Hymie’s will be closed for one day, Sunday August 10th. It is the first day we’ve been closed (besides holidays) since moving. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.
This week our friends The Ericksons sent out the first single from their upcoming new album, Bring me Home, along with the artwork which will appear on the cover. It’s their fourth release, and the first to appear on vinyl as well as cd.
The Ericksons — Jenny Kapernick and Bethany Valentini — have appeared here at Hymie’s many times over the years, and their last two discs made our end of the year “top ten” list, so naturally we were excited to hear what direction they will take their unique, vocal harmony based music. We caught a set recently at the Soap Factory, an art gallery in Southeast which hosted the sisters as part of the awesome ongoing Live Letters series. Also performing that night was Ben Weaver, another mainstay of the Hymie’s block party and one of our favorite voices in the Twin Cities music scene (he will also have a new LP out in October, a project that Hymie’s has become involved with — more on that in the coming weeks). When Kapernick and Valentini began their performance, we were surprised to see keyboards on the stage, since the two are known to fans for their excellent guitar skills. We were fortunate enough to hear this new single, “My Love,” an unexpected and successful experiment, blending crisp electronic production with the Ericksons’ familiar intimacy.
The additional new songs we heard during their set at the Soap Factory fell into a more familiar form, with Kapernick and Valentini’s guitar playing as exceptional as ever, and the songs as sincere and evocative as any on The Wild. We are looking forward to hearing this next album, which will be released on October 3rd with a show at the Cedar Cultural Center.
If you missed the Hollow Boys LP release show at the Eagles Club last weekend, you’ll have another chance to see them this Saturday here in the record shop. Believe in Nothing is their third release, and is a much more fully-realized take on their self-described “gloom pop.”
In a City Pages feature (here) the band strikes a suitably gloomy pose and credits new bassist Cole Benson for bringing a new energy to the recordings that make up Believe in Nothing. Hollow Boys sound heavier and more driven, but the underlying pop to their melodies feels more carefully crafted. All of this is buoyed by improved production. Where the first single, “Melted,” sludges through familiar noise rock territory (sounding a little like local scene emigrés Is/Is, for instance), songs like “Spellbinder” lovingly recall those standards of gloominess, the Smiths. In fact, Ali Jaafar, who we though sounded strikingly like Texas crooner Alejandro Escoveda on It’s True, brings a good deal more Morrissey to his performance on those tracks.
You can hear their previous releases on a Bandcamp page here. Hymie’s still has a copy of It’s True, their LP on Modern Radio which was limited to 200 copies. We are out of their cassette though.
Despite its gloomy bearings, Believe in Nothing is a fun pop record, experimental in places and successful in that. The bridge between the two tracks above is spanned by several tracks that combine the jangly pop and the noisy rock. “Rue” follows an in-like-a-lamb, out-like-a-lion arc that is particularly enjoyable. Throughout, Hollow Boys sound very much like a band that’s just discovered itself, giving the new album the inspired feeling of a debut.
Hollow Boys will perform songs from Believe in Nothing here at Hymie’s on Saturday evening. White Boyfriend will play an opening set. Start time TBD — will update when that’s resolved.
Now that Sir Paul has likely packed up his giant sack of weed and left the Twin Cities, local music media will have to turn elsewhere to ease the doldrums of late summer. You’ve probably noticed we here at the Hymies blog haven’t been posting as often as we do in winter, relying from time to time on a rerun or two. It’s just really tough to spend a summer day inside recording records, or typing on a computer, when one could be walking the dog or riding a bike. To our credit we’ve got some fourteen hundred posts to pick from when we rerun something from the past, so it’s often new to some readers.
This morning we remembered a line by another Beatle, Paul’s longtime writing partner and sometime adversary, from one of his last recordings. In “I’m Steppin’ Out” he laments there’s “nothing doin’ on TV, summer repeats.” Yes, even a Beatle is bored by reruns.
The songs John had recorded for a follow-up to Double Fantasy were some of his most humorous and positive, even as they reflect various anxieties such as cabin fever in “I’m Steppin’ Out,” aging and death in “Borrowed Time” and fear for the future in “Nobody Told Me.” Yoko finished the album three years later, and to her credit left John’s mixes a little rough around the edges, complete with his silly asides. Her songs for the album, which is sequenced alternately as Double Fantasy had been, are good too, more nuanced than the stark and heartbreaking Season of Glass.
Milk and Honey is a strange album, fun and sad at the same time. Its first single, “Nobody Told Me,” was a song John had written for Ringo’s next album, Stop and Smell the Roses. It is the second time in a record he mentions his UFO sighting, which we first mentioned here on the Hymie’s blog four years ago. We suppose that’s the kind of thing you have to look for when there’s nothing doing on TV.
“Nobody Told Me”
The news is more terrifying every week this summer, so maybe we could use a little distraction. With the shocking death toll in Gaza, airplanes being shot out of the sky and ebola outbreaks on the front page, maybe Yoko’s “O Sanity” would be a better song to select.
Thanks for reading. If we’re all still here tomorrow we might post a rerun.
In light of Sir Paul’s visit to the Twin Cities tomorrow, we’d like to visit our favorite of the forty or so records he’s made since that band he started with all those years ago. And the perfect introduction to this album is, of course, a giant sack of weed. See, in January 1980 Paul McCartney was arrested by customs officials in Japan, who found nearly half a pound of weed in his luggage. After ten days he was released without charge. His second solo project was released later that year with what looks like a mug shot on the cover.
McCartney II is one of our favorite Beatles solo projects, if only because it is one of the haziest, dope-induced albums in our collection. We’ll forgive Sir Paul for also producing “Wonderful Christmastime” during these sessions, a song we declare to be unequivocally the worst three and a half minutes in the whole history of pop music – the album is otherwise magically fun, light-hearted as it is light-headed and a perfect antidote to the last couple of uninspired, bloated Wings albums. John Lennon, hardly a fan of Paul’s solo work, was said to have been inspired by its first single, “Coming Up,” crediting it with pushing him out of retirement.
We might have only heard these tracks as an oddball bootleg if it weren’t for Paul’s drug arrest in Japan, which grounded the Wings’ tour for Back to the Egg, an album even fans forget. Without the Wings, he dug out the home recordings he’d made the previous summer in Scotland and released them as his second solo album.
Collectors know that original US copies of McCartney II came with a one-sided bonus single, which featured the Wings performing “Coming Up” live in Scotland the previous year. Another thing to look for is the second single from this album, “Waterfalls,” because it’s backside has a McCartney II outtake that is one of the silliest things Sir Paul ever put to wax.
(“Check my Machine”)
If pressed, we’ll name “Check My Machine” as our favorite Paul McCartney track. It’s the first thing he recorded at his farm in Scotland with his new gear (hence the title) and combines elements of musique concrète with a lazy, dub-inspired beat and a banjo. Sir Paul scratches, sings falsetto and samples the time-clock punching sheepdogs from Looney Tunes. It seems unlikely he will perform this song on Saturday, but we can dream.
“Summer in the City” by the Lovin Spoonful
“Long Hot Summer Night” by Jimi Hendrix
“Storm King” by the Brian Just Band
“Last Hot Day of Summer” by Dan Newton
“June July and August” by Freddy Cannon
“Summer Days” by Bob Dylan
“Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer” by Nat King Cole
“Summer Ghost” by the White Whales
The soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever sold more than fifteen million copies by the end of the seventies — that’s enough records to fill every inch of our record shop, floor to ceiling, more than ten times. Crate digging collectors know it as one of the most ubiquitous albums of its era, though the album remains popular enough that copies reliably pass through nearly ever record shop in the country.
“Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees
Saturday Night Fever is synonymous with the disco era, with songs from the soundtrack, specifically “Stayin’ Alive,” a sort of pop culture shorthand. Many mistakenly assume the monstrously popular double LP was disco’s driving catalyst — on the contrary its success sustained its reign just as it seemed to be running its course.
Over the course of several years, the brothers Gibb had a hand in so many hits at the top of the charts that there grew an inevitable backlash: by 1980 “top 40″ stations were announcing “Bee Gee free weekends.” The Bee Gee’s sales never recovered — after absolutely ruling the world of pop music for a half decade, they wouldn’t see a single near the top of any chart again until 1989.
During the long and lean years after “Stayin’ Alive” the Bee Gees lamented the disco label they couldn’t shake. In the decade leading up to Saturday Night Fever the trio had produced a remarkably varied catalog, with everything from Stax-style southern soul (with “To Love Somebody,” said to be a song inspired by Otis Redding) to story-telling folk rock (“New York Mining Disaster 1941″) — these all appearing on their first LP issued outside Australia, Bee Gees 1st. “Sweetheart” on 1970s Cucumber Castle (this writer’s favorite Bee Gees album) felt for all purposes like a fine tune for Charlie Rich, while “IOIO” on the other side was their first foray into what we’d later call “world music” in the era of the Bee Gee’s commercial decline.
Such was the diversity of the Bee Gees’ music that they had a b-side which reached the top forty of the country charts in 1979, “Rest Your Love on Me.” The song was an outtake from Children of the World. Conway Twitty’s cover of it the following year was a #1 hit.
Still, the Bee Gees are inexorably entwined with the ambiguous legacy of disco, unable to re-invent themselves in the 90s as a certain actor somehow could — all due to their agreement to contribute five songs, which they had already recorded for what would have been the follow-up album to Children of the World, to a film project that didn’t even have a name or plot at the time. Saturday Night Fever is, of course, a great movie, if that’s what you’re into. Here at Hymie’s we’re defiantly low-brow in our taste for film, and we’d rather watch Airplane! with its parody scene in which John Travolta’s iconic dance move is not to “You Should be Dancing” as in Saturday Night Fever but a sped-up version of “Stayin’ Alive.”
The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack is surely one of the most-often parodied record jackets, lending to its camp charm. Look by the office door at Hymie’s and you’ll find a little image of MAD Magazine‘s Alfred E. Newman in a white suit displaying the familiar peacock stance from that first dance scene in the film. The most satisfyingly silly take on Saturday Night Fever was this 1977 Sesame Street LP in which Grover, Cookie Monster and the whole gang react to the fever sweeping the sweetest street on Earth.
“Sesame Street Fever”
Sesame Street Fever was a surprise hit, as was the Boston Pops’ Saturday Night Fiedler. You’ll find the latter in the “classical gasp” section here at Hymie’s. And then there’s whatever Ceppelin is. Your guess is as good as ours.
“Stayin’ Alive” by Ceppelin
What’s remarkable about “Stayin’ Alive” that’s lost in all these various parodies and re-recordings is its relentless drive, so perfectly suited to the song’s manic narrative. Take a CPR class and they’ll tell you it’s the perfect rhythm for chest compressions — it’s the beat of staying alive. Ironically, its a rhythm born out of death, specifically that of session drummer Dennis Byron’s mother. Without him to complete the recording session, the Bee Gees cut a break out of “Night Fever,” already recorded, and looped it — this is why the song has such an intense push. “Stayin’ Alive” is in a sense one of the earliest hip hop beats.On the soundtrack the drummer is credited as Bernard Lupe, a nod to jazz drummer Bernard Purdie. The former, fictional character, became a sought-after sideman in the years the followed.
Of course, Bernard Purdie may well have played the song at some point. Seems like everybody did for a little while there, even Lionel Hampton (the drummer on this 1978 album was Al Foster).
“Stayin’ Alive” by Lionel Hampton
“The Swimming Song” by Loudon Wainwright III
“Swimming” by Breathe Owl Breathe
“Nightswimming” by REM