Bad Seeds

 Posted by
Jan 302013

TTYONoir is a term that gets used all to gratuitously, but the music of Tindersticks does indeed conjure shadows, rain-soaked alleyways, French cigarettes, and a concealed stiletto. This long-running and dapper Nottingham sextet stood distinctly apart from ’90s Britpop, working their elegantly romantic, debauched gutter ballads and orchestral pop up to the present day.

[audio:|titles=Tyed] [audio:|titles=Jism]

They are theatrical, volatile, visceral, and louche, with singer Stuart Staples’ rich baritone at the center of this confection. Think Lee Hazlewood, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Serge Gainsbourg, and Dean Martin at his most slurred. Those vocals, in fact, may be a deal breaker for some listeners. It’s a conscientious voice, spinning mumbled and miserablist tales of appetites and desires thwarted by alcohol, mistakes, betrayal, lies, bodily fluids, death, and regret. It evokes the literature of Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, and Charles Bukowski.

[audio:|titles=I’ve Been Loving You Too Long] [audio:|titles=Her]

The music is tightly wound, with melancholic orchestration, Stax soul, flamenco guitars, spaghetti western horns, Bernard Hermann stabs of violin, and Blue Note jazz touches. The aggregate of the band speaks softly, but carries the stab of cynicism, fatalism, and weighty moral ambiguity–the burden of mules, a carnival of lost souls.

[audio:|titles=Ballad of Tindersticks] [audio:….mp3|titles=Can Our Love…]


Nov 122012

A recent little review of a singles compilation, in The New Yorker, got me going about another of the bands I champion.

One of the inescapable qualities about A.R.Kane is that they were black, and they were not making the music you’d expect from them, given their image.



Anitina (The First Time I See She Dance)

Back in A.R.Kane’s heyday, when The Jesus and Mary Chain were squalling with feedback and Cocteau Twins were building cavernous hypnogogic spaces, the reticent, difficult, and yes, arcane members of this duo cited only Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew as influences. It was a reference that, at the time, had me scratching my head and straining to make connections, but enjoying that pursuit nonetheless. Such assertions opened up a different area of exploration for “black rock” in a portion of the spectrum whose only representation came from the band Living Colour.

Spermwhale Trip Over



A.R.Kane’s moment in the sun came as part of a collaboration with fellow 4ad recording artists Colourbox, a one-off called M.A.R.R.S. that spawned the club hit “Pump Up the Volume.” That scratchedelic dance fest sampled Eric B & Rakim, among a thousand other things, and bore very little of the studio contributions of A.R.Kane. The bulk of their sound exists in its own world, an immensely vast and yet microcosmic interior. I hear the acoustics of Pink Floyd and dub at the same time. It’s an opulent and menacing space filled with equal parts distortion and subtlety, familiar and yet very alien.

Oct 122012

I might take it on the chin for this one, if my spouse’s reaction to Godspeed You! Black Emperor is anything to judge by. Ms. Jade is very vocal in her dislike of this Montreal collective. You know how some people turn green and can’t even be in the same room as tequila after having gotten sick on it? It’s that kind of reaction. And that makes me scratch my head.

Rockets Fall On Rocket Falls


So, I don’t know where RTH-ers are gonna stand on 20-minute long instrumentals of epic guitar glory, seasick violins, hypnotic bagpipe drones, stately drumming, insurrectionist soundbites and the loose-tight-loose woven compositions from the enigmatic and inscrutable GYBE. The time is right, however, since they’ve just released new material.


The Dead Flag Blues

I say they’re sublime. Taking that odd name from a 70’s Japanese biker documentary, and subsisting on a word-of-mouth congregation, they play live with all the aplomb of a professional chamber group, while grimy and arcane film clips collage the stage. Talk about a zoned-out audience!

Motherfucker=Redeemer (Part One)


The sound is demanding, and also ambient. Difficult to unwrap, hard to find lucidity. Godspeed excels in symphonic movements that gather clouds and bloom, inviting periods of private focus and daze, are best for beatitude and elation.

Where do you stand? Rapturous or Overwrought?

Oct 052012

If you’re a sucker for the sound of a slide on a National resonator guitar, and you were sitting at a bar havin’ a few beers with Dylan, Robert Johnson, Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Ry Cooder, and Chet Baker, you’d have to scoot over for Chris Whitley.

Scrapyard Lullaby

Ball Peen Hammer

The Texan born Whitley, once described as looking like “Kate Moss in a wifebeater,” is one of those tragic figures whose death in his prime cemented his legendary status as a bluesman. It’s evident just from the sound of him that he has a hellhound on his trail, and he’s applied that feeling and introspection to several solo recordings as well as work with Arto Lindsay, Daniel Lanois, Cassandra Wilson, Shawn Colvin, Mike Watt, Joe Henry, and Medeski, Martin & Wood.

4th Time Around

Hellhound On My Trail (live)

There’s something confessional about his playing and his singing. When I hear his notes and his whispered croak of a voice, he seems to be finding his way as he goes. It almost seems he’s attacking each chord and note, separating them into distinct entities to mine even the most minute musical potential. His eerie recordings divulge and wrangle with his demons, and his work sounds like hard-won wisdom.

I Wanna Be Your Dog

I Go Evil

Okay, let those opinions fly.

Sep 092012

I first came across the then-16 year old Archy Marshall via the video below, and it just blew me away with raw, choked-up emotion and Billy Bragg-like vocals coming out of this Dickensian Rick Astley urchin.

Working under the moniker Zoo Kid, this little snot-nosed wunderkind cranked out a batch of ’80s-tinged punky, jazzy, folky, rockabilly, dubby little ditties on his Bandcamp site. As a seasoned 17 year old, he changed to King Krule, but he continues to stay true to his aesthetic. Which is what? A thuggish Everything But The Girl? Paul Weller fronting a garage band? Joe Strummer meets Gang Starr? Amped Aztec Camera?

Baby Blue

Ocean Bed

I want to slap this tone-deaf funky little hooligan on the back. You go, kid!

Portrait In Black and Blue

Rock Bottom

Sep 032012

I’ve always championed The Wolfgang Press. I’m not sure where your basic RTH-er is going to stand with this challenging lot. It has been said that “if you filled a room with Talking Heads fans, got them drunk and played a few Wolfgang Press discs, loudly, the congregation would go ape before they had time to rescue their cool.”

King of Soul

I’m Coming Home (Mama)

Weighty and primal, always changing, they were cast from PiL-type gloom backgrounds but there has always been something darkly humorous about this trio. Lead ranter Michael Allen was a brooding goofball who comes across like a dreadlocked Nick Cave. His spoken-howl lyrics and the band’s bottom-heavy, textured experiments moved from cacophony to minimal to soul-tinged to (admittedly not so successful) dance-floor funk.



TWP is not for the easily intimidated. Swaggering but self-doubting, full of fire and brimstone, choosing odd songs to cover, permeated by 4AD atmosphere, and always visceral, always confrontational…what say ye?


Mama Told Me Not to Come


Ear Candy

 Posted by
Aug 202012

I had a where have you lot been hiding moment the first time I heard Comet Gain. I came late to the party, and I was astonished to discover a large back catalogue that touched on so many things: Britpop, The Go-Betweens, ? and The Mysterions, Godard and ’60s British kitchen sink dramas, Mods, Orange Juice, Felt, Bikini Kill, Smash Hits, Northern Soul, the photography of Roger Mayne, hell, even the photo I use at the top of this column, came together and found a place to roost.

[audio:|titles=Beatnik] [audio:|titles=Ripped-Up Suit]

It’s a literate, spirited, and reverent indie pop that these Londoners make. They tap into something where they sound, and the listener feels, unabashed about being a music geek, and the redemptive and exhilarating power of rock, style, and being smart.

[audio:|titles=The Ballad of a Mix Tape] [audio:|titles=Some of Us Don’t Want to Be Saved]

What really comes through for me is the sense that this scrappy cult phenomenon are really psyched to be making records. They’re an indie-pop confection, and the more you eat, the more you want, which is something everyone should love in their favorite bands.

[audio:|titles=The Kids at the Club] [audio:|titles=Germ of Youth Part II]

Check ’em:


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