Thursday, July 17th, 2008
Live Fast Die Strong
Photo by Natasha Papadopoulou
“You have to see them live”.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like seeing bands live. I should think that much is obvious by now. But when that’s used as a response to my voicing a lack of interest or enthusiasm for a particular artist’s recorded output, I can’t help but get even more wary. After all, I can tell the difference between unfortunate production and weak songwriting and can forgive the former, but not the latter. This isn’t to say that a band with great songs be so much better live that the studio renderings pale in comparison, but when the strength of a band’s live performance is used as an excuse for not being able to write decent tunes, it sounds to me like someone is trying to use wacky hijinks on stage as a smokescreen for other deficiencies.
I’ve been hearing stories of Montreal’s King Khan & The Shrines’ shows spoken of in hushed, reverential tones for some time now – all about the sheer madness of their live performances but never about the strength of the actual music – so I generally dismissed them. Come on, when you have as much music flung at you as I do you sometimes have to make wholly arbitrary snap judgments to stay sane. But that didn’t keep me from giving their new record, The Supreme Genius Of King Khan And The Shrines, a fair shake when it showed up. Essentially a best-of compiled from his myriad EP, single and full-length releases, it functions as a strong introduction to Khan’s frantic blend of garage rock, funk and soul. It’s loud, proud and obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously but still seriously enough to ensure it’s expertly executed. They might be obviously and unabashedly goofy, but they can play. And while it may not be something that gets a lot of rotation when just hanging around the house, it’s the sort of record you could put on at a party and easily let run start to finish.
And, perhaps more importantly, its existence gives Khan an excuse to go out and play some shows. Now as I’ve said, I’m a bit jaded to the whole “they’re so amazing live” angle, but reading reviews like this one from San Francisco last week… I’m as intrigued as I am frightened. They’ve got two shows at the Horseshoe next week – Wednesday the 23rd and Thursday the 24th – and will also be doing an in-store at Sonic Boom at 7PM before the second night’s show. Obviously that one has the appeal of being free, but I can’t imagine they’ll be fully debauched in such a PG environment – for that, you’ll need to hit the ‘Shoe shows which, thanks to Vice Records, could also be free. I’ve got a pair of passes to give away to each night – if you want in, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to see King Khan!” in the subject line and your full name, along with which night you want to go to, in the body. If you want to enter for both nights – that’s cool, you just won’t win for both – email me twice and mention which night you’d prefer, in case it comes down to it. Contest closes at midnight, July 20.
Khan and The Shrines are currently on tour across America, leaving a trail of rock & wreckage and press clippings in their wake. Check out the local preview in eye as well as interviews in SF Weekly, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Georgia Straight, The College Times, Exclaim!, Creative Loafing, Desert News, Chart, Metro and Indy Weekly, who also have an MP3 available to download different from the one below.
The first taste of Ra Ra Riot’s debut full-length The Rhumb Line, out August 19, is now available and if it sounds familiar it’s because it’s one of the songs that first appeared on their self-titled EP… but at least it’s been re-recorded. They’re at the Horseshoe on September 4.
In talking to Billboard about Okkervil River’s forthcoming The Stand-Ins, out September 9, Will Sheff says that after the tour that brings them to the Phoenix on October 12, the band will be taking “a long break”. Oh noes!
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are at the Mod Club on August 11, tickets $27.50 on sale now.
And perhaps most intriguingly, The Charlatans (UK) have a date booked at the Mod Club on October 10, tickets $30. One one hand, they’re quite obviously past their best-before date – this year’s decent but not great You Cross My Path notwithstanding – and if they’re out to prove themselves a vital creative entity, it could be awkward for everyone. But if they’re willing to accept that their fans – and though they’re playing a venue a quarter the size of the one I last saw them at in 2002 and half the size from their last visit in 2006, they’ll have no trouble filling it with psyched up Britpop refugees – are old and not interested in change and just want to hear the hits, then a well-chosen set list in a room that cozy with a band whose been around long enough and played stages big enough that they know how to put on a great show, well that could be something really special that makes you (and them) feel at least 10 years younger.
Album: The Charlatans / You Cross My Path
MP3: The Charlatans – “Oh! Vanity”
MP3: The Charlatans – “You Cross My Path”
Video: The Charlatans – “Oh Vanity”
Video: The Charlatans – “You Cross My Path”
Video: The Charlatans – “The Misbegotten”