RECORD NEWS: A couple of years ago, one of the better rock bands around town was actually from Pocahontas, Ill., and they were called Grandpa's Ghost. They still are, and they're returning from what seemed to be a longish sabbatical to celebrate the release of their fourth CD -- the first not released by the band -- called Il Bacio.
Combining a love of distorted freakout guitar with a sprawling vision that turns four-minute songs into eight- and nine-minute epics, Grandpa's Ghost recall the more expansive moments of both Sonic Youth and Neil Young; they love feedback -- not just the loud, screeching kind but the quiet, pretty kind -- and harness the power of electricity to create loose structures that, from time to time, get squeezed into tight and compact rock songs.
Il Bacio is being released by Upland Records out of Fort Collins, Colo. The label is headed by Joe Carducci, who got his start in the music biz as one of the kingpins of SST Records when that label was great, when they were releasing classics by Black Flag, the Minutemen, the Descendents, the Meat Puppets and Hüsker Dü. Carducci also penned one of the great rock-criticism books of the '90s, Rock and the Pop Narcotic (2.13.61). Upland Records itself is a subsidiary of the smallish Owned and Operated Records, the label started by former Descendents and All drummer Bill Stevenson. Grandpa's Ghost will be celebrating the release of Il Bacio in the next month, after returning from gigs in NYC.
Seldom does a rock band get a second chance at commercial success after being dropped by a major label. Being dropped is the scarlet letter of the music industry, and, as mentioned a few months back (RFT, Dec. 29), Colony was not only dropped but insulted and embarrassed in the process.
So why exactly they would be courting the same system that sucker-punched them in the first place is a valid question, but they are: This Saturday they're gigging at the Duck Room in what's being secretly billed as a showcase for a few big-deal labels; The Point recently chimed in by putting one of their songs, "Starting To" into some semblance of rotation, and the band seems ready and willing to do battle with the system once again. They should, too, because they know how to make a hard middle-of-the-road rock song work, then explode.
Last week we raved about Darin Gray and Chris Trull's gig at the Side Door, but we failed to mention Gray's June 27 London gig, where he'll be performing with producer/composer/collaborator Jim O'Rourke as part of the Meltdown Festival, a prestigious gathering sponsored by the British royal family and curated by a different artist every year. Past curators include Elvis Costello, Laurie Anderson and Nick Cave. This year's fest, headed by Brit-crooner Scott Walker, will feature performances by Radiohead, avant-saxophonist Evan Parker and Smog, among others. O'Rourke and Gray will perform with David Pajo, former member of Slint, Stereolab and Tortoise; their gig will take place at Royal Albert Hall. From the Dazzling Killmen to Royal Albert Hall -- nice.
PICTURE THIS: Sometimes it's difficult to tell whether the majority of St. Louis bands are too lazy, too indifferent, too inexperienced or too dim to understand a basic rule of publicity: a good published press photo works as well -- probably better than -- a dumb mention in a stupid column by an idiot music critic. Because your average reader's eye automatically focuses on the picture on a printed page before being drawn to the writing, a cardinal rule of publicity is: Always provide a photo in your press packet. We mention this because we rarely see a good band-provided photo -- and when we do, we rejoice, because it's one less thing to worry about. So, bands, provide photos when you submit your material. And not just photos, but -- get this -- nonblurry photos. And not just nonblurry photos but imaginative, well-executed photos, ones in which you and your bandmates don't look like itsy mosquitoes holding teeny electric guitars. It works wonders, especially when certain columnists are overwhelmed with Slammies Showcase stuff.
Send local tapes, tips, discs and detritus to "Radar Station," c/o The Riverfront Times, 6358 Delmar Blvd., Suite 200, St. Louis, MO 63130; or email@example.com.