Before we get started, Happy Thanksgiving from Lazy-i. Here's hoping you got plenty of good music in '11 to be thankful for. I know I did.
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I’ve read the description of Cursive’s just-announced concept album, I Am Gemini, a half dozen times and it’s still disturbing. The story: Twin brothers separated at birth, one good and one evil, have an unexpected reunion that “ignites a classic struggle for the soul, played out with a cast of supporting characters that includes a chorus of angels and devils, and twin sisters CONJOINED AT THE HEAD” (The all-caps are mine, although I would suggest the fine folks at Cobra Camanda Publicity (Cursive’s “people”) use all-caps in future press releases, if only for effect).
Maybe someone can explain why the first thing to pop into my head was the classic Star Trek episode, “Let That Be Your Battlefield,” in which an alien split right down the middle - half black half white -- played by Frank Gorshin (better known for his role as The Riddler) battles another alien split down the middle - half white half black. Talk about your symbolism. Combine that idea with the best parts of Angels in America, Ordinary People, Stuck on You and Erasurehead, and you’ve got a first-rate concept album.
Seriously though, this sounds like Cursive’s most ambitious concept album since, well, their last concept album (and aren’t they all concept albums?). Just the idea of making a concept album seems ambitious in an age when young listeners are more likely to download a single track rather than an entire collection of songs. But you have to remember that Cursive frontman and primary songwriter Tim Kasher also is a playwright, and judging by the press release issued last week, approached this record with a story in mind, having “wrote album lyrics in a linear fashion, in order, from song 1 to song 13.”
We’ll all have to wait until Feb. 21 when Saddle Creek Records releases the album to hear how it all worked out, unless of course Cursive does a “secret show” somewhere around town as a warm-up for the tour, which kicks off in Denver Feb. 12. Will the band perform the entire record as a rock opera, a la The Who’s Tommy or Styx’s Paradise Theater? Imagine guitarist Ted Stevens and bassist Matt Maginn in full drag playing the entire set forehead-to-forehead. Now that’s entertainment.
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Well, well, well… Looks like Matt Whipkey’s old band, Anonymous American, has taken the Slowdown / Replacements challenge and will be among those performing after the screening of Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements at The Slowdown Nov. 30 (See last week’s column for details). Whipkey, Wayne Brekke and the rest of the band are a perfect fit for this showcase. Also added to the initial line-up is the band Witness Tree.
There’s room for more.
I was thinking it would be cool to see one of the young, dirty O’Leaver’s punk bands also play this gig, say, a Rainy Road, Doom Town or Grotto Records band. After all, their take-it-to-the-edge no-bullshit garage aesthetic is perfectly in synch with The Replacements’ early days of punk excess.
But then it dawned on me that those youngsters may not have even heard of The Replacements. The band’s heyday was between ’81 and ’84 -- that’s 30 years ago, folks -- and they technically broke up in ’91. So while songs like “F*** School” and “Dope Smokin’ Moron” off Stink or “Hangin’ Downtown” and “More Cigarettes” off Sorry Ma, I Forgot to Take Out the Trash would fit nicely in the current-day garage punk milieu, they could also be viewed as “old people’s music.” For those of you who were around in the ’80s, what did you consider the music from 30 years prior to that time, music from the ’50s? Say no more.
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A couple weeks ago, singer/songwriter Brad Hoshaw “released” a new collection of songs titled Spirit of the Lake via his Bandcamp page. The recordings are homemade demos that capture the bare essence of Hoshaw’s latest songwriting output. On Nov. 12 we got to hear a number of those songs “fleshed out” with his band, the Seven Deadlies, and it’s safe to say Hoshaw could have another hit on his hands if he’s ever able to scratch together enough money to get his band into a studio to make a “proper” recording.
Case in point, “New Tattoo,” a desperate, creepy song about the aftermath of love gone wrong that Mr. J. Cash would have been proud to perform during his darker days. On his home recording, Hoshaw comes off lonely and broken as he sings the lines, “So tell me how you think you’ll feel / When I carve your name beneath my heel.” But on stage with his posse at The Waiting Room, the song turned into a blistering, angry threat, a pointed finger of redemption made bold and bloody by a band lost in the same homicidal red-mist as Hoshaw.
As satisfying as his ’09 debut album was, I was afraid Hoshaw might be a one-and-done flash in the pan whose flash was never seen much beyond our city limits. The fact that that album never reached the audience it deserved is one of the great tragedies of our local music scene, though in all honesty, I don’t know who else to blame other than Hoshaw and an industry that, despite technology that makes almost any music available to a global audience, is unable to find and expose the greater talent to the greater masses.
After that, you couldn’t blame Hoshaw if he decided to hang it up and walk away from his dreams. Instead, he’s created another stellar collection of songs, which are almost hidden in those home recordings but are completely realized when performed on stage by his full band. Maybe instead of wasting thousands of dollars in a studio, he and his cohorts should simply polish these chestnuts to a fine sheen and record them live from The Waiting Room stage. Or maybe it’s time for Hoshaw to head to Nashville with these songs in his pocket and see if any of the current C&W elite will bite. He and his music certainly deserve better than they’ve been getting hanging around here.
Lazy-i is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on the Omaha music scene. Check out Tim's daily music news updates at his website, lazy-i.com, or email him at email@example.com.