The first time I heard The Homosexuals‘ song “Astral Glamour,” I knew I had found a great thing. Buzzcocks plus XTC plus Wire. An obscure nervy late ’70s / early ’80s UK “missing link” between punk,  power-pop, and glam. Wow!
In 2004, I bought a 3CD set of their entire recorded output from 1978-84, lovingly compiled by the crate-diggers at Hyped2Death. In all, eighty-one expertly disjointed song snippets. Some brilliant pop, some weird and experimental, kinda like The Faust Tapes. I thought that was the last I’d hear from The Homosexuals.

Fast-forward to Spring 2008: The Homosexuals are booked to play a free daytime WFMU-hosted set at SXSW. WHAT!?

HOLEE CHRIST they were good. Original UK frontman, young US backing band. The UK singer (crusty yet fit) oozed punk-hippie charisma and combined the best bits of David Bowie, Robyn Hitchcock, and Jello Biafra. He wore a crazy jumpsuit, quickly shed to reveal an even crazier T-shirt. The band nailed his alien pop perfectly. The Homosexuals were the biggest surprise triumph of the week, hands-down.

HERE’S THE BEST PART: They’re playing Union Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn next Friday night, Aug 22. Buy me a lemon ice at Uncle Louie G‘s and meet me in the front row.

Amy Ray’s Got To Be

Amy Ray will not be put in a box, thank you very much. You’ll be clear on this full sentiment–both her transcendence of labels, and the grateful makeup of her downhome outlook–when you listen to Didn’t It Feel Kinder, her newest solo album from Daemon Records, the label she’s run since the success of the Indigo Girls made her and Emily Saliers national icons.

Spanning styles and vocal approaches, the songs on Kinder grapple with the contradictions encountered when getting to know ourselves and our society at large. Barrelling through the rocker “Blame Is A Killer,” Ray, whose rich voice has always overflown with a combination of anger and tenderness, asks, “Did they steal love away from me or did they give me humanity?” eventually declaring, “Yeah, you gotta roll brand new.” On the coolly asseverative “She’s Got To Be,” Ray breaks herself down into the different identities she’s been forced to confront, singing in a halting falsetto, “it’s hard to love this woman in me… I will protect this love, and its anarchy.”

Kinder is the first album on which Ray has utilized an outside producer, Greg Griffith (The Butchies, Le Tigre), and it shows clearly: while all tracks come from the same perspective, each has its own sonic mask, or identity. The more you hear the different sides of Amy Ray, the easier they are to love.

MP3: Amy Ray – Birds of a Feather
MP3: Amy Ray – Blame is a Killer

‘None Shall Pass’ Up THIS Tour

Influential indie rap rogue Aesop Rock is at it again. On the heels of his critically acclaimed release None Shall Pass, he’s announced a tour that includes dates throughout August and September, with the likes of Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz. What better way to wind down the days of summer, and begin the fall season fresh?

What’s more, A-R and Blockhead have begun co-writing a blog on the Def Jux website, so now we can all get a feel of what he’s thinking on a more personal level. Keep an eye out for more news to come, and check out the dates below to grab a show near you!

MP3: Aesop Rock – None Shall Pass

Aesop Rock Fall 2008 Tour Dates:
08-15 Boston, MA – Roxy Theatre
08-16 New Haven, CT – Toad’s Place
08-17 Brooklyn, NY – McCarren Pool Party
08-19 Philadelphia, PA – Trocadero
08-20 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
08-22 Columbus, OH – Skully’s
08-23 Chicago, IL – Abbey Pub
08-25 Sioux Falls, SD – Nutty’s

09-12 Pomona, CA – Glass House
09-13 Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour
09-14 Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour
09-15 Los Angeles, CA – Troubadour
09-17 San Diego, CA – Belly Up
09-18 Fresno, CA – The Exit
09-19 San Luis Obispo, CA – The Brewery
09-20 San Francisco, CA – Treasure Island Festival
09-22 Bend, OR – Domino

Takka This!

It’s hard to really believe anything until you read it in the NEW YORK TIMES. Fortunately for us all, we can now rest easy in the thought that Indie revelers Takka Takka are a verified truth. How, you ask? Well, chief critic and oft-PBS News Hour correspondent Jon Pareles has described the phenomenon to us: “Takka Takka gets the guitar-picking patterns on its album ‘Migration’ from all over: Minimalism and math-rock, Africa and Indonesia, funk and folk and psychedelia, often over beats that sound like rock anthems burnished smooth by the notes pelting above.”

Now, if that sounds awesome, just try listening to Migration -12 solid tracks of beautiful eeriness, in that mellow, introspective kind of delivery that the Takkas have mastered. Referring once again to the words of Pareles for futher elaboration: “The band members sing as if to themselves, murmuring glimpses of catastrophe…the music is rock as meditation, with orderly repetition trying to keep the deepest fears at bay.” Deep and informative as they are, we will abide.

Let it be scripted in the history books, for it is now a matter of record…thanks, NYT.

MP3: Takka Takka – Everybody Say

James Brown Feels Good, But We Knew That He Would

The industry-silencing news of the Godfather of Soul’s passing almost two years ago left a large gap in a genre of music still adored today. What can one do? To dub him a pioneer, a man who wore his heart on his sleeve for the people, would be an understatement. Fortunately for James Brown fans young and old, this owner of one of the 4 corners of funk is being renewed, to the tune of a digitally remastered re-release titled Soul Syndrome.

The album was originally recorded in 1980 as a funk/disco fusion work, and includes six tracks, some of which were ranked on the Billboard Black singles charts back in the day. Due out August 12th via Henry Stone Music, it represents the late great J-B in a way that only the legend himself could explain had he been here today. It’s basically Stone’s vision to recreate Brown to a new audience in a new way, and for that we’re grateful.

Raise the bar if you need to, but this album won’t disappoint-after all, this is JAMES BROWN we’re talking about here. Did we mention this album is by James Brown?