Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pitchfork Fest 2008 - Saturday

Pitchfork Fest 2008 came and went. It seemed like it would never arrive, and here I am writing a review of it. Summer sure does fly by.

Saturday morning was a rainy affair, but the weather pretty much cleared up by the time Jay Reatard took the stage for his 12:30 PM set. I was not too familiar with his music, but his set started off the day great. High-energy garage punk with few stops in between. I will probably retrieve his LP, Blood Visions and give that a spin. My big complaint is that the volume was too quiet for the big stage, and he would definitely benefit from playing in a small club. He reminded me of Bob Pollard in that he announced the name of the song he was about to play. I dig that, and I'll probably do the same for Random Candy.

We caught some of Caribou's set while waiting for Fleet Foxes, and wow, they sounded terrific. I wish I could have seen more.

Naturally, Fleet Foxes were next. The Chicago Tribune (and nearly every music publication) has been whacking off to them for a few months, and with good reason. Their record is really cool and different. Of course, all the reviews of their set in the next day's newspapers were super-positive. They sounded great, but the festival setting is totally wrong for them. They deserve to sell out Metro and warm some interiors. I was impressed that they quieted the crowd as much as they did, but that's partly due to the fact that the acoustic guitar was so fucking quiet.

It didn't take much for Andrew to coax me into watching part of Fuck Buttons' set. I was really impressed with this band. Noisy, loud, and with some melodic flair, the Fuck Buttons were right up my alley. I recommend seeing them and buying their newest LP. This was my great "surprise" set of the fest.

Vampire Weekend was awesome. I am in a different world from everyone that says their live show is underwhelming. They delivered. I had a great time, and so did my friends. Their new song is incredible, and they even gave "Blake's Got a New Face" a much-needed boost.

!!! - are they a joke band? Terrible.

The Hold Steady rocked really hard. They played a lot of new stuff, and I did NOT hear "Stuck Between Stations." I wish they had included it in the set. This band is well suited for all environments, including festivals. Craig Finn is hilarious.

We caught Jarvis Cocker's set as we waited for Animal Collective. What a snoozer! No Pulp, no care. Sorry.

Finally, Animal Collective took the stage as headliner. Wow. I am a believer in this band. They had the best set of the weekend. Bright, trance-inducing lights perfectly complimented their zany takes on old songs. And hell, they played "Comfy in Nautica" by Panda Bear. Their show was the kind of show that turns non-believers into believers, casual listeners into avid fans, and the rest into melted snow. They sucked all the life out of me, as a matter of fact. Hail AC!

Sunday review coming soon.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Review: Alkaline Trio - Agony & Irony/ Goddamnit Redux

2008 is a significant year for the Alkaline Trio. Earlier this month, Skiba and co. released their sixth full-length, called Agony & Irony. It is their major label debut (on Epic Records). 2008 also marks the ten-year anniversary of their first LP, Goddamnit. Asian Man Records re-released Goddamnit with new artwork, better production, and a retrospective DVD called “Original Sin.” The package is known as the Goddamnit Redux. The proximity of the two releases serves as a reminder to diehard fans of where Alkaline Trio came from, and for the most part, how badly they’ve aged.

Agony & Irony has the Alkaline Trio testing new waters and then receding back to the comfortable beach they’ve made for themselves. I believe “Déjà vu” is the correct term, as in, “isn’t this the same guitar riff from Private Eye?” or, “I heard these lyrics somewhere on Maybe I’ll Catch Fire.” The greatest successes on the record come when they try something new. The hand claps at the beginning of “Calling All Skeletons” create a fun atmosphere that signals the end of the faux-goth vibe that hurt Good Mourning and Crimson. My question is, why not shed the goth image altogether? Why stick with the standard red-and-black artwork? Why continue to dress in suits when your best albums were written in t-shirts and jeans? Why the hell would you include a song called, “Live Young, Die Fast?” The creepy goth thing worked for Goddamnit because it was new and tongue-in-cheek. They’ve beat it into the ground by now, and it’s time to move on.

Some of the songs work, if only because Skiba and Andriano have a penchant for writing catchy songs. “Help Me” is as good a pop song as I’ve heard all year, and it stacks up with earlier material (kinda). “Do You Wanna Know?” and “I Found Away” are solid, and the middle of the record is better off because of it.

In the liner notes for the Goddamnit Redux, Asian Man Records founder Mike Park praises the thrifty and raw qualities of the original record. In doing so, he inadvertently criticizes Agony & Irony for its major label sound. Kudos Mike, you discovered a great punk band in their prime, put out their best records, made a killing, and moved on. Goddamnit is the finest Asian Man release, Alkaline Trio’s best, and a record that will speak to freaks like me for generations to come. Simply put, it’s a punk classic and the definitive Alkaline Trio album. Agony & Irony is the kind of record you put on for a few songs, and then take off the turntable to make room for Goddamnit.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Random Candy

I forgot all my login information for this blog, and I haven't been too interested in summer blogging, and that accounts for the absence. My new band is called Random Candy. We posted some youtube videos of a practice, and we'll be recording in the next month.