Sunday, November 8, 2015

Scott Miller

Don’t All Thank Me At Once
The Lost Pop Genius Of Scott Miller
Brett Milano
125 Books

This is a masterpiece, no other way to say it. I hope to do this book justice because it is.  One of the best books I’ve read all year, to say the least.

Scott Miller never made a bad album. And that comes through Milano’s book too, and I should add that Scott’s book Music: What Happened has that same effect.  And the stories behind each album are fascinating, since their told by those who also loved Scott, both as a musician and as a person.

And with Scott as a person, he’s great, but there wasn’t just one side, the musical side, there was him as a person, what made him human, and what made him wonderful.

My personal favorite of Scott’s albums is Lolita Nation, so a little about it here, to give an example of what I’m talking about.  My first impression of it was Sergeant Pepper, for the way and lyrics made an indelible impression, but also that the record was a blast from start to finish, and also made you think. For example, “but when you know what it is you’re doing, then you despise it,,” a watchword that will stay with you.  The music was guitar rock, “power pop,” doesn’t seem to fit, and the twin leads suited the music., as did the big melodies, hooks and otherwise, that drove everything. And not just Scott, Donnette Thayer’s contributions are essential too, particularly “Look Away,” a favorite of mine period.

And all of what is written about here underscores the tragic turn things took. Suicide  is so hard to write about, but it must be, as that’s the ending, and also the starting point here. And as sad as it is, it’s also the right one, since it informs everything that goes before Scott’s final act.  He is missed so much, and on so many levels, everyday.

This book is informative for newcomers, a tonic for Scott fans, and a must read for music fans everywhere.  Everything, sad and happy, is handled with much grace,  and is one of the many reasons you won’t be able to put this book down.
Andrea Weiss

Three Reviews

Dry Food
Explosions In Sound

Catchy, noisy, acoustic indie-pop. Ellen Kempner, all of 21 years old, from Boston, writes and sings like Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis. Fans of that band, and others like them, will enjoy this album very much, as will people who can’t get enough wry-humored songs about breakups. I like both, so this album is a treat.

French Horn Rebellion
Fooling Around EP
Ensemble Records 

I’m not big on music solely intended to dance to, but I'll make an exception for French Horn Rebellion. This duo from Brooklyn rock, or at the very least strut their stuff around the dance floor. Their lyrics are meant to think to, and thinking of joyful things predominates here.  The album’s title may hint at silliness, but there is nothing silly about this band. This is the sound of pure exuberance. 

Secret In The Dark
Other Music Recordings

Monika has been through a breakup, and a sailing accident, both sung about here. It's part of what makes this singer from Greece much better than the usual mainstream pop: there’s a lightness to these songs, instead of the usual weighty take on such things, and a minimum of drama. In the end, it's quite enjoyable. This is music to think to as well as dance to, songs that mean something, instead of just partying and sex. 

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, October 15, 2015

CoCo Rosie
Heartache City
No label

Sisters who make music so cute that eventually it turns obnoxiously childlike.  “Lost Girls” has a good message, solidarity for the everyday perils women face, but the song's pretentiousness undermines this great message.  At best they sound like a stripped down Bjork, and fans of Bjork will probably like CoCo Rosie just fine.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Let It Ring 

R. Ring
Johnny Brenda's 7-27-15
Philadelphia, PA
And an interview with Mike Montgomery

R. Ring - "Loud Underneath": A super mid-tempo rocker that is light-footed and nimble. It’s a relationship song; maybe about trying to tell someone you like them.

R. Ring - "Singing Tower": dreamy, loving, sad, hushed music, about an uncle of Mike’s who lived across from an ancient church, marked by ringing bells from the bell tower. When he died he might have haunted the bell tower. Mike wanted to let him know that it was okay to climb down.

Quailbones - "A Tip to Trick":  As dreamy as Singing Tower.  Louder, crunchier, darker.  Maybe about a relationship that’s ending.

Protomartyr - "Blues Festival": A hard charging rocker, strong, forceful, with pointed words of advice to bands starting up. Think of The Fall’s Mark E. Smith playing musical therapist.  Kelley’s backing vocals add even more of an element of subtlety and lightness.                

I saw R Ring when they stopped off in Philly for a show at Johnny Brenda’s.  I knew how good they were after having seen them three years ago at a place in Huntington , WV named The Black Sheep.  R. Ring stole that show, too. 

Johnny Brenda’s has a better sound system than The Black Sheep.  I spotted Kelley, Mike, and their drummer, Leo, and went and said hello. It was good to see them since I hadn’t seen Kelley and Mike since The Black Sheep. I was also glad to make Leo’s  acquaintance.

R. Ring headlined a three-person bill. and up first was Cynthia Schemmer, from the band Radiator Hospital, who was wonderful. A singer/songwriter that was appealingly grungy. After her set, I bought a copy of She Shreds from her, a magazine for women who play guitar and bass. It’s well written, feminist, and it was great to read the interviews where smart questions were asked, and that took women seriously as guitar and bass players. Ms. Schemmer writes for it, and is very good.

If you’re part of the Philly indie scene, you know The Dead Milkmen, who have been around since the 80s. Joe Jack Talcum is a member of said band, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from an acoustic set by him. But he was charming, in a Jonathan Richman sort of way. And a tremendous musician.

R Ring played all the songs they had released over the years. They took on new dimensions, with acoustic guitars pouring feedback and distortion and Kelley’s fantastic vocal effects from her pedal board.  It was 40 minutes of greatness. 

After their set, with Kelley’s help I bought everything R.Ring had to offer including  a T-shirt, and  an EP they’d made for a Dutch label, Mass Market, called The Rise EP. I’d been wanting to hear it, and if you can find it, pick it up.  It’s wonderful, and all packed in an evidence bag, the kind the police use.  I’d wanted to stay, hang out a bit more, but the band was tired, and i didn’t want to overstay my welcome. So we said goodnight, and I went home happy.

I recently sat down with Mike Montgomery for an interview about the new songs, and upcoming tour dates. I want to thank him for that, and thank the band for making my night and seeing them live again.

Andrea Weiss: How did you meet Protomartyr and Quailbones?

Mike Montgomery: We met Protomartyr at a sub pop showcase in Austin, TX a few years ago.  We really liked their songs. We met Quailbones at a show in Murray, KY and really liked their music.  We decided to stay in touch. 

AW: The artwork for the Quailbones 7 inch is so good. Who drew it?

MM: Ali Calis at Able Projects in Cincinnati did the art. He's a wizard. 

AW: I also like the Protomartyr artwork, who drew that? Both are very arresting. 

MM: Alex from Protomartyr did the art for that 7 inch. He is also a wizard.  

AW: R. Ring's two songs for the 7 inches are so different.  Do you like that kind of contrast?

MM: We just go one song at a time, so sometimes they turn out differently from each other.  It wasn’t intentional to write two contrasting songs, but yeah, we like how they turned out. 

AW: Who played the drums on Loud Underneath?

MM: Joe Frankl is the drummer on this one. Another wizard. 

AW:  How did you get Hardly Art, Protomartyr’s label, to put out the split 7 inch with you and them?

MM: Protomartyr has a contract with Hardly Art for their other releases so they arranged it all. 

AW: Do you and Kelley write separately, and bring in complete songs, or  collaborate when you play together?

MM: Yes to both. We write separately and together. 

AW: And if you do write together, who does the music and lyrics? 

MM: We write both music and lyrics, together and separately. 

AW: I’ve been reading in interviews that you’re working toward a full-length album, which will be exciting. Any timetable for putting it out?

MM: No ma’am. No timetable whatsoever. 

AW: Do you plan to tour anymore this year, or save it for next year?

MM: We have a few shows this coming weekend: Aug 21 in Athens, Ohio at Donkee Coffee. Aug 22 in Columbus at cd102.5 big bar.  Aug 23 at Crave Fest in Lexington, Ky. 

Earlier interview that I did with Mike here: 

More about R. Ring here:

She Shreds Magazine here:

Andrea Weiss

Friday, May 8, 2015

Game Theory
Real Nighttime
Omnivore Recordings

 If anyone is curious as to why I haven’t blogged lately, I’m here, but taking a rest from reviews. This blog still works, but there won’t be as many reviews in the future.

I know I didn’t review the previous Game Theory album, Dead Center. That was because I don’t live near a good record store where I could have gotten the reissued EPs Distortion and Pointed Accounts of People You Know. So I’ll sprinkle in some thoughts on the Dead Center comp, which encompasses those two EPs.

Dead Center was a transitional album for Game Theory. The parts were in place for a great leap forward, much the way the two EPs were a step forward from Blaze of Glory. Real Nighttime was that leap forward.

I love Mitch Easter’s exquisite production on this album. The band shines, and special mention must be made of Nan Becker’s wonderful keyboards and Scott Miller’s underrated guitar playing. The bonus tracks are a revelation. I never got to see Game Theory live, so they’re a treat.  The booklet is also revealing, informative and celebratory, particularly the remarks by Carl Newman.

I love all the songs, but I’m not going to single out any of them.  Instead, I’ll say that Scott had an interesting and wonderful idea: to put James Joyce-style language into a pop song.  I read a little of Ulysses to try to understand.  Leave it to Scott to make something like that work.  Read how in the reprinted insert in the booklet for the album.

I didn’t get to hear Real Nighttime in full until after Game Theory had changed into the Loud Family. I’d heard some of the tracks on GT’s best known songs comp Tinker to Evers To Chance, and then managed to find a copy on cassette. I wore out that cassette and the Alias reissue in the 1990s, so I’m very glad to have this album. Omnivore has perfected the reissues of the GT catalog.  Very well done all around.  If you’ve never heard Scott Miller, start with RN, and work backwards. Then get ready for the rest of the reissues to follow later this year.

Andrea Weiss


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