Friday, August 31, 2007

Cheers for Louisville Asian Dance Rock AKA VHS or Beta

VHS or Beta; Walter Meego; Team Robespierre
@ Studio B
Brooklyn, NY - August 30, 2007

Boy if I had a nickel for every Louisville, Kentucky-based dance-rock band led by an Asian-American...
VHS or Beta has had some bad hairdo's. But they cut those messes down en route to their first full fledged Brooklyn show. And it was a show that revealed the best and worst of the club-beat sub-genre of rock n' roll. It was plenty of good-time rockin' dance beats but the laptop which the drummer used went on the fritz and the show had to stop. At the second stoppage, with the crowd getting restless, I hightailed it out of there but not before catching "Can't Believe A Single Word":
More Photos Here
Walter Meego was the straight up club act of the night, mixing the Pet Shop Boys with rave/techno and typical club music. When they leaned towards the first element, they were pretty solid but overall - as is par for the course with club music - it got tiring pretty quickly. More importantly, the Meego gang are from Chicago, adding the dance-rock element for what appears to be a growing eclectic Windy City scene.

Team Robespierre are named after one of the most intriguing and compelling figures in world history. The band's music, however, is slightly less compelling. A hardcore punk band with rapid club and electro beats behind them, Team R is probably considered art-punk in some Brooklyn circles but really it's just a bunch of noise. That doesn't mean it's bad, it's just not for everyone. But one word to the moshing hipsters: Take off your backpack when you mosh, you muppets!

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

All Hail The Band Manager!

It's no secret to those in the know that the dreams of one Mr. Pennypacker consist of one day leaving this sixth-rate wannabe hipster music blog behind for the golden shores of band management...iana.

But until that day possibly comes, WNYC's Soundcheck has a look at the art of the band manager:

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The Great Rilo Kiley Disco Freak Out: The Pennypacker Perspective

So by this point, who hasn't had an opinion on Rilo Kiley's new album? It appears most of the feedback is extremely negative but there is a small contingent of critics who like the record, including Joel Levy at Rolling Stone, the man who is the closest thing left to cred that magazine has had for a long time (in an interesting review on the RS video podcast, he noted that he hated the record the first time listening, but loved it by the third time).
The first few songs on the record aren't that bad. The openers "Silver Lining" and "Close Call" should fit OK in the Rilo catalog and have enough of the good stuff that made Jenny Lewis' work with the Watson Twins last year so appealing. The biggest shocker to the world is that - sorry - "The Moneymaker" is a good song. It doesn't quite sound like anything else on the album, it's the one true rocker on the record, and it's undeniably catchy. If it suffers from one ailment, it is the same ailment that plagues the entire record: the lyrics are pretty stupid. After "The Moneymaker", it's pretty much all downhill. Rilo Kiley tries to imitate two very different bands in the middle of the record - "Dreamworld" is an ode to Fleetwood Mac and "Dejalo" summons the Miami Sound Machine. Both fail pretty badly. Again, there are catchy hooks but there are no teeth behind those hooks. Not to mention, - big shock time - Fleetwood Mac were not good. Hell, if you ignore Gloria Estefan's later work, the Miami Sound Machine were actually a pretty damn good band. But that doesn't mean they needed to be imitated here. The album just spirals downward to the very last song, a horrible tween-pop sounding song called "Give A Little Love". Dreadful.
But even though it is pretty much a pop music disaster, does it really matter? The big secret that no one seems willing to talk about is that Rilo's work can be inconsistent. Some of the earlier records have some real dull moments. The one thing that has been the band's consistent strength is the songwriting. The loss of that on this mainstream label release is a bigger problem than the slick production and pop hooks that came in. If that had remained, this really wouldn't or shouldn't have been such an outrage to so many people.
But hey judge for yourself. Here is the video for "The Moneymaker" and here is the video for "Silver Lining". And please try to be objective and not be biased in favor of the band just because you may find Jenny Lewis or any other member of the band attractive.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In Memory of Hilly

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Okkervil River's New Song Gets A Video

I'd like to take credit for the quick production and release of this video but I'm afraid people would think that I'm lying:

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Just a Teensy Bit More of Camera Obscura

To end the weekend, let's sit down at WNYC's Soundcheck who this past Thursday had the band come in for a small performance.

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Okkervil River's New Song Needs A Video

"Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe" is the amazingly super fantastic new song on the new album, The Stage Names. I hadn't really dug their sound before but the song, "The President's Dead", did make me give them a second chance. "Plus Ones" is another good track off the new record but "Our Life..." is the one that needs a proper video. It's a beaut. Listen to it on the official site or along with the rest of the album on the band's MySpace page.

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Sonic Parthenon Expanding

...but not without some hiccups.

The collection of videos on YouTube is now the Sonic Parthenon TV channel, located at

The Camera Obscura clip I put up yesterday is the first full song performance clip up but you can also check out terribly made clips of Blanche and the Dirtbombs from a couple years ago as well as something else that I myself did not make.

Blogger now has a video upload feature that also allows for podcasting (!) but either it's broken right now or it just won't accept my videos which means the Sonic Parthenon Video Podcast is on hold for now. But considering I didn't even know I could have one until this morning, that's alright.

Concert pictures now have a home on Flickr at

Currently up are photos of Camera Obscura, Last Town Chorus, the Dirtbombs, Be Your Own Pet, Les Sans Culottes, and Blanche.

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Artist of the Week: VHS or Beta

The Louisville dance-rock band known as VHS or Beta will boogie down for all the kids at the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday and Studio B on Thursday. Listen to "Can't Believe A Single Word", the ultra catchy new single that ought to be the number 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, and watch "Night on Fire" below:

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

C O 2

Camera Obscura; Tiny Vipers
@ Sound Fix Records
Brooklyn, NY - August 23, 2007

There isn't a band cuter, more adorable, than Camera Obscura. And for as cute and adorable as they are, they have equal measurements of talent. They are simply one of the best bands in the world, and the best pop band right now. Their inspirations have never sounded so smooth and flowing, especially on Let's Get Out Of This Country. But in addition to great renditions of the title track, "Tears for Affairs", and "The False Contender", earlier songs like "Suspended From Class" sounded utterly brilliant, as did their little lounge-type cover of Sonny and Cher. The band was a bit overwhelmed by the packed house at little ol' Sound Fix and the accompanying heat and so only played a short set but they made their mark perfectly. The only bad moment was when this writer put the kibosh on lead singer Tracyanne's idea to take the gig to the street, resulting in the label "Mr. Bringdown". I hope she writes a song with that title.
Tiny Vipers are a dark-folk two-piece that are very delicate and somber but you can see a warmth underneath itching to get out. And at the same time, the leader has a Patti Smith quality about her.

Camera Obscura; Last Town Chorus
@ South Street Seaport
New York, NY - August 24, 2007

Night 2 of the Glaswegian's two night stand of free shows was at a packed Pier 17. Again, the band sounded perfect. "Polished" is an almost sterile word but it is apt, apt! Much like Let's Get Out of This Country, there is no filler in the live show. Every song is an ideal gem of blue-eyed Spector-ish songcraft. This is a band ready for the big time. I need to stop this review now before I give myself a sugar overdose.
Last Town Chorus is essentially the work of lead singer and exceptional lap steel guitarist Megan Hickey. A fine voice and an amazing musician, Hickey plays some very provoking Indie pop/alt-country melodies, including a smart, ballad-ized cover of Bowie's "Modern Love".
Photos here
And...Camera Obscura is the first band to have a complete song recorded for Sonic Parthenon TV on YouTube! Presenting "Tears for Affairs":

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Wait...I mean...

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The Saga of Vee-Jay Records

NPR has a short biography of the landmark record label.


Finally! The XYZ Affair!

The XYZ Affair; Dappled Cities; Via Audio
@ Union Hall
Brooklyn, NY - August 22, 2007

Third time was the charm and I finally caught the fast rising XYZ Affair. First off, any band that begins the night with barbershop quartet harmonies is alright by me. Second, the band's harmonies are the best thing they have going - they have fantastic voices. Third, their two tracks from the recent record that have made the rounds - "Little Fool" and "All My Friends" - are as excellent live as on record but fourth, the rest of the material isn't as solid. It's not bad, but it doesn't have the WOW of those two songs.
Dappled Cities are a Melbourne band doing the power pop thing like XYZ but with more Indie delivery. Not bad but I decided to skip out on the rump of the performance for some food.
Via Audio are a sprinkly, sprightly pop band that also delve into Indie territory, including a very solid Devo-esque trip through some synth. Lots of fun.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007


...but not in New York City :(

The closest gigs are Albany and Bridgeport.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

The Symmetry of Life: 1 Billion and a Half Heartbeats

If you think this gives some credence to the idea of an intelligent designer go right ahead. It does remind one of Einstein's belief in "God" as the natural beauty of the order of all things.



This is like...the Stones and the Who getting together in ' know, not really, but in a relative, micro-sort-of-way...right? Right? Oh come on, it's the Hold Steady and Art Brut together. Isn't that good enough?

In what will potentially be the biggest party show of the year (though never count out those Dirtbombs and Ween), the Hold Steady and Art Brut will play a double bill, with the 1990's opening up, at Terminal 5, on Wed Nov 21, the culmination of a decent sized tour together. Pre-Sale tickets go on sale in 2 days.

This just made Terminal 5 the venue of the year...and the place hasn't even opened up yet.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Artist of the Week: Camera Obscura

The Scottish pop-rock band Camera Obscura are heavily inspired by lush 60's orchestral pop but are better described as the nexus of R.E.M. and bubble gum. While smiling probably wouldn't kill them, Tracyanne Campbell and co. seem rather comfy in their rainy, aw-shucks disposition and they promise to put on a puppy dog-eyed show at the South Street Seaport on Friday.

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The National Conversation

The National; The Forms; Takka Takka
@ South Street Seaport
New York, NY - August 17, 2007

The weather toyed with the packed crowd at the South Street Seaport for this free show headlined by one of the most talked about bands in the country. Rain cut short the sets of the opening acts but finally cleared for good for the main event. The National are critics' darlings (and darlings of the Boss as well), and they have a pretty large and loyal fanbase which have come into being after two excellent records, Alligator and Boxer. The Cincinnati-by-Brooklyn quintet take their serious music pretty seriously but they seem to have a good time doing it in their congenial, pleasant way. They aren't so much too-cool-for-school up there as they are committed and concentrated and content. Whether they are doing their nimble, lightfooted numbers like "Start A War", or their dark New Wave-inspired single "Mistaken for Strangers", or their one real rocker, "Abel", the National are a fluid operation and their body of work is fast becoming a canon for this generation. The National are the best band to listen to thoughtfully while walking or driving in the New York night, and bathed in the reflective light of the lower Manhattan skyline, they hit all the right notes.
Despite the short sets, both the Forms and Takka Takka made an impact. The Forms are more or less on target with their brand of near power-popish indie rock. And Takka Takka's indie rock sounded better this time than at their show at Union Hall a few months ago. And if any of this is inaccurate, then clearly the short sets did cause a cloud under the rain.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Walk Hard trailer and pics

One of the longest trailers in history is finally out for Walk Hard, the seemingly scene-for-scene (with extra) parody of Walk the Line - which didn't strike me as a movie that entered the public consciousness so strongly that it merited such an ode.

I have to say, that guy playing Elvis did better in that little clip than he did in all of Cold Mountain.

Having the girl from the American version of The Office seems to be the best for this thing right now...all it needs is a little Elvis Costello.

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Counting Down to the Obscura; Hutz on Fresh Air

Has a Scottish girl ever been so cute? The L magazine catches up with Canera Obscura's Tracyanne Campbell before her band's free show at the South Street Seaport next week.

Who knew that Eugene Hutz is both the leader of Gogol Bordello and was the star of Everything Is Illuminated?

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bowery Presents Strikes Again: New Venue

As BV points out, Terminal 5 is a better name - at least in principle - than the Manhattan Music Society. The location is a pain to get to - 56th bet 11th and 12th? The nearest subway is still a bit of a walk. Winter time is going to be brutal. But look at that calendar...the National, the Decemberists, and the return to New York of...

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Black Lips on Fair Game; Cat Power Opens for Interpol?

Those poor Black Lips...will they ever get a blog post to call their own?

The cleaned-up boys (though I bet they still don't look bathed) played a smashing set on the cutest show on radio, Fair Game with Faith Sailie. The boys talk about their trip to Israel. When the Vice Records video log of that adventure is up, it'll be posted here. In the meantime...

Cat Power is opening for Interpol. That's just not right. This is not a judgment on Interpol's quality or even a question of whether they musically fit together (they don't really). It's just a question of status. Is Interpol really bigger than Cat Power? Really?

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life

  • At this yuppie bar party, the DJ played the standard 30 or so songs that all the yuppies never get tired of. In fact, as he was playing "Living On A Prayer", I predicted the next song would be "Pour Some Sugar On Me". And it was. I CALLED IT!
  • Also at this party, the DJ played something called "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy"...what in god's name was that?!
  • You know what's great about all the Mexicans coming to New York? The Mexican musicians on the subways. It's the best Street Musical development since doo-wop groups. Oh the food is good too.
  • The day of the great subway flood problems (again) made a compelling case for getting the hell out of New York, not so much because of the flooding and the transit problems themselves, but because of the crowd reaction. 3 times along the F line crowds tried to shove onto the train violently. It will never enter the brains of most of these people, but if they really had to get to where they had to be THAT badly, why would they even bother taking the train?
  • Fortunately, the great subway flood problems were alleviated by that ubiquitous poster of a naked Mary Louise Parker
  • I think Karl Rove purposely timed his departure from the White House with my departure from politics. Figures. And that's about as nice a thing as I will ever say or write about that man.
  • Yes, you probably realize it by now but let it be semi-official: All the fandom mania on this blog that was devoted to the White Stripes has been passed to the Hold Steady. And Craig and the boys will hold onto this precious glory at least until this Friday or next Friday, depending on how good the National and Camera Obscura are.
  • I ate a salad.
  • David Lee Roth and Van Halen have reunited, stealing the reunion thunder from the Police and Rage Against The Machine. Next up...Loggins & Messina.

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    Those Wondeful Finds

    More samplings from recent record store 7" pick-ups:

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    More on the Hold Steady's Brooklyn Bash

    Via NPR

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    Sunday, August 12, 2007

    Artist of the Week: The National

    The Cincinnati-by-Brooklyn boys known as the National are having a triumphant year. Their follow-up album to their 2005 hit Alligator is a critical and indie fan smash hit, they are selling out big gigs, and they're making continental waves. Now this Friday, they treat their fans to a free show at the South Street Seaport. If the week of sold out shows at the Bowery were any indication, show up for this gig at about 24 hours before the start time.

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    Biram Comes to Brooklyn

    Scott H. Biram; The Wrong Reasons
    @ Luna Lounge
    Brooklyn, NY - August 11, 2007

    Holy hell...the dirty old one man band that is Scott Hiram Biram is still the same dirty, greasy, Texas barbecued blues/metal machine but he has taken it to a whole other level. Playing for about two hours, Biram crammed in as much blues as he could, taking everything down into the sludge (and at times up to the speed) of true pure grit metal. But things took a sharp turn when Scott started messing around on the guitar, including a stretch or two of a methodical anti-jam, and then devoting a significant chunk of time toward the end to feedback and distortion and increased usage of the bullhorn on his megaphone. It was almost reminiscent of avant-garde art rock. Throw in the fact that he now seems to have a sizable fan base (though the crowd did filter down a bit as the show wore on), and one gets that small, slight sense of a whiff of bigger things to come.
    Openers the Wrong Reasons, down from Providence, are a two-piece country-blues-rock outfit that recall roadhouse affairs ranging from Horton Heat to the Ribeye Brothers. Fitting opener, great start to the show.

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    Saturday, August 11, 2007

    In Memory of Tony Wilson


    Friday, August 10, 2007

    Minneapolis Bar Band Blows Brooklyn Away

    The Hold Steady; The Big Sleep; The Teenage Prayers
    @ Prospect Park Band Shell
    Brooklyn, NY - August 9, 2007

    Craig Finn is a guy who likes to sing about hoodrats, getting high, bars, parties, Minneapolis, and the Mississippi River. And yet somehow this gets interpreted as being highly literary, as if Colin Meloy of the Decemberists isn't the only literary-minded singer-songwriter with a jarringly off-kilter voice who fronts a very accomplished set of musicians. How literary (last time I use the word, promise) Finn is, is up for debate. But the stories he weaves are compelling. And even more compelling are his frontman antics. And just as compelling are the exuberant antics of his band (particularly the keyboardist whose name I didn't know until recently, and as I am unsatisfied with the name Franz Nicolay, I shall rename him Giuseppe McSorley). And even more compelling than that is the combined joy of the band with the quality of the songs that they play. Put it all together and you have one of the greatest bands in America. I can't recall the last time a bar band was so good and achieved such success.
    As soon as the Hold Steady began to climb, the backlash began. But as with most things, I'm about a year to two years behind schedule, so as far as I'm concerned, this is one of the most perfect things out there right now. And everyone knows it, really. Especially those young hooligans known as the Rolling Stones who are having the Hold Steady open up for them next week in Dublin.
    Oh, and for all the months (and for some, years) of "they sound like Springsteen!, they sound like Springsteen!", what I wouldn't give to hear these guys belt out "Bastards of Young". Minneapolis ties and all that.
    Photos from Dfactor, via Waved Rumor

    The Big Sleep have a fitting name. They would have entirely crossed over into snoozeville if it wasn't for their obvious talent-in-waiting. The Big Sleep, unless they were stymied by sound problems, have down all the basics for great rhythms, great backbeats, great songs - but then they don't do anything with it. Where are the melodies? Where are the vocals? What exactly are they trying to do?
    I only caught the last couple songs of the Teenage Prayers and I wasn't paying much attention but what I heard wasn't too bad.

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    Thursday, August 09, 2007

    Black Lips on British TV; Ryan Adams's Fridge

    The Black Lips appeared on ArtRocker TV in preparation for their trip to Israel (that's right, they went to Israel).

    Are the Black Lips selling out? Or are they just soaring their way to rock n roll stardom? Are they really even THAT good? Will these questions be answered on this blog? Stay tuned...

    And for no related reason, the Mad Hatter Ryan Adams has a listing of the contents of his New York City fridge. His antics aside, he's out of my good graces with his defense of Domino's. Consider his New York privileges revoked, and that a death wish (or as the believers call it, a "Fatwa") be placed upon his round head.

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    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    Boys and Girls...


    Your Little Hoodrat Friend
    The Swish
    Stuck Between Stations
    Hot Soft Light

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    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Rwar! It's Dinosaur Jr!

    Back together they way they should be, it makes sense that the new Dinosaur Jr. single is beyond good:

    And would you believe I found this video on that Ford Edge Music Videocast thing? Well I did.


    Lee Hazlewood, 1929-2007

    Lee Hazlewood, one of the lesser known but strongly influential singer songwriters of the 1960's has passed after a long illness.

    Listen here to his duet with one time main squeeze Nancy Sinatra.
    And below, he wrote this one, THE one, for her:

    WNYC's Soundcheck caught up with Lee not too long ago:

    And so did Studio 360. Listen here.


    Sunday, August 05, 2007

    Zombieism: The Undead Killer

    A short film made by an old associate from Stripes days is premiering on the CBC tonight:

    Yeah that's right, Canada!

    The best part is, I now have a "Zombies" tag for the blog search engine.

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    Artist of the Week: Scott H. Biram

    The dirty old one man band out of Texas, Scott Hiram Biram, returns to New York at the end of the week, headlining a 10 dollar show at the Luna Lounge. You can't beat that, and if you can, Biram will shoot you down.

    Some metal Biram with "Hit The Road":

    And a little of the softer touch.

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    Karl Pilkington's 3 Minute Wonders

    Holidays (Vacations)
    The Zoo

    As a bonus, here is Karl on the Culture Show with the utter fox that is Lauren Laverne:

    The idea of Karl Pilkington and Mark Kermode having a chat and that is horrifying, immensely horrifying, and everyone involved should be utterly ashamed of themselves.
    If you need an idea of Kermode - here.

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    Saturday, August 04, 2007

    The Ludlow Shuffle

    The Star Spangles; The Holy Kiss; Woman
    @ Cake Shop
    New York, NY - August 3, 2007

    About 3-4 years ago, the Star Spangles were everywhere. They were on Letterman, they were written up in Rolling Stone, and they played packed gigs to the likes of Little Steven Van Zandt at CBGB, with the Bamboo Kids playing beforehand. Then they sort of vanished. Now in 2007 they are back with a new bass player, a new record, and a string of gigs throughout the city to get their sea legs again. Ominously (or on purpose), they have been playing the midcard on bills in small places like Arlene's Grocery and here at the Cake Shop. The crowd was decent sized (a couple of cute rockabilly girls around for whatever reason) but not packed. Problems immediately set in when guitarist Tommy Volume had string and other tech problems. These problems persisted. Guitars were switched, but problems still persisted. Then the lights went out. I took a break upstairs for about 10 minutes, came back downstairs to find them doing a song with the lights on. The wheels were finally on the road though most of the crowd had left. Then more tech problems for Tommy. Tension, yelling, that whiff of a band about to implode in the air. Then finally, the band belted out "I Don't Wanna Be Crazy Anymore" and called it a night. In a week, they will be on the midcard at Midway with their old friends the Bamboo Kids. Then a week after that, they're headlining the Luna Lounge. I predict by Luna, everything will be back on track.
    The Holy Kiss are a San Francisco band best described as bluesy metal. Dressed like they work for an undertaker down in the Delta, they are really hard to pin down. It got tiring after awhile but it's certainly unique and worth a listen. The crowd for them included a couple gals who looked like they were going to an Amish funeral and I kind of hoped they were the band going on after the Star Spangles but they weren't.
    Women are an all-male quartet from NYC who do the loud hard rockin' thing pretty well. But after a few songs, I decided to go a couple doors down to see:

    Emperor City Motorcade
    @ Pianos
    New York, NY - August 3, 2007

    I once saw this band play at a bar on Grand St in Williamsburg on a bill that included the Violets, and was sponsored by some gravelly voiced old timer named Frank Black. ECM, at that time, had a lot of R & B infused with some good solid modern rock, but nowadays they appear to be more of a ballad band trying to come up with some sort of a genre. They still rocked out on a couple numbers, sounding very arena rockish but their last bit, "Mary Jane" was very Alice in Chains, and that's not such a bad thing.

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    Friday, August 03, 2007

    Random Giggage

    Action Painters; Wormburner
    @ Mercury Lounge
    New York, NY - August 2, 2007

    After getting too drunk for my own good at some yuppie bar party in Midtown, I somehow wound up at the Mercury Lounge, randomly checking out whoever was playing. I walked in on Wormburner who seem to be doing the power-pop indie-rock thing well and their cover of "Hungry Like The Wolf" was a good, pure version - we're not talking the Killers here. Headlining act Action Painters were just as good with good stage presence but I had to leave after a couple songs because the booze was catching up with me. Checking out their recorded music, it appears they didn't benefit from the "All Bands Are Great When You're Drunk" law. They're for real. I'll be sure to see these bands again.

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    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    August 2007 Concert Calendar Highlights

    -The very cute Postmarks play the Merc on Monday the 6th and Union Hall the next night.

    -YYY show off their new EP at Webster on Tuesday the 7th.

    -The Hold Steady - for FREE - in Prospect Park on Thurs the 9th. Not good enough for you? Daft Punk with the Rapture at Keyspan Park the same night.

    -Everyone's favorite faux frenchies, Les Sans Culottes, will be at Magnetic Field on Fri the 10th. The Thermals play a sold out show at Maxwell's the same night.

    -The one and only Scott Hiram Biram does his thang at Luna Lounge on Saturday the 11th. Chiiiiicken.

    -The IT band of the moment (and rightly so), the National bring along Takka Takka to play the otherwise sucky South Street Seaport on the 17th.

    -Exactly one week later in the same spot...Camera Obscura. Forgive me this net speak...omgomgomgmgmgmgmgmgmgmgmgmg.

    -Plus requisite shows from, among others, the Giraffes, XYZ Affair, Palomar, NYC Smoke, and Langhorne Slim...yours to see if you'd just check the calendar.

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