Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Shirks!

"DC is Doomed" 
The Shirks are a local DC band that does NOTHING on the internet, plays straight ahead garage rock without a hint of irony, only releases 45s (and the occasional mix-tape), and totally kicks ass in tightly wound 30 minute live sets... I may be a little biased. It might just behoove you to find the next show these four fellows are playing and go. Finding is the difficult part though as the show can be a bit of word of mouth and luck. Keep an eye on local venues; Black Cat, Velvet Lounge, Comet, Quarry House, etc. Chat up the local bartenders, record store folks. Maybe you'll get hints from listings in the City Paper.

The songs on these three 45s are all cut from the same cloth. High energy, chug-a-chug rhythm, sing along chorus's, no waste. Facefulls of 70's era punk get amped up with an unhealthy fist drubbing of Ramones styled rah-rah-rahs. The breakneck Devo pacing will certainly have you head thrashing and makes me grin from ear to ear. No lyric sheet (or even any info on the DC is Doomed 45), but it's pretty easy to sort out what the songs are about. Living in the city with the dregs of the world and making the most of it. That's what I pick up. The low-fi production could use a little more vocal on a few of the recordings but generally it's a bit swampy. For full effect I recommend you crank it up LOUD!!! Some very catchy tunes with stellar guitar work. It's classic.

In response to my concern that the band has yet to release a full LP, Shirks vocalist Al gave me the rundown on how to best enjoy your collection of 45s. Place chair next to turntable. Play 45, flip, change 45, repeat. It's that simple.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ellington at Newport

So I find myself having listened to this album at least 4 times this weekend.  It could be out of sheer laziness of not having to switch the record, but it's probably more because it's good.  This record makes me happy.

The 1956 recording starts off modestly with a new Ellington composition for the Festival.  Although apparently its reception isn't what Ellington had hoped for, it's pretty swingin.  It starts a little big band-y full of squealing trumpets and trombones, and morphs into a sultry piano and alto sax duet accompanied by the pulse of the ride cymbals (the sustained and shimmering "do-da-do").  

What really stands out happens on Side B with the performance of "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" where Paul Gonsalves was told by Duke to blow on the tenor sax for as long as he wanted, which turned out lasting for a remarkable 27 straight choruses (and in no way is that a bad thing). During this, the cover notes mention the "girl who launches 7,000 cheers" (accompanied by a flattering photo) who began dancing in one of the boxes and set off the crowds' building excitement and got them to their feet.  The recording really shines through on expressing how everyone was having a great time both playing and being a part of this performance.  Put to vinyl, the energy of that moment in 1956 has really captured me.