Sunday, July 15, 2007

citysol @ stuyvesant cove park, 7/14/07

first off, citysol itself was a really great time. it was a beautiful day (as o'death's greg jamie commented about three or four times) and solarone (the sponsoring organization) had set up some cool things. there was this really neat semi-enclosed food/beer space which seemed to be made solely of prefabricated wood pieces and zipties, an art exhibit (maybe?) with lots of white shirts flapping in the wind, lots of earth friendly retailers, including a lady who only made bicycle art that i wanted to buy but was too expensive, and an action booth where you could sign petitions and write letters to your assemblyperson about congestion pricing.

by the way, if you're reading this and it isn't july 16 yet, and you live in new york, please please please call your local representative and urge them to vote for congestion pricing. it is a super critical issue, especially for those of us who bike, and will bring a lot of needed tax dollars to new york, as well as cut out a lot of the smog. if you have an email address that ends with an .edu, you can sign up to read the new york times for free online, and read this article by ken livingstone, mayor of london, who imposed congestion pricing on an unwilling public some years ago, and now the measure is supported by over 2/3 of all londoners. here is a link to a photo of the flyer transportation alternatives is handing out, with all the benefits of congestion pricing, and the phone number of sheldon silver, speaker of the new york state assembly, is (212) 312-1420. i sincerely urge everyone to call him to urge him to vote for congestion pricing. thanks.

back to citysol. just a quick disclaimer - if you're looking for a les savy fav review, i can't help you. i arrived just as OCDJ was ending, so i can't tell you much about his set, except that he wore some strange muppet-esque mask over his face. but o'death - o'death was fucking awesome. i'd been waiting to see them again after the art brut show they opened, and they've only gotten better since then. frontman greg jamie told us they had just returned from europe (where one assumes they did fairly well), and they had a brand new bunch of stompers for us. now, i'll be honest - i haven't bought head home yet, but it's not because o'death doesn't kick ass - i think the production is really lousy, so i'll stick with seeing them live until their next album. as a result, i don't know most of the song titles, beyond what i've been able to glean from the hype machine. but names are neither here nor there, especially because you can hardly understand a word from greg jamie's lips. the songs are straight-up country stomp/appalachian death blues, and all of o'death looks the part, from drummer davd rb's wild eyed devil glare (especially with chain wrapped around his neck) to bassist newman's proudly displayed beer belly and armpit tattoo ("rats get fat while brave men die"). everyone has some bit of facial hair, and every one looks as if they could be carted into town to be hanged for some egregious offense when the sheriff comes to town. i was in west virginia once, when i was younger, and i was actually rather disappointed that all of its inhabitants didn't look one lick like o'death. maybe i was in the wrong (or right) part of town.
o'death's sound, so tame on the album, is blistering live. all five band members turn red in the face as they all yell into whatever microphone is nearby and kick their heels up in the middle of songs. a cup of whiskey was being passed around, which no doubt aided their performance. their entire set was outstanding. what was ostensibly their set closer, "nathaniel," started off as a slow dirge, jamie's vocals fleshed out by four riotous others bellowing sounds that weren't quite words, yet the song quickly sped up into a rampaging anthem that would not have sounded out of place in 1933 campfires, sung by men preparing to shoot it out with g-men. each and every o'death song is like having a bottle broken on your face, or feeling the white-hotness of a bullet in your side, or some human sacrificial ceremony, a raw, unblinking look at the grim actualities of life, where the first person to blinks loses. o'death is raw, desperate - they call their own sound "blackgrass" - the sound of men who have nothing to lose, singing about the things they've lost.

each time i've seen o'death, i've been struck by the simple, yet potent, d.i.y. punk aesthetic they proudly wear. greg jamie's guitar is 100% acoustic (you can see the mic cord running into it in the photo), fiddler bob pycior's bow was in tatters before the set ended, and drummer dave's kit consisted of a bass drum, two floor toms, a plastic bucket, and a ragged, jagged cymbal with pieces carved out of it. on more than one song, he used a chain to coax the right sounds out of his drums. greg jamie did not wear shoes at all during the set.

o'death's sound is one of carefully calculated anxiety - playing in minor keys; quick, nervous fiddle parts; arbitrary wails, as from a dying man, inserted in the middle of songs - the speed of their songs alone would create a deep feeling of unease in anyone, except that they are all so joyful in their performing. on songs like "adelita," they all stood up for a mid-song stompfest onstage, to bellow with equal parts of joy an sorrow for what has been and what could have been. the real set closer was an acapella rendition of a folk hymn, the name of which i (stupidly) neglected to write down. i know, shame on me. anyway, during said folk hymn, the four in the front - jamie, newman, pycior, and banjo/ukelele-ist gabe darling - dropped their instruments to caterwaul around the stage and belt out the lyrics at the top of their voices. however loud they were, it would not surprise me to learn that the only member of the band to lose his voice yesterday was davd rb, the drummer, who let out more than intermittent woops, as was most noticeable in "down to rest." o'death played one of the new songs from their daytrotter session (still untitled, as far as i know), and you can download all four songs here, and i would definitely recommend that you do.

in short, an o'death performance is not to be missed, no matter what. fortunately, they have some shows coming up, including an in-store at soundfix a week from today (the 22nd) and they're playing spiegeltent for the second year in a row on august 29. you can buy head home from ernest jennings here. there's also a video of "only daughter" below, and all of my videos from yesterday here.

the besnard lakes sucked. i don't like their music at all. what kind of band actually NEEDS three guitarists? also, it was like 4 times too loud. let's move on.

land of talk. good god, i've been waiting to see land of talk pretty much since brooklynvegan called applause cheer boo hiss, their 2006 ep, one of his favorites of the year. i just found out that they are playing soundfix later today (3pm), so i'm gonna put the pedal to the metal, so to speak, and kick the ass out of this post so i can make it down there.

land of talk fucking rocks. until i saw a video for "sea foam" they recorded for aol last week, i had no idea they were only three people - they sound much louder than that. they lived up to everything i had hoped for yesterday, and with only a seven song ep to their name, they played all my favorites (check the video for "all my friends" below and five (jeez) others at my youtube page). writing about land of talk reminds me that i may have spoken too soon in my built to spill post about the death of distortion, because land of talk has it in spades.

frontwoman/guitarist elizabeth powell masterminds every song, skillfully alternating between burrowing heavy chords and sharp individual notes, all while singing huskily into the mic. what sets land of talk apart from all the other canadian bands (seriously, they're like a plague!) is how fucking hard they rock (that, and they don't have 12-15 members). powell's voice is dynamic, able to sound entreating, commanding, naive, and ancient all at once. but in addition to powell's obvious singing/lyricist skills, she is quite the songwriter. no land of talk song is complete without jarring, frantic chords played against quick bursts of needled melodies, or off-tempo crashes followed by darting notes.
in addition to basically every song from applause cheer boo hiss, land of talk favored us with some new songs, which you can download at lullabyes. the new "some are lakes" was, as powell disclosed, was virtually written by her father, with the lyrics taken from a letter he had written to her mother. "yuppie flu" was another strong new one, as was "young bridges," a song about misheard lyrics. and speaking of misheard lyrics, i was able to clearly hear some in "speak to me bones" that had been mixing me up - a slight mistake, to confuse "stop spitting on girls you love" with "stop hitting on girls you love," especially because they're sung back-to-back, but i was pleased to hear the difference at last.

land of talk are studious performers, as is evinced from powell's fastidious tuning between each song, and it paid off. their energy was high and their personal enjoyment was obvious. powell seemed to go into a trance when she played, her eyes focused on some point in the distance, and when land of talk gathered in front of the drum kit during instrumental sections, she rarely turned towards the audience, but i don't think it's stage fright. it seems more like that miss powell gets into the zone when she plays, and nothing is going to take her away from that special place she goes to. land of talk's set was rock-solid, and i'm thrilled as fuck that i have another chance to see them today. i encourage you all to go out and see them (again) at soundfix at 3, and pick up a copy of applause cheer boo hiss while you're there. i bought my copy last night.

land of talk's sound is a descendant of dinosaur jr. or sleater-kinney, but powell adds a new level of dynamism that neither of those bands (love them as i do) have. land of talk are simply master songwriters who know their sound dynamics, the power of abrupt changes in sound levels, though they certainly know a thing or three about the importance of tempo and key versatility - in short, all the elements of songwriting that keeps music alive and fresh even after listening to it for month after month. having learned much from punk and grunge, land of talk has improved on it. their future will be bright, and, hopefully, i will be standing in the front of the crowd to see as much of it as possible.

buy applause cheer boo hiss, released by the rebel group, here.

o'death - "only daughter"

land of talk - "all my friends"

1 comment:

Christopher said...

Hi. Great blog. I hope you don't mind, but I embedded your Land of Talk video on my blog (with full credit and a link, of course):