Alt-Nation: Vampires, Sayonara WBRU, and Fresh Biscuits

The past few days have been a blur, and it isn’t even alcohol-related this time. There is uneasiness in the air as questions have poured in from all over. Questions about the news of Aurora closing at the end of October, whether I even write for the Motif anymore (I do), and the biggest bombshell – the impending sale of the local alternative rock institution, 95.5 WBRU. On Aurora, although the venue offered a diverse programming and hosted some amazing events, I was sort of surprised it lasted as long as it did. Billionaire vampire Arnold “Buff” Chace and his Cornish Properties were never in this for the music. Aurora was essentially holding the spot till Cornish Properties could get the taxpayers to give them another $7 million to create more condos. Call me crazy, but I think rock ‘n’ roll will survive without Buff Chace.

As for the sale of 95.5 WBRU, it is scheduled to go off the air within hours of this column coming out. As part of the sale of the station, the workshop for Brown students that owned the station will retain the name and plans to operate an online version of the station with multiple streams. I don’t claim to know where technology is headed, but I also don’t know why they are bothering with the online station. It was tried with legendary Boston stations WBCN and WFNX, which both had a significantly larger market, when each respectively signed off the airwaves and nobody cared. Nobody will care about the online WBRU either.

I already wrote about the how the loss of the station would be a huge loss to the community, so I’ll avoid rehashing that. In recent years, under Program Director Wendell Gee, the station has increased the exposure for local music from being exiled to middle-of-the-night plays to having bands perform in studio in prime time. Even if you don’t listen to the station, WBRU is directly responsible for bringing a lot of bands that wouldn’t otherwise come here. Just take a look at the station’s Fall Ball, which will take place posthumously on September 12 and 13 at Lupo’s, headlined by Cold War Kids and Bastille.

Independent stations with a strong signal, like WBRU, have been endangered species for a long time and maybe it is more remarkable that the station lasted as long as it did. The whole sale process is confusing to follow; Brown University years ago made the station an independent entity as a workshop for Brown students when the station went commercial. In the years following, the station became a nationally acclaimed, yet distinctly Rhode Island, treasure as generations grew up listening. Heck, I remember lying for hours next to my boom box with a blank tape in waiting to push record as soon as whatever new song I was obsessed with at the moment came on. From the Summer Concert series to the Rock Hunt and Birthday Bashes, WBRU will be fondly remembered as a treasured Rhode Island institution, but like Rocky Point and the Living Room it will fade into a fond memory. Thanks for the memories WBRU; no thanks to the brats who pulled the plug.

Alice Cooper –Paranormal

The thing I was excited about most with the new Alice Cooper record, Paranormal, was that Cooper was collaborating with members of the original Alice Cooper band for the first time since 1975. The two-song reunion is highlighted by the infectious “Genuine American Girl,” which just sounds like it could have been from the sessions for Killer or any one of the classic early Alice Cooper albums. As for the rest of the album, I’d say “Paranoiac Personality” weirdly sounds like a rip-off of The Kinks’ “Phobia,” except that if one was going to rip off The Kinks, they’d never pick the 1993 incarnation. The roadhouse stomp “Fallen in Love” features ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons on guitar while Cooper’s lyrics make references to tales from his crypt. “Holy Water” is a driving gospel rocker that I didn’t know could actually be a thing. Apocalyptic energy fuels rockers like “Dead Flies” and “Fireball,” which are closer to the horror-fueled shock rock that Cooper is known for. Cooper has said for Paranormal that he stepped out of his comfort zone, but I’m not sure anyone is putting on an Alice Cooper record in 2017 to hear something new. For old time’s sake, Paranormal comes with a bonus of a live version of six Cooper classics this record. Paranormal may be twisted at times, but that is what makes Alice Cooper records interesting.

Deep Purple and Alice Cooper will rock the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, Mass, on August 27. 

Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer – Not Dark Yet

Sisters Shelby Lynn and Allison Moorer have collaborated on a new album, Not Dark Yet, with the title track being a cover of the Dylan tune from the Time Out of Mind album. As for the rest of Not Dark Yet, “Lungs” has this dustbowl anxiety vibe that is hauntingly stimulating. “The Color of a Cloudy Day” has a wistful, Deer Tick-like vibe. I didn’t like everything on the album, as “Every time You Leave” just kind of feels like the generic old school country ballad that has been done a million times before. Also, “Into Your Arms” is what I imagine the Sheryl Crow attempting country album sounded like. That said, there are plenty of winners on Not Dark Yet, like a re-imagining of Nirvana’s “Lithium,” which presents the tune in a new light.

Shelby Lynn and Allison Moorer play the Narrows Center For the Arts in Fall River on August 21.

Downtown Boys – Cost of Living (Sub Pop Records)

When Trump was elected, there were some who said it might have the unintended effect of making punk rock great again. That isn’t exactly how the art works, but he is sure providing plenty of fodder for rebellion. One thing I noticed from attending this year’s SXSW is that the most powerful performers were female-fronted bands. One band that was there and made their voices heard was hometown punk rockers Downtown Boys. Downtown Boys come off musically as a cross between Wire and X-Ray Spex with the message of a Joe Strummer meets Bruce Springsteen manifesto. Cost of Living blasts off with “A Wall” about you-know-who’s wall. One thing that stands out with “A Wall” and “I’m Enough (I Want More)” is that these are great fist-waving balls of energy. It is immediately clear how far the band has progressed songwriting wise from their debut album, Full Communism, two years ago. These songs almost have an arena rock power cutting through, like The Clash’s Live at Shea Stadium. The saxophone in the chorus of “Promissory Note” adds a cool jazz feel, which contrasts nicely with singer Victoria Ruiz’s defiant vocals.  There is still plenty of straight-out punk mayhem with tracks like “Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejast)” and “Because You” providing the fix. For me, Downtown Boys are at their best when they channel their aggression through melody, which is where the band has really taken a great leap forward on Cost of Living.

Upcoming Show That Don’t Blow:

Lucinda Williams and The Low Anthem come to the Columbus Theatre on August 18.

Morris Day & The Time brings the funk to Twin River Casino on August 18.

Stabbing Westward, Deprived, Bloodline Theory and Drev rock it like the ’90s at Fete Music Hall on August 18.

Spogga: Brother Hash, Zod and Sugar Daddy kick out the jams at The Met Café on August 19.

Coven Magic Circle, Beastmaker wake the dead at the Columbus Theatre as part of NecronomiCon 2017 on August 19.

She Rides, Lolita Black and Demolition Boys bring the thunder 2012 style to Dusk on August 20.

Scott H. Biram, Cactus Attack, Gallows Bound and Zack Silk get rowdy at Dusk on August 25. The show will run from 7 – 11pm and will take place outdoors in the back parking lot. There will be hot rods and bikes in case you are into that type of thing. If not, there will be food, which is a pretty universal love. The show will be followed inside by the award-winning Soul Power powered by DJs Ty Jesso and John O’Leary.

The Elliott Smith Cover Show with take place at Aurora on August 30.

Dan Blakeslee, The Horse-Eyed Men and Cowboy & Lady ignite the night at the Columbus Theatre on September 7.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com

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