Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
Dying Is Fine
Photo by Doron Gild
As much as I’d like to find a completely different angle to discuss Ra Ra Riot’s debut full-length The Rhumb Line, it’s difficult to not address the topic of the death of drummer John Pike last year as his spirit permeates the whole record, from the dedication on the liner notes to the fact that he co-wrote many of the songs. Indeed, though drums on the record are handled entirely by Cameron Wisch, including the four of six songs from their self-titled EP re-recorded for the full-length, it’s notable that he’s not credited as an official band member.
Also interesting is that over the course of the record, it’s those older songs that still stand out the most, and that’s not just familiarity talking. They’re the most energetic numbers and also the ones that best capture the swirling wonder of their live show. This isn’t to suggest the newer material is lesser – that which was presumably written after Pike’s death may not be as immediate, but it’s just as effective at showcasing the band’s dense and detailed orchestral pop and certainly proves that even without Pike, there’s still plenty of creativity to tap into. But if you were looking to sell the band in one song, any of “Ghost Under Rocks”, “Each Year” or “Dying Is Fine” is where you’d go to seal the deal.
So rather than a progression from the self-title, The Rhumb Line feels more an expansion of that record – obviously the band wasn’t ready to move on without a proper toast to absent friends, and in that the record manages to simultaneously succeed as both a stirring debut and a poignant memorial.
Rolling Stone features the band as one to watch for 2008 and if you want to watch them – which I highly recommend – they’re at the Horseshoe next Thursday night, September 4. And, courtesy of Outside Music, I’ve got one pair of passes to give away to the show. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to Ra Ra Riot” in the subject line (yes I used that last time I gave away passes to their show what of it) and your full name in the body and have that in to me by midnight, September 1.
Bend Bulletin talks to Glenn Kotche of Wilco about their massively expanded set list and their 50-state initiative. They’re at the Air Canada Centre on December 4 opening up for Neil Young. I will simply not get tired of writing that. Everyone get tickets alright? I’ve got seats in section 104, row 16. I think those are good.
Pitchfork reports Mountain Goats will be releasing a tour-only double-7″ EP for when they hit the road this Fall, but those unlucky enough to not be on the sched – including us – will be able to grab it digitally via a novel new “pay what you want” model.
Athenians Dark Meat will be returning to town for a show at the Drake Underground on September 25. If you need a reason to attend, just check out this concert photo at Spin. Seriously, how much fun does that look? And the idea of that spilling over into the chi chi environs of the Drake… priceless. Full tour dates at Pitchfork.
You can currently stream the whole of Matthew Sweet’s new album Sunshine Lies. Now it’s true that Sweet’s output has become somewhat less than essential in recent years – still decent enough but not really a patch on his older material – but anytime he pulls up the right supporting cast as he does this time with the likes of Ric Menck and Richard Lloyd, it’s worth taking note. OC Register talks a bit to Sweet about the new record.
Stream: Matthew Sweet – “Sunshine Lies”
The ever-wonderful Merge records turns 20 next year and are marking the occasion with SCORE!, a subscription series of 14 CDs of Merge goodies curated by a variety of famous people and whose proceeds will go to charity. Pre-orders begin in September, delivery in January 2009. Details at Pitchfork.