Steel Train - Trampoline

Before the release of Ben Kweller's ultimately underwhelming eponymous record last year, a record that began with driving rockenspiel (this is my blog and real words just get in my way) was basically guaranteed my seal of approval. But I've learned my lesson, and now, even when a band wears a bit of Springsteen-fluence on its sleeve, I have to listen twice before I'll recommend it. Today I'm listening to the new Steel Train record Trampoline for the second time. I still like it.

I saw Steel Train a few years back play with labelmates Hellogoodbye and House of Fools at a CMJ Showcase, and was duly impressed by the band's live chops. I was disappointed afterwards listening to their first record, which while having its moments (like "Road Song"), seemed mostly to fail at capturing the band's live vitality.

Trampoline accomplishes this important thing: It's a notch in a doorway somewhere in the offices of Drive-Thru Records, marking the progress Steel Train's recorded output has made thusfar. It sounds a lot more like how I want a Steel Train record to sound, my first impression of them having been their live show. There are some tracks on Trampoline with nasally vocals and electric guitars that border on run-of-the-mill indie rock, but for the most part every song on this record stands on its own as something you'd be happy to hear when it came up on shuffle. It's got personality. Especially check out Leave You Traveling and Firecracker to see what I mean.

Drive-Thru has been extremely successful in a capacity that many similarly sized labels have not: career development. Although Steel Train represents a departure from the mostly pop-punk fodder I and Drive-Thru grew up with, it's refreshing to see the label sticking to its roots and nurturing this band, like it has many bands before, to come to its full potential on its own terms. I like Trampoline, and I'm already looking forward to Steel Train's next record.

ZOX - Line In The Sand

Early in the summer, ZOX announced that they would take a rare (especially for the summer) few months away from the road to work on their new record. At the time, I wondered whether the increased recording budget that likely comes along with a decently-sized label like Side One Dummy would help the band to top their fantastic previous record, The Wait.

I now realize two things:
  1. That speculating about a recording budget's ability to elevate a band's performance is an annoying and totally head-up-ass thing to do, for which I am sorry. I've grown up now and I won't do that anymore.
  2. The answer might be yes.
The title track from Line In The Sand (out January 22) is streaming now at myspace.com/zox, and it's worthy of your attention. It showcases a band that's never sounded cookie-cutter traveling a few miles further down the trail it's been blazing for most of its career, and it's all the proof I need that I've no reason to spend any more time worrying about whether or not ZOX will continue to deliver the goods.


Brand New to release new song: (Fork and Knife)

brand new thrice mewithoutyou poster
If Brand New's past release schedule is to be any indication, it might be a very long time before fans have a full-length follow-up to the phenomenal The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me to sink their teeth into. Which is why it's cool of the band to throw a bone out now and then. On Tuesday, Brand New will release a song called "(Fork and Knife)" on the usually suspect music download stores.

And of course, they're going on tour with Thrice, who rule. Dates at myspace.com/brandnew.

According to a Brand New Street Team email, "(Fork and Knife)" will sound awfully familiar to you if you're in possession of the leaked demos that came out prior to the latest record. It was the 7th track. Now if we can get #'s 1 and 2 released sometime too...

Here's the link to get it on Amazon's new download service, with no DRM: (Fork And Knife)

UNKLE - Webster Hall, 10/18/07

unkle war stories psycho pab's def-mix
One of the eggs I most regret breaking to make the omelet of a real-life life is the lack of attention I've been able to devote to blogging lately. I didn't always work so much. Now I do. It happens, I guess.

A few weeks before I got hired into my new gig, I frantically and excitedly bought tickets to see UNKLE play their first ever show in New York City. Fast forward. The new job demands a lot of late nights, in a lot of remote places. Committed to working on Staten Island until 10pm last night, I was resignedly accepting of the fact that my tickets to UNKLE would go to waste. Still, I had them in my car, in case by some bizarre twist of fate some Staten Islander wanted to meet me in a parking lot and take them off my hands for the low price desperately floated over craigslist at the last minute.

Then a coworker with a CMJ Schedule told me something that in hindsight I absolutely should have checked for myself: UNKLE wasn't going on until 11pm. What followed was a pedal-to-the-metal 10:35 departure from Shaolin, culminating in being turned away from a filled-to-capacity parking lot on 12th street, only to find an open parking spot on 11th street, right in front of Webster Hall. FTW.

Christ, I just wrote 3 paragraphs without telling you a thing about the show or the band. I'll make it up to you.

I've often heard people shit on the sound system at Webster Hall, but for my money, there are few better systems for the kind of band that UNKLE is: heavy on the bass and the atmosphere, loud and proud. Sure, It sounded like James Lavelle had marbles in his mouth every time he came out from behind his console to address the crowd and I couldn't understand a word of it, but when the band was playing, I could FEEL the songs in a wonderful way. Every note seemed to vibrate my clothes, but not hurt my ears. Rad.

The band was content to play most of the show in darkness, the stage backlit by some better-than-most film clips that ranged from would-be-cool-if-i-was-stoned geometric gyrations to Max-Headroom-ish singing heads for the songs (Burn My Shadow featuring Ian Astbury, Mayday featuring Leila Moss) the band performed with prerecorded vocals.

They were good. A little rough around the edges ("It's my first gig!" one cries after starting the wrong song, necessitating a do-over), but with sufficient swagger and chops to pull off a decidedly cool stage show, regardless of the few prerecorded vox. They played mostly War Stories stuff, but mixed in enough Psyence Fiction to keep the "old school" among us happy.

The encore began with the Thom Yorke vehicle "Rabbit In Your Headlights," which should have been really rad, but which basically amounted to putting the video (below) on the screen and playing the record. If anyone in the band was doing anything at that point other than pressing play, I couldn't tell. Mercifully, they only played a verse or so before ripping through a noisy as hell rendition of "Eye for an Eye," also video accompanied (also below). I left entirely satisfied, and thoroughly worried that my car wouldn't be there when I got outside, because no way a spot as awesome as the one I parked in could be legal. But it totally was. Victory.

Oh yeah, this was cool: At the show they were handing out a CD. It's a "megamix" of the record my some dude named Psycho Pab. On the CD it says to "Rip it/Burn it/Share it" and I'm taking them at their word. Here's a Yousendit link for as long as it lasts: UNKLE - War Stories (Psycho Pab's Def-Mix).

Rabbit In Your Headlights

Eye for an Eye


Radiohead does something rad

Didn't I call this? I totally called this.


I kinda called this.

If I were a record company executive, I would not be sleeping so well tonight. But I'm not, and I just paid exactly 1 pence (plus 45 other pence) for the new Radiohead record. I'll sleep very well indeed.