Diane Coffee “Internet Arms” 2019. Polyvinyl Records, limited edition (300 copies) on clear fuchsia vinyl. Internet Arms is Diane Coffee’s (aka Shaun Fleming, former Disney actor and Foxygen drummer) fourth album and he’s still playing around with gender-bending, glammy and synthy dream pop, with a focusing on internet relationships and our relationship to the internet (spoiler: it’s not all chocolate and roses). Lots of “futuristic” electronica, some auto-tune sprinkled with gospel (ie “Simulation” and “Work It”), funky dance grooves (ie the title track “Internet Arms”), 80′s alternative pop inspiration (ie “War”) and show-tune musical flavors (ie “Good Luck” – Fleming has also performed in rock operas). I really like Diane Coffee – we’ve seen him perform a couple of times in the last few years (though we skipped his latest tour for this album because there was a bunch of other bands playing the same evening) and in concert he’s a master at working the stage and the audience. But I have to say that live experience doesn’t translate well onto wax – at least not on Internet Arms, or maybe I’m just not into this style of music when there isn’t a charismatic performer standing in front of me: it’s not mellow enough to be shoe-gaze dream pop to space out to on a long evening drive but it also doesn’t have enough energy for a sweaty dance session in my living room. It’s fine but I’m not sure how often I’ll be throwing this one onto the turntable.
Abby Jeanne “Get You High” and “Spellbound” 2019. Hi Fi Records. Very limited edition 7″ colored vinyl and even more limited cassette release. This past weekend Milwaukee’s own Abby Jeanne hosted a “Pop-Up Atomic Records” shop at the Bay View coffee shop, Hi Fi Cafe for her just-released single, “Get You High,” a dreamy track filled with swirls and tension. Side B is a cover of Siouxsie and the Banshee’s “Spellbound,” which Jeanne recreates beautifully, respectfully: not many singers can match Siouxsie Sioux’s piercingly clear vocals but wow, Abby does an amazing job, adding her bluesy touch to the goth classic. The cassette has both of those tracks plus a bonus track – “Get You High (Daniel Ash ‘Paradise Mix’)” – remixed by the Bauhaus/Tones on Tail/Love and Rockets/Pop Tone goth master himself.
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion “Orange” released 25 years ago today, October 12th, 1994. Matador Records, silver vinyl. Tonight we’re catching JSBX’s drummer Russell Simins’ band S-E-R-V-I-C-E at Cactus Club in Milwaukee. We saw them last month at our neighborhood street party, Bay View Bash, and back in May 2017 in Indianapolis at Hi-Fi Indy and they are amazing. Here’s a couple of shots from those shows.
Orange, my favorite JSBX record and their third or fourth (depending upon how you count the first two releases from 1992) LP, is at times sparse, chaotic, funky, punk, bluesy but always amazing. The lead track, “Bellbottoms” swells with strings and a funked out groove before hitting the staccato’d “bellbottoms” anthem. The song inspired Edgar Wright to write the 2017 movie Baby Driver, the soundtrack to which was nominated for a Grammy (the song “Chase Me” in the movie is a remix of “Bellbottoms” by Danger Mouse featuring Run the Jewels and Big Boi). “Wright laid in his bedroom listening to the song on repeat, visualizing a car chase set to “Bellbottoms.” He also started coming up with the idea of a character: a getaway driver for a bank heist, who cannot do his job properly without the right music playing.” (IndieWire) “Ditch” is hip-shaking sexy and “Dang” has fantastic, crazed harmonica solo by Judah, matched by Jon Spencer’s insane theremin. The first of two excellent instrumentals on Orange comes next: “Very Rare” slows down the beat to a hypnotic rhythm overlayed with Spencer’s signature guitar twang. “Sweat” is iconic JSBX giving us the classic line “That’s the sweat of the Blues Explosion!” “Cowboy” is weirdly mangled country-western (not my favorite track on the album) but the title track “Orange” returns to the slinky JSBX groove (Spencer name-drops ‘Star Trek’ and manages to make even that sexy). Side B leads off with “Brenda” with Spencer singing longingly, just a little too high out his range, for a girl and her money. “Dissect” is thick with musical chaos and “Blues X Man” is a “12-bar back-country roadhouse blues and back-alley back-seat eros to Lower East Side boasting about the Blues Explosion’s musical virility. It begins sparse and skeletal before adding a female backing chorus and DJ turntablism, turning traditionalism upside down and scraping country and city down to their nubs in order to make everything bleed.” (Allmusic) “Full Grown” is balls-out insanity beginning with the line “Baby baby you sure like to fuck FUCK!” and “Flavor” is hilarious, rattling off all the cities where the Blues Explosion is number one and the band gets Beck on the phone to croon out “flavor.” (The remix of “Flavor” is even better, featuring Beck and Mike D in a wicked funny video.) Orange concludes with my favorite JSBX track, the instrumental “Greyhound” which is monstrously awesome, best played at 11.
The Black Keys “Let’s Rock” 2019. Nonesuch Records, limited edition blue vinyl. Let’s Rock is The Black Keys’ 9th studio LP, which debuted at its peak chart positions of #4 in the US and #3 in the UK. They released it after a five-year hiatus and wrote it mostly in-studio; the title and cover art inspired by last words of a Tennessee convict executed by electric chair in 2018, as well as an “homage to the electric guitar” (Patrick Carney). And also because it’s a rock-n-roll record, blues-inspired for sure – waaayyyy less lo-fi than their early work – even though Dan Auerbach says, “We’re not rock’n’roll guys. We fucking hate rock’n’roll guys. We always have. The idea of pyrotechnics on stage and lasers is always so goofy.” We saw The Black Keys perform this past weekend at the Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee and they indeed did not have pyrotechnics or lasers, but did have some pretty great lighting and a giant electric chair replica from the LP’s cover behind them at one point. I was also pleasantly impressed with the Fiserv, a really new venue in Milwaukee (this was our first time seeing a concert there as we generally avoid big shows). In the past when I saw concerts at the now-demolished Bradley Center (which the Fiserv replaced), the sound was horrible. All concrete and echoes – just imagine seeing the last show I remember going to there: Neil Young with Social Distortion and Sonic Youth. The bands were great but the sound was fucking horrible.
Anyway, it was a great show, the duo’s sound beefed up by three backing musicians. They played several songs from Let’s Rock including a few of my favorites: the singles “Lo/Hi” (which went to the top of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock, Adult Alternative Songs, Rock Airplay, and Alternative Songs charts simultaneously, making it the first song ever to do so), “Eagle Birds” and my top-pick, “Go” which is a great summer anthem with a hilarious video (see below). I also really love “Shine a Little Light,” the album’s opener, and “Under the Gun.” I don’t love the whole LP though: “Walk Across the Water,” “Sit Around and Miss You” (though the video is damn funny, a parody of the commercial that aired incessantly in the 80′s for “Freedom Rock”) and “Breaking Down” are all a little too 60′s/70′s smooth California blues-rock for my taste. Though, weirdly, I really like “Tell Me Lies,” which has a similar sound as those last two (kinda Eagles-ish with a dash of Steve Miller Band) but it’s got such a great hook that I’m overlooking it. Honestly it’s taken me awhile to really warm to Let’s Rock: The Raconteurs Help Us Stranger was released about a week before Let’s Rock and there’s that (untrue??) rivalry between Jack White/The White Stripes and Dan Auerbach/The Black Keys that makes comparisons virtually impossible to avoid – and I really really love Help Us Stranger. So when I had the choice of which to listen to on repeat, The Raconteurs inevitably have won out – but I’m making more of an effort now.
Orchestral arrangements of music from Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night