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Breaking Records

"The fact is that we're old and nobody really gives a shit about us anymore," opines former Squirrel Nut Zipper Tom Maxwell, regarding his new project, Brother Seeker, with fellow ex-Zipper Ken Mosher. Formed out of the relational ashes of separate flings with ex-Ben Folds/International Orange bassist Robert Sledge, Mosher and Maxwell found themselves with music but no band, and like a pair of spurned lovers, turned to each other.

Sledge had joined Maxwell on his latest quixotic musical quest, Invisible Hand, with onetime Two Dollar Pistol Chris Stevenson. Shortly after that outfit's demise, Mosher recruited Sledge and Maxwell for his own new project, Nutmagnet, which also lived a Hobbesian life--nasty, brutish and short. (All right, we're ad-libbing the first two.)

Thus both had material written, and seeking escape from the kids and work respectively, Maxwell and Mosher began to record, together but separately.

"Then Ken goes, 'Why don't we combine these two things,' and I said, 'No, Ken, I believe in musical detente,'" remembers Maxwell. "A few weeks go by, and I said, 'You know, Ken, I've been thinking this stuff really seems to go well together, maybe we should think about putting it out together.' Ken says, 'I thought that way before, I don't really feel that way anymore.'

"So then Darren Jessie [Hotel Lights, Ben Folds] comes over to visit"; Maxwell continues. "We listened my and Ken's albums. Darren is like, 'You know this is one record.' We were, 'Yeah, we knew that. We're way ahead of you on that shit.'"

Mosher describes the affair as stripped-down, "groove-y rock. Some of it is just pounding rock. It's really all over the place, though it's not like the Squirrel Nut Zippers, but is in the way that there are a lot of styles and a lot of different feels."

If that doesn't clarify it for you, perhaps Maxwell can help.

"Producer Mike Napolitano [Squirrel Nut Zippers] said it was his favorite White Album. Someone else said it sounds like Ben Folds Five, which is crazy to me, though Robert does rip out the Robert Sledge howling bass of death a couple of times. Then somebody else said Steve Miller." offers Maxwell, less than helpfully. "Everyone says, 'Those are the drum sounds everyone is going for these days, that's the real Spoon drum sound.' I'm like, 'That's because we're broke and we recorded them in Ken's living room.' Apparently that's where you want to be."

Expect the album to come out sometime this fall, along with some shows, possibly joined by Terry McInturf (of boutique guitar-making fame). But irregardless, the partnership of Maxwell and Mosher seems a strong one because as Maxwell says, "The good thing is when you're both artist and producer, you can only drive yourself insane or occasionally each other."

Besides aggrandizing their own musical egos, the pair have also been working with International Orange member Django Haskins on his fourth album, Ballads and Breakdowns, which he describes as a real departure from his prior indie pop-rock sound. Recorded in New York with his longtime bassist Byron Isaacs on upright and Lee Feldman on piano (Mosher and Maxwell added the drum tracks after the fact), the album's vibe, according to Haskins, is "closer to Chet Baker than the Replacements." Haskins has also started a new band, The Old Ceremony, with Mark Simonson (Jackie O. Pillbox) on vibes and organ, bassist Matt Brando (Apple Juice Orchestra) and drummer Dan Hall (Countdown Qaurtet), with which Haskins hopes to work out some of these new songs.

"It's an expandable, collapsible project. There's a core of five of us, horns and strings come and go as needed." says Haskins."It's taking the more jazz/Bernard Hermann-film songs I've got that don't work with the rock thing and fleshing them out. It's the Bad Seeds with Sinatra and Leonard Cohen. Sort of pop noir."

Haskins says he may do a little more work on the album, but hopes it will be out by the end of the year.

The Old Ceremony plays their inaugural gig with Les Sans Culottes at Local 506 on Wednesday, Aug. 18. Haskins' other project, International Orange, plays an Independent-sponsored showcase with Regina Hexaphone and The Balance on Tuesday, Sept. 7 at Local 506. Sonic Reducer The Ugglians, Eat Your Head (lll oDiamondt of -) If Wire had grown up in today's Detroit they might sound like The Ugglians, who combine a scratchy, angular punk guitar attack with a raw, rumbling garage bottom-end for an edgy, stuttering throb reminiscent of the shuddering sound your car makes before it implodes. It's a fun sound abetted by some clever riffing (as on the suitably tasteless non sequitur "Dogs & Vaginas"--they're apparently coming to eat us) and a rich political polemic ("Genocide" ends with a catalogue of the dead--various people, races and nations), but which at times feels preciously short of ideas. The pair of instrumentals exhibit a dark tone reminiscent of The Dead Kennedys, particularly "Code Orange" but its seven-minute length overstays its welcome. Elsewhere the band cracks themselves up more than the listener, which grows tiresome on repeated listens (see the alt-country piss-take "The Promised Land"). On the plus side, their cover of PJ Harvey's"Rid Of Me" is inspired. While dotted with a few missteps, there's much encouraging about The Ugglians debut release, and their quirky, off-balance sound should find a home in the hearts of many Triangle music fans.

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