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by AJ Ramirez

10 May 2011


This week sees the British DVD release of Upside Down, a documentary tackling the history of seminal UK indie label Creation Records, which was extant from 1983 until 1999.  Primarily dedicated to propagating 1960s-influenced alternative rock of all sorts and permutations, Creation was a collision of rockist traditionalism, hyperbolic bravado, and influential innovation, responsible for bringing the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Oasis, and Super Furry Animals to the world at large.

Of all Creation’s myriad releases, it’s Ride’s 1990 debut Nowhere that I adore the most.  Yes, Oasis’ first two albums are more tuneful, and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is a visionary work by an uncompromising musical auteur, but it’s Nowhere that touches me like no other record in the Creation back catalog. Long held as the second-best band in the shoegaze genre (after My Bloody Valentine) and the second-best band from Oxford, England (after Radiohead), Ride has never really gotten its proper due.  As such, I held hope that the 20th anniversary deluxe reissue of its first album this year (yes, the record actually came out 21 years ago—don’t ask) would go a ways towards drawing attention and accolades to the dreamy melodic charms of the disbanded foursome’s music.

by George de Stefano

9 May 2011


Howlin’ Wolf’s Rocking Chair album is basically a collection of sex songs, and “Back Door Man”, written for Wolf by Willie Dixon, is the most outrageous of them all. On other tracks Wolf praises a woman who “shakes like jelly on a plate” and pleads for just a “spoonful” of his woman’s “precious love”. “Down in the Bottom” finds him climbing out the window of a woman’s bedroom and hauling ass to escape her angry boyfriend. With “Back Door Man”, Wolf’s up to the same tricks, but with a different manner of egress, as the stud who services other men’s wives and slips out the back exit before they come home: “When everybody trying to sleep / I’m somewhere making my midnight creep / Every morning the rooster crow / Something tell me I got to go / I am a back door man”. He revels in his sexual buccaneering, and his ability to get away with it, crowing, “The men don’t know / But the little girls understand”.

With “Back Door Man”, Willie Dixon once again re-worked older material; the title figure is something of a southern archetype who appeared in songs by country blues singers like Charley Patton, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Blind Willie McTell. Sara Martin, a popular recording artist of the 1920s, declared that “every sensible woman got a back door man” in her “Strange Loving Blues”.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

6 May 2011


Klinger: I must confess, Mendelsohn—like most Americans, Massive Attack’s Blue Lines completely passed me by in 1991, so this Counterbalance exercise has been my first real experience with an album that’s apparently had quite an impact. Mea culpa. Overall, I find this to be a very good album. Really, I have nothing against Blue Lines. That said, as I listen I can’t escape the feeling that I’m shopping at the Gap.

Mendelsohn: The Gap? You’re going to have to explain that one to me. Although if the Gap plays Massive Attack over the in-store speakers, I might have to work up the courage to go in there one day.

Klinger: I guess it’s those beats and the laid back vibe that just cause me to picture casually-yet-stylishly dressed young people folding shirts and asking me if need any help. Maybe it’s me.

by Christian John Wikane

5 May 2011


These days, the vehicle for revolution is a Hammond XK-2, especially when Femi Kuti stands behind the keys. Though Nigeria achieved its independence from the United Kingdom, in 1960, corruption continues to infiltrate the political system, a reality that’s informed much of Kuti’s nearly 25-year recording career. Africa for Africa, his latest album, takes on the hypocrisy of leaders in his home country who have failed to lead by example, while citing individuals from throughout history who have led and inspired positive change: Kwame Nkrumah, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and his father, Fela Kuti, among them. It’s a brave and bold work that transmits some of the quotidian concerns of those living in Nigeria, especially Lagos (Kuti’s home city). With the polyrhythms of the Positive Force, Kuti tirelessly pilots a set of 14 original songs and delivers one of the most enthralling releases of 2011.

Just 24 hours before Kuti was named “Best World Music Artist” by Songlines magazine, he arrived at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn for a stop on the North American leg of his Africa for Africa tour. Dressed in traditional attire stitched by tailors in Lagos, Kuti was a calm but commanding presence as he walked from his dressing room down a set of stairs into the Hall for sound check. He surveyed the stage, tested the microphones, and prepared his organ and saxophone for a full run through the horn-driven “E No Good”, one of the highlights on Africa for Africa. Even without an audience present, Kuti and the Positive Force communicated more passion, virtuosity, and professionalism than most bands do with hundreds of cheering fans.

by PopMatters Staff

3 May 2011


Photo: Jed Johnson

Petra Haden is one of the few artists working today who can truly be called “a luminary”, yet here we are.

Haden, after all, has released full-length albums using nothing but her powerful, emotive voice (including a celebrated 2005 disc where she covered the classic album The Who Sell Out in its entirety) while also being in the noted ‘90s indie-quirk band That Dog, all while still contributing her considerable violin skills to artists as diverse as Beck, the Foo Fighters, the Twilight Singers, and several more.

Yet even when recording on major label budgets, Haden has still found time to indulge in her love of collaboration, and her latest effort is a band called If By Yes, where she got to meet up with another luminary—Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda—and make something that can be best described as “experimental pop”: unpredictable yet familiar, alien yet beautiful, all at the same time.  To celebrate the release of the band’s debut effort Salt on Sea Glass (which, it should be noted, is filled with guest turns from the likes of David Byrne, Nels Cline, and Cornelius), Haden sat down to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, here revealing a particular connection to the film Kramer vs. Kramer, a talent for Moonwalking, and how she recently bought ProTools but has no idea how to use it . . .

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