Mew vs. The Reverend vs. Sondre/Willy; CD Review: Maria Taylor; Column 120 reprise…

Category: Blog — @ 1:31 pm March 29, 2007

Just about everybody I know is headed down to Lincoln this evening for Mew w/Oh No! Oh My! at Knickerbockers. That said, the show is still not sold out (according to the 1 Percent website). There’s no way I could drive to Lincoln tonight for a show that will wrap up at around midnight, drive home and get up at 6 tomorrow. Those days are long gone, folks. Instead, if I go out to a show tonight it’ll be the one at The Waiting Room featuring Norwegian songster Sondre Lerche with former Team Love recording artist Willy Mason and Thomas Dybahl. I haven’t seen Mason since he played here back in November 2004. His star has continued to rise… in Europe, but not so much in this country. Was the leap from Team Love to Astralwerks a smooth move? Time will tell. That show is $12. Also tonight, The Reverend Horton Heat is playing at Sokol Underground with Murder By Death and The Tossers. $17.

Here’s a review of the new Maria Taylor disc, which also appears in this week’s issue of The Reader:

Maria Taylor, Lynn Teeter Flower (Saddle Creek) — The former half of Azure Ray, Taylor is becoming recognized as the more reserved of the pair, the more musically pure, the more emotionally naked. And while the debut (11:11) was a strong beginning, this one takes her closer to where she’s headed, but doesn’t quite get there, probably because she still can’t quite let go of her sepia-toned past. She certainly tries. Opener “A Good Start” would be a hit in any other era; the back-beat rocker that recalls Buckingham/Nicks would fit right in between other AOR staples if it didn’t sound so good. “Clean Getaway,” an acoustic weeper about escape, isolation and regret, epitomizes the Azure Ray sound sans the harmonies. When there are harmonies, it’s Maria on Maria, the edges so close together that you lose sight of the overlap that makes them necessary in the first place. Stylistically, there are similarities to Aimee Mann (and producer Jon Brion), Suzanne Vega, and McLachlan. It’s Taylor’s melodies that set it apart, along with the experiments, some successful (the rural-flavored “The Ballad of Sean Foley,” co-written by Conor Oberst and Dan McCarthy), some failed (“Irish Goodbye,” with it’s Team Rigge rap). Rating: Yes

Who is Team Rigge these days? Weren’t they supposed to be putting out a record on Team Love? I know that a couple of tracks were once available from the TL site, but they mysteriously disappeared…

This week’s column compiles comments from last week’s Lazy-i blog entries about Cursive, The NYT and Little Brazil and Monroes show reviews, so if you’re a regular reader, you’ve already seen this. I include it here for posterity’s sake.

Column 120: Happy Hollow Offramp
Cursive, NYT, Li’l Brazil, Monroes…

This week, a hodgepodge starting with some Cursive news. I got an e-mail from a reader named Adrian who asked about Clint Schnase’s status with Cursive. “I saw them on Saturday at their SXSW showcase and they were playing with a different drummer,” she wrote, “and today I look on Wikipedia and apparently he’s a former member now.”

Wikipedia, as we all know, is notoriously inaccurate when it comes to things like this, just ask Sinbad. So I checked and, of course, Both listed Schnase as being in the band. Still, I went ahead and asked Saddle Creek Records executive Jason Kulbel. His response: “No, he has definitely left the band,” he wrote, adding that there was no drama, that Schnase merely decided that touring wasn’t really all it was cracked up to be. “The band has had a few different drummers for the shows in the past few months. No permanent replacement yet, if ever.”

Schnase is one of the most under-rated and underappreciated musicians in the Nebraska music scene. His drumming is at the core of Cursive’s explosively rhythmic music, the bedrock along with Matt Maginn’s bass on which all of the band’s bombastic sonic freak-outs are built. He won’t be easily replaced, and those of you who never had a chance to see and feel his white-knuckled stickwork live on stage are the lesser for it.

* * *

Once again, The New York Times has published a feature about the burgeoning Omaha arts and music scene. “Omaha’s Culture Club,” written by author and Omaha native Kurt Andersen for the Travel section of the Times’ Sunday Magazine, includes descriptions of The Old Market, Bemis, and of course, Saddle Creek Records. There’s even a photo of Robb Nansel looking like he just rolled out of bed the morning after passing out in his clothes.

“We’re just sort of doing things the way we want to do them,” Nansel said in the article. “I like to believe in the concept of putting out a record because it’s good, not to sell records.” Andersen also quotes Orenda Fink, Sarah Wilson, and documentary filmmaker Rob Walters about Creek, and sums it all up with: “In short, Omaha’s cultural moment is all about the application of the great Midwestern bourgeois virtues – thrift, square dealing, humility, hard work – to bohemian artistic projects. On this, everyone agrees.” Well, not everyone. Beyond hard work, there are these little things called talent and creativity that also play a factor. Still, it’s a well-written piece and good publicity for the city, even though it continues to galvanize the idea that Omaha’s music scene is defined solely by Saddle Creek and its bands. Guess that’s the way it’s always going to be.

* * *

Finally, some thoughts on last weekend’s best live shows. Friday night was Little Brazil’s CD release party — complete with balloons — at Sokol Underground. Frontman Landon Hedges proved he’s a crooner, an Omaha-style indie singer cut from the same cloth as Tim Kasher (a la The Good Life, not Cursive). Every time I see him with his just-woke-up hair and cheap wire-frame glasses I think of Corey Haim as Lucas or a bespectacled Bobby Brady, age 13. His voice matches his appearance — an unpretentious caterwaul that has no problem reaching for the high notes at the peak of a heart-wailing phrase. Little Brazil’s music isn’t exactly a bold, new direction in the world of indie rock. You got your cool guitar riffs, your lean bass lines, your thunderous drums (Oliver Morgan is always at his best every time I see him on stage — he has no second gear), all coming together to form a verse-verse-verse song (whatever happened to the chorus?) that builds to a predictable — if satisfying — “big ending.” But it’s Hedges’ Bobby-at-13 voice, in all its simple honesty, that makes the band stand out.

Saturday night was spent at O’Leaver’s experiencing The Monroes, a band that doesn’t get better or worse — they just keep doing what they’ve been doing for what seems like forever, reaching back to Pioneer Disaster and Frontier Trust a decade ago. At the core is ageless wonder Gary Dean Davis who has lost none of the high-jumping panache that he had when he was bouncing around The Cog Factory and Howard St. Tavern stages back in the ’90s. If you’ve seen them before, then you’ve seen them, and there’s a certain satisfaction to their consistency, as well as when they deviate from the norm. The deviation comes in the form of Lincoln Dickison, whose guitarwork is as unpredictable as it is bone-jarring. There’s an almost athletic quality to Lincoln’s playing that — to me — raises The Monroes slightly above Gary Dean’s former projects. Frontier Trust was always fun-loving tractor punk. The Monroes, on the other hand, rumble through their set in darker shades of John Deere green, a metallic green at that.
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