Twelve years after their last album, it’s easy for Blur to pick up right where they left off—the Britpop band never made two albums that sounded the same. “Lonesome Street” starts the album with a loopy, mid-tempo jangle, and it’s tough not to cheer upon hearing the reunion of frontman Damon Albarn’s lonely, sleepless croon with guitarist Graham Coxon’s vigorous strums, especially when he kicks up the distortion on the chugging “Go Out.” The band’s songwriting more than ever calls to mind late-era Beatles on songs like “Ice Cream Man,” a somber tune buffeted by squirrely synth noise. Magic Whip gets more experimental (and better) as it goes, as though throwing bones to longtime fans is out of the way. “Thought I Was a Spaceman” is a beautiful, searching ballad with a bossa nova feel and soft digital-tribal bounce. “I Broadcast” has the spirit of early-’90s Blur with the kind of noisemaking capabilities they now have in their arsenal, throwing in vocal samples and filling the space with extra guitar and synth sounds. Blur recorded The Magic Whip in a stopover in Hong Kong and finished it up separately over time, but miraculously, it doesn’t sound disjointed, keeping the hazy, layover feel of the original session, while the band’s experimentations are mostly folded into the music and don’t distract from the songs themselves. Though occasionally you wish for the frenetic energy of early Blur on more tracks, in their place is a laid-back tunefulness on songs like the loungey “Ghost Ship” and eerie “Pyongyang,” kind of like Roxy Music settling into their Avalon era. The Magic Whip is what you want from a reunion album: it’s the sound of a band progressing, with nods to the past that don’t hold them back in the slightest. Long may they run.
On Friday, May 8th, our pals at MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS present a tribute to director Penelope Spheeris at San Francisco's historic Castro Theatre and it is a triple bill fit for the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame. After decades of bootlegs, hearsay, and double-talk rumors, Spheeris's The Decline of Western Civilization films have finally been digitally restored and will receive their first official release since the 1980s. It also happens to be the 23rd anniversary of Spheeris's comedy Wayne's World, so catch that on the big screen too! Spheeris will be in attendance and on the Castro stage for a live Q&A session.
Admission is only $13 for all three films. Advance Tix are on sale HERE!
Here's what's happening that night:
7:00pm: The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
World Theatrical Premiere of DCP Restoration! Written & Directed by Penelope Spheeris
The world theatrical premiere of the seminal Punk classic features jaw-dropping performances by the Germs, X, Black Flag, Fear, Circle Jerks, Alice Bag Band, Catholic Discipline, along with brutally honest interviews with the young punks of Los Angeles circa 1980. Spheeris's stark camerawork captured this moment-in-time better than any film from the era and it's time to celebrate it in all of its purposeful unglory. Digitally restored picture and sound presented in a brand new DCP print courtesy of Spheeris Films. Preceded by a fistful of punk themed 35mm trailers. Q&A with Spheeris following the film.
Zion I x Locksmith "Culture Freedom" (2015)
Two Bay Area hip-hop heavyweights - Zion I's Zumbi and East Bay emcee talent Locksmith who came to fame as one half of The Frontline - have combined forces to record a full-length collaborative project that, when released later this year, will feature the lead single "Culture Freedom" for which, earlier this month, they published the accompanying video above. In it the duo spit memorable verses in footage taken from the wrap-up weeks of their recently completed Rapture tour. "We decided to shoot the 'Culture Freedom' video while on tour because we wanted to capture the energy of just being in the moment and grindin.' I wasn't tripping off of a deep concept, it's more about the way we live than trying to present some glamorized version of ourselves. Plus, we're from the Bay Area, so being in snow just adds an exotic element in our minds," noted Zumbi of the winter-as-backdrop music video. As reported here on the Amoeblog earlier this year AmpLive (Zion's longtime super-gifted producer) and Zumbi (the MC) decided to amicably go their separate ways but that Zumbi would maintain the name Zion I - hence why Zumbi's Locksmith collaborative project is being billed under Zion I.
Amoeba Music and CIIS Public Programs & Performances present Malaysian singer/songwriter Yuna on Saturday, May 9th at the Nourse Theater in San Francisco.
In a remarkably short period of time, Yuna has risen from regional D.I.Y. notoriety to full-on international stardom. In the process, the charismatic young singer/songwriter has become the first artist from her homeland to conquer the American market. The ease with which Yuna has transitioned to border defying mainstream success shouldn't be surprising, considering the effortlessly universal appeal of her organic blend of contemporary pop, acoustic folk and soulful R&B. The artist's personally charged songs are deeply felt yet melodically irresistible, combining her engaging voice and expressive songcraft with imaginative production to create wholly distinctive music that's won her comparisons with the likes of Feist, Adele, and Norah Jones.
Her Verve Records debut, Nocturnal, was recorded in Los Angeles and expands upon the achievements of her self-titled 2012 debut album and its Pharrell Williams-produced breakthrough hit "Live Your Life." Nocturnal's 11 sparkling new originals include the warmly intoxicating first single "Falling," produced by Robin Hannibal of Quadron and the soul-pop group Rhye; the effervescent, uplifting "Rescue," produced by English pop auteur Chris Braide; the breezy, upbeat "I Wanna Go," produced by Michael Einziger of Incubus; and the hauntingly bittersweet "Someone Who Can," produced by Chad Hugo of the Neptunes.
Tim "Modern Brit" Shimbles (Amoeba employee and frequent traveling companion on California Fool's Gold) and yours truly are going to DJ a set of "locals only" music called To Live and Deejay LA on 12 May at the Melody Lounge in Chinatown. (Click here to join the Facebook event page).
Los Angeles is a big place... bigger than the island of Jamaica in fact. It's home to an estimated 10,116,705 people, making it by far the most populous county in the USA (and home to more people than 43 entire states). The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim census area is also the mostly densely-populated region in the country. I've had a long and hard think, aided by suggestions, trying to come up with a great list of Angeleno musical acts (and no, I didn't forget Red Hot Chili Peppers). Just for the occasion* I painted a huge map of every community in the county and every neighborhood in Los Angeles which has helped stoke the memory.
Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of Los Angeles Communities and Neighborhoods