Posts Tagged ‘Wrong’

Anna Bulbrook bends over backwards, with a little help from Adrian Rodriguez, to give Airborne fans a great show. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

Anna Bulbrook bends over backwards, with a little help from Adrian Rodriguez, to give Airborne fans a great show. Photo by Ryan Tuttle.

By Glen

As winter gives way to spring, there is still nary a peep out of Camp Airborne Toxic Event. But six weeks between Toxicity updates seems like just about enough, so let’s see what we can scrounge up.

Not So Epic

There actually is one legit piece of Airborne news – or non-news, as it were. A recent visit to the website of Epic Records led to the discovery that The Airborne Toxic Event is no longer anywhere to be found on the website. Not only are they absent from Epic’s artist listing, but a search for the band’s name yields zero results anywhere on the site.

One can only conclude that, if and when The Airborne Toxic Event releases another record, it will not be under the Epic banner. After the wildly popular, self-released Songs of God and Whiskey, not to mention the smash success of their independently released debut album, one wonders whether the band would be better off just going it alone next time around. Time will tell.

Wrong is Right

In our last Toxicity, way back when we were still munching on Valentine’s candy, we shared a couple live TATE videos aired on PromoWest Live. An alert reader uncovered the fact that there was another TATE video hiding away in their archives. Jump to 14:25 for “Wrong.”


Dope Machines

Mikel Jollett has a love/hate relationship with mobile devices. On the ‘pro’ side, jumping into the crowd and stealing someone’s phone for a smirking selfie has become a staple of “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?” And he’s intrigued enough by the omnipresent technology to have based an entire album around it.

On the other hand, he has made it known in no uncertain terms that he would prefer the audience to keep the damn things in their pockets and experience the performance through their eyeballs rather than through a tiny rectangular screen. And he has a point. In my early days of TATE gigdom, I couldn’t seem to stop myself from trying to capture every moment for posterity, even though 98% of my photos turned out to be complete and utter crap. Lately, I’ve become more disciplined about it. I usually pre-select a couple of songs in which I’ll snap a few photos to use in my TIN reviews, and apart from that I try to leave it alone.

Vocativ recently printed a thought provoking piece considering both sides of this issue. They note that some artists are taking matters into their own hands to force their fans to live in the moment.

Over and over, artists cite the disconnect phones create. “It seems stupid to have something happening in front of you and look at it on a screen that’s smaller than the size of a cigarette packet,” the Guardian quoted Pulp singer Jarvis Cocker as saying. “If anything, it undermines the experience because it seemed like a really good moment, and now I can see it were crap. It’s like wedding videos.”

In April of 2013, art-rock trio the Yeah Yeah Yeahs made headlines when they posted a flyer at a Webster Hall show that asked fans, “Please do not watch the show through a screen on your smart device/camera. Put that shit away as a courtesy to the person behind you and to Nick, Karen and Brian.”

According to Spin, Karen O reiterated the message when, after the second song, she told fans to snap away for the next couple of minutes, then “put those motherfuckers away.” The crowd mostly complied.

Other artists demand no phone use, and include threat of removal if the request isn’t heeded. That was the case on a recent Prince tour, when ticket buyers were reportedly warned by venues in Australia and New Zealand in advance via email that “The use of mobile phones will not be permitted during the show,” according to the Mercury News. “Any person using a mobile phone or camera/video device will be identified by security and asked to leave the venue immediately.”

The Eagles banned cellphones during a 2014 tour, employing security guards to shine flashlights at offenders, issue warnings, and then throw them out. Don Henley recently applauded Mumford & Sons decision to follow suit, saying “the madness, the rudeness, the thoughtlessness… must stop. Constantly looking at the world through a viewfinder is not seeing. Listening to live music while recording on a ‘smartphone’ (or texting every 5 seconds) is not hearing. Experiencing life second-hand is not living. Be here now.”

Some artists simply deal with the nuisance on a case-by-case basis. Neil Young angrily doused two women with water in 2012 because they wouldn’t quit texting during a show even after he gave them the stink eye. In April of 2014, Peter Frampton reportedly scolded two fans in Carmel, Indiana, who arrived late to front-row seats, having missed or ignoring the warning prior to the concert beginning that flash photography wasn’t allowed. They took loads of pictures; Frampton asked them to stop. When they didn’t, he asked them to let him see the pictures, and when the fan handed Frampton his phone, he flung it across stage.

On the other end of the spectrum are these examples:

Brad Paisley encourages fan cellphones at his shows, going into the audience to sing into them, or take selfies that show up on big screens, telling Rolling Stone, “I want to see it. Get a good one. Get good audio if you can. Your videos [are] a memory, something you can have, and what an amazing experience. Yeah, you see people looking at the concert through their phone. But that’s what they want to do. And what YouTube video of a concert ever made you not go?”

Taylor Swift said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2014 that the use of cellphones, and therefore the widely available recordings of her shows, setlists and secret guests every night, was actually the impetus for changing things up every night. “In the YouTube generation we live in, I walked out onstage every night of my stadium tour last year knowing almost every fan had already seen the show online,” she wrote.

“To continue to show them something they had never seen before, I brought out dozens of special guest performers to sing their hits with me. My generation was raised being able to flip channels if we got bored, and we read the last page of the book when we got impatient. We want to be caught off guard, delighted, left in awe. I hope the next generation’s artists will continue to think of inventive ways of keeping their audiences on their toes, as challenging as that might be.”

What’s your take? Would you like to see The Airborne Toxic Event put some regulations in place, or just leave it up to the fans to experience the show as they see fit?

Toxic Gold to the Max!

If you’re currently experiencing Airborne Toxic Withdrawal (and let’s face it: if you’re reading Toxicity during the dark days of the band’s hiatus, it’s safe to assume you are), Murray Jay Siskind has the cure for what ails you. The YouTuber has become a must-follow for Airborne fans, unearthing one rare gem after another.

A couple years ago we reviewed an Airborne acoustic recording from Montreal that is only available for purchase from iTunes Canada. Thanks to MJS, those of you outside our fair country can now lay ears on it. While you listen, enjoy a bevy of TATE trivia and photos. (And watch for the shout out to TIN!)

For years I’ve been beating the drum for the full length concert video Live from Koko, which features, among other things, the world premiere performance of “All I Ever Wanted.” Now, courtesy of MJS, here’s the only professional recording of the ultra rare “Echo Park.”

And another oldie-but-goodie – one that I’m still surprised didn’t make the cut for Songs of God and Whiskey: “Days of Wine and Poses.”

Last but not least, here’s a double shot of “Papillon” and “Gasoline” from Paris, circa 2009.

GlenGlen 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.

The Airborne Toxic Event shone brighter than the lights of the Eldorado Friday night in Reno. Photo by Glen.

The Airborne Toxic Event shone brighter than the lights of the Eldorado Friday night in Reno. Photo by Glen.

By Glen

Reno, Nevada’s famed archway proudly proclaims the town, “The Biggest Little City in the World.” Friday night, the streets of said Little City echoed with a most glorious sound, courtesy of The Airborne Toxic Event.

“So, we’re basically all in a fucking parking lot in the middle of Reno,” noted Mikel Jollett, and that about summed it up. With the host Whitney Peak Hotel (complete with an outdoor climbing wall running up the full length of one side of the building) towering above the makeshift venue on one side, and the shining neon lights of the Eldorado Casino on the opposite side, it was a setting unlike any other Airborne show that I’ve experienced.

After blistering sets by Sir Sly and The Joy Formidable set the table, the Airborne Toxic Event took the stage to the delicate opening strains of “Wishing Well.” On this night, they played the classic arrangement, rather than the funked up, bass-heavy version that has become the norm in concert over the past couple of years.

It was a subdued start to the proceedings; the beginning of a workmanlike performance in which banter was kept to a bare minimum as the band focused on delivering one tight hit after another. The brisk pace may have been necessitated by a strict noise bylaw that required the show to end promptly at 10 pm, so the band had to make every minute count. And count they did.

Steven Chen holds court in Reno. Photo by Glen.

Steven Chen holds court in Reno. Photo by Glen.

“Wishing Well” was followed by a trio of “All at Once” favorites: “Numb,” “Half of Something Else” and “Changing.” Unless my ears deceived me, Jollett adjusted the “Numb” line, “I think I’ve lost something,” to, “I think I’ve lost my phone” – neatly tying it into the themes of the latest album, Dope Machines.

The energy ramped up with the evening’s lone track from Songs of God and Whiskey, “Change and Change and Change and Change.” With the rowdy crowd enthusiastically shouting back every word, it is quickly becoming a must play.

Next, we were treated to a pair of selections from Dope Machines: the singalong “Hell and Back” and the incredibly infectious “One Time Thing,” which had both singer and audience bouncing throughout. “Happiness is Overrated” then transported us back to 2008, Jollett joking at the outset that it took two years of singing lessons for him to be able to hold that “alwaaaaayyyysss” note for so long.

The next song was an unplanned addition to the setlist, and may actually have been a happy accident. After Jollett mouthed instructions to his bandmates, there appeared to be a bit of confusion as to what he was calling for. As Daren Taylor kicked into the “Gasoline” drumbeat, the other musicians laughed, shrugged and went with it. It turned out to be one of the highlights of the night, with Anna Bulbrook and Steven Chen perched high on speakers on opposite sides of the stage for their viola/guitar duel, as Adrian Rodriguez relentlessly pounded away on bass on stage right.

The energy was turned down a notch for one of the few times all night for the subsequent number, but that’s not to say it gave the audience a chance to catch its breath – more like, it took our breath away. “A Letter to Georgia” was voted the number one rare song that fans want to experience live in our recent survey, and it was thrilling to see that it survived the three-week break in between shows after being played a few times on the east coast. It was, quite simply, exquisite.

Anna Bulbrook captivated the Nevada crowd. Photo by Glen.

Anna Bulbrook captivated the Nevada crowd on a beautiful late summer night. Photo by Glen.

“Georgia” gave way to a bit of a surprise, as “All at Once” found a home towards the middle of the set, as opposed to its traditional placement at either the start or end. Shaking things up is always welcome, but I do think it makes a perfect opener or closer.

Next up was a thundering take on “Wrong,” which actually had me wishing I could have a redo on my vote for favorite live TATE song. It had been awhile since I’d seen it in concert, and I had forgotten how powerful it is on stage. Jollett’s voice never sounded better than it did during this electro-rock masterclass.

Like “Goodbye Horses” and “The Book of Love” before it, Airborne’s cover of “Pursuit of Happiness” has evolved to the point where maybe it’s time to stop thinking of it as a cover and just consider it a TATE song. The rap-turned-rocker blew the roof off the joint – which is really saying something, considering there was no actual roof to blow.

As has been the norm on this brief Whiskey Machine Tour, the main set came to a close with the unmatchable one-two punch of “All I Ever Wanted” and “Sometime Around Midnight.” It is hard to imagine that the band didn’t win itself some new fans after everyone within a few blocks of the arch was treated to this perfect pairing.

After briefly exiting the stage, the band hustled back into position for an encore, even as an event staffer approached the sound booth, frantically pointing at her watch. The time on my phone read 9:59, but the band went for it anyway. The single song encore was stretched to two as Jollett punctuated “Missy” with the statement that “we can’t play Reno without playing this song” – this song being Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die…

After the seven-hit finale, The Airborne Toxic Event made a hasty retreat, as security quickly ushered the crowd out of the venue. Fans streamed into the nearby casinos, because, what else are you going to do in downtown Reno on a Friday night?

Setlist

GlenGlen 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.

Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event celebrated a birthday on Wednesday. Photo by Ayaz Asif Photography, https://www.facebook.com/AyazAsifPhotography.

Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event celebrated a birthday on Wednesday. Photo by Ayaz Asif Photography, https://www.facebook.com/AyazAsifPhotography.

By Glen

Does The Airborne Toxic Event ever sleep? If their schedule of late is any indication, rest is in short supply indeed. When they aren’t playing to rabid crowds in sweaty venues around the U.S., they are pumping Dope Machines on television, announcing new show dates and granting interviews as far away as South Africa. Buckle up for a whirlwind trip through a cornucopia of TATE news.

Coming Soon: Half a Dozen Videos and Tour Dates Galore

Overdrive Magazine is a very cool interactive online music magazine out of South Africa. As that nation prepares for their first live Airborne Toxic Event experience at next month’s Freedom Festival, Overdrive tracked down Mikel Jollett for a very informative recorded interview that digs into the new albums and the band’s plans for 2015. Asked what’s on tap for the rest of the year, Mikel responded: “God, it’s exhausting when I think about it. Probably about 150 tour dates, and we’re doing a bunch of TV stuff, and we’ve got a ton of videos to shoot – I think we’ve got six coming up.”

That certainly sounds promising! Thus far, Airborne has 33 dates announced for 2015, including those that have already happened, – a tour schedule that expanded by two this week when appearances at Philadelphia’s Radio 104.5 Block Party (May 3) and Salt Lake’s X96 Big Ass Show (May 8) were announced. So, even allowing for some hyperbole on the 150 figure, it’s clear that there is some serious touring in the works for the second half of the year.

As for the videos, Mikel did promise during TATE’s recent Reddit AMA that more bombastic videos are in the offing, so chances are that’s what he was referring to here – though the recent release of “California” as a single may very well spawn a music video for that track as well.

Instant Replay

Last Friday, The Airborne Toxic Event made two television appearances. The headline event saw the band take the stage at the David Letterman Show for the fifth and final time, for a barn burning rendition of “Wrong.”

Earlier in the day, TATE joined Nick Lachey on VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live, where they laid down an energetic “One Time Thing” and spoke about their two new albums, their current North American tour and upcoming European dates (note: you have to be in the U.S. to view the videos). The most interesting tidbit to emerge from the interview is that the European tour will not be a repeat of the U.S. shows that begin with Dope Machines being played through in full; rather, the setlists will be a more traditional “hodge podge” of selections from all of the band’s albums.

In other TV news, Airborne will be doing a live taping with Revolt TV this Monday in Hollywood. Click here to request tickets to be in the studio audience.

(Still More) Dope Reviews

A few more latecomers weighed in this week with their reactions to Dope Machines and Songs of God and Whiskey.

Atwood Magazine: “What holds resoundingly true is this: There’s no turning back now. The release of Songs of God and Whiskey alongside Dope Machines serves as a symbolic and literal letting go of the past. In order to fully embrace their new sound, TATE had to say goodbye to the past – and what better way of doing so than getting in one last hurrah? Songs of God and Whiskey finds the band cleansing themselves of what must certainly be quite the extensive backlog… Never before have The Airborne Toxic Event sounded as freewheeling and creatively uninhibited as they do on Dope Machines. The album goes beyond the tried story Jollett has been relying on for too long, introducing new plots and fresh content that grab the listeners as strikingly as the band once did on their debut.”

Blurt Magazine: “Dope Machines and Songs Of God And Whiskey implement an exciting change in sound, while staying true to the emotional underbelly that rides through The Event. Songs Of God And Whiskey is perhaps the better of the two records, simply because the tone and theme of The Event fit best with an acoustic stripped down drawl. Dope Machines’ focus on electric sounds great, amazing even, but it becomes dried out with the same heartbroken theme (and this maybe simply because it starts to wade into a region that was conquered once and for all in the ‘80s). Despite the faults that can sometimes creep up in both records, it is a remarkable, fun, and brave fourth foray for The Event.”

Officially a Yuppie: “Four records in and California’s Airborne Toxic Event are still making solid records. Dope Machines hears the band depart from the orchestral rock sound they were known for and hears them venture into more electronic stadium-style hooks and with enough power that will get any crowd chanting along.”

Hit the Floor: “Dope Machines still sounds like an TATE record. The distinct vocal talents of Mikel Jollett and Anna Bulbrook make sure that even if the band chose to record a skiffle album, it would still sound like a TATE album, in the same way that anyone and Mark E Smith would produce a Fall album. The album could easily be a Jollett solo outing than an actual band project. Were the other members of the band sat drinking coffee waiting to be called in when needed by their master? The rich string laden sound from their previous work, has been replaced by drum machines and studio trickery.”

Meanwhile, the Boston Herald combined a review of the two albums with an interview with Mikel. Explaining the genesis of Songs of God and Whiskey, the bandleader said, “You know that crazy impulse of ‘Let’s go get chili cheeseburgers in Vegas right now?’ Well, this album was built from that kind of impulse. We went into the studio, plugged in some mics and recorded a bunch of songs that didn’t fit on ‘Dope Machines’ as fast as we could.”

And how did their label, Epic Records, respond to this unexpected development?

“They didn’t mind, which was very cool,” he said. “Modest Mouse and us are the only rock bands on the label so I think they give us some room to, well, be rock bands that do strange (expletive).”

Recaps from the Road

With the new albums giving way to the promotional tour in support of them, there have also been a number of show reviews over the past week. Unlike the album reviews, these have been universally enthusiastic.

Boston Globe: “Saturday’s show began with the band playing “Dope Machines” in full — a risk, given the material’s relative newness. But it paid off; the capacity crowd possessed a palpable giddiness at the prospect of communing with the band in a small room, and not the festival-size spaces where the Boston Calling alums have honed their live approach.”

Wicked Local Waltham: “One cool factor in the live show Sunday night was that fans could see that many of the synth effects we were hearing were coming from Steven Chen’s lead guitar. But with Jollett’s rhythm guitar driving the core of the tunes, it still came across as soulful rock–just soulful rock with a really enhanced, almost industrial strength rhythmic foundation. But kudos to the sound crew, for Jollett’s vocals were clear and understandable throughout, as were the backup vocals.”

My Attraversiamo: “The crowd was so lively, and in the end I totally dug the music – they had this amazing female violinist/singer/piano player who was absolutely fantastic and so, so fun to watch.”

Examiner: “Dope Machines (Epic Records) might just be TATE’s strongest, most substantive studio effort yet, and the Friday the 13th Cleveland gig was one of only nine listed on a special audiovisual mini-tour whereon Jollett and company are playing the whole darn thing, front-to-back—along with a smattering of hits. Judging from Airborne’s tight, visceral performance and the Trinity crowd’s immediate (and consistent) positive reaction to it, one might’ve guessed everyone in the church had been living with these songs for years—not weeks.”

AXS.com’s Amanda Keeler also touched on the Cleveland show in an article that focused on the release of Songs of God and Whiskey, and specifically why it was bundled with Dope Machines in the band’s store:

On Feb. 24 Airborne manger Pete Galli told me that Songs of God and Whiskey didn’t exist 1 month ago. “The band recorded it in 3 weeks. We mastered it yesterday, finishing at 3pm LA time and then it was for sale at 9pm LA time. Our label Epic (Sony) was very supportive, but they are unable, like any major, to turn it around on iTunes or other outlets that quickly. Instead, they were kind enough to let us sell it directly to fans on our store, as long as it was bundled with Dope Machines.

Toxic Gold

As this article was being written Thursday night, Pennsylvania TATE fans were enjoying the band’s appearance on WHYY-TV’s “On Tour,” footage for which was captured last fall in Philadelphia. We expect the full episode to be available for online viewing soon, but in the meantime, here are a couple of teasers. In the first, Mikel introduces the episode. The second features a full performance of “Sometime Around Midnight.” (WHYY-TV has also posted an extensive photo gallery on Facebook.)

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.

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event at Sonic Boom, Aug. 2014. Photo by Creative Copper Images (http://www.creativecopperimages.com/).

Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event at Sonic Boom, Aug. 2014. Photo by Credit Creative Copper Images (http://www.creativecopperimages.com/).

By Juan Manuel

The title is not an overstatement. Five musicians from a country I am not even from had a larger influence on me than any other music I had ever heard before. That’s right, I am not from the U.S., or from England, or any other English speaking country. I am Colombian, and truth be told I am probably the only Colombian in the world that knows and loves TATE.

My journey to finding TATE goes through one man: my father. You should probably also know that I am just 16, and I was much younger when I was introduced to TATE. So it was thanks to my father that I started listening to their first album. He stumbled upon them while searching for music on iTunes, and as he once told me, “After listening to ‘Sometime Around Midnight’ I knew that this band was special; that song is the best song ever made, and it is my all time favorite.” In that me and my father agreed, “Sometime Around Midnight” was the best song ever to be made, and after listening tirelessly to their first album me and my dad had just one topic in our conversations: just how much we loved that band.

It is hard for me to explain my fascination with their music, my friends don’t understand why I like them that much, and to be honest I don’t either. I guess that I love their sincerity. In a world in which music is made to sell, and lyrics are often empty and meaningless, TATE is the exception. They do the music they love, whether people like it or hate it, as evidenced by their new album. And Mikel Jollett’s songwriting is just beautiful. I tried searching for another adjective to describe the lyrics but I just couldn’t find one that describes them as they deserve; that’s it, the lyrics are simply beautiful.

I have listened to every song of every album countless times, and I don’t get tired. Usually, when you listen to a song one too many times it loses its appeal; that hasn’t and will never happen with TATE’s music. The bond me and my father made through their music was truly special; we would sit and talk for hours about what our favorite songs were and how badly we wanted to see them live. My dad was able to; he took my mom to one of their concerts in Fort Lauderdale, and came back even more in love with the band. He told me that it was one of the best concerts he had ever attended (and he had gone to many, many, concerts) and that he had the chance to meet them; he had talked to Steven in the bathroom and their humbleness and friendliness truly astonished him. He also told me that the band was excited to have fans from such an unlikely place. When he and my mom arrived back home, my dad gave me a TATE shirt signed by all the band members, and three years later I still have that shirt displayed in my room.

I loved the band, and they were already firmly entrenched as my all time favorite, however it took a tragic situation to elevate TATE to a crucial part of my life. One week after they released “Wrong,” their first song from their last album, my dad passed away. He was young, but three brain tumors were too much to handle, and he moved on to a better place. It was then when TATE became the thing that, in my eyes, would always keep me linked to my dad. Even if he is not on this earth anymore, every time one of their songs plays on my iPod, my first thought is my dad, and for that I am forever grateful toTATE. My dad’s love for “Sometime Around Midnight” was so much that we played the song, full blast, at my father’s funeral. A song that has very little to do with death and was not very appropriate for the occasion, but it represented my father, so we played it, and people loved it.

When my dad was really sick and in a hospital bed I played him “Wrong” for the first time; he could barely talk back then, but he managed to say “It’s weird, but I like it.” I couldn’t have put in in better words myself.

So, this is my story, the story of the band I love, the story of my relationship with my dad. I could go on and on talking about why I love them and all they mean to me, but I don’t want to bore you. I apologize if my grammar is bad or if you don’t understand something, please take into account English is my second language and I am currently a little distracted, as I am listening to “California” and “Time to be a Man” at full blast on my speakers.

I also wanted to share with you some of my favorite TATE songs. The list is not in chronological order, or in order of preference, they are just the songs that I love the most, and that I could think about from the top of my head. (Please take into account that I have not yet heard Songs of God and Whiskey):

  • Sometime Around Midnight
  • Wishing Well
  • Elizabeth
  • Missy
  • Neda
  • One Time Thing
  • Welcome to Your Wedding Day
  • The Graveyard Near the House
  • My Childish Bride
  • The Kids Are Ready to Die
  • This is London
  • Gasoline
  • California
  • All for a Woman
  • The Girls in Their Summer Dresses
  • Time to be a Man

Steven Chen and Anna Bulbrook entertain the all-ages crowd at Amoeba Music, in honor of the release of Dope Machines. Photo by Danielle Karagannis.

By Glen

It’s been an okay week to be a fan of The Airborne Toxic Event, eh?

A week ago, we didn’t think we could get any more excited than we already were for the release of Dope Machines. And then came the wonderful, shocking announcement that the band had a 10-song surprise up their collective sleeve, a second album called Songs of God and Whiskey, to be released at the same time. And then came news of a North American mini-tour that begins in a mere fortnight, with some extra special plans that are sure to make it a tour to remember.

So yeah. We have a lot of news to get to.

Dope Surprise

Word of the unexpected album was received ecstatically by TATE fans the world over (duh!). And the record itself has been universally acclaimed by those who have listened to it. Seriously: I have yet to hear one negative word about the material on Songs of God and Whiskey from any fan of The Airborne Toxic Event.

So one would think that everyone’s happy in TATE nation these days, right? Not so fast. There’s a significant contingent of fans who are unhappy that Songs is only available with purchase of a physical copy of Dope Machines from TATE’s store. This hasn’t sat well with many who had already pre-ordered the album from other sources.

I totally get it: not everyone can afford to buy an album twice, and even those who can afford it may very well not want to. Though I personally have no self-control whatsoever when it comes to shelling out for anything and everything that The Airborne Toxic Event cares to release, I don’t want to minimize the legitimate concerns of those who do. The following comments are not intended as a shot at those who have aired objections.

I do wonder though, would the reaction have been different had Songs been released in a vacuum? That is to say, if the band had announced out of the blue that they were releasing a surprise album at a price point of $18.99 (which is the cheapest of the packages available), with no ties to Dope Machines, would there have been so many complaints? Sure, it’s a bit steep for an album these days, but it seems to me that the vast majority of established TATE fans (who are the target market for Songs, after all) would have lined up around the block to jump on board that train. Instead, the inclusion of Dope Machines created a perception problem.

Seeing as though it’s coming from a band that routinely sells concert tickets for less than the cost of this album, and whose merchandise is priced lower than any other major artist that I’m aware of, I have no complaints about the value I’m getting out of this relationship. In fact, I think they undersell themselves more often than not. As far as I’m concerned, I paid $19 for Songs of God and Whiskey; the fact that it came with a second copy of Dope Machines (or in my case, fourth) is just an added bonus, allowing me to keep a copy in both our vehicles, or give one away to a friend who needs some TATE in their life.

I also wonder if there is a business angle to this story that we haven’t considered. (Disclaimer: this is 100% speculation on my part, which could very well have zero basis in reality. So take it for what it’s worth, which may in fact be very little.)

Imagine you are Epic Records, and you have just signed a band to a new contract and invested heavily in their soon-to-be-released album. Then imagine said band comes to you with a plan to release a second album on the same day, with absolutely no involvement and no profit in it for you. How do you react?

It wouldn’t be a stretch to speculate that perhaps Epic wasn’t exactly thrilled with this idea. And perhaps in order for the band to even be able to offer this gift to their fans, certain conditions were stipulated. Such as: no announcing it in advance, so as not to detract from pre-sales of Dope Machines. Or such as: selling it in in tandem with Dope Machines. (Note: Amanda Keelor of AXS has now confirmed some elements of this theory. Though Epic was very supportive of the second album, which was not completed until the day it went on sale, they did in fact require that it to be bundled with Dope Machines. See her comment on this post.)

At the end of the day, I really don’t care what the back story is. Any way you slice it, it was twenty of the best dollars I ever spent.

Hell of a surprise, TATE. Thanks for giving us Christmas in February.

Dope Tour

With the album release behind us and a European tour scheduled for early April, we had given up hope of a North American tour until later in the spring or summer. Wrong! In another curveball, The Airborne Toxic Event announced a limited U.S. tour starting in just two weeks. This one comes with a twist: not only will Dope Machines be performed in its entirety each night, but the band is promising that it will be a very special audio/visual experience with additional surprises. Though there will surely be more North American dates later in the year, the announcement was enough to set me to groveling to my wife to let me jet down to San Francisco for a night next month.

Here are the dates, which go on sale this morning:

Wed March 11 – Brooklyn, NY – Warsaw – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Fri March 13 – Cleveland, OH – Trinity Cathedral – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Sat March 14 – Boston, MA – Paradise – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Tue March 17 – Chicago, IL – Metro – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Thu March 19 – Denver, CO – Sherman Event Center – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Fri March 20 – Denver, CO – Sherman Event Center – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Sat March 21 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Sun March 22 – Los Angeles, CA – Tower Theatre – ON SALE FRI@10AM
Tue March 24 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues – ON SALE FRI@10AM

Dope Stories

Late last summer, Mikel Jollett shared insights into every song from the band’s first three studio albums in a wildly popular Facebook series, leading up to the Fillmore residency. Now, he’s doing the same for Dope Machines (here’s hoping Songs of God and Whiskey will follow). Here are the thoughts he’s shared thus far.

Wrong

This was the first song I wrote for Dope Machines. I wrote it in a very specific situation with a very specific person in mind. I guess I see it as an Ode to Insecurity, though I think the speaker conflates his doubts with his rejection of social mores. Meaning: he chooses to be wrong. He doesn’t care about the values others may want to impose upon him. He makes his own sense of the world, fully aware that it is based upon partial/biased/incorrect information and he’s fine with that, since he’s wrestled with that damaged information and come to an honest conclusion: “I don’t care if we’re ‘WRONG.’ We’re staying here together, eyes closed in our ignorant, blissful embrace.” To put it bluntly: “Fuck ‘em. I choose you.”

One Time Thing:

This song developed out of two situations: one of which happened to a good friend and one of which happened to me. I love how he’s quite playful in his insouciance about the fling, while acknowledging (later, begrudgingly) what a massive event it actually was in his life. He kids about all this moonshine and cheap ass wine, meanwhile he can’t sleep, laying awake instead, wondering if he’s lost a chance at something great.

Dope Machines:

It’s fair to say this song is a companion piece to One Time Thing, filling in the gaps of a particular kind of fling: so many pictures and texts — the digital detritus of attraction and flirtation in the modern world. Camera phones. Social media—we’ve taken all these things that are central to what it means to be human and digitized them into simple binary equations, algorithms and questions. Things like: Who do I like? Who likes me? What group(s) do I belong to? All these buggy little programs create a digital self that is a (mostly) polished reflection of our actual selves. And they’re addictive because they take the important questions, the ones we obsess over as humans, and quantify them into digestible bytes. Our social instincts, insecurities, and ambitions are primed and we are all over that shit.

On balance it’s all pretty stupid, because we know that we are far more complex than these silly little brands we turn ourselves into online. But if you consider for a moment how this entire thing is just a metaphor that we’ve agreed upon: that websites are “places” (which they absolutely are not, they’re programs), that these pictures and quotes are “people” (which they’re not, they’re like little magazine ABOUT people) — it’s fascinating. Two billion (or some number) people have all agreed upon one system of metaphors, these images on screens that we decipher in our brains and codify into massively complex virtual societies. What a bunch of brainy schmucks.

And if you happen to be reading this on some such device, in a metaphorical “space,” well then allow me to simply say “hello and I hope your life brings you joy and that we can meet some day and have a coffee perhaps, or a pint.” Since that was the point of this whole thing anyway: to make us feel connected when we are in the lonely metaphorical spaces of our minds.

Dope Interviews

Release week was marked by a number of interviews with the band, who provided lots of insights into the new songs, the thinking behind the dual release, and plans for the future.

First up was USA Today, who sat down with the lead man and even invited questions from fans. Some highlights:

Q: You wrote about 40 songs while working on the album. How did you choose the songs that were put onto Dope Machines?

A:There’s no particular dogmatic approach to it, it’s just these songs seem to hang together in a way thematically or I just liked them for the most part, for different reasons. Each song had a reason where you hear it and you’re like, “Yeah we like this song.” You hear something special in it. Some of them I really loved. You know that expression in writing, “Murder your darlings?” Yeah, there were some that I really worked hard on and I loved and we couldn’t put on the record. It’s always a sad day when you have to murder one of those things.

Q: Where did the name “Dope Machines” come from?

A: There’s a song on the record called Dope Machines, and it’s kind of a little story about your basic digital romance (in the) modern world, how texted pictures are exchanged, lots of sort of flirtation. … Just the term “dope machines” kind of had this double, triple meaning — on the one hand, a lot of the record is these kind of coy songs about what it’s like to be lost in the sea of just (expletive) social media, endless Internet, all this crap that distracts your attention, so it’s all these dope machines that turn you into a dope. … And at the same time, these machines are DOPE! They … save your life! … And I think that to me is the most poignant thing because these things are addictive, and the reason they’re addictive is because they are sort of extensions of the things that make us humans.

Q: Why did you choose the song Wrong as a single?

A: I don’t know, I’m crappy at choosing singles. … Like, the idea of a single, it doesn’t make much sense. Our biggest single (Sometime Around Midnight) is a song that has no chorus and no hook, and then our second-biggest single is a song that is massively hook-y, Changing. And then our third biggest hit was the song Hell and Back, which was kind of electronic. The whole thing doesn’t make sense to me.”

Q: You’ve mentioned that you’re partial to the song Something You’ve Lost. Why? And why wasn’t that the single?

A: I don’t know. It’s just this big, super sad ballad about kind of the ontological state of longing … when you sort of love someone and you don’t want them to ever die. To some extent I think it’s about this personal journey I went on to arrive at that point because at some point, if your life’s not working for you, you have to make a lot of changes and there’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into that for the sake of even having that love in the first place.

Q: It was announced without much explanation that bassist Noah Harmon was fired in August, and fans are wondering if he’ll come back or if he has anything to do with this album.

A: He has nothing to do with this record. I really doubt he’ll ever come back. The thing with Noah is we let him go for a reason, obviously, and we feel like it’s disrespectful to give (that reason) a public airing. It just disrespects his contributions to the band, and I respect the contributions he made to the band too much to drag out something. … Obviously he was let go and that’s all anybody needs to know about it. We wish him well and it’s actually totally like an amicable thing, everybody nodded heads and it’s fine.

KPCC Radio interviewed Mikel on release day; the full audio can be found on their website. Some of the key takeaways:

On “California,” co-written by Linda Perry: We sat in this big huge studio for a while and we threw melodies back and forth and nothing really stuck. And then I got kind of dizzy because I was feeling light headed, because I didn’t eat or something. And so we went into the kitchen… and she like offered me some food and we sat. And then she’s like, ‘Well what do you think about this?’ And she played this little, I wanna say eight seconds of a melody that had a little line about California. And it was like, oh we got something there!… And we just sat there in the kitchen. Multi-million dollar studio and of course we’re in the kitchen writing… I wanted to write a song that kind of dealt with this daydream of a place that kind of turned into a nightmare, then existed simultaneously as both.

On “The Fall of Rome”: It’s a very personal song. It was written for a person who I was with for a long time, and kind of about what it’s like to try and have a relationship in the midst of a rock and roll life style where you’re gone at a year at a time. And there’s so much headiness to it. It’s romantic… I think she really liked it. I would write songs about her. Or write songs that she particularly enjoyed. And she hated that I’d be gone. And there’s all kinds of stresses that are put onto the relationship… You say the fall of Rome about things that are these massive events… And you know, I think in the song it’s used as a device to, this sort of emotional weight that a relationship can carry in your life… You look back on certain points in your life and you’re like, oh my god, that was a whole thing and when it ended, it was like the fall of Rome. Like, everything in my life changed overnight because me and this person were no longer together.

Last but certainly not least was Tuesday’s Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session, in which Mikel, Anna Bulbrook and Steven Chen fielded questions from fans. The biggest news to emerge was the promise of future bombastic videos to come. Read a full recap here, courtesy of Tim da Monkey.

Dope Reviews

The band fully expected mixed reviews for Dope Machines and, well, that’s exactly what they got. Below are the good, the bad and the ugly. (And incidentally, check out our takes on Dope Machines and Songs of God and Whiskey.)

AXS: “Dope Machines, the fourth album from the seasoned LA quintet, is an endeavor that artistically surpasses the group’s previously praised material. It sheds a light on the human spirit in more ways than one, which translates to a listening experience that is as irrefutably enjoyable as it is entirely moving.”

Planit Sauk Valley: “Give credit to The Airborne Toxic Event for the change of direction. But with “Dope Machines” the band has plotted a safe course that doesn’t take the listener anywhere truly awful, but doesn’t take them anywhere particularly interesting, either.”

Substream: “Many may view the group’s abandonment of their indie-rock swagger and layered strings with disdain, but truth be told, the group had worn the sound out.  While the TATE of old will be missed, it’s hard to imagine them improving that sound much after Such Hot Blood. The band should be praised for not producing a hollow imitation of their first two albums.  After all, what TATE fan didn’t at one point wish the band could take over writing pop songs? Dope Machines may not be quite novel, but when viewed independently of expectations from previous releases the album showcases some decent pop songwriting.”

Buzzbands LA: “On their fourth album, the Airborne Toxic Event continues to commodify mawkishness — no worries, there’s still a big market for it — with 10 earworms about hurting or being hurt, leaving or being left, wanting or being wanted.

Zachary Houle: “Already, if you were to look at the Amazon reviews for Dope Machines, fans of the band are crowing about the fact that the formerly orchestral group has moved in a much more electronic and synth-pop direction. I suppose it’s like watching your favourite drama suddenly become a comedy. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Dope Machines pretty acutely rotoscopes the sound of the early ‘80s a la Depeche Mode, and just updates it to current pop standards a la a Katy Perry. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’ll concede that this stuff is pretty damn catchy… However, the real surprise is actually the surprise release, Songs of God and Whiskey. TATE wasn’t content with being merely pigeon-holed in the pop bubble, so they went out and made an, wait for it, Americana record and a really good one at that. It’s one with, of course, Biblical overtones, particularly on “Poor Isaac” and “Cocaine and Abel”, the record’s first two tracks. You might find this strange, and it’s probably not because Dope Machines is the commercial record and Songs is not, but Songs is the better album of the two.”

The Airborne Toxic Event, CaliforniaDope Single

It hasn’t been officially announced, but it appears that “California” will be the next single from Dope Machines. Some physical copies of the album were adorned with a sticker that read, “Includes singles ‘Wrong’ and ‘California,'” and the song started getting added to Adult Contemporary playlists this week (which would be a new frontier for the band). The image seen here, attached to the song on YouTube, appears to be the single artwork.

Dope Site

The Airborne Toxic Event’s official website got a Dope makeover earlier this week, with a clean new look that mirrors the Dope Machines aesthetic and imagery. Content-wise, everything remains the same (including a biography that is at least two years overdue for a rewrite), with one exception: the forum is no more. Definitely sad to see it go, but we can hardly fault the decision with the activity level having dropped dramatically in recent years as fans took their conversations to social media instead.

Dope Contest

Several months back, TATE fans propelled Anna to the crown in Radio 104.5’s Best Tambourine Player poll. The station is at it again, this time inviting fans to vote on their favorite Radio 104.5 Studio Session from 2009. The Airborne Toxic Event is in the finals, where it’s locked in a death match with Better Than Ezra. As of this writing, the bands are deadlocked, 50/50. Let’s put our band over the top! Voting closes at the end of the weekend; vote as often as you can.

Dope Pics

On Wednesday the band celebrated the new albums with a free show at LA’s Amoeba Music. Check out the photos here.

Dope (Toxic) Gold

Last Saturday night, The Airborne Toxic Event was featured on PromoWest Live, a weekly show that airs in Pittsburgh and Columbus after Saturday Night Live. The segment is not online at this time, but here’s a teaser.

We’ll let you know if the full show becomes available. If you caught the broadcast, we’d love to hear about it!

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.

By Glen

“We’re kind of genre-less. I think we play lots of styles of music… We’re musicians in the purest sense in that we’re not stuck to a genre. We just like music. If we liked polka, we’d probably play polka.”
– Mikel Jollett

The Airborne Toxic Event, Dope MachinesFor almost a year now, Mikel Jollett of The Airborne Toxic Event has been hinting at/warning of/ardently proclaiming a radical change in direction for the band’s fourth studio album, Dope Machines. He has been at once aware that some fans may not like it (“If people aren’t mad about this next record, I’ll feel like I failed”), chagrined that anyone would object to an artist breaking new artistic ground (“I find it really weird that people can’t wrap their head around the fact that as a musician you would want to make more than one type of music”), unapologetically defiant (“People keep asking us, are you a rock band, a folk band, an electronic band? The answer is, fuck off!”) and, above all, certain of his course (“This isn’t what The Airborne Toxic Event is supposed to be; this is who we are”).

On one occasion Jollett famously declared, “I kind of want to destroy the sound of the band. That’s kind of my goal on this next record, is just completely explode any expectations we or anyone else has about what we sound like;” on several others he likened the magnitude of the shift from Such Hot Blood to Dope Machines to the transformation that Radiohead undertook between The Bends and OK Computer.

And make no mistake: the musical makeover of TATE is significant. But just as noteworthy as the sounds emanating from the speakers is the means by which they came to be.

Even more than the style, some longtime Airborne listeners were concerned over early indications that the fourth album would be made with less direct involvement on the part of the other band members than previous TATE recordings. Take, for example, this comment from Jollett’s interview with Darren Rose last spring: “There’s not going to be a ton of drumming on the next record. I mean, Daren’s gonna definitely play a bunch of stuff, but we’re gonna sort of mix it together with stuff that’s programmed.”

The genesis of Dope Machines involved Jollett holing himself up in a room and writing a ton of music. Of course, that was true of the first three albums as well. But this time, rather than taking his solo work as a starting point and building upon that foundation with his bandmates, Jollett instead emerged from his cocoon with what he felt at the time was a near-finished product, and confidence that he had achieved what he had set out to do. As he said in the interview referenced above:

“When I sit down to write something, in a few days I can get really close to what a finished product is gonna sound like. And doing that has forced me to make a lot more choices that I used to leave up to chance… I’m producing the next record, completely; I’m not even bringing in another producer at all, and it’s forced me to make choices that I wouldn’t normally have had to make. It’s also massively meticulous, every single effect, every single thing, trying to get it right. But then what’s good about that is I really have to own it; I really have to think through what I want this thing to sound like.

“That’s how I’m doing this record. It’s really close to done. And I don’t want to reproduce it in some expensive, fancy studio in Nashville… I want it to sound like how I want it to sound, ’cause whatever decision I made at 3 am after ten hours of wrestling with how a kick drum should sound at this part of a song, or how much reverb the vocals should have or what the compression rate should be on the fuckin’ keyboard or whatever it is, I trust that decision. I don’t want to redo it later, and I don’t want someone else to redo it.”

That Jollett stuck to his guns to a great extent is evident not only in the sound of the album (particularly the first half, where traditional guitars, violas and drums are shelved in favor of electronic synths, layered Jollett vocals and programmed drum machines) but also in the credits, which, unusually for TATE, name a number of guest contributors. Included in the list of helping hands are John K. Morrical, Jr., Math Bishop and Miguel Devivo, who all added keyboards to a number of tracks, as well as guest background vocalists Kenny Soto (“One Time Thing,” “Dope Machines” and “Time to be a Man”), Arnae Batson (“Dope Machines”) and Audra Mae (“California”).

Having said that, nine months have passed since Jollett’s initial revelations: three quarters of a year that included the official addition of a new band member, signing to a new label (Epic Records) and road testing the new material. To what extent these developments impacted the finished product, only those in the inner circle know, but the betting here is that Dope Machines evolved a great deal between then and now.

And now that it has in fact landed, what to make of the long-awaited, much-debated release?

As expected, the willingness of any given listener to leave their preconceived notions of how TATE is “supposed” to sound at the door may very well inform their response to the finished product. Though it’s true that, as Jollett has said, “our core fans that are really familiar with the breadth of things that we’ve done won’t be terribly surprised,” it’s also entirely likely that much of what initially drew any given fan to the band will be difficult to recognize on this release, if it’s there at all.

If some find themselves unable to get past what isn’t found on Dope Machines, it is both understandable and regrettable.

Understandable, because TATE BDM (Before Dope Machines) remains undeniably special. A violin in a rock song, lyrics that were obviously penned by a novelist and not a songsmith, and, yes, a supremely talented original bassist – all these elements and more have contributed to something that is truly unique in the 21st Century musical landscape, and no one wants to lose it.

Regrettable, though, because those who allow themselves to look beyond the past will find in Dope Machines the thrill of new discovery, a familiar voice speaking in fresh tones, a band that is resolute in its collective refusal to be hemmed in by anyone’s expectations, and a vastly broadened musical landscape that leaves the future wide open. If The Airborne Toxic Event was difficult to pigeonhole before, they are impossible now; where they go from here is anyone’s guess.

“We are not a franchise,” insists Jollett. “We’re artists. We’re just a group of musicians playing music. Sometimes that music is on acoustic guitars and sometimes it is on a bunch of crazy keyboards. Being an artist – you make stuff that makes the hair on your neck stand up. Sometimes that means a whispering folk song and sometimes that means a bunch of loud dance instruments.”

This time out, it means the latter. From bouncy lead single “Wrong,” to the funky earworm that is “One Time Thing,” to the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink aural adventure of a title track and on through the dreamy soundscape of the second half of the album, the language of choice is electronica.

But that doesn’t mean that The Airborne Toxic Event will never whisper again. Look no further than the bombshell the band dropped yesterday: a second, surprise album to be released concurrently with Dope Machines, an acoustic rock ‘n’ roll record called Songs of God and Whiskey. Featuring the already-beloved “The Fall of Rome,” which is as raw and poignant as anything in the TATE catalog, this unexpected gift should lay to rest any concerns that the Airborne of old, whatever that means, has been put to rest. (Note: we’ll have a full review of Songs of God and Whiskey on Tuesday.)

Even apart from this welcome news, the closing track of Dope Machines, “Chains,” serves as reassurance that everything we have come to love about the band remains alive and well amongst the new dimensions that have been added to their sound. After nine songs devoid of most classic TATE fundamentals, the grand finale rings in with the familiar chime of Steven Chen’s guitar, channeling the Edge in all his reverb glory. Daren Taylor’s drums thump loud and pure. And then, with barely two minutes to go, Anna Bulbrook’s breathless viola finally shows its face, almost as if to say with a wink, “You didn’t think we’d forgotten about her, did you?” And so this chapter comes to an end with an exquisite blend of old and new.

I can no more rank my favorite Airborne album than I can choose among my four children. To try would be a fool’s errand at the best of times, much less mere hours after adding a shiny new toy to the collection. But I will say this much: Dope Machines is the catchiest release of the band’s career to date, and it is certainly their boldest and in many ways most compelling step since their debut album. It can stand proudly alongside its predecessors, and may just provide a doorway for new listeners to discover their delights.

It may be different, but The Airborne Toxic Event has done it again.

Dope Machines: Track by Track

Wrong: The lead track and first single was a guitar-infused live favorite weeks before the polished, electro-pop studio version raised eyebrows across TATE nation. What the recording sacrifices in visceral punch, it makes up for in sheer danceability, setting the stage for an album full of surprises.

One Time Thing: After three weeks with this song on near-constant repeat and not even close to wearing out its welcome, I’m about ready to declare “One Time Thing” the most addictive TATE song of all time. Mikel Jollett insists that he did not set out to write radio hits, but he might very well have succeeded in doing so nevertheless. Propelled by a distorted, staccato bassline, this tale of misplaced romantic longing really catches fire in the second half.

Dope Machines: The title track is the shortest on the album, but it packs a ton of noise into its 3:17. Seemingly a half beat slower than the live version to which we’ve become accustomed, “Dope Machines” is a wicked combination of screechy guitar and shrill synths that rocks harder than any TATE release since “Welcome to Your Wedding Day.” There are so many competing elements going on at once that it seems like it shouldn’t work – and yet it does.

California: If “Dope Machines” seems slightly slower on the album than it does live, “California” seems sped up. On tour, the ode to the real face of the band’s home state is played straight down the middle as a crowd-pleasing, brisk ballad that would’ve been right at home on Such Hot Blood. The studio recording has more pep in its step, with electronic embellishments giving it a slicker feel. Notably, “California” marks the first time Jollett has shared songwriting credits with someone outside of the band (Linda Perry).

Time to Be a Man: “Time to Be a Man” is an odd amalgamation, marrying some of the most experimental moments on the album to an uncharacteristically conventional chorus that conjures images of a sea of cell phones (or lighters, given the nostalgic feel) waving in unison in a darkened arena. After opening with 20 seconds of bleeps and bloops that give off a sort of carnival-meets-eighties-video-game vibe, the song settles into a mainstream radio mode that sits a little uncomfortably on TATE. On the plus side, the song gives Bulbrook a chance to shine brightly with a dramatic vocal interlude.

Hell and Back: Originally released in the fall of 2013 as part of the Dallas Buyers Club soundtrack, the unexpected hit song established the blueprint for Dope Machines. At the time it seemed like a major departure, with its synth underbelly and electronic drumbeats. But after a year and a half as a rowdy live staple and presented within the context of an album that pushes the envelope much further, it actually comes across now as something of a throwback to old-time TATE – particularly the Changing-esque stomp of a chorus.

My Childish Bride: The tone of the album shifts dramatically from the opening drone of “My Childish Bride,” the first in a trilogy of downbeat, introspective numbers with subtle instrumentation (electronic and otherwise). “Bride” is set against a crisp background of what sounds like hand claps, which interestingly fits with Jollett’s original (and ultimately abandoned) vision for Airborne’s previous album, Such Hot Blood. Steven Chen is credited as a co-writer, and the writers’ lyrical proficiency steps to the forefront with clever, clipped phrasing.

The Thing About Dreams: Were you to drop straight into the chorus of this moody ballad, you would never guess it to be an Airborne song, however familiar with the band you may be. Delivered in an appropriately dreamy falsetto that reaches higher notes than one would expect a baritone like Jollett to hit, the refrain is bookended by plodding yet purposeful verses backed by sweeping, ethereal vocals reminiscent of the Bulbrook-fronted “Come Unwound” by The Bulls. The thing about “The Thing About Dreams” is that it ushers the listener into yet another heretofore unexplored dimension of the band.

Something You Lost: Jollett has identified “Something You Lost” as his favorite track on the album, and it’s not difficult to see why. Completing the trifecta of atmospheric reflections, the song is in no hurry to get where it’s going – each line delivered with intentional precision and increasing passion, as Jollett pleads with his lover to stay by his side. “Something You Lost” immediately takes its place among The Airborne Toxic Event’s most affecting pieces.

Chains: TATE 2.0 meets TATE 1.0. From Column A: Jollett’s vocals doubled or even tripled up over top of subtle synth undertones. From Column B: propulsive guitar riffs, live drums and a show-stopping (if brief) viola solo. In typical TATE fashion, the composition gradually ramps up in urgency before bursting into full-fledged anthem mode, transporting the listener to “a place with no center and no edge and no end.”

Click here to purchase Dope Machines from iTunes.

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.

Toxicity 61

Posted: February 13, 2015 in Toxicity
Tags: , , ,
Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event hides out behind his old fashioned drum kit in Vancouver. Photo by Creative Copper Images.

Daren Taylor of The Airborne Toxic Event hides out behind his old fashioned drum kit in Vancouver. Photo by Creative Copper Images.

By Glen

With only about ten days standing between us and The Airborne Toxic Event’s Dope Machines, Camp TATE has been eerily quiet over the past week. Whereas previous releases have been rung in with bombastic videos, TV appearances and a string of performances around the big day, it looks like we’re in for a more low key drop this time out (barring any late surprises, which of course is always possible). That said, expect things to ramp up over the next week. Is it too much to hope for an advance stream of the full album to pop up soon, as happened a few days before Such Hot Blood hit store shelves? We’re keeping our ears peeled.

Release Festivities

That’s not to say nothing’s happening. The biggest news this week was the announcement of a free TATE gig and album signing at Amoeba Music Hollywood on Feb. 25, the day after Dope Machines comes out. From the sounds of it, the performance is open to one and all, but if you want to get in on the signing, you’ll need to purchase the cd or vinyl in store starting on the 24th – and be among the first 200 to do so.

Detective Julie dug up one other release day opportunity: an as-yet unannounced Ask Me Anything (AMA) session with The Airborne Toxic Event on Reddit, evidently scheduled for Feb. 24 at 11 am PT. Get your questions ready!

U.K. Delay?

We were alerted yesterday by some U.K. readers that they had received notices of a delay to their Dope Machines pre-orders. Sure enough, both the Amazon and iTunes stores in the U.K. are now showing an album release date of April 6. All other European and North American vendors continue to list dates on or around Feb. 24, so whatever this is, it seems to only be affecting our unlucky U.K. friends. We haven’t been able to get confirmation on whether this is a miscommunication or the album has truly been delayed in that market, but we will certainly let you know if we hear anything.

Behind the Scenes of “Wrong”

If you weren’t one of the chosen few who got a free pass inside the Ogden Theatre to participate in the early-November video shoot for “Wrong,” you can now get a taste of what you missed. Daniel Beahm was invited to film the action, and he has just released a fast-paced retrospective of the fun. The highlight has got to be Steven Chen failing to land his dramatic leap from the riser at the 3:19 mark.

 

In Defense of Electronica

It’s not strictly TATE-related, but in light of the ongoing debate amongst fans over the band’s shift to electronically-produced music for their latest effort, David Day’s impassioned defense of the form is well worth a read. He makes a compelling case:

But, you see, at some point the bassoon was the latest musical technology. There was a time when musicians thought perhaps that “Bassoons Have No Soul.” I understand the impetus and I have an appreciation for nearly all types of music. But if we don’t change this attitude, we could have a future where no one appreciates music, or that music is not as relevant as it once was … And that frightens me.

As time passes, things change. That’s why we like life, that is the very essence of life: change. It might even be the reason we are alive: To change.

…No instrument has a soul. It’s the person that makes it so.

A Defining Album

Blogger That Music Junkie tackled the impossible task of creating a list of 20 Albums That Should Be in Your Library, selected not on the basis of greatness per se, but on importance. Clocking in at #20:

20. “The Airborne Toxic Event” by The Airborne Toxic Event. This is one of those albums that you can just listen to all the way through time and again. The Airborne Toxic Event is compiled of a group of the most talented musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. At any given point they’ll swap instruments, or randomly do an acoustic set mid-show. I saw them live at the Fox Theater in Pomona, CA. back in 2009, and that remains one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. And this is the album that started it all for them.

Toxic Gold

And finally, while this may not be for the religiously sensitive, pairing “Poor Isaac” with the Brick Testament was a stroke of genius.

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.