One from the Desert Files: "The Mark of the Mustache" (Eagles of Death Metal, June 2004)

I’m pretty sure this was the first “major” feature on the band, for whatever that’s worth. Originally published in LAWeekly (June 10, 2004)…

jessecape

Voodoo Boogie
Eagles of Death Metal: anointed by the spirits of rock & roll

by Jay Babcock

It’s never enough for some people.

I’ve explained to Jesse “the Devil” Hughes, singer of the Palm Desert/Los Angeles rock & roll band Eagles of Death Metal, that I’ve seen his group perform not once, not twice, but three times in just the last six months. This sort of attendance record might suggest a certain amount of enthusiasm for the band. But Jesse (calling him “Hughes” would be like calling Ozzy “Osbourne”) has got to know.

“Hey, why didn’t you go to the Henry Fonda show?” he asks. He looks at me with searching, sensitive eyes, like he’s been reluctant to ask but now, pride be damned, he’s decided that he really needs an answer. Like many great stage performers, Jesse is genuinely insecure. “I don’t get stage fright anymore,” he says, “but I get scared if people don’t love me.”

What’s not to love, one wonders. Witnessing the Eagles of Death Metal live is like encountering an embodiment of all that once made early rock & roll so wonderful: There’s a simple beat, you can sing along to it, and the singer is bizarrely charismatic. Jesse is a rock star as imagined by John Waters: greased-back hair, glasses, what he calls a “soft wonderful boomerang of love” mustache, gloves, tattoos, tight jeans, a Fender Telecaster and (sometimes) a rayon cape, delivering up the best Chuck Berry/Little Richard/Canned Heat–inspired rock & roll to leak out of America in some time.

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C & D from Arthur No. 31/Sept 2008: Dion, Fela A New Musical, Hacienda, Gang Gang Dance, Kasai All-Stars, Natacha Atlas, El Guincho, Megapuss, Little Joy, Mercury Rev, Desolation Wilderness, Grouper, the Antari Alpha F-80z, Matt Baldwin, Jonas Reinhardt, Raglani, Apse, Zach Hill, Eagles of Death Metal

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Longtime Arthur music reviewers C and D, as depicted by Pete Toms

This C & D session was originally published in Arthur No. 31 (September 2008)

C & D
Two confirmed schmucks grapple with the big issues.

dionborntobewithyou

C: Our work continues.
D: Or at least our drinking does. Ahahaha.
C: [frowns George Will-style] Let the record show that whatever we say from this point forward about any of these records that the Arthur staff have so carefully assembled will invariably be colored by what we’ve just been listening to: Born to Be with You by Dion, 1975, produced by Phil Spector, downloaded off the Heat Warps blog. We are basking in its rather substantial afterglow.
D: A stone gem beaut of an album…which, by the way, has never been released in America! What is wrong with you people?
C: Have some pity on a country in decline. And you full well know it’s (apparently) Mr. Spector himself that kept the record from ever being released here. But keeping to the point: the readers should know that not only did we just listen to it, we just listened to it three times in a row. We are smitten by this version of “(He’s Got) The Whole World In His Hands,” which just sorta echoes all over creation in a melancholy way…
D: [muses] It is strange to feel so instantly nostalgic for a record you’ve never heard. And yet I have been having that distinct feeling for the last hour and 25 minutes as we have been watching the sun go down over the Manhattan skyline while listening to the wonderful, stirring, heartfelt, heretofore unheard-by-these-ears work of the incomporable team of Mr. Dion and Mr. Spector. I guess it’s what they call that old deja voodoo, eh?
C: Ha, yes I suppose they do…

fela

FELA! A New Musical
at 37 Arts in New York City
Book by Jim Lewis & Bill T. Jones

D: So you went to a musical?
C: Yes, I did.
D: How did you like it? Did you laugh? Did you CRY?
C: From the first minute when the actor playing Fela sauntered by, two rows in front of me, on the way to the stage in his pink jumpsuit, led by his dancer/singer/wives, as Antibalas played the opening to “Everybody Scatter,” I was weeping openly.
D: I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It is said that dancing by yourself in your living room to Fela Kuti music is the only known cure for depression.
C: If it is that good, imagine what it must be like if you dance with others to it in public! The collective righteous joy is unbelievable. This thing broke me out of my post-David Foster Wallace suicide negative power zone.
D: So it was a full-on simulation?
C: Well… It’s not simply a tribute/costume concert, it’s an extremely brilliant musical-fueled biography of the man himself. The piece is two hours, 40 minutes and is set inside Fela’s club in Lagos, the Shrine. It’s 1976, I think, and he is onstage performing, and preparing to leave Nigeria. He’s had it with the ongoing corruption and idiocy in Nigeria. The government has arrested him, the military has stormed his commune, beaten and raped his wives and thrown his mother out of a second story window, leading to her eventual death. So he’s in and out of songs and monologues, reviewing his life to that point, smoking his big marijuana joints, laughing and crying and leading this band and this dance troupe, putting on this two-tier Afrobeat performance of… It’s spellbinding, just awesome, and I gotta say… As somebody who’s watched every second of available Fela Kuti footage out there, I thought I’d understood, as best I was gonna be able to understand in 2008, the man and the music. Well, I was totally wrong.
D: Wouldn’t be the first time!
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