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items tagged with RIBCO

Maturity and Grace in Rough Packages: Scott H. Biram and Lydia Loveless, June 6 at RIBCO
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2012-05-17 14:47:31

Scott H. Biram. Photo by John Pesina.

RIBCO’s June 6 show features two Bloodshot Records artists, and there the surface similarities end. Scott H. Biram is a 38-year-old one-man-band road dog from Texas whose music draws from the blues and hard rock, and Lydia Loveless is a 21-year-old singer/songwriter from Ohio pulling from country and punk.

“We’re quite a bit different in our musical styles,” Biram said in a phone interview earlier this month, “but as far as our attitudes go, it’s pretty close.”

They both write and record quickly, yet their songs match an inherent urgency with unpretentious and unforced maturity and grace – nestled among lots of rough edges. And they share a boldness of musical personality.

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Realization Over Reinvention: Lucero, April 3 at RIBCO
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2012-03-28 12:20:04

Lucero. Photo by Brantley Gutierrez.

It’s rare when critics and artists see eye-to-eye, as an external perspective often misses intent and the nuances of creation, and the view from inside is often too close to see the bigger picture. But with Lucero’s Women & Work, the Memphis-based band and its reviewers are seeing the same things from their respective vantage points.

In a phone interview earlier this month promoting his band’s April 3 performance at RIBCO, bassist and founding member John C. Stubblefield said that the new album – released March 13 – is distinct from Lucero’s previous studio records: “Every album before [2009’s] 1372 [Overton Park], we’ve always kind of gone in and reinvented to a certain degree. ... Rather than reinvention on this one, I think it was more realization ... .”

That was echoed by’s Thom Jurek, who wrote: “It’s as if this sound was always there just waiting for them to mature enough to let it breathe. ... Women & Work is the sound of a ... confident band, fully embracing their hometown’s musical legacy, and wrapping it inside their own sound, making each both larger and deeper.”

Stubblefield said that the album has added a “strong sense of regionalism” to Lucero’s punkish alt-country barroom brawn, most obviously with the soulful horn section that debuted on 1372. That album, he said, was “kind of Lucero with horns on top of it, where it was hinting at this certain thing. On this entire record, now that the horns have been playing with us for a couple years, it’s more integrated and more organic ... .”

And Women & Work also touches on the blues and spiritual traditions of north Mississippi. “It was cool to realize all the different musical styles of the region and pull it off on one record,” Stubblefield said.

(Some have found fault with the album’s love-letter-to-Memphis approach. The A.V. Club thought the band took the homage too far: “It all sounds familiar, and that’s the problem ... : Lucero has never sounded so assured or less distinct.”)

Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Ben Nichols, Lucero since its 2001 self-titled debut has established twin reputations as hard-working road dogs and sterling songsmiths. You can hear both in Nichols’ authoritatively weathered and abused voice, as he infuses the album’s titular themes with both art and experience. (There’s probably something in his genes, too, as he’s the brother of writer/director Jeff Nichols, whose two feature films thus far are grimly rich, daring, and humane. Lucero scored his Shotgun Stories.)

After a brief introduction, “On My Way Downtown” kicks off Women & Work with a bright boogie, and the title track continues the party vibe.

The tempo slows and the mood darkens on “It May Be Too Late” – “Now I could get better / Or I could get drunk / Two doubles for the road / Reckon I’m done” –but Nichols infuses the words with an undeniable rhythm that buoys it.

On “I Can’t Stand to Leave You,” he sings with a downbeat resignation that’s leavened by a certain hopeful sureness, and the latter is matched by every instrument – the rhythm section, the female backing vocals, the keys, and the horns. The band expertly draws from opposing feelings and somehow makes that feel natural rather than ambivalent.

The album, Stubblefield said, was developed over two months, and he said the process involved “exploring every idea and every riff. ... A couple of songs, the bridges became whole other songs. Kind of our most collaborative effort.”

The productive labor is evident on Women & Work, which often creates resolution where there should be loose ends and tension. As Paste wrote, it’s ultimately “a mixture of a retrospective eye and [the] solace of the future.”

Lucero will perform on Tuesday, April 3, at RIBCO (1815 Second Avenue in Rock Island). The 8 p.m. all-ages show also features William Elliott Whitmore. Tickets ( are $16 in advance and $20 the day of the show.

For more information on Lucero, visit

Modern Metal with a Sabbath Touch: Helmsplitter, January 13 at RIBCO
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2012-01-11 15:44:14

Metal often skates by on aggression and technical chops, and it rarely creates drama. The Quad Cities quartet Helmsplitter, on its debut Storms of Genocide – for which the band will perform a CD-release show Friday at RIBCO – nails the requisite fury and dark majesty while also capturing that elusive elevating quality.

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Many-Trick Ponies: Satellite Heart, January 7 at RIBCO
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2012-01-03 16:12:20

Satellite Heart. Photo by Shannon Colgan.

If you attend a Satellite Heart show – such as January 7’s at RIBCO – two of the songs you might hear are “Rock N’ Troll” (“Fighting dragons / Killing marauders / Doing things that we thought that we’d never do”) and “Pizza Party” (“Even Saddam Hussein like[s] pizza”). Both are irresistibly dumb; the first could be a Spinal Tap cover, and the second could have come from Flight of the Conchords.

Yet before you think that the Quad Cities-based quartet is a joke band, or a one- or two-trick pony, make sure to check out Satellite Heart’s full-length studio debut, Become the New, when it’s released in late January. It does include the aforementioned live-show staples, but it’s also a roughly vibrant rock record filled with hooks and charm aplenty.

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Inexhaustible Possibilities: Helmet, October 8 at RIBCO
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Music

Category: Feature Stories

2011-09-29 13:20:45

Helmet. Photo by Shiloh Strong.

In the course of a phone interview last week, Page Hamilton – lead guitarist, singer, and composer for Helmet, performing on October 8 at RIBCO – dropped the names of Beethoven, John Williams, Philip Glass, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

That collection gives a good sense of the breadth of Hamilton’s musical study and knowledge, and some indication of why his band rewards close listening. It also hints at why Hamilton’s rigorous heavy music has found only modest commercial success, with one gold album (1992’s Meantime) and only top-50 peak chart positions in the United States.

What’s important to understand is that while there’s an essential academic/philosophical component to Helmet’s music, the band has also been distinguished by an uncompromising pummeling force, what the All Music Guide described as a “very precise and diabolical din – full of martial barks, jackhammering drums, rumbling bass, and some of the most brilliant IQ-lowering guitar riffs since Black Sabbath’s first four albums.” Hamilton rejects the assertion that Helmet is simply a metal band, but it operates almost exclusively in an aggressively gritty guitar/bass/drum framework. Within that structure and self-imposed limitations, Hamilton explores musical theory.

“The Helmet vocabulary is the drop-tuning, the chord voicing, and the figure writing, or riff writing,” he said. (There are also players employing different time signatures, a technique borrowed from composer Glenn Branca that Hamilton said creates “this sort of forward propulsion.”) “It’s thematic writing. It’s the same approach a jazz improviser would use, or a classical composer.” He then mimicked the openings of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and John Williams’ title-crawl theme for Star Wars, and discussed how they quickly establish themes that are then developed. “That’s my approach to writing. I’m not stringing a bunch of shit together – the drummer came up with this, and I came up with that. That can work, but I think eventually you run out of ideas. We’re all using the same 12 notes in Western music.”

If that makes your eyes glaze, it must also be noted that Hamilton’s solos – which he said he approaches like a “spaz jazz idiot” – are razor-wire sharp and exhilarating, regardless of a listener’s music-theory understanding.

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