Archive for John Darnielle

The Mountain Goats “Sax Rohmer #1” Music Video.

Posted in music, music videos, Tom with tags , , , , , , on April 15, 2008 by criticalreviews

So I was watching New York Noise on Saturday night, and low and behold the video for “Sax Rohmer #1” came on. To be honest I haven’t really paid attention to the videos for the Mountain Goats singles before this (and I didn’t even know that this song had one), but damn is it good. I was totally impressed with how the video was put together…placing the emphasis not on some dramatic theatrical preformance of actors in the video, but literally on the lyrics. For me John Darnielle is all about the lyrics (the music is great, but his words move me). I think this video captures the band extremely well, and it is my favorite music video since Scout Niblett’s “Kiss” featuring Bonnie “Prince” Billy.



The Weakerthans & AA Bondy @ Musichall of Williamsburg. Friday April 11th, 2008.

Posted in music, shows, Tom with tags , , , , , , , on April 14, 2008 by criticalreviews

So this show is a really longtime coming for me. I have been a fan of the Weakerthans since Fallow, and consistently followed them through their various releases. KLK and I even had tickets to see them once at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, NC (four years ago) but couldn’t make the 5 hour drive due to illness. I am always a little nervous seeing bands that I have listened to for a longtime, but have unfortunately missed live time and time again.

I did get to see Propagandhi on the Todays Empires, Tomorrows Ashes tour, but this was after John K. Samson left the band. I love Propagandhi, but when Samson left the band it marked two very important things: 1) the creation of The Weakerthans as a band and no longer just a side project, and 2) Propagandi getting heavier and faster as well as the end of the Less Talk More Rock(one of my favorite punk rock albums ever) era (as well as the permanent break up of I Spy, another great Canadian punk band whose singer, Tod, filled Sampson’s spot in Propagandhi). Overall I think this change was a good thing, because it let Samson develop his own voice, and his wonderful poetic lyrics (but at the same time let some of the things I really love about Propagandhi die). While some of the punk rock feelings remain lyrically, and somewhat musically, the Weakerthans are very much a rock band and they do it well.

We were hesitant about going to the show (the nervous anxious feeling of seeing a band you like…and the fear of disappointment), and almost decided to sell our tickets outside…but in the end we ended up going in…and it turned out to be really enjoyable, except for the opening act.

AA Bondy was the second of two opening acts (we didn’t get there in time for Christine Fellows). Bondy was a plays slightly whiny upbeat acoustic rock (solo), and seemed like he wanted to be a mix between Conner Oberst and Ryan Adams. Singing about emotions, relationships, and drugs just didn’t quite do it for me. One of his songs started out with the line “Sweet Sweet Cocaine,” and while this might work for some other artists to me it just came off sounding cheesy. I realize that Bondy may have been in an influential band previously, but I can’t say that I was moved at all by his set the other night. If the show hadn’t have been sold out we probably would have showed up right before the Weakerthans went on, but got there early to get a decent view of the band and had to endure Bondy’s set.

The Weakerthans came on around 11pm, and played for an hour and a half including two encores. We watched from the balcony, and The Weakerthans played a really tight set. While many bands today have a cohesive look, The Weakerthans are all individuals and presented to me just a bunch of friends in a band doing their thing. The four piece was joined on stage by Christine Fellows (playing keyboard and guitar), and overall had a very unpretentious vibe (as expected). I really don’t think of The Weakerthans as a punk band (but I guess I used to), and while there was very little moshing there was quite a bit of finger pointing and dancing. Overall a really fun show. They surprisingly only played a handful of songs from the newest album, Reunion Tour, while playing fan favorites from all of the previous albums. While I haven’t gotten super into Reunion Tour I can appreciate it, but I thought it was wonderful to see them playing songs that were released so many years ago. One or two off Fallow (hurrah for “Confessions of a Futon-Revolutionist”)and several off of Left and Leaving. And a whole bunch of Reconstruction Site (I was really happy to hear “Plea to a cat named Virtue” and “Our Retired Explorer (Dines With Michel Foucault In Paris, 1961)”).

Samson was actually really cute…he came out on stage before the second encore by himself and took pictures of the sold out crowd. This show really brought me back. We stayed until the end of the show, and headed out into the night with really positive feeling. I kept hearing people yell out “Anchorless,” but I guess John needs some back up to do that one live (see below). We left the show feeling so good that we ended up drinking until 5am….cheers to the Weakerthans and good friends!


Listen to “Plea from a cat named Virtue” off of Reconstruction Site:

While searching for photos of the show on flickr I came across one with the caption:

“JD joins JKS for a very impromptu duet version of “Anchorless”, as viewed through Weakerthans drummer Jason Tait’s camera LCD screen. “

Although the video isn’t the best it is worth posting: John K. Samson and John Darnielle playing “Anchorless” (thanks Lalitree!!!)

Weakerthans photo is from Anti-Records’ website


Charlie McAlister – “Mississippi Luau” LP (Catsup Plate Records 1997)

Posted in Best of..., music, records, Tom with tags , , , , , , , , on April 9, 2008 by criticalreviews

Living in New York City you are kinda spoiled having so many great musicians right at your finger tips, but growing up in South Carolina there aren’t quite as many (but we do have some gems). That brings me to a musician and “living legend” from my home town, Charlie McAlister. McAlister started out, or at least people started to notice his work, in the mid-nineties when he was putting out a whole bunch of cassette tapes. McAlister continues to make music/art/whatchamaycallit, and ended up with a bunch of tapes, a couple proper albums (on Catsup Plate), and is still playing the occasional show.

While I lived in Charleston I started booking and promoting shows (originally punk rock), but I hadn’t done it in a couple years and while I was working at Fifty Two Point Five Records I booked (with the help of Clay) Charleston’s first ever Mountain Goats show. Years later I was involved with the album release show for The Sunset Tree. This show was booked at a really wonderful art space called REDUX. In the process of getting the show set up Charlie McAlister contacted me, and asks to play the show….I really didn’t know what his deal was(and this wasn’t my call…it was the Goats), but John Darnielle ended up being a really big fan. John had Charlie open for him, and it was truly amazing. Charlie’s band played a really unconventional and astonishing set with a really interesting collection of people, instruments, and tools (really I mean it…saws and hammers, ect). While talking to John at the show he told me if I could get a copy of Charlie’s Mississippi Luau (on Catsup Plate) to check it out, because it was one of his favorite albums of all time (and that is a really big statement for someone like John to make).

After the show Charlie told me that he would bring a copy of it by the record store for me, but that unfortunately never happened. This was back in 2005. Now this brings me to my personal experience with Mississippi Luau.

So three years later I no longer live in South Carolina, and I was record shopping at Academy Records in Brooklyn. It was a Sunday and I was waiting for friends to get ready for bagel brunch at Brooklyn Ale House. I was taking my time browsing the used LPs, and I finally got to the “M” section. Charlie McAlister wasn’t even something I was looking for (because I was pretty convinced that I would never find any of his records…even though I read that they are not that hard to come by), but I was flipping through all of the used records and I had one of those moments where I actually said “Holy Shit!” out loud. I had found a copy of McAlister’s Mississippi Luau on LP! The reason I was so surprised was that there are only 350-400 copies that were collaged/painted/screen printed. And this was one of them (there were only 500 copies ever made).

As a big fan of The Mountain Goats (and most things that are low-fi and folky ) this record has quickly become one of the prizes of my collection and all around favorite (I find when I listen to it I have to listen to it at least twice in a row), but I think that I will let others describe it for me (because their descriptions are so spot on): says about Charlie:

“So John Darnielle , Guided by voices and Daniel Johnston walk in to a bar. They hash it all out and create a large venn diagram. From this diagram they find the point that their three sensibilities intersect. They call this point Charlie McAlister, lyrics like Darnielle, exploring the possibilities of the 4 track like GBV and as crazy as Johnson.”

Secondly, as I said before, John Darnielle is a big fan and after he played the Charleston show with Charlie he wrote on his website:

“Charlie’s music could probably be described by any number of not-quite-right music terms: it’s back-porch jug band stuff, sorta, but it’s got a real affinity with guerilla noise warfare, and also with actual gorillas, who nine times out of ten will make the guerillas look like amateurs. It’s got that organic Neutral Milk Hotel feel, but its spiritual side isn’t the transcendent schtick that Jeff Mangum mastered and then put behind him; Charlie’s spiritual kin are the mediums who charge you a quarter for an hour’s worth of Ouija board in a shack down the highway near some southern beach town, and you think they’re maybe fulla shit but then they hit that huckster vein where it’s not really a con any more because everybody’s agreed to just ride the moment out even if it did start out phony. Charlie’s the wizard in Kansas without any MGM sanitization. He likes rum.”

Please read John’s full post about Charlie here at Last Plane to Jakarta!

Needless to say I think my best record find of the year was made on January 5th (only five days into it). I am excited to have this wonderful record in my collection, and hope you enjoy checking Charlie out.

I am also very excited. Charlie McAlister only has two shows scheduled right now, and one of them is August 8th at The Stone in the East Village (this night, I have been told, is being curated by Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle and Fantomas). All though not that many people know about Charlie he definitely fits into the freak-folk term pretty well…I hope people come check him out. I will definitely be there.

Here are a couple MP3s off of Mississippi Luau:

“Island of the Robot Building Monkey”

“Darla Comes Down From Jackson”

Download all of the CD-R I’ll See you in Hell. From Tape Mountain!

Charlie also does a really crazy zine called Sardine…which you can mail order from him for $3 or $4 dollars at Charlie McAlister P.O. Box 24, Johns Island, SC 29455.

his new address

Charlie Mcalister
(International Beachball International/Sardine Magozine)
PO Box 20095

Photo of Charlie from Wolfie Whitman’s flickr


The Mountain Goats and The Moaners @ Music Hall of Williamsburg. Wednesday March 19th, 2008

Posted in music, shows, Tom with tags , , , , , , on March 25, 2008 by criticalreviews

Ok, so for now there is going to be a barrage of concert reviews from me, but I can’t help it. I have kinda made a pact with myself to review every concert that I attend…so far this has been going really well, and we will see if I can keep up:

Today: Glorytellers at Cake Shop
Wednesday: Apache Beat, Team Robspierre, Health, and Crystal Castles at Mercury Lounge
Saturday: The Convocation of… at Cake Shop (unfortunately canceled)
Monday: Health, Ghengis Tron, and High Places @ Knitting Factory

I guess what I am trying to say is excuse the music heaviness of my posting over the next couple weeks (I will change it up music wise too with a mailorder review and a packaging/record review. I also have a couple restaurant and bar reviews coming as well).

But now back to the Mountain Goats show.

The Moaners have been opening for the Goats on this tour, and they were actually pretty fun to watch. They are a two piece band, with a guitarist and a drummer. These two women have a (at least one) record out on Yep Rock, and played a really nice set. Their music is kinda bluesy, and with a slight nod to Sleater-Kinney. Ok, I know comparing a girl group to Sleater-Kinney is kinda a cop out, but they actually had a couple songs that really reminded me of them (earlier stuff, you know Dig Me Out, ect). I also think they might be better at a smaller show…the singer seemed kinda shy with the large crowd…she was wearing really big sunglasses the whole show. Despite the little bit of shyness The Moaners rocked pretty hard, and although this is another one of those bands that I don’t think I would listen to at home they were a good opening act (which up until recently has been few and far between).

So I bought us tickets to the MHOW show, and I did this mainly because I hate Webster Hall so much. But after a review by the Village Voice blog of the Webster Hall show I know I made the right decision…ok now I don’t put much faith in the Voice, but it was clear by the set that John played at MHOW that he had read it, and wanted to give his fans a different experience.

To our surprise John walked out on stage all by himself. I expected to see Peter Hughes follow, but John just strapped on his guitar and began to play. He proceeded to give the sold out crowd at MHOW an almost 40 min long solo set, and then called for the rest of the band to come out. During this solo set John played from pretty much the entire catologue For this tour the Goats have added a third member, a drummer, Jon Wurster. The Goats have been using a drummer on the records since Tallahassee, and it was interesting to see it live.

Before the show started we (KLK and I) were discussing our history with the Mountain Goats(seeing him at least 10 times in the past five years…all of these shows were in NC, NYC, and SC…including some shows that I booked). I have to say that John has never disappointed me. I will admit that that I have had a little bit of a hard time getting into the past couple albums, but that is not because I don’t like them…it is just because the older four track recordings used to be on my stereo non-stop for so many years (I initally had a hard time getting into everything after All Hail West Texas, but now We Shall All Be Healed ranks in my favorite albums). This show really put John’s full body of work into perspective for me…it tied the older songs that I consider classics in with the newer. This show really impressed me, and any one who has been skeptical of the Goats experimentation should just listen to “Lovecraft in Brooklyn” about ten times in a row and it should click (damn that song is good, and my favorite off the new album).

The full band portion of the set ended up being about 40 minutes as well…and there were even two encores. They only played three or four songs off of Heritic Pride which was pretty surprising, but I’ll take old Mountain Goats anyday. So now I am going to be a hater…the first encore was a cop out where they played “No Children” and “Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton”. I know these are favorites, and I even really like these songs, but just by how John talked about them made me believe that he was really tired of playing them. During “No Children” he didn’t even sing into the microphone, or really at all, he just let the crowd sing. This is sad to me because I can remember the days when we would see him screaming so loud into the mic during this song that I thought his eyes were going to pop out. The passion just doesn’t seem to be there any more…almost like he is just going through the motions. “BEDMBOOD” was a little better, but these didn’t compared to their cover of “House Guest” by Nothing Painted Blue (see the video below…not from this show, but still really good).

This show was really great, and I would love to see them when they come back in May, but I think I am going to need to opt for the No Fun Fest (w/ Thurston Moore and Burning Star Core both playing the same night), and I think John would approve of this decision. I think this show will definitely hold me off on my Mountain Goats fix until next time, and maybe by that time the Goats will be covering High on Fire.

Go Pirates!

Photo of the Mountain Goats at MHOW by Bryan Bruchman

The Moaner’s photo comes from Yep Rocs website