While he's long been viewed as a cult hero beloved by pop fans who appreciate his lyrical frankness and uncanny melodic sensibilities, the late Harry Nilsson has begun to emerge from his place as a singularly obscure obsession. The Walkmen took it upon themselves to cover Nilsson's 1974 misunderstood masterpiece Pussy Cats in its entirety, releasing it this past October on the Record Collection label, and I'm now regularly encountering musicians who cite him as an influence, including Drive-By Truckers frontman Patterson Hood. A documentary very appropriately titled Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him?) was also released this year, screening locally at the Seattle International Film Festival.
More recently, erstwhile Stranger associate editor and occasional Harvey Danger frontman Sean Nelson has completed work on a five-year project to pay tribute to Nilsson, recording covers of 14 of his songs with the help from a variety of local veterans, including drummer/percussionist John Hollis Fleischman and producer/arranger/composer Mark Nichols. This Friday, December 8, Nelson will make those songs come to life with much pageantry, including orchestral and choral accompaniments, at Town Hall (1119 Eighth Ave at Seneca). The impetus for Nelson Sings Nilsson was Nelson's exposure to "Don't Forget Me," from the Pussy Cats album. "Nilsson wrote it for John Lennon, who was separated from Yoko at the time," explains Nelson. "It's just wrenching, so naked and direct, but also crafty, and the melody just soars."
Mr. Nelson and I share a love of Nilsson, but we part ways dramatically on the merits of what I consider to be one of the greatest rock bands in history, Guns N' Roses. While we were recently cohosting KEXP's Audioasis, Nelson admitted to me that he flat-out "hates" GNR, a perspective that I just can't relate to. Yeah, yeah, I know: "Axl's a dick"; "Slash isn't in the band anymore"; "Fucking stupid cornrows"; blah, blah, blah. When trusted friends and colleagues like former Stranger music editor Jennifer Maerz and GNR aficionado Chuck Klosterman are reporting witnessing good performances from the band's current configuration (which includes Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson), then I have no choice but to head to the (cough) Everett Events Center on Sunday, December 10, to see what transpires. For the ideal preshow warm-up, stop by the Sunset's 4 O'Clock Rock! Holiday in Hell Party, featuring Toe Tag (members of the Accused), Hell Promise, Vs. the World, and Neon Nights.
The earlier portion of the week's itinerary is less certain. I was slow to warm up to the operatic sprawl of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead's last record, Worlds Apart, so I figured I should ignore my initial dislike of the recently released So Divided and give it a few more spins. As much as it pains me to admit it, this sounds like a death rattle for one of my favorite bands. It's not just that they sound both poppier and more disjointed—they sound like their hearts aren't in it anymore. I probably won't be able to stay away from their show at the Showbox on Thursday, December 7, because of my love of their back catalog and the presence of coheadliners the Blood Brothers, but should I choose to forsake the whole thing, I'm definitely hitting the Funhouse to watch Clorox Girls show off their new rhythm section. The Portland punks have recently added Daniel "Hajji" Husayn on bass and Richie Cardenas on drums and will undoubtedly be infused with both the adrenaline of new members and the victory of opening up for Flipper in PDX a little over a week ago.
One brief entry for the ones-to-watch files: the doo-wopping local boys in the Harborrats defy rockabilly cliché and show promise with their unaffected take on blue-eyed soul and rock. They'll be playing Jules Maes on Wednesday, December 13, with Creeping Time.
Lastly, two public greeting cards that must be sent out: Happy birthday to Funhouse booker/co-owner Brian Foss. The tireless punk-rock champion and all-around good guy will celebrate with sets from the Fall-Outs, Head, and Invisible Eyes at (where else?) the Funhouse on Saturday, December 9. And heartfelt get-well wishes to Triple Door booking agent and Soul Hole DJ Scott Giampino, who is recovering from heart surgery at home over the next few weeks.