Category Archives: Reviews

Fuck Releases The Band, Their First New Album in 10 Years

A personal life rule of mine: Never date a girl that’s heard fuck before. Fuck is what I bring to a relationship. They are my gift. My contribution to love. Introducing potential mates to Those are Not My Bongos, or now The Band, is my gift to each and every girl I’ve let down. Look, I know I’m bound to screw up the relationship eventually. However, I can always rest assured, that 5 years later when she thinks back to what an asshole I was, she’ll probably be listening to fuck. It’s my only positive contribution to most of my relationships.

To say I’m an aficionado of fuck is falling short of the target. I’ve made personal life rules based on their discography for christ’s sake. Which is weird, because I was late to the party. I didn’t listen to my first fuck album, Those Are Not My Bongos, until 2005, a year or two after it was released. That was also their last album. I’ve had a full decade (and change) to digest a half dozen albums, rearrange my best bands of the ’90s list, and wish I could have seen them live.

I’ve been told several versions of what happened at the last show in Cleveland at the Beachland. Before they played in the Tavern, they had everyone walk over to the Ballroom. There, depending on the version of the story you hear, they either performed a puppet show, or one of the members caterpillar crawled, in a sleeping bag, across the Ballroom stage. I like to imagine both happened—simultaneously. I missed it all. So really, this is my first brand new fuck album, and it’s a perfect place for anyone to start.

Timothy Prudhomme, Geoff Soule, Kyle Statham, Theodore Ellison

The Band, coming 6/22 on Vampire Blues, starts off with a noisy instrumental rocker. The song is punctuated with a knock knock joke. Spoiler alert: the song title is the punchline. Grammar humor is the best. I’m already hooked. Facehole is classic fuck. Laid back, quirked out lyrics. They excel at clever arrangements and layering off kilter melodies. Their back catalog is filled with fragile songs, all feeling dangerously close to falling apart, but with a force of will that propels them confidently forward. This dichotomy (fancy word time) is what I find so seductive about their music. The Band is no different. It Girl dissolves and re-coalesces around the bass. Cream Pie Patch is the dreamy fuck of the ’90s, resurrected and better than ever. The video for the lead single, Leave My Body, was released last month, and on the album it’s nestled in the middle. It’s the bellweather track of this album. If you’re down with it you might as well just buy the album. Thirsty Gnome is definitely from a band that puts on puppet shows while inch worming across a stage. The album mellows and fades out. If the opener, To Whom, is when the person with the bourbon shows up to the party, the closer, Tell Me No, is 4:30am and you lost your pants hours ago.

The Band is most definitely fuck. Not in a rehashing well-tread territory way, though. It’s comfortingly fuck. It also showcases a band that has clearly grown in 10 years. They thread the needle of releasing an interesting, pretty, and relevant album after a 10 year hiatus. If it’s not their most consistent album, it’s at least one of them. Maybe we’ll get a tour. Maybe even another album. I’m not really worried about that, because The Band can sustain us for another decade.

Timothy Prudhomme, Geoff Soule, Kyle Statham, Theodore Ellison
photo by Jamie Harmon

It just occurred to me that someone from fuck might be reading this. I potentially have the opportunity to speak directly to some of my musical heroes. I guess I’d have to say sorry. Sorry for that one time a band I was in opened for fuck member Geoff Soule’s band Sad Horse. I drunkenly decided to do a fuck cover. One that our fill-in drummer had never heard. It did not go well. Even with, or perhaps because of, the booze and drugs. Yeah, man. I’m sorry.

Timothy Prudhomme, Geoff Soule, Kyle Statham, Theodore Ellison
Fuck: The Band — Timothy Prudhomme, Geoff Soule, Kyle Statham, Theodore Ellison
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The Struts at House of Blues Cleveland

It takes a lot of skill and commitment to deliver a high-energy glam rock show without seeming over the top, but The Struts pull it off so flawlessly it’s like part of their anatomy. From the way all four members lay into each and every endlessly catchy song, to the way frontman Luke Spiller’s perfectly tailored raiments swish and shift with him as he glides across the stage, The Struts are a machine so well-oiled you’d swear they were born to do exactly this. 

Luke Spiller, The Struts by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson

 

We overheard another concertgoer having heated dialogue about it, echoing our own sentiments: “This guy! This guy!” he exclaimed, “He’s like Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger rolled into one!” It’s true, and he can command an audience just as well. Not everyone can pull off a successful call and response session; or get a sweaty, sardine-packed crowd to jump and clap along. But last night’s fans were emboldened.
 
I used to talk in my articles about how Cleveland crowds are stoic and not easily impressed. Most bands are lucky to get a half-hearted golf clap after their songs. But not Struts fans. Oh no. These fans screamed, yelled, cheered, sang along at the tops of their lungs, raised their hands in the air, and gave back every ounce of energy the band put out to us.

Jed Elliott, Gethin Davies, The Struts, photo by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts, photo by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson

 
The Struts took notice, too, declaring it their best Cleveland show to-date. Even new songs off their forthcoming album got the same warm welcome. “Is it good? Or is it shit?” Luke asked. I assure you, it’s every bit as good as anything off Everybody Wants. I certainly can’t wait to hear the rest of the album, and can’t wait to see them again.

Luke Spiller, The Struts by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts, photo by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson
Luke Spiller, The Struts, by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson
The Struts by Mara Robinson

All photos by Cleveland rock photographer Mara Robinson 

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Squeeze live in Akron

Under the giant, illuminated Goodyear logo located east of downtown Akron, the polished granite, red brick and concrete exterior in the center of the rubber company’s former corporate campus looks fairly unassuming. But after walking through the doors into the Goodyear Theater, it’s easy to see why it’s attracting a diverse array of artists, including The Cult, Jason Isbell, Primus, Smashing Pumpkins and Dwight Yoakam. The spacious main hall and balcony of the latest addition to Akron’s growing musical culture captures the grandiose allure of a vintage orchestra stage hall. The character of this amazing venue was perfectly suited for one of England’s most enduring modern rock bands, Squeeze.

Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze by Mara Robinson
Squeeze band by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Squeeze by Mara Robinson
Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze by Mara Robinson

Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford have toured separately and together as a duo in the past, but this tour marks the return of Squeeze as a full band. Drummer Simon Hanson and keyboardist Steven Large have been performing with Glenn and Chris since the most recent formation took shape in 2007, and the recent additions of Yolanda Charles on bass and Steve Smith (from UK electronic remix outfit Dirty Vegas) on percussion helped keep the upbeat energy going between everyone on stage and in the audience.

Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze by Mara Robinson
Chris Difford of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Chris Difford of Squeeze by Mara Robinson
Glenn TIlbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Glenn TIlbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze by Mara Robinson

Squeeze played a finely curated mix of trademark favorites mingled with cuts spanning their entire career. They started their set with Please Be Upstanding, a song from The Knowledge, their 15th studio album, released in October. The songs from the new album continue to showcase Tilbrook and Difford’s songwriting tandem of new wave British Soul, from upbeat pop tunes to heartfelt ballads. The new material definitely has their unique vibe as much as their past libraries of work, and adds more colors to their musical landscape. The country slide guitar on Patchouli, the operatic vocal solos of Rough Ride, and the bongo beat percussion of Albatross show Squeeze expanding and are not satisfied by standing creatively still.

Squeeze band by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Squeeze by Mara Robinson
Glenn TIlbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Glenn TIlbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze by Mara Robinson
Yolanda Charles of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Yolanda Charles of Squeeze by Mara Robinson

With the second song of the set, they promptly moved into their classic hit, Pulling Mussels (from the Shell). Their set included a majority of songs from their 2010 album Spot the Difference, where they re-recorded their greatest hits in identical detail to the original recording. Squeeze’s live performance lived up to the same perfection with every song. They haven’t lost an ounce of the energy and vibrancy that has attracted music fans for decades.

Yolanda Charles, Simon Hanson, and Steve Smith of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Yolanda Charles, Simon Hanson, and Steve Smith of Squeeze by Mara Robinson
Steven Large, Simon Hanson, and Steve Smith of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Steven Large, Simon Hanson, and Steve Smith of Squeeze by Mara Robinson
Steven Large, Simon Hanson, and Steve Smith of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Steven Large, Simon Hanson, and Steve Smith of Squeeze by Mara Robinson

Squeeze packed the last leg of their set with an all-star lineup of their biggest hits. The rhythm section took to the front of the stage for a rousing rendition of Take Me I’m Yours, with hand drums, marching snares, and accordion that got the crowd out of their seats. They kept the fans on their feet by bringing the show home with a rally of their best songs, including Tempted, Goodbye Girl and Up the Junction, and ultimately building up to the rapid disco keyboard melody of Slap and Tickle.

Chris Difford of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Chris Difford of Squeeze by Mara Robinson
Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze by Cleveland music photographer Mara Robinson
Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford of Squeeze by Mara Robinson

After a brief rest from their marathon performance, Squeeze returned to the stage to deliver an encore with two more of their most popular hits, Is That Love? and Black Coffee in Bed. During the final breakdown of Black Coffee in Bed, Glenn and Chris took time to introduce everyone in the band and gave them a moment to shine. The entire crowd stayed on their feet and helped end the night with a bright and soulful call and response of the song’s chorus. With a final gathering at the front of the stage, the band joined together for a final bow to Akron’s appreciative and devoted fans. Squeeze hasn’t lost a step in their stage and songwriting game, and the great response from their new material and their memorable catalog will have an incredible and expanding impact on music fans for a long time.

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Photo Recap: Low Cut Connie Get Weird in Columbus

Dead in the center of the Rumba Cafe stage, surrounded by guitars resting on amps in a sea of wires and cables, stood Shondra. The well-worn upright piano’s wood frame is tattooed with travel character and bears scars from years of delightful punishment under the hands and heels of Low Cut Connie‘s frontman, Adam Weiner. This esteemed partner in musical crime played host as the crowd slowly filled the front of the room. It was clear to see that everyone was excited to catch the infectious energy of a Low Cut Connie stage show. This Philadelphia five-piece is known to pull off some serious antics on stage. Several fans in the crowd pointed to the large steel structural beam running overhead, extending over the center of the stage’s very low ceiling. Would they be able to rock out to maximum effect without causing serious cranial damage?

Shondra Low Cut Connie Piano by Mara Robinson
Shondra by Mara Robinson

Will Donnelly (rhythm guitar), Luke Rinz (bass), Larry Scotton (drums), and Jimmy Everhart (lead guitar) filed onto the stage, limbered up, and settled into their instruments. Adam Weiner strode to center stage and straddled Shondra’s bench. After tuning up, he immediately climbed the face of Shondra and stood as tall as he could on her top, cautiously testing his head clearance.

“People of Columbus,” he shouted as he pointed to the steel rafting above him, “If I die here tonight, you’ll know why!” Then a few moments later, to cheers in the affirmative, “Are you ready to get weird tonight?!”

Adam Weiner of Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

Everyone in the crowd was getting down as soon as Adam, Jimmy, and Will laid into their first chords. Their bluesy garage boogie sound distills the best elements of rock ‘n’ roll’s finest roots and delivers with a blast of frantic heavy soul. The entire band kept the energy high from the start and didn’t let up the duration of the set.

Low Cut Connie live in concert photo by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

Low Cut Connie’s blistering set featured a solid selection of songs from Dirty Pictures, Part 1, their new album due out May 19, including Dirty Water, Am I Wrong, and the album’s first single Revolution Rock n Roll. Mixed between this tour-de-force were fan favorites from their past three albums, including Shake It Little Tina, Me N Annie, Boozophilia, and Rio.

Low Cut Connie live in concert by Mara Robinson
Adam Weiner, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

Adam Weiner commanded the stage as he pounded, stood upon, leaned across, and backbended over Shondra’s sturdy frame. His daring keyboard acrobatics recall the showmanship of Jerry Lee Lewis combined with the glitter blues style of David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and Elton John. Adam conquered the crowd with the same outrageous intensity of Mick Jagger mixed with the soulful sex appeal of Prince. He didn’t hesitate to join the party on the floor and get down with those in attendance. The whole crowd was totally into the whole vibe for the entire night. They grooved and danced with smiling partners, sang along to nearly every song in the set, and lifted their glasses in cheer and praise.

Low Cut Connie live in concert
Adam Weiner, Larry Scotton, James Everhart, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie live in concert
Adam Weiner, Larry Scotton, James Everhart, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie live in concert
Adam Weiner, Low Cut Connie, by Mara Robinson

It was hard to believe that this was Low Cut Connie’s first time in Columbus. Based on the incredible reaction from everyone in the room, it was easy to see that their music knows no bounds. The band took a moment to thank the welcoming support from long-standing and new fans alike, and the local radio station for their continued support to “help us little guys.”
“Without you,” said Adam, “we can’t compete with Bieber and Twenty One Pilots.” He reached his hands out to the crowd and shared some gospel truth: “Columbus, I swear to you, I swear to everyone here, if you stick together, if you stick with LCC, you’ll never lose!”

Low Cut Connie live in concert
Will Donnelly, Adam Weiner, Larry Scotton, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

The night drew to a close, but Low Cut Connie showed no signs of letting up. “We’re gonna do something kinda fucked up,” Adam said, with a wry smile. “Something from my favorite band in New Jersey, who got together for like five seconds.” And with that, they launched into a ferocious rendition of “Where Eagles Dare” by The Misfits, chanting the chorus, “I ain’t no God damned son of a bitch,” at the top of their lungs. Following that surprise, they laid into the staccato, funky rhythm of the classic Prince hit, “Controversy.” The rest of LCC continued to jam out as Adam jumped down to spread his sexy mojo into crowd, giving hugs and high-fives in every corner of the floor.

Low Cut Connie live in concert
Adam Weiner, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie live in concert by Mara Robinson
Will Donnelly, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie live in concert by Mara Robinson
Larry Scotton, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie concert photo by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie live in concert by Mara Robinson
Will Donnelly, James Everhart, Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson

Low Cut Connie once again made a new congregation of freaky believers to spread their lively message far and wide. With their upbeat groove and electrifying stage presence, don’t miss an opportunity to see this band live. You won’t regret it.

Low Cut Connie band photo by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie band photo by Mara Robinson
Low Cut Connie by Mara Robinson
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Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour Review

No one knew David Bowie was dying. When he assembled Tony Visconti and jazz saxophonist Danny McCaslin in 2015 to work on the album Blackstar, he kept his growing cancer a secret from his band. He insisted on recording live with the full band. His mouth opened up with the now classic lyric from Lazarus: “Look up here/I’m in heaven,” and the band played on. Whatever doubts, questions, regrets or fears he felt as cancer shut down his liver, he expressed as he said everything in his life through music. Mystery and excitement were the hallmarks of a wide and varied recorded and performance output. But then, within days of Blackstar’s release, the unavoidable happened to the surprise of friends, fans and collaborators.

No one who has seen Brian Wilson on this most recent tour will be surprised.

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 2017 by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson by Mara Robinson

This was my sixth time in the last twenty years seeing Brian Wilson in concert, hereafter referred to affectionately by just his first name. Brian, the sad, chubby guy at the piano, singing about surfing for half a century. Brian, with melodies and harmonies that came straight from God. Brian, who when he looks in the mirror, sees his late brothers every day. Brian, whose songs have dug themselves into my heart since birth. My parents were fans, and played his music often growing up. His expression of innocence is my own innocence. I like “Fun, Fun, Fun.” I’ve covered Surfer Girl with my band. Caroline, No hit me right as I discovered girls could be sad.

Brian Wilson, Al Jardine by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson, Al Jardine by Mara Robinson

I include these things in the preface to draw out a distinction between Brian and pretty much every other artist in existence. You listen to Brian with your heart. Sure, in attendance last week were those old rich people who will see any live act to cross them off a bucket list. They were listening with their wallets. Also, there were maybe a couple of nerdy music students who can parse out every harmonic interval and key change, and appreciate them for the innovations that he brought to early 1960s 1-4-5 pop music. They listen to Brian with their well-trained ears.

But I think Brian really lives in the hearts of people who love his songs. I think of my mom, who when she hears the intro to I Get Around starts waving her hands to the beat and start singing, even if she can’t get up to dance any more. There is a purity in her joy that grew from the seed Brian planted. Being my mother’s son on many different levels, I can’t say I reacted any differently last week, dancing in my seat, and bringing an embarrassed smile to my wife. I love these songs, and his band is able to execute them in such a way that hits that button reliably, year after year. There’s a lot of people like my mom out there.

She couldn’t make it this time. My mom has been sick for a while, and in all honesty, will probably be this sick until she dies. I wheeled her to that 2012 Beach Boys reunion show at Blossom, and she couldn’t stay the full time, so we left early. Even in the parking lot, she could hear the distant strains of Do You Wanna Dance? and thought about staying a little longer. I told her I was going to this show last week, and some part of her thinks maybe she could have managed to go, somehow, someway, but decided against it.

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 2017 by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson by Mara Robinson

Brian had to be walked out to his piano. I’m pretty certain he didn’t actually play the thing. He often started songs, with a voice pure but short, and then handed off the second verse to a younger singer. He’s sick. Any armchair doctor could suggest possible diagnoses, but who cares? He can’t walk, he can barely sing. He’s going to die.

The disconnect between Brian’s sadness and the sunniness of the Beach Boys sound is a turning point. When you unlock that mystery, the world opens up a little more; it’s a little fuller, more real. The program was a complete performance of his 1966 album Pet Sounds with its aching centerpiece I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times. He mostly spoke the lyrics, but his heart was heavy. He’s waited fifty more years, and it’s still not his time. It’s important to note the distinction between “sadness” and “darkness.” Another great legend of song who left us last year, Leonard Cohen, said until the very end “You want it darker.” That’s never true for Brian. As sad as he can be, confronted with abuse and drugs and death, he never let darkness pull him. His music continues to be filled with love and joy.

Brian Wilson live in concert Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour
Brian Wilson by Mara Robinson

Is Brian being exploited? It wouldn’t be the first time. Leonard Cohen resumed touring in the 2010s because bad managers left him broke and touring was the best source of income. Brian’s struggles with managers, starting with his own father Murray and continuing on to Eugene Landy, are also well known. Under his wife Melinda’s guidance, he appears to be financially stable, but there might be more people with their livelihoods tied to the Brian Wilson touring industry.

I bring this up because I think the answer hints at why this show last week was so great. I think Brian was up there not to make money but because he loves us. I can clearly see the scene in my mind. Brian gets some bad health news, and he says to his family “I think people want to hear these songs one more time, and if I can give to them, I should do it.” He knows it’s going to be hard. He knows his voice isn’t what it used to be. But he’s a giver, and when faced with hard times, he does what he knows he can do.

Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 2017 by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson by Mara Robinson

The only reason this works is because whatever Brian has given us, has given me, we’ve all repaid him more. What hope exists in this man? What faith? To launch his sadness into the void with just some pretty chords and harmonies. But it’s worked every time. His voice has landed on my fertile ears, who return not just the adoration of a rock star, but true genuine love.

The set last week closed with Love and Mercy, the title of a recent biopic, but the song is from the 1980s. He’s closed with it the last few times I’ve seen him, and I think that’s by his design. It’s a piano ballad about a dopey man going through his day, watching movies and getting dinner and trying to make people happy. Brian has always put himself openly and completely in everything he’s done, but this is Brian 2017. “Love and Mercy to you and your friends tonight.”

Al Jardine (The Beach Boys) by Mara Robinson
Al Jardine by Mara Robinson
Al Jardine live in concert
Al Jardine by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 2017 by Mara Robinson
Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour 2017 by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour 2017
Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour 2017 by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson live in concert
Al Jardine, Blondie Chaplin by Mara Robinson
Brian Wilson live in concert
Brian Wilson Pet Sounds 50th anniversary tour 2017 by Mara Robinson
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