The other day, I got not one but two invitations from Grand Central on Facebook to more imported alternative rock acts visiting South Florida during the month of September. I have already detailed five noteworthy shows I hope to attend during the month. Now here come two more, both thanks to Grand Central. And both perfectly paired, as one is a group of New Wave pioneers and the other is a revivalist of the New Wave sound. The UK’s Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Australia’s Cut/Copy will travel across the world for their respective US tours during the month of September, and both tours include stops in Miami (click on the respective artists’ names to see other dates on their tours).
Once again, it seems luck allows for no overlaps in the shows noted in my earlier posts regarding September live shows in South Florida (Manu Chao to make Miami debut in Sept.; September offering some good concerts in SoFla). OMD’s show is the earlier of the two shows, happening Friday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m. It marks the start of the band’s US tour featuring original members that at least date back to 1986′s The Pacific Age (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the vinyl on Amazon.com), including founding members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys. It’s classic British new wave, and I was first turned on to the band through a video clip on one of the great documents of the early eighties music scene, as a kid thanks to the movie Urgh! A music War (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the DVD on Amazon.com). I remember repeatedly renting out that VHS from a local video shop to experience over and over again. One of the highlights on that compilation video of live performances was OMD’s energetic interpretation of their hit single “Enola Gay”:
Hopefully they can give up some more of that energy on Friday night. They will be joined by Aussie recording artist Washington (very poppy).
Next comes Cut/Copy, whose date in Miami falls in the middle of the band’s US tour, again on a Friday night: this time Sept. 30. The show starts at 10 p.m. and bounds to be a long night, with two notable acts touring along with Cut/Copy: Washed Out recently signed with Sub Pop Records. Those who have seen “Portlandia” on IFC, may recognize this song. Meanwhile, Midnight Magic, a very disco-retro sort of band, should warm-up the stage nicely.
I know I slagged off Cut/Copy’s latest album for being way too derivative of the worst of eighties pop, from the musical clichés to the vintage instruments. I stand by the review. However, I am still a fan of their first album, Bright Like Neon Love (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on Amazon.com), which had Cut/Copy bursting on the scene with a dramatic sound that celebrated electro dance music while throwing interesting curve balls of psychedelia. Here’s “Going Nowhere” from that album, live…
I think, with a little less than two months to go for the string of dates I already have tickets for, this beats the amount of shows I saw last October. I plan to start preparing posts ahead of time for live reviews, pictures and videos, this time (Who knows what could happen?). If possible, maybe some artist profiles will come out of it.
If September is not enough, just as I was preparing this post, Grand Central sent another invite to an indie rock show of interest: Ladytron. Scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 15, at 9 p.m., that concert comes soon after the release of the band’s new full-length Gravity the Seducer (Support the Independent Ethos, pre-order the vinyl on Amazon.com). The band has posted three full tracks from the album on Soundcloud. You can stream them all for free here:
Tickets to all shows are available from Grand Central’s website.
June 11, 2011
September in South Florida is beginning to look as good as last year’s October, or should I say: “Rocktober.” It’s still four months away, but I’ve already bought advance tickets for two acts below, and there is one I am hoping to turn into an interview, but we shall see…
First was news of Bryan Ferry appearing at the intimate Fillmore Theater in Miami Beach (Sept. 29). The last time I attended one of his concerts in South Florida was the mid-nineties, at the much larger Sunrise Theater in Broward County. Though his latest album Olympia (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the vinyl on Amazon via this link) did little to move me, even if it included every member of his old band Roxy Music in some form, I’ll be there. His solo work in general has been a hit and miss affair, but this English glam-rock pioneer has always done justice to the early seventies Roxy Music tunes that I thinks stands up as some of his best work, yes, even better than the later-era Roxy Music.
That said, I’m looking forward to seeing how he pulls off “Virginia Plain” nowadays. So sue me, I’m stuck on the past glories of Bryan Ferry. Here’s Roxy Music, when they were a new pop band on the scene, circa 1972, promoting “Virginia Plain” with a lip-synced performance on the BBC’s “Top of the Pops” (legend has it their set up was too complex to hook up all the instrumentation in the TV studio, so they had to mime the song, and yes, there is Phil Manzanera on guitar and Brian Eno on organ):
Then I get a text from a friend recommending I get my Peter, Bjorn and John tickets for their appearance at the even more intimate Bardot, in Miami (Sept. 23). He said they were going fast. When I purchased them they were $25 and could be up to $30 now, if not sold out. I’ll admit, I got the tickets because my wife would not forgive this opportunity should I pass on it. I have only casually listened to their work, but over the course of six full-length albums, they have shown an interesting career, from their third album’s breakout hit “Young Folks” in 2006 to their surprisingly spare and at times dark follow-up Living Thing (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the vinyl on Amazon via this link) and now comes the Swedish trio’s return to perky form, Gimme Some (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the vinyl on Amazon via this link). Here’s a video from a their new single on the new album, “Second Chance”:
But, speaking of dark: the reliably grim Swans are the capper for me (thanks to Sweat Record’s mailing list for the heads up!). The band I liken to the sound of the end of the world if it had melody, is only making it as far south as Respectable Street in West Palm Beach (Sept. 14) , but I will be there. I have been into this gloom and doom band, which stands head and shoulders above any Goth or Industrial band ever, in its own wall-busting genre, since the early nineties.
I first stumbled across their music during my years at Florida International University’s radio station when it was on the AM dial and played grunge music before MTV (and nobody listened). But Swans was not grunge, industrial, Goth, dream pop, shoe gaze, noise pop or any of those scenes of that era. They were an entity unto themselves. They still are. The band broke up soon after I got into them in the mid-nineties, but 2010 saw the group’s baritoned singer and songwriter Michael Gira re-form the moniker for a new album and tour. I will now finally have a chance to see them live (I have never even bothered looking up live videos of them, as I have only heard of some of their legendary performances, and I prefer to be surprised). I’ll leave you with the rare video “Love of Life” that appeared on MTV’s “120 Minutes” once or twice: relentless drums, minor key piano, roaring guitars, creepy warped backward female voices, quickly cut disturbing images. Don’t call it Goth rock. This is music of grandiose doom…
P.S. Emile at Sweat Records told me Sir Richard Bishop will warm up the stage for Swans with his Flamenco-inspired noise. He is the co-founder of late-seventies-era experimental rock band Sun City Girls.
Another show of note in September includes another dark, re-formed nineties-era act, Berlin’s electro-hardcore act Atari Teenage Riot. They will play the night before Swans (Sept. 13— funny, that’s my deceased, Berlin-born father’s birthday) at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale.
I have heard the band’s new album already thanks to an advance copy from their PR company. Fans will be happy to know that the “hacktavist”- inspired album features Atari Teenage Riot as raucous and ear-splittingly aggro as ever. Is This Hyperreal? (Support the Independent Ethos, buy the album on Amazon via this link) is slated for US release on July 26. They have already recorded one of their new songs during a recent session for Daytrotter, which you can stream or download by clicking on their Daytrotter-drawn mugs above. I don’t know how these geezers can still do it, but just as their new album is true to their familiar sound of inhuman rhythms and screeching electronics, their live shows will probably be just as brain-melting. Here’s a taste of a recent live performance in HD:
Hopefully, September will see even more cool shows in South Florida. If so, I plan to up-date this post, so stay tuned and maybe bookmark this post.
Addendum: Manu Chao to make Miami debut Sept. 9
February 8, 2011
After many listens and much contemplation, I think I’ve numbed my mind to the cheesy qualities of Cut/Copy’s new album Zonoscope to dive into why I really do not like it as much as most will (plus I’ve had this thing for a month, thanks to the band’s PR company giving me a sneak peek, and today is release day already!).
I will admit that these Australian synth-poppers know how to make some catchy pop music. With their third full-length album, the band’s sound continues to grow slicker. Still, with this growth, a piece of Cut/Copy’s soul continues to drift away. They used to sound much more interesting: a kaleidoscopic electro outfit with leanings to meandering psychedelia, recalling the hippie disco of the Chemical Brothers. But now comes an album that sounds like it emerged from a time capsule sealed since 1986.
Zonoscope arrives on the heels of much anticipation, as their last album, 2008′s In Ghost Colours, saw them breaking out to much critical and popular notoriety. But I also found that album a mostly cold experience compared to 2004′s Bright Like Neon Love. At least that debut album came across as a witty send-up of the dance pop/new wave era of the eighties, and the shtick is getting old. Now Cut/Copy seem a bit too icky in love with that sound. Despite all the buzz that followed it, for me, In Ghost Colours had only a couple of outstanding songs worth noting: “Unforgettable Season” and “So Haunted,” and the album grew stale quick. That second album definitely foreshadowed a direction turning away from the psychedelic wit of their debut and toward a colder, more sincere and, in effect, dated disco sound. Of course, Zonoscope continues that trend, and it will probably be embraced by many. However, will it be a classic touchstone in alt-rock? Probably not. It’s all too derivative of a pop scene that died a long time ago for good reason, and Cut/Copy explore that sound without a trace of irony and an almost fetishistic affection.
After repeated listens (the first of which left me dumbfounded with horror by just how retro, soulless and sort of embarrassing to my aesthetic sensibility the album sounded), I feel a bit more comfortable to take a closer look at how this young group of musicians, who must have been babes in the eighties, captures that era’s pop music so expertly. They truly seem to relish in the aesthetic of new wave pop artists like Erasure, Level 42, Talk Talk and Information Society. Singer/main songwriter/instrumentalist Dan Whitford channels the period with masterful skill. His deep, affected vocals sound more than ever like those of post-new romantic blue-eyed soulsters of that era. Breathy, deep and elastic, his voice ranges from falsetto to baritone, not unlike Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore.
It fits well with the airy drum machines and cheesy synths that permeate Zonoscope. According to the press material included with the advance copy of the album I received, the album is the result of the band playing with “piles of vintage studio equipment and instruments.” It certainly worked to produce an album that could fit comfortably on late-eighties pop radio or MTV.
But Zonoscope, for the most part, seems to relish in late eighties new wave a little too much for my taste. I don’t know if the dudes in Cut/Copy grew up listening to the radio in the mid to late eighties, but anyone with serious alt-rock sensibilities in those times knows that was the era new wave died on the top of the pop charts. New wave is the waste left by the pioneers of the post punk world of the late seventies and early eighties. Modern English went from singles like the ethereal noise of “Gathering Dust” to the long overplayed “I Melt With You,” their single definitive hit. Even pioneers like Roxy Music sacrificed their glam rock edge for the light bounce of synthesizers that defined dreck like Avalon. That was also the era David Bowie sold his soul by following up the progressive Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) with Let’s Dance, and those are only the horrors observed of the early eighties. The decade grew more putrid for pop radio as the years rolled on, until the anger of the Pixies, Nine Inch Nails and Nirvana exorcised those demons at the end of that era.
With all this cynicism informing my aesthetic principles when it comes to today’s modern rock, here comes Cut/Copy with Zonoscope. So pardon if when I hear the opening cut, “Need You Now” (thankfully not to be confused with the even more banal hit by current pop act Lady Antebellum) unfold with layering melodies that seems to mimic LCD Soundsystem (a much cooler retro-informed band) but without a sense of patient, soulful groove. It instead builds on the mechanical timing of adding one layer after another in all too perfectly timed sequences. After a fake, electro stuttering “drum” fill, Whitford starts singing, “Hush, darling, don’t you cry/Hush, darling, don’t you cry” as the song perkily bounds along, and so begins the eye-roll worthy lyrical schlock that not only permeates this album but also the late eighties. There are coos and doo-wops throughout that cloy throughout “Need You Now” that seems to linger too long at just over six minutes.
“Take me over” features more annoying silly lines like “Take me over/Take me under” and some “Ooo, oo, oooooo”s in between on a bouncy beat that recalls the swishy quality of “I go I go I go” by the Wave Machines, another current act with a retro new wave vibe. Synth chords that many once worried would replace string sections when they seemed to dominate pop songs in the mid-eighties honk throughout the song. When “Take me over” breaks down, Cut/Copy cue up the samples of jungle sounds with birds cawing and a monkey howling. Maybe they are not taking themselves all that seriously. I don’t know. It just all sounds too clichéd to me and such an unworthy style of music to revisit. It is the most dated, disposable kind of pop there is, the equivalent of Britney Spears nowadays.
I had high hopes as “Take Me Over” faded away and “Where I’m Going” began. The sound of railroad cars and whoosh of some unintelligible backward vocals hover above tribal beats and as one song swells into a spacey sparkle several guitars join in and groove along to a tambourine beat at the start of the next. It’s almost like the old Chemical Brothers influence had reappeared, but it lasts only a few seconds. Then the song switches gears to perky sing-song: “Take my hand if you know what I’m going through … Ooo, ooo,ooo, whoah-oh, yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” It bobs along blissfully but vapidly on a syncopated beat. Several tracks later there is little relief of this too cute love for new wave.
I will admit that there is at least one track I honestly like on Zonoscope: “Alisa.” Sure, it’s a simple clichéd title with a chick’s name. I should have hated it, but the band explore the song with just the right amount of dense layering and vocals that obscure the lyrics just enough. It starts stupid enough with shakers and a simple beat and a guitar line that begins like an Echo & the Bunnymen track but then falls apart nicely as synths ring, zip and sparkle in the background. The chorus begins with stings from an honest-to-goodness-sounding string section before the song returns to the Bunnymen guitar line. It’s simple, but the extra amorphous guitar effects and synth noise are obtuse enough to keep the song interesting and rewarding to repeat listens.
But that’s the highlight for me on Zonoscope. There is even a 15-minute-plus closer that I had high hopes for, but it just turns out dull and uninspired.
As far as Cut/Copy’s Miami connection with this blog. They will apparently play a major role at the Ultra Music Festival in Downtown Miami, hitting one of the dance festival’s main stages (it’s their third time at the fest). With that show Cut/Copy kick off a month-long North American tour. Brooklyn’s Holy Ghost will join them on most of their tour dates, which will proceed as follows:
26 – Miami, FL @ Ultra Music Festival
28 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade *
29 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club *
31 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Trocadero *
02 – New York, NY @ Terminal 5 *
04 – Boston, MA @ House of Blues *
05 – Montreal, QC @ Club Soda *
07 – Toronto, ON @ Sound Academy
08 – Chicago, IL @ Riviera *
09 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue *
12 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox Sodo *
15 – Indio, CA @ Coachella Music Festival (Empire Polo Grounds)
16 – San Francisco, CA @ The Grand Ballroom *
20 – Dallas, TX @ Granada Theater *
22 – Austin, TX @ Stubbs BBQ *
23 – New Orleans, LA @ Republic *
*w/ Holy Ghost