January 15, 2016 Leave a comment
January 10, 2016 Leave a comment
It’s been written before that five years is a long time. And after five years of Northeast Underground blog posts (over 200 articles and counting!), few could imagine just how much has been covered, discussed and critiqued on this little slice of the Internet.
So on the occasion of the Northeast Underground’s fifth birthday, as a friendly reminder, let’s take a trip down memory lane.
In 2011 Northeast Underground…
- Posted interviews with Sonya Kitchell, Ari Picker, Henry Rollins, Lou Barlow, Sharon Van Etten, Stephen Kellogg, Sune Rose Wagner, Garland Jeffreys, Jeff Dunham, Art Alexakis and more!
- Covered concerts by Dinosaur Jr, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Fleet Foxes, The Lemonheads, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and many others.
- Reviewed records by the Sun Parade, Beady Eye, The Vines and more.
- A performance of American Idiot! the musical was covered, marking Northeast Underground’s first post on a theatrical production.
- The blog also dug into a local news story concerning local band Doug Ratner and the Watchmen and the group’s performance on the television show “Mass Appeal.”
- More interviews were featured, including ones with writer Nolan Whyte, singer Sully Erna (Godsmack), Patrick Watson, Courtney Taylor-Taylor (The Dandy Warhols), Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre), Jason McGerr (Death Cab For Cutie), Gregg Gillis (aka Girl Talk), Greg Richling (The Wallflowers) and more.
- Appearances at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton by Guster, Amanda Palmer and Kris Kristofferson were covered.
- New records from Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Thurston Moore, Yellowbirds, James Keyes and more were reviewed and discussed.
- Still more interviews were featured with the likes of Matt Kelly (Dropkick Murphys), Steven Drozd (The Flaming Lips), Brian Rosenworcel (Guster) and Kevin Olusola and Kirstie Maldonado, members of the a capella group Pentatonix.
- Violinist Lindsey Stirling and bassist Joanna Bolme (Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks) were featured interviews.
- The launch of local musician and entrepreneur Doug Ratner’s new business “I’d Rather Be With My Dog” was profiled.
- Foo Fighters, Angel Olsen, Young Tricksters and more had records reviewed.
- Summer music festivals in Western Massachusetts like Stephen Kellogg’s Fifth Annual Family Barbecue, the Green River Festival, and Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival were discussed in a feature article.
- King of Nowhere, the latest project from local musician Jesse French, was covered in a short profile.
- And still more records were reviewed, including releases from The Ambiguities, Iron & Wine and the Blue Jean Committee.
Hopefully there will be much more to come in 2016 and beyond. Stay tuned.
Don’t forget to follow Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:
November 20, 2015 1 Comment
Release date: 11/20/15
In November of 2011, the national entertainment spotlight turned its eyes towards Northampton, Mass. The reason for the attention was a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Featuring actor Jason Segel and then cast member Fred Armisen, the bit was a send-up of a “local” band called the Blue Jean Committee. All long hair and denim attire, the group got some laughs in the Western Mass press at the time, but few could imagine what would come next.
Just last year, the Blue Jean Committee was resurrected by Armisen, along with their “hit” song “Massachusetts Afternoon,” which the actor showcased as the first in his series of “Hometown Heroes” single releases for Drag City Records. Then in September, Armisen brought the band to life again (trading Segel for fellow-SNL album Bill Hader), reinventing its origin story (no more Northampton reference, the boys are Chicagoans through and through) and telling the tale behind its meteoric rise and fall on his IFC show Documentary Now!.
A focal point of that story is the fictional group’s breakthrough 1974 album Catalina Breeze. Described by writer Chuck Klosterman on Documentary Now! with the words, “Every song was a single, and every single was great,” fans can now experience every hit with Drag City Records official release of the soft rock classic.
Opening with the appropriately laid back title track, it doesn’t take long to notice that Armisen has done his homework. While the Portlandia star’s music doc history of the Blue Jean Committee was done for comedy, part of the fun was reveling in all the details that Documentary Now! used to portray the band. Subtle nods to Martin Scorsese’s The Last Waltz, episodes of Behind the Music and director Alison Ellwood’s 2013 film History of the Eagles Part One, were all incorporated, and “Catalina Breeze” is the product of another mixed bag.
Watch the Blue Jean Committee perform “Catalina Breeze” on Late Night with Seth Myers here:
Armisen talk-sings about being “a barstool intellectual with a master’s degree in small talk” and “going to the movies,” but the music is all California sunshine with cooing background vocals and strategically placed percussion. “Catalina” is also the album’s longest song with a running time of a mere two minutes and 15 seconds.
Yes, sadly, even for a joke record Catalina Breeze is brutally short. Seven songs go by in just over 10 minutes. But that’s still enough time for era-specific gems like “Gentle and Soft,” which pairs shared vocals with bat-shit lines about Captain Tom pointing “his compass towards the sun,” and “Mama You’re a Dancer,” which merges a disco beat to a stirring guitar lead with catchy results.
In fact, even the other songs on the record that more closely resemble half-finished ideas or aborted attempts at complete tracks are just as likely to end up as your next ear worm. “Freeway Song” just features the lyrics “freeway riding along” repeated ad nauseum for 53 seconds, but coupled with a driving beat and some propulsive bass runs the song might still tempt you to push the pedal down and sing along. “Mr. Fix-It” begs the question of what if Armisen had actually finished writing the number. It’s a promising story-song that builds nicely, but missing a complementary chorus (or any chorus actually) it simply fades out without reaching its full potential.
In a nutshell, that’s the story of the Blue Jean Committee as a whole. Documentary Now! showed the ups and the downs, but the music speaks for itself. Local boys done good? One time kings of the soft rock revolution? Or funny men making fun music? The answer might be all three. Catch the wind and sail along.
For more information on The Blue Jean Committee please visit http://www.dragcity.com/artists/the-blue-jean-committee
Plus, don’t forget to follow Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter: