Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best of 2012: 70-59

70. Paul Burch and The Waco Brothers – Great Chicago Fire     

It's a bold move to begin your album with Johnny Rotten’s infamous closing line from the last Sex Pistols concert: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” “Great Chicago Fire” a collaboration between Country/Rock and Roll classicist Paul Burch and Post Punk hero Jon Langford’s Waco Brothers starts with that quote and ends with a Bob Dylan cover and in-between are some of the best Country Punk songs of the last decade.  

 Free Mp3 at Bloodshot Records

69. The Manic Low – Songs for an Up Day    
 In all of Punk Rock there is no voice like Jack Grisham’s: clean and gorgeous and it blows the doors off the building. From TSOL to Tender Fury to The Joykiller to his latest project, every new Grisham record is an opportunity to be thrilled. This one is 60’s Pop with a driving 90’s Punk influence, and it will stay in your head for days.


68. The Smith Street Band – Sunshine and Technology
The gruff, folk-influenced, Punk bands of the last few years have been the soundtrack to D3C for the last three seasons and SSB is a great addition to our monthly playlists. Catchy, aggressive, and detail rich, each song is a perfect short story:                                                                                                                    And I’ve finally found a home                                                                                                                  In a handful of people I was lucky enough to bump into
We act like pessimists but we’re in love with it.
And I’m in love with you
And our tiny bed in the upstairs front room of a run-down terrace house
As obviously perfect as that sounds.
Even in the summer when the cardboard window that you tape on every day falls out
And wakes us up…
And tonight I’m getting young drunk
Walking around the streets where I grew up
Knowing that they’re to blame
And all the red brick fences look the same.” 

67. The Men – Open Your Heart
For an album that announces itself with a riff lifted from “Suspect Device” by the Stiff Little Fingers “Open Your Heart” is a bit of an all-over-the-place record. Meaning, it starts with an iconic (and limiting) trick and expands outward in all directions. It’s not a Punk album, but you can hear the Stooges and The Saints and The Meat Puppets. It’s not College Rock but there’s a whole lot of Pixies and Shoegaze here. It’s not Psychedelic, but “Oscillation” swells and drones in the best acid-fried way. It’s hard for a band to be all things to all music geeks, but if you like anything released in the four decades of Rock, you will find something here to love.

66. Lambchop – Mr. M
The strings swell (sounding oddly like the strings that begin Bjork’s Joga) and it’s a gorgeous moment, broken by Kurt Wagner’s narcoticly groovy line: “Don’t know what the fuck they talk about…”, and we’re off. Lambchop is, admittedly, a band you have to work at liking. Not because they’re difficult, far from it, they are the most fucked-up, country tinged orchestral Pop band you’ll ever find yourself humming along to. They’re subtle. Too subtle for some, who end up missing the way their songs slowly unwind and how they cushion Wagner’s wickedly funny and terribly sad words.

65. The Victim Party – The Worst Party on Earth 
No one’s reinventing the wheel on this album, but then, no one really has to. It’s just one of the best collections of driving, catchy, boy/girl punk out there right now. 

64. Slug Guts – Playin’ in Time with the Deadbeat 
The late 70’s/Early 80’s Australian scene was one of the wildest and most creative Post-Punk explosions of the era. Bands like The Birthday Party, The Scientists, The Triffids, Beasts of Bourbon, The Moodists, and Crime and the City Solution incorporated elements of Country, Blues, Garage, Goth, Lounge, and Noise into their angular, confrontational sounds. Slug Gut has been accused of sounding just like The Birthday Party, but, in fact, they sound like all those classic Australian bands combined. They manage to mix The Scientist’s Garage Rock , The sleazy sounds of the Beats of Bourbon and the pop song craft of The Triffids with the art terror of The Birthday Party, to create the darkest, most glorious mess imaginable. 

63. Neneh Cherry & The Thing : Neneh Cherry & The  Thing 
One of this year’s most surprising and soulful records was an album of onetime Pop star (and deeply brilliant artist) Neneh Cherry’s collaborations with Avant-Jazz group the Thing on a collection of cover songs. There’s a lot going on in that sentence, but bear with me. The group tackles Suicide, MF Doom, and Martina Topley-Bird with amazing results, but it’s the version of “Dirt” by The Stooges that comes on like a revelation: still as sexy and grimy as the original, but with the Free-Jazz influence turned way up.


62. Titus Andronicus – Local Business 
Not as unhinged as previous albums, but no less powerful. Titus Andronicus still howl their bleak observations (see the opening line: “Ok, by now I think we’ve established that everything is inherently worthless…”) at you with ever escalating intensity. “Local Business” is all guitars and poetry and a firm belief that Rock and Roll is supposed to mean something, goddamnit.

61. The Holy Mess – Cande Ru Las Degas  
The fact that someone coined the term “Dad Punk” is deeply unsettling, since Punk is exactly the same age as I am. (Leaving aside that Suicide began using the term in ’72, we’ll settle on the date Punk started as the day The Ramones first played CBGB’s, August 16th, 1974. If you say, “but The Sex Pistols!”, I will throw a drink in your face. England didn’t invent Punk Rock, New York did. They just marketed it better.) What the hell is Dad Punk you ask? Punk with a bit more Rock and Country. Less Hardcore, less discordance, way less nihilism. Heartfelt instead of rage-filled. Which describes the new Holy Mess album perfectly.


60. Alex Chilton – Free Again (Reissue) 
Alex Chilton has one of the most frustrating legacies out there. His first band, The Boxtops, gave us “The Letter” and a handful of other great Rock/Soul singles; his next band, Big Star, produced three masterpieces: The Power Pop-defining #1 Record and Radio City and the far-reaching, nearly apocalyptic “Third: Sister Lovers”, and then…well, “spotty” would be a kind way to describe his solo career. “Free Again”, though, is a whole different animal. Recorded between the Box Tops and Big Star it finds Chilton finding his own voice by stretching the sound of the Box Tops into areas both gritty and sweet. The title track struts a bit and “Something Deep Inside” has a lovely little melody and a bubbling organ sound that’s pure 70’s AM gold. You need the three Big Star records, that’s a given, but if (when) you fall in love with Chilton’s voice, this is the only next step.     

59. Terry Malts – Killing Time 
Perfectly fuzzed-out bedroom Punk. In a better world, all of these songs are a hit. What makes this standout among the hundreds of other poppy, fuzzy bands is the energy. 80’s Hardcore is clearly a huge influence (They even cover Negative Approach), but it’s played with a crazy amount of lightness and sweetness.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Best of 2012

“I found a place where it feels alright.
I heard a record, and it opened my eyes.”
-          Pretty Girls Make Graves. “Speakers Push the Air”

There may be no stronger influence on a D3C event than a great record. It’s the reason why we try to have a musician perform with us every month, and it’s why, often, play titles are cribbed from lyrics (I always wanted my table of contents to read like a playlist.)
New York music scenes were the models for D3C: 70’s Punk, early 80’s No Wave, late 80’s Hardcore; it’s where we first discovered that all the truly important things were DIY, and too this day, we’re still inspired by every generation of boys and girls who pick up a guitar and just go.

In that spirit, we’re thrilled to present the first ever, Dialogue with Three Chords, Best Albums of the Year list.

From now until January 1st, I’ll be counting down, oh, let’s say, our top 75 releases from 2012, and see how far I get. I’ll also link to our 2012 playlist on spotify.

These albums helped shape our voice this year, so please, listen, comment, and tell us what we missed.

75. Down and Outs – Forgotten Streets                                                                                                 Excellent Rock and Roll leaning Punk. In all honesty, this is more of what the Gaslight Anthem wrought: Springsteen by way of The Clash, but what’s interesting about hearing a UK band attempt this style is that there seems to be a strong Oi! influence here, either by design or simply because the best Oi! always had a strong Pub Rock influence.                                                                                                                           Down and Outs at Soundcloud                                                                                                                     
74. Dan Vapid and the Cheats – Dan Vapid and the Cheats                                                                  Pop Punk, and I can’t believe I’m typing this, has made a huge comeback over the last few years, and that’s something that I never would have believed, having lived through the 90’s and watching it go from a handful of great Lookout! Records bands to a bunch of Ramones clones and childish nonsense that would make Blink 182 say “grow the hell up.” Yet, here we are, and of course, one of the best releases in this genre comes from an elder statesman: Dan Vapid from the legendary (though troubled) Screeching Weasel. Pop done right can still be an exhilarating thing.                                          

73. The Magnetic Fields – Love at the Bottom of the Sea                                                                    It seems like we need a “theme” for every Magnetic Fields release since “69 Love Songs” (Acoustic, Electronic, Distorted, etc), so I’m taking it upon myself to dub this one “Psychedelic”. It’s not ponderous, wonky, acid-fried, or pastoral, but it is brightly colored, so maybe “Madchester” is the better theme. Either way, Merritt is still one of the best lyricists around, able to be achingly funny and desperately sad at the same time, and that’s a hell of a trick.

72. Masked Intruder – Masked Intruder                                                                                          You may have a problem with a band working under what can only be described as a “stalker/home invasion” motif, and I can’t say I blame you, but they manage to do it with enough smarts that it begins to sound like a carefully crafted skewering of Emo Punk’s lonely and pining male-on-the-verge-of-derangement song craft (particularly on the outstanding “Heart Shaped Guitar”). Over-intellectualizing aside, it’s a ripping Pop Punk record. 

71. Joey Ramone - “…ya know?”                                                                                                      This not the best album, nor is it an embarrassment, which is an achievement in and of itself since it was assembled from half-finished vocal takes, it’s simply a chance to hear Joey’s voice one more time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The August D3C and After

Welcome to the third season and second year of Dialogue with Three Chords. 

I've thought a lot about what this year will be like, and the best analogy I can make is, the scripts in 2011-2012 were like: 

and this year, they will be more like: 

the same song but different takes, different arrangements, and different intentions. A move from the dark and devastated, to the dark and redemptive. We will experiment more, and we will play, and we will do our best to move you, but we will try and break hearts as we do it. 

We built something last year that we were proud of, and we were humbled that you came to see it, and this year, we want to sing and shout and make some profoundly sad and joyful noise. 

We're going to dance until we can barely hold ourselves together. We will be wilder and more devastating, and we hope to see you there.

First up is "When I Dream, I See Strange Men" and "The Baddest Man You Ever Wrought". 

"Baddest Man" is a play about booze, guns, and gender politics set in McDonough Georgia, and it tells the story of a night filled with bad decisions and the morning-after fall-out.

The curtain-raiser, “When I Dream, I See Strange Men”, is the first in a series of monologues that will open each of this season’s D3C events. Told from the perspective of people who believe they’ve had alien encounters, the “When I Dream” series is a heartbreaking look at men and women who doggedly believe the impossible and what that does to their day-to-day lives.

These plays feature:
John Harlacher as Bobby
Kendra Leigh Landon as Tricia
Sean Meehan as Dwight
Jennifer Skura as Kayleen 

Jason Jacoby as JJ

..and, as always, were directed by Michael LoPorto, written by Stephen Gracia, and produced by Edie Nugent, and if that Bonnie "Prince" Billy penned song is the soundtrack for the night, our charcaters are more concerned with these lyrics:

       "Well, you know I have a love, a love for everyone I know.
          And you know I have a drive to live, I won't let go..."

Than these:

      "But can you see this opposition comes rising up sometimes?
       That it's dreadful imposition, comes blacking in my mind..."

This season, everyone can see a darkness, but it's how they face it, and who they allow to save them that matters most.

- Stephen

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Favorite Songs from the Singles Soundtrack : Mike Naughton – Nearly Lost You by Screaming Trees

 Mike’s a bit older than the rest, and he held a little more tightly to the Classic Rock of his youth, so it makes sense that his favorite song comes off like the ghost of Jim Morrison.

“Nearly Lost You” is a broken-hearted chest-thumper. The sound of wallowing in a misery that echoes off mountains.  A perfect fit for someone who watched his dad trying to be a good man against all odds and now finds himself fighting the same fight. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Favorite Songs from the Singles Soundtrack : Terry Monaghan - Would? by Alice in Chains

For the rest of the week, I'll be blogging about what the adults in Mohammed's Radio would choose as their favorite "Singles" songs.

“Into the flood again
Same old trip it was back then
So I made a big mistake
Try to see it once my way…”
                           - Would? 

Terry’s favorite song is the darkest on the record. Regret and loss through a heavy drug haze. “Would?” resonated because Terry was the kind of teenager who hid his bruises under his dad’s old flannels. The kid who got drunk with friends and high alone, and “Would?” has a basement feel: lights out, candles lit, and dust swirling in the last bits of sun. Terry grew up thinking he could channel the anger and bitterness into something artistic, that he could overcome his feelings of isolation by becoming larger than life. He didn’t; he became his dad. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

"I wanna tell you that I love you, but does it really matter?" - Mohammed's Radio and The Singles Soundtrack

The Singles Soundtrack was an important record for my circle of high school friends. It’s a soundtrack that contained several brand new songs by a collection of bands that were just starting to get huge: it came out between Ten and Vs., between Facelift and Dirt, and rather than being just a collection of throwaways (though some songs were pretty inessential. Why did Soundgarden put all their terrible songs on soundtracks?), it features more than a few early 90’s Alt-Rock high points.

It contains Paul Westerbeg’s best post-Replacements songs, as well as “Overblown”, one of Mudhoney’s finest moments, a song that boldly criticizes the Seattle scene that the movie and soundtrack were meant to lionize, and if you asked a hardcore Pearl Jam fan to make a list of his/her favorite songs, “State of Love and Trust” would be near the top.

These were our songs. They were new, and we felt, momentarily, like we were part of something. Our High School years had been filled with other people’s music. We ran full-on into Classic Rock because that’s the bill of goods you’re sold when you want to be a Rock kid. “This is time-tested. It’s authentic. It’s Zepplin and Floyd and The Who. It’s the canon.” It took a couple of years to realize that these were not our stories and they likely never would be. There was no shortage of bravado and sexuality to these songs, but there was very little doubt, fear, or genuine rage.  

We were mixed-up, angry kids, and whatever Aerosmith songs WNEW was playing were not going to temper or hone it. By the end of our sophomore year, we discovered Punk, but by then, it was other people’s Punk. All the best bands had broken up. New York Hardcore was just crossover Metal bullshit, so we listened to The Clash and Minor Threat and we were sated, but it still wasn’t OURS in the way that holding a debut album in your hands and knowing that you’re at the start of something makes a movement yours.  

By our senior year, we loved Hardcore, but we also loved Siousxie and the Banshees and the Sugarcubes and the Pixies, and we were raised on Classic Rock structures, so were ready for something that rocked, but was weirder, more complex.

Enter Nirvana, who freaking howled the most amazing words at you, cushioned by perfect Pop and Pearl Jam who were Rock in the traditional sense but fronted by a poet who made you toss all your Jim Morrison books because you now found them lacking. This was real, and it was ours.

Then came the Singles soundtrack, and all of our best instincts were confirmed. What songs suck on this record? The old ones. The Hendrix one. The Led Zepplin cover. The ones we all fast-forwarded over.

For the adults in Mohammed’s radio, this is their most important record. It shaped them because it’s both tragic and uplifting. The movie has absolutely nothing to do with the death of Mother Love Bone frontman Andrew Wood, but it’s haunted by him. There are two songs by the former members of MLB (Pearl Jam), a song written in tribute to him (Alice in Chains’s “Would?”), and the man himself settling into the middle of the record with his most beautiful song: “Chloe Dancer/Crown of thorns”.

Every adult in Mohammed’s Radio has a favorite “Singles” song, and I’ll be posting them as we get closer to Thursday’s reading.

- Stephen

Sunday, March 25, 2012

D3C presents: Look at the Fish benefit night 3/29 at 8PM

Dialogue with Three Chords (D3C) presents a benefit for the Look at the Fish (LatF) theatre company on March 29th at 8PM at Mr. Dennehy's at 63 Carmine Street, NYC.

The evening will benefit the company and it's upcoming production of: "The Genesis Collection of Plays; Nine Monologues for the Theatre by Don Nigro; Dramatic tales of creation, love, carnage, and obsession told by Look At The Fish Theatre Company" to be directed by Thomas Mckee and Thomas James Lombardo

An evening of monologues written and performed by members of Look at the Fish theatre and live music. Admission is $12 and comes with a raffle ticket. 21 and over, please: the benefit is in a room with a private bar.

Excerpts from selected Don Nigro monologues will be performed as part of the benefit, as well as two works by LatF company playwrights Bret Richard Hoskins and Stephen Gracia.

"I'm very pleased to be a part of the Look At The Fish Theatre Company...they investigate the text and trust the text. That's very important to me. I think they will do brave, honest, and good work." --LatF company playwright Don Nigro

The performances will include:

"Genesis" by Don Nigro
Eve tells her side of the story.
With Colby Minifie as EVE, directed by Thomas James Lombardo

"Diogenes The Dog" by Don Nigro
Diogenes, the homeless Greek philosopher and founder of Cynic philosophy who often lived in a bath tub outside of Athens shares his unique philosophy of life.
With Dorien Makhloghi as DIOGENES, directed by Thomas James Lombardo

"The Last Giddy Hour of a Woundless Heart" by Stephen Gracia.
In this modern day Prometheus monologue/tale, a man away on business gets more than he bargained for after hiring a prostitute.
With Philippe Chang as MAN, directed by Thomas James Lombardo

"Frankenstein" by Don Nigro
A young woman who wrote her dissertation on Frankenstein shares why this novel her a definition of what it means to be alive. With Rachel Troy as MEREDITH, directed by Thomas James Lombardo

"Gone Fishin' On A Cloudy Day" by Bret Richard Hoskins
A scene from the forthcoming short play. With Ridley Parson as JIMMY and Evan Daved as CHARLIE, directed by Thomas James Lombardo

With live music from composer Aleksi Glick, accompanied by Christina Bendetto. Please visit

There will also be a raffle full of great prizes! Tickets are $2 each or 6 for $5:

-5 hours of free rehearsal space at 36th Street Studios
-Original manuscripts of collections of plays by Don Nigro; not published
-Free tickets to any Look At The Fish Theatre Company show
-Free tickets to Barefoot Theatre Company's next play at the Cherry Lane featuring Lynn Cohen
-Half off a headshot session (200$ - original price is 400-500$) from Even Cohen Studios
-2 Concert Tickets to ZoSo, the legendary Led Zeppelin Cover Band.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

End Of The World Ephemera

Fangtoothed & Wild
A Wig Full Of Spiders

Thursday, January 26th at 8pm
Mr. Dennehy's Irish Pub
63 Carmine Street, NYC

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thoughts on the sound of Fangtoothed & Wild and A Wig Full Of Spiders

“A Wig Full of Spiders” and “Fangtoothed and Wild” are my Garage Rock plays. They’re rough, a bit sloppy, and they stagger around the stage.

I’ve always had a love for Garage Rock and lo-fi Rockabilly, anything that sounds so overdriven that it’s about to turn into white noise, something that shakes and rattles and is always on the verge of falling apart.

The characters and tone of both plays are a bit different than what I usually write. They’re not strictly surreal or experimental, they’re just…off. I wanted to write something that put language first: the sound of it, the mythologizing, something a bit like the imagery in a song like Bo Diddley’s “Who do You Love?”:

“I walked 47 miles through barbed-wire; I use a cobra snake for a neck tie….”

“I’m just 22, and I don’t mind dyin’…”

Which was, just last year, repurposed into “California”, a beautifully apocalyptic song by Ema...

...which begins:

“Fuck California, you made me boring; I bled all my blood out…” and resolves into that same Bo Diddley line before crashing into the jarring:

“What does failure taste like? To me it tastes like dirt.”

This mirrors “Who do You Love?” ’s bravado vs nihilism. Of course a man who lives in a house of skulls doesn’t fear death, and of course a woman who’s bled all her blood out doesn’t fear it either.

The characters in “A Wig Full Of Spiders” fear death (and intimacy/vulnerability of any kind) and those in “Fangtoothed & Wild” either deny it or instinctively know how best to weather this Twilight of the Gods.

“A Wig Full of Spiders” is a groove, two repeating patterns playing against each other: drums and bass. It introduces the idea of being terrified of myths, especial a myth about the apocalypse, one led by Fenris, the world-eating dog.

“Fangtoothed and Wild” builds on that. It’s the fuzzed-out guitar. It’s the end of the world and Fenris is here, scamming drinks in a dive bar. The world shakes apart and much like the myth Fenris stars in; the Gods fall and the humans endure.

This Week! Dialogue with Three Chords Returns!