a quick one while i'm away (part one)

MP3 The New Pornographers - "From Blown Speakers"
I know Sean is all enthusiastic about it, but thus far I am underwhelmed by the recently leaked (thanks to Catbirdseat for the heads up) Twin Cinema. Maybe it'll grow on me, since my second & third times through were much better than my very lukewarm first (more spins needed), but it still feels like something is lacking on this latest New Porn disc, which drops on August 23rd. I responded so immediately to both Mass Romantic & (my #1 album of 2003) Electric Version, not to mention frontman Carl Newman's 2004 solo LP The Slow Wonder, so it's kinda disappointing that it didn't blow me away, like this fantastic Electric Version track did a couple years back.

MP3 The New Pornographers - "Graceland"
Perhaps Twin Cinema just wasn't what I expected from the Pornographers, who have crafted several slower-paced songs that lack some of the bombast that coursed through the veins of their previous efforts. Or maybe the new material just isn't as ridiculously catchy as the rest of the Canuck power-pop supergroup's output. While I got excited when the album's title track was posted in April, both Rachel & I were somewhat unimpressed with it. "Twin Cinema" sounded like good ol' New Porn, but it didn't quite stand out like we thought it should. Thus far, it feels like Twin Cinema just doesn't beg the highway sing-a-longs that the first two discs did (whether we knew the actual lyrics or not). This track (previously linked to back in October '04, courtesy Insound) is off the "rarities" disc of last year's Matador at Fifteen compilation, and dammit if it isn't catchier than anything on Twin Cinema.

MP3 The New Pornographers - "Mass Romantic"
MP3 The New Pornographers - "The Laws Have Changed"
As I'm having a tough time picking a true standout track, I'm not posting any songs from Twin Cinema, though Stereogum & STG are both doing so. These two tracks (courtesy Matador) are two of the band's best efforts IMO & should be listened to repeatedly (also check out the overly-detailed "Laws Have Changed" analysis from Clap Clap if you're so inclined). In cased you missed it, LHB points to a New Porn tour preview from Rolling Stone online.

BTW: I'm not saying that I dislike Twin Cinema. It really is growing on me.

something to shed some light, use it tonite

While I'm still struggling to get things moving & bring this blog fully up-to-date, here are a few brief/random musings to tide you over a little (I hope):

Just a taste of recent concert pix, since I've been slow on the write up.

Is anybody else as bored to tears with the new season of Six Feet Under as I am thus far? Yawn. It looks like they're gonna drive Billy nuts again to spice things up. How original. I hope they manage to wrap things up alright.

Ditch the HBO on Monday nites (you can catch SFU reruns all week) & tune into TNT's excellent new show, The Closer. You ask, "Who needs another crime drama?" Well, this one is actually character-driven (Kyra Sedgwick is an absolute delight) & doesn't suck. It's a welcome addition to the summer TV schedule now that the mediocre fourth season of The Shield is over.

While on the subject of summer series, the second season of Denis Leary's hilarious firefighter drama Rescue Me premiered Tuesday (6/21) on FX. Miss out on the first season? Netflix that sh** & get caught up already.

No, I haven't seen the new new Batman yet, though I'm looking forward to doing so. I've been too busy enjoying my abfab dvd of Northern Exposure's (an old fave) Emmy-winning third season. Loving it, loving it, loving it.

FYI: For those of you who enjoyed last week's acoustic Hold Steady track, The Current is having another fund drive. This time, they have t-shirts.

Lastly, TV Shows on DVD delivered the good news yesterday that the third season of Canadian sketch legend The Kids in the Hall is now available for pre-order - and is shipping this friday. Once again, this is through the KITH's online store, where you can get the new dvd set several months before it will be available in stores or through other online merchants. I've ordered from them twice before (thrice now) & have yet to be disappointed.

just a little patience, yyyeeeaaahhh

Just a taste: Ted Leo rocking it out at Mpls' First Avenue, 6/14/05.

While I have plenty of stuff to write about, I've clearly been doing a lousy job getting any of it done. Alas, the last few days weren't fruitful (JRDN suggested I was "decompressing"), so now there's even more to catch up on. Last week's Junior Boys/Caribou show (sans Russian Futurists) still needs a full recap, along with Sunday's Spoon/Stephen Malkmus double feature, not to mention Ted Leo + Rx last nite & Sleater-Kinney tonite. I've still got other TV & movie stuff that I've been meaning to cover, and I still wanna do so despite it being awfully tardy. Later this week (no time tonite), I'll try to start posting more often to gradually get myself back up to speed.

MP3 The Hold Steady - "Modesto is Not That Sweet" (live acoustic)
Since I just saw them back in March, I skipped the 6/6 Hold Steady show at First Avenue (as well as their Grand Old Day appearance on 6/5). However, my MPR-member CD compilation from The Current arrived this week (I'm still waiting for the vinyl), which included this non-album acoustic track from the band's in-studio appearance this past spring. A full studio version of "Modesto" is available on the Crisp Songs Vol. 1 compilation, which can be downloaded via iTunes. This stripped-down version showcases a somber, reflective Craig Finn, backed by what certainly sounds like an accordion.

Again, my apologies for the erratic blog activity. I hope to get back to your regularly scheduled programming shortly, so bear with me a little longer.

when i'm not around, how do you relate

F**kity f**k f**k, I've been neglecting the blog this week, despite actually having stuff to write about. So in my haste, I'm just going to throw up my pics from Sunday's Junior Boys/Caribou show at the 400 Bar, which was unfortunately without tourmates The Russian Futurists - who were friggin' denied re-entry into the USA because they didn't have the correct work visas & may be unable to return to the States for several years. Yikes.

I'll explain further when I fill out this post with a proper write-up, which I'll hopefully get around to later today very soon. Your patience is appreciated.

MP3 Junior Boys - "When I'm Not Around"

I just finally noticed that gabba (sans Pod) is back up & running. Thank god.

ETA: Since starting the aforementioned jobby-job during the past week, I've been just lousy at managing my time in order to maintain this blog on a satisfying basis. Please bear with me while I try to work out the kinks.

ETA (7/6/05): Okay, here's the lowdown way after the fact, at least as far as I can remember it. Doors for this show were at 8pm, but the bands didn't even arrive until after 10pm. According to Jr. Boy Jeremy Greenspan, the whole caravan was held up at the U.S./Canada border because the of Futurists' visas , although Matthew Adam Hart & company (I think he was touring with a band) had already played a bunch U.S. dates in May before stopping back in their native Canada for a series of shows. The other bands waited as long as they could to get the situation figured out, but eventually had to hit the road without their tourmates (though they did bring along the Futurists' merch). It was hard to believe the Futurists were really banned from the U.S. for an extended period of time, but that's what it seemed like to Greenspan when they left Hart behind at the border. Odd.

Junior Boys finally went on sometime after 11pm & were very solid. They played plenty of tunes off of Last Exit as well as some new material, the highlight of their set (not suprisingly) being a groovy version of "Bellona" that just killed it. Caribou made me wish I had brought my earplugs, because they were friggin' loud (two thrashing drummers can have that effect). Caribou is a POWER trio live, though it was disappointing that they used mostly pre-recorded vocals during their show. While Dan Snaith & company didn't resort to using a laptop to fill in the instrumentation, the lack of actual singing from the band made it kinda difficult to really engage with their performance (the opposite being true of Junior Boys). Still, their projected animated videos were very cool & their wild playing was very entertaining. However, JRDN & I left early because the show went extremely late & our ears were sorta bleeding. Good times, though.

you're livin' in a f**kin' fantasy, woah

I know I've been piling on the RANA of late, but I need to do so once more.

RANA - 5/31/05 - 7th Street Entry @ First Avenue - Minneapolis, MN
Replacements, Waitin' To Fall In, New Juice, One Good Eye, I'm Comin' Correct, Loves It Automatic, Charm Bracelet, Girl U Want (Devo cover), Buy Sell or Break, Backstabbing World, Silver Not Gold > Ring in the Sand, Butter My Roll, I Waste It, Carbombed Again, Swingin' (Tom Petty cover), Wally, Anton, 84th Precinct, Bloodshed, Backstage Pass, Ghetto Queen, Why Can't I Touch It? (Buzzcocks cover)

Tuesday was a great f**king day. I don't have really good days all that often, but Tuesday was so great that I'm already lamenting the fact that it'll be quite some time before I have another one that measures up. After climbing back on the blogging-horse Monday, on Tuesday I finally got myself a jobby-job. That might not seem like such a big deal, but for a kid who's been spinning his wheels for 3-4 years, it's a step in the right direction.

MP3 Sam Champion - "Too Broke"
So I come home that afternoon, and what do I have waiting for me upon my arrival? Thanks to the kindness & generosity of Noah Chernin, I finally got my hands on an advance copy of (RANA sister-band) Sam Champion's debut album, Slow Rewind. Guess what? It's really friggin' good, and I'm sure I'll have more to say about it in coming months. Despite what I wrote a couple weeks back (scroll down), Slow Rewind will be out this fall on Razor & Tie. This track, which RANA/Sam Champion drummer Ryan "Tugboat" Thornton mentioned as one of his favorites, closes out the album.

After loading Sam Champion up on the iPod, I headed over to the Rosens', where Sam & I repeated Monday's grillout (leftovers & all) & chilled out while watching the playoffs. After Mrs. Rosen came home & got dolled up for the nite, we headed downtown to First Avenue. Upon our arrival, we saw that RANA wouldn't be going on until 11:30pm, but luckily our admission for RANA at the Entry also got us into the adjoining main room, where some serious (not that serious) professional wrestling was going down.

It was beyond odd to see a boxing ring in the middle of First Avenue's main room floor, and some of the folks in attendance were even odder. I had never been to any sort of wrestling event before, so the whole beefcake atmosphere was new to me. As if the presence of well-oiled musclebound men in tights wasn't surreal enough, the unique crowd that came out to see them bodyslam each other on an otherwise pleasant Tuesday nite just made the experience more memorable. Overly persistent autograph hounds in Star Wars t-shirts, rowdy drunken yokels, old folks in wheelchairs, even local rocker Mike Gunther & his posse (who taunted wrestlers from the gallery) all made for an intriguing mix of people. Our favorite wrestler had an Australian theme, and he even brought a boomerang with him.

Just as we had reached our fill of hulking men & were heading back over to the Entry, we ran into Tugboat & guitarist Scott "Boots Mc" Metzger also gawking at the sweaty goings-on. It was good to have the guys, who I hadn't seen since last summer in NYC, finally back in my hometown. They advised us to check out openers & fellow friends-of-Ween & loud-playing New Yorkers Sound of Urchin (not pictured), who performed an entertaining blend of quirky punk & jam-metal with great enthusiasm & (often drug-related) humor. I should have brought earplugs, but my hearing seems to have recovered nicely. Sound of Urchin played past 11pm, which meant the headliners was only going to play one set & it was going to be a late nite for all (especially Sam, with his 8am meeting the next day). But the RANA boys did not disappoint, which made our eventual lack of sleep still worth any grogginess we would surely experience the following morning.

A small but devoted group of fans were in attendance for Sound of Urchin, though they seemed to disperse after their set concluded. I told Rachel that I feared RANA would be playing to just the three of us, but thankfully a number of people came back & stuck around for my favorite Jersey boys. A friend of the band's who was passing through town (sorry, I forgot your name) also showed up, with a bunch of girls taboot, which helped fatten the Tuesday nite audience to an acceptable size. I just hate seeing a great band perform for too few people, but I was alright with the turnout. All you Mpls folk who didn't make it out because you had to "wake up" and "go to work" in order to "pay the rent" missed out on a helluva good time, but hopefully it won't be another two years before they return to the Twin Cities again.

RANA took the stage around 11:45pm & opened their set with three relatively new songs, leading off with one of my faves, "Replacements." The song began as a demo on keyboardist Matt Durant's blog in January, and I posted a live, full band version of it back in March (scroll down). Next up was "Waitin' To Fall In," a powerful rocker that's jokingly been referred to as the song that will get them on MTV. Boots broke a string during "New Juice," so they slowed it down with "One Good Eye" while Scott fixed his guitar.

MP3 RANA - "Butter My Roll" (2/3/05)
The band then played a couple older tunes, including a "Buy Sell or Break" that left me gasping for air (as per usual) and enjoyable romp through "Silver Not Gold" into "Ring in the Sand." Up next was "Butter My Roll," another song that began as a Leafcutter demo by Durant, but was fleshed out into a simple but jittery, Velvet Underground-esque RANA rocker. While this version is pretty straightforward (once again, recorded live at Tribeca Rock Club - I need to get some more recent stuff from Rockslide), the band stretched it out a bit at the Entry, with Durant going off on one of his patented rants introducing "THE RANAROCK" to any & all newcomers.

A few more new songs were played in the back half of the set, including an interesting version of the funky "84th Precinct" (that's in Brooklyn, yo) that even Durant said, "I don't where that came from" (or something to that effect). A blistering "Bloodshed" was played by request, which featured more searing guitarwork from Boots, who was tearing up all nite long. Despite a somewhat raspy voice, Metzger lead the band through a balls out (as always) "Backstage Pass," which I guess I sorta requested on Monday. Scott could have rested his voice, as I would have been happy with a Durant-sung "Baby's Got A New Bike" or "Phillippe Petit," but I'll never turn down a good "Backstage." While that could have closed out the set, Sound of Urchin drummer Tomato demanded they continue playing. To Rachel's delight, Boots broke his falsetto out for "Ghetto Queen" & bassist Andrew Southern laid down the catchy-ass rhythm for the "Why Can't I Touch It?" Buzzcocks cover that closed out the event. Durant thanked the residents of "Skinny Minny" (which must be ironic, because this city is total sprawl), and the show was over around 1:30am. Who needs a second set, anyway?

We chatted with the guys after the show for a bit, with Ryan saying that it was the best they had played all tour (he must say that to all the cities) & Rachel pleading with Andrew to come back to Mpls soon. I was in sort of a haze by the end, because of both a lack of sleep & having been totally worn out by whole nite, but I was happy dammit. I said my goodbyes & headed home, satisfied with myself for a change. Of course, I was in the hurtbox when Wednesday morning creeped in, but that was to be expected.

BTW: If I haven't said it before, I'll say it again. These mp3's won't give you a real idea of what RANA is all about - you have got to see them live, folks.

As Ice Cube once said, that was a good day (may there be more like it).

ETA: Check out Durant's latest article at Loose Record (via itsmatt).