Friday, January 30, 2009

The Shills

The Shills operate outside frames of reference

The exclusionary indie aesthete has become something of an endangered species in recent years; the sheer ubiquity of culture, both pop and otherwise, has leveled the genre playing field.

The prominence of the iPod too has had a hand in that, ushering us into a Shuffle Era, where the eclectic mixing arena of musical styles has progressed from our hard drives to our entire musical outlook. As a result it’s not uncommon for our music listening patterns to flow, somewhat seamlessly, from pop rock acts like, say, Maroon 5, to the more adventurous endeavors of Radiohead, the complex textures of post-rock indie outfits like the Sea and Cake and onto the soul rock of Stevie Wonder and operatic oddities of Queen. Sometimes, with a young act like Boston’s The Shills, you can hear a little of each over the course of one album. Nevermind shuffling between bands, just let their third, self-recorded effort “Ganymede” play out.

“The four of us have different musical backgrounds, but have found a common ground and been influenced by each other to create something new,” explains the band’s guitarist Eric Ryrie. “We take a very thoughtful and considered approach to making something that people haven’t heard before. We want to challenge ourselves, but we want people to be able to connect with what we’re doing.”

What they’re doing on “Ganymede” is blurring boundary lines between “serious” indie rock and more user-friendly pop. Although it’s probably not a concern that they’d cop to, or that you’d even really notice as a listener unless you were over thinking things. But the result is a record with enough shifting rhythms and interlocking guitar textures on a track like the propulsive “Janus” to hold the attention of more cerebral fans, but a dedication to mainstream balladeering that wouldn’t sound out of place on pop radio, if they even still have that by the time this comes out.

Whatever other varied points of influence you may pull from the record, the initial, and probably lasting one comes in songs like “Maybe I’ll Stay Around” where vocalist Bryan Murphy’s breathy falsetto carries the aching burden. There was a time not too far back where every other band was doing that Jeff Buckley thing, but it seems fresh again now.

“We are Jeff Buckley fans, but it’s not a conscious influence,” says Ryrie. “Bryan gets a lot of comparisons due to the range of his voice, but that’s more or less where the comparisons end.”
Another point of departure: there’s very little, if any, talk of love here; it’s a romantic record without the romance.

“’Ganymede’ is a concept album about a misanthrope who gets shipwrecked after leaving society to be alone,” explains Ryrie. “Without anyone else to focus his hate on he is forced to turn inward and slowly drives himself toward insanity. We’ve never been a fan of love songs.”
That sort of thoughtful lyrical content might end up precluding any hypothetical Top 40 spot, but then again The Shills seem comfortable inhabiting the in between spaces anyway.

The Shills
CD Release Show
Middle East Upstairs
472 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
MBTA: Red Line to Central
$9-$10, 18+, 617-864-EAST


Boston Metro

Barcode: Bond

Deposit yourself at Bond

At some point, when there's no money left , we may see all banks turned into bars. Until then, we've got Bond, the new lounge, restaurant, and nightlife spot in the Langham Hotel.

Bond continues what seems to be a trend in Boston nightlife, repurposing old functional buildings (banks, prisons, etc.) into drinking and dining establishments. It's a canny maneuver since the classic architecture and structural character lends the spaces a much-needed sense of history.

It's certainly true of Bond, located within a 1920s Federal Reserve Bank. Original vaulted ceilings and limestone walls give the room an imposing grandeur. Crystal chandeliers and shimmering lights, all reflecting off the soaring mirrors along the walls, only add to the sense of luxury. But the low, lounge-style seating and handsome leather couches keep it from feeling too pretentious and provide great vantage points for people watching.

We saw clutches of Financial District types relaxing at Bond, but also a few young couples flirting; it's a good place to get close to someone, for sure. But if the name, the $14 cocktails, and its well-heeled clientele haven't already clued you in to what the real object of affection is at Bond, then perhaps the giant prints of treasury bonds plastered across the walls will do the trick.

The names of the cocktails further hammer the point home. "All of the names come from bonds and money and presidents," explained Gaylord Lamy, the assistant director of food and beverage, while presenting the Madison (Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate vodka, Chambord, cream, fresh raspberries). Whether or not the founding father would have liked this creamy, frozen cocktail is a mystery, but it did hit all its marks: it's icy, chocolaty, and fruity, without being too much of any one thing. They use less ice than in most frozen drinks, said Lamy, which gives it a "more wintry, creamier texture."

"Champagne cocktails have always been more of a ladies' drink," continued Lamy, introducing the Grant (Hennessy V.S.O.P., sugar cube, Champagne, Chambord). Adding Cognac, he says, gives it a more masculine appeal. While that may be true, the lengthy lemon twist wrapping around the stem of the glass was anything but. It gave the impression of a cocktail in lingerie somehow. And the fizzing sugar cube took most of the edge off the Hennessy anyway.

The Sawbuck (Grey Goose La Poire, lime juice, ginger syrup, basil leaf), with its tingly spice and fruity pear punch, and the Cleveland (Ciroc vodka, Godiva White Chocolate and Dark Chocolate liqueurs) with grape-tickled ropes of rich chocolate decadence are both worth a try.

In this financial climate, a boite dedicated to celebrating luxury and lucre might seem in poor taste. But when it comes to the taste of the cocktails, they're mostly right on the money.

Bond at the Langham Hotel, 250 Franklin St., Boston. 617-451-1900. www.bondboston.com


Boston Globe

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mcsweeney's Lists: Rockinest Weather Forecasts by Decade

Rockinest Weather Forecasts by Decade

By Luke O'Neil

1960s: acid haze

1970s: thunder snow

1980s: St. Elmo's fire

1990s: golden smog

2000s: chocolate rain

Friday, January 23, 2009

Barcode: Franklin Southie

A nice neighborhood fit

One of the best things about the Franklin Cafe in the South End is also one of the worst: Its tiny size and consistent popularity make it almost impossible to find a seat at the bar. So when we heard they were opening another, larger Franklin in Southie, we figured we'd find plenty of room to stretch out, especially on a frozen Tuesday night. Turns out that the loyal Franklin clientele will expand to fill up whatever space they're given.

The similarities between the two spaces end with the boisterous, packed atmosphere, however. Whereas the old spot has a cramped cocktail-party-in-a-walk-in-closet feel, the new Franklin Cafe has a sleeker vibe. A solemn, industrial exterior, giant plate glass windows and suspended red light bulbs that seem like they should be crackling with charges of lightning, gives the impression of a hip bio-tech company's tricked-out lounge.

"We wanted the restaurant decor to reflect the part of the city we were in," explained owner and general manager Phil Audino. (A few weeks ago, a portion of the ceiling at the new bar collapsed during dinner service. After closing for four days and undergoing an inspection by the city, Audino said, the restaurant reopened.) "This part of South Boston, sometimes called Downtown Southie, is a very hip and upcoming area with many loft style condos. Franklin Southie is a neighborhood bar that has more of an urban and loft-like feel."

The cocktail list fits right into that, with just enough stylish touches and tasteful flourishes to cater to the discerning tastes of the area. The Relax Margarita (Patron Reposado, chamomile liqueur, agave, lime, salt foam, $9), for example, is a tidy design solution to the messy problem of salting a margarita rim. Instead, the cocktail is injected with a foam that floats across the top of the glass, adding light puffy touches of salt. The chamomile is a nice addition as well, brightening the cocktail with brushes of lemon.

The Station 6 (Stoli, house pickle brine, market skewer garnish, $9) solves a problem you didn't even know you had, namely, the boredom of the usual dirty martini. This Russian-style martini gives the familiar salty taste, but goes much deeper in flavors from the housemade brine's vinegar, onion, garlic, mustard seed, coriander and black pepper.

For those inclined toward a sweeter taste, The December Tea (Captain Morgan, black tea, fresh lemon juice, $9) is a complete flavor 180. Through some weird alchemy of taste, the combination of the rum, tea, and lemon adds up to a cool, refreshing glass of Marshmallow Fluff on the rocks.

No up-and-coming neighborhood can really be complete until it has a stylish drinking and dining spot. Looks like they've got that covered in Downtown Southie.

Franklin Southie, 152 Dorchester Ave., South Boston. 617-269-1003. www.franklincafe.com

Boston Globe

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Banger

‘Hang the DJ’ more than just a Smiths lyric, it’s a down and dirty dance night

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple years, it’s all about indie and rock dance nights in Boston now.

At popular parties Throwed, Circus, Make it New and So Dope!, to name just a few, the DJ is the rock star, and the kids are going bananas on the floor.

Andrew Riker started the monthly party Banger with his partner Eric Perini last winter, he says, "because we wanted to bring something new to Boston’s nightlife scene in an underground venue that could hold a large amount of people.”

The pair also run Paper at Harper’s Ferry. And because they hold Banger in the relatively gritty environs of the The Middle East Downstairs, it gives the party a more rock ‘n’ roll edge.

“It differs from most ‘club’ atmospheres and is more of a gritty and wilder venue,” says Riker.

So exactly who are the people that are coming to Banger?

“Everyone from the collegiate, indie, hipster, rockers, hip-hop heads, tech-nophiles, fashion fanatics and club kids,” says Riker.

Riker says newbs should also not expect a posh dress code like some dance nights: “People tend to not care so much about what they are wearing and more on the chaos that happens.”

Also unlike other club nights, the DJs play every style of music.

“Electro to indie rock to top 40 remixes to hip-hop to mashups to house,” Riker lists. “And the special guest DJs we book have their own styles.”

Friday, the pair has a new idea called “Hang the DJ,” where five of Boston’s different cliques and their respective DJs battle it out with their own unique styles.

“All have great experience and I’m really excited what kind of stuff everyone is going to play,” Riker says, promising “$800 in cash prizes go to whoever gets the crowd going.”

Cash prize or not, Riker says he thinks the DJ dance party scene has grown exponentially: “In the past two years you’ve seen tons of new parties sprout. It’s really a good thing for nightlife in Boston for everyone looking to have a good time going out.”

Banger: ‘Hang the DJ’
Friday, 9 p.m.
Middle East Downstairs
472 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
MBTA: Red Line to Central
$10, 617-864-EAST
www.mideastclub.com

Boston Metro

Friday, January 16, 2009

Barcode: Restaurant L

There are many reasons why a restaurant might not prosper, but at Restaurant L at Louis Boston, the latest of many culinary incarnations at the high-end store, all signs seem to point to success this time. With chef Marc Orfaly at the helm in the kitchen, and a renovated bar and dining room, not to mention a well-rounded cocktail menu, all they need now is for people to show up.

The space is stark and elegant, but L also has a warmth to it with its eight-seat bar in the corner, just off the high-ceilinged marble foyer. Much of the welcoming glow is radiating from garrulous bar manager Dennis Cargill. His historical cocktail knowledge is rivaled only by his ability to match up each drink with the story of its creation. Some of those stories are traditional, others more personal.

"I was out on my honeymoon in San Francisco," he explained to us recently, mixing the ingredients of the Manhattan Club (Michter's whiskey, Evan Williams bourbon, Amaro vermouth foam, Fee Brothers vintage bourbon bitters, house fried cherry, $11, below right). "There's a bar out there called Bourbon and Branch, and I worked there a couple nights." (Picking up shifts on your honeymoon? Now that's dedication).

They've been sending him their speciality: house-made bitters, rhubarb, mint, and grapefruit ever since. The bitters are aged in whiskey barrels, which give it a charred smoke. As you might expect, the vermouth foam is a soothing touch, but the real treat is the blue cheese-stuffed cherry, wrapped in prosciutto and deep fried. How did we ever drink a Manhattan without fried meat and cheese before?

"This is an Italian take on the French classic Kir Royale" he said on the next round. The Carr Royale (St. Germain, fresh grapefruit, Prosecco, grapefruit segment, $11, below center) was made as a cocktail to be served at the wedding of an old co-worker - Howie Carr's daughter. Since she grew up in the North End and was marrying a Frenchman, the wedding of the two cultures made perfect sense.

The Tangerine Gimlet (Johnny Love Tangerine vodka, fresh lime, torn basil, $11, below left) has a nuptial past as well. It's a cocktail Cargill made for a wedding feature on "The Martha Stewart Show."

The Ramon Gin Fizz (gin, egg white, sugar, orange flower water, fresh lime, $11), and the Louis Swizzle (Mount Gay Rum, Luxardo Maraschino, absinthe, fresh lime, mint bitters, $11) are both worth mentioning, and have tales of their own. But you're going to have to go in and hear them from Cargill himself.

Restaurant L, 234 Berkeley St., 617-266-4680.
Boston Globe

Monday, January 12, 2009

Matt & Kim

Matt & Kim
Grand
Fader

Few descriptions can activate the force fields of cutesy-indie-rock skeptics faster than "twee," "Brooklyn," and "coed duo." And those skeptics are probably gonna want to sit out the second effort from twee, Brooklyn, coed duo Matt & Kim. But if you've spent time sitting outside an all-ages rock club or haunting a vegan video game cafe, or wherever it is kids congregate nowadays, this cavalcade of minimalist organ and drum pop that flits and twits between skewed, sugar rush abandon ("Daylight") and romantic, robotic chanting ("I'll Take Us Home") will read like blueprints for kicking back in the city. Heaving strings on the climax of the hurtling "Cutdown" only add to the cinematic, indie-kids-on-the-loose feel. But for the most part the album is a galloping goof, with vocalist and keyboard player Matt Johnson hamming his way through a series of rousing blog-pop gems. With more traditional rock instrumentation, tracks like "I Wanna" might come off as punk rock, but as is, it sounds like they're having too much fun for any sort of angst to bleed through.

Boston Globe

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Barcode: Drink Boston

The drinks are on her

A lot has changed in the Boston bar world since we last checked in with Lauren Clark, founder of the popular cocktail and bar scene blog Drink Boston. For one thing, the past year has seen the closing of the beloved B-Side Lounge, the bar that "essentially revived classic cocktails in the Boston area," she says. But on the positive side, the concept of quality cocktails, and classic bartending techniques, has expanded exponentially. We spoke with Clark about the city's best barkeeps and what buzzy trends she sees for 2009.

Most welcome trend you've seen recently? Unquestionably the best trend is the revival of serious mixology. Another good one is the growing availability of both quality cocktails and craft beer in restaurants. It's not just about the wine list anymore.

Any predictions about what's going to take off in 2009? One of them is ice. Bars like Drink and Craigie on Main are sort of customizing their ice to the drinks. They have these things called Kold-Draft ice machines that make these big dense square cubes. You can use them on their own in a rocks glass and it will make the drink cold, but it melts slowly. Or you can chip at them and make them into shards. It's probably a little too geeky, so it's not gonna filter out to all bars, but any bars, especially new ones that open, that want to be taken seriously in the cocktail world will think about doing something other than the sort of soda pop ice that's been the standard for decades.

Who are some of the bartenders and bars doing the best stuff right now? Drink, Eastern Standard, Craigie on Main, Green Street, Deep Ellum, Chez Henri, Rendezvous, the Marliave, the Independent . . . you can get an expertly made drink with fresh ingredients at any of these places. A couple of bartenders who deserve more attention are Scott Holliday, who used to work at Chez Henri and now works at Rendezvous. He's non-showy, thoughtful, and knows lots of classic cocktails. You can simply name a base spirit . . . and he'll make you something delicious. I also like Rob Kraemer of Chez Henri. He's a good mixologist and a gentleman. Both these guys are on the quiet, intense side and are worth taking the time to get to know.

New Year's resolutions for people trying to break their bad drinking habits? Go to the bars that I mentioned. Anywhere that squeezes its own juice is gonna be a revelation to someone that's not used to that type of thing. Go to a place where a bartender knows what he or she is doing and order just a gin martini, or a classic Manhattan. You'll get it made right, and you'll understand, 'Oh, this is what these things are supposed to taste like!'

Boston Globe

Lyres

30 years in, and Lyres still set your dance on fire

INTERVIEW. We're quick to anoint legends here in Boston. A band sticks around for a handful of years and all of a sudden they're seminal trailblazers. Then again, we're also quick to ask "what have you done for me lately?" It's a precarious line to walk, and few ultimately stick it out for the long haul. But every now and again a band comes along that really stands the test of time, earning the "legend" tag. For a lot of Boston music fans, that best summarizes Lyres.

Formed out of the ashes of the first wave punk band DMZ back in 1979, they were a hit with their swaggering, organ-heavy garage rock sound on songs like the classic "Help You Ann." There have been dozens of lineups changes over the years, but through it all frontman Jeff Conolly has held strong. His interpretation of the continued interest in his group is simple.
"Nobody died, and our guitarist is getting released from prison in a few months," he says.

The band's style of rock has gone though periodic increases in popularity over the years, particularly with the garage rock resurgence of the past decade. Do cultural swings like that effect your approach to bringing the band back together from time to time?

What has increased is the media's use of the "garage rock" pigeon-holing for "groups" that have no bass player. Any band with no bass player is not really a "group" at all. The group Lyres has never had no approach to bringing anything "back." We've always made new records and compact discs every year and we've never stopped playing concerts in the United States and Europe. Year after year garage rock music never goes "out of style" and its "popularity" has always swung back and forth.

Many bands make a big splash when they first arrive, but few have so many excited fans decades later.
That's probably because they get over-exposed on MIX 98.5.

What are some of the biggest differences in the scene between now and when you first started?
Most of the groups now have cutie-wootie mod boy hair cuts or a girl playing the cello.

What, if anything, would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?
Well, it just doesn't work that way, you know, but I guess we wouldn't have had the California Lyres in 1989, because they just wanted to pick up cutie-wootie mod girls. But almost everybody that's come and gone in our group is still considered welcome back any time.

Boston Metro

Friday, January 2, 2009

Barcode: Noir

A transporting experience

The idea of going to a bar to forget your troubles is an old clich??, but it's pretty spot on. No, we're not referring to the practice of washing the world away in a deluge of alcohol, (that's for amateurs and overly seasoned pros) but rather the transportive quality of a good bar. A good bar can move you to a different place and, at least for the few hours you spend there, make the world outside an afterthought.

When you're tucked into the intimate environs of Noir, the stylish lounge in the Charles Hotel, it's easy to imagine yourself transported thusly. Maybe not exactly into the dark world of film intrigue the name implies (it's a bit too sleek and modern to work that sort of old Hollywood magic) but certainly well beyond the realm of the boorish, student-heavy, historical shopping mall of Harvard Square.

For years Noir has been one of the worst-kept secrets among restaurant workers in Cambridge (always a good sign when a bar has an industry crowd). That's owing in large part to the bar's 2 a.m. closing time, which provides for ample post-shift unwinding, and the spacious outdoor patio area, which fills up in the warmer months. But it's also because Noir isn't quite like anywhere else in the area. The rare bar that is allowed to actually be just a bar, food seems to be an afterthought here. The absence of the boorish flicker of television is noticeable as well.

None of which really matters if the drinks aren't on par with the aesthetic. But the well-scripted menu, featuring both classics and their own creations, doesn't disappoint. The Buerre Noisette (brown butter infused bourbon, Stoli Vanilla, apple cider, $11; top left) was emblematic of their cocktail approach, imbuing a popular staple with the Noir stamp. At first blush it drank like a standard, thin, spice and sparkle bourbon and cider, but there is a residual thickness that comes with the butter in a second taste wave. It leaves a rich buttery flavor on the lips that has almost a burnt caramel effect.

On the opposite end of the taste, and presentation, spectrum, is the Chartreuse Basil (Green Chartreuse liqueur, basil, and fresh lime, $12, top right). With its full canopy of green herbs it's a veritable forest of a cocktail. While similar cocktails merely hint at basil, this one is loaded with huge, flavorful chunks.

It's nothing too far out there, but as Noir proves in general, sometimes slight departures from the norm make all the difference in the world, especially when you're trying to forget about it.


Noir at the Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St., Cambridge. 617-661-8010. www.noir-bar.com


Boston Globe


Glasvegas


The seven wonders that created Glasvegas's shimmering world

You would think bands would eventually run out of new combinations of retro styles to patch together for inspiration. Apparently we're not there yet. Case in point: the stunning, shimmering, and enigmatic self-titled debut from Glasvegas, a Glasgow outfit that many in the reliably hyperbolic UK music press are calling the best new rock band in the world.

Glasvegas, which plays a sold-out show at Great Scott on Sunday, mines the dust bin for a sound that marries classic American pop radio, surf rock, soul, and country with a towering wash of noise, shoegazer guitar feedback, and vibrating distortion repurposed from the dour '80s post-punk style of countrymen like the Jesus and Mary Chain. It's a breathtaking combination, and vocalist James Allan's breast-beating wail of a bog-thick brogue is a study in heroic vocal melodrama. Glasvegas' heady, downtrodden lyrics - subject matter ranges from religion ("Ice Cream Van") to prison ("Polmont on My Mind"), racially charged murder ("Flowers and Football Tops"), and childhood abandonment in their harrowing, heartrending first single ("Daddy's Gone") - push the band beyond the realm of romantic pop and petulant punk braying that you might expect from their list of stylistic influences.

Guitarist Rab Allan, who formed the band with his cousin James in 2003, elaborated on seven things that helped create the peculiar alchemy behind, OK we'll admit it, the best new rock band in the world.

1. Glasgow
Growing up in a less than ideal environment can fuel creative fires.

"I think that there are a lot of good bands based in Glasgow, like Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, and older ones like Aztec Camera, those kind of bands (see sidebar for more). But a lot of those bands don't come from Glasgow directly, most of them have moved here. Where we come from in the East End of the city, everyone is working class. But all those bands come from the West End, and there is quite a lot of money there. . . .

"There's never been a band from the East End of Glasgow that's been successful, ever. It's one of those strange things, like Manchester. Manchester has produced some of the best bands ever, and you can't explain it. It could be people looking for their way out. I don't want to sound arrogant, but I was always looking for something better."

2. Simplicity
The band's stripped-down drum lines are key to its unique style.

"It was really organic the way [our sound] came together. Caroline [McKay] had never played the drums before, so what we had to do was basically teach Caroline drums from scratch. Because she only plays two drums it makes a lot of space for the music, so the guitars can be quite upfront."

3. The role models
Previous holders of the "best rock band in the world" title set the bar pretty high.

"The obvious influence is Oasis. I saw Oasis and they made me want to be in a band. It's bizarre; they've asked us to do some gigs with them. I was star-struck when I met Noel Gallagher. I was a big fan of Echo & the Bunnymen as well, and I'm kind of friends with Ian McCulloch, the singer, now. He's like a mentor. There are people that I've met that are legends. Ian Brown from the Stone Roses. I haven't been let down yet! But there's still a lot of time left to be disappointed."

4. The patron
Legendary UK tastemaker and Creation Records label head Alan McGee was an early supporter.

"He turned up at a gig in Glasgow, the same venue that he [discovered] Oasis in, and he basically loved the music, and we became close friends. He texted me this morning at 7 o'clock saying "I'm on a beach in the Indian Ocean listening to your album, and it's beautiful." He's helped the band out a lot. He came onboard when the band was still new, and because we were such big fans of Oasis, having Alan McGee tell us we're going to be the biggest band in the world . . . it can help!"

5. Childhood songs
Much of the band's wearisome, wounded music uses playful melodies and lyrics from children's tunes like "You Are My Sunshine."

"I read an interview with James where the interviewer said [this juxtaposition] was like looking back to a state where you were young. I actually hadn't thought of it that way before. There's one song where James sings "liar, liar pants on fire," and another [lyric] is "twinkle, twinkle little star," and it's just one of those things that are in your head when you're young."

6. Family
Rab and James's mothers were twins. James's sister Denise is the band's manager.

"Have you seen 'The Godfather'? It's quite like that. Denise is the head of the family and she tells us all what to do. It works though, to be honest. She has got her head screwed on really tight. It's funny, because she's never managed a band before, and what she's done for us has just been incredible."

7. Staying grounded
Keep the hype, they'll take the fans.

"Obviously being in a band and doing what we do does change your personality, but not to the point where you become a different person. You know? We're back in Glasgow today, and my mum's come in today. Nothing changes, you can go away, but as soon as you come back . . . if you say something your mum doesn't like she'll slap you in the head, and you just go back to when you were 7 years old again.

"If you tell me all the good stuff [written about us], I'll tell you the bad stuff as well. I do think it's nice, but I don't believe what people write; I believe what people at the gigs tell me. People come up at the gigs and they say, "You've changed my life," all that stuff. And that means more to me if it's a fan. Someone who goes out and works all week, gets their money on a Friday and goes out and buys your album. That's special."

Glasgow rocks

For a city with a population of roughly 600,000, Glasgow has certainly exported more than its fair share of great rock bands over the years, including post-punks the Jesus and Mary Chain, new wave pop rockers Simple Minds, experimental psych-rockers Primal Scream, Brit-pop standouts Travis and Teenage Fanclub, and contemporary hit-makers Franz Ferdinand and Snow Patrol. With apologies to Manchester, England, we present a few of our favorite bands from the best music city in the world.

Aereogramme These cinematic hard rockers temper a scorching metal edge with symphonic beauty.

Belle and Sebastian This oversized collective has made soul pop and bookish, acoustic folk fashionable for a generation of cynical, broken-hearted mopes.

Camera Obscura With a brassy horn bounce and sassy, retro folk pop, the group has picked up the Belle and Sebastian mantle and ran with it.

The Cinematics Part of the post-punk, new wave revival of the past decade, they charge dance floors with a brooding, dark edge.

The Fratellis Aside from writing "Flathead," one of the best rock singles of recent memory, this trio puts the power back in power pop.

Mogwai Mogwai wrote the blueprint for dynamic, melodically-bombastic, instrumental post-rock that many bands have co-opted but few have matched in intensity.


Boston Globe

Good Bands, Bad Lyrics


'Are we human, or are we dancer?' Huh?

Once upon a time, rock lyrics weren't supposed to mean anything - "Tutti Frutti" ring any bells? But then the Beatles came along and ruined the party for everyone.

Today's pop stars can still make a handsome living dumbing us down one "baby, baby" at a time, but we expect our rockers to be poets. Sadly, the ability to string together a guitar riff and a sentence is a rare commodity. Consider one of the most justifiably mocked lyrics of the year: "Are we human, or are we dancer?" from the Killers' 2008 single "Human." Of course, back when frontman Brandon Flowers was on his first tube of eyeliner he was singing lines like, "I've got soul but I'm not a soldier," so it could be a lot worse.

The song got us thinking about some of our favorite songs from the past 15 years or so by good bands with really, really bad lyrics.

Good band: Weezer

Bad lyric: "They say I need some Rogaine to put in my hair. Work it out at the gym to fit my underwear. . . . I'll eat my candy with the pork and beans, excuse my manners if I make a scene."

Song: "Pork and Beans" ("Weezer," 2008)

As long as it's set to the band's trademark power chord crunch and soaring melodies, we'll take a quirky Weezer lyric over just about anything else, but this song has reached the nadir of inanity.

Good band: Band of Horses

Bad lyric: "I could sleep/ When I lived alone. Is there a ghost in my house?"

Song: "Is There a Ghost" ("Cease to Begin," 2007)

Give Band of Horses credit for making hipsters cry on a consistent basis with its weepy Coldplay-with-beards anthems. That's not a simple task. But writing the 14 words that repeat over and over on this song couldn't have taken much effort. Don't get us started on all the different tenses within the span of two sentences. That's some sci-fi grammar.

Good band: Fall Out Boy

Bad lyric: "I wrote the gospel on giving up. You look pretty sinking . . . Crashing not like hips or cars. No, more like parties."

Song: "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" ("Infinity on High," 2007)

If you say so, buddy. It's a good thing these guys sing so fast, otherwise we'd have to start paying attention to the words.

Good artist: Kate Nash

Bad lyric: "I use mouthwash. Sometimes I floss. I've got a family and I drink cups of tea."

Song: "Mouthwash" ("Made of Bricks," 2007)

Granted, Nash could read us the London phone directory in that accent and it would still sound beautiful, but come on. Was she just wandering around the apartment writing things down as they came to her? Yes, yes she was.

Good artist: Feist

Bad lyric: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9 or 10, money can't buy you back the love that you had then."

Song: "1234" ("The Reminder," 2007)

Sometimes even the smallest of lyrical missteps - say, forgetting how to count - is enough to take you right out of the flow. Sounds like a nice idea, too bad we're too caught up doing weird math to get there with you, Leslie.

Good band: We Are Scientists

Bad lyric: "My body is your body. I won't tell anybody. If you want to use my body, go for it, yeah."

Song: "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt" ("With Love and Squalor," 2006)

Rock songs get us to sing along to something we'd never normally say out loud. This colossal new wave rocker puts that concept to the test with this clunker of a chorus, then hammers the point home by repeating it over and over. And over.

Good band: Dropkick Murphys

Bad lyric: "I'm a sailor peg and I lost my leg. I climbed up the topsails. I lost my leg."

Song: "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" ("The Warrior's Code," 2005)

You could sing about literally anything, no matter how nonsensical, and as long as you mention Boston we'll end up playing it at all our sporting events for eternity. And the fact that it's a Woody Guthrie lyric is no excuse.

Good band: Franz Ferdinand

Bad lyric: "I say don't you know. You say you don't go. I say take me out."

Song: "Take Me Out" ("Franz Ferdinand," 2004)

More like take me right out of the moment with that junk. Thankfully these Scottish lads have an infectious guitar line and a chirpy disco bounce to fall back on. They should have verbalized that "der noo do-do deer-noo-noo" riff instead. That's the part everyone sings along to anyway.

Good band: Interpol

Bad lyric: "Her stories are boring and stuff, she's always calling my bluff."

Song: "Obstacle 1" ("Turn on the Bright Lights," 2002)

This strikingly bleak guitar blast boasts what is widely considered the single worst lyric of all time. Is it an example of self-reflexive irony illustrating the narrator's inability to articulate his own personal thoughts, thereby undercutting his accusations? Or is it a phoned-in bit of hackery, and stuff.

Good band: U2

Bad lyric: "A mole, digging in a hole, digging up my soul now, going down, excavation. Higher now, in the sky. You make me feel like I can fly, so high. Elevation."

Song: "Elevation" ("All That You Can't Leave Behind," 2000)

Entertaining the world and saving it at the same time is a full-time job, so we understand if Bono didn't have time to think this embarrassing piece of garbage through before heading into the studio and winging it with a brain-dead improv.

Good band: Dashboard Confessional

Bad lyric: "Your hair it's everywhere. Screaming infidelities and taking its wear."

Song: "Screaming Infidelities" ("The Swiss Army Romance," 2000)

On this weepy classic, Chris Carrabba commits the cardinal sin of ending two lines with homophones. Both lazy and meaningless. And yet somehow, when he sings it, it means everything. Wow, we're gonna need to be alone with that thought for a minute.

Good band: Oasis

Bad lyric: "I know a girl called Elsa, she's into Alka-Seltzer."

Song: "Supersonic" ("Definitely Maybe," 1994)

Was this thinly veiled drug reference really clever enough to push this square peg into a round rhyme hole? It's not like you couldn't have changed the presumably real girl's name or the drug euphemism for a smoother line read. Poetic license, mate, look it up. Actually, don't.

Boston Globe