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April Showers Us: Memorials and shows to cheer you

“If there is a Rock ‘N’ Roll Heaven, You Know They’ve Got One Hell of a Band” 

The local music scene has been battered this year with the passing of local musicians Mike Schiavone, Pete McClanahan, and Nick Iddon. I didn’t know Mike but his passing was a jarring blow to the music community coming just hours after he played a Nirvana tribute night. I had met Pete a few times but never really knew him. What struck me about Pete was the sheer power and passion he had as both a songwriter and performer. Pete was a punk rock superhero on stage with the way he attacked his bass. He blasted through songs like a locomotive steamrolling through a starfield night. I was lucky enough to catch Pete many times with his band The Worried. Some of Pete’s other bands over the years included The Buzzards, 32-20’s, and The Yuhboys. Mike and Pete will live on forever in the music and memories they created and all the hearts they touched. 

Then there is Nick… whose passing I’m still processing. Nick Iddon had a personality that could light up the darkest mine. He was so warm. He made everyone feel like family, even if you just met him. Sure, Nick was one hell of a drummer. He could play anything. Hard rock with Donnybrook and Kanerko, smooth grooves with Viking Jesus, conjuring the ghost of Gram Parsons with The Quahogs, or just rocking the hell out with Ravi Shavi – Nick poured his soul into every performance, looking like the happiest person in the room the whole time. He probably was. When he told me several months ago about his illness, which would ultimately take him, he said it so calmly and confidently – like it was no big deal, “I got this.” Every time our paths crossed after, he was so energetic and vivacious that I forgot he had cancer. That was just Nick. I’m sending love and light to all Nick’s family and friends. When times get tough, just close your eyes and picture Nick banging out the beat, hair blowing like he’s in a hurricane with that big smile beaming like a sunrise. 

David Tessier’s All-Star Stars – “Tough Face Girl” single release

The new single, “Tough Face Girl,” from David Tesssier’s All-Star Stars is a burst of ’60s power pop that reminds me of Tommy-era The Who meets The Monkees at the sock hop. Tessier said: “Tough Face Girl was a power pop song which I had written to be part of a short Rock Opera based on the Native American Folk Story ‘The Rough-Face Girl’.” “The song’s chorus was stuck in my head for years, so I decided to rearrange the music and rewrite the lyrics. “It’s about that certain someone you can’t help but love, even if they are, shall we say, a bit curmudgeonly, because you can still see the sweetness deep beneath the exterior.” The single will be available online at BandCamp and through 75OrLess Records on April 1. 

David Tessier’s All-Stars Stars, Haunting Titans, and Death Pesos will rock The Parlour in PVD on April 9. 

Fozzy

Fozzy might be best known as wrestling legend’s Chris Jericho’s heavy metal band. That said, they have been making records and touring the world for over twenty years. I can’t deny the infectiousness of some of their tunes, notably “Judas.” I can’t remember the last time Fozzy was in town so this is a rare chance to catch a legend, in Jericho, doing something he’s not a legend at, while hearing some kick ass hard rock! 

Fozzy, GFM, KrashKarma, and The Nocturnal Affair will rock Fete in PVD on April 10. 

7Seconds

During my teenage punk rock alienation years, bands like 7Seconds gave me hope with their songs of unity. 7Seconds were different from most of ’80s punk and hardcore of the day in that the vocals were actually sung and the songs generally had positive messages. Plus they did a killer cover of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons!” 

7Seconds, Negative Approach, Catalyst, Bullet Proof Backpack bring the old school punk rock vibes to Alchemy on April 13. 

The Schizophonics

I caught The Schizophonics a few months before the pandemic and they blew my mind! They were a mess of high octane psych-garage with power pop hooks throwing down like space invaders from another dimension. Fitteningly, they were touring behind an album called People In The Sky which sounds like The Sonics jamming with the MC5. This show is going to be a testamentment to the evil powers of rock ‘n’ roll! 

The Schizophonics, Artist Jackie and The Wizard, Salem Wolves will rock Askew in PVD on April 15. 

Digital – Dreams Of Leaving EP Release

When all Civility is lost, there is only one option: Digital. Civility was a local post-punk band that recently underwent a lineup change and decided to write all new songs and be born again as DIgital. It is a cool name because it flies in the face of the current vinyl revival and you’ll probably never find the band if you try to Google them. As for the tunes, “Spectres” reminds me of the Sisters of Mercy meets Head On The Door-era Cure. I guess Echo & The Bunnymen could be added as a reference point for “With You” along with the above. In other words despite the rebranding, Digital still embodies the ’80s post-punk. This show will be bananas! 

Digital will celebrate the release of Dreams Of Leaving with Trigger Discipline, Pilgrims of Yearning, and Video Shoppe at Dusk in PVD on April 16. 

Askew 4th Anniversary Party with The Silks with The Low Cards 

Askew is a melting pot of a venue featuring exciting music of all genres, comedy shows, and great vibes. For their anniversary, the blues will reign supreme! The Silks will bring it with big-time early ’70s style rocking riffs and booty shaking groove. The Low Cards will rip it up and throw it down with some high-voltage shredding. 

The Silks and The Low Cards will celebrate Askew’s 4th Anniversary on April 23. 

Bonus Bangers!

  • The Soul Rebels rock the Narrows Center of the Arts in Fall River on April 7.
  • Julie Rhodes & The Electric Co. with Ali McGuirk and Mary-Elaine Jenkins bring the soulful grooves to Askew on April 16.
  • Melissa Etheridge will be at Bally’s Event Center at Bally’s Twin River Lincoln on April 22. 
  • Clutch, The Sword, Nate Bergman will rock The Strand in Providence on April 30.
  • The Zombies bring their legendary sound to the Narrows Center of the Arts on May 1.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com




Let’s Get Weird: Rad times with Richie Ramone

Sadly the original lineup of the Ramones is deceased. Despite that, there are a couple of Ramones still rocking and building up the legend. Two are coming to town this spring, so for this issue, we’re going to focus on Richie Ramone, who will be bringing his band to Askew on Mar 25. Richie really got the Ramones to their roots, wielding the heaviest stick of the three drummers. After a couple of albums where they tried for the elusive hit, Richie’s first album with the band Too Tough To Die immediately righted the ship. He continued writing, recording and touring through the albums Animal Boy and Halfway To Sanity. Richie has since released two solo records, written his autobiography I Know Better Now: My Life Before, During, and After the Ramones and even written a children’s book about the band. I talked to Richie about his time in the Ramones, coming out of the pandemic with new music, and going back on tour.

Marc Clarkin (Motif): So it has been a couple of years since we’ve gotten any new music from you, any plans to release anything?

Richie Ramone: Yeah, this will be the first announcement right now! March 4th we’re releasing a 7-inch with an A side of “Not Afraid” and the B side is “Cry Little Sister” from The Lost Boys movie, which I covered for a movie called Protege Moi and play a vampire in. The movie comes out in the fall but the single comes out March 4th on translucent orange vinyl limited to 300 pressing. There will be more available as black pressing, you know, like we’ve had for 100 years. The vinyl just came; it took eight months to make it. That is how backlogged they are. The single is coming out on Outro Records (outrorecords.com) and they’ll have some signed versions available on their site as well. Anyway, that’s the new release and it is exciting to have some new music out. It’s been a really rough two years, it hasn’t been fun, but hopefully the best is yet to come. 

MC: You wrote the Ramones classic, “Somebody Put Something in My Drink.” Isn’t that song based on a true story?

RR: Yeah, they didn’t put it in my drink. We used to go to the clubs and when people got up to dance or went to the bathroom we took their drinks. It was someone’s drink on the table by accident. It wasn’t like somebody slipped it in my personal drink: We had no money back then, so me and friends would go and when people left the table we’d grab their beer or whatever. 

One night I started to feel funny. I didn’t know what it was. At first I was really scared, you know it felt like dying because it is different if you know you took something. You have to go through this 15 – 20 minutes of weirdness before you figure out what happened. That’s a scary moment. Then after that it was fun. So I told Dee Dee (Ramone) that story when I was in the Ramones, it happened before I joined, it happened when I moved to New York City in 1980. Dee Dee said, “You should write that song,” and I did. The song stayed in their set till their very last show which is a pretty cool thing. 

MC: Do you have a favorite memory from being in the band?

RR: No, every day was a favorite memory. Please, it’s the Ramones right? Night after night, five hundred something shows looking at Joey’s back, it was pretty intense! To have found your way into that band after playing in horn bands and studying all kinds of music, reading music and winning awards as a kid in orchestras. To come down to that simple beat and I played it better than anybody. It was really aggressive and I stayed there on it and let those guys rumble around me. As long as I stayed there they never got lost. People play the Ramones so tight these days that it sounds like a machine gun. Ramones weren’t like that. We were loose around a good solid foundation of the drums. You only got three instruments and they have to be just a little off a bit and that is what makes it sound really full. 

MC: After you left the Ramones, didn’t you give up music for years?

RR: I came to LA right after leaving and played in some bands like Mail Order Brides; played for maybe a year or two. Then I was done and didn’t pick up a drumstick for like eight to ten years. I was just burnt out. 

MC: What brought you back? 

RR: Around 2004 or 2005, Mickey (Leigh) called me to come and play one of the Joey Ramone Birthday Bashes. I did that and then the next year things started to change in my mind. I started thinking about making a solo record, which I’ve never done. So I made a record, I had no plans to do any of that. Sometimes it takes something unexpected like that to lead you down a whole new path. It’s been working out good and I’m having fun with all of this. I then fell into acting a little bit over COVID thing, which is a whole new experience, and also a lot of fun!

Richie Ramone, Public Nature, Shore City, and Joy Boys will rock Askew in Providence on Mar 25. 

This Month’s Bangers:

Lucy Dacus, touring behind her latest album, Home Video, comes to The Strand with Indigo Desouza providing support on Mar 3.

Midnight Creeps, Diablogato, Sugar Cones, and Ruin The Nite will rock Dusk in PVD like a punk rock tsunami on Mar 4. 

Viking Jesus Providence Vinyl Release Show featuring sets by Animal Face, Ravi Shavi, The Chops, and Viking Jesus goes down Mar 4 at The Parlour in PVD. The show starts at 9 pm sharp and also be sure to wish Tara and Nick from Viking Jesus a happy Birthday. 

The Schemers rock the Met Cafe in Pawtucket on Mar 4.

Iceage with Sloppy Joe rock the Columbus Theatre in PVD on Mar 8. 

Crash Test Dummies are at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich on Mar 10. 

The Tossers, Crazy and the Brains, and The Pourmen rock Askew Mar 10.

The Void Union featuring Dave Hillyard of The Slackers and The Hempsteadys at Askew on 

Mar 11.

Start Making Sense A Tribute to the Talking Heads is back at the Met Cafe on Mar 11 with Ruby Dear opening. 

Verbal Assault, The FU’s, Peace Test, Bullet Proof Backpack, and Holy Hands bring punk rock back to the Met Cafe on Mar 12. 

Damn The Torpedoes: A Tom Petty Tribute is at the Greenwich Odeum on Mar 19. 

Henry Rollins brings his Good To See You 2022 Tour to the Met Cafe on Mar 22. 

The Fairview, Strip Mall, Never Coming Home, Sue’s Garage, and Radio Compass rock Alchemy in PVD on Mar 26. This is an early show with doors at 5:30pm.

Soccer Mommy and Peel Dream Magazine will be at FMH on Mar 27. 

Brian Jonestown Massacre and Mercury Rev make a rare visit to town to rip it at the Columbus Theatre on Mar 31.

RIP Pete McClanahan

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com




Rock Your Holiday Socks Off: December Music News & Shows

Corinne Southern & The Constellations – Celestial Body EP

On Celestial Body, Corinne Southern & The Celestials mix it up stylistically across three tracks. The cheeky opener, “Polaroid Picture (Of My Ass),” has a funk-fueled party vibe with hardcore gang vocals for the chorus of “my ass.” “Raise The Dead” is a blues romp in the vein of The Cramps. “Rhode Island Rock Star” is probably the best song I’ve heard about aspirations meeting the reality of being a local musician, set to a driving Americana stomp. Celestial Body is available now on your streaming service of choice.  

Glowing Cloud – In Over My Mind EP

The second EP this year from Glowing Cloud offers up three new intergalactic toe tappers.  Glowing Cloud is local musician Eric Smith (Sweet Dreams, The Cold War) who plays all the instruments and records everything in his home studio. From the opening spacey synths to the Joy Division-like guitars at the end, “Bonfire, NY” simmers into the ether. “Glocester Space Boy” is the rocker here dressed up with a fresh coat of shoegaze hooks. My favorite jam “I Dreamt I Was a Cloud” sounds like 90’s Brit-pop played by aliens. In Over My Mind is available on all the streaming services. 

Sonny Vincent – Snake Pit Therapy (Svart Records) 

Over fifty years into his career, Sonny Vincent is still making urgent music that burns as hot as ever. Vincent is best known for coming to prominence in the 1970s New York City punk scene with his band The Testors. Over the years the list of his collaborators reads like a punk rock hall of fame that includes members of the Velvet Underground, The Damned, The Stooges, Rocket From The Crypt, Sex Pistols, Replacements, and Pentagram among others. On Snake Pit Therapy, Vincent has plenty of rockers like “Ruby Diamond” and “Japan Mofo” to shred on but it’s his storytelling that makes it special. The thrash is dialed back in favor of harmonies on about half of Snake Pit Therapy. Tunes like “Can’t Absorb” and “Messed Up In Blue” aren’t for the mosh pit but they’re on heavy rotation on my stereo. The closing “Forest” has a ’60s psychedelic vibe with a comforting message that “you are not alone in the forest of the broken hearts.” Snake Pit Therapy is on all the streaming services as well as being available on vinyl and CD.

Department of Teleportation – Self-Titled

From the opening crunch of “Spatial Forces,” Department of Teleportation reminds me of the band Helmet. The general elements of noise and punk are there in “Bento’s Kingdom” and “Horseshit Bravo.” “Slow Soft Wind” leans more to the experimental noise side without losing passion. My favorite tunes on here are the ones that tend to conform to traditional song structures like “Spatial Forces” and “Can We Leave Now?” but I also realize that isn’t what Department of Teleportation is trying to accomplish on the pure noise numbers. It’s an interesting listen and worth checking out for fans of noise, punk and metal. Department of Teleportation’s Self Titled EP is available on Bandcamp.

Five Shows That Don’t Blow:

Hope Anchor / Kurt Baker / The Fatal Flaw will rock Askew on December 4. 

It’s been too long since I’ve caught Hope Anchor’s post-punk collage of sonic melody. This is for fans of Echo & the Bunnymen, Jesus & Mary Chain and ’80’s goth rock. 

Start Making Sense (Talking Heads cover band) and Baylies Band will rock the Met Cafe on December 4. 

This is the only show people from my hockey league ever want to go to. Talking Heads cover band sums up the description but I will add that Start Making Sense are really good at being that.

Max Creek’s 50th anniversary at the Met Cafe on December 10.

I usually don’t write about hippy bands but it feels like 50 years deserves a tip of the hat. Cheers to Max Creek, they still kick out the (very long) jams that hippies tend to enjoy. Max Creek shows are also some of the best people-watching experiences anywhere. 

The Figgs and The Benji’s rock The Parlour on December 11. 

The Figgs are always money for turbo charged power pop thrills and spills. They formed over thirty years ago so there is no shortage of material, they usually play at least a couple of hours. Definitely get there early for one of my favorite local bands, The Benji’s! The Benji’s are more electronic but still have a sleigh full of infectious jams. 

The 7th Ugly Sweater Party featuring Minibeast / The Moodrunners / Sugar Cones / a Dead Bird rock The Parlour on December 18.

Dress up in an ugly sweater or don’t, either way a serious racket will be kicked up at this show. Minibeast is a noise trio featuring Peter Prescott of Mission of Burma fame. The Moodrunners are pure power pop. Sugar Cones are basically punk rock. Dead Bird have a dumb name and I can’t speak to their music.

Other Rad Shows This Month: 

Steve Smith & The Nakeds rock the Met Cafe on December 5. 

Outer Heaven / Churchburn (Record Release Party) / Come To Grief / Edict / New Hell will put the pedal to the metal at Alchemy on December 10.

Miss Tess and The Talkbacks are at Askew on December 10. 

Hey Nineteen Steely Dan Tribute will have the Met Cafe’s dancefloor hopping on December 11. 

Jesse Dayton and Sarah Borges are at Askew on December 12. 

GA-20 / The National Reserve / Smith & Weeden will rock the Met Cafe on December 16.  

Larry’s Lounge Variety Show comes to the Met Cafe on December 23. 

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com




Let’s Get Weird: Keep On Moving

Finally… there’s a month with a full calendar of upcoming dates listed in advance to preview. Anyways just a quick heads up to those sending me your shows and releases, because of recent deadlines changes, I need to know AT LEAST a month and a half in advance when it comes to plugging stuff. Thanks and the email address to send stuff is, as always, at the bottom. So now, let’s get weird!

GrandEvolution — Glow

GrandEvolution has had a remarkable run as a band. In the last fifteen years they’ve put out six full-length albums (I’m not sure there is anyone locally that can match that) and probably played hundreds of shows around New England. Their latest and greatest album, Glow, is more delicate and introspective compared to the 90’s grunge rock superkicks of their first few albums. Singer/guitarist Sarah Kenyon is really great at weaving different elements into her songwriting. A tune like the opening “Finding Beauty” the rails down the heartbreak hill of learning to accept some dreams disintegrate with a crazy “Freebird” like guitar solo.  “Shattered,” “In Ruins,” and “Nightmare” are all dreamcore rockers. My favorite is the title track, for both the message of overcoming gossip shysters and the hook swaying in the reverb. Glow is available on all streaming services as well as CDs and vinyl at www.grandevolution.com.

Charlie Greene — Talk To The Old Man EP

The frontman of Less Than A Felony, Charlie Greene, has released his solo debut, Talk to the Old Man, which is available now on all streaming services. The EP kicks off with the title track and about minute long blues intro before hitting its stride somewhere between the riffing of the Stones and the bounce of The Undertones. I was disappointed that “Open Your Heart” wasn’t a cover of the Madonna song but I’ll live — also it’s a sweet folk ballad. My favorite here, “Never Made It to Graceland,” comes off as an underdog western ballad that somehow still rocks thanks to Greene’s guitar work. More Than A Felony, on Talk To The Old Man, Greene goes off on a full on sonic crimewave. 

Jesse Malin — Sad and Beautiful World (Wicked Cool Records)

Go big or go home in an alternative universe could be the story of Jesse Malin’s new double album, Sad and Beautiful World. In truth, the followup to Malin’s Lucinda Williams-produced breakthrough, Sunset Kids, is a double album because Malin, like the rest of us, had to go home last year. The first record, called the “roots rock” album, showcases his mellower singer-songwriter material. The second album is “radicals” showcasing Malin’s rock ‘n’ roll heart. I guess it isn’t all that different from what Deer Tick did a few years ago when they entered their condiment era.  My favorites on the “roots rock” side are “Before You Go” and “State of the Art.” “State of The Art” could really have been on either side tempo wise and has a great lyric in the chorus with “living in the state of the art, while everything is falling apart.” Some of my favorites on the “radical” side are “A Little Death”, a homage to Blondie’s disco era, and “Dance with the System” which is like Goat’s Head Soup era Stones rearranging Cheap Trick’s “Taxman, Mr. Thief.” My favorite tune from both albums comes from the “radical” side in the waltzing stomp “The Way We Used To Roll,” with lyrics like “I wrote a great story about all I could be, Tony Montana has nothing on me” showcasing the influence films have on Malin’s tunes. 

Guided By Voices — It’s Not Them. It Couldn’t Be Them. It Is Them! (Rockathon Records) 

Depending on how you count side projects (with the same members just recording under a different name), It’s Not Them. It Could Be Them. It Is Them is either Guided By Voices fifth or sixth full length album since the dawn of the pandemic. Technology and the fact that singer/songwriter Robert Pollard is the most prolific writer in the history of rock ‘n’ roll makes this possible. On the new album, “Flying Without A License”is like stoner rock for aliens. “High In The Rain” doesn’t sound anything like stoner rock as it rocks like a classic GBV pop with a touch of prog with the keyboards. “I Wanna Monkey” is an indie rock dance epidemic complete with horns. “Black And White Eyes In A Prism” and “I Share a Rhythm,” like much of the album, apparently have some magic power which grow on you the more they’re played — the louder, the more severe the condition. 

5 Shows that Don’t Blow

Titus Andronicus 

It feels like things are getting back to normal when Titus Andronicus bring their inventive indie rock stomp back to town.

Titus Andronicus will rock The Met Cafe on November 4th. 

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express

Chuck Prophet is one of my favorite modern day songwriters with gems like “Bad Year for Rock and Roll” and “High as Johnny Thunders.” This is going to be a special night! 

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express will rock the Narrows Center For The Arts in Fall River on November 4th. 

Vapors of Morphine 

Vapors of Morphine performs the music of “low rock” pioneers Morphine, utilizing the ethereal, hypnotic and expansive sounds popularized by the group in the nineties. 

Vapors of Morphine will perform at the Columbus Theatre on November 5th. 

John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band

Rhode Island Rock Royalty with this show, get out those old Eddie and The Cruisers soundtracks to pre-game!

John Cafferty and The Beaver Brown Band rock The Met Cafe on November 6th. 

Jets Can’t Land, Tall Teenagers, Joy Boys, and Jesse The Tree

This is the perfect local rock show for people that grew up listening to WBRU in the 80’s and early 90’s while taping 120 Minutes every Sunday night.

Jets Can’t Land, Tall Teenagers, Joy Boys, and Jesse The Tree will rock Askew on November 13th.

Even More Great Shows This Month!

The Mallett Brothers Band play The Met Cafe on November 5th. 

The FIXX and Fastball play the Narrows Center For The Arts on November 5th. 

The Wallflowers will be at the Greenwich Odeum on November 7th.

Dustbowl Revival are at the Narrows Center For The Arts on November 11th. 

Cheap Trick will rock the Providence Performing Arts Center on November 13th. 

Greg Hawkes (from The Cars) and Eddie Japan perform the music of The Cars at The Met Cafe on November 13th. 

Vanessa Carleton plays the Columbus Theatre on November 19th. 

The Mummies and Thee Fabulous Itchies will rock Askew in a garage rock show for the ages on November 21st.

The Schemers rock The Met Cafe on November 24th. 

Deer Tick will play the Columbus Theatre on November 24th and 26th.

The Silks and The Z-Boys at Askew on November 26th.

Anthony Green will rock The Met Cafe on November 26th. 

Bob Dylan brings the Rough and Rowdy Ways Tour to the Providence Performing Arts Center on November 26th. 

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com




Happy Days Are Here Again: The return of the Newport Folk Festival

After a year off for something obscure called COVID, the Newport Folk Festival returned to Fort Adams to rage again. The festival started inauspiciously Friday, as I could see lightning flashing in the horizon driving in. There was a shelter-in-place warning in effect when I arrived, which is odd when there is no place to shelter. The first act I caught was The Marcus King Band, which thundered out of the speakers like a burst of ’60s soul with some old school blues chops thrown into the storm. King is a white guy in a cowboy hat who pulls off covering Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman.” On his own original, “Wildflowers & Wine,” King channels Otis Redding. On “Goodbye Carolina,” King and the band add some roots Americana blues into the mix.  

Other highlights from Friday were Margo Price with the Resistance Revival Chorus, which had a powerful Carly Simon by campfire stripped-down vibe on the main stage. I then caught Maggie Rose at the Busking Tent singing a soulful number, “Saint,”  from her upcoming album. Rose and her band got down with a funky ditty called “Do It.”  After Rose finished, it was announced that the festival was called for the day because of ominous approaching clouds with 40 mph winds and hail. The storm never actually hit the Fort, but better safe than sorry. I still couldn’t help wondering if this year’s festival, like last, was doomed.

Saturday started with Grace Potter being the hero for agreeing to kick off the festival at the un-rock ‘n’ roll hour of 11am after her set got cancelled by the phantom storm of the day before. She has her own freaking festival in Burlington, Vermont, but she wanted to rock in Newport, so that is what she and her band did. Margo Price would be all over the place at this year’s festival. On Saturday, she performed a set with Jeremy Ivey as a duo doing each other’s tunes. I was struck by how much Ivey is influenced by Tom Petty. Certainly not a bad thing, one would have to be a pencil-necked geek not to like Tom Petty. Petty’s influence reverberates in Ivey’s tunes, especially “Diamonds Back to Coal” and “All Kinds of Blue.” Price closed out the set solo with a topical ballad, “American Made,” which was just beautiful.  

The highlight of Saturday, in a day of highlights, was without question Randy Newman. Newman performed solo on piano, occasionally accompanied by a crying child at the side of the stage and a foghorn from the bay that seemed to annoy him more and more as the set went on. Newman did most of his hits from the opening “It’s a Jungle Out There,” through “You Got a Friend in Me” and “Short People” — pretty much everything but “I Love LA.” My favorite was the audience participation number “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It)” which just amped up Newman’s ongoing hysterical stage banter.

Jason Isabell and Amanda Shires closed out the day as a stripped-down three-piece. It was good, but I missed the power of Isabell’s backing band, The 400 Unit. I do love Isabell’s lyrics. “Heaven is wasted on the dead” was one that stood out. They closed out the day with a lovely rendition of “If We Were Vampires.”

I heard plenty of people around the festival talking about the Caamp, so I checked them out Sunday. My first impression was they came off as a midwest version of Mumford & Sons — remarkable for how unremarkable they were. I warmed up a little by the third song, but in general, it wasn’t my thing. Billy Strings, on the other hand, was a badass mix of eccentric bluegrass and folk. I don’t even like bluegrass all that much, but Strings was electric and seemed to be a consensus fav for the day in the crosstalk throughout the festival. Even Governor McKee was rocking out to Strings’ set on the Quad stage.  

It was a good thing Nathaniel Rateliff booked two sets after that elusive storm cancelled his set Friday. His set Sunday was a stripped-down version instead of the usual high energy R&B of his work with the Night Sweats that I personally love. Rateliff did eventually do a surprise set with The Night Sweats on Monday, but of course, that was my day off from the festival. Rateliff brought up Tommy Prine and the ever-present (and wonderful) Margo Price for a John Prine tribute to close his set.

Allison Russell closed out Sunday with set chock full of guests galore, R&B, jazz, poetry and really a little of everything. One moment Russell is playing trumpet, the next she is doing a gospel style duet of “Help” by the Beatles with (of course) Margo Price. Russell also brought up Yola, Brandi Carlile and oh, Chaka (freaking) Khan to close out the day with renditions of “Ain’t Nobody” and “I’m Every Woman.”     

Tuesday was another stacked day with killer sets early from Vagabon, Melissa Chapman and Langhorne SlimBleachers did a stripped-down set of their quirky brand of pop. Fred Armison had a hilarious set of music-centered comedy using guitars and drums. Sharon Van Etten performed solo on the main stage. I dug her new song, “Darkness Fades.” My favorite Scientologist, Beck, was hysterical with his banter and performed both solo and accompanied by guitarist Smokey Hormel, Jack Antonoff (Bleachers) and Armison on drums. Beck dipped deep into his songbook to do renditions of “Asshole,” “One Foot in the Grave” and “Debra” as well as covers of “I Am the Cosmos”(Chris Bell) and “Raspberry Beret” (Prince).      

Black Pumas absolutely tore it up as the surprise guest on the main stage with a crazy set of psychedelic soul Wednesday. They just oozed joy and energy. Lake Street Dive continued the vibes, performing standouts like “Hypotheticals,” “Hush Money” and “Know That I Know” from their latest album, Obviously.  

Then it was time for Rhode Island’s own Deer Tick to close out the festival, and what a glorious ending it was to six day of transcendental music. I’ve seen Deer Tick over 50 times, and this set easily ranks in the top 5. They covered ZZ Top’s “Cheap Sunglasses” in honor of the recently passed Dusty Hill. They did standards like “Baltimore Blues,” “Ashamed” and “Hope is Big.” They brought Vanessa Carlton up to duet with husband, John McCauley, on “In Our Time.” They dug deep into their archives to pull out “Cake and Eggs,” an unreleased song from the Divine Providence album. They also did a new song called “If She Could Only See Me Now” from their new live album, Live From Fort Adams, recorded last year in an empty Fort Adams. The contrast between this year and last couldn’t be greater for Deer Tick. The joy of 2021 made the bleakness and fear of 2020 seem like a nightmare that one half remembers as the final refrain of “Goodnight Irene” drifted over the bay.  

R.I.P. Dusty Hill

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com




Keep on Moving: Blunt Narratives: Rock photographer makes it look like child’s play

Richard’s Rock & Roll Alphabet 

Like most good and bad ideas, the genesis of the new book Richard’s Rock & Roll Alphabet happened in a bar — Patrick’s Pub to be exact. It was there that Robert Blunt asked renowned photographer Richard McCaffrey if he had photographs of musicians that spanned the entire alphabet  Blunt’s idea was to use the photographs as a teaching tool for his young niece, Isabelle, to learn the alphabet and associate letters with amazing artists. One drink led to another photograph and the next thing you know, Blunt and McCaffrey had the ingredients to compile a pretty sweet book. Blunt designed and wrote the descriptions while McCaffrey unearthed the goods taken from his years freelancing for Rolling Stone, Billboard, Creem and others outlets in the 1970s and ’80s. The photos appear alphabetically in the book with a few different artists for each letter. Some of my favorite photos in the book are Stevie Nicks in 1976, B.B. King at San Quentin Prison with a guard patrolling the prison wall in the background, The Kinks in 1976, Thin Lizzy in 1977, Sly Stone at the then Palace Theater (now Providence Performing Arts Center) in 1973 and the Ramones in 1978. There are some serious gems here, and the music historian in me appreciates Blunt’s narratives.   

The book is out now as a limited edition release. Blunt and McCaffrey are having a couple of book signings where you can get your signed copy and ask McCaffrey what it was like seeing Aerosmith in Newport in 1973 or about the last “ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated” Sex Pistols show at Winterland in 1978.  Here are those deets!    

July 8: Muldowney’s Pub, 121 Empire St, PVD. 7 – 9pm

July 9: Patrick’s Pub, 381 Smith St, PVD. 7 – 9pm 

July 10: Round Again Records, 278 Wickenden St, PVD. 2 – 4pm

July 10: POP Emporium of Popular Culture, 219 W Park St, PVD. 5 – 7pm

Healing Arts in the Park: Making Music with Mark Cutler

Rhode Island Music Hall of Famer Mark Cutler is hosting a free collaborative songwriting project throughout July and August at 7pm. Much like Cutler’s The Same Thing Project, this is open to all. People are encouraged to bring instruments, but it is by no means required. The July sessions will take place on Thursdays at Roger Williams National Memorial, 282 N. Main St, in downtown Providence. Register by emailing sparkle_bryant@nps.cov or visit www.thesamethingproject.com for more information. In August the sessions will remain on Thursdays at 7pm, but will move to Slater Mill, 67 Roosevelt Ave, in Pawtucket. I’m excited to give this a try!

Upcoming Rockers:

The Autocrats bring the funk-fueled dance party every Wednesday till the apocalypse and/or the next plague at Askew in Providence.  

The McGunks Album Release Show at Alchemy featuring sets by The McGunks, Stubborn Hearts, COB and The Paraplegics on July 9. Doors are at 8pm, post-plague new location is 171 Chestnut St, PVD.

Electric Six, Volk, & The Smoke Breaks will rock Alchemy on July 15 — holy shit it’s like a second Bastille Day!  Doors are at 7pm.

Deer Tick and Ravi Shavi will rock the Ocean Mist on July 16 & 17. Doors are at 8pm.

Scurvy Dog Mega Parking Lot Mega Show will take place (shockingly) in the parking lot of the Scurvy Dog in PVD on July 18. The fun kicks off at 1pm and runs until all 11 bands play or the cops shut it down. Some of the acts I’m stoked to see on this bill include Pony Boy, Midnight Creeps, Gamma Rage and The David Tessier All-Star Stars (A.S.S.).

Record Review Mailbag:

Kris Hansen’s Viking Jesus — Before The Mutation

It may have taken 15 years or so of reviewing Kris Hansen’s releases, but I finally found one that I love! That’s not to say the previous ones sucked, there were cool songs sprinkled here and there. I just never felt like the rawness of Hansen’s best live performances was ever captured. Before The Mutation showcases the rock, funk, folk and electro atoms that Viking Jesus fuse together to construct their wall of sound. “Hideaway Boxes” reminds me of The Police with the harmonies of the early Pixies as Hansen duets with his wife Tara Hansen. Tara takes the lead vocal on “For A Dying Scene,” which just floats into a sphere of haunted wistfulness. “Same Killer,” on the other hand, kicks somewhere between post-punk and mid-’90s rock ‘n’ roll. I’m guessing “Boston Marathon ” is about the bombing in 2013, but I don’t have the lyric sheets. What I do know is the way the song goes from the jazzy funk of the verse to the roll in the chorus is just damn hypnotizing. Before The Mutation is available now! It’s on the internet, kid! 

Bill Bartholomew — Bats

What I like about this three song EP is the imagery of bats on the highway in the title track because it reminds me of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I also dig the spacey parts on “(A Lot To Be) Free For,” but the rest of it is annoying as the title. The musicianship is certainly competent and I like the lo-fi clarity in the production, but I have no desire to ever listen to this again. Maybe that’s just me, though, so check it out on the streaming service of your choice.  

Email music news, records, and night swimming spots to mclarkin33@gmail.com




Back To Life, Back To Reality: Clubs are booking? Shut up and take my money!

As social distancing restrictions ease up, concert announcements for national acts have started to trickle in, just really not here. Outside of Tiffany in June and Electric Six in July, I can’t find anything in terms of summer concerts with national acts in Rhode Island or southern New England that I’d want to attend. Some might contend that with those two acts, you don’t need anything else, to which I say, “Touche.” In Massachusetts shows have been going on sale pretty steadily, and I did get a bit loco in the initial wave of announcements. The first week I secured tickets to Tommy Stinson, Bob Mould, Guided By Voices and Wilco. I don’t even like Wilco. 

Till that purchase, I didn’t think the pandemic had much of an effect on me. Local music has been going strong for a couple of weeks in venues like Askew and Dusk in Providence. The Parlour is now joining them in allowing a limited capacity seated crowd. Right now all shows are pretty much on weekends but I’d look for that to expand as things evolve. I also noticed the Greenwich Odeum and the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River also are starting to have events with a limited capacity.  

The Return of the Newport Festivals

The cancellation of the Newport Folk and Newport Jazz festivals last year just made summer feel incomplete.  Certainly that could be said about a lot of things in 2020, but thankfully both festivals will be returning this summer!  Normally in our Summer Guide I’d rip through a few acts performing at each festival to check out, but as of this writing, not a single act has been announced. This hasn’t stopped the Newport Folk Festival from being completely sold out per usual. Right now both festivals are operating under the assumption that they will be at 50% capacity.  The Newport Folk Festival, for the first time in its storied history, will be a six-day event with two separate three-day passes (July 23 thru the 25th and July 26 thru the 28th) for maximum inclusiveness. The Newport Jazz Festival will kick off July 30 and run through August 1. Even though the Folk Festival is sold out, they have partnered with Lyte to do a fan-to-fan ticket exchange to counteract scalping. There will no doubt be plenty of ticket movement with two different sets of three-days passes and no info available yet on who is playing what day, so check out newportfolk.org for more info.  

Newport Folk Fest will run from July 23 – 28 at Fort Adams State Park in Newport. Newport Jazz Festival will run from July 30 – August 1 at Fort Adams State Park.  

Summer Jams

These are 11 of my all-time favorite jams to crank in the summer. I stayed away from the Beach Boys and The Lovin’ Spoonful (even though that stuff is great) because everybody already knows it.  

The Undertones, “Here Comes The Summer”

Palmdale, “Here Comes The Summer” (completely different song than The Undertones)

Helen Love, “Long Hot Summer” (both parts one and two!)

The Hold Steady, “Constructive Summer”

The Go-Go’s, “Vacation”

Jesse Malin, “Black Hair Girl”

Cracker, “Big Dipper”

Queens of the Stone Age, “I Sat By The Ocean”

Elvis Costello, “The Other Side of Summer”

Neutral Nation, “bad music beach”

Superchunk, “Learned to Surf”

Upcoming Shows:

Mark Cutler and the Men of Great Courage.

The Men of Great Courage is Mark Cutler’s more roots-based Americana-style vehicle for music. Cutler has livestreamed solo performances throughout the pandemic on Facebook, but it’s great to hear that he’ll be back on stage in front of an audience where he belongs.

Mark Cutler and the Men of Great Courage will busk out the jams for a limited capacity at The Narrows Center For The Arts in Fall River on June 4. The event will also be livestreamed; check out The Narrows pages for more information.

Pony Boy and Hope Anchor

Pony Boy has a wide palette that draws from everything from The Stooges to The Beatles. Hope Anchor packs a post-punk punch with goth highlights around the edge. This show will rock like a Nor’easter!  

Pony Boy and Hope Anchor rock at Askew on June 11.  

Tiffany

I’m kind of amazed that someone who started out as a teenager covering “I Think We’re Alone Now” in malls 34 years ago still has a career for nothing else. Power to Tiffany, gotta respect the hustle. It is also great that the Greenwich Odeum is back hosting live music.

Tiffany will be at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich on June 25.  

Electric Six

This show is so big that Alchemy had to pack up and move around the corner to the former Art Bar on Chestnut St. just to accommodate it. That’s right, Alchemy has moved — no more long stairs to avoid falling down. Alchemy has not re-opened yet, but they will be hosting the hottest show of the summer! As I’ve said in these pages before, Electric Six combines the groove of the Talking Heads with the hard rock of KISS to forge ahead into the next frontier of rock ‘n’ roll. Electric Six at Alchemy at the Art Bar just sounds like more fun than could possibly be legal.  See you there!

Electric Six rocks the new Alchemy in Providence on July 15.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com




Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams Come Through: R.I.P. Jim Steinman

As a kid I hated music like Meat Loaf. I thought it was pompous and overdone, and I never liked having to hear that stupid “Paradise By The Dashboard Light” song at every wedding. It wasn’t till years later that I was reading a review of a Meat Loaf concert that it all clicked and I realized the genius of Meat Loaf and of his songwriter, Jim Steinman. If the record label told him couldn’t have seven choruses in a song, Steinman put nine choruses in. He curb-stomped the idea of the 3-minute, radio-friendly pop song. In that respect, Steinman was more punk than Fugazi. Everything he did had great lyrics and dramatic storylines, and went against what pop songs are supposed to be. In addition to working with the Loaf, Steinman wrote the hits “Total Eclipse of The Heart” for Bonnie Tyler and “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” for Celine Dion. Sadly, Steinman recently passed away in Connecticut. But through his music, he will live forever. 

The Living Pins — Freaky Little Monster Children EP  

It’s normal for bands to take a little time after their debut and second release. In the case of Austin psych-rockers The Living Pins, that little time translated into a quarter of a century. Was it worth the wait? I just hope nobody was holding their breath. Freaky Little Monster Children is like a basket of shiny psych-rock nuggets. “Jaguar” is fueled by a guitar riff reminiscent of “Honkey Tonk Women” with a chorus that sounds like ’80s UK alternative rock on acid. “Downtown” sounds like the Strawberry Alarm Clock covering the Velvet Underground. My favorite track is “Raven” because the background effects sound like a jungle with searing guitars and the mystery and menace of singer/guitarists Pam Peltz and Carrie Clark’s vocals floating through the moonlight. Freaky Little Monster Children is available now on Bandcamp.  

Guided By Voices — Earth Man Blues (Rockathon Records)

Let’s go from a band that had 25 years between releases to Guided By Voices, who is releasing their fourth album of this pandemic, Earth Man Blues. The press release describes the release as a magical cinematic album following the adventures of Harold Admore. I’d describe it as a great album that contains all the elements of classic Guided By Voices. Earth Man Blues is by far the best album of COVID-era GBV. From the unexpected circus-like breakdown on the opening track “Made Man” through the prog-rock madness of the closing “Child’s Play,” Earth Man Blues rocks like a tilt-a-whirl spinning through a funhouse. “The Disconnected Citizen” sounds like Alien Lanes-era GBV through a lens darkened by the millennium mayhem.  The concept theme pops up from time to time like on “Dirty Kid School” where it sounds like Tommy-era The Who. “Sunshine Girl Hello ” starts off like late ’60s power pop before shapeshifting into an NRBQ rocker; it should not work, but somehow it does. Of course singer/songwriter Robert Pollard has been pulling off tricks like these since back when new episodes of “Cheers” were being filmed, but there is something different with Earth Man Blues. Pollard and the band haven’t sounded this fresh and invigorated in years. I haven’t really settled on a favorite track, but the album centerpiece is “Lights Out Memphis Egypt.” It sounds like an indie prog-rock playing Deep Purple and Black Sabbath covers all within one song. Earth Man Blues captures the classic sound of Guided By Voices, but also sounds like it’s from the future.  

Dinosaur Jr. — Sweep It Into Space 

I go back and forth on whether Dinosaur Jr. is the ultimate reunion success story. Since getting back together in 2005, they have released four albums and played hundreds of mesmerizing shows, but none of those albums are ones I’d ever want to go back and listen to. I wasn’t expecting much from Sweep It Into Space, but just like that, Dinosaur Jr. hits you with their best album since Hand It Over from 1997. Sweep It Into Space was mostly produced by Kurt Vile till the pandemic hit and production shut down.  Singer/Guitar wizard J. Mascis ended up finishing the recording alone.  Sweep It Into Space starts off like the ’70s — loud and out-of-focus, with jams like “I Ain’t” and “To Be Waiting” made to be blasted out of a cassette deck in convertible speeding down the freeway. Mascis said he was listening to a lot of Thin Lizzy when recording Sweep It Into Space, and that comes through in the melodies beneath the thrash. “I Met The Stones” is a glimpse inside Mascis’ mind as he wrestles with anxieties about meeting the Stones.  It might be the oddest subject matter in the Dinosaur Jr. catalogue, but more importantly it RAWKS! The marriage of post-hardcore guitar and hooks on “Hide Another Round” makes for another classic Dino Jr. whammer jammer. “And Me” reminds me of The Head on the Door-era Cure, which, I guess considering Dinosaur covered “Just Like Heaven, ” isn’t a leap too far.  “Take It Back” has a keyboard-driven verse that sounds like something broken off of Phil Spector’s wall of sound before blossoming into a power ballad. Bassist Lou Barlow contributes his usual two songs with the closing, “The Wonder,” being the more compelling. Play this sucker loud!

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Season Two of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Apocalypse: The light in the darkness

As spring rolls around in the underground, glimmers of hope abound with vaccines, warmer weather and the gradual return of live music! On the negative is the return of mass shootings, but that is another conversation for another place between people who don’t listen to each other. One of the bright spots of the pandemic is a ton of people have spent it making music!  I’m way behind on reviews, so let’s see how many I get through — more to come at a time and place that is uncertain.

Jodie Treloar Sampson — I Thought I Was Dead, but I Was Really Alive (75orLess Records)

The second EP from Jodie Treloar Sampson is absolutely vibrant! “Water” opens like a campfire lullaby then flows into something more. “Cotton Candy Girl” navigates the nostalgia of youth and how time changes us. It kind of reminds me of post-modern ’70s folk. Timeless is probably more accurate, but I get paid the big bucks to make up genres that don’t exist.  “Pangea” rocks against the continental drifts of a past relationship with searing lines like, “All I know is what I feel and it’s all too fucking real, going to make this good as a death row meal.” My favorite is the ballad “Fits and Starts”  because the sparse instrumentation of the piano and percussion allows one to sway in the glow of Sampson’s vocals. I Thought I Was Dead, but I Was Really Alive is available on all the streaming sites.

Glowing Cloud — All My Psychic Children

Glowing Cloud is a solo project by local musician veteran Eric Smith (Sweet Dreams, The Cold War). All My Psychic Children reminds me of a lo-fi version of Spacehog jamming with My Bloody Valentine on a set of Slowdive covers. The spacey imagery, both lyrically and musically, throughout the EP makes sense given Smith has been a UFO researcher for years. The verse of “Hanging Around” reminds me of an extraterrestrial Mickey and Sylvia tribute band till the chorus blasts into the horizon. My favorite track here is “Kevin’s Gate,” which has a mid-’90s Dinosaur Jr. meets The Rentals. All My Psychic Children is up under Glowing Child on all the major streaming platforms.

The Hold Steady — Open Door Policy (Positive Jams)

The first half of Open Door Policy is excellent, arguably as good as anything that they have done. On “The Feelers,” singer/guitarist Craig Finn narrates a story of a sunrise meetup to set prices that carries to a woman putting out the feelers under a poster of a spaceman saying, “Take me to your dealer.”  Finn’s lyrics are short stories that come alive in the music of The Hold Steady.  “Spices” kicks off with Tad Kubler’s ominous guitar riff as Finn narrates a story of that person who comes back to town, and trouble inevitably follows. The Horn Steady (the band’s horn section) adds a new dimension to the sound on tracks like “Spices” and “Heavy Covenant.”  There are ongoing themes of mental illness and a lot of parades happening throughout Open Door Policy. My favorite jam is “Lanyards,” which tells the story of someone from the midwest who goes out to California to make it in show business, but only lasts four months. It might be harsh to say side B of Open Door Policy falls off a cliff, but it is no side A.   

Wire Lines — Harvest Verses

Harvest Verses, the second full-length from Wire Lines, explodes out of the gate with the punk stomp of “A Wolf for Your Rabbit.” On “All of This Belongs to Me,” singer Kevin Grant proves after all these years he can still somehow nail hardcore scream. I got a sore throat just thinking about trying. “Semtex” is about as infectious of a love song named after explosives as there is. “Lines in The Sand” kicks in a grinding ’90s post-hardcore frenzy. “We Disappear” is a banger that rocks like early Husker Du playing Thin Lizzy outtakes. My two favorites here are “This Ark” and the closing “Spirits.” “This Ark” moves at a breakneck pace with lyrics offering hope on an otherwise stormy sea. “Spirits” has these fantastic hypnotic guitars and just has a different feel from everything else on the record.  Harvest Verses is available on all the streaming services and there may actually be physical copies available too!

The Moodrunners — Self-titled 

The debut EP from The Moodrunners explodes like a neutron bomb of power pop.  It’s like The Jam meets The Strokes, noisier than The Knack, without all the indulgent Elvis Costello lyrics.  The lead single, “Better Skies,” is already blowing up on radio in Japan and is sure to be the anthem of summer. Even on a song that kind of sucks like “Drown,” the energy has an I-bet-this-would-be-good-live vibe. “All In” shreds with arena riffs, stadium struts, and stops and starts, capped off with a sidecar pit sing-along chorus. My favorite is “Scrap Medal,” which combines all the best elements of punk, garage and rock.  It’s like Generation X meets Thin Lizzy meets Dramarama with a sprinkle of ’60s The Who. The Moodrunners are planning to return to the stage this May; keep your eyes peeled for a date. Till then, this biscuit will drop on April 1 on Napster and all other streaming platforms. No joke.

Shows:

As live music creeps back into the nightlife, here are a couple of upcoming shows at Askew. These are the only shows I’ve seen listed for April, but Union Station Brewery has been having live music on weekends. I believe Dusk is also going to start having live music in April.

Sugar Cones, The Portals, and Allison Rose will rock Askew in Providence on April 3. Doors are at 7pm.

Lenny Lashley’s Gang Of One is at Askew on April 17. Doors are at 7pm.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com




Just Released

I wanted to start with a few words on the passing of legendary New York Dolls guitarist, Sylvain Sylvain. Although I am trying not to write a monthly rock ‘n’ roll obituary column, I would not be writing this column without the influence of Sylvain Sylvain and the New York Dolls. The New York Dolls, along with the Stooges and MC5, pretty much invented everything that became punk rock. The New York Dolls were pretty much a trashy glam rock version of the Rolling Stones on more drugs in the barren wasteland that early ’70s New York City was. The first two Dolls records are classics and even some of their 2000s reunion albums, notably One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This, were great. Thank you and rest in power,  Sylvain Sylvain.  

Sugar Cones — Road Soda

On their sophomore album, Road Soda, Sugar Cones come back with 11 scoops of ballads, bangers and cliff hangers, some of which have been released in different forms. Sugar Cones are pretty much a straight-up rock ‘n’ roll band with loud guitars anchored by the elastic tight rhythm section of bassist Jeff Sullivan and drummer Alyson Hammond. “Dark Side” hits like a punk rock bomb while “Keep Walking” grooves before bursting into an arena-sized chorus. “The Game” kind of reminds me of Wax Ecstatic-era Sponge. “Bobby Dufresne starts off with a Cramps vibe before injecting some ’90s rock and even a little surf guitar on the solo to the party. The blues shimmy of “Hex on Me” reminds me of a zero carb version of The Gun Club. “Ghost Dance” is made for spirit swaying campfire disco under a hungry moon. The best way I can sum up Road Soda is every time I feel like this review is done, another tune comes on that I feel compelled to include because it’s my favorite song. I’m settling on “By My Side” as my favorite for all the adjectives that were used above. I can’t wait for live music to return to catch the Sugar Cones perform these songs live, loud and in the flesh!   

Foo Fighters — Medicine At Midnight

It’s hard to believe Medicine At Midnight will be the 10th album from Foo Fighters, but I guess shit went down over the course of 26 years. I remember seeing them back in 1995 at the old Westminster St. Lupo’s, opening for Mike Watt, before they had a record come out. That show only sold out because the opening band had Eddie Vedder, the biggest rock star in the world at that time, playing drums. Now the Foo Fighters might be the biggest rock band in the world — circle of life, I guess. Medicine at Midnight is packed with stadium-ready thumpers like “Making A Fire” and “Waiting On A War” that will appease the masses. The tunes on Medicine At Midnight have more of a groove than past records. “Holding Poison” has a new wave feel before darting off to a weird prog-rock-like bridge. “Cloudspotter” rocks with a seesaw groove to get wild to in your kitchen on a Saturday night. My favorite is the title track, which sounds like something unearthed from David Bowie’s archives. It’s not really surprising that Dave Grohl and company would have a Bowie sounding tune because — come on, who doesn’t like The Thin White Duke? What is weird is you’d expect from a big rock bans something that sounds like Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust or Alladin Sane eras. Nope — this is straight up “Let’s Dance” era Bowie. “Chasing Birds” is the lone ballad and has a psychedelic tinge in a Byrds-meets-Tom-Petty-at-a-bowling-alley way, albeit with some cliche lyrics. Usually when a band achieves the commercial success that the Foos have, albums tend be phoned in as an excuse to make bank on tour (cough, cough KISS). Medicine At Midnight, while not being their best record, is a rock solid album that shows the Foos can evolve while maintaining what makes them great.

The Queers — The Queers Save The World

Speaking of bands that have been around forever, The Queers have a new album just in time for their 40th anniversary. They’ve almost doubled the lifespan of their heroes, the Ramones. It could be argued that one only really needs to hear Love Songs For The Retarded and Don’t Back Down from The Queers to get their best batch of their Ramones meets Beach Boys anthems. But if Mike Love’s Beach Boys can cover “Rockaway Beach,” then there is no reason The Queers, who do a superior cover, can’t release new records. I wasn’t expecting much from The Queers Save The World when I popped it on driving around in a snowstorm, but it blew me away.  Singer/Guitarist (and really The Queers) Joe Queer still writes funny infectious tunes like “Attack of the 5 Foot Bitch” and “Fanculo A Tutti.” The Queers take on white supremacy in “White Power Feud in Atlanta” and it’s awesome! Don’t know if I’m more surprised that The Queers didn’t already have a song called “Bubblebum Girl” or that it’s the best thing they’ve done since “Punk Rock Girls.” I don’t care that it is a cover. I don’t think any other band would write songs called “Cheeto in a Speedo Eating a Burrito,” “Young Dumb and into Iron Maiden” or “Hong Fucking Kong,” but hey, it works for The Queers. In “We Love Our Fans,” they refer to their fans as “mental midgets following us around” in the most loving way possible. The Queers might not save the world, but they do make it a hell of a lot more enjoyable!   

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com