June 2017

Liner Notes by Brian Chozick

Menu of this month's listings, stories and columns

Head Downtown June 23-24

The Street Festival is back, and this year we see a familiar group that graced the exact stage almost a decade ago, plus a legend who has made El Paso a regular stop whenever he hits the road. Papa Roach originally got the public’s attention with “Infest,” an album that ended up going triple platinum. They aren’t resting on past work: The band’s ninth record dropped only month ago, so the set is sure to feature some new material. They will be supported Friday night by relative newcomers Starset and In This Moment. Saturday night offers Dokken, whose true claim to fame came in the mid ’80s when metal was king. Their singles seemed inescapable on rock radio. Next up is Jackyl, a band that features chainsaw-wielding frontman Jesse James Dupree, who unveiled new material in 2016. Headlining the show is none other than the master of the macabre (more like diet macabre now, but still a fantastic spectacle), Alice Cooper. At 69 years old and almost a half-century in the business, he still knows how to put on a show.

Ray Davies, “Americana,” Legacy

We haven’t heard anything from this legend for nearly a decade. While there have been rumblings about him ending a sibling rivalry and doing a proper tour with his original band, nothing has materialized. Maybe that’s because things have not always been easy for Ray Davies of the Kinks, from bitter and brutal fighting with his brother and band mate Dave Davies, to existing for as long as the Beatles and the Stones and never receiving the respect that he deserves. In 2013 he wrote a memoir and some well-deserved accolades started rolling in. The book motivated him to dust off his guitar and put his words to music, quite literally as this was the source material for this disc. His writing is as always comical and cynical, and his slice-of-life observations are fully intact. A cool constant strum of guitar and incredible harmonies coat the entire album. He has enlisted no other than Americana greats the Jayhawks as his backing band. So it would seem almost criminal to name this collection anything other than “Americana” — even if it is the name of his book, we’ll pretend he was inspired by his band from Minneapolis.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood, “Betty’s Blends Vol. 3: Self-Rising, Southern Blends,” Silver Arrow

I am not sure where I was when Betty was compiling her first two blends, but I know where I am and what I am now enjoying on the third go-round: the Chris Robinson Brotherhood band. He has now replaced simply dabbling with work outside of his original group, the Black Crowes, with a new fulltime gig. On this one, he is deep in the Grateful Dead stream of consciousness, with Allman Brothers ruminations frequently flowing in and out. This makes complete sense as the Betty previously mentioned is none other than Dead’s record producer, Betty Cantor-Jackson. The new release focuses on the band’s journey through Atlanta, Raleigh and Charleston. If you are looking for chart-topping tracks from his younger days they won’t be found, but don’t let that take you out of the game. The set is heavy on the Brotherhood catalogue but also offers smoking covers such as Allen Toussaint’s “Get out of My Life Woman,” Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs To Me,” Slim Harpo’s “The Music’s Hot,” and the song everyone seems to cover, “I’m a Hog for You.” If the last one escapes your memory, think of a grownup version of the nursery rhyme “This Little Piggy.” There’s the occasional psychedelic journey and then a stop to smell the daisies, with an abundance of guitar jamming, serious harmonica and retro synth/organ tickling. The next trip you’ll take is to acquire volumes one and two.

Mark Lanegan, “Gargoyle,” Pias America

It’s been three years since one of Seattle’s favorite sons has released an album featuring his name solely across the title strip. That isn’t to say he has been silent. He has popped up on discs by Unkle, Twin Danger, Duke, Spirit and Moby, and many more. His latest is “Gargoyle,” filed under the Mark Lanegan Band. He does call in a few favors: The record is littered with cameos from Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme and Afghan Whigs’ Greg Dulli to Pearl Jam alum Jack Irons. The constant is Lanegan’s unmistakable vocals, caught between a guttural groan and a cigarette-coated throat rasp, which seems to get thicker with every release. The independent variable is what direction each cut is moving towards, from the “Emperor,” embracing jangle pop complete with “Ah’s Ah’s,” to the somewhat industrial texture on “Drunk on Destruction,” to the ’80s retro feel on “Old Swan.” For longtime fans, no need to despair — there is still the darkness, doom and gloom we have come to appreciate over the years. The former Screaming Trees frontman may no longer be screaming, but he hasn’t lost one bit of his growl.

Collectibles: Midnight Oil, “Full Tank & Overflow Tank,” Columbia/Legacy

Australia may be best known for koalas and kangaroos, but the country has also given us some well-known music acts, from AC/DC to INXS to Crowded House, and many, many more. One of the best was Midnight Oil, which actually had a much larger songbook than most stateside people realize. The band was fronted by environmentalist Peter Garrett, who gyrated and wiggled in their 1988 “Beds are Burning” video, looking like a cross between Mr. Clean and Michael Stipe. They were no overnight success story: This was the band’s sixth album and it spawned several hits. “Overflow Tank” celebrates all parts of their special slippery substance, and coupled with their other new massive collection, “Full Tank,” yields way more than a single barrel of Midnight Oil crude. The first set features eight DVDs and four CDs, including a disc of unreleased studio recordings, one CD of unavailable B-sides and rarities, plus two live concerts. Visually there is “MTV Unplugged,” a live concert, behind-the-scenes documentary, special films, and unseen live footage from six different shows. The latter set collects all of their 11 classic studio albums with two EPs. Both sets are made out of recycled materials and housed in a miniature replica water tank, like the one seen at their performance. The only downside is you may just have to burn the midnight oil to afford the duo.

Brian Chozick is owner of Tumblin’
Dice Music. Drop him a line at
tumblindicemusic@netscape.net.

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