Essential New Music: The Godfathers’ “A Big Bad Beautiful Noise”

The Godfathers were needed when they strutted outta late-’80s London with guitars set on stun, their hearts full of napalm. They expertly melded punk and R&B like some mutant late-night jam between Dr. Feelgood and Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers, with Lemmy sitting in. Pure rock ‘n’ roll seemed all but dead as they released early singles like “This Damn Nation” and “I Want Everything.” They surely inspired such future punk ‘n’ roll highpoints as Thee Michelle Gun Elephant. Eight years after reforming, the Godfathers—with only founder vocalist Pete Coyne remaining from the original lineup—are needed again, and this tough disc (their first since 2014’s Jukebox Fury) is what the doctor ordered. Styles ranging from motorik (“‘Til My Heart Stops Beating”) to Spiders From Mars (“You And Me Against The World”) get essayed, but it all comes out pure, 100-proof Godfathers, as hard-rockin’, contemporary and fresh-sounding as ever.

—Tim Stegall

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Normal History Vol. 414: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Back then (in my teens), I was crazy about rock, alcohol, boys, In Concert, The Midnight Special, and I may have been what my mother called “over-sexed”—who knows? I was interested in skinny musicians with incredible hair and all their carry-on about women. I wasn’t really thinking about the exact meaning of their lyrics. It was the intensity of their proclamations and accusations—the pain of love and the lust pouring out of them whilst they were wearing rather girly garb. I suppose I learned about who I might become through their reaction and response to invisible girls whose whereabouts and proclivities I didn’t know much about. One thing was for sure: The girls they sang about elicited powerful reactions in these guys. And, for all I knew, all those girls had their own bands with better lyrics and louder guitars that I simply hadn’t heard yet.

Like, what did Jackie Blue‘s band sound like? And what was the name of Angie‘s band anyway?

“Blue TV” from the album Calico Kills The Cat (K, 1989) (download):

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From The Desk Of Blossoms: Filmmaking

British quintet Blossoms is unapologetically ambitious. Rather than quietly release 2014 debut single “Blow,” the band announced it with an ardent, online manifesto. “We want to be heard by everyone,” it read, in part. “We want to be as mainstream as Will Smith, as great as the Smiths, and as uplifting as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” The band has just issued its self-titled debut. Blossoms will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band.

Tom Ogden: I got into making films when I was about 14, around the same time as I started writing songs. If I wasn’t in the band, this is something I’d be pursuing. I really enjoy editing films, and watching it come together from something you’ve created yourself.

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MP3 At 3PM: Scott Fab

Scott Fab writes soul-baring alt-country music, heavy-hearted tunes that hit like Noah Gundersen or Ryan Adams. Today, we’re bringing you the title track from his upcoming album, Leave My Friends, which is out April 14. “Leave My Friends” is a low-key triumph of weathered songwriting, and it can be downloaded and/or streamed below.

“Leave My Friends” (download):

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James Chance: Flesh For Fantasy

No-wave sax legend James Chance returns with his first U.S.-released album in decades

That James Chance 2017 sounds very much like James Chance 1977 has nothing to do with a rut or retro vibe. Chance—or James White or James Siegfried (the name he was born with in Milwaukee)—has forever had a long, deep, abiding passion for James Brown, Su Ra and Albert Ayler, and on early albums such as Buy and Off White (both from 1979) or latter-day efforts such as 2012’s unreleased-in-America Incorrigible, made off with the riveting speed-soul grooves and atonal skronky sax blasts like a thief in the night. For his first U.S.-released album in decades, The Flesh Is Weak, with his most notorious outfit, the Contortions, the NYC-based Chance continues to mine fast, moody jazz and digs deep into fertile funky ground with the furor of a punk twice as young as he.

“I think that’s why I have a young following when we play,” says the 63-year-old Chance. “The aggression that came out in my music in the past is still there today. I’m not one of those guys who gets to a certain age and feels as if he’s got to mature and act more responsibly. I mean, I’m not contemplating fatherhood.”

It’s more than apparent on The Flesh Is Weak that he refuses to mellow, ripen and rot as Chance and his Cortortions machine gun through everything from hyped-up covers of Esther Phillips’ “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” and his jagged self-penned 1980 song “Melt Yourself Down” to newer, corrosive cuts such as the title track. Along with playing all of the yakety sax cackles and occasional lilt-a-whirl organ solos (“I wasn’t a fan of jazz organ for a long time until Sun Ra,” says Chance) on The Flesh Is Weak, Chance’s usual angular rhythms and kinked guitars—familiar to the no-wave genre he helped birth in 1978—get a mod revisionist feel with occasional Latin popcorn shuffles.

Such restless invention is the thing that brought him to Manhattan from Milwaukee, “where I learned to read music from nuns in the Catholic school I attended,” then moved him from participating in NYC’s downtown loft-jazz scene (“I didn’t fit in; I had a band called Flaming Youth named for a Duke Ellington song, but that confused audiences who thought we were a heavy-metal group”) and landed him squarely in pre-punk clubs such as Max’s and CBGB. “Those bands didn’t excite me either,” he says. “Save for Suicide and Richard Hell’s Voidoids, there was nothing inventive to be heard there.”

So Chance crafted a sound based, in part, on punk’s zealous energy (“We wanted to throw out stereotypical chords and make it even more primal,” says Chance, regarding no-wave), as well as Brown’s densely soulful raw chord changes and repetitious hypnotic rhythms. “Especially the song ‘Super Bad,’ which was super-heavy funk with wild Ayler-like sax solos,” says Chance enthusiastically. Quoting from Amiri Baraka’s Black Music, the saxophonist says, “Free jazz should join forces with R&B—that’s the fusion I wanted.”

Along with making a name and career for himself in France (“just like Jerry Lewis”), Chance made a few stops at slower jazz standard albums with his Terminal City outfit such as 2010’s The Fix Is In. He even laughs about trying his hand at oddball big-band music.

“The swing revival was horrible, too corny for New York, but I figured I could use it to my advantage,” he says. “Yet by the time I had written a bunch of tunes, the revival had ended. Good.”

Now, 38 years after Buy, Chance and his Contortions are making a bold, righteous racket with Flesh Is Weak and a vigor he hasn’t felt for a minute. “I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon,” he says, considering everything from covering Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” (“It was one of the first 45s I bought, so dramatic, and my wife, Judy Taylor, has been pushing me to put it out”) to making sure each Contortion he plays with is as free and loose as he is tight.

“Plus, I still look good in a tux,” he says when his sartorial signature comes up in conversation. “That’s crucial.”

—A.D. Amorosi

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From The Desk Of Blossoms: Music

British quintet Blossoms is unapologetically ambitious. Rather than quietly release 2014 debut single “Blow,” the band announced it with an ardent, online manifesto. “We want to be heard by everyone,” it read, in part. “We want to be as mainstream as Will Smith, as great as the Smiths, and as uplifting as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” The band has just issued its self-titled debut. Blossoms will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band.

Josh Dewhurst: Since my first day on earth, music has always played a truly remarkable part in my life and most certainly the path in which I’ve taken. Music always has, is and will be around the house. It’s almost impossible to envisage a life without one of the simplest yet most complex but incredible factors of it! One becomes obsessed with every aspect of music, for it is vast beyond belief. The (endless) arising opportunities that are created or unlocked by music have enabled me to do things in just a couple of years that were deemed beyond the bounds of consideration. It unites us and knows no distance or time—much like myself after a 12-hour flight.

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MP3 At 3PM: The Cover Letter

It’s been a little while since we told you about the Cover Letter‘s new EP, Cities Made Of Sand, so we’re putting a spotlight on “Josephine” to jog your memory. “Josephine” is another pristine bit of folky rock, once again resting on the wonderful exchange of vocalists Chelsea Barbo and Jacob Shipman. Check it out below. Cities Made Of Sand is out now.

“Josephine” (download):

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Essential New Music: Joan Of Arc’s “He’s Got The Whole This Land Is Your Land In His Hands”

Tim Kinsella-helmed collective Joan Of Arc is one of indie/art rock’s oddest success stories, a 21-year-long recording/performance project that’s produced albums of guitar duets, pretty folk/rock, aggro noise, Pro Tools-built electronic music and seemingly whatever the hell else has caught Kinsella’s interest at the moment, with virtually zero regard for aesthetic consistency or public taste. He’s Got The Whole etc. is, by these lights, a rather domesticated JOA release, not as intentionally abrasive as its predecessor, 2013’s Testimonium Songs, even if the new record also opts for clangor and hard edges over tuneful song structures. Still, if He’s Got etc. is noisy, it’s not unmelodic. It’s just that the melodies are cheekily tucked away inside the whirr and tumble of the arrangements. The lyrics, which carry those melodies clearly once you listen for them, are recognizably Kinsella—in places Dadaist (“My forehead is a tongue/My tongue is a flower/My flower is a fish”), in places endearingly goofy (“I know how the nicest guy in ISIS feels”). Much of the instrumentation is built around repeated samples, which means the strongest tracks are the ones with the most interesting and complex sonic landscapes: “This Must Be The Placenta,” “Cha Cha Cha Chakra” and “F Is For Fake” are particularly notable, as is the jagged, stuttering “Two Toothed Troll,” which provides vocalist Melina Ausikaitis with something of a star turn, a song that manages to knit together space travel, the rhetoric of photographic consent forms and the Great Chicago Fire. What the hell—it’s all material, especially for a band so consistently determined to make art out of the banal.

—Eric Waggoner

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From The Desk Of Blossoms: Music Production

British quintet Blossoms is unapologetically ambitious. Rather than quietly release 2014 debut single “Blow,” the band announced it with an ardent, online manifesto. “We want to be heard by everyone,” it read, in part. “We want to be as mainstream as Will Smith, as great as the Smiths, and as uplifting as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.” The band has just issued its self-titled debut. Blossoms will also be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band.

Myles Kellock: I like hearing how songs are built and try and listen out for little details in tunes that I didn’t hear before. I first noticed a quiet synth part in an old Muse song panned in one ear and was like, “What’s that?” and started listening out for things in other tunes. Then as I got older and listened to more electronic music, I tried remaking tunes for fun in music tech at college and learnt how they were built and that. I like doing the demos with the band, too.

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MP3 At 3PM: Eureka California

Eureka California is a fuzzed-out, pavement-pounding rock band from Athens, Ga., and its latest full-length, Versus, came out just last year. “Wigwam” is a brand-new song that’ll keep you satisfied until it’s time for another LP, and it’s a full-force rocker. Turn the volume up, and check it out below.

“Wigwam” (download):

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