Priest Picks #24: Aborted Introverts, Golden Gods, & Brazilian Serial Killers
Welcome to week #24 of Priest Picks. After a quick trip south, way south, for a great live show (how great it is to even write that sentence!) we’re going to poke around our pile of assorted E's and wizz for some odds & sods in true rag and bone fashion and hopefully come out the other side with some Technics turntables or stray singles looking for a suitable home.
1 JUANA MOLINA / ANRMAL (Live in Mexico)
A great live record should do two things. It should make those who weren’t there wish they had been (salt meet wound). And for those lucky souls who were there, or at a similar show on the same tour, it should act as a souvenir, documenting a memorable moment for posterity. With those concepts in mind, Argentine groove machine Juana Molina has delivered quite the gift to her live music starved fans with her new album recorded at Mexico’s NRMAL Music Festival in March of this year, moments before the world, and live music in general, shut down cold. I’ve been a fan of Molina for some time, but ANRMAL takes the cool, adventurous electronic rhythms she’s always been known for and supplements them brilliantly with live drums and guitars which pushes them harder than ever before. Molina isn’t stupid. She knew exactly what she needed to do to translate her often subtle, sinuous grooves to the teeming masses at a major music festival. And the effect is mesmerizing. Her songs have never sounded so vital and alive. The set list is drawn from her amazing 2013 album Wed 21 (our #1 album of that year), 2017’s Halo, 2019’s Forfun EP, and even includes a fan favorite from 2008’s fabulous Un Dia. You can feel how Molina’s intricate rhythms captivate the throng by bringing them into a head-nodding trance on just about every thrilling track. Oh, how I wish I had been in the middle of the crowd on this hot, sweaty night in Mexico, but I'll settle for this surprising and invigoration substitute.
2 DELVON LAMARR TRIO / “Fo Sho” b/w “Inner City Blues”
“Fo Sho” is right! Let’s get this straight: Booker T & the MGs are long gone and they ain’t comin’ back. So what shall we do to get a new fix for our old, broken-down souls? Hammond B-3 organ maestro Delvon Lamarr and his Trio have your answer on their absolutely killer new 45—not a single track for download, but an old school, vinyl A-side/B-side jukebox gem you’ve got to flip over every couple minutes to fully experience. If you love that Stax sound as much as I do, this is as tasty as a hot thigh from Gus’s Fried Chicken in Memphis. And if you, for some unfathomable reason, consider yourself more a Motown type, Lamarr has you covered, too. The flip side is a grooving take on Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” from his What’s Going On LP. He leaves the simmering core of the melody intact, but lets his funky organ vamp all over the top of it with such great results you almost wish Marvin had sung over this instrumental bed instead of the classic mellow version we all know and love. Bite your tongue, Pickled Priest!
3 BOBBY WEST / “As the Morning Crept In”
When was the last time your were knocked out by someone’s voice? If it’s been a while, spend a few minutes with Liverpool crooner Bobby West and his first single (and only song I can find) “As the Morning Crept In.” He’s a throwback romancer with a disappointingly bland name who also looks like he could play Eddie Vedder in a Pearl Jam biopic. The audio and visual disconnect notwithstanding, this soothing, sultry tune, complete with cozy bedroom saxophone, will lure you into its lair like Barry White on a Saturday night. And news flash: you ain't leavin' til Sunday morning. And when you sing like Bobby W, you can get away with lines like, “Fix me a drink / Pour yourself on me babe / Don’t be polite.” Bobby, be careful what you ask for, you might just get it!
4 CONWAY THE MACHINE / “Fear of GOD”
I love a juicy slab of heavy rap now and then, but I have trouble finding songs in my admittedly limited wheelhouse. But when they hit, I like them to hit hard and tough and Conway the Machine’s new album From King to a God brings down the house for me every time. He clearly has grand ambitions if the title is any indication. He’s even sporting a crown on the cover of his new album a la Biggie’s famous Rolling Stone magazine photo shoot (that crown was just auctioned off for $600K, by the way), so he’s got big ideas and big dreams. He’s new and he’s raw, but you can see the talent ready to burst and he’s certainly not lacking in confidence, “These verses is exercise, lately I’m feelin’ like I’m the best alive / And this my first album, I just arrived.” I hope he’s right. Something seems to be in the water in Buffalo right now, too. Along with his brother, up-and-comer Westside Gunn, and his cousin Benny the Butcher, they’re putting Griselda Records on the map lately and turning the eyesore of Northwest New York into a budding rap scene all its own. Keep a lookout.
5 ST. SOUTH / “Does Your Brain Ever Get This Loud?”
St. South is really Australian electro-pop singer/songwriter Olivia Gavranich. I know very little about her beyond that fact, but I immediately identified with the first single from her new LP Get Well Soon. I’ve always been interested in the human brain—in particular, how it fires the creative process, but also regarding what causes one person to be extroverted and another to be introverted. Like me, Olivia falls in the latter group and she can’t help but wonder if others are experiencing the same things she does. Introversion can be an asset sometimes, but it also can be debilitating and overwhelming. “Closing up, they never taught us how to open up” she begins, and later “Jaded now, can someone show me how to kill self doubt?” She’s clearly wrestling with the pros and cons of her natural disposition. It’s something I can intimately relate to as well. She exhibits the common traits of the introvert, “Why do I hate crowds?” she asks incredulously. And even though she has a strong desire for acceptance deep down, she can’t even respond when it eventually comes, “Phone ringing out, but I’m not picking up.” That said, the song’s main question will be answered affirmatively the more she tours because there’s a lot of like-minded people in this world dying to sing along with her in a show of support.
6 AIMEE MANN / “Avalanche”
Aimee Mann recorded this version of Leonard Cohen’s “Avalanche” to be the theme song for the HBO series I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which chronicles Michelle McNamara’s independent search for the serial killer she dubbed the Golden State Killer (also known by a few other nicknames). If you haven’t, watch it. I won’t reveal any key plot points here, but suffice it to say, the lows are the deepest imaginable and the highs only bittersweet. Aimee Mann, friends with McNamara (and her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt), strikes just the right tone with her version—her voice was made for melancholy moments like this—and you won’t want to skip over the opening of each episode (Nick Cave’s dark and sinister version on From Her to Eternity wouldn’t have worked as well in this context, although it is great in its own way.) Cohen’s lyrics for “Avalanche” could apply to both McNamara (who tragically died of an accidental drug overdose) and the serial killer she obsessively hunted.
You who wish to conquer pain
You must learn what makes me kind
The crumbs of love that you offer me
They’re the crumbs I’ve left behind
Your pain is no credential here
It’s just the shadow, shadow of my wound
7 AMANDA SHIRES FEAT. JASON ISBELL / “The Problem”
A gorgeous and very timely duet from this husband and wife duo, especially with the compositional make-up of the Supreme Court leaning to the right shortly and long-established precedents in serious jeopardy of being overturned. The desire to take away a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her body is high on the conservative wish list, but this song tenderly demonstrates that abortion is not an easy decision made callously by reckless liberals as some might like you to think. “The Problem” is a thoughtful conversation between two young kids grappling with the many different aspects of the decision-making process. The woman asks powerful questions (“Will you look at me the same?” “Is a chrysalis a butterfly?”), the man providing unconditional support for her decision (“Everything’s going to be okay” “I’m on your side”). It came out in support of International Safe Abortion Day to raise money for the Yellowhammer Fund, a reproductive justice group based in Alabama. And those groups may need your support more than ever soon, so buy the track and give them some love.
8 RAZZMATAZZ / “Nobody Likes the Opening Band”
It’s about time someone wrote the definitive ballad chronicling the often sad existence of the typical opening band. This is a short two-minute lament surely intended to be crooned in a lonely spotlight, stage right, just before the lead singer steps off the stage to make room for the main act’s roadies to sweep their equipment away quickly and haphazardly. Clearly, Razzmatazz is right in the middle of this conundrum right now (and will likely stay there), so they know what they’re singing about…
Nobody likes the opening band
Their set time’s far too early and I’ve never heard of them
And chances are they won’t go far, career is sure to end
‘Cause no one likes an opening band
Sadly, way too many people still follow that same foolish logic, but real music fans know today’s opening band is tomorrow’s headliner. Yes, you may suffer through some bad music along the way, but sometimes you see a band moments away from their transition to stardom and isn’t that a cooler story than the inane drivel you were spewing in the venue’s lobby? Would it kill you to shut your cake hole and give them a chance? So get in the venue and listen, bitch.
Take pity on the opening bands
‘Cause no one came to see them except their mom and dad
But if you lend an ear and give them just one little chance
You may just like the opening band
9 THE VIOLETS / “I Hate the Grateful Dead”
While getting ready for Record Store Day “Drop 3” this weekend, I noticed a release collecting the best ten tracks of short-lived Athens band The Violets (titled Athens, Georgia 1988-1992). It wasn’t available at the location I visited (“limited” to 500 copies nationwide), but it did lead me back to their most well known song, “I Hate the Grateful Dead,” which lampoons the titular band’s obsessive, perennially freaked-out fan base. It’s no secret I also hate jam band culture, so I was naturally drawn to the song. In retrospect, it’s not that great, better in theory than execution, and it could’ve been so much more, but lines like “Riding that train, high on cocaine / I’d like to flush it down the drain,” do point to the underlying principle that while the band surely deserved many fans, they didn’t merit the rabid allegiance heaped on them during their career (and certainly not in their later years, when the band filled stadiums in a Garcia-less money grab which never should’ve fucking happened—have some respect for your fallen leader!). The Violets also clearly espouse a “let’s move on” platform even following the song's title “I Hate the Grateful Dead” with “I’ll be grateful when they’re dead.” Little did they know they’d get their wish, albeit partially, when Garcia died five years after its release. I’m not for killing anyone, of course, but props are in order for the single’s cover, which featured the famous photo of Jack Ruby taking down Lee Harvey Oswald, but with Jerry Garcia’s face pasted (or should I say patsied?) over Lee Harvey’s ugly mug. I do appreciate that even Dead fans got a kick out of this song, realizing a modicum of truth was being told. Jerry Garcia would've loved it, I bet.
THE 10 SPOT
SCOOTERS IN ROCK & ROLL, PART 4
The Pickled Priest is a scooter enthusiast, as loyal readers well know by now, so as I mourn the ceremonial packing away of my scooter for the winter season, I thought I would give you one last ride around the parish until Spring. This week, we’re going back nearly a quarter century to check in with Oasis and their bloated behemoth of an album, Be Here Now, from 1997 (a better title would’ve been Be Here Now and Be Here An Hour From Now). They would tell you differently, of course, but they were already on the downslope of their relevance at the time, already two years beyond their last great album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Yet, even today, they walk around like they were, and are, the modern day Beatles. Their loyal fans are doing nothing to dissuade them of that egotistical conceit either. Thankfully, the boys in Oasis were also dedicated scooter enthusiasts, so today we celebrate them for that fact. The album itself is only a sidecar in this tale.
Oasis's 71-minute “epic” suffered from delusions of grandeur to be sure and the cover was a ham-fisted attempt at profundity as well. In reality, the story morning glory is that Noel picked a bunch of props from the BBC warehouse and positioned them around the pool of a house none of them even lived in at the time and hired a photographer to make it profound. I’m not going to go into the “Paul is Dead”-esque phenomenon the cover created amongst their boneheaded fans (pardon the pun), but people started reading into the objects on the cover like they did back when Abbey Road was released. The only object of any interest to me, really, was the scooter in the foreground, an absolutely stunning red and black 1955 Zündapp Bella owned by Liam Gallagher and purchased a few years earlier. The Zündapp company was, you guessed it, a German manufacturer that made motorcycles for the Nazi’s during WWII and after that seized on the scooter craze in Italy by introduced the weighty yet robust Bella model. The bike is a beast, with two individual seats to provide max comfort for pilot and guest, and an elongated, sturdy frame on which to ride. Notice the sweet, easy-access foot rail as well. This bike was made for a long, winding ride through the countryside, but was capable of navigating some nasty London traffic, too. At 200cc’s it would give you just enough power to escape throngs of misguided autography seekers still clinging to the illusion that the band has serious cultural relevance.
In truth, the album, while undoubtedly overcooked, would actually be pretty damn great if you could chop about two minutes from every song with a run time of over five-minutes (nine of the twelve songs, I’m sad to report). This is what happens when you have too much clout, a massive budget, and a group of guys who spend more time in the pub than they do at the studio. That said, they made enough lettuce to buy themselves some killer scooters and that’s mostly what counts. And also notice a key fact: they drove the Rolls Royce into the pool, but their beloved scooter is safe and sound, sunning itself on the pool’s deck, front and center just like it should be.
All right, that's it. Now give me some privacy while I tearfully store my beloved Gladys (my scooter's name) for the winter.