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We’ve moved!

After several months of negotiations and various wrangling of arrangements, we at Northeast Underground are proud to announce that we have changed locations. Please click on the corresponding link (http://www.valleyadvocate.com/category/blogs/northeast-underground/) to follow us to our new home as part of the main website for the Valley Advocate alternative newspaper based in Northampton, Mass.

While our name and ideals will remain unchanged, by working with a respected institution like the Advocate we hope to expand our already varied coverage of independent music and artists with connections to the northeastern United States. From now on, readers can expect more album reviews, more interviews, and more news related to music as well as other assorted pop culture tangents we see fit to post. Though we have thoroughly enjoyed our time blogging with wordpress.com, like Bob Dylan said, “The times they are a-changing,” and we are changing with them.

Or, in the immortal words of Tommy Boy:

Some of us are leaving, and that is sad, but this isn’t the end. No way. We’re gonna show this world a thing or two.”

Amen brother Farley. Thanks to everyone for the support and contributions so far. We will see you in the big leagues. Keep jamming econo. Mahalo.

– Northeast Underground, January 2011

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This music could save your life: a tribute to Captain Beefheart and D. Boon

Double Nickels on the Dime (Album cover courtesy of the Minutemen)

25 years ago today a van traveling to Arizona for the holidays crashed and flipped over alongside route I-10 near the California border. Thrown from the vehicle was D. Boon, singer/ songwriter and founding member of the indie punk band the Minutemen. Boon broke his neck in the accident and died instantly. He was 27.

Five days ago it was announced that Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) had finally succumbed to complications from multiple sclerosis and died at the age of 69. While first coming to the public’s attention in the ‘60s as the eccentric leader of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Vliet was known for performing a hard-to-categorize mix of rock, delta blues, and avant-garde jazz. Additionally, he was recognized as a notable sculptor and abstract painter, and was also a well-known acquaintance of rock musician Frank Zappa.

Though the stories and career trajectories of the two musicians listed above could not be more different, both men were able to inspire thousands with their extraordinary bodies of work that wowed critics but never managed to reach the upper echelons of the billboard charts. Yet, despite this lack of commercial recognition, there was a sense of daring present at all times in each man’s words and music.

For D. Boon, this sense of daring meant “jamming econo” and writing short, biting, political songs with band mate and friend Mike Watt. Along with drummer George Hurley, Watt and Boon’s take on punk rock was an anomaly that somehow fit, though never quite comfortably, within the strict confines of the hardcore community. Still, for a group of males growing up in San Pedro, California during the ‘80s options were at a premium, and even rarer was a chance to express oneself with complete artistic freedom.  Here, the Minutemen succeeded in spades. Whether by recording a debut for SST Records that consisted of seven songs in six and a half minutes, or by releasing their magnum opus “Double Nickels on the Dime,” a four-sided dual album response to contemporaries Husker Du that also managed to mock hard-rocker Sammy Hagar and psychedelic legends Pink Floyd, the Minutemen did things their way. How can you get any more punk rock than that?

Trout Mask Replica (Album cover courtesy of Captain Beefheart)

Meanwhile, on the other side of the equation, for Vliet a sense of daring meant challenging the music establishment itself by turning audiences on their heads and making listeners question what actually constituted rock music. For instance, during the recording of 1970’s Trout Mask Replica it was rumored that Vliet had the Magic Band rehearse for 12 hours a day in a house with blacked out windows so the musicians could learn their parts by heart. Years later, the group, now equipped with a seemingly constant rotating set of members, found success on tour and even appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1980. However, after the release of “Ice Cream for Crow” in 1982 Vliet unexpectedly retired and abandoned music to embark on a career as a painter while living with his wife in the Mojave Desert. Fittingly, his influence continued to loom large and a diverse set of artists ranging from Tom Waits to Sonic Youth and more emerged over the years citing him as an inspiration and cross-generational forefather.

Though relegated to a set of discriminating, diverse cliques, fans of both Captain Beefheart and the Minutemen can commiserate today like no other time before. While D. Boon passed on in his youth over 20 years ago and the Don Van Vliet faded away recently just a few weeks shy of his 70th birthday, the memories and experience both men gave to listeners the world over remain behind. So, in honor of such spirits and their impact on the musical landscape we at the Underground leave you with the words of indie icon Steve Albini. Though Albini’s statement was written in his diary as a reaction to hearing the news of D. Boon’s death, his sentiments are universal enough to apply to Vliet as well. Enjoy:

So there’s no one left who’s been doing it since the beginning and doing it all the way right. Fuck. It’s like Buddy Holly or something. Sure it’s kind of pathetic to get all worked up over it but hell they meant it, and that means something to me…Man, what do we do now?

Answer: we survive Steve. That’s all we can do. And, we will always have our memories. Mahalo.

See D. Boon and the Minutemen perform an acoustic take on their song “Corona” here:

See Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band perform track “Electricity” live at Cannes beach in 1968 here:

For more information on the Minutemen and Captain Beefheart please visit www.hootpage.com and www.beefheart.com.

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Girl Talk releases new album, manages to ‘break Internet’

All Day (Album cover courtesy of Girl Talk)

Fresh on the heels of announcements for his 2011 world tour, Greg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) unexpectedly released his newest album, “All Day,” online November 15. Unfortunately, for those eager to grab a copy for themselves numerous problems arose when attempting to download the free release. In fact, demand for the album was so great that excited fans temporarily overwhelmed the server at Gillis’ record label Illegal Art.

According to MTV News Gillis said,

“Since I woke up, it’s been insane, just endless messages and so-and-so person wants to talk to you today. And then, people haven’t been able to download it, because the site has been down, which I’m sorry for, so, yeah, it’s been a crazy-ass day.”

Still, for those lucky enough to grab a copy of “All Day,” reviews have been consistently positive.

Philip Cosores at Consequence of Sound says:

“As far as advanced reviews or hype, “All Day” doesn’t need it. You know whether you’ll like this album before you even listen to it.”

Elsewhere, a trio of “mashed-up” interns at Paste Magazine claim:

“At his best, Gillis’ combinations are better than even the sum of their classic parts. Even the strictest punk-rock purists have to smile hearing the Ramones up against Missy Elliott or Iggy Pop duking it out with The Beastie Boys.”

While building off the formula first introduced to the world on 2006’s “Night Ripper,” Gillis’ newest mix is an instant party album that is as engaging as it is fun. Though some may be put off by “All Day’s” steep 71 minute running time, listeners who hang on for the ride will find surprises around every corner. Whether it is Ludacris rapping over Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” or the inclusion of ‘90s faves the Toadies, part of the secret joy in experiencing the album is naming the samples as they fly by in furious fashion.

Yet, for all the potential his latest work holds perhaps the greatest area of impact for Gillis could be on the Billboard charts. Not in sales of course, Girl Talk is still too much of a fringe act for that, but what of the possible effect on popular artists and musicians?

Listen to an extract of “All Day” track “Let it Out” here:

Can one even imagine a world where top 40 songsters clamor to have their material chopped up into an alternate form for hungry music fans in search of a new morsel or treat? Imagine no more. That time is rapidly approaching, whether record companies and labels like it or not. And, I for one eagerly await the results.

To download “All Day” online for free visit http://illegal-art.net/allday.

For more information on Girl Talk and future tour dates please visit www.facebook.com/girltalkmusic, www.pitchperfectpr.com/a_gt.html, www.myspace.com/girltalk, www.twitter.com/therealgirltalk, or www.windishagency.com/artists/girl_talk.

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Interpol cut ties with bassist; release new album

Photo courtesy of Pieter van Hattem

New York City’s favorite gloom-rockers are back…well…most of them.

Indie-veterans Interpol (see photo) are set to return to stages across the country this fall as they tour behind the release of their self-titled fourth album, and first record without founding bassist Carlos Dengler (pictured, third from left).

As first announced on the band’s website earlier this year, Dengler left the group amicably after expressing his desire to “pursue a different path.” Drummer Sam Fogarino explained the split to the Toronto Eye Weekly’s Rob Duffy:

“Carlos really doesn’t like playing the bass guitar. How integral is the bass to Interpol music? I mean, it’s huge. It’s a total harmonic component. It’s hook-laden. But he really, really didn’t like the bass. It’s not his instrument of choice, and it definitely wasn’t his first instrument.”

While Dengler was present for the recording of the new album, he will not tour behind the effort. Instead, he will be replaced by current Secret Machines member Brandon Curtis (keyboards and vocals), and former Slint guitarist Dave Pajo (bass).

Fogarino continued:

“To go through such a change, but to gain these two incredible musicians to help you out onstage, that really softens the blow. It not only brings a level of comfort, it’s a challenge now. Because those guys are fucking good. I think we’ve gained a few steps. We’re a better live band.”

Of course, departing member aside, the focus is still on the music. And Interpol are back to what they do best on their latest release. What this means is an assortment of melancholy post-punk stylings featuring the throb of Dengler’s aforementioned bass, and guitar sounds that resemble distant chimes instead of true riff originators.

See the video for “Lights” here:

Lead single, “Barricade” builds off a propulsive opening drum beat before sprinting to full gallop over singer Paul Banks’ urgent braying. Elsewhere, closing track “The Undoing” creates an almost gothic feel with its classical organ sounds that slowly fade under a hissing snare and strident horns.

Lyrically, there are no happy platitudes here. Banks and company are at their strongest when they’re brooding not bragging. But for a band that has seen its fair share of hardships, words come secondary to its true mission. They’re still here damn it, and for the time being that’s more than enough.

For more information on Interpol and future tour dates please visit www.interpolnyc.com.

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