Soul Serenade: Lloyd Price, “Personality”

In the last couple of years, we have had powerful returns to form from classic soul men William Bell and Don Bryant. Now we can add Lloyd Price, whose new album This is Rock and Roll will be released on September 22, to that list. In honor of the occasion, I thought I would take a look at one of Lloyd’s greatest hits this week.

Price was born on the outskirts of New Orleans and got his start singing and playing piano and trumpet in his church’s gospel choir. He got his big break when Art Rupe came to town in 1952. Rupe owned the Los Angeles-based Specialty Records. He got word that something was happening in the Crescent City and when he arrived there he found that Lloyd Price was very much a part of what was happening.

Price had a song called “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” that Rupe thought would be a hit. He hired ace arranger Dave Bartholomew to work on the record and Bartholomew’s band was there too, a band that included Fats Domino on piano. As it turned out, Rupe was right. “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” was a smash. The follow-up, “Ooh, Ooh, Ooh” didn’t do quite as well and subsequent Specialty singles failed to chart.

In 1954, Price was drafted. When he got out the service he found out that he had been replaced at Specialty by Little Richard. To add insult to injury, Larry Williams, who had been Price’s chauffeur, was having hits for the label. That door closed, Price used the opportunity to start KRC Records along with Harold Logan and Bill Bosken. When the label’s first single, “Just Because,” was picked up by ABC Records for distribution it became a hit. It was the first of several national hits that Price had for the label. “Just Because” was followed by “Stagger Lee,” and “Personality.”

“Personality” was written by Price and Logan and recorded in 1959. The ABC-Paramount single reached #2 on Billboard Hot 100 that year and also climbed to the top of the R&B chart and remained there for four weeks. Billboard named “Personality” the #3 song of the entire year. “I’m Gonna Get Married” was another Top 10 hit for Price in that era. The hits led to Price television appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and the Ed Sullivan Show.

In 1962, Price founded another label with Logan, this one called Double L Records. One of the labels earliest signings was Wilson Pickett. Seven years later, Logan was murdered. Price, on his own, started a label called Turntable and opened a club in New York with the same name. Price proved to be an astute businessman. In addition to the club, he became a builder, erecting 42 townhouses in the Bronx, and promoting fights with Don King including the Ali-Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974.

Price was not done with music, however. In 1993, he toured Europe with Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Gary U.S. Bond. More recently, in 2005, there was the “Four Kings of Rhythm & Blues” tour which featured Price along with Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, and Ben E. King.

Lloyd Price

And that brings us to the new Lloyd Price album, This is Rock and Roll. The album is a winning combination of new Price songs including “I’m Getting Over You,” “The Smoke,” and the funky social commentary of “Nobody Loves Anybody Anymore.” When Price turns to covers of classics like “Blueberry Hill,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” and Jimmy Reed’s “Peepin’ and Hidin’” (recorded live in New York City) he brings his own unique twist to the old chestnuts. He is at his best, however, on an emotional cover of Carole King’s “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”

This is Rock and Roll was recorded primarily at City Lights Studios in Farmingdale, New Jersey with studio owner Guy Daniels producing. The sessions yielded 27 songs and Price chose the ten that he felt sounded like “a reflection of the past but still right now.”

Lloyd Price was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2010. The new album will be available digitally tomorrow at iTunes, and Amazon. The CD can be purchased at Price’s website.

EP Review: Brothers Prince, “Single”

Popdose introduced you to Brothers Prince, the twin Prince brothers (!) in June, who impressed us with their first offering, the perfectly-summer-y track, “Sun To Rise”.  The Oakland natives are now back with their first E.P., aptly titled Single.  Although it’s only 3 tracks – “Son To Rise” being one of them – we wanted to let you know what we think thus far.

“Finish Last” is a sweet sounding groove; laid back with some delicious guitar and elements of the ’70’s styled slower soul-funk.  A little jazzy, although I don’t love rap-styled vocals (I would have preferred him singing instead), the backing vocals and harmonies shine, especially on the choruses.  “Sun To Shine” you already know and we at Popdose love; “So Musical” is another warm, upbeat and positive track.  This trade-off of vocals is spot on and the use of keyboards makes the song burst with pure soul.

I know three songs aren’t enough to gauge but I think Brothers Prince are already off to a fine and impressive start.  A finely-tuned sense of melody; strong song structures and FEEL – which has to be emphasized.  The summer’s come and gone – let’s see what Brothers Prince offer for the cold, dark winter.

RECOMMENDED

Single is currently available

http://brothersprince.com/

Album Review: David Grubbs, “Creep Mission”

It starts with the guitar and the guitar alone, amplified slightly but not distorted, its complicated figures as crystalline as frosted glass. It advances, carefully, with the occasional pitter-patter of percussion and well-placed interjections of bass, both low in the mix, letting the real star shine. Two minutes in, it climbs a scale, there’s the faintest hint of an organ and, after a brief bridge, it climbs the scales again, more emotive than cerebral despite the gallery-like presentation. Four minutes in, a minor crescendo comes crashing down and we return to the guitar, this time accompanied by a trumpet, the finger-picked notes practically emanating a life-pulse.

This is David Grubbs’ new record, Creep Mission, and rarely – if ever – in his solo career has the post-rock forefather (he of Gastr del Sol, Bastro, and Squirrel Bait) sounded better. It’s out Friday on Drag City/Blue Chopsticks Records and available for pre-order HERE. You must hear this thing. For the right set of waiting ears, this is the Record of the Year.

Grubbs wastes little time setting goals and bars on his Mission and album-opener “Slylight,” described above, is magical, endearing, and enrapturing stuff. But there are several surprises for people who are expecting a note-for-note coda to 2016’s exciting Prismrose. For one, Grubbs exudes an amazing compositional unity on the record, and the pieces hang on similar, sometimes parallel, walls, so to speak. The whole thing sounds like a special session – somehow calculated in its precision, somehow improvised in its fluidity – recorded in one take and in one sitting. Secondly, though, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Louisville avant-indie guitarist has never sounded this emotive. (Grubbs’ work always speaks to the head but here, as in his best works, it also aims for the heart.) Gone are the cold intentionalities that sometimes have weighed down his work; like the guitar on display throughout – yes, there are no vocals herein – Grubbs’ delivery is immediate and uncluttered.

Though I’m loathe to cite advance materials, they, here, are worth noting. Blue Chopsticks, Grubbs’ boutique home for experimentalism, promised a Grubbsian LP of “melancholy country raga,” “sludge-rock” and “pointillistic electroacoustic improv” on Mission Creep’s seven compositions. To be fair, elements of all of those are on display (the doe-eyed slide guitar of raga; the Minimalist horizon expansions of sludge-rock; the pinpoint, Fahey-esque precision on the acoustic “The Bonapartes of Baltimore”) but what Grubbs presents is a kind of genre-less skeleton, a shadow around which the listener is meant to construct larger song structures and meanings. Yes, yes, the electric noodling on the wonderfully titled “Jeremiadaic” is a little looser than Grubbs’ virtuosity on the six-string, but, again, everything is stripped bare to the point where even subtle detours can reveal sonic treasures.

The record closes with “The C In Certain” (inside joke: longtime Grubbsians will be left to ponder if John McEntire’s next band will be dubbed The Sea and Certain) a moody, almost boozy, affair where a bottleneck — in more ways than one, perhaps – sets the stage. Grubbs’ playing is resplendent, and, when accented by the subtle buzz of electronics or the moan of a horn, it’s the material of transcendence. The man is clearly onto something here and those who have been faithful to his work since “Rebecca Sylvester” or, even moreso, “Sun God” will thrill at what he’s cooked up here. Five entirely sky-drowning stars!

REVIEW: David Grubbs – “Creep Mission”

It starts with the guitar and the guitar alone, amplified slightly but not distorted, its complicated figures as crystalline as frosted glass. It advances, carefully, with the occasional pitter-patter of percussion and well-placed interjections of bass, both low in the mix, letting the real star shine. Two minutes in, it climbs a scale, there’s the faintest hint of an organ and, after a brief bridge, it climbs the scales again, more emotive than cerebral despite the gallery-like presentation. Four minutes in, a minor crescendo comes crashing down and we return to the guitar, this time accompanied by a trumpet, the finger-picked notes practically emanating a life-pulse.

This is David Grubbs’ new record, Creep Mission, and rarely – if ever – in his solo career has the post-rock forefather (he of Gastr del Sol, Bastro, and Squirrel Bait) sounded better. It’s out Friday on Drag City/Blue Chopsticks Records and available for pre-order HERE. You must hear this thing. For the right set of waiting ears, this is the Record of the Year.

Grubbs wastes little time setting goals and bars on his Mission and album-opener “Slylight,” described above, is magical, endearing, and enrapturing stuff. But there are several surprises for people who are expecting a note-for-note coda to 2016’s exciting Prismrose. For one, Grubbs exudes an amazing compositional unity on the record, and the pieces hang on similar, sometimes parallel, walls, so to speak. The whole thing sounds like a special session – somehow calculated in its precision, somehow improvised in its fluidity – recorded in one take and in one sitting. Secondly, though, the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Louisville avant-indie guitarist has never sounded this emotive. (Grubbs’ work always speaks to the head but here, as in his best works, it also aims for the heart.) Gone are the cold intentionalities that sometimes have weighed down his work; like the guitar on display throughout – yes, there are no vocals herein – Grubbs’ delivery is immediate and uncluttered.

Though I’m loathe to cite advance materials, they, here, are worth noting. Blue Chopsticks, Grubbs’ boutique home for experimentalism, promised a Grubbsian LP of “melancholy country raga,” “sludge-rock” and “pointillistic electroacoustic improv” on Mission Creep’s seven compositions. To be fair, elements of all of those are on display (the doe-eyed slide guitar of raga; the Minimalist horizon expansions of sludge-rock; the pinpoint, Fahey-esque precision on the acoustic “The Bonapartes of Baltimore”) but what Grubbs presents is a kind of genre-less skeleton, a shadow around which the listener is meant to construct larger song structures and meanings. Yes, yes, the electric noodling on the wonderfully titled “Jeremiadaic” is a little looser than Grubbs’ virtuosity on the six-string, but, again, everything is stripped bare to the point where even subtle detours can reveal sonic treasures.

The record closes with “The C In Certain” (inside joke: longtime Grubbsians will be left to ponder if John McEntire’s next band will be dubbed The Sea and Certain) a moody, almost boozy, affair where a bottleneck — in more ways than one, perhaps – sets the stage. Grubbs’ playing is resplendent, and, when accented by the subtle buzz of electronics or the moan of a horn, it’s the material of transcendence. The man is clearly onto something here and those who have been faithful to his work since “Rebecca Sylvester” or, even moreso, “Sun God” will thrill at what he’s cooked up here. Five entirely sky-drowning stars!

-30-

What’s THAT Supposed to Mean?: Blondie, “Long Time”

Some people get crankier when they get older. They drift off and sit in front of whatever TV shows best reinforce their stereotypes and validate their disdain.

But unlike decreasing metabolism and increasing detachment from the Top 40, turning into a curmudgeonly shut-in isn’t an inevitable part of aging. A lot of folks in the AARP years are beyond the petty stuff. They exude compassion and clarity. And before they go into that good night, they’re going to spend a bit more time enjoying the nightlife.

Case in point: Debbie Harry. The Blondie frontwoman is 72 years old. Yes, 72. She was already in her 30s when Blondie broke onto the scene in the late 70s. Her bandmates were a few years younger — drummer Clem Freaking Burke is still a sprightly 61, guitarist and co-creative leader Chris Stein is 67.

Chris Stein

And the band has been getting fresh infusions of youth since its 1999 comeback. Originally a comeback project of four original members (the three mentioned above, plus keyboardist Jimmy Destri) and a lot of session guys, the band’s spotlight now falls as much on dazzling guitarist Tommy Kessler and keyboardist/songwriter Matt Katz-Bohen — both veterans of everything on the NYC music scene from pit orchestras to neo-New Wave bands — as it does on Stein, who barely seems to move a finger on stage. (Curiously, Leigh Foxx has played bass for Blondie since 1999 and still has neither a bio on the band’s page nor a Wikipedia entry.)

That leaves Blondie in a unique position in the musical landscape. They might be the only band touring today in which you might want to check out the concessions and restrooms during the old material (though you should be sure to hear Atomic, where the anonymous Foxx doesn’t take a shot at Nigel Harrison’s iconic bass solo but Kessler rips into a pick-tossing, fretboard-tapping, behind-the-head shredding showcase). The new material suits Harry’s maturing voice better … and it’s terrific stuff.

(See Dw. Dunphy’s review of Blondie on a killer triple bill with Garbage and Deap Vally.)

They can still bring the disco. Their first single this year, Fun, hit No. 1 on Billboard’s dance club chart, propelled by a video that makes you wonder if Studio 54 ever closed.

And as of this writing, the No. 5 song on that chart is the song of this post, Long Time.

Perhaps it’s still too new, or perhaps people are busy admiring yet another hybrid New Wave/disco beat from Clem Freaking Burke, but our usual sites for lyric interpretation have not yet commented on this tune. And that’s a pity, because there’s interesting stuff to dissect here.

Tommy Kessler

The lyrics could be taken cynically. We could picture Tori Amos (who, incidentally, has a new album worthy of a few listens) delivering some of these lines with sarcasm:

Take me, then lose me, then tell them I’m yours
Are you happy?

Does it take you a long time?
Does it make you upset?
Does it make you think everybody wants to be your friend?

I don’t think that’s what Blondie intends here. There’s a bittersweet element — the song ends on a slightly downcast note, and the video invokes U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For with Kessler strumming his way down the street.

But the video also reinforces the hopeful tone of the tune. Like a lot of Blondie’s output over the years, it’s very New York, with a mention of the Bowery and random shots of exits for Staten Island and Broadway along with Kessler’s strolling and Clem Freaking Burke taking his sticks to a couple of buildings.

Then Harry is at the center of it all, playing a taxi driver. It’s as if she’s guiding us, showing us that we can find more to life in this city — or wherever we are.

Extending the metaphor — Harry’s addressing someone who’s a little lost …

I’ve been running circles ’round a night that never ends
I’ve been chasing heartache, in a city and a friend
I’ve been with you so long, even seen you lose it, but who cares?

Drinking with your cell phone with a smile on your face
Happy in success, but still a thousand miles away
Is this what you wanted, is this everything you had in store?

Clem Freaking Burke

All of us, no matter how “successful,” get stuck in a rut and frustrated. We all wonder if there’s something else for us.

Fortunately, in moments like that, we can hop in Harry’s taxi and see something new. Doesn’t matter if you’re 72 or 47 or whatever. We can take a little detour and gain new perspective, and Long Time is as pleasant a ride as you’ll find on the dance club speakers or your favorite streaming service today.

And so while some older folks are withering away in front of Fox News griping about Colin Kaepernick or Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Harry is out there being an activist (specifically on behalf of bees, whose death by environmental malice threatens our food supply) and leading us with grace and a fun disco kick. I for one welcome our new septuagenarian overlords.

OKC Thunder Install New MP3 System

Bluetooth MP3 System Installed In Rafters At Chesapeake Arena

Oklahoma City Basketball ArenaThere has been an upgrade to the sound system at Chesapeake Arena, home of the Oklahoma Thunder basketball team. The new system will allow for fan-submitted playlists and song requests through a proprietary software application that you can download through the App store at https://www.apple.com/ios/app-store/

The idea behind this is to create more fan engagement during games. The app will also have games and trivia, scores and results will be featured on the scoreboard during the game, giving users real-time feedback. The app will also promote future events, showcase ticket sales, and provide real-time stats for games being played in the Arena.

In addition to the addition of the Bluetooth system, they rewired the sound system to allow for surround sound playback for those streaming surround sound mixes of commercially released music. Complications arose when wiring the system and technicians discovered stress cracks in the roof of the Oklahoma City arena. Facility maintenance engineers called upon Oklahoma City roofing contractors Salazar Roofing to make the repair so that the installation of the system could be installed without further setback.

Chesapeake Arena is also used as a concert venue during the offseason. Currently, there are tickets on sale for the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Musical performances like these will not be using the Arena sound system but will most likely use their own speaker walls of sound.

Equipping the Oklahoma City Arena with these additional features should encourage fans to purchase tickets and become more involved while at the games. Immersing them into an experience not previously available. The new sound system that was installed and secured to the roofing structure, blends with the rafters and gives it an industrial look.

downtown oklahoma cityWe spoke to some fans of the Oklahoma City Thunder to get their feedback on the new sound system and the response was very positive. Here are few quotes from some of the loyal fans we interviewed after the Thunder game.

Chad Switzer“Wow we were blown away by the interaction we had during the game, kept the kids involved and gave them an opportunity to play some games”

Philip Leonard“I spent more time on the app submitting song requests and playing trivia than watching the game”

Jordan Ghimre“I didn’t need the distraction, the game is what I am here to watch. If I’m going to sit and play on an app while I watch a Thunder game then we might as well send them back to Seattle”

Music Review: Best of Bigstar

POPDOSE SONG PREMIERE: JEREMY & THE HARLEQUINS, “With You”

Popdose is pleased to share with you a new track from New York’s own Jeremy & The Harlequins.  A “classic” rock & roll love song, Jeremy Lublin (vocals/writer) offers, “‘With You’ is a love story. So many people I know got married or engaged this year and I was inspired to write something romantic. Sure, it has kind of a Johnny Cash thing going on in the rhythm and we figured if you’re going to do a ballad, do it right.”

Coming off their 2016 Yep Roc Records debut, Into the Night, the band recorded in the legendary Beachwood Canyon in Los Angeles with Rick Parker (Lord Huron, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Scott Weiland & The Wildabouts).They self-released their debut album American Dreamer in early 2015, and saw several placements in major films.

Give them a listen and see what you think!

http://www.jeremyandtheharlequins.com/

The Popdose Interview: Jem Godfrey of Frost*

Progressive rock fans (particularly in the United States) probably did not know what to do with the band Frost* when the debut album Milliontown appeared in 2006. Here was a group that was actively embracing the new frontiers of modern recording, still giving the breathtaking performances prog fans expect, mind you, but almost gleefully ignoring the recording limitations that were regularly adopted and calcified in the genre. There’s a practical reason for this: if a prog band can’t go out and replicate a mindbending performance, they tend to be ostracized.

That didn’t stop the band, or its leader Jem Godfrey. Curiously, it had little effect on their ability to play out either, and that ability to blow the doors down live ensured that the small but loyal fanbase that started in the States would stay just as loyal. 

Then the band broke up (sort of).

Then Godfrey appeared in a long series of making-of videos for what would become Experiments In Mass Appeal (2008), Frost*’s second album. Godfrey’s personality perfectly suited the medium, and his amiable demeanor converted more “Frosties*,” but then the band broke up again (sort of).

Fans were tentatively hopeful when, in 2013, news started surfacing. Godfrey was taking some time out of his busy “main gig” as a successful producer/songwriter to make new music for himself. Would it be solo or Frost*? Would it be pop, electronic, or rock? No one really knew for sure except, perhaps, Godfrey himself.  2016’s Falling Satellites surprised many. For those who cling tightly to the traditionalist notions of prog rock, it might have been a huge shock to the system. The club-banging breaks in the midst of the song “Towerblock” induced whiplash in some, but for most (this writer included), it fulfilled the fundamental requirement of progressive rock, in actually being progressive and inclusive, rather than focusing too narrowly on a stoic notion of what the genre must be.

He didn’t do it entirely alone. The first album featured members of the prog institution IQ, and the current band features John Mitchell (guitars, vocals), who has been with Frost* from the start; Nathan King, bass guitar; and Craig Blundell (drums); who both have served on tours with Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree, Blackfield).

But Godfrey remains the nucleus of the band. He has stated that it has been his outlet for more complicated musical ideas when the pop world takes up too much of his creative time. He was responsible in part (with Bill Padley) for Atomic Kitten’s platinum-selling single, “Whole Again.” He won an Ivor Novello Award (an award for songwriting and composing presented by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers, and Authors — ED) in 2006 for the best selling single of 2005 in the United Kingdom, “That’s My Goal,” for The X-Factor’s Shayne Ward. He has also gone out on tour as keyboardist for guitar-slinger Joe Satriani. In other words, the day job is far more lucrative and successful, but in turn, funds the passion project which, for eleven years now, has been under the Frost* banner.

Having been a Frostie* from the start, it was a thrill to speak to Jem and to ask questions about the band, the music career in full, his garden shed studio The Cube which has become its own legend at this point, and more. Stemming from a naive request on social media, this interview ended up being a thoughtful discussion, and Popdose thanks Jem Godfrey for taking the time to chat with us.

Could you describe the Ivor Novello Award and its significance, and perhaps what winning such an award means to a songwriting career?

People refer to it as the songwriting Oscars. However I think that’s actually the Grammy. Mine was for the amount of records sold that particular year, so it’s not based on any creative merit, which perhaps slightly clouds my judgment of it. Did the phone ring off the hook afterwards? Not really.

I sound really ungrateful, don’t I? I promise you I’m not, but nor am I going to blow smoke up my own arse.

There has been a significant amount of time between Frost* projects, mainly (to my knowledge) because production work is your primary income generator. With nearly every lull for the band, there had been word that the group was, in fact, ended. I have to start with this question: what is the current status of Frost*?

Frost is alive and well… for the moment. I think any band ebbs and flows in terms of its existence. If a band has something to do, then it’s got a purpose and therefore can justify “being,” so to speak.

Frost will certainly be a thing until 2020 as the timetable for the next three years is fully formed – over the winter, I’m going to finish off an EP called Others, which has the final six tracks from the Falling Satellites sessions that didn’t fit with the theme of the album for various reasons. That will be released sometime in Q2 2018. After that, I shall probably take the summer out and then start properly on album four in the fall of 2018. I expect it’ll take about a year to complete, as I can only work on it part time, and so will probably be released in Q1 or 2 of 2020. After that, I’d quite like to do what (former IQ member) Martin Orford did in 2009. I’ve always wanted to take up beekeeping…

Falling Satellites seemed to have a convoluted childbirth. At first, the project was to be a two-disc, full-on concept album, then became a single album. If I recall correctly, it was also initially to be a solo album, very electronic in nature. Then there were wranglings with how it would appear, either under contract with the label or as an independent release. Could you set the record straight on how the album go to be what it was?

I wouldn’t say it was a convoluted birth; it was more a case of letting it evolve as it needed to. It certainly veered all over the place as it came together, but I think that’s all part of the creative process sometimes. Anything creative that’s nailed to the ground from day one just because somebody says that that is how it’s going to be will never truly flourish as it should do.

Initially, it was indeed intended as a solo release to get around the three album deal Frost* had with InsideOut. However, as the songs progressed, they were so obviously Frost* songs that it seemed very childish on my part to try and wriggle out of a record contract that I’d signed in full understanding of what it would entail. Not only that, but InsideOut were nothing other than hugely supportive and encouraging throughout the whole process, so I was doubly embarrassed. One thing they did suggest however was that it should be 45 minutes long. Personally I agreed, but I knew I’d get a lot of criticism if I did it, so I chickened out and made it 60 minutes. There was enough material to have made a double album, but I felt it was more concise to pick the best of the best from the sessions and made a really good single album rather than a more rambling and long-winded double. It’s like lots of films these days: why do they have to be 2 ½ hours long? It doesn’t make them better. Plus, you get a sore arse.

When I first heard Falling Satellites, it seemed like it was a series of snapshots of endings. In specific, I got this impression from “Towerblock,” “Lights Out,” and at least in title, “Nice Day For It.” Was that the intention or have I misread?

It’s about the human life cycle; more specifically about my dad’s as he died just as I was finishing off the album. Initially, it was more generic than that, but after he died I realized that many of the lyrics could have been about him and his life. Some tracks are absolutely about him and the aftermath of his death – “The Raging Against The Dying Of The Light In 7/8,” for example, is about his final months. The lyric “Seen seldom relations, driving in rain” was about driving to his funeral. It rained heavily and continuously on the day we cremated him.

He was writing a book about his experiences as a child during the Second World War when he died; he talked about being able to read his comics by the light of the fires from the bombed Docklands during the Blitz. That image really struck me, hence the lines about “the lights from the fires in the sky,” and stuff like that.

My life has moved from largely being about beginnings to being more about endings. I’m closer to death than birth now, which has been a sobering revelation. I feel like I’ve hardly got started.

Anyways, the general theme of the album is – we’re here for a very short time, be magnificent while you can.

Have you strung an electrified fence around The Cube to keep Steven Wilson from stealing away any more band members?

No. (Laughs)

It took Craig two days to record his parts for Falling Satellites, the same for John, too. And I didn’t even see Nath as he emailed his parts over. I’m a terrible employer really, Steven’s much better.

One of the most appealing things about Frost* — to me, at least — is that you aren’t indifferent or neglecting of the current sounds of pop music and pop production. That is certainly a part of your larger career as a producer/musician, but prog rock tends to not be so progressive. More often, the form self-replicates or is very beholden to other (older) musical forms. Is there a conscious effort on your part to integrate or is that just a natural response to the types of music you’re involved with, that they’re bound to intermingle?

Partly. I think it’s getting better anyway with bands like Haken, Kepler 10, and the other newer (younger!) prog bands that are emerging. A lot of prog is an exercise in nostalgia both for the bands themselves and also their audiences, and that’s totally okay. But I’m a fine one to talk. “Nice Day For It” couldn’t be more “Duke’s Travels” if it tried!

I’m proud of “Towerblock” though. It’s been very divisive.

How in the world did you wind up involved with prog rock anyway?

It’s Isaac Newton’s fault – “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” I wanted to make a mad, totally over-the-top prog album to keep myself sane in the midst of all the squeaky clean teen pop I was employed to write at the time. I didn’t realize it would snowball like it did…

The creation process for Experiments In Mass Appeal was heavily documented on social media, in videos, on the Frost* website. There was less of it for “The Dividing Line” from The Philadelphia Experiment, and almost none but the occasional blog post for Falling Satellites. To my knowledge, even the website is gone. Do you feel the process was too exposed for Experiments? In your mind, was there too much promotional involvement in the creation of that album?

We do still have a website – www.frost.life

It was all part of the concept of “Mass Appeal.” It was an experiment for me too, really. The conclusion I drew was that too much information is a bad thing. There were a few people that had imagined a lot more into the album than there was when it finally came out and so were left a bit disappointed with it. Others thought I was a bit of a tosser and so were put off. That said, lots of people enjoyed it and I think it began a bit of a spate of other bands doing something similar, which was nice.

After all that filming, I think old Isaac Newton reared his ugly head again. I’m currently of the opinion that I’ve had my 15 minutes, have some dignity, go and sit back down in my chair, shut up and get on with things rather than waffling on quite so much.

Plus, I don’t think filming us now would be quite so entertaining. We all were quite a lot happier then, I had less children so I wasn’t as tired all the time as I am now. I don’t think the recession had hit either by that point, so the planet was in a good place relatively speaking. Plus, we were much less likely to all die in a giant planet-wide hydrogen fireball than we currently are, there wasn’t a narcissistic psychopath in charge of the free world, and the U.K. hadn’t just committed economic suicide by voting to leave the E.U. It’s doesn’t feel like party time on Planet Earth right now.

For the most part, the band seemingly has stood as an alter ego to you. However, over time John Mitchell seems to have become much more a bandmate than perhaps was his initial role. Where do you see his place in terms of what Frost* was/is?

I think if you’ve got the two of us, then you’ve got “basic” Frost*. I don’t in any way mean that to denigrate what Craig and Nath bring to the party, far from it, but when you have Craig and John in Lonely Robot for example, it’s totally not Frost*, even though there’s 50% of the same people involved.

John has an extraordinary charisma, which is quite beguiling to witness. He can scowl more enigmatically than anybody else I know. He’s got an amazing physical presence. People go a bit funny when they talk to him, whereas they say, “Alright Jem, you walloping old knobber!” when they talk to me.

You’ve also had a small role in Mitchell’s solo/band project Lonely Robot. I guess in a sense, this is a mirror to the Jem Godfrey/Frost* dynamic for him?

Not really. I’m not on the new album at all!

As digital recording and distributing continue to dominate the music world, prog rock remains one of the hold-outs for the album as a structured collection or statement. Even so, artists are finding it difficult to maintain careers based on Spotify stream revenues, and the fragmented singles market is not particularly conducive to the album format, either in physical form or as an intellectual construct. What are your thoughts on this? Is the genie really out of the bottle and artists have to accept they are doing this for the love of it, if not the financial benefit from it?

I think we have to accept that the million dollar days are behind us, and do you know what? I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing. It’s become much more of a democracy now. Record labels aren’t force feeding us what they think we should be listening to, WE get to choose now, and that’s great. Plus, it broke down all the ivory towers and gave some real pompous arseholes a smack in the mouth with the humility hammer who felt they were owed a living off the backs of musicians’ efforts.

People’s music tastes are much more wide ranging and varied now as a result of platforms like Spotify I think, and there’s less snobbery, too. People can like Taylor Swift, Oscar Peterson, and Frost*, and that’s okay. Are musicians paid fairly enough? No, I don’t think we are, but it’s relative.

Nobody should “expect” to make a living at anything in the arts anyway. That sounds very brutal, but it should be about expression rather than commercial gain. The process is the reward. You might have to be an electrician as well, but if that’s what it takes to buy you time to be creative, then that’s what it takes. I worked in radio stations making promos for six years when I got going. Nobody sets out in life to make radio promos for plain paper fax machines or Rolos, but it got me access to Pro Tools and paid the rent. Frost* has never been profitable, it takes money rather than makes money and always has. I do other stuff to pay for it.

Is the album dead? I think it is for those for whom it was never that important anyway, but for those who still value it as a thing, it’ll never go away.

Thanks again to Jem Godfrey for taking the time to speak with Popdose. You can learn all about the band at: http://www.frost.life

P.S. About the asterisk: There is, in the United States, a band called Frost featuring guitarist Jack Frost from Seven Witches. There is also a famous black metal band called Celtic Frost. And now you know, in part, why the asterisk is there.

 

Album Review: The National, “Sleep Well Beast”

For the better part of the last two decades, The National has been providing me and others like me with the soundtrack for our adulting.

Now, I’m not talking, necessarily, about the world-weariness of the 9-to-5 or the trials, the ups and downs, of raising a family, though impressions of both sometimes sneak into the frame. What I’m talking about is the sort of dull-edged melancholy that comes with the awareness that time passes, love fades, and the things you once cherished will live strongest not in the present, but in memories of your youth. Yep; heady stuff.

On Sept. 8, the New York by-way-of Ohio quintet added another chapter to the liturgy with a new record — Sleep Well Beast, out on all formats on 4AD. The record, in many ways, is classic National, texturally ripe both lyrically and musically. But there are flourishes that are new; in addition to electronic pulses setting the tone more than a little here and there, the record leans on piano leads where previous ones have been dominated by guitar from the brothers Dessner. It leaves the material feeling a little heavier and weightier than usual, a feeling exacerbated by frontman Matt Berninger’s oft-somber delivery.

But is it any good? Well, sure. If any other band had cut this thing, they’d be hailed as indie heroes-in-the-making and rightly so. But expectations are high for The National and – while High Violet remains its undisputed high-water mark – its members largely deliver, presenting listeners with tracks that leave some indelible impressions, even if they are not the best of their career.

The album-opening “Nobody Else Will Be There” is enthralling, with little but Berninger’s voice, a rusty piano and the digital-delay trip of a click-clacking guitar leading the way. (The enveloping “Empire Line” uses similar tricks, and with strings to boot.) “Carin at The Liquor Store,” again led by a piano, has an oddly life-affirming tone to it, contrary to lyrics that intone “I wasn’t a keeper.” The great duopoly of “Walk It Back” and “Born To Beg” are wonderfully lulling material, with fine performances from Berninger. “Dark Side of the Gym” features not only the killer lyrics “I’m gonna keep you in love with me / for a while” but a kind of dark doo-wop sway. But, elsewhere, sadly, the material falls from A to B+, with clumsily executed electronics (the awkward intro to “I’ll Still Destroy You”) or a barn-burning, big-R Rock exercise that’s sadly out-of-place (“Turtleneck”).

All in all, it’s a fine outing and a great fix for those who’ve been hanging onto side projects and side projects alone since Trouble Will Find Me. Now, we’ll wait for the next one and watch as the members of The National further mature and age – and we do, too.