Shows of Note – Older Than The Name

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Despite going by the name “Old 97’s,” the alt-country band did not form in 1997. In fact, the band is even older that ’97, having formed in Dallas, TX in 1993. The band is older than quite a few students at CWU and you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ve been around the block a few times.

Old 97's

Old 97′s

Most Messed Up, which will drop April 29th and is the band’s 10th studio album. This brings their average production rate to one album every two years, the first being Hitchhike to Rome in 1994. The band has made “Nashville” available online while “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” is already available on iTunes. Both songs are off the Most Messed Up album.

Lead singer Rhett Miller listed “Nashville” as the inspiration for the whole album. In an effort to step away from the image of always being the “nice guy,” Miller has crafted the Most Messed Up album to reflect his realization that he doesn’t have to constantly apologize to everybody for everything. Though most of Miller’s songs are about joy, loneliness, relationships, and pretty girls, he wants to remind his listeners that he isn’t always the nice guy. According to Salon.com there are 11 fuc#&4, seven bottles of whiskey, Jameson and malt liquor on their album. Old 97′s just want to “get drunk and get it on.”

The Old 97’s are coming to the northwest May 12 At the Showbox in Seattle, May 13 at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland and May 14 at The Knitting Factory in Boise. We’ll be giving away tickets to the Seattle show this Saturday, (April 27) between 8 and 10 p.m.  so be sure to tune-in!

 

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Fresh Tunes – The Beast is Back

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The Afghan Whigs were one of the first hard rocking alt-bands to join Sub Pop’s increasingly popular lineup of successful grunge artists, including Mudhoney, Soundgarden and of course Nirvana. Their career was rocky at times, but the band managed to make a dent in the explosion of scummy alt-rock, that dominated the 90′s rock radio scene. The Afghan Whigs style was not quite marketable enough to explode into superstardom like their labelmates: Afghan Whigs had a significant following, but their lack of a decidable radio hit kept them just under the radar for most people. Their biggest claim to fame was their 1993 album Gentlemen, which saw the band moving away from their harder grunge roots with a grander guitar sound, higher clarity and more insightful lyrics. Whigs made a name for themselves by combining hard rocking guitar with the vulnerability of a flawed frontman. On Gentlemen‘s “Debonair,” singer Greg Dulli hints at his personal downfall:

“Hear me now and don’t forget
I’m not the man my actions would suggest
This ain’t about regret
My conscious can’t be found.”

Much like Kurt Cobain, Dulli’s lyrics have a certain broken sadness that, while lacking some of Cobain’s sincerity and tragic frailty, still manage to be compelling. Yet after fifteen years of moderate success, Afghan Whigs called it quits in 2001.

The-Afghan-Whigs-Do-To-The-Beast-608x608Afghan Whigs surprised the music scene with a reunion tour in 2012 (though with bigger acts like Slowdive, Neutral Milk Hotel and My Bloody Valentine following suit, you’d be forgiven for not paying much attention). More shocking though was their announcement to release their first album in sixteen years. Do To The Beast contains much of what fans fell in love with in the grunge era: jangly guitars with a sleek crunch, Dulli’s signature smooth croon, and some precise drum work (a hard rock band that doesn’t drown out the chorus with smashing cymbals? Sign me up!). Dulli may be at a career best for vocals, sounding revitalized, vulnerable and a little gravelly (think more Future Islands than Nicklederp).Nickelderp_a2b906_746023

Do To The Beast avoids being a period piece by making bolder statements and amping up the band’s songwriting, offering a variety of styles that place these guys in between modern hard-rock and Mogwai-esque post-rock. “Parked Outside” kicks off the album with a guttural guitar explosion, proving that these guys have not lost any sense of grandeur. Dulli swoons in a chorus of “you’re gonna make me break down and cry,” delivered with so much conviction it avoids any potentially cheesy melodrama. “Algiers” is like a 90′s alt ballad played from a mountain top, chugging in with a crystal clear acoustic jam before the guitars bust in with unhinged glee. One thing is for sure: Afghan Whigs worship their guitars, and every crunchy lick and devastating minor progression sounds full of a fighting spirit. Afghan Whigs have the kind of confidence and precision of a band twenty years their junior, and it comes through clearly on Do to the Beast.

This album was recorded loud, because it was meant to be played very loud. Much like the new Pixies material, I get the sense that Do To The Beast is strictly a road record; these are songs meant to be played live, and the recordings follow suit with a faithful interpretation. This is by no means a lazy record, but it does detract from any cohesive themes tying it together. Then again, this is an alt band from the 90′s; you’d be hard pressed to find any “cohesive themes” on a Stone Temple Pilots album. These guys take their rock and roll seriously, and their brazen methods of versatility expand upon this in unexpected ways. “Can Rova” touches on the pop-folk appeal of Mumford or perhaps even The Head and the Heart, but the four-on-the-floor EDM finale is just subtle and fleeting enough to catch you off guard. “The Lottery” largely treads through previously conquered territory, but a cascading waterfall chorus casts off any doubts of redundancy. Nearly every song showcases the revamped guitar work of bassist John Curley and returning guitarist Mark Lanegan. Herein lies the record’s strengths: keeping the Whigs core sound intact while exploring new sonic possibilities, innovating in all of the right areas to keep the sound fresh and newly revealing. A few songs are merely passable, but Dulli’s tragically heroic vocals ensure this album’s relevance in the modern rock scene.

The Afghan Whigs are happy to just be playing shows again, and their critically acclaimed Coachella performance is a testament to their staying power. If Do to the Beast is simply a road record, then it sounds best blasting in a car stereo down the highway. For all the 90′s era reunions going on recently, the Afghan Whigs stare down their past demons with a grace and tact that puts them a neck above their competition. When Queens and Pixies rule today’s rock stages, the Whigs still prove themselves a fiercely capable dark horse.

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Shows of Note – The Root/Fruit of Life

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Stephen “Ragga” Marley, second son of Bob Marley was born April 20, 1972. Stephen started following in his father’s footsteps early in his life. As a matter of fact, When Bob closed out his shows, he would have Stephen and Ziggy Marley join him onstage. By the time Stephen was a teenager, he had acquired some studio skills from his father and assisted in the production of a handful of Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers albums, including Conscious Party (1989), One Bright Day (1990), and Fallen is Babylon (1998), all three albums won Grammys for “Best Reggae Album.”

Stephen’s first solo album, Mind Controlcame along in March 2007. The album was well balanced between some old school (roots) reggae, some modern (contemporary) reggae and also a little bit of hip-hop. This mixture was melted into one solid project and the outcome was nothing less than a successful debut solo album. Mind Control has some well known hits such as “Hey Baby” ft Mos Def, “Mind Control“, and “The Traffic Jam” ft Damian and Julian Marley. What made Mind Control reach number one on the Billboard Reggae Album chart was its delicate balance between issues surrounding love and social justice.

Stephen "Ragga" Marley

Stephen “Ragga” Marley

Stephen’s sophomore album, Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life was released in 2011 and it went on to win a Grammy for best Reggae album. The Root of Life (TRL) was different than the first album as it had more collaborations and the overall sound of the album was more various. Mellow at times, and in various instances, Stephen would up the ante, throwing in some dancehall, just when you thought you understood the album’s theme. Some popular songs from TRL included “No Cigarette Smoking” ft Melanie Fiona and “Jah Army” ft Damian Marley and Buju Banton.

Its 2014 and Stephen is back! After missing his music for three years, Stephen is raising the bar high by going a different route with his upcoming album, Revelation Pt. 2: The Fruit of Life.

“The concept of the [new] album means merging my music with hip-hop and anything else I feel like,” Stephen told Rolling Stone Magazine. “Every aspect from the songwriting to the production, even the way I sing certain parts of a song, has to return to that concept.”

Apparently, part of what he feels like is incorporating some dubstep into his music, as is the case with single “Rock Stone.” The song kicks off with a typical reggae beat and it builds up to dubstep, the transition is smooth and finds Stephen in his own, creative zone.

Stephen Marley will be performing in the Pacific Northwest May 6 at The Showbox in Seattle and on May 7 he will be at Wonder Ballroom in Portland. Tune-in to “Reggae Lovers,” this Sunday, April 20 from 12 to 2 p.m. with Selecta Steppa for a chance to win tickets to see Stephen “Ragga” Marley in Seattle!

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