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September 21st, 2005 Daphne Carr, David Muller, Mark Baumgarten | Album Reviews
 

THE DANDY WARHOLS, THE ALTERBOYS, THE FITZGERALD

     
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THE DANDY WARHOLS SEPT. 14 AT CBGB

THE DANDY WARHOLS SEPT. 14 AT CBGB

On the eve of its destruction, New York's most famous club gets Dandied.

[POP] Purple stage lights shone down on the Dandy Warhols' keyboardist Zia McCabe, standing alone, her hair blowing like Beyoncé's as she performed her band's encore. During the first night of the annual CMJ Music Festival in New York City, McCabe took the opportunity to sing "After Hours," an ode to the Warhols' influence the Velvet Underground. "All the people are dancing and they're having such fun/ I wish it could happen, to me," she sang in baby-voiced appreciation, adding, "I'm at CBGB's, I have to sing Mo Tucker."

And so ended a show that started at 8 pm in a club packed full of old fans (several Portland shout-outs had singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor asking, "Is that really you?") and industry types hyped by the Dandy-heavy documentary Dig! and curious to hear how the songs on the band's just-released album, Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, would translate live. There was also the appeal of seeing a "band of such a caliber in a legendary shithole like this," as one CMJ gent near me remarked.

Taylor-Taylor's voice ("My falsetto is shot. I have to be not fucked-up to do shit like that.") worked best as a whisper-scream, as it did on "I Love You," which felt nearly Ying Yang Twins-naughty with the leadman's added grain. Shaking off their last album's Duran Duran career interlude, the Dandys rocked on a punk stage in a post-punk town still waging a dance-rock revolution-nothing if fashionably out of season.

Without the megaphone vocal effect found on the album version of "Smoke It," the song broke free from the White Stripes jailhouse and swam toward Exile. Likewise for "All the Money or the Simple Life Honey," which lost some of its Oasis connotations here, performed in all-electric mode. Taylor-Taylor's cynical set-up for the title, "If you're playing in a rock-and-roll band but you still do whatever the man says," still sounds eerily similar to the Mancunians' plea, "please don't put your life in the hands of a rock-and-roll band," though both bands clearly have lived their lives for the myth.

When the drone of "Godless" from the band's 2000 effort Thirteen Tales of Urban Bohemia came on, it rumbled the club, getting into every seedy crack and positively bathing the crowd, who-used to the parade of CMJ-tossoff bands-stood in awe. Closing the set with "Down Like Disco" after one-and-a-half hours of a nearly banterless show was already fitting, but became even more so when considering the looming eviction of the 31-year-old legendary club.

It may be too late for another big Dandys break and likely too a "toast to never" for CBGB. But it's never too late for more myth building.

The altarboys

Greatest hits Volume II (Last Chance Records)

Technically, the songs here are the band's greatest hits.

[PUNK] Normally a band releases a few albums and has some commercial success before it starts putting together its first greatest-hits collection. The Altarboys skipped all that on their debut release, Greatest Hits Volume II. It's an amusing title choice-and true in the sense that these are the band's only songs-but it suggests these local punk rockers may be a bit heavy on the hubris. Punk rock has always been a niche market, and the Altarboys seem to desire nothing more than to fit safely into it. Unfortunately, their attempt at straight-up punk rock could not be more generic and boring. They've got the constant snare drum, the distorted guitar power chords, and the half-yelling, half-melodic lead singer in Jack Bastard. There is little musical variation from track to track, and Bastard's lyrics are full of the revolutionary lip-service characteristic of bands who proved their inability to change the system long ago. The difference here is the Altarboys are young and new, but Bastard simply recycles the same ineffective credos he must have listened to when he was 15. "Bomb Threat" closes with this refrain: "Parents, teachers, cops, they might threaten you/ they might yell at you, but fuck 'em you know your rights/ Now are you gonna sit there or are you gonna fight?" Bastard's hypocrisy comes through in songs like "Fucked up Tonight" and "Bored," however, in which he reveals that most of the time he is either intoxicated or apathetic (or both). But the Altarboys deserve credit, at least, for their self-awareness and openness to projectile criticism, as evidenced by their bio on Lastchancerecords.com: "Sick of being told not to throw shit at the band? ... Throw shit.... We promise to be arrogant, loud and obnoxious." It's always comforting to have something you can count on. DAVID MULLER.

The Altarboys play with Dr. Know, Buckwildz and DJ Pussyface Thursday, Sept. 22, at Sabala's at Mount Tabor. 9:30 pm. Cover. 21+.

The Fitzgerald

Richmond Fontaine (El Cortez)

Technically, the songs here are the band's greatest hits.

[AMERICANA] With The Fitzgerald, Richmond Fontaine has severed itself from pretty much all traditional Americana being played right now. Led by Willy Vlautin's clipped drawl, the Portland band has become more performance art than country bar band with this, its sixth release. That doesn't mean the band has lost its penchant for evoking the dusty, degraded West; rather, it means it has tempered much of its musicality for a clearer image of that West. Vlautin's stories of despair and self-destruction take center stage here. His prose, more often than not, refuses to compromise with the traditions of pop musicality-be it choruses, rhyming lines or even singing. The band's last album, Post to Wire, hinted at the storytelling that would soon take center stage, with short vignettes written and read by Vlautin between more traditional songs that harked back to the likes of Uncle Tupelo or Whiskeytown. On The Fitzgerald, though, Vlautin has made the full tranformation from Jay Farrar into Charles Bukowski. Here, in 11 songs, the songwriter and soon-to-be-published novelist tells stories of hard-luck protagonists in a world of bars, casinos and hotels; it's a reflection of the Reno Vlautin lived in until moving to Portland more than 10 years ago. The songs do suffer from a certain sameness. Back-alley brawls have a special place in Vlautin's heart, as do bloodied shirts, and the character makeup of every protagonist is offered up in album opener "The Warehouse Life," wherein the narrator describes a beleaguered friend as "Broken, blown, lost and blue." Ultimately it is those compelling, universal characters that drive these songs. There are still some brilliant moments when the music overshadows the stories, most notably on "Don't Look Back and It Won't Hurt." Mostly, though, the songs are delivered at a nearly unsustainable pace, the beat so slow that Vlautin's words don't ride the rhythm but dance over a blanket of dusty atmospherics, telling stories so tragic that only a barren soundtrack would be fitting. MARK BAUMGARTEN.

Richmond Fontaine celebrates the release of The Fitzgerald with Norfolk & Western and the Mike Coykendall Band Friday, Sept. 23, at Doug Fir. 9 pm. $10. 21+.


The Altarboys play with Dr. Know, Buckwildz and DJ Pussyface Thursday, Sept. 22, at Sabala's at Mount Tabor. 9:30 pm. Cover. 21+.

Richmond Fontaine celebrates the release of The Fitzgerald with Norfolk & Western and the Mike Coykendall Band Friday, Sept. 23, at Doug Fir. 9 pm. $10. 21+.

 
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