Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Start yer bitch engines... I expect angry retorts.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I love my brother, but he hates Josh Homme. Seriously, Ran would drink the water in that bottle and throw a brick at his head if he ever saw him out. Ran even hated that Songs for the Deaf record. AND THAT HAD LANEGAN ON IT! Ran's blog A- The part about Them Crooked Vultures B- just like the record itself.
I actually meant to mention Lady GaGa in that last blog. Ran touched on it, but let me expand. Suicide has never been caused by great performance art outside of Marilyn Manson. Plus... bitch got hooks. That "Bad Romance" video is like a visitor from 1985 (the "Wild Boys" era of video). I made fun of her until she provided the single entertaining moments on SNL this season. Then I started listening. Remember how I said, "she's interesting but I'll never buy her record"? That holds true; but you should remember that in this economy, I don't pay for shit. No grade for "Bad Romance", but I've watched the video 10 times. I'll probably watch it again when I link it to this blog. Let's just say Lady GaGa is auditing my brain, not taking the class for a grade.
The remake of The Prisoner on AMC plays like David Lynch's production assistant watched the first episode of the original while drunk on absinthe after which he got really ill and puked all over my television screen. The dialogue is stupid, the visuals are headache inducing and it appears that no one involved in this horrible catastrophe of a show ever watched one episode of the original. F for fuckall
Imma let you finish Oakland Raiders, but the Tennessee Titans have the BEST CRAZY OLD GUY OWNER OF THE YEAR!
Ran's dead on about that Sherlock Holmes shit. Even the de-coked re-awesomed Robert Downey Jr.doesn't make me pay to view Guy Ritchie making Snitch with American-friendly accents in the Queen's English. I may go see Iron Man 2, though, cape or no. What the hell am I saying? I almost missed Inglourious Basterds on the big screen, and I LOVE Tarantino. I never go to the movies.
PS to David Lynch's drunk assistant: come unsee that shit for me, right now, you hack. I want my hour back. Watching TV is serious business around here, and I don't have time to waste.
Lastly, regarding Ran's verbal asskicking of NBC a few weeks ago, he is mostly 100% correct. The Office is in the toilet with only minimal moments of funny and the Leno horror is legend. Where our opinions differ are on Community featuring that guy from The Soup and Trudy from Mad Men. Hey, it's a blog, I don't research crap. That show is the funniest thirty minutes on television outside of HBO hands down. Well except when Chevy Chase is on the screen. Oh, except this bit here. Community - solid A "Gettin' Rid of Britta" - A+++++++++++
Anything that makes fun of douchebag white boy reggae is aces with me. On that note, a parting shot... thanks to the court system for sparing us that Sublime reunion. Way to get one right.
With all due respect to Brother Van, the hour I spent listening to Them Crooked Vultures is the worst I spent this year. Awful. Made me appreciate the Decemberists. Good job, Josh. I hate you a little more. Grade F.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The speakers are currently sweating from repeated listenings of Disc One of Janet Jackson's new comp., "Number Ones." (Is it a new Jackson Family tradition to name your Best of "Number Ones"? And is it a must that said Jacksons then lie about it and put songs on said record that never even came close to that number? And does each Jackson then get bad medical advice and die when making the Big Comeback?) Answers to these and other crazy Jackson Family questions I'm sure will be answered on "In the Spotlight with Robin Roberts" tomorrow night. Hard-nosed journalism is what Robin "Ms. Roberts If You're Nasty" Roberts is known for. You should have seen her shake and crawl under her desk when she even hinted at asking Norah Jones about her break up with Lee Alexander this morning. I smell an Emmy.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Them Crooked Vultures ain't gonna surprise no one, but they may rock a couple of asses off. No shit... listen to John Paul Jones' bass parts (if you can get past Josh Homme sounding like every band he's ever been in). OH... and Grohl playing drums means for at least that instant, he isn't writing some song I feel guilty for hating. B+ but only because Plant died last year. Oh, he's alive? B-
It is worth mentioning that prior to editing, I referred to the band above as Them Heavy Vultures. Oh Kate Bush, will you ever relinquish your control of my brain?
V is brilliant television for Americans that hate terrorism. Solid B
Mad Men finale? B+ if you are a misogynist. A- if you aren't.
I used to watch FlashForward. Then baseball happened. I liked Lost the first time.
Oh... reality television? Kevin wins Top Chef, that bitch I-Mean-a wins Project Runway, no one wins Survivor unless a new-clear bawmb is dropped on Samoa, and General Hospital is just getting good. Whataya mean General Hospital isn't real?
I figured that Brother Ran would hit that Grant Hart record, but as he hasn't... OH MY GOD. It is the sequel to Intolerance that you never heard. Wait, you never heard Intolerance? Then why are you reading this? Fuck off. Hot Wax A++++++
Saturday, November 7, 2009
So...four albums in, many hit singles, crazy ass crossover success and awards o'plenty, I can officially announce the death of my Carrie Underwood comeback sex-flick vehicle, "Carrie Under Wood". Sad day. Have not heard her new record and probably won't. Hurts too much. I'm sure it's a winner. 75 stars.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
I'm listening to Ronnie Spector (most ridiculous sex fantasy ever, by the way) and realizing that (no shit) alcohol is so fucking stupid. No, seriously, alcohol has been this HUGE factor in my life. Most every good and bad thing that has ever happened to me has been a result of drinking. Oh, by the way... I'm drinking. Full disclosure.
But look... music doesn't taste as good sober. It just doesn't. If you are disagreeing, you either listen to a boatload of Christian rock, or an assload of contemporary country. Listen... to the latter group, Hank the Senior WANTS you to drink. Copiously. So get over yourself and go and buy a bottle. Trust me, you want no part of any Heaven that doesn't involve Hank Sr. Or Johnny Thunders. Drink up. But try really hard to stay away from the opiates.
I guess my point is this: it is just after three in the A.M., and I'm directionless. Alcohol doesn't help me anymore. No songs, no poems, no prose.
Wait... this is prose (sort of), right?
Lemme think about all of this.
Friday, October 16, 2009
I watch a lot of television. Too much.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Stereogum tells me that Vampire Weekend's new LP, Contra, will be released on 12 January. Not coincidentally, that is the date that I will be able to listen to Vampire Weekend again without being reminded of the ex who ruined them for me. If that isn't an example of Morissette Irony, I don't know what is.
Enjoy a performance of "Run" at that link or the suspected first single "white Sky" below.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Good Mighty Christ Hall & Oates rocked.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Mothers. Buffalo. Birds. Uriah Heep with some muscle. Pony. Classic rock records made in Nashville. Gawdawful reggae strainded through the white guy blues . Cadence. Verse. Cadence. I think I hate Josh Homme more than ever. And he has nuthin' to do with this pile of shit. Oh, cool weird noise, Jack. I miss Meg. Rush Vs. 311 = Treat Me Like Your Mother. Bored now.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
A long time ago in a town not so far away (I , in fact, will be in Richmond this weekend for my brother's annual birthday drunkfest) there lived two brothers. Now individually, these two boys were pithy, angsty, brilliant, acerbic, stupid, charming, gassy drunks that could lay a dark wet blanket over almost any affair that you could imagine. With their Wonder Twin powers activated, however, they were the most formidable perpetual sarcasm machine that the world has ever known. The catalyst for activation was music and that music could be many things but at root, a lot of it sounded like Neil Young. Now the Church of Neil has many followers, among them Jay Farrar, Matthew Sweet, and Jason Molina. No disciple, however, has ever brought forth the fury with both voice and guitar like the fury wrought by J. Mascis.
Mascis has been on my radar ever since he formed a rockin' lil' combo called Dinosaur Jr. Now without rehashing a bunch of history which you can read by clicking that link up there... Dinosaur Jr., like The Cure (who Dino Jr. covered once), has often been a J. Mascis vanity project with revolving members. That said, they have never been as strong as they were in their initial configuration of J., Lou Barlow and Murph. In 2005, one of the most unlikely reunions this side of Bob Stinson's resurrection occurred and that original lineup reunited and recorded a record, Beyond which was released in 2007. The record was well received as was the accompanying tour (or so I hear, I never leave the house).
Now, in 2009, a sophomore effort has been released and my expectations were somewhat low. Beyond was good, but it never struck me like I had hoped that it would so I awaited the latest, Farm, with little excitement but some anticipation. That, my two readers, was a mistake.
Farm begins with what has become my anthem of the summer, "Pieces". Mascis' guitar line is melodic and gritty; and his voice, as always, is thin but unwavering. The song, seemingly about J.'s never ending heartbreak, is just the beginning of what is possibly my favorite DJ record ever. Farm is a return to the heavier sound of early DJ with a solid nod to the melodicism of later albums. The record is anchored by three longer songs while surrounded with shorter more playful pieces. Two Barlow compositions adorn the record and while dissimilar given the differing voices and writing styles of the two songwriters, they fit nicely into the mix of Farm.
Nerdspeak aside, the record rocks from beginning to end. I haven't really felt a "soundtrack of the summer" vibe from a record in a long time. You know those records, the ones that you can't stop listening to during the hot, long summers. A few of mine have included Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted, Neil Young's Mirror Ball, and (though it was released in January of 1985), New Day Rising by Husker Du. This is the first one that has hit me that way in a while.
Grab a pal, crack a cold one and throw yourself the only listening party you're gonna need this summer.
Dinosaur Jr. - Farm - A-
So, it's my fault.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Points for truth in advertising.
Seriously, there have been some great EP's in our time. Husker Du's Metal Circus, R.E.M.'s Chronic Town, The Clash's Black Market Clash, and so many others. I just don't understand the thought process when a band walks into a studio and records one pretty good song and surrounds it with utter crap. This one has a decent opener, a piece of tape loop trash, a song that not only sounds like the Strokes but mentions their name in the title (yes, I'm sure it's an inside joke and I don't get it), and a remix of the earlier tape loop trash.
"Got Nuffin" (the song) - B+
Got Nuffin EP - D
Gene Simmons had a lot to say about a lot of things in his interview over at AOL Television's Inside TV. Certainly the most controversial statement the former Chaim Witz made was regarding Adam Lambert's prospects for a future beyond American Idol:
(Adam is) enormously talented, best talent 'American Idol' has had, but I think he killed his career because now the conversation is not about his talent but about his sexual preference. He's done. You're forcing people to deal with issues they may not be interested in. Life is unfair, and the masses don't all live in L.A. They live in Wisconsin and Nebraska, and you're on crack if you think the same rules apply there. My advice is still the same, shut the f*** up, just sing and let people say whatever they want.
Later, Gene states that he hopes that Lambert proves him wrong, but of course the blogs expurgate that and make Gene out to be the bad guy yet again. Now, i am an unapologetic KISS fan, and have been since I was 12. However, I do not always agree with Simmons' politics and philosophies. I am a fan of the Demon, not of Gene Simmons, the business man. That said, when Antimusic (a favorite blog of mine) ripped Gene for his opinion, I felt the need to reply.
Antimusic had this to say about the situation:
Interesting insight into the Los Angeles mindset about the rest of the country Gene, it's a good thing for Elton John, George Michael and Rob Halford that the people that actually live outside of LA don't think that way. Otherwise how did Michael sell almost as many albums to these people as you have (with about 20 less releases) or how did Elton sell 3.7 times as many? Then again, your career advice must be worth something as the little band you discovered that goes by the name of Van Halen has sold three times as many albums as you. (sarcasm off). Lesson here? Who cares is someone is gay or not? If the music is any good, people will buy it. Which explains the stellar sales of your solo album.
They bring up the record sales of three artists: George Michael, Rob Halford (of Judas Priest), and Sir Elton John. Now don't get me wrong, it is absolutely true that all three of these artists' record sales have dwarfed those of KISS. It is also true that they are all gay. However, the bulk of the sales attributed to these artists were made during the period when their sexuality was at LEAST ambiguous if not completely masked by their label and management. Let's take each example individually, shall we?
First we have George Michael. Long before George showed a penchant for falling asleep at the wheel after enjoying his favorite herb and seeking out the perfect WC for illicit gay unions, he was making the ladies scream with his pal Andrew Ridgely in Wham. Wham sold millions of records all while playing to their key demographic, teenage girls. Now we boys may have thought that there was something no-no about the go-go and their tight, tight shorts... but the ladies would ever argue the point. Also, they showed their loyalty by buying records by the box lot. This carried over for at least one record into Michael's solo career. Faith was anchored by the single "I Want Your Sex" in which the handsome George scrawled "monogamy" on his FEMALE companion's naked skin. Oh sure, there was a little too much hip gyration in the "Faith" video for us dudes but, hey, Elvis gyrated too and he was straight, right? RIGHT? Michael stopped selling records to any great degree after that (barring hits compilations) and soon after announced his sexual preference.
Next we have the case of Rob Halford. Judas Priest's vocalist provides the signature heavy metal voice for this classic band. Throughout the earliest years and well into the 90's Halford sang to Judas Priest's key audience of males under the age of 25 singing about rebellion, angst and, yes, sex. He may have worn a shorn head and head to toe leather outfits for most of his career, but if he was gay, it wasn't spoken of openly amongst the fans. Priest sold records steadily through the 90's and then dumped Halford for another singer. For a fictionalized telling of that story see Rock Star starring Mark Wahlberg. It isn't great, nor is it a documentary, but parts of the story are very real. It was around that time that Halford's sexuality was revealed openly. Halford's bands Fight and later Halford sold records marginally well and Priest's sales were about the same. Halford recently rejoined his old mates, but the sales of their records (again, outside of hits compilations) have been negligible.
Finally Antimusic cited Elton John. Elton John has had several stages in his career. His early career was built on John being a sensitive singer/songwriter type. His songs written with his partner Bernie Taupin touched on rock, blues, and country. As Elton's star rose, so did his flamboyance. It was during this period that Elton John became Captain Fantastic and took us down the Yellow Brick Road. While there certainly may have been discussions about Elton's sexual preferences at this time, they were no more alarming than those of Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and Mick Jagger. They were odd, they were artists, they were forgiven. Then, as the 80's dawned... ELTON GOT MARRIED. TO A WOMAN! By the time the dust settled on that and Elton declared his sexual preference, Elton's record sales had declined and only rose when he was re-re-re- working old hits like "Candle In the Wind" and writing theatrical tunes for the stage and screen.
My point is this: it isn't wrong for Gene to suggest to Adam that he not make his career about his sexuality. In fact it is probably good advice. What IS wrong is that Gene even has to say it. It is sad that we have come no farther along in the last 30 years. It is regrettable that in the Midwest that people may like a Lambert song but decline to buy his record because he is "too gay". Regrettable, yes, but also a sad, sad fact. To a lesser degree it is also wrong to misuse sales figures in a poor attempt to prop up a diatribe against Simmons' comments. The artists that Antimusic use to prove their point all sold the bulk of their records when it was either assumed that they were straight or it was blatantly being ignored that they were gay. Bringing up these sales figures doesn't prove the point that many Americans aren't still very prejudiced against their gay and lesbian neighbors. Nor does it prove that Middle America is ready to embrace a gay superstar.
Incidentally, the two things that I DO agree with in the Antimusic article are that Van Halen may be the best thing Gene has ever done, and that Gene's solo album Asshole sucked.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
There is a good chance that the title of this post may be longer than the body. Anyway... I just listened to The Breeders' new EP, Fate to Fatal. Here's what I've got for ya. If the best song on your EP is sung by someone that isn't in your band? You fail.
"The Last Time" sung by Mark Lanegan - A- Fate or Fatal - C
BTW - anyone that doesn't believe that Mark Lanegan is the Lou Reed of the Oughts just doesn't get it.
ABTW - I think that makes Dulli Iggy Pop. Or maybe Keith Richards. Lets go with Keef.
AABTW - Best song sung by a Deal sister? Bob Marley cover. Go figure.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
(Discussed - Blonde on Blonde (1966), Oh Mercy (1989), Together Through Life (2009), New Day Rising (1985), Workbook (1989) and Life And Times (2009))
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Nine was a banner year for pop music. Full of career highlights ("Doolittle" - the Pixies), new beginnings ("Bleach" - Nirvana), false starts (the Stone Roses) and rebirths ("New York" - Lou Reed). It was the year I started my senior year of high school. A lonely time in my life, spent with head phones attached to my psyche, shaping the man I was to become. Which is a not so lonely guy whose headphones are attached to his psyche, shaping the man he hopes to become.
Twenty years is a long time. Things change. There are not a lot of artists that survive. Certainly not a lot that remain in my daily rss feed. Sure, the Cure (1989 contribution, "Disintegration") still put out a record every few years, but I don't rush out to buy them. Are Fugazi ("13 Songs") even still together? Lou ain't been them same sense 'drella passed and the Pixies only exist to piss me off. Even Janet Jackson ("Rhythm Nation 1814") can't buy a hit.
Shining through all this are a couple of Bobs. If polled on December 31, 1989, I'd have said my two favorite records that year were "Oh, Mercy" by Bob Dylan and "Workbook" by Bob Mould. And they both just so happen to have records out this year that are worth talking about.
To prepare for this article, I decided to not only revisit the 1989 releases of the two, but also my favorite record by both. I chose "Blonde on Blonde" (Dylan's masterpiece from 1966) and "New Day Rising" (the 1985 release from Mould's first band, Husker Du).
With all due respect to "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35", "Blonde On Blonde" does not really begin until track two. "Pledging My Time" begins what is the most personal and timeless collection of songs these ears have ever heard. "Visions Of Johanna", "I Want You", "One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)", "Absolutely Sweet Marie". All classics. All could have been recorded this afternoon. If you don't know this record, stop reading. Go away and don't come back until you've fixed yourself. This record is in my DNA. If'n when we have children, they will come out of the womb singing '"Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands". But none of 'em will be named Dylan. Dylan is Kelly's boyfriend's name, not that of a child. You people simply have to stop this. Off soapbox, can continue.
I don't recall who introduced me to Bob Dylan, but my introduction to Husker Du is the responsibility of one man. In the summer of 1987, my brother Brooks gave me a copy of "Warehouse : Songs And Stories" and my life changed forever.
As I left work last Friday, for what was my last day of employment, the title track from Husker Du's "New Day Rising" was the soundtrack in my skull. This is a tradition I've taken up sense my first bout with unemployment nearly ten years ago. I know I should be worried and concerned for the future, but something in me (and in that song) fills me with wonderment and a remaining, sustained belief that everything will work out. Life is a journey and this is but a stop at a gas station for a fresh cup of coffee and a quick piss.
Of course, Brooks will be taken aback by my ranking of "New Day Rising" ahead of his beloved "Zen Arcade". I stand my decision, especially if the discussion is on Mr. Mould's work with the band. "Zen Arcade" is a brilliant piece of art, but not much fun to listen to. And, anyway, "Celebrated Summer"'s on "New Day Rising" and it just so happens to be the greatest song they ever recorded. Welcome to the end of that discussion.
After all these years this record still makes me want to get in the car and drive to the beach. Not go to the beach. Just drive there and bitch about the heat. Maybe hit Electric Smiles and search for that issue of the Bob with the flexi-disc that's got the Replacements cover of "Another Girl, Another Planet" on it. Good times, great oldies. Husker Du were my anti-Beach Boys. And I loved'em for that.
If "New Day Rising" makes me want to get moving on the road, Bob Mould's 1989 solo debut "Workbook" makes me want to hit the streets. I've long associated this record with walking. Maybe it was Saturday afternoons at the Chrysler Museum, Bob providing me with the audio tour to adulthood. Leaving our hardcore days behind us, Bob bridged the gap for me to expand my universe. This collection of songs showed me a new and exciting way to appreciate music. A way that included Bob Dylan. So, maybe it was Bob Mould who introduced me to Bob Dylan. Nah, that was probably Brooks, too.
So, despite the desperate need for remastering, "Workbook" holds up. Very well, in fact. "New Day Rising" sounds like it was recorded in 1985 and, for me, it's a dated sound (as mid-eighties hardcore records tend to be). But, "Workbook", with it's largely acoustic arrangements and, oddly, timely subject matter (the credit crunch is so 1989), it feels and sounds like a record for the ages.
Which brings us to Dylan's "Oh, Mercy". This record sure as hell sounds like 2009. WIth it pessimistic view of world leaders and troubled times, it can easily be applied to either Bush administration. "Streets are filled with broken hearts, Broken words never meant to be spoken, Everything is broken'" sounds like the images seen on CNN right now. Hell, CNN should replace the Voice Of Vader with "Everything is Broken". And MSNBC can have "DIsease Of Conceit". Imagine Keith Olbermann closing Countdown every night with that one. Face it, kids, Obama is a small Band-Aid for a large wound that covers this country from coast to coast, L.A to Chicago (I'd like to take this time to thank Ms. Sade for my knowledge of U.S. geography).
"Oh, Mercy" was the rebirth Dylan needed. After ten years of mediocre records, Daniel Lanois lit a fire under his ass that simmers to this day. "Together Through Life" is the latest chapter in Dylan's autobiography and it has the sound of death all over it.
This, of course, is nothing new. Death has been a constant muse to Dylan that only left him, truly, when he made shitty records. Except, of course, for his worst album (also from 1989) which he, ironically, recorded with the Dead.. Not a Grateful Dead fan myself, I take great comfort in the fact that Deadheads and I will always have the shared knowledge that "Dylan And The Dead" is a shitty record and should never be mentioned again.
If you need an explanation of "Beyond Here Lies Nothin", good luck trying to feed yourself. Dylan sounds equal parts pissed off and resigned on this record. The Four Horsemen quickly catching up in the rearview, Dylan finally has become the old bluesman he always claimed to be. "Together Through Life" has the air of old, dusty Chess records and booze and cigarettes and late night hootenannies and sex and life and death and sittin' on the beach, waiting for it all to go down while you lie there gettin' brown. Reflection, in other words. And for the first time, I can start to see that we will one day not have a "Bob Dylan". That's a notion that I'm not ready to sink my teeth into. But it's there and Dylan is not willing to let me and you forget that. Another great album by the greatest of them all.
Twenty years his junior, Mould's looking back, too.
"Life And Times" is a primer for Mould's soon to be released autobiography. Full of Husker and Sugar retreads (I mean this in a good way) and visits to sex clubs and workin' the auto-tune like a older, grayer and gayer Kanye, Bob breaks no ground here and that don't matter. He may not be the artist I make him out to be , but he's the closest my generation's got to a Dylan. Westerberg's doodles on tape, Frank, Kim, Joey and Dave's cash strapped liaisons, R.E.M.'s sucky sucks suck...Maybe Sonic Youth will redeem themselves. I can't even remember their last record. But, I've kept up with Mould through nine (9!) solo records and I keep coming back. They're not all fillet (hell, I didn't' even remember 2002's "Modulate until ten minutes ago), but he has been consistent. Dylan put out a whole lotta dreck in the '70's and '80's (anybody remember "Saved"?) and at least Mould has "saved" us (Ha! Get it?) from that. "Life And Times" may not be the best of this years releases, but it's better than most and that's all I can ask. Together Through Life - A, Life And Times - B
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Look. I love reality television. I do. I watch a number of shows that I admit to, and a number of shows that I hide like a heroin habit. However, I do so knowing one simple fact: ain't nothin' real about it. At the very least, the observer effect states that being watched changes the behavior of the observed. This is why contestants on the Amazing Race check their lip gloss before wading through a vat of cow manure to find a marble. On the other end of the reality spectrum (or as I like to call it, Rock of Love-ism)people will do pretty much anything to be on television. Play football in the mud in bikinis, tattoo the name of a person they've never met on their bodies, and the list goes on. Not that I've. Ever. Watched. Rock of Love.
Anyway, it's all in good fun and in the name of entertainment, so we suspend our disbelief for an hour and watch voraciously. The supreme ruler of all reality television is the talent contest. In the United States, American Idol enthralls us with its wealth of talented kids with back stories that make us cry and root for them. Or you know, point and laugh. There are other shows, but this one is by far the most popular. In England, AI's Simon Cowell has created a number of televised talent competitions, one of them being Britain's Got Talent. The "talent" is more on the order of the old Gong Show than American Idol, with contestants performing all sorts of "talents" to move through the competition. There are of course singers as well,and that is where we come to Season Three and Ms. Susan Boyle.
In case you have been living under a rock, Susan Boyle is a frumpy 47 year old self proclaimed virgin who has always dreamed of being a singer. Her dream was thwarted because her invalid mother needed caring for, and so Susan long ago said goodbye to music and lived her life as a caretaker. Until now. In dramatic fashion, Boyle was trotted onto the stage to the agape mouths of judgmental audience members and pithy stoic judges only to open her mouth and sing a perfectly lovely version of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. The audience awash in tears in regret of their dismissal of Boyle jumped to their feet and applauded. Mean old Simon Cowell burst into a smile heralding Boyle as the next pop sensation, while immediately locking her down to a recording contract with Syco Records, his Sony imprint. A story of great inspiration to all.
Except it isn't. Now understand, my problem with this isn't about Susan Boyle, really. While I am certainly "hatin'" as one of my friends put it, I'm not really hating on Boyle. The media, particularly in inspiration starved America, have jumped all over this story. Every media outlet from the legitimate news to the tabloids have reported Boyle's "never been kissed" story (which by the way, she quickly dismissed as being blown out of proportion. Hey, honey, YOU said it).They have discussed the hardship of her life taking care of her mother from the 90's until 2007. Most importantly, they just can't understand how such a global treasure could have been hidden from view for so long. I mean, EVEN SIMON COWELL'S legendary face of stone broke into a toothy grin as she was singing.
Except that every aspect of this story is contrived and carved for maximum drama. Was Susan Boyle a caretaker for her sick mother? Yes. Has she actually avoided being kissed for 47 years? No. Does she possess a better than average vocal talent? Yes. Is it so remarkable as to seem otherworldly? No. Was the audience legitimately surprised by that voice coming from that mouth? Probably. Was Simon Cowell? No. Because he auditioned her. No. Folks, she was picked to be on Britain's Got Talent because she is not pretty to look at. Accept it. Understand it. If this woman looked like Eliza Dushku, she would never have gotten a second glance for THIS PARTICULAR OUTLET. BGT is a freakshow, no more, no less. Hey, and if it gets the lady some fame, which she clearly wants, then good on her. But don't try and sell her to me as an inspiration. Because there is nothing inspiring about Simon Cowell going for maximum shock value in getting a dowdy middle aged woman with a partially fictitious backstory who happens to be able to sing. That, my friends, is television... and Simon Cowell is one of the best in the business at manipulating his audience. If you don't believe me, ask Taylor Hicks.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
So, look, I liked "Narrow Stairs". Loved it, in fact. I don't buy your cries of sell out, children. Those passionate screams for cred should be reserved for someone truly deserving, like, I don't know...Metallica...or Phillip Glass.
But as we all know, narrow stairs lead to open doors. So Death Cab is back with a new E.P. that basically consists of leftovers from "Narrow Stairs". Songs that fit in with their previous efforts. Not quite the shimmery pop sparkle of last year's L.P., these songs would have been out of place on that record but here sound like a cohesive batch of tunes to be enjoyed by old fans and new. 'Nuf said.
It is worth noting, I think, that I believe this record is the end of the first chapter of Death Cab's career. I have it on good authority that Ben Gibbard's secretly recording a new L.P. that will take him and the band in a very new, very radical direction.
Tentatively titled "How I Lost 30 lbs., Got Contacts And Married A Hot Actress" (kinda clunky, I know), Ben's new batch of songs reflect his inner thoughts on married life. Song titles like, "So, What Do You Want For Dinner?"," I've Got 'Lost' Piled 3 High On My DVR" and a twenty minute, mostly acoustic, Hank Williams-type recitation called "How Do I Talk Zooey And Her Sister Emily Into A Three Way (Thoughts While Mowing The Lawn)" show that Ben has (temporarily?) abandoned lonely single guy music with a more mature lonely married guy slant. Open Door E.P. - B+ My Fantasy Ben Gibbard L.P. - A-
Superchunk - Leaves In the Gutter E.P.
It seems like yesterday, must have been the mid-nineties.
When we were younger, my brother and I would find some great record ("Jimmywine Majestic", "Slanted And Enchanted", "This Is Where The Strings Come In") and after a few spins an impromptu air guitar concert (this was your old man's "Guitar Hero", kids) would inevitably spark to life. My Ron Wood to his Keef. We never needed much money when we were young, this we could do for hours. Sweet, huh?
Well, I suppose it changes the story a bit to admit we were in our mid-twenties, living in a studio apartment and that these "shows" would usually take place at 2 a.m., often during the work week. With many, many empties serving as our loyal fans ("Thanks for coming out tonight, Miller High Life!"). Mr. Robinson (upstairs neighbor), an uninvited Charlie Watts whose "drum solos" were meant to motivate us to keep rockin' (okay, he meant "shut the hell up", whatever). Good times.
I mention all this because this week the "band" got back together. As with all reunions, someone couldn't make it. Scheduling conflicts, they said. My brother, living three hours away. Mr. Robinson, assumed dead.
This time 2 a.m. was 10 p.m. There were far less empties in attendance. The loud stereo speakers replaced with ear buds. The vinyl record, now an mp3.
When I tell you that listening to this new Superchunk record (their first in eight years, their best in fifteen) I was brought to tears, don't think less of me. I've got a great life. A woman who loves me and a roof over our heads. Can't get better if you tried. But something in that first track (the brilliant, yes, I'm prone to hyperbole, but brilliant never the less, "Learned To Surf") that transported me back to those simpler times. Late nights at the bar, hangovers at work. A time when bills were not a worry, layoffs not much of a problem, Recession, a word never said. This was an age when a seven inch single felt like it could save your life. And, if I'm honest with you, it did.
But times is tough all over. The economy is in the shitter. If you ain't lost your job yet, watch out. War is still waged. "Change" seems like it was a nice idea that never went anywhere (just like "Dollhouse"). And I can't think of any better reason to get a twelve pack, download "Leaves In The Gutter" (i-tunes has it for $3.99, Superchunk is recession proof!) and dust off "Stained And Lit". Along with the air guitar. Brother Brooks, get thy ass here. Leaves In The Gutter E.P. - A
Doves - Kingdom Of Rust
If Coldplay are a poor man's U2, what does that make Doves.
The Manchester foursome are back with "Kingdom Of Rust" and what began as a simple band making simple music has morphed into a simple band convinced they are a stadium act. There are some good tunes on this record, but they get muddled up in the production (John Leckie, I'm looking at you). The guitar "solos" (if that's what you want to call them, more like "the sound a tuneless guitar makes as it's dragged across gravel") are self indulgent and, frankly, embarrassing (oh god, I watch too much "Idol"). The lyrics are often silly and amateurish. And enough with the keyboards, already. I do like Jez Williams' voice, though. He reminds me of Mark Sandman a little. Which makes me sad, so I'm gonna go listen to Treat Her Right and cry.
And say what you will about Chris Martin and company, but they have elevated themselves in a way that Doves simply can not. Coldplay know how to steal from the right people. They would never be caught taking a stab at "re-visioning" the old Blondie chestnut "Rapture." Doves, here on "Compulsion", are guilty of that charge, too. As everyone knows, Coldplay only steal from the best. If Kate Bush doesn't get royalties for "Speed Of Sound" she needs to get a better lawyer.
But, maybe, the first sentence in this review is all wrong.
History of British Stadium Rock 101 clearly determines that Doves are to Coldplay who are to Radiohead who are to Oasis who are to the Stone Roses who are to the Smiths who are to...what? U2? I think not. The Smiths never played any stadiums, did they? And what about the Cure? That whole New Romantic thing my brother loved so much? Blur? And who came first anyway, Oasis or Radiohead? Are Radiohead even British? Human? Do we count "Pablo Honey" or start with "The Bends"? The whole theory is flawed. Fuck it. None of them wrote a song as good as "Waterfront". So let's start there. Simple Minds are to...
Kingdom of Rust - B-
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I made a list of essential records not too long ago, and I'll refine that and put it on here at some point. I started looking at others' lists and realized that there are a bunch of albums that influenced people that I just never "got". either the music didn't move me, or it was just diametrically opposed to my mindset at the time. Many of these records have warranted re-listens over the years and, in one or two cases, I've flip-flopped a bit. In most cases, I stand by my initial assessment. A quick disclaimer, this in no way meant to slam anyone's opinion. As I have gotten older, I have honestly realized that music is a subjective thing and no two tastes are completely alike... I just like lists.
1. Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
I was never a huge fan. I liked some of the Syd Barrett stuff, and kind of dug Animals and Wish You Were Here. DSOTM always seemed overblown, and it was certainly overplayed. The Wizard of Oz thing was just overkill.
2. The Grateful Dead - American Beauty
This was a product of hating a scene more than the music. I later grew a healthy respect for AB, Workingman's Dead and the acoustic live Reckoning. The rest of it, I could still do without. As to the live shows... if "every third show was brilliant" as the Deadheads claim, then every first and second show sucked donkey balls.
3. Phish - pick one.
See above but replace actual songcraft with incessant noodling. Exception: "Sample in a Jar" from Hoist. I liked that one.
4. Dave Matthews Band - Under the Table and Dreaming
I was living in Richmond whilst the DMB star was beginning to rise and watched as his Wednesday night residency at the Flood Zone grew from a smattering of somewhat interested drunks to a sold out every week affair. He was (is, I'm sure) a genuinely nice guy and deserves every ounce of his fame. His music, however, bores me to tears. It is as if Paul Simon only ever recorded Africaner-lite muzak.
5. Rush - anything that isn't Moving Pictures or Subdivisions
My distaste for Rush is well documented. I love Alex Lifeson, but Geddy Lee sings like a 6 year old child being run over by a combine and Neil Peart has clearly never watched Freaks & Geeks. I can get past it for the total riffest that encompassed their mid 80's output. To a degree.
6. Metallica - ...and Justice For All
Metallica was never the same after Cliff Burton's death, and that said... I had only marginal love for them before this. Aside from that... the video for "One" (taken largely from the film "Johnny Got His Gun" is unwatchable to me, as is the film.
7. Ween - Pure Guava
That voice. Why? WHHHHYYYYYY? Rush fans, to be sure.
8 The Beatles - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
My distaste for The Beatles is well documented. This album, in particular, is pompous and overblown. Brian Wilson beat this record senseless with Pet Sounds.
9. R.E.M. - Green
Oh I bought it. Pretended to love it. Now, other than one or two songs, it is nearly unlistenable to me. This was the beginning of R.E.M.'s foray into corporate rock. I could hear Stipe's lyrics and they still made no sense. Pete's guitar was LOUD LOUD LOUD. I had to pay a lot of money to see them live and it just wasn't the same. Hairshirt? Indeed.
10. Minor Threat - pick one
Nope. Never liked Ian's brand of preach-punk. Bad Religion never told me not to drink. Well, then he became Fugazi. Then I adapted and learned to love.
11. Paul Westerberg - Eventually
The beginning of the ex-Mat's Sinatra period. Forgettable songwriting, pithy crooning. He got better again later.
12. Liz Phair - Whitechocolatespacegg
After the one-two punch that was Exile in Guyville and Whip-Smart I couldn't get my head around this one. Did I just like her because she was hot? Nah, that couldn't be it... she got hotter later and made worse records. There are those that love this record. I am not one of them. The beginning of her ongoing overproduction period.
13. Jeff Buckley - Grace
The guy can write a song. And he can sing. Trouble is... he sings and I hear Freddie Mercury. I dunno why. I just do. I like Queen. But Brian May never guested on a Buckley record. Also? Can't swim.
14. Tori Amos - Under the Pink
Poor Tori is getting shafted for all of that "Lilith Fair" chick rock that I hate. Also for evoking Kate Bush to me (who I love) but kind of a poorer 'Muricun white trash version. I've had many try and change my mind. I do think that she is a powerful live artist. From what I've seen. On that video. That one time. Oh... Under the Pink largely because I really hated "Cornflake Girl".
15. Soundgarden - Superunknown
I never loved Chris Cornell's voice. It was okay in a I liked Led Zeppelin the first time kind of way. Still I loved Ultramega OK and Badmotorfinger largely due to Kim Thayil's guitar. then they went all Beatlesque on me. And you know how I feel about the Beatles. Right?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The Internet combined with my shiny new iPod has given me an embarrassment of riches. I can usually find great pricing on lots of new releases via Amazon or the like, and good ol' iTunes itself is chock full of great music at a price lower than most places that I could buy them physically. The real treats lie in the unexpected ephemera floating on the fringes, however.
Last week, whilst visiting one of the many places that I find out of print, never in print, and long lost goodies, I ran across Cheap Trick's 1998 unauthorized In Color sessions with Steve Albini. Now, for those of you who never knew Cheap Trick worked with Albini, be not surprised. No album actually resulted from the sessions. What did emerge (via Internet leaks) was a complete re-recording of Cheap Trick's classic In Color record from 1977. The original In Color contained some of Cheap Trick's most memorable numbers including "I Want You To Want Me" and "Clock Strikes Ten". While the record is remembered fondly, it contained some clunky production by Tom Werman to include a horrible honky-tonk piano riff on "I Want You to Want Me". In re-listening to it, I found it pleasant but uninspired with a ham handed nod toward the Beatles' sound which detracted from the brilliant power-pop songs on the record.
The Albini sessions are another matter entirely. Albini has a notorious hands-off approach to recording bands. Stripped of all grandiose polish and gloss, the songs become the centerpiece. Robin Zander's voice has never sounded better, and Rick Nielsen's guitar has all the rifftastic chunkiness that you could hear live, but almost never on Cheap Trick's studio recordings. It simply sounds like a great power-pop masterpiece. If you can find the damn thing... this one comes highly recommended.
Original In Color: B- / Albini's In Color: A
Being the only one who enjoyed 2007's fuck you to Clive Davis, My December, I was a little hesitant to see the return of "American Idol" Kelly Clarkson. Thankfully, six seconds into All I Ever Wanted I was as pleased as anyone to hear that she "seems" to be making peace with who she is vs. who they want her to be. The first single " My Life Would Suck Without You" is already a radio staple and deservingly so. It's another soaring anthem in the tradition of "Walk Away" and "Never Again". I hope "I Do Not Hook Up" is the next single. Written by Katy Perry and new American Idol judge Kara Dioguardi, it is the highlight of this record. It's a great song about an alcoholic boy with as much talent as he has tolerance for the sauce. "Whyyawannabringmedown" rocks more than the last three Social Distortion records combined. Even the ballads (never my Kelly preference) on this record ain't that bad. More Ann Wilson than Diane Warren. A special mention to the i-Tunes exclusive "Can We Go Back". I love this song and it should be included on any re-issued versions of this album. Good job, Kelly.B+