Vampire Weekend "Vampire Weekend" Review

Originally on on February 15th, 2007.

Ahhh… Internet hype. How many times do you have a read glowing reviews of a band on various music blogs only to find the band actually sucks? Too many. And unless you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t read online music publications), you have no doubt seen such reviews of Vampire Weekend. Thankfully, these guys don’t suck.

Much of their hype was due to their phenomenal online demo they put up last year. That hype got them signed to XL Recordings, earned them opening slots for some indie rock giants, and even a performance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

The band's self-titled debut is almost identical to that demo that made their name, only with one extra song and fuller arrangements; not that that’s a bad thing. The record is tight and cohesive, fun and catchy, and a plethora of other positive adjectives.

The band’s afropop/new wave/preppy indie rock sounds undeniably fresh. There isn’t a single band that comes to mind that sounds even remotely like Vampire Weekend. But that’s not to say they are too strange or weird for the casual listener. Everything is simple, straightforward, and instantly likable. The opener “Mansard Roof” sets an upbeat atmosphere that carries on throughout the disc’s run time. The collegiate “Oxford Comma” comes next, and is undoubtedly the best song on the record. The lyrics are not only easily relatable, but also perfectly capture what the band seems to be about. The rest of the record goes by in a flash, and without any weak tracks or filler.

Despite how good this debut is, it’s not without its faults. The album is short, ridiculously so. Coming in at only 34 minutes, it almost could have been an EP. And during those 34 minutes, there is very little variety. Every track sounds similar to the last, and few tracks have much to distinguish themselves. The band figured out what they do best, and stuck with it, which in its own way could be admired.

Vampire Weekend seems to have lived up to much of their internet hype, and in many cases, exceeded it. Their self-titled debut is sure to propel them far beyond pretentious indie rock blogs.

Originally on on February 12th, 2007.

Evangelicals’ frontman Josh Jones is not a normal person. His strangeness is apparent from the moment you first see him, talk to him, and especially when you hear his music. If you were to see him on the street, you might assume he is homeless. Bassist Kyle Davis is by no means normal either. His lanky frame and hipster-to-the-extreme fashion sense certainly makes him stand out in a crowd, and he seems to have been put on this earth to do nothing but to be a rock star. But perhaps the strangest part of Evangelicals is drummer Austin Stephen’s apparent normalcy. He just seems like a regular dude and doesn’t really fit in with the band in the slightest, yet at the same time, he fits in perfectly.

The Norman natives released their debut album, So Gone, back in 2006 on Misra Records. But last year, when Misra manager Phil Waldorf was hired by Jagjaguwar to head up their new imprint, Dead Oceans, he brought Evangelicals with him; thus thrusting the band into the indie-rock big leagues.

The Evening Descends, the band’s first release on Dead Oceans, improves upon So Gone in almost every way imaginable. The songwriting is significantly better and more varied; the production is cleaner and crisper; and the overall sound of the band has simply been refined.

The album begins with the schizophrenic title track that jumps from orchestral pop to stripped down pyschedelia to a funky dance number in a scant three minutes. As the album progresses, sounds zoom in and out, up and down, and everywhere in between. At first, everything seems too dense and nonsensical, but with time the melody reveals itself and the album’s catchiness shines through. By the end of the 43 minute run time, it’s difficult not to sing along with Jones’ every word.

Samples are used throughout the record and provide even more depth to an already deep musical landscape. Most of the samples blend in perfectly, but the “splat” sound in “How Do You Sleep” is one of the most unexpected and unexplainable things I’ve ever heard on an album, not that’s it’s necessarily a bad thing.

The band pulls from a wide variety of influences and wears them on its sleeve, yet manages to create a sound uniquely their own. The synthesizers of “Party Crashin” bring to mind 80’s new wave, while “Here in the Deadlights” is reminiscent of post-Waters Pink Floyd. Comparisons to British shoegazing band Slowdive can also easily be made.

On “Bellawood,” Jones repeats the phrase “Strange things keep happening.” If he’s talking about listening to The Evening Descends and the band in general, truer words have never been spoken.

  1. No Country For Old Men
  2. There Will Be Blood
  3. Hot Fuzz
  4. The Bourne Ultimatum
  5. Knocked Up
  6. The Darjeeling Limited
  7. Zodiac
  8. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
  9. Eastern Promises
  10. I’m Not There
  11. Ratatouille
  12. Superbad
  13. The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  14. 3:10 To Yuma
  15. Charlie Wilson's War
  16. Juno
  17. Sunshine
  18. Grindhouse
  19. Reign Over Me
  20. Margot at the Wedding

1. Bishop Allen - The Broken String
2. Minus The Bear - Planet of Ice
3. Portugal. The Man - Church Mouth
4. Student Film - Sleeping Giant
5. Patton Oswalt - Werewolves and Lollipops
6. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
7. Coconut Records - Nighttiming
8. Nurses - Hangin' Nothin' But Our Hands Down
9. El Paso Hot Button - When I Needed Sympathy
10.Band of Horses - Cease To Begin
11. David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts
12. Blonde Redhead - 23
13. The National - Boxer
14. Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity
15. Vampire Weekend - Blue CD-R
16. The Neighborhood - Our Voices Choked With Fireworks
17. Cave Singers - Invitation Songs
18. Aqueduct - Or Give Me Death
19. Cheyenne - The Whale
20. Fall of Troy - Manipulator
Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on December 7th, 2007.

There is no question 2007 has been a great year for Oklahoma music. Though powerhouses like the Flaming Lips and the Starlight Mints didn’t release albums this year, many lesser-known bands put out exceptional efforts.

5) Subatomic Pieces
“Hold Out For Science”
Little Mafia Records

The 90s vibe of “Hold Out For Science” is certainly nothing revolutionary but the songs are so well-crafted and catchy that it doesn’t matter the slightest. Chris Harris’ deep vocals anchor the album and are reinforced by multi-layered harmonies, fuzzy guitars and simple, yet charming, lyrics.

4) Aqueduct
“Or Give Me Death”
Barsuk Records

“Or Give Me Death” manages to sound both happy and melancholy, sarcastic and sincere and poppy and experimental at the same time. It’s a strange little piano-based record anchored by frontman David Terry’s wit and strong songwriting. Plus the album includes a song referencing “The Princess Bride.”

3) The Neighborhood
“Our Voices Choked With Fireworks”

The Neighborhood have been together only three years but their self-released debut album evokes a mature sound that would imply decades of music playing. “Our Voices Choked With Fireworks” covers the spectrum of accessible indie rock and seems to work from a wide variety of influences. It’s hard to keep from bouncing your feet when listening to the record’s strong, driving rhythm. If Radiohead decided to make a more straightforward pop record, it would probably sound like The Neighborhood’s debut album.

2) El Paso Hot Button
“When I Needed Sympathy”
Little Mafia Records

One-man-bands are typically too much of a gimmick to ever be taken seriously. This was mostly the case with El Paso Hot Button’s (real name Mickey Reece) first two records. They were fun, but really only existed to help you learn the songs before experiencing Reece’s awesome live show. This is not the case with his newest full-length, “When I Needed Sympathy.” It is simply a great record, and if you didn’t know otherwise, you’d think it was a full band.

1) Student Film
“Sleeping Giant”
Little Mafia Records

In recent years, Oklahoma has become known for its indie pop so it’s no surprise the best Oklahoma release of the year falls into this category. That’s not to say Student Film sounds like their indie pop peers. Instead, it has taken a more rhythmic approach that is dark and moody, but fun. Nearly every song begs to be sung along with at high volumes.

As great as 2007 was for Oklahoma music, 2008 seems to be shaping up to be even better with new releases on the horizon by the Evangelicals, Student Film, Colourmusic, Klipspringer, Red City Radio and Stardeath and the White Dwarves. For now, stay tuned and let these records from this past year feed your addiction.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on December 7th, 2007.

Rock music isn’t really known for being the most literate and intelligent of activities. After all, it’s “sex, drugs and rock & roll,” not “poetry, politics and rock & roll.” But that’s not the case for rock band Strata’s frontman Eric Victorino. In addition to the band, Victorino has also put out a book of poetry. But tonight he focuses on his musical side when Strata performs with Team Sleep (led by Deftones frontman Chino Moreno), Sonny Moore (formerly of post-hardcore outfit From First to Last) and Monster in the Machine at the Conservatory in Oklahoma City.

“This tour might be my favorite tour that we have ever done, just with the bands we are with and the kids that are showing up,” Victorino said. “A lot of kids are showing up for us, but more importantly, Team Sleep’s audience seems to be really appreciative of what we are doing as well.”

Strata recently released its second full-length record, “The End of the World,” after a three-year gap. Victorino said the band had a lot to work out during that time.

“It was an interesting process of us trying to find ourselves again,” Victorino said. “We hadn’t put out a record in a while, and we spent all our time touring without really worrying about what the next step would be until we got home.”

It took the band about a year to work things out and determine its next musical step. Luckily, its record label, Wind-up Records, was on board to follow the band’s decision.

According to Victorino, Strata placed more emphasis on lyrics on “The End of the World” than they ever had before. This is particularly true on the overtly political song “The New National Anthem.”

“It was exciting the day that song was formed,” Victorino said. “We wanted to take a step to having some sort of a stand and be more coherent... At the end of the three and a half minutes, if you don’t know what our songs are about, then we are doing something wrong.”

It was during the creation of “The End of the World” that Victorino started his poetry book, “Coma Therapy.”

“During the time we were making the record, I was kind of freaking out and needing to do something on my own,” Victorino said. “I wanted something that didn’t have anything to do with music or record deals or touring or anything. But it still needed to be art, and I am a crappy painter, so I started writing.”

Despite the fact that Victorino originally wrote “Coma Therapy” to get away from music, parallels can be made from the book to “The End of the World.”

“I think it kind of became a companion piece to the record.” Victorino said. “I think if you know the songs really well, you can read the book and know what stories they came from.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 26th, 2007.

Back in the summer of 1995, three Australian 15-year-olds had a massive hit in the U.S. with “Tomorrow.” The song became the most played track of the year on U.S. modern rock radio, and their album “Frogstomp” sold over 2.5 million copies.

Since then, Silverchair — comprised of frontman and guitarist Daniel Johns, bassist Chris Joannou and drummer Ben Gillies — has put out four records, all achieving massive success everywhere around the world, except the U.S. The band is especially popular in their home country of Australia.

“You can’t base all your success on one country,” Joannou said. “The world is a pretty big place. The U.S. is one of those places that you could tour all year, and we just can’t do that. It’s frustrating because you want as many people as possible to hear your music, but the U.S. is not the be-all and end-all.”

The band’s latest release, “Young Modern,” was recorded late last year, and has become one of its most critically acclaimed records.

“Recording ‘Young Modern’ was probably the most enjoyable recording experience we’ve ever had,” Joannou said. “We started out in Australia in a little house in the country. We just sat around playing music all day and at night we’d have little campfire dinners. It was almost like a boys’ club out in the bush.”

Prior to the recording of “Young Modern,” the band’s future was up in the air, Joannou said.

“We hadn’t played together as a band for a couple of years, and then we did this tsunami benefit concert called Wave Aid,” Joannou said. “Before Wave Aid we hadn’t even talked about doing another record. Then after playing that gig, we all were just so excited about playing music together again.”

The hiatus gave band members time to pursue things outside of Silverchair. Gillies formed the band Tambalane, Joannou did some producing and Daniel Johns formed The Disassociatives with noted Australian electronica artist Paul Mac.

“I think having all that time off to go do things outside of Silverchair and give ourselves a break from it all was a really good thing to do,” Joannou said. “It was good to just step out of what is Silverchair.”

The band is currently in the middle of its first full-scale U.S. tour in nearly seven years.

“It’s great that we are getting out to places we haven’t played in ages,” Joannou said. “It’s been really exciting to see that people are coming out and haven’t actually forgotten about us. We’ve even seen some familiar faces from quite a few years ago. It’s been a good six or seven years since we’ve been out to some of these towns.”

The band will make a stop at the Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City tonight.

“I honestly can’t remember the last time we played in Oklahoma,” Joannou said. “The last time we were out that way was probably 1999, but I am not even sure we played there then.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 20th, 2007.

The fifth annual Wizard World Texas took place this weekend in Arlington. Wizard World Texas is the biggest comic book and pop culture convention in the southwest. It brings together many of the biggest names in comics and allows fans to meet many of the creators.

The convention was divided into three parts: the convention floor where retailers sold comics and comic-related merchandise; Artist Alley, where the writers and artists have booths; and discussion panels.

Friday’s biggest panel was the DC Nation Q&A with DC executive editor Dan Didio and DC vice president Bob Wayne. The two answered questions about everything DC, including what’s happening in upcoming comics and “The Dark Knight Returns” and “Justice League” movies. The panel was casual and jokes were made throughout. Bob Wayne had some fun with a young boy sitting in the front who was wearing a Spiderman shirt. Wayne gave the boy his card and told him he would send him some proper clothes. Didio and Wayne not only discussed DC Comics, but also the comic industry in general, including what effect the WGA strike might have on the industry.

“Good writers are good writers, and if they want to come work for us, we would be more than happy to have them,” Didio said. “But the idea that we’ll have a flood of TV and movie writers rushing in to do comics probably isn’t that true.”

On Saturday legendary cover artist Joe Jusko hosted a seminar, giving fans a step-by-step look into how he paints his covers. Jusko had some problems with his laptop, but a fan in the audience was kind enough to lend Jusko his to finish the speech.

“People have asked me for years how I worked and how I get the effects that I achieve,” Jusko said. “And so when I was working one day, I decided to shoot my process step-by-step. I put it online originally to see how it would go over, and got great feedback. So Wizard asked me what I wanted to do, I decided to do that.”

Sunday, the convention’s guest of honor, “Smallville’s” Supergirl, Lauren Vandervoot, hosted a Q&A.

Although Wizard World Texas is the largest convention in the area, it’s still small compared many others.

“This is a smaller-scale show, but the people here are very supportive,” said Mathew Mohammed, writer and creator of the “Black Bastard” comic. “It may not be the biggest show, but the fans are great. That’s why I’ll keep coming back.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 11th, 2007.

Since ancient times many cultures have used the four classical elements to explain patterns in nature. These elements have been frequently used in film, television, games and music. Most recently, post-hardcore band Thrice used them as inspiration for its new record, “The Alchemy Index,” a set of four EPs each representing one of the four elements.

Initially hardcore, the band composed of Dustin Krensue, Teppei Teranishi, Eddie Breckenridge and Riley Breckenridge got its start back in 2000. As time progressed, Thrice began experimenting and incorporating a wide variety of sounds into its music, which led to the creation of the extremely experimental “The Alchemy Index.”

“The element concept was something Dustin came up with,” Riley Breckenridge said. “He told us that he woke up in the middle of the night and had this idea that we could do a concept album based on the four elements. It seemed like an interesting challenge and a new way for us to approach the writing and recording of a record. We are always trying to make every album we make a unique experience.”

“The Alchemy Index” was split up into two halves: “Volume One: Fire & Water,” which is in stores now, and “Volume Two: Earth & Air,” which will be released early next year.

“We decided to split it up for a couple reasons. I just think to get anyone to sit down with 24 songs is a lot to ask for,” Breckenridge said. “It just gives people more time to digest it all I think.”

Prior to the release of “The Alchemy Index,” the band split with its label, Island Records. They made the jump from a major label back to an indie, Vagrant Records.

“I think it just boiled down to a difference in opinion on where the band was headed and [what] we wanted to do and what the label wanted us to do,” Breckenridge said. “I think they were holding out for a radio hit, and that was never a priority of ours. We are more concerned with being career musicians, touring and making the records that we want to make. We just didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. We decided instead of butting heads about the direction we were taking, it would be better to just part ways.”

Thrice is currently on a nationwide tour with Brand New and mewithoutYou.

“We are out with bands we really like and who are really good people,” Breckenridge said. “It’s kind of different than some other tours we’ve been on in that it’s like a touring family. Everyone gets along, everyone’s working together to make sure that all three bands are putting on the best show possible and everyone is as comfortable as possible. There are no egos or posturing. It’s just about making sure that all three bands are having a good time and having good shows.”

Thrice, Brand New and mewithoutYou will perform tonight at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 9th, 2007.

The Opolis is usually the place for Normanites to see great indie rock, but tonight it will feature a group of local comics.

The comics — James Nghiem, Leah Kayajanian, Antony Cavazos, Nathan Anderson and Wampus — are all veterans of either Othello’s Open Mic Comedy Night or the Loony Bin Comedy Club in Oklahoma City. Given their normal venues, performing in an indie rock club will be a change of pace for the comics.

“At a comedy club, you’ll get a random grouping of people who came in off the street, all with different jobs, values, different senses of humor,” Kayajanian said. “If they don’t agree with you, or don’t like the way you look, or don’t want to hear anything beyond poop jokes, you’re going to bomb.”

“People who frequent indie clubs tend to be more open to things that are outside the norm,” Cavazos said. “They can appreciate absurdist humor as well as the more common observational humor.”

This will be the second local comedy night at the Opolis and also the second to be recorded for a CD to be released in January.

The five comics performing tonight all have different types of acts and will appeal to a wide variety of people.

“I like to think of myself as absurd, but I know I started out as sort of a shock comic,” Kayajanian said. “I get compared to Sarah Silverman a lot, which is a compliment because I like her. But I don’t want to be like her. I want to develop my own voice.”

“It’s hard to be a Mexican American comic without someone expecting a slew of racist jokes,” Cavazos said. “I don’t have any jokes about being in [a] gang because I was never in one. I don’t have jokes about low riders because, well, because lowriders are very serious things. You don’t make fun of those.”

Comic Kevin Costello was slated to perform tonight, but cancelled due to his relocation to Los Angeles. His replacement is Wampus, the owner of local grocery store Forward Foods, who opened for nationally-known comic Todd Barry at the Opolis earlier this year.

Anderson performed an impromptu set at the last comedy night, but this will be his first official set at the Opolis. Anderson was featured on Comedy Central’s Open Mic Fight earlier this year.

With stand up performances at both Othello’s and the Opolis, a comedy scene is starting to take hold in Norman, Kayajanian said.

“The talent is there and the venues are coming along,” Kayajanian said. “A lot of the Norman comics go to OKC to do open mic at the Loony Bin, and a lot of the touring professionals have noted how good we are. I am trying to be modest about this scene, but there really is something special going on here.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on November 8th, 2007.

It’s no surprise that record labels operate differently now than they did in the past. Thirty years ago, bands were given the chance to grow and find success at their own pace. Now, bands are dropped if their debut isn’t a massive hit. If Florida band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers had emerged in today’s climate, they probably would never had made it, because it wasn’t until their third album, “Damn the Torpedoes,” that they found success.

The album followed a long legal dispute between Petty and MCA Records. MCA had purchased Petty’s label, ABC Records, and Petty refused to be transferred to a new label without any say. After nine months of negotiations and Petty delclaring bankruptcy, “Damn the Torpedoes” was finally released on MCA subsidiary Backstreet Records.

The main focus of the album is Petty’s superb songwriting, and his frustration and anguish from his legal difficulties seems to have affected the songs. There is a sense of melancholy felt throughout the album, even on the more upbeat, seemingly happy songs.

The album’s strongest track is the opener, “Refugee.” The driving rock song showcases all that was great about the band. Petty’s southern, Dylan-esque vocals are anchored by a simple but solid rhythm section, memorable guitar riff, and hints of piano. During the more intense, emotional moments of the song, Petty’s voice cracks and waivers, which seems to make him even more charming.

Most of the vocals on “There Goes My Girl,” are simply Petty talking. Often spoken-word passages just seem silly, but here they work perfectly when coupled with the song’s soft, melodic chorus. “Don’t Do Me Like That” brings to mind a 50’s doo-wop feel without seeming retro or gimmicky. “Century City” is the one weak track on the album. It’s not that it’s a bad song — it just doesn’t live up to the greatness of the rest of the album. It’s just a typical late-70’s arena rock track.

Though the album is nearly thirty years old, it never feels dated, and is undoubtedly just as strong now as the day it was released. At only nine tracks the album is brief, but it never loses steam and there isn’t the slightest bit of filler. It’s one of the standouts in the album-centric era of classic rock.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 30th, 2007.

Avenged Sevenfold and its self-titled new release seem custom-made for Hot Topic. The band’s ill-advised fashion sense, pseudo-gothic imagery, flair for the overdramatic and general aim for rebellion all seem to appeal to the trendy goth/emo store’s target demographic.

The album opens with a gothic-sounding organ on “Critical Acclaim,” immediately reinforcing the clichés of the band’s image. The organ gives way to a heavy breakdown and shrill screams, which are probably meant to prove that the band hasn’t strayed too far from its hardcore roots, even though it obviously has. The song features lengthy patriotic/pro-war spoken word parts. Regardless what political message he may be spitting, it’s simply impossible to take lead singer M. Shadows seriously. His awful stage name and massive grill render any serious message a joke.

By the time the record reaches the halfway mark, it’s clear the band’s only goal is to conquer mainstream radio. The band follows the verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/solo/chorus song structure on almost every track, and everything just feels phoned in.

It’s only on “A Little Piece of Heaven” that the band seems to try anything legitimately new. This nine-minute epic seems straight out of a Danny Elfman score. It’s very “Nightmare Before Christmas”-ish (and definitely keeps with the misunderstood-youth theme). At first the song is quite enjoyable and provides a breath of fresh air, but after a few minutes Shadow’s obnoxious shtick takes over, and it just becomes annoying.

As awful as this record is, however, it will be huge — guaranteed. In spite of everything else, Avenged Sevenfold knows its fanbase, and seems to cater to them perfectly.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 26th, 2007.

If you happen to be walking down Main Street tonight, don’t be surprised to hear some strange noises coming from the Mainsite Art Gallery. Sound artist Jon Mooneyham will be taking part in an improvised sound performance along with other musicians and dancers.

“It’s an exploration of sound and creation of noise,” Mainsite director Christian Pitt said. “It might just be noise, or it might be something else.”

Jon Mooneyham will be mixing on turntables to anchor the event, but beyond that, Pitt is unsure of what to expect.

“Whoever decides to show up will influence what happens,” Pitt said. “It’s all very loose, with no real format.”

Mooneyham also goes by the name DJ Bronzai and has been a prominent local DJ for quite some time. He has also been involved with the Flaming Lips, providing graphic design for the band, and even playing guitar with them for a short time.

Members of local bands Anvil Flute and Ghosts of Monkshood are also scheduled to take part, but don’t expect the music to reflect the bands’ regular sound.

“The openness is not tied to traditional music,” Pitt said. “It won’t be a part of any one genre.”

The event will take place tomorrow night at the Mainsite Gallery in downtown Norman.

“It will be a unique event that cannot be reproduced or replicated,” Pitt said.

DJ Bronzai will also perform this Wednesday night at the Opolis as part of the second annual “Hallopolis.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 24th, 2007.

It’s easy to write off the band Kiss as simply a gimmick. Its makeup, costumes and a constant barrage of pyrotechnics seem to be a bit of a put-off for true music fans.

But beneath their comic book schtick, the band uses excellent songwriting to create some great rock anthems, many of which appear on 1976’s “Destroyer.”

With 1975’s “Alive,” the band broke into the mainstream, mostly owing to that album’s ability to capture the band’s spectacular live show. On “Destroyer,” the band could have easily tried to recreate that concert experience in the studio, but instead went the opposite route. They employed Pink Floyd/Alice Cooper producer Bob Ezrin, who brought with him an array of sound effects, an orchestra and a boys’ choir.

The album begins with the iconic “Detroit Rock City,” which tells the tale of a real Kiss fan who died in a car accident on his way to a Kiss concert — presumably by rocking out too much. The song’s massive arena-rock guitars and fist-pumping chorus are instantly recognizable.

Heavy bass lines and Gene Simmons’ raspy growl make up “God of Thunder,” a song that has since become Simmons’ theme song. When played live, it is during this song that Simmons — also known as “The Demon” — breathes fire and spits blood.

The middle of the album sags a bit. “Great Expectations,” “Flaming Youth” and “Sweet Pain” all seem terribly dated and ultimately become forgettable.

Things pick back up for the last third of the record, however. “Shout It Out Loud” is another instantly recognizable classic. Then there is the ballad “Beth” — the song was originally the B-side to “Detroit Rock City” and was never intended to be a single, but listeners began requesting the tune on the radio, and eventually it became the band’s first top 10 hit.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 23rd, 2007.

The first time Seattle band Minus the Bear headlined in Oklahoma was in 2003 at the Opolis, which holds about 180 people. The second time was at the Conservatory in 2005, which has a capacity of 240 people. Tonight, the band will play at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, which holds about 1,400 people. That’s quite a large leap for such a short amount of time.

The band, which consists of singer/guitarist Jake Snider, guitarist Dave Knudson, drummer Erin Tate, bassist Cory Murchy, and keyboardist Alex Rose, is currently in the middle of a seven-week tour in support of its latest record, “Planet of Ice.”

“This is the best tour we’ve ever been on, or that I have ever been a part of,” Jake Snider said. “Everything’s just been very consistent. The crowds have been good — good clubs. It’s been a lot of fun.”

A seven-week long tour might be considered too long by some bands, but the members of Minus the Bear are used to it.

“We are out for seven weeks on this one, then we are home for about eight days, and then it’s four weeks in Europe,” Snider said. “It’s been that way for like six years, just touring every fall. We know exactly what to expect. We are lucky now, because everything is a lot more comfortable. We rented a van with like a 20-inch flat-screen TV, and we have been watching a lot of movies and TV shows on DVD. And the venues are better now. When the clubs are nicer, the stress level goes down a lot.”

Prior to the recording of “Planet of Ice,” the band went through some lineup changes. Founding member and keyboardist Matt Bayles left the group in order to focus full-time on his career as a record producer, and Alex Rose was then brought in to replace him.

“The rest of us are so used to playing with each other, that we move really quickly and might overlook some things that are wrong,” Snider said. “Alex points out certain flaws that we might not see. He’s really critical of the music in a different way than the rest of us. Matt was more about filling things out and creating more atmosphere, whereas Alex is adding a lot of new melodies and layers.”

Earlier this year, the band released “Interpretaciones del Oso,” a remixed version of 2005’s “Menos El Oso.” The first pressing of “Planet of Ice” came with a bonus disc that included a remixed version of the track “Throwin’ Shapes.”

“I don’t think we want to do another remix album this time, but there will be a few more ‘Planet of Ice’ remixes that we will release in various ways,” Snider said.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 22nd, 2007.

When one thinks of great hip-hop scenes, Oklahoma City probably isn’t the first town to come to mind, Local rap group City Boyz aims to change that.

The group, which consists of Lava, Lil’ Snap and JP, just completed its new record, “No Time,” and will be unleashing it on the masses early next year.

“We got the new album, and we were listening to it on the highway, and I just had to stop. It got me too amped up. It’s crazy man,” Snap said. “I don’t even got no watch on, man. It’s ‘No Time!’”

Recently, the group went through some lineup changes.

“A lot of people thought City Boyz broke up, or fell off or whatever, but we just regrouped,” Lava said.

Two members left and were replaced by JP.

“Some people stayed and some people left,” Snap said. “But on their part, it wasn’t a wise decision, because it’s going down. We got JP now, and he’s bringing it.”

With both “No Time,” and their first album, “We Ride,” the group worked independently, making all their own beats, and recording everything themselves.

“I respect creativity and original beats,” Lava said. “Even on our first mix tape we had eight original beats. We just want to show people that we can hold it down independently. It’s all about independence and it’s going to continue to be.”

The City Boyz see a lot of talent in the Oklahoma City rap scene, but think that in order to be successful, everyone needs to be more collaborative.

“Everybody is out there doing their thing, and whoever makes it first is gonna help out everyone else,” Snap said. “But for the time being, everyone needs to work together more. It would be poppin’. There is a lot of good artists that could blow, but if they stop being selfish and work together, we all could blow.”

For Lava, Snap and JP, the City Boyz is more than just a rap group, it’s family.

“These are like my bros. This is our family,” Snap said. “This is why we’re good. It’s not like three homeboys rapping; it’s like three brothers rapping. It ain’t just the City Boyz. You go to the club, you don’t just see Lava or just JP or just me, you see all of us.”

When the group isn’t on tour, they can often be found out on the South Oval handing out flyers, selling CDs and talking with fans.

“It’s cool to meet new people,” JP said. “We’ve met new DJs out here, new rappers.”

“As artists, it looks good for us to interact with these people,” Lava said. “Get them to not only like our music, but like us as people. And they cool people, humble people.”

The City Boyz are confident that they can be the ones to put Oklahoma on the hip-hop map.

“We’re just trying to do something positive, and do something, not just for us, but for the state,” Snap said. “There are a lot of good rappers out there, but with the guys we got, I figure we can be the first Oklahoma group to break through.”

“We take this seriously,” Lava said. “This is not a hobby, this is life.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 18th, 2007.

Cheap Trick really had everything going for them. They wrote catchy power-pop that was intelligent, yet still rocked. They had a pretty-boy lead singer in Robin Zander that the girls could go crazy over, and a goofy guitarist in Rick Neilson that provided a sense of humor. Never was this more apparent than on their breakthrough live album “At Budokan.”

At the time of the album’s release, Cheap Trick was relatively unknown in the States but huge in Japan, which is obvious by the insane crowd reactions on the album.

The sound quality isn’t the greatest, and often the music is drowned out by schoolgirls’ screams, but there is something undefinably great about “At Budokan.” It showcases the band’s charm far better than any of their studio recordings.

The album was released right after the band’s third studio album, “Heaven Tonight,” and featured more than half of that record. “At Budokan” was probably supposed to create more of a demand for “Heaven Tonight,” but instead, it rendered the studio effort pointless. The live versions of the “Heaven Tonight” tracks are all far superior to their studio counterparts. So much so, in fact, the studio versions just sound incomplete. Robin Zander yelling the song’s title and the shrill screams that follow are an integral part of what makes “I Want You To Want Me” so great.

“Surrender” is quite possibly one of the catchiest songs ever. It’s just one of those songs that everyone seems to like. “Goodnight Now” is the perfect pseudo-ending for the album, and provides the perfect transition into the fist-pumping encore “Clock Strikes Ten.”

Obviously the band had enormous success after “At Budokan,” but they never quite matched the live album’s greatness again.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 17th, 2007.

When a modern band plays a classic genre of music, one would assume they have grown up listening to it, and have always been involved with it. This is not the case with Seattle folk band The Cave Singers. In fact, the band’s members have spent most of their careers playing in punk bands. The Cave Singers will be performing tonight at the Opolis along with Canadian band Black Mountain.

The Cave Singers’ lead singer Pete Quirk made his name with Seattle post-punk band Hint Hint, and guitarist Derek Fudesco with Pretty Girls Make Graves and the Murder City Devils. Given the members’ past projects, few would expect their new project to be sparse folk music, circa the 1930s.

Their debut record, “Invitation Songs,” was released last month by Matador Records.

“We recorded it up in Vancouver, British Colombia with Colin Stewart,” Quirk said. “We just went up for, like, five days at a time over the course of a few months. We met the Black Mountain guys up there, and a couple of them actually played on our record.”

Tonight will be the band’s first time to play in Norman.

“I’ve never been there before, so I don’t really know what Norman is like, but our guitarist Derek played there before with another band, and he said it was cool,” Quirk said. “Hopefully some people just want to come out, listen to some music, and drink some brewskis.”

Originally, there were no plans for The Cave Singers to become a real band. Fudesco and Quirk were just having fun.

“We were just recording stuff in our bedrooms,” Quirk said. “While Derek was on tour with another band, he wrote this great little acoustic song that I laid some vocals over. It just grew from there, and eventually we added Marty on drums.”

Like the Cave Singers, Black Mountain has a very retro sound, but of a different variety. The band’s sound brings to mind classic rock bands like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.

Their new record, “In The Future,” will be released early next year on Jagjaguwar Records.

“Their second full-length album resonates with the same genuine folk fragility that made their self-titled debut full-length an instant classic,” the band’s label said in a press release. “The new album possesses immense breadth, seamlessly showcasing short and classic folk-pop gems along with driving modern rock masterpieces.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 16th, 2007.

Several hundred hip hop fans were disappointed when rap legend and Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah did not perform as scheduled Sunday night outside the Oklahoma Memorial Union.

Severe weather forced the Union Programming Board to cancel the free Adult Swim-sponsored show. The concert’s two opening acts were able to perform until a thunderstorm rolled in just before Ghostface was to take the stage.

John Pike, meteorologist at the National Weather Center, said as far back as Thursday, there was a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms for Sunday night. By 3 p.m. Saturday, the likelihood of thunderstorms had gone up to 70 percent, he said.

“They should have moved it somewhere inside when they found out the storm was coming,” music education sophomore Adam Wilson said.

Fans were told to go inside the Union to wait out the storm. After only a few minutes of waiting, organizers announced the show was canceled.

“I was upset,” art history and broadcasting senior Chrysta Daebler said. “When they told us to go inside, everyone started booing and I really thought there might be a riot.”

Though fans were unable to see headliner Ghostface, they were able to see Dungeon Family member Witchdoctor. The Atlanta-native performed for nearly 45 minutes with the storm looming on the horizon.

“It was really just a show of openers,” Wilson said.

In September, a Starlight Mints show at the same location was canceled owing to rain, but because the Mints reside in Norman, it was possible to reschedule.

Union Programming Board Coordinator Michael Giesecke said that will not be the case with this tour.

“Unfortunately, there won’t be a reschedule,” Giesecke said. “It was a traveling tour, which means they are long gone.”

Reached by The Daily, an Adult Swim public relations representative, Jeff Anderson, declined to comment.

The Union Programming Board has another Adult Swim-sponsored show on its schedule. And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and Dethklok are slated to perform on the east Oklahoma Memorial Union lawn on Nov. 15.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 16th, 2007.

It may be October, but Norman band The Neighborhood still has the Fourth of July on its mind with the release of its debut full-length album, “Our Voices Choked With Fireworks.”

The members of The Neighborhood have been together a short three years, but the maturity presented on their debut indicates a band that has played together a much longer period of time. The record covers the full spectrum of accessible indie rock and seems to work from a wide variety of influences. The disc’s strong point is the band’s driving rhythm section, made up of bassist Eric Mai and drummer Matt Duckworth. It’s hard to keep from bouncing your feet through most of the record.

The album begins with the short intro “Wake Up, It’s Time to Go.” Singer Phillip Rice’s strong-yet-vulnerable voice is immediately put on display. This intro leads directly into the rhythmic “Stand Up, Chin Up, and Say,” and then into “Your Longest Day,” which shows the band’s heavier side. Then things are brought down a notch with the a somber acoustic track, “That’s Okay.”

At the disc’s center is the fast-paced and danceable “Hot Water.” You’d be hard-pressed to find a better song released this year.

The second half of the disc delves into a more electronic side, with techno interludes and synthesizers. These parts are by no means bad, but they just seem a bit out of place. The band is at its strongest with more traditional guitar-based songs.

If Radiohead decided to make a more straightforward pop record, it would probably sound like “Our Voices Choked With Fireworks.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 10th, 2007.

The argument has been on-going since what seems like the beginning of time: who was the better lead Van Halen frontman, Sammy Hagar or David Lee Roth? Sure, Hagar is technically a better singer and sold more records than Roth, but anyone who claims he was better is, well, wrong.

Roth’s scissor kicks and spandex are simply legendary, and the Cabo Wabo tequila salesman can’t compete with that. Twenty-five years later, we all know that David Lee Roth is pretty much insane and will whore himself out at any opportunity, but that doesn’t change the fact that there was something indefinably great about those first few Van Halen albums, their self-titled debut in particular.

From the opening of the seminal “Running with the Devil,” the band’s greatness is clear. Eddie’s virtuosic guitar work is immediately apparent, and Roth’s crazy character and charisma shines.

There is really nothing to be said about “Eruption” that hasn’t been said already. Those 102 seconds of whammy-bar goodness simply changed the way the guitar was played and undoubtedly inspired more kids to pick up the guitar than any other song ever did. At this point, it’s hard to judge just how large of an effect it has had, simply because it’s been copied so many times.

The entire A said really feels like a greatest hits collection. All but one track have been a staple of rock radio since their release and are all iconic. However, the B saide isn’t any less strong. It features the hilariously bluesy “Ice Cream Man” and the hyperactive “Atomic Punk.”

From David Lee’s sleazy-yet-somehow-sympathetic “Jamie’s Cryin’,” to the masterful reworking of the Kinks’ classic “You Really Got Me,” the members of Van Halen sounded like rock stars. It’s amazing to think that at the time, these songs were being played in bars. Everything just seems custom-made to be played in massive stadiums, and knowing David Lee Roth, it probably was.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 3rd, 2007.

In order for a record to be considered a classic, it usually has to stand the test of time, but some records make such an impact they can be considered a classic immediately. “The Shape of Punk To Come” by Refused is one of those records.

Released in October of 1998, “The Shape of Punk To Come” blends traditional hardcore with a wide array of influences, including jazz, techno and pop, along with highly political lyrics. When the record was first released, it went largely unnoticed. The mainstream music world was too focused on the growing nu-metal scene, and much of the underground hardcore scene dismissed the record for straying too far from the traditional hardcore formula.

As time passed, however, the album’s revolutionary sounds and massive influence became more and more apparent. Current bands like Blindside, Showbread and Norma Jean have all openly admitted to essentially being Refused rip-offs.

Every track on “The Shape of Punk To Come” is completely unique and brings something new to the table. From the free-form jazz of “The Deadly Rhythm” to the orchestral “Tannhäuser/Derive,” the band completely obliterated the boundaries of what hardcore music could be.

The most recognizable song on “The Shape of Punk To Come,” and the closest thing Refused ever had to a hit, is undoubtedly “New Noise.” The song’s quiet/loud dynamic is something that has been endlessly copied since its release.

The most interesting thing about “The Shape of Punk To Come” is how it eventually tore the band apart. In the middle of a tour following the album’s release, the band announced they were breaking up and cancelled the rest of tour. The band split at the top of their game.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 3rd, 2007.

Oklahoma isn’t necessarily the best place for a band to make it into the music industry. Some bands think they might be better off by moving to more music-centric places like Austin, Portland or New York. One of those bands is Tulsa’s Aqueduct, which has found success since moving to Seattle in 2003, and is slated to play at the Conservatory tonight in Oklahoma City.

“I like them because they blend techno beats, indie styles, rock and pop into songs that are fun to sit and listen to in my dorm room, while I’m working out or on my long drives home to Tulsa,” University College freshman Claire Schroepfer said. “The songs are catchy, with great harmonies and random noises in the middle. I love it.”

Aqueduct began as a one-man act, with lead man David Terry recording everything in his bedroom. As the band progressed, it slowly added members.

Terry says that the main reason he chose to relocate was to make touring easier.

“My moving was kind of an experiment,” Terry said. “When I got Aqueduct going, I decided I wanted to do everything myself, very DIY. There were some disadvantages being from the middle of nowhere in the Midwest. I tried to tour as much as I could, but found myself just able to do it in surrounding states.

“The west coast was calling my name. I’d introduce myself to that area, and bridge the two regions together and expand my tours. I moved at the end of 2003, and got the attention of a booking agent up there. Shortly thereafter, I got hooked up with [record label] Barsuk.”

Despite moving away, Terry says he loves to come back to Oklahoma to play shows.

“Ever since I have moved away, I found a heart-grows-fonder mentality,” Terry said. “When I lived in Tulsa, the crowds were spread thin because I played so often, but now that I come back only a couple times a year, there are a couple hundred people. I’m glad people still want to support me.”

When Terry started, Tulsa didn’t have the opportunities for musicians that are present now.

“Not having record stores and things like that made us hungry for music,” Terry said. “It kind of heightened my creativity being starved for it. Now that the internet is around, I have noticed it’s made more people more creative. More venues are popping up: Conservatory, Cain’s, Under the Mooch. I have seen a lot of cool stuff like that pop up in this millennium.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on October 2nd, 2007.

The first things to notice about Seattle band Emery’s new album, “I’m Only A Man,” are the ridiculous song titles. “Rock-N-Rule,” “The Party Song” and “Don’t Bore Us, Get To Chorus,” can all be found on the track listing. And the bad song titles aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They aren’t really indicative of the quality of the songs, but they are entertaining, memorable and fun to laugh at.

The band hit the scene in 2004 with “The Weak’s End.” The band’s three different vocalists helped it stand out in the screamo crowd. On 2005’s “The Question,” the band took a decidedly rock approach, and reserved the screaming for a few select moments.

With its new album, the band has made an almost straight-up rock record. Screaming vocals are almost non-existent, though the band’s vocal duels still play a large part in its music, and are really the highlight of the album.

The album begins with “Rock-N-Rule.” The song opens with a funky guitar riff and screamed/sung vocals that definitely seem influenced by scenesters Snapcase, but those soon give way to the melodic vocals fans of the band are used to.

Next comes “The Party Song.” This song features the first traditional scream of the record, and it just doesn’t feel right.

Emery’s lyrics have never been particularly good, but they haven’t been noticeably bad either, until now. “The Party Song” is but one example of this. “Don’t Bore Us, Get to The Chorus” is probably the worst offender. The song’s “I just want to be with you tonight/We’re here by candlelight,” chorus just seems ridiculously trite and cliché. And the strange choir and Panic! At The Disco-like electronic undertones don’t help.

Complaints aside, the album is decent enough. It’s catchy and has a distinctive sound, but as time passes it will most likely prove to be forgettable.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on September 28th, 2007.

Dreamer Concepts is a non-profit organization and art studio located in downtown Norman. It started because founder Amber Clour wanted to make a difference in Norman.

“I had a jewelry company, and instead of opening a storefront for it, I opened Dreamer Concepts,” Clour said. “I wanted to help bring in more community and culture to Norman.”

Opening tonight is the new exhibit “Dreamer 6: Organized Organics,” featuring non-profit design organization Mudsill, photographer and Norman High student Dani Knight, and painter Angela Renee Chase.

“We started with the group Mudsill, confirmed their installation, and looked over the other applicants,” Clour said. “We chose Dani Knight and Angela Renee Chase because they all kind of fit together.”

“Dreamer 6: Organized Organics” is different than anything featured at Dreamer Concepts before.

“It’s the first time we ever had an installation,” Clour said. “It’s a totally different style than anything we have had.”

Mudsill is a non-profit design organization that aims to better the world.

“Mudsill redefines the traditional understanding of the built environment,” the group said in a mission statement on the Dreamer Concepts Web site. “Rather than placing new objects in the world, Mudsill searches for discarded objects, pre-existing within that world, which can be re-arranged, adapted and reused.”

Photographer Dani Knight’s work focuses mostly on nature.

“I love to explore countries, cultures and backyards,” Knight said on the Dreamer Concepts Web site. “I use these as evidence of these adventures to show people that there is beauty in the most unexpected places. That all you have to do is open your eyes.”

Painter Angela Renee Chase also focuses on nature. She creates free-form organic pieces with paint and mixed media.

“I now look at any medium as just an available tool that I can use to create something that is pleasing to me, then to reveal to other people what I’ve been feeling,” Chase said on the Dreamer Concepts Web site.

Clour said she expects a diverse group to attend the opening tonight.

“You have a group of professional architects that have done amazing things, and then you have a high school student and a college student,” said Clour. “I am excited to see who shows. I think we are always pleasantly surprised.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on September 23rd, 2007.

Friday night, many gathered in downtown Norman for the opening of a new exhibition at the Mainsite Art Gallery. “The Contortionist’s Daughter” is a collection of work by Norman resident and OU graduate Ruth Ann Borum.

Borum’s paintings and drawings blend the grotesque and the beautiful to form something else entirely. Though she has been exhibiting her art publicily since 2004, “The Contortionist’s Daughter” is Borum’s first full exhibition.

“I employ painting as entertainment, challenge and exercise,” Borum said in her artist’s statement for the exhibit. “Painting is a tool to communicate things that thrill me, as well as a way to accept and build tolerance for things that seem alien.”

Most of Borum’s paintings are of one of two things: women with elongated necks or cupcakes.

“Sometimes the direct sources of my subject are as private and obscured as those in dreams,” Borum said. “Others play off my continued interest in the beautiful grotesque, as well as celebratory symbols, notably sugar in its dual nature as enemy/friend. Sugar if over consumed becomes a kind of poison, yet we honor each other with sweets...gather around them, and feed them in sacred matrimonial rituals. The cake is a kind of altar and centerpiece, eating it a kind of communion. The cupcake, a smaller form of cake, becomes a portable shrine.”

“The Contortionist’s Daughter” is on display by appointment at the Mainsite Art Gallery at 122 E. Main St. through Nov. 30th.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on September 27th, 2007.

Progressive rock band Rush has long been the butt of many jokes. Many people joke about them being Canadian, singer Geddy Lee’s falsetto wail and that most of their fans are Dungeons & Dragons-playing nerds. Most of the jokes are completely warranted and mostly true, but regardless, in its over 30-year career, Rush has had an undeniable influence on rock music, and has created some truly great albums, one of which is 1981’s “Moving Pictures.”

“Moving Pictures” is the band’s best-selling record, and plays almost like a greatest hits record. On the album, Rush condensed its epic prog opuses that defined its early career into more pop-friendly forms, and combined it with hints of the synthesizer material that would dominate its 1980’s output. The band’s musicianship is at an extremely high level, with each member, particularly drummer Neal Peart, unparalleled at his particular instrument.

The album opens with the seminal track “Tom Sawyer.” Even if you aren’t familiar with Rush at all and don’t recognize this song by name, you know this song. It still gets played constantly on both modern rock and classic rock radio, as well as appearing in a slew of films and TV shows. The epic “YYZ,” named for the transmitter code at the Toronto International Airport, is without a doubt one of the finest instrumentals of all-time. The album’s center is the almost ballad-like “Limelight,” which somehow discusses the drawbacks of fame without being heavy handed or seeming self-important.

The latter half of the record (or Side B), isn’t quite as strong as the first, but it’s still all quality stuff nonetheless.

“Moving Pictures” is essential listening for pretty much all music fans. The lyrics are intelligent, the musicianship is at unbelievable levels and the songs themselves are iconic. You just have to look past the jokes.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on September 25th, 2007.

Dave Grohl is quite simply the man, and at this point I am not sure many would disagree. He was the drummer for one of the most iconic bands ever, then somehow morphed into one of rock’s top front men. He’s also drummed on records by Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, Cat Power and Nine Inch Nails, put together a thrash metal side-project with Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and portrayed the devil in “Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny.” The newest release from his band, the Foo Fighters, only confirms his status as a rock icon.

“Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace” is the band’s sixth album, and seems the next logical step in the band’s discography. In 2005, Foo Fighters released the double album “In Your Honor,” which showcased the band’s heavy rockers on one disc and acoustic side on the other. On “Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace,” the band combines both sensibilities into an amalgamation of ‘70s arena rock-inspired power.

The album opens with “The Pretender,” which has already found massive success on modern rock radio. The song begins with a very Led Zeppelin-like acoustic intro, and then morphs into a typical Foo Fighters fist-pumping rocker that somehow manages to make the melody from Sesame Street’s “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other” seem cool.

The band continues its acoustic intro then rock formula for the first five tracks, until the completely acoustic “Stranger Things Have Happened.” Grohl and his guitar are the only thing present in this song, and while it’s decent enough, it kills the groove and momentum the band had developed in the first half of the record.

Next up is a typical rocker with a supremely awesome song title, “Cheer up Boys (Your Makeup Is Running).” This song would not have been out of place on 1996’s “The Colour and Shape.” “Summer’s End” is a southern rock stomp that bleeds into “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Minors,” a bluegrassy instrumental number that Grohl wrote after meeting a survivor of a 2006 mine collapse in Tasmania. The album closes with “Home,” which is very reminiscent of “Madman Across The Water”-era Elton John.

With “Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace,” the Foo Fighters have created an eclectic record that wears its influence on its sleeve. There isn’t anything new here, but sometimes that’s okay.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on September 21st, 2007.

While the name David Bazan might not be familiar to most, his body of work probably is. His main creative outlet for the last 12 years was the highly influential indie rock group Pedro the Lion. Early last year, Bazan announced that Pedro the Lion was done,and that he would continue as a solo act. He will be performing a solo acoustic set tonight at the Opolis. Nashville band the Winston Jazz Routine will also play.

This will be his second time in Norman this year, but Bazan said fans shouldn’t expect the same show as last April.

“I’ll be playing four or five new songs, and it’s going to be a different vibe,” Bazan said. “I think I have gotten my sea legs now with being solo, and I think I am a little stronger. Plus I will be playing a different guitar.”

Bazan recently released his debut solo EP, “Fewer Moving Parts,” on Barsuk records, which happens to be the label Opolis owner Andy Nunez’s band, the Starlight Mints, are signed to, but that connection isn’t why Bazan chooses to play here so much.

“I had played a couple of really great shows here with Pedro the Lion and always wanted to come back, but didn’t get the chance until last April,” Bazan said. “I think it’s going to be a regular thing now, though.”

Bazan has begun work on his new record, which will be under the name David Bazan’s Black Cloud. Originally, tonight’s show was set to be with the full band, but Bazan said that didn’t work out.

“The guy that I was working with on Black Cloud decided that he didn’t want to be involved with it about a month before the tour was supposed to start. He wanted to do his own thing,” Bazan said. “I kind of had to go back to the drawing board, and I just didn’t have time to get together a band on my own, work on this record, and tour.”

Political themes have always been a part of Bazan’s music, both with Pedro the Lion and solo, and Bazan said he is hopeful about next year’s election.

“I am real curious to see what goes on,” Bazan said. “The fact that the nominee looks to either be a black guy or a woman is really amazing. I think this could be the time for a revolutionary vote.”

Also playing an acoustic set tonight is the Winston Jazz Routine. The band had an eventful time when they last played Oklahoma.

“It was a good time, but I mostly just remember the U-haul braking down after the show and getting a free hotel room and pizza, compliments of U-haul insurance,” Winston Jazz Routine’s Nathan Phillips said.

Phillips said touring with David Bazan is a dream come true for the band, as he has been a fan of Bazan for a long time.

“I tried to convince my mother to let me listen to Pedro the Lion’s “Whole” EP back in junior high, carefully withdrawing it from the public library,” said Phillips. “But when she heard the low screaming come on, she thought it might not be a good influence on me.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on September 20th, 2007.

In the last few years, comedy has become more and more like indie rock. Many comedy acts have been playing indie rock venues, and indie labels have begun releasing comedy albums. Comedians like David Cross and Patton Oswalt were some of the first to take this approach with their work, and now many have followed suit. Never has the collision of indie rock and comedy been more apparent than with Seattle’s Pleaseeasaur, who will be performing tonight at the Conservatory in Oklahoma City.

Pleaseeasaur is composed of JP Hasson and Thomas Hurley III. Hasson is the actual performer, while Hurley handles projections, stage props and costume designs. The duo’s unique musical sound often takes the shape of late night infomercials or public service announcements.

“Pleaseeasaur’s ever-expanding field of inspiration is similar to that of a deep-space vacuum…where equal parts surreal lunacy, pop orthodoxy, literary syntax, infomercial music and sheer idiocy are culled, cultivated and transformed into classic Pleaseeasaur song form…then dispensed with glee to pleasure seekers of every ilk amongst their rapidly growing world-wide cult following,” the duo said on its MySpace.

Because the duo is a unique blend of indie rock and comedy, they tend to play shows with both comedians and bands, but aren’t sure which they prefer.

“It really depends on the band or comedian,” said Pleaseeasaur’s JP Hasson. “If it’s going to be a comedian, we prefer Neil Hamburger. It works best when it’s like a theme night. It’s no good if we are playing with some emo band from Omaha that’s really loud.”

Listening to group’s music, it may be hard to tell what has influenced them.

“I have been influenced by a lot of both music and comedy,” Hasson said. “The Dead Milkmen were always my favorite band. Also comedian Albert Brooks, specifically for Pleaseeasaur a lot of the stuff is influenced by late night infomercials.”

The group is currently signed to Comedy Central Records, who released their latest CD/DVD combo, “The Amazing Adventures of Pleaseeasaur.”

“Some people from Comedy Central saw us in New York with the Presidents of the United States of America back in October of 2005,” Hasson said. “They had a really great time and loved the show. They offered us a deal just a few days later. It was a really quick process.”

The DVD portion of “The Amazing Adventures of Pleaseeasaur” features lots of the duo’s music videos as well as a 30-minute cartoon.

“The cartoon kind of strings all our music videos together,” Hasson said. “We did all the art and stuff for the cartoon and then took it the guys at Adult Swim who did ‘Sealab 2021’ and ‘Frisky Dingo,’ and they made it move. They animated it for us. We actually met those guys at a Neil Hamburger show in Atlanta.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on September 17th, 2007.

Until recently, I had always dismissed Between the Buried and Me as a generic metal-core band without actually listening to them. But after a brief listen, I discovered how wrong I was.

The band’s main draw is how it blends so many different musical styles into the typical hardcore sound. This diversity has never been more apparent than on their new record, “Colors.” Elements of metal, prog, classic rock, jazz, bluegrass, and even emo are all accounted for here.

The album’s centerpiece is the epic “Ants of the Sky.” Clocking in at more than 13 minutes, the track features everything from soaring guitar solos to what sounds like a hoedown. The band’s eclectic range of influences is apparent all over the record, and it’s hard to pinpoint the main sound the band was going for.

The thing most noticeable about “Colors” is that it is truly an album, not just songs that make up an album. Everything flows perfectly, the songs blend together and it really should be taken in whole. Putting these tracks on shuffle or only listening to one or two is doing yourself a real disservice. And unlike most heavy records, this is a headphones record. While it certainly wouldn’t be bad jamming this album in your car or home stereo, you really need to listen to it with headphones on to appreciate the complex textures and unique song arrangements.

The only real complaint to be found with this record is that at times it’s a bit too jarring, jumping from one sound to another so abruptly. While the transitions are great, quickly going from death metal chorus to a bluegrass breakdown is not an easy thing to take in.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on September 13th, 2007.

Longevity is not something easily attained in music today. Most bands are lucky to stay together long enough to make one album, let alone seven like New York band Blonde Redhead. Now in its fourteenth year of existence, Blonde Redhead will play at the Bricktown Ballroom in Bricktown tonight. Also performing tonight is a brand new band on their first-ever tour, School of Seven Bells.

“I love Blonde Redhead’s songs,” University College freshman Samantha Patterson said. “They have a unique sound and I think they are very creative.”

Blonde Redhead consists of singer and guitarist Kazu Makino, singer and guitarist Amedeo Pace, and drummer Simone Pace. Each of the members immigrated to America from a foreign country (Makino from Japan, and the Pace twins from Italy), but Amedeo Pace doesn’t feel their foreign origins have effected the band.

“We are always trying to create our own sound and find our own way,” said Pace. “Who we are as people is what really effects our music.”

Blonde Redhead’s latest album, “23,” has garnered the band some of the best reviews of its career, and has exposed the band to a wider audience. The band’s members produced the album themselves, which they haven’t done since 1995’s “La Mia Vita Violenta.”

“We thought a lot about it and just couldn’t find anyone we wanted to work with,” Pace said. “We are very high-strung and would need someone just as passionate about it as we are to be a part of it. Doing it ourselves allowed more of the budget to be spent on mixing. You can record anything, and with good mixing it can be quite amazing.”

Immediately after their Oklahoma City show, the band is heading down to Austin to play the massive Austin City Limits Festival.

“Festivals can great, but they can also be terrible,” Pace said. “You don’t get a sound check and are essentially just thrown on stage. Though a lot of the time you play with some great bands and can really feel a part of something special.”

Because the band has been around so long, they have seen the shift in the music industry from album sales to digital music sales.

“I haven’t gotten used to downloading music,” Pace said. “It feels strange, and I just don’t feel attached to it. I would much rather have the album. But you can’t stop change and should just accept it.”

Before this tour, Brooklyn band School of Seven Bells had only played six shows. The band could be considered a supergroup, featuring ex-Secret Machine’s guitarist Benjamin Curtis, ex-On! Air! Library! members Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, Ateleia’s James Elliot, and Rhys Chatham drummer Joe Stickney. The show will be a homecoming of sorts, as guitarist Benjamin Curtis spent part of his childhood growing up in Lawton, Okla.

“I don’t remember too much about it, but Oklahoma is way cool,” said Curtis.

The band’s first EP, “Face to Face on High Places,” was released this past Tuesday.

“It’s being released on avant-garde label Table of Elements.” Curtis said. “I am a huge fan of the label. It has put out stuff by musicians that I am really enamored with.”

On top of the new EP, the band is also hard at work on their first full-length album.

“It’s been a crazy process,” Curtis said. “It’s been through so many different phases, but it’s mostly finished now. It will probably trickle out in the form of EPs, singles and such before it’s really released. We are not in a hurry.”

The band couldn’t be happier that their first ever tour is with Blonde Redhead.

“I met them when I was with the Secret Machines. They helped us out a lot.” Curtis said. “They are awesome people and are just the model of a cool band.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on September 8th, 2007.

Students planning on heading to Campus Corner tonight may have a bit of trouble finding a parking spot. Not necessarily because it’s going to be extra packed (though it might), but because instead of a parking lot behind the Turquoise Café and Pepe Delgados there will be a stage on which Norman bands Galapagos and Bridge Road Caravan will be performing.

“Tomorrow night for us is really all about exposure and getting our name out there to people who have never heard of us,” said Galapagos drummer Kiel Dehnert said. “Ultimately, though, the evening is for Bridge Road Caravan.

“It’s their first time to play together in 3 years or so. Therefore, they are all pretty pumped about the show. It’s going to be really exciting to get to be there to help them out.”

Galapagos have been around for less than two years, yet have already built a good sized following and have played several packed shows, including a string of shows at the Deli, a notable show at the New York Pizza and an appearence at this year’s Groovefest.

The band’s unique blend of rock, jazz, and funk draws much of it’s inspiration from bands like the Grateful Dead, Phish, and Chicago.

“We are kind of similar to a modern day Cream who got a couple more members and listened to a bunch of funk,” Dehnert said.

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on September 7th, 2007.

According to most, disco died back in 1979, but apparently no one told the members of New York City band Men Women and Children.

The disco-rock revivalists will be performing tonight at LiT Lounge in Bricktown. The band, which features ex-Glassjaw guitarist Todd Weinstock, ex-Reunion Show drummer David Sullivan-Kaplan, vocalist TJ Penzone, bassist Ricky Penzone, guitarist Christopher Wrigley, and keyboardist Nick Concellor, is known for its energetic live show complete with crazy lights, bubbles, and tons of crowd interaction.

“Men Women and Children are a disco inferno, but not in a tacky way,” said University College sophomore Dylan Nagode. “They pull it off with style and grace. Last time I saw them was one of the best shows I have ever been to, just because it was so much fun.”

The band took the summer off and is now on its way to California to record a new album, but is making a few stops on the way to play some shows.

“For the past three and a half years we have lived this band 24 hours a day,” said keyboardist Nick Concellor. “We decided to take a break over the summer and remember what ‘normal’ life was. We have all been writing on our own, and it’s been a great way to prepare for what we are going to do next.”

Also this summer, the band parted with ways with its label, Warner/Reprise Records. According to the band’s MySpace Web site, the split was mostly due to the poor distribution and promotion of their debut self-titled record.

“We are very lucky for this freedom to explore the right options for us, since most contractually obligated bands can end up crippled by a lack of both passion and resources,” the band said on its MySpace blog. “We have been hoping for this for quite some time now, and for it to finally be the reality of our situation is both liberating and motivating.”

Because of the band’s lack of a record label, and the rapidly changing face of the music industry, Concellor isn’t sure how or when the band’s new material will be released.

“Personally I think the concept of a full length is on the way out right now,” Concellor said. “I would rather deliver music quicker and maybe in more controlled bursts. No sense in making music and waiting five months before people hear what you do.”

While performing in Detroit last fall, the band’s van and trailer were stolen, along with all of the band’s gear and much of the members’ personal belongings. The theft, coupled with the poor distribution and promotion of their debut, has led some to say the band is cursed or jinxed.

“We’ve just had a streak of bad luck,” Concellor said. “Unfortunately, bands are easy targets on tour for organized crime.

“As far as our label situation, there were many things to be desired, but at the end of the day we got to make a record, go on some great tours and really position ourselves to succeed on the record we are about to make. All we want to do is be a band for a long time, not a flash in the pan. The only time in my life when felt jinxed was when I had a desk job and woke up at 8 a.m. everyday.”

Originally in The Oklahoma Daily on August 31st, 2007.

Typically, a rock show is a joyous affair. Bands want their audience on their feet, clapping, singing and generally having a great time. Such is not the case for one-man-band El Paso Hot Button’s “When I Needed Sympathy” CD release show at the Conservatory tonight.

“I want everyone to be sad that I’m putting out another album,” said Mickey Reece, sole member of El Paso Hot Button.

Fans who dress in funeral attire can get in for only $5 (it’s $7 for everyone else). Reece said he has more on his mind than just the release of his new CD.

“My basic goal Friday night, aside from putting on a really swell rock show, is to introduce the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard to a younger audience,” Reece said. “Ever since I began studying Dianetics and Scientology as a religion I’ve wanted to incorporate that kind of spirituality into my shows. I’ll be there early Friday morning cleaning up the Conservatory in my own special way.”

Producer Chris Harris, who has worked with Reece on all three of his records, said that it has been an interesting challenge.

“He goes about things a little differently than anyone else I’ve worked with before,” Harris said. “Most bands come in with a bunch of songs written and take a somewhat methodical approach to recording them. With Mickey, it’s a little different.

“He comes in with a few ideas, and a general plan for how he wants things to sound. But, so much of the writing and arranging is done in the studio. I’ve just got to be prepared for anything. The ideas come quickly and I need to be ready to capture them.

“His recent interest in Scientology has made things even more hectic. Imagine Tom Cruise’s behavior on Oprah Winfrey’s show, combined with the intensity of his interview with Matt Lauer. Now, throw in some crazy musical talent and a 2.3 second attention span. That’s what it’s like working with Mickey.”

Harris said he and Reece work so well together that they have recently formed a production team called DVDA.

“DVDA refers to a type of pornography that Mickey likes to watch for inspiration when writing music. Thankfully, he does that stuff on his own, away from the studio," Harris said. “Mickey and I have now teamed up for production on Ali Harter’s 'Worry The Bone,' We Are Good Friends’ debut, all the El Paso Hot Button recordings since “Turtle Wars,” and a new Subatomic Pieces record that we’re working on now. DVDA has one reason for existence, and that’s to make bad-ass music, period.”

Also playing the CD release show tonight are Those Peabodys, The Non and Crazy Diamonds.

“Those Peabodys and I played together at Emo’s in Austin and planned to do some dates together in late August which just happened to fall right around the time for my CD to drop. They’re playing the Denton and Tulsa show with me as well,” Reece said. “I’ve known The Non since they started playing, but since I’m always opening for touring acts, I don’t get to play with that many local bands. El Paso Hot Button and The Non has been a long time coming. Crazy Diamonds are the fresh, new hotness. They got mad flava, yo.”

This will be fans’ last chance to see Oklahoma City band The Non for quite some time.

“This is our last show for four months, because I am spending this semester traveling abroad in the Pacific Rim nations,” said Will Norton of the Non. “There will be a lot of people there to hear us for the last time in a while, and the show is a big deal for us.

“With that added to the sheer event of Mickey’s CD being released, this really will be quite a night to remember.”