Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The Human Riff
In my absence, however, here's one half of the Glimmer Twins live with
How I Wish.
It's from one my favorite concert videos of the 80s, Keith Richards and the X-Pensive Winos: Live at the Hollywood Palladium; the song itself derives from Keith's wonderful 1988 debut solo album "Talk is Cheap".
Keith himself once famously observed that on any given night somebody somewhere was the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World. For my money, the night that video was shot, the Winos deserved the title.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Tom Snyder: RIP
We Get Press Releases...
THREE OF NEW YORK CITY’S FINEST SONG WRITERS
Edward Rogers, George Usher & Richard X Heyman
PERFORM BAROQUE POP FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2007 AT JOE'S PUB, 9:00 PM
Three of New York City's finest songwriters - Edward Rogers, George Usher and Richard X. Heyman will present an evening of “baroque pop” at Joe’s Pub on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007. Each artist will perform songs from their individual CDs, as well as introduce new material, accompanied on this one night only by the cream of the city’s string players.
Edward Rogers and George Usher will do a set of mostly new material, featuring Mark Sidgwick on twelve-string guitar, Claudia Chopek on violin and Garro Yellin on cello. Usher will play guitar and piano while Rogers will add percussion to the ensemble. Two years in the making, Edward Rogers’ upcoming CD, "You Haven’t Been Where I've Been," (Zip Records) showcases the inventive and eclectic pop songwriting of the Rogers/Usher team. This appearance will feature songs from the new CD, as well as several from Rogers’ highly-acclaimed debut, Sunday Fables. Sharing the stage, NYC songwriter George Usher (who penned Laura Cantrell’s “Not The Tremblin’ Kind” and Richard Barone’s “River To River”) will offer up material from his work-in-progress, "Yours And Not Yours," as well as older favorites from his deep back-catalogue.
“Perhaps America’s greatest unsung hero of power pop” (All Music Guide) -- “Heyman's talent and pop craftsmanship are pretty close to perfection” (Newhouse Wire Service) -- “A genuine national pop treasure” (Iowa Press Citizen) – “on a par with Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren and Emitt Rhodes” (CD Reviews.com) – these are just a few of the accolades tossed around to describe NYC singer/songwriter Richard X. Heyman and his latest release and sixth album, "Actual Sighs." Heyman has been producing seemingly effortless pop masterpieces for the past two decades, while also lending his musical abilities to efforts by such artists as Brian Wilson, Peter Noone, Ben E. King, Jonathan Richman, Link Wray, Michael Brown and The Shangri-Las’ Mary Weiss. A master of DIY, Heyman recently acquired a new keyboard for his home studio, which opened the floodgates of composition in a new direction. Heyman will debut many of these new pieces, with himself on piano, Nancy Leigh on bass, and accompanied by a string quartet consisting of Deni Bonet, Lara Hicks, Chris Jenkins and Eleanor Norton -- in the best chamber-pop tradition of The Left Banke and Love.
I must confess to being unfamiliar with the ouevre of Mssrs. Rogers and Usher, but attentive readers know that we're over the moon about Heyman's most recent album, so this show, as we're wont to say, could be a hot one. Those of you in the Tri-State Metropolitan Area, should mark your calendars accordingly.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Dirty Fucking Hippies, Musical Version
One of the joys of car shopping is driving around listening to the radio. (For the snark-impaired, that was.) For a person like me, accustomed to bringing my own soundtrack wherever I go and getting my news and opinions elsewhere, the radio is a wasteland of NASCAR and pimple cream ads, punctuated by the occasional interesting piece, especially since our local AAR affiliate changed to the third sports radio station in our small market.
So I mostly listen to NPR, if I listen, and it was there, driving what I dearly hope will be the new Liberalmobile, that I heard this piece, from WHYY in Philly.
Uneasy Ties Bind Music Companies, Music Blogs
by Joel Rose
Weekend Edition Saturday, July 28, 2007 · Record labels usually frown on fans sharing music for free online, but tolerate MP3, or music, blogs. These fan-run sites have proven effective in breaking unknown indie bands. But it's a relationship that is still rocky at times, as Joel Rose of member station WHYY reports.
I admit I was a bit surprised to find out that Matador was using this Web Sheriff thing--they don't seem the type. But then, I've had this new New Pornographer's CD for a month or so, so I guess I didn't realize it was such a closely-guarded secret.
I don't know how I feel about the crackdown on mp3 sites--I've posted a few, and I gather what you generally get are polite notes asking you to take things down if people have an issue with it. I guess it's technically stealing, but then so is any music, sharing, according to the RIAA.
Just a heads up to all you folks like Mike at Powerpopulist: be careful, my friends.
UPDATE: Kid C's comment reminds me of this song:
Friday, July 27, 2007
Weekend Listomania (Shameless Special Pleading Edition)
Meantime, here's a fun little project for you all:
Most Underrated Rock Group or Solo Performer!!!!!
You know -- musicians you dearly love/believe to be important, but who don't get commensurate respect from critics, hepsters, or the public at large.
My totally top of my head Top Seven:
1. Procol Harum -- Mere one or two hit wonders? I think not!!! At least five albums full of genuine grandeur, pop smarts and mordant wit, and that mostly seamless merger of Ray Charles and J.S. Bach.
2. Moby Grape -- Not just the best of the San Francisco bands; a credible case be made for them as the very best American group of their day.
3. Jason and the Scorchers -- Gram Parsons meets the Who meets the Ramones. What's not to like?
4. Mink DeVille -- The Bowery's finest. In fact, the only one of the original New York City punk groups that actually sounded like New York City.
5. Marah -- Nick Hornby and me think they're the best band on the planet. So why aren't they household words?
6. Peter Blegvad -- A singer/songwriter/guitarist so good that XTC ripped him off.
7. David Bowie -- Just to annoy the Kenosha Kid.
Let the earnestness begin!!!!!
Thursday, July 26, 2007
A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded any reader who can divine how this relates to tomorrow's Weekend Listomania.
Thursday Quick Fixes
Headquarters -- Deluxe Edition/ Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones LTD -- Deluxe Edition (Rhino)
On balance, these are the Monkees two best albums, and with these new reissues Rhino has done right by them, in fact quite spectacularly so. Each two disc set includes both the mono and stereo mixes of the original LPs (beautifully remastered), plus a bonus disc of outtakes, alternate mixes, and other rarities (for example, a previously unheard by moi stereo version of "A Little Bit Me," probably my all-time fave Monkees single). Both packages also include excellent liner notes by pop obsessive (and member of Dave Davies' touring band) Andrew Sandoval with some interesting new interviews with Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork, and there are credits for who played what for every track (the identities of some of the session musicians may come as a surprise, and yes, Nesmith really did do the cool lead guitar riffage on "Pleasant Valley Sunday.") If I had to choose between the two packages, I'd probably opt for Headquarters, the one album where the Monkees really functioned as a self-contained pretty-much-playing-everything-themselves outfit, but if you like beautifully crafted 60s pop rock treated with the respect it deserves -- and if you don't, why are you even here? -- you can't go wrong with either one.
LAFAYETTE GILCHRIST: 3
I'm not much of a jazzbo, but every now and then...Case in point: young Baltimore pianist Lafayette Gilchrist (this is his third album -- hence the apt if unimaginative title). Gilchrist, working here in a bare bones format (just him, electric bass and drums) works up a churning stew of what might be described as abstract funk; it's got a bit of a New Orleans r&b feel (think Professor Longhair or Allen Toussaint), while the rhythm section has an ear cocked towards James Brown and some of the more cosmic excursions on board George Clinton's Mothership. Gilchrist says he's "taking groove oriented music and making it spacious and conversational"; I'm saying he's doing it in endlessly inventive and harmonically surprising ways. Highly recommended.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Pop Obsession of the Moment...
The first single off the CD, Phantom Limb is jaw-droppingly wonderful and lead vocalist/songwriter James Mercer's melodic voice reminds me of what the Zombies might sound like if they were reincarnated as a twenty-first century indiepop band. This is guitar-based pop music of the highest order and is a worthy successor to their critically acclaimed Oh, Inverted World, and Chutes Too Narrow. By the way, if you should happen to be in Seattle in September, the Shins will be playing Bumbershoot September 1st!
Cheap Trick to recreate the Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper' album in historic concert
Veteran powerpop band Cheap Trick, who have famously cover the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" and John Lennon's "Cold Turkey" in the past, are now set to perform the entire Sgt. Pepper album from start to finish at L.A.'s world-famous Hollywood Bowl.
The performance will accompanied by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, as well as special guests Aimee Mann, Joan Osborne, Ian Ball, and Rob Laufer. For the George Harrison-penned "Within You Without You," an Indian instrumental ensemble will also participate.
The recreation of the Sgt. Pepper album will be performed during the second half of the concert, while the first half will features Beatles classics including:
"Magical Mystery Tour" (with orchestra)
"Strawberry Fields Forever" (with Ian Ball, orchestra)
"Norwegian Wood" (with Rob Laufer, orchestra)
"Blackbird" (with Aimee Mann)
"Eleanor Rigby" (with orchestra)
"The Long And Winding Road" (with Joan Osborne, orchestra)
"Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/End" (with orchestra)
Cheap Trick's two-night Sgt. Pepper concert stint takes place at the Hollywood Bowl on on August 10 and 11.
Note the presence of such luminaries as Joan Osborne and Aimee Mann, and PowerPop fave Rob Laufer, one of the most underrated songwriters out there. (Robin Zander covered Laufer's "Reactionary Girl" on his solo album in the mid-90's.)
Sounds fab, so if you're left-coastish,check it out. I can's go, because I'M GOING TO SEE SHOES IN CHICAGO!
Thanks for the donations!
Smells Like Adult Spirit
Apparently it's from a forthcoming documentary about Pete that's going to be shown later this year at the Bainbridge Island Film Festival.
Pete's an old bud from my early 80s days as a rockstar wannabe in Greenwich Village, where we often bellied up at the bar with then not yet famous pals including Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, the Smithereens, and some other folks you might not have heard of but are/were equally worthy. Anyway, he's a splendid composer, a riveting performer, and I'm glad to see that he's become something of a fixture in the Seattle area; if you live in the neighborhood, you should definitely check out one of his frequent club gigs.
Meanwhile, you can order Pete's CDs here; they're all excellent, but I particularly recommend Handsignal, which features my old bandmate Glen Robert Allen on drums, and New Hope and Wise Virgins, whose standout track -- "Everybody Danced" -- is as gloriously mournful a slice of modern folk-rock/Americana as has been heard this decade. In any case, get over there and give Pete some love.
PS: I just realized I have now posted twice in a row about my sordid 80s skinny tie band past. Somebody smack me if I do it again any time soon.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
You Know, Some Days I Don't Miss the 80s
I mean, granted, I haven't seen the thing since 1984, but I swear I don't remember it being so
On a personal note, I should mention that Smyth's pre-stardom band (forget what it was called then -- might have been Scandal, but I'm not sure) used to play all the time at the same Greenwich Village dive where my own skinny tie band had a lengthy residency; I think we shared a bill with them at least once or twice. Smyth was, of course, real easy on the eyes and possessed of a great voice, so everybody kind of assumed she was gonna make it big. But she was also charmingly goofy and unpretentious onstage and off, and as a result all of us on the scene who otherwise would have been jealous were rooting for her to succeed. You can imagine our surprise, then, when she turned up on MTV carrying on like she does in the above clip -- we regulars were stunned at how totally she'd been transformed by (one assumes) the evil record company weasels. Goodbye, adorable gamin -- hello, obnoxious New Wave Diva.
Soon after that, of course, she was firing the guys in her band, shooting heroin with Richard Hell, marrying John McEnroe and singing power ballads with Don Henley. Sad, really.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Jamming Out with the Mickjaggernauts
h/t The Kenosha Kid, who would probably look a lot like Jemaine, were he to dress in Bowie drag (and much as I like him, I dearly hope he will not).
There's an Opera Out on the Turnpike
James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti together again for the first time.
Seriously, this is crossover gone totally gonzo amuck. The only thing I can imagine to top this would be something interspecies -- Celine Dion and Shamu the Whale dueting on "Louie Louie," maybe.
[h/t Steve Early]
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Belated Friday Funny
Friday, July 20, 2007
Weekend Listomania (Shameless Poseurs Edition)
Meantime, here's a fun little project for you all:
Most Overrated Rock Group or Solo Performer!!!!!
You know -- seemingly untouchable icons with huge critical reputations who just strike you as insufferable pretentious bores.
My totally top of my head Top Five:
1. David Bowie
2. Frank Zappa
3. Smashing Pumpkins
5. Elton John
Let the snideness begin!!!!!
Thursday, July 19, 2007
New Sidebar Item
SHOES to play at Chicago's Millennium Park!
For the first time in over 4 years SHOES will perform in Chicago! On Friday, August 10th SHOES will play at Millennium Park for Chicago's "Great Performers of Illinois Festival". It is scheduled to be a 1-hour show on Stage 1 in Wrigley Square at 5:00pm. If you're in town, c'mon by!
I would very much like to be in town, but I'm worried about money. Can you toss a little scratch my way to fulfill a lifelong dream?
This is Your Brain Dribbling Out of Your Ears
From today's paper:
There have been ominous signs for months.
Really? Do you mean Michael Chertoff's gut? Perhaps the new NIE estimate?
Like the pair of flip-flops that showed up in the mail, courtesy of some record label looking to influence the outcome. And the half-hearted arguments among friends who seemed to be merely going through the motions. And the stagnant pop charts, which all but eliminated suspense.
Oh, those. Right, scary. What else?
Taken together, these and other omens point to one sad conclusion:
Good lord, man, don't leave us hanging like that. What is it that you're getting at?
It’s probably time to stop talking about the so-called Song of the Summer.
Words fail me.
There's more here, if you can stand it, but be warned -- it gets worse.
I'm sorry to keep flogging a dead equine where Sanneh is concerned, but c'mon: granted the Times' pop coverage has always been, shall we say, uneven. But this kind of lovesick puppy fanboy gush was absolutely unprecedented before Sanneh's tenure, and one can only assume it's part of the same ongoing institutional nervous breakdown at the Old Grey Lady that has given us the WMD fantasies of Judith Miller or David Brooks putting George W. Bush and Leo Tolstoy together in the same sentence.
We Get Press Releases
Hollywood, CA - July 18, 2007
The much anticipated and critically acclaimed major label debut by New York City's own Interpol has debuted at #4 on this week's Billboard Top 200 chart; their highest debut in the US to date. The band's third album and first for Capitol Records scored an astounding 15 top 20 chart positions around the world including two #1 album entries in Ireland & Mexico, #2 in the UK, top 5 in the US, Canada, Belgium, & Holland. The album also landed at #2 on the itunes digital chart.
Since kicking off their global assault at this year's Coachella festival to rave reviews, the enigmatic band has been making mainstage festival appearances and fan friendly club shows around the world which culminated last week in a sold out performance in the UK and an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman where they performed their current single, "The Heinrich Maneuver". The US tour which kicks off in Rochester, NY on July 19th will include a hometown appearance at Madison Square Garden.
...so why does it seem so much like the early 80s?
Really -- the only way these guys could be more like Joy Division is if the lead singer hung himself.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Birthday Salutations Terry!
Now that we are thinking about XTC, I've been on a pop psych jag of late, and some of my favorite recordings of the band come from their lysergic alter ego The Dukes of Stratosphear. Under that pseudonym the group released two records, the 25 O'Clock EP in 1985, followed by Psonic Psunspot two years later. Produced by John Leckie, both discs are brilliant, slightly tongue-in-cheek pastiches of British pop psych circa 1967. On these two records the group delivers rock and roll love letters to such era touchstones as Pink Floyd (Bike Ride to the Moon), The Hollies (Vanishing Girl) and the The Move (My Love Explodes) to name just a few. Both discs were later compiled on the Chips from the Chocolate Fireball CD which is required listening for all XTC aficionados or any fan of cool 60s freakbeat. Certainly, these recordings hold up to any of the band's best musical moments and they are simply a blast to listen to.
Also, if you are interested in hearing more original and extremely obscure British psych pop from the era, I highly recommend that you download Andy Morten's fantastic Toffee Sunday Smash podcast here.
Here's the Dukes performing The Mole from the Ministry to give you a tiny taste of their sparkling goodness (sorry-the video cuts out abruptly at the end!). Happy Birthday Mate!!
The Present Day Teen Pop Star Refuses to Die
Meanwhile, here's the first video from the album, "When Did Your Heart Go Missing", which is just too cute for words.
Really, it's like being transported back to the Golden Age of These Guys.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Too Much of Nothing
As you can see from the clip, that's Cate Blanchett as Bobby Z, a bit of casting (five other actors play the Voice of His Generation at some point in the film) that has caused a lot of critical thumbsucking and fan frothing.
Glenn's take (short version):
Me, I think Blanchett's a great actress as well as a talented mimic, and that she manages to let an eager, literature-loving kid from Hibbing emerge from behind the shades here. But for Christ's sake, people. It's a two minute clip from an uncompleted film. Imagine if you had never seen Citizen Kane. Imagine, then, if I showed you a rough version of the scene between William Alland and Paul Stewart near the end of the picture ("Sentimental fellow, huh?" "Maybe yes, maybe no.") Imagine if, after that, I asked you to form an opinion of the entire film based on that. If you had any kind of modesty or decency as a person—we're not even getting to the area of critical acumen—you would demure.
As todays kids would have it -- right on, right on.
PS: Miss Havisham of Wingnuttia Ann Althouse had a long thread about this up today, and in a display of blithering idiocy remarkable even by her
Here's the link in case you think I made that last up.
BTW -- if you aren't reading Glenn's blog on a regular basis you're missing something special. Although the ostensible focus of it is merely films and flicks, Glenn's a brilliant writer with eclectic and wideranging interests; as far as I'm concerned the only guy on the web who's his peer is James Wolcott.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Sharp Dressed Men
Needless to say, any contemporary surf band that performs in Mexican wrestling costumes is the essence of sartorial cool almost by definition.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Left Banke Too!!
Well, my fellow Left Banke fanatic has also done one for yet another great Left Banke tune Holly Says. Do check out her smashing website where you can find tons of cool stuff like unreleased Left Banke music, videos, interview transcripts, and vintage articles about the band.
While you're there, please viddy well her machinima for the great Stories tune Darling too. Ok, here's the video brought to you on the wings of a lavender eagle!
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Bandcrush: Bill Lloyd
Lloyd was half of the country-pop duo Foster and Lloyd, and his country credentials are pristine. He was Rhett Miller before there was a Rhett Miller, exploring the melodic world where pop and country coexist. Consider, for example, Foster and Lloyd's "Texas in 1880," or "What Do You Want from Me This Time?".
A Kentucky boy, Lloyd resides in Nashville now, where he is the Stringed Instrument Curator at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Like any bandcrush, there's the general fascination with the career, but then also a more specific obsession with particular songs or phases or albums. For me, there are a couple of reasons to crush on Lloyd. One is his lush, gorgeous cover of "Step Inside" on Sing Hollies in Reverse. It's all over my ipod these days. You can hear a clip at Amazon: trust me.
Another is his terrific album from the mid-90's, Set to Pop. Even in that era of powerpop resurgence, the record stands out. A couple of reviews from Lloyd's site:
"Set to Pop is in that stratospheric big league with Zuma, Pet Sounds, and Revolver.. hit the random button and glow." David Sokol, Stereophile
"..he concocts a brand of pop that recalls the glory days of Squeeze and Big Star. His relentlessly tuneful writing is a joy for anyone who likes a song with lots of bang and just a touch of twang." Bob Cannon, Entertainment Weekly
"On Set to Pop, he keenly assimilates those British and American '60's,'70's and '80's pop and folk-rock influences and polishes them into a near flawless contemporary masterpiece for the '90s. David Sokol, CD Review
"It's filled with little gems like the bittersweet, catchy "A Beautiful Lie", the wacky "Trampoline" and the endearingly goofy "Chanelling the King". Lloyd artfully blends his obvious influences- Big Star, Dave Edmunds and The Beatles- with his own slightly left of center sensibilities." Melinda Newman, Billboard
"This is one of those pure-pop delights that seems to come along only once every couple of years." Randy Lewis, The Los Angeles Times
So obviously, right up our alley. I like "I Went Electric" and "In a Perfect World," particularly, but I'm head-over-heels for "Trampoline," the greatest song about manic depression ever written.
God bless our daily bread
Coffee and dramamine
God bless her ups and downs
God damn the trampoline
And there's this boingy-boingy jaw harp all over it and it's just terrific. The only video from the album is "Channeling the King."
Recently, Lloyd has been involved in a couple of really cool projects: The Climate Project (he played a songwriter's night for "The Man Who Shoulda’ Been President"), The Freedom Sings Program through the First Amendment Center, and, less politically, The Long Players, about whom I blogged here.
The Long Players are up again in a couple of weeks, playing Derek & the Dominoes' “Layla” at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville on July 27. Tip a glass for me, fellas! (Still hoping to catch them, but between Squeeze/FOW on August 3 and Shoes in Chi-town on August 10, I've spent my Stupid Irresponsible Music Budget for the summer.)
Friday, July 13, 2007
I'm not crying
I've just been cutting onions
For a lasagna ....
(Does two weeks running make this a regular feature? Perhaps.)
Weekend Listomania (Total Video Edition)
In the meantime, here's another little project for you folks:
Coolest Looking and/or Sharpest Dressed Rock Bands of All Time!
My carefully considered (if not always totally serious) Top 10:
1. The Beatles (all periods, but especially 1968)
2. The Rolling Stones (1965-66)
3. The Music Machine
4. The Byrds (1965-66)
6. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (late 70s)
7. The Sex Pistols
8. The Tubes circa "Talk to Ya Later"
9. The Banana Splits
10. The Strokes
But enought of my yakking -- join in, won't you?
PS: If anybody nominates Duran Duran, swear to god I'm gonna take a hostage.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
What is really criminal is that there is not a compilation of Left Banke music presently in print. Checking Amazon, the previous comp, There's Gonna Be a Storm is changing hands for big bucks. This music should NEVER go out of print.
Great Composers Steal, Mediocre Composers Borrow
That said, I think we can agree that those guys are just so adorable. Or as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog said to them at the MTV awards last year:
The Strokes...look how cute you are! You're like the Monkees with a drinking problem!
PS: A coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to any reader who can guess the clue the clip provides to the subject of tomorrow's edition of Weekend Listomania.
Jack is in his corset and Jane is in her vest
I've loved that video pretty much since the moment in 1997 I first noticed it on the jumbo monitor at the Manhattan Virgin Megastore (alas, now the last of its breed in NYC what with the demise of Tower Records and HMV). So imagine my embarassment when I looked up that Wikipedia entry today and discovered that the guys who wrote, sang and produced it weren't from the LA barrio, but in fact hailed from New Zealand. Apparently, I'm always the last to know.
In any case, the song's mix of declaimed lyrics, acoustic guitar, Tijuana Brass-stye horns, sweet harmonies and sampled percussion is a conceptual masterstroke; at the end of the day, the damn thing sounds like the Velvets' "Sweet Jane" remade by a demented mariachi band.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Gentlemen, Start Your TiVos
Guided by Budweiser
Admittedly to me, a live Guided by Voices disc is a somewhat difficult concept to wrap your head around. In person, a GbV gig is all about the boozy bonhomie of a room full of fanatics with encyclopedic knowledge of the band's voluminous discography who can tell you in a instant that the last tune they played was from their Fast Japanese Spin Cycle EP. It's an affirmation of the primal power of our rock and roll roots and a reassurance that, as Bob says during this show, "you can suck and still rule." But, how does the Guided by Voices live experience translate to polycarbonate?
Live from Austin, TX features 30 tracks spread over two CDs that survey the band's best songs from 1989's Self Inflicted Aerial Nostalgia to the final Guided by Voices CD Half Smiles of the Decomposed. Ultimately, it's an excellent career retrospective played by the last, and perhaps best GbV lineup which included the stellar guitar work of Doug Gillard, formerly of the underappreciated Cobra Verde and Death of Samantha, as well as second guitarist Nate Farley, bassist Chris Slusarenko and drummer Kevin March. On this night, the band attacks the GbV back catalog with a vengeance but unfortunately, the bottomless beer cooler that served as an omnipresent stage prop during GbV's life gets the better of the group midway through the second disc. Faster than Ann Althouse going through a box of white zinfandel the performances begin to unravel, culminating in a well-oiled rendition of Glad Girls that recalls the vocal stylings of Foster Brooks rather than Roger Daltrey. Live, Guided by Voices was always a high-wire act that sometimes missed the safety net, but it's that ever-present possibility of crash and burn that made their shows compelling and transformed Bob Pollard from rock and roll's Walter Mitty to a legit alterno-hero.
This performance was also released on a companion DVD and I see that my local PBS channel will broadcast it on Austin City Limits July 28th (check your local listings). Regardless, the CD or DVD is a must for the GbV fanatic who wants an artifact of the last performances of this important and influential band.
Am I sorry that Guided by Voices packed it in? In retrospect, Bob's decision to fold the group was the right one given his post-GbV work which includes the wonderful From a Compound Eye and his excellent collaboration with Tommy Keene entitled Blues and Boogie Shoes. There is no doubt that he will continue to make great music outside the Guided by Voices moniker. If you are interested in sampling some of his solo work, a good place to start would be Crickets: Best of the Fading Captain Series, 1999-2007, slated to be released on July 17th. Get it at your fave rock and roll outlet.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Speaking of Gorgeous
I've always thought "Missing You" was a really good song, but I never imagined that someday bluegrass goddess Alison Krauss would be dueting on a video remake of it.
Fatuous, Thy Name is Bobo
"If you've been driving around listening to pop radio stations this spring and summer, you'll have noticed three songs that are pretty much unavoidable, and each of them is a long way from puppy love."
I can't give you a link to the rest of it -- the NYTimes is convinced you need to pay for that privilege -- but all you need to know is that it's a meditation on Les Cahiers de Carrie Underwood, Pink and Avril Lavigne. Which is to say a lot of tut-tutting about contemporary mores, i.e., today's rotten kids having sex at an age when Brooks wasn't getting any.
Reality check: Can anybody actually imagine Brooks driving around the Hamptons with the top down and Avril's "Girlfriend" blasting on the car radio?
The Number of the Beast
Make sure you stick it through to the very end and the unmasking scene. Spoiler alert: The part of Satan (you actually see him buying somebody's soul) is played by
John Waite, which may or may not be typecasting.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Josie and the Pussycats For a New Century?
Dave's a terrific fellow and highly knowledgeable about that brand of contemporary barely post-teen pop/rock, and while I remain unconvinced about Simpson and Clarkson, (especially the latter -- sorry, but anybody who came up on the mean streets of American Idol is never gonna get any respect from me), we've basically agreed to disagree on the subject.
That said, in the course of our discussion, dave also sang the praises of Canadian poptarts Skye Sweetnam and
Fefe Dobson, neither of whom I had paid much attention to previously.
Here's the former's video for "Billy S."
And here's Fefe's for "Unforgiven."
Okay, kind of interesting.
But here's my point. While I don't necessarily hate either of those songs -- although "Unforgiven," which dave assured me was "one of the most moving songs ever about the effects of parental separation" strikes my perhaps jaded ears as a hilariously overwrought unintentional parody of teen angst -- I have a larger problem with both of them.
To wit: Isn't it weird to be constructing an entire esthetic around performers who seem to have learned everything they know from reruns of Fame? Which is to say don't both of those kids strike you as musical theater types in fairly unconvincing rock drag, rather than something deserving the same respect as, say, the new Fountains of Wayne CD?
I'm curious what you folks think, so weigh in if you're of a mind to.
Teenage Nervous Breakdown
In any case, here's a sort of barely pre-emo song that sums up the whole esthetic -- Tonic's "You Wanted More."
Goddamn thing's infernally catchy, of course.
True confession: Back in the day, I had to review the DVD of American Pie for the Magazine Formerly Known as Stereo Review, and that video was one of the bonus features. I used to play it obsessively, which should give you an insight into my emotional state at the time.
PS: A coveted PowerPop No-Prize to the reader who guesses the second incredibly stupid genre coinage.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
Spinal Tap at Live Earth
Always a good day when Spinal Tap reunites. Dig David St. Hubbins on the cell phone.
Sign the pledge, ya bums.
(PS: I cut all my hair off yesterday. All of it.)
Saturday, July 07, 2007
My Sweet Lord, Redux
Lavigne faces U.S. lawsuit
Canadian pop sensation Avril Lavigne is being sued by U.S. songwriters for an alleged copycat version of an original song.
The 1970s band, the Rubinoos, have claimed Avril Lavigne’s hit single "Girlfriend" is a ripoff of their 1979 song "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend."
I leave it to the powerpop connoisseur to decide the merits of the case.
Look, I don't know whether she copied it intentionally or not. Powerpop is a genre, pop in general is a genre, and so yes, there are similarities between songs, words, chord progressions, guitar lines, what have you. I'm not as interested in the merits of the case as I am in the Lavigne camp's response. The snottiness with which the claims have been met is pretty breathtaking, slamming the Rubinoos as obscure and money-grubbing.
Lavigne's manager Terry McBride denied any credibility to the Rubinoos claim: "This is a song she'd never heard of that was a minor hit before she was born," he said. "This is a stretch and there is no basis for it."
As soon as he received the allegations six weeks ago, McBride said he hired a musicologist to compare the two songs. The music expert reported the songs are completely different and not even in the same metre, McBride said, dismissing the allegations as a form of "legal blackmail."
Their defense continues:
Lavigne's manager, Terry McBride, CEO of the Nettwerk Music Group, tells Billboard that the suit has no basis. "There's nothing similar [between the two songs]," he says. "Our musicologist says there is no similarities of melody, choral progression or meter."
McBride added, however, that he would potentially settle the case out of court. "You are forced to consider doing this because American lawyers can do these cases on contingency. If I defend and win, it costs me $300,000 U.S. If I go to get my costs back, the other party declares bankruptcy. You end up footing the bill. Avril has insurance that covers off these sort of suits that are so prevalent in this business."
Two things: "our musicologist"? They have one on staff? I know a few musicologists, and this isn't what they do. Also, she has copyright infringement lawsuit insurance? That strikes me as.... odd.
Avril belongs to the YouTube/MySpace generation, so impassioned defenses of her are not hard to find on the web. Most accept uncritically her manager's assertions, which says something about how much our young people trust corporations and authority. As with Bill O'Reilly's defense of the Monkees, money is its own defense these days. Sad, really.
The case reminds me of two famous copyright infringement cases from the past involving artists I really respect.
The first, of course, is the George Harrison/Chiffons controversy over "My Sweet Lord." That case dragged on forever, eventually getting subsumed into the larger Allen Klein/Beatles legal issues which were so ugly. (Klein, after his break with The Beatles, actually purchased the publishing company which owned "He's So Fine" to continue the suit. "Dick move" doesn't even begin to describe it.)
The second is the freaky meta-case involving Saul Zaentz and John Fogerty, in which Fogerty was sued for writing songs which sounded like John Fogerty songs. Specifically, the issue concerned "The Old Man Down the Road" and its similarity to Creedence's "Run through the Jungle."
As Dave Marsh tells it:
Fogerty was still pissed when he finally made another record, Centerfield, in 1985. The final track on each side was an unmistakable slug at Fantasy owner Saul Zaentz: “Mr. Greed” and “Zanz Kant Danz.” Zaentz, apparently feeling as vindictive as Fogerty, sued for libel, asking $142 million damages, then charged Fogerty with infringing on a Fantasy copyright-”Run Through the Jungle.”
Centerfield’s first track, and its first single, was “The Old Man Down the Road.” Everybody who heard it remarked on its amazing similarity to “Run Through the Jungle.” And so Fantasy sued Fogerty for royalties plus damages for plagiarizing his own song!
Amazingly enough, the case actually went to trial and in the fall of 1988, John Fogerty spent two days on the witness stand with a guitar on his lap, explaining “swamp rock” and its limitations to a jury. Pressed about the similarity between the two songs, he finally snapped, “Yeah, I did use that half-step. What do you want me to do, get an inoculation?”
Even if Fantasy did, the jury didn’t. They acquitted him in early November 1988, and, having proven his skills in running through the modern jungle, John Fogerty went back to making his new record. Which he vowed would sound not approximately but exactly like Creedence.
Those who know me know I have a thing about people being snotty about those who preceded them. (I've been in several arguments about this re: Paul Weller.) On the whole, I think Lavigne's people would do well to deal with the Rubinoos and admit that pop has a history, that just because a song was written before you were born doesn't mean you never heard it, and that we all stand on the shoulders of our predecessors. In other words, they should throw some scratch to The Rubinoos and stop throwing out The Rolling Stones red herring ("they said 'Hey! You!' first!"). It's not like Avril's going to be living in a refrigerator box over 100 grand.
(h/t The Kenosha Kid)
Friday, July 06, 2007
Weekend Listomania (Special Video Edition)
In the meantime, here's another little project for you folks:
Best Ever Rock Song That Works Despite the Seemingly Fatal Handicap of Truly Atrocious Lyrics!
My own personal thoughtfully considered nominee:
All Right Now -- Free
Does this song rock authoritatively?
Is the spare minimalism of it absolutely brilliant?
Are the lyrics really cringe-worthy macho nonsense?
All signs point to yes.
Does that last little detail matter?
No fucking way, Jose..
But enought of my yakking -- join in, won't you?
Thursday, July 05, 2007
All Right Now
But more important: a coveted PowerPop No-Prize will be awarded to the reader who can guess the clue it provides to the subject of tomorrow's Weekend Listomania!!
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
Thus, from the Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey back in '78, it's Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band with the best damn Independence Day song ever.
[h/t Bill Buckner]
Independence Day 2007
Fly the freak flag today in honor of a country that was once the human rights beacon of the world and soon will be again when we dislodge the gang of criminals presently occupying the White House. Remember what Jimmy Carter said, "America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way round. Human rights invented America."
Here's a tune by one of my all-time fave bands from their Under the Bushes, Under the Stars LP.
A Pitiful Helpless Giant
And in celebration, here's a clip of Paul Revere and the Raiders (America's band, for obvious reasons) -- doing their one great psychedelic hit, The Great Airplane Strike, on the Hollywood Palace variety show in early 1967.
Yes, that's Ray Bolger mangling the band intro, kind of like he was still in character as the Scarecrow of Oz.
A profoundly disheartening thought: At the moment that clip was first being broadcast, America was mired in a tragic, unnecessary, counterproductive, illegal and immoral war against a country that had not attacked us.
And nobody watching at the time -- least of all the dirty hippies who were trying to stop the killing -- could have possiby believed that forty years later, we would once again be mired in a tragic, unnecessary, counterproductive, illegal and immoral war against a country that had not attacked us.
Happy birthday, America.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Flight of the Conchords
It's the accents, I think.
Ze Wango Ze Tango
Forty years ago hordes of stoned, dirty, stinky hippies converged on San Francisco to "turn on, tune in, and drop out," which was the calling card of LSD proponent Timothy Leary. Turned off by the work ethic and productive American Dream values of their parents, hippies instead opted for a cowardly, irresponsible lifestyle of random sex, life-destroying drugs and mostly soulless rock music that flourished in San Francisco...I'd give you a link for the rest of it, but you have to be a subscriber. In any case, you're not missing anything. þ
Nevertheless -- is it just me, or does anybody think an anti-drug screed is a mite unseemly from the man who kicked off his career by writing and performing the self-evidently psychedelicê"Journey to the Center of Your Mind"?>
Beyond the Mountains of Madness
Monday, July 02, 2007
In a review today of the debut album by alt-chanteuse St. Vincent (a/k/a Annie Clark) he observes:
"'What Me Worry' is a velvet-upholstered ballad, with teasing, mannerly lyrics that could easily have been written in an era before rock ’n’ roll [emphasis mine]:
Do I amuse you, dear?
Would you think me queer
if, while standing beside you,
I opted instead to
Uh, excuse me? Anybody hearing echoes of Cole Porter in that? Rogers and Hammerstein? Jerome Kern? Slim Gailliard? Stephen Foster? That Elizabethan lute guy Sting just covered badly? Any standard Frank Sinatra actually sang?
Seriously, if anybody can find even one reasonably well known pre-rock Classic Pop song in which the word "opted" has ever appeared, please let me know.
There's a larger issue here, of course. It's been apparent for several years -- or at least since Judy Miller invented Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and the Times gave four (count 'em, four) op-ed spaces to Ann Althouse (the Miss Havisham of Wingnuttia, in NYMary's brilliant phrase) -- that the Newspaper of Record is having something of an institutional nervous breakdown. That they continue to let a pretentious flake like Sanneh peddle similar piffle on a weekly basis suggests that the mental illness afflicts more than just the hard news/editorial side of a once great paper.