King Louie’s Missing Monuments: Painted White

Douchemaster Records, 2011

Louis Paul Bankston aka King Louie is arguably the most prolific musician to emerge from New Orleans’ storied but largely obscured underground music scene.  The Harahan native has fronted or belonged to nearly a dozen bands in his 25 year career, including the short-lived but highly influential 90s punk outfit The Persuaders as well as The Bad Times, a 1998 studio project that included Eric Oblivian and a then little-known guitar raconteur by the name of Jay Reatard.  He’s toured the globe, worked with the likes of Guitar Lightin’ Lee and Alex Chilton, and lords over an undeniable sphere of consequence that encompasses artists from the Box Elders to The Black Lips.

And like literally every other garage-, punk- or noise-rock musician, it’s clear King Louie dips into the common list of influences that has been rattled off a thousand times before – The Kingsmen, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Stooges – but there is more to the his unyielding output than the relentlessly name-dropped founding fathers of underground rock ‘n’ roll.  Since his early work as a member of The Royal Pendletons, Louie has unabashedly shown a deference to some of the more saccharine threads of popular music as well, and the DNA of his new project Missing Monuments seems to owe as much to Carl Perkins and Donny Osmond as it does to Joe Strummer or Johnny Rotten.

The band’s full-length debut opens with the rollicking “Girl Of The Night”, a knowing study in classic power-pop that sets the tone for an assault of bouncy rhythms, steel-trap hooks, and enormous guitar solos.  But the rough edges slowly shine through as subsequent songs ecstatically descend towards Bankston’s long and mythical garage-punk past. “(It’s Like) XTC” keeps the slick, jangly tempo of its predecessor but adds a layer of raspy gang vocals, a gradual loosening of the belt that comes to a head with “All Bandaged Up”, a bluesy, hard luck ramble filled out with raunchy harmonica blasts and extended guitar jams.  But even booze-soaked shanties like “Nite Fall” maintain playful nods in structure to the class of surprisingly inspired and undeniably catchy AOR standards that King Louie openly celebrates.

Occasionally thin production lifts a layer of energy away from quick-stop, straightforward rippers like “Hot Class”, but King Louie’s affection for these songs in particular (and songwriting in general) is obvious, while the sheer abundance of his output makes it difficult to keep a highly critical eye trained on any specific work for too long.  On it’s surface, Painted White is an engaging spin on the shameless indulgence of power-pop, and upon further inspection it’s nothing if not yet another interesting artifact from a powerhouse local musical pioneer.

Painted White at Amazon

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Photoset // See You In Mexico + Dominique LeJeune + The Rooks + High In One Eye: 02.24.2012

See You In Mexico + Dominique LeJeune + The Rooks + High In One Eye performing at the Community Records practice space on February 24, 2012

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Live Picks: 02.23.2012 – 02.29.2012

02.23: Andy D – The Saint

02.24: See You In Mexico + Dominique LeJeune + The Rooks + High In One Eye – 3613 Chestnut

Yeah, of course punk is dead; it’s always dead. It died when a heroin-adled MC5 didn’t break, and again the year Blondie got rich off “Heart of Glass”, and again the day Nirvana signed to Geffen and again when Green Day tried to make their own Tommy. If there’s one lasting truth to punk’s entire story, it’s that it is always dying. For it to even truly exist in the first place, an artist needs a perfect storm of abrasiveness, energy and appeal – a nebulous form of bottled lightning that, almost by design, can’t last as long as it takes for someone else to find it again.

Yet that has never deterred Greg Rodrigue from living, breathing, pursuing and playing with the ethos that seems to perpetually outlast all who attempt to embody it. Business owner, Community Records founder and champion of all things DIY, he has spent the better part of his last half-decade helping to rebuild a New Orleans punk scene that, almost as fleetingly as punk itself, seems to constantly ebb and flow in and out of minor popularity among the city’s bored and alienated youth. Infrastructurally, Rodrigue has been largely successful thus far, and as a result the area has seen a rejuvenation of authentically reverent punk.

So it should be no surprise that the Rooks, even as a side project, are one of the most riveting bands in the city. De rigueur in their militant positivity and their desire to ignite short explosions of punk rock, bassist Rodrigue, Marathon/Choi Wolf drummer Rob Landry and Lollies guitarist Brian Pretus are pure life together on stage, though not necessarily in the old lightning in a bottle punk hackney: as a unit, the Rooks’ periphery presence is a conscious avoidance of the need to push superficial musical boundaries and instead the result of their need to affranchise a city – both as an avatar of the record collective whose existence the band’s members individually bolster and as a manifestation of the work it requires.

True to unconventional form, the band can be found hosting a house show on Friday to welcome a new addition to the New Orleans DIY community, A Billion Ernies singer and guitarist Ryan Leavelle and his wife Kassandra, who are moving to New Orleans all the way from Seattle, WA. Joining the Rooks will be local experimental punk duo High in One Eye and singer/songwriter/G-Eazy collaborator Dominique LeJeune, as well as Leavelle’s solo project See You In Mexico.

MP3: The Rooks: “Rat Pellet”

02.25: Royal Teeth + King Rey + Vox And The Hound – House Of Blues

02.28: Eternal Decay + Serpentis + Legions of Hoar Frost – Siberia

02.29: The Legendary Shack Shakers + The Dirt Daubers – One Eyed Jacks

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks

DYRT90s // Better Than Ezra: Good

As a young teenager growing up in the greater suburbs of Chicago, my knowledge of Better Than Ezra’s catalog started and ended with their 1993 breakthrough Deluxe, which didn’t come to my attention until Elektra re-released the album in 1995 and it quickly went platinum on the strength of #1 Modern Rock single “Good”.  But just as quickly as I “discovered” Better Than Ezra they slipped off my radar in favor of the next light-alternative rock band to produce a well-written, flawlessly executed power-pop ditty that seemed to perfectly capture the American young-adult zeitgeist du jour.

(I use the term “discovered” extremely loosely here, as during the halcyon days before the Telecommunication Act of 1996 precipitated the implosion of commercial FM radio and MTV moved away from a programming panorama that highlighted videos from every genre of popular music over the course of any given week, “discovering” music didn’t take much effort nor was it something in which people – or at least people my age at the time – took a self-congratulatory amount of pride.  In a major market like the greater Chicagoland area, the legwork required to find breaking artists was left up to the sea of disc jockeys flooding the FM dial; experienced, well-connected musicheads empowered to play songs largely of their own choosing and expected to be on whatever cutting edge existed before the internet flattened the music world once and for all.  There was no real venue outside of limited circulation fan ‘zines or a savant record store clerk to get a band-knowing leg-up on your peers, nor was there a real need to do so, for there was a brief moment in time when the radio and MTV seemed to perfectly serve all the needs of even an avid music consumer.)

That is, of course, until I moved to New Orleans four years ago, a city where Better Than Ezra’s fan base still thrives, boasting in its ranks men and women of all ages and dispositions. Because while Better Then Ezra was a charming one-hit-wonder in many parts of the country, locally they are a band that formed at LSU in 1988 and have been consistently recording and relentlessly touring for almost 25 years and counting, long before and even longer after their time in the national limelight.

It’s a cool reminder that – even at a time when songs can get pinged across the globe within seconds of being recorded – music comes from somewhere; not just in the figurative sense of emerging from some mystical tranche of the creative ether, but in the literal, functional and geographic sense.  The commoditized version of the product may drift in and out of cultural relevance, but the majority of the human beings making the songs that once dominated independently programmed radio stations and now surge through the Hype Machine ranks are actual people who live to make music.  And even though there will never be a lack of manufactured tween pop-stars fueled only by widespread popularity, they will always be outnumbered by hardworking artists with enough perspective to understand the fickle and mysterious nature of the music gods and enough talent and wherewithal to make decent music regardless of how long their mainstream success lasts or whether it even comes at all.

MP3: Better Than Ezra: “Good”

Live Picks: 02.16.2012 – 02.22.2012

02.16: Yeasayer (DJ set) + Force Feed Radio + Swiss Chriss + Christoph Andersson + Pr_ck – Eiffel Society

02.17: Supagroup – One Eyed Jacks

02.18: Caddywhompus + Big Rock Candy Mountain + Young Mammals + Donovan Wolfington – Cafe Prytania

02.19: Jack Oblivian + King Louie’s Missing Monuments + John Paul Keith – Siberia

02.20: Quintron and Miss Pussycat + Bass Drum Of Death + Har Mar Superstar + Marijuana Deathsquads – One Eyed Jacks

The last time Oxford, Mississippi’s Bass Drum of Death rolled through town, it was as part of what many have correctly identified as the most amazingly programmed show of 2011, an early October triple-feature that also included stripped down Houston psych-funk outfit Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Toro Y Moi. Bundick and Co.’s much belated New Orleans debut induced a pulsing, venue-wide dance party, and the frequency in which UMO erupted into slick intergalactic jams during their set made it one of the most unexpectedly delightful performances of recent memory; but it was Bass Drum of Death that stole the show that night, for doing what can only be accurately described as rocking really, really hard.

Despite the connotations of their (strong candidate for best band) name (in the history of music), the duo of John Barrett and Colin Snead offer one of the the most earnest takes on modern garage-punk the increasingly crowded field of vintage noise-rock revivalists has to offer.  Beyond the lo-fi aesthetic, their recorded material springs forth with an infectious vibrancy owned to fuzzed out guitarwork that still manages to be bright and sharp percussion work that is more likely to punctuate a driving riff with dexterous cymbal work than monstrous low-end.  But it’s the band’s live show, an unbridled explosion of primal energy that has been known to incite an all-female mosh pit or two, that feeds the band’s growing reputation as straightforward purveyors of unpretentious, undeniable rock ‘n’ roll.

They return to town this week for a well-deserved and tailor-made spot in Quintron’s annual Lundi Gras Blowout at One Eyed Jacks.  In a city steeped in musical tradition, this Monday night extravaganza hosted by Mr. Quintron and his performance art partner-in-crime Miss Pussycat is the “Neville Brothers on the second Sunday of Jazz Fest” for the rambunctious freak-out crowd, a rabid mass of followers that have turned the avant-noise alchemist into something of a local living legend. Sweaty, profane R&B crooner Har Mar Superstar along with Marijuana Deathsquads round out the bill, and the ladies of WTUL’s KG Accidental will be back on the 1’s and 2’s spinning the house music all night long.

MP3:  Bass Drum of Death: “Velvet Itch”

02.21: Lonely Lonely Knights + Guitar Lightnin Lee and the Thunder Band + Spooky Le Strange and Her Billion Dollar Babydolls – Saturn Bar

Check out our New Orleans Music Calendar for a full slate of constantly updated live picks