Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ALBUM REVIEW: SURFER BLOOD - ASTRO COAST I can honestly say that I haven't heard an album this good in a loooooong time. I think everyone will have different (albeit positive across the board) interpretations of FL band Surfer Blood and their influences in making Astro Coast. I have read many positive comments about this album from my friends and over the interwebs/blogosphere. I did see a high rating on Pitchfork but didn't read the review as I wanted a completely unbiased/untainted Cugerock perspective on this one.

From the first track Floating Vibes I was immediately transported back into to early 90's. I thought "hmm...Sonic Youth? Dinosaur Jr?". That's not to say their sound isn't unique or dated. I believe Astro Coast is a pioneering record but certain chord progressions and song structures overall remind me of tracks from indie bands I was listening to in high-school/early college. There are songs like Slow Jabroni that start out broken and slow then (around the 3:40 mark) transform into a heavenly/mesmerizing/bob-your-head-slowly straight rock jam that tend to remind me of tracks indicative of early indie albums. So freaking good no matter how you categorize. However there are some more recent influences that can be heard as well.

There's some Sonic Youth, Sugar, Shins, Hum, Autolux, Archers of Loaf, Cribs, Superchunk, Cursive...hell even some quick Vampire Weekend (Take it Easy) and Fugazi (intro to Anchorage) sounding portions that are in there. Again, this is my interpretation. There are so many I cannot pinpoint. I welcome comments (as always) in regards to to some bands I haven't thought of. I feel like I'm missing a few.

Vocally they are relatively unchallenged but for some reason I hear a Tim Kasher (Cursive) or Ryan Jarman (The Cribs) similarity in a lot of the songs. Specifically with Swim that screamed "Ryan Jarman" and Harmonix that could have been a track on any Cursive record (skewing towards the more recent). The lyrics themselves are solid. They aren't too complex and have certain lines that jump out at you....specifically on Anchorage, Twin Peaks and Catholic Pagans.

I also will NOT note some of my "favorite tracks" as every single song is amazing from #1 to #10. I've had this album on repeat for weeks now. Please, please pick up this record.

BOLD STATEMENT ALERT! There are a ton of new albums that have come out and are scheduled to come out in 2010 however I do not see Surfer Blood Astro Coast leaving my #1 album of the year designation any time soon. Prove me wrong Thermals, Band of Horses, New Pornographers, Interpol, B&S etc....


Live performances (via their MySpace page)

Video for Swim

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Show Review: F**ked-Up & Kurt Vile - The Middle East, Cambridge, MA (2/20/10)

"You reminded me, that I would never be 22" is a lyric from a Promise Ring song (Make Me a Mixtape). One can interpret that line however they want. It never really had any significance to me until I started to ascend into my late twenties. I saw it as meaning...basically...there are experiences you have in your present life that would have been much easier had you were facing them at a younger age OR some present experiences will take you back to a time where you had a little less "weight" on your life. It can be nostalgic and good but strangely depressing sometimes. Ha! There are songs and movies and people that serve as reminder of that. Seeing a Fucked Up show recently in Boston was one of those moments...and it was just what I needed.

I went to the show with my cousin Danny who lives in Boston and a buddy of his. Danny's "show buddy" as we like to call it (Chris Budz & Cathy are my Philly equivalents as Scotty, Horton & Tarik are my NYC compadres...and Danny most times). The show was at the Middle East club in Cambridge Mass which is just over the river from the city of Boston. I'm not sure if it is zoned as Boston proper but I'll just refer to it as Boston to make things easier (less letters to type). Cambridge is the home of Harvard and a Saucony outlet store (cheap Jazz kicks). When I saw on Fucked-Ups tour schedule in the fall that they were playing a Saturday at the Middle East (which I've never been to) and with Kurt Vile (who I don't know much about other than he is from my hometown) I knew we had to make this happen. Seeing as I hadn't visited Danny in 5 years it made it all the more pressing.

Now I've seen Fucked-Up before in Philly at the "intimate" Northern Liberties Club - Kung Fu Necktie. I wont rehash the experience but check the link from a prior post -

The Middle East is a significantly larger club than KFN. That said I thought there was no way I would see lead vocalist Damian "Pink Eyes" Abraham take the "liberties" with the space/crowd/mic-cord that I saw in Philly. I was pleasantly mistaken. More about that later.

While we were checking coats (so punk rock) I noticed Damian just hanging out by the merch table. I had a few beers in me so I thought I would go talk to him. I introduced myself, gushed like I was meeting the hardcore equivalent of the Jonas Brothers and he was mega cool and very appreciative. I then asked him if he remembered the KFN show last year, more specifically, when he poured hot candlewax on is fat chubby chest while standing on top of the bar. His reply (laughing) "Hahah ooooh didn't hurt that bad cause I was sweating so much". True Champion.

Kurt Vile opened up to a crowd that was literally shaking in anticipation for Fucked Up. I've never heard his music before but read up that it was alt-rock/folk-ish. To anyone who didn't know that FU & Kurt were Matador labelmates then this would have been viewed as an odd paring. He played ok. He had no drummer and just a rhythm guitarist to join him. His voice is solid and the tracks he played were pretty good. I'd mos def like to catch him again with a full backing band. The crowd was very respectful despite the headliner. Any women that were currently at the venue were long gone after he finished. I honestly could count the number of girls present for FU on one hand...and one of them is in the band.

So Fucked Up takes the stage. I think they opened with Son the Father but who the hell knows. The loud opening chords just placed the whole place on fire. The "pit" immediately formed and expanded, with the edge a few people in front of us. We all had our forearms out to block any stray moshers. We were Id say 1/3 of the way back from the stage-left (close to the bar). I couldn't locate the set list online but here is one from 6 days later at a Toronto show:

1.Son the Father
2.Magic Word
3.David Comes to Life
4.Days of Last
5.Golden Seal
7.The Two Snakes
8.Crooked Head
9.No Epiphany
10.Black Albino Bones
11.Twice Born
12.Baiting the Public
13.The Chemistry of Common Life
14.Bodies (Sex Pistols cover)

Since before the last show I had only heard the latest FU full length, Chemistry of Common Life, I made sure I bought the singles collection recently released (Couple Tracks 2002-2009).

Basically a compilation of 7-inches. If you want a taste of how good this compilation is then I suggest you download Black Hats. So good I kept yelling it out to Damian in hopes that they'd play dice.

Fucked Up is unique as they are by all means a "modern-hardcore" outfit, yet the music has more rhythm/layers to it which isn't hardcore standard (remember when Helmet came on the scene?). Maybe that is why FU are Pitchfork darlings but I think its more of the band make-up, Damian's personality on/off stage and his willingness to collaborate with just about anyone. Oh and they won Canada's Polaris Music Prize.

The crowd was going absolutely nuts including myself. I didn't think it was physically possible for Damian to get off-stage and into the crowd. I even said to Danny "There's nooooo way he can get on top of either bars" (there was one a few steps up stage-right and one on the floor a few feet from us). Minutes after I make this prediction I look on stage and he's no where to be found (still screaming lyrics mind you) but I look left and sure enough he's on top of the bar, then back on stage, then back on the bar, then on the floor where we were (patrons supporting the mic-cord over their heads), then up on the bar (next to a disco ball oddly enough - here is what I captured from my Blackberry shit-camera)

...then he jumped off and fell down on the floor in front of us so we picked his sweaty ass up. The whole time the band continues to look forward and belt off the music like "ho-hum...classic Damian". Might I also add that the band was SO TIGHT (Danny can back me up on this). The only distortion I sensed was in Damian's voice ...which was normal.
Towards the end, the energy was so intense and the pit was so close a drunken voice inside me said..."you gotta get in the pit old man"...then I said to the guys "I'm going in!". I'm a big dude but I was getting knocked around like a skinny straightedge vegan, swirling around in a sweaty mass of positive manergy eventually getting feet from the stage and screaming lyrics and pumping my fist.

To cap it off they encored with a Sex-Pistols cover Bodies with a surprise appearance from none other than TED LEO!!! As if the night couldn't get any better then Ted freakin Leo jumps up on stage to sing Sex Pistols!!! With Fucked Up?!!!! (visualize Scanners head explosion).

Easily one of the greatest shows I've ever seen. Such a positive show which reminds me why I love music so much and how live music can be so therapeutic in so many ways. Not one douchebag in the crowd. All participants were just amped on a Saturday night to see one of the most energetic live band performances out there.

After the show the band was hanging out by the merch table so I went over and made a point to tell them how ridiculously awesome the show was. Kurt Vile was also hanging out. I shook his hand and said "Im from Philly dude" or something to that drunken effect. He gave me a "right on" and looked scared as I was glassy-eyed and sweaty.

The Aftermath: The next day, not only was I hungover but my voice was shot from screaming and my muscles ached from "dancing". Soooooooo worth it. As I noted prior, this show reminded me that I would definitely never be 22 again...but a decade older...I can still slam with the best of em. Age is merely a number my friends. Thanks Advil.

CUGEROCK BONUS: To get an idea of the live Fucked-Up show experience, here is a short film from Ray Concepcion which completely captures the spectators view. A "couple tracks". Enjoy.

Every Man for Himself and God Against All: Fucked Up from Ray Concepcion on Vimeo.