Edited by Michael Goldberg

  Blake Babies Reunion Album!

Groovy alterna-pop trio deliver pure pop high

A decade after they disbanded, the Blake Babies are back with a new album, God Bless the Blake Babies. Among the highlights are Juliana Hatfield and Evan Dando trading vocals on "Brain Damage" (co-written by Dando and Ben Lee), whose chorus goes, "The brain damage is all in your head/ It's all in your head/ It's all in your head." At one point in the song Dando sings, "I've done all the drugs I could buy." Hatfield, guitarist John Strohm and drummer Freda Love, who met while attending Boston's Berklee School of Music and formed the group in 1986, spent 10 days recording the album in Bloomington, Ind., last year. In case you forgot, Lemonheads frontman Dando briefly played bass in the Blake Babies in 1988. God Bless the Blake Babies will be released March 6 on Rounder Records' Zoe label; standout tracks include "Disappear," "Baby Gets High" and "When I See His Face," with it's '60s girl-group chorus, "When I see his face/ I'll tell you how it feels/ It's just like breaking up/ After a million years." Explaining why the group broke up, Strohm said in a Zoe press release, "You get a bunch of 19-year-olds with critics telling them they're important, you're asking for trouble." [Friday, January 26, 2001]

The Gossip To Tour

Benefit album features Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch

The debut from that hard-rockin' trio The Gossip, That's Not What I Heard (Kill Rock Stars), is out, and if you saw them open for Sleater-Kinney last year you already know that this Arkansas-based group is the real deal. Singer/songwriter Beth Ditto is a commanding onstage presence; her rock 'n' roll voice is a great fit for their album's minimal riff-based rock. They begin a 28-show U. S. tour January 31 at Meow Meow in Portland, Ore.; it wraps up March 1 at 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis. All the dates are up at the site. ... Concerts for A Landmine Free World is a benefit album featuring Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Steve Earle, John Prine and others. The recordings on the album were made during concerts held in December 1999 to raise awareness of the global landmine problem. The album, due April 10th, will benefit the Campaign for a Landmine Free World. [Friday, January 26, 2001]

Earliest Modest Mouse Album To Surface

Beat Happening box set on the way

Look for one of the earliest recordings by Modest Mouse to see the light this April. Sad, Sappy Sucker, which the group recorded in 1994, will be released by the always-cool K Records. In August, they'll also issue the Beat Happening box set, Crashing Through. And while we're on the subject of K, if you haven't checked out their site, please do. It's beautifully designed, loads fast and has the right attitude. It's hard not to like a company whose slogan is "Exploding the teenage underground into passionate revolt against the corporate ogre since 1982." [Thursday, January 25, 2001]

Tim Easton Plus Wilco Equals One Heartfelt Album

Free Mary Timony, Stephen Malkmus MP3s at Matador site

Tim Easton is an alterna-country artist you'll be hearing plenty about. According to music critic Chris Nelson, you should listen up when you do. Nelson profiles Easton in a feature that ran the other day in the Chicago Tribune, ("To Tell The Truth"). "The stories on [Easton's album] The Truth About Us play like they're set behind a gauzy curtain," writes Nelson. "Part of the effect is Easton, whose voice sounds like an airy cousin to Bob Dylan's or Steve Earle's. And part of it is the textured sounds conjured by Wilco, whether it's Ken Coomer's doomed drumbeats or Jay Bennett's ethereal keyboards, which hover like an angel outside the window. But mostly it's Easton's lyrics. They reveal just enough for you to recognize a raw nerve struck or feel a knot in your stomach, but rarely tell the whole story. 'This feels like the night my plane goes down/ Twenty minutes later your train gets to town/ Why'd you have to come around when I'm away?' he sings in 'Half a Day.'" Easton goes on to tell Nelson, "I don't mean to be a confessional songwriter. Often I'm writing about someone's life that I eavesdropped on. A song might just start with one line, one idea, and then it has to be finished — and some of it has to be pulled out of thin air." ... If you head over to the MP3 area of the Matador Records site you'll hear an alternative version of Mary Timony's "Poison Moon" and a new song, "The Hook," from Stephen Malkmus' solo debut, which will see release Feb. 13. [Wednesday, January 24, 2001]

John Frusciante Goes Solo, Again

New label to feature album by ex-Freewheeler

John Frusciante is best known these days for adding some fresh punk spirit (and amazing guitar work) to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but you might recall that some years back, during a period when he was not in the Chili Peppers, he released two extremely bizarre (like, not good) solo albums. Now he's got a new one, To Record Only Water for Ten Days, due in February. Frusciante wrote all the songs; he sings, plays all the music and produced the album, recorded mostly at his home studio in L. A. off and on during the past year or so. It's good, with a sound that at times mixes elements of garage rock, '60s punk and '60s pop; at others, such as on the instrumental "Murders," it reminds me of Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band. While the guitars sound great, this is an album full of good songs, not a showcase for guitar excursions. "Going Inside" and "Wind Up Space" will hook you immediately, but you'll likely also fall for the delicate instrumental "Ramparts" and the trippy ballad "Invisible Movement." During February Frusciante will perform four solo acoustic shows in Europe, and then expects to play New York and L. A. sometime after his return to the U.S. (working around writing sessions for the next Chili Peppers album). ... Luther Russell, ex-lead singer for the much-underrated Freewheelers, will release a solo acoustic album in April on Alex Steininger's new In Music We Trust label. Also due in the spring is an album by Sean Croghan (ex-Crackerbash, Jr. High), which Steininger describes as "full-band solo album that goes from Bob Dylan to the Clash to Elvis Costello, sometimes in one song." [Tuesday, January 23, 2001]

Coldplay To Tour U.S.

First American headlining tour for UK combo

Coldplay, whose awesome UK hit "Yellow" is breaking through on American Alternative rock radio, and whose debut album, Parachutes, was one of 2000's best, will launch a tour of North America in February, beginning in Vancouver at the Commodore Ballroom on Feb. 8.

Coldplay Tour

Feb. 8; Vancouver, B.C.; Commodore Ballroom
Feb. 9; Seattle, Wash.; Showbox
Feb. 10; Portland, Ore.; Roseland Theatre
Feb. 12; San Francisco, Calif.; Fillmore
Feb. 13–14; Los Angeles, Calif.; The Mayan Theatre
Feb. 16; New York, N.Y.; Irving Plaza
Feb. 17; Boston, Mass.; Avalon
Feb. 19; Chicago, Ill.; Riviera Theatre
Feb. 20; Toronto, Ontario; The Warehouse
Feb. 23; Miami, Fla.; Hard Rock Café

[Monday, January 22, 2001]

Noise Pop To Feature Grandaddy, Spoon, Mark Eitzel

Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre on Mr. Lady compilation

The ninth annual Noise Pop fest will take place February 27–March 4 in San Francisco. As usual, the lineup is amazing. Among the groups and solo artists on board: Beulah, Grandaddy, Superchunk, Mark Eitzel, Girls Against Boys, Creeper Lagoon, Minus 5, Spoon, Bright Eyes, The White Stripes, Young Fresh Fellows, 764-Hero, Oranger, Zen Guerrilla, and the Fastbacks. Shows will take place at such clubs as Bimbo's 365, the Great American Music Hall, Slim's, the Bottom of the Hill, and Café du Nord. In addition to the music performances, this will be the second year of the Noise Pop Film Festival (yep, music documentaries, features and shorts) and there will be Sunday-afternoon discussions led by musicians and biz types. ...Calling All Kings & Queens is an excellent compilation album due from Mr. Lady March 6. This 18-song collection includes a live version of "Ballad of a Ladyman" by Sleater-Kinney, Le Tigre's "Sweetie," a live version of "Disco" by the Butchies, plus solid tracks from California Lightening, Darien Brahms, Heart Beats Red, the Crowns, Shelly Doty and others. But what will likely get the most attention is a live version of Amy Ray's "Lucy Stoners," in which the Indigo Girl takes shots at Rolling Stone magazine and its owner, Jann Wenner. [Monday, January 22, 2001]

Red House Painters Return With Album, Tour Plans

Cult favorites will release Old Ramon this Spring

The Red House Painters, known for their moody, low-keyed and highly emotional sound, have regrouped and will release a new album, Old Ramon, through Sub Pop on April 17. The group — leader/singer/songwriter/ guitarist Mark Kozelek, bassist Jerry Vessel, drummer Anthony Koutsos and guitarist Phil Carney (who replaced original guitarist Gorden Mack in 1995) — developed a passionate cult following during the early-to-late '90s, based on a series of awe-inspiring albums and live performances. They will perform together for the first time since 1997 at a Sub Pop SXSW showcase at Emo's in March, and according to the label, will "tour extensively" following the album's release. Old Ramonfeatures ten songs: "Wop-A-Din-Din," "Byrd Joel," "Void," "Between Days," "Cruiser," "Michigan," "River," "Smokey," "Golden" and "Kavita." [Friday, January 19, 2001]

Le Tigre Back With Cool EP

Viacom prepares further music-empire expansion

The new Le Tigre EP, "Le Tigre: From the Desk of Mr. Lady," is an amazing seven-song punk-rock recording in the old (mid-'70s) sense of punk, due out Jan. 23 on Mr. Lady. Le Tigre — Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman and J. D. Samson — use lo-fi technology to create powerful rock with a potent message. Their music conforms to no standard, fits no artificial genre categorization. And they've got something to say, which is always refreshing. Sometimes the message is political ("Get Off the Internet" with the line "destroy the right wing") and sometimes the message is pro-feminism ("They want us to make a symphony out of the sound of women swallowing their own tongues" is the title of one my favorites). The other songs: "Bang! Bang!," "Yr Critique," the excellent "Gone b4 yr home," "Mediocrity Rules" and a Rachael Kozak remix of "All That Glitters" ... In case you care about such things, Viacom (which, in addition to MTV, MTV2 and VH1, now owns BET, the Nashville Network, the Box, a fleet of radio stations in markets all over America and a handful of big Internet music sites) has put in a bid to buy Cablevision's Rainbow Media, whose assets include the music-video channel MuchMusic U.S.A. And why not have one multinational media conglomerate machine own all the significant music channels? [Friday, January 19, 2001]

GBV's Isolation Drills Due This Spring

Group plans February mini-tour

Guided By Voices' new album will be titled Isolation Drills, not Broadcaster House, according to The album is expected in the spring. Bandleader Robert Pollard changed the album title so it would be "more representative of [the album's] tone," quotes a TVT Records source as saying. The 16-song album, produced by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith), is a glorious pop-rock affair featuring such stunners as "Skills Like This," "Chasing Heather Crazy" and the mind-blowing "Sister I Need Wine." The group will do a mini-tour in February, playing the Empty Bottle in Chicago Feb. 11–12, the Bowery Ballroom in New York Feb. 14, the Theatre of the Living Arts in Philadelphia Feb. 16 and the Black Cat in Washington D.C. Feb. 17. [Thursday, January 18, 2001]

R.E.M. Play New Songs In Rio

New album, tour from Momus

R.E.M. played their first show in 16 months at the Rock in Rio Festival on Monday, Jan. 15 before more than 135,000 music fans, according to band manager Bertis Downs. The group performed two new songs from their upcoming album, Reveal — "The Lifting" and "She Just Wants to Be" — along with hits such as "The One I Love" and less frequently performed "Find the River" and "Finest Worksong." On the group's official site,, Downs wrote that the show had a unique "spirit and an energy that seems overwhelming in such a large place filled with people who truly love the music." Reveal will be released in May. The group has re-launched the site, which looks great and features a section of regular newsy "Dispatches," often penned by Downs, with occasional reports from the bandmembers ... Momus' next album, Folktronic, is coming Jan. 30. He hits the road later this week with Stars and Alchemy Jones for a West Coast tour, beginning at the Knitting Factory in L. A. Jan. 18, then proceeding to the Capitol Garage in Sacramento Jan. 21, hitting San Francisco for shows at the Bottom of the Hill Jan. 22–23, and heading north for shows in Portland at Reed College (just for Reed students) Jan. 25. The tour concludes in Seattle at the Crocodile Café Jan. 27. [Wednesday, January 17, 2001]

Super-Duo's 'Magic Magicians' Project

Henry Rollins' spoken word album; watch out for Kathryn Williams

764-HERO singer John Atkins and Black Heart Procession drummer Joe Plummer are collaborating on a project called Magic Magicians. The duo's debut album, Girls, will be released Feb. 20 on Seattle's cool Suicide Squeeze label (they've released singles by Elliott Smith, Aisler's Set and others). According to a trusted source who's heard it, Girls has a Beatles-style pop-rock sound... Henry Rollins has a spoken-word album, A Rollins in the Wry, recorded in the Spring of 1999 at L. A.'s Café Luna. Rollins made a series of nine weekly appearances at the club; the album's material is drawn from two of the shows. The album will be out on Quarterstick, also Feb. 20... You probably missed Kathryn Williams' Little Black Numbers, since it was only released in England last year on the small Caw Records label. It's a lovely, gentle folk-rock album; at times it has a jazzy feel, at others the kind of drawing-room classical touches that might remind you of Astral Weeks. [Tuesday, January 16, 2001]

The Return Of Unwound

Olympia-based experimental-rock trio back with album, tour

Unwound's long-awaited new collection of studio recordings will be an epic double album titled Leaves Turn Inside You. The 13-song collection, due for release by Kill Rock Stars on April 17, was recorded at the group's studio in Olympia during the past year; it's been three years since Unwound's last studio recording, Challenge for a Civilized Society. Songs on Leaves Turn Inside You include: "We Invent You," "Look a Ghost," "Summer Freeze," "Demons Sing Love Songs," "Radio Gra," "Below the Salt" and "Who Cares." Unwound will hit the road next month for a 14-show West Coast tour beginning February 1 at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. Check out all the tour dates at [Monday, January 15, 2001]

Quasi In The Studio

Spoon and Boards of Canada release Eps

Quasi — drummer Janet Weiss and singer/musician Sam Coomes — have been recording tracks for their next album at studios in the Portland area. The album will be released on Touch & Go, probably toward the end of the year... The new Spoon album, Girls Can Tell, won't be out until March, but meanwhile a terrific, rockin' five-song EP, Love Ways, is here. Songs include "Change My Life," "I Didn't Come Here to Die" and "The Figures of Art."... Also just out is a four-song EP from Boards of Canada titled "In A Beautiful Place Out in the Country." No word yet on when the full-length follow-up to the duo's acclaimed 1998 debut, Music Has the Right to Children, will be completed and released. [Friday, January 12, 2001]

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