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Ed Schrader’s Music Beat share the Origins of their new track “Seagull”: Stream

Originsour reoccurring new music feature, finds an artist reflecting on the various influences for their latest single.

After relentless touring and releasing two noisy albums over the last eight years, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat were ready for a shake up. They’d seen plenty of accolades and success with the pattern they’d been following, but in any situation, repetition can lead to boredom, and the post-punk duo were looking for something new. So when it came time to record their third full-length, the upcoming Riddles, they tapped Dan Deacon to produce, arrange, and co-wrote, and set out in a fresh direction.

The record’s latest single, “Seagull”, reflects that desire for forward momentum in all its forms. Structurally, the track is all about building towards something greater, opening with slinking bass and the jazzy snaps of a musical street gang. As it inches onward, layers of taut percussion begin to beat in the background, pushing louder until the entire song tears the tension into a full charge of violent shakes.

“‘Seagull’ is about a person who fears all the trappings of complacency, and to whom the term ‘settling down’ is like kryptonite,” Ed Schrader himself tells Consequence of Sound. “It is about that irrepressible road warrior in all of us that needs to feel the flame and skinned knees of adventure! The young, idealistic artist who prizes content over currency! Within the song though we see the cost of that freedom: ‘Leaving is such a mess/ But I’m tired of just hanging round.’”

Take a listen:

Riddles arrives March 2nd via Carpark Records. For more insight into “Seagull”, Schrader has detailed some of the track’s Origins, from Han Solo to Sonic Youth.

Han Solo:

han solo gif Ed Schrader’s Music Beat share the Origins of their new track Seagull: Stream

The lust for the road, fame and the wild places it takes the character transforms them to a hardened journeyman who ultimately knows they must join the pack to infiltrate and reset it completely, like when Han Solo dresses like a Stormtrooper! I always emulated Han Solo growing up cause he’s a hustler and an outsider. I always felt like an outsider myself, and I still hustle to this day — between selling Cats On The Lake T Shirts, flipping burgers, doing a talk show, plus a cartoon, playing in a band and I have a pop-up called Pasta The Gathering… I’m always hustling .

Sonic Youth — Sister:

I wanted to do something that was like Sonic Youth’s Sister meets weird Sinatra! Sonic Youth were always this band that everyone else got but me, until my friends Bill and Andy made me listen to them. My friends Mike and Alan got me further into the Sonic Zone as well with the album Sister. I always loved the visceral sadness implied about a fellow sibling suffering through something via minimal expressionist prose and fuzzy jangled guitars. My brother has autism and I always feel like we see each other but there’s this wall. Sonic Youth depicts that well in their masterpiece.

David Bowie — “Little Wonder”:

There’s some “Little Wonder” in there for good measure. “So wiiiiiiide” — that was a song from Bowie’s Earthling album. “Little Wonder” to me feels like an older self talking to a younger self saying, “Hang in there and ya’ll ain’t gonna believe what’s next!” I feel a bit like that now. See, younger self — I told you it’d be cool someday!

Radiohead — Kid A:

I was also revisiting Radiohead’s Kid A at the time, which I guess you can hear a bit.

Eating seagull:

screen shot 2018 02 20 at 11 58 59 am Ed Schrader’s Music Beat share the Origins of their new track Seagull: Stream

I also once ordered seagull off a menu without realizing to Devlin [Rice]’s complete amusement — I’ll get him back one day! Tasted like chicken.

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Beauty in Chaos: The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat Turns 50

As far as sophomore album’s go, The Velvet Undergound’s White Light/White Heat is extraordinary, both for its unapologetic abandonment of the mournful moods established by their debut and for its dissonance, which replaced the measured doses of pop art-minded bliss (inspired by Andy Warhol and contributed by vocalist Nico) with a total overdose of arty audacity and even aggression in their absence.

On its 50th anniversary, the record holds up as an outrageously unique collection of weird ideas and organically driven psychedelic soundscapes. It elevated the instrumental, mental, and sexual tension that encapsulates what the Velvets were all about and allowed for its individual players to act out sonically. Singer/guitarist Lou Reed, bassist John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and drummer Maureen Tucker were all clearly challenging themselves, their listeners, and each other on this one, and the result feels like precursory punk rock, especially listened to today in the context of all that came after it.

In an interview with David Fricke for Mojo, marking the record’s 45th anniversary re-issue, guitarist Sterling Morrison explained, “Maybe our frustrations led the way … But we were already pretty much into it. We had good amps, good distortion devices. We were the first American band to have an endorsement deal with Vox.” The album, he contended, “was just us using the Vox amps and playing them emphatically.”

But White Light/White Heat was a lot more than an excuse for the band to tune out and amp up; it was an opportunity to redefine who they were, to defiantly lay to record what it was they were doing onstage at the time, thus making it their most representative raw and true recording, a six-song snapshot of the late-’60s New York avant-garde music and party scene. Fueled by escapist environments, their boho brethren, the harsh realities of NY urban life, and probably some pretty good drugs, the band captured attention with their dark and dramatic aesthetic and complex sound. Their association with art scene hip kids notwithstanding, their live performances lacked pretention (even when they were over-the-top poetic) and often ended in instrumental freak-outs.

While White Light was an entirely different cup of Sunday morning tea (excessively spiked, best listened to after a long night that probably never ended), it does maintain moments of Warholian hedonism. Andy suggested the black cover, after all. Also, the catchy, chorus-driven title track that opens the record kind of recalls the exuberance of the debut’s more upbeat moments and might be one of the strongest numbers of their entire catalog. David Bowie sure liked it, even giving it renewed appreciation when he put it out as a single in conjunction with the opening of the Ziggy Stardust concert film (recorded in the ’70s, but released in the ’80s). By contrast, the 17-minute psych-tinged climax, “Sister Ray”, might start out straightforward but veers off wildly. It’s a tempestuous tale of drag queens, sailors, orgies, shooting up, and murder backdropped by Cale and Reed’s rhythmic clash of chords and effects. Recorded in one take, it was apparently so assaultive live, according to Reed, that the engineer walked out before it was laid down.

In between these memorable bookends, there’s the bizarre narrative of “The Gift”, featuring an academic-sounding Cale spinning an ill-fated tale of young love over a snarling guitar jam (best heard on headphones as it was recorded so the vocal is heard on one speaker and the music on another); “Lady Godiva’s Operation”, a sardonic yet sweet ditty about a transsexual’s lobotomy; “Here She Comes Now”, the album’s most simplistic number, which sounds like a holdover from the Nico era and provides a break from the visceral blasts that surround it; and the garage-y goodness of “I Heard Her Call My Name”, a feedback-laden, schizophrenic Stooges kinda jam.

Dusting off the original ’68 album, side one features the varied tempos and staggering vocals of the first four songs while side two is a notably more frenzied experience, punctuating the mottled radiance of the collection with a rousing climax. That’s probably the most authentic way to enjoy White Light/White Heat, but the “Super Deluxe” 2013 version (available on most streaming services) has some extras (live versions, mono versions, and bonus tracks) that add dimension to VU’s evolution, especially that of Cale and Reed. Their often contentious relationship reached a breaking point after this record, but both continued to capture beauty in chaos when creating and producing music separately for years to come. It may not be their most celebrated recording, but its uncompromising spirit never dimmed for Cale (who’s played these songs at VU-inspired shows in Paris and the UK the past couple years) or for Reed, who was a rock ‘n’ roll rebel right up until his light finally burned out for good.

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Ed Schrader’s Music Beat announce new, Dan Deacon-produced album, Riddles

Photo by Lissy Elle

Baltimore’s Ed Schrader’s Music Beat are back with their follow-up to 2014’s Party Jail. It’s called Riddles and is the post-punk duo’s debut album on Carpark Records.

For their third LP, Ed Schrader and Devlin Rice teamed with electronic artist Dan Deacon, who produced, arranged and co-wrote the entire release. They spent two years in total pushing their sound into the art-rock and alt-rock genres, pouring out emotions from their recent major life changes. Schrader lost his stepfather, while Rice watched his brother die of a terminal illness, and Deacon’s longest relationship came to an end.

“For me, the album parallels feelings of confronting the past, resolving it, facing the music, and blasting out of it,” Schrader shared through a press statement. “It’s the album our hearts wanted us to make.”

Riddles arrives on March 2nd. Physical pre-orders are currently available here. Some bundles include Ed Schrader’s Music Beans, bags of coffee roasted by ESMB’s resident coffee connoisseur Devlin Rice.

To preview the release, ESMB has shared the propulsive lead single “Dunce” and its cinematic music video. Check it out below.

Riddles Artwork:

ed schraders music beat riddles artwork Ed Schraders Music Beat announce new, Dan Deacon produced album, Riddles

Riddles Tracklist:
01. Dunce
02. Seagull
03. Riddles
04. Dizzy Devil
05. Wave To The Water
06. Rust
07. Kid Radium
08. Humbucker Blues
09. Tom
10. Culebra

ESMB will tour North America behind Riddles starting with a hometown Baltimore show on March 1st and continue through mid-April, including several shows at South by Southwest. Check out the complete schedule below.

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat 2018 Tour Dates:
03/01 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
03/03 – Washington, DC @ Comet Ping Pong
03/04 – Raleigh, NC @ Kings
03/05 – Asheville, NC @ The Mothlight
03/06 – Knoxville, TN @ Pilot Light
03/07 – Nashville, TN @ DRKMTTR
03/09 – Atlanta, GA @ Mammal Gallery
03/12 – Houston, TX @ Walter’s Downtown
03/13 – Dallas, TX @ Transit Bicycle Company
03/14 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
03/15 – Austin, TX @ South by Southwest
03/16 – Austin, TX @ South by Southwest
03/17 – Austin, TX @ South by Southwest
03/18 – Austin, TX @ South by Southwest
03/19 – Hot Springs, AK @ VOV Fest
03/20 – Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge
03/23 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
03/24 – Boise, ID @ Treefort Music Fest
03/26 – Reno, NV @ Holland Project
03/28 – Los Angeles, CA @ Zebulon
03/29 – San Francisco, CA @ Make Out Room
03/31 – Portland, OR @ The Know
04/04 – Sioux Falls, SD @ Total Drag Records
04/05 – Minneapolis, MN @ Kitty Cat Klub
04/06 – Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
04/07 – Milwaukee, WI @ Quarters Rock N Roll Palace
04/08 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
04/10 – Toronto, ON @ Baby G
04/11 – Winooski, VT @ Monkey House
04/12 – Providence, RI @ AS220
04/15 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right

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The Fluids give a Track by Track breakdown of their debut album, No Kidding!: Stream

Photo by Jordan Kuyper

Track by Track is a recurring new music feature in which an artist offers a comprehensive rundown of their new album.

Lead singer/rhythm guitarist Mike Tony, keyboardist Nick “Demo” DeMolina, lead guitarist Cooper Formant, and bassist John Paul “Puppy” Frank of The Fluids are here to blow out the speakers of Brooklyn rock. Unwilling to let their hometown’s indie scene dominate the discussion when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, the upstart band deliver a howling mix of no-wave art punk that’s always set to 11. Today, they’re sharing the first salvo in their battle against mundanity with their debut full-length, No Kidding!.

After introducing themselves with the lead single “Creatures” last month, The Fluids are here with 10 tracks of wild, blistering sounds. “When I started writing songs again, I was going for a ‘What if Pavement covered Bowie?’ vibe,” Tony recently told Noisey. “I wanted to make short, contained pop songs with interesting structures that all kind of sounded distinct. My biggest fear is having someone go to a show and say ‘well it’s cool, but all the songs kinda sound the same.’”

That’s definitely not a concern on No Kidding!, as the album stretches from the riff-tastic “Lines” to the dreary afternoon drudge of “On Ice”. Pre-order the album here or here, and take a listen to the full thing below. You can also check out The Fluids live at their album release show tomorrow, October 26th, at New York City’s Mercury Lounge.

For more insight into how they’re reshaping Brooklyn rock, Formant and Tony broke down No Kidding! track by track. Check it out:

Mike had this song with a quick two power chord riff. It was simple but powerful, but kind of a blank canvas. This is full-speed Fluids with a Devo-like synth lick superimposed by Demo. I wanted to add something that created even more momentum and excitement so i added this Hendrix/Prince frantic blues lick with these major 3rd double stop slides that kind of create an off-kilter carousel vibe. The coolest thing about this song is the contrast in amplitude as well as tempo between the slow verses and the full speed instrumental jaunts that alternate. And then there is this bizarre bridge part where we go to Madagascar for a few bars before returning to the 1950s slow dance in outer space.

Mike: A challenge — both to play and to listen to in some ways. A low synth gong sound and a blast of feedback is the first thing you hear on the album. It swings and changes and punches and churns and it’s all very unexpected. You leave it not knowing what we are going to sound like over the next 9 songs. The song is a fucking boxing match. There is a tension and a struggle between the parts that comes through musically and vocally. It’s a conversation, reasoned on one side, unhinged on the other. It’s the band at its most versatile and its most disorientating.

“Sign N’ Drive”:
Cooper: When this song came about we were listening to this song called “Fantastic Man” by William Onyeabor as played with the Atomic Bomb band. When The Fluids were a new band, we would jam on things and play other’s songs and such. This was one of those times Mike heard that song and kinda used it as a springboard to do his Mike raps over. It has that same (I-ii) soul chord sequence in the verses. I felt like the song had a ton of empty space to fill so I wanted to come up with a guitar hook. I always loved jazz and I kinda wanted to make something that sounded like a saxophone would play it. The solo section I try to do a Sonny Rollins St. Thomas type rhythmic motif to try and keep the excitement up. I also think you can hear some Led Zepplin, classic rock vibes in there; I play a Les Paul. I was really happy this was a single in a time when guitar is not considered cool anymore.

Mike: Named for it’s inevitable use in a car commercial, this is an infectious sounding song with a killer guitar hook. Lyrically, it’s mostly about isolating yourself in crowded spaces.

“New Land Sale”:
Cooper: This might be my favorite song that we play. This is an opener usually. I really like how the recording came out for this one. There is a really striking and interesting figure/ground relationship between the count off and the start. And then at the end there is this return to normalcy that is almost musical in and of itself, the contrast. The drums count off and then I make noise on the guitar. Then there are these soccer chants that Mike sampled that are triggered. It’s really bananas. The lyrics are ridiculous too. It’s like a kraut rock/Dinosaur Dr. hybrid. For the “solo” in this song I detune my low string all the way and play it by yanking the string. Then when Mike comes back to the mic, I start tunning up the low E string so it hits E when the next part comes. It sounds like a motorcycle coming or something. Very low tech but this is rock and roll. Shit is raw.

Mike: A statement of intent. An anthem to kneel to. Shouted from lungs of soccer hooligans worldwide. New Land Sale! New Land Sale! Reach out and touch the face of God!

Cooper: This is a rousing power ballad, you might say if you are high. I have my own ideas what it’s about but you would have to ask Mike. My main contribution is an e-bow thing in the chorus that kinda hangs in the air and shadows Mike’s full throated lament from above like an extra-terrestrial orb or something lol. Ok, it’s not that intense but it’s cool, I think.

Mike: It’s a dramatic reading of The Economist set to a melancholic chord sequence. The slow funk bass groove does the heavy lifting. I wanted to make something that had a little more room to breathe and I wanted to relax for a second during our sets. I don’t have much interest in writing an overtly political song and this is by no means that. But I think it captures a certain unease and feeling of desperation we are all becoming familiar with. The solo at the end is a cathartic moment. It’s like punching a hole in a wall.

Cooper: This was the song that made me want to join the band. It sounded classic to me with a repeated bass line playing the same chords throughout the song similar to a song like “Once In A Lifetime.” Mike also had some great guitar riffs in the tune that create an arc and keep the flavor. The beat is pretty original in my opinion and gives the song its real character. In the early days of playing this song live I used to play a timbale solo after the second chorus but in the studio we just wanted to focus on making it grooving. Puppy really shines on bass on this number too.

Mike: “Creatures” was my return to songwriting. It was the track that opened up my eyes to the idea that the right groove could sustain a song endlessly. Three chords. Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. It’s me trying to be sexy like Prince. It was about my surroundings. It’s about making plans you won’t keep, internal tug of wars, and people that are all pretty fuzzy to me at this point. It’s a party, but not one I am sure I want to be dancing at.

“Heavy Door”:
Cooper: This is The Fluids at our most (*holds nose*) “Bruce Core.” I like this, it’s like a futuristic, steampunk Rolling Stones-type number. It’s always a crowd pleaser.

Mike: Another song brimming with critical self-reflection. Trying to navigate the disparate poles of my personality; my desires to be ‘good’ and ‘better’ and the reality of what I present to the world. The song is very visual for me. I like to think of the ‘room filled with sand’ quite literally. My favorite part is hands down the outro where we all pretend to be members of the E-Street Band and jam to a saxophone, played by our good friend (and Caveman’s keyboardist) Sammy Hopkins. This song was born into existence with the idea of a sax solo and few things are satisfying as creating something that matches what you hear in your head.

“Favorite Gun”:
Cooper: This is probably the newest song on this record. We recorded it in one take basically as an afterthought. It was messy but it had a vibe so we decided to include it. This song BURNS live and Mike really makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up vocally. Mike is a super chill, quiet guy in life but a MONSTER on-stage. This is one of the songs where he basically has a gran mal seizure live when we play it.

Mike: This is probably what I would listen to if I exercised. This song is a breathless sprint, an anxiety-ridden deep dive into the psyche of a lonely mind. One thought to the next with limited connective tissue. I love how it starts, each of us slowly finding our way into the groove. It clicks and we’re off. The chorus is, for all intents and purposes, the Greek chorus in my head – ‘I should’ve taken it easy…”

Cooper: This is one of my favorite songs to play mainly because I get to play multiple guitar solos. There is a loopy, delirious, atonal lick that counts the song off and then it soars into this Strauss-like, highly dramatic D-minor hurricane. The sonics in this song are familiar but there is a twist. Something is “off.” I feel like it captures the feeling of the times in some way. I hear mass shootings and chaos in that song. It’s a song about fighting to live and you can hear the blades clashing sonically.

Mike: “Turnt” is an explosion, an eight man blitz on third-and-long. I like to think of Cooper as a middle linebacker, blasting through the line of scrimmage, knocking the quarterback sideways into the dirt. The lyrics are somewhat schizo in nature, a vitriolic lecture from a disgruntled and disenchanted professor. In this song, ‘home’ is the idea of stability and the familiar. That was long ago. We are now Magellan in uncharted waters. We left home and have succumbed to a new, uncomfortable normal, living without any semblance of direction. Stop the world and let me off. The confusion is palpable. Grab your jacket and say goodbye to no one.

“Just Like Me”:
Cooper: This and “Creatures” were the first 2 songs Mike and Nick ever shared with me when we worked at the bar. It’s Mike at his most poignant, lyrically and it’s the one song that kinda tells a story. I love this song. I added some guitar parts and a tremolo-picked solo but really tried to keep things minimal from my standpoint. The song is so strong it really didn’t need a lot of ancillary bells and whistles.

Mike: One of the few instances where I can actually remember the writing process. I was trying to combine a couple of different elements – namely “Silver Cloud” by La Dusseldorf and
The Beautiful Ones” by Prince — and things sort of fell into place naturally for me. I knew I wanted that high pitched, droning synth. I knew I wanted it to be big. The words spilled out. It was a very introspective process. Before I knew it, I was calling myself, ‘dusty and spineless.’ I’m glad I didn’t run away from the self reflection (and criticism) because I think it’s what people connect to. The chorus is a come to Jesus moment – this is who I am and it’s not going to change even if I wanted it to.

“On Ice”:
Cooper: This has been our closer for most of our shows. It started out as a very drum heavy (even with drum solo) hard rock number. Our founding drummer Alex had a lot to do with how the song it structured, I believe. I think it started as a jam between Mike and him. It’s really a live song. Besides the Muppet-like, background echoes, I think this was all recorded live in one take. I didn’t want to really play a long solo in the middle of this so when the breakdown comes I do noise things. I love avant-garde shit and noise-based music so I wanted to makes some metallic, messy squeaks and squawks to break the expectation of a straight-ahead guitar solo. Guitars can make so many noises even without a lot of effects pedals. My favorite part of this song is how the end gets so heavy we sound like we are falling down a flight of stairs.

Mike: “On Ice” is the cherry jubilee at the end of the album. Sonically, I wanted something rough and almost uncontainable. Structurally, I wanted it to be all over the place but in a way that makes sense. The outro jam, like most good things, happened spontaneously. After the second chorus, the sound narrows in on the drums and bass line. Four bars later, the dam is broken and the flood has begun. I love the idea of introducing the ‘signature’ riff of the song over 3 minutes into it. The end sounds like we’re playing our instruments in the middle of an avalanche, being tossed and thrown around.

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How 1977 Broke All the Rules and Changed Music Forever

David Byrne, Tina Weymouth, Jerry Harrison, and Chris Frantz could have called their debut record anything. But even with a world of potential titles at their disposal, the Talking Heads opted to matter-of-factly name their first record after the year it was conceived.

The art rock icons might have been going for an understated title with Talking Heads: 77, but over time it’s one that’s come to say plenty about just how diverse and exciting 1977 was for music. The record’s high-strung cross-pollination of funk, art punk, dance, and what would later become known as indie rock held a mirror up to a time marked by boundless musical innovation on a host of fronts. Punk was still hitting its stride as new wave, the still-burgeoning genre’s more pop-savvy sibling, started taking shape. Electronic music was in its exciting infancy. Elsewhere, bands and artists of all stripes were making music that refused to fall into categorical line. The carefully boxed-in walls that for so long confined popular music were crumbling, making room for new sounds and ideas that continue to inspire and influence the music we listen to today.

This isn’t to say that 1977 represented a complete break from tradition into uncharted musical waters. A list of the year’s chart-topping singles reads like an infomercial selling you all the biggest ’70s hits on one compact disc. The sounds of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” filled every dance club while other period mainstays like Andy Gibb, Barry Manilow, Fleetwood Mac, and KC and the Sunshine Band also boasted songs that loomed large on the charts. But 1977’s lasting influence has little to do with what was happening on the surface and a lot more to do with what wasn’t. More than a decade after the pioneering work of bands like The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, The MC5, The New York Dolls, The Sonics, The 13th Floor Elevators, and countless others, louder, weirder, and artier strains of music had finally started to bubble up to the mainstream from the underground.

Punk rock led the way. In the musical equivalent to the Big Bang Theory, the genre’s crude simplicity left everything before it in the past and either directly or indirectly influenced almost all of the guitar rock that came after it. Just three years after forming in Forest Hills, Queens, Ramones released not one, but two punk landmarks with Leave Home and Rocket to Russia. Both sound virtually identical to one another, which is understandable for two records released 10 months apart. But together, they make for two of the most surprisingly influential records of the last 40 years. While bands like Foreigner, Toto, and Kansas were noodling away at overindulgent arena rock, Ramones distilled rock and roll down to its simplistic core. Picking up where their iconic self-titled debut left off, Leave Home and Rocket to Russia further retooled ’60s bubble gum pop by adding souped-up tempos, power chords, and bozo lyrics about boy-girl drama and teenage despondency. What’s more, they sounded great from a technical standpoint, thanks to Tommy Ramone and Tony Bongiovi’s polished but powerful production.

Ramones hit the world with arguably the year’s two best punk records, but they weren’t the only game in town. Their Sire label mates The Dead Boys, New York transplants from the understated rock haven of Cleveland, delivered one of the best punk debuts of all time with Young, Loud, and Snotty. While Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy had an endearing charm and wayward innocence to them, The Dead Boys, led by hard-living frontman Stiv Bators, imbibed in a more street-tough breed of American punk. “I don’t need anyone/ Don’t need no mom and dad,” Bators croaks on Young, Loud, and Snotty’s legendary opening track, “Sonic Reducer”. The debut bristles with sneering conviction, and there’s hardly room for a false note anywhere on the record’s 10 tracks, beneath the raw energy of which lay plenty of insane hooks (“What Love Is”, originally recorded by legendary Cleveland proto punks Rocket from the Tombs, most recently surfaced thanks to fictionalized rockers the Nasty Bits on HBO’s short-lived drama Vinyl).

Punk had officially made its mark on American soil in 1977, but the genre’s growing influence overseas in England has proven equally influential. The genre offered bands the perfect forum for railing against growing unemployment and other social ills plaguing the UK in the late ’70s. The Clash were hardly the first band to use music as a tool for social commentary, but the band’s white-hot debut might be the best example of rock and roll as a medium for protest. With tracks like “London Burning”, “White Riot”, and “Career Opportunities”, The Clash augmented its pissed-off message with punk fire power. If Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie before them took a more subtle, lyrical approach to getting their message across, The Clash proved how effective punk rock’s volume and fury could be in helping double-down on the dissent.

The Clash were earnest in their approach to flaunting authority, but the same could hardly be said about the Sex Pistols. With the help and marketing savvy of manager Malcolm McLaren, the Pistols became the poster children for punk rock’s anti-authoritarian insolence. The band admittedly relied far more on gimmickry and image than many of their peers (Sid Vicious may be a punk icon, but it’s no secret he could barely play bass), but that fact takes nothing away from the band’s 1977 debut. In 34 sneering minutes, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols takes dead aim at the Crown (the Pistols infamously trolled the Queen’s Jubilee by playing “God Save the Queen” on a riverboat ride along the Thames River) while the record’s plighted themes of class war and social disenfranchisement spoke to a frustrated, marginalized generation. The Pistols didn’t survive long enough for a proper follow-up, which only makes Bollocks all the more impressive. In one record and 11 songs, the band helped define not only the sound of punk rock, but also its attitude and image. In doing so, they also helped solidify the genre as a legitimate force in popular music.

If the intensity of The Clash and Sex Pistols occasionally felt a little like all work and no play, Buzzcocks and The Damned brought some levity to the mix. The four-track EP Spiral Scratch, which the Buzzcocks self-released on their own New Hormones label in January 1977, arrived just over a year ahead of the band’s first proper full-length. But the band’s fiery mix of hooks, melodies, and punk energy was already well in place, making the EP one of the earliest entries in what would become pop punk. The aptly titled Damned Damned Damned, meanwhile, brought a campy, cartoonish sensibility to punk that refused to take itself too seriously. Dave Vanian has steered The Damned through numerous lineups and musical changes over the past four decades, but the proto goth band’s first record remains its most enduring sonic strike.

Others in punk’s first wave were pushing a little more deliberately against the genre’s walls. Back in New York, Television wisely took its time crafting Marquee Moon. The effort that went into it is evident: the record’s complex, jazz-like arrangements, the interlocking guitar work between Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, and Billy Ficca’s flare for expansive drum fills. Marquee Moon is the punk record that refused to be defined by punk, a bookish, stylishly ambitious affair that further reinforced punk’s aversion to rules (somewhere future members of Sonic Youth were taking close notes). Former Television members also got in on experimenting with punk’s boundaries. Ten months after Marquee Moon’s February 1977 release, Richard Hell graced the world with Blank Generation. With assistance from his backing band, the Voidoids, Hell, always more poet at heart than a musician, took his love of Velvet Underground, The Beatles, The Stooges, the Stones, and others and wrapped it into his own warped formula. In England, Wire compressed the Ramones’ simple song constructs into sub-two-minute art punk blasts on Pink Flag, a record whose influence found its way over time to bands as diverse as the The Minutemen, REM, and Blur, to name a few.

New wave also began to emerge as a further evolution from punk. In England, Stiff Records released the debut from an up-and-coming songwriting maverick named Elvis Costello. After years spent gigging in and around London and Liverpool to little fanfare, My Aim Is True, released in July 1977, introduced the world to one of pop music’s great sophisticates. Costello channeled punk rock’s anger to settle personal scores, and by year’s end Rolling Stone crowned it the best record of the year. Beyond the music, the record’s cover art had a lot to say about the state of music in 1977 by itself. “Elvis Is King” the lettering read across the backdrop of a bespectacled Costello posing for the camera. With Elvis Presley’s death just one month later, it’s hard not to look at the cover in retrospect with some measure of cosmic significance.

Stiff also released New Boots and Panties!!!, the debut record from Ian Dury and what would become his backing band, the Blockheads. Like Costello, Dury’s music was born out of the UK’s growing pub rock scene, and his debut mashed funk, early American rock and roll, dance, and pop music into its own distinct concoction. In another indication of audiences’ willingness to take a flier on new music, the record became a hit in spite of, or perhaps because of, its deliberately being left of center. Singles “Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick”, “Reasons to Be Cheerful Part 3”, and “What a Waste” each made their mark on the UK singles chart. Elsewhere, Graham Parker released the equally raw and diverse-sounding Stick to Me, marking his first collaboration with his long-running backing band, The Rumour. The Jam also brought some sass and style to the yet-to-be-titled new wave movement. In the City, the mod punks’ debut, owed as much to the likes of The Who, The Kinks, and The Creation as it did the shearing guitar chords on its surface.

While 1977 gave rise to a host of fresh new musical faces, it also was the year that some old dogs tried their hands at some new tricks. Iggy Pop resurfaced with not one, but two records in The Idiot and Lust for Life. Just two years prior, Pop was in the grips of a crippling heroin dependency that also led him to spend time in a mental institution. With the help of David Bowie, The Idiot gave Pop a new creative lease. The record marks an almost jarring departure from the hedonistic proto punk charge he once led with The Stooges, giving in to the artier, more experimental direction Bowie was moving him in. The Star Man also ran herd on Lust for Life, which brought Pop’s garage rock bona fides back into clearer focus.

Bowie’s collaborations with Iggy gave the former Stooge frontman a much needed creative and personal boost, but he used much of that same inspiration for himself on Low. The record was the latest in what would be a career-spanning series of musical evolutions for Bowie, and it’s arguably one of his best. Co-produced with Tony Visconti and Brian Eno, Low playfully dives into avant pop, especially the minimalist electronic and ambient music Eno had already begun experimenting with in his post-Roxy Music efforts. The record also owes a debt of influence to Kraftwerk. Formed in 1969 in Dusseldorf as part of Germany’s growing experimental rock scene, the band, led by Florian Schnieder and Ralf Hutter, began flirting increasingly with synthesizers and electronic music by the early ’70s. Kraftwerk’s first grand musical statement came with the minimalist Autobahn in 1974, but it was the release of Trans-Europe Express three years later that exposed electronic music’s pop potential. The record’s influence on dance and electronic music is obvious, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. Just a few short years later, Afrika Bambaataa used the record’s title track as the centerpiece of “Planet Rock”, one of the earliest entries into the hip-hop cannon. Back in New York, Martin Rev and Alan Vega were also among the earliest adopters of electronic music. The duo dropped Suicide’s seminal electro-punk debut, which menacingly foreshadowed the emergence of dance music, electronica, new wave, and alternative music coming just around the bend.

Not all of the year’s groundbreaking musical innovations drew power from ugly, underground impulses, however. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker were at the peak of their proggy, jazz-pop powers when Steely Dan released Aja in September of 1977. Boasting the contributions of close to 40 musicians, the record is the rare complex pop record that wasn’t commercially done in by its own sense of adventure. Fagen and Becker went all in, with all but two of the record’s seven tracks clocking in at more than five minutes. But millions of listeners went along with them for the ride on the strength of singles “Deacon Blues”, “Peg” and “Josie”. And while the songs on Aja still stand as achievements by themselves, the record also continues to stand up as a model of expert production. Steely Dan was always first and foremost a studio band (the band retired from touring in 1974 before reuniting years later), and Aja represents the apex of the band’s commitment to production value.

It’s been four decades, but the music of 1977 hardly feels that old. Maybe that’s because subsequent generations of musicians and fans have refused to let it grow stale. Giorgio Moroder’s From Here to Eternity still sounds relevant, thanks in no small part to Daft Punk’s not-so-subtle genre homage Random Access Memories in 2013. It’s just as easy to see how Radiohead’s Kid A or LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver might have inspired a new generation of fans to find their way back to Kraftwerk or how the success of Green Day, Rancid, and countless others have helped keep Ramones and The Clash in vogue over the years. Music only lives in the past to the extent that fans, bands, and critics let it. To that end, the greatest complement that can be paid to the musical year that was 1977 is that we’ve cared enough to keep it vital.

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Wild Beasts announce final EP, farewell shows

Photo by Sion Marshall Waters

After more than 15 years together, Wild Beasts announced yesterday that they were calling it quits. Now, the UK indie rockers have detailed how they plan to take their final bow: with a new EP called Punk Drunk and Trembling and a trio of last-ever shows set for early 2018.

Punk Drunk and Trembling collects three rare tracks that originated during the sessions for the band’s most recent album, 2016’s Boy King. There’s “Maze” and “Last Night All My Dreams Came True”, which were both previously only available on the deluxe vinyl version of the LP; the third song, the EP’s title track, is also an “uncovered gem” and can be heard down below.

“It was never designed to be our parting song but in many ways it’s fitting because it’s the most highly evolved song of all of ours,” Wild Beasts singer Hayden Thorpe tells NME. “It’s a song that started in fragments around the first album and it’s taken the entire journey of our career to come to the fore.”

The Punk Drunk and Trembling EP is due out via Domino, digitally October 20th and on limited vinyl November 17th. As for Wild Beasts’ final shows, they have three gigs lined up in the UK for February. Tickets for these will be available for pre-sale via the band’s website on Wednesday, September 27th from 9 a.m., general sale from 9 a.m. on Friday, September 29th.

Punk Drunk and Trembling Artwork:

wild beasts punk drunk trembling ep Wild Beasts announce final EP, farewell shows

Punk Drunk and Trembling Tracklist:
01. Punk Drunk and Trembling
02. Maze
03. Last Night All My Dreams Came True

Wild Beasts 2017-2018 Tour Dates:
10/20 – Bristol, UK @ Simple Things
01/11 – Istanbul, TR @ Salon IKSV
02/15 – Dublin, IE @ Olympia #
02/16 – Manchester, UK @ Albert Hall #
02/17 – London, UK @ Eventim Apollo #

# = final shows

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Spoon’s Britt Daniel Breaks Down His Band’s Entire Discography

As Spoon announce a 10th anniversary reissue of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, revisit what frontman Britt Daniel had to say about the album and the rest of his band’s discography.

On the morning before one of Spoon’s first shows supporting new album Hot Thoughts, Britt Daniel exudes an inordinate calm. I’ve asked him to take a journey back through each of Spoon’s nine albums. He remains unfazed, speaking softly yet confidently, his memory sharp and his opinions sharper. And yet, he doesn’t seem the type to spend a lot of time looking back at his own records. “I don’t listen to them often,” he shrugs. “I listened to Transference about a month or six weeks ago because we were trying to figure out songs to play on the next tour.”

Perhaps constantly looking forward is the very reason that Spoon have produced such a fluid, evolving catalog of albums. Daniel and Co. have evolved mightily from their early Wire- and grunge-indebted debut, incorporating everything from Motown tones to vibraphones into their artful indie punk and rock. And yet there’s a constant core to Spoon. Their collaborators and influence palette have changed, but Daniel and drummer Jim Eno continue to churn away, revealing new shades of their vision for the band.

Now, click ahead as Britt Daniel takes you from Telephono to Hot Thoughts, tracing his career from garage guitars to robot girls. Yeah, that’s right. Robot girls. 


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Algiers share new track “Walk Like a Panther”, plus a remix by Uniform — listen

Photo by​ ​Philip Cosores

Algiers have described their new album, The Underside of Power, as reflective of “a world riven by fascist nationalism and white power fantasies in the US and abroad.” That sentiment rippled throughout its title track and “Cleveland”, both of which are fierce, biting, and aggressively political. Now, just a few days before the album’s June 23rd release, the band has shared another taste of their gospel punk protest music with “Walk Like a Panther”.

The new single is a frantic, passionate track that rides along skittering drum beats and an eerily graceful piano. Algiers have also shared a remix of the song by New York City rockers Uniform, which amps up the distortion while also allowing the song’s sourced audio to stand on its own. Listen to both versions of the song below.

Order the new LP from Matador and you’ll get a 7-inch featuring both songs.

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Algiers pay tribute to victims of police violence on “Cleveland” — listen

 Photo by ​Philip Cosores​

When it comes to music with political statements in 2017, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything more powerful and overt than Algiers. The New York/London band recently announced their sophomore album, The Underside of Power, with its hard-hitting, soulful title track. Now, they’re back with another culturally critical single, “Cleveland”.

The track title references Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old black boy who was killed by police in November 2014. “Cleveland” serves as a tribute to all victims of unchecked police brutality, however, as a press release notes “the lyrics summon Kindra Chapman, Andre Jones, Lennon Lacy, Sandra Bland, Roosevelt Pernell, Keith Warren and AlfredWright.” Like the previous track, there’s an air of affirmation in the song’s dark tones, only this time they’re buried far deeper under electronic textures and heavy punk gospel. In fact, there are actually the sounds of people crying layered into the mix.

“A recurring theme in our music is the idea of injustice and the bitter understanding that obtaining justice in this world is all but impossible — particularly for black and brown people,”frontman Franklin James Fisher explained in a statement. “I wanted the song to sound like the Final Judgement in the Bible, wherein the wicked are judged and condemned by the righteous with all the ‘weeping and gnashing of teeth,’ of the damned when justice is finally realized. This translates in the ‘solo’ section of the song. It consists of various recordings of people inconsolably crying and weeping while the guitar and lead vocal mirror their contortions. If you’ve ever witnessed something like that in real life, sound of a person’s sorrow is equal parts frightening and musical.”

Take a listen to “Cleveland” below.

The Underside of Power is due out June 23rd on Matador Records. Algiers are currently touring Europe with Depeche Mode in support of the release, with North American dates coming in July. Check their schedule below.

Algiers 2017 Tour Dates:
06/15 – Paris, FR @ Secret Show
06/17 – Aarau, CH @ Kiff
06/18 – Zurich, CH @ Letzigrund Stadion *
06/19 – Heidelberg, DE @ Karlstorbahnhof
06/20 – Frankfurt, DE @ Commerzbank Arena *
06/21 – Munster, DE @ Gleis22
06/22 – Berlin, DE @ Olympiastadion Berlin *
06/23 – Berlin, DE @ Musik & Freiden
06/25 – Rome, IT @ Stadio Olimpico *
06/26 – Milan, IT @ Santeria Social Club
06/27 – Milan, IT @ Stadio San Siro *
06/29 – Bologna, IT @ Studio Rentao Dall’Ara *
07/01 – St. Denis, FR @ Stade de France *
07/04 – Gelsenkirchen, DE @ Veltins-Arena *
07/13 – Vancouver, BC @ Cobalt
07/14 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios
07/15 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
07/17 – Oakland, CA @ Starline Social Club
07/18 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
07/22 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right
07/23 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
07/24 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat
10/15 – Atlanta, GA @ Afropunk Festival

* = w/ Depeche Mode

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Pink Floyd’s Animals Pulls No Political Punches 40 Years Later

This article originally ran in January 2017.

Set the controls for the heart of every Pink Floyd fan: We’re celebrating Roger Waters’ highly anticipated return with a week of Floydian features that will make you wish you were here forever. Today, Brice Ezell looks back at Pink Floyd’s bleakest album, which feels eerily relevant in these grave times.

When it comes to Pink Floyd and politics, one refrain tends to ring louder than the others: “We don’t need no education!” This lyric from the schoolroom chant of “Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)” is a distillation of the anti-fascist politics of 1979’s The Wall. In addition to being one of Pink Floyd’s finest achievements, The Wall is one of rock music’s great double albums, both for its classic tunes (“Comfortably Numb”, “Hey You”) and political commentary. The cinematic scope of The Wall is part of its appeal, but one side-effect of its stature in the Pink Floyd canon is that it casts a shadow over its predecessor, 1977’s Animals.

Beloved by Floyd diehards but infrequently heard on classic rock radio, Animals is among the proggiest of Pink Floyd’s studio LPs. Brevity defines the track listing and overall runtime: The record runs a concise 40 minutes spread across five tracks. On the matter of the individual songs, however, the band indulges in numerous lengthy jams, resulting in tunes that run 17 minutes (“Dogs”), 11 minutes (“Pigs [Three Different Ones]”), and 10 minutes (“Sheep”). Parts one and two of “Pigs on the Wing” bookend the album, providing short, somewhat hopeful acoustic guitar-led tracks in an album that desperately needs some hope. No guitar or keyboard solos are wasted, and “suite-like” is the name of the game compositionally.

Forty years after Animals release, prog is a decidedly non-mainstream, even “non-cool” genre, and the songs the average layperson is likely to remember are not the sprawling epics of Animals. Yet, this has not prevented the record from leaving a distinct imprint on the musical landscape since 1977. Multiple outlets rank Animals in the top five of Pink Floyd’s best records; we here at Consequence of Sound put it at number three. Numerous contemporary progressive artists have tipped their hats to the album, especially the epic “Dogs”. (As if to further entrench the prog credentials of “Dogs”, scholar Gilad Cohen published a journal article exclusively about the track’s composition.) Opeth borrows a central keyboard riff from the song on its 2014 album, Pale Communion, and Porcupine Tree’s 12-minute “Time Flies” is a memorable extended tribute to the song.

(Ranking: Every Pink Floyd Album from Worst to Best)

Much has been written about how Animals represents a significant musical turning point for Pink Floyd. Though guitarist David Gilmour has spoken fondly about his songwriting contributions to the album, namely the bulk of “Dogs”, Animals is typically seen as the album where vocalist Roger Waters took over Pink Floyd, culminating in his gargantuan vision for The Wall two years later. There is much to be said on this subject, but in reflecting on Animals’ 40th anniversary, the inter-band tensions over songwriting control are not what stand out. Listening to Waters sing the “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” lyric “You’re nearly a laugh/ You’re nearly a laugh/ But you’re really a cry” in 2017, it is his political vision for Animals that makes the record stand out in the Pink Floyd oeuvre. Revisiting this album couldn’t come at a better time, as some have noticed already: At the end of 2016, a group of Chicago architects proposed a plan involving the blocking of the Trump Tower Chicago logo with gold balloon pigs, a direct reference to the pig floating between two of the chimneys of London’s Battersea Power Station on the cover of Animals.

Animals opens with a slight trace of doom. Like the second part that ends the album, “Pigs on the Wing (Part One)” is a brief acoustic framing device. Its major key signature is a clear contrast to the frequently sinister riffs that form the landscape of “Dogs”, “Pigs”, and “Sheep”. Waters chronicles the apathy that surrounds him: “If you didn’t care what happened to me/ And I didn’t care for you/ We would zig-zag our way through the boredom and the pain/ Occasionally glancing through the rain/ Wondering which of the buggars to blame/ And watching for pigs on the wing.”

Those who watched the multiple surprises of 2016’s major elections – Brexit, Trump’s victory – should find this apathy familiar. It is not unlike the apathy behind the “of courses” in Britain and the United States’ 2016 elections: “Of course England will stay in the European Union”; “Of course Hillary Clinton is going to crush Trump.” As the antics and exaggerated promises of politicians like Nigel Farage and Trump piled atop each other, forming a critical mass of sensationalism, apathy was a natural result. (Un)intentionally comic and buffoonish figures like Farage and Trump, for all of their political clout, seem like men who could never succeed because of their lunacy. For many, high ratings do not necessarily result in a high vote count. But the results of the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election are direct answers to the question posed on “Sheep”: “What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real?”

east view final Pink Floyds Animals Pulls No Political Punches 40 Years Later

Waters’ mentioning of the human tendency to pass the buck (“Wondering which of the buggars to blame”) goes hand in hand with the three categories of animal that make up the album’s narrative, which derives from George Orwell’s oft-imitated allegory Animal Farm. The dogs are ruthless capitalist competitors; the pigs are tyrannical overlords; the sheep, unquestioning and docile, are perpetually subject to the power of the former two. “Animals offers zero moral complexity,” writes our own Kristofer Lenz of these three political classifications. Indeed, as is the case with Orwell’s allegory, these categories are oversimplified, if enlightening, to some extent. Labeling a group of people as “sheep” or “dogs” is the precise kind of divisive thinking that enables the iron-fisted “pigs” of 2017, like Farage and Trump. In-group/out-group defines the mentality of the nativist resurgence sweeping the Western world: “real America” versus the foreigners “taking away jobs,” “real Britain” versus the immigrants “causing trouble” by coming into England.

The tension between simplistic thinking and complex reality is captured in the construction of Animals. The single-minded thinking behind the allegorical pigs, dogs, and sheep is juxtaposed with some of Pink Floyd’s most complex songwriting, exemplified by Gilmour’s otherworldly guitar playing on “Dogs” and the Rick Wakeman-esque keyboards on “Sheep”. Although the three core tracks of Animals are lengthy, Waters’ lyrics are not florid or overlong; there are far more instrumental than vocal passages. The dominance of music over words is a critical part of the album’s political commentary: No matter how much Waters tries to get his pig/dog/sheep allegory to play out (especially in the darkly comic warping of Psalm 23 on “Sheep”), the music always pushes back, reminding those who think in terms of “pigs” and “dogs” that the world is more complicated than that.

Given its 1977 release and its political bent, Animals is commonly cited as Pink Floyd’s response to the punk rock movement of the time. Compositionally, the band stuck to its guns: spacey, at times psychedelic prog can still be found in the valleys and peaks of “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” and “Sheep”. Like many great records, Animals is both a product of its time and a timeless commentary on some of humankind’s worst political instincts. The faint gleam of hope at the end of the album in part two of “Pigs on the Wing” is a reminder that humans find ways to stick together even amidst the turmoil of a cravenly capitalist world: “You know that I care what happens to you/ And I know that you care for me too…/ Any fool knows a dog needs a home/ A shelter from pigs on the wing.” Yet, taken together, both parts of “Pigs on the Wing” constitute just over three minutes, less than 10 percent of Animals runtime. There’s far more darkness than light here, a reminder that momentary optimism is no substitute for a bold challenge to a world where people are put into boxes as a means of exerting power.

In the 2016 US election and its aftermath, it became all too common to see takes on art as a means of “explaining” political events. Clinton was Khaleesi; Trump, a Sacha Baron Cohen character. While seeing art reflected in the real world is no crime, the rush to treat art as the key to understanding – and perhaps even changing – politics can result in short-sighted thinking. As Jon Hendren quipped on Twitter, “If only ppl in poor, opiate-ravaged rust belt states just listened to the hamilton soundtrack like 2 more times.”

Animals confronts the politics of its time head-on, but it never once condescends to think that it has all the answers, let alone solutions. It is up to the viewer to reject the labeling of humans as “animals,” creatures engaged in nothing but primal conflict. The album ends ambiguously: The listener can’t know if the oppositional mindset of “dogs vs. pigs” and “pigs vs. sheep” has been fully vanquished or only briefly abated. More than anything else, Animals wakes us up from our delusions that seemingly far-fetched political events are hardly “pigs on a wing,” an unlikely occurrence. Given the right political climate, be it 1977 or 2017, politics can be hijacked by those who think of the world in terms of pigs, dogs, and sheep.

“When you lose control,” Gilmour sings on “Dogs”, “You’ll reap the harvest you have sown.” For that message to ring as true as it does 40 years later speaks to the prescient political insight of Animals. But on the matter of politics in 2017, that line carries with it a grave prophecy.

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