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Monday, November 26, 2007

HOt, hot, heat plus some upcoming picks

Did any of you see the Hot Hot Heat show at the Nouveau Casino Friday? Nom d'une pipe was that ever a pogopalooza!

If you missed it, don't err a second time (like Athens against philosophy!). The tough guys out there are going to wince and say they're too syrupy. But tough! These guys rock, or jump. OMD-Elvis Costello meets The STrokes, man (and that's a compliment). Mark my words. Songs like Goodnight Goodnight are delicieuse. They make you want to hop. Their lyrics are clever, and for the fatally hip, they're even a Trojan horse. Listen closely. Steve Bay: wow what hair. This dynamic lead singer has a great range, as if Freddy Mercury were New Wave and with Weird Al's hair. (okay, sorry STeve, it's cooler than Weird Al's, if that's possible) Damn was that a catchy set. I can't get that bombpop-of-a-song out of my head: good night!

Coming up in the next two weeks, here are some of my picks:

Caribou: Wednesday Nov. 28, Fleche D'or. Canadian Dan Snaith (Manitoba) is a darling of the critics for his musical novelties. "Challenging" is one of the key words often appearing in the laudatory reviews of his creations. Of his latest album Andorra even the mainstream Entertainment Weekly purred, "The only problem with this symphonic daydream is that at just nine songs and 43 minutes, it's over far too soon." Fleche d'or is actually charging for this one. That should tell you something.

Dec. 4, La Maroquinerie, 17,70 euros
This part Finnish, part French duo remind me of Smog, but with Cat Power Chan Marshall's vocals if they were higher pitched and directed into poppier ditties. Contagious. Check it out.
The show at La Maroquinerie is complet/sold out. But there are almost always people selling tickets there before the show. Another resource for finding tickets is the forum section of ""

Dean and Britta
Monday, 3 Dec., La Fleche d'Or ( (NY, NY/Zoë Records) (Folk/Rock), Free
Former Luna members Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips form this easy-going folk/rock duo. Mellow and airy, you can hear the influence of classic 60s idols like Velvet Underground in Dean's spoken-sung lyrics, softly strummed guitar, and Britta's soft harmonies. --Hilary Camblos

Herman Dune: Wednesday Dec. 5. Point Ephemere. As that sweatshopper Nike would say, "Just Do It!"

Mum :
Dec. 7, Le Trabendo. These Icylanders will be peddling their latest bundle of sweet gurgles, blurps, and disco loops, Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy (2007). While they keep shedding members, including my dream girl Kristín Anna Valtýsdóttir, Mum has also moved beyond the comfortable, sweet warble pop that defined them two albums ago during the Valtysdottir period. Very post-rock, and if you like that sort of thing it don't get much better than this.

Simone elle est bonne
Friday, 7 Dec., La Fleche d'Or ( (Paris, France) (Electric/Punk/Pop), Free
You can't help but love self-empowered girls giving it to the man. A fast-paced electric sound and girlish voice recalling Vive la Fête or Au Revoir Simone delivering unabashedly in your face lyrics in the spirit of Nellie McKay or Metric, Simon elle est bonne claims to come from the future to save French music. --Hilary Camblos

I Am Kloot: Dec. 10, Le Nouveau Casino. Great Manchester pop, known for its brand of wordplay and changes of pace.

Thurston Moore : Tues. Dec. 11 Le Trabendo. Thurston Moore of legendary NY art-punk band Sonic Youth will turn 50 next year. But oh, how young his work continues to be. In 2007 Moore released his second song-based album, Trees Outside of the Academy, featuring cameos by Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis, Samara Lubelski, and Moore's fellow Sonic Youth member Steve Shelley. Meditative and textured, Trees is an album paradoxically at once youthful and mature. This could be one of the best show's of 2007.

Keren Ann: Wed. Dec. 12 and Thur Dec. 13, Cafe de la Danse. Nice indie folk.

Stuck in the Sound
12, 13, and 14 Dec., La Fleche d'Or ( (Paris, France) (Indie/Rock), Free
Their driving rhythms, garage guitars and Cure-like vocals would make you double check for British passports. But chalk it up to the Chunnel Effect, folks: SITS are French as escargot. Part of It's Festival!, with The Dodoz, Selfish Cunt, Burning Heads, Hopper, Eldia, etc.--Hilary Camblos

Of Montreal: Friday Dec. 14 La Maroquinerie. Indie quirksters from the Elephant 6 consortium. Critics have called "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer" the best album yet by this fantastic songwriter.

Scout Niblett: Monday Dec. 17, Nouveau Casino. She calls herself "Scout Niblett." What more do you want? (Oh, you're deep, are you?). She's from Portland, Oregon. She's cute. Oh, still not sold? For fans of Cat Power? Oh, okay. Soft folk and Bjorkish vocals metamorphoses violently into static guitar and hard rock crashing drums canvasing PJ Harvey-like yawps.

The Young Knives
20 Dec., La Maroquinerie ( (UK/Transgressive) (Indie, Pop punk, classic rock), 17 euros
These tweed-donning, Buddy-Holly look-a-like lads from the middle of England let loose some serious post-punk rock. Shortlisted for the 2007 Nationwide Mercury Prize for Voices of Animals and Men, their latest album, Terra Firma, has met mixed reviews, but their sound is solid. O Come All Ye Faithful.--Hilary Camblos

Cancellations: Super Furry Animals Dec. 3 at La Maroquinerie; Besnard Lakes Dec. 6 La Maroquinerie.
--Jayson Harsin

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sing Sing and Eloise (ARLT) November 18

If you're relatively new to the list, see this older review of these lovely indiefroggy folksters. REcommended for enthusiasts of Nick Drake, Cat Power, and medieval troubadours.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Vic Chestnutt, La Cigale, November 16!

I somehow missed this one but highly recommend it if you're not doing anything Nov. 16:

Nov. 16
Vic Chesnutt
à la Cigale
Chestnutt is a peculiar American singer-songwriter, a cripple in fact, who nevertheless manages to strum some beautiful songs famous for their poetry and his inimitable voice. Recommended, even last minute.

Here's a sample Vic Chesnutt song I love. JH
< Vic ChesnuttSoft Picasso

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Wombat Rock: Interview with The Wombats

Paris, France
November 1, 2007

They’re from the U.K. , not Australia , these Wombats. In fact, U.K. fans and critics are going so wild over this trio’s eclectic brand of what I call Indie Doo Wop that their Liverpudlian origins have encouraged comparisons to their legendary local forbears, The Beatles. Seven letters in the bands’ names, contagious melodies, harmonies and lyrics. Though The Wombats met at Liverpool ’s Performing Arts Academy founded by Paul McCartney, the comparisons end there; The Beatles operated with more personnel and Wombats are higher on the food chain.

Before their packed show at Paris’s fine indie music venue La Maroquinerie Thursday night, I had the opportunity to talk with The Wombats’ Dan Haggis (drums, vocals, keyboards) and Tord Knudsen, which sounds like “Thor” in conversation (bass, keyboard, vocals), while Matthew Murphy (lead vocals, guitar) was off munching baguettes and communing with the Muse. We talked about their birth thanks to the midwife of alcohol; their growth in popularity up to their recent debut release; their nuanced sound and lyrics; and their future plans.

The Birth of The Wombats

The pogo-able pieces they play have been about four years in the making.

Tord, the bass-playing displaced Norse god, Dan, and “Murph” Murphy met at the Liverpool Performing Arts Academy through friends of friends in the dormitories. Yet, they didn’t work their harmonies out in course projects. They met as probably most great troubadors do: around their pints of mead.

As Dan summed it up after a few anecdotes about parties and cricket games, “I guess the theme here is we’re an alcohol-induced band.” I wondered if all the other great art school-born bands were conceived the same way? But I can’t imagine David Byrne playing cricket; and I’d wager the Gang of Four met at a young Marxists reading group.

I followed up on the on choice of a marsupial for a name and learned that for these three poly-instrumentalists destined to become The Wombats, the jolly magnetism of social drinking was nearly inseparable from musical creativity and animal fetishes. .

“After a few hazy nights together drinking, we wrote that song about the goat,” Dan chuckled.

“The day of the first show, the promoter asked us for our name. We said we didn’t have one one yet. He said, ‘Just give me anything,’ and Dan offered, ‘The Wombats.’” Added Tord. “Actually there were several animals in the running: Goats, a rhinocerous, wombats. Our first song was ‘Ode to Charles the Goat.’ It was just the three of us having a laugh.”

From Playing Schools to Top of the Charts

So The Wombats stuck, and after a year, they shrugged their shoulders and let history happen. This week the popular New Music Express chart in the UK showed their hit “Let’s Dance to Joy Division” knocking out the Hives for the top single in the land. They mentioned they had already been on a small U.S. tour, playing in tiny bars for a few enthusiastic fans. I wondered if the number and size of the venues wouldn’t triple the next time around.

Earlier this year the much sought after band signed to UK label 14th Floor. “We got signed,” Dan says, “because we did a ridiculous amount of touring and already had a fan base.”

Their first album, “A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation” is out this week. Fourteenth Floor had the honors partly due to an A&R connection they had worked with releasing singles in the past. While “quite a few” labels had come knocking at their door after they played SxSW in Austin last March, they are confident that 14th Floor (which has a lot of singer-songwriters on their roster) was right for them simply because their middle-man “totally gets who we are.”

“We had complete control with this record,” Dan says. “We negotiated the contract that way. The label told us what they would like, but we had the last say.”

Indie Doo Wop/Wombat Rock

But about what sound exactly did the Wombats have the last say? As with a lot of popular music, the Wombats’ sound is a socially acceptable form of addiction and pleasure. They give you contagious Doo wop harmonies, memorable melodic hooks, a driving rhythm, and smart lyrics. There’s something comfortable and familiar about their sound, which will at times draw comparisons to The Strokes guitars and the Franz Ferdinand Bass, occasional Forward Russia! rhythms. Yet their ability to incorporate keyboards, strings, and harmonicas, to pen grin-worthy lyrics, and layer harmonies will defy easy classifications. When you ask the guys about their influences their identity makes sense.

They’ve been playing in bands since they were 15 or 16, and what were they listening to in those formative years which often play an unconscious role in a band’s composition of sounds?

“This!” says Tord pointing a finger heavenward. Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was playing. We chuckled.

“I’d listen to this upstairs,” Dan explains. “Then I’d go downstairs and listen to Neil Young and Fleetwood Mac! Actually, I listened to a lot of classic rock: Rolling Stones, Cream….We’re all fans of Radiohead. I also listed to harder things like Rage Against the Machine and Deftones.”

“Yeah,” Tord interjects, “I had a period of black metal!”

“I also had a Skate punk phase,” Tord continues. “No Effects, Green Day, and then I got in to the Norwegian Radiohead—Motorcycle. They’re really important for me, because I still think they were different than anything else.”

And what about my Doo Wop tag? Are these guys fans of The Platters and boybands?! Not exactly.

“We like the Beach Boys,” Dan admits.

But in fact, these guys were in several different bands when they first started. They both played some metal. Dan was in a folk trio! Let’s not forget that Joe Strummer, before the 101’ers and The Clash, was a folk singer who insisted on being called “Woody.” Dan, Tord, and Murphy, like the Platters, the early Beatles and the Beach Boys, have a love for “woooahhs” and “oooooayyoooos.” But what sets them apart is their ability to lay those harmonies down over pop punk rhythms, indie jangle guitars, and sporadic OMD-induced new wave synth-pop. Listen closely and you hear echoes of the last 30 years of Anglo-American (and some Norwegian) pop-rock.

Well-Wrought Words

But that’s the sound of instruments and voices. One loses an important portal of appreciation if one forgets their lyrics. These are the exclusive work of the gifted lyricist Murphy. They give The Wombats an ironic identity, a cleverness that some bands, as much as they might want it, can never attain, forcing them by default to rock out to overly earnest appeals to love, heartache, power, corruption and lies.

My pretentious literary sensibility requires me to point out a couple of Shakespeare references in their songs. Not only are they Shakespeare references but they’re played to great humorous effect.

IN “Lost in the Post,” Murphy sings of a love never meant to be, who “wanted Mary Poppins, I took her to King Lear.” Then in “Lost in a Forest ,” a song about a disappointing rave outside Leeds , Murphy asks, “Am I in a scene from Midsummer night’s dream?”

But Shakespeare or no, the important thing is that these guys give us playful sometimes darkly humorous lyrics against a rollickingly poppy—I persist, pogoable—sound. And there they are in elite company with bands like The Smiths.

When one listens to the lyrics of “Let’s Dance to Joy Division,” for example, echoes of “Girlfriend in a Coma,” resonate in the mind’s ear. “Let’s Dance to Joy Division and Celebrate the Irony/Everything is Going Wrong, But we’re so Happy.”

“Yeah,” Dan and Tord agree in unison. “Our sound is fairly upbeat, but then when you listen to the words, it’s sometimes kind of dark. That song is like people dancing and having fun to songs they really find quite depressing.”

“It’s about people dancing to Love will tear us apart…..been havin’ a hard week, then letting loose. The ridiculousness of life gets you down, but it’s kind of like the music can get you out of it.” Some people choose alcohol or drugs, others choose Joy Division, others still the Wombats.

They say the lyrics and the sound are of equal importance to them. They like that “you can listen to the album again and again and find new things.”

The Code of the Wombat

The Wombats are on a roll. But where are they going? What do they want? Why do they do this? The rock’n’roll dream to take over the world?

“We never had a set goal,” Dan waxes modest. “We like to live one day at a time,” Carpe Diem “Dead Poet’s Society” style.

He continues: “We want to keep on doing music full time. We don’t want to be a flash in the pan.”

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote to Walt Whitman after having read “Leaves of Grass,” I greet you at the beginning of a great career.

(Also published by Blogcritics Magazine)

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Tonight! Lippie at Fleche D'Or (plus check calendar updates, and, Wombats review, and concert reviews)

11/3, La Fleche d’Or, Lippie ( (France)

With simple, perhaps even minimalist songs that build by layered tracks, with a patience permitting you to savor each sweet note and attendant harmony, Lippie makes listening like passing hours with a sensitive, passionate lover. She presents a slow groove that reaches in and resonates with some primordial instinct, in which you hear the influences of rock, blues, and reggae, plus a little jazzy syncopation tossed into the mix – wait, is that Bjork I hear there too? Lippie’s got a sound that clears out all the cobwebs and presents glimpses of the elusive essence of music. Playing with Juan Spark and Anton Stars, the Dodoz, and Fantôme.

(Hillary Camblos)

Concert Review: Brille REcords Party, Fleche D'Or

Brille Records threw a fabulous label party almost two weeks ago Wednesday at La Fleche d'Or, featuring the young Aussie indie-pop group Operator Please and the British indie rock trio Good Shoes. Despite their cherubic look, OP rocked the crowd with their tight pop sound, led by the strong vocals of Amanda Wilkinson. Was there moshing? Oh, yes. Good Shoes garagier sound followed. They quickly proved worthy of the cross-channel buzz about them. As if their driving beat, fast, politically charged lyrics, and sweet guitar riffs weren't enough to make the crowd rock, everyone was quickly airborn following guitarist Steve Leach’s lead as a pogo-gone-wild on stage. Plus, they have fantastically well-worn shoes.
(Hilary Camblos)

Formerly "Parisnormale: Paris Rocks"