Friday, September 25, 2009


It's been a productive twenty five years for the German industrial rock outfit KMFDM, with the band and principle member Sascha Konietzko releasing a continuous stream of hard-edged, danceable rock and electronic music almost every year they've been around. The band's sixteenth proper full length “Blitz” is its second of the year. That can't be an easy pace to keep up, especially in a time where many bands barely get around to album every couple of years or so.

That prolific writing is “something that comes by itself,” Konietzko told us on the phone from Germany. “Some people need a lot of time to write and come up with ideas.” For KMFDM having a group of people always working on the same songs simultaneously streamlines the process. “Me being here in Europe and everyone else being in the States we have the advantage of the time difference,” he said. “ That means I can work all day on a track, pop it over to my guys, [on and off again band member] Tim Skold or someone, and they can put a whole day of work in it. To just make the best out of the time and get working really quick and fluidly.”

In the case of Blitz most of the work was split between Konietzko and vocalist Lucia Cifarelli. “If I work with the live band the songs will be more rocking or guitar oriented,” he said. “If I work on my own or with Lucia it's a bit more of an electronic situation.”

There are plenty of electronics on display here, but they're blended into the type of genre-bending mix that long time fans of the band have come to expect. “Strut” could almost be a straight disco dance track, while the German language “Potz Blitz” is a grinding industrial dirge. “Me and My Gun” flirts with an electro style hip hop approach. “That's the beauty of being KMFDM,” he said. “It's its own genre. For instance, here in Germany the electro music scene is segregated. People will only listen to this type of electro or that type. It's silly. With KMFDM you can always do whatever you want. You can from go any extremes to others.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Barcode: Splash

Fabulous bars in fabulous parts of town usually don't sit right with us. But when you find one on the edge of the city overlooking the highway on ramp, surrounded by the blank gaze of empty high rises on a street that's empty at night, then you're in business. Splash, the latest offering from Bricco and Umbria Prime owner Frank DePasquale is removed enough from the bustle of nearby South Station and Chinatown that stumbling upon it you feel like you've made a discovery. It's a sophisticated bacchanalian oasis with a gritty urban juxtaposition.

Inside the luxury lounge trappings melt all of the urban discord away. Dark mood lighting contrasts with bright white walls and gray and white striped couches that perimeter the bar area. Private VIP lounges have Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3 and decadent leather couches while gorgeous pool tables add to the swanky-set-at-play atmosphere. For some that “ultra lounge” concept with table side bottle service and all of its attendant cliches may provoke a gag reflex. But if you're drawn to that type of flashy excess, then you'll want to join the queue at Splash. And yes there will be a queue.

It's definitely a departure from News, the late night dining spot that previously filled this space. “It's a lot more sleek and Miami style,” says bar manager Christina Pesente. The roof deck is an impressive new addition as well. DePasquale spends a lot of time in Miami and Vegas, she says. “He wanted to bring something like that to Boston.” Cabana seating with the type of cushy spa beds you could easily doze off in listening to the gurgling pool fountain don't hinder that effect.

“We close at 2 am, so we can't be as Vegas as we'd like,” says Pesente. “But in terms of service we wanted it to be personal, like you're a high roller.” Not hard to imagine here. Although drink prices are surprisingly reasonable, particularly when you consider the thought Pesente has put into the menu. It's a selection of specialty cocktails made with all fresh ingredients that you normally wouldn't associate with sling-em-out night club service. The Strawberry Basil Martini (fresh strawberries muddles with basil, gin or vodka $12) is a good place to start. Definitely opt for the gin, as it lets the fruit and herbs breathe as opposed to the congealed sugar taste of the strawberry flavored vodka. The Peach Smash (whiskey, peach puree, mint, $12) is a standard with a subtle peach flavor added. It's a great looking drink with huge chunks of lemon wedges mingling with the mint.

The Desert Pear Margarita (Milagro tequila, Cointreau, habanero infused simple syrup, $12) should make your rotation here as well, although a bit less Cointreau might have let the heat of the peppers pop more. “This one would be great out in the sun on the roof deck” says bartender Sarah Gonyea. With luck there will be a few warm weekends left for people to test that theory out.

Splash, 150 Kneeland St., Boston. 617-426-6397.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Barcode: Sonsie

It’s tempting sometimes to dismiss a bar on superficial reasons alone. A tony street address, for example. The Lamborghini parked out front. A starry list of patrons that can leave one feeling a bit . . . intimidated.

We admit we’ve occasionally dismissed longtime Newbury Street staple Sonsie. If Newbury is the catwalk of the city, Sonsie has always seemed the literal embodiment of that metaphor, particularly with its open French doors, streetside cafe tables, and chic clientele. But after a few visits this summer, we learned that our preconceptions were widely off the mark. Sure, it’s stylish. But like any other bar in Boston, the scene at Sonsie is always changing; it’s as sophisticated - or informal - as you want to be.

For us, it’s turning into a reliable, unpretentious neighborhood bar. And like any good neighborhood bar, the people here recognize the importance of regulars. Perhaps more than most. How many bars turn over an entire page of the drink menu to recipes suggested by and named for their loyal customers?

It’s a great way to say thank you, say managers Johna Willis and Mark Grzelak. Turns out, Sonsie regulars are always vying to get their name and drink on the list. Many of the offerings have achieved a kind of cocktail tenure at this point, but when a spot opens up, Sonsie features the new ideas and runs them as specials to see which gets the best response. The most recent addition is nightlife promoter Sal Boscarino’s Sweet Salvation (Stoli Blueberry, lime juice, honey, splash of soda, $9). Another blueberry option is the Madewell (Triple Eight Blueberry, lemoncello, $10; below). Named for the neighbors in the jeans store next door, the drink approximates the color of denim, but not the taste, thankfully. Say what you will about flavored vodkas, cocktail purists, the intensity of the blueberry in this vodka is brilliant, especially when mixed with the Sogno Sorrento Crema Lemoncello.

Angelo Grasso makes the list with the Legend (Amaretto, Captain Morgan, Southern Comfort, cranberry, and pineapple juice, $12). It’s too sweet for our taste, but everyone we asked seemed to agree this is basically the ideal beach-sipping cocktail. The Trivial Pursuit (Patron Silver and pineapple juice, cayenne, and sugar rim, $10), on the other hand, had us hooked with its mix of heat and fruit. Tom Brady’s right hand man Will McDonough had a lot of help from bartender Jessie Pray on this one, which is sorta cheating.

“I wanted to assault the senses with spicy, then sweet, then the tang of the tequila,’’ Pray says. It’s aptly named. The more we got the heat of the pepper on our lips, the more we tried to drink past it to get to the soothing cool of the pineapple. A trivial pursuit, indeed. A couple more of these and we’ll be suggesting our own cocktail ideas. Sonsie, 327 Newbury St., Boston. 617-351-2500

Boston Globe

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sea Wolf

Sea Wolf
White Water, White Bloom

FILE UNDER: Country music from a really gloomy country

On his darkly enigmatic 2007 debut, Leaves In The River, Sea Wolf principle Alex Brown Church constructed an eerie musical landscape, all twisted branches of folk instrumentation overlapping with his literarily inclined character pieces. Songs like "Winter Windows," with its spooky pump-organ riff, effected a gnarled mythology that chilled as well as it beguiled. Sea Wolf's second effort, now realized by a more traditional band lineup brought together during a few years of touring behind his previous record, extends the reach of Church's pastoral folk sketches. Cello, organ and acoustic guitar lay down the type of thick, swampy orchestral folk you might expect from the house band playing the gothic pub on the edge of a haunted bog. Church's vocals push through the swirling fog of the abundant string swells in hushed resignation, laying out his tales of woe like a wandering minstrel on the downtrodden "Orion & Dog" and "Turn The Dirt Over." The latter, with its country-music affectations, is the spiritual descendent of Leaves. Which isn't to say there's no fun to be had; "O Maria!" is a fiery, stomping piano blast. But "The Orchard," with its cascade of plucked strings and minimal organ coloring, is more emblematic. In its rhythms, arrangements and lyrical scope, it may resemble country music at times, but it's the type of country where the sun hasn't come out in months and the immediate forecast doesn't look too promising either. (DANGERBIRD)

GO DOWNLOAD: "Turn The Dirt Over"

Alternative Press

Boys Like Girls

Boys Like Girls - Love Drunk [3/5]

FILE UNDER: Boys who like girls who like pop made by boys

As in any well-structured argument, Boys Like Girls front-load their latest musical thesis in the first moments of Love Drunk's title track. A shimmering, textured guitar line gives way immediately to huge gang vocals. They're reaching for both U2's anthemic grandeur and the populist immediacy of the pit. Slick production values, airtight harmonies, charging disco-rock beats and crowd sing-along prompts (a trick they resort to throughout) prove the band are capable of condensing the recognizable signifiers of recent modern-rock history into sugary pop adrenaline. That's before we even get to the unfortunately employed Auto-Tune on "Heart Heart Heartbreak." BLG certainly had a lot of success on Top 40 radio last time around, but just because they've moved into Sean Kingston's neighborhood doesn't mean they have to paint their house the same color. Who produced this record, Michael Bay's CGI team?

But fans of the perfectly distilled emotion and songwriting economy of tracks like "Great Escape" and "Hero/Heroine" from BLG's self-titled debut know that overly slick production is par for the course with this band. When they're setting up giant hooks and blasting off in their the tightly wound verse/exploding chorus formula as on "Contagious" and "Chemicals Collide"-and, okay, pretty much every other song on here-the shine of the wax job doesn't matter as much as how fast the car is hurtling down the road.

"Real Thing" switches gears a bit with its '80s-underdog-film training-montage vibe. Dudes out there looking for the perfect track to, say, overcome their fears and learn to be themselves just in time for the big wrestling match or whatever should throw on this one. If the cello-enhanced ballad "Go" doesn't get even the most hard-hearted BLG fans in the crowd holding hands and swaying together in harmony, then nothing will. And if Love Drunk's overall enthusiasm and high-energy pop doesn't win over even the snarkiest of reviewers after a few listens, then they probably don't have a heart. Everyone else will love it anyway. Pop-rock like this is popular for a reason. (COLUMBIA)

GO DOWNLOAD: "Love Drunk"

Alternative Press

Friday, September 4, 2009

Barcode: Tavolo

This is probably going to come as a surprise to many of you, but apparently it’s OK for a bar to be bright, sunny, and colorful. Who knew? That’s if the bar at Tavolo, the cute Italian restaurant and pizzeria in Dorchester is any indication. Instead of dim lighting and dark colors, Tavolo beams with bright yellow walls and a funky design aesthetic that might seem best suited for an art student’s spacious dorm room.

A wall of multicolored frosted bottles in one corner separates the large, U-shaped bar from one of the two dining areas. Large windows that let in plenty of light from the bustling neighborhood outside add to the welcoming vibe. Modern art prints dot the walls. It’s inspirational in a way. And just in case you think so too, they’ve got a selection of colored chalk to choose from so you can make your own mark on the chalkboard-like bar.

Some of the cocktails that Brian Decourcey and Donna Gillespie mixed made a pretty good mark as well, like the grapefruit-infused basil gimlet (house-infused grapefruit vodka, basil, fresh lime, $10, below left).

“This has been our most popular martini this summer,’’ said Decourcey, giving the ingredients a long hard shake. He infuses the pink grapefruit into the vodka for about 10 days to get the right tart citrus flavor. The basil is infused into a simple syrup, which means no leaves clogging up the sipping process. The pulp of the grapefruit provides texture.

Looking ahead to the forthcoming fall drink menu, the duo mixed a couple of their new offerings for us, including the Italian Iced Tea (Absolut Boston, lemon and lime juice, Sprite, $8, below right).

“Italian Ice was one of my favorite desserts growing up,’’ said Gillespie. This one does a good job of approximating its namesake. But the Absolut Boston, with its black tea and elderflower flavors, adds an entirely new dimension. “This has the elderflower flavor, but it’s not as sweet as St. Germain, which is syrupy,’’ said Gillespie.

Also sweet, both literally and figuratively, was the Electric Blueberry Lemonade (blueberry-infused vodka, lemonade, limoncello, $9). It walks the tight rope between tart and sugary with its lemonade flavor. It’s very refreshing and easily drinkable, and the fresh blueberry garnish makes for good snacking.

Swinging in the opposite direction was their version of an old classic, The Negroni Light (prosecco, sweet vermouth, Campari, bitters, $8). The prosecco takes the place of gin here, which makes for lighter sparkling sipping, while retaining all of the Negroni’s signature bitterness. Campari is certainly an acquired taste, but the Tuaca-cito (Tuaca, Bacardi, mint, lemon and soda, $8) is bit more approachable in its flavoring. The liqueur’s thick hazlenut and vanilla create a pleasant after-dinner drink and, for us anyway, make an already perfectly sunny day just a little bit brighter.

Tavolo, 1918 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester. 617-822-1918. www.tavolopizza.comcq

Boston Globe