Download: Paperplanes ‘Honky Tonk’

Download: Henry Clay People ‘Andy Sings!’

Download: Happy Hollows ‘Lieutenant’

Thanks to Ashley for the reminder—great show at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach tonight. If I wasn’t fearful of resicking, I would go—Paperplanes are one of my favorite bands and their Rhinestone Republic is one of the strongest local albums of the year. I have been interviewing my way through the cast of Heartworn Highways this week and I wish I had talked to them before hand; they are guys who deserve deeply to share a sip with Guy Clark. Heartfelt words about them below.

Plus support from Henry Clay People, who shook off initial impulses to sound like Arcade Fire or something and who now power headfirst into good ol’ Replacements/Green On Red kicker-punk. Haven’t heard the new album (L.A. RECORD liked it lots) but they’re pretty restorative live. Happy Hollows are worthwhile, too—won the hotly contested L.A. RECORD Reader Poll last year and chop out some Blonde Redhead/Pixies sort of noise live.

My review of Rhinestone Republic in L.A. RECORD

Paperplanes are four (more if they coax the piano player out) familiar faces from Long Beach who like Heartworn Highways and Bigfoot and who find a sound of their own between Terry Allen’s Lubbock and Guy Clark’s L.A. freeway. Singer/guitarist Micah handles his ragged high lines like David Lowery (“Hold On” or “You Can Have It All.”) and singer/bassist Pete takes shitkickers (“You Know Sin,” pushed cheerfully along by Rob’s understated drumming) and the songs that sound lowest and slowest, among those the abject desolator “Full Bloom.” Jerry Jeff Walker could have barely done better on a song that must take new guts every time they play: “Well, I been drinking quite a bit,” explains Pete, and between the pedal steel (Cliff Kane) and the gospel choir (which I think is just the band being very clever in the home studio) it’s just about a near-death experience. Rhinestone feels like a lot of sad songs—funny since these guys are crack-ups in actual conversation—but they’re different kinds of sad songs with different ways of being hopeful, and the tangles between the two make an album that could last a little while.

My essay on Paperplanes in DISTRICT

It got dark and I’d been waiting so I could most diligently listen to the new Paperplanes album, and so I took off Terry Allen’s Lubbock (On Everything), which contains some of the finest writing of any kind ever to come with an American credit, and I put on Paperplanes’ new album and let it roll, just as Guy Clark reminds us, and it fit like Terry himself had just been saving a seat. Paperplanes took the other road to Lubbock c. 1979—singer/guitarist Micah Panzich calls it “post-punk with twang,” which makes only half sense to all redneck mothers and El Paso assholes—and though we end up chatting happily about Pere Ubu and Velvet Underground in the cozy high-rise rehearsal space Paperplanes call the Eagle’s Nest, their new Rhinestone Republic shares only a certain purity of guitar tone and weariness of spirit with those ’70s rust-rock debasers. Rhinestone is big sky not big city—cowtown country rock (with pedal steel filigree by Cliff Kane) from the year 2003 minus 25.

Until last week, Paperplanes—Panzich, Kane, bassist/singer Pete Tavera, and drummer Rob Harvick—hadn’t showed a hair in sunlight for almost eight months, instead ensconced—a word inappropriate only until they took me up to a rehearsal studio checkered with thrift-store oils and a signed photo of Bigfoot, though not signed by Bigfoot—until they quit recording after 25 songs that they’ll be releasing as two different albums, even though Panzich says they’ve still got more they didn’t have stamina reserved enough to tape. (Since Paperplanes started in Tucson, Arizona, as Panzich’s four-track band, he figures 300-some songs have come and gone.) Transamerican Lights is coming soon and will be the “rock record,” which is more what we remember as Paperplanes—Lou Reed/Robert Pollard/maybe some Replacements trio—and here is Rhinestone Republic now with one humble honest hour that’s easily the best I’ve heard so far this short year.

Panzich sings in the high register (David Lowery when he’s sad and not sarcastic) and Tavera sings in the low middle and they sing lead on the songs they happened to write, and although the fast songs are good and sometimes so great (“Honky Tonk,” like an outlaw George Jones cover, and Panzich says Jones and Jennings are all over Rhinestone) the slow songs make the lights dim, and here I’ll find you two of the finest: Panzich’s “Number Nine,” written during the minutes Tavera was in the hospital possibly having a heart attack, and Panzich was by the home phone waiting for the call back, and as pedal steel flutters down to the telephone wire he sings, “Because you choose your own path, you’re at the end of your line / now I’m standing on the edge, waiting for a friend to die . . . ” And then Tavera’s “Full Bloom,” which could replace “Stoney” on Jerry Jeff Walker’s 1976 A Good Night For Singin’ to the benefit of all involved, and which Pete sings so fearless and true that I’d have to go lay down to wonder about my own life before I could finish typing three lines of his lyrics, and when the fiddle comes in on follower “Weekend” (very Camper van) it’s like someone shaking you awake. I did a whole interview with them but what’s good for print after that? So we grabbed beers and I looked out the big windows at Long Beach in the night and wondered how they did it. Have you heard Terry Allen, I asked? No, they said. Well, I should have said, he’d probably like to meet you.


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