Tag Archives: Joy Division

Live: Dean Wareham Plays Galaxie 500 + Crystal Stilts

21 Aug

Dean Wareham plays Galaxie 500 songs (backed by the Dean & Britta band)

At the 140-year-old Trocadero Theatre in Phila., PA, where minstrel, vaudeville and burlesque shows once did the trick, Dean Wareham played Galaxie 500 songs. Just after 10 p.m., Wareham, the 47-year-old dreampop hero, walked on stage with his beer, his bass-playing wife Britta and the rest of the band. With no preamble, Wareham and co. rode right on in to “Flowers,” the first track off of their 1988 debut Today.

Wareham’s voice is as haunting and inviting as it was over 20 years ago, and his guitar work alone is worth the price of admission. One of the benefits of seeing Wareham up close is getting a look at his expressive non-expression, where the muscles in his face are relieved of duty, eyelids refusing to come down, as he loses himself in each song. All the while cranking out gorgeous solos.

Wareham told a story about dropping acid a while back with friends, taking their socks and shoes off to dip their feet in the water. “I thought my toes were talking to me,” Wareham said in deadpan. And Wareham begat “Decomposing Trees.”

“Blue Thunder” is the classic car song. Wareham explained that he named his old blue ride after the feature film of the same name, starring Malcolm McDowell and Roy Scheider. Britta chimed in saying she had a green one, to which Wareham replied, “Green Thunder doesn’t have quite the same ring, does it?”

If you are a fan of Galaxie 500, Luna or Dean & Britta, this is a must-see show.

Setlist from 8/20/10 @ The Trocadero

Crystal Stilts

Crystal Stilts opened for Dean Wareham with a perfect 30-minute set of their layered pop sound. Crystal Stilts get misbranded often as a lo-fi outfit because of their jangle. Seeing Wavves and Beach Fossils, despite some similar influences, is a completely different experience than seeing Crystal Stilts. Frontman Brad Hargett sounds exactly like Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. The critics who note their New Zealand (The Clean, The Saints, Wareham, The Bats and especially The Chills) influence got it right. The funny think about the NZ influence, known as the Dunedin Sound, is its roots in early garage and punk pioneers Velvet Underground and The Stooges while incorporating the perfect pop craft of The Beatles. Like those bands before them, The Stilts have no tricks. They just have the equation down pat: write great pop songs and know how to make it dirty.

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Scrabble-Rousers #3: Reign

17 May

Today’s word – reign – comes from Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars and is used in reference to Nero, the tyrannical emperor of Rome who was favored by the masses but murdered his mother.

"OK, now pout as if you've just executed your mother. Perfect!"

Make of that what you will or go google Nero.

I can’t think of a single song, but there is an entire genre that “reign” brings to mind and that is gospel music. Some of our favorite musicians grew up listening to and singing gospel music – Johnny Cash, Elvis, Sam Cooke among many, many others. Given the context of today’s word, there is seemingly no better choice than to give you gospel legend Shirley Caesar singing “He Holdeth the Reigns.”

Share Don’t Drive Your Mama Away by Shirley Caesar

With that said, there were a few other nominees that need to be mentioned such as Bernie Williams’ rendition of “He Reigns.” This has no direct or indirect connection to Nero’s term as temporary tyrant, but is worth noting because of Williams’ connection to another tyrannical dynasty – The New York Yankees. The former All-Star center fielder, who cranked out over 2,3oo base hits in his career, now cranks out smooth jazz hits like this:

Another close (but oh so far) match was “He Lives and He Reigns” by Stamatis Spanoudakis. The Greek composer’s homage to Alexander the Great is a lot like the stuff you hear from the now-deceased Sam Spence on NFL Films programming. It is powerful, but evokes a certain sensitivity to its subject:

Finally, completely unrelated to anything, is simply the biggest surprise while searching for songs with the word “reign” in it. Stumbling across “Freedom Reign” by The Tenebrous Liar, the band name called for an obligatory listen. The automatic song playing on their website sounded as if J.J. Cale and Nick Cave collaborated in the studio, and it just got better from there. They wear their influences on their sleeve, assuming they listened to a lot of Joy Division, Bauhaus and dark new wave acts – especially on tracks like “Cut Down Your Love” and “Suffer You.” These guys aren’t ripoff artists though, as the sound comes across as fresh.