The Greatest Modest Mouse Story Ever Told

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally published on March 30, 2015. BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR BUZZFEED: Most people don’t know it, but there are actually five, not four, time zones in the United States: Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific, and Isaac time — as in Isaac Brock, singer, guitarist, chief songwriter, and all-around mastermind of the very popular underground major-label rock band Modest Mouse. The Isaac time zone is usually situated within the city limits of Portland, Oregon, where he resides, but point of fact it’s located wherever he’s standing at the moment. Isaac time is kind of like bullet time in […]

RIP: Dusty Hill, ZZ Top Bassist, Dead @ 72

EDITOR’S NOTE: To mark the sad passing of ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill [pictured above, center], we’re re-posting this 2012 concert review that even back then read like an epitaph. Rest in power, Mr. Hill. BY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER It is a well-known fact that only two things will survive the coming Apocalypse: cockroaches and Keith Richards. A betting man would add ZZ Top to the list. After 40 years of chrome, smoke and BBQ’d blooze licks, their party time ubiquity shows no signs of diminishing. Wherever there are men on scaffolding, they will be there. Wherever Harley […]

HOW TO GROW UP TO BE A DEBASER: An Intensely Personal Q&A w/ The Pixies’ Black Francis

Photo by NOAH SILVESTRY EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the complete and unabridged version of my 7,200-word Q&A with Black Francis of The Pixies’ for the cover of the March 2014 issue of MAGNET MAGAZINE. Enjoy. BY JONATHAN VALANIA The year is 1988. I’m a college DJ stranded in the middle of Pennsyltucky. Entranced by the naked boob on the cover of Surfer Rosa, I slap it on the turntable and…they had me by the first 20 seconds of “Where Is My Mind?” They never really let go. Shortly thereafter I got a gig working for a Pennsyltucky daily. They asked […]

FROM THE VAULT: A Man Called Francis, Part 2

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview first published on October 19th, 2006. BY JONATHAN VALANIA Welcome to part two of our bazillion-word interview with esteemed jazz critic Francis Davis, wherein our man Fran will be talking non-smack about Coltrane in Philly, Sun Ra on Uranus and the pre-historic beginnings of Fresh Air. If you are just finding us for the first time, you can find Part One here, along with his illustrious CV. When we last left our hero, he was beaten, bloodied and long haired, handcuffed in the back of Philadelphia Police Department paddy wagon charged with aggravated assault and battery […]

FROM THE VAULT: A Man Called Francis, Part 1

EDITOR’S NOTE: This interview originally published back in 2006. It’s still a fascinating read. Welcome to the second installment of our Grumpy Old Men series, wherein we learn from our elders and soak up their salty yarns like Bounty Quicker Picker-Upper. Yesterday we had Robert Christgau, today Francis Davis. Tomorrow? The Pope. What’s that you say? You never heard of Francis Davis. Oh buddy, it’s good thing you found us! Check out his CV: He has written about music, film, and other aspects of popular culture for The Atlantic since 1984 and was appointed lead jazz critic for the Voice […]


“Desert High” is one of the more idiosyncratic and evocative tracks from Hardware, Billy F Gibbons’ third solo album, out June 4 from Concord. The song, available now, takes the form of a narrative tone poem with mysterious instrumental accompaniment. It clearly derives inspiration from the high desert location of Escape Studios where the Hardware recording sessions happened last summer. The album was recorded by Gibbons along with drummer Matt Sorum and guitarist Austin Hanks. Both Sorum and Hanks, it should be mentioned, are based in the California desert these days with Gibbons front and center. The song, which is […]


  BY JONATHAN HOULON FOLK MUSIC EDITOR My contempt for radio – particularly the local variety – has been well-documented in these pages.  But at the risk of belaboring the point, let me say:  fuck you very much.  It wasn’t always like this.  1986:  I’m driving my folks’ American Eagle station wagon down the Pike in Rockville, Maryland, possibly on my way to chess club practice, most definitely not en route to rendezvous a non-existent crush, when a song came on the radio that compelled me to pull over and listen.  The ‘80s were a tough time for those of […]


  BY JONATHAN HOULON FOLK MUSIC EDITOR Here come the Rodins!  There is a grand and awkward tradition of non-Anglos (especially the French) trying to imitate American and British pop sounds and sometimes even singing in English.  But the Rodins, in one of the greatest examples of reverse marketing since Gordon Sumner essayed an entire album on the lute, try something truly unique here:  Americans singing French pop in French!  As if that were not willfully obscure enough, on “Voyageur”, from the Rodins’ just-released self-titled EP, they recount the plight of the 19th Century French Canadian fur trapping trade.  No […]

ALBUM REVIEW: Psychedelic Porn Crumpets

  Bad news for all you work-from-home folks. The new Psychedelic Porn Crumpets album is going to bring your house crashing to the ground. Don’t worry about it. Lucky for you, it’s also going to serve as the badass soundtrack to your new life as a gallivanting cowboy roaming the land in search of brand new sensations. The two-sided goliath, dubbed SHYGA! The Sunlight Mound, brings fans a new lease on life in the form of luscious, towering riffs, anthemic vocal melodies dripping in static, and a palatable sonic energy. Hardly a departure from their previous albums, High Visceral Pt. […]

INCOMING: Let It Be Again

VULTURE: Today, we are all a man named Jojo from Tucson, Arizona. Sharing the first footage from his upcoming Beatles documentary Get Back, director Peter Jackson gave us something far better than a trailer of the boys fighting about Yoko: It’s a five-minute montage that embodies “the spirit of the film,” and it overflows with facial hair and just about every pastel button-up imaginable for the era. Jackson pored through over 55 hours of previously unseen studio footage of Paul, John, George, and Joe Walsh’s best friend as the band recorded their final album, Let It Be, in 1970, giving […]

WIRE FROM THE BUNKER: Meet Billie Joe Shaver

  BY JONATHAN HOULON FOLK MUSIC EDITOR Now that THAT is resolved — and remember, folks, that over here in the C&W ghetto of Phawker, we have absolutely no intention of reaching across the aisle to racist fascists — I would be remiss not to acknowledge the recent passing of Billy Joe Shaver, one of finest songwriters to ever emerge from the Lone Star state.  And that’s saying something as that list includes late great Texans Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark as well as the still very much alive Butch Hancock and Willie Nelson, the latter of whom declared that Billy Joe was, indeed, the […]

BRIAN WILSON GOES TO THE MALL: An Appreciation Of Edward Lodewijk Van Halen RIP

  BY BILL HANGLEY JR. Eddie Van Halen dies, and the word that comes to mind is “joy.” That’s m’lady’s word for his music, and she’s right. She’s a huge fan, and many are the nights we’ve spent with a bottle of wine and the pounding rubbery cartoon violence of 1984. What Eddie embodied, she always said, was “pure, male joy.” Not the meathead glower of your modern vomit-vocal metal. Not the prosthetic-penis fakery of your day-glo hair bands. But instead, from Eddie Van Halen, godfather to them all, true joy; the jolly roar of a chainsaw crossed with an […]