Album review – Rome Pays Off

rome-pays-off

Rome Pays Off -‘There’s No Simple Explanation.’ (Trace)

Mark Beazley and Crawford Blair were original members of Rothko, the three piece act who consisted of three bass players. Rothko finally called it a day last year, and this is the pair’s first recordings togetehr since 2000.

Like ¬°Forward, Russia! used to do, their songs all take numbers. Not that they appear in that order in the album, but they are named in the order that they were recorded.So there are twelve songs on this album, but for whatever reason, there is no Song Two or Song Twelve. ‘Song Eleven’ opens the album and ‘Song Eight’ closes it. Got that? Good!

The album is gorgeous, beautifully atmospheric and strikes the right balance between experimental and accessability. Each track stands alone in its own right, but it adds up to one very impressive whole. Ifyou never heard Rothko, then at a push parallels might be drawn with parts of the work of Mogwai and Om. However, this essentially stands alone on its’ own terms and is all the better for it.

****

There’s No Simple Explanation is out now on Trace.

SONG 8 by Rome Pays Off

Album Review – Elf Power

elf-power-album

Elf Power -‘Elf Power’ (Orange Twin)

Despite the name, this is not the Athens, Georgia band’s debut album. On the contrary, it is the group’s tenth album in their sixteen year career (not including self-released albums and collaborations). Athens is a town that has a reputation for having produced some of America’s finest acts over the last thirty or so years, and I definitely hear some of the same magic that I hear on early releases from REM and the Indigo Girls flowing through here.

Which is not to criticise the B-52s; rather that this is an album which is gently rocky, and folky, and having been playing this record a lot over the last few weeks, one of the finest this year. Highlights include the opening ‘The Taking Under’ and the heartbreaking ‘Stranger In The Window.’ In fact, if you have any passion for gentle ‘alt-rock’ that is never aggressive nor bland, and indeed at times almost pastoral, you should own this album.

The album is dedicated to the legendary Vic Chesnutt, who was both a collaborator and friend of the band, who died on Christmas Day last year. I believe he would have loved this album; I certainly do.

****

Elf Power is out now on Orange Twin Records

Elf Power -‘Stranger In The Window.’ mp3

And just for fun – nothing to do with this album whatsoever – a cover version they did of a Jesus and Mary Chain song:

Elf Power -‘Upside Down (Jesus and Mary Chain cover).’ mp3

Elf Power’s website/Elf Power’s myspace

Interview: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

I fell in love with a band on Monday, emailed them on Tuesday and they emailed me on Wednesday. Hell yes!

Interview with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

the-pains-of-being-pure-at-heart1

17 Seconds: You’ve earned comparisons to the likes of My Bloody Valentine and
the Pastels. Do you consider yourself part of a c86/twee/indiepop
scene at all? Is there one in New York?

Kip: Well, we certainly like those bands a lot– The Pastels are one
of my favorite bands of all time, and early My Bloody Valentine is
also super good (and underrated). And maybe it was just Kurt Cobain
telling me so, but The Vaselines have always seemed like the coolest
band ever. But I think it would be inauthentic for any band in 2009 to
pretend they understood that world or why people made the music that they did two decades ago.

Focusing on mid-80s British bands sort of misses the fact that we’re
from America and grew up with totally different music– Teenage
Fanclub was obscure here. I mean, Sonic Youth and Nirvana, K Records and Yo La Tengo– even a lot of punk and hardcore bands gave us an idea of what it meant to be indie and what DIY was really about. And even now, we’re huge fans of the contemporary New York/Brooklyn scene— bands like Crystal Stilts, caUSE co-Motion, Vivian Girls, Knight School, My Teenage Stride– or A Sunny Day in Glasgow (Philadelphia), Pants Yell! (Boston) and Ringo Deathstarr (Austin).

As for the bands in New York, i feel like they have a lot of similarities in their inspiration, if not their sound. If you went
over to their house, you’d find a lot of the same records (The Clean, TVP’s, Teenage Fanclub, The Ramones, Black Tambourine, etc.). But
what’s so interesting is that they all take the sound in different directions– there’s no two bands that sound all that similar. Knight
School is different than caUSE co-MOTION is different than Crystal Stilts is different than Vivian Girls. They all have their own
distinct style, which i think keeps the community really vibrant and interesting– plus no one feels all that jealous…

Alex: Yeah, I think in terms of New York, or a scene, it’s a pretty natural thing. It’s not like people got together and decided ahead of
time “now we’re gonna start a scenel!” All those bands Kip named are just genuinely making music they liked based on inspirations from
bands they genuinely like made with people they genuinely like… so¬† naturally everyone got pretty excited to see others doing the same.
It’s a fun place to be right now.

Peggy: Everyone knows each other because there aren’t that many people out there who listen to this kind of music. We all see each other at the same shows, and all the bands have played together at least once. I never had friends who liked the same music when I was growing up, so it’s pretty thrilling to finally know people with similar tastes. It’s nice to not feel alienated for once.

17 Seconds: Looking at many of your influences, do you consider Glasgow a
musical spiritual home?

Alex: It’s definitely incredible how perfectly once city has nailed a sound (and still managed to spawn so many ORIGINAL bands). Hanging out there felt like being part of the cool kids club, for sure. It’s not often you go to a city and the hot-spot club is playing Belle &
Sebastian side-by-side with Madonna.

Kip: Definitely– i feel like Glasgow is probably the coolest city in the world. The Pastels, Vaselines, Teenage Fanclub, Camera Obscura,
Belle and Sebastian, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera, Strawberry Switchblade– If we moved to Glasgow, we’d be like the 27th best band
there… and that would be pretty good.

Peggy: Yeah, I immediately took to glasgow. It has a big scene for a city that is small and tangible. It was rainy and dreamy while we were
there. I kept telling everyone that I wanted to move there throughout the rest of the tour. I think Kip got annoyed.

17 Seconds: Who are those two girls on the front of your album?

kip: they are best friends! our label, fortuna pop, said it looked a little like a strawberry switchblade album cover, which isn’t a bad
thing…

Peggy: yeah i wish we could meet those two girls.

17 Seconds: How long have the band been together and how did you meet?

Kip: we formed two years ago in March to play at Peggy’s birthday party in a big warehouse in brooklyn. The Manhattan Love Suicides were coming to america and i think we tricked them into playing at Peggy’s party (along with Titus Andronicus) and we were like, “well, we’re throwing the party so if we learn some songs we can play too.” so we played 5 songs (two of which were “this love is fucking right” and “doing all the things that wouldn’t make your parents proud”).

All i remember from that night is that Titus Andronicus blew up the bass amp while covering “bulls on parade” which seemed really awesome at the time… then i realized it was my bass amp, but whatever– it was a fun party and definitely the perfect beginning.

peggy: it feels sooooo long ago! it’s crazy to think of everything that’s happened in the past year and a half. i wish i’d kept a
scrapbook.

17 Seconds: Do you think the word ‘indie’ still has any currency in 2009?

Yes, absolutely. Regardless if you’re playing hardcore or rainbow pop, the idea that the artist controls their music is 100% important. I
feel like, sure, the term has been bandied about to describe an aesthetic or fashion sense– but at it’s core, it’s about economics and the bands being in control.

Alex: I think it’s tricky, because “indie” has become such a loaded term. Largely, I think, people now associate it with kinda shaggy dudes playing not-too-shiny guitar rock — “mainstream indie” like Death Cab, etc. It’s not about “independence” so much. Which is fine. But as an ethos, I totally agree with Kip — it’s more present and more valuable than ever. It’s totally possible to get lots and lots of people to hear and love your music through new and untraditional channels and to do it yourself. It’s very exciting.

17 Seconds: CD or vinyl?
Vinyl w/ digital download, pleez.

Alex: Vinyl and digital for me too! CD has quickly become just a
space-sucking middle man. R.I.P.

Peggy: I only listen to music on my computer these days. That sounds
lame, but I just don’t have space for records and whatnot. I like
walking around and spacing out with my ipod on. Maybe ideally I would
say that I prefer cassette tapes because you can make them and record
them yourself.

17 Seconds: What are your favourite books/albums/films?

Books: Anything by Jane Austen lol… I also like Babar a lot and The Little Prince.

Albums: This question is nearly impossible…
Red House Painters “Red House Painters” (the one with the Roller
Coaster on the cover)
Teenage Fanclub “Bandwagonesque”
Suede “Dog Man Star”
Belle and Sebastian “If You’re Feeling Sinister”/”The Boy With the
Arab Strap”/”The EP’s/Tigermilk”
David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust/Hunky Dory/Diamond Dogs… ok, basically
everything through Scary Monsters.
Yo La Tengo – Painful
Serge Gainsbourg – Histoire de Melody Nelson
Leonard Cohen – Either of the first couple records…
Sonic Youth – Dirty
Helium – Pirate Prude
Pavement – Wowee Zowee
… this is too hard a question– i have to move on!!!!!!!!

Films:
Bill + Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Clueless
I just saw this movie “Teenwitch” that i really liked.
I basically can’t deal with horror, except maybe vampire movies.

Alex: Always a tough one.

Books:
“White Noise” Delillo
“Lolita” Nabovok
“Where I’m Calling From” Raymond Carver
“The Relief of Unbearable Urges” Nathan Englander
“Please Kill Me” Legs McNeil
Any George Saunders
“The Long Goodbye” Raymond Chandler
“Big Bad Love” Larry Brown
Any Lester Bangs

And right now I’m reading a collection by Richard Brautigan which I am SUPER loving.

Albums:
The Exploding Hearts, “Guitar Romantic”
T. Rex, “Electric Warrior”
Nas “Illmatic”
The Figgs “Sucking in Stereo”
Jesus & Mary Chain “Psychocandy”
The Buzzcocks “Singles Going Steady”

Films:
Wild at Heart
The Seventh Seal
The Sandlot
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Fargo
Wayne’s World (I & II)

Peggy: I love “Holiday” by the Magnetic Fields, “Blind” by the Sundays, “Incesticide” by Nirvana, “Candy Girl” by New Edition, “it’s
a Shame about Ray” by the Lemonheads, “Realistes” by Comet Gain, “Multiple Orgasm” by the Pooh Sticks, and The Rosehips self-titled
album. As for books, I’ve lately been into Penguin classics by British authors from the 60s, which sounds pretentious, but they seem to all be written in this ideal style (dry and witty) and about topics like teen angst and love. Murakami and Nabokov are favorites as well. As
for films, my favorite movie of all time is “Clueless.” Other favorites are Harold and Maude, Dig!, Drive Me Crazy, Chungking Express. I like romcoms if they can make me believe Love Is Real (a rare feat) and any movies about young girls. Although Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was kind of disappointing. I actually don’t really like movies and prefer addictive television.

17 Seconds: How optimistic are you about Obama as President of the US?

Kip: I hope people realize that he’s just a person. I’m sure he’ll do all he can to make things better, but it’s so hard to accompish that
much change– his power is limited by the congress, the courts and the generally conservative nature of most americans. Still, we’re all
obviously so thrilled by his election and hope for the best.

Alex: He’s got a tough road. Mostly I’m just optimistic that he’ll bring some transparency, thoughtfulness and dignity as the face of the
nation. I have no delusions that he’ll step in and solve world hunger or anything, but I am confident in his character. As confident as one
can be when assessing someone wholly through television, haha.

Peggy: I just love that he is a cool person and seems really down-to-earth. The fact that we elected him makes me love America more. It’s not really about whether he’s going to fix everything, but more about the representation of our country, and also the general air of contentment that is abound.

17 Seconds: What are your plans for 2009?

We have some tour dates in February and March up to SXSW after the release of our album. We also have a new single coming out in March– “Young Adult Friction”

Alex: Have as much fun as possible with my friends.

Peggy: Yeah, before I get too old. I think I rediscovered fun this past year though. Hopefully there’s more of that to come.

17 Seconds: What’s the weirdest gig you’ve ever played?

I think playing at Titus Andronicus’ practice space (“The Hate Shack” – a pool shed behind Ian’s parents’ house) in Glenn Rock, NJ at a High School party. It was super weird, but also 100% awesome. i can’t think of a more wonderfully weird show we’ve gotten to play– people were so enthusiastic. And Titus Andronicus (and VCR) was amazing (as always).

Alex: Yeah, Hate Shack was pretty amazing. We also played in what was basically a metal shed in the parking lot NEXT to a venue in
Tallahassee in 100+ degree heat. Weird would quite be the word I use for it, but it was certainly… something.

Peggy: The Hate Shack, that ruled. I can’t believe I didn’t break a limb in that mosh pit.

Kip: Yeah, we were old enough to buy beer so i think they really loved us…

17 Seconds: What’s the coolest record shop you’ve ever been to?

Monorail Music – i mean, STEPHEN PASTEL works there. is there anything possibly cooler than that? Plus i bought all these teenage fanclub 7″‘s that you could never find back in america.

Peggy: I second Kip’s answer.

Alex: Ameoba Records! California is so spoiled.

17 Seconds: If you could collaborate with one artist, who would it be?

Peggy: I’d be into collaborating with that Swedish duo that did that Kelly Clarkson song, “Since U Been Gone.”

Kip: I’ll stick with swedes and say – “Nixon”. I really love the Cloetta Paris album he did, and i’m a big OMD fan, so… it’d be fun
to work together on something like that.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart -‘Everything With You.’ mp3