Sights retooled

May 5, 2004 at 12:00 am

From the We Don’t Hear a Single Department:

The Sights, certainly Detroit’s most ace, industry-fuck-you rock ’n’ roll band (why they aren’t slurping up International Bright Young Thing juice is beyond us) headed back to Jim Diamond’s studio recently to mix three additional songs for their just-completed, self-titled follow-up to 2002’s Got What We Want. Why the add-on songs? Seems tin-eared folk at the band’s label Scratchie didn’t hear radio fodder and wanted more tunes.

Indeed, the Sights’ latest batch o’ songs is — to get all corny on yer ass — a thing of beauty, judging from a recent earful at Diamond’s Ghetto recorders. Adept arrangements, deft harmonies, Rod Argent winks and Kinks finger pistols litter songs such as “Scratch My Name in Sin,” “Circus” and “Waiting On a Friend.” (How hackneyed is a goddamned Kinks reference these days? Very. But we mean it as a compliment ever so politely penned.) The latter tune Sights founder Eddie Baranek describes as a “country ditty” and not the Stones country ditty of the same name: “Nah,” says the wily Baranek, “we just nicked the title.”

The Sights — who just returned from a quick Milwaukee/Chicago stint, where glorious life as nascent rock stars was hammered home in frigid, rainy nights spent sleeping in the van with busted heat — are back up to speed lineup wise.

The recent “upheaval” that saw skinsman Dave Shettler bail prompted the return of band original Mike Trombley, who’d manned the stool waaayy back in the group’s pubescent years of ’98-’99. The Sights are now, officially, Trombley, keysman Bobby Emmett and singer/guitarist Baranek.

Why did Trombley jump ship in the first place, thus kick-starting an unsightly trend of revolving-door band members? To this Baranek offers a curt chortle and says, “Let’s just say he went to L.A. for unknown reasons.” OK, that’s cool. Then why did Shettler — who up to this point is/was a pivotal piece of the band’s rumpus — split toward the completion of the band’s latest record? Again he laughs, “Let’s just say we couldn’t agree on things anymore.”

Shettler tells HS that the split had nothing to do with Baranek or the band. Well, not really. “I’m just getting my priorities straight,” he tells us via cell en route home from a New York Koufax gig, a band with which he records and gigs. “I kinda wanna stay local — I’ve been touring for years. I just don’t feel like playing the game.” Then he adds, “I miss playing with those guys but I just think it’s something like three cooks is too many. …”

As if a symbolic end of an error, er, era, the long-in-tooth Sights van, christened “Big Baby,” was kyped from Shettler’s apartment a month ago. “Goin out in flames,” says Baranek of the epoch-ending episode. “We took that van around the U.S. and Canada four or five times. Someone drove it through a fence, hit a tree, and the police called Dave saying, ‘Uh, Mr. Shettler, your van is on fire, sir.’”

Look for The Sights sometime late summer. Also, the band is playing this Friday at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor (208 S. First Ave., Ann Arbor. 734-996-8555) with the Rants and Fred Thomas solo.

In other Shettler news, seems the newly coiffed stickman has put his record collection to good use; he just bought out the clothing side of Detroit-provincial People’s Records and Collectables and is now in partnership with storeowner Brad Hale.


A dog’s life

And speaking of glimmering Motor City bands, Bulldog continues to sparkle in the land of label weaseldom, though no official deal is on the table … yet. But that’s no surprise considering the infrequency of a new band signed to a major whose average age tops 23 (much less one trumpeting the archaic idea of an actual internal connection between song and listener). Still, we here at Hit Singles have been fielding calls from A&R weasels, asking us such: “So tell me, what’s this Bulldog thing all about?” A New York City show last week at Sin-é drew many chirping A&R suits, and blah, blah, blah, blah.


Top of the pops

Look for D12’s D12 World (Shady/Interscope) to blow into the Billboard pop charts at a lofty numero uno this week, thus unseating Usher. That’s right, old what’s-his-name and the “we ain’t Em’s bitches” crew have shifted nearly 600,000 rekkids as of this writing, less than a week after released. What are we, surprised?


Saturday’s alright for …

Wunderkind Fred Thomas is in the studio again, recording a solo project with Warn DeFever. Unlike the Wagner-pop of his Saturday Looks Good To Me outpouring, the record is made up of sparse arrangements of mostly acoustic guitar. SLGTM’s third “official” full-length, Every Night, will see the light mid-September on indie stalwart Polyvinyl. And speaking of Saturday Looks Good To Me, the band’s own saxophone colossus/arranger Elliot Bergman’s Afro-beat side project NOMO will turn out its own full-length next week, with a release show on May 14 at Detroit’s Magic Stick. Hit Singles has been warned that it might not have the smarts to fully classify the record, but the layers of sloppy horns and hard grooves gets the full thumbs up. And, on the upcoming SLGTM tour, NOMO will back Thomas in place of his usual band. Academic Afro-beat pups backing up a heart-on-sleeve indie rock cult hero? Think of it as a musical Mexican pizza.


Melancholy tune

Grande Nationals bassist and one of Motor City’s most loyal local music supporters, Scotty Hagen was attacked outside of Alvin’s on Saturday after the fiery CD release party for Pub Life. Reportedly, while walking to their car on Cass (at I-94) at around 2 a.m. both Hagen and a female friend were attacked and robbed. At this time, we do not know the severity of the injuries (though sources say that the assault was, in fact, brutal) Hit Singles speaks for most when we say Godspeed in recovery.

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