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Despite being a cult band with little commercial impact even to this day, Joy Division has turned out to be a seminal act that has influenced a huge swath of musicians. The perfect demonstration of this point: if you are unfamiliar with the sound of Joy Division, look no further than the hordes of brooding, baritone-voiced post-punk revivalists that have sprung up in the last decade to rectify that. The music press has had a field day plastering these groups with the dreaded “rip-off” tag, whether the accusations are merited or not. Given the negative tone these comparisons are often couched in, it’s unsurprising that the modern bands most often likened to the Joy Division, Interpol and Editors, often spend their interviews refuting assertions that they are heavily influenced by the British quartet. That’s certainly their prerogative, but it does result in odd comments like Editors bassist Russell Leetch saying he doesn’t understand the comparison because Joy Division didn’t sell a lot of records.

Even if one takes the neo-post-punkers at their word, there are still plenty of musicians to be found over the last three decades who will enthusiastically cite Joy Division as an inspiration and influence.  Among the most notable: Bloc Party, the Cure, Galaxie 500, Jane’s Addiction, John Frusciante, Moby, Pet Shop Boys, Radiohead, the Smashing Pumpkins, and U2. Few of these avowed disciples are outright stylistically comparable to Joy Division, but in varying quantities they have culled inspiration from Joy Division’s body of work, particularly its melodic basslines, its fractured guitar sounds, and late singer Ian Curtis’ world-weary existential lyrics.

I spent Saturday night watching an all-ages Mastadon show. Little did I know, the concert turned out to be an inadvertent tribute to Ronnie James Dio.

If all Ronnie James Dio did was replace Ozzy Osbourne as the lead singer of Black Sabbath, memorials and tributes would still be pouring in via blogs, Twitters and Facebook updates. But Dio’s influence and yes, artistic credibility are reasons many-a-metal fan are mourning his loss.

When news spread across the Internet on Saturday that legendary heavy metal singer Ronnie James Dio had succumbed to his battle with stomach cancer, I scoured every news website I could think, hoping to find solid confirmation of the event. I was not about to take the rumors at face value without some fact-checking, especially given Dio is a musician whom I quite enjoy. Sure enough, metal news site Blabbermouth.net soon gained confirmation from Dio’s wife Wendy that the performer was in fact still alive, albeit not in the best of shape. Unfortunately, that respite turned out to be short-lived: when I turned on my computer on Sunday, Dio spouse was now his widow, sadly informing the world of the singer’s passing.

The musical duo of Sussex mates (since their girlhood) Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire each share vocals and acoustic guitar duties on their new release, Ghosts. On this splendid disc, the Smoke Fairies bring a refreshing take to the two standard rock music mainstays, blues and folk. Their unique eclectic blend of blues and folk is laced with soulful harmonic shiverings of emotive lyrics. They evoke via icy whispers and melodic trills all the longing and rage derivative of a lost love and the forlorn wanderings of relationships gone astray. Their new CD Ghosts is a collection of songs previously released separately as UK singles, but now, fortunately, made easier to find.

The Smoke Fairies are also seasoned touring musicians that are both at home performing on stage as well as spending time on their studio tan being prolific songwriters. The band is currently touring the United States and Great Britain through August 2010. Visit their MySpace site for a free song download (with several others streaming as well) as a tour itinerary. The duo took time out of their busy tour preparation to give the low-down on their band name, guitar sound, fans, the Internet and their Top Ten album favs.

by Evan Sawdey

13 May 2010


Photo: Jeremy Balderson

Matt Pond has been in “renegade” mode as of late.

In 2008, the noted indie-rock stylist behind Matt Pond PA made a few rather unexpected moves. First off, he made a bit of an unexpected mainstream concession by covering My Chemical Romance’s “I’m Not OK (I Promise)” for the second volume of the Guilt By Association series. Then, shortly thereafter, put out a brand new EP for free online (its too-appropriate title? The Freeep). Although fans rapturously responded, the EP was then promptly pulled, only to be released a year later under a different title and on pay sites like iTunes. Some wondered if there was some label-wrangling that happened during this time, but for Pond, he just turned it into another opportunity.

As a way to promote his new album The Dark Leaves, Pond used The Freeep experiment as a way to launch a trilogy of EPs called The Threeep, each one headlined by a track from The Dark Leaves as a way of building up hype. Now, with Dark Leaves finally out and the third and final Threeep installment on its way, Matt Pond took some time out to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, revealing that he doesn’t discriminate against science fiction universes, his power to talk animals out of eating him, and why he enjoys drinking with his good buddy Stress ...

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