Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
The Right Place
Review of Monsters Of Folk’s self-titled debut and giveaway
last.fmUsually when you assemble a “supergroup”, you assemble top-notch artists for each conventional band position – kick-ass drummer from group A, shredmaster guitarist from group B, supreme bass-slapper from group C and a lead singer (assuming they’re not already one of A, B or C) whose usual bandmates are probably more than happy to get a break from and voila – a can’t-miss recipe that usually misses as often as it hits, if not more. Rarely, however, do you find multiple frontmen working together, with even the notion of managing egos and personalities enough to scare any right-thinking people away. The one notable exception being The Traveling Wilburys and the names involved there were so huge that it’s hard to imagine any of them really feeling insecure. Okay, maybe Jeff Lynne got tired of always being the last one to be named, but whatever.
While the principals of Monsters Of Folk – My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, M Ward and She & Him’s Matt Ward, Bright Eyes and The Mystic Valley Band’s Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes sideman and producer extraordinaire Mike Mogis – aren’t household names on the scale of the Wilburys, they are essentially superstars in the circles they run in. And while the first three’s getting together to tour as solo artists in 2004 made perfect sense, heading into the studio to craft a record of original material was less of a sure thing. After all – getting onstage to harmonize or tackle a cover is one thing, creating all new material together is quite another.
So the fact that the Monsters Of Folk self-titled debut, five years or so in the making, is pretty good on a universal scale can probably be interpreted as being terrific once the supergroup curve is applied. It achieves this largely by not trying to be much more than exactly what it advertises – James, Ward and Oberst contributing songs while Mogis ensures that while each composer’s tunes sound very much like they could have appeared on one of their own records, they still hang together seamlessly. James continues with the soulful excursions that marked the last couple of MMJ records, Ward’s pieces are rollicking AM radio revivals and Oberst still plays the moody, angsty card though he thankfully keeps his love-or-hate vibrato largely in check and doesn’t bring down the prevailing sense of fun that runs through the record as everyone romps in their common ground of classic rock, country, and yes – folk. No one would accuse them of saving A-grade material from their day jobs for this project, but nothing’s a throwaway, either. It’s a solid collection of songs from some top talent – nothing more, nothing less.
And it gives them an excuse to tour, as they currently are, and they’ll be in Toronto on Monday night, November 2, for a show at Massey Hall. Tickets are $36.50 to $49.50 with $1 from each going to Food Share, but courtesy of Against The Grain, I’ve got two pairs of tickets to the show to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to be a Monster Of Folk for Hallowe’en” in the subject line and your full name in the body. Contest closes at midnight, October 31. Update: Special four-packs of tickets for the show are now available – buy four and they’re $25.50 each (plus $1 charity fee).
The Aquarian interviews Charlie Fink, frontman for Noah & The Whale. A reminder that their double-header performance in Toronto this Saturday comes with a 12-hour gap – the in-store at Criminal Records starts at noon while their headlining set at the Horseshoe begins at midnight.
The xx’s remix/cover of Florence & The Machine’s cover of Candi Staton has been given an official video, which is itself a remix of sorts of the official video of Florence’s version. Good luck sorting out the royalties on that. Florence is at the Mod Club on November 2, The XX are at the Phoenix on December 2 – if they don’t burn out first.
Radio Free Canuckistan has a fascinating conversation with to Stuart Berman about his Broken Social biography
This Book Is Broken, and the past ten years in Canadian independent music in general. Berman is being interviewed about the book in front of a live audience this Friday night at Harbourfront Centre as part of the International Festival of Authors – congratulations go to Janet for winning the passes to the event.