So it sounds like a couple people died in 'bicycle-related accidents' in October here in Philly. In all of the reports and news stories I've read about the subsequent bill these idiots are proposing, City Councilmen Frank DiCicco and Jim Kenney, there've been no details about these deaths. Were the people killed drunk and homeless, maybe? Did they jump in front of a cyclist? Nope. They leave us to imagine some malicious fixed-gear hipster careening through red lights.
There's a lot of bicycle hate in cities, Philly especially. No matter where you live, cars dominate. And cyclists are seen as threats to their total monopolization of the road. These councilmen want to up fines for riding on sidewalks ($10) and riding with headphones on ($3) to $300 each. That's a lot of money. I try to never ride on sidewalks. I try to ride the wrong way on one way streets only until the next street where I am a lawful and cautious biker all the way home. I often ride with one iPod bud in my right ear that plays softly so that I can still be very aware of my surroundings. I know that some people are vehemently against this, but I trust myself and I've been riding a bike in metropolitan areas for over five years now.
Oh, and it sounds like people ride bikes without brakes? Or take them off? They're proposing a $1,000 fine for that. Or a forfeiture of your bike.
They want us to register our bikes and get some kind of plates. Plates on bikes! It's a funny thought. It's also a horrendous bureaucratic nightmare that no one is prepared for. With hundreds of thousands of cyclists in Philly, it seems completely insane.
Kid Koala and Dynomite D spin ’70s grunge rock into turntable gold
In 1996, DJ Shadow dumped a bucket of freezing cold water over the shoulders of hip hop with a record of turntablism for the ages. Entroducing… changed the game. We may have been slapped in the face by the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, Afrika Bambaataa, Kraftwerk or even De La Soul, but pure sampling and scratching had never sounded this funky. Chinese-Canadian Eric San is the scratch-master behind Kid Koala and half of the brains behind his brand new project The Slew. What Shadow did, San took to a similarly scratched and pasted place in 2000 with Kid Koala’s brilliant Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Seven years later, he and Dylan Frombach (aka Dynomite D) were asked to soundtrack a documentary about the Seattle psychedelic blues rock band by the same name. They were so inspired by their recording sessions with the legendary Mario Caldato Jr. that they are taking The Slew and running with it on 100%.
100% is a Seattle-inspired grunge record made from turntables and it’s going to blow people’s minds. They’ve assembled a dynamic backing band to accompany the recordings live. Former Wolfmother percussionist and bassist/keysman, Myles Heskett and Chris Ross, are set to provide stage support behind six turntables manned by San and Frombach themselves. Wolfmother’s ’70s love gels nicely with the dirty, grungy, bluesy rock that gushes forth from tracks like “Shackled Soul” and “Robbing Banks.” What Koala perfected by tweaking single notes of horns on tracks like “Skanky Panky” and “Drunk Trumpet,” he’s doing here with dramatic, glammed out guitar chords and feedback.
From the first rock howls and heavy guitar sludge of album opener “100%” to the deeply groovy finale of “Battle of Heaven and Hell,” The Slew are close to outperforming contemporaries like Cut Chemist, Dan the Automator and Danger Doom. Only whereas some DJs are looking around the next corner for inspiration or recycling old soul sounds and hip hop ground-breakers, Kid Koala and Dynomite D have found something in an obscure Seattle psych rock band. Using primarily looped spoken bits, shouts, beats and riffs that were transferred to vinyl, scratchable 33 1/3s, they’ve accomplished something so rich, complex and funky that their live show will be undoubtedly sweaty and head-bobbing.
Various Artists 5: Five Years of Hyperdub SOUNDS LIKE: A collection and mission statement from London dub label; floaty, eerie rhythms to trip you out FREE ASSOCIATION: A sick introduction to The Bug, Zomby, Burial, Darkstar and Code9 FOR FANS OF: Massive Attack, wordless Portishead, blunts
Them Crooked Vultures Them Crooked Vultures SOUNDS LIKE: The Dave Grohl/Josh Homme/John Paul Jones supergroup drops a beauty of chunky garage blues FREE ASSOCIATION: It really is like a Zep, Foo and Queens a Stone Age record all in one! FOR FANS OF: Mustachioed lip pursing, "Scumbag Blues"
The Clientele Bonfires of the Heath SOUNDS LIKE: A pop masterpiece of super-British dreamy arrangements from start to finish; brilliant breezy/peppy tunes FREE ASSOCIATION: Like Belle & Sebastian with balls and fighting anyone who wants some FOR FANS OF: Camera Obscura, modern Byrds
Pylon Chomp (More) SOUNDS LIKE: DFA re-issue of 2nd and best LP of influential angular, industrial rock from early '80s Athens, GA FREE ASSOCIATION: A short-lived run overshadowed by The B-52s and R.E.M. - bullshit FOR FANS OF: Karen O sings for Gang of Four
Person L The Positives SOUNDS LIKE: PA boy Ken Vasoli, bass/pipes of The Starting Line, births an earnest, thumping indie rock record FREE ASSOCIATION: No work of genius, just a solidly passionate and foot-tapping LP FOR FANS OF: Andrew Bird, Ryan Adams, Jason Collett
We Are The Willows A Collection of Sounds and Something Like the Plague SOUNDS LIKE: Sad bastard Minnesotan strums his guitar and ukelele while whisper singing his angst over found noises FREE ASSOCIATION: Everything that bothers us about Neutral Milk and Decemberists together FOR FANS OF: Bon Iver on helium, Death Vessel
Real Estate Real Estate SOUNDS LIKE: Slouchy and lazy surf rock debut from Jersey is soaring instrumentals, soft drums and joy FREE ASSOCIATION: Jersey is responsible for this? List it under the Boss and vegetables FOR FANS OF: Feelies, Ducktails, suburban cruises
Sting If On a Winter's Night... SOUNDS LIKE: Lullabies, carols, madrigals and originals performed dreadfully by an aging hippie who loves Christmas FREE ASSOCIATION: Listen to "Soul Cake" without laughing; SO FAR from his Police days FOR FANS OF: Michael Buble, Celine Dion, Elton John
Mayer Hawthorne A Strange Arrangement SOUNDS LIKE: White soul goes for the gusto and nails it with ".. Work Out" but hits bedroom disco for most of the rest FREE ASSOCIATION: Sometimes it feels like gems from the '50s, then it feels like '70s garbage FOR FANS OF: Robin Thicke, Tom Jones, Mark Ronson
Pink Martini Splendor in the Grass SOUNDS LIKE: The lil' orchestra that could from Portland tones it down for a languid collection of international ballads FREE ASSOCIATION: These songs could be plucked from the '20s and played at weddings FOR FANS OF: Franz Schubert, the Jazz Age, Chicago
Asobi Seksu Rewolf SOUNDS LIKE: NY dream-pop practitioners deliver an acoustic rendering of songs that shouldn't be acoustically rendered FREE ASSOCIATION: No matter it's recorded at Olympic Studios, too much of that voice FOR FANS OF: Deerhoof, brutal Blonde Redhead
Taylor Hollingsworth Life With a Slow Ear SOUNDS LIKE: A hired hand for Conor's Mystic Valley Band, the guitarist's solo is a romping Alabama foot-stomper FREE ASSOCIATION: You can play them strings, but singin' ain't your thing, someone help FOR FANS OF: Dodos, Dylan, countrified blues
Norah Jones The Fall SOUNDS LIKE: She's finally left behind her schmaltzy piano girl act with a decent modern record that isn't a snoozefest FREE ASSOCIATION: This is a long way from Come Away With Me and that's a good thing FOR FANS OF: Aimee Mann, Melody Gardot, Diana Krall
Dark Meat Truce Opium SOUNDS LIKE: Athens, GA supergroup throws all kinds of horns, tambourines, sounds and psychedelia together FREE ASSOCIATION: Exploding hearts and minds simultaneously with walls of sound FOR FANS OF: Deerhunter, Phenomenal Handclap Band, indulgence
Robbie Williams Reality Killed the Video Star SOUNDS LIKE: The ego has landed again, and this time there's one catchy single ("Bodies") and a bunch of bollocks FREE ASSOCIATION: Stick with pop jams, these ballads make you sound like Hedwig FOR FANS OF: James Blunt, Boyzone, Take That
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club Live SOUNDS LIKE: San Fran-bred friends' fifth release is a greatest hits harvested from some stellar European live sets FREE ASSOCIATION: A nice introduction to BRMC and a good sign for the future FOR FANS OF: Yeahs x 3, Brian Jonestown, Velvet Underground
*Note: This is a story that has run in Charit'ee Magazine and this is the unedited version. The published version is not cut and pasteable. I'm throwing up a picture of my choosing, as well. The published version is beautifully accompanied by all kinds of art.
When I moved to South Philadelphia from Brooklyn last November, I started riding my bike to work in Center City almost everyday through the Italian Market along South 9th Street. Just before you hit Christian Street, sliding between cars and vendors selling fresh produce, you can't help but notice a massive mural of Frank Rizzo on the western side of the street. It's mostly just his face; a face that for many Philadelphians is unforgettable. He rose through the ranks of the Philadelphia Police Department starting in the 1940s to Police Commissioner in 1967-'71. On August 31, 1970, Rizzo's police officers raided the Black Panther Party's headquarters, days after the Panthers declared a war on Police Officers, and stripped members publicly in front of cameras. He also promoted and protected a lot of African American officers, 20% of his force in 1968, when race riots ripped apart L.A. and Detroit, but not Philly. Rizzo means a lot of things to a lot of Philly lifers, good and bad - he was just a big white face on the side of a wall to me until I started looking at the work of the Mural Arts Project (MAP). MAP is the driving force behind over 2,000 murals that cover buildings, roofs, houses and parking lots across the City of Brotherly Love.
The Rizzo memorial is mentionable because of the fact that the thousands of murals that decorate the city have a story behind them. There has been months and months of preparation, design and sometimes community-involvement, thousands of dollars, pounds of materials and hours of labor poured into every massive piece of public art. Philadelphians can even live and work in a neighborhood for months and years before they take the time to look 360 degrees around them and take in all the murals that blanket the exposed facades of buildings.
Arnetta is a legendary fixture at the front desk of Philadelphia Weekly. She's a wonderful black woman who loves her grandchildren and knows her Philly. I told her I was writing about murals and her face lit up. She has two favorites, both by Meg Saligman, "Common Threads" at Broad and Spring Garden and "The Theatre of Life" at Broad and Lombard. When I rode my bike down Spring Garden toward Broad Street I was facing the west when I saw the huge pairs of eyes that cover its main entrance and along its side. I dismounted, took some pictures and then I turned around. There it was, eight stories tall facing Broad Street from the east in front of a vacant barb-wire-topped parking lot - "Common Threads." A mix of modern imagery and antiquated, classical imagery, most everyone in some kind of pose or performance. It was one of the first murals, perhaps in part due to its size, location and level of sophistication, that turned murals into a respectful and welcome presence in Philly.
"'Common Threads' is probably our most recognizable," says Ryan Derfler, director of tours for MAP. "Jane [Golden, founder and director of MAP] likes to say that that was the one that really changed people's minds about murals." Derfler has been expanding MAP's tour programs since he took the position in October. There are the standard tours in antique trolleys with an experienced mural expert exposing riders to the history and significance of murals by neighborhood. The tours are in rotation by neighborhood: North Philly, West Philly, South Philly, and Center City. And, as Ryan explains, by touring murals you tour Philly's neighborhoods.
"In South Philly you see Frank Sinatra, Mario Lanza, Frank Rizzo," says Derfler. "You can look at the murals and see what's important to them. You go to North Philly and see Mexican nationals, the rainforest in Puerto Rico, they're really colorful. So a tour is really like getting to know each neighborhood" These murals are defined by and define neighborhoods. "You go to West Philly and you see the Will Smith mural, the Patta LaBelle mural. They were real proud of these people and they want to see them on a wall," he adds. Murals are about bringing art to the people, something muralists find particularly appealing, sometimes enough to leave the gallery completely behind.
"I enjoyed the inclusiveness of making art in a public space," says Eric Okdeh, a prominent muralist in Philadelphia and part of the winning design team behind one of MAP's big summer projects called This We Believe. "It's collaboration and community involvement and bringing art to the people." One of his biggest achievements is a mural at the site of the Elwyn Institute's Philadelphia branch on 41st and Market Streets in West Philly. Working with six different behavioral health organizations in Philly, Okdeh got nearly 200 people involved in the process: placing stained glass to form a sunflower, painting by number, and posing for photographs.
"The unfortunate part about mural-making is that you only see the mural," Okdeh adds. "You don't see the months of working with community." West Philadelphians living along the Elevated ('El') Train, the Market-Frankford line, have begun working with MAP and a former Philly resident, Steve Powers on another big project culminating this August called Love Letters. Powers was a graffiti artist at the age of 15, growing up in Philly and tagging his ESPO signature all over the city. MAP and Powers have begun speaking with residents about a project that will paint over rooftops and higher floors of buildings to create a love story between a young boy and girl riding the train. The story will unfold for train riders as they head west from 46th to 63rd Street and back east again.
Philadelphia is one-of-a-kind, being covered in murals. Jessica Kroboth, a dancer for a Philly company called Archdream for Humankind, just returned to Philly after a national tour and realized what an asset our murals are: "Chicago and L.A. had a few murals, but nothing like they are here. Philly is just unbelievable like that." With over 2,800 murals and probably closer to 3,000 by the end of the year, this MAP's 25th Anniversary, there are more murals than one resident could possibly see in a day, a month, a year. It's something that unravels for Philadelphians over time.
Coheed and Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow
(Emo + Metal x Butt Rock)/Prog Rock = Just Too Much
Coheed and Cambria are to rock music as Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts are to the gaming community. Nerdy and weird, they’re a little over the top but not in a brazen, flashy kind of way. They’re more so in a no-haircuts, disgustingly decorated bedroom kind of way. The title of this record, their final piece of a prog-rock opera, is a mouthful: Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow. Only Coheed and Cambria fans can appreciate this dramatically epic rock opus.
These boys dwell in dangerous territory, mixing some tough genres to get into, namely prog rock, metal, emo, pop and punk. Pop/punk artisans are regularly booed by all with taste (Sum 41, Fall Out Boy, etc.). Prog rock had its heyday with Rush and Queensryche and the power pop of Queen echoing in Good Apollo had its moment in the ’70s. So how can a band successfully fold these elements into a late ’00s rock record? These Nyack, NY boys give it their all.
Claudio Sanchez, the group’s primary set of pipes, often channels Rush’s Geddy Lee with his high-pitched, warble-y vocals. Unfortunately, he also ends up sounding like an amped-up Rob Thomas. Singles and standouts are apparent: “The Hound (Of Blood and Rank),” “Feathers” and “The Running Free,” are tolerable but forgettable.
The dueling lead guitars, thundering synths, shrill singing and head banging pace are all just a little too much. It’s hard to wrap your head around everything you’re hearing, which is similar to the content. If you haven’t heard previous records in this cycle, you wouldn’t know that this record is about “family, homicide and apocalypse.” You can’t really decipher this from lyrical delivery or song titles either. The last five tracks are a ridiculous series of “The End Complete I – V: The Fall of House Atlantic, Radio Bye Bye, The End Complete, The Road and the Damned, and On the Brink.” No one marvels over rock operas anymore. The Who did it best with Tommy forty years ago. We want singles and records that are cohesive, not records that require listening to four other records and reading the liner notes just to get what’s going on.
Good Apollo is not completely devoid of clarity, but like the dark and stormy skies Coheed and Cambria seem to anticipate, it kind of ruins the day.
There’s nothing more exciting than watching two hipster dudes in hoodies bop and groove like deranged pigeons to their own self-gratifying noise while shyly peaking out behind unkempt bangs. Because, really, who needs perfectly played pop? Or head-bobbing hip-hop. What we need now is louder-than-necessary noise derived from too-cool kids tweaking knobs and turning dials in a box full of pedals. Fuck Buttons fit the bill. Their post-postness and scratchy, screechy assault of synths and percussion hypnotize. They do away with all the old rules, and have made their own. Like this one: Songs should be 10 to 12 minutes long, and they should be unlistenable. That’s why Pitchfork, NME, Mojo, Uncut and more have given them solid hand jobs. If you don’t get it, you’re a moron. A moron with taste.
Tues., Nov. 3rd, 8pm. $10. With Growing. Kung Fu Necktie, 1248 N. Front St. 215.291.4919. kungfunecktie.com
The Mountain Goats The Life of the World to Come SOUNDS LIKE: John Darnielle loves the bible but not really God, he's stopped whining/yelping and it's beautiful FREE ASSOCIATION: A lil' Alt-Christian but he also chants the Crishna and won't preach FOR FANS OF: Old R.E.M., indie folk, fables
The Very Best Warm Heart of Africa SOUNDS LIKE: Really real African electro-pop despite the presence of Ezra Koenig and M.I.A.; it's in Swahili/Portuguese! FREE ASSOCIATION: If World music is a dangerous disease, this is the antidote FOR FANS OF: Blk Jks, Vampy Weekend, internationalism
Pelican What We All Come to Need SOUNDS LIKE: Instrumental post-rock practitioners who make rad noisy droney epic songs of rhythm, guitar and bass FREE ASSOCIATION: Most instrumental rock is too boring; this makes you tap n' move FOR FANS OF: Isis, Neurosis, Tool
Dead Man's Bones Dead Man's Bones SOUNDS LIKE: Dreamy Ryan Gosling's dark folk project using an LA kids choir with ghostly themes right before Halloween! FREE ASSOCIATION: Most actor bands are a joke, this is a well-done and pleasant surprise FOR FANS OF: Arcade Fire, The Notebook, Half Nelson
Baroness Blue Record SOUNDS LIKE: Second LP of sludgy, melodic metal from Georgia boys who like indie rock more than other men of metal FREE ASSOCIATION: Not sure why more metalists don't use soft and lovely interludes like this FOR FANS OF: Mastadon, Sunny Day Real Estate, beards
BK-One with Benzilla Radio Do Canibal SOUNDS LIKE: Ridonculous slew of guests, mainstream to underground, on Brother Ali's DJ and Twin Cities MC Benzilla's mixtape FREE ASSOCIATION: Oh snap, Black Thought's "Philly Boy" is smooth as silk FOR FANS OF: Ol' school Outkast, melodic smart hip hop
Simian Mobile Disco Temporary Pleasure SOUNDS LIKE: Brit beat producers' second proper LP with some serious guests; electro with some depth n' hooks FREE ASSOCIATION: Beth Ditto? Check. Jamie Lidell, cool. Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip? SICK. FOR FANS OF: LCD Soundsystem, Hercules & Love Affair, ecstasy
Neon Indian Psychic Chasms SOUNDS LIKE: Delicious pop pastiche of nostalgia for an era us kids barely remember but love to reproduce FREE ASSOCIATION: Synths and blurry vocals times cut and paste plus bedroom disco FOR FANS OF: Empire of the Sun, MGMT, Air France
Sufjan Stevens The BQE SOUNDS LIKE: Sufjan has freakin' lost us with this one; a big, complex, brainy orchestral tribute to the NY freeway FREE ASSOCIATION: Dude, give us another state record for Chrissakes FOR FANS OF: The orchestra, the philharmonic, driving
Alec Ounsworth Mo Beauty SOUNDS LIKE: Clap Your Hands frontman/warbler teams up with a brass band for a New Orleans-influenced solo project FREE ASSOCIATION: "South Philadelphia (Drug Days)"? This song totally effing rules! FOR FANS OF: CYHSY, Antony & the Johnsons, Bjork
Atlas Sound Logos SOUNDS LIKE: Deerhunter frontman genius' beautiful mess of fuzzy rock includes a kickass collab with Noah Lennox FREE ASSOCIATION: Keep up the lanky weirdness, Cox, especially if it yields this gem FOR FANS OF: Animal Collective, Deerhunter, joy
Lightning Bolt Earthly Delights SOUNDS LIKE: RI boys' fifth is a post-rock thrasher of balls-to-the-wall drums, guitar, reverb, energy and sparse vocals FREE ASSOCIATION: Warning - this record may induce welcome rock seizures FOR FANS OF: Black Dice, Japanther, volume
Kings of Convenience Declaration of Dependence SOUNDS LIKE: The Norwegian whisper-rockers' third album is another simple, strummy, slightly hokey indie folk masterpiece FREE ASSOCIATION: The only percussion is guitar slapping, so hushed it is FOR FANS OF: Belle & Sebastian kissing Simon & Garfunkel
Doveman The Conformist SOUNDS LIKE: NYU dropout and piano man's whispery and sorta-sad record of indie rock with superstar supporting guests FREE ASSOCIATION: What? Speak up, can't hear you. Oh, you're said and artsy, got it. FOR FANS OF: Sufjan Stevens, Chris Garneau
Brother Ali Us SOUNDS LIKE: The Twin Cities Albino maverick's sophomore is a soulful, intelligent and damn smooth hip hop record FREE ASSOCIATION: Inspired by classics like KRS-One and Rakim and it shows FOR FANS OF: Atmosphere, Cee-Lo, Blackalicious
Brooke Waggoner Go Easy Little Doves SOUNDS LIKE: Sophomore from Nashville's classically-trained pianist plus orchestrated help of woodwinds and strings FREE ASSOCIATION: That pretty voice doesn't disguise the fact that this record is 'Faith-inspired' FOR FANS OF: Christian Cat Power, Regina Spektor
Grand Archives Keep In Mind Frankenstein SOUNDS LIKE: Carissa's Weird gave us Band of Horses, now Mat Brooke's baby is a Sub Pop gem of pretty alt-country folk rock FREE ASSOCIATION: These records make us want to move to WA state. Rain? Whatever. FOR FANS OF: B of H, CSNY, Fleet Foxes
Raekwon Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II SOUNDS LIKE: One of Wu's alum follows up his '95 Cuban Linx with dankness: nutzo guests, production, rhymes and swagger FREE ASSOCIATION: Cruisin' on the B.Q.E. with blunts, drenched in ice and packin' heat FOR FANS OF: RZA, Method Man, Cappadonna, O.D.B.
Chuck Prophet ¡Let Freedom Ring! SOUNDS LIKE: SoCal veteran's still goin' strong; lo-fi countrified folk rock 20 years after his debut and he's aging well FREE ASSOCIATION: Sure, Americana can be a tiresome tag to avoid, this has got heart FOR FANS OF: Tom Petty x Lyle Lovett
The Pantones Inside The Sun's Wild Flame SOUNDS LIKE: It could be from Nashville but comes from Michigan with lush arrangements: steel guitar, horns, organs FREE ASSOCIATION: Solidly earnest Americana with dabs of country and folk FOR FANS OF: The Band, not garbage country
The Temper Trap Conditions SOUNDS LIKE: Strong debut of Aussie rockers well-produced by UK's Jim Abiss (Arctic Monkeys); pop rock that will fill arenas FREE ASSOCIATION: Amazing how a band can be influenced by U2 and not totally blow FOR FANS OF: Early Coldplay, fun Arcade Fire
The Elms The Great American Midrange SOUNDS LIKE: Indiana Christians' fifth, a follow-up to Chess Hotel, is good for Religiorock but it's cheesy and dreadful FREE ASSOCIATION: You should hear this song "County Fair," hilariously terrible FOR FANS OF: Jonas Brothers + John Mellencamp
Anti-Pop Consortium Fluorescent Black SOUNDS LIKE: Underground hip-hop foursome (Beans, High Priest, M. Sayyid, Earl Blaize); smart, ambient, artsy beats FREE ASSOCIATION: Love it when smart lyricsts and beat-makers take it to a higher level FOR FANS OF: Dr. Octagon, El-P, glitchy Madvillain
Manassas Pieces SOUNDS LIKE: Born from Stephen Stills' solo stuff, their third is their first in 36 years; exactly like a CSN album but less charming FREE ASSOCIATION: Somebody get this man the internet; only old people are listenin' FOR FANS OF: Deja Vu, Woodstock, protest songs
An upstate country boy who was Johnny HighSchool, went to an expensive liberal arts college and took about 20 English classes, went to graduate school in Oregon for a couple years then came back to the Empire state and tried to pass as a city boy for a minute. Now I'm Philly and I love it.