights blasting into my head. I don't want you to dampen that experience by asking, "Who's that guy?" or giving me a high five when the villain gets hit in the crotch with a basketball. And let's not get into the sound of you crinkling the popcorn bag. So, if it means I have to trade a cursory bonding experience with you in exchange for a little peace and quiet at the film of my choice, you, dear friends, just aren't going to win out over my real buddies, the Transformers.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Boston Taxi Fare Finder

I don't really go in for hyperbole, but the Boston Taxi Fare Finder is the greatest website application ever. Google Street View is revolutionary, sure, but it doesn't exactly have any practical use unless you're a terrorist or a Peeping Tom. But being able to estimate the cost of your taxi ride from point A to point B before you even set foot to pavement? That's a game changer. Says here that a cab from my place in Watertown to the Globe would cost about $36.30 and is about 12.51 miles. Looks like I'm gonna have to expense that ride.

Plot your route here.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Tilly and the Wall "The Freest Man"

Tilly and the Wall call on Brazilian party rockers CSS to put the chill to their synthy indie-folk on this remix. Detached vocoder pining and reluctant, broken-hearted dancing never sounded so fun.

Listen here.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Attack of the driving houses

It doesn't matter who you are, the site of a house driving down the street is just plain funny. Apparently the people who took this video and the crowds who lined a shut-down Mass. Ave. last weekend agree: "Look, it's like a big car, that you can live in!" "How many bathrooms per gallon you get in that thing?" So many bad jokes, so little time. Anyway, in case you missed it, watch it and try not to imagine a futuristic scenario in which the houses have had enough human meddling and take to the streets to fight back. Scary and awesome.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Chuck Klosterman

"Hey, remember the '80s? Man, our [expletive] shared fondness for [some bit of esoteric pop-culture reference] sure seems funny in retrospect now doesn't it? It's not unlike some [embarrassing sexual encounter, or lack thereof]. Also [some undeniably awful band, probably KISS] was [either the greatest/worst thing ever, depending on whichever sounds more argumentative in this context]." OK, I've now saved you the trouble of ever having to read another word by "humorous" music journalist Chuck Klosterman. Consider that a favor. For the poor souls reading magazines like Spin, Esquire, and GQ for the past six or seven years, he's been an unavoidably pernicious influence on music writing - the literary embodiment of VH1-style nostalgia irony. Infuriating to sensible readers like myself. Readers who, you know, still, um, read everything he writes. Granted, his books pay off at a rate of about one thought-provoking observation per dozen banal, purposefully provocative ones, but somehow they always end up making me embarrassed for all of us, and not in the way he intends. So why am I reading his book "Fargo Rock City" right now? Masochism? For the first time in my life I literally threw down a book in disgust during one of his vaguely-intellectual chapters on hair-metal videos. But then a few minutes later I picked it back up. Probably because Klosterman's career is the holy grail for smart-aleck music writers like myself, and I'm just jealous he got there first.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.