By Chris Anderson
Out Of The Gate
So 2016 has started off with quite a bang in the music world. And that bang is both positive and also quite tragic. Just before the turn of the New Year, we lost the great Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister, founder of Motörhead. One of the few characters to successfully bridge the gap between punk and metal, Lemmy was also one of the most legendary rock stars of all time, even giving Keith Richards a run for his money. True to himself, and his music, til the day he died, he is sorely missed.
We had hardly finished mourning that loss when, on the 10th of January, we received news that David Bowie had passed, from a private battle with cancer, two days after releasing his final album, Blackstar, on his 69th birthday. Losing Lemmy was tough, but it’s not like it wasn’t coming. Bowie’s death, on the other hand, came as a massive shock to the world. To even begin to measure Bowie’s contribution to the music world would take far more space than I am allotted. Suffice to say it was magnificent, both in his influence as well as the quality and scope of his work. He never stayed in one place for long, constantly forging new roads on the musical map. And, yet, he always sounded like Bowie. Hats off to one of the greatest visionary artists this world will ever know.
Because musician deaths tend to happen in threes, a week later the world lost Glenn Frey. While Frey was no Bowie (or Lemmy, for that matter), he was still responsible for one of the biggest and most influential bands to ever make records. The Dude made it cool to hate on the Eagles but there is no denying that band’s penchant for making strong, memorable songs. And Glenn’s were always the best ones.
RIP to all of ya.
Now, that said, there have been some good things to happen this year too. At least when it comes to music. I have not been able to bring myself to listen to Blackstar yet, so I will reserve my review for the next issue, perhaps. However, here are a couple of things that I have heard so far and….methinks this might be another good year!
Steven Wilson: 4 ½
The latest solo effort from the current King Of Prog is actually a stopgap release between proper studio albums (hence the title). Made up of songs originally conceived during sessions for last year’s Hand. Cannot. Erase., as well as a couple others that were not destined for a big album, this set is anything but a throwaway. The nine-minute opener, “My Book Of Regrets”, proves that. Full of twists and turns, between light and dark, this is yet another indication that Wilson’s current touring band is his strongest ever. The ethereal instrumental, “Year Of The Plague”, offers some peaceful head-clearing space after the whirlwind opener, and that leads us into the jagged, complex pop rock of “Happiness III”. Another instrumental comes in the form of “Sunday Rain Sets In”, this one a little spaced out, like a jazzy Pink Floyd, and featuring some contrasting sections that will send you to the cosmos. “Vermillioncore” is a dark, funky instrumental that reeks of King Crimson and features some amazing playing from Nick Beggs, one of the best bassists around today. Rounding out the affair is a remake of “Don’t Hate Me”, originally from Porcupine Tree’s Stupid Dream album and this version….oh my. Performed as a duet with Ninet Tayeb, and featuring a fantastic sax solo from Theo Travis, this version totally trumps the original. I would like to see Wilson tackle more of the PT songbook with his new band. Until then, this will do. And until the next proper Steven Wilson album, this set will do.
The Mavins: The Mavins EP
I first met Michael Yugo at the 219, in Old Town, nine years ago. He was running an open mic there and I showed up with Tim Parks and we played our little sets and got to know Mike, as well as Dave Ihmels and other local artists. It was a cool little scene that unfortunately did not last long enough, but that’s how it goes. Which is why, a few years later, I was tickled to find that Mike had put together a band. Since 2010, the Mavins have been burning it up in the DC area, playing a high-energy set of great, catchy rootsy rock. One of the better live shows around, I recommend you check them out. This set is their debut EP and it features seven killer tunes. The kind of tunes that stick in your head, the kind of tunes that were readymade for a road trip, or just a hell of a good time. All of the songs here are great but my favorite is “I Can’t Wait”. A hit single in a perfect world, this is the kind of catchy song that you can just imagine yourself singing along with in the front row. “Always” is funky little tune with a Chili Peppers vibe that makes you want to dance in the sun with a cold beer and a good friend, and “Dust Has Settled” calls to mind the late 80s regional scene and bands like the Connells and Frontier Theory, and that makes me happy as all get out. The band has such a great feel, tight but also loose and laid back. The rhythm section (drummer Rob Suls and bassist Jim Donohue) has a cool, strolling vibe that serves the songs perfectly. But the band’s secret weapon lies in guitarist Steve Gerety, who provides tasty (and tasteful) solos, as well some very cleverly concocted background comps, such as on the closing song, “Mexico”, one of the most beautiful things on this set. While the Mavins are best experienced on stage, this CD is the next best thing. I suggest you seek this out. Learn more at www.themavins.net