Lou Reed and Metallica join forces for “Lulu” album

Lou_Reed_and_Metallica_-_LuluLou Reed and Metallica

Lulu

(Warner Bros.)

Released worldwide: October 31, 2011

North America: November 1, 2011

Just in time for the most frightening of holidays, comes the by-product of perhaps one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most bone-chilling collaborations of all time.

No I’m not talking about Michael Bolton and Bob Dylan. I’m talking about Lou Reed and Metallica.

As promised last month, we at the Underground told you we would have more details about the end-result of the recent meeting between the two musical icons. Now with the release date of their haunting lovechild “Lulu” just days away, and with the anticipation behind the record’s potential impact on audiences worldwide running higher than ever, here’s the scoop.

After performing together at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 25 Anniversary Concert in 2009, the group of iconic musicians immediately began kicking around plans to work with each other again in the future.

While initial plans had the two sides engaging in a re-recording of some of the former Velvet Underground guitarist’s unreleased material, the project changed shape completely upon Reed’s introduction of lyrics for his musical adaptation of German playwright Frank Wedekind’s 1913 play about the life of an abused dancer.

According to Metallica vocalist James Hetfield,

We were very interested in working with Lou. I had these giant question marks: ‘What’s it going to be like?’ ‘What’s going to happen?’ So it was great when he sent us the lyrics for the Lulu body of work. It was something we could sink our teeth into. I could take off my singer and lyricist hat and concentrate on the music part. These were very potent lyrics, with a soundscape behind them for atmosphere

Reed on the other hand cited his need for the right band to bring his vision to life.

He said,

We had to bring Lulu to life in a sophisticated way, using rock and the hardest power rock you could come up with would have to be Metallica. This is the best thing I ever did. And I did it with the best group I could possibly find. By definition, everybody involved was honest. This has come into the world pure. We pushed as far as we possibly could within the realms of reality.”

Watch the official trailer for “Lulu” here:

Though initial reviews have run the gamut from fawning to downright abysmal, what many critics ignore completely is that the material in question was never meant to be a certified crowd-pleaser.

In fact, the sources for Reed’s lyrics in the first place (Wedekind’s plays “Earth Spirit” and “Pandora’s Box”) “challenged the sexual and moral standards of their day and have remained highly controversial,” despite the knowledge that the stories included in their pages are over 100 years old.

Sure, even the most die-hard Metallica fan might strain to sit through the nearly 90 minutes of borderline spoken-word poetry that is uttered over chugging riffs and sludge-worthy bass rumblings. This record is not for the faint of heart.

However, it is the sound of artists pushing their own boundaries and not being afraid to step outside their comfort zones that makes all the effort, regardless of the rising sea of bad press, already worth the wait.

And best of all it can still make for an engaging time…even if you only listen to it once.

For more information on the collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica or to learn more about their album “Lulu” please visit www.loureedmetallica.com.

And, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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Music news in brief: Sonic Youth split, Stone Roses reunite, and LMFAO get sexy

Sonic Youth 1First off, it’s official. The ‘90s are truly over.

After 27 years of marriage, Northampton residents Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore the first couple of alternative rock icons Sonic Youth have decided to go their separate ways.

According to a report by Rolling Stone magazine, the couple released a statement on October 14 that said in part, “Musicians Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, married in 1984, are announcing they have separated. Sonic Youth, with both Kim and Thurston involved, will proceed with its South American tour dates in November. Plans beyond that tour are uncertain.”

While the ongoing commitment to already scheduled tour dates is an encouraging sign, many fans can’t help but feel saddened by the potential loss of what has become an underground music institution.

In fact, the band’s most recent studio album The Eternal was released in 2009. And the career-spanning retrospective Hits Are for Squares landed in shops in 2008.

Moore himself even talked about the group possibly writing new material in an interview with the New Musical Express magazine just a few months ago.

That possibility now seems unlikely, but another Moore quote from a recent concert doesn’t eliminate all hope.

He said, “With the power of love, anything is possible.”

For more information on Sonic Youth please visit www.sonicyouth.com.

***

Stone Roses (Turns to Stone album cover)Next up, the “Madchester” movement lives again!

Seminal British rockers the Stone Roses announced their unexpected reunion Wednesday almost 15 years after the band’s initial disintegration.

Though few would have ever predicted the split between Moore and Gordon above, even fewer could have predicted perhaps this most unlikely of all rock ‘n’ roll reunions.

Famously having called it quits in 1996 after a series of poor showings at festival dates and the departure of members John Squire and Alan “Reni” Wren, the group frequently popped up in the press over the years to alternately encourage and dismiss all talk about possibly reforming.

However after the New Musical Express reported on the “emotional reunion” between Squire and singer Ian Brown during the funeral for bassist Gary “Mani” Mounfield’s mother in April, some cracks began to show in the band’s stubborn stance against a formal reunion.

A press conference officially announcing the decision was held on October 18. And upon going on sale, all 150 thousand tickets for the list of forthcoming reunion gigs reportedly sold out in just 14 minutes.

According to frontman Brown, “We’ll drive it until the wheels fall off like we did last time. And they did fall off last time!”

For more information on the Stone Roses or to see future tour dates please visit www.thestoneroses.co.uk.

***

And finally…oh forget it. This last item is just for fun.

In fact, I dare you to not get this song stuck in your head. Also for that matter, enjoy trying to scrub the video’s unique visuals out of your psyche as well.

Sing it with me now:

“Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle yeah.”

Watch the official music video for LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” here:

For more information on LMFAO or to see future tour dates please visit www.lmfaomusic.com.

Plus, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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Jeff Dunham and company bring big laughs to the Mullins Center in Amherst

Jeff Dunham 3 (Levity Entertainment)

Jeff Dunham and Peanut (Photo credit: Levity Entertainment)

Though the thousands of his fans in attendance didn’t quite fill the venue to capacity, comedian/ ventriloquist Jeff Dunham ably brought the laughs to every corner of the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. Thursday.

In fact, the crowd’s enthusiasm for the renowned stand-up act was easily observed even before Dunham himself took the stage for his over two hour show.

How you ask?

Well prior to his turn in the spotlight, Dunham’s enormous circular-set took on a life of its own, acting as an impromptu video screen used to entertain the audience as people continued to file into the arena. The screen displayed word games, cracked jokes, and of course pitched a variety of Dunham-themed merchandise.

One of the most popular clips shown by the screen was a series of questions answered by one of Dunham’s most irascible puppets Walter. Such topics covered by the “Ask Walter” segment included the curmudgeonly old man’s take on marriage, sex, and even female P.M.S. (“Be afraid. Be very afraid,” Walter replied to the latter prompt).

While each witty reply was greeted by a mixture of appreciative applause and audible gasps from the gathered throng, the biggest cheers were reserved for the moment when the house lights finally went down and red beams began to radiate from the stage to announce the arrival of the man everyone had come to see.

Preceded by a short video showing clips of him and his puppets throughout his career, Dunham took the stage shortly before 8 p.m. and immediately teased the crowd by asking if they were ready for the little guys in the suitcases.

“Well, it’s my turn dammit,” he quipped before proceeding in showing an amusing slideshow that featured photos of himself throughout his life, each one complete with the appearance of ventriloquist dummy along with an at times questionable fashion sense.

“I’m going to let this one sink in a bit,” Dunham said of one such image. “How bad is it that you notice my pants before the Christmas decorations?”

Eventually, sensing that the crowd had endured enough of a trip down memory lane Dunham produced the first of his many co-stars of the evening.

Everyone’s favorite grumpy old man Walter was first up. And he didn’t disappoint. Even with a plethora of material just written on the plane that day, the duo argued good-naturedly with aplomb. No topic was off limits either, as Walter inquired dreamily about Dunham’s recent divorce.

“What’s it like?” he said. “Please let me live vicariously through you.”

Next up was Bubba J, a puppet who has been out of circulation for the last few years but quickly made up for lost-time by contributing his own inebriated take on his new life as a security guard at a brewery.

“They actually let you work security at a brewery?” Dunham asked at point.

“Yeah, they’re even dumber than me,” was the reply.

Jeff Dunham and Bubb J (Photo credit: Richard McLaren)

Jeff Dunham and Bubb J (Photo credit: Richard McLaren)

After Bubba J’s brief appearance, it was the time for intermission as Dunham gave everyone a quick video preview of who would be appearing next.

Also greeting the crowd upon their reentrance after the break, the ZZ Top-inspired clip starred perhaps Dunham’s most popular puppet Achmed the Dead Terrorist complete with a hot rod and goat love interest.

Though most of Achmed’s appearance was readily identified by fans from its past usage in Dunham’s latest Comedy Central special “Controlled Chaos,” the audience still laughed along to every line, including the most notable moments – Achmed’s body malfunctions, the assistance of stagehand Marnell White, and the introduction of Achmed’s own son Achmed Jr. (aka A.J.).

“He’s kind of cute,” A.J. remarked flirtatiously about White‘s time on stage, frequently inciting his father’s anger as well as the crowd’s applause.

Finally, the night’s finale began with the emergence of another of Dunham’s most popular puppets Peanut. The hyperactive, white-furred and green-haired creation took friendly jabs at a number of topics including Native Americans, Chinese food, and Dunham’s possible transformation into a super hero. However perhaps the greatest crowd reaction came as a result of jokes made about the Pioneer Valley.

While recognizing their stop in Amherst, Peanut and Dunham took special time to mention the Hu Ke Lau restaurant located in Chicopee, Mass. The site is widely-known as a popular venue for comedians such as Tracy Morgan, Norm Macdonald, and “Dr. Dirty” John Valby. But Dunham has performed there as well, and he couldn’t resist taking a shot at the local institution and its owners the Yee family.

Yet, before closing the night Dunham seemed determined to prove he was far from finished. He started upping the ante considerably by bringing out one of his oldest puppets the accurately-named Jose Jalapeno on a Stick. Employing a laid-back Hispanic drawl, Jalapeno engaged in amusing back and forth arguments with Peanut and Dunham himself, sometimes almost simultaneously. But that wasn’t all.

After announcing to the audience that he too had become a ventriloquist, Peanut had Dunham produce another puppet that turned out to be a miniature version of Dunham himself. Dubbed Little Ugly AssJeff, the task was then on for Dunham to not only voice Peanut, but also himself, Peanut’s puppet and Jose Jalapeno, who contributed jokes from his unseen spot in a nearby suitcase.

Watch a clip from Jeff Dunham’s latest comedy special “Controlled Chaos” here:


Though some have criticized Dunham’s act as sophomoric, racist and even stale, to witness an individual almost seamlessly slip from persona to persona in seconds, all while manipulating multiple puppet figures and getting large laughs from a crowd was a sight to behold.

Say what you will about his act’s content. But until another ventriloquist appears with as much talent as Dunham, the somewhat eccentric comedic form has its king for a long time to come.

Did an occasional lip move? Yes. Did accents sometimes change their sound from character to character? Occasionally. However the real question should be did everyone get what they paid for?

And if what everyone paid for was “a big goofy time” used to escape their problems for awhile, then the answer is unequivocally yes.

For more information on Jeff Dunham or to see future tour dates please visit www.jeffdunham.com.

And, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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Album review – Fool’s Gold “Leave No Trace” – October 20, 2011

Album review – Fool’s Gold “Leave No Trace” – October 20, 2011

 

‘No socially redeeming value whatsoever.’ Comedian Jeff Dunham and his “Controlled Chaos” tour landing in Amherst

Jeff Dunham

Jeff Dunham (Photo credit: Levity Entertainment)

America’s favorite ventriloquist is on the road again. And this time he’s bringing the voices in his head to the Pioneer Valley.

Jeff Dunham the star of such Comedy Central specials as “Spark of Insanity”, “Arguing with Myself” and his newest work “Controlled Chaos,” is bringing his uproarious stand-up act to the Mullins Center in Amherst, Mass. Thursday. And as always, he’s not coming alone.

Accompanied by his vast array of puppet cohorts, Dunham is also bringing an all-new show with him this time around. And will even be introducing two new characters into the mix, joining the likes of such perennial fan favorites as Peanut, Walter and Achmed the Dead terrorist.

While the jury is still out on whether the world is ready for the havoc promised by Achmed Junior (aka A.J.) and Little Jeff, audiences are sure to get a taste of the same unpredictable antics that have made Dunham the top-grossing comedian in North America for three years running.

Fortunately the Underground was able to catch up with the master of puppets via e-mail (he was saving his voice for the rigors of his tour) and asked him a handful of questions about his relationship to comedy, the creation of his characters, and what audiences might expect at his show in Amherst.

Underground: First off, as a ventriloquist how would you characterize your relationship to comedy as opposed to that of a typical stand-up act?

Jeff Dunham: I realized early on that the ventriloquism needed to be just a vehicle for the comedy. It couldn’t be the focus of the act. In other words, I focus on the material and the jokes and keep people laughing. The ventriloquism just happened to be my instrument.

You’re famously known for your collection of crazy characters that you interact with on stage. What led to your creation of each doll and the development of each figure’s own unique name and personality?

Every character I’ve had in my act – none of them have a similar creation story.

I actually thought up Peanut and designed him in my head. I described him to a woman that was making soft puppets and she drew up some sketches. And the character came to be just because he popped into my head.

Walter on the other hand… I figured he would be a good three minutes of the show. I created him thinking that nobody would enjoy a grumpy old character like that. Little did I know – he is an “every man.” Everybody has that guy in him. Either they’re married to him or he’s their father. But people for some reason love him. So that character just stuck.

Jose the Jalapeno…that’s the weirdest story. When I was in college I was doing a radio campaign on the radio station and I was doing all the voices of this pizza. Every ingredient on the pizza spoke. And one of them was Jose Jalapeno. He ended up having all the funny lines. So I thought about making a dummy in the act. So I thought why not a Jalapeno on a stick.

The genesis of Achmed began a year after Sept. 11th. Sad and scary things were going on in our country — and still are — and I thought if I can make fun of those guys, there’s something people can laugh at in our country. And then the big surprise was that I had no idea it would go worldwide.

Watch video of Jeff Dunham performing with one of his most popular puppets Achmed the Dead Terrorist here:


Finally, what might audiences expect from your show at the Mullins Center on October 20?

We’re bringing in a new show with two new characters. Like I always say, my show has no socially redeeming value whatsoever — you’re not going to learn anything. All you’re going to do is have a big goofy time and escape your problems for a while.

Jeff Dunham performs Oct. 20, 7:30 p.m., $45.50, Mullins Center, 200 Commonwealth Ave., Amherst, (413) 545-3001, www.mullinscenter.com.

For more information on Jeff Dunham or to see future tour dates please visit www.jeffdunham.com.

And don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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Evan Dando and the Lemonheads highlight uneven night at Pearl Street show

Evan Dando - Lemondheads

Evan Dando of The Lemonheads

From his first appearance on stage wearing a worn hooded sweatshirt with the words “Grow Local” emblazoned on the back, all the way to his final mumbled thank you at the end of the night, Evan Dando leader of ‘90s alt-rockers the Lemonheads was the undisputed star of the Paradise City Saturday.

Though reports from earlier in the week had many wondering if the former poster-boy of alternative music had lost his way, Dando and his band featuring guitarist Josh Lattanzi (The Candles) and drummer Brian Nolan (American Hi-Fi) wasted little time in putting such fears to rest at the Pearl Street Nightclub.

After wandering out to greet an already restless crowd at half past 10, Dando and company barely made any sort of greeting before quickly diving in to the night’s promised entertainment – the playing of the entire seminal 1992 album It’s A Shame About Ray.

Kicking off what would turn out to be an hour-long appearance with the one-two punch of “Rockin’ Stroll” and “Confetti,” few pauses were made between songs. And apart from a few microphone and amplifier adjustments, the group moved efficiently through the record’s track listing – a feat that was reportedly next to impossible just a few months earlier.

While Dando showed visible strain in attempting to hit the high notes of his youth (rumor has it he blew out his voice earlier on tour), he still ably commanded the room even after dismissing the rest of the band before closing Ray with a solo take on his cover of “Frank Mills” from the musical Hair.

Still barely pausing between numbers, a short solo acoustic set soon followed with takes on “The Outdoor Type” from 1996’s Car Button Cloth and “Being Around” from 1993’s Come On Feel the Lemonheads each winning over the crowd with their self-effacing charm.

Unfortunately after bringing the band back to the stage Dando put a damper on the crowd’s freshly-earned optimism by announcing, “We’re only going to do a few more for you. I can’t hear shit.”

Sound problems had been the ongoing story of the night before the Lemonheads appearance, but even after full-ensemble run-throughs of “The Great Big No,” “Style” and a handful of other tunes, the gathered crowd stood firm and cheered wildly for their fill of ‘90s nostalgia to continue.

lunapic_131881375765452_4And surprisingly Dando obliged. In fact, after removing his guitar and wishing everyone a good night he barely took a few steps off stage before returning for a solo-performed encore that included numbers “Divan” and “My Idea.”

Yet in the end, perhaps the most fitting tune Dando played near the end of the show was the seemingly Hank Williams inspired “Why Do You Do This To Yourself?” The track’s melancholy title is repeated numerous times through a mere three verses, and looking at times exhausted and depressed during his performance, the Lemonheads’ singer was living proof of every word he uttered. But for those who were in attendance the answer to the song was simple.

Musician Mike Watt once said, “If you ain’t playing, you’re paying.” And in more aquatic terms, if a shark stops swimming the animal dies. For artists like Dando, the same logic remains true.

He plays to live and lives to play. And for lifelong fans and newcomers alike, we wouldn’t have him any other way.

Watch video of the Lemonheads opening their Pearl Street show with the song “Rockin’ Stroll” off of the album It’s A Shame About Ray here:

Earlier in the night, Brooklyn-based four-piece the New York Rivals started their half-hour set a half-hour behind schedule. While the group showcased an at-times impressive mix of dynamic punk and hard rock, a litany of sound problems including a broken guitar string and various microphone malfunctions stilted their overall momentum. Still, the band finished their last night on tour strong with singer Josh Moran sometimes cupping his hands around his mouth to be heard above the din.

Later, second act on stage the Shining Twins provided a sloppy 20 minute set consisting of simply-executed punk and garage rock numbers. Drummer Marisa Kreiss played a unique stand-up kit, while bassist and vocalist Alex Weiss sang repeated odes to dumb boys, “good sluts” and even serial killer Ted Bundy. Weis also got her first chance to play guitar live on stage as regular guitarist Kenny Elkin missed the show due to illness, and another stand-in was only able to learn a handful of songs in the minutes directly preceding the gig.

For more information on the Lemonheads or to see future tour dates please visit www.thelemonheads.net.

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Sweet on the inside: the Lemonheads to perform “It’s A Shame About Ray” at the Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton

It's a Shame About RayWhere were you in ’92?

While most Americans were glued to their television sets watching the summer Olympics and the U.S. men’s basketball “Dream Team” racking up one lopsided victory after another, alternative rocker Evan Dando was on tour with his popular band the Lemonheads.

The group was then touring behind what would eventually become their breakthrough album It’s A Shame About Ray, which was released in April. And in between concerts, interviews and music videos, Dando even managed to find himself named to People magazine’s list of the 50 most beautiful people of 1993 amongst other honors.

Now almost 20 years later, he’s doing it all again. The music that is, not the cover stories.

Not only are Dando and company making their return to the Pioneer Valley Saturday, but they’re also bringing the sound of one of their classic records with them.

As part of their appearance at the Pearl Street Nightclub in Northampton, Mass. the Lemonheads will be performing It’s A Shame About Ray in its entirety along with other material.

Watch the Lemonheads cover Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” from the collector’s edition of “It’s A Shame About Ray” here:

Though early stops on the tour) have been marred by various performance problems, for fans of songs like “My Drug Buddy,” “Confetti” or even It’s A Shame About Ray’s strum-worthy title track, the decision to attend couldn’t be simpler.

But, just to be on the safe side, be prepared for a key change or two. Even rock stars aren’t as young as they used to be.

The Lemonheads perform the classic album “It’s a Shame About Ray” and more with openers The Shining Twins and New York Rivals, Oct. 15, 8 p.m., $17.50-20, Pearl Street Nightclub, 10 Pearl St., Northampton, (413) 584-7771, www.iheg.com/pearl_street.

For more information on The Lemonheads or to see future tour dates please visit www.thelemonheads.net.

And, don’t forget to follow the Northeast Underground on YouTube and Twitter:

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