City Pulse

By P.J. Gach

It’s early November and all ready the Christmas albums are coming out, and I am soo not ready to even think about gift shopping. I’m just looking at these CDs and shuddering. No, not because they’re bad, it’s because it’s not even December yet for god’s sake.

Music from The OC Mix 3 Have A Very Merry Chrismukkah (Warner Sunset/Warner Bros) is one that I like. It’s a comp disc that has an Indie feel to it. The performers work hard to create a mood, rather than shove that annoying faux joy down your throat. You got the Raveonettes performing their version of “The Christmas Song, “and it so does rock. Ben Kweller sings a simple yet affecting “Rock of Ages” as their token Chanukah song. I have always hated this song, since I was an itty bitty, but his version – quiet, evocative and simple -makes it worth listening to more than once. Other artists include; Jimmy Eat World, Low, Rooney, The Long Winters, Eels and others.

Jobraith Lonely Planet Boy (Attack Records) After I pulled the CD out of the mailer, I shook it hoping a press kit would fall out. Nothing. Slipped it into my machine and pressed play. “Hmm, ” I thought, “Not bad, some of the guitar work reminds me of Sweet, He’s got a bit of Ian Hunter, Bowie and Rufus Wainwright influence in the vocal/lyric thing going on. Piano work isn’t bad. This is like Helga and The Angry Inch meets Camp and runs away to Rock Land.” Looked at the cover art, so 70′s, I’m thinking yeah, I know musically everyone’s doing this big recherché to past decades but….then I notice there’s another pocket and I fish out the booklet. It’s not lyrics, it’s a bio. You see Jobraith AKA Bruce Wayne Campbell, came of age in the 70′s. His manager who was also the head of Elektra, kept touting him as the next big thing. He was to be the artist to eclipse Bowie, The Stones, well basically everyone who was big in music back then. Instead of creating an air of mystery through various tricks, the press balked at the shenanigans. Through label and pr mismanagement, and Jobraith staying so far out of the closet, he could have been on the balcony; there wasn’t a media outlet that was interested in him. The record company pulled the plug on him, while he was selling out on the road! Instead of being a Rock Star, he changed his name, played piano in cabarets and eked out a living. He became a footnote in the annals of glam rock. Jobraith died of AIDS alone in the Chelsea hotel in 1983.

Flash forward a few years to now; Morrisey has created his own label Attack Records and re-released all of Jobraith’s music on this CD. Now a different generation can hear his stuff and decide for themselves. Yes, it’s campy, over the top glam, but it’s got power, emotion, guts and dreams. Lonely Planet Boy fits in where we are musically now. If he was alive now, he’d be feted, not remembered.

Hellogoodbye Hellogoodbye (Drive-Thru Records) Reading the press kit, I was prepared to really like these guys. The band’s a quartet out of Cali and they love to play with words. A sense of humor, hell anything that can make you laugh these days is a good thing. But, I was disappointed. They sound like every other punk pop band I’ve heard lately. Lyrically, they’re cool. Musically, it’s the same basic chords played really fast.

The Ditty Bops The Ditty Bops (Warner Brothers) A mix of modern sensibility and traditional instruments combined with lyrics like, “Was it the fighting? Was it the fist…what brought the house down?” from Ooh La La proves that this not just another pos t- modern ironic Indie duo. Whether they’re singing a remake of “My Sister Kate” or one of their own compositions, their harmonies are tighter than a pair of jeans. Their voices swoop together liquidly, ethereally, like birds in flight twirling in and above the instrumentation.

Amanda Barrett (guitar) and Abby Dewald (mandolin, dulcimer) met at the Rocky Horror Picture Show in New York. They moved to LA and started playing and gathered notices and a following. Don’t be thrown by the instruments, this group can straddle the Alt Country/Indie Rock scene comfortably. Lambchop and Rilo Kiley successfully combine disparate influences and create something new and fresh; The Ditty Bops do the same.

There’s a hint of darkness in the songs, a sense that for all the frolicking, fun, melancholy is a moment away. It’s this tension that makes the CD blissful.

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We’re always looking to the future, sometimes to the point that we forget the musical gems that came before us. Luckily EFOR Films has just released a trio of Jazz Memories DVDs that are a must have for any collection. The Genius of Lady Day – Billie Holiday, The Incomparable Lena Horne, and The Legendary Nat King Cole are treasures for the eyes and ears.

Each DVD has film and TV appearances, rare photos of the legends and uncovers their life and music. Each performer is a cultural icon; each artist broke the down walls for future musicians. Each performer was a genius in his or her own right.

Originally published November 2004
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