Friday, August 31, 2007


Pop/jam-band thing more than the sum of its parts

In the tricky arithmetic of interband influence, summarizing a band’s sound is like formulating a word problem based on the answer; but in the case of the dynamic New Orleans-based band MuteMath, it's pretty straightforward: Sting-y vocals + programmed samples and breakbeats + jam-band trappings. Case closed.

But it's the smooth convergence of this hodgepodge of sound—plus a death-defying stage show (see keyboards treated like pommel horses along with other gymnastic maneuvers in the much buzzed-over video for their breast-beating arena anthem "Typical")—that have made MuteMath into a must-see live band. Singer/keyboardist Paul Meany has called their approach "making music without barriers," which sounds suspiciously like hippie talk, but actually makes sense in this context. "A lot of times when you come up with a song idea," he adds, "it's easy to put it through your instinctual formula that you lean back on. We made the effort to not be concerned with that; to take the formula barriers off and see what happens if we let one part lead to another."

Indeed, part of the attraction of MuteMath's self-titled record comes in the interplay between traditional pop-oriented songs like the romantic Police rip "Noticed" and more experimental tracks like "Reset"—a song that wouldn't sound out of place on Entroducing. Meany’s flattered by the Sting comparison, "but I wouldn't say it myself,” he says. “The best I could do is something that Sting would blow out of his ass." He doesn't think of himself as a vocalist, per se, and his musical aerobics onstage only further complicate things.

"A lot of times in a show, I have to choose between breathing and singing or letting myself go. I can't have both,” he says. “Maybe I should jog more."

But the theatrics work, and Meany, the consummate showman, scored a lot of attention for a recent keytar smashing on Jimmy Kimmel. Rock & roll, right? "That would be sad, smashing a keytar on national television being the most rock & roll thing I've ever done," he says, laughing. "And sadly, it is."

A gig recasting the Transformers theme song for the movie soundtrack and a surprising American Idol nod when contestant Chris Sligh performed "Typical" on air have brought the band additional rock notoriety—or infamy, depending on how you look at such things.

"That was surreal," Meany says. "This guy singing our song for millions of people while we were in England in a little pub singing it for a hundred."

Originally published in the Weekly Dig

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Lead Sails Paper Anchor
Hollywood Records
Forget MTV or commercial radio; the new measure of a band’s potential is this: do you skip through their song when it comes up on a sports videogame? By that metric Orange County metal core road warriors Atreyu, whose “Become the Bull” is featured on Madden NFL ‘08, seem destined for another underground hit. Although one wonders if the sophistication and wounded-beast sensitivity of some of the lyrical content might be lost on kids busy pwning each other. Not that this is some wilting-flower story of emo heartbreak -- although those kids will probably like it too -- there is plenty of hard-hitting excess here to satisfy both the glammy metal throwbacks and the meat and potatoes punk crowd as well. “Honor,” like much of the record, is a whorl of muscular riffing and sing along punk colored by flashy metal accoutrements. Singer Alex Varkatzas in particular puts in a memorable performance, offsetting the bombast of his throaty, violent screams with an expansive and clear singing style. It’s a heavily produced record, but with just enough stench and dirt to make it safe for those who don’t like their music too safe.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Tuesday Get 'Er Done

For a band that landed at what looked liked the tail end of the eighties-obsessed dance rock explosion a few years back, VHS or Beta -- the best NYC band from Louisville, Kentucky ever -- managed to wring something seemingly original out of an already tired formula. Their Cure-style guitars and vocals stacked atop care free disco beats on 2004’s Night on Fire were par for the course, but there was a warmth to their house music indulgences that expanded and individuated their sound. They keep the party going tonight with a performance in support of the newly released Bring on the Comets. 9p.m. 18+. Tickets $12. Great Scott, 1222 Comm. Ave., Allston. 617.566.9014. [Luke O’Neil]


“"My work is about transformation, re-generation and the dynamic co-existence of the seemingly opposite,” Rani Sarin told us recently. The artist, who blends layers of contemporary and older prints and handmade paper says “I add and take away, revealing and concealing to create a dynamic new work that is both old and new, the past and the present.” Sankskar - Impressions, an exhibit of her latest prints and collages, can be seen beginning today. A reception will be held on Sunday, September 9. Depot Square Gallery, 1837 Massachusetts Avenue, Lexington. 781-863-1597. [Luke O’Neil]

Every so often the modern rock gods get together at some dingy dive bar in the clouds and, stroking their heroic goatees, bestow upon us mortals a rock power-ballad hewn from the purest gem stones of a thousand front-lawn Camaros and discarded bud light sixers. This year they’ve blessed us with “Lips of an Angel” the hit tear-jerker ode to righteous infidelity from way late to the grunge party rockers Hinder. A song so delightfully, regrettably memorable we’ll be singing it at karaoke bars in space a hundred years from now. We’re guessing Hinder saves that one for last tonight at the WAAF Dirty Summer Circus with Papa Roach, Buckcherry and Revelation Theory. 6p.m. Tickets $30-$35. Bank of America Pavilion, 290 Northern Ave. 617.728.1600. [Luke O’Neil]


By Luke O’Neil


You people sure do love your tales of devastation and danger at sea. And who can blame you? The ocean, she is scary, and she will kill you. Hard. Author Michael Tougias, best known for his book Ten Hours Till Dawn about a tragedy at sea during the blizzard of ‘78, returns to the well with Fatal Forecast: An Incredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea. When a seventy foot wave overturns his boat off of Cape Cod, Ernie Banks miraculously makes it into a lifeboat. And that’s just the beginning of the adventure. Tougias presents an illustrated author talk with slides from the actual rescue tonight. 7:30p.m. Free, but call to reserve a seat. Waltham Public Library, 735 Main St., Waltham. 781-314-3425.


All you wannabe Irish in Boston -- and there are no shortage of you --- take note: Born in Dublin, musician and folk singer Tom O’Carroll knows a thing or two about the history of his country. He blends witty anecdotes and bits of folklore into his rousing songs on the guitar, tin whistle and bodhan. Pretty sure they won’t be pouring pints of Guiness in the book stacks for this performance, but you’ll feel like you’re back in the pub at the old country all the same when O’Carroll performs From Tribe to Nation: A Musical Journey Through the History of Ireland. 7p.m. Free. Medford Public Library, 111High St., Medford. 781-395-7950.


Margaritaville, as everyone knows, is more a place in the mind than it is some tourist trap island simulacrum; although it most certainly is also that. So technically we could both be in Margaritaville right now: writing this article at a laptop with our pants off, and reading it on the T or whatever it is you crazy people do. There are, of course, certain ways to get closer to the ideal, and the Spirit of Boston has just the fix. “Set Sail to Margaritaville” tonight with the Spirit of Boston’s Parrothead Dinner Cruise. With an island theme, a dinner buffet and plenty of Jimmy Buffet music (plus a chance to win tickets to his upcoming show) there’s a little something for everyone. Everyone weirdly obsessed with laid back beach rock that is. 6:30p.m. Tickets $50. Spirit of Boston, Seaport World Trade Center. 617-749-1450.


Mistaken identity, double entendres and all around farcical situations are par for the course in Ken Ludwig’s 1934 play. Set before the production of a big performance from the Cleveland Grand Opera, a number of mishaps put the producer in a “show must go on” situation that’s as funny as it is unbelievable. The Cape Playhouse presents Lend Me a Tenor, directed by Pamela Hunt, beginning tonight and running through September 8. 8p.m. Tickets $25-$45. 820 Main St., Route 6A, Dennis. 877-385-3911.


The Kaji Aso Studio in Boston offers courses of study for students and lovers of art, poetry, music, philosophy and Japanese culture. The Gallery provides the space to exhibit the work of its member artists and others. Of course, maintaining a non-profit operation like this isn’t free, so they’re holding an annual rummage sale/fundraiser today. With a variety of items on sale, including plenty of necessities for all you incoming students like bookshelves, desks and other dorm-room furnishings, you’ll be picking up stuff you need while helping out a pretty cool little art studio. Everyone wins. 3p.m.-7p.m. Kaji Aso Studio, 40 St. Stephen St. 617-247-1719.


If scientists could figure out a way to harness the sweaty eyeliner run off at this show and turn it into renewable energy Al Gore would be out of a job faster than you can say “emo sucks.” In the meantime we’ll have to be content to power ourselves on good old fashioned teen angst and the mournful sounds of screamy, industrial rap, power-balladeers Linkin Park and screamy, punky, walking comic book power-balladeers My Chemical Romance who come to town on Friday for the Project Revolution Tour. No doubt it’s sponsored by some energy drink or another. Just guessing. 12:45 p.m. Tickets $24.50-$70. Tweeter Center, 885 South Main St. Mansfield. 508-339-2333.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Iller Than Theirs

“Wash, Rinse, Repeat”
The classic breaks and ghostly chorus sample floating in the background of this track from Brooklyn’s Iller Then Theirs hypnotizes you into such a sense of smooth comfort that its startling when you realize what a righteous fury emcees Krayo and Tone Tank are working themselves into. Hear it at

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Friday, August 17, 2007


"With Every Heartbeat"
There's a fine line between eurotrash club cliché and life-affirming holy grail of dancefloor authenticity. Swedish electro pop diva Robyn lands on the awesome side of trite with this transfixing club-killer.
Listen here.

Northern State
"Away Away" The Long Island hip hop trio, best known for their heady rhymes and old school b-girl style, do more singing than spitting on this mellow, romantic track, finally completing their inevitable transformation into a 21st century Luscious Jackson. Listen here.

The Sri Lanka by way of London reggae, electro, grime, hip hop, whatever artist further tightens her stranglehold on our hearts with this stomping tribal beat and playful chant-along throw down. No one makes nonsense like "na na na" sound so playful and powerful at once.
Listen here.

Guilty Pleasures: Lindsay Lohan

When we were children, it used to be we paid attention to movie stars because of what they did on the screen. Look, Harrison Ford is flying a spaceship and saving the princess and cracking wise with his giant Wookie buddy! Harrison Ford is beating up the Nazis and he never forgets his hat! Julia Roberts sure isn't taking any crap from those rich snobs! But now it seems our fascination has a lot more to do with stars' off-screen exploits. With the proliferation of celebrity-gossip magazines and blogs it's becoming harder to see them as anything other than themselves. Their egotistical, spoiled, libertine selves. It sort of ruins the illusion, doesn't it? Although in some cases their lecherous, loutish or slutty behavior is just inexplicably captivating. Stupid, but captivating. Train wreck du jour Lindsay Lohan is case in point. Is there a more vacuous and potentially self-immolating young movie star (who also has talent -- sorry Paris) "working" right now? I know I shouldn't pay attention, but how often do we get to watch someone literally flushing all their potential down the toilet in such a theatrical flameout? (Your own drunk friends don't have the same luster). I'm refreshing my browser set to and all day to find out more details of this "news story." And, admittedly to see some more pictures of her in a bikini (sue me). Never mind fighting bad guys in space, getting wasted and pulled over twice for a DUI and drug possession… and getting away with it! Now that's some superhero style.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Guilty Pleasures: Tom Brady

I have the biggest man crush ever on Tom Brady. Who doesn't, right? It still seems so juvenile. But is there anything Brady Kid can't do? No. There is not. Remember the end of the AFC Championship game last year, you say? It seemed Mr. Cool finally crumbled under pressure? It was like finding out Santa Clause didn't exist? Wrong! That only made me love him more, because I know he's spent the entire off-season in the Bat Cave drawing up football math equations and tossing thousands of laser beam footballs at invisible ninjas for practice. Hundreds of years from now robot historians from the Moon are going to sift through the archaeological detritus of our era and speculate that Brady was some sort of armored demi-god of war. And love. And fertility. And beauty. It doesn't hurt our special unspoken kinship that a lot of people (ok, only my mom) tell me I look like him, or that he just turned thirty as well. God, we have so much in common. Call me, Tom. Please.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Guilty Pleasures: Spicy Indian Food

There are a few things you learn very quickly to not try a second time: touch a hot stove, head butt a roiling bee hive, lower yourself into the polar bear habitat at the zoo with your pockets stuffed with mackerel. But for some reason a few sorely needed lessons simply don't stick: we fall in love too easily, vote Democrats into power expecting something to change and order the spiciest Indian food on the menu. That last one isn't so much just a guilty pleasure of mine as a life-threatening addiction. I'm like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football every time I walk into an Indian restaurant. "This time! Yes, this time I am going to come out on top." Wrong. Cut to a scene of my girlfriend and I at Café of India in Harvard Square the other night. About two bites into my meal and I'm sweating like Michael Vick at a PETA rally. I had to head to the bathroom about three times to freshen up mid-meal like fat Elvis making costume changes. "It's a good thing this isn't our first date," she said. "I've made a terrible mistake," I thought, digging right back into my dish. What kind of alien, nuclear-virus peppers do they put in this stuff? And why does it taste so good? I'll ask next time I order it.

Originally published in the Boston Globe.

Punk Rock Poetry

One thing pretty much everyone in America can agree on is that they don’t give a crap about poetry. But that might be changing. Once the domain of stuffy old white dudes, the beauty -- and power -- of verse is trickling down America’s pant leg into dingier, punkier territory. Musician, poet and promoter Clay N. Ferno will perform as part of a Stand Up Punk Rock Spoken Word showcase this weekend.

Explain the concept behind punk rock spoken word poetry to people who might think it's a contradiction?

Duncan (Wilder Johnson, also performing) and I have been doing these shows for almost ten years! Duncan is way more professional than myself, and has done tons of touring, doing spoken word. It's always tricky to explain, but this is the title we chose for this event and will use going forward. It's part stand-up, part poetry, and a lot of storytelling. We just threw the word punk in because it looks cool! Just kidding, most of these writers are into a similar kind of music, play in bands and are partly inspired by the likes of Jello Biafra and Henry Rollins.

Are there any similarities between what you guys are doing and, you know, "real" poetry?

I actually read short poems as part of my set. So what? Wanna fight about it? Poetry is art, open to interpretation by the artist and the observers.

Who are your favorite spoken word artists?

Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, and pretty much all of the Beat Poets and Charles Bukowski's recorded works.

Slam poetry gets a pretty bad rap. What do people get wrong about it?

It might be the competition aspect of the slam scene. Not many people are into the spoken word or slam scenes, there are misconceptions all over the place. I always direct people to HBO's Def Poetry to introduce them to the concept. It's not for everyone, but I enjoy the performance, the meter, the rhyme...all of the stuff that they teach you to appreciate in high school English, while you are drawing "Aerosmith" on your book cover.

What sort of topics will your performance deal with? Political? Social? Scene politics bs?

Personally, I deal with man's relationship to the universe, pop culture, political and social awkwardness, and I have some stories about the carefree days of my youth; tuning in and dropping out.

Give us a little taste of a few of your own favorite verses:

This isn't Generation X, this is Generation F'd/ Generation Trade in our forest for a Bacon Burger/ Generation Wage Slave/ Generation Class War/ Generation I want to be a field surgeon
where everyone knows my name/ "Hey Radar, get me another beer!"/ "Sure, I'll put it on your tab, Coach!"....

The Phoenix had you on the cover and asked if you were the most popular man in Boston. How'd that work for your social life?

Oh boy, you know I love this question. I love it, Fox news did a follow up story suspiciously right after Rupert Murdoch bought the site. Have you seen the documentary "Outfoxed"? Anyway, I work in a social atmosphere (at the Middle East club) and it's great, people I don't know call me by name, and are always saying hello, even to this day, 2 years later!

Originally published in the Boston Metro.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tuesday, Get 'Er Done.

Shots in the dark We like modern rock super groups as much as the next guy in an oversized Patriots jersey, so we're in for a big treat when Velvet Revolver, featuring members of Guns 'N Roses and Stone Temple Pilots, terrorize the Mansfield countryside tonight like a guitar-slinging Frankenstein's Monster. But it's the undercard that has us truly pumped. We haven't seen any of the Alice in Chains reunion shows since the sad demise of singer Layne Staley -- now, Comes With the Fall singer William DuVall handles lead wailing, groaning, and screaming duties. But with songs as good as theirs, you could put Karl Rove in a gorilla costume and an unplugged microphone onstage and it would still rock. 7 p.m. Tickets $25-$50. Tweeter Center, 885 South Main St., Mansfield. livenation .com


Sweet and flirty Let's sum up briefly what we know about sangria here: 1) it's quite possibly the perfect summer drink, and 2) don't drink too much of it or you will regret it. Lesson over. If you want to know more about the traditional Spanish wine punch, you'll have to head over tonight to Tasca Spanish Tapas Restaurant, where the people from Boston Uncorked are hosting Sangria Sensación: An Exploration of the World of Sangria . Sample eight different types of sangria -- red and white -- and learn more about the drink in a friendly, social atmosphere. Tickets $39. 7-9 p.m. 1612 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton. 617-730-8002. [Luke O'Neil]

SPORTS Horde of the ring

We stopped following pro wrestling back when the Ultimate Warrior retired or stormed off back to Parts Unknown or wherever he was from. But apparently millions of people all over the country still love this stuff. Catch some of your favorite World Wrestling Entertainment stars at Mohegan Sun Arena tonight for a Smackdown Event. Expect Kane, Batista, the Great Khali, and more to stomp around in angry defiance in tiny little underpants. The only thing more scripted than these matches is your upcoming losing streak at the blackjack tables. 7:30 p.m. Tickets $20-$70. 1 Mohegan Sun Boulevard, Uncasville, Conn. 888-226-7711.


The smooth international flavor of Gipsy Kings' pop flamenco songs may have won them widespread acclaim, but for us, the inclusion of their Spanish language version of "Hotel California" in a pivotal scene in "The Big Lebowski" will always be their most shining moment. They perform tonight. 6:30 p.m. Tickets $30-40. Bank of American Pavilion, 290 Northern Ave., 617-728-1600.


Nevermind all this organic food business. If you really want to go green, you need to start eating locally. Step No. 1 in your new life: the Copley Square Farmer's Market. Tuesdays throughout the summer, pick from some of the freshest locally grown produce, meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. Bonus: You can feel really smug and superior about your purchases afterward. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saint James Ave., Copley Square. 781-893-8222.

Pseudo gambling

Itching to get in a poker fix but don't want to drive all the way down to Connecticut? Plus, you know, you're just a little afraid of losing any money? The Charlie Horse has that problem solved with its free-to-play Texas Hold 'Em Tournaments. With two tournaments a night, casino-grade tables, chips, and cash prizes to the winner -- it's almost like the real thing. Almost. 6:30 p.m. Free. The Charlie Horse, 674 West Center St., West Bridgewater. 508-583-7252.


Embarrassing yourself in front of a group of drunk strangers with only a piddling computer keyboard accompaniment is old news. All the cool kids are warbling off-key in front of actual live bands these days. Join the growing ranks at All-Star Karaoke at the Milky Way tonight. The Nickel and Dime band and host Ricky McLean have almost 200 songs for you to choose from, from Black Sabbath to Bobby Brown. That pretty much covers all the bases right there. Get practicing kid, you could be a star tonight! Tickets $3. 10 p.m. 21+ Milky Way Lounge and Lanes, 403-405 Centre St., Jamaica Plain. 617-524-3740.