Miracles of Modern Science @ Southpaw 05/21/09

in shiny spacesuits. yeah!

Okay, people, I do have one thing to say: any band that takes to the stage wearing shiny spacesuits is pretty much going to get a vote from me. They may suck, but I’m going to say, ‘yeah’.

Luckily, Miracles of Modern Science, or MOMS (such lovely nerdy freakishness that makes me very happy indeed) happen to actually be talented.

What I particularly loved about them was they took to the stage (shiny, silvery, glittery spacesuits!!!) and played a bunch of instruments most people will never associate with rock or pop. Violin, double bass, cello and mandolin. Well, they also have a drummer, too, just to keep ’em all in time.

Seriously, this band really grabbed the crowd’s attention. They played catchy tunes, and had an infectious vibe that moved through everyone (not the swine flu).

Redolent of Ra Ra Riot and Arcade Fire, I thoroughly recommend you checking out Miracles of Modern Science next time they play.

Which, incedently is going to be Wednesday 08/12/09, at Union Hall, Park Slope. 9pm. Go. You’ll like it. Quite possibly love it.

Mr Neil Seal of Approval? 4 Stars out of 5!

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The Nightrats @ Southpaw 05/21/09

Before I launch into this review of one of the most innovative, exciting and fabulous bands running about the NYC area (well, I’m not sure if they run, but they do make some mighty fine music), Mr. Neil would like to say sorry for being so incommunicado.

Mr. Neil has been busy. This review and the other three following it, are, for want of a better few words, really bloody late. There’s no excuse, except for the fact I was busy. There are lots of sparkly bits and bobs and things to be…shined, in the Mr. Neil fiefdom. Sometimes these things are very important and they make the sharing of great musical experiences run quite late.

But I think we’re back on track.

ANYWAY, BACK TO THE NIGHTRATS @ SOUTHPAW!

OMG! The Nightrats!

Having a Thursday night headlining gig at an Indie Mecca spot like Southpaw was a great boon for The Nightrats, and I was excited for them. I got on my bike and trundled over to Park Slope.

They had two acts before them, Golden Bones and Miracles of Modern Science (MOMS). The bands were all very different, and for some reason that worked perfectly. The crowd grew as the night went on and by the time The Nightrats were ready to play, the audience was more than ready for them.

Last time I heard them, they had two other members. This time, it was just the two of them, Randy Frey and Chris McMillen… and old Mozart’s rusty squeezebox, supplying us with their samples to go with their songs.

Thing was, it didn’t matter. It just didn’t matter; in fact, it may have been more powerful because of this.

Whether it’s two people, or our two leading men and a whole ensemble supporting them, I’ve seen enough of their shows to know they are always true to their music while still being able to be free and organic in their musical growth and output on the night

I always go back to 50s Paris when describing them, but seriously, they invoke, no matter where they are, what the space or the mood and size of the crowd, an intimate musical experience that is at once pure art and fantastic entertainment.

The acoustics at Southpaw are great, but even if they weren’t this band would have still owned the crowd. People stopped talking and started listening when they took the stage.

They nailed it. The space was big, their musical style is intimate and yet they managed to fill the space with their sound and presence while still making everyone there think they were one of a few privileged people listening to something underground, hip, happening, ultra smooth-cool, and listening to it way before anyone else would be, for a while.

I don’t call them rock stars, or rock star wannabes. They have too much talent, integrity and artistic vision for that (not that there’s anything wrong with being a rock star, or wanting to be, these are simply very different visionistic styles and also different musical styles. But, it is very easy when you’re on the stage to launch into ego-assuaging moves without thinking once about what you want to give, only wanting the accolades).

The Nightrats are artists who have that factor to appeal to the general public, once they catch on.

The thing is, I say listen to them now when you have the chance before you find yourself having to fork over many a pretty penny to hear them play. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  • The Nightrats are playing tomorrow night (Saturday!) at Public Assembly, in Brooklyn, at 8pm, sharp. It was meant to be in the back room, but now they’re taking the mainstage That’s 8pm, Public Assembly, 70 N 6th St, Williamsburg.

Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.89 out of 5 Stars.

Upcoming Shows

listen up!

PT Walkley – Southpaw, Brooklyn, 8pm, April 17. This is something you shouldn’t miss! I have a review of his album coming soon.

The Nightrats – Zebulon Cafe, Williamsburg, 9pm, April 18. Again, please go. This is pretty much my favourite NY band. If you miss this, you shall regret it!

The Nightrats @ The National Underground 03/27/09

The Nightrats using dark magic to transport you to Paris....

by DJW

When The Nightrats took the stage in their black Chairman Mao uniforms, it was a tiny nugget of dramatics that perfectly complimented their unique music to come. A great entrance is always welcomed and in a space like The National Underground, where the stage is a cave at the back of the room (and not elevated), this feat can be somewhat hard to do.

And, their little army is swelling (I knew it!). They have a drummer now. I was told he approached the band after their gig at Goodbye Blue Monday about drumming for them. That gig, if you remember (or care to go and read the review listed upon our hallowed pages), was a mere ten days ago, but listening to them play, you’d never realise – the drummer melded seamlessly into the band and they sounded as good as ever. In fact, it sounded as if he’d been with them forever.

It did, however, give The Nightrats a slightly more organic feel. Without having to rely on and, indeed, keep in step with their prerecorded drums, I felt there was more room to explore. It wasn’t better or worse; simply different, and that’s always a good thing.

But they did still have the samples that give them their vaudeville/Coney Isle edge, for which I am most pleased. In fact I can see them playing at one of those tacky places on Coney’s boardwalk on a rainy pre-season day, with a bunch of grizzled old men drinking whiskey…

The National Underground (the cave of a stage not withstanding) was still a step further away from my dream of the hole-in-the-wall Parisian hangout where they play for my delight (damn it), but The Nightrats took the space and made it all their own.

Being a band with an intimate feel working with a space that is not intimate at all (simply small), they were more than able to adapt to the space’s vibe.

Their sound was different, more spiky energy, something a place like The National Underground demands if you want to be able to keep your audience interested. And keep their audience interested, they did.

The sound was dark whiskey and melted ice with a splash of Brooklyn chutzpa added for a more robust flavour.

Still evocative, still addictive, still alluring, but more than able to stand up to whatever comes their way.

The Nightrats prove themselves to be a band that can work the vibe of the room as easily as if it were nothing more than air. They are a flexible, organic entity that can continually offer forth quality in familiarity’s cloak and yet always promise and deliver new gifts that surprise and delight.

Seriously. This is one extremely talented band. Their music is unique, addictive and hot. So do yourself a favour if you haven’t sampled The Nightrats. Give them a listen through their myspace link. Buy some songs – you’ll be more than glad you did.

They are next playing at Zebulon Cafe, 258 Wythe St in Williamsburg, 9pm, April 18.

Be there or you’re gonna kick yourself (also you’ll be square, man, SQUARE.).

The Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.65 out of 5 stars (and they are all golden.)

Bushwick Country Club

my very fave seat @ bushwick cc. pilfered from their site.by DJW

The Bushwick Country Club (of which I’m a certified member, although I couldn’t tell you where my membership club card may be lurking…) is my favourite neighbourhood bar.

I don’t visit it enough, although it is a place where a few of the bartenders do, indeed, know my name (this, however, is due to a certain friend screaming it at the top of her lungs in her very distinctive muppet voice one illustrious eve, and their enjoyment of imitating her whenever I walk in).

Bushwick Country Club (in Williamsburg and not Bushwick), sitting on Grand Street in Brooklyn, is a lovely, dark hole in the wall with some excellent aeroplane seats (my favourites) amongst the mishmash of furniture. There are games to play, a photo booth (drunken fun to remember your night by), and there is a very large backyard where you can, in the warmer months, play mini-golf.

The owner John, is a highlight. He is a master of witty banter and comebacks and will, when you tell him a woeful or tragic story, invent a shot (like the blue balls he created for a friend once) or offer forth his own views on your dire situation.

There are a band of regulars who hang out there, but it can get crazy during the summer and especially late on a Friday or Saturday night. Being the kind of barfly who likes a more intimate vibe in a bar, I prefer to visit during the quieter hours. Although it can be fun summing up the various hipster kids that drape themselves about the place on busy nights.

Drinks are well-priced and there are always drink specials, and specialty drinks. During the warm months, you must try one of their frozen vodka and cherry slushies, or the ubiquitous Jim Beam and Coke slushies.

I’ve always found there to be a good or at least interestingly bizarre conversation to be had within the hallowed walls of the Country Club. And, occasionally, someone to make out with his there to be had for the taking (so to speak).

They serve for your delight those evil but delicious cheese puffs as bar snacks, as well as have the occasional BBQ. In fact, they offer wondrous deals for your celebratory or wallowing purposes: if you bring enough people with you, you get to drink for free – this is something one can never go wrong with during such times.

Do yourself a favour and pop on down to the Bushwick Country Club. It’s neighbourhood watering hole at it’s very finest.

Bushwick Country Club. 618 Grand Street, Brooklyn (at the corner of Leonard St).

Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Money Makes You Boring – The Monte Vista

the monte vista let loose to roam the wild brooklyn streets!

by DJW

When I get handed CDs of bands I know absolutely nothing about, there’s always a nervous anticipation about it. You hold in your hand something new, something loaded with potential.

Of course, that potential can go either way, it could be horrible, or it could be great.

Lucky for my precious ears, Money Makes You Boring by The Monte Vista landed firmly in the latter arena.

I liked them from the opening of their first song. The Monte Vista’s rock-pop vibe is all at once their own and also tinged with a bite of the Beatles, a sliver of Cake, a shot of Nirvana, a shake or two of the whole indie vibe over the past decade or so, and, for some reason for me, just a crushed crystal of Pete Doherty and his bands.

The tunes are the kind of catchy that stay in your head (in a good way) and you find yourself singing at unexpected moments. The slower numbers are voluptuously seductive. And then there are songs like “Beautiful Lawn”, that are so infectious they could almost be put into quarantine.

Their sound is indicative of bare-bones Melbourne pub (the stuff legend has been born of Down Under), the kind of places where an audience doesn’t care about names or egos, only the quality of the music. And we’re talking Melbourne, Australia, not Melbourne, Florida. Basically what you hear on disc is actually what you get live. Good, clean sounds and the only surprises will be good ones.

The Monte Vista makes great music. And great music is like coming home. It doesn’t mirror or copy something else, but when you hear it it strikes a chord deep within you that’s immediately right and familiar.

And that’s how it should be.

The feel is Neil Diamond temperament, the vocals are raw silk and chocolate. A crooner who knows the value of everything and also the cost. Bittersweet, uplifting, with that almost undescribable edge of an exceptionally well-written story.

It is, like all good albums, the kind of thing that gets better and better, and they hint at a great live performance.

Speaking of live, I am there on Friday night. That’s the 27th of March. at the National Underground in NYC at 10.30pm. So should you.

The Neil Diamond Seal of Approval? 4.45 out of 5 stars.

The Nightrats at Goodbye Blue Monday, 3/17/09

it's the nightrats!by DJW

Nestled in deepest, darkest Bushwick (okay, on Broadway), Brooklyn, Goodbye Blue Monday is pretty much not the place I expected to be on St. Patrick’s Day.

GBM, a coffee shop/bar, a dark hole in the wall filled with a mishmash of books, garage sale leftovers and lighting by the local gypsies was not the underground Parisian hole-in-the-wall spot I’d wanted to see The Nightrats play in, but it has its own threadbare air of cool intimacy.

Perfect for The Nightrats.

This was my first viewing of them live, and I must say I loved what I saw. Slightly different to their recorded stuff (and so it should be), their quirky, intimate vibe remained, with the live vocals actually making it more so.

Randy Frey’s velvet voice invites you to lean in, immerse yourself in their music. The Nightrats don’t command or demand you with their presence, they beguile.

The three performers took the stage, dressed in black, Hugo Bossish uniforms (actually black replicas of Chairman Mao uniforms), and armed with guitars. They looked good, not gimmicky, presenting us with a persona that transformed them into a cohesive army of three (three so far in their nefarious underground army, but I’m watching closely…).

When they started playing they were accompanied by pre-recorded drums, beats, and sounds laced with those scratches and ticks of yesteryear recordings, which gave them an almost surreal, vaudeville and Coney Island on a cold pre-season day feel, where you eat fried food and drink whiskey with old sea dogs.

Tonight The Nightrats had a circa 1950s surfer movie sound to them. Well, if the surfer film had been made by David Lynch.

In fact, I could see Lynch using their music in a future dark, strange and compelling project, or even having the band play in the background of a dark and weird bar scene in said future film…

The music was tight, with a polish on the good side of slick and a beat beyond drums that comes from within the vocals and melodies that infects your veins and stays with you long after the last note.

The Nightrats have a sound dark like good coffee laced with bourbon and a live vibe that belongs in muted neon nights.

I’m most definitely excited about seeing this band at their next show. The Nightrats are one to watch out for and I recommend seeing them soon, before they’re discovered.

See you at the next gig.

(March 27th, 9pm @ The National Underground in Manhattan, NY)

Neil Diamond’s Seal of Approval Rating? 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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