Monthly Archives: January 2014

Dum Dum Girls Follow A New Muse on “Too True”

by Jeff Yerger

Let’s get one thing out of the way before we go any further… you know, the big purpley elephant in the room. Let’s all just agree that the album cover to the Dum Dum Girls’ third full-length album, Too Soon, is horrendous and tacky. What is Dee Dee wearing? Why is she looking at me like that? Why is she even on this cover at all? Up until now, the Dum Dum Girls’ album covers have been pretty cool, at times, beautiful. This gaudy thing belongs in the shreader, but I can’t tell if this is on purpose or not.

Right, where were we? The music. Yes, well the music a completely different story all together. In fact, Too True is yet another bold step from a band that seems to get better with every release. Voice problems be damned, frontwoman Dee Dee Penny followed her music (“desire”) deep down the rabbit hole and what has come out on the other side is a lush haze of 80s-goth inspired garage pop.

Like a flower that’s slow to bloom, Too True takes its time to open up. The first three tracks are come across as half-baked ideas that never really seem to take off. “Rimbaud Eyes” is the most generic out of the three, and like the album art, you begin to wonder why these songs were included. Perhaps that muse Dee Dee was after led her down the wrong path.

Yet, as soon as the gorgeous “Are You Okay?” comes along, Too True turns into a completely different album; the sequencing is more balanced and the songwriting is much sharper. “In The Wake of You” is an immediate stand-out, as it is the culmination of everything the band has done up to this point. Its widescreen chorus points to the future, but the rhythm and grungy guitar hint at the Dum Dum Girls’ roots in garage rock.

The great thing about Too True is that while every song on here is unique, the overall vibe and sound remains constant. That’s not an easy thing to do. I can’t picture any of these songs on another Dum Dum Girls record, and I think that’s a good thing. Dee Dee is mastering her craft, and album by album, she remains looking forward. In the past, she has made this sound easy, but on Too True it feels a little more earned. Give this album some loving care, and watch it blossom into the beautiful flower it truly is.

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A True Trans Soul Rebel: Against Me!’s triumphant “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”

It was May 2012 when the world was first introduced to Laura Jane Grace. I was working for SPIN, and as soon as the news broke that Against Me!’s singer/guitarist formerly known as Tom Gabel had come out as a transsexual, we turned on the band’s breakthrough album New Wave in the office. Immediately, the music took on a whole new meaning that was perhaps deeper than we originally thought. You couldn’t listen to the music without reading between the lines.  The lyrics in “The Ocean” now seemed less like a poetic gesture and more like a cry for help. The news about Laura Jane Grace was one of the biggest events to happen in the history of music. This was a BIG deal. Suddenly, transgender issues entered the mainstream and whether Laura Jane Grace knew it or not, she in turn became a spokesperson, a role model, and a hero.

Against Me! almost didn’t survive. Since that spring of 2012, bassist Andrew Seward and drummer Jay Weinberg quit the band in midst of recording their new album, which was made over the course of a year. “The record almost fucking killed the band,” Grace told Grantland reporter Steven Hyden, who also wrote that while originally finishing up the album, a storm sent a tree through the roof of Grace’s recording studio, further complicating it’s completion. “It was just, like, the end. It was fucking weird.”

Fortunately, like Laura Jane Grace herself, Transgender Dysphoria Blues survived, and it is one of the most extraordinary, most brutally honest rock records I have ever heard. On her first album since coming out, Grace emerges from the darkness with her head held high and a middle finger in the air, holding nothing back. But most importantly, Blues is a victory lap, and you certainly don’t have to be transsexual to relate to the feeling.

I don’t know whether it’s Grace’s rebel yell delivery or the lyrics themselves, but these words – these emotions being unleashed – hit you with such force. While her voice sounds a little smoother this time around, Laura Jane Grace can still fucking roar, like in “Drinking With the Jocks” where she spits a venom towards the people she once tried to be. Then on “Dead Friend,” her words and delivery perfectly illustrate the gut punch you feel after losing a loved one. I’ll be damned if I’m not ready to take on the world after listening to the anthems like “True Trans Soul Rebel” or “Black Me Out.” The music, too, is just so on-point. Call it pop-punk, call it rock and roll, call it whatever the hell you want. Whatever it is, not a moment here is wasted and every heartbeat is felt. These songs demand a road trip, a blasting stereo, and some open windows.

The great thing about Blues is that you hear Grace’s newfound freedom in both her voice and her music’s strut. It’s punk rock from a person who has been to the depths of hell but has emerged triumphantly on the other side. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is one hell of a rock album, and its hero, Laura Jane Grace, has been rejuvenated. God bless her transsexual heart.

Listen to “Black Me Out” here:

About Last Night: Carter Hutton’s Save of the Year

by Jeff Yerger

Last night, the New York Rangers defeated the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 in what was a fierce goaltending dual. Henrik Lundqvist and Jimmy Howard played out of their minds, as they saw 86 shots(!) total. 86 shots?! Do you realize how ridiculous a total that is? Lil Jon could not even fathom that many shots. And these weren’t just logo tappers either. Both teams came at their opponents with good, creative opportunities while Howard and Lundqvist made it look easy. Rangers top scoring hobbit forward Mats Zuccarello scored the only goal of the game on a fluke failed pass.  Howard played it right, unfortunately for him, the puck took a bounce right over his right pad.

As good as Howard and Lundqvist were at Madison Square Garden last night, the biggest save of the night didn’t happen in New York. Instead, we turn to Philadephia (because, you know, that’s where you go for good goaltending…) where the Flyers battled the Nashville Predators. The Predators have had their fair share of goaltending woes this season, mostly due to the extended absence of Pekka Rinne, but last night the hockey gods smiled upon them as backup Carter Hutton made the greatest save of the year. Check it out below; it’s absolutely unbelievable. No, seriously, like, I don’t believe it actually happened. I mean, come on, look where Hutton is in relation to where the puck is when Flyers forward Michael Raffl shoots. Fucking Stretch Armstrong wouldn’t even be able to make that save! Hutton should probably just retire now, as it’s all downhill from here. Nashville ended up winning the game in a shootout, so I guess you can say Hutton single-(left)handedly stole a point from the Flyers.

Hey, Michael Raffl: how pissed?

Guilt Trip: Falco – “Rock Me Amadeus”

In this feature, That Sunday Barrel goes full-on confessional as we present our biggest guilty pleasures at the risk of losing our musical integrity and perhaps a little personal dignity. 

by Katherine Milsop

What can I say? I’m a sucker for period costume in music videos, especially late 18th century Marie Antoinette-era European Dandy garb. So it’s only natural that I should love the video for Falco’s much parodied international hit “Rock Me Amadeus” (1985).

My fondness for “Rock Me Amadeus” goes beyond the simple auditory pleasure of plastic synths, syncopated rhythm and German lyrics. After all, I can’t say that I remember hearing the song on the radio in its hey-day (It debuted five years before I was born).

No, “The Simpsons” is responsible for this, as well as a vast majority of my esoteric knowledge. Their song parody, “Dr. Zaius”, appears in a musical-version of “Planet of the Apes” (“Stop The Planet Of The Apes I Want To Get Off!”) in the episode “A Fish Called Selma,” and it’s wonderful.

But back to Falco… The lyrics are a choppy, German-English mash-up singing the praises of the original Classical wunderkind who lived fast and died young: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. See these lines translated into English:

He could play the piano like a ring and a bell
And everybody screamed: Come on, rock me Amadeus
With a bottle of wine in one hand and a woman in the other
His mind was on rock and roll and having fun
Because he lived so fast he had to die so young

In addition to composing some of the most gorgeous and well-known symphonies, operas and concertos, Mozart had a certain joie de vivre, played up most memorably in the 1984 film “Amadeus.” Going by the movie and Falco’s music video, Mozart comes off as a prodigy, but a silly one who loved fancy clothes, pastel wigs, booze and decadence. Despite the widespread success and notoriety he experienced during his lifetime, Mozart was financially in dire straits when he died at age 35 in 1791.

Alas, while “Amadeus” is an excellent film and a childhood favorite of mine, it’s also rife with historical inaccuracies.

The music video on the other hand…

Falco (Viennese-born musician Johann Holzel) wears a pink and blue-powdered wig and a dazzling Frock Coat. He dons a tuxedo now and then. He’s dropped off by horse-drawn carriage at a wild opera house, and performs for powdered wig-wearing ladies and gents. There are also leather-clad bikers. And those fun but kind-of-creepy party masks.

Although “Rock Me Amadeus” has been considerably mocked over the years, Falco was a classically trained musician who produced a number of chart-toppers in Europe (“Der Kommissar”) prior to his international hit. Apparently, he’s the best selling Austrian singer of all time. Tragically, Falco died in a car wreck at age 40 in 1998, on the verge of a planned comeback.

If nothing else, “Rock Me Amadeus” could be considered an homage from one musically gifted Austrian to another.

Guilty pleasure? Perhaps. Timeless cultural touchstone? Most assuredly.

Dream Collaborations

by Jeff Yerger

“Supergroups” are totally in right now… er, I mean “Collaborations” (sorry not sorry, Sammy Hagar). ”Collaborations” has become a more trendy thing to do these days, and everyone seems to be in on it. Broken Bells – the Shins’ James Mercer and Danger Mouse “not-a-side-project” side project – will be releasing a new album in February. Gnarles Barkley, another Danger Mouse outfit along with Cee-Lo Green, is rumored to be working on a new album for 2014. In 2013, while not grouching about Spotify, Radiohead dancer Thom Yorke, Radiohead producer Nigel Goldrich, and Red Hot Chili bassist Flea came together as Atoms for Peace to make some noise.  There was also St. Vincent and David Byrne (which sadly was not dubbed “St. David Byrne”), and even an Elvis Costello album with The Roots! Also, lest we forget, not long ago Metallica and Lou Reed did…something…together…which we shall not speak of ever again [shudders]. On top of all that, Daft Punk made 2013 the year of the dance by collaborating with… well, just about everybody.

When they click, big-name collaborations can be really cool, and within recent years, they’re becoming more popular. Why not continue the trend? It’s 2014 people! Let’s get together and feel alright, right? There are a lot of artists I’d like to see work together. Some seem feasible, others irrational, but hey, a guy can dream. One rule though: they must not suck. But let’s dream big anyway. Here are some collaborations I’d like to see in 2014.

The Edge & School of Seven Bells

With Benjamin Curtis’ passing, indie-pop truly lost on of its unsung guitar heroes. As legend has it, guitarist for Secret Machines (another underappreciated band from the early 00’s), Curtis introduced U2’s The Edge to a new fuzz pedal  for his guitar set up, which he then used religiously on 2009’s underrated No Line on the Horizon. I think it would be a fitting tribute if The Edge and School of Seven Bells singer/guitarist Alejandra Deheza recorded one of Curtis’ unfinished songs together, using the very technique Curtis taught the Edge.

Danny Brown & Purity Ring

Listeners got a brief taste of this collaboration on Brown’s latest album, Old, and I don’t know about you, but I want to hear more. Purity Ring have a unique, icy sound to them, which I think would work well in today’s hip-hop landscape. For whatever reason, the back and forth between Brown’s raspy delivery and Megan James’ auto-tuned coos meshed really well. Plus, both artists write really weird lyrics, which could make for a fascinating listen.

Paul McCartney & The Rolling Stones

Come on, you’re telling me you wouldn’t want to know what it would sound like if The Beatles and the Rolling Stones made a record together? They represent the two most important bands in rock and roll as we know it, and together, The Sir Paul Stones (wait, that doesn’t sound right… maybe The Rolling Pauls? Exile on Abbey Road?) would be an unstoppable behemoth capable of swallowing cities whole. Just think: Paul McCartney’s slinky bass lines intertwining with Keith Richard’s crispy riffs, while Mick Jagger rambles on about… I don’t know… how big his mouth is, or something. That would be enough to make a grown man cry.

Dave Grohl & Wavves

You wanna meet Dave Grohl? Well, how about playing in a band with him instead? To say the least, Grohl’s drumming prowess would be a MAJOR improvement for a Wavves band lacking in that department, and perhaps old man Dave would see something of his younger self in Wavves’ Nathan Williams. Together, they could record “The Dave Grohl EP” featuring the songs: “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl (remix featuring Dave Grohl)”, “I Just Met Dave Grohl”, “I Made a Record With Dave Grohl)”, “Dave Grohl Where Are You Going (Don’t Leave Us)”, and “Dave Grohl Sonata in B minor”.

Deafheaven & Joy Formidable

Joy Formidable’s sophomore effort, Wolf’s Law, came across as tastefully bombastic without plunging into Muse territory. Yet, at times, it felt too overly calculated and orchestrated… if that makes any sense. For their next record, I’d like to see them bring the layered guitars to the forefront again and just make some beautiful noise without over-thinking it (think “Whirring” meets “The Leopard and the Lung”)… but that’s another discussion for another time (paging Steve Albini). Anyway, after listening to Deafheaven’s amazing Sunbather, it’s not hard to picture TJF’s Ritzy Bryan’s voice echoing over that mountainous cascade of guitars. Much like The Joy Formidable, Deafheaven aren’t afraid to contrast loud, heavy moments with beautiful, reflective ones, and I think Deafheaven would help The Joy Formidable get the maximum impact out of each. A Deafheaven/Joy Formidable record would probably be one of the loudest ever made, and it would be amazing.

Kanye West & Thom Yorke

Picture this: two of music’s most important artists under one roof, making music together, finding new sounds – new avenues, and pushing each other to the limit. I can just see Kanye rapping over a beat that’s so noticeably Kanye West but most definitely Radiohead/Yorke-ish. Yes, I can picture it, but I certainly can’t hear it, because it would be some sort of music we’ve never even heard yet, like trying to picture a new color (although, maybe this song could give you an idea). Hyperbole aside, if there is one thing these two men each know, it’s how to consistently make a brilliant album, one after another. It would HAVE to work, and it would almost be unfair to everyone else. They’re both musical geniuses in their own right. I just can’t see a project with these two heads failing (unless they still hate each other). Together they’d be “Thomye West.”

Can we please talk about that Old Spice commercial?

by Jeff Yerger

Can we please talk about that Old Spice commercial? You know, the one with the singing moms that debuted yesterday during the Bengals/Chargers AFC Wild Card game? The one that was creepier than Andrew Luck’s facial hair? The one that made the Dos Equis guy marginally less interesting, if only for the time being? Oh, you DO know which commercial I’m referring to, but you choose to block from your memory? I understand. Do you need a hug?

Old Spice “smellcomes” you to manhood in the creepiest way possible. Good lord that commercial was fantastic! It’s not even Super Bowl Sunday, but I think it’s safe to say this commercial wins at commercials forever. I mean, that thing had everything didn’t it? There were weird body movements, sexual innuendos, moms who looked like Susan Boyle, a creepy-may-or-may-not-be-a-pedophile-janitor outfit, show tunes, and manly body spray! There was even a lady in a laundry basket holding on to a speeding car for dear life, which I’m sure could be used as a metaphor for Andy Dalton’s performance yesterday.

What did we do to deserve such a commercial? I wasn’t sure whether to replay it 50 times or kill my TV with fire. A commercial so oddly disturbing like this one should be cherished… or destroyed, I can’t decide. Old Spice gave us the commercial we didn’t want, but we definitely needed. Oh, and it also gave us this wonderful gif

Have fun sleeping tonight!