Gobotron: On Your Mark, Get Set…


RIYL: The Lemonheads, Pavement, Ben Kweller

On Your Mark, Get Set… receives bonus points off the bat for the band title, which riffs on our favorite video game of all time. It also receives a couple ‘Who’d a thunk it’ points because the album is the work of Manchester Orchestra guitarist Robert McDowell, a band who had us running for the hills two minutes into their performance at last year’s Lollapalooza. But still waters apparently run deep, as McDowell’s solo venture, which he performed and recorded by himself one summer and mixed the following summer, bears no resemblance to his day job, forsaking shrieking melodrama for yesteryear-flavored indie pop. “Nice Things” could pass for a lo-fi Sloan, and “Never Turn Around,” with its classic give-and-take vocals, is as perfect a power pop song as you’re likely to hear in this year or the next. Which means, of course, that there is no chance of these elements being incorporated into Manchester Orchestra’s sound, a decision that is as understandable (five words: girls don’t like power pop) as it is unfortunate. With any luck, thought, the Audities listees will buy enough copies of On Your Mark, Get Set… to encourage McDowell to give it another go. (Favorite Gentlemen 2010)

Gobotron MySpace page

  

Lollapalooza 2009, Friday recap: would you like a little water torture with your rock?

It’s amazing what a slow, steady rainfall will do to, um, dampen one’s spirits. The Friday lineup for this year’s Lollapalooza was pretty damn good, but we felt decidedly less frisky once it meant walking or standing in a cold rain. Of course, the forecast for Saturday and Sunday calls for brutally hot temperatures and lots of sun. Ah, Chicago. My favorite city, but the weather really is awful.

Yuto Miyazawa, Kidzapalooza stage
Medsker: How about this for our first band of the day: a nine-year-old Japanese kid who can absolutely shred on guitar. He can’t sing, of course, but no one really minded. He loves Ozzy, and played three Ozzy/Sabbath tunes in his set, as well as a Deep Purple song. Very cool. It’s funny how many Sabbath covers I’ve heard a Lolla over the years. The best is still the Dresden Dolls’ sick cover of “War Pigs.” They own that song now.

Manchester Orchestra, Budweiser stage
Medsker: Perhaps I’m showing my age when we say this, but…oh, there’s just no nice way to say this: I think these guys suck. Their first song didn’t have any discernible hook, and then the singer did that goddamn screamo thing. And their drummer…you know how drummers overact when shooting a music video, with the arms flying up and down to even the simplest or slowest beat? This band’s drummer actually plays like that. I lasted roughly two minutes, and I had had enough.

Gringo Star, BMI stage
Medsker: This unassuming Georgia band helped get the taste of Manchester Orchestra out of my mouth, but the rain was making my antsy. I left after about four songs to head south.

Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Vitamin Water stage
Medsker: I was thrilled that Black Joe Lewis was invited to perform at Lolla, but their inclusion also amuses me. They’re more of a Summerfest or Jazzfest band than a Lolla band, but then again, inviting a James Brown-style rock and soul group to Lollapalooza is pretty alternative, now that I think about it. I bet these guys would blow the doors off of a small club. They sounded fine here, but again, the rain was getting to me. Plus, it was lunch time.

Before Black Joe Lewis started, I listened to Hey Champ a keys-drums combo from Rockford, and they were pretty damn good. Definitely looking into them when I get home.

The Knux, Citi stage
Eldred: This New Orleans-based alt-hip-hop group may have been saddled with a side stage appearance, but they could have dominated the biggest stage in Grant Park with their swagger and cocky attitude. They had the tunes to match and ended their high energy set by turning the stage into a dance party, complete with their DJ spinning MGMT’s “Electric Feel” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around.”

White Lies, Budweiser stage
Eldred: It’s pouring down rain and I’ve never heard these guys before, but in every photo I’ve seen of them, their pale asses looked ridiculous, so I had to make time to see them, if only for novelty’s sake. After trekking across the park in the rain and getting colder and wetter, I realize that this is a hell of a commitment for a joke. However, once the pale London boys took the stage, I was shocked that they weren’t that bad. Actually, they were pretty damn good. However, I’m cold and wet so I head back to the hotel after just a couple songs for a drying pit stop.

Amazing Baby, Citi stage
Medsker: I’m very fond of this glam band’s debut album, and they sounded really good live, but enough was enough. I was drenched. I headed back to Eldred’s hotel room (he got a room at the Hilton on Michigan, lucky bastard) to dry off. His friend Lisa gave me a poncho. What a difference that made.

Ben Folds, Budweiser stage
Medsker: Ah, it’s good to see Ben with a band again. The last time I saw Folds live was that piano tour with Rufus Wainwright, which was cute but a far cry from Ben Folds Five’s live shows. His new band is damn good (especially the drummer), and Folds gave the soaking wet audience a good mix of songs from his whole career (though he didn’t play anything from BF5’s first album). The cover of “Bitches Ain’t Shit” got the crowd moving, and then he stunned me by pulling out “Narcolepsy.” Well chosen set, even if he skipped the first album. Even better, I almost literally ran into Folds in the media area during Black Joe Lewis’ set. Very cool.

Crystal Castles, Vitamin Water stage
Eldred: Refreshed, dry and now safely covered in a poncho, I return just in time to see a special breed of insanity by the name of Alice Glass. The lead singer of the electronic duo ran out on stage with a bottle of vodka and tore it up, even when her microphone fell apart. She got a working model just in time to run into the audience and nearly pick a fight with someone in the crowd. Things are reconciled when she pours vodka into the first three rows. Amazing show, but that bitch is crazy.

Of Montreal, Vitamin Water stage
Eldred: Speaking of crazy: capes, men dressed as tigers, gas masks, gender-confused back-up dancers, Of Montreal took crazy to a whole new level, living up to their reputation as one of the most entraining live bands on Earth. It was glamtastic brilliance, so needles to say the cover of Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” was not at all unexpected. Strange but awesome, however I had to take off early to get a choice spot for Depeche Mode.

Depeche Mode, Chicago 2016 Stage
Eldred: I’ve been waiting to see Depeche Mode for over 10 years. They lived up too all of my unrealistic expectations by blowing the crowd away with choice cuts from the new album, including the single “Wrong” to lesser-known older tunes like “In Your Room” and “Policy of Truth.” (Editor’s note: “Policy of Truth” is lesser known?) Gahan and co. are firing on all cylinders and by the time they get to the epic finale of “Enjoy The Silence” and “Never Let Me Down Again,” I’ve lost my damn mind (along with most of the audience). The encore of “Personal Jesus” is expected, but still welcome. The bar has been set high for the rest of the festival’s closers.

Medsker: They played three songs from Black Celebration. Hell, yes.

On deck for Saturday: Band of Skulls, Beatles offspring, Arctic Monkeys, Miike Snow, and Eldred is faced with a choice: Santigold, or Glasvegas?

  

Manchester Orchestra: Back With A Vengeance

Manchester Orchestra

April 21 marked the release of the second LP from Atlanta, Georgia rockers Manchester Orchestra. After four previous releases, Mean Everything to Nothing is a breath of fresh indie-rock air thanks much in part to producer Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, The Raconteurs, My Morning Jacket).
In place of their usual brand of mellow indie-pop, Manchester Orchestra has compiled a cohesive collection of tunes that echo the likes of Nirvana and Weezer. There’s a new grunge twist on Nothing unlike any of the band’s previous releases. It’s the perfect addition to the Manchester Orchestra catalog, and has the potential to be the band’s most commercial success. The Boston Globe talked about the album’s strong points saying,

“[Mean Everything to Nothing] is like a sonic form of whiplash: lullaby-like intros progress into fist-pumping choruses, pensive piano arrangements are followed by gritty guitar riffs, and front man Andy Hull’s vocals shift from folksy Conor Oberst-like warbling on power ballads (“I Can Feel a Hot One”) to breathless emo-wailing on anthems like “I’ve Got Friends.”

There’s really nothing to criticize about Nothing. The substance is there, more so even than the majority of Top 40 releases dominating the radio. The growth that’s evident on Nothing successfully bridges the gap between Manchester Orchestra’s early years, and the bright future they are sure to have thanks to the transformation. Bottom line, Mean Everything to Nothing is what indie-rock should sound like today so have a listen. You can even preview tracks on Manchester Orchestra’s MySpace here.

  

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