Harlem | “Hippies”

The face of Austin, TX, and in some ways the soul of the city itself, has changed dramatically over the years. But underneath the high-rise condo facelift and beating in the heart of the city at least one thing remains a constant–a great music scene (no, I’m not looking at you, Bob Schneider). Matador Records co-owner and Austin resident Gerard Cosloy knows this and documented it on Casual Victim Pile, a rockin’ regional comp that paints a pretty vivid picture of what’s been happening lately in the Austin music scene. And now from Matador comes an lp by a band featured on that comp, Harlem, with their debut for Matador, Hippies”. (Harlem’s first lp, Free Drugs;-), is out on Female Fantasy–Hippies lookin’ for free drugs, incidentally, is not a bad way to describe another consistent aspect of the Austin scene.)

The boys of Harlem come at rock ‘n’ roll with a casual sneer and melodic grit that’s equal parts fuzz and jangle, and bring together the best of Austin garage-punk with more than a little Memphis soul swagger (fans of all things Greg Cartwright and the late Jay Reatard take note). The end result is a collection of songs that come off like your favorite oldies drunk on cheap tequila–they’re dirtier than sex in Beerland’s bathroom and sweatier than a Lone Star tallboy at a back yard beer-b-que. This album rocks like a drunken barroom brawl with your best buddy–you might get a little bloody, but you’ll still be sharin’ a bottle when the dust settles–and reminds me of a scene from legendary Texas independent filmmaker Eagle Pennell’s The Whole Shootin’ Match. Like that great piece of regional art, Harlem’s “Hippies” manages to transcend its geography to say something universal about its subject–in this case, good old-fashioned, hook-filled rock and roll. Here’s hoping that as Harlem reaches a national, and international, audience, some of the other top offenders from Austin’s garage-punk scene captured on Casual Victim Pile get a little extra notice (I’m looking at you, Golden Boys).

Listen to the album below, get all excited, and then go buy it…

…from the online album player.

…from the source.

…from your favorite local record store.

Harlem on the road…

15 – Atlanta, GA The Earl
16 – Chattanooga, TN JJ’s Bohemia
17 – Chapel Hill, NC Nightlight
19 – Washington, DC DC9
20 – Baltimore, MD Golden West Cafe
21 – Philadelphia, PA King Fu Necktie
22 – New York, NY Mercury Lounge w/HARLEM
23 – Brooklyn, NY Market Hotel
24 – Hoboken, NJ Maxwell’s w/Titus Andronicus
25 – Allston-Allston, MA Great Scott
27 – Montreal, QC Green Room
28 – Toronto, ON The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern
29 – Cleveland, OH Now Thats Class
30 – Detroit, MI Majestic Cafe

01 – Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
02 – Milwaukee, WI Mad Planet
03 – Milwaukee, WI Mad Planet
04 – Minneapolis, MN 7th Street Entry
05 – Des Moines, IA Vaudeville Mews
06 – Omaha, NE The Waiting Room
07 – Kansas City, MO The Riot Room
08 – St. Louis, MO The Firebird
10 – Columbus, OH The Summit
11 – Newport, KY Southgate House Parlour
12 – Lousville, KY Zanzabar
13 – Nashville, TN The End
14 – Memphis, TN Hi-Tone Cafe
15 – Dallas, TX City Tavern

The Tallest Man on Earth | The Wild Hunt


A lone troubadour, an acoustic guitar, smart lyrics, and a distinctive, commanding delivery–it’s qualities like these that earn The Tallest Man On Earth comparisons to early Dylan. Some might wear such a comparison as an albatross around the neck (I’m looking at you, Jakob), but if you’ve got the goods, and The Tallest Man On Earth certainly has the goods, then the comparison should be worn like a badge of honor. And with such a boastful name, he’s living up to Dylan’s cocksure attitude.

The folks at the very fine label Dead Oceans know this, and so they’ve released the second LP from The Tallest Man On Earth, The Wild Hunt. Listen to it below, get all excited about it, and then go buy it…

…from the online album player.

…from the source.

…from your favorite local record store.

The Tallest Man on Earth is currently on the road in support of The Wild Hunt. Dates below…

04/14/10 Buffalo, NY – The Ninth Ward w/ Nurses
04/15/10 Winooski, VT – The Monkey House w/ Nurses
04/16/10 Montreal, QC – Petit Campus w/ Nurses
04/17/10 Toronto, ON – El Mocambo w/ Nurses
04/20/10 New York, NY – Highline Ballroom w/ Nurses
04/21/10 Cambridge, MA – Middle East Downstairs w/ Nurses
04/22/10 Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live Upstairs w/ Nurses
04/23/10 Washington, DC – Black Cat w/ Nurses
04/24/10 Greensboro, NC – Guilford College w/ Nurses
04/26/10 Chapel Hill, NC – Gerrard Hall – UNC w/ Nurses
04/27/10 Asheville, NC – Forsythia Hall w/ Nurses
04/27/10 Asheville, NC – Forsythia Hall *5:30 early show*
04/28/10 Atlanta, GA – The Earl w/ Nurses
04/29/10 Birmingham, AL – The Bottletree w/ Nurses
05/01/10 Denton, TX – Hailey’s
05/02/10 Austin, TX – Stubb’s BBQ (Indoor) w/ Nurses
05/04/10 Phoenix, AZ – Rhythm Room w/ Nurses
05/05/10 La Jolla, CA – UCSD – The Loft w/ Nurses
05/07/10 Los Angeles, CA – Natural History Museum of LA w/ Gamble House
05/08/10 Brookdale, CA – Historic Brookdale Lodge w/ Nurses
05/09/10 San Francisco, CA – The Independent
05/11/10 Portland, OR – The Mission Theater w/ Nurses
05/12/10 Vancouver, BC – St. James Hall w/ Nurses
05/14/10 Edmonton, AB – Brixx w/ Nurses
05/15/10 Calgary, AB – Local 522 w/ Nurses
05/17/10 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
05/18/10 Boulder, CO – Fox Theatre
05/19/10 Denver, CO – The Bluebird Theater
05/21/10 Iowa City, IA – The Mill
05/23/10 Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater
05/25/10 Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theater
05/26/10 Bloomington, IN – The Dome House
05/27/10 Fort Wayne, IN – The Brass Rail
05/28/10 Chicago, IL – Lincoln Hall
05/30/10 George, WA – Sasquatch Music Festival
06/09/10 London, UK – Tabernacle
06/10/10 Dublin, Ireland – Whelans
08/12/10 Gothenburg, Sweden – Way Out West
08/14/10 Haldern, Germany – Haldren Pop Festival
09/02/10 Amsterdam, Netherlands – Melkweg

Backtracks | John Cale’s Big White Cloud

Back in the days when my alcohol, etc. intake was such that I was more likely to be indulging than to not be indulging, it was not uncommon for me to say, by way of explaining my excesses, “I’m a shark–I gotta keep swimmin'”. I didn’t like to stop for a breath while in the midst of devouring whatever substances I happened to be keeping company with in relentless pursuit of some great distraction–to stop, for me, was to risk shutting down and I didn’t want to shut down for fear that life would catch up with me.

These days my shark metaphor remains a sort of mantra–not to keep the party going, but just to keep me going. In particular, when life has caught up with me and times are tough or choices are difficult I find it’s best that I don’t slow down too much to figure things out or I risk becoming paralyzed with indecision. When there’s a fork in the road, I don’t spend much time rhapsodizing over which is the path less traveled–I just pick a path that looks somewhat reasonable and go. Sure, I might step in some shit along the way, but history has shown me that the other path has likely got a few shit piles of its own so I figure, fuck it, ever forward–no lookin’ back.

All of this said, music is something in my life on which I don’t mind looking back. This is largely because truly great songs and albums mean as much to me now as they ever did and, in that way, they inspire me as much now as they ever did, which helps me to keep paddling ahead even when traveling dark waters. So as songs from my past come back into my life in whatever random ways they might–in a movie, in a bar, in a dream or just in my head for no apparent reason (my brain, it seems, is always set to shuffle)–I’ll do a little back trackin’ and revisit these songs here at los grillos.

The first entry in Backtracks is a song that came back to me in the movie Big Fan, written and directed by Robert Siegel, who also wrote The Wrestler and The Onion Movie. Before seeing Siegel’s films I assumed that he would have what I consider to be great taste in music. I suppose this is because Siegel is a former editor-in-chief for The Onion, and I figure that a publication that is so good at lampooning a culture full of horrible taste must be run by some pretty cool folks with top-shelf tastes. The soundtrack for Big Fan proved my assumption to be true. It’s full of great songs such as Dion’s “Daddy Rollin’ in Your Arms” and John Prine’s “Sweet Revenge,” but the stand out for me is the John Cale song “Big White Cloud.”

I became familiar with Lou Reed’s post-Velvet recordings pretty much immediately upon discovering the Velvet Underground, but for some reason it was long after I discovered the Velvet Underground that I heard a John Cale solo record. When I did finally dive into Cale’s solo catalog I started at the beginning with Vintage Violence, fell immediately in love with it, and was inspired to explore Cale’s other albums. Now, for me, John Cale’s solo career is to the Velvet Underground what George Harrison’s solo career is to the Beatles, which is to say that I’m much more likely to listen to his solo work than I am to listen to Lou Reed’s, just as I am much more likely to play All Things Must Pass than I am to play Imagine or Ram (sorry Ringo–I’m never likely to play Sentimental Journey). I’ve gone back to John Cale’s records many times over the years, but until hearing “Big White Cloud” in the movie Big Fan, it’d been awhile.

The first thing I thought when I heard the song was, “Shit, I fucking love this song. I used to listen to it over and over and over.” The second thing I thought was that it’s just a perfect song. Everything about it feels natural and inevitable–the way the opening notes float in, the way the vocal is buried in the mix and sounds like it’s emerging from the same big white cloud that Cale sings about, the way the song manages to be both raw and epic, desperate and hopeful. It’s a song to be played at full volume from the rattling speakers of a rusty old beater when launching an impulsive, ill-advised trek from Austin to L.A. with little hope of making it out of Texas while striking a careful balance of cocaine and whiskey as the sun rises fiery in the east and races you to El Paso. It’s a song that you can do over and over again when the things that you used to do over and over again cost too much and pay too little. It’s a song that always delivers the high like it was the first time.

And just as it’s a perfect song, it’s a song perfectly chosen for Big Fan which also manages to be both raw and epic, desperate and hopeful. So well done you, Robert Siegel, and thanks for the reminder.

Dark Night of the Soul, Indeed


Wayne Coyne, esteemed singer of the Flaming Lips, reclines on a chaise lounge in the walnut paneled office of his bald headed, round, thick-rimmed glasses-wearing, Austrian psychoanalyst.

Analyst:  (looking over his glasses and across his desk at Mr. Coyne)  So what seems to be bothering you, Mr. Coyne?

Wayne Coyne:  Well, I had this awful dream the other night.

Analyst:  Go on…

Wayne Coyne:  Me and the other guys from the ‘Lips got this call to do this record with these other cool guys, Mark Linkous, and this other guy Danger…. danger…. Uh… Mouse or something like that.  It sounded cool and all so we all agreed to do it.  Mark was this real swell guy. Had a few bands, made some cool records in the late 1990’s, 2000’s. He had this kinda funny, high, whiney voice. But I always thought secretly, deep inside me, that it must have come from the most honest place, given that singing seemed to have been such a chore for the guy. Anyhow, we hit it off when we finally got together to record. He was like, “Man, I am a huge Flaming Lips fan….”  And I was like “….Yeah I love your records too!” And Danger Mouse just kinda looked back at us over his shoulder from his mixing board nodding through the haze of cheeba.

Analyst:  Uh-hmmm…

Wayne Coyne:  So Mark gave us this song called “Revenge” and we started to play around with ideas and such. I noticed the lyrics are really dark because, you know, I’ve spent some time in that zone as well. There was this one lyric about “in my mind I have stabbed you in the heart”  and I was just like yeah….I know exactly where he’s coming from. But I went ahead and asked Mark, “how ’bout ‘shot and stabbed you in the heart?’” He looked at me as if to say, “o.k., sure.”

I scratched my beard a bit and suggested a couple of slowly soaring chorus parts to the song and, of course, some glockenspiel somewhere. “Gotta have the glockenspiel in this one, Mark.  Right, Mickey?” Linkous nodded but looked just a bit flustered by the suggestion.

So we all got to work and it was sounding real good. I gave Mr. Mouse some other mixing suggestions along the way and he just nodded like he does. But you know, by the end we were listening to the mix-downs and I just could almost see the gold oozing from the speaker cones, dripping into little puddles of gold records on the ground. And, no, I haven’t taken acid in like 10 years. So afterwards I go back to Oklahoma City, ’cause that place just centers me, man.

Analyst:  So far this doesn’t sound so bad, Wayne.

Wayne Coyne: Yeah, but then I woke up the other morning and my wife was like, “Did you read the paper today?”  Teary eyed, she brought her iphone over and I was like, “How do I scroll down again?” And there it was.

My stomach just sank and the back of my neck got real hot.

Analyst:  That seems like the normal reaction for a murderer to have.

Wayne Coyne:  What?!!

Analyst:  How do you think you got here Wayne?  (he begins to laugh maniacally)

[Camera slowly zooms out from Wayne Coyne’s face staring wide-eyed and dazed, hands on his head, out the window.  The camera zooms back further to reveal that steel bars cover the window, and continues to pull back from the barred window to a barred, grey, prison-like building silhouetted against a darkening landscape at dusk. The camera then pans up to the stars above as MUSIC, etc swells.]

click picture to hear entire "dark night of the soul" album
click for link to album stream


So Beck Hansen is walking through one of the lesser-known, divier neighborhoods of LA looking for inspiration. As he passes an alleyway he does a double take and backs up to check out a small, hairless mutt fucking a discarded mechanical monkey with clapping cymbals. A light blinks on in his head and he signals his limo driver to pick him up and sweep him back to his Silverlake studio lair. After an hour or two of attempting to recreate the stuttering rhythms on digital tape, he surrenders in frustration. As awkward self-awareness washes over him, he retreats to his favorite bathroom, which is stocked with vintage 70’s Playboys. He distractedly flips through several issues, attempting to rid his mind of the persistent image of the strange coitus. He finally settles on a spread with a buxom black woman with a big aftro and big tits, kind of like Etta James in the early 70’s, but with Beyonce’s face. He jerks off into a jar and sends it to a random fan, only the method of delivery is a secret vacuum tube like they used to have in bank drive-throughs. This one can only be accessed by a certain echelon of celebrities and very well-to-do people, and it can go to the past or the future. The ‘fan’ he chooses is a teenager living on a commune in Vermont in the 1980’s. As she picks up the strange bank capsule that has mysteriously appeared in her room she reads the note from Beck (“a famous musician from the future”). And then she reads it again as she inseminates herself with a turkey baster. Thus the tUnE-yArDs are born.

Check out this action from SXSW ’09 at an east side BBQ joint in Austin.