Three Takes: Favorite Sonics’ Songs
The Sonics are coming to First Avenue tomorrow night (Sat)! We’re pretty excited about it and you should be too (that is, if you like Garage Rock and/or Punk, both of which this band had a huge influence on). To get ourselves in the mood for the show we are each contributing our favorite Sonics song, as well as a little piece about why:
I could have picked any song off of Here Are The Sonics, as it is one of those albums I can listen to start to finish over and over again, but side two opener “Pyscho” is hard to beat. A more deranged and scuzzy take on the same melody as “Twist and Shout,” it is classic Sonics. Equally bubblegum melodies and barbed wire distortion, it is both commanding and catchy. They are legends of garage rock and grandfathers to punk. They threaded the needle in a way few, in any, have done before or since. “Pyscho” is amazing, but so is just about every song on their classic 1965 debut. Long live The Sonics.
While The Sonics wrote and covered all the popular rock n roll topics of the time (girls, cars, etc) they came out of the gate pretty hard with a few dark singles in the mid 60s. A haunting little melody starts “Strychnine” before things kick into the finest fuzzed out garage rock song about drinking pesticide for fun. Add in a completely fuzzed out guitar solo and you’ve got yourself a good time.
The raucous guitar riff at the center of “The Witch” is one of rock and roll’s grittiest, most dangerous sounding riffs ever. I would put it up there with Link Wray’s “Rumble” as perhaps being the most immediately evocative of all the things I associate with rock and roll: danger, sex, effortless cool, and a rollicking good time. listening to it makes me want to put on shades, light up a smoke, and pocket a switchblade. I wouldn’t advise doing any of those things at First Avenue tomorrow night though – leave rock to the pros.
Introducing: Sun Gods To Gamma Rays
When listening to local music, it can sometimes be tough to resist the urge to assign TC bands a “local handicap,” in effect giving them a discount pass simply for being from the Twin Cities. It reduces “music criticism” to pure cheerleading, and in the end neither bands nor listeners really benefit. Still, I am guilty of this phenomenon, just as are pretty much all of our local media outlets. I want to make this point because I was listening to Radio K the other day, and Sun Gods to Gamma Rays’ “Not Worth Anything” came over the stereo, and it is to the bands’ credit that, without any knowledge of where the band is from, I immediately went to the K’s playlist to find out who they were. Sun Gods to Gamma Rays are, I found out, a local band. And a very good one at that! They play melodic dream pop draped in melancholy piano and ethereally reverbed guitar chords. The band is fronted by vocalist CAETANI, who’s lovely intonation seems to fall comfortably somewhere between Polica’s Channy Leaneagh and Beach House’s Victoria LeGrand. Backing CAETANI are Paul Flynn (guitar), Brian Gollnick (bass), Peter Bregman (electric piano) and Mitch Miller (drums). You can check out the track that was my introduction to the band below, and if you dig it you can stream the band’s new EP at their bandcamp site. You can also see the band perform tonight at the 7th St. Entry, where they’ll be opening for Swedish duo Deer Tracks.
Cate Le Bon: “Mug Museum” Review
There are two competing narratives in the press release accompanying Cate Le Bon’s newest record Mug Museum. One addresses the self-reflection following a death in the family (Le Bon’s maternal grandmother passed away, a sea change that left her “mulling over the importance of [her] place and purpose within this female chain”). The other, Le Bon’s decision to relocate to California and all of that California sunshine that that move entailed.
Listening to Mug Museum over the past few weeks, I definitely hear the former. But I struggle to hear much sunniness in this dense and contemplative collection of songs. If California has imparted anything it seems to be the Doors’ predilection for twilight psychedelic organ riffs, which Mug Museum has in spades. Perhaps the fact that Le Bon wrote most of the tunes in her native Wales never gave California a chance to brighten all those shadows. Or maybe geographic location just isn’t that important.
Whatever the reason, I am pretty happy with the results. To my mind Mug Museum is Le Bon’s most mature, dynamic work to date. It’s composed of ten psychedelic rock/folk influenced pop tunes that impart contemplativeness and self-seriousness. It’s introspection you could dance to though – Le Bon’s intricately stitched organ, synth, and guitar arrangements are buoyant and upbeat without sacrificing any of their gravitas, and her Nico-esque singing voice sounds bewitching in the pristine production (courtesy of engineers Noah Georgeson and Josiah Steinbrick).
Lyrically speaking Le Bon is as opaque as ever – though themes do emerge. A subtextual motif of doubt seems to emerge in songs like “No God” and “I Wish I Knew,” (the latter of which she is joined for by Perfume Genius’s Mike Hadreas). Both tunes hint at spiritual connotations though they are also vague enough that they could easily be applicable to something else. A sampling from “I Wish I Knew”:
There’s no working it out
My wanting is beyond our fields of formula
There’s no boundary to devotion
No territory to handle and cut neatly in two
I wish I knew, I wish I knew
Elsewhere, knowing Le Bon’s history, it’s easy to try and hear messages to her deceased grandmother in tunes like “I Can’t Help You” and “Cuckoo Through the Walls.” However she isn’t as straightforward a lyricist as to be able to feel confident in those assumptions. Really, Le Bon’s lyrical meanings are known to herself and herself alone – and trying to translate them to linear meanings is no simple task.
Luckily no such translation is necessary. Whatever the meaning behind them these are fantastic songs – and a welcome return to Le Bon’s psych-influenced sound after last year’s Cyrk took something of a pop detour. You can pick up Mug Museum tomorrow via Wichita Recordings or wait until January 25th when she’ll be visiting our fair cities to play at the 7th St. Entry.