The New Alcindors | New Releases | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The New Alcindors 

"Half-Stepper" b/w "Inseam"


Shade/The Silver Thread

Split 7-inch record Psychodaisy

I haven't actually seen the Hollywood-ized remake of The Italian Job, but it doesn't cost me any sleep to assume that even Ed Norton, with his deep-sea Hayak-ing skills and Fight Club rsum is nowhere near as cool as Michael Caine. Overall, it's hard to see how that thing could muster up half the incandescent cool of the 1969 mod cult classic original. But there's one way that director F. Gary Gray could've tried: by getting Pittsburgh instrumental soul crew The New Alcindors to do the soundtrack.

"Inseam" for example, the "flip" of this double-A sided single (pressed on gorgeous orange vinyl, thank god), is pure car-chase-through-winding-Northern Italian-village stuff. Former Mount McKinleys man Kurt Edwards stars on stylish Steve Cropper guitar, backed by nimble bass from fellow New Al's founder Bill Julin, plus funky-drummer rhythms and long Hammond-esque organ chords holding things together. Similarly, Edwards again takes center stage on "Half-Stepper," a more funky, wah-infused number with eponymous half-step rhythm cuts and a brand-new-bag full of sampleable rare groove breaks.

Although '60s session players (the MGs and Funk Brothers) are the launch pad, it's really '90s acid jazz legends The James Taylor Quartet whose influence most permeates the current, organ-heavy New Alcindors lineup and that's what shines through on this record, the first with organist Jennifer Baron. There are issues here: The overall mix isn't as balanced as one might like, and the killer funk that the New Al's provide live is toned down. But in these cool-deficient times, there's an ambiguous element to the New Al's that's far more valuable than production values: taste.

Filed neatly next to "Half-Stepper" under "Great Pittsburgh bands whose record doesn't match live power" you'll find this split 7-inch from The Silver Thread and Shade, two bands who get most of their influences from Radio Free Manchester, across that proverbial pond.

Shade's contributions, "Gunner" and "Slow Burn," are good entries in the "No, really, Oasis really were brilliant" argument and if you're on the other side of that one, you might steer clear. "Gunner" is an amalgamation of orchestrated wall-of-distortion guitars, like Ride's better material, but with a more bombastic psyche behind it: anthemic, Wembley-sized leads and vocals from Matt Stuart. "Slow Burn" is a quieter, more subtle shoegazer that would probably hit the charts if released with '90s-Creation-records-style hype. And different production: Both of these tracks are muddled in a way that wouldn't be troublesome if Shade weren't capable of so much more clarity, and more note-perfect separation.

The Silver Thread has quickly gone from "Tim Thomas' new band" to permanent fixture on the weekend live scene, and rightfully so. With brutally simple, dark, early-Joy Division post-punk music and Jason Fate's combination of early-'80s Manc vocals (Ian Curtis, Mark E. Smith and Pete Shelley all show up) and natural-born rock showmanship, The Silver Thread is everything your average 21-year-old needs to survive trying times. The fact is, "Are You Ready to Go" and "Control" are both excellent chunks of Ritalin-deficient, dark punk emotionally disturbed and pilled-up, yet comforting to those of us who thought Ian Curtis was the only appropriate response to Reagan /Thatcher (i.e., Bush/Blair). What's embarrassing for bands that aren't The Silver Thread is that this great record is still almost a bore compared to seeing them live.


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