Tag Archives: post-punk

Song of the Day: “Day of the Lords” – Joy Division

Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures is always a great album to break out in the fall. Even though much of the music is played with a with a sort of menace, Martin Hannet’s production creates an eerie atmosphere. The use of space and overall feeling of the performance is just as important as the songs. You put on Unknown Pleasures and you can feel the daylight fading early: the last rays of the sun closing down over the horizon.

I always think of Bernard Sumner’s guitar on Unknown Pleasures playing as a sort of slowed down version of James Williamson’s fiery slash, best evident on Raw Power. Raw Power is of course, the sound of the apocalypse reigning down all around with Iggy front and center, reveling in the destruction and hedonism. Unknown Pleasures is the album for the aftermath.

My favorite track on the album has always been “Day of the Lords”. It’s the song that made me fully appreciate the album and believe the hype and mythology surrounding Joy Division. There’s not much structure to the song other than dissonant noise courtesy of Sumner’s controlled feedback. The sludgy feeling of the song only heightens the tension of Ian Curtis’ bloodcurdling cries of “where will end?”


Review: “Cease and Desist” – Manilow


The spirit of punk lives on in Manilow’s Cease and Desist. The four song EP from the London three-piece is loaded with buzz-saw guitars, spitting vocals and crashing drums. There’s a genuine sense of musical anarchy and excitement that drives the record. It’s all about the attitude.

And there’s plenty of that to be found on Cease and Desist. Like a lot of good punk, the musicians purposely never seem to fall in sync with each other. Background vocals fly out of the speakers but never create a harmony. Instead, they’re spat out with venom and malice. Drummer Gary Cardno hardly ever provides a steady beat, but he doesn’t need to. He flies around the kit with a wild abandon that only heightens the drama. If Manilow truly locked in with each other, they would lose their power.

You can easily imagine that these guys would stop their set mid-way through to either curse at the audience or spit on them. Lead singer Dean Moston conjures up the ghost of Johnny Rotten throughout Cease and Desist. His vocal phrasing seems to be taken right out of Nevermind the Bullocks. Even when the band slows down slightly on “Law Here” the guitar sears through the speakers violently.

Manilow might not be for everyone. But if you’re into contemporary punk, Cease and Desist is not a bad place to start.


For more info on Manilow, check out their Facebook Page.

New Music: “Doll Drums” – The Goodnight Darlings


“Whatever happened to July?” The Goodnight Darlings ask on their new EP, Doll Drums. As the cold months of winter creep upon us, the Goodnight Darlings provide an answer to their own question throughout this party-tailored set.  Unlike a lot of other indie-pop acts who seem content in creating melancoly atmospherics, The Goodnight Darlings revel in party jams. Lead single “Red Hot” is infectious and spunky complete with a shout-out chorus.  When singer Kat Auster declares, “Our team is red hot!” it’s almost impossible not to get caught up with her.  With one simple shout, Auster makes you want to be part of her team, whatever it may be.

The Darling’s sound as “Karen O and Robert Smith falling in love with a Timbaland beat.”     Certainly, Auster commands the EP in the tradition of great front-women.  The beats and post-punk buzzy guitars are a perfect vehicle for her imagination  and vocals to run wild.  Sometimes she sounds like a Banshee flying out of hell, other times she coos softly as if singing a lullaby as evident on “Doll Drums”.  Credit must also go to Auster’s band-mate Wilson Jaramillo who provides just enough bombast with synths and beats, but never overshadows Auster.

Their team is red hot indeed.

Check out “Red Hot” here.


Song of the Week: “I Was a Lover” – TV on the Radio

For me, TV on the Radio has been one the most interesting bands of the past decade. They’re noisy and slightly off kilter, yet they retain a sense of soul-inspired vocals.  At times they’re what the Velvet Underground would sound like if they were fronted by Marvin Gaye.

Though she appreciates much of I listen to, my fiancee doesn’t always share the same tastes in music as I do.  Needless to say, I was quite surprised when she said she liked TV on the Radio.

“I Was a Lover” is a perfect mix of post-punk guitars, mixed with a hip-hop style beat and  Tunde Adebimpe’s soul vocals.

New York’s Black Taxi On Their Forthcoming Album and Energetic Live Shows

BLACK TAXI is a rock band from Brooklyn, NY. Fully formed in 2007, the four-member ensemble consists of Ezra Huleatt (vocals, keys, trumpet), William Longyear Mayo(guitar, vocals), Krisana Soponpong (bass), and Jason Holmes (drums, vocals). BLACK TAXI is recognized for their animated stage performance and a diverse song catalogue, which amassed as a result of the members’ distinct musical backgrounds. Singer Ezra Huleatt started off studying jazz, guitarist William Longyear Mayo was an R&B/Hip Hop session musician, bassist Krisana Soponpong an 80s synth-pop revivalist, and drummer Jason Holmes an orchestral and theatre percussionist. Dance-Punk and Big-Wave dominate the foursome’s Grit-Pop sound, which is highlighted by carnival drums, glockenspiel, trumpet, keyboard and synths, in addition to their core setup of guitar, bass, drums and vocals.

I recently caught up with the band’s Ezra and Bill.  Interview below:

Your new album, We Don’t Know Any Better comes out in January. What’s different about this album than your debut Things of that Nature?

Ezra Huleatt: There was a difference in approach, I guess.  Our first record was recorded on analog tape, and we basically just performed the songs in a room until we got a take we liked.  The tunes had been around for a while, so we pretty much played them as they were, without much experimentation.  The new record, We Don’t Know Any Better, was written specifically with recording in mind.  We left whole sections of songs blank just to be filled in later while we were in the studio.  We’ve discovered how important it is to create while in the studio.  Some of the best moments happen when you discover an unexpected sound that only exists in that moment, some weird feedback occurring, or some obscure instrument that some band left there from the previous session.  When everyone in the room is laughing their asses off because of pure joy of discovering these sounds, you know have a winner.  But all of that said, the new record still sounds authentically like Black Taxi.  We embraced technology a lot more this time around, but we can’t escape our own songwriting.  That’s a good thing.

Your stage show is pretty wild and energetic – designed to get people up and dancing. You seem pretty fearless – with the megaphones, hats, and general presence. Have you guys been playing live for a while?

Bill Mayo:  We were pretty fearless even when we started, even though we sucked.  Maybe we should have been more timid ’cause man, we were awful for a couple years.  The caliber of our sound only started to match the performance around the time we released our first full-length album.  Ever since, things have gotten tighter.  We’ve focused on details that would have never crossed our minds, and we rehearse the hell out of it.  The idea is that once we hit the stage, the details have become second nature and we can just play and enjoy the energy.

Most of your songs seem to be influenced by post-punk bands and there’s definitely some Talking Heads about. Is that a fair assessment – or how would you guys describe your sound?

Bill Mayo:  I only learned what post-punk meant like six months ago.  Turns out I do love those bands like Talking Heads and The Clash, and Gang of Four. But my favorite bands growing up were Nirvana, Primus, Zappa, The Rolling Stones, and Steely Dan. I also listened to a lot of 90’s hip-hop.  My older sister was always listening to Wu Tang, and Biggie so that really rubbed off on me and I have a lot of love for rap.  And my younger sister taught me what it really means to be a singer.  I never paid much attention to vocals until I started jamming with her.  I think I’m more influenced by my friends and family than any artist.  I guess it does come across as a post punk thing.  But I heard it put best the other night – we played a show in Albany and some kid came up and said, “you guys don’t sound like anything, you sound like everything!”  I’m sure he meant that in a good way.  He was dancing like Thom Yorke all night.

You also use the glockenspiel on some of your songs. Did you learn to play that before the band or was it something you thought might sound cool for Black Taxi?

Bill Mayo:  Incorporating the glockenspiel into our music happened fairly organically.  At the time we were writing “pretty mama,” we were rehearsing in a loft in Brooklyn that was shared by a number of other bands.  We had the essential elements of the song down but were lacking one sound that would put the song over the edge.  As fate would have it, one of the other bands had a left their glockenspiel in the space, it was missing most of its bars but it did have the “E” and “D” bars which worked out perfectly for the song.  I had never played one before that night. 

Black Taxi seems to have fun with the usual conventions of what a song can be. For instance – “Up Here for Thinking, Down There for Dancing” has a pretty big 70s style riff but turns into an art-rock dance song. And “It’s a Ball” starts off as kind of ballad but then switches to a more up-beat song mid-way though. Is that deliberate or does that just come naturally when you write the songs?

Bill Mayo:  We deliberately keep things that come naturally.  Songs write themselves.  Nobody sits down and says, let’s do a 70’s punk thing here, and a Ke$ha synth line here.

What plans do you have for promotion for the new album?

Ezra Huleatt: Our manager can answer that best, but we are willing to try everything to get in into people ears  We have hired a PR team, given the first single out for free, and are working on a video for the second single.

Black Taxi



Black Taxi on Reybee Productions

Is David Bowie the Gateway Musician to Weirdness?

Like many kids born in the 1980s, my first introduction to David Bowie was through the movie Labyrinth. Without knowing much about him, even at a young age I knew the dude who played Jareth the Goblin King was plain weird. This was the first time I became exposed to extremely tight pants on a man. If you ask many people about the movie now, they’ll probably tell you with a slight bit of disgust that the scene where Jareth throws the baby up in the air, which exposed more of Bowie than Mick Jagger on the cover of Sticky Fingers, is forever cemented in their brain.

So yes, for a good decade that what was came to mind whenever I thought of David Bowie. That all changed one Christmas when my older brother Pete bought me a copy of Bowie’s famous best of collection, Changesonebowie. The songs that were on it were unlike anything I had ever heard.  They were flashy, explicit, down-right bizarre at times but also undeniably cool. The character of Ziggy Stardust sounded tragic – “making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind” – but Bowie made him sound like the most bad-ass rock star that ever lived even if he was fictional. “Heroes” was cold and metallic sounding, but Bowie’s gorgeous voice on the track pulled you in.

With the exception of perhaps Queen or Elton John, Bowie is rock’s most accessible weirdo. He dressed in strange costumes, sang about finding other guys attractive, created fictional rock stars that were more fascinating than many real ones, but many of his songs catchy enough to get mainstream attention. Who else can make a hook out of “hey man!”, making the trappings of fame so fun?

As much as I love Bowie, his greatest contribution to my musical life has been introducing me to even weirder and stranger artists who I love even more. It’s been said that marijuana is a gateway to harder drugs. Bowie is rock music’s gateway to more experimental, strange and less accessible music. Without being exposed to Bowie’s experimental album Low – a gift from my sister, which I absolutely hated at first – I would have never made the left turn to discover such albums as Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure, or Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, or The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat.  Bowie’s theatrics and sexual imagery suddenly didn’t seem so outlandish when compared with the dark, druggy imagery found on the Velvet Underground’s noisy 17 minute “Sister Ray”.

Without David Bowie, who know whats rock music would be like? It would certainly be a lot tamer, that’s for sure. Almost any artist who is a little bit left of center owes him a huge credit. Even newer arty bands such as Arcade Fire and TV on the Radio take cues from his book.  And hopefully, for my generation he’ll be remembered for his music more than the Goblin King.

The Ten Most Important Artists of the Last Decade: 10. – Death Cab For Cutie

I first heard of Death Cab For Cutie sometime in 2003, sometime before the infamous Seth Cohen Starter Pack episode of the OC.   One of my friends in my poetry class next to me, who knew that I liked music, asked me if I heard of them.  “No,” I told her, thinking that Death Cab For Cutie was such an odd name for a a band.  She told me to listen to them, which I did, but I didn’t think much of it at the time.  I wasn’t too into the sensitive rock that they excel in at the time.  I was too into the “angry young man years” of Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan to really give Death Cab much of a chance.

For a while, I kind of forgot about them.  Then somewhere along the line, tons of people I know started talking about them.  This was probably due to their inclusion on episodes of The OC.  I had heard of The OC, but it wasn’t on my radar.  “Why would a band want to sell out and include themselves on a TV show?”, I wondered.  My thought was that they were obviously a bunch of sell-outs.  This thought is of course, not really well constructed.

Back to Dylan and Costello for a moment.  Both of these artists, represent an aura of non-compromise.  They do what they want, consequences by damned. Costello, famously playing “Radio Radio” on Saturday Night Live when the producers told him not to.  Dylan, of course, for going electric when he was the hero of folk-music.  Sure they sold records, and have a wide audience, but “selling out” wasn’t something they would do.  I for one, held onto this very idea for a long time.  (Ironically, around this time Bob Dylan was appearing in a Victoria’s Secret commercial, but I deemed it too weird, and surreal to be considered “selling out”.  Really, I just didn’t want to admit that even my hero could do something like that.)

But for bands in the early 2000s, the music business was different.  The record companies were fledging, and there had to be a new way for artists to get exposed.  While it may seem commonplace today, for artists songs to be used on Glee, in 2003 having your songs on shows like The OC was uncharted territory.  Especially for respectable bands, but Death Cab along with Bright Eyes seized the moment, and it worked.  Suddenly people started talking about Death Cab all the time.  Their sensitive, melodic  songwriting, and Ben Gibbard‘s soft voice ushered in a new wave of indie-rock, where it was okay to emotional without being angry.  Death Cab represented a true alternative to radio rock which seemed to be dominated by big, dumb rock songs.  They also weren’t “cool” like The Strokes, or guitar-heavy like The White Stripes.  Death Cab was more interested in writing songs and telling stories that people could relate to.

When you think of “indie rock”, it’s hard not to think of Death-Cab.  Earlier incarnations of indie rock mostly included punk, hard-core, riot girl, and weird experimental post-punk bands. But Death Cab represented a new era of “indie rock”, and almost every indie band that came out after (or around the same time) – from Modest Mouse to Vampire Weekend – owe them a huge debt.  Let’s also not forget Death Cab also became a band that teenage girls, and women in college could relate to, something which rock radio seemed to be lacking.

When Death Cab signed to Atlantic in 2004, it was a major move.  True, Modest Mouse was among the first of the “new indie” bands to sign to a major in 2000, but when Death Cab signed people were left wondering if they would alter their sound for the masses.  But like R.E.M., two decades earlier who had also put out several albums on an indie label before signing to a major label, Death Cab put out Plans in 2005 , an album that didn’t compromise their sound, but built upon the foundation they already had as evident on such songs as “Crooked Teeth“, and “Souls Meets Body”.

Even though they’ve never really had a “hit”, Death Cab For Cutie remains extremely popular in part because the world came to them.  Perhaps in their own way, maybe they are a bit like Dylan and Costello.

Edit: Here’s the full list of The Ten Most Important Artists