Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You - Review

The Avett Brothers, I and Love and You, American Recordings, 2009
After 2007's Introducing... Emotionalism, I drunkenly christened Concord, NC's grunge folkers The Avett Brothers "the new face of American masculinity". While I may be unwilling to go that far again without the aid of copious amounts of Southern Comfort, I maintain that Emotionalism is a monumental achievment in the new Americana movement, which, coupled with the band's legendary live show, went on to boost the profile of one of the hardest working and honest bands out there. Which seemed like a good thing.
And then came Rick Rubin, American Recordings, and their latest release I and Love and You. Stripped down and basic in it's approach, I+L+Y will sound great to the thousands of new ears it'll reach, but will disappoint long time fans for one tragic reason. The Avett Brothers, those hard working, fun loving boys that gave their all on stage and sang about kissing pretty girls and were always grateful just to be here, have become the worst thing imaginable: adults. Not men, mind you. Adults. Penny pinching, career concerned, morally compromised adults. Whereas Emotionalism was a frill filled ramble that careened recklessly through genres and emotions, gnashing and biting at the complications and frustrations of being human, I+L+U limps it's way through ten radio friendly songs that barely scratch the surface, and, in fact, leave no mark at all. But it'll help Starbucks baristas meet chicks, I promise.
It's not that it's a bad album - it's just that it's a sellout, and no serious critic can say otherwise. It has no teeth, no presence, nothing essential to it and I+L+U diminishes their entire body of work. The title track is about how hard it is to tell someone that you love them. Thanks, guys. Couldn't have gleaned that from the last Springsteen album.
Gone is the raw tension between being an honest or dishonest human being, a man or a just some dude that came through on Emotionalism. I+L+U is a band succumbing to the pressures of commercialism, pressures which The Avett's put on themselves, which is the real knife in the back. You can sit here all day and say I'm an asshole for deriding a band for wanting to be successful, and none of it will matter. These guys compromised themselves and we have enough people willing to compromise themselves, not only in rock music, but this world in general. We don't need any more.
If The Avett's want to drag themselves out of obscurity and into Carnegie Hall that's fine with me. I hope this album sells a trillion copies and Rubin makes a lot of money. I hope The Avett's don't have to play shitty festivals in Lawrence anymore, or record beautiful versions of Jessica Mayfield songs in hallways anymore if that's what they want. Good luck and good riddance. I'm off to search for new heroes.

On the Corner: Kick Kick, Zen and the Art of Not Fucking Around

You'd better get on the bandwagon now because Kick Kick is going to be huge. One day you're gonna hear these guys on the radio (people still listen to the radio?) or see them on MTV (people still watch that?) and say, you know, that Stacks dude was right. These four guys from Johnson County can't be stopped. After a full summer of shows which found them playing on rooftops and opening for American Idol David Cook, Kick Kick is quickly making a name for themselves as the perfect pop conscience of north east Kansas.
"The summer has been great," says guitarist JB Kick. "We're on a totally different level of performing now. "
Known for their outlandish and highly energetic stage show, Kick Kick has been on a constant mini tour of the area since the release of their brilliant debut album, Powerplay, which is a perfect blend of modern sensibility and '60s pop principles.
"We've received some rave reviews and some confused reviews," Kick continues. "The confused ones are funny and they aren't negative. The critics just don't know what to make of us."
Powerplay is a bit of a shock at first listen. Hooked around the band's idea of "boss", Kick Kick's music is catchy and poppy, but not in a catchy, poppy way. It's revolutionary, but not political. Most importantly, Kick Kick's musical philosophy adheres to the basic truth of rock and roll: it's so much fun it should be illegal. Which is why all those people got so pissed about Elvis back in the day, and why critics are confused by Kick Kick today.
"We want our music to do for people what "Louie, Louie" or "The Bird is the Word" did," Kick says.
"It is our intention to redefine what music for the masses is."
As the band continues their crusade to save the soul of rock 'n roll, their own evolution continues as well.
"We made Powerplay without having ever played a show," Kick says, which is amazing.
"When we started playing shows we quickly realized that we are something like a hard garage punk band. Our live sound is very different than the sound on that album."
As the band evolves, they also grow up. Kick Kick recently hosted a benefit concert in St Joseph, MO for the local Second Harvest Food Bank.
"We want to get in the habit of putting on at least one charity event a year," Kick says.
"St Joseph was chosen because myself and Star Boss were both born there and we had heard some disturbing statistics about the number of hungry children, seniors, and families in St Joe."
And in the future?
"Next year it's all about taking it to the next level," Kick says. "We want to get into the big festivals, go on a real tour. We're making a music video or two, or three. And we're going to sell a little over 5 million copies of our record."
Good luck, guys.

Four Reasons Why... Paul McCartney is Dead

Conspiracy Corner, Not Exactly the News but Still Newsworthy
by Jon Burrows
This Week 4 Reasons Why... Paul McCartney is Dead
Last time we discussed the faked death of Elvis Presley - now we look at the faked life of Paul McCartney. Though largely considered a hoax, the idea that McCartney was replaced with the winner of a look-a-like contest named William Campbell in 1966 continues to this day. The actual story goes like this: shortly before 5:00 AM on the morning of November 9, 1966 McCartney missed a traffic light and smashed his Austin Healy, resulting in a rather unfortunate case of decapitation which ended his reign as "the cute one". While any actual physical or even circumstantial evidence of this theory is shoddy, legitimacy can be found in the basis for a cover-up and in the Beatles music.
1. Album Covers: One could devote a grad school thesis to deciphering the cover art of The Beatles' albums. Some drop more clues than others, but if you look closely enough every album produced after 1966 contains clues about the death of McCartney. For example, it is fairly accepted that the crowd gathered on the cover of Sgt Peppers is gathered for a funeral, and clues such as the words "Here Lies Paul" and images of burning cars can be found in the collage. Clues are also seen on Magical Mystery Tour. Most famously, however, the iconic cover of Abbey Road, which shows the band walking across the street outside of their studios, depicts Paul suspiciously different from the others. To begin with, Paul is barefoot (a barefoot burial is fairly common). He is also out of step with the others who are leading with their left foot, while Paul leads with his right. And McCartney, who is left handed, is holding a cigarette (known as a "coffin nail" in the 1960s) in his right hand.
2. The Scar and other physical changes: McCartney mysteriously produces a scar on his upper lip post-1966, which is clearly visible in the portrait included with The White Album. The Beatles claimed that the scar was from a scooter accident. But that doesn't explain why the part in his hair changes after 1966, and it certainly doesn't explain why McCartney seemed to grow nearly two inches after 1966. Photographs taken prior to '66 show McCartney to be roughly the same height as Lennon and Harrison, but after '66 McCartney is significantly taller.
3. "Turn Me On Dead Man": The Beatles did use backmasking on their records and when you play their records in reverse you can hear hidden messages. Staunch supporters of this theory claim that the song "Revolution #9" is a sonic reenactment of McCartney's crash when played in reverse, and it is here that Lennon mumbles the famous words "Turn me on, dead man", a harrowing allusion to McCartney's "I'd love to turn you on" from "A Day in the Life". Other examples include the phrase "I buried Paul!" when "All Together Now" from Yellow Submarine is reversed ("Yellow Submarine" by the way, is a reference to McCartney's coffin); "He's dead!" is repeated four times when the chorus from "Let It Be" is played backwards; and on The White Album, during the transition from "I'm So Tired" to "Blackbird" Lennon mumbles something incomprehensible which when reversed sounds like "Paul is a dead man, miss him, miss him."
4. The Open Palm: Starting in 1967, McCartney is pictured or depicted numerous times in album covers and even movies with the open palm of a human being above his head, as if being blessed by a priest. Commonly mistaken for some sort of spiritual Indian symbol which doesn't exist, theorists have lately begun to propose that the open palm is strongly reminiscent of a priest blessing a corpse before burial. McCartney appears this way on the covers of Sgt Peppers, and Yellow Submarine, as well as the Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine movies, among other places, furthering the idea that this is not merely coincidental.
Numerous stories more detailed than this have been written on this story since it was first reported on a radio show in Michigan in 1969, and there is much more evidence to be perused than my humble space allows. It should be noted that in the last days of the 1960s this was a very popular story, and questions about McCartney's death dogged the members of The Beatles for years. Stories were published discrediting the claims in the usual places one turns to find discrediting comfort, Time, People, and The New York Times. McCartney himself famously quipped, "If I were dead, I'd be the last to know", and Ringo Starr refused to discuss the matter. Footage of McCartney playing the guitar right handed also hasn't helped to quell the rumors, which have become a nice piece of trivia for pop culture enthusiasts to celebrate. Our Conclusion...
Like every great cover-up, there is both too much evidence and not enough. This is one of those cases that you just wish were true for the simple fact that, as great a songwriter as McCartney actually is, he's incredibly boring as a celebrity. Frankly, outside of his work, his non-death is probably the most interesting thing he's ever done. Or never done. I'm not really clear.
Further Research:

Pissed Jeans - King of Jeans - Review

Pissed Jeans, King of Jeans, Sub Pop, 2009
I must say, I’m scared of these guys. Really. Imagine The Birthday Party eating out the the yeast infection of the Germs while The Cramps nod off on Ted Nugent’s hommeade smack shit - and you’ll have half of some sort of measure of the sexy and greatness slash slasher film destruction this band may cause. And keep in mind, these guys come from Billy Joel’s proverbial womb, if The Jesus Lizard had impregnated Christie Brinkley.

Brew News - All Things Drinking, Imbibing, and Opining in North East Kansas

Time Flies: Murphy’s Liquor Exchange Moves into Ninth Year
by Jack Partain
When Sean Murphy, owner of Murphy’s Liquor Exchange on the corner of 29th and Topeka, purchased his store it was hardly the destination spot for craft beer enthusiasts it is today.
“Originally there was only three doors for imports and micros and the rest was completely the big three,” he says with a laugh.
“When you walked in the first thing you saw was a big stack of Natural Light,” he continues. “So it was strictly a domestic kind of store.”
That was nine years ago this November. Since that time Murphy has transformed the store into a tiny little oasis for import and craft beer lovers in southwest Topeka, which is a larger community than you might think. Today Murphy’s stocks everything from the classic’s of craft like New Belgium’s Fat Tire and Redhook’s Longhammer IPA to the latest crazy beers newly released to thirsty Kansans like Ska Brewing Company’s Decadent Imperial IPA, which is a 92 IBU, 10% alcohol monster out of Durango, Colorado, a brew which Murphy particularly enjoys.
“I can’t take a whole lot of hop presence,” he says of the beer. “But I couldn’t detect any hops... It sneaks up on you.”
Murphy grew up in western Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, in Rolling Rock and Yuengling country but didn’t really discover the world of good beer until his time in the Coast Guard.
“Travelling with the Coast Guard kind of opened me up to the different beers out there. Austrailia was probably the first place I had good beer,” he says. “We sailed down there for the Bicentennial back in ‘88 or ‘89.”
“You had all these Austrailian brands down there like Cascade and Tooey’s. That was the first time I had a stout that wasn’t Guinness and it was not bitter.”
Later his travels took him to another hot spot in the evolution of craft beer - California in the early 1990s, at the time of the original craft explosion, when brands like Sierra Nevada and others were really starting to grow into their own.
“When I was in California in the early ‘90s, was when everything was hitting out there,” Murphy says. “I was in Alameda and going down to San Deigo a lot for training and you had all these little small beer pubs and beer pizzaria’s popping up. So everybody was making beer back then, local beers, so it was kind of cool to try all the stuff that people were making.”
After relocating to Topeka, Murphy set to work promoting craft beer in his store. Since taking over he has doubled the space alotted to craft and imports in his coolers, from three doors to six and a full cooler of bombers, as well as individually priced singles of seasonal and year round brews, each arranged by style rather than brewery, and accompanied by notecards filled with essential information about each beer such as SRM statistics on the color of the beer, and IBU count. Like everyone else, his best selling imports are Corona and other Mexican style pale lagers, but the American craft’s hedging nicely into the market.
“The hopheads are buying up the IPA’s,” he says. “[Redhook’s] Longhammer is probably the best seller, and, if we can keep it in stock, the Sierra Nevada Torpedo is selling very good right now as well as the Schlafly APA and Breckenridge’s 471.”
And autumn is a particularly interesting time for beer everywhere with the seasonal releases of Oktoberfest brews.
“All the Oktoberfest beers are doing great,” Murphy says. “The summer beers do okay, and the winter beers do okay, but the Oktoberfest beers are crazy. The Sam Adams is just flying off the shelf. All of them are, the Paulener, the Spaten.”
Initially, Murphy’s transistion from the “strictly domestic” approach of the previous owner to the celebration of all things beer his store is today, wasn’t easy. Being located in a predominantly working class neighborhood, it seemed to make sense to maintain the status quo and stress the Big 3. But Murphy had a different plan and now when you walk into the beer section of his store you see a displays for seasonal craft brews and nicely aging bottles of Boulevard’s Smokestack Series rather than the stacks of Natural Light customers were previously greeted by. And, you have to walk past all of the ‘good’ beer to get to the various Lite’s, Light’s, and Best’s, decisions which have frustrated many salesmen wondering why he takes the chance.
“Why? Because I like it,” Murphy says, laughing while stocking twelve packs of Modelo in his cooler.
“I just like the variety of the styles. I don’t think a lot of people realize how many styles there are and how they developed over time because of where they came from
and how nature played arole in how a style was developed.”
And which of those does he like the best?
“My favorite brewery?” he says. “I’m gonna hem and haw on that. I don’t hang on one brewery.”
After a few minutes of careful consideration he decides on Schlafly, the world renowned St Louis brewery which, when it was finally released to Kansas last year was practically a historic event for craft lovers.
“Every beer in their line seems to be pretty true to the style,” he says.
But does he remember his first beer?
“Yes,” he says with a smile., as if reluctant to elaborate.
“I’ll probably get myself into trouble..,” he says before telling me the story. (Which, incidentally is pretty funny and probably wouldn’t actually get him into trouble. But we here at The Point don’t want to get anyone in trouble, especially not someone as cool as Sean, so we’ll just mention here that Murphy’s Liquor Exchange is located at 400 SW 29th St, in Topeka’s Country Club shopping center, and sports the best selection in south west Topeka of craft beer and a great selection of all things liquory and good. Their motto, “The good things in life are either immoral, fattening, illegal, or at Murphy’s Liquor Exchange sums up Sean’s store pretty well.)
“...but nobody noticed,” Murphy laughs.
“Yeah, my first beer was a Coors Light,” he concludes.

State Champion - Stale Champagne - Review

State Champion, Stale Champagne, Sophomore Lounge Records, 2010
Wow. Just wow. I have not heard a new artist with this much potential in a long time, particularly from the alt/country world which lately seems determined to become a piece of lint inside Jeff Tweedy's bloated naval. The facts before the praise: State Champion are from Louisville and are fronted by a guy named Ryan Davis. Champagne is their first full length and it's a bad ass, kick ass, introduction to a band that could single-handedly resurrect the wild and youthful spirit of a once fertile genre. Anchored by a steady backbone of expert songwriting ala The Drive by Truckers and The Old '97s, but revelling in the rough edges that ripped bands like Whiskeytown apart, the brilliance of Champagne as a debut seems almost effortless, as if it were recorded a decade ago and intentionally held back to be released just in the nick of time.

From the opener 'Thanks Given' it's clear the band has enough twang and circumstance to compete with anything coming out of Texas, but with a clear understanding of the importance of rocking out and the songs that follow are a mix of down home jams and anthemic country rock singalongs for indie kids that have pulled their heads out of their asses and put down the Vampire Weekend crap. Personally, I found myself applauding at the end of each track on the CD. Pay attention, you'll hear about these guys again. -jack partain

My Top 5... Albums

My Top 5: Albums
by Jack Partain
Of all the "bums", albums tend to be a musicians second favorite, but most interesting.And since they all love talking about themselves so much, each month we ask a local musician to give us his/her top 5. Oh, and yes, High Fidelity is our favorite movie of all time.
This month we asked Maxwell Fredrickson, guitarist and vocalist of Topeka based good-vibers Shunga Nunga...

"I don't really listen to albums as a fan of live improvisational music, but if I was forced to listen to them, I would pick, in no particular order:
John Scofield and Mede-ski Martin and Wood, A Go Go, A Go Go, Verve Records, 1997
Sublime, 40 Oz. to Freedom, Skunk Records, 1992
Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks, Columbia Records, 1975
Paul Simon, Graceland, Warner Bros Records, 1986
Outkast, Aquemini, La-Face Records, 1998

Lou Barlow - Goodnight Unknown - Review

Lou Barlow, Goodnight Unknown, Merge Records, 2009
Much like George W Bush, Lou Barlow is one of America's great
over-achievers. Dude spent the '90s doing little more than fucking around,
the greatest bullshitter in a decade full of great bullshitters, haphazardly
goldmining a lo-fi movement he would later disassociate himself from, and
every once in a while releasing a truly great song like "Soul and Fire"
or "Skull" just to keep everyone at arms length of the joke he was playing
on them. I know he has his fans and benefactors (including the editor of
this publication) but the fact is 99% of what Lou Barlow has done is crap,
and, more than anyone, he is responsible for the punk-ass succubus Stephen Malkmus has become.
That said, I was surprised when Barlow reemerged with the intimate masterpiece Emoh in 2005, and even more surprised by Goodnight Unknown. For the first time in his life the old fart has mustered the courage to release two consistent albums on his own, devoid of filler, inside jokes, or happenstance. As with Emoh, the songs on Goodnight are careful and precise, note for note mature and professional, even while exploring the fuzzed out warblings of Sebadoh on the opener "Sharing" or when flirting with the old lazy lo-fi he popularized ("Praise"). Barlow consistently resists the urge to wander into the maddening madness of slackerish distraction, in which he previously indulged. He ain't punk rock anymore, which is cool. Most of his fans aren't either, and never were, and the massive miscalculations he made with projects like Sentridoh may one day be erased by the apologies inherent in his latest releases. -stacks

Bring Your Chainsaw To Work Day - Local Dance Artist Amber Proctor on the Mysterious Art of Belly Dance

From Volume I, Issue 3, December, 2009

"Belly dance is largely misunderstood," says Amber Proctor, a local dance artist and advocate of artistic dance.
"Dancers are highly sensitive and very serious about developing and maintaining the integrity of the art form," she continues.
"In the West, it's frequently confused with stripping or burlesque and this confusion is dangerous... I always want the dance to be portrayed as the positive force that it is."
Proctor, who has been practicing and teaching the art of belly dance for four years, says that despite these misconceptions, belly dance actually serves a vital purpose for the women and men that indulge in it's mysteries.
"Belly dance stirs deep emotions for women bringing out joy, sisterly love, and self love," she says. "I'd like to make cameos at high school physical education classes so I could catch young women as they are forming their adult identities and promote self esteem, feminine unity, and a knowledge of the most ancient dance form in the world."

"Belly dance was, once upon a time, part of becoming an educated woman," she continues. "A woman would learn this dance form along with academics. Learning to gain control over the body was a key component of education. This is little known and long forgotten."

Attempting to reverse this trend, Proctor recently launched her own production company, Chainsaw Shimmy Productions, with her partner Thomas Pfeiler, and has been making appearences throughout the area. In the past she has worked with groups suchas Tara's Grace Belly Tribe and the Maya Zahira School of Belly Dance, and worked as an instructor through parks and recreation programs. She has performed at spots all over north east Kansas, including Kansas City's Midland Theater, to appreciative audiences.
"I've been known to dance at community events, coffee shops, night clubs, art exhibitions, senior centers, and parades, she says. " I've also volunteered at the Breakthrough house here in Topeka and it's even been suggested to me by a prison employee to come in and teach belly dance to inmates."
Proctor also makes sporadic spontaneous appearances at local bars and nightclubs, crashing dance floors in an attempt to bring the dance to the uninitiated, generally receiving a positive reception.

"I go out in half costume to clubs and live shows every other weekend," she says. "Larger events in Lawrence or Kansas City tend to provide a friendlier crowd, but even Uncle Bo's in Topeka is great."
That reception, however, is not exclusively positive. A few places are less than friendly.
"A few months ago, I was bar crashing in half costume, just going anywhere I could find music," she says. "My boyfriend and I were kicked out of Skinny's after I drew attention on the dance floor."
"People were taking pictures and videos and talking about me," she consintues. "One of the owner's minions approached me and told me that he had several complaints and that I had to leave. I attempted to contact the owner and eventually reached him. He informed me that they don't like to see people dancing alone. The bottom line is that a professional dancer got kicked off an empty dance floor where there was a Dj and an advertised evening of dance."
Proctor specializes in a type of belly dance known as tribal fusion. A fairly recent off-shoot of traditional belly dance, tribal dance allows for a great deal of experimentation by it's practitioners. It combines modern and popular dance forms such as Cabaret and hip hop with traditional elements of dance to create a unique form. As with traditional belly dance, tribal dancers wear lavish costumes, but many of these costumes incorporate elements of street wear and vintage clothing into their appearence, reflecting the personality of the dancer. Proctor's personal touch, for example, includes chainsaws, thus the name of her production company, Chainsaw Shimmy.
"I like to leave the chainsaws a mystery," she says. "While I have many reasons for using the chainsaw, I'll forever let this element affect audiences on a subconscious level."
Despite, or perhaps because of the mystery, Chainsaw Shimmy Productions is "really taking off", acording to Proctor. She'll be performing several times before the end of the year in Lawrence and Topeka.
"Our intention is to bring belly dance into night life as art and entertainment, rather than entertainment alone," Proctor says.
And like all forms of art, the nature of belly dance is social as well as personal.
"I started belly dance when a friend passed me some instructional DVDs," Proctor says. "After I had my daughter, I gained a lot of weight and was feeling unhealthy and unhappy. I tried traditional exercise, but was disappointed with the results and was also terribly bored.

"A chiropractor informed me that running was destroying my knees," she continues. "So I dragged out the old belly dance videos about five years ago, dusted them off, and got really dedicated. I soon began to enjoy the mental and physical benefits of belly dance, renewed confidence and all over body toning. I also lost about fifty pounds during that time."
"While weight loss was a personal goal for me in my dance, it is not this way for everyone," Proctor says. "There are plenty of voluptuous women who are perfectly happy with their bodies out there practicing and performing belly dance. Belly dance moves look different on different body types, which is, in my opinion, part of the beauty and diversity of the dance."
For more information on Amber and Chainsaw Shimmy Productions visit: