16 February 2011

Radiohead: Setting The Bar High

Right off the heels of this year's Grammy telecast came the surprising -- but exciting -- news of the arrival of a new Radiohead album. King of Limbs can be downloaded starting this Saturday 19 February; presale is taking place now by clicking through here.

And that also got us thinking of their last superlative effort (which ended up in TNOP's top five albums of the year for 2009), In Rainbows, and the stunning performance of Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood at that year's Grammies, accompanied by the USC Marching Band on "15 Step," which you can revisit below. [Tip of the hat to CO'B for the reminiscence.]

Radiohead - 15 Step

Pick To Click: Middle Brother - "Me Me Me"

The front men of some pretty good indie bands have banded together to form Middle Brother: Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Matt Vasquez (Delta Spirit) and John McCauley (Deer Tick). McCauley takes the lead on the first single, a rave-up that reminds us of another (unfortunately obscure) side project named Rockpile, which featured Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. Turn it up and maybe try out some private dance moves.

14 February 2011

Back To Back: Eno & St. Vincent

Seems as though the reported on-going collaboration (presumably four songs in at the studio) between David Byrne and Annie Clark aka St. Vincent has got Annie listening to some of David's old pals.

Back in 1981, The Night Owl's college roommate came home with a new album from the neighborhood independent record store, indicating that he had bought it because of a quick listen on the store's turntable. (Maybe Nick Hornby happened to be there as well, using this incident as a basis for his famous vignette in High Fidelity.) Well, I couldn't just ignore the guy, given he had unearthed Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane's Rough Mix only a month earlier. So I grabbed the LP cover from him while he placed 33 1/3 on the record player and dropped the stylus on the vinyl.

I scanned the multicolored photo on the front and back. Brian Eno. Yeah, the guy from Roxy Music who quit before they really made their mark. The English studio wizard who had worked with Bowie. Here Come The Warm Jets. Oh yeah, that record he put out before the ambient music thing pulled him away from rock.

The song titles didn't exactly invite you in as a listener: "The Paw-Paw Negro Blowtorch"; "Baby's On Fire"; and "Dead Finks Don't Talk" among the ten tracks.

But damned if I didn't sit next to the Advent speakers for the next 40 minutes totally taken in by the melodies and production. Later research revealed original rave reviews from Lester Bangs ("Incredible") and Robert Christgau ("Grade 'A' . . . The idea of this record -- top of the pops from quasi-Dadaist British synth wizard -- may put you off, but the actuality is quite engaging in a Velvet Underground kind of way"). I've been a true disciple of the album ever since, and with recent reissues, Here Come The Warm Jets still resonates with new generations.

And so it is with St. Vincent, who now gives us a wonderful cover of "Some of Them Are Old." We invite you to compare, contrast and enjoy both her version and the original.

Bruce Springsteen - "Valentine's Day" (Band Rehearsal 1988)

The Night Owl has always held a special place for Bruce Springsteen's 1987 release Tunnel of Love. Its oftimes intensely personal lyrics and more subtle melodies still lead us to conclude that this is The Boss' Blood On The Tracks.

"Valentine's Day" is the memorable final cut of the album. As far as we can tell from our research (although this is certainly subject to intense scrutiny from Bossophiles), the only time Springsteen has played the song live is a handful of dates in 2005 during his Devils and Dust solo tour.

But our treat to all of you on this feast of St. Valentine is an obscure audio recording of "Valentine's Day" from a 28 January 1988 band rehearsal at the Expo Center in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Backed by the E Street Band and The Horns of Love (Richie "La Bamba" Rosenberg and associates), its a shame the arrangement never saw the light of day.