Listening to…

The BoDeans. Like beer, this Milwaukee band is a reliably lowgrade buzz. Honestly. Maintaining this manner of mainstream mediocrity is an artform in itself. The same perfectly adequate rock which the band has been delivering for decades, the kind I associate with cut-out bins and background music in ‘80s teen movies.

String Quartet with Viola? Obviously!

I missed my friend Brian Robinson’s set with his classically-tuned rock band Tet Offensive last night (July 28, 2011) at Café Nine. If you missed it too, you can get a taste of Brian’s vocal antics on YouTube
I missed The Shellye Valauskas Experience too, though Shellye did show me a photo of her newborn niece.
At least I did arrive at the club in time to see the string quartet that backs Brian get back up onstage to accompany the evening’s headliner, the great Mike Viola. I’ve been a Viola fan since his early days as a performer, which were early indeed—with the Boston pop act Viola Project in the early 1980s, when he was barely into his teens. He’s now a comparatively mature 45-year-old singer/songwriter/producer/movie-soundtracker. He referenced both his mother and his daughter in his between-song patter. On the other hand, he made a lot of cocaine jokes.
The concept of having classical musicians back him up at Café Nine was proposed the last time Viola played the club, and Robinson was in his audience. Charts were arranged for several songs (some of them new). The results were calming, glowing, resonating and inspiring.
Viola would like to record the tunes he did with Tet Offensive on a future trip to New Haven, perhaps at Firehouse 12 studios. Robinson is looking to make Tet Offensive (for which he gathers students he knows from his day gig as Managing Director of the Yale Symphony Orchestra) a more solid and sustainable project.
The rest of us just want to see it happen again, however.

Rock Gods #162: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

By Artie Capshaw

We hoped we’d never write anything that would cause a band to break up. You want the comments to be constructive, the jests made in the right spirit. Then again, when the band is the freshly reunited (and, as we wrote, “overripe”) Georgia’s White Flesh, you suspect a distinct lack of a sense of humor from leaders Mary and Pete Papadumus, not to mention simmering discontent from some of the band’s founding members.

M&P had the band learning gimmicky new routines, in the hopes that they could get lucrative wedding and corporate gigs. After our review came out, elderly guitarist Benny Rabbit, feisty fiddler Lady Min and brassmaster Patches Smith—who’d already been balking at the new choreographic and joke-telling requirements—quit the band. The good news is that they’re back working with the two guys M&P ousted from the White Flesh: vocalist Singing Sam (do we really have to write the word “vocalist” before his name? Hasn’t he qualified himself enough?) and keyboardist “Cringe” O’Leary. It’s a decidedly straight-ahead and unornamented R&B project with this working title: The No-Show Stoppers. There are multiple meanings within that name: “No showstoppers,” as in “no fancy dance or comedy routines like the GWF” and “No-show Stopper,” which is Singing Sam’s pledge not to miss any more gigs, which is one reason he got let go from the old band. The No-Show Stoppers. We helped with the punctuation. Do you like it?

We’ve certainly mended fences with Sam, Patches, Benny and Min. (Southern Comfort will do that.) Mary and Pete aren’t speaking to us, so our news of their forthcoming new act is hearsay: A Southern folk duo, with Mary swapping her bass for an acoustic guitar and Pete scaling down his drum kit to washtub percussion. Maybe they can do a little tapdance in the tub too.

While we’re in an apologetic mood, we must say “Sorry, sorry, sorry” to those who clean and maintain the bathrooms at the Bullfinch. You know who you are, and you were rightfully offended by comments made in our “Comfy” contest recently.
In our defense, we can only say that we were quoting someone else (who has personally apologized to staff, fearful that he’d lose all Bullfinch bathroom privileges.
“It was a dumb joke that occurred to me because of the whole “Comfy” thing, and wasn’t really about the Bullfinch at all,” the evildoer maintains.
For our part, we can’t remember ever setting foot in the ladies’ bathroom. True, we’re told we were in there once, getting very sick all over everything, one time when the men’s room was unavailable. But we don’t remember it, and in any case we would have been in no state to notice whether the toilet paper rolls had been properly placed.

Listening to…

The Red Button, As Far as Yesterday Goes
Beatle-esque is such a broad term, so casually dropped, that you hardly ever expect it to mean Beatles VI or Beatles ’65 or Rubber Soul—the gentler, hypermelodic, harmonica-enhanced side of Fab. Even weirder, you can break down The Red Button album to Paul-like songs, John-like songs and George-like songs. A more contemporary big comparison name that comes to mind is Jon Brion, who (like The Beatles) had nothing to do with this, but whose specialty is crisp analog recording and clear-as-pinged-glass harmonies. Beyond the obvious, though, The Red Button—an industrious two-man band—stands firmly on its own four feet, bringing in influences and original thoughts that stimulate whole new sounds and textures. Without ever getting downbeat.

Five More Pet Songs

Wednesday night I saw Nonie Newton-Breen as the outspoken nun in Late Nite Catechism 2: Sister Strikes Back. Prompted by a question from the audience, “Sister” addressed whether pets can enter into heaven. The official Vatican call is no, because animals don’t possess immortal souls. Sister’s personal view is “Dogs yes, cats no.”
Which leads me to run a second installment of “Pet Songs” sooner rather than later.

1. Hounds of Love. Title song of Kate Bush’s 1985 album, her fifth album and among her most popular. Not a very pleasant image, being pursued relentlessly by hounds of love. The video for the song eschewed any literal version of the lyrics in favor of visual cues from Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.
2. Get Down. Leo Sayer, in a decidedly unthreatening tone, cautions “You’re a bad dog, baby, and I don’t want you around.”
3. And Your Bird Can Sing. There’s a killer 1980 cover by The Jam listed as “previously unavailable” when issued on the invaluable The Jam Extras CD in 1992.
4. Spiders & Snakes. For me, Jim Stafford’s 1974 comedy romance song falls in the same category as Loudon Wainwright III’s hit of two years earlier, “Dead Skunk”: Bugs and squashed skunks may not be pets, but seldom have they been sung about with such affection and amusement. If it weren’t for Wainwright, Stafford would have that genre pretty much to himself, since his repertoire also includes “Your Bulldog Drinks Champagne,” “Cow Patti” and “Turn Loose of My Leg.”
5. What’s New, Pussycat? Bacharach/David tune popularized by Tom Jones, the theme song for the Woody Allen-penned film of the same name. It’s a relationship song, but all that meowing makes you hope it’s a pet song.

Rock Gods #162: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

Shy Turtle with a Soft Spot is a side project of, you guessed it, the withdrawn bassist of The Musk Turtles band.
Since the MTs are such a harmony-heavy vocal group, having the bassist go off and do an instrumental variation of the same general precepts seems both obvious and bewildering. Is this the ultimate vanity project: “Hey Ma!—Hear what I’m playing when they’re usually singing!”
But that’s mean. Bass Turtle—his given name is Fritz—insists he just wants audiences to hear the wonders he hears through his monitors. English is a third language for Fritz, and not one that he’s mastered particularly well yet, so he’s adapted the Musk Turtles’ carefully wrought lyrics to synthesized keyboard sounds. Then he’s machine-tuned the drumbeats and channeled the guitars until they’re echoes of their former selves. Only his bass has a live bite.
OK, frankly, we’re still unclear whether this is sensational or solipsistic. But it’s wild to hear a local band’s tunes turned inside out and upside down. Fritz has given his misshapen reconstitutions as much care and thought as Missy and her fellow founding Musks gave to the originals. The band seems pretty confused themselves about what Fritz is doing, and have expressed neither support nor indignation. There are no plans for back-to-back pure-Musk and deconstructive-Musk sets at the moment, which should tell you something—either in sweet vocals or bleeps and bloops.

The Calamites and Grallator at Hamilton’s… The Bullfinch is closed for cleaning (a story for another time)…. D’ollaire’s also closed, for no reason that we can yet believe…

Listening to…

Jasta, Jasta
Of the hundreds of bands I covered avidly during seven-plus years as the New Haven Advocate’s local music columnist, I didn’t expect that Jamey’s Jasta would have the longest and most enviable careers. Through his Sabbath-approved band Hatebreed, Jamey’s been an innovator in one of the highest-profile hybrid rock genres of the ’80s, hardcore/metal. He’s been a TV host (of MTV2’s Headbangers Ball), run a label and even created a Hatewear clothing line. Now he’s going the solo album route. I’ve heard two tracks onfit, and in their best moments they bring me all the way back to the roots of Jamey’s surname—his brief stint as baby-faced frontman for New Haven’s highly touted local band Jasta 14, which was plying a singular mix of various hard styles back in the early ‘90s, when such experiments were simply classified as “alt-rock.” Now, lowering the vocal volume and cutting holes in the hardcore wall of sound seems quaint. But Jasta does it well. The Jasta album is also commendable as another chapter in Jamey’s spiritual growth. They’re songs he says (in the YouTube teaser below) wouldn’t fit with Hatebreed or other projects. He’s gone from anthems about Perseverance to more complicated riffs like “Mourn the Illusion” and “Enslaved, Dead or Depraved.”


An uneaten jawbreaker, the cross-section of an exactly half-eaten jawbreaker and, to establish scale, a Breathsavers brand breath mint. Looks vaguely planetary.
Jawbreakers purchased at Gumdrops & Lollipops
In Niantic. Connecticut, a key element of one our favorite family day trips.
(Breathsaver mint purchased at News Haven (1058 Chapel St., New Haven).