Live Review: The Lupines, Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s; Pile, Stuck, No Thanks tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:36 pm November 12, 2019

The Lupines at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The Lupines rolled out a new direction to their sound last Saturday night at O’Leaver’s. In fact, they literally rolled it out — a giant upright piano, that is. If you’ve been there before you’ve likely leaned/sat on the behemoth, which usually sits next to the exit to the beer garden. The band grunted it across the floor to the stage area for their set, and then spent a good 10 minutes (or more?) trying to get it properly miked up. Who knew that old-fashioned upright pianos could create so much feedback?

Lupines frontman John Ziegler set down his guitar to twinkle the ivories on a new set of songs that sported a honky-tonk country flair, a bit of blues and folk and rock. The first couple tunes were eight or nine minutes long but seemed to roll on forever thanks to endlessly repeating verses. Ziegler pounded the keys like a modern-day Leon Russell, ending each line with a bluesy flourish, while guitarist Mike Friedman pulled back his usual jittery, frenetic Lupines’ style to something more relaxed and refined, a la David Lindley.

It all came together on the final two songs of the set — one short one, the other, an epic closer wherein Ziegler maneuvered from the piano bench, through the tangle of microphone stands and cords to pick up his Gibson and battle Friedman with guitar riffs.

I’d heard a few weeks ago that Ziegler was going to play piano for this set, so I prepared myself to finally hear one of my all-time favorite Lupines songs — “Hasn’t Failed Me Yet” — a tune I’d been told had never been played live because of its piano-based arrangement. Now there were no excuses. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as the band only played brand new material. My quest to hear that epic song continues…

Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019.

Matt Whipkey and his crew in the form of poli-punk band Unexplained Death didn’t make it to the O’Leaver’s “stage” until well after midnight, ripping through songs off their just-released self-titled cassette.

Always prolific, Whipkey used the occasion to debut a couple more new songs, one of them an angry, fast number built on a golden guitar riff that I’d love to hear again. If this project’s goal was to pull Whipkey away from the Americana format that he’s known for, it’s succeeding. As I’ve said before, Unexplained Death isn’t so much a punk bands as a punk-influenced rock band with a political message ripe for our time. But it won’t be deemed a true success until someone wearing a MAGA hat attacks Whipkey on stage during a performance, ending in arrests by all involved, and the headline MAGA DUDE CHARGED FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER AT UNEXPLAINED DEATH SCENE!!!

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The last time Boston indie rock act Pile played in Omaha it was aboard the River City Star in the summer of 2017. They’ll be on firmer ground when they headline Slowdown Jr. tonight, on tour in support of Green and Gray (2019, Exploding in Sound), album that scored a mighty 7.9 on the Pitchfork scale.

The touring opener is mathy Chicago rockers Stuck. While Omaha’s very own No Thanks kicks things off at 8 p.m. This is a good one, and it’s only $12.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Review: Matthew Sweet, Tomorrow Forever; Lincoln Calling adds more bands (Pile, El Ten Eleven, Palehound)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:55 pm July 6, 2017

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Matthew Sweet, Tomorrow Forever (2017, Honeycomb Hideout)

What goes into writing a “hit song,” a song people will sing along to or remember or select for a play list or mix tape? It’s something I’ll have to ask Matthew Sweet if I ever get a chance, but I have an idea how he’ll answer: “I don’t know. If I knew, I’d have written more hit songs.”

“Come Correct,” the 13th track on his new double album Tomorrow Forever (2017, Honeycomb Hideout) and the last song on Side 3 has all the makings of a hit song — the crack rhythm track, chop guitar, a simple melody, sing-along lyrics. It’s a great song that stood out the first time I listened to the record. You can imagine it playing on your favorite FM channel… 20 years ago, back when there was such things as a hit record.

It’s not the only good song on the album. Tomorrow Forever is a return to form for Sweet and maybe his most accessible collection since 100% Fun or that Japanese “thank you” record, 2003’s Kimi Ga Suki. Old time fans will want to know how it compares to Sweet’s magnum opus, 1991’s Girlfriend. It holds its own, though it’s not quite as accessible or an obvious classic (only time will tell).

If you’re not familiar with Sweet’s sound, it’s sort of a power-pop amalgam of The Byrds with Big Star with Teenage Fanclub with The Posies with Sweet’s unique high-end, nasal voice. You could say there’s a ’90s flair to the music. His style hasn’t changed much since Girlfriend, but then again, why should it?

The only thing holding this album back is the lyrics, which too often are overtly obtuse or speculative — they’re too spacey and ungrounded, as if trying to be psychedelic. On the other hand, almost every song on Girlfriend was memorable thanks to lyrics that something anyone could identify with — love songs loaded with pain and/or redemption. “Come Correct” of this new one scores because the lyrics are obvious and real: “Don’t dance don’t dance / Get your head out of the sand / I don’t want to be in anybody’s band.”

The same holds true for tracks like “You Knew Me,” “Carol” and “Country Girl.”  But not so much for all those time travel/inter-dimensional songs, like opening track “Trick,” or “Entangled” and “Hello,” which have a ephemeral, hippy-ish quality wherein afterward you wonder what Sweet was trying to say (if you remember the lyrics at all).

In some of his past albums (and live performances) Sweet’s guitar noodling veered dangerously close to jam territory. Not so here, where the clear, simple arrangements keep the songs focused, as if Sweet was trying to write as many hit songs as possible. There’s more than a few on Tomorrow Forever, which is more than you’ll hear on most albums reviewed in Pitchfork. Rating: Yes

I only hope Sweet uses the same restraint when he plays The Waiting Room this weekend. The last couple times I saw him perform he and his band were more focused on rocking than trying to capture the subtleties of his best songs.

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As if Lincoln Calling wasn’t big enough, this morning they announced another wave of 67 bands for the festival that runs Sept. 28-30 in Lincoln (duh), including Pile, El Ten Eleven, Mount Moriah, Umm, See Through Dresses and Digital Leather. They’re also now selling day passes that run from $29 to $34. 3-day festival passes are $59. Find out more at lincolncalling.com.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Icky Blossoms (and Reptar) Vs. Pile (and Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship) tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:47 pm April 14, 2015
Icky Blossoms at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015. They band opens for Reptar tonight at Slowdown.

Icky Blossoms at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015. They band opens for Reptar tonight at Slowdown.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A pair of hot shows go head-to-head tonight.

At Sweatshop Gallery it’s the abrasive, angular punk of Pile. The Boston band recorded its most recent full length, You’re Better Than This (2015, Exploding in Sound Records) at ARC Studios right here in Omaha with producer Ben Brodin. There are moments on the record, like the triumphant “Mr. Fish,” that dip and dive like a drunken barn swallow. Striking stuff. Opening is a rare performance by Omaha band Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship and the sloshy slacker grind of Stomach (Check out their bitchin’ DEMOS — after hearing these, I was intrigued…). $8, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, cross town at The Slowdown, it’s the return of Icky Blossoms. Last time they played they sold out Slowdown Jr., which is why (I guess) this time they’re playing in the big room. Either that or the fact that Reptar is headlining this show. Coaxed opens. $12, 9 p.m.

Speaking of Icky Blossoms, here’s their latest from their upcoming Saddle Creek release Mask:

And here’s the latest from the Reptar, off their new album Lurid Glow (Joyful Noise, 2015):

It’s nice outside. Get out there and enjoy some live music!

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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