I know you're tryin' to disarm me/ Well, you and whose army?
So I'm sure there are probably bigger Lucksmiths fans than I am, but there probably aren't very many, or at least not many as well-documented. I remember when I was finishing up college and I was interning every once in a while at a little free then-monthly called UR Chicago and my now-wife who I had only known for a few months was away for three in Kansas City on an internship, I heard "Camera Shy" on a KEXP stream my editor Christine Hsieh or somebody else was playing, and I dunno, it was just one of those songs where everything immediately snapped into place for me. I'm sure it's largely responsible for me listening a lot more to KEXP.org when I started a job that summer at what was then known as AOL Digital City, which then had an office in Chicago, where they then paid you through a temp agency so you could stay for a year but then you had to leave for three months but then you could come back, so I had lots of great and creative co-workers and it was kind of like a revolving-door extended form of grad school, a great way of delaying the inevitable drift toward adulthood (somebody in New York wrote about the experience here). And I put the Lucksmiths' Naturaliste album in the #1 spot on my oldest extant published albums-of-the-year list, for PopMatters, even though Pitchfork's Scott Plagenhoef rated it only a relatively dismissive 6.2, because I loved it (still do). And I saw them play in Chicago at Schubas and I saw them play in New York at I think Bowery Ballroom with my friend and journalism professor extraordinaire Marcel Pacatte and I reviewed their albums as they added textures and their songs got more subtle, like Warmer Corners and First Frost, and I interviewed guitarist/songwriter Marty Donald by phone from New York and I don't remember how much it cost, and when they put out a compilation album called Spring a Leak I reviewed that, too, and when singing stand-up drummer Tali White put out a side project as the Guild League with at least a couple of songs I played all the time I gave that an over-zealously harsh review that belies its 6.6 score, and when they broke up I was sad. And when I discovered that bass player Mark Monnone was here last year with this other band Still Flyin', I bought him a drink. And I've been listening to the new Lucksmiths farewell single, both A-side and B-, on an iPhone playlist where it sounds really out of place leading into Lil Wayne's "Gonorrhea" in the morning while you're making coffee and your wife is leaving for work.

But the Lucksmiths never did get famous and I still also get records from the always kind Jimmy at their U.S. label, Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Matinee, even though I never seem to fall for bands like the Hermit Crabs or Bubblegum Lemonade or the Electric Pop Group or Brighter or Harper Lee or Math & Physics Club quite the way I fell for the Lucksmiths, but it's an indie pop label in the grand Sarah Records tradition so maybe someday you will? And there's another Australian named Darren Hanlon who used to play guitar with the Lucksmiths in some capacity, I'm not entirely sure, and he's toured with the Magnetic Fields and Billy Bragg and Violent Femmes, but I probably first heard about him on January 24, 2005, when one Phillip Smith, principal urban designer for strategic landuse planning for the Maroochy Shire Council (in Australia), sent me an e-mail responding to my the Guild League review, and I hope the statute of limitations has expired such that he won't mind me pasting that e-mail now:
just read your review on Guild League's 'Inner North' and am grateful for another perspective.

This has been one of my favourite albums of 2004 and I'm as surprised as anyone that I would like it, after the record company accidentally sent it to me (I'd ordered an album by Darren Hanlon!).

The most appealing aspect of the album for me was the (sub-)tropical atmosphere of the lyrics/music. I was beguled by the visceral. Flying foxes, citronella, approaching rain, gentle sounds, heat...all very real for me. I can't help but wonder if the power of local conext may have been lost on you!?

Thanks again.

And I was thinking that Jimmy at Matinee introduced me to Hanlon's music after that because I'm pretty sure there's a Hanlon song on a Matinee label comp [EDIT: Curt Kentner, head of Portland-based label Magic Marker, says Hanlon actually appeared on Magic Marker's House Full of Friends comp, 7.1-- Curt and Molly refer to him as "Uncle Darren" to their little girl, Penny, who is already more than a year-and-a-half old!] but now that I'm searching through my old e-mail I see that actually it was Mike from a little Michigan label called Microindie who suggested that Chris from Candle, the Lucksmiths' Australian label, might want to get in touch with me about sending along some Hanlon records. So I have the first few CDs around here somewhere, but 2005's Little Chills is the one I reviewed for Pitchfork, and I really liked it; I filed my review the week after Pitchfork's debut Intonation Festival, which is now the Pitchfork Music Festival, and the review had some words in it I don't even understand now, like "panoptic" and "quiddity" (the second one I do understand, actually, only because I'm a nerd), but aside from trying too hard to be oblique and all-knowing I think in some ways that review was sharper than a lot of what I write now, and it also included this quotable one-liner: "Hanlon revels in the mundane with the childish exuberance of Jonathan Richman." I remember getting the follow-up CD, Fingertips and Mountaintops, which is still on my shelf also, and according to my e-mail trail I "liked what I heard." So I don't really know what happened or why there was never another review but I'm kind of embarrassed because I suspect I felt like I had too much of an uphill battle convincing everyone I wanted to convince even though no one had challenged me yet, and the only thing I hate more than editorial politics getting involved with criticism is being the one who flinches first, because it's two for flinching, you know? I should've joined a clique.

So this is all to say that I was super excited (amped?) when I saw that Hanlon was going to be in the middle of a lineup with two other "D"-named singer-songwriters, David Dondero and Derek Lambert, last night a block away from me at Vaudeville Mews. I don't want to write too much about the show because there's another new album, I Will Love You at All, and I want to write about that somewhere and you never know which details you'll need, but I can say Hanlon was eminently charming and funny and I was smiling the whole time and a lot of other people were, too, even though nobody else had heard him before I don't think, and the place wasn't very full but people were walking up toward the front and being attentive and stomping along to the one country-ish song, and Des Moines audiences are polite as a rule but it felt like everybody really was having fun, and he asked what Des Moines means and people said something vague about how it means "the monks" which I'm not sure is even true but so he wondered if maybe we had a monastery or something, he also said he never knows where he is because David drives which is a great deal if you can get it, I've been re-learning to drive lately and trust me sometimes I wonder why I ever left New York where you can get away with not even owning a car, I don't think Mrs. Des Noise minds that much but I'd like to learn just for myself, and anyway Hanlon did a duet with himself and played banjo and harmonica and referred to his music as "folk" at one point and played something that he said other people compared to Jack Johnson even though he wanted it to be more Doobie Brothers, and he played a song about getting beaten up on Christmas Eve and made fun of us for cheering when he said it was going to be about getting beaten up, and he told us a little bit about his town of Gimpy in Australia, like how people are really into guns and sports and pineapples there, and he told us about how he got to be an extra on a TV show called Heartbreak High because it was a show about bullies and his scar from getting beaten up on Christmas Eve made him look tough so they didn't make him leave the place that he was eating a burger at even though they made everybody else leave, and I hope it's OK that I told that story because he said he wasn't sure he'd ever told anybody, not even his sister because she would've been angry he was getting to eat a burger, and he played a hilarious new song that's not on the album that's "not exactly deep" but is a true story about missing the No. 17 bus in some American city somewhere, maybe Portland, and I won't ruin it for you.

I must haste back to my coffin.
So I liked Hanlon so much that he's pictured at the top and Dondero is the guy in the other photo, the one right above this sentence. I didn't get a photo but Derek Lambert was his usual awesome self, he plays this really unassuming solo acoustic stuff, with some neat little Elliott Smith-like guitar parts and an expressive voice and engaging lyrics like about how he doesn't want to work a 9 to 5, and I've known him since shortly after I moved here so I'm biased but I really do mean it. And Hanlon accidentally got there after Derek's set, but he apologized profusely upon arriving and said he thought the set started at 7, "I was just killing time," and he even mentioned it from the stage and said he wanted Derek to play for him on the sidewalk afterward or something, and I don't know yet if that actually happened but I'm pretty sure Derek gave him a CD. And I thought I liked Dondero and had written about him somewhere previously but I can't find anything on Google involving me writing about him, and it looked like people were really feeling his show including another friend, Chris Ford of Christopher the Conquered, and I liked his story about stealing a song from a girl in London who he hooked up with who described a crazy man's ramblings at a pub there as "Jesus from 12 to 6", which is now the title of a Dondero song, and the song about burning journals had a peculiar resonance in an online age, and it was even sort of cute when he did a haphazard mini-cover of the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" from the perspective of vampires, but he kept forgetting his own lyrics (which I suspect might be part of his thing?), and his huge droney medley of songs that included Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" and Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (also covered recently by my boy John Mayer... at the Kennedy Center!) and a lot of other samey-sounding songs, well, it sort of bored me, and he even joked, "This is an awful fucking long medley," which again makes me think that maybe self-awarely being kind of un-star-like is part of his thing (although it was cute the way he sang all the covers in his own style, sort of commenting on them as he performed them, like adding "it was good and it was expensive" after the line about the whores on 7th Avenue), but then he introduced another sort of sleepy-making song as being "about the artist Mark Rothko," and it's like, I've heard of that guy, too, you know, and I used the word "entropy" in a song once, too, when I was 17 and didn't know any better and I'm just glad that's not out there anymore. So we hadn't had dinner yet and we went and got pizza and Strangers With Candy was on the TV and then Buffy.

Retribution Gospel Choir with Why Make Clocks and Wolves in the Attic on Thursday
The Strange Boys with Gentlemen Jesse & His Men and Natural Child and the Jitz on Friday
and oh man I just noticed New York rapper Joell Ortiz will be here Monday

yes this means I missed Bone Thugs at Val Air-- how was it?


  1. Man, I wanted to go to this because I'd heard some very positive things about Dondero, and I still haven't got to see Derek play yet. I didn't know the other guy was from the Lucksmiths, not that I'm familiar with anything more than having heard the name around. Anyway I didn't, because Tuesday nights I'm stuck home with the little guy while Leah hosts karaoke. Maybe I should have got our neighbor-lady-friend to come over so I could catch this. Oh well.

  2. He's not, like, an "official" Lucksmiths member, but he has played on some of their recordings or something-- he's been the fourth member of what was usually a trio, anyway, I think. But I thought he was really good and Dondero was all right, too. Totally hear ya about Tuesday nights!