Wilco – The Whole Love

Wilco’s eighth studio album, The Whole Love, is an exciting and enjoyable cruise through familiar territory. Of the dozen tracks on the album, none veer the Wilco train wildly off the tracks, though there are some interesting and welcome detours along the way.
The opener, “Art of Almost,” gets wild early, though the rest of the disc fails to kick out the jams to such heights again. The arrangements throughout are tight, interesting, and, of course, catchy as can be. With the exception of the leading and closing tracks, each tune is a compact, easily digestible example of Jeff Tweedy’s pop song writing skills. The closing track, “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend),” is a meandering folk jam clocking in at the 12-minute mark that quite beautifully captures the feeling of a Sunday morning in autumn.
If you’re already a Wilco fan, you probably own this album already. If more than one person whose musical taste you trust has told you that you might like Wilco, you’ll probably dig this album. If you’ve already grown tired of Tweedy & Co’s act, well, you won’t be surprised if this album doesn’t grab you by the balls. Personally, I dig the album, but I’m not about to drop 30 bucks on the LP just yet. But the disc is certainly a creeper, with tunes lingering around in my head days after I’ve politely invited them to leave the party. After a few more spins, I may have to re-evaluate my position and invite The Whole Love in to stay awhile. (dBmp, dbpmrecords.com) Sheldon Birnie

Chuck Prophet – Let Freedom Ring

What kind of artist would go to Mexico during the height of the bird flu to record an album in a vintage Mexican recording studio? Fucking Chuck Prophet, that’s who. This album is absolutely fantastic and I feel honored to review it, even though it was released in 2009. For all of you Folk Fest goers, you know what a show this man can put on as he absolutely killed the Little Stage on the Prairie this year. The first two opening tracks are great and draw you in, nicely paving the way for the punk driven “Where the Hell is Henry?” and the unreal title track. Let Freedom Ring has a perfect mix of up-tempo tracks and slower rock jams reminiscent and on par with all the great Americana artists such as Petty, Dylan and Springsteen. The music is amazing but the real strength lies in Prophet’s amazing ability to song write, these songs have some strong lyrics. His ability to have a sense of humor while still being political, yet still being able to tell a story forms an orgy of awesomeness that make Prophets music fun and timeless. How is this man not one of the big names in Rock?!  (Yep Roc Records, yeproc.com) Scott Wolfe

Smoky Tiger – Greathitz2011

Smoky Tiger handed this disc to me, noting that, Burton bless him, he’s released seven fucking albums this year. If you missed our interview with him, he’s one unique spirit, engaged in celebrating local folklore and unkempt positivity, and this disc captures his self-selected best moments from the first three quarters of the year. Greathitz2011 ranges from the Egyptian groove of “Titania” to the disco funk of “SmokestackLightning” to the lazy-slow folk of “Slopoke” to the weirdo bossa nova of every other track. The Tiger tackles much—chasing a faerie for her love, witnessing someone walk on water, and someone so happy, she hands out rainbows. Every track is so radically different that it prompted a mental “WTF” from me with each new track, followed by a prompt “FTW” and me cranking it up, bobbing my head, shimmying or groaning along, or whatever action appropriate. So, to hell with what you know and what you think is right, the Smoky Tiger’s music is waiting, pretty much a whole universe unto itself. And how better to make the interstellar leap and get acquainted than this disc? (Independent, myspace.com/thesmokytiger) Taylor Burgess

Hillbilly Highway – Drive-By Truckers passing on your left

by Sheldon Birnie

The Drive-By Truckers are a band from the Muscle Shoals, Alabama / Athens, Georgia areas. They play southern inspired rock and roll, with literate as hell lyrics and a touch of country and a dash of R&B. They’ve put about a dozen records, give or take a couple, since 1998, most of which I own on LP, CD, or both, and the rest of which I have on MP3. They’ve played thousands upon thousands of shows up and down and all over the Hillbilly Highway, and are hitting Minneapolis right aways.

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Live Bait: Monotonix

with War Elephant, January 19th 2009 @ the Pyramid Cabaret

By Holly Beddome

Photo by Cheyenne Rae
Photo by Cheyenne Rae

On January 19, 2010, a group from Tel Aviv named Monotonix walked into the Pyramid Cabaret and left an amazed audience behind.  Bandmates Ami Shalev, Yonatan Gat and Haggai Fershtman rocked out in short shorts with wild hair flying as they played a raw set of rock and roll anthems reminiscent of decades past. The trio turned the Pyramid into a playground as they continually moved their set, with energetic audience members cheering for them on all sides.

Although missing their guitarist that evening, opening act War Elephant still rocked the stage. The Winnipeg duo kicked the evening off with a perfect contrast to Monotix’s wild energy, with a laid-back set with thudding beats and slow, distorted bass hooks.  While War Elephant are not a band to dance to, they nonetheless rocked out and played a solid, grunge-tinged show that resembled a less-vocalized mix between Black Sabbath and Soundgarden.

Following War Elephant’s performance, Ami Shalev of Monotonix walked up to the bar and grabbed several bottles of water while drummer Haggai Fershtman and guitarist Yonatan Gat warmed up.  Cheers and whistles rang out from the audience as Shalev grabbed the microphone. The real show began as the band ripped into their first song; riffs were shredded, beats pounded and Shalev yelled like a man possessed with the spirit of Johnny Rotten.

The band fed off the energy of the crowd and clearly enjoyed shaking things up.  A garbage can was dumped over Fershtman’s head, drumsticks were given to audience members, and Shalev hung from the rafters like a monkey mid-song. Water and beer rained down as the Israeli rockers emptied the contents of several bottles over the crowd. Despite the chaotic energy of the evening, the vibe was friendly as people simply forgot their troubles and absorbed the show.  Monotonix truly put on a performance to be experienced, not just observed.

Next time these crazy rockers roll into the ’Peg, do yourself a favour and pick up a ticket. Seeing this band live is an experience that you will never forget!

Weird Shit with Kent Davies – The Rocker Code

By Kent Davies

“Rock has always been the devil’s music.” – David Bowie

darkloreFrom the time legendary blues musician Robert Johnson supposedly went down to the crossroads to make his deal the devil the occult has been a predominate feature in modern music history. Now Greg Taylor, expert in esoteric phenomena and creator of the blog Daily Grail (tagline: Exploring the fringes of science and history. Caveat lector!), attempts to chronicle the strange and fascinating historical connection between rock music and the occult. In the second volume  of the DarkLore anthology, Taylor examines how the supposed “dark arts” influenced some of the most important musicians of our time.

From the rare Zodiac symbols found on Zeppelin records to David Bowie’s obsession with keeping possession of his hair and fingernails clippings to avoid dark spells being cast against him, Taylor is a rock ’n’ roll Dan Brown, revising rock history to suggest what alarmist Christian preachers have been telling us for years: rock music has hidden messages, pagan symbols and is probably promoting sex. While some of the Taylor’s revelations are nothing new to music historians, such as the influence of voodoo ritual in early blues, he does manage to link the dominate feature of a coded lexicon in some modern rock and metal bands. By deciphering symbols, relationships and sometimes eccentric behaviour, we gain insight into the artists and the supposed truth behind their material. While Taylor deals predominantly with artists from the past, newer acts like Tool and the Mars Volta (who wrote their album Bedlam in Goliath using a Ouija board) are also included. While these carefully-placed symbols and occult references may be nothing new to some fans (especially metalheads), Taylor’s foray into rock’s occult underpinnings may be prove fascinating for others. You can check out an excerpt of Taylor’s essay at www.dailygrail.com/Essays/2009/12/Occult-Rock.