May 27, 2005

Grand National - Kicking the National Habit

Grand National, comprised of duo Rupert Lyddon and Lawrence 'La' Rudd, released their first full-length album, Kicking the National Habit, on May 24, 2004, just over one year ago. The album received widespread critical acclaim. However, the release was limited to the UK, and to this day remains available through import only. Fortunately, a recently announced US Tour hints to the future import of the band itself.

This album has been a staple of my music catalogue for almost one year now. Its eclectic blend of genres is seamless, and the work remains true to the British pop tradition established by bands like New Order, The Police, and the Happy Mondays. First single "Talk Amongst Yourselves" is a fantastic blend of synthesized beats and hypnotic bass, whereas "Cherry Tree" belies some unlikely but effective disco elements. The most recent single, "Drink to Moving On," is a mellow lesson in funk rock. "Daylight Goes" is a tribute to La and Rupert's days as members of a Police cover band, and could in fact be the Police resurrected. For audio and video clips, click here.

But Grand National is not a cover band, and they have built a new layer onto the tradition they evoke. The pair explain the British music tradition and their attraction to it: "There's a duality to it. It's half-light. Melancholic. British people do that well. Bands like The Smiths weren't depressing, that's bollocks - they were uplifting. New Order, too - that's celebratory music." Grand National has captured this essence by combining emotional lyrics with light and airy music and soothing vocals.

Click here to buy Kicking the National Habit.

The band's official website has announced tour dates for the US and the UK:

11 June 05 Knitting Factory NYC 10 PM doors/ 10:30 set
13 June 05 Mercury Lounge NYC 7 PM doors/ 8:30 set
15 June 05 Knitting Factory LA 9 PM doors/ 9:30 set
24th June : Glastonbury Festival - The Crown Tent
13th August : Cardiff-Cardiff Summer Festival
9th September : Bestival, Isle of Wight (www.bestival.net)

Find more information on the band at Sunday Best.

May 26, 2005

Pinback w/ Aqueduct @ The Black Cat

On May 22, Pinback graced the stage of The Black Cat in Washington, DC in order to promote their most recent studio album, Summer in Abaddon, released by Touch and Go Records on Oct. 12, 2004. Opening the show was Dudley Corporation, a group of Dubliners mixing heavy rock and screeching guitar with sweet tenor vocals and atmospheric bass. Although their talent is apparent, their attempt to avoid predictability in the movement of each song by using breaks and sudden changes created a somewhat random and unsatisfying sound.

However, the second act, Aqueduct, was pleasantly surprising. Aqueduct is the brainchild of David Terry, a Tulsa, Oklahoma native who found Seattle had a more fitting music culture. After recording with the help of label Barsuk Records, Terry is now touring with Andrew Rudd (drums) and Matt Nader (bass), bringing lighthearted music to venues across the country.The band opened the show with a cover The Geto Boys' "Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta" confirmed Terry's guarantee to the audience that they were "all about fun." It was the most slapstick yet functional cover I have heard since The Eels' cover of Missy Elliot's "Get Your Freak On" during the Soul Jacker tour. They followed this attention-grabber with songs off of their first full-length album, i Sold Gold, including "Growing Up With G'N'R" (MP3) and "Hardcore Days and Softcore Nights." This band has already had some major exposure, including a performance on the Conan O'Brien show, but somehow they slipped by me until now.

Since I am a Tulsa native and have scoured the Tulsa scene, I understand how rare and how fabulous it is to find great rock music from that part of the country. They are being lumped in with fellow Oklahomans The Flaming Lips and The Slarlight Mints for their shared heritage as well as their sound.

Click here to buy i Sold Gold.

Pinback took the stage at around 10:30 PM, and they could hardly disappoint. I had heard only a few of the tracks from the newest album, but they blended the new and the old songs seamlessly. They played a mixture of songs from all three full-length albums, including the self-titled album and Blue Screen Life. Zach Smith and Rob Crow continue to reinvent their catalogue, jamming and ad-libbing within the structures of existing songs. Even though I have listened to "Seville" countless times, Crow disguised the opening, even to the surprise of his bandmates. After strumming away, he looked up, saw Zach watching and explained, "It sounded good."

It continued to sound good, through the ups and downs of the old and new. The combination of Pinback's sweetness and melancholy is echoed in the title of the newest album, Summer in Abaddon. Despite its apparent sunny title, Abaddon is the Hebrew name for "the angel of the bottomless pit," and literally means destruction, ruin, or perdition. This paradox, however, is nothing new for Pinback, and they will continue to hide surprises around every corner.

Click here to buy Summer in Abaddon.