Another three things. Seriously, I’m going to try to update this site more than twice a month from now on. Sorry, dudes.
Oneida. They weren’t on my “concert’s I’d like to see” list, or the much more exclusive “concerts I’d drive all the way to Chicago to see, if need be” list. They were on the things I want to experience before I die list, somewhere in between catching, killing, ripping open, cooking, and eating a fish (bonus points if it happened to be mako shark), getting a letter published in The Times (my brother’s already go this one covered, so if die without having done it, i’ll just take his and replace the first name), and waking up on my roof to the sunrise slowly catching the skyline.
I’ve raved about Oneida before, and have hopefully gotten across how they manage to tear the roof off rock and roll museums and let all that air and birdshit and plane noise inside, that they’re one of the few groups who are a wildcard (such a wildcard that most people don’t know what to do, discard them from the deck and go back to playing solitaire- predictable cards, predictable results), who could and will do anything and I won’t be surprised, only, at the same time I will. They’re a group who make experimentation feel personal and inviting, and they bring enough self-effacing humor to their music that it never feels like their egos took over. They’re willing to push people to an extreme, but Oneida know that people have limits, and they’ll only rarely push past them without knowing a way back.
I got to cross that one off my list on Friday. My first trip to the newly relocated Knitting Factory (Verdict: Great bar out front, nice wall decorations, good sound, perfect stage placement, but not nearly, nowhere close to, not even holding a candle to how endearing they were on Leonard Street) was an Oneida concert, and it was as uplifting as I would have hoped. I’m not going to describe it any more than to say that NYCtaper (god bless your heart) captured the audio, and you can download it here. It won’t be the same, but it will give you the right vocabulary.
Also, there’s a new Hurray For The Riff Raff album out. It’s called Young Blood Blues, and it’s exactly what you’d expect from a second album. This one paces the hall, sleeps (or, tries to) to a plink, plink of water coming through the threshold. It’s a dinner party you probably should have canceled because there’s just been a death in the family, not someone you were close to, but a person whose name you knew, so it would give you a good excuse to cancel the whole evening. You could lie around in convoluted positions on the couch, putting seran wrap on more food every time you get up. But you don’t cancel and the whole evening feels like an overworked lightbulb or a rubber band stretched across a city block. What’ve you got here is restlessness and dark skies, new instruments and a whole lot less bluegrass.
I listened to the band’s first album, It Don’t Mean I Don’t Love You, so goddamn much last year, and it got me through so much that I thought I would crumple when I heard the drumkit on “Is That You” or the guitar on album closer, “Sali’s Song.” The bands first album had little outside of a banjo that seemed to be 700 years old, a violin tuned to the birds, and the accordion from Accordian Crimes.
Turns out, Alynda Lee, vocalist and songwriter for the group, has a voice that could hold together a sandcastle in a hurricane, and the album overall works quite well. For me, Young Blood Blues is not as good an album as It Don’t Mean I Don’t Love You, but the letdown was smaller than you’d think. Some of it’s experiments fail, and there isn’t that slow burn early morning feel on this release which made the first album so transcendent, but the songwriting remains strong throughout. What Young Blood Blues does do is heartening and promising: as opposed to Hurray For the Riff Raff being a mystery with one great album, the new release sets up the band as a mutable entity, a band who probably have a whole lot of great songs left in them, and probably more changes left to come.
There’s an old Jam album which came out in the laste 90s which collected all of the band’s BBC sessions. I wish someone with more time than me would give this band their due; they are probably one of my favorites of all the British punk bands. I was listening to these the other day walking around Inwood Hill Park, and they just felt appropriate for that natural amphitheater in northern Manhattan. These two are steel girders.
(embarrassing side note: one of my rock star dreams involved, on an off night from a world tour somewhere, showing up very drunk to a small club with my bandmates and playing a set as Boys About Town-The Premier Jam Cover Band)