Well, Happy New Year…and if you know me you are not surprised to see me writing a review for a cover of this epic Pogues song. There are of course some songs that should just be left alone in their original version but I have never considered this to be one of them. Even though Shane and his mates original from 1987 has been imbedded in the soundtrack of my life for many years, I consider the song free game for a redux. Not to say all covers of it have been good…but everyone is welcome to try.
This version by Chamberlain stacks up well and I really enjoyed playing it over the recent holidays. They kept the pacing about the same and also utilized the vocal talents of Gabrielle Sterbenz for the female vocal. Her voice is well-suited for this song and also pairs well with David Moore as they take us through the classic story told in the tune. If you get a chance you should check out her music also (link below).
Well played all around by some talented musicians although sadly no tin whistle….but that is a rare talent to find these days. And the shaker that puts the rhythm down in the background is a unique sound.
Sometimes there can be a comforting nostalgia in listening to a set of music that brings you back to a previous period in your life. That nostalgia can be lost loves & friends, some pivotal moment in your development or maybe a trip to a special place. When I found the Liquids release “Life Is Pain” and clicked on that first track…well, I was transported instantly back in time to when I was around seventeen. That is not to say that this album is mired in some old-time groove or a mere throwback to the 1980’s. Instead, this record takes those punk rhythms and hooks that I grew up with and gives them some new life without sacrificing that connection to the past. How many nights did I spend crammed into a small basement, wandering around an abandoned house or slam-dancing in someone’s back yard?…well, it was a lot for sure. The Liquids bring me back there…
I’m two blocks away or so, a late arrival as always, trying to negotiate pushing three cans of Schlitz Malt into the inside pocket of my jean jacket. I can hear the band already even this far away. “When You Were Born (You Should’ve Died) is a fitting start to the night. It is a classic punk sound. A few minutes later I have managed to make it to the backyard of the party house, all the more obvious from the group of young adults hanging out in the alley. A thick cloud of cigarette smoke hovers over everything. The band has switched into “Don’t Wanna Get to Know You,” as I pay my three dollars to the husky guy guarding the door into the garage. He shrugs when I ask him if there is more than one band playing tonight, probably unable to hear me anyway. I step in and spend the next few minutes listening. “All U Say” has a great drum beat and then “More Thana Friend” really catches my ear. I like the composition of it, different enough from the usual punk delivery to be notable, mostly on some of the guitar interludes.
Two young ladies push past me, one looking like she is ready to puke, the other ready to fight. There is a brief lull in the music and then the drums kick back in and I immediately think “Topper Headon?” It is not him of course but the sound is similar and I can almost pick up a Clash song rambling around inside “Werewolves.” Having managed to finish my cans of Schlitz I decide to get involved and start pushing my way into the crowd. The short & sweet “You’re Burning” is playing as I start talking to two people I recognize from the record store but then “Weak” kicks up and drowns out all conversation. I settle for letting that great punk rock guitar wash across my body and start jumping as it is followed by “Violent.” As that song crashes out to completion I am expecting a quick follow-on but instead …I am met with “Tryin’.” This is one of those moments in a show when you are either crushed by the change of pace or elevated. And tonight it is definitely elevating. It comes at just the right time to provide that sound break from the driving music and allows you to find a little bit of space. I coast along through that song and then am slam-dancing along with the pack through “Think Too Much,” and “Strutter.” A bit to my confusion though, the dancing stops right after that song. The crowd seems to be turning the attention directly to the band. I ask a quick, “What’s up?” to the girl next to me but only receive, “You’re a Punk” as a reply. I’m three seconds into feeling flattered when the song starts and I soon get the message. That’s the name of the song.
Many bands have that one song that everyone clicks with, the sing-along song, the fist-raising song, the band or crowd anthem. “You’re a Punk” is as timeless as they come in that regard. I catch the feel of it pretty quickly and can at least shout the chorus right along with everyone else. After a band break following that song they come back in with “Lemon Rice (Doomed to Live)” which has a nice change in style at the beginning. It reminds me a bit of early Ramones songs circa “Rocket to Russia.” After that, Liquids jams along through four more songs before kicking into another obvious crowd favorite called “Night the Lights Went Out.” This is another good sing-along and I join in once I pick up the lyrics before wandering outside to look for a cigarette.
It is nighttime but after the closeness and dark corners of the garage it feels lighter to me that it really is and I lean against a loose chainlink fence. The chanting call of “Life of Oi” filters out as I am bumming a smoke from a tall, lanky kid in a neat plaid shirt. He looks a little bit out of place but everyone seems to know him and wave as they pass us. We talk through the next four songs which seem to be standard punk-style although there is a unique squealing guitar on “Defeat.” Plaid-shirt motions to me as “11 am” finishes and tells me I should go back in to check out the next song. My quizzical look is answered with, “Bat Outta Hell.” Interested, I wander back in and hear Liquids run through a very nice cover of the the song, albeit only the first two verses…which may be better anyway…that is a very long song.
I stay through the end of the set including “Zilch” (my favorite of the night) and the final song a 59 second blast called “Bottomless Pit.” It turns out they are the only ones playing that night and much of the crowd starts filtering out while I push my way forward. As usual, I talk to the band for a few minutes and then wander out into the night again. Picking my way back home later thought the city streets I know that I heard some good music this night. Liquids delivered some classic punk sounds while skillfully incorporating other influences like rockabilly and rock. All is well 🙂
Album Review – Willie Waldman Project “Total Improv”
When I saw this pop up as a new release on Bandcamp about a month ago I was happy for two reasons: one being that I have heard Willie and his assorted musicians in the past and loved it, and also…improv is a great way to experience music. I have been listening to it for about a month now and offer my thoughts here:)
First off, I like the cover art – there is something whimsical about, simple even but it still really portrays the idea of improv in an abstract way…if you ask me anyway!
The album kicks off with “Exodus” and hits you early on with some great guitar work and a simple but complimentary back beat. It is an enjoyable song to listen to although it has an underlying nervous energy. Right near the mid-point the music plays around with soaring toward the great heights of openness and then crashing back into a valley of horns and guitar. Also some parts of it sound to me like a very loud, obnoxious train departing for some far-off land… and I mean that in a good way!
A great counter-point follows, with “Misty Night” coming across much more softly and lending you some cool down time after the charging sounds of “Exodus”. There is some really great trumpet playing here also along with a catchy drum sound that I always think of as a “club beat.” Listening to it evokes a scene of walking along a river in some urban setting, maybe a few water taxis rolling by as the bars close up around 3 am…the night is winding down and it’s been good one. Even though “Exodus” is a close second-place, this song is my favorite on this album.
Arriving next is “Carnival”, for me the only so-so song on this release. It feels more all-over-the-place than it needs to (even for improv) and also is the longest song. That may be a contributing factor in my opinion because some parts of it I really liked, such as the guitar that comes in around 2:40, but overall it just went on too long for me.
The next song, “Lightspeed” has some extremely effective clarinet at the beginning that lends a throaty vibe to the music. You can really pick out the separate instruments on this selection and I particularly liked the Tabula peeking through the background of the sound. It is a chill tune, good for pondering or exploring the universe. Even when it picks up the pace in some sections (starting around the two minute mark) it still maintains an underlying calmness from the bass guitar notes. Groovy party music for the lounge after the warp drive is engaged 🙂
Speaking of the Tabula, welcome it warmly at the opening of “Firestorm” as it lends a distinct Middle Eastern vibe that carries through the entire first half of this song. About midway through the tone changes to something more experimental although the Tabula remains in place. And then, with about two minute remaining, along comes a great collection of sounds and notes colliding to provide a dramatic, if somewhat unsettling section prior to a smooth exit on the trumpet.
The final two pieces on this record are “The Loon,” and “Wood”. While the first of these is light and airy, the final song is a very classic jam and a fitting end-piece to this fine release. Every time I listen to “Wood” I can picture myself sitting around in a comfortable, familiar place with friends and collaborating in the way that these musicians do. We might not hit is as well as these talented people…but it would be great fun!
I also want to note that throughout this record there is some really great bass guitar work that lends a solid foundation to the tracks. It also takes a more prominent role on some songs (a fine example being “Wood”) and delivers great grooves. “Total Improv” is an overall solid listen that gave me (so far) a month of enjoyment with very regular listening. The compositions are expansive and I found myself discovering nuances each time I played it. I encourage you to check it out!