If I said The Fratellis were a Big Three for the new millennium, would that be too obscure a reference? How, then, about a Gerry & the Pacemakers for the new millennium? The point is that the Scottish trio, which played The Pabst Theater Monday night, has catchy tunes and distinct Merseybeat influence, but with a modern edge. You could say an early Beatles on speed, too.
With the simple backdrop of a huge letter F and the form of a leggy pinup projected onto the stage, the Glaswegian band mixed jagged guitars with Lennon-esque vocals on good time tunes frontloaded with catchy melodies, keeping the interest of the crowd – which filled the main floor of The Pabst – during its 45-minute set and three-song encore.
Opening with “Baby Fratelli,” the group performed most of its debut disc, “Costello Music,” saving crowd-pleasers like “Creepin Up the Backstairs” and “Chelsea Dagger” for the encore.
While they slowed down and somewhat country-fied the uptempo rocker “For the Girl,” most of the material mirrored the performances on “Costello Music.” Some tunes, like "Tell Me A Lie," had bluesy overtones, conjuring the early Stones, but most were firmly entrenched in early '60s and early '80s Britpop.
Drummer Gordon McRory (aka Mince Fratelli) was the band’s spark plug with a dynamic style that kept the band on track despite some occasional timing missteps. Bassist Barry Wallace, like McRory, chipped in harmonies. But singer and guitarist Jon Lawler was the focus, his guitar the fuel. Lawler’s curly mop obscured his face as he made a few remarks to the crowd between songs.
Most of those remarks were lost to a somewhat muddy mix was heavy on bass but lacked definition in the upper end, meaning some vocals were lost in the flood.
The show had two openers: Australia’s Dappled Cities, signed to Dangerbird Records, a label co-owned by Milwaukeean Jeff Castelaz and London-based glam purveyors Switches.
I heard this morning that longtime TV personality and Wisconsin native Tom Snyder died after an illness. I always liked Snyder, who had an affable character, gave the appearance of fairness and open mindedness and, darn it, had the kind of style that was funny and charming at the same time.
The first time I ever attended the taping of a TV show, was in 1981. I skipped out of high school early to see The Jam in the NBC studios for the taping of "Tomorrow," Snyder's show which also hosted The Clash, Johnny Lydon and others. Watching Snyder attempt to connect with The Jam, and especially to get the mumbly Paul Weller talking, was engaging. The fact that he wouldn't give up was a testiment to his patience, stubborness and curiosity. Those were instructive qualities to any journalism-minded youth.
His show in the '90s was equally interesting and you felt like you were having a conversation over a drink (and a cigarette for Tom!). His absence from the airwaves was always a low period for television talk and now, without any chance of a return to the airwaves, I hope he's up there one last time firing up the simultini as the pictures fly through the air.
What to do? The new new wave is washing over Milwaukee on Monday and I can only be in one place at a time. Since I'm already committed to seeing The Fratellis at The Pabst, I can only wish there was also a way to see Interpol at The Rave, too.
In cities like New York, London and L.A. this is a common dilemma, but in Milwaukee it's rare that a single night has two bands vying for the same audience.
That's not to say the bands are exactly alike; of course they're not, even though they draw inspiration from the British post-punk of the late '70s and early '80s.
While The Fratellis are melodic, good time music a la The Members or The Undertones, it's safe to say that New York's Interpol -- like Britain's Editors and like me -- are in possession of more than one Joy Division record.
The band plays the same kind of intense, guitar-driven art rock as the late Ian Curtis and company, with the same kind of dark overtones and furious rhythm section.
One major difference now is that Interpol has released its third LP ("Our Love to Admire" is their first for Capitol Records), while Joy Division never got that far (the Mancunians' third disc, "Still," was a posthumous affair).
I know, it's not fair for me to push the Joy Division connection and if they read this, they'll hate me for it. Interpol is a talented group -- and one I like -- that has its own personality. But even I admit The Jam's Who jones was obvious in the early days and they remain my favorite rock and roll band.
On "Our Love to Admire," the opener, "Pioneer to the Falls," has a cinematic quality, conjuring, certainly, Curtis, but also Morricone and Rota, "All Fired Up" is a modern rock symphony of layered guitars and "Wrecking Ball" is a thundering art-rock chiaroscuro.
Heartbeat has two new Studio One CDs out and both are new versions of classic LPs already reissued on CD by Heartbeat in the past.
One of the earliest DJs, Dennis Alcapone was a huge star in reggae circles in the late '60s and early '70s and his "Forever Version," which features recuts of Larry Marshall's "Nanny Goat," The Heptones' "Baby" and The Cables' "Baby Why" are essential Studio One listening. Alcapone's rocksteady-into-reggae style rapping is still fun and is a bridge from the old radio-era chatters to the 1970s roots DJs like...
The Lone Ranger, whose 1979 LP, "On the Other Side Of Dub" -- like "Forever" -- gets an update with bonus tracks, mixes previously unavailable on CD and expanded booklets. Lone Ranger brings his bumpin' late-'70s dancehall style to classic Studio One rhythms like Horace Andy's "Mr. Bassie," Slim Smith's "I'll Never Let Go" and Cornell Campbell's "My Conversation."
Mysteriously, while there was room for bonus tracks, one of the LP's original tracks, "Everything She Want," has gone missing. Seems almost inexcusable for a reissue and since it was one of the best tracks on the LPs, it's a bit sad.
However, both discs sound amazing and the bonus tracks are more than welcome. The missing track excluded, this is the reissue kind of treatment Coxsone Dodd's Studio One LPs deserve.
In the world of reissues, but outside the world of reggae, there's the amazing, Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy "Cornell 1964" on Blue Note. This two-CD set captures a stellar unreleased performance by Mingus' band when revolutionary reed man Eric Dolphy was in the front line.
Recorded March 18, 1964 -- three days before Dolphy took part in Andrew Hill's landmark "Point of Departure" session and two weeks before the well-known New York Town Hall concert -- Mingus and company are in top shape.
Pianist Jaki Byard fuels his own composition "ATFW You," Mingus himself is the star of Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" and the front line of D…