Category Archives: Jason’s favorites

Can: The Lost Tapes review

(9 out of 10)

Forget, for a moment, the circumstances that brought The Lost Tapes into existence. Forget the execrable history that most important bands have when it comes to archival releases. Forget, if it’s possible, that Can hasn’t released any new music since 1989’s middling Rite Time. Forget those things and ask yourself: If you could go out and buy a new Can album today, what would you want it to sound like?

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Kitty Pryde, Gunpowder Temple, and what it means to “make it”

[Originally posted July 12, 2012 on my Orlando Music News blog at]

After I posted that item yesterday asking whether Gunpowder Temple was “one of the best bands in Orlando,” the response that it got was what I expected, but not quite what I had hoped for. I mean, of courseGunpowder Temple isn’t “one of the best bands in Orlando.” They’re just a bunch of kids who are trying to play music and trying to make it work – just like every other local band everywhere. Even though the whole “modern rock” style they’ve chosen to pursue is uninspired (and uninspiring), the fact remains that they’ve made the decision to navigate the treacherous waters of club promoters, media, and whatever weird thing “the music business” is today in the hopes that they’ll get a chance to rock out in front of a crowd of appreciative fans. Which means that, unlike about the 90% of the world that exists as passive consumers, the kids in Gunpowder Temple have decided to be active creators. And that’s a good thing.

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Neneh Cherry & the Thing: The Cherry Thing review

(9 out of 10)

For many people – especially in the United States – Neneh Cherry’s career began and ended with “Buffalo Stance,” which is why The Cherry Thing is being greeted like some sort of unexpected comeback. The thing is, Cherry never really went anywhere, and, more importantly, has spent far more time toiling on the experimental and interesting fringes of contemporary music than she ever did on MTV. The stepdaughter of Don Cherry was a bona fide founding member of the British post-punk/dub scene, working with both Rip Rig and Panic and the Slits, she released two albums after Raw Like Sushi that were incredible works of soul-pop perfection, she was a spiritual midwife to the Bristol trip-hop scene, she’s been working with her husband in the prog-funk group known as Cirkus, and, now, she’s collaborating with baritone saxophonist Mats Gustaffson’s free-jazz group, the Thing … a group that was named after, yes, a Don Cherry song. So while The Cherry Thing is definitely a new chapter, it’s in a book that Neneh Cherry’s been diligently writing for three decades now.

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Small Faces: Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake reissue review


(9.5 out of 10)

Over the years, Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake has been reissued on CD seven different times by the same label, so any skepticism regarding whether or not this most recent 3-CD “deluxe edition” by that same label is the ultimate/definitive/perfect/never-to-be-topped version is well-warranted.

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Van Halen reunion tour show preview


If you were anywhere near the Internet in early February, you likely couldn’t miss the hue and cry of a certain cohort of Dudes of a Certain Age crowing about how amazingly incredibly awesomely surprisingly kickass the new Van Halen album was. Comments like “picked up where they left off” and “it’s so great to hear these guys playing together again” and “reunion albums are never this great” were definitely in the mix, and, most amazingly, they were issued without the many caveats and qualifiers that typically accompany such declarations.

As one of those Dudes of a Certain Age, I confess that I was certainly a vocal contributor to said hue and cry, as I was completely flabbergasted at the strength of the album as a whole, at how well the mid-’70s demos were converted into brand-new rockers, and, of course, at the fact that I was sitting here – a grown-ass man with generally respectable (and occasionally respected) taste in music – in 2012, giddy with joy over a new Van Halen album.

I also confess that I haven’t listened to A Different Kind of Truth since the week after its release. In fact, when it came time to buckle down and write a preview of the band’s reunion tour stop at the Amway Center, all I wanted to do wasnot listen to Truth, and instead luxuriate in the eternal excellence of Fair Warning or side two of 1984. This is not a comment on the quality of A Different Kind of Truth – the album is the best ever put out by a reconstituted legacy act 30 years after their prime.

But it doesn’t matter. Van Halen in 2012 simply can’t be anything more than a band and a sound that trades completely on nostalgia, evoking the decadent possibilities of the era in which they did matter. The hedonism, debauchery and Jack-from-the-bottle days of the late-’70s and early-’80s have come and gone, and even though Eddie, Alex and Diamond Dave are gelling fantastically, and even though they’ve made an album that eclipses everything Van Halen has done post-1984, it just doesn’t matter. They may as well have released a crap album – or no album at all – and just gone on tour. It’s great that they didn’t, and diehard Van Halen fans have every reason to be pleased with how good A Different Kind of Truth is. But pretending that it’s anything other than a respectable reminder of how powerful the band – and hard rock in general – was in the group’s early days is a fool’s errand.

And, in exactly the same way that Truth acted as that reminder, so too will the reunion shows. There will be moments of ecstatic rock & roll happiness, but the fact remains that as a culture, we’re well into the post-Van Halen era. They served up a solid reminder of past glories, but that’s really all they can do anymore.

First appeared April 12, 2012 in Orlando Weekly.

Floor concert preview

Around this time last year, we giddily announced that South Florida metal legends Floor were reuniting to play a few shows and pimp a comprehensive box set of all the material the band had ever recorded. The fleeting and temporary nature of the reunion – “But for us, this is it,” guitarist Steve Brooks told us – made it all the more awesome. Of course, we naïvely believed him, and now, here we are telling you that Floor is playing a gig at Will’s Pub. Still, this is a capital-B Big Deal. While the band that Floor evolved into (Torche) has seen substantial success among alt-metal fans, the relentless, gut-punching intensity of the original band’s material is something else altogether. And hey, if you don’t see ’em now …

First appeared Feb. 25, 2012 in Orlando Weekly.

Tinariwen feature

For a band of nomads – a literal band of nomads – to make a musical impact on Western ears is an unusual achievement. Maybe such a group constitutes a curious aside on your favorite world music show, or garner a tiny blog mention as the preferred obscure listening habit of your favorite indie musician, but to be signed to the same label as Tom Waits and Nick Cave? To embark on a tour that takes them to rock clubs across the U.S.? That’s not just unusual, that’s nearly unprecedented.

But that’s exactly what’s happened with Tinariwen, a group born in the sands of Northern Africa that has exploded beyond the typical constraints of world music festivals and into a legitimate underground rock & roll phenomenon. One could argue that this newfound attention is due to the fact that Tinariwen’s compelling back story – they’re a loose collective of Malian musicians who were forced into Libyan refugee camps while their country was at war in the late ’70s – has helped them garner this newfound attention, but a story only goes so far.

The group’s raw, blues-flecked and dirty guitar sounds instantly resonate with Western audiences raised on rock. The guitarists’ circular, trance-like melodies are as insistent as they are inviting, as foreign as they are familiar. When threaded through the Tuareg rhythms and vocals that define the music of these Saharan nomads, the combination is deeply affecting and resonant, and not a little bit punk rock. Unlike other world musicians who have evolved over time to accommodate the ears of those in Europe and America, Tinariwen has remained true to their original sound, if not their ad-hoc roots.

“We always do what we want. In the ’80s, we were not a professional band, we were a collective of musicians who used to perform together for some traditional events,” explains lead guitarist Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who helped found the group while a refugee in Libya. “There was no planning, no touring. We were recording tapes in some radios and people shared our music with tapes. [But] from the beginning of 2000, we became more professional; we hired a manager, an agent and so on. The music didn’t really change, though. We just needed to adapt it for a record.”

That newfound professionalism yielded results quickly, and in 2001, Tinariwen headlined the Festival in the Desert in Mali, which began that year as a celebration of traditional Tuareg culture, but would quickly grow into a massive annual event thanks to their popularity. (The 2003 edition featured Robert Plant and was documented in the excellentFestival in the Desert film.) This popularity soon spread to European audiences and, over the years, the group has gone on to play festivals like Coachella, All Tomorrow’s Parties, Glastonbury and others. For a group playing semi-traditional music in a language that few Westerners speak, this is a major feat, but it’s also been frustrating for Alhabib and the rest of Tinariwen, since so much of their music is message-based, touching on both broad issues of freedom and more overtly political themes.

“We try to offer translation in the CD’s booklet [and on] our website for people interested,” Alhabib says. “But I think that first, this is our special camel groove and this trance feeling that people love; they can enter in the meanings later.”

Those meanings, though, are still deeply important to Tinariwen, especially in these days of the Arab Spring.

“We are really happy about what [has] happened in the Arabic countries these days,” Alhabib says. “Libya is a more complex situation as [deceased Libyan dictator Moammar] Gadhafi had some relationship with Eastern governments and West African politics. A lot of people died also, and a lot of our people needed to leave Libya and have no lands to leave.” But, he adds, “Freedom is always what we were looking for as nomadic people.”

First appeared Nov. 3, 2011 in Orlando Weekly.