Since 1999, the Octopus Project has been forging a new hybrid known as indietronica by happily expanding upon the quintessential rock quartet to include modern techno gizmos and vintage experimental gadgetry. Rarely relying on vocals to explain the soundscape, each member plays all sorts of instruments—even switching to another mid-song. While at Moogfest in Ashville, North Carolina over Halloween weekend, the group was called upon to quickly learn a few Devo classics to play with Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerry Casale after Bob Mothersbaugh was injured. The very next day Toto Miranda plus married couple Josh and Yvonne Lambert sat down to catch their breath with PopMatters.
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They’ve fought a volcano to tour North America, so the very least you could do is turn out to hear first wave British shoegaze legends Chapterhouse bend nature to its will with howling guitars. Chapterhouse begins its brief journey on Friday, October 1. It may prove to be the group’s final act.
Because fame is fickle, especially in Great Britain, Chapterhouse was swept up in the early ‘90s as darlings of “the scene that celebrates itself” before being unceremoniously dismissed as pointy-headed navel contemplators by a hyperbolic media suddenly in thrall to Britpop.
History has been far kinder to Chapterhouse, whose legacy has survived thanks to a stellar debut (Whirlpool), a genre-defying sophomore effort (Blood Music), and an expansive career retrospective which left its fans longing for more. With their North American tour looming, Andrew Sherriff and Stephen Patman took the time to speak to PopMatters.
“Bar another volcano, we’ll be there,” says Sherriff, joking about the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, which left Patman stranded in Japan back in May just as the band was meant to begin the tour it is finally able to undertake.
“Although we were psyched up and really wanted to come out and do the shows, we were also quite tired, because there was an intense period where we had the Japan tour and the Scala gig in London as well,” Sherriff said. “It was quite full on, and in a way we had more time to be relaxed for this tour. We’ve been taking full day rehearsals rather than evening rehearsals, and we feel that we’re in a better state to cope with this now.”
A Ferris wheel is an appropriate metaphor for the career of Bruce Sudano. Like a passenger car rotating full circle, he’s traveled 360 degrees. The towering palm trees in the video for “A Glass of Red and the Sunset”, which captures the Ferris wheel at Venice Beach, greeted the Brooklyn-born musician when he first moved to the west coast in the early-‘70s to explore the singer-songwriter scene. Now that the Nashville-based Sudano has relocated to Los Angeles to begin writing material for his fourth solo album, palm trees once again shape his surroundings.
In fact, any occasion that brings Bruce Sudano to Los Angeles inevitably serves as a career benchmark. He appeared as one of six faces frolicking in the waves at Malibu on the eponymous debut of Alive ‘N Kickin’ (1969). Years after the New York City-based band landed a Top Ten hit with the Tommy James-penned “Tighter, Tighter”, Sudano moved back to the West Coast and re-emerged as one-third of pop/soul trio Brooklyn Dreams. Following the success of his third solo album, Life and the Romantic (2009), Sudano is once again drawing on the City of Angels for inspiration.
Sudano employs a contemporary jazz sensibility on “Beyond Forever”, the third single off Life and the Romantic. The whispery sheen of the song is a career best for a songwriter who’s often traversed a chameleonic course over the pop landscape. Exhibiting a fluency in many milieus, his songs have topped both the R&B and dance charts (the rare Michael Jackson and Jermaine Jackson duet, “Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming”) and country (Dolly Parton’s recording of “Starting Over Again”). Of course “Bad Girls”, which he wrote with Donna Summer and his Brooklyn Dreams cohorts, was a cross-over smash that crowned the pop, R&B, and disco charts in 1979. In more recent years, his own solo sides have reached the summit of the Adult Contemporary charts (“It’s Her Wedding Day”) and are even now becoming a presence on smooth jazz radio stations (“A Glass of Red and the Sunset”).
Oh, Clarity. Where have you gone? Why can’t you come back? Why have you left me alone?
I speak of course of Jimmy Eat World’s second full-length, the apex of its ever-lengthening career, and a paragon of emo when emo’s flame was still burning bright. Released in 1999, it put the likes of the Promise Ring, Modest Mouse, Mineral, Sunny Day Real Estate, and all those, sad, sad, pensive bands to shame while said bands were creating the best music of their careers. It was a mainstay in my Discman, filtered through a cassette adapter in my old Mazda truck that possessed only one operational speaker when I was 17 years old. Attached to, and enthralled by, its apparent simplicity yet simultaneous complexity, each song graced my ears over and over again, with lyrics confessional, thoughtful, and challenging, and music shimmering and beautiful even in its most aggressive moments. To this day, I still cherish it. Static Prevails (1996) was a strong debut, but Clarity was such a monumental leap forward that I knew, I just knew, the band would evolve into a musical force to make naysayers and hipsters eat their arrogant little words.
And then there was Bleed American (inexplicably going self-titled after the attacks of September 11th, 2001). After one listen, I was in full-on contempt mode. A pop record? A fucking POP record? Not just a pop record, but one with treacly ballads like “Hear You Me” and “My Sundown”, so ready for dishonest touching moments on WB programs and the last dance at the prom. And let’s not forget embarrassing misfires like “Get It Faster” which set eyeballs rolling with its pseudo-metal interludes; and added to that, the confusing phenomenon of “Cautioners” and “A Praise Chorus”, which are literally, chord-for-chord, the exact same song, albeit with slightly different arrangements, tempos, and instrumentation.
Yet, it all grew on me, and as Jimmy Eat World continued to decline, Bleed American became their second most adventurous album. And I do love pop. I just didn’t get what I wanted.
In 1997, revered alternative country act the Scud Mountain Boys called it a day, and leader Joe Pernice (along, obviously, with his brother, Bob) quickly formed the Pernice Brothers, a group with a much less interesting name making decidedly more interesting music. Debuting on Sub Pop in 1998, Joe and Co. have been cranking out solid and often brilliant music for over a decade. This article examines and reviews all their major releases and hopefully gives insight into the songwriting evolution of the band, or more specifically, Joe Pernice. I feel it’s time we give them their due—they are by no means unknowns, but still fly a bit under the radar.
Overcome By Happiness
Sub Pop (1998)
Yeah, more like Overcome By NyQuil, as this record is the sonic equivalent to drool on a pillow. It’s so mellow it has fallen asleep. And it’s asleep so hard, it is almost comatose.
Now the actual Brothers Pernice’s prior group the Scud Mountain Boys had a similar sound, but there’s really nothing positive to say about them. If people were talking about them—which they weren’t—they were classifying the Scuds as an alternative-country band. I think not, unless Cat Stevens singing Burt Bacharach tunes is country. Or an alternative to that.
// Moving Pixels
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