Friday, January 2, 2009

Catching Up with...

Smash Mouth: While I have a begrudging respect for their mad pop music skills (you have to give it to them, "Walking on the Sun" and "All Star" are terrific, well-crafted pop tunes), I still hate how they were promoted by the music industry as a ska band and rode the crest during the late 90s ska boom. Oh, but how the mighty have fallen (break out the schadenfreude!). As the Las Vegas Sun reports in advance of the reconstituted band's upcoming show in the area, singer Steve Harwell thinks Vegas is the ultimate place to perform; he envies Barry Manilow (for being in a position to play there all the time); and he will be releasing a solo country (!) album in 2009 titled "L.A. to Nashville." Oy vey.

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The Knitting Factory: An article in the Downtown Express notes the closing of the Knitting Factory in Manhattan's disgustingly trendy (and way expensive) Tribeca neighborhood. The club will be reopening in a smaller venue (the old Luna Lounge) in disgustingly trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2009. The piece also mentions the last 3 Floors of Ska show that was held at the KF earlier this week, as well as several of the bands that performed, including The Bluebeats, The Allstonians, and Westbound Train. Read all about it here.

(Interesting factoid: John Zorn once yelled at Vaclav Havel, then president of the Czech Republic, who was talking loudly in the balcony with Clinton's Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, to "shut the #&*% up" --in all fairness, Zorn didn't know who he was cursing out during his set.)

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The Skatalites: Here's a show review from a recent gig in Edinburgh.

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Mighty Mighty Bosstones: The Boston Globe reviews one of the Bosstones' Xmas time "Hometown Throwdown" gigs. Sounds like it was a great show, if you dig their brand of ska-core. Also, a preview for the New Haven "Hometown Throwdown" in the New Haven Advocate spotlights MMB's trombonist Chris Rhodes and notes his relationship to past Connecticut ska bands Spring Heeled Jack and the unfortunately named JC Superska (as well as his stint with The Toasters).

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The English Beat: I've always felt that Dave Wakeling has one of the best voices in ska music and I've been such a fan of the band that I still remember the impassioned arguments in high school that I had with my friend Gordon over which Beat album was the best (then, I would have said Special Beat Service, but now it's Wha'ppen?). Even though I generally dread it when bands reform only to bash out the hits without bothering to write any new ones, I'm willing to forgive Dave, since he insists that new music is coming down the pipeline (see below) in 2009. And for those who scoff at him for carrying on with The English Beat, despite being the only original member--and in light of the version of The Beat that Ranking Roger is running in the UK--I only have to point to Bucket and The Toasters (still going strong and still relevant over 25 years later). Here's an article in the Fairfield County Weekly (for their New Year's Eve show in Bridgeport, CT), where Dave elaborates a bit on how his version of The English Beat will be releasing new tracks soon:

The band, which played this year's South by Southwest festival, plans to release a series of "gaily colored EPs," featuring new songs, live cuts, acoustic tracks and remixes of English Beat classics. "I've got enough to make an album that I think would be one of the collections of songs that I'm proudest off," Wakeling says. "But I don't know what the story is about LPs these days. I think the world has turned a few times and I don't know that they make as much sense as they did. I always used to love EPs." The releases will be available on CD and vinyl at shows and through the band's various websites.

Also, I don't think I ever knew that The Beat's first gig coincided with the Three Mile Island meltdown in '79.

Get a Job, indeed.

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The Specials: Not many teachers make the news when they quit their jobs, but how many of them used to be in The Specials? According to the Coventry Telegraph, Horace Panter (AKA Sir Horace Gentleman) is quitting his art teacher position at a school for children with autism (which he has held for the past ten years) for the April/May 2009 Specials reunion tour. As many of you already know, for better or worse, Jerry Dammers is the only original Special not participating in this reunion. An article posted on In the News (UK) does little to clear up the real reasons behind Dammer's absence:

Jerry Dammers, one of the founding members of the Specials, has slammed his former bandmates' upcoming reunion tour.

The Ska legends recently confirmed they will take to the road for UK tour starting in April next year, some 30 years since the release of their debut single Gangsters.

But while frontman Terry Hall has said "the door remains open" for Dammers to take part in the reunion shows, the keyboardist has issued a statement saying he was neither invited to take part in the tour, nor told about it.

"The prodigal sons came home, kicked me out, and have left the door open, great," he remarks.

His statement continues: "Attempts to imply that any proposed tour has Jerry's 'blessing', at this stage, are also highly misleading.

"These seem to be part of a wider attempt to rewrite the whole history of the band, in order to try and justify what is currently going on.

"Jerry does not wish to go into too much detail at this point, except to say that for over 25 years he had dreamed that his former bandmates might come back one day, and was deeply shocked to find that when they did, for some of them, it was apparently to kick him out."

Dammers claimed he turned up at a rehearsal uninvited and was "subjected to a severe dressing down" but had always intended to take part in a 30th anniversary reunion tour.

The statement concludes: "Jerry sees this whole thing as a takeover, rather than a proper reunion... At the moment this is not the proud reunion and 30th anniversary celebration Jerry had hoped for."

I'm kind of disappointed, too.

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Madness: If you are on the Madness mailing list, this is old news, but for those of you who aren't, the band has finally announced the release date for The Liberty Of Norton Folgate, which is March 2, 2009. In the meantime, one may pre-order a special limited edition box set of the album from Madness' website, which includes the full album on CD and vinyl, a second CD with outtakes and bonus tracks, a poster and 'M' badge--plus you will be able to immediately download a digital version of the entire record. I don't know what the current exchange rate is between US dollars and British Pounds (40 to be exact), but if you're a big fan and obsessive collector, I'm sure you're going to want to get your hot little hands on this set.

No word on a US release date for The Liberty Of Norton Folgate (if there is one) or if some form of the box set will even be available in the States.

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