The Cairo Gang: Untouchable [Album Review]

The Cairo Gang
GOD? Records [2017]

Album Review: Untouchable is the first Cairo Gang lp that I would say is top to bottom great. Now don’t get me wrong, Emmett Kelly has made some damn fine albums under the Cairo Gang moniker, but Untouchable is the one for me for sure. I don’t know if it’s because it sounds more live (it was cut live in the studio with overdubs added later) or if it because Ty Segall brings an added element to the music with his production touches and his always welcome drumming, or if it’s because Kelly just had a really kickass batch of songs this time out. Most likely, it’s all of those, so why should I overthink it, right?

Clocking in at right around 30 minutes, these 8 songs embody the spirit of such classic bands as the Byrds, the Velvet Underground and Love, without ever sounding derivative of those bands. Untouchable moves Emmett Kelly to the head of the class, and elevates Cairo Gang to the level of contemporaries such as Mikal Cronin, Ty Segall, John Dwyer, and Tim Presley. Heck he was already up there with those guys talent wise, but maybe now the secret will break out to a larger audience! Check out the track “In The Heart of Her Heart” and tell me I’m wrong, I dare ya!

The Cairo Gang Website
The Cairo Gang Facebook
GOD? Records

– Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter

Grandaddy: Last Place [Album Review]

Last Place
30th Century Records [2017]

Fire Note Says: After a decade long hiatus, Grandaddy returns with Last Place, and it sounds like they never left.

Album Review: Grandaddy main man, Jason Lytle, never really went away; he just parked his main car (Grandaddy) in the garage for the better part of a decade, while he took a solo career out for a spin. While his two solo records were good, both Yours Truly, The Commuter and Dept. of Disappearance, left longtime fans yearning for Lytle to pull the Grandaddy car back out of the garage and drive it around for a while. A brief stint in the short-lived Admiral Radley project, which also included Grandaddy bandmate Aaron Burtch continued to fuel the hunger for a reunion. After kicking the tires briefly in 2012 and 2013 for a reunion tour, there was hope for a full scale comeback, but that began to fade as time passed. When it was finally announced in 2016, during another reunion tour, that there was indeed a new album in the works; Grandaddy fans the world over rejoiced at the news.

The best Grandaddy songs tend to settle into a laid back groove that fits the yearning and often nostalgic nature of the lyrics perfectly. Throw in some synths and talk about Jed the Humanoid and you pretty much have nailed the classic Grandaddy sound. Will Last Place, the first Grandaddy album since Just Like The Fambly Cat was released in 2006, bear the trademark sounds of classic Grandaddy, or will it sound like something else entirely? I’m here to tell you that Last Place sounds EXACTLY like any fan of the band would want the record to sound. As he did on Fambly Cat, Lytle plays the majority of the instruments on the album himself, and he really locks in the sound. Each instrument fits perfectly into place, fully realizing each note and sonic detail that Lytle must have heard in his head as he was dreaming up these songs.

To my ears (which are by no means definitive) Last Place sounds the most like Sumday, the criminally underrated follow-up to the band’s breakthrough lp, The Sophtware Slump. Clocking in at roughly 44 minutes, the 12 songs on Last Place are beautifully sequenced and paced. As good as the first half of the album is (and believe me its real good but more on that in a second), I felt myself really getting sucked into the second half of the album, which packs a real emotional punch. Starting with “I Don’t Want To Live Here Anymore” the album sinks into a beautiful melancholia that wraps you up like a blanket and doesn’t let go of you. The two best songs on the album for me though are “This Is The Part” and “A Lost Machine” both songs are painfully sad and gorgeous but remind you that there is indeed comfort in being sad. The first half of the album opens up with “Why We Won’t” which when you hear it, immediately perks up your ears and makes you think “Aha, this is the Grandaddy I was hoping for”. “Brush With The Wild” has a great lead guitar line that reappears throughout the song and takes it from your standard run of the mill Grandaddy song and elevates it to the next level. The first half of the record is the Grandaddy record you wanted, but the second half of the record is the Grandaddy you NEEDED. That’s what I dig the most about this album, it builds to an emotional climax. It is quite a ride and one worth taking over and over. Welcome back, Grandaddy!

Key Tracks: “This Is The Part” / “A Lost Machine”/ “Why We Won’t”

Artists With Similar Fire: Flaming Lips / Pond / Sparklehorse

Grandaddy Website
Grandaddy Facebook
30th Century Records

– Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter

Ty Segall: Ty Segall [Album Review]

Ty Segall
Ty Segall
Drag City Records [2017]


Fire Note Says: Segall delivers one of the best albums of his career.

Album Review: Opening with the thunderous guitar riff of “Break a Guitar” it is immediately obvious that Ty Segall is going to be a pretty special album. Last year’s Ty Segall offering Emotional Mugger seemed to not stick with listeners as long as his previous albums had. While certainly a very good album, it was missing something that we couldn’t quite put our finger on. Perhaps sensing that he needed to change things up a bit, Ty assembled his band along with Cairo Gang’s Emmett Kelly, and headed to the studio to record Ty Segall as a band (with Steve Albini engineering), and not just by himself which has been his normal modus operandi. The results of this collaboration on Ty Segall are flat out staggering.

Ty Segall is an adventurous album; it’s not a full blown garage psych freak-out like Slaughterhouse was, though it certainly has moments that could be characterized as such. Nor is it a quiet reflective T Rex inspired album like Sleeper was, though it certainly has some elements of that as well. Ty Segall sounds like a full band version of Twins, Ty’s Headphone Approved masterpiece from 2012. At the time, we called Twins, Ty Segall’s best album, and it was, only to be surpassed by Manipulator in 2014. Manipulator is one of the only times I have ever dished out a fiver for a review, in my eyes, an album has to be an absolute all timer to get that score, and I still stand behind the Manipulator fiver. Having said that, Ty Segall doesn’t really remind me of Manipulator, though it does comes close to equaling it.

“Break a Guitar” is scuzzy garage rock at its finest. Huge guitar riffs that threaten to crush everything in its path paired with a screeching solo and catchy melody make this an absolute perfect single. “Warm Hands” clocking in at nearly 10:30 is the centerpiece of the album. In this 10 minute suite which is very prog like in its structure, you hear everything that Ty and the band do well, it opens with a T Rex-ian melody before shape shifting into a huge face melting rocker, then shifting again into a psychedelic workout, before shifting back into a rocker, and closing a mellow jam. By my count that is 5 major song transitions, a feat that is both impressive and hard to pull off. Bandmate Mikal Cronin was able to pull off something similar on the second side of his last lp, MCIII, so I’m not sure if that influenced the band to try something this epic, but whatever the reason, the results are stunning. “Orange Color Queen” is a gorgeous ballad that once again shows off the fact that Segall comes up with some incredible melodies, a fact that can sometimes get lost on listeners while throwing up a rock fist in the air. Ty Segall is another in a long line of truly remarkable albums, just when you think the guy might be slowing down he hits another one out of the park. This one sits comfortably in the top three of his discography for me; it just might for you as well.

Key Tracks: “Warm Hands” / “Break a Guitar” / “Orange Color Queen”

Artists With Similar Fire: White Fence / Mikal Cronin / Thee Oh Sees

Ty Segall Website
Ty Segall Facebook
Drag City Records

– Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter

Drive-By Truckers: American Band [Album Review]

drive-by-american-band Drive-By Truckers
American Band
ATO Records [2016]

Fire Note Says: Politically charged album from one of America’s best bands!

Album Review: It has been said that the only two things in life you can count on are death and taxes. Well I’m saying there are at least three things, death, taxes, and Drive-By Truckers. The band is back with their newest album, American Band, and to the surprise of no one, it’s good, damn good. The album is sequenced in such a way so that it feels like a back and forth between the two main songwriters, Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood. Cooley has the majority of the harder rockers, such as album opener “Ramon Casiano” and “Surrender Under Protest”, and it’s quite clear that he’s pretty pissed off at the state America is in right now. Hood mines the same sweet spot musically that he has been hitting on the past few DBT albums and on his on excellent solo album, Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance. Hood’s songs are slower and more somber in tone, and provide an excellent counter balance to the fiery Cooley tracks. Hood’s “Guns of Umpqua” has my vote for most powerful and devastating song of the year, and is one of the finest tracks the band has ever recorded.

The band really seems to have found a new energy that started with 2014’s English Oceans and has carried on through last year’s massive triple live lp It’s Great to Be Alive, and now with American Band. It’s no secret that the band went through a number of lineup changes in the past decade, but the band right now, is firing on all cylinders once again. Patterson Hood gets a lot of the attention, and has often been seen by many as the leader of the band, but Cooley has really stepped up his songwriting and playing, and the band is at its absolute best when the two are on equal footing, playing off of each other’s styles and personality. They really push each other, and American Band sounds like they are really getting off on each other’s songs and trying to outdo the other, pushing the band to greatness at the same time.

American Band is not only one of the finest albums of the year; it’s also one of the most important. Give it a listen!

Key Tracks: “Guns of Umpqua” / “Surrender Under Protest” / “Ramon Casiano”

Artists With Similar Fire: Slobberbone / Dexateens / Son Volt

Drive-By Truckers Website
Drive-By Truckers Facebook
ATO Records

– Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter

Ultimate Painting: Dusk [Album Review]

ultimate-painting-dusk Ultimate Painting
Trouble In Mind Records [2016]

Fire Note Says: London duo take another leap forward on their third lp.

Album Review: Jack Cooper and James Hoare, better known as Ultimate Painting, are back with their third album, Dusk, which is 10 tracks of some of the finest guitar pop you are going to hear in this or any other year. Chewing up the same turf as bands like Television, Yo La Tengo, and Luna, and influenced by the majestic third lp from The Velvet Underground, Ultimate Painting will make your head spin as you try and follow along with the jangly guitars as they spiral around and weave in and out of the melody. It’s great stuff, and I don’t know quite honestly if anybody is doing it better right now.

Dusk is a laid back affair, the tracks flow together very well, often blending together into a cohesive whole. The 10 songs often blur together so much that you aren’t always aware that one has ended and another has begun. The duo create a mood that is meditative, serene, subtle, yet never boring. The songs seemed designed to let your mind wander a bit as they provide the soundtrack to your own thoughts, pulling you back in at times and at other times allowing you to float off into the ether.

It’s amazing to me that the duo of Cooper and Hoare, accompanied by drummer Melissa Rigby on the album, are able to create such an amazingly lush record with such simple and unadorned instrumentation. The vocals on songs “Bills” and “A Portrait of Jason” just seem to float on top of the music, it’s quite beautiful, and a real joy to listen to (think of Teenage Fanclub and you are in the right ballpark). To my ears, Dusk is a step up from their last album, Green Lanes, which I also really liked. I feel like this band is setting on a masterpiece soon, Dusk isn’t quite that masterpiece, but it’s a damn good record and one that points to even better things coming, and at the pace they have been releasing records, it will be coming soon!

Key Tracks: “Bills” / “A Portrait of Jason” / “Lead the Way”

Artists With Similar Fire: Yo La Tengo / Luna / Teenage Fanclub

Ultimate Painting Website
Ultimate Painting Twitter
Trouble In Mind Records

– Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter

Ghost Wave: Radio Norfolk [Album Review]

ghost-wave Ghost Wave
Radio Norfolk
Flying Nun Records [2016]

Fire Drill Album Review: Ghost Wave hails from New Zealand and is on Flying Nun Records, home of The Clean, The Bats, The Verlaines, and the Chills to name only a few. Flying Nun is a legendary label is what I’m trying to say, they are a label you can trust, if they put it out, it’s going to be good. So is Ghost Wave worthy of being on the label? OH ABSOLUTELY THEY ARE! Radio Norfolk, their second album, is even better than their debut, Ages. While Ages was heavier on the guitar, Radio Norfolk is moodier, more atmospheric, song structures are longer, and you need a bit more patience to let the record unfold. There is more drone than jangle on this album, which makes perfect sense for an album featuring a nearly 8 minute song “Spaceman” undoubtedly a tribute to the legendary Spaceman 3, whose own Sonic Boom mastered the album to give it an even more authentic feel. I like the direction the band has taken with Radio Norfolk, it feels less like a straight homage to the past than Ages did. It takes the best part of the kiwi sound and blends it together with drone and some serious krautrock influence to create a really great psychedelic pop experience.

Ghost Wave Website
Ghost Wave Facebook
Flying Nun Records

– Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter

The Brotherhood Of Lizards: Lizardland – The Complete Works [Album Review]

botherhood-of-lizards The Brotherhood Of Lizards
Lizardland: The Complete Works
Captured Tracks [2016]

headphone approved reissue

Fire Note Says: Captured Tracks unearths another gem from Martin Newell of Cleaners from Venus.

Album Review: I have to confess, I had no idea that The Brotherhood of Lizards was even a band, let alone a short-lived project featuring Martin Newell of Cleaners From Venus fame! Recently reissued by Captured Tracks (who also did the immaculate Cleaners From Venus reissues) Lizardland collects all of the works the band, which consisted of Martin Newell and Peter Nice (known as Nelson), recorded in a brief 2-year timespan before disbanding in early 1990.

Of the two albums collected on this compilation, Lizardland is the real jewel. It’s a jangly neo-psych masterpiece of the highest order. It deserves to sit up there on the throne next to Underwater Moonlight by The Soft Boys, that’s how good it is. Fans of the Cleaners From Venus won’t be surprised by any of this, Newell isn’t rewriting his formula for catchy pop songs on the album, though the fidelity is upgraded a bit. Tracks like “It Could Have Been Cheryl” and “Dear Anya” would have fit comfortably on any late 80’s era Cleaners album. As a songwriter, Newell follows in the long tradition of English artists such as Davies, Hitchcock, Partridge, and Barrett, he paints quaint pictures with his words, and his melodies seem to be plucked from thin air, sophisticated yet totally mellow, as if you have heard the song your entire life. With the possible exception of his excellent solo album (produced by Andy Partridge), The Greatest Living Englishman, Lizardland might possibly be the best Newell album I have heard.

Even if the Lizardland album alone was the only thing being reissued, this would be an essential purchase, but there is more. Also included is the 9 track cassette only album that Newell and Nelson recorded in late 1988. These tracks are slightly rawer fidelity wise, but only slightly. More acoustic based and subdued, it’s still quite a fantastic listen and definitely interesting to hear that this duo was really on to something special from the get go. It’s great to see a somewhat forgotten chapter of a significant artist’s career finally get it’s due. Long live The Brotherhood of Lizards!

Key Tracks: “April Moon” / “It Could Have Been Cheryl” / “The Dandelion Marine”

Artists With Similar Fire: XTC / The Soft Boys / Guided By Voices

Captured Tracks

– Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter

Dinosaur Jr.: Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not [Album Review]

JAG285 Dinosaur Jr.
Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not
Jagjaguwar [2016]


Fire Note Says: Dino returns with an album full of face-melters and kickass blasters!

Album Review: J Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph, collectively known as Dinosaur Jr (you knew that already, and if you didn’t what the hell is wrong with you), are back with a great new album (this shouldn’t surprise you), their first in four years, Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not. Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not is their fourth album since Barlow and Murph rejoined the band in 2005. Each of the previous three records, Beyond (2007), Farm (2009), and I Bet On Sky (2012), were pretty great with most fans seeming to be split on either Farm or Beyond being the best of the bunch. I’m in the Beyond camp myself, that record just has that little something extra that you can’t quite describe that puts it on top for me, and together with You’re Living All Over Me (1987) and Green Mind (1991) forms the holy trinity of Dinosaur Jr albums for me. I’m here to tell you that this new record might be destined to knock one of those three out of the top spot, and If I’m being completely honest…it might be You’re Living All Over Me, crazy talk, I know, but that’s how good this new record is.

Give A Glimpse Of What Yer Not, starts off white hot right out of the gate. “Goin Down” is a classic Dino barn burner, smoking riff, throbbing bass, thunderous drums, only one band sounds like this. The fact that the song is super catchy is the icing on the cake, and J’s kick ass lead that dive bombs in with about 1:20 left will melt the icing on that cake, your face, and anything else in the general vicinity. It’s no big shocker that this album has J’s scorching leads all over it, I’m not even going to bother pointing them all out they are everywhere, you’ll hear them and you will nod your head in approval. What I would really like to rave about are Barlow and Murph. Murph’s drumming is top notch, his fills are incredible, he and Barlow are really locked in on this one, and this might be the best rhythm section currently in rock. Speaking of Barlow, his two songs, “Love Is…” and “Left/Right” just might be the best songs on the record, or perhaps it’s because they provide a perfect counterbalance to the 9 Mascis songs on the album.

At this point, the reunited classic Dinosaur Jr lineup has now recorded more albums than they did on their first go round. I don’t think any of us ever saw this coming when they announced they were reforming over a decade ago. They band that could only keep it together for a few short years originally has now held it together for over a decade. Let’s hope they keep going, because this is one of the great rock bands of all time, and this is one of their finest moments.

Key Tracks: “Goin Down” / “Left/Right” / “Good To Know”

Artists With Similar Fire: Milk Music / Connections / Yuck

Dinosaur Jr. Website
Dinosaur Jr. Facebook

– Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter

Steve Gunn: Eyes On The Lines [Album Review]

OLE-1090-SteveGunn_EyesOnTheLines-copy Steve Gunn
Eyes On The Lines
Matador Records [2016]

Fire Note Says: Gunn’s Matador debut is full of masterful psychedelic guitar groovers.

Album Review: Sometimes an album catches me off guard, or maybe it’s just that it catches me at just the right moment, and that album then dominates my listening for a month or so. Steve Gunn’s new album, Eyes On The Lines, is that album. Now truth be told, I own a few other Steve Gunn records, Time Off and Way Out Weather, and neither one of them really pumped my ‘nads like this new one is. Eyes On The Lines is certainly a more electric affair than the previous two records, for the most part jettisoning the acoustic guitars for a full frontal guitar attack. This is guitar work that fans of Television, Sonic Youth AND The Grateful Dead can get behind. It is fluid, intertwined, and constantly pushing to attain new heights. To make a long story short, it’s thrilling to listen to, and to try and anticipate where the music is going to take you next.

Reviews that break an album down track by track can get pretty stagnant to read and to write, so I’m going to tell you what this music feels like. It feels like summer, it feels like hanging out with your friends and having your favorite album on while you’re drinking some beers. It has a comfortable, confident vibe, and then suddenly you realize that it’s been twenty minutes and you haven’t said a word to anybody because you got lost in the guitar grooves that Gunn has been laying down. Finally someone says, “Holy shit man, are you hearing what I’m hearing, this rules” and you just smile and nod your head and take a big swig from your beer and quickly lose yourself in the music again.

This record reminds me of the Lee Ranaldo and The Dust record I reviewed a few years ago, except it’s better. Look, I’m not going to bullshit you here, you probably read all the time, “get this album”, “get that album”, “it’s great, you’re going to love it”. Whatever, more often than not I don’t love it, sometimes I just like it, and that’s cool, but I forget all about it after a few spins. Eyes On The Lines is not one of those records, it’s one of the ones that is going to stick with you. How do I know, you might ask? I know because I haven’t stopped playing it. Literally I have a stack of cds and a list of mp3’s waiting on me to get to them, but this one keeps throwing a giant block on them. Matador has a winner on their hands with this one.

Key Tracks: “Ancient Jules” / “Conditions Wild” / “Full Moon Tide”

Artists With Similar Fire: Kurt Vile / Sonic Youth / Grateful Dead

Steve Gunn Website
Steve Gunn Facebook
Matador Records

– Reviewed by Kevin Poindexter

His Name is Prince and He is Funky!

We at the Fire Note were absolutely devastated to learn of the passing of Prince at the age of 57. His impact is undeniable, his creativity, artistry and vision rank up there with the all-time greats. Not only was he for a time arguably the most popular artist in the world, he was also the best. He was the rare pop artist who wasn’t churning out product, he was creating art, not product. His records, self-produced and often with just him playing the music, were groundbreaking. His androgynous image, taking cues from Bowie and Bolan, was also groundbreaking. Not only was he playing with sexuality, but also race. “Am I black or white, am I straight or gay” as he famously asked in “Controversy.”

His accomplishments were numerous, number one hits, Grammys, an Academy Award, you name it, Prince accomplished it. He smashed through the race barrier on MTV and brought his controversial image and sexual charged songs right into the heartland of America in the early 80’s. His every video was hotly anticipated; everyone wanted to see what he would do next. But Prince followed his own muse, always recording and releasing what he wanted, and not doing the expected. He followed up his most popular album, Purple Rain, with a bizarre psychedelic pop album, Around The World In A Day, that delved deep into his own personal struggles with his self-created mythology and his inner spiritual battles. This was a conflict that would continue to play out for much of his career most famously when he shelved the completed Black Album a week before its release and instead recorded and released the religiously themed Lovesexy, almost as an act of contrition.

Prince’s battle with his record label were legendary, and came to a head with him dropping the name Prince and changing his name to the Love Symbol which graced the cover of his 1992 album as a way of escaping his contract which he dubbed as slavery. The symbol itself was a mixture of the traditional male and female symbol, once again highlighting that the now Artist formerly Known as Prince would not be defined as merely male or female, but he embraced both sexes. The Artist was now free to release music as often as he liked and celebrated with a sprawling triple cd set, Emancipation.

While he continued to release fine albums throughout the 2000’s he began to fade from the public eye, before his late career renaissance which saw the release of 4 albums in the last 18 months as well as wildly successful tours and culminating in his final solo tour which featured just him and a piano on stage. Prince was once again at the forefront of the music industry and his death came at a time when his every move was once again celebrated and anticipated.

His name is Prince and he is funky. He will be missed more than he could ever possibly know. I keep going back to the last song from one of his more underrated albums, 1986’s Parade:

Sometimes It Snows In April

Tracy died soon after a long fought civil war,
Just after I’d wiped away his last tear
I guess he’s better off than he was before,
A whole lot better off than the fools he left here
I used to cry for Tracy because he was my only friend
Those kind of cars don’t pass you every day
I used to cry for Tracy because I wanted to see him again,
But sometimes sometimes life ain’t always the way
Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last

Springtime was always my favorite time of year,
A time for lovers holding hands in the rain
Now springtime only reminds me of Tracy’s tears
Always cry for love, never cry for pain
He used to say so strong unafraid to die
Unafraid of the death that left me hypnotized
No, staring at his picture I realized
No one could cry the way my Tracy cried

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad
Sometimes, sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
And all good things, they say, never last

I often dream of heaven and I know that Tracy’s there
I know that he has found another friend
Maybe he’s found the answer to all the April snow
Maybe one day I’ll see my Tracy again

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
But all good things, they say, never last

All good things that say, never last
And love, it isn’t love until it’s past

May U live 2 see the dawn.

-feature by Kevin Poindexter

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