OGIKUBO STATION We Can Pretend Like
2018 Asian Man Records
While I can’t say I’ve heard every release from Asian Man Records, I like to think I’ve heard everything from Asian Man Records’ Mike Park. Park is not only the founder and driving force behind AMR, he also plays on some of the label’s acts: The Chinkees, Skankin’ Pickle, and The Bruce Lee Band. So imagine my surprise when I found out I missed the EP last year of his collaboration with Maura Weaver of Mixtapes, Ogikubo Station.
The self-titled EP, featuring 6 songs from Park and Weaver, came to be because they thought “our voices sound really good together.” This August will see the release of their first full-length as Ogikubo Station with We Can Pretend Like.The album surprised me, in part because I was expecting something ska-like along the same lines of Park’s previous bands (which this album sounds nothing like), but also because I wasn’t anticipating loving this album.
We Can Pretend Likeoffers a solid 11 tracks that split time between folky/acoustic and indie rock. Park and Weaver make for a wonderful duo, and their voices really complement each other. “Take a Piece of All That’s Good,” the first single, showcases how well the two harmonize with each other.
Weaver’s vocals in particular manage to simultaneously invoke feelings of melancholy and hopefulness in both “Take a Piece” and “The Radio Plays.” I found myself repeatedly relistening to “Weak Souls Walk Around Here,” which invokes sounds of old Hoodoo Gurus and R.E.M.
We Can Pretend Like drops August 24th on asianmanrecords.com. You can also listen to the Ogikubo Station’s 6 song EP, the self-titled Ogikubo Station, here in preparation.
After releasing two new albums in two years, Matthew Sweet and his trusted musical crew of Ric Menck on drums, Paul Chastain on bass, and John Moremen on solo guitar made their way back to Cleveland and ready to bring tunes from Tomorrow Forever and Tomorrow’s Daughter to the masses.
During our interview with Matthew for his last visit to Cleveland, he mentioned that this latest batch of songs could be more than just one album, with a possible bonus disc of demos. Considering the energetic burst of writing and recording that Matthew’s done since his move back to Nebraska and re-establishing his home studio, it carries little surprise that there were enough complete extras to form another full album.
The songs from Tomorrow’s Daughter and last year’s crowdfunded release, Tomorrow Forever, mark a new creative milestone in Matthew’s musical journey and certainly his most prolific and exciting period of songwriting since the Altered Beast period. The plethora of B-sides, demos, and live cuts, along with the Son of Altered Beast EP could equal out to a full album worth of material. With Tomorrow’s Daughter, it’s like getting all those hidden gems in one package. Don’t think that these songs wouldn’t have the same quality as the songs that were chosen for Tomorrow Forever; they definitely merit a separate release as a complementary volume to this musical chapter. It’s better to have a full album like Daughter than to let these songs never get heard.
Matthew and the band started the evening with Time Capsule, one of his most popular tunes from the critically-acclaimed Altered Beast. The connection with fan base from the Girlfriend and Altered Beast anniversary tours showed that his most popular albums from the early-to-mid-’90s still have a lasting impression with fans. Matthew’s live set is best-known for heavy hitters like Girlfriend, Evangeline and I’ve Been Waiting, and heartfelt ballads like Winona and The Devil With The Green Eyes, which blend beautifully with the raw sound of his current releases.
For the next song, he launched into Byrdgirl from 2010’s Sunshine Lies. It’s a treat to hear rare songs that don’t often appear live on stage. These deep cuts and personal faves perfectly bind the current vibe of the new songs with the classic Girlfriend guitar rock that signifies Matthew’s sound. He still includes songs from the fantastic 100% Fun like We’re The Same and Sick of Myself with multiple fake-out big rock endings to keep the crowd going for more.
Following that, the band kicked off with Pretty Please from Tomorrow Forever, a stomping rhythm rocker that recalls the attacking riff style of Altered Beast and Kimi Ga Suki Raifu. The Tomorrow Forever songs really match well with big hits and crowd pleasers from Matthew’s vast catalog. Songs like Trick bring back the hook-laden power pop of 100% Fun, with an interesting mix of slower songs that show a deeper and darker side to Matthew’s songwriting. Songs in the set like The Searcher from Tomorrow Forever, with its Dinosaur Act pedal feedback leading into the drifty sway of the ocean, and Show Me from Tomorrow’s Daughter, keep an even driving rock beat with the emotional and down tempo feel.
Throughout the evening, the entire group delivered the goods with a cool and relaxed spirit, and it seemed that Matthew’s performance was more at ease than in previous years. The torch bearers for the ’70s stadium guitar power pop of Cheap Trick, Big Star and ELO are few and far between in today’s music environment, but Matthew’s enduring style evokes their energy in ever evolving ways. Now that he can produce music independently with the support from his devoted and generous fans, he has no reason to hold back on his next creative effort. The next era of Matthew Sweet has a lot to offer, and it’s guaranteed to rock.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What better way to celebrate Record Store Day than with some new music! Specifically, a song all about how awesome record stores are. The Junior League is a project by New Orleans transplant Joe Adragna. His sixth release since 2006, the latest album Eventually is Now is a mix of true stories and inspired tales. The lead track, Teenage Bigstar extols the virtues of record stores and the great things that happen there. It chronicles two true stories from Joe’s life. Aptly named, the song strikes of Teenage Fanclub meets Big Star.
Verse one recalls the day Joe met Alex Chilton at a New Orleans record store called The Magic Bus. Joe was a Big Star fan and quietly mentioned it to Chilton, not wanting to bother him. Chilton casually waved it off and instead grabbed the records from under Joe’s arm to see what he was buying. Chilton held up Joe’s copy of Beach Boys Live in London and started talking about how great they were, how he toured with them in the ’60s, and what a great drummer Dennis Wilson was. Chilton took out the record, handed it to the clerk, asked them to play Barbara Ann, and started playing air drums along to the beat.
Verse two is inspired by the night Joe went to see The Minus 5 and wound up taking Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck and John Ramberg to that same record store. They talked about The Beatles and The Monkees, and after the show Joe vowed he’d make a record if it was the last thing he ever did musically. Lucky for us, he’s still going strong. Check out the rest of Eventually is Now on Bandcamp or Spotify.