Richard Buckner

Devotion and Doubt(Fontana/MCA 1997)

Yeah, anyone can sing a sad song, but some folks are so bruised that theirs wrap their arms around you and suck every ounce of empathy and rapport one can have with lyrics and a chorus. Ultimately, this is a subjective crapshoot since I once found the Ink Spots to be the saddest outfit in the known universe while others may sink to the bottom of their well whenever muzak plays in the elevator. Therefore, the following sentiments will most likely be tacked onto any number of albums in my future, but something keeps me coming back to Richard Buckner’s Devotion and Doubt these days. It’s like watching a disaster occurring in slow-motion on a static-ridden television.

Sadly, it was released during a time when the world hatched a genre called alt-country and a flock of earnest souls channeled their favorite country singers through the prism of indie-rock, punk and folk. To be honest, I still love Neko Case, Robbie Fulks and the first Ryan Adams album, but those are momentary passions that fall fainter by the year. However, the voice of Richard Buckner never fails me. Sometimes the instrumentation plays it safe, but he always suckers me in when spins a yarn about lost chances and grievous errors. Devotion and Doubt is full of these, and his romanticism about slowly spinning down the drain is kind of spell-binding.

The opening lines of “Roll” speak volumes about his mindset as he sings “We can rent a car tomorrow/and roll through all the thoughts we keep/but we’ll just end up disheveled/and and acting like we both don’t know/but as I go down please take care.” It is a celebration of bad decisions, yet he captures the tragedy to be found in one who embraces and woos the error of his or her ways. “4 am” adds to the hubris as it opens with Buckner singing “It’s a bruised and fallen sky/pressed all up against us/and its just as true far away/but I can be there by breakfast/if I just drive through to you/so as the past goes breaking by/where are you tonight?” There is an element of optimism and good intention, but it is balanced then toppled by a sense of abandon and a revelation that this ain’t going to be good for anyone when all is said and done. Then again, Devotion and Doubt chronicles his divorce from his wife, so these things are to be expected.

In short, he continues the legacy of his Lubbox, Texas idols: Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, Terry Allen and their spiritual neighbor Townes Van Zandt, but does so with bit more brooding, spit and polish. It is a meditation on accepting the last gasps of love and the awkward things we do to maintain a flame that has died a premature death.


May 18, 2010


Axes(Too Pure 2005)

Recorded in one take, Axes is one of those rare albums that sounds intricately crafted and obsessively planned, yet captures the wild-eyed abandon of a band willing to shred the map and forge new directions on the fly. Yes, it’s a contradictory statement, but Axes is a cooly composed, yet ragged recording that lets its frayed edges come to the forefront. It’s like a seamless, yet unlikely bridge between krautrock, prog, post-punk, Factory Records and Steve Reich’s Music for 18 musicians filtered through an accessible indie-rock aesthetic. Nothing else in Electrelane’s discography dips its toes into this territory and it is a bit of an anomaly when you step back and view their output as a whole. To their infinite credit, Axes is probably a fucking anomaly when compared to the last decade of music as a whole. Who else digested such overutilized ingredients and spit out a fresh recipe worthy of their idols? Electrelane did and I am reminded of their unheralded genius each time I place Axes on my turntable.

If you slapped me silly and demanded that I sum up Axes in a solitary word, I would have to choose “brooding” as its modifier since each instrument sounds like it’s being played in a bizarro version of the Cure’s “In a Forest” or New Order’s Movement minus the drummer who plays you like a snake charmer with repetitive, but deceptively complex percussion that suckers you into the abyss. Although its predecessor, The Power Out, played with many of the same themes explored here, there was a catharsis and release experienced during each triumphant chorus. Sentiments and feelings are bottled up tight on Axes as the band keeps emoting to a bare minimum as they explore what can be done with repetition, pop and punk when kept out of sun for days on end. I wouldn’t call Axes a depressing album, but it’s the first album I tend to reach for when dusk creeps over the horizon and you can smell the rain about to fall at any moment. It’s the aural equivalent of those moments before the shit hits the fan. It captures that jumbled rush of anticipation, regret and melancholy as you process those seconds before things are irrevocably changed forever, . Let’s cap this gusher and embrace the simple aesthetic of the album and say that it is an epic that never forgets the majesty to be found in simplicity.

Blogroll is updated

May 14, 2010

Yeah, I have been lax. Yeah, I promise that incessant activity is just around the corner. However, I feel the six month hiatus has kind of rejuvenated these bones. You just hit a point where verbosity just seems redundant and there is nothing more to say for the moment. That hot flash has passed and I promise to keep this updated a few times per week until my next menopausal moment. Anyhow, I’ve erased all dead links from our blogroll and added some new favorites. If you would like to recommend your own, then email me at Be back on Sunday or Monday once I fraternize with some fellows and engage in some domesticity.

Trembling Bells

Carbeth(Honest Jon’s 2009)

England graced us with so many psych-folk icons in the 1960s. Their troubadours borrowed from the same pages as their American counterparts, but imbued it with a stately grandeur lacking in the States. Both were indebted to the blues, folk, psychedelia and country, but the British interpreted country quite literally as their output celebrated the rural life and its mundane, yet magical charms. This is one big fucking generalization hovering in the air like a pinata waiting to be whacked by shephard’s staff, but I always felt the American point of view was one of protest and restless ennui where the bands like Fairport Convention Pentangle and Incredible String Band were more interested in celebrating tradition, mother nature and the epehemeral nature of life. Sure, hippies on all continents were singing about long-haired beauties, narcotics and peaceful vibes, but the Americans raised their fists in the air while the British dug theirs into the earth and were inextricably tied to the surroundings in which they were raised.

Not surprisingly, this era has been mined so often that it’s kind of hard to be floored by an album that owes so much to a particular genre. Sure, people have put their own stamp on English psych-folk by slathering it in proggy excess like the Espers, ringing feedback like select shoegazers or just aimed for a faithful interpretation of its ample vibes. The problem is that it’s nearly impossible to duplicate the pipes of a Sandy Denny or Jacqui McPhee or the meandering warble of Robin Williamson and Mike Heron. It is the x-factor that renders the rest pretenders to a die-cast that is not easily reproduced or imitated. Then you hear Trembling Bells’ vocalist Lavinia Blackwell sing and you wonder where this voice has been all of your life. She’s no dead ringer for Denny, but I wouldn’t want her to be, but her voice soars like her idols and she squeezes plenty of pathos into every note. However, what sets Trembling Bells apart from the rest is that they possess the melancholy grace of their influences, yet inject enough subtle eccentricities into their instrumentation that they are entirely their own creation.

Carbeth is their debut and its success isn’t surprising since their ranks include guitarist Ben Reynolds, who gets no press, but blew me away a few years back with a series of cdrs that lulled me to sleep many a night. Drummer Alex Neilson has played with Jandek, Baby Dee, Alasdair Roberts and Will Oldham and his improvisational background lends a loosey-goosey demeanor to the percussion. In short, there is a ramshackle refinement to this music and it soars where so many kindred spirits have fallen flat. There is a triumphant quality to this album where you get the sense that they are hitting on all cylinders, albeit in the most mellow way possible. If it was released in 1967, everyone would embrace it as a godsend, but it has been relegated as an afterthought a year after its release. That’s a shame since it deserves so much more respect and devotion than a cult following. Carbeth is the real deal and taps into that awe one gets when hearing Unhalfbricking or Wee Tam and the Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter at 3am. In my admittedly biased world, it doesn’t get any better than that.


One Cross Apiece/Put it in Writing 7-inch



I fondly remember the moment when Drive Like Jehu came to play Philly on their Yank Crime tour. To this day, that album still punches me in the gut and hasn’t lost the immediacy and rush that jolts me alive when the opening to “Here Comes the Rome Plows” kicks in and everything is alright with the world for the next seven minutes. Therefore, my younger and hopelessly awkward doppleganger raced to the front of that seedy bar and basked in all that can be transcendent about those shows where everything goes right and each song drives you a few inches closer to losing your motherfucking mind. It happened that summer night and I swore allegiance to everything having to do with Rick Froberg from that moment onwards. I’ve stuck to my guns since then, so I now embrace the new single by his latest band, Obits.

What I love most about Obits is they fulfill my long festering wish to hear a punk band obsessed with Credence Clearwater Revival since these two seemed like a natural combo ala peanut butter and jelly. Yeah, half of their stuff veers a bit into the bro vibe of his previous band Hot Snakes, but the other half is so mind-bogglingly great and grooves in such a scruffy, intense way. Froberg channels John Fogerty, but reimagines him as a much more aggro fellow and somehow CCR marrying Drive Like Jehu makes perfect sense. This new single reaffirms my faith my love of a good riff as “One Cross Apiece” relies on a repetitive one that walks a fine line between Devo and Queens of the Stone Age. Now that is a questionable combo ala pretzels and salsa, but it somehow works some magic and gets the head a-noddin’ and the toes a-tappin’. Eventually it gives way to some Peter Hook-esque bassline and Froberg starts ranting about some apocalyptic world where God speaks through men and uses him to defeat his enemies. The flipside is all about furious strumming of guitars and furious pleading and it reveals yet another side of a man whose music has yet to disappoint this humble soul.

Aeriel Pink

“Round and Round”

Sorry for the long absence. The heart was willing, but the fingers weak. To be honest, life moved at such a pace that rambling about random tunes lost its significance when life grabs you by the boo-boos and drags you off to exciting locales. Sans the metaphor, I just bought a house and will be welcoming my first child on Halloween. Therefore, my inane scribbling about lonesome perverts and their latest musical excerpts took a back seat. However, that itch kept scratching and here I am for another round of conversation with whoever the hell reads this red hot mess.

As the years accumulate, it get a bit tougher to bask in the new. Those moments where your jaw drops for a few seconds and a smile spreads from ear to ear become increasingly rare. Yes, this mostly applies to the big picture in life, but it also rears its ugly head in my difficulty to hit that high one gets when hearing Sam Cooke’s Live at the Harlem Supper Club or My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless for the first time. By no means, do I intend to sow such hyperbole upon Aeriel Pink’s “Round and Round”, but it did catch me by surprise and plaster a shit-eating grin on my face. On the surface, its just a kiss on the toes of 80s nostalgia, but it is such a departure from his weirdo vibe that its sudden accessibility kind of weaseled its way into my psyche and has not left for over a week.

“Round and Round” is the single from Aeriel Pink’s upcoming album Before Today and it sheds the murkiness and willful eccentricity of past efforts in favor of a more cuddly sort of creep. It’s like R. Stevie Moore intersecting with Can during a slow early-80s r&b jam at first before busting into the smoothest chorus this side of Vaseline. Yes, I did just sow the proverbial hyperbole, but it just sounds that great as the flowers bloom and wind takes on a warmer tinge. Each time I hear it, it reveals yet another aspect that makes me wonder where in the hell this song was lurking in this dude’s head. So familiar, yet kind of alien, “Round and Round” is a soothing, yet smarmy anthem about nothing in particular.