RHP promo stillFull disclosure: Mark Kozelek blew off a scheduled interview to my face the night after this concert. Still, I don’t take my taste for his music personally. I kinda knew he could be rude after this show in St. Petersburg, Florida. At one point he shared his hotel room details on stage because he’s “on the prowl now.” At another point he told a fan, “I’ll fuckin’ choke you with this Flying V.” Despite all that, this show at the State Theater, on Nov. 21, 1997 is one of my fondest remembered live shows. His Name is Alive opened it, and I met with them at sound check (they were way friendlier). I’ll never forget the long row of varied guitars lined up backstage for Red House Painters. There must have been 40 to 50 of them, including that Gibson Flying V. Reportedly, all had their own tuning for various songs, depending on what Kozelek would feel like playing that night.

My interview with His Name Is Alive was for “Goldmine,” which they got a kick out of:  an obscure alt-rock band — whose biggest hit played on MTV’s weekly alternative late-night show “120 Minutes” — profiled in a stodgy record collector’s magazine. The Red House Painters interview would have been for “JAM Entertainment News,” a statewide Florida ‘zine. It could be Kozelek wasn’t impressed with the opening act going into the national publication, or he just didn’t feel like talking about his music (he denied we had the appointment, even though his PR company would express their frustration to me about him, as if he had done this before). Who knows? I don’t care much about it at this point. This has become my fun Kozelek anecdote from back in the day.

What matters is that his music still holds up, and I was really pleased to see 4AD recently reissue its entire RHP catalog on vinyl (I picked it all up). Most recently, I was digging through some of my old cassettes and found a decent quality audience recording of RHP’s performance from the night before I was supposed to sit down and talk to Kozelek in Orlando. This was the first of two dates in a Central Florida tour in support of Songs For a Blue Guitar.


One of the things that make the Red House Painters live so interesting is how they reinterpret their original recordings. Live, the songs often change a lot, and often for the better. Take this night’s version of “Grace Cathedral Park.” Kozelek’s voice is sadder than on the record. He sings each line with a yearning, which is more powerful than the wistful reserve on the record. Even the guitar line has changed. On the record, it’s a dreamy, strummed affair, but live, it’s a rambling, hypnotic hook in a minor key. “Evil,” despite Kozelek double-timing the vocals, is as intense as ever because of the song’s crawling tempo and dynamics. A change halfway through, where Kozelek groans out wordless vocals that crescendo from a mutter to a siren’s howl, is remarkable in its stripped down, hypnotic drone rock mastery.

Despite a terrific version of “Evil,” the highlight of the night wasn’t familiar songs, but a brand new track he didn’t even name. He only introduced it by saying, “We’re gonna play a couple of new songs.” Then he played some dreamy chords, awash in a watery effect. In my notes I called it, “You Are My Everything” based on the refrain before the song took a turn during an explosive jam before clamoring into a lower gear and settling back to its beautiful, familiar chords. The part returned with an extra bit of guitar solo on top for a brief moment. I wanted it to go on longer. It was heartrendingly gorgeous. It would later be re-worked (in my opinion, to its detriment) into “Michigan,” on the band’s follow-up album, Old Ramon. It’s so amazing that I have isolated it as an mp3 for download:

Download “Michigan” (live in St. Pete) here

But, if you want hear (most) of the show as it unfolded, you can stream it below in two parts that I’ve uploaded to YouTube. It was recorded with a handheld cassette recorder on a 100 minute Maxell XLII-S cassette. The tape was not long enough to capture the entire show. “Lord, Kill the Pain” was cut short on Side A and “I Feel the Rain Fall” was cut short on Side B. I faded out both before the harsh cuts. By the end of Side B, the band hadn’t even gotten to their encore. As for the sound quality, it’s an audience recording, so there’s not much dynamics. I messed with the amplification a bit in Audicity, which helped. There’s also some tape hiss, but the audience stayed quiet for much of the show (there is some unfortunate restless muttering during the quieter parts of the new songs). In the end, it’s a good historic snapshot of where the band was between what would be their final two albums, Songs For a Blue Guitar and Old Ramon. They actually played three songs that would end up on Old Ramon, which only saw official release in 2001 via Sub Pop Records. Here’s the set list:

“Uncle Joe”
“Albuquerque” (Neil Young cover)
“Grace Cathedral Park”
“Lord, Kill the Pain” (cut)
“Medicine Bottle”
“I Feel the Rain Fall” (cut)

And now the show:

Hans Morgenstern

Images courtesy Island Records.

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

inc_band_4adInc. will be visiting Miami this Saturday night. I spoke to the two brothers behind the music, guitarist and lead vocalist Andrew Aged and bassist/vocalist Daniel Aged, via phone last week, ahead of their debut live appearance in the almost opposite part of the U.S. where they are coming from.

In February, the Los Angeles-based duo saw its debut full-length album No World released by one of the most prestigious London-based labels of the alternative indie music scene: 4AD Records. The brothers formed Teen Inc. in 2010 and self-released a 7-inch record, “Fountains/Friends of the Night.” The following year, 4AD released the follow-up EP “3” and Inc. dropped the “Teen” from its name. “We kind of evolved,” explained Andrew.

I actually wrote two pieces in “Miami New Times.” The first piece appears in print today and, due to space in the printed pages, only touches on highlights of our conversation, including their relationship and influences:

Miami New Times logo

The real meat of my conversation with the duo comes as a Q&A for the publication’s music blog. It revealed how difficult it was at first to get them out of their shells (I take some responsibility for starting with such a personal question that taps into their baggage as siblings), but also how they look beyond the neo-soul/sophisti-pop comparisons and to shoegaze and grunge for inspiration:

Crossfade logo

I’ll leave you with their great video for “Black Wings,” the song that sold me on these guys (I even love the noise that opens this video before the smooth guitar hook kicks in):

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2013 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Last year I celebrated a variety of bands performing in Miami in September. I offered nary a follow-up because I wound up in the ER with a slipped disc in my back. I could hardly walk, much less stand at a rock show. Some tickets went in the trash and guest list invites went to waste. One of the bands I did not even mention as performing around that time was rumored to have had put on a good show. Glad to see Modern English will make a repeat appearance at Miami’s Grand Central at the end of this September.

Though popularly known as a one-hit wonder for the song “I’ll Melt With You,” Modern English emerged from the final breaths of the pioneering post-punk indie rock scene of pre-1980 UK. For me, I feel the strongest song in their catalog is one of their first. “Gathering Dust” was released as a 7-inch by 4AD Records in 1980:

It’s a far cry from the group’s 1983 New Wave pop hit “I’ll Melt With You.” The song includes the best characteristics of post punk, revealing influences from Joy Division to David Bowie, but also escalating them to more dramatic heights of noisy, layered fuzz that pre-dates the noise pop of My Bloody Valentine. The high-pitched bass line owes an obvious debt to Joy Division, as the processed sound of a ticking cymbal and what sounds like the pulse of a dial tone fizz and hum in the background. The ebb and flow of a wispy, gleaming synthetic wind fades in, adding a luscious metallic quality lifted from the B-side of David Bowie’s 1977 album “Heroes,” as the rhythm section shifts to double time with a bouncier bass and the more percussive sound of toms.

The song breaks through another wall, reaching layers of pre-dream pop din as layers of roaring guitars and brawny synths pile up. Singer Robbie Grey’s thick English accent is barely intelligible throughout, terse and emphatic, sounding more like Colin Newman of Wire. I do not care, after all these years, that I do not know or understand what he is singing. His voice is folded deep into the cacophony of wrestling instruments featuring driving pseudo horns and piercing guitars, adding to the song’s enigmatic dreamy quality.

When the song appeared as the opener to their debut 1981 album Mesh and Lace, nothing on that album felt as dynamic or atmospheric. Not that the album’s bad. It actually has a dark edge that betrays the character of that other single the mainstream so easily defines the band with. However, for me, “Gathering Dust,” is the one hit Modern English should be celebrated for.

Hans Morgenstern

Modern English performs at Grand Central, 697 North Miami Ave Miami, FL 33136, Friday, Sept. 28 with Axe and the Oak supporting. Doors open at 10 p.m. The show is for those 18 and over. For tickets, jump through this link.

(Copyright 2012 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

4AD Records released Deerhunter’s new album (their fourth), Halcyon Digest, today, and you can stream it in its entirety here. With another album cover venturing toward the grotesque, the art belies the beauty of the music inside.

Halcyon Digest is a gorgeous collection of songs steeped in nostalgic rock ‘n’ roll, wafting on the ether of noise pop. It’s as if Deerhunter are mediums for early sixties rock, channeling the ghostly sounds of the Archies or the Beach Boys via My Bloody Valentine. Anyone familiar with Deerhunter figurehead Bradford Cox’s blog, will find his influences on full display, including his love for old style blues and pop as well as an appreciation of Kraut rock and noise pop.

Though Cox dabbles in other projects, these influences coalesce most originally in his most popular outfit: Deerhunter. The band’s new album, is no exception. In fact, as I am hearing it for the first time now– as I type– it may be their most accessible yet. But, never fear, there are some amazing droning moments in store, as well. “Desire Lines” starts out slow and poppy, but after a brief guitar solo, the song melts into a drone jam of chiming and groaning guitars whose hold can only be curbed with a slow fadeout.

The first single off this album has already been made officially available for download on-line. Using the password “tapereel” will get you access to this page where you can not only download the single “Revival” and its B-side, “Primitive 3D,” but also some studio demos. It takes some mouse hovering, but some cool mp3s are in store.

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)