Wednesday 26 November 2014

New Sounds: AC/DC - Rock Or Bust

These are turbulent times for rock veterans AC/DC. Guitarist Malcolm Young had to quit because of dementia and drummer Phil Rudd is facing charges for threatening to kill and possession of drugs. Right at the time they are about to release their new album Rock Or Bust and when they are about to embark on a world tour, which may be their last. This may indeed prove "rock or bust" for the rock band. Listen to the new album below and let me know which one it is:

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Tuesday 25 November 2014

Tower Of Power Still Not Showing Any Wear

Some bands have so much quality on board that there is a lot to enjoy for every one. Tower of Power is one of those bands that always has a great horns section, rhythm section and vocals. And of course with this band a funk and soul party is guaranteed.

Tower Of Power at Paradiso, November 21 2014

Despite a steady output in studio albums, the band isn't really a hit machine anymore or has the same impact as they did in the seventies. Still they have a loyal following and it results in a sold out show tonight. The core of the large group still consists of the two founding members Emilio Castillo and Stephen Kupka, aka "The Funky Doctor". There have been many line-up changes in its 45 year existence, but several members like drummer David Garibaldi are long time members as well. Unfortunately bassist Rocco Prestia is still quite ill and unable to perform. Currently Ray Greene is the singer of the band and is taking the lead in the band's performance.

Greene has a good soulful voice and he's trying to fire up the crowd. He wants everyone to dance and with his smile he's able to persuade many people to do so. Not that it is easy to stand still to the swinging music of the skilled band. But the crowd needs to warm up, which maybe has to do with a bit of a mellow start of the show, that doesn't have many surprises. The band sounds good and is playing the grooving songs tightly, mixing in solos for every band member. Castillo introduces the band halfway the show, also explaining about Prestia's condition who needs to undergo a kidney transplant. The speech is a bit long and breaks up the tempo of the show though.

Fortunately what follows is a funky part with a James Brown medley that results in plenty of fire. Of course this band has no trouble playing the spicy Brown songs. When Castillo brings up Dutch saxophone player Candy Dulfer as a surprise, the party is complete. Their big hits 'What Is Hip?' and 'Soul With a Capital S' are the cherry on the cake tonight and end the show in style. Tower Of Power may not be the youngest anymore, but they still have plenty of soul and funk left in them.

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Friday 21 November 2014

Shaking Godspeed's Perfect 'Welcome Back Wolf'

Why do I think Shaking Godspeed is such a great rock band? Just listen to the albums they put out so far or go see them live. They won't make any concessions, won't restrict themselves to any genre and like to think outside the box. What you get is highly creative music, that is sometimes recalcitrant and a bit harder to get into, but always very rewarding. And now they have released their new album Welcome Back Wolf.

Shaking Godspeed - Welcome Back Wolf

After the last record, keyboard player and bassist Paul Diersen left the band, so the remaining two members had to look for a replacement. Instead they found two, guitarist Rocco Ostermann and bassist/keyboard player Alexander van Damme have joined the band. It means their sound has changed, although not drastically, but still it has an impact on the music. The keyboards have moved to the background a bit, so you won't hear many mad organ solos. Instead there's more guitar added to the mix, which opens new possibilities. Ostermann is also taking part in the song writing although his part on this album is still quite modest.

The result is a versatile record, filled with smart and unique rock songs. Shaking Godspeed have really outdone themselves here, with twelve rich tracks, that are all small adventures by themselves. As usual the band is asking you to dig in deep, instead of just sitting back. No, you really have to give it a careful listen and a few spins before the album will fully reveal itself. But when it does, you can truly appreciate the alternating grooves and swinging riffs of 'Tombstone Talk', the peculiar breaks in the title track that add lots of tension in the music. Or what about the razor sharp riffs in the twisted 'Goodbye Poupon'? Still not crazy enough for you? Listen to the piercing guitar in the deranged 'Future Boogie' and enjoy the roller-coaster ride of 'Paranoia Blues'.

Shaking Godspeed keeps raising the bar with every record they release. Welcome Back Wolf is a new highlight in their catalogue and nothing short of a masterpiece. It combines everything you expect from great music and more: plenty of adventure and excitement, new discoveries with every spin, skilled musicianship and intelligent compositions. Every time you listen to it, it will amaze you how good it is. Don't believe me? Go listen for yourself. It's impossible but at the same time exciting to try to imagine what they will come up with next.

Listen to 'Welcome Back Wolf' on Spotify.

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Tuesday 18 November 2014

Bob Mould Is Looking Back And Forward

This year rock icon Bob Mould released his new solo album Beauty and Ruin, which shows a vivid Mould reminding us of his glory days with Hüsker Dü. In support of this new album he is touring around the club circuit and fortunately wasn't skipping Amsterdam. Time to pay him a visit.

Bob Mould at Paradiso Tolhuistuin Amsterdam, November 10 2014

The big backdrop is showing the cover of his new album, the combined pictures of a young and old Bob Mould, a big chunk of music history between them. Mould kicks off with his younger version, playing Hüsker Dü's 'Flip Your Wig' and 'Hate Paper Doll' back to back. A flying start to the liking of the fans tonight in the almost full venue. It immediately fires up the steamroller that is unleashed upon us by him and his loud, ruthless but very tight band.

Since the rock veteran proves to be in great shape and doesn't like to hold back. It doesn't take long before his glasses are foggy giving him a bit of a silly look from time to time. With his somewhat uncontrolled moves around the stage he doesn't exactly look like a big rock star, but that isn't something he's after. He's more like the anti-hero that left his marks in music history, because you can clearly hear where bands like Pixies and Foo Fighters are coming from.

And exactly that's what's Mould is giving us, a history lesson in rock music, with half of the set comprising of Hüsker Dü and Sugar songs. But his solo work, songs like 'The War' and 'Hey Mr. Grey', fits in their seamlessly, carrying the same energy and drive, exposing the same power. Although the themes of many songs aren't all that cheerful, tonight definitely is. Mould looks like he's enjoying it a lot, chatting to the crowd once and a while, but doesn't waste any time. Because, according to him, we have to catch the last boat from North Amsterdam to the town's center. Apparently he didn't know the ferry keeps running all night long. After the regular set he comes back for some more, knocking out two more songs of the legendary Hüsker Dü, finishing off with 'Chartered Trips', underlining once more where it all started.

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01. Flip Your Wig
02. Hate Paper Doll
03. Hoover Dam
04. Star Machine
05. The Descent
06. I Don't Know You Anymore
07. Little Glass Pill
08. Kid With Crooked Face
09. Helpless
10. Nemeses Are Laughing
11. The War
12. Hardly Getting Over It
13. Keep Believing
14. Fire in the City
15. If I Can't Change Your Mind
16. Hey Mr. Grey
17. Tomorrow Morning
18. Divide And Conquer
19. Something I Learned Today
20. In A Free Land
21. Makes No Sense at All
22. Chartered Trips

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Thursday 13 November 2014

Benjamin Herman Finds Talent Instead Of Trouble

Besides being a very good musician, Benjamin Herman apparently also has a keen nose for talent. He asked the young talented piano player Daniel Piekartz to record an album with his trio and persuaded him to sing as well. It resulted in the wonderful album Trouble earlier this year, with songs that remind of Chet Baker and other jazz singers of the past. The quartet is now doing a short tour in support of the album.

Benjamin Herman Trio & Daniel Von Piekartz at Bimhuis Amsterdam, November 9 2014

You would think that maybe Von Piekartz is too impressed by the other three experienced musicians, but either that is not the case or he's good at hiding it. The young pianist looks quite relaxed and is even joking around with the others. Benjamin Herman is announcing the songs they are playing most of the times, but sometimes Von Piekartz is doing it instead, in a loose and enthusiastic way. It turns the performance into a lot of fun, combined with some great music of course.

Because in the end, these are four very skilled musicians that make it look so easy. Even though this is a jazz show, we get to hear a bluesy J.J. Cale song 'You Got Me On So Bad' and a funky and soulful Sly Stone composition 'Wishful Thinkin'', one of Von Piekartz inspritations. Another song, 'Walking In Jesus Name', that Sly Stone performed at the age of nine, gets a bit of a make-over into 'Walking In My Baby's Name' with lots of gospel. It show cases the versatile voice of Von Piekartz, who also gives a fitting and beautiful performance of 'Lilac Wine' that is full of tension.

The other three are looking at him and each other in a content way. It has to be a pleasure to work with a talent like that, maybe reminding them of when they were that age, for the first time performing at the legendary Bimhuis. As Herman notes, they are past the danger zone themselves now, with all its pitfalls. They have made it, which is clearly showing tonight with inspiring solos, tight playing and virtuosity. I can only watch in awe at Herman's dazzling sax playing, Joost Patočka's smashing drumming and Ernst Glerum's groovy bass. Von Piekartz is a lucky guy that he is able to work with this trio.

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Monday 10 November 2014

Navarone Are Pure Rock Pleasure

In The Netherlands a few cities claim to be "rock city" of our country, because they host a fine selection of rock bands. I think every city has a valid point, since indeed all of them spawned a few original and exciting bands. Nijmegen is certainly one that seems to have fertile ground where rock bands are able to develop into quality groups. Navarone definitely is one of them, one that was able to knock me off my feet the first time I heard them a few years back. Earlier this year they released their second album Vim and Vigor where you can hear they are developing into a unique band with an amazing sound and creative songs. Time to see them play again.

Navarone at W2 's-Hertogenbosch, November 7 2014

When you have friends living throughout the country that can appreciate live music just as much as yourself, it enables you to see more bands that may not be visiting your home town or anywhere near, at least not on dates that you're able to go. And of course it's a great excuse to visit your friends and enjoy a night out. This time I headed to the lovely city of 's-Hertogenbosch to watch Navarone play the very nice W2 stage. We are greeted by two lovely ladies that hand us a token to a free Jack Daniel's and coke. Not a bad way to start this evening.

It's not a sold out show tonight, but the small venue has filled up nicely. It does enable us to easily move forward to the front of the stage by the time the band is about to start their show. It doesn't take long for them to impress me once again. Of course they are great musicians, that play a very tight set. Drums, guitars, bass, every individual is able to handle his instrument well and singer Merijn van Haren's mighty voice with astonishing belts are simply wonderful. But the one thing that makes them even better is the pure joy that they are displaying while playing. It's obvious there's only one place they want to be and only one thing they like to do, and that's playing live on stage. The members are looking so pleased and excited, exchanging smiles, admiring each other's playing and totally are in the moment. Immediately they make that electrifying connection with the crowd that is needed for a good live show.

Of course it helps that songs like 'The Red Queen Effect', 'December' and 'Indigo Blue' with its Zeppelin like grooves and sound, are very good rock songs that recall the seventies. The music has lots of dynamics, with almost acoustic parts that are followed by walls of heavy rock grooves. So every ingredient is in there to make a rocker's heart beat faster. They also play entirely unplugged for a short moment, including the vocals where they ask the crowd to be quiet. And guess what? Not a sound to be heard while the band is playing, something that unfortunately is becoming very rare during concerts. Van Haren once more shows what an extraordinary singer he is when they play a cover version of Moby's 'In This World', which you can watch below. This is a band to be proud of and it would surprise me if Navarone won't be one of the front runners of our country's rock scene in the years to come. Maybe we're slowly growing into "rock country" of Europe? Go check them out, since seeing is believing.

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Saturday 8 November 2014

Crowd Surfing With Rocking Ty Segall

With the amount of music Ty Segall is recording, it is a surprise he's able to play live at all. Fortunately he is doing a tour, to promote his new album Manipulator, which is one of his best. Time to go check out this busy bee.

Ty Segall at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 3 2014

After being pummeled by support act J.C.Satàn, a cowboy who calls himself Jimmy, takes the stage to tell us a little tale. Most of the cowboy's little jokes are ignored by everyone and he decides to bring the band to the stage. Jimmy joins the others on keyboard for the first song, but fortunately doesn't take part in the rest of the set. Instead Mikal Cronin is playing the keyboard parts for the rest of the night that takes off kind of slow. The first half of his set tonight consists solely of songs off his new album, which is great. He plays a few of the psychedelic songs that are on Manipulator, that somehow don't really work well. Most of the subtleties are lost in the heavy sound of tonight and this doesn't do them good.

But by the time the band has warmed up, it's clear they aren't here to play subtleties at all. Segall is here to rock us off our socks with wild garage rock songs, which is exactly what happens. He's knocking them out effortlessly and it doesn't take long for the first couple of youngsters to climb the stage for some good old fashioned stage diving and crowd surfing. Seagull is clearly enjoying this and is even encouraging to take a crowd surfing young girl all the way to the back and return her safely, which is exactly what happens.

He can't hold it himself any more and goes a little crowd surfing himself, which he tries for a second time somewhat later. This time he loses his guitar which is grabbed by some people in the crowd. After he gets it back he climbs back on stage and is clearly annoyed by the fact this kind of messed up his guitar since it refuses to stay in tune. Fortunately Segall looks like a cheerful guy and nothing can seem to break his good mood tonight. After a few more killer songs in the encore it's over, leaving nothing but good vibes and spirits.

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01. Manipulator
02. It's Over
03. The Connection Man
04. Tall Man Skinny Lady
05. Feel
06. The Faker
07. The Singer
08. The Clock
09. Green Belly
10. Don't You Want to Know? (Sue)
11. Susie Thumb
12. The Crawler
13. The Feels
14. I Bought My Eyes
15. You're the Doctor
16. Imaginary Person
17. Finger
18. Caesar
19. Thank God for Sinners
20. Wave Goodbye
21. Goodbye Bread
22. Slaughterhouse
23. Tell Me What's Inside Your Heart

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Wednesday 5 November 2014

Golden Spoon For London Calling

In the beginning the London Calling festival was all about promoting unknown bands from the London area. This slowly changed to promising Britpop bands and after that to indie bands in general. Now they are also adding established indie bands and this edition no one less than indie veterans Sebadoh and Spoon are lined up for the Saturday of the two day festival. Time to visit the festival again I'd say.

London Calling 2014 #2 at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 1 2014

The festival is always off to an early start, way too early for me, so by the time I arrive at the venue, Sebadoh have already taken the stage.

Despite the fact this band has been around since 1986 I never saw them play before. They did go on a long break in 1999 and returned to the stage in 2007 for a reunion. Last year they even released a new album Defend Yourself. Bassist Lou Barlow, the only one left of the two founding members, also plays bass in Dinosaur Jr. and is accompanied by Jason Loewenstein on guitar and Bob D'Amico on drums. But the trio isn't having a great night. Besides playing a somewhat obscure set list with not many hits, they look extremely unhappy with their sound. Loewenstein is singing the first half of the show and keeps messing around with his guitar and mic stand. When he switches places with Barlow, this time it is Barlow who is clearly troubled by the sound. It results in a messy performance with lots of breaks and hiccups. Barlow claims "we are terrible at festival shows", followed by Loewenstein: "festival shows are terrible at us". Maybe so, at least tonight is clear they were not having their best day.

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D.D. Dumbo
We watch the show by multi instrumentalist D.D. Dumbo, real name Oliver Hugh Perry, on the screen in the big hall. He brought a pile of pedals and other equipment including a loop station. This seems to be really popular nowadays and Perry uses it creatively while playing a twelve string guitar. It is of course quite clever what he's doing, but nothing we never saw before. Also his songs aren't all very original, but still he's able to play an entertaining set.

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The Mispers
Young band The Mispers are quite excited to play here tonight, especially singer Jack Balfour Scott, who is going through all the rock poses he memorized very hard at home. He's putting way too much cheese on it, together with an annoying effect on his vocals, which is too much in the end. Their songs are very catchy and the violin is a nice addition. It is doubled by keyboard strings a lot though, which is a shame. The keyboard player is also playing bass now and then, which makes it clear they need a bass player, because the songs without bass lack groove. The music needs more variation and without bass it is missing depth, making the songs sound alike a lot. Still this band could get quite interesting in a few years.

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Fever The Ghost
The small hall is packed for Fever The Ghost, but by the end of their show it's half empty. Covered in a cape, singer Casper Indrizzo's vocals are distorted most of the time, resulting in a spooky voice. He's backed up by lots of electronic noise, guitar and wild drums. There doesn't seem to be much of a direction in their music and the songs aren't allowed to breath, filling up every bit of space. But once and a while you can hear an interesting part of a song, especially when they take it more easy and get all psychedelic. It is actually quite interesting but this band needs to focus (a lot) and learn that less is more. There's no shortage of ideas that's for sure.

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Josef Salvat
After all this madness, Josef Salvat is taking it more slow. Judging from the big turn up, many people want to hear his cotton candy pop songs. This is working well for him, when he's keeping the songs small. After an intimate moment behind the piano, where he's asking in vain for a moment of silence, the music changes. The band is sticking layers of ugly keyboard parts and noise on top of the songs and is transforming them into mediocre top 40 tracks. I guess that's what Salvat is aiming for.

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Of course tonight's big headliner is Spoon, who came up with one of their best records in their career and probably of this year. They Want My Soul already shows the band is peaking and they are proving that tonight. With a spot on performance, for over one and a half hour, the band is playing perfect indie rock songs. It's a more than convincing show, downgrading all the other bands tonight to support act. Spoon is way too big for this festival, but I'm so glad they are here. The other bands must have watched them in awe, realizing the road to success is still long. That's okay, since it took Spoon twenty years to get to this point. Tonight they got the perfect example on how to entertain a crowd with great songs, played in a very tight way.

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After this highlight we call it a day, since nothing can top this any more. It is as if we've witnessed an indie rock master class. Hopefully next time, the upcoming bands can surprise us again as well.

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New Sounds: Parkay Quarts - Content Nausea

It's them boys of Parquet Courts again, this time as Parkay Quarts, with some new music. And every time they deliver, you want to listen to it. So here you go and listen to Content Nausea:

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Monday 3 November 2014

Magnus Shines As Five Piece

After seeing Tom Barman with Magnus on Vlieland in September I was wondering how the band would sound when they were complete. At the ITGWO festival the band was missing a few members because they had other obligations. Now on their short tour they are in their normal five piece line-up with a drummer and keyboard player added to it. So I headed to the new venue in northern Amsterdam to find out.

Magnus at Paradiso Tolhuistuin, October 30 2014

Soldier's Heart will be supporting tonight. This band doesn't ring a bell and a search on Google leads to some roots band from the US that doesn't really fit the program. When I arrive at the venue I discover it's actually a band from Belgium making danceable electro pop. It turns out their song 'African Fire' even sounds familiar and I'm pleasantly surprised with the young band.

Right from the start it is immediately clear that the full line up definitely makes a difference. The songs sound more organic and have more body. The drummer is sometimes playing the groove of the song, with a nice warm full bass sound, at other times he's filling in around the beat from CJ Bolland by adding subtle percussion, both electronic and acoustic. The keyboard parts are now more complex since Barman doesn't have to play them himself while singing, adding more depth to the songs.

Another advantage is that Barman can now move freely around the stage, so he and guitar player Tim van Hamel are competing each other who can come up with the most silly dance moves (won by van Hamel). It turns the show into a lively performance and the band is clearly having a good time. Needless to say that everyone else is as well and soon most people are dancing and temperatures are rising, turning the venue into a sultry place.

The old and new songs mix well together even though there is ten years between some of them. Van Hamel uses an eighties kind of guitar sound, that reminds of Duran Duran and early Simple Minds. Together with new wave elements it gives the songs an eighties kind of feel, without sounding outdated. Some songs get more punch than on the record and get even better. 'Puppy' is more powerful and although it's hard to replace Tom Smith's vocals on 'Singing Man', tonight's version sounds just as good. With this full line up the songs sound more like rock songs than just plain electronic dance songs and in 'Catlike' it's impossible not to hear a bit of dEUS. In the end this was a fun show for both band and audience. Let's hope we don't have to wait another ten years for new material.

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