Friday, October 30, 2020

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid! (Special "Thoroughly Modern Tilly" Edition)

Courtesy of friend of PowerPop (and moi) Tim Page, and in honor of Halloween, please enjoy the greatest version of Paul Dukas' The Sorceror's Apprentice -- well, at least the greatest one featuring a classical clarinetist and a puppy -- ever committed to video.

New music postings -- with greater relevance to the theme of this here blog -- resume on Monday.

In the meantime, have a great (spooky) weekend, everybody!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Best Definition of Rock-and-Roll Ever Is...

...IMHO, "happy songs about sad stuff."

I have no idea exactly who came up with that (or when) and, sure, obviously, there are probably lots of others I'm forgetting that are arguably as good.

That said, it sprang to mind this week after I discovered Vampire Weekend's sublimely upbeat and simultaneously melancholy 2019 song "This Life." (Here's a great in-concert version of it, if you missed the official video I posted on Tuesday).

Anyway, I was somewhat non-plussed to disover that I couldn't immediately come up with another example that embodied the definition as aptly, at least by my lights.

In which case, I will award a coveted PowerPop No-Prize© to the first reader who nominates one I agree with.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Why Didn't I Get the Memo on This Song? (This Week's Edition Le Deuxieme)

From 2011, please enjoy the late great Amy Winehouse and her jaw-droppingly stunning cover version of the Goffin/King classic of early '60s sexual guilt "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"

I really don't understand how I missed that until today (when I heard it over the sound system at a Manhattan restaurant where a certain Shady Dame of my acquaintance took me for one last birthday lunch.) But as I found out later, when I reseearched it, it originally appeared on an album of outtakes released shortly after La Winehouse's tragic death.

In any case, on reflection I now think that it's the best performance of that song ever waxed, and that includes the original by The Shirelles and Carole King's re-make on Tapestry.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Why Didn't I Get The Memo on This Song?

From 2019, please enjoy Vampire Weekend and their fiendishly joyous and infectious "This Life," an obviously prescient tribute to -- IMHO -- everything that made the world bearable before our current troubled times.

Seriously, I was having lunch at my local watering hole yesterday when that came on the restaurant's Pandora channel, and I just about fell off of my bar stool at how glorious it is. I don't know how to describe it, really; obviously, it's a little bit 60s Top 40 influenced, although not in a blatantly retro way, and if I had to compare it to anything specifically, the closest I could come is to Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" (mostly for the guitar riff, 'natch). But damn, the whole thing is instantly addictive, and the bass player is doing stuff so beautiful in the second half of the song that I want to shoot him for being so much better than me.

In any case, let's just say that having discovered that song I'm in a lot better mood than I've been in for at least a couple of weeks.

I should add that...

Baby, I know pain is as natural as the rain/ I just thought it didn't rain in California...

...is now my favorite opening line to any pop/rock song ever.

Monday, October 26, 2020

You Bastard Kids Get Off My Lawn (An Occasional Series): Special "If You Don't Think This Crap is, as the Brits Say, Twee, You Really Need To Have a Word With Yourself"

From the October 19, 2020 issue of The New Yorker, please enjoy(?) the insufferable prose efflusions of Amanda Petrusich as she attempts -- and fails -- to justify the unlistenble musical stylings of a deeply mediocre Gen Z alt-rock singer-songwriter named Adrianne Lenker.

Here's the opening, which should give you an idea of just how awful the piece (and artist) is.

In late August, the singer, songwriter, and guitarist Adrianne Lenker stood beside a creek in upstate New York, watching the water move. The day before, Lenker, who is twenty-nine, had packed up the Brooklyn apartment she’d been sharing with two roommates. She was preparing to haul a vintage camping trailer across the country to Topanga Canyon, on the west side of Los Angeles, where her band, Big Thief, was planning to meet up. For the next couple of months, at least, the trailer would be home.

Moving can be disorienting—all that sorting and boxing and tossing out forces a kind of self-reckoning—and for Lenker the experience was only intensified by the ongoing anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic, which made imagining any sort of future feel optimistic, if not na├»ve. The exhaustion and sorrow of the spring had left everyone feeling precarious. The sun refracted against the surface of the creek until the water turned black. Our conversation drifted toward the Zen idea of impermanence. “Is it too early for this?” Lenker joked. “Nice to meet you—let’s talk about death.”

Lenker had spent the past few weeks recording with Big Thief at a home studio in the Catskill Mountains, run by the musicians Sam Owens and Hannah Cohen. The rest of the band—the guitarist Buck Meek, the bassist Max Oleartchik, and the drummer James Krivchenia—had since left, but Lenker stuck around to renovate the trailer. She had just ordered a twin mattress, a portable woodstove, and new linens.

This month, Lenker will release two solo albums: “Songs,” a collection of tender, harmonically complex folk tunes, and “Instrumentals,” which is composed of a pair of slowly unfolding guitar pieces. She made the records simultaneously, at a remote cabin in New England, in the early, panicked days of both the pandemic and a breakup. Lenker is a quick and instinctive writer, and even under normal circumstances her songs are raw and unfussy—it can feel as if they were dug up whole, like a carrot from the garden. She sometimes speaks about writing as a kind of conjuring. “She gives a lot of significance to that moment where she’s holding the guitar,” Oleartchik told me. “I never really think of her, like, fucking around and playing riffs or something. It’s always this instrument of witchcraft. It’s always holy. She writes music from this place that’s very intuitive and fearless, and she has confidence that there’s some kind of spirit or force that she can listen to.”

Before Lenker vacated her apartment in New York, she had to paint over an illustration that her ex-girlfriend had drawn on the bedroom wall. Lenker took some solace from the idea that the image wouldn’t be erased, exactly—it remained, even if she couldn’t see it anymore. Lenker has been in romantic relationships with men and with women, and doesn’t feel any particular obligation to outline her sexuality in precise terms, though she is comfortable being called queer. “The fact that there’s still people against that kind of stuff makes the words necessary,” she told me. “But hopefully we move into a place where it’s, like, You’re what? Why are you saying what you are?”

And on and on and on ad infinitum. Basically the essay is longer, windier and more boring than Miss MacIntosh, My Darling .

And here's one of the musician in question's new songs, which should serve to demonstrate just how undeserving she is even of one of history's most tedious New Yorker profiles.

Give me a fucking break. I could barely stand that kind of pretentious twaddle when it was being done by Joni Mitchell, who had the saving grace of being, in fact, a musical genius. But the above? Damn, it's like finding your ankle padlocked for a weekend to a sandwich machine in the basement of your old college dormitory.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Weekend Listomania: Special "Let's Face It -- Everything Below the Waist is Kaput!" Edition

Well, it's Friday, and you know what that means.

Yes, my Asian manual catharsis consultant Fah Lo Suee and I will be heading to beautiful downtown Forest Hills, NY, to take advantage of the newly re-opened indoor dining just approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

That being the case, here's a fun little project having absolutely no relevance to contemporary events but which still should be diverting for us anyway. To wit:

Best or Worst Pop/Rock/Soul/Folk Songs Marlene Dietrich Either Actually Sang or SHOULD Have!!!!

I should add, at this point, that my critical colleague at The Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, the late great Noel Coppage, provided the definitive assessment of Ms. Dietrich's vocal stylings.

"Atonal groaning."

Okay, with that joke now rescued from obscurity, my totally Top of My Head Top Five is/are:

5. Bert Bachrach/Hal David -- "Moon River"

4. Pete Seeger -- "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

3. Marianne Faithfull -- "Sister Morphine"

What I wouldn't have given to hear Marlene croak (heh) "Here I lie in my hospital bed."

2. The Ramones -- "I Wanna Be Sedated"

And the number one song Ms. Dietrich was obviously born to sing but alas never did (to our knowledge) self-evidently is...

1. The Beatles -- "I'm So Tired"

For obvious reasons.

Alrighty then -- what would YOUR choices be?

And have a great weekend, everybody!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

It's Byrds Tribute Week Part III: Special "We've Been Here Before" Edition

From that 1989 album Time Between I've been gassing about for the last couple of days...

...please enjoy Static and their utterly gorgeous cover of David Crosby's exquisite "It Happens Each Day."

A song that, if memory serves, wasn't released as an official Byrds track till the late 80s. Go figure.

In any event, a spine-tinglingly good piece of work, but NOT one that we're going to emulate on the forthcoming Floor Models/Byrds tribute album I've been hyping.

Tomorrow -- the triumphant return of Weekend Listomania, and this one is going to blow your minds, I guarantee it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

It's Byrds Tribute Week Part II: Special "Stop Sufferin' -- Take Bufferin" Edition

From the 1989 album Time Between...

...please enjoy the very cool Dinosaur Jr. and their quite wonderfully punkish cover of The Byrds/Gene Clark classic "Feel a Whoie Lot Better."

As I more or less implied yesterday, that song is NOT one of the tunes we'll be covering on the forthcoming Floor Models Byrds tribute album.

Although I wish it was, now that I think of it.

In any case, more Byrds-y stuff tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

It's Byrds Tribute Week Part I: Special "Solipsism is Great -- Everybody Should Try It" Edition

So as attentive readers -- and others, possibly -- are aware, I have spent the last several weeks in pre-production for a forthcoming Floor Models/Byrds tribute album.

But what neither group may recall (I certainly didn't) is that back in 1989, somebody else put together a terrific Byrds tribute album entitled Time Between...

...that has since been reissued on CD.

As it turns out, a bit to my surprise actually, the song selection on the two albums is mostly dissimilar. But there is at least one (cover version of a) song on the older album that is going to show up on the Flo Mos record as well.

So now please enjoy the great Richard Thompson (along with the almost as great Clive Gregson and Christine Collister) and their fabulous re-imagining of the The Byrds (via Gene Clark)'s gorgeous "Here Without You.".

And here, by virtue of comparison, is the Flo Mos version (only 95% finished, i.e. with an untweaked intro and no harmonies).

At this point I love both of them, but we'll have more to say about that sort of stuff as the week goes on.

Tomorrow -- another song from the 1989 album without the distraction of one of our crappy covers.

Monday, October 19, 2020

What -- And Give Up Show Biz?

In case you don't recognize today's title, it's the punch line to an old joke about a circus worker whose job it is to follow the elephants around and sweep up their pachyderm fecal matter.

BTW, and may I just say, and for the record, that -- in all seriousness -- I would have killed to see Pet Rock: The Musical.

And I gotta post this photo too.

For obvious reasons.

Actual music postings resume tomorrow and for the rest of the week. In the meantime, you can click on the graphics to enlarge them; the Vegas one is particularly droll.