Author Archives: bradbirzer
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Concert Review: Psychedelic Furs and The Church Reignite Themselves and the 80s at the Crystal Ballroom
Originally posted on Drew's Reviews:
It took 30 years but Psychedelic Furs and the Church are finally touring together.
Sure it was a much smaller venue than what the two 1980s stalwarts would likely have co-headlined back in 1985 had the plans then not fallen through but they didn’t sound any worse for the wear, in fact, sounded practically flawless and really not dated at all.
Despite tickets remaining available the day of the show on Wednesday at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland, OR and what initially appeared to be a somewhat embarrassing low turnout, indeed the crowd filled out much of the Crystal’s famous bouncing dance floor but didn’t use it much.
The Church took the stage first, five minutes early to be precise (imagine that!) kicking things off with the pensive “Block” and then “Reptile” off the hit record Starfish from 1988. “Toy Head” felt a bit rambling but included a solid rock…
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KSCOPE PRESENTS: ANATHEMA’S “A SORT OF HOMECOMING,” A CONCERT FILM BY LASSE HOILE FROM ANATHEMA’S LIVERPOOL CATHEDRAL SHOW
“A Sort of Homecoming” to be released on Blu-ray, 2CD + DVD-V, LP and digital download on October 30
ENGLAND – Anathema, one of the U.K.’s most cherished and critically acclaimed rock bands, will release a live Blu-ray/audio collection entitled A Sort of Homecoming on October 30 via Kscope. Directed by Lasse Hoile (Steven Wilson, Katatonia, Opeth), A Sort of Homecoming is a stunning concert film of Anathema’s homecoming show on March 7, 2015 in the spectacular setting of the Liverpool Cathedral. The concert was described by Prog Magazine as “a once in a lifetime experience that words can barely do justice.”
“I’m really happy that this night in particular has been preserved,” commented Anathema guitarist/vocalist, Vincent Cavanagh. “As anyone from Liverpool will tell you, to be given the chance to play the Anglican Cathedral is monumental and a huge honor. The place is absolutely huge. Just look at the cover, it was like doing a gig in Erebor!”
Having previously worked with Anathema on the acclaimed Universal concert film, Lasse Hoile captured the 100 minute acoustic set in high definition against the sensational backdrop of Liverpool Cathedral. Featuring 15 songs selected from the albums Distant Satellites, Weather Systems, We’re Here Because We’re Here, A Natural Disaster and Alternative 4, the ‘Anathema Acoustic’ trio of Daniel Cavanagh, Vincent Cavanagh and Lee Douglas were joined by rhythm section John Douglas and Jamie Cavanagh, alongside their very talented close friend David Wesling on cello who also played on Hindsight (2009) and A Moment In Time (2006). For this exclusive performance the band was also joined by the renowned violinist, Anna Phoebe, on a haunting rendition of “Anathema.” The audio has been produced and mixed by Christer-André Cederberg who worked on Distant Satellites, Universal and Weather Systems, with the cover and booklet artwork featuring the stunning photography from the show and behind the scenes by long time collaborator Caroline Traitler. This is the first Anathema live release to feature a 5.1 audio mix, engineered by Bruce Soord.
Watch the concert trailer on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/C_6vNJcaPEc and Vimeo at: https://vimeo.com/137395636.
Kscope will release A Sort of Homecoming as:
– 4 disc box set: 2 CD concert audio (100 mins), DVD with full concert plus an additional behind the scenes film “A Temporary Peace” and concert on Blu-ray disc. In a deluxe rigid media book with 36 page booklet, presented in a slipcase
– 2CD + DVD-V: The set features the full 100 minute audio and DVD-V of the concert with 5.1 audio mixed by The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord
– Blu-ray disc: The full 100 minute concert plus an additional behind the scenes film “A Temporary Peace” with 5.1 audio mixed by The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord
LP: A gatefold triple 180g black vinyl LP including MP3 download code
Digital: Concert audio only
All formats, excluding digital download, are available to pre-order via the Kscope web-store at: www.kscopemusic.com/store.
Anathema will continue to tour throughout the remainder of 2015. A full list of dates can be seen below.
Forming in the mid-90s, Anathema has spent the vast majority of its career making music that defies description.With its star rising ever higher, Anathema returned in 2014 with Distant Satellites. The new studio album showcased another imperious forward step into the realm of miraculous song writing. It has proved to be the band’s most widely acclaimed and celebrated record reaching #32 in the U.K. charts with the likes of The Guardian (UK), Metal Hammer (UK /DE), Kerrang (UK), Classic Rock (UK/DE), Prog Magazine (UK), Aardschok (NL), Rock Hard (DE), Rolling Stone (Aus) heaping praise on the album.
Anathema has been at the forefront of the U.K. rock/metal movement since its inception, influencing a myriad of bands to follow. What began as a pioneering journey of melodic heavy music has outgrown all genres and limitations, fearlessly exploring new territory and new ways to express feeling through sound.
Stay tuned for more information on Anathema and A Sort of Homecoming, out this fall on Kscope.
8/31 – Tokyo, Japan @ Liquid Room
9/01 – Tokyo, Japan @ Liquid Room
9/05 – Sao Paulo, Brazil @ Overload Music Festival
9/07 – Porto Alegre, Brazil @ Opiniao (w/ Paradise Lost)
9/08 – Rio, Brazil @ Circo Voador (w/ Paradise Lost)
9/11 – Atlanta, GA, USA @ Prog Power Festival
10/01 – Moscow, Russia @ Volta
10/02 – Minsk, Russia @ Re:Public
10/03 – St Petersburg, Russia @ Avrora
10/23 – Christchurch, NZ @ Dux Live
10/24 – Auckland, NZ @ Kings Arms
10/27 – Adelaide, AUS @ The Gov
10/29 – Brisbane, AUS @ Triffid
10/30 – Sydney, AUS @ Metro Theatre
10/31 – Melbourne, AUS @ Corner Hotel
11/01 – Perth, AUS @ Rosemount Hotel
11/04 – Manchester, UK @ Manchester Cathedral
11/05 – Paris, France @ Église Saint-Eustache (acoustic)
11/06 – Bochum, Germany (acoustic)
11/07 – Leipzig, Germany @ Täubchenthal (acoustic)
11/09 – Utrecht, Netherlands @ TivoliVredenburg
11/10 – Mannheim, Germany @ Capitol (acoustic)
11/11 – Sofia, Bulgaria @ Royal Bulgaria Hall (acoustic)
11/15 – 11/19 – Miami, FL, USA @ Cruise To The Edge (http://cruisetotheedge.com)
A few days ago, I felt absolutely snarky and thought, “why not write down exactly what I think of music from the 1980s.” In some ways, I feel I have the right to do this in a manner I could never do for any other decade.
After all, I was in seventh grade when a very disturbed fanboy tried to kill the fortieth president, and I was a first-semester senior in college when the Berlin Wall came down.
Yes, I’m very much a man of the 1980s. Reagan, Rush, Blade Runner. . . how I remember the 1980s. I came of age in that rather incredible decade.
Life continued after 1989, however, though I wasn’t so sure at the time that it would.
1990 proved to be one of the most interesting years in my personal life when it came to career choices as well as to music.
The chances are quite good that you’re not reading this post because you want to know my career choices or why I made them. So, I’ll confine myself to the music that I loved that year.
I owe almost all of my good fortune to three very great guys, Ron Strayer (now, a high up with Microsoft), Kevin McCormick (now, justly, a progarchy editor), and Craig Breaden (now, happily, one of progarchy’s editors). Ron introduced me to what would very soon be called “alternative” but was then being called “college rock” or “modern rock.” Kevin sent me recommendations, including the rather insistent demand to purchase cds by World Party and The Sundays. And, finally, Craig introduced me not only to neo-psychedelia but also to psychedelia from its original age. It was Craig who introduced me to Van Morrison, Spooky Tooth, Procol Harum, and Traffic.
I’d loved prog and New Wave all of my 22 years at that point, but my vision was pretty limited to only these genres by the end of 1989. Well, this isn’t quite accurate. I also knew classical and jazz fairly well.
With the help of three friends, 1990 opened up huge musical vistas for me in the non-jazz, non-classic genres.
Richard Thompson, as a part of French Frith Kaiser Thompson, wrote two of the best songs I’ve ever: “Peppermint Rock” and “The Killing Jar.” Folk acid psychedelia by guys who had been there before there was a need for a revival.
Suzanne Vega’s third album, DAYS OF OPEN HAND, came out that year, and it’s still one of my favorite albums. Vega has always produced gorgeous pop and folk in the vein of XTC and others. If this is pop, it’s very high pop. Importantly, she never became political like so many of her counterparts. Rather, she gracefully let the music and lyrics remain art. Her breathy vocals–weird and yet captivating–only add to her appeal.
Echo and the Bunnymen’s almost totally forgotten and (when remembered) maligned album, REVERBERATION, is a slice of pop-rock perfection. Yes, it’s missing Ian McCulloch, but this only lets Will Sergeant soar. Frankly, their sound hit its height with OCEAN RAIN and fell flat on the follow-up album. This one, REVERBERATION, reveals an effective rebirth of the band. The new vocalist, while not possessing the cancerous gravel of McCulloch’s voice, captures the spirit of the lyrics perfectly. Word play and cliché become clever and, indeed, addictive. There’s not a dud song on the album, but the employment of psychedelic Indian musicians really works rather perfectly on “Enlighten Me” and on the Doorish “Flaming Red.” The former is one of the finest songs the band ever wrote.
Mazzy Star. Hardly anyone remembers this California psychedelic folk and navel-gazing band that emerged from the underground band, Opal. Too bad–as 1990’s SHE HANGS BRIGHTLY is a thing of disturbing beauty. Walls of sound, clever lyrics, and earnest production make this album a masterpiece of the neo-psych revival.
“Is it too late, baby?” World Party. What to say about this about that hasn’t been said by a million others? While Karl Wallinger continues to make interesting music (despite severe health problems), he really threw every thing his soul possessed into GOODBYE JUMBO. From the crazy Beatle-sque cover to the basement production, this is a gem. All of the songs work very well, though they rarely reach beyond simple Beatle’s pop. Taken as a whole, however, this is a prog-pop album. Not that the individual songs are prog. They’re not even close. But, imagine a really, really, really clever Paul McCartney reworking side 2 of Abbey Road. Then, you’d have GOODBYE JUMBO. Thank you, world, indeed.
The Sundays. Ok, so the lead singer is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. This doesn’t hurt my opinion of the band. But, really, it’s her voice. That voice. How to describe it? There are no words, really, that could capture it. She’s playful. She’s earnest. She’s flirtatious. She’s so utterly sincere. Oh, Harriet. At one time, you were my Beatrice. Her husband, David Gavurin, knows exactly how to write music to match his wife’s voice. What a team. And, they did the album merely for the fun of it, which makes it even more enjoyable. If you don’t own this or if you’ve never heard of The Sundays, treat yourself. You’ll never regret this purchase. Promise.
Charlatans UK. SOME FRIENDLY. I know next to nothing about this band, but I absolutely dug their sound when Ron introduced them to me. I’d never quite heard drumming like this (though, The Cure would use the exact same style on their 1991 album, WISH). The drums, the keyboards, and the bass make this one of the most interesting albums I’ve ever heard it. While I wouldn’t place it up there with the previous albums I’ve mentioned in terms of outright excellence and staying power, it’s still really good.
House of Love. Album title? I’m not sure, as there’s none listed. Just the band’s name with a butterfly. Some of the album fails, but when it works, it works in a stellar fashion. The album is worth owning for the first two tracks alone—”Hannah” and “Shine On”—which really blend into one continuous 10-minute track. Great build up and perfect execution on these two songs. From what little I know of the band, they were a bunch of really raucous and idiotic druggies. Still, some amazing talent there.
Cocteau Twins, HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS. The best for last? I’m not sure, but, sheesh, do I love this album. Aside from LOVELESS by My Bloody Valentine, no album reaches as close to shoe-gaze perfection as does HEAVEN OR LAS VEGAS. This album simply never ages. It’s so weird and yet so continuously captivating. I assume the artsts behind Cocteau Twins wield some special instrument to speed up or delay time, but I can’t verify this. Listening to this album is NEVER a casual experience. It demands full immersion, but you re-emerge not as one drowned but as one baptized.
I’m really happy to announce that my biography of Neil Peart, NEIL PEART: CULTURAL (RE)PERCUSSIONS, is now available for pre-order.
Released silmultaneously as a paperback (WordFire Press, $14.99) and an ebook (WordFire/Baen, $5.99) on September 15, the biography considers Peart primarily as an extraordinary writer and author–of lyrics, fiction, and travelogues.
The link to pre-order the ebook is here: http://www.webscription.net/p-2861-cultural-repercussions.aspx
If you like what we’ve accomplished with progarchy, I think you’ll like the bio of Peart. For what it’s worth, I bring fifteen years of writing professional biographies, a decade of reviewing rock and prog rock, and thirty-four years of intense admiration for Neil Peart to the book.
A fascinating section from Kerry Livgren’s autobiography, now posted at his website.
I am often asked to comment or voice my opinion about contemporary music, both secular and sacred. I usually decline because an honest response to the question would require a great deal of labor on my part to bring it about, and I’m not sure that my opinions are any more valid than those of others. Yet, I am continually asked, so I will attempt to formulate my thoughts in this abbreviated version.
One of the problems in answering such a question is that “contemporary music” covers such an incredibly broad spectrum that it is difficult to know exactly what part of that spectrum I am to comment on. Besides, exactly what are the boundaries of “contemporary” anyway? Five years, two years, ten years, a hundred? One thing I know; the fickleness of American popular music listeners is astounding. Today, a piece of music can cease to be contemporary in a matter of months! It turns stale like a piece of bread. We have divided recent eras of popular music into decades or less, as if any possible social or artistic relevance in a song could not reach beyond that short span of time.
Leave it to Babb and Schendel to make a truly gorgeous album out of the ACADEMIC work of Tolkien and Lewis, not just out of their fantastic works. Amazing. From the opening note to the closing one, THE BREAKING OF THE WORLD soars. Ever since CHROMONOTREE (itself, a thing of beauty), Glass Hammer has just gotten better and better, more adventurous, and, lyrically, more interesting. Add to Schendel and Babb the others in the band, and you realize that Glass Hammer is as much a movement–a community of true artists–as it is a band. In particular, I challenge anyone in the prog world to find someone better on vocals than Susie Bogdanowicz. She has equals, but not betters. I assume she had some kind of secret voice lessons in heaven at some point in her your life. And, Aaron Raulston, though too little known, is the equal of Peart, Portnoy, and NDV when it comes to the drums. What an astounding group of musicians to come together. While I generally prefer albums that are strictly concepts–such as LEX REX and PERILOUS–THE BREAKING OF THE WORLD is a rare and precious gem in a world torn apart by commercialization, ideologies, and fundamentalisms. Babb and Schendel, as always, are quite humane and quite exceptional. Long live Glass Hammer!