Monday, January 30, 2006

Alex Dezen (Damnwells-related)

Most of the bands that I'm friendly with have early recordings that they released to the public in limited quantities when they were young but now deny knowing anything about. For instance, when I interviewed Wes Kidd of Triple Fast Action many years ago and asked if he had ever played on any Rights of the Accused albums, he said no. When questioned further, he said, "I'm lying. There is a record out called Kick-Happy, Thrill-Hungry, Reckless, & Willing. You don't need to listen to that. It's actually a lot of fun, but a lot of people don't get the joke." Photograph evidence can be found here. And don't dare bring up Unleash the Cracken around the former members of Fig Dish. They claim that the CD is just a myth (hmm, I was able to hunt down a used copy over the internet many years ago).

So this brings me to Alex Dezen of The Damnwells. The first time I interviewed him, I had prepared by doing a ton of web surfing, trying to find out something interesting about his past. I stumbled upon a CD on Insound by a band called New States. The description of the 4-song EP on the Insound site says:

"In New States, Alex Dezen (guitar/vocals), Dan Hirsh (bass), and David Bush (drums) take their driven but delicate rock sound and merge it with solid pop songwriting. With intricate guitar work and a bouncing rhythm section, they have a comforting familiarity that still sounds new andkeeps listeners in anticipation. New States have the ability to maintain a tense, anxious feel, allowing them to easily shift moods. They use their three piece format to their advantage by playing with space and texture as well as dynamics. Hear their debut EP out now and look for scattered tour dates throughout the summer."
Here's what Alex said about New States when I interviewed him:

It was definitely poppy, the EP we made was definitely the poppiest of all of the stuff. There was other stuff where I'd scream and be a dork. Good luck trying to find that EP anywhere in the universe. I kept the name and me and the drummer changed a bunch of the band members and became an band at the end of college.
So, while posting this may cause Alex to never talk to me again, I thought Damnwells fans might be interested in hearing Alex's early material. And, if you are a Damnwells completist, you'll definitely want to visit Insound and buy the EP (warning: there's not much to the cover, just a very small photo, if I remember correctly).

MP3: Maya (New States)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

In My Ear - January 29

I first met David Cobb after his former college roommate, Mike Willison (Fig Dish/Caviar), passed me his e-mail address. David had started something called "In My Ear" which was a weekly e-mail that he sent out on Monday mornings to about 30 people listing the music he had listened to the week before along with links to websites of these bands. He asked people on the list to hit "Reply All" and list out the music they had been listening to so it wasn't unusual to get maybe 8 or so lists from other people on the "In My Ear" e-mail list.

I guess it depends on how big of a music geek you are as to whether or not you do anything with these lists. If a name pops up that I'm not familiar with - and the person has a bunch of stuff on their list that I like - I'll do some research. This is how I first heard Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I like to think that people read my list every week and click on a few links to learn more about bands that I listen to - I think my list often contains some pretty obscure bands based on what everybody else is listening to.

So, I decided to take my involvement in the "In My Ear" list one step further - by recording a podcast featuring music that I had been listening to the previous week. In leiu of posting links to any MP3s today, I offer up a link to my debut "In My Ear" podcast.

MP3: "In My Ear" Podcast #1, January 29, 2006

The first Podcast features music from Clearlake, What Made Milwaukee Famous, Fightstar, Alta May, Vespin, and Warrant. Most of this stuff isn't new, maybe you've heard it before, but it's stuff that I've been listening to a lot over the past week.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Great Lake Swimmers

A few months before my daughter Piper was born I started having a hard time falling asleep. I'd lay in bed and listen to the stillness of the night. It's at those times that the mind starts to wander and for some reason I couldn't stop thinking about death. I would imagine how tough it must be to be told that you only have a certain amount of time left to live. I would think how there are no guarantees with life - somebody drives through a Stop sign and hits your car; a heart attack strikes you while you're playing recreational softball; a delusional madman hops a wall, enters the club where you are watching a band and opens fire. So many random ways to die other than old age. I guess that's why you should live every day to it's fullest because the next day could be your last. While the thought of that saddened me, I'm the type of person who doesn't live to leave loose ends so, in a way, I kind of would like to know when I am going to die so that I could have a chance to say goodbye, to make ammends, to try to fit in everything that I always wanted to try but put off.

These thoughts can be consuming and in the months leading up to Piper's birth, they'd keep me up until 2 or 3 am. I felt like no matter how hard I closed my eyelids, they just didn't want to stay closed. The only way I could think to cure myself of this mild form of insomnia (or, major case of "thinking too much") was to listen to some music to distract the thoughts I was having. I had the Great Lake Swimmers debut from Misra Records that I had been meaning to check out and decided that maybe I'd give it a spin as I lay in bed.

It did the trick.

Quiet and slow, Great Lake Swimmers inhabit the same world as Nick Drake and The Red House Painters. Tony Dekkar sang me to sleep each night - I barely made it past the second or third song and I was thankful for that.

Tonight I dedicate this song to a good friend that has stood by my side for many years. Layne, may all of your dreams be peaceful and happy. I'll miss you, friend.

MP3: Moving Pictures, Silent Films

Monday, January 23, 2006


Metal-Sludge did a feature a few months back on new bands that were bringing back the glam metal look and sound. One of those bands was Crashdiet from Sweden who had recently scored a US record deal with Universal. There was even talk that the band was going to perform at this years South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas in March. Glam metal is my weakness and I was pretty excited to learn that it's making a comeback AND that I'd have a chance to catch one of the up-and-coming bands on the new scene.

Unfortunately, I won't have the chance to ever see Crashdiet live as reported last week that frontman Dave Lepard was found dead in his apartment on January 20. No foul play is expected (in other words: it was probably an overdose) and the band quickly announced that they will not go on with a new singer.

Because of Lepard's death, I'm not sure if Crashdiet's latest album, Rest in Sleaze, will ever get released in the U.S. I'd definitely recommend tracking down an import copy if you're into late '80s hair metal (ie Motley Crue, Poison, Whitesnake).

MP3: Riot in Everyone

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Coco Rosie

Maybe I'm just not in with the "in" crowd, not hip enough, but I *just* stumbled upon Coco Rosie, one of the strangest, most unique acts I've heard in the 00's. I realize I'm late to the game, that every Pitchfork reader under the sun already knows that "Noah's Ark is one of the most annoying records you're liable to remember," but I think I'm glad to have finally discovered the duo.

Every Sunday night I Tivo Subterranean on MTV2 and usually fast forward through 90% of the videos, stopping only to give bands that I'm not familiar with a 10-second chance at capturing my ear.

Two weeks ago Coco Rosie's "Noah's Ark" was shown. My reaction to the video and song were similar to my reaction to the Polyphonic Spree the first time I saw them perform (2001 CMJ Festival in NYC). I didn't know what to make of Coco Rosie - the duo were either the most brilliant thing I've heard in years or the most disturbing.

I've read various things about the Casady sisters, Bianca and Sierra, and I'm not sure how much is truth and how much is fiction. Whatever the case is, they make oddly compelling music that I guarantee will be stuck in your head for weeks. If you like it, that's a great thing. If you don't, it'll drive you nuts (just ask Mike, my co-worker, who I forced "Noah's Ark" upon - he keeps sending me IMs at work saying, "I had to listen to it AGAIN. I can't shake it from my head").

I know that the folks over on the Donewaiting message board were talking about Coco Rosie last year when the duo opened for Bright Eyes and I think No Name #1 put it best when he/she said "Horrible affected singing like yer mom's grandma trying to impersonate Billie Holiday on crack, but not even as good." Now, I tend to disagree with the "horrible" part of that description but I think the rest is pretty spot on - one of the sisters DOES sound like Billie Holiday on crack. It's kind of creepy; it's kind of endearing. It certainly is different.

Judge for yourself. And accept my apologies, in advance, if this song drives you nuts.

MP3: Noah's Ark

Friday, January 13, 2006

Christian Lane/Loud Lucy

My three favorite periods of music associated with cities are the late '80s hair metal scene of L.A., the early '90s grunge scene of Seattle and the mid-90s power-pop/indie rock scene of Chicago. If you stick with Starfool long enough, you'll find me referencing bands from these 3 scenes on a pretty regular basis.

Veruca Salt really opened up the eyes and ears of A&R folks towards the Chicago music scene and after they hit the radio big with "Seether" in 1994, a number of bands reaped the benefits. Bands like Fig Dish, Triple Fast Action, The Smoking Popes, Menthol and Local H were all of a sudden thrust into rotation on the blossoming "alt.rock" stations popping up around the country in response to success of Nirvana. Loud Lucy was another band from Chicago that scored a major label deal in the mid-90s, signing with Geffen and releasing Breathe in 1995. Loud Lucy scored a college radio hit with "Over Me," featuring backing vocals by lead singer Christian Lane's at-the-time girlfriend Louise Post of Veruca Salt. As Veruca Salt grew bigger and bigger, and Post moved on to new beau Dave Grohl, Loud Lucy struggled to get the attention of audiences.

They were given a huge boost when newcomer Alanis Morrisette tapped the band to open her first major headlining tour ('96-ish) and a relationship between Morrisette and Lane soon became hit the tabloids. Not sure what happened after that - Morrisette and Lane broke up and Loud Lucy was finished.

Christian Lane resurfaced in 2000, putting out a solo album called Down to This. Loud Lucy drummer Mark Doyle went on to join Chicago band The Cells and bassist Tommy Furar has toured as a member of Liz Phair's band.

These days Lane appears to have discovered his inner-Americana songwriter and has 4 songs posted on his MySpace page. Maybe it's just me, but I hear a lot of Bob Forrest (Thelonious Monster, The Bicycle Thief) in Lane's voice, even in his older stuff with Loud Lucy.

Here are some of my favorite Loud Lucy/Christian Lane songs.

Stop Draggin My Heart Around - Loud Lucy (from You Got Lucky - A Tribute to Tom Petty)
1000 to 5 - Loud Lucy (from Breathe)
Gotta Go - Christian Lane (from Down to This)
Show Mercy - Christian Lane (demo - 2005)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hood remix

If you've seen my "Best of 2005" - and you haven't ... yet ... unless you read it here (mine is the last list on the page) - you'll see that I picked Hood's Outside Closer as my favorite release. Might as well quote myself:
After an early career spent emulating lo-fi rock icons like Pavement, Hood reinvented itself by engaging in experimental rock using a menagerie of instruments to evoke comparisons to Radiohead. On Hood's 2001 release, Cold House, the English band collaborated with the hip-hop collective cLOUDDEAD, and that influence carried over to Outside Closer. While still incorporating hip-hop beats into their folktronica sound, Hood increases the use of samples, glitches, strings and horns on outstanding tracks such as "The Negatives" and "The Lost You." If you find anything Radiohead did after OK Computer to be too challenging, Hood's Outside Closer is a nice alternative.
Obviously, I suggest tracking down a copy of this CD, particularly if you're a fan of Radiohead, Notwist, Bark Psychosis, or even CocoRosie.

On the Hood message board (found on their website) I found a link to a remix the band did for Pulse Programming's "Blooms Eventually" from Tulsa for One Second Remix Project. Here is what XLR8R says about remix album.

Originating in Portland, OR, Pulsepregramming is largely the production work of Joel Kriske and Marc Hellner, whose IDM-centered sound base has won the duo comparisons to Black Dog, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada. Tulsa For One Second Remix Project, their latest release, is what its title suggests: a reworking of their last album by friends and label cohorts. Hood, Nudge, Barbara Morgenstern and Ghislain Poirier all make appearances on this disc, which is definitely worth picking up and succeeds in the sometimes shaky territory of remix albums.

MP3: Blooms Eventually - Hood remix

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Elliott Smith + covers

It seems a bit too easy to toss up Elliott Smith MP3s and covers as there are dozens and dozens of both floating around cyberspace. But while the folks that put together the forthcoming To Elliott, From Portland compilation CD - featuring Smith covers by the likes of The Decemberists, The Thermals, and Eric Matthews - did a great job of finding artists to pay tribute to the dearly departed songwriter, they obviously couldn't track down everybody that may have been interested in contributing. Witness the under-the-radar tribute CD that came out in early 2005, A Tribute to Elliott Smith and the home recordings Tiara frontman Eric Rottmayer recorded under his solo artist alias Eric Metronome.

You can download 16 Elliott Smith covers that Rottmayer/Metronome did on his website. For a sample of what you'll find, check out Metronome's cover of "King's Crossing" along with To Live & Die in L.A.'s version from To Elliott, From Portland and a live version performed by Smith himself on February 1, 2003 at the Henry Fonda Theater in L.A.

King's Crossing - Eric Metronome
King's Crossing - To Live & Die in L.A.
King's Crossing - Elliott Smith (live, 2/1/03)

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Envy Corps

When did Iowa move to the United Kingdom? In my experience, there seems to be a particular British "sound" that bands like Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Muse, Radiohead, etc. have that bands in the U.S. are unable to replicate. Perhaps it's one of those things where your sound is based on your environment and as much as the U.S. and the UK are alike, they are also very, very different. Or perhaps it's the mystery of the British accent, something that here in heartland USA I don't hear on an every day basis so when I hear it in song I instantly gravitate to it.

Somehow, a group of kids in Iowa (of all places) are tuned into the UK frequency and have created a Brit-rock sound influenced by cloudy skies, fish and chips, dark and smokey pubs, and NME magazine.

The Envy Corps released a stunning album, Soviet Reunion, in early 2004 though I suspect unless you read a glowing review, you probably aren't even aware this album exists. There are a few used copies on Amazon and I can't recommend it enough if you're a fan of the bands already mentioned (and others like Travis, Starsailor, Keane, The Verve).

The following tracks are from the band's new EP, Lies are Best Told in Pairs, and while I wish I could point you to a link where you can buy the EP, unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the link myself. I sent the band a message via their MySpace account and I'll pass along any information I get. For now, enjoy a few songs from The Envy Corps.

MP3: Baby Teeth
MP3: Rhinemaidens

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Starfool: It's a Go

Over on my Atomic Ned column (found on I mentioned a few weeks ago - when posting a few MP3 links to songs by ex-Verbena bassist Duquette Johnston - that I had no intention of starting an MP3 blog because there are far too many good ones out there to compete against. And then I started finding a bunch of cool MP3s by bands that I knew (and bands I didn't know) and was trying to figure out a good way to share those links with people I thought would like the songs. Aw crap, guess I might as well start an MP3 blog.

Since I write a regular column for Donewaiting and run (as well as freelance for a handful of other sites/zines which I'm sure I'll mention on here over time), I figure this can kind of be a companion to those sites.

So, I suppose since I named this site after one of my favorite Damnwells songs, I should make the first official download "Starfool". This version of the song - the original studio version can be found on Bastards of the Beat - is from the band's performance at the Phantasy Theater in Lakewood, Ohio where the opened for Robert Randolph and the Family Band.

Starfool (live) (this file is being hosted on