Toxicity 17

Posted: November 29, 2013 in Toxicity
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Noah Harmon and Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event Photo by TATE fan Gail Lichtman Taken with Pansonic DMC-Zs5 Lumix

Noah Harmon and Steven Chen of The Airborne Toxic Event
Photo by TATE fan Gail Lichtman, taken with Pansonic DMC-Zs5 Lumix

By Glen

With The Airborne Toxic Event having been uncharacteristically quiet for the past six weeks, we’re scraping the bottle of the barrel for Toxicity content. But as it turns out, there’s some pretty interesting stuff down there. Besides, we’re only a week away from a handful of holiday shows, so there’s something to be thankful for. (And don’t forget, The Airborne Toxic Event fan survey remains open till Saturday night. Stop on by and torture yourself; it’s not as punishing as the rumors have suggested.)

JBTV Performance Now Online

We mentioned recently that Airborne’s JBTV set filmed in September appeared to be on the verge of online release. The good news is, it’s happened, and it’s awesome. The bad news is, you have to pay to see it. $3.99 to be exact. JBTV’s videos can now only be seen through their channel on Archlive, which is only available through a monthly subscription (it can be cancelled anytime).

The video itself is a 5-song performance followed by an entertaining interview. I won’t go into details here, as we’ve got a full review coming for you early next week. But suffice it to say, it’s worth checking out, even if only for one month.

Sexism in the Music Biz

Last week I shared my own musings on Anna’s recent Facebook post regarding women in the rock music industry. (Incidentally, thank you for not kicking me out of the TATE fan club for my admission that it took me several months of listening to TATE before I realized she was in the band.) Now, Julie Stoller has jumped into the fray with an inspired piece of her own, “Rock Chick: Sexism and Exploitation in the Music Business.” Julie pulls no punches:

When did sexual exploitation and slutdom become a young girl’s rite of passage into maturity? Is the logical progression from teenage freshness and innocence to crawling around in bondage gear and latex? Is that the only career path open for a woman in the music business? If you want to be a famous mainstream pop star, apparently the answer up until now has been “yes.” But if you go deeper beneath the shallow surface, there are many other options and plenty of positive role models out there.

As the father of two teenagish girls of my own (13 and 11), I’ve seen it firsthand over the past few years, as one after another, my daughters’ musical idols have gone from “freshness and innocence” to “bondage gear and latex” with alarming speed – and predictability. Fortunately, we have artists like Anna to show young girls a better way – and if she’s not enough, Julie helpfully provides a list of other strong, positive female role models in rock – a list that includes the likes of Patti Smith, Kate Bush, Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell and Chrissie Hynde. There’s no shortage of them, but sadly, kids will never be exposed to them unless it’s done intentionally. That type of serious artist just doesn’t get airplay anymore, and when they do, the younger generation has no idea what to make of them. (After sitting through a few minutes of live TATE on the TV, the 11-year-old declared them “boring” because “there are no costume changes!”)

Ah, but Julie provides hope, even for my kids, in the person of Lorde, who may represent the next generation of thoughtful female songwriters. I have to admit, I’m not familiar with her myself, but I’ll have to check her out – if only so that I have someone with more substance than the Miley Cyruses and Katy Perrys of the world to whom I can point my girls for inspiration.

Reviews, Old and New (okay, mostly old)

Back in the fall when Such Hot Blood was newly released in Europe and there were gigs happening on a nightly basis, I dug up a number of album and song reviews that never cracked the pages of Toxicity, what with everything else competing for space. None of these reviews are what you would call recent, but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Liverpool Daily Post’s Andrew Greenhalgh gave Such Hot Blood a 4-star rating. (You have to scroll down past the Katy Perry review to get to it – Dammit! Here we go again. But Katy only got 3-stars, so HA!)

Singer Mikel Jollett has an appealingly raw, grittily soulful voice and the band are capable of producing storming, anthemic rock which seems tailor-made to be played live, and folky jigs which recall The Pogues and, latterly, Mumford and Sons… Dublin and Elizabeth are misty-eyed romances, The Fifth Day, an twinkly, elegant duet between Jollett and backing vocalist Anna Bulbrook, is another highlight, but Safe, with its sparing but effective use of strings and razor guitar, could be the pick of the bunch. Worth investigating.

Another SHB review comes courtesy of Stars Are Underground. This one’s in French, but running it through Google Translate reveals a rating of 7.5/10. The reviewer highlights “What’s in a Name,” “The Fifth Day” and particularly “Safe” as the standout tracks.

Going a little further back in the band’s catalog, we come to their Bob Dylan cover, “Boots of Spanish Leather.” Rock the Body Electric posts regular reviews of Dylan covers, and in September they shared their thoughts on TATE’s “Boots” rendition. It’s a very brief review, but Airborne’s attempt gets an A- from a reviewer who is clearly enamored with the original, while unfamiliar with TATE. “The song starts off simple and gradually adds small changes, a backing vocal here, a swelling string section there. A very soothing and structured cover that never detracts from the amazing lyrics as vocally the cover is great, really can’t nitpick much about this one as it rings true upon each listen.”

And finally we have a piece on All At Once by Thursday Review that is either very old or very misled. Though it was just published last week, I assumed it was an old review and thus not something I would normally include in Toxicity. However, upon closer inspection, the reviewer seems to be under the impression that AAO is a recent release, proclaiming it one of the best ten albums released in 2013. Anyway, we’ll forgive that confusion, because the reviewer is effusive in his praise for the album. (Perhaps I should invite him to write for the TATE fan blog?)

Released in April of this year on Island Records, All At Once contains no duds, no weak spots, no throwaway tunes. Every one of its 11 songs are strong, and many deeply infectious, most notably “Numb” and “Changing,” the second and third cuts on the album, respectively. The cohesion between lead vocalist Mikel Jollett and backing vocalist Anna Bulbrook is at its best on many of these songs, and Jollett’s guitar work meshes seamlessly with that of guitarist Steven Chen to create a pleasurable wall of alt rock sound…

Of particular note are the lyrics, which frequently anchor themselves thematically to issues of age, fear, death and questions of purpose, but which have been effectively shorn of the usual bleakness one associates with typical designer narcissism and youthful gloom-for-the-sake-of-gloom. The lyrics feel more poetic and even, at times, oddly spiritual… Think of what would happen if you locked Bruce Springsteen, The Clash and the poets Charles Bukowski and Rainer Mara Rilke in the same room.

Toxic Gold

Finally, it’s holiday time (for our American friends, anyway), and what better way to celebrate the holidays than with a little bit of dancing?

Glen, Fan of The Airborne Toxic EventGlen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.


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