Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dream, Dream, Fail, Repeat

My iPod was stolen last week, and not Under the BQE but on the glittering island itself by some member of the glittering masses. I hope they enjoy the music; I'm considering it a fresh start. In fact, having fewer songs to choose from is making me appreciate what's there more. Why did I need the mansion iPod when I could have the cute Brooklyn apartment iPod? I mean really.

Anyway, it's about music now - read: happiness - and seeing Ravens & Chimes last night was one dose (despite the hipsters lurking and, yea, talking during the show. C'mon guys - strut your nonchalant stuff, but RESPECT, okay?).

Anyway, R&C were wonderful at the Bowery Ballroom, and they were followed by The Silver State and Margot and the Nuclear So & So's. I like the sound of Margot lots. The Silver State not as much...a little too smug, both musically and lyrically. (Disclaimer: I didn't actually hear the second two bands because I was in the cozy upstairs of the Ballroom chattering, which was lovely).

But let's do a quick comparison. Of all three bands, I would say that, for me, Ravens & Chimes has it all - melody, lyrics, heart (read: earnestness), and (for crying out loud) the know-how and bravery to cover Leonard Cohen (perhaps my only constant companion). The Silver State has some clean songs, but they leave me feeling pretty cold. And Margot, she's got the sound but the lyrics sometimes lack the poetry I'm seeking. For a side-by-side comparison (actually, a one-on-top-of-the-other comparison), consider these words:

Ravens & Chimes, from "The House Where You Were Born": "The last time we were in this house/you were younger then/and you danced in the kitchen all night/while I played the mandolin/and you said if the sun never comes up/would you lay with me all day/but outside the window to the east/the morning bloomed in glorious red."

The Silver State, from "Faith You Changed Your Name": "There's a billboard outside my window/that's telling me to drink/a bottle a hundred times/bigger than me - and/believe me I've been trying/for weeks now."

Margot and the Nuclear So & So's, from "Broadripple is Burning": Honey broadripple is burning/and the girls are gettin' sick/off snorting coke up in the bathroom/while their boyfriends pick up chicks/and darling I'm lost/I heard you whispering /that night in Fountain Square/trash-filled streets made me wish we were headin' home."

Another band (rather, artist) that seems to have it all is Drew Henkels of Drew & the Medicinal Pen. He's playing at a Sound Fix-sponsored gig this Friday (Sound Fix: Bedford and North 11th; the event is at Automotive High (a real high school, not an ironic name!), part of the Rooftop Films series, which is building community, sustaining art, and perhaps saving something like Bohemia).

Here's a Fordham Observer article about Drew, and here are a couple of excerpts that particularly spoke to me:

"Around New York, Henkels is probably best known for his music, which follows in the tradition of contemporary singer-songwriters such as Elliot Smith and John Darnielle (of the Mountain Goats). Under the moniker Drew and the Medicinal Pen, his most recent undertaking is a self-produced collection of songs entitled "dream, dream, fail, repeat," which will be released March 31, 2007... His lyrics reflect an optimistic wistfulness. 'A lot of stuff that I write comes from free verse, I'll just pick up the pen and not put it down,' Henkels said. 'Growing up, I've had a lot of health issues, and the older I've gotten, the more I write, and figure out how deal with that stuff on my own...' Perhaps the strongest aspect of Henkels' music is his capability to craft poetic verses that fit like puzzle pieces with his folksy melodies - a skill previously mastered by classic American songsmiths and less common among today's artists in the genre. 'I love melody, and people that can craft melody and then match that with lyrics, that's what I aspire to.'"

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