All Around Records

Monday, July 24, 2017

BBB

The Bye-Bye Blackbirds
Duet Video

"Take Out The Poison," the upcoming BBB’s album, will be released August 25th, and this excellent clip is a great run up to it. In the clip, a man and woman walk separately through the streets of San Francisco. They could be the duet, but they don’t know it yet. The music is college rock on its jangly side, very sweet, very nice.


I got a real kick out of watching this, too, because it reminded me of the one time I visited San Fran and how much I liked it. City Lights Bookstore, the famous one, plays a prominent role in the video, and I have some hazy memories of being in there, and how much I liked it, too.




Andrea Weiss

Sunday, July 23, 2017

R. Ring 7-21-17

R. Ring
Everybody Hits, Philadelphia, PA
7-21-17

R. Ring’s return to Philly was wonderful, a show I’d been looking forward to. This time they got to Philly without a hitch. For their gig here back in April, their van had broken down, and other mishaps, so all of us were very thankful they arrived this time with no problems.

Everybody Hits is a batting cage facility that also books concerts, and while it’s tiny, the sightlines are good everywhere, and it’s very clean and comfortable. The audience ranged in age and gender and was a very good mix.

The two opening acts didn’t disappoint. Joe Jack Talcum, a member of Philly punk icons the Dead Milkmen, and a very nice guy, played the best set I’d seen from him yet, and he's always good. Straightforward indie folk.

Sam from Radiator Hospital was next. I’d not seen him with his band, but I’d heard enough on Philly’s indie rock internet radio station, Y-Not Rock, to know that I’d like him. Very soulful, great lyrics, very cool.

R. Ring, who are Kelley Deal and Mike Montgomery, played most of the songs off their album from earlier this year, "Ignite The Rest," and were damn good on all of them. They had a new drummer, Roseanna Safos, from Cleveland band The Goldmines, and she was excellent. While I didn’t catch the title or lyrics, they played one new song, and it rocked. It’s amazing to hear the interplay between the guitars and drums; it's their own sound and style of experimental electric folk, no comparisons to anyone else.


After the show I said hello. They were happy to see me again. Kelley was thrilled I'd purchased Breeders tickets, another show I'm really looking forward to.  https://www.facebook.com/rringsings

Andrea Weiss


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Jill

Jill Sobule
William Way LGBTQ Community Center Ballroom
Philadelphia, PA 7-7-17

I’ve been into Jill since 1995 and "I Kissed A Girl," which is not a cover of the Katy Perry song. I saw her for the first time at Lilith Fair, and have continued seeing her to this day. My fandom has stretched across three states, and many albums, all good. And she’s a blast to see live.

William Way, named after a 70s Philly LGBTQ rights activist, is a great place for everything LGBTQ, located in the heart of the “gayborhood,” Philly’s LGBTQ area. I was thrilled to find out Jill was playing there, and bought tickets immediately.

She was great, as usual, and played most of her best known songs plus a few new ones, just her and a modified backpacker guitar, which she’s been known to solo on like a guitar hero. She did play a short solo on it this night.

Her back stories were great, too, like how much flack she got for her song "America Back" (“When they say they want their America back, well what the fuck do they mean?”).  Another was about a troll, and getting that troll off her back with a new song. Other stories told of her teen years in Cinnamon Park, taking magic mushrooms to watch the Battle Of The Bands, with Chicago’s "Saturday In The Park" as a motif, and making sure everyone knew that the two woman in "I Kissed A Girl" did more than kiss (“They can have their diamonds, and we’ll  have our pearls”).


After the show I said hello to Tony, Jill’s longtime webmaster and moderator of her email discussion group Happytown, named for her song about the joys of Prozac. Tony's a really nice guy. Then I spoke to Jill, who I’ve known for twenty years. She loved my anti-Trump shirt. I had a fantastic evening.

The shirt in question. The feminist group Ultra Violet had a fund raiser with this shirt, and it was too good to pass up. More here: https://weareultraviolet.org
And Jill's site: http://www.jillsobule.com

Andrea Weiss


Friday, June 16, 2017

GT 2 Steps in full

Game Theory
2 Steps From The Middle Ages
Omnivore Recordings

This album is the final one in Omnivore’s reissue series. Originally released in 1988, it was an album that the late Scott Miller said he wanted to tear up the Billboard charts, and if not, to be let out of his contract. It didn't, and the band broke up after this album was released.

If this album had come out in, say, 1993, it might have hit. Alt was sort of the mainstream then, and to give two good examples of the kinds of songs that hit, think Bob Mould’s "If I Can’t Change Your Mind," or "Cannonball" by The Breeders. But there weren’t so many charts and formats as there are now, so here are some hypotheticals if it were a brand new album being released today.

While this album is too indie to fit into the “mainstream alternative” radio format, I can see this hitting on non com AAA radio, like NPR and its offshoots, listener supported stations, and so on. It’s streamlined enough, catchy, accessible, with all the right quirks. There are straightforward lyrics about good times, romance on the rocks, and being nonconformist. It rocks when it wants to, but can be quiet enough to pack a stealth punch, like on “Initiations Week.” One of Donnette Thayer’s best songs is her duet with Scott on the gentle “Wyoming,” another great song on a great album.


This reissue is also chock full of bonus material, demos, live tracks, and rough mixes. My favorites are the demo for a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s "America," which is as lovely as the original, and the live version of "Waist And The Knees," especially since it features backing vocals by the late, great Gil Ray.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, June 4, 2017

GT Preview - 2 Steps

Game Theory
Room For One More, Honey
Omnivore  Recordings

As there is a pre-sale for the reissue of 2 Steps From The Middle Ages, I took it as a cue to review the single/ emphasis track, Room For One More, Honey.  The album will be released Friday June 9th. And if this any indication of how great it is, with remastering like this, what a way to send the reissue series of the late Scott Miller’s band off in sttyle.


While Mitch Easter’s production made everything sound very crisp and clear, the remaster is more so. It’s pitch perfect now, a good balance of bright, shiny, rich and solid. I remeber a few reviews back in the day saying this song was about an airline distaster, and in one interview Scott somewhat confirmed it. But decide for yourselves, my memory might be hazy. But what isn’t is that I still love this track, the way Scott and Donnette Thayer sing on it, and haven’t forgotten hearing it on the radio, how good it sounded there. You may feel the same when you hear it on your media player device of choice. 
(I find the pre-sale on Amazon easier than iTunes.)
Andrea Weiss

Monday, May 22, 2017

Chris Cornell


And Now He's Gone
A Tribute to Chris Cornell

I never thought I’d be writing a tribute to Chris Cornell, not just for the usual reasons, but because of how I became a fan of Soundgarden in the first place. As for the usual reasons why one writes a tribute, it makes me shudder, not just that this wonderful musician is gone, but that so many are: Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, Stefanie Sargent, Scott Weiland, Mike Starr, John Baker Saunders. Let the next one added be when everyone is, say, 90. Only Eddie Vedder, Mark Arm, and Mark Lanegan are now alive of the more famous grunge band leaders. What must they be thinking? The Space Needle went dark for an hour Thursday night, so everyone is grieving. Chris’ family and the rest of Soundgarden are also in my thoughts.

I will be honest; at the time, I hated grunge, and a lot of early 90s alternative music, and, again, it wasn’t for the usual reasons. I despise the term “sell out.” There's nothing wrong with making money from your art, and as my career involves various types of creative writing, I admit that sometimes my attitude is “screw art, give me the money.” Not that making art for art's sake is bad, but doing it for pay is the greatest job in the world. But I don't like it when people make a certain kind of art just for the money. The music magazines I was reading at the time said grunge bands were sell-outs, doing just that, so that put me off.

Also, I have a learning disability severe enough that I'm unable to work a straight job, or drive, hence my writing career, as writing is what I do best. I have struggled all my life to make a good life for myself. Only those who have everything mentally together would act like it’s cool to be disabled or mentally ill, and that is the way I perceived grunge and most alt-rock at the time. I didn't think their expressions of pain and dysfunction were honest or real, and I didn't want all that negativity, particularly if it wasn't sincere.

I was still very much following punk’s credo of thinking for yourself. The elementary school in Hightstown, NJ put on folk concerts during the school year, and there was a local folk song society who brought in musicians. It was very popular, and Dar Williams sold the place out more than once. I began going to those shows and joined that local scene. In addition to Dar, I got into the Nields, Richard Shindell, the late Dave Carter and his partner Tracy Grammer. Jill Sobule of I Kissed A Girl fame was also a part of the scene, and so was Ani DiFranco. And there was plenty of alt rock outside the lines to get into: Fugazi, Pavement, The Breeders, the Loud Family, Sugar, Mudhoney, the Posies, Liz Phair, Sleater-Kinny. Those were my favorites. I didn’t think of Mudhoney as grunge, but rather punk.

When I met Jen Grover in the very early 00’s, I told her all of this. Around that time she was a moderator for SOMMS, the original Soundgarden online fan list, and had the now defunct Unofficial Ben Shepherd Website. She urged me to give Soundgarden another chance, and after thinking about it a bit, I did. And I liked what I heard. They were more punky than I realized, and after hearing Seasons, I realized Chris could be folk. Euphoria Morning proved that even more, and that sealed the deal. Eventually I got into more grunge, and as for alt, a new way of looking at it.

My favorite Soundgarden song is the one I first heard, and at the time of its release somewhat tolerated, as I liked the ruefulness of it--Outshined. By default, Badmotorfinger was my favorite Soundgarden album. The others are great too, but BMF was my first.

I hope everyone takes this tribute the right way, and not as a snide slam. My journey to the band was roundabout, but eventually I made it home. I came to realize how much of that music really was honest and why it meant so much to so many people. Long live Chris,long live Soundgarden, and, yes, alt.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, May 19, 2017

Hearing And Seeing Is Believing: An Interview With Amanda Thompson


Amanda Thompson leads the UK band The Big Believe, a band I got into through the song Let’s Pretend We’re Spies. I was a huge fan of Let’s Active, and when the late Faye Hunter worked with The Big Believe, I was hooked. Illuminate, their latest album, is very good. If you are a fan of college rock and bands that have their roots in that genre, like the New Pornographers, you’ll love The Big Believe.


Andrea Weiss: Let’s Active is such a cool and unjustly forgotten band. How did you find out about them?

Amanda Thompson: I agree. My boyfriend Keith used to own a second hand record shop and would often bring albums 'round that he thought I'd like. It must have been about 1988 when he stuck Big Plans For Everybody on my turntable and it changed my life. I was instantly a fan, and found LP's of everything else they'd released, and never stopped listening to them.

AW: And combining that style with that of the New Pornographers is great. How did you get into them?

AT: Thank you, although I don't do that intentionally, but I guess snippets of those bands' influence are bound to seep through. Keith was to thank for this discovery too. He would play anything that MOJO magazine had given four or five stars to-- stream it, I mean. Shortly after Twin Cinema was released, he stuck it on. The title track blew me away. The rest of the album was less instant, but I fell in complete love with it gradually, often the best way. As with Let's Active, I then got my hands on everything else they'd released and went to every UK show they played. Funnily enough, I remember thinking, "I have never liked a band this much since Let's Active".

AW: I like your lyrics. Where do you get your ideas for them?

AT: Thanks again. I have one rule: never write about yourself! I hate "I feel this, I feel that", "this happened to me, he hurt me", etc. As I'm sure all songwriters do, I make notes in my phone whenever anything inspires me. That could be a scene in a film, a vibe from a book, something someone said, or simply stuff that happens out there! I remember my guitarist friend Simon Ruckes saying to me, "Paint a picture in people's heads". That was partly why I used lines like "all the little bugs 'round the street light" and "our hands behind our heads as we watch the stars", because everyone can picture those images. I like the science of things. There's a new track in early stages called The Motorway Effect, which is how if one person brakes on the motorway it has a knock on effect for miles and hours on everybody else on the same road. I like relating that to how our actions as humans affect things and we have to take responsibility for that. It's OK to sneak personal stuff into the lyrics, as long as it's disguised.

AW: Besides Let’s Active and TNP, who are your influences?

AT: I could write a very long list answer to that, but will condense it down to Led Zeppelin (there is no other rock band to touch them, they are so interesting, and anyway, so much more than rock), Arthur Lee and Love, early R.E.M., John Cale.

AW: How did your band form?

AT: I was always in other people's bands, co-writing, up until about 2006, when I started writing songs I actually liked! So I recorded them, stuck them on the internet as a kind of "fake band". People seemed to like it, so I gathered musicians together to play that music live, and that became the band Ozone Baby, which later became The Big Believe.

AW: Would you want to tour the US?

AT: Yes, that is something that would seem appropriate, as we have more fans there than here! There have been a couple of times where that has been on the horizon and then fallen through for logistical reasons. Never say never, though.

AW: You worked with the late Faye Hunter of Let’s Active fame on Let’s Pretend We’re Spies. What was that like, working with her?

AT: It was delightful and so easy. I should mention that we sadly never met in person. She wanted me to go over to Mitch Easter's studio when she was recording the vocals for Spies, and I did too, but Mitch's free studio time came suddenly and I couldn't get a visa in time. Faye learned the song in an instant and nailed it without many takes in the studio. She was full of enthusiasm and praise, and humble throughout. I was incredibly excited about the whole thing, and so grateful for her interest and the time she gave it. Still am.

AW: You also worked with Todd Fancey of the New Pornographers. How did that come about?

AT: I believe it came about because of cigarettes and the smoking ban, i.e. one time I was in Bristol to see The New Pornographers play an unlikely venue that was pretty much a huge church hall. Afterwards I went out the back for a cigarette, and so did one of the band members. We ended up having a smoke and a chat together, later joined by other members of the band. Eventually I let it pop out that I was in a band and they asked for a link to the music. I was excited again when they liked the material and passed the link around. Guitarist Todd got in touch, saying he was into the material, and an online friendship followed where we discussed my stuff and his solo stuff a lot. In the end I popped the question, "Would you like to do a solo on one of our tracks?" and he said, "Sure".

AW: Is there anyone else you’d want to work with?

AT: Well, yes and no. After Todd had collaborated and Faye had agreed to, the idea was to make a whole album of collaborations, yet I couldn't help feeling that after working with members of my two favourite bands, that anything else was a step downwards. Also, Todd and Faye were such sweet people, we never had talk of contracts or money, and they were so easy to work with, I had a feeling the other people I had in mind would maybe be less accommodating. Having said that, I wouldn't have turned down working with Arthur Lee in an ideal world!

https://www.facebook.com/amanda.thompson.908132?fref=nf&pnref=story

Andrea Weiss

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