Aloud – Fan the Fury

The second album from Boston quartet Aloud gives fans of hard-edged harmony plenty to sink their teeth into. As the title suggests, it’s packed with twentysomething rage, but it also brims with flourishes and crescendos.

“Sometimes I Feel Like A Vampire” establishes the record’s mood early on. “I can’t smile with a straight face,” sings Henry Beguiristain, “let’s go on the offensive.” Beguiristain told an interviewer recently that with “Fan the Fury,” Aloud was aiming for something that people would either love or hate.

They succeeded.

There’s not much middle ground, and that’s a good thing. “Fan the Fury” is an election year record. “Nero” laments that “a witch hunt or inquisition can be disguised as patriotism” while the title cut is a hard-charging anthem that blends tart, bruised youth lyrics (“there’s a burning in my belly, in my wallet, and my head”) with wall of sound production from Chuck Brody (Northern State, Yoko Ono).

Even seemingly tender songs show their teeth. The two lovers of “Hard Up in the 2000’s” gaze into each other’s eyes because they’re too poor to do anything else. Beguiristain and Jen de la Oso, who’ve been writing together since high school, contributed all of the lyrics, with the music credited to the entire band. Sentimentality is for fools in this here and now, they seem to be saying. If anything, as one of the record’s more frenetic songs puts it, it’s the “Battle of Love.”

“Julie,” “The Last Time” and “Back to the Wall” are dominated by Beguiristain and de la Osa’s world-weary vocals, reminiscent of the John Doe/Exene Cervenka’s tandem in X. But for all the raw punk energy infusing the music, it’s really all about the hooks.

After all, you can’t start a revolution without a memorable chorus. You’ll find yourself singing along by the second verse of half the album’s songs. “You Got Me Wrong” borrows the syncopated hand clapping of the Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl” but still manages to find its own bright, jangly soul. “Murder Will Out” is similarly infectious, both for the U2/Slash guitar sampling and de la Osa’s throaty singing.

Inventive tempo changes and quirky word play keep “Fan The Fury” from simply becoming another power pop record. The band plays with more purpose than it did on “Leave Your Light On,” their 2006 debut. Their energy more than matches their live shows, something area fans can witness for themselves when Aloud travels to the Upper Valley later this summer.

Local Rhythms – New Venues, New Bands

photo_021707_002.jpgThis week, I’m happy to report a few additions to the local arts scene. That’s what makes life exciting for me: new venues, and new bands to discover playing in them.

Last Friday India Queen, tucked behind Hanover’s International DVD and Poster shop on Lebanon Street, emanated curry, saffron, tequila and sweat, as the restaurant made its first venture into live music.

You’d be forgiven if you mistook the entrance for a backstage door. To get a seat at the horseshoe-shaped bar, one had to first tiptoe around Jen De la Osa’s bobbing silver Telecaster, as she and her band Aloud pounded through a high-energy set.

Aloud combined the Pretenders’ sass with U2’s sonic fury on songs like “Battle of Love” and a clever cover of “Baba O’Riley.” Fireflies, a New York City band reminiscent of “Cool Places”-era Sparks, opened the show. Their final number, “It’s A Party, You Can Dance If You Want To,” completely caught the DIY energy of the night and the bar.

India Queen owner Bhavnesh has a try-anything-once approach to entertainment. He pointed out snapshots on the wall of celebrities like Jack White enjoying the food, and talked excitedly about upcoming events – belly dancing (2/23), a “Nice-Up” reggae-tone dance party (3/9) and yes, more live bands.

The place has a great late-70’s punk rock vibe. If IQ continues to get great talent like Aloud and Fireflies (not to mention a decent PA system), there are promising times ahead.

When La Dolce Vita recently opened for dining in New London, owner Charlene Jerome took a cue from former employer Sophie & Zeke’s. The Claremont restaurant she used to manage has had great success with live music – regular guests the Spiral Farm Band have even released a “Live at Sophie & Zeke’s” CD.

Beginning tomorrow night, Kid Pinky and His Restless Nights will belt out the blues at La Dolce Vita on a biweekly basis. Whether this leads to more music on Thursdays and Saturdays remains to be seen.

In any case, it’s gratifying to welcome another home for live music to the area.

Finally, Newport’s Salt Hill also announced some plans the other day. March 16, right before St. Patrick’s Day, the Woodkerne Celtic Band will pluck some Irish cheer as a lead-in to the big day. Hopefully, it’s a sign of things to come.

Speaking of which, what’s coming up this weekend?

Thursday: Vieux Farka Toure, Collis Common Ground (Dartmouth) – This week’s eclectic entry. When this Mali singer/guitarist decided to follow in the footsteps of his musician father, he got a lot of resistance. Dad thought he should be a soldier because musicians were so poorly treated. Farka Toure pressed on anyway – “Farka,” after all, means “donkey” in Mali – and ultimately received his father’s blessing.

Friday: The Squids, Gusanoz – Always a crowd-pleasing band, the Squids played their first set at this Woodstock Mexican eatery last month and were immediately asked to return. If you like to dance, you’ll enjoy this band. Speaking of dancing, there’s salsa with Black Beans every other Saturday at Gusanoz, if you like it muy caliente.

Saturday: Kid Pinky, Sophie & Zeke’s – An after-hours dance party starting around 9. S&Z’s celebrated their first birthday at the end of December by clearing away a few tables, and turning up the music energy level a few notches. They liked the results so much they decided to do it again, this time with a Concord-based blues band led by a guy with a 20-year reputation for heating up a room.

Sunday: Suicide City, Claremont Moose – Bobaflex was originally scheduled for this afternoon metal show, but had to cancel. Suicide City toured with Hexerei last summer, so this pairing almost makes more sense. Hexerei will play a set before the headliner; A City Divide, Trancent, Starefall, Soul Octane Burner and Escape to Everything also perform. The show runs from noon till five, so the music (mostly metal) will be packed.

Monday: Jello Biafra, Iron Horse – A spoken word performance by one of punk rock’s most dangerous individuals, at least in the eyes of those who would silence him. “Holiday in Cambodia” is a masterpiece; the opening bars still sound as sinister today as they did in 1980. Nowadays, Biafra combines a street theatre sense of the absurd, using the stage pseudonyms Osama McDonald and Count Ringworm, with a committed progressive political stance.

Tuesday: Acoustic Coalition, Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm – Dave Clark recently uploaded an hour’s worth of material from the February 6th installment of this weekly jam session. Check it out on – there’s some great stride piano from Raphael Gulazzi that sounds like it came out of a 1920s speakeasy, and a nifty bass solo from author/musician Lisa Rojak. Or go see it live; it’s worth the trip.


Local Rhythms – You Shoulda Been There

tierneysutton3.jpgI wanted to write about the Grammys this week. I was pleased by the Academy’s awkward yet spirited defense of free speech evidenced in the Dixie Chicks sweep of all their nominations. The only thing worse than stealing music, they said, is trying to stop musicians from creating it. They closed ranks around the Chicks – a noble thing.

But I lost interest in the broadcast the moment the Police finished playing “Roxanne.” Don’t feel bad if you missed it.

You should have seen Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda’s set last Saturday at the Heritage, however. Those who did enjoyed an inventive and thoroughly original band.

I’d heard some of their MP3s, but really wasn’t sure what to expect of them live. Their most recent EP, “Happy Song,” is smoother than 20 dollar gin. In particular, “The Myth” blusters with Lucretia McEvil horn charts; Pete Pidgeon holds down the center with wicked guitar triplets and fifth-gear-on-an-icy-road vocals.

On record, they take all that’s great about melting pot Americana music and add a few drops of high-energy hot sauce. But what if it was all overdubs, multitracking and multiple takes? How would they sound in a bar, surrounded by pool tables, milling patrons and NASCAR beer lights?

Turns out I needn’t have worried. My first indication that Arcoda has a knack for pulling musical rabbits out of their hat was their arrangement of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster.” Most everyone does it as a slow growling blues. Arcoda gave it their own stamp by turning it into a booty-shaking jump shuffle.

Pidgeon plays guitar like a roadhouse Pat Metheny, with a dash of prog-rock spiderfingers thrown in, on a big, hollow bodied Gibson six-string more typically seen in the hands of guys working behind monogrammed bandstands.

He has the easy, natural touch of George Benson combined with the frenetic fret-ranging of Yes’s Steve Howe.

My favorite number of the evening was “Funk #49,” a James Gang song from 30 years back. Arcoda gave it their own shape, playing the 4/4 intro as a Jimi Hendrix burlesque, then shifting into blistering solo trade-offs between Pidgeon and talented second guitarist Kurt Schellenberg.

Don’t miss them on their next trip to town. Here are a few more hot choices:

Thursday: A New Kind of Blue, Sophie & Zeke’s – The musical lineup’s been shuffled a bit at this downtown Claremont eatery. Piano man Matt McCabe now alternates Thursdays with New Kind of Blue, who are branching out and playing places like Canoe Club and the Quechee Inn. Coming up at Sophie & Zeke’s next Saturday night (February 24) is a special after hours blues dance show with Kid Pinky and His Restless Knights. There’s no cover, but reservations, I’m told, are recommended.

Friday: Aloud w/ Fireflies, India Queen – A band that’s gotten a lot of attention in their home town of Boston, Aloud combines the slashing wall of sound guitars of early U2 with CBGB’s-era Blondie courtesy of lead singer Jen de la Osa. If Tom Snyder still hosted the Tomorrow show, he’d book this band. Fireflies opens the 9:30 show with moody glam rock – could it be any more 1979? India Queen is on the main drag in Hanover, in case you were wondering.

Saturday: Benefit Rock Show, Newport Moose – Six area bands – Sun King, Saylyn, D’Brotherhood, Smoke & Mirrors, Vision and headliner Stonewall – play to raise money for Andy Dickinson, a Newport man paralyzed in a motorcycle accident last Thanksgiving. Money from this show will be used to equip Dickinson’s house so he can come home from the hospital. The show runs fron noon till way past dark; before six is all ages.

Sunday: Tracy Grammer & Jim Henry, Hooker-Dunham – Grammer is an ace songwriter who’s attracted fans like Mary Chapin Carpenter, who sang backup on her last album, and Richard Shindell. She lost longtime musical partner Dave Carter to a heart attack in 2004, but she seems to have struck the right balance with Jim Henry, a fine guitarist with a long list of his own folk releases.

Tuesday: Tierney Sutton, Iron Horse – A jazz singer with a voice custom-made for a David Lynch movie. Sutton sings “Get Happy” like she’s serenading a jumper on a ledge – eerie and hypnotic. She’s not completely morose, though; Sutton does another version of “Get Happy” that jumps like Jiffy Pop on a stove.

Wednesday: James Cotton, Ascutney Mountain Resort – Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cotton headlines, but this is a blues summit, with James Montgomery and ex-Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau joining in. Cotton trading harmonica licks with Montgomery, who doesn’t look a day younger than when he burst upon the early 70’s New England scene, should be very special.