Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Withdrawals

Whatever you want - The Withdrawals

The Withdrawals | Myspace Music Videos

The Withdrawals

Early on, even before I started to blog about local music, I discovered that practically every local band had a My Space Music page. They're a great source of music, photos and band info, a music blogger's treasure trove. The only drawback is that in order to gain access to the music, you have to sign up for a My Space account.  Once upon a time My Space was all the rage, now it's become the creepy bizarro version of Facebook. My Space Music is no different, it's infested with spam and those annoying auto-play pop-ups. Most bands update their page at a snail's pace, if at all, while other bands have moved on to Facebook and abandoned their pages. But, if you wade through the muck, the music makes it worthwhile. I came upon the idea of reviewing the sites and music while browsing through several music pages. My plan is to sort through them, review the music and pass along whatever information I come across. Before you thank me, I'll remind everyone how daunting the task could be, there are at least 200 local bands with My Space Music sites. I actually feel like Man v. Food's Adam Richman, a man who has taught me that the first bite is the easiest.
 I'm starting with The Withdrawals, for no particular reason, other than it's a band that has always intrigued me. They've been around since 1994, formed by Keith Thomas (lead vocals) and Andy Dunn (guitar,vocals) the line-up also includes Brian Ostrom (guitar) Danny Pfeifer (bass) and Josh English (drums). The Withdrawals are a jam band and list their influences as Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews and The Allman Bros. and that more or less sums up how they sound. They use those influences as a framework to create their own distinct sound, which they refer to as "Tribal Urban Desert Music" They create rather than copy and yet manage to avoid the long meandering jams that are the trademark of most jammers. What really sets them apart is Keith Thomas with his easy soulful vocals that instantly pull you into a comfort zone unlike any other. The guitars sparkle throughout with sinuous lead runs and dueling exchanges, the percussion is inventive while never heavy handed or excessive. Keith Thomas, however, shines through on every single song. I'm not one to declare anyone or anything the best ever, but if Keith Thomas isn't the best male vocalist Albuquerque has ever produced than I don't know who is. In my humble opinion Keith edges out James Mercer for that honor, yes! he's that good, the man doesn't have a bad song. The band always finds it's zenith, starting with the Midnight Rider vibe of "You're on my Mind" and flowing right into "Love Will Find Your Heart" which sounds like the band time traveled back to the Avalon Ballroom circa 1966. "Momma's in the Kitchen" is an easy flowin' song perfect for those 4:20 moments, let's just say that Momma ain't cookin no pot roast in that kitchen. "Ba Da Deeeeeee" is a tropical flavored jam that shines the spotlight on Keith's vocal range. Clocking in at over seven minutes, the song never loses momentum as it rises and cascades like blue ocean waves hitting the shores of Rocky Point.
"Gypsy Woman" sounds like an extremely lethargic ZZ Top, complete with slackadasical Billy Gibbons style lead guitar.  "The Bush" is a funky throwaway track that could be about 1. weed  2. George W. or 3. pussy, your guess is as good as mine.  "Free Jam" features some of Keith's best vocal work, pure righteous blue eyed soul. "What Am I to Do" is straight up southern rock with Keith setting them up and knocking them down with his masterful vocals.  "I Would be Happy" starts out as yankee reggae but ends sounding like Mickey Thomas during his stint with Elvin Bishop. Keith easily transitions from the sing-song cadence of reggae to the soulful pleas of a man at the end of his emotional rope. Along the way he punctuates the song with a falsetto and a yelp that would make Toots Maytal proud.  I found myself totally fascinated by the video for "Whatever you Want", shot on a New Year's Eve at the Spirit Room in Jerome,Az. it starts with the camera panning over a very noisy self absorbed crowd. It takes about a minute to realize that the band is not warming up, The Withdrawals, rather than try and overpower the crowd noise, simply start playing, while Keith patiently waits for an opening to start singing. Once under way the band builds the music up and the crowd is drawn in, I immediately understand the band's appeal, they're so good at what they do, that it's hard not to like them. Keith Thomas and The Withdrawals are one of Albuquerque's best kept secrets, but I for one wish that wasn't the case.  They've toured the western states extensively and have three albums under their belt; Smile (1996) Evolution (1998) and Good Man (2001) All three albums are available at the band's online store, plus an ep "The Withdrawals" recorded in 1995 and a cassette only "Live on KUNM" concert recording.  There are also several songs available for streaming, this includes "Live at The Wine Fest" (12 songs) six studio tracks and a video for "Peace & Justice", that was shot at a war protest in Albuquerque. The most recent posts on their music page are over a year old and their are no scheduled shows or releases listed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Germ Free Adolescent

Scrub Away the Entire Day

Poly Styrene was different, X Ray Spex was different, while other punk bands marched in lockstep, they were clearly out of step. They were self professed "deliberate underachievers" their sound was driven by a saxophone, (Lora Logic was the band's original saxophonist) this alone separated them from the crowd. A trained vocalist with actual operatic talent, she didn't sing, instead Poly was the female version of Johnny Rotten, but without the snarly attitude and shock factor. Her vocals could be described as an adolescent bray, she would spew forth about her favorite topics of discussion;  conformity, anti-consumerism, O.C.D. and the obsession with fashion. Poly Styrene was born Marian Joan Elliott-Said, she was of British-Somali parentage, which made her quite different in the lily white British punk scene. Onstage she was somewhat stiff, she moved her arms about, her dancing often seemed forced.  Poly didn't pose a threat to anyone, in fact she seemed quite normal. "I didn't just wear braces as a fashion statement" Marian would later explain. Neither Poly nor the band were really part of the burgeoning punk scene, they set their own agenda and followed their own path. By design they were never meant to be world beaters, "play music, have fun" would've been their motto and after one very successful album "Germ Free Adolescents" the band broke up. Marian like Lora Logic before her would join the Hare Krishnas, she stayed below the radar with the exception of occasional reunion shows and a brief reformation of the band in 1991. Marian Joan Elliott-Said, forever our Poly Styrene, passed away April 25th, 2011 on the eve of the release of her solo album.
      r.i.p. Poly Styrene

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jen Sincero

Crotch:  Power Tool of Love

Jen Sincero | Myspace Music Videos

"Ye Olde Crotch video, 16 years lat­er, rears its ug­ly head again. Crotch was: Sara Rot­man, Mike Mel­lett & Jen Sin­cero. Video fea­tures the mighty 3 plus Adam Ant as well as a bunch of oth­er very fun and sick peo­ple whose names I don't re­mem­ber." Jen Sincero

That's Jen Sincero in a hair bikini, pre- 60 Foot Queenie and The Jenny Clinkscales Band, and long before she became an author and the best damn sex advice columnist in the world.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bright Blue Gorilla

with Mike Glover formerly of The Philisteens

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dirt City Graphic

If we've learned anything from the recent political turmoil, it's that the revolution will be televised, as will every subsequent revolution. Gil Scott-Heron, that sanctimonious prick, got that one wrong. He was as close to jazz as it got for me, although, I knew one guy who would sit in his dorm room listening to Lee Ritenour and Stanley Clarke while sucking on an unlit pipe. He wouldn't say a word and I would usually bail on him after five minutes of that jazz-fusion crud.  As Lou Reed once said: "If it has more than three chords, it's jazz." the music was overly complicated, boring and no fun. It was the music of finger snapping beatniks, weird beards and pipe smokers, but ultimately it was just background music. For John Coltrane and Miles Davis, jazz was the soundtrack that played inside their minds. It accompanied them as they slept, fucked, ate or fixed,  the best jazz has that narcotic rhythm and flow, you can almost feel the opiate rush. You become a hipster by osmosis, nothing says "What the fuck are you listening to, you pretentious asshole!", like jazz. John Coltrane and his contemporaries set the standard so high that it made all future efforts pointless.  Jazz  musicians pursued their art with no regard for commercial appeal, thus causing mainstream fans to drop off like flies.  That will never happen in rock music or pop because both are the domain of flawed musicians. Nobody will ever accuse dregs like Nickelback or Lady Gaga of having raised the bar. The greatest rock musicians are quickly tossed aside and forgotten. Once in a while some dumpster diving rapper will dig them up to steal, err..sample their music. Few are held in reverence and nobody but a psycho would build altars to hedonists like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. By comparison every single jazz great died of a drug overdose and yet they are revered as saints.        

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Burton Jespersen

Burton Jespersen- The Ride

Burton Jespersen has long been a part of the New Mexico musical landscape. Originally from Chicago, Jespersen came to Taos from Los Angeles where he had lived as a teenager.  He first surfaced as the lead singer for The Refrigerators, a popular Taos band. Although in 1982, he would inexplicably, leave that band to become the lead singer for The Victims.  After that came a succession of other bands and a solo career that took him around the world.   Along his journey, Burton has also been involved in theater, both on the stage and film. In 2007 he landed the lead role in "The Mind of Henry Lime" an independent film written and directed by Mike Glover. Some of us older types may recall  Mike as  member of  The Philisteens, an Albuquerque new wave band from the early 80's. Glover along with Robyn Rosenkrantz (who produced the film) form the globe-trotting musical duo, Bright Blue Gorilla.  By choice or circumstance, after thirty plus years of touring and playing, Jespersen's recorded output is mighty slim. Which makes "The Ride" a real treat, the album features well crafted and expertly played music from some top notch musicians from both Los Angeles and Taos. It includes two of his strongest compositions (Tomorrow and The Ride) along with some well chosen cover songs.  Amazingly "The Ride" is Burton's first and only solo album, recorded in 2003, it was produced by Marty Grebb.  
"Perpetual Blues Machine" is the most blues oriented track on the album  "You had grace, you had charm, you had me hanging on your arm" Burton does Keb' Mo's original justice, it also sets the mood for the rest of the album "When I found out you're a fake, you reared up and bit me like a snake." The troubles, men have with women, make for some great blues songs.  "The Ride", is a country blues number that features some great slide guitar  "Everybody's talkin about the way they feel, lookin at life like it's some kind of deal." Burton's voice is in fine form "I ain't expecting you to see my side, you might think that i'm a little fried, that's ok it's just one more night and I'm just along for the ride." His interpretation of Dylan's "You're a Big Girl Now" is right on the money. Burton filters out much of the bitterness, making it less condescending and spiteful than Dylan's version. Throughout this album, Burton's phrasing, and the music, conjure up Bob Dylan during his Blood on the Tracks period.  I've seen reviews the size of doctoral dissertations written about Bob Dylan and Blood on the Tracks. However, when you cut to the chase it's about the residual damage of love falling out.  A common theme for many singers and Burton is not an exception, however it's a subject he addresses without anger or ill will.  Johnny Horton's "Shotgun Boogie" gets the Jerry Lee Lewis treatment, complete with boogie woogie piano and honking sax. Reminding us that Burton can rock with the best of them. Darden Smith's "Clatter and Roll" is a plainspoken tale of an average man caught in circumstances beyond his control. Burton's aching voice evokes images of Austin street scenes and miles of train tracks as this mood piece unwinds.
On the rockin'  "Tennessee Plates" he sticks close to John Hiatt's original version, "We landed in Memphis like original sin." although, Burton does give it a little more twang than Hiatt. I actually prefer this version, since I've never been  a big fan of John Hiatt's vocal mannerisms. "Tomorrow" is a song Burton wrote when he was 26 years old, over the years it's become his signature tune.  "I'll wake up to another day, just keep pushing on, trying to make my way...until tomorrow."  This version is worlds apart from the stark acoustic version posted on You Tube. Here he's backed by strings, piano, slide guitar and organ, giving it a stately classic feel. Although "Neon Moon" doesn't seem like a logical final track, it does tie things up very nicely. Burton reworks Brooks and Dunn's smash hit by stripping off it's cosmopolitan country glitz and transforming it into a Hi-Lo country (i.e. Taos) style country ballad. Burton Jespersen has grown into this style, where  as a younger man, he might have been driven by the quest for success, he now seems well settled and world weary. Burton is in fine voice on this album, his unique and eloquent vocal style gives the music a level of remarkable emotional impact. It's hard to argue with an album this beautifully produced, played and sung, so I won't. Just like a good friend, "The Ride" is the perfect accompaniment for life on the proverbial lonesome highway.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

That Dirt City Sound Episode 12


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Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Today, April 18th, 2011 Dirt City Chronicles celebrates one year of publishing. My goal from the start has been to draw attention to the music and musicians of Albuquerque and The State of New Mexico.  I have no hidden agendas, but I do rage against misguided self promotion, rock star mentality and bad music. In 1980, I moved to Albuquerque from Fairfield,Ca., here everything seemed so hopelessly barren and desolate, it made me keenly aware of what I had left behind. The Duke City then was a cultural wasteland, the local scene consisted entirely of bad cover bands. Thankfully, it didn't stay that way and eventually homegrown music sprouted up, a local scene took root and it's still growing. I lived in Albuquerque long enough to forget what it was like to live anywhere else. However when the opportunity for a move to Southwestern New Mexico came up, I took it. I prefer the slow pace and sprawling scenery of the boot heel country, it just suits me better. Can someone write about music in Albuquerque if they no longer live there? Sure! it's New Mexico, we scoff at conventional ways, we clear our own paths and head down our own roads without giving a fuck who likes it or not, to me that defines a New Mexican.  I guess all that's left to do now is stick a candle on a cupcake and sing Happy Birthday.  Dirt City Chronicles, where we are deconstructing the myth, one rock star at a time.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Record Store Day

In Fairfield, Ca. the only place for records and tapes was Eucalyptus Records.  It was the flagship store of a small Northern California chain, which at the time had maybe 6 stores total. It was your typical record store of that era, hip, laid back and staffed by people who actually liked the music. My almost daily purchases soon caught the attention of one person in particular, she was a petite blond, and I think her name was Judy. Whenever I walked up to the counter, Judy would rush over to see what I was buying and then she would announce to her co-workers "See, I told you, he has good taste." I was flattered, but I soon started to feel the pressure, my choices had to be on the money.  One day I went in looking for a copy of Lenny Kaye's Nuggets album, which had just been re-issued. Judy was at the counter, I asked her "Do you have the Nuggets album?" I started to explain it to her, when she cut me off with a snarl, "I know about Nuggets!" As I waited for her to bring the album back to the counter, I decided to chance it "Hey, do you want to go to San Francisco and check out the record stores?" she quickly replied "Naw, I won't go to the city and I have a boyfriend" she then pointed her thumb sideways towards a tall blond guy behind the counter. Ah!, The Chaser, he knew nothing about music, his job was to lift crates and go after shoplifters, it made perfect sense. Although I expected to get shot down, the reality of it still sucked. I avoided the store after that, instead I made the twenty mile drive to Tower Records at The Concord Mall. Then one day, I stopped by again, Judy was there, her boyfriend wasn't. As I browsed the vinyl, two Samoans walked in, back then most stores kept the cassettes behind the counter locked behind sliding glass doors. The two stepped up to the register and started asking for several tapes, which Judy then stacked on the counter. Suddenly, the smaller one grabbed a display case and flung it into the air, during the resulting ruckus, his partner grabbed the tapes and they both jumped the turnstile (yes!, the store had one) and they bolted out the door. I saw Judy look my way as she yelled "Stop Them" I went over the turnstile, and caught up to them just as they got to their car, the big guy turned around with a raised fist "What the fuck are you doing?" he asked, "Trying to impress that girl" I replied. He grinned and then grabbed me by my shirt and threw me against the car next to us "You're doing a real good job, brah!" he yelled, as he jumped into the getaway car. Judy came running out of the store as they drove off. I picked myself up, then I heard her yell "Why did you let them get away!" she then stomped back to the store without another word.  As I limped back to my car, I heard a few people laugh, but it didn't bother me, I was totally numb. It was then that I saw a Pablo Cruise cassette on the ground, Big Boy had dropped it, "Fuck Me!" I thought, shitty music to end a shitty day."  
(Judy is a pseudonym, after thirty plus years I couldn't remember the girl's name)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Steve- Steve

After 1988, there was a spontaneous eruption of new bands in Albuquerque.  These newcomers were a harbinger of things to come. However, what was good for Albuquerque music fans wasn't always good for the bands. As always, there was a limited number of venues and of course back then in order to get product out, bands had to go into  a real studio, cut a master and have it pressed on vinyl or duped on cassette or cd.  The end result of all this, is that a number of good bands got lost in the shuffle, some moved away, others grew discouraged and quit. Steve was one of those lost bands.  

"Steve" the album was released by Steve, the band in 1992. It was released on Big Fish records (which was also Treadmill's label) Produced by the band, Shannon Wilson and the ubiquitous Jorge Ripley. It was recorded by Ripley at Her Majesty's Secret Record Shop. Steve was Bob Beckley (bass,vocals) Dan Murphy (guitar) and Jeff Cohen (drums) Beckley went on to achieve fame if not fortune with Duke City punk rockers, Icky & The Yuks. Cohen is or was the drummer for local heavy metal band, The Ground Beneath. I'm a little uncertain of Cohen's status simply because TGB has had a rotating roster of drummers. After Steve, both Beckley and Murphy segued into The Meek, an Albuquerque punk band with plenty of attitude.

"Steve" the album, was ten tracks of post punk, alt-punk  or whatever punk.  The opening track "In Love"  is a hot blast of emotional debris and Bob Beckley emotes with the best of them. "Don't want your memories, so I swept them through my mind." We are reminded that from great pain come great rock songs and from great intense pain come great punk rock songs. Steve's energy level never wavers, "Paper Doll" is propelled by Murphy's guitar and Cohen's drums "I asked my paper doll, do I think this thing is right" are we talking about a girl on a poster or a life size cutout? "Paper Doll, Paper Doll you never mention anything at all." Beckley works himself into a frenzy while his mates provide backing vocals that sound almost solemn. "Mary" takes a look at the problems of raising a child, from the perspective of one well known mom.  "One Mary had a son, let's just call him God" ultimately, she gets herself  a gun and threatens everyone "Leave me alone Baby Jesus, I'm sick and tried of you, Leave me alone Baby Jesus, all the things you put Mom through."
 "Dutch Boy" vividly deals with a suicide, Beckley tells the tale; "So, Dutch Boy got home and looked into his empty apartment, he found a razor blade, he cut one wrist, he cut another wrist." the song then lurches about in spurts much like it's dying subject "Tonight's the night Dutch Boy paints his apartment red", oh fuck! there goes the damage deposit.  "Mud Flats" is the band's ecology song, "Coke is bad, Pepsi is bad, give me another glass of that bad, bad water" uh! I'll drink to that. "Tuesday Morning" opens the second side with a roar, "If you give me respect, I'll give you respect, Yeah that's what it is!, It's all about fucking respect, So Fuck You!" all punk rockers should have that tattooed somewhere on their bodies. 

"Carnivore" clues us in on the band's eating habits, "I'm a carnivore and I eat red meat, sometimes I'll drink about a pint of grease." his name is Bob and he's in a band called Steve  "So don't judge me by what I eat, I just gotta have my bloody meat."  "Little Respect" is about not getting enough respect, been there, done that.  "Cross the Line" is a general purpose, rage song, whose only salvation is some fierce instrumental interaction. "Jesus" closes the album, religious themes were popular with  Steve, "You jump on Jesus' pogo stick" they are believers, just don't force it down their throats. "Don't put in a good word for me, that's not the style I believe, cuz Jesus sucks."

Not exactly radio friendly fare, but let's face it, these guys were never going to get on the radio. Steve's music incorporated elements of the early 90's, Orange County punk sound, but with enough original ideas added, to give it a thunderous garage-crud vibe. The band was very tight and played with a higher degree of proficiency than most of their peers.  The production is uncluttered, Bob's singing is unforced, Dan Murphy delivers loads of savage guitar frenzy and Jeff Cohen is certainly an erstwhile drummer.  The tunes are chock full of dark humor mixed with wistful optimism, but as the album unfolds the band's mood starts to change. Perhaps sensing that this was a one shot deal, and that nothing would come of it, they pound out the remaining tracks with snarly aggression. Was  Steve, good enough to make you think twice about all the local bands that fell between the cracks? Oh Sure! and if cows had balls they would be bulls. Let's Wrap it up, I'm done here.

Bob Beckley

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dirt City Graphic

Dirt City Chronicles is about rock music, levity and honesty. When writing about bands or reviewing albums that nobody remembers, you have to keep things in perspective.   As Lester Bangs once said, or was it Phillip Seymour playing Lester in Almost Famous "My advice to you: I know you think those guys are your friends. You wanna be a true friend to them? Be honest, and unmerciful." Lester Bangs never said that, but that's how movie magic works. However, it does hold true, for example I recently read a review by Michael Henningsen where he describes Jason Daniello as "One-half the songwriting force in Naomi, arguably the local band of the early and mid-90s", Michael Henningsen played with both The Zots and The Ant Farmers, so immediately that statement is suspect. Naomi was a band led by the migraine inducing duo of Ben Hathorne & Jason Daniello. Their legacy is two cd's worth of lyrical scrap paper doodles. Jason knows his way around a guitar and assorted string instruments but songwriting is not his strong point. Ben in my opinion really screwed the pooch every time he took pen to paper, with the exception of one song "Bella." So in summary; Naomi was good for two bad albums and maybe two good songs. When a music critic is called upon to write about his friends or peers, he may hold back or even worse, lie.  And there's the rub, the average music fan would rather decide for themselves, good music attracts, bad music repels.  Jason Daniello is a journeyman, a solid musician who is at his best when he's not playing his own songs. (he does killer versions of Cortez the Killer and Fairies Wear Boots) That's it in a nutshell, he is no different than a good reliable carpenter. No offense to carpenters, musicians or any other living creatures including Ben Hathorne. Ask any cop in Mexico and he will tell you that money changes everything. Once a writer collects a paycheck for writing, editorial policy becomes a factor in determining what he can and cannot write.  It's the brick wall that Lester Bangs kept hitting, Lester was fired from Rolling Stone magazine over a negative review he gave a Canned Heat album. Canned "Fuckin" Heat and if I said they were the band of the mid-late 70's, I would be a lying S.O.B.  Keep your stylus sharp boys, it's getting kinda dull around here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who Keeps Score?

Who is the most successful New Mexico artist or band ever? Keep in mind that I asked "who is the most successful" not the best, the results may surprise you.  Of course it's all subject to conjecture, speculation and a matter of personal taste. With this and fairness in mind I tried to develop a criteria for ranking the artists. 1. Recorded on a nationally dist. label (could you buy their music somewhere other than Bow Wow Records) 2. Toured nationally or internationally (did they ever play outside Albuquerque or Santa Fe) 3. Recognition (Did anyone know of them outside the state) 4. You Tube hits (successful artists and bands put out videos) 5. Influence (did they have any lasting influence on the current local scene) 6. Origins (they had to have started right here in New Mexico) 7. Sales (I tried to factor in album and single sales as much as possible, but those figures are not readily available for all bands) The Muttz will receive honorable mention for their appearance on Ed McMahon's Star Search, which in my opinion, they tanked due to poor song selection.

Updated:   Originally posted on 04/11/11, and there have been some changes Dave Hernandez is no longer a member of The Shins, leaving James Mercer as the only musician on the band with a New Mexico connection. Fast Heart Mart no longer resides in Albuquerque and no one local band or musician has splashed onto the national scene since I wrote this. 

Beirut's (Zach Condon) last album "The Rip Tide" met with resounding indifference and faded away like an old soldier. The list stands unchanged, despite the efforts of a couple of musicians who lobbied for inclusion, (one insisted that he should be ranked #1) This project was not certified by Billboard or MTV,  it was meant to be informative and fun, so have fun with it. 

1.   Lorenzo Antonio 
Albuquerque born and bred, He's the son of Tiny Morrie and nephew of Al Hurricane. He started singing in 1982 and is better known in Mexico and Latin America than his home state. He's sold millions of cd's, earning him several platinum and gold records.
2.   The Fireballs w/ Jimmy Gilmer 
Sold millions on national labels (Atco,Dot) recorded for Norm Petty, they are still the  only New Mexico based band to score a #1 hit single (Sugar Shack) They had two million selling singles (Sugar Shack & Bottle of Wine) plus they still get airplay after fifty three years.
3.   The Shins 
They brought national recognition to the Albuquerque scene, but their success was bittersweet as James Mercer distanced himself from New Mexico as fast as he could. Dave Hernandez (?) and Mercer are the only remaining members with New Mexico ties.
4.   Sparx
 Lorenzo Antonio's younger sisters can't match their brothers success, but they're no slouches either. These ladies have sold well over a million cd's, packed dance halls and arenas, plus their videos were a fixture on Spanish television for years.
5.   Brokencyde  
They must be moving product, otherwise they would be long gone. I have to give them credit for being the first local band to reach some level of stardom almost entirely through digital sales. The number of views they've racked up on You Tube (if the numbers aren't manipulated)  are monstrous.  

6.   Beirut
 Zach Condon's next album will be crucial, there's very little momentum left over from the group's fast start. March of the Zapotecs could be compared to Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, in that it drove away more fans than it created.
7.   Femme Fatale
They sold 250,000 copies of their debut album, scored a couple of moderate singles (Fallin' in and Out of Love, Waiting For the Big One) and then dropped out of sight just as fast. Their videos were in heavy rotation on MTV, back when that still mattered.
8.   The Eyeliners
 Albuquerque's three chord wonders, grew into a radio friendly sound, but it didn't matter, success still eluded them. They did however, get Joan Jett to appear in one of their videos. They recently called it quits, it must get harder to be a riot girrl once you start pushing forty.
9.   Hazeldine
There have been plenty of local bands that deserved fame, none more so than Hazeldine. They were the complete package, a mix of rock and alt-country, tied together by the powerful vocals of Shawn Barton and Tonya Lamm. They got lost in the shuffle when their label was bought out.
10. The Rondelles
Deceptively popular, really hit their stride once they left Albuquerque for Washington D.C.  They never shied away from the studio, banging out several albums of tuneful and complex pop punk ditties that  sound like a stripped down version of The B-52's. 

11.  Scared of Chaka
Some people only know them as the band Dave Hernandez was in before The Shins. However, this was a hard working band that toured relentlessly and recorded prolifically. Their overall body of work as well as their legacy still holds up.
12. The Handsome Family
This husband and wife duo put Gothic country on the map. The stark instrumentation combined with Brett's deep voice and Rennie's dark lyrics, makes them irresistible.  Rennie Sparks is a truly talented artist, writer and lyricist. Hands down, the best act currently active in the Duke City.
13.  Fast Heart Mart
His busking, constant touring, three very good albums and some creative music videos, have made him the most recognizable musician in town. Martin's music is complex with subtle textures and his unique style of tuning his guitar results in a sound unlike anyone else.
14.  Eric McFadden (Angry Babies, Liar, Eric McFadden Trio)

There was a time when McFadden and The Angry Babies, with their regular gig at The Bird of Paradise, were the local scene. Eric McFadden has been absent from Albuquerque for a while, but he still has his local fans who remember those sloppy drunk shows.
 15. The Strawberry Zots
Signed by a major label (RCA) their window closed quickly, RCA dropped them after just one album. They were goofy and fun live, but played it straight in the studio. They were a retro-60's band, that was serious about their music, which sucked all the fun out of it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Mettro Monologues

Jeff Mettling is probably best known for his stint with New London, Albuquerque's Depeche Mode influenced goth-pop band. New London was destined to crash and burn under the weight of Jeff's enormous ego. Soon after that, Mettling re-invented himself as Jeff Mettro, the silky pimp of limp.   Two failed albums later, he resurfaced fronting Elu, which can best be described as new age elevator music. Jeff has accumulated an impressive (in number) catalog of albums with Elu, each one built around a concept or theme. And if you're inclined to believe the hype, he has done very well for himself. He utilizes a cast of female vocalists, although DeAnn Gonzales is the primary vocalist. Elu's sound is attractive, it effortlessly fills an ambient space, the mix is perfect, the vocals are sweet and seductive. However,  it's effervescence is deceiving, behind the facade there is nothing of substance. It is cotton candy for the ears, melting away before you can experience  even a brief sugar high. DeAnn Gonzales sings in whispery spurts, but too often it sounds like she's reciting rather than singing the lyrics. It's a pleasant aural mixture but it's also cold and totally devoid of soul. At the present time, Elu seems to have gone into hiatus while Jazzy Jeff feeds his need to dazzle, as part of the jazz duo (with Don Shearer) Illustrious Q.  And though the news is rather sad, it does spare us from anymore Elu albums in the foreseeable future.
Successful musicians do not need to bludgeon the paying public with a long list of  accolades and accomplishments.  Jeff, like Jason Daniello, can't help himself, ultimately it's just silly and it reeks of desperation. You can put lipstick on a pig, but who's going to kiss a pig? Probably not the average music fan. I use a pig as an example, but the point is, that no matter what job you do, telling everyone how good you are just raises doubts and takes away from what you've accomplished.   And of course, I can't give Jeff a pass on that series of failed commercials he did with Danny Winn. Jeff's acting was very natural (insert sarcasm)  it wasn't wooden or forced at all. Don't take my word for it, they're all on You Tube, see for yourself. In retrospect teaming up with "King Midas in Reverse" may not have been a good career move. Unfortunately for Danny, ska is finally dying a well deserved death, ska in New Mexico is like jazz in Utah, it's not natural. Poor Danny Winn is just one failed dot-com contest away from having to score soundtrack music for porn movies.  If I can digress for a moment, before I write a feature to post on this blog, I do my research and that includes listening to music by the artists that I write about.  If I don't have the music in my collection, I have to buy digital tracks  online.  So if the music sucks, then to paraphrase Johnny Rotten "I do feel like I've been cheated" knowing that I threw away good money on bad music and they don't charge any less for bad music.  
Which brings me back to Jeff Mettro and those cassettes I bought  in the mid-1990's. Back then I would commute from Albuquerque to Rio Rancho’s North Hills, to pass the time, my nephew and I started a game we called “Toss it or Keep it” where we would buy cassettes from the bargain bins, pop them into the player and then if they got the thumbs down, we would toss them out the truck window onto the pavement.  One day I bought a copy of a Jeff Mettro cassette, I don’t remember where or for how much. As we rolled down the hill from Rio Rancho, I popped it in, less than one minute into the first song, my nephew was reaching for the eject button, I stopped him, “give it a chance” I said “he’s from Albuquerque” this I had learned from reading the insert cover, since I didn’t know who he was or what bands he had been in. A few minutes later my nephew again went to the eject button, once again I stopped him “hold on, give it one more song” I was building a collection of recordings by local musicians, so I didn’t really want to jettison the tape. But then something caught our attention, it was Jeff’s strangulated vocals croaking in an affected accent  ”I heeeah muuusic in my eeeass” we looked at each other in horror and at the same time we both yelled   “Rejected” and it landed on the asphalt somewhere near Coors and Paseo Del Norte. Sorry Jeff,  but that album was lame,  what was Jeff Mettro? that’s easy;  he was equal parts Morrissey and Morrison, sucked dry of all talent and pumped full of pig vomit. Again with the pigs!, I know!, Jeff Mettling is a mix of euro trash cool and redneck sophistication. He's the thinking man's swinging dick, but sadly his pretentious posturing is only overshadowed by his grossly mediocre vocal skills, pedestrian guitar playing and weak songwriting. I close my case, buyer beware. 
 Arrh! it works for Johnny Depp, it be working  for me!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

That Dirt City Sound Episode 11


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    As promised, after several false starts, here is Episode 11 of  That Dirt City Sound. I had enabled the auto start feature and the only way to turn it off is to delete the post and start all over. Most of the twenty tracks were converted from cassette tape to mp3. They're a bit hissy, but the overall sound quality is good, enjoy.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dirt City Graphic

You reach a point in life where memories outnumber  hopes and you find yourself looking behind you, rather than looking ahead. We exist simply to accumulate memories, of a love, a moment, an action, a reaction. We progress and then regress, time waits for no one and it won't wait for me. The stark reality is, that we begin to die as soon as we are born, we are given a blank page, then we fill in the blank spaces.  In high school at the end of the year the creative writing class would publish a collection of poems submitted by students. The process was cut and dry, you submitted your work, each submission was assigned a number and then judged. As always I was up against the wall, you had to submit at least six poems, however your grade improved with the number of submissions. At the time, I was fascinated by the word structure of  Springsteen, David Bowie and Marc Bolan. They had opened the doors to another realm of thought, their encrypted and abstract lyrics sparkled with a cool cadence. So, I knew what I had to do, cars+suicide+sex+self loathing = poems that will get me a passing grade. I started writing and I kept writing, I submitted 20+ poems and most of them were published. When the review came out, my sister Emma, read it and asked how I came up with the poems. I was too embarrassed to tell her they came from a dark corner of my mind, so I lied and told her they were song lyrics I had copied. That wasn't the end of it, just before I left for boot camp, I opened the local paper and found three of my poems printed on the editorial page. It seems that my creative writing teacher had taken it upon herself to have them published. The subjects were predictable: murder in my heart, suicide by car and a hooker who kills herself, I was mortified.  She wrote about how mature and introspective they were, that their relentless dark nature reminded her of Dante.  My sister raised an eyebrow as she looked up from reading the article, then she sneered at me "Wait till they find out you stole those poems." I was confused, Dante?, that's high praise for a freak who spent every last day of high school on the outside looking in. Nurturing talent, is a luxury few can afford, it wasn't in the books for me.  Reality took hold, the military, work, unemployment, money, more work, more money, drug abuse, depression and finally sobriety. In retrospect, being on the outside just gives you a better view of what takes place within the circle. Cue Bowie's "Quicksand" again, I feel a poem coming on.