A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Vampire Blues: reprise

Filed Under: Album Reviews, New Releases, Old Music
Written by Brendan
Monday June 21, 2010

Earlier this month, my friend and musical mentor Aaron wrote about the relevancy of Neil Young’s timeless album On The Beach. I want to both acknowledge that post, as well as pay the album, and particularly the song “Vampire Blues” some respect.

Since I purchased their 2010 release Vol. 2 earlier this year, I’ve been incredibly impressed with Wooden Shjips. And they certainly give a strong tip of the cap to Mr. Young in their cover of “Vampire Blues.” Amidst the throbbing rhythms and pulsating beats of this, Wooden Shjips’ second album of b-sides and singles, comes a tale foretold so long ago by one of America’s rock greats.

“I’m a vampire baby, sucking blood from the earth” opens the song.

“I’m a vampire baby, I’ll sell you twenty barrels worth.”

I find it hard to even discuss the catastrophe that is the Gulf oil spill right now. It’s too hard to comprehend the emotions that I’m feeling. But I feel like if I could possibly turn up Wooden Shjips cover of “Vampire Blues” to the point where every oil man and politician in this country’s ears were bleeding, it still wouldn’t be enough.

If you haven’t, pick up their album today.

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Old Music: Neil Young’s “On The Beach” (1974) is an album for our times

Filed Under: Album Reviews, Guest Post, Old Music
Written by Aaron
Friday June 4, 2010

Ed. Note: Brendan asked me to fill in for a few a few days. I’m happy to oblige.

Neil Young promo photo for On The Beach

Promotional photo for On The Beach.

With summer approaching and oil gushing from the sea floor, I’ve been thinking this week about a classic record.  Neil Young’s dark, introspective On The Beach is a reminder that things can get messy.

Darkness abounds.  In “Vampire Blues,” Young sings about the thirsty oil industry.  Organs back his slow, hopeless romp.  The words are prescient given our current catastrophe:

I’m a vampire, babe, suckin’ blood from the earth …
Well, I’m a vampire, babe, I’ll sell you twenty barrels worth…
I’m a black bat, babe, I need my high octane…
Good times are comin’, I hear it everywhere I go.
Good times are comin’, but they sure are comin’ slow.

Have a listen:

In spite of the doom and gloom, there are plenty of reasons to love this album.

The track you may know best, “Walk On,” kicks off the record with guitars moving from bright to chunky to whiny.  And back again.  It’s a pleasant-sounding recollection of good times with good friends.  But the good times don’t last.  Some friendships crumble and our protagonist sings that, “sooner or later it all gets real.”  He looks back fondly but he knows when it’s time to move along.

The messy, sad beauty continues in other songs.  “Revolution Blues” follows a paranoid militiaman or perhaps a cult leader.  “For The Turnstiles” ends with the image of perpetually unsuccessful baseball players.

Neil Young, On The Beach, Front cover photo.But summer brings an escape.  In the album’s title song, Young reminds his audience that road trips can solve problems:

Get out of town, think I’ll get out of town. I head for the sticks with my bus and friends, I follow the road, though I don’t know where it ends. Get out of town, get out of town, think I’ll get out of town. ‘Cause the world is turnin’, I don’t want to see it turn away.

On The Beach is a beautiful record — recalling the politics and paranoia of a not-much-simpler era.  It’s a solid classic for your collection.

It’s worth noting that this was a tough album to find a few years back.  On The Beach and a few other Young records fell prey to the artist’s distrust of compact discs’ audio quality.  An online campaign a decade ago called “Release On The Beach” sought to change that.  You could illicitly download a set of scratchy MP3s from that early petition site (and I did).  In 2003, On The Beach was among the first batch of Young’s older albums remastered to CD (and I was eager to buy it).

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

Wrapup: Angus & Julia Stone @ L’Astral 5/30/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows
Written by Brendan
Tuesday June 1, 2010

Sunday was marathon day in Burlington, so to avoid the crowds I headed up to Montreal to catch Angus & Julia Stone. I wrote about their latest album, Down The Way, a couple of weeks ago. Read about it and listen to one of their tunes here.

This was my first time to L’Astral – in fact, the first time I’d heard of it. That’s a bit of a rarity, especially given the size of the venue and the fact that I’d passed it several times before when in the neighborhood (Metropolis and Club Soda are both within blocks). It’s a pretty cool venue, minus the two huge deadspots created by giant pillars just off the front corners of the stage. They list capacity at 600 standing, and though last night’s show sold out, I have a hard time believing there were nearly that many people. That made for a decent spot by the side of the stage and room to walk around if I felt like it.

The balcony level is really cool, especially for the folks who get there early enough to have a chair at the very front. I wasn’t one of those people, but I did snap a photo from in between two of them:

Angus & Julia Stone @ L'Astral - May 30, 2010

Anyhow, to the music. Jeff Robataille (sp?), a local, opened with a few songs with an acoustic guitar. A few of the teen girls up front seemed to find him quite special, but I didn’t particularly care for it.

After fixing a snafu with the haze machine (apparently it had hazed the backstage area quite effectively, but hadn’t made it through the curtains to the stage area), Angus & Julia Stone took the stage. To describe their onstage presence as meek isn’t really fair, because it doesn’t capture their earnest and obvious tenderness, but they are both very, very quiet. They played a couple of songs alone, then were joined by a bassist and a drummer for nearly the rest of the set.

Angus & Julia Stone @ L'Astral - May 30, 2010

The music was as ethereal and delightful as I had expected – a very impressive performance by this clearly talented sibling duo. Julia’s voice definitely stole the show in my eyes. Her sweet, breathy vocals also showed flashes of a stunningly powerful and rich sound, leaving me thinking her range as a singer isn’t even partially captured by their catalog. And her Dorothy-red high-heeled shoes definitely added to her impressive aura. Angus & Julia played a wide selection from both of their albums, and were about to play a new one when someone yelled a suggestion from the audience which they played instead (I wish I had shouted words of encouragement for them to try the new one – they were obviously hesitant and easily overwhelmed).

Julia is also an impressive musician – playing both acoustic & electric guitars as well as harmonica, trumpet and piano.

My favorites were “Yellow Brick Road” and “I’m Not Yours” from their latest release. Neil Young, an inspiration and a subject of “Yellow Brick Road,” was definitely well represented and honored with their tribute. I’d actually pay really good money to see that collaboration.

For all their shyness, both Angus and Julia managed to share some quite endearing and entertaining yarns about the subject or the impetus for a particular song. Honestly, I just don’t get why a person would respond to a love-song manifesto from Julia Stone with a hip-hop ballad (one of the stories she told), but then I also don’t get why Emily Haines or Amy Millan have sad love songs to sing. Who are the morons that are screwing these people over? I guess it’s hard to complain when it results in such emotionally charged goodness for my ears.

Angus & Julia Stone @ L'Astral - May 30, 2010

Although I love Angus’ voice on their latest record, I think that he certainly has the most room for growth in terms of the band. He has a pretty voice, and when sung softly, his lyrics are incredibly compelling and touching, but I definitely found myself wishing he’d step out of his shell and really wow the audience with something more.

Angus & Julia Stone is a show I highly recommend seeing if they are in your area. And if they aren’t, I’d still recommend picking up their latest album. I’m glad I made the haul to Montreal last night, even though the U.S. customs agent gave me an unnecessarily hard time on the way back in (which the Canadian border guard correctly forewarned me about on the way to Canada), and clearly had his facts wrong when it comes to “proper documentation” and the legalities of making photocopies of one’s passport.

p.s. Julia covered the tune “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease. Need I say more?

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Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.