Social Distancing Spins – Day 40

By Joel Francis

If you wondered how long Noah and his family were aboard the ark while the hard rain fell continuously, we’ve reached that point. Forty days (and nights). I don’t see any doves in the sky.

Paul Simon – self-titled (1972) Paul Simon’s solo debut (for all intents and purposes) arrived two years after the landmark Bridge Over Troubled Water. It’s a very different album from Bridge, but it is also established Simon as an artist who could operate completely independently of Art Garfunkel. If you’ve heard the album think about it for a moment. Where would you put Garfunkel? He certainly doesn’t fit on the big singles, “Mother and Child Reunion” and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard.” Maybe on “Duncan” but not really anywhere else. Meanwhile, Simon’s dabbling in reggae, folk, blues, gospel, even hot jazz on the wonderful instrumental “Hobo’s Blues” with Stephane Grappelli. Simon would quickly eclipse this excellent album with his two subsequent releases, but really the blueprints for everything he would do next, even Graceland, can be found here.

Husker Du – Alternate Land Speed Record (1982) When the producers of the excellent Husker Du box set Savage Young Du were denied use of any material the hardcore punk trio recorded for SST, they did the next best thing and compiled an alternate version of the band’s debut live album Land Speed Record. Nearly the same songs, same order, same venue, different performances. I haven’t compared the two versions but I don’t find anything lacking on the numbers offered here. The 13 songs (there were 17 on the original edition) blast past like you are on the business end of a leaf blower. The second side features the In a Free Land single and a bevy of b-sides. Individually, each song rips and kicks like a chainsaw about to throw a part. Together, they flow like a violent sea of free jazz or an industrial raga. Either way, you won’t need to curl your hair or brush your teeth by the time it’s over.

Raphael Saadiq – Stone Rollin’ (2011) The mastermind behind Tony! Toni! Tone! came up in a big way on his third solo album, the Motown-inspired The Way I See It. Stone Rollin’ was his follow up release and if anything it builds on and improves the sound established before. Opening number “Heart Attack” sounds like a lost Sly and the Family Stone track, while Ray Charles was definitely in the house on “Day Dreams.” Another stand-out track, “Go To Hell,” opens with a big organ and tympani straight out of the ‘70s. And in a delightful twist the song is about someone trying to avoid the eternal fires, not send an enemy there. Hidden near the end, “Good Man” is the best album. Taura Stinson sings a hooky chorus that would work well on a hip hop track a la Mary J. Blige. Instead, Saadiq keeps it old school and paints a story of a blue collar man doing everything and still falling short, especially in love. The lush orchestration and horns add another layer of drama to the story. Stone Rollin’ is a stone classic that fans of the revival sound coming from Daptone and Colemine should definitely check out. Everyone else should hear it as well.

Bunny Wailer – Blackheart Man (1976) The third Wailers-related album to come out in 1976. Although all albums touch on each of these areas, the shorthand is that Bob Marley’s Rastaman Vibration is the political album, Peter Tosh’s Legalize It the playful one. Blackheart Man is definitely the most spiritual of the three releases. The title song opens the album and warns against going near the devil and how Jah will one day defeat the Blackheart Man. The album ends with a lengthy – and excellent – version of the classic gospel song “This Train.” Between these bookends, Wailer addresses reparations on “Dreamland,” draws a vivid portrait of poverty and imprisonment in “Fighting Against Conviction” and offers another warning about the end times on “Amagideon.” Blackheart Man is easily lesser-known of the three releases I’ve discussed over the past three days, but it is every bit the equal of the other two. It is a must-own for all reggae fans.

Review: F*cked Up

(Above: Kansas City’s own Maps for Travelers cover “The Other Shoe” in anticipation of Fucked Up’s appearance at the Middle of the Map festival.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

The band may be Fucked Up, but they do many things very well. During the inaugural hour of Easter Sunday, 2012, the six-piece hardcore punk band from Toronto abolished the barrier between artist and audience with an enthusiastic set that turned fans into friends.

The hourlong set leaned heavily on last year’s “David Comes to Life,” an ambitious masterpiece that can stand proudly with other genre-redefining, double-LPs like “London Calling,” “Zen Arcade” and “Double Nickels on the Dime.”

The band had barely kicked into opening number “Queen of Hearts” before frontman Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham was leaning into the crowd, offering his mic to anyone willing to bellow. Over the next hour he walked through the crowd, encouraging hugs, high fives and anything else to encourage fans and make them feel like part of the performance.

Damian “Pink Eyes” Abraham displays an intense delight at the Riot Room.

Although the themes in its music can be dark, the atmosphere is entirely positive. During “The Other Shoe,” Abraham got the entire room singing the chorus. A room full of people singing the words “dying on the inside” never felt so upbeat and optimistic.

His vocals are screamed, but the delivery is more out of enthusiasm than anger. While hardcore punk can quickly become numbing in the wrong hands, F’ed Up is surprisingly melodic. The backing vocals from bass player Sandy “Mustard Gas” Miranda and guitarist Ben Cook go a long way toward tempering Abraham’s abrasive technique. The band is also unafraid to show it’s classic rock influences. The three-guitar attack during “Under My Nose” recalled Thin Lizzy. Later, drummer Jonah Falco  quoted Keith Moon’s drum pattern from “Won’t Get Fooled Again” while Abraham twirled his microphone a la Roger Daltrey.

Anticipation was high for F’ed Up’s set. They were talked up by Mission of Burma on Friday night, and the one-in, one-out policy went into effect hours earlier, generating a line to the door that stretched to the corner. Once inside, from the lip of the stage to the back of the bar, everyone seemed mesmerized.

Of the seven bands on the Riot Room’s lineup for Saturday, all but two acts were part of the local music scene. The Chicago-quartet A Lull delivered a set of dreamy, atmospheric music that included the moving “Some Love.” Longtime hardcore/metal mainstays Coalesce were given the final slot before F’ed Up. Singer Sean Ingram successfully cleared a good portion of the crowd from the stage simply by testing his mic.

The band’s intense 40-minute set polarized the room between dedicated fans gathered by the stage, and the rest of the room, politely waiting for the headliner. At one point, guitarist Jes Steineger lept from the stage and played while hanging from the rafter above the crowd.

Keep reading:

Dischord finds harmony in D.C. hardcore scene

Review – Greg Ginn and the Taylor Texas Corrugators

Review: “The Art of the LP”