Local Singles Roundup
Philo, "Everything Died"
The first release from the local trio Philo is the cheery "Everything Died," which finds leader and songwriter Jeff Cohen running down a pretty definitive laundry list of sorrows arriving in the wake of a lover's departure. There's a lot of spaciousness in the mix--one spare electric guitar accompanies the singer's litany, another provides burbling washes above a funereal beat; that and Cohen's oddly soulful delivery, dirtied up just a little with a faint echo track, make up for the slight noveltyesque cast of the song. The B side features Sam Cooke's "Cupid" getting the same lugubrious treatment.
Triple Fast Action, "Ronnie's Pants"
The second single from this Chicago threesome pairs a respectable bit of bashy pleasure with a B-side sleeper. The ostensible A side, "Ronnie's Pants," is based on a just-this-side-of-lethal guitar pulse over a song that has something to do with "safety in numbers." Fueled nicely by singer Wes Kidd's howling delivery, it's catchier and more substantive than the band's first single, "Revved Up," but ends up being overshadowed by the conceptual tour de force on the flip. "Aerosmith" is a quiet ballad with a whispered delivery over a single strummed guitar; the only other sounds are some guitar treatments that roar by occasionally and some electronic touches on the vocals. Over this, Kidd takes on everything from bikes to guns and guitars to family as he delivers Everyfan's lament: "I got my MTV / Q101 / I got some DGC [a Geffen records imprint] that I don't need / I don't want some / I want it all." The sarcasm is tempered by the warmth of the production and the sensitivity of the vocals. Subtlety, irony, and meaning combine for a killer track.
Waco Brothers, "Bad Times Are Coming Round Again"
This punkabilly aggregation combines the talents of Mekons Jon Langford and Stephen Goulding and Wreck's Dean Schlabowske. "Bad Times" is a sprightly bit of late-20th-century political folk music. Over a Sun Sessionsy guitar jangle and a steady rolling beat, Langford blasts his way through a list of social ills. The song's dark humor and spirited performance mask an unapologetic polemicism: "White men in gray suits lose all direction / White men in hoods are back again / They're running in the '96 election / Bad times are coming round again." (The song, incidentally, is one of the highlights of Hell-Bent, the second collection of "insurgent country" on Chicago's Bloodshot Records.) The B side sees the band making a run at Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come," with amusing results. The packaging is die-cut heavy cardboard with a nice Langford drawing on the back. The Waco Brothers play Friday at Beat Kitchen.
Number One Cup, Indie Softcore Denial
This four-song EP came out last year. The lead song, "Divebomb," is an energetic and pleasurable Pavement-esque concoction that combines laconic vocals by Pat O'Connell with a set of catchy breaks in the chorus, all laid over an almost Doug Sahm-ish Farfisa track. It's swell. Also on the A side is "I'm Found Out," a conventional, febrile slice of indie rock whose musical onslaught does a lot to obscure the fact that there's no real hook here. The second side includes a grinder called "Rent-a-Tent," somewhat hampered by an uncertain performance and production; it's hard to tell if the haphazard nature of both is deliberate or not. "That's the Spirit" is a closing homage cum send-up of 60s Maharishi-era psychedelia. The packaging--die-cut heavy cardboard with a neat wraparound banner--is nicely done.
Motorhome, "Whole in My Head"
The sensibility of bassist Kristen Thiele's "Whole in My Head" seems more English than American, much less midwestern. The song begins with delicate watery guitar ripples over which she warbles in a wavery falsetto. Things get noisy in the chorus, helped by a couple of layers of guitars from Josiah Mazzoschi, most notably a descending riff that turbocharges the song well. By the end of the song the band is wailing impressively; it's quite a performance for a first single. The B side, Mazzoschi's "Sugarlow," is an overambitious epic whose riffs don't justify its five-minute-plus length or wailing vocals. But for your money you get a heavy cardboard sleeve, color xerox insert, and green vinyl disc.
In the course of a pretty interesting analysis of the Jayhawks' journey through the record business in the March issue of Worth comes the news that the debt-burdened band was approached by Levi's with a $200,000 endorsement deal. They turned it down. "There are times when you say, Wow, we could really use this money," said guitarist Gary Louris. "But I imagined how it would feel singing, '501, 501.'" Compare Louris's stance with Mick Jagger's. During the Rolling Stones tour last year, Jagger bristled when questioned about the band's multimillion-dollar pact with Budweiser, which had the band appearing in commercials and shaking hands at suds-sponsored "meet and greets" before each show. Now we can see another part of the deal: The Jagger-Richards song "Wild Horses," sung by a Tori Amos soundalike, is currently appearing on a late-night TV Budweiser commercial.