A couple of performing acts with Providence connections set the stage for this week’s Compact Capsules. First up is the debut from Get Him Eat Him. The Providence-based combo arose out of the campus of Brown University and is now beginning to shake things up on the national front with its first record for indie label Absolutely Kosher Records. Also on the menu is two releases from the band Magnolia Electric Company, the brainchild of former Providence inhabitant Jason Molina.
Get Him Eat Him
Absolutely Kosher AK052
Our capitol city of Providence is home to the band Get Him Eat Him. Brown University was where its four members first met just a few years ago. It was the first year for each at the hallowed Ivy league institution, a time of exploration be it food, music, humorous activities, or whatever. Arriving from various locales, the fellows hit it off sharing a love of the DIY alternative music of the 1990s. Indie pop loaded with frenzied keyboards and flailing guitars resulted in an edgy and adventurous brew. That was the makeup of the band’s self-released EP from just a year ago called Casual Sex: The Demo. Recorded and mixed over a few weeks in the Spring of 2004 at band leader and 21-year-old elder statesman Matt LeMay’s room in Harkness Hall at Brown, its four songs and three bonus tracks caught the ear of the folks at Berkeley-based Absolute Kosher Records and landed the band a recording deal. It comes to fruition with the full-length debut release called Geography Cones. For the album, the band headed to Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco which is owned and operated by recording artist John Vanderslice and has hosted some of the best and brightest in indie rock and beyond. Out of the session comes the dozen tracks comprising Geography Cones, an interestingly reckless sonic blend where frantic rock coexists with atmospheric electronica. It’s a quirky mix of the old and new from the band featuring a number of the songs that first surfaced on Casual Sex and dating back as far to a couple of songs from LeMay’s high school days (“Posture” and “Bad Thoughts”). Put simply, youth is served on Geography Cones. (Absolutely Kosher Records, 1412 10th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-1512, or www.absolutelykosher.com)
Get Him Eat Him perform at the Century Lounge in Providence on Friday, November 11. It’s an all-ages show with GoGoGo Airheart and The Joggers also on the bill. The Century is located at 150 Chestnut Street. Call (401) 751-2255 or check the club’s web site at centurylounge.com.
The Magnolia Electric Company
What Comes After the Blues
Secretly Canadian SC102
The Magnolia Electric Company
Hard to Love a Man (CD-EP)
Secretly Canadian SC118
After wearing out the album What Comes After the Blues from The Magnolia Electric Company over the last couple of months, I am continuing to kick myself for being out of state when the band touched down in Providence in early August. The fact that part-time band member Jennie Benford came on my weekly radio program at WRIU in late July with her band Jim & Jennie & the Pinetops and sang a song from What Comes After the Blues makes it hurt even more. In other words, where this camp is concerned What Comes After the Blues, which was released early last Spring, is as fine a recording as these ears have heard all year. The band is fronted by one Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia fame. Keeping with the Providence thread of this week’s installment, Molina is no stranger to these parts having resided in our capitol city for a spell in the mid-1990s. Just to confuse things, Molina’s last album under the Songs: Ohia name released in 2003 was titled Magnolia Electric Company. Whereas Songs: Ohia has built its rep on a creaky style of alt country, the Molina-fronted Magnolia Electric Company, in comparison, goes more for the throat on What Comes After the Blues mixing grandiose roots rockers straight out of early Neil Young & Crazy Horse with a splash of Jayhawks (the lead-off track “The Dark Don’t Hide It” full of guitar crunch galore is a cinch to win fans from both camps) with savory and soulful numbers of personal solitude. Benford’s addition to the revolving cast of players Molina has employed on his various album is nothing but a place. A frail-voiced soprano, Benford proves the perfect counter to Molina’s own quivering vocals. She shimmers on “The Night Shift Lullaby” which makes for a perfect segue out of “The Dark Don’t Hide It”. “Leave the City” follows with its horn intro setting a tone of soul and sadness as Molina sings of second thoughts about departing a long-time home. Mixing twangy guitar and trickling piano, it’s a potent tune in all facets likely to strike a nerve in anyone ever having to do much the same. Benford’s accompaniment only adds to the elixir-like qualities of the tune. On the quiet side, “Northstar Blues” with fiddle and lightly strummed acoustic guitar is striking in its simplicity. Tunes like “Hammer Down” and “I Can Not Have Seen the Light” strip things down even further while hitting equally as hard. With What Comes After the Blues, Jason Molina has crafted a compelling and beautiful record that may just have listeners craving more. If that’s the case, to the rescue comes the newly released five-song EP Hard to Love a Man. Recorded in fast fashion just before the Fourth of July holiday, it mixes one song from What Comes After the Blues with four previously unreleased odds and ends three of which are originals. Molina tops off this EP with a tried-but-true cover of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London”. For all its brevity, Hard to Love a Man is equally as satisfying as the longplayer. (Secretly Canadian, 1499 West 2nd, Bloomington, IN 47403, or www.secretlycanadian.com)
The New Pornographers
Label the band The New Pornographers one of the indie sensations of the rock world during the last three years. Formed in Vancouver in 1997 and featuring artists from bands like Zumpano and Destroyer, The New Pornographers began more as a side project for a group of compadres to get their circa-1970s rocks off. The buzz began rather accidentally with the band’s debut titled Mass Romantic released in 2000 for the Canadian label Mint Records. The album garnered the all-star band of sorts a deal with major Stateside indie Matador Records which released the follow-up album Electric Version to mucho critical raves in 2003. With all the pop appeal of an early ’70s K-Tel hits collection, but featuring all original material, the two albums were like a walk down memory lane of sorts featuring songs sprinkled with touches that recalled everything from the Beach Boys to the Bee Gees and the Raspberries to Wings. A tough act to follow if there ever was one, The New Pornographers return here in 2005 with the album Twin Cinema. Whereas the ensemble has had a cast of thousands of sorts on their various studio recordings, its core lineup this time around is Carl Newman on vocals and guitar, John Collins on bass, Kurt Dahle on percussion, Blaine Thurier on synthesizer, Dan Bejar on vocals and guitar, Todd Fancey on guitar, newcomer Kathryn Calder on vocals and piano, and wondergal Neko Case on vocals. While not as instantly grabbing on first listen as either Mass Romantic or the infectious Electric Version, Twin Cinemas has more than its share of glorious moments of big sounding, ear-friendly pop rock. Once again the approach is to draw inspiration from the members’ various influences and favorites as well as the band’s own Electric Version recording. Try resisting sugar like “These Are The Fables” and the resounding pop of “Sing Me Spanish Techno” or the jerky fun of “Three or Four” featuring Calder and Case in dual lead vocal roles. Here’s betting you can’t if you’re any sort of fan of indie pop. The New Pornographers serve up another shiny gem with Twin Cinemas. (Matador Records, 625 Broadway, New York, NY 10012, or www.matadorrecords.com)
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)