Off The Beaten Track: Music Reviews & Musings by Mary Leary

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The Rolling Stones:  Stones in Exile (Eagle Rock)

CocoRosie:  Grey Oceans/Foals: Total Life Forever/Wolf Parade: EXPO 86/Blitzen Trapper: Destroyer of the Void (SubPop)

Sonny Smith/Sonny & the Sunsets (Fat Possom; Soft Abuse)

There isn’t a ton of live performance footage. There are a few too many less-than-amazing talking heads bookending the thing. And, in a way, it’s an aperitif for the upcoming Ladies and Gentleman live footage re-release.

But if you’re at all intrigued by the Stones’s mystique, gotta kick it with Stones in Exile. For me

Keith & Anita at Nellcote

(somewhere between sporadic hip-shaker and mega-fan) it reveals surprising vulnerabilities. It totally seals Anita Pallenberg’s position in the Incredibly Cool Rock Muse pantheon. It helps explain the “freaks” I knew in Spain in the ‘70s; at least one of whom probably joined the flood of hipsters and hangers-on partying and crashing with the Stones at Nellcote. As engineer Andy Johns reveals, “It was my initiation into how you can actually live rock ‘n’ roll.”

There is tons of black-and-white images and footage of the terminally boho and beautiful. There are tastes and recurring motifs from the Stones’ most fertile post-Brian Jones period (“All Down the Line,” “Happy,” for which there’s also onstage footage, and “Ventilator Blues”). There are kaleidoscopic views of the Exile creation process, with a more linear one of the events leading up to it. We get refreshing documents of the Stones learning from and jamming with American C&W and blues players, along with some hilariously raw memories from Texan sax man and integral Exile element Bobby Keys. And we learn the source of “Tumbling Dice.”

Hey, it’s the Stones at their most worn-out, stoic, hopeful, and raggedy-gorgeous –need anything more be said? Well, maybe one thing more: When the heck is the Keys documentary going to be made? Talk about a story…

This one isn’t featured in the film; its just one of my faves:

Exile joined a stream of dark early-’70s portents (as Don Was comments, Apocalypse Now was being shot in a similar time frame) nailing the hippie coffin. Nearly 30 years later, the Stones are still newsworthy, we’re still walking the earth, and plenty of minstrels are competing for a spot on the ultimate soundtrack–it’s a record-breaking year for summer releases.

Continuing a stream of atmospheric (also known as “dream pop” and, uh… I tend to blur the other labels) releases, SubPop’s about to let Foal’s latest out of the gate. (I’m just waiting for a band of bearded guys with a mandolin and a synthesizer who call themselves Skunks – wait, some crazy mates helped me stir an absurdist mash with my spoken word piece of that name in the early ‘90s. But we called ourselves, variously, the Potato People, L.I.A.R., and several other things). And now I’m aggressively digressing…

Here’s a standout from Foals’s  Total Life Forever – kind of like a nice marriage of the Cure and Tears for Fears. Gotta pump up the volume:

Another group that was apparently spooned ‘80s synth-pop from an early age is Wolf Parade. From the new EXPO 86:

Blitzen Trapper also utilizes some of that big/electronic sound. As far as Destroyer of the Void goes, I prefer the songs that make me yearn for a campfire in Yosemite, or wherever people toast marshmallows in Oregon:

More igniting than any of these boy (okay, young man) bands are the sometimes almost unbearably intense sounds of CocoRosie. When they’re good, they’re really, really good… and, especially on their latest (Grey Oceans), don’t sound like much else – that’s saying something.

Also rather strange (well, altogether less strange than CocoRosie, but if CR were at a carnival they would make the strong man slam his Weird bell beyond 10) was last week’s San Diego appearance by Sonny & the Sunsets. Perhaps because they opened for Ty Segall (who delivered a red-hot show; highly recommended), they leaned into garage rock. Sonny Smith, who’s been projecting around the S.F. scene for some time, has too many arms to fit existing categories. Among the harmony-friendly, quirky guy’s projects: “100 Records” ( can send him some flowers: he’s just signed with Fat Possom.

Here’s a charmer from Tomorrow Is Alright:

If some of this installment seems unusually low-key, we can blame it on the Stones for heading it off. Now, that’s power.



  1. Avatar

    Gwen T.

    July 2, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Great article! Always enjoy getting a glimpse of what it’s like behind the scene so this sounds interesting.

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    petur ben

    July 2, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    CocoRosie trips my mind… thanks 4 the turn-on

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    July 2, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    I’m with Petur – definitely the most creative of the current lot you featured

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    July 2, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Foals is nice. I love Sweet Black Angel. Wish this one were longer but thanx for posting!

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    July 2, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Like the CocoRosie – I don’t think they’re so wierd, tho – just great. I also like Foals and Blitzen – do you know when they are going to play SanDiiego?

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    July 2, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    More Stones! Sweet Black Angel’s a good ‘un, though. I’m waitin for the Ladies an Gentlemen disc this fall.

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    laurie gennaro

    July 3, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I like the blogs where you go into things more – you are sometimes very funny – but thanks for keeping it up anyway. Happy 4th!!!

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    July 3, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Nellcote! I have been there – amazing place. CocoRosie is also enchanting. Merci, Mary. Later – F

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    July 3, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    love the videos you selected… thank you mary……

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    Jen Dumanis

    July 4, 2010 at 12:45 am

    This makes me want to watch the Exile movie. And I love the Coco Rosie. I also like the Foals. Keep it up!

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    July 4, 2010 at 12:47 am

    First I’ve seen this – friend turned me onto it. I looked at some of the other ones like the one about the Oh Sees and I think this could and should be in a name site or magazine. Just my thoughts – you are a very good writer. Oh, and the Stones will always rule if only for what they did through the late ’70s.

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    derek humphrey

    July 4, 2010 at 1:38 am

    What do I think? I’ll tell ya what I think (just joking). I think some of these are too long but this one is too short! More writing! But I do like most of the videos — and that CocoRosie – that’s defintintely a chick flick!

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    derek humphrey

    July 4, 2010 at 1:39 am

    Keith needs to hear that song Get Your Pants Off The Ground.

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    ron kolm

    July 4, 2010 at 7:55 am

    mary, yr just the best! — found out about a couple o new bands (for me) — thanks!

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    Mary Leary

    July 4, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Thanks, Ron, & others for the kudos. Derek – I lol’d!

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    July 4, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    another great article mary. love the nostalgia. thanks for introducing me to Cocorosie and sonny and the sunsets. i feel a slow dance comin on.

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    July 4, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Watching Exile was like watching my musical home movies. I remember fantasizing about jamming with Keith at Nellcote:) Still marvel at that band. Raggedy-gorgeous indeed! Bobby Keys and Charlie are THE funniest of the lot! Nice work M!

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    July 5, 2010 at 2:39 am

    Sweet Black Angel keeps going around in my head… beautiful. Is this about Angela Davis? Never mind, I’ll Google it. Thanks for the good stuff.

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    Alain R.

    July 5, 2010 at 2:56 am

    My friend Francois told me about you blog. I really like some of the others – this is okay – would have liked more information about the Rolling Stones film. I had never heard of Coco Rosie and I like them. Cheers!

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    July 5, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I didn’t want to “give away” some of Exile’s best parts, so I basically just included some “teasers.” Thanks for posting.

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    Heater Blanket Bob

    July 5, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Glad you’re keepin it up – I like Blitzen Trapper a lot; also Wolf Parade~More soon!

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    July 5, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I’m glad you’re still at it – been a while since a new post. Love the Stones, love SBA

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    tim hinely

    July 5, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    nice mary….really enjoy reading this! keep up the good work!

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    Natalie H.

    July 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Great writing! Great articles and content! Awesome videos! Mary, you really do some great work, and you should keep it up! I will be looking forward to seeing more of your work, and The San Diego Entertainer should keep you on as an asset to the content of their publication and website!
    Thanks again Mary! Love it! I give it my “4 hearts” or Thumbs Up!
    Natalie ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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    gerald carson

    July 5, 2010 at 11:48 pm

    I haven’t been that exciting about the Stones’ stuff for, gee, I don’t know — a long time – and yet somehow they still have that magic, or at least their old stuff does. I want to see that video that’s coming out in a few months, the one of live stuff. I like the animation on Sonny’s video. I don’t know I’d say the Stones were really what you call “off the beaten track” – except the name of the record WAS Exile on Main Street… so… hmmm…

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    July 5, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Good point, Gerard – I thought about that too (the “exile” name/concept). Natalie and Tim – I really appreciate your comments – givin’ me the warm/fuzzies!

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    July 6, 2010 at 12:56 am

    FOALS are rad. Only thing I really like here. But tx 4 that

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    Jon R. Mattson

    July 6, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Stones – one of their best times, tx for the heads-up. Enjoyed the Foals (altho it’s a bit long, that video/song). The Sonny Smith reminds me a bit of Jonathan Richman.

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    July 6, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Huge Stones fan here!!!! That pic is racy! Wish there were more STones clips – guess I’ll have to watch the film. I like that CocoR song a lot too.

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    Adrian Vasquez

    July 6, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    In this blog – or column, whatever you want to call it 🙂 – I like the Sonny video – at least it’s creative – and the Coco Rosy – the rest is a bit mainstream for me. I’ll check your next one!

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    July 7, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Hi Mary,

    I always love reading your work-The imagery is cool & very smarty-pants (in the BEST sense). I’m so glad you wrote about CocoRosie, & I love the Stones commentary! I’ve got some videos to watch now!

    Keep being an example for other writers,m’dear!

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    laurie gennaro

    July 8, 2010 at 2:06 am

    I’m looking forward to the next one; this is a bit short. I like the Foals; love the Stones; spooked by the Coco but I like it!

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    david arnson

    July 10, 2010 at 3:02 am

    Maey Leary continues her streak as on of San Diego’s (and the nation’s) best and most discerning rock and roll writers.

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    July 10, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Mr. Arnson – I’d been wondering where you’ve been, so to speak… was going to check & make sure you’re still on FB – well, I guess you are! Thanks ever so much for your generous wordage!

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    July 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    🙂 🙂 🙂 STONES forever! Foals!

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    July 10, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Love the writing! I’m not huge on Music, but I recognize talent! Its hard to believe that Keith Richards was ever hot.

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    July 10, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Too bad I read this after CR was in San Diego – that must have been quite a show. We don’t get enough really amazing perf. art type stuff here. Anyway, thanks.

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    Tony Hoffman

    July 11, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Terrific stuff, Mary. I love the Stones vid/pix, and you introduced me to a lot of music I would not have encountered otherwise.

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    July 12, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Thanks,Tony! Good to hear from you.

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    nelson smythe

    July 12, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    The Stones will always be cool – it’s like we have amnesia re: anything they’ve ever done that wasn’t. The CocoRosie song is good as well.

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    mike donovan

    July 13, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I didn’t watch all of ’em but like the Stones song, & the Foals & Blitzen – thanks

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    brandi robbins

    July 14, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    I love CocoRosie – already seen this, but tx for reposting!

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    Gary Windham

    July 14, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Came for the Stones, heard about your blog, hoped there’d be more – but what I read was good.

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