I managed to survive the scorching heat this week and had a pretty good post-race training week with 41 miles in 6 workouts (one day off for a much needed sports massage). After a few short and easy days to allow myself to recover from the Shot in the Dark race I had a really good 9 mile fartlek run on Wednesday a hilly segment of the Rocky River Reservation metro park. After warming up 20 minutes, I did a session of 6-5-4-3-2-1 where you run 6 minutes hard, 3 easy; 5 minutes hard, 2:30 easy etc. working your way down till you barely have any recovery time at the end. In addition to decreased recovery, the aim for this workout is to also run each surge faster than the one before, so if you do it right it's a real ball buster. Typically I start the 6:00 surge at about the same effort I might race a 10-miler and by the end of the workout, I'm running the 2:00 and 1:00 surges a tad faster than 5K effort. On Saturday I ran 95 minutes (12 miles give or take) on the trails in Mastick Woods, which were quite muddy from recent storms. Pretty fun to get off road and navigate on the trails. My next race will be a 5K cross country event at Mastick on August 10, so for the next two weeks I'll be doing a hilly fartlek session mid-week and a trail run on the weekend.
The story goes something like this: About 10 years ago, Kids On A Crime Spree founder Mario Hernandez was in Stockholm and had his mind blown when a friend put on Phil Spector’s Back To Mono box set (ABKCO, 1991). Hernandez, a long time veteran of acclaimed indie-pop outfits, including From Bubblegum To Sky and Ciao Bella, decided that he would like to emulate the troubled genius and create his own blend of epic pop.
The stunning We Love You So Bad EP is the first result of that endeavor, culled from some 100 tracks Hernandez has recorded since his revelation. With that kind of output, one hopes more releases are planned! Consisting of Hernandez on vocals and bass, along with ex-From Bubblegum To Sky cohorts Becky Barrons (drums) and Bill Evans (guitar), the Kids have a simple yet infectious sound that brings to mind the best of Spector’s “Wall of Sound” creations, in addition to modern acts like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (Hernandez’s sweet melodies are similar to those of Pain’s frontman Kip Berman).
The much-too-short We Love You So Bad (eight songs in 20 minutes) opens with the scintillating “I Don’t Want To Call You Baby, Baby,” which blends a spooky New Order bass line (Peter Hook would be proud) with some classic Jesus and Mary Chain reverb and fuzz. This is followed by “Trumpets of Death,” a classic surf pop meets 1960s girl group number where Barrons takes over lead vocals. “Sweet Tooth” is a hard edged mod anthem crossing The Raveonettes at their best with The Who’s “Substitute,” even nicking the latter’s guitar riff and “We Look Pretty Good Together” lyric! The explosive “To Mess With Dynamite” combines a breathtaking Hernandez melody with plenty of JAMC overdrive circa “Never Understand” or “You Trip Me Up.” The sweet sounding “Dead Ripe” captures the teenage symphony vision of Brian Wilson circa Pet Sounds (this would work well on a mix tape next to something like “God Only Knows”). “It’s In My Blood” is as dark as the name implies, the vocals and arrangement containing the same desperate longing of epic girl group productions like The Ronettes’ “Walking In The Rain” or The Shangri-La’s “Remember (Walkin’ In The Sand).” The final two tracks are “Impasto,” which flows like an excellent update of Tommy James and The Shondells “Crimson and Clover,” and “Jean-Paul Sartre 2,” a timeless pop song that brings to mind the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star.
As a disclaimer, I’m normally not a fan of concert films or live albums, having suffered through the likes of Led Zeppelin’s The Song Remains the Same (Warner Bros., 1976) as a kid when they were my favorite band, or more recently, The Stone Roses’ Blackpool Live (Windsong, 1991). The former was chock full of all the rock’n'roll clichés exposed so well in Spinal Tap, while the latter exposed what all of us kind of knew, namely, that Ian Brown just cannot sing! I am, however, intrigued by the recent spate of bands performing classic albums in a live setting (All Tomorrow’s Parties’ Don’t Look Back series, et al), so after waxing poetic over the 20th Anniversary edition of Screamadelica (one of my all-time favorite albums) recently for Skyscraper, I jumped at the chance to review Screamadelica Live.
Filmed on November 26, 2010, at London’s Olympia Theatre, Screamadelica Live finds Bobby Gillespie and company in stellar form. Complete with a super tight horn section, a phenomenal gospel choir, a spectacular light show, and looking sharp in black suits, white shirts, and black ties, this was obviously a fantastic night out for the packed audience. Directed by George Scott, the cinematography is great; lots of really good close-ups of the band and not too many clichéd audience shots, apart from the occasional guy/girl breaking the cardinal rule of not wearing the concert t-shirt at the concert!
Although billed as a performance of Screamadelica in its entirety, the set list deviates slightly from the original album. But the sequencing makes sense here, with two blocks of upbeat material sandwiching the ballads. The concert opens with the same trio of tunes that kickstarts Screamadelica. “Movin’ On Up” sounds great with Martin Duffy’s honky tonk piano, the twin Rolling Stones-fueled guitars of Andrew Innes and Barry Cadogan, and the pristine horn section and choir stealing the show. Gillespie’s vocals here and elsewhere aren’t always up to par with his band’s performance, but the lead singer’s voice is greatly aided by the choir who tend to hit most of the high notes. That said, Gillespie does stand out on some of the ballads in the middle of the set, especially the bluesy “Damaged.” “Slip Inside This House” follows, and it is highlighted by some amazing psychedelic lighting effects. “Don’t Fight It, Feel It” keeps the party going with Mary Pierce taking on the lead vocals (Denise Johnson performed on the album). After that the band takes it down a notch, as the aforementioned “Damaged,” the spacey “I’m Coming Down,” “Shine Light Stars,” and the trippy instrumental “Inner Flight” provide some breathing room before the spectacular finale.
The concluding three tracks of the set are worth the price of the DVD alone. Because Screamadelica contains two versions of “Higher Than the Sun” (the single version and The Orb’s dub rendition), it was unclea how Primal Scream would approach it on stage. They manage to combine the two and then some, as the band delivers a stellar rendition of the standard version before bassist Gary “Mani” Mounfield sets off on a captivating dub journey, spiced with some electrifying guitar work. The trio builds to a crushing finale that rivals the power of Mani’s old band, The Stone Roses, on “I Am The Resurrection” and “Fool’s Gold.” “Loaded” is even better, as a “Sympathy For The Devil”-like groove and the famous Peter Fonda samples drive the crowd into a frenzy. The concluding “Come Together” is fittingly the highlight of the set. As with “Higher Than the Sun” the group opts to combine the best elements of the Andrew Weatherall-produced sample-heavy version that is on the initial UK (and 20th Anniversary) edition with the more conventional Terry Farley mix from the US version of the album, which features extensive Gillespie vocals. Personally, I actually prefer the latter version for its uplifting lyrical message, as well as the fact that it features one of Gillespie’s finest recorded vocal moments, which he nails pretty well here too.
As a bonus, Screamadelica Live also contains a 40-minute “rock and roll” set which the band played earlier that evening. The eight songs here are all pretty amazing, especially the hard psych meets techno fury of Vanishing Point and Xtrmntr standouts “Accelerator,” “Burning Wheel,” “Swastika Eyes,” and “Shoot Speed/Kill Light.”
Another small step in the right direction. Two and a half weeks ago I ran 6:03 pace for a 5K in my first race since April 2. Today I ran 30:28 for nearly twice the distance at the Bay Days 5 mile Race (6:05 pace) on a very hot and humid day running pretty consistent splits. I felt much stronger than my last race though I don't have my usual final mile finishing gear that I have when I'm at the top of my game. Though I was a minute and a half slower than last year, I'm happy that I'm slowly getting my fitness back, and hopefully I'll end up salvaging this year with some better performances in the fall. I've decided that I'm not fit enough to be running the masters track nationals at the end of July so I've been building up my strength for cross country and longer road races. The past two weeks I've run 41 and 45 miles on 6 days a week with some solid tempo and fartlek workouts. I'm going to follow the Antonio Cabral cross country program for the rest of the summer, running a longer tempo each week and alternating hill and fartlek workouts like 1:00 on/1:00 off as my second key workout while trying to slowly build my weekly mileage. Next up for me is the Shot in the Dark 4 mile race, which is an early evening race in downtown Cleveland on July 16. Hopefully I'll make another leap like I did today from my June 15 race.
Released in the UK last fall on Hungry Audio, Age of Denial recently saw the light of day in the US on limited edition vinyl, courtesy of Minty Fresh, to commemorate Record Store Day. This was the Norwich, UK, outfit’s first American release, and will hopefully spark more interest in the group. While I’d never listened to Sennen before, other than hearing their stellar cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” I had seen their name tossed around favorably on shoegaze forums and always meant to check them out. While researching this piece, I was quite surprised to learn how much of a back catalog they’ve accumulated since their debut EP Widows (Hungry Audio, 2005), including several full-lengths and a large number of singles and compilation cuts. Looks like I have a lot of catching up to do.
Though presumably named after the Ride track on the Today Forever EP (Creation, 1991), Sennen have a pretty multi-dimensional sound, going far beyond reviving the classic Creation Records sound. Consisting of Laurence Holmes (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Richard Kelleway (vocals, guitar), Tim Kelleway (bass), and James Brown (drums), the group conjures up darker sound-scapes than is typical in this nu-gaze genre, bringing to mind the likes of post-punk icons, such as early U2, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Chameleons, or even the twisted glam of Placebo.
The in-your-face title track kicks things off with pounding beats and fuzzy guitar, as it builds to an epic chorus before fading into a sweeping, U2-like atmosphere near the end, bringing to mind the moodier material on The Unforgettable Fire (Island, 1984). This pattern of mixing softer and louder dynamics continues throughout Age of Denial to great affect, as on “With You,” which merges Joy Division-like precision beats within a summery pop song, and “Falling Down,” which starts slow and builds to a crashing finale like the best of Ride and Slowdive. Another huge highlight is “S.O.S.,” which has a similar drive to Depeche Mode classics “Behind the Wheel” and “Never Let Me Down Again.” “Red Horizon” is a fantastic slow burner, a powerful melody carrying the song as its instrumentation builds and builds but never quite explodes. The tension sets things up for the following track, the crushing “I Can See the Light,” a stunning piece recalling Catherine Wheel on Ferment (Fontana, 1992), especially when the guitars kick into stun-gun mode.