Monthly Archives: May 2016

Song of the Day: “Monkey Gone to Heaven” – The Pixies

Placed mid-way through the classic Doolittle, the mid-tempo and atmospheric “Monkey Gone to Heaven” is a stark contrast to the abrasiveness found in the rest of the album. Almost every other track on Doolittle finds the Pixies alternating between two extremes: their famous soft/loud dynamic, which of course set the template for Nirvana.

Even when Black Francis screams near the end of the song, the song never truly flies off into noisier territory. The key to the song is actually restraint: something that you wouldn’t normally associate with The Pixies. There’s a guitar crash to open the song, but the music in the verses is surprisingly stark: just Kim Deal’s think and swampy bass lines and David Lovering’s steady drums and some distant strings. There’s a stickiness and humidity to the song that feels almost unbearable: like a hot summer night when the evening’s heat actually feels worse than the day.

Joey Santiago’s guitar returns for the chorus, but it’s really Kim Deal who steals the show here with her ghostly refrain behind Frank Black. It’s distant enough to like someone walking behind you, creating an eerie feeling. “This monkey’s gone to heaven,” Francis and Deal sing (somewhat) in unison.

Black’s lyrics are equally disturbing and filled with images of disaster and doom: “And the ground’s not cold and if the ground’s not cold…then we’re all going to burn, we’ll all take turns.” Is it ecological or some kind of Biblical showdown? It’s always hard to tell with Francis, since after all this is a guy who wrote a S&M styled retelling of the story of Samson and Delilah. During the bridge, Francis counts off the order of the world: “if man is five, then the devil is six…and if the devil is six, then God is seven.” It sounds pretty convincing and menacing under his trademark scream, but the questions remains: what the hell are numbers one through four?


Song of the Day: “Plush” – Stone Temple Pilots


During their hey-day, Stone Temple Pilots were (perhaps unfairly) criticized for being too corporate, too derivative and too cliche when measured up against their peers like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. You could make the argument that Stone Temple Pilots, in a way, are responsible for what I like to call “grunge-lite” or “pseudo-grunge” bands that followed in their wake, like Live, Candlebox and later on, Nickelback.

In the years since, Pearl Jam and Nirvana (and to a lesser extent Soundgarden) have achieved a sense of respectability that has moved them beyond the ’90s. Stone Temple Pilots, meanwhile, have been regulated to ’90s nostalgia in the minds of listeners and their songs are frequent staples on ’90s oriented channels on Satellite Radio.

But here’s the thing: even while they were clearly a product of their time, their singles are strong and actually hold up pretty well. Their 1992 hit, “Plush” is a good example of this. A mid-tempo number with a big, muscular riff, “Plush” is a direct descent of ’70s hard-rock with no apologies with a sing-along chorus. Who doesn’t sing, “And I feeeeeel, and I feel, when the dogs begin to smell heeerr…” (ridiculous as it is) at the top of their lungs along with Scott Weiland?

Producer Brendan O’Brien is key to the song’s sound and appeal. O’Brien’s production gives the song a lift that makes “Plush” sound contemporary yet familiar. Each member of the band is given a crystal-clear sheen that emphasizes the individual parts. Dean DeLeo’s guitar, is never noisy or distorted. The space between the signature chords gives drummer Eric Ketz plenty of space to provide a wallop that is rock-solid. The whole thing is perfectly constructed for mass appeal. It’s no wonder that the popular acoustic version of “Plush” was included on the group’s greatest hits collection, Thank You.




Exclusive Interview with Philly’s Chris Paterno Band


Band Photo_PhotoCred Tim Lee

Philadelphia’s The Chris Paterno Band is just beginning to hit their stride. The six-piece soul-influenced band stretches itself out on stage, creating a euphoric experience for the audience. Formed in 2015, the band will release their debut EP, The Chris Paterno Band in August. The band has gathered praise along the way, including The Gavel which proclaimed that their “music is more than just singing words and playing a guitar‐‐it’s a vivid, mind‐seizing experience”.  Check out the exclusive Q&A below for some insights into the band’s origins and their plans for the summer.

Your music has quite a bit of a soul influence in it. Did any of Philadelphia’s musical history fit into your sound?

Definitely. I like to think that you can hear the Philly Soul roots in our music – The Sound of Philadelphia, The O’Jays, Patti Labelle. Acts like those knew how to evoke emotion, they knew how to be real and they knew how to get a little funky. We try to emulate those artists, while also bringing in some novel sounds/techniques to give our style a modern touch. Its hard not to be influenced by Philadelphia in general – the streets are always filled with characters and the Philly music scene is growing everyday. Its an amazing time to be a Philly musician. Working with a Philly legend like Joe Nicolo doesn’t hurt either!

The first official gig was the pre‐match bloc party at the Villanova Pavilion in front of…2000 people? And this was before the band was even official, correct? 

Yes! It was a surreal moment playing in front of a crowd that large after only 4 practices with new musicians. But, I was able to bring in a lot of great talent and we really had fun with it. After that, we realized we weren’t too shabby so we decided to stick together and see what would happen. The next show we played (less than a month later), our mandolin player, Adam Monaco, brought Joe Nicolo. He offered us a deal to cut our debut EP right after our set. That was an amazing moment that I will never forget.

 When did you realize that you guys might have a chemistry between you that you could really sink your teeth into? 

I think we really started to groove in the early months of 2016. We brought in a few new members – Frank Rein (trombone) and Mark Hightower (bass) – that really filled out our sound. Frank writes these incredible horn lines that just take our sound to the next level and I really started to find my voice, mature as a writer and as an instrumentalist. We haven’t played a show in a while because we’ve been working hard in the studio, but I cannot wait to take the stage again and show everyone what we are working with. The guys in the group are killer.

Do you take a different approach to your live shows than you would with the studio? 

Definitely. In the studio, we take things slowly and really think things through. On stage, we’re just goofy. I’m dancing around like a mad man, horns blaring, just having a fun time letting the music take over. Our horns (Mike Clark and Frank Rein) are trading solos with our mandolin player (Adam Monaco) and our bassist (Mark Hightower) and we are all locked into the now. We just let whatever we’re feeling take the stage. No two performances are ever the same and that’s what makes playing so fun.

Let’s talk a bit about your single, “Unfaithful”. What was the genesis of the song? 

The chord progression for “Unfaithful” defines my playing style – percussive, and full of odd voicings. I wrote this song about a year and a half ago during a time where everything around me was falling apart – friendships were fading, a long relationship had recently ended, and my family life was struggling – I felt lost and angry. At the same time, I was looking around, observing the culture that is a college campus and seeing and hearing all these stories about infidelity and trust issues. I could see the connection between myself- feeling like so many bridges had been burnt down, losing faith in my friends, family and myself – and the term “Unfaithful.” The bridge repeats the phrase “All we built, burn it down.” That sentence really sums up that time of my life.

I see you have a few shows coming up. Any big plans for the Chris Paterno Band this summer besides the ones listed? 

We’ve got a lot of shows, as you mentioned, that we are excited about including a few dates at MilkBoy Philly (5/28, 7/7) Connie’s Ric Rac in Philly (6/16) and a single-release show at Bourbon and Branch in Philly on 7/21. We’re also talking to a few festival organizers right now! More details on that to come. We’ve also got to release the rest of our self-titled debut EP, which we’re super-excited to share it. Its gotten great reviews from our moms so high expectations from the band.

Song of the Day: “Bottle of Smoke” – The Pogues

The Pogues have plenty of wild, fast-paced songs that sound like a bar-fight, but “Bottle of Smoke” might be the wildest of the bunch. The breakneck pace of the song gallops like a horse let out of the gate, which is fitting since the song is about winning a bet on a horse race (named after what I’m pretty sure is a bong) and getting into fights.

The fast-paced nature, allows Shane MacGowan to spit out his lyrics at an absurd rate with numerous drunken slurs and mumbles. Imagine “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, if Dylan sang it liked he was blacked out on too much whiskey, ready to throw punches, singing about a horse-races and you’d have an idea of what MacGowan sounds like here.

My mother has always said she liked the Pogues’ music, but can’t stand their lyrics. I’m almost pretty positive, that she was specifically referring to this song. MacGowan is no stranger to cursing in his lyrics, but the “fuck” is mentioned over a dozen times. It’s even part of the chorus: “Twenty-fucking five to one, me gambling days are done. I bet on a horse called a bottle of smoke, and my horse won.”  And for what it’s worth, it’s pretty much the only word that is decipherable in the whole song.

Since numerous other acts have copied The Pogues’ signature sound to lesser merits (Hi Dropkick Murphys), the Celtic Punk sound may not seem as original or groundbreaking as it once was. But “Bottle of Smoke” is a good indicator that Pogues could incorporate the spirit of punk with their heritage, without turning up the volume of electric instruments. All you hear on this track, is acoustic guitars, accordion, drums, bass and a tin whistle. And it sounds like a riot ready to break loose.

Song of the Day: “Angel” – Massive Attack

In the late 90’s an dearly 2000’s, it seemed that almost any movie that included a seriously dark scene, like a murder or drug deal gone wrong had Massive Attack’s “Angel” in the background. It was included in Pi, Best Laid Plans, Snatch, Antitrust, Go and an episode of The West Wing among others.

With the ominous and sparse drum beat that opens the song, it’s easy to see why so many movies used it. It just feels eerie and spooky, like walking around a playground at night. Massive Attack associate Horace Andy provides the song’s hypnotic vocals which only add to the song’s apocalyptic vibe. The song lyric’s aren’t actually that dark: “You are my angel, come from way above, to bring me love.”  But Andy’s performance is one for the ages: he sounds positively possessed like some sort of demon released from hell whose only goal is lust.

If you didn’t think the song could get any more intense, around the two minute mark, a sinister guitar solo bursts out of the gates like an open flame consuming everything around it. There’s a bit of a reprieve afterwards, before the song explodes again. As the guitars swirl around him and the drums pound with the foreboding feel of a coming army, Andy’s “love you, love you, love you” refrain leads the song out to hypnotic conclusion.

New Music: “Keith Richards & I” – The Rad Trads


The latest single, “Keith Richards & I” from New York rockers The Rad Trads is an impressive combination of blues, straight-forward rock and soul. As one would expect with a title that mentions the famed Stones guitarist, there’s plenty of grit and beer-soaked vibes from this mid-tempo rocker. Musically, the song takes more cues from Richards’ work with the X-pensive Winos than the Stones, but there’s still a trace of Richards’ famed dirty rhythms.

There’s no star of the show here, every member of the band is dead-set on bringing the song to life. The horn section is a perfect accompaniment to the bluesy-licks and swinging, yet sturdy drums, which provide a great backdrop for the songs tales of long nights and wild parties.

“Keith Richards & I” is the kind of song played by a red-hot bar band in a dingy joint that just happens to be the hottest place in town. It’s not hard to imagine that the song would be busted out at the stroke of midnight, when the night still has a lot to offer and no one is leaving anytime soon.  As the band asks, “Give me one just good reason, why I should stop?”

“Keith Richards & I” can be found on the band’s forthcoming release, Must We Call Them Rad Trads. For more info on the band, visit their Facebook page and check out the video for “Keith Richards & I” below.

Florida’s Sweet Cambodia On Starting Out and Their Funk-Inspired Sound


A few days ago, I featured “Sky” from the Florida outfit, Sweet Cambodia.  The funk-inspired track is the perfect soundtrack to the beginning of summer. I recently caught up with the band and got to talk about “Sky” and some other things.  Check it out below.

How did you guys first get together and decide you wanted to make music together?

Well each member came to Orlando in search of musical opportunity. Eric and Savvy met unconsciously at a open jazz night in the city. Eventually running into each other in the halls of Valencia College. Once they heard each other play, they found their musical soulmates. They decided right then,and there that they were going to put a band together.  Eventually after a few drummers Donnie ended up at their audition. The same musical soul mate feeling filled the air as they Jammed together.  Not even 5 minutes after he found out he was in the band he brought up a lead singer he knew who would be perfect. Cut to several months, and an audition later, Yante was apart of the band filling the last piece of the puzzle. There was a deeper calling when we all met each other that we would call cosmic.

You seem to have a natural chemistry together that sounds like you’ve been playing together for a while.  It’s quite apparent on “Sky”, especially between the drums and the bass.  What are you thinking as you play?
We each think about our own little world, but we also think of how we are interacting with each other. It’s more about how do I make my friend sound better. If everyone thinks as a “we” and not an “I” the sound will only strengthen.

Sweet Cambodia has earned a bit of a reputation as a live act. What do you think you bring to the stage that makes it so intense and energetic?
Each of us approach the stage as our great release. We leave all the emotions we experience on that stage. It’s how we survive. Life is hard and it’s how we unwind. Also we believe we aren’t just musicians. We are entertainers. You came to have a good time so let’s party, and have a great time !

There’s quite a range of sounds here.  Who do you see an influences on Sweet Cambodia?
Each of us stem from very different places of music. Bringing together the sounds of Sublime, Chon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Led Zeppelin. There’s countless others, but those would be the main influences.

Check out “Sky” below.

Song of the Day: “Problems” – The Sex Pistols

“You don’t do what you want.
Then you’ll fade away.”

To me, that is the key line in the Sex Pistols’ “Problems”. Here Johnny Rotten sends a heat seeking missile at his critics. He knows a good chunk of them have given up their dreams and settled down with their lives, with perhaps nothing to show for it when they die. You won’t find me working nine to five,” He spits out with venom.  “It’s too much fun being alive!”

“Problems” is probably my favorite track off of Nevermind the Bullocks, in part because of how the band sounds. The myth about The Sex Pistols is that they couldn’t play. “Problems” find the group locking in together and firing all on cylinders. Paul Cook’s anarchic drum rolls and cymbal crashing are a perfect for Rotten’s rants. Steve Jones’ gives one of his best riffs: a muscular juggernaut that hits hard and pummels you over the head.

The opening section tells you right from the start, the band isn’t fucking around. Cook and Jones lock in together for a wild crash that is the sonic equivalent of a fist fight. Rotten is clearly having a blast her: Telling people off is his favorite past-time, and if you have an issue with it, he knows you probably won’t do anything back. “Whatcha gonna do?!” He demands, knowing full well the answer.

Song of the Day: “Look It Here” – Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

If you haven’t heard of, or haven’t checked out Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, do yourself a favor and go listen. In fact, I urge you to stop reading what I’ve wrote here and listen to their self-titled album first. (But please come back afterwards.)

Unlike a lot of other rootsy-retro acts, Rateliff and his band bring a mix of Soul and whiskey-soaked bar-band atheistic into their version of Americana. This isn’t to say it’s necessarily original, but it certainly feels like it is, when measured against other bands who harken for an early sound.

They first got my attention last year with the Gospel-influenced “S.O.B.”.  And while that song is incredible, for whatever reason I just assumed that none of their other songs could possibly be as good. Not true. The whole album is full of gems, but besides the aforementioned “S.O.B.”, the mid-tempo horn heavy “Look It Here” is a definite standout. It’s the kind of song that feels like it’s existed forever, and will be in your head all summer.

Song of the Day: “Hunger Strike” – Temple of the Dog

No joke, “Hunger Strike” might be the best rock duet this side of “Under the Pressure”.  How can you go wrong with two of rock’s best voices singing together on one song?  Of course none of this would matter, if “Hunger Strike” weren’t a great song to begin with. There’s just something about that riff that sucks you in. Those ringing chords are part resilience mixed with a  tinge of sadness that pull you in every time.

No disrespect to Chris Cornell, but I’m willing to bet everyone’s favorite part of the song is when the drums kick in and Eddie Vedder enters giving one of his finest performances. What’s worth noting here, is that it was the first studio experience for Vedder (and guitarist Mike McCready as well), but you wouldn’t know that by listening to his vocals. His deep tenor is a perfect counterpart to Cornell’s jaw-dropping screams near the end.