Tag Archives: Legendary Pink Dots

Doomsday – at least it’s fun to sing about

doomsdayHere we go again. A bunch of people are freaking out over another doomsday. I guess I shouldn’t make too much fun. Way back in the ’80s when I was a Baptist I got hyped up because some radio preacher or other had me convinced the end was nigh.

I remember how let down I was when I didn’t get raptured at the stroke of midnight at the church New Year’s Eve party. Luckily I never actually told anyone what I was thinking, so my embarrassment was minimal.

Since then I’ve lost count of the “doomsdays” that have come and gone. The Y2K scare was a big one, but there have been others. Since there are plenty of real and serious problems in the world, and since nothing lasts forever, I imagine the day will come – though I have a feeling we’ll go out with more of a whimper than a bang – but in the meantime I’ve got too much short term trouble to deal with to freak out over what New Agers or Mayans or TV preachers say.

One thing about it though… The idea of doomsday is a hell of an inspiration for musicians. Some of my favorite songs are end of the world songs. I don’t know if we’re supposed to disappear at midnight or if whatever it is takes place sometime during the day, but if you’re still here and our technology still works, check out some of these songs:

Daniel Knox – Armageddonsong

Jill Tracy – Doomsday Serenade

Michael Schenker Group – Cry for the Nations

The Handsome Family – When that Helicopter Comes

The Legendary Pink Dots – This Could Be the End

Chris Cornell – Preaching the End of the World

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We’ve lost the King, but not his face…

Watching the mass displays of grief upon Kim Jong Il’s death, it’s hard to even imagine what it would be like, living in a totalitarian personality cult, then having the focus of all your fear and worship die. You probably would grieve and be afraid for the future – especially if you knew your very life depended on how sincerely you grieved. This story probably has it about right.

After seeing that I couldn’t help but think of the Legendary Pink Dots song, Death of a King, which I think was inspired by the death of Kim Jong Il’s father, Kim Il Sung. (Obviously whoever made this video had a different vision.)

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Five from 10: top five albums from 2010

It would be so clever to have a “Ten from Ten” list of favorite albums from 2010. Unfortunately, I can only come up with a top five list. I’m sure there were at least five more killer albums that would’ve rounded out my top 10. I just didn’t find them.

I never want to say that any year was a “bad year” for music. If you don’t have enough good music to listen to, it usually means you didn’t look hard enough. I didn’t buy as much new music in 2010 as I usually do, for a number of reasons: I was broke, very busy at work, and I still wasn’t finished with 2009 (which was an unusually good year for music, in my opinion. Just to name a few: Phoenix, Daniel Knox and Grizzly Bear put out some great albums that took a while to absorb fully).

There were some 2010 albums that I really do enjoy, however, albums that I’m sure I’ll be listening to for many years to come. It’s hard to rank them, really, but I’ll take a shot:

1. Beach HouseTeen Dream

This one has probably spent more time on my stereo (and laptop, etc.) than any other album. Aptly named, it really does sound like a dream. In the past, Beach House mined shoegazer very well, capturing the atmosphere of bands like Slowdive. However, the songs I heard from them in the past didn’t really hold up that well for me in terms of melody and lyrical content. Style over substance in other words. This album definitely has both. The reverb is toned down so you can really hear Victoria LeGrand’s lovely voice. “Zebra” and “Norway” are excellent examples of indie pop. “Lover of Mine” is the best song of all, one of those songs that really tugs at the heartstrings. Every song on the album is solid. Modern dream pop.

My only complaint is the videos. I got the deluxe CD package with a video disk, and I’m just not feeling those at all. Silly, dumb, ugly, even painful to look at. All they do is detract from what is an otherwise blissful music experience.

Check this out if you haven’t heard them (avoid the official video if you know what’s good for you):

2. The Black KeysBrothers

This was one of those impulse buys at Waterloo Records. I had a stack of CDs in my hands and a certain amount I wanted to spend and they started playing songs from Brothers. “She’s Long Gone” and “Sinister Kid” hooked me completely. Had to put something back, ask the guys at the counter what it was and buy it. I played the hell out of it for weeks and I can always go back to it and still enjoy it. I was already a big fan of Attack & Release. Their music is a perfect mix of blues and indie punk. Blues, with energy and punch. The guitars just sound so rank and nasty.  Damn good songwriting too.

3. Legendary Pink DotsSeconds Late for the Brighton Line

These guys just continue to amaze me. There was a time last year when I was afraid they might be able to call it a day. Niels Van Hoorn (woodwinds) and Martin de Kleer (guitar) quit the band. Then Edward Ka Spel’s mother got sick and their planned North American tour got put on hold. But past member Erik Drost returned to play guitar and the Dots put on an amazing live show in Austin back in November. The latest album turned out to be a grower for me, but it certainly has been growing in my esteem. “Russian Roulette” and “Hauptbahnhof” are classic Dots songs, as is “God and Machines” (the last being one of the best live songs from their show.

4. CrocodilesSleep Forever

I like this album better and better every time I play it. At only 35 minutes, it’s short and sweet. It satisfies and there’s no annoying filler to skip over. There is a unifying theme – death – and the songwriting is solid. “Mirrors,” “Stoned to Death” and “All My Hate and My Hexes Are For You” are my favorites. I get a little bit of a Stone Roses vibe from some of the songs, particularly “All My Hate…” in that the tunes sound so sweet, yet the lyrics are so mean and cutting. I love juxtapositions like that.

Big thanks to Mark Whitby of Dandelion Radio for turning me onto these guys from San Diego. He played their cover of Deee Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart” and I was immediately hooked. Based on comments in YouTube and 0n sites like Rate Your Music, they seem to have a dedicated group of haters as well as a nice cult following. The big gripe seems to be that they sound too much like Jesus and Mary Chain. I hear an influence, definitely, but I don’t think the criticism holds water. In fact — and this ought to piss off the haters — I got out my copy of Automatic to refresh my memory and frankly I like Sleep Forever more. Also I don’t like Psychocandy. So there.

I’m having a hell of a time deciding which song to embed, but “Stoned to Death” ought to do…

5. Vampire WeekendContra

Very enjoyable album, already mentioned on this blog. I love the way they’ve brought world music influences into the realm of indie pop/rock. I get a big Paul Simon vibe off the album, especially “White Sky” (which is in no way a put down – Graceland is a hell of an album). “Cousins,” and “Holiday” are really catchy songs.

I may be forgetting something I liked from 2010 and I’m sure I failed to discover a lot of good music. I’d like to see some other people’s top 5 lists and check them out. It might put me behind schedule for my best of 2011 list, but I’ll worry about that when the time comes 😉

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Christmas songs for people who hate Christmas music

Christmas was a wonderful time when I was little: waiting for Santa Claus, helping Dad string up lights, the dog chasing the cat up the Christmas tree, traveling to see kin folks, and of course, getting presents. I have a little image from some long ago Christmas Eve, the living room lit up with different colors, music on the stereo, everyone in the family just enjoying one another’s company. The night just radiated happiness. I can recall plenty of other images like that if I try.

Over the years, the holiday has become less joyful. Getting older and having to worry about things like earning a living, persevering through a few painful Christmases where people were ill, watching the holiday become more and more commercialized, and probably worst of all: Christmas music. Countless renditions of the same old carols, year after year after year, generic-sounding Muzak versions, out-of-tune church choir versions, piecemeal bits in TV commercials. Try as you might, you can’t avoid it. You have to go to the grocery store, stop in a convenience store now and again.

Yet I do sometimes stumble on some Christmas-themed music I actually enjoy. Doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I put together a little playlist of songs that I’ve been enjoying for the last several days. Some celebrate the holiday, some lampoon it, some just touch on it, all are great music. That’s a must for me.

Big Star – Jesus Christ — lovely song from a ’70s band that influenced a lot of people. You could take it as a pastiche or a straight up carol. Either way it’s really pretty.

Michael Doucet – Bonne Annee — actually a New Year’s song, taken from Alligator Stomp Vol. 4 – a Cajun Christmas.

Colin Meloy – Cherry Tree Carol — from the lead singer of the Decemberists, covering a song by Shirley Collins. It contains a lovely image of cherry trees bowing down to the virgin Mary.

Legendary Pink Dots – Rainbows Too? Really good Dots song from Plutonium Blonde. Contains the line, “It’s Christmas on the Moon.”

May Blitz – The 25th of December  1969 — a sort of jazzy number from one of those bands at the crossroads of hard rock, prog and metal.

Built to Spill – Linus and Lucy — live instrumental rock ‘n’ roll version of the song I associate with the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Fountains of Wayne – I Want an Alien for Christmas — I Fight Dragons did an awesome cover of this. I love both versions just about equally.

Robyn Hitchcock – Winter Love

Jim White – Christmas Day — sad song about reuniting after a breakup.

We Were Pirates – Merry Christmas 3 — great breakup song.

Inspiral Carpets – Commercial Rain — a song about commercialism. Go figure.

Robert Earl Keene – Merry Christmas from the Family — really fun song about a white trash Christmas gathering.

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An evening of blackness – Black Mountain and Black Angels perform in Austin, Nov. 19, 2010

The Black Angels - best I could do with my crappy cellphone camera. One of these days I'm gonna upgrade I swear.

Last night was a night for learning lessons. The ticket line into the Black Mountain/Black Angels concert stretched back for what seemed like a half a block, at least 50 people in front of us. You could hear Black Mountain working through the setlist. A big chunk of no doubt awesome rock ‘n’ roll already down the tubes and the line was barely moving.

Meanwhile, the guy at the gate at La Zona Rosa shouted, “Everyone on the guest list, come this way!” and a big group of folks bypassed the line and entered the club. A 20-something guy with a goatee behind me said he used to be friends with one of the Black Angels, but they lost touch. He could’ve been on the guest list and waltzed right on in. His lesson learned: Better stay friends with everyone just in case they make it big if you want to be on the guest list.

My lesson learned: If you pay for a “will call” ticket online, you better have some kind of receipt in your pocket just in case. I heard the doors were opening at 8 p.m., but usually when I go to shows, that just means they try to sell you drinks for a couple of hours before you get any tunes, so I didn’t get down there till 9-ish. By the time I got there, got parked and walked down from the parking garage Black Mountain was just starting up, but I wasn’t worried. I had a will call ticket waiting for me. I’d just go tell them and go right in.

I got in a not-very-long line, made it to the front, gave my name and… They had no record of my transaction. I had to go get in the regular ticket line, which was very long by this time. A scalper-in-waiting kept shouting, “Got any extra tickets?!” Which made me nervous. He knew and I knew it was probably gonna sell out. What if they messed up my order so badly that I didn’t get in at all? I got to the window and they ran my card, handed me a ticket and said, “Oh, you checked ‘print out pass’ instead of Will Call. No big deal.” Very convenient, since I can’t prove otherwise, but I don’t think I screwed up. I think it was their snafu. Especially since at least 4 other people I spoke to had the same experience with will call and had to go wait in line. Pissed me off, since Black Mountain was really the band I wanted to see (I reviewed them in this blog if you remember).

I got inside and heard about a minute’s worth of “Druganaut,”  plus a couple of unfamiliar songs that might’ve been off the new album, Wilderness Heart. Can’t speak for the rest of the album at this point, but what I heard was pretty much in line with the Black Mountain I already know — right in that sweet spot, where ’70s hard rock, psych and prog rock meet, nice early Sabbath vibe on some songs. One song reminded me a bit of classic Deep Purple. And then it was over. Sigh…

Got a gin and tonic in me and a pretty good contact high off the haze of marijuana smoke, then Austin’s own Black Angels took the stage. It wasn’t like the Legendary Pink Dots show, which I’ve described as a ritual of sorts. This was a rock show, put on by a young band whose star is rising. The place was packed full of adoring, very excited fans and the band picked up on that energy and returned it tenfold.

Before the show I heard a few Black Angels songs and liked them, but I didn’t really dig in and check them out, so I was basically experiencing this band for the first time. I spent a lot of time looking for influences. The main one that kept popping into my head was the 13th Floor Elevators. This was darker, more closely akin to goth, but still I felt like the band was doing things Roky Erickson would appreciate. Lots of feedback and reverb in the music. They also had a heavy beat that could be very hypnotic. On some of the songs there were actually two drummers.

Songs that stood out (tracked down by searching the web for key phrases) included: “Bloodhounds On My Trail,” “Science Killer” and “Young Men Dead” as well as the title track to the latest album, “Phosphene Dream.” Definitely a gothic angle to their music based on those song titles. I will be interested to hear the recorded version of the Black Angels after catching them live. Usually I get it the other way round.

Had another crazy guy incident, btw, although not as disruptive as the one at the Dots show. I think this guy was actually sane, but tripping out on something, bordering on freaking out. He kept jumping up and down with his arms out, screaming, like somebody in a Holy Roller church, bumping into me and others. Then he started rubbing around on some girls who would push him away, although one of them didn’t seem to mind that much. Then he stumbled into some guys who I thought were going to punch his lights out. They pushed him out of the way, which didn’t seem to phase him much. Finally, the girls whispered something in his ear. Not sure what they said, but it somehow penetrated his addled brain and he left. All in all I was impressed at how good-natured the crowd was. If you can be that annoying and not get punched, you’re surrounded by some pretty nice folks.


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No Star Too Far – My take on Legendary Pink Dots’ Nov. 10, 2010 concert in Austin

Edward Ka Spel

Imagine that a group of pagan priests knew all the right spells, got hold of some electronic equipment and assembled a starship powered by dreams and magic. That image came to me Wednesday night as I saw the Legendary Pink Dots in concert for the third time.

I always get the feeling I’m seeing a mystical event rather than a mere concert when I see the Dots play. Obviously the material has something to do with it, with its dreamlike mix of symbols, philosophy and dark humor, accompanied by electronic beats and washes of sound. There’s also something hypnotic about the way singer Edward Ka Spel, dressed in his robe and scarf, moves his hands. I get the feeling I’m watching a shaman perform a ritual.

The Dots played in a club on Red River called Elysium. A good club for a band like the Dots, the Elysium tends to host bands of the darker variety – goth, industrial and the like.

I wondered what they would be like with the new lineup. Short answer: They’ve still got it. Erik Drost, LPD guitarist from 2003 to 2006 is back in the band, coaxing pleasant screams out of his instrument. I definitely missed woodwind specialist Niels Van Hoorn’s zany presence, but without him you could really see how closely Ka Spel and Phil “The Sillverman” Knight work together. Silverman with his massive table of electronics, queuing up notes, rhythms and textures; Ka Spel with his smaller table, producing melodies and sound effects as he sings. All finely coordinated. Ka Spel pilots the starship, while Silverman operates its powerful engine, or maybe it’s the other way around?

I started out jotting down the setlist on my cellphone, but gave up pretty quickly and just let the music wash over me. The band has such an extensive back catalog that even if you’ve been a fan for years they can play a song you’d swear was new that turns out to be something old you just haven’t heard yet. I can tell you they had a satisfying mix of old favorites and songs off their latest, Seconds Late for the Brighton Line.

They opened with “The Unlikely Event” from All the King’s Horses, followed by “Third Secret” from The Maria Dimension, “Rainbows Too” from Plutonium Blonde, a really cool spoken word that might’ve been “God and Machines” from the new album, then “Russian Roulette,” the first song on the new album. Followed by lots and lots of great music, including many of my favorites. The encore featured a kickass version of “Birdie” from All the King’s Horses. About two hours of music altogether.

Just one sour note. A guy with long blond hair and a tank top who was either crazy or on drugs or both had to be escorted out by the bouncer. He kept shouting out nonsense at the band. Funny at first, then annoying. Then waving his arms in people’s faces. Finally a guy on the front row slipped out through the crowd, and pretty soon a big biker looking dude went over and dealt with crazy dude. After that no more distractions, which was awesome. I feel like I owe front row guy a beer for fetching the bouncer. The show certainly did get better after that.

The music was enhanced by the trippy film and slide collage from Lori “Surfer” Varga and her trusty assistant Eric. I’ve met her before – used to watch her film presentations at the Cathedral of Junk. I got her number and plan to interview her in the near future.

Note: Always take at least $20 or $40 to any LPD concert so you can take advantage of their amazingly well-stocked merch table. You’ll be kicking yourself later on if you don’t. You’re liable to find out that rare live album you were eying is impossible to find, or impossible to find without paying a premium to somebody on eBay.

I got the T-shirt with the Roulette design from the tour. Black of course. Almost got Ka Spel’s latest solo effort, The Minus Touch, but wound up getting the tour-only release by Ka Spel and The Silverman, The Thirty Year Itch. I’ve given that a few spins already and it’s quite good. Two long tracks. The first is a triptych on the subject of loneliness — a one night stand that didn’t happen, adrift at sea; and a monologue by an astronaut adrift in outer space followed by a “creation story” about the Big Bang; the second is a long experimental soundscape. Nice addition to my growing Dots-and-related collection.

I’ve been a huge Legendary Pink Dots fan for many years. I posted a sort of Dots 101 about the group a while back. There are several YouTube videos in case you haven’t heard their music. I also posted a list of tour dates here. The North American tour is winding down, but you’re in luck if you live on the West Coast. Quite a few California dates left, plus one in Oregon.

And send a little love their way if you can. They create their wonderful, thoughtful music and tour the world on a shoestring budget. LPD music and apparel can be found on the ROIR website.


Filed under dark ambient, darkwave, experimental, indie, live show, music, postrock, psych, review, rock, Uncategorized

Top 5 songs about death

Or maybe not the top 5, just 5 songs I like a lot and could think of on short notice (and could find videos for on Youtube). I saw someone making a list like this on Facebook and figured I’d do one myself, sort of an addendum to my recent blog post, Almost Halloween — time to harvest those beautiful dark songs.

The Jazz Butcher Conspiracy- “Sister Death”

Ralph Stanley – O Death

Robyn Hitchcock – When I Was Dead

Alan Parsons Project – Can’t Take It With You

Legendary Pink Dots – This Could Be the End

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