I started to write a post today about how the dude from Linkin Park is now the lead singer in Stone Temple Pilots, but then I realized how much I don’t care about that. Sweet mercy, do I not give a shit. You want to see the largest gathering of complete douche-bags who have absolutely no concept of what good music is? Then definitely check out an STP show this summer. I’m sure whatever gig they play in my old home state of Connecticut will sell out in 60 seconds. Instead, I thought it’d be better for everyone involved if I just posted my review of Medeski Martin and Wood from a couple weeks back – essentially the biggest flip-side of musical taste and talent as you can get from the prior bands mentioned. I hadn’t seen MMW in years, as the last gigs I had seen with them were somewhat boring, but this one friggin’ launched me. Check it…
When Shack-Man first dropped half of my lifetime ago, listening to it felt like I was garnering the greatest universal street-cred I could ever muster. Seriously, during high school I’d listen to it while ripping joints in my Mom’s Geo and feel like the coolest kid on the face of Earth. But frankly, over the past decade or so the MMW shows I’ve attended have never quite moved me akin to the absolutely disgusting performances of the late 90′s. So when it was first announced they’d be playing an all acoustic gig for Portland’s Soul’d Out Music Fest, my first reaction was “another one of them sleepy MMW gigs.” But it turns out this show would be the one to make me remember… “oh yeah, John Medeski can straight up murder a piano.” I’ve somehow wrongly forgotten the power that this trio holds, and the entirety of this gig was on a next-level of amplified and unified tri-force telepathy.
While it was odd for the Roseland Ballroom to line the floor with chairs for the night, it brought a level of centralized focus on the performance, and I’ve never heard the room sound better. I’m not going to pretend like I could tell you the names of any songs played, but I can tell you that the band had the entire room at their mercy. Each tune went every which side of deep, rolling from moments of mouth-gaping syncopation to pulsing throbs of beastly devouring. And sure, when Medeski just keeps attacking those piano runs, you realize he’s one of our greatest living assets, but it’s still just the way he hits a single note that gives you the chills. Just one note — that’s all you need to hear from the man to be able to find him in the dark… READ MORE
Here’s my trip with these guys – 5 years ago I was immediately intrigued the first time I heard “A-Punk.” I went out and bought the first album, really dug it, and contented myself with having Vampire Weekend in my life. Then I saw them play at Bonnaroo and was quite taken back at how lifeless their live performance was. It wasn’t bad per se, but it did feel like a rudimentary running of the motions. Now admittingly, their music doesn’t necessarily instill the notion of a bombastic show, but I was looking for a little bit more motion on the stage… or something. Regardless, the half-naked 16 year-old girls seemed to love it so you can’t really fault the band for that. That moment did ingrain this spot of disdain for the band in my brain though, and I somewhat unconsciously blew them off after that. I feel like I subtly succumbed to the VW hatred that many of my peers held, and I decided the band wasn’t worth paying attention to anymore. I never really gave Contra a shot, and in recent hindsight I’ve found myself to actually be pretty into it. Backburner admiration, but still a slight affinity nonetheless. Cut to recent times when the local radio station is playing the fuck out of the new single, “Diane Young.” It’s fun, I get it… I could do without the weird auto-tune part, but it’s still not drawing enough to make me want to go out and listen to the whole record. What I’m saying is that the band has somehow crafted this image of themselves that makes them seem unnecessary to my ears. And that’s odd – because I listen to everything. I check out every new album that anybody considers worth half a damn, but I just feel like I really don’t need to hear Modern Vampires of the City. Then I see that Pitchfork, the greatest haters on the planet, gave the album a 9.3. That’s a huge number for Pitchfork. That’s .2 higher than what they gave the new My Bloody Valentine record which I presumed would be a shoe-in for their top album of 2013. And we haven’t yet seen how much they’ll spooge over the new Kanye, but the lingering question is whether Pitchfork can disband their hipness and give album of the year to a band that’s become so mainstream. How mainstream you ask? Well…
Yesterday while in the home of one of the kids I teach piano to, I was slightly distracted when the 16 year old babysitter stopped by to discuss her schedule with the child’s Mom.
Babysitter: “Yeah, I can’t do it that night because I’m going to see Vampire Weekend.”
Mom: “Oh really? That’s where I’m going to!”
Babysitter: “No way! I can’t wait – I’m going with my Mom, my Grandmother, and my little sister.”
Wow, that’s a three generational, babysitter/parent mesh there. It’s pretty impressive and a conquering moment for Vampire Weekend’s stretch into the family market. The only place to go from there is playing under Garfield on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I wonder if when the play “Oxford Comma” these days if they just say “F” instead of “fuck”. Either way, that moment yesterday has spiked my interest again and I’m ready to give them another shot. But please be careful if you’re going to rip a joint at one of their gigs – there’s definitely children around.
I’ll be brief. Every time that those good ole’ folks over at Cotton release a new “fabric of our lives” campaign, I can’t help but be utterly disgusted at how they butcher the tune. The newest one is this countrified bull crap by Hayden Panettiere, although it doesn’t rub me as bad as the gut-twistingly quirky one by Zooey Deschanel. And sure I know what you’re thinking… perhaps they should bring back the Rickie Havens one in a tasteful moment of tribute for his recent passing. No, no, no. Dear Mr. Havens deserves to be forever remembered by his wonderful tribute to the Folgers campaign – nobody else should ever be allowed to sing “The best part of waking up…” What the Cotton folks need to realize is that they reached perfection back in 1992 when they had Aaron Neville perform his version of the song. It’s right up there with his duet with Linda Rondstadt for the best vocal performance of his career. There’s no need for debate here – these are the facts. And c’mon, not only is his voice crushing shit, but in 30 seconds you see how one fabric unites life, death, social protest, the stock market, emergency care, rock and roll, Summer, weddings, and losing your virginity.
Welcome to the first installment of a new series I like to call “You Should Know This Album.” YSKTA will feature records from years gone by that may have slipped under your radar at the time of the release, or perhaps that was the time when you were going through your digital zydeco faze. Either way, for the most part these will be albums that also slipped under my radar at the time and most likely have only surfaced in my life after a late night drunken conversation with someone where they say: “What? You write a music blog and you’ve never heard that record? You’re such a loser and a sham.” This first one I stumbled upon on my own though…
Shellac – At Action Park - Released October 24, 1994
Like many music nerds, I have somewhat of a permanent sonic boner for Steve Albini. The dude has been at the studio boards for hundreds upon hundreds of records over the years, including Nirvana, The Breeders, PJ Harvey, Iggy Pop, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Gogol Bordello, Silkworm, Cloud Nothings, and a whole other list of people who are renowned for making magnificent soul-bleeding rock and roll. Thus it never even occurred to me to think that Albini ever had time for his own music. But that he did, and all branches of his musical career stem from his 80′s output in his band Big Black. Think post-punk weirdness meshed together with straight-punk sincerity. But it was with his early 90′s creation, Shellac, that Albini really put his heart on wax. They’ve put out something new every few years for the past couple decades, and rumors are that there’s a new one on the way, but the definitive piece for any true record-store geek’s collection is At Action Park.
This is one of those albums that unites the hardcore kids and the indie-scenesters in a blissful coalition. It’s viscous 3-piece attack on sound. Yes, the guitar attack is destructive and forceful, but it’s also locked into some outright grooves. At times it almost feels like Rage Against the Machine, but intentionally much more rough at the seams, minus a rapper and staunch on not having any message at all – you know, real deal garage rock dream of the 90′s shit. And while the songs don’t really have much of a standard formula, (don’t expect a chorus, or even really a verse for that matter,) they each have an individual life force to them that is clearly missing on other music of similar genres. If those early Dinosaur Jr. albums always sounded hook-less and redundant to you, than this record will re-establish your affinity for the power of simplicity. The greatest thing about discovering At Action Park though is realizing what a pivot-point record it is. This is the album that serves as the bridge between Built to Spill and Fugazi, or between Tool and Nirvana. This is the essence of musicians making music for themselves and not caring about who it offends or what it’s lacking to bring it to a wider audience. And honestly, what else would you expect from someone who has his hands so deep in the recording game? When you’ve heard thousands of bands try to put create their own individual sounds, you get a good idea of what it is that you yourself want to create. This is one of those CDs that you play while driving and you don’t even realize when it starts over – it has no weak spots and thus no telling points of when it should end. If you like your rock gritty or you’ve been searching for a good record to play really loud when you’re overwhelmed with anger and frustration, then do yourself a favor and bring this into your life.
Everybody can write a swinging ditty about the weekend, and it only takes a touch of the drags to pen a ballad about Mondays. But if you’re really a compositional master, then you write a hip track about Tuesdays. It’s the day of open-ended uncertainty – the day for drifting – the day for accepting the normal doldrums of reality and expanding one’s position of divine space in the universe. Why do you think Aimee Mann named her band ‘Til Tuesday? Because “Voices Carry” would have never struck so deep otherwise, that’s wise. Or perhaps she was just really hung up on the old wonky David Bowie song “Love You til Tuesday,” which is really too ridiculous to make this heavy list. It probably would have been #6. And no, Trey Anastasio’s “Tuesday” isn’t on here either – it might have squeezed in at #7. Neither of them go as deep as these, the top 5 songs about Tuesdays…
5) Badfinger – “Sweet Tuesday Morning ” - When they weren’t writing songs that sounded like Cubic Zirconia of Paul McCartney tracks, they were writing these massively melancholy early 70′s tracks. It’s a drag for sure, but not a cool drifter.
4) Stevie Wonder – “Tuesday Heartbreak” - If you don’t own Talking Book then do yourself a favor and go buy it right now. Little Stevie is straight-up fucking the clavinet with his fingers on this track.
3) The Rolling Stones – “Ruby Tuesday” – Yes, this is the track where they were just trying to cop The Beatles, and as a young kid this song gave me a rather skewed version of who the Stones really were. It’s a good friggin’ song though. Check out this live clip form 1967 where it sounds like girls are getting stabbed in the audience.
2) The Moody Blues – “Tuesday Afternoon” – What a spooky fuckin’ tune. This is the kind of song that makes you want to wear a faded yellow sweater and rip butts in the rain. This is possibly the best sonic tangent of what a Tuesday actually feels like – check out the guy front row who gets the hell out of there right as the song starts.
1) Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Tuesday’s Gone” – Easily, the best Skynyrd track of all time. No dumb reference to the South, no redneck shuffle beat – just a killer friggin’ song.
In a bid to stay relevant, David Bowie released his newest video last week – a blood soaked hodgepodge of religious imagery for the song “The Next Day.” The song, like the majority of Bowie’s new album is strikingly unremarkable. That is to say it’s not bad, it’s just rather complacent. It’s the modern pop-rock equivalent of the color beige. The folks at Youtube initially thought it was a bit too racy for their site and took it down for a day, which was probably the greatest publicity boost the video could have received. It’s basically just a few scantily clad women and some over-anxious priests, and even though it stars Gary Oldman, he lost his flawless street-cred in my book when he starred in that horrendous The Unborn movie a few years back. In just under a week’s time, the video has garnered around 900,000 views, which is a mere fraction of what videos of cats riding Roombas get in the same amount of time.
In far more significant news for both the world of music and the world of the internet, some guy just published a cover of “Space Oddity” on Youtube that has over 1.5 million hits in less than 24 hours time. Of course, he’s not just some guy – he’s Chris Hadfield, a Commander on the International Space Station, and probably the coolest guy on the planet right now – or off the planet actually. Not only is this the first music video filmed in space, (which is kind of cool but I’m still waiting for the weightless sex studies to take place,) but this video conveys more actual emotion than Bowie has been able to emit in decades. Hadfield actually has a killer voice. He displays some brilliant range for a dude in space, and the look in his eyes conveys more sincerity in the lyrics than Bowie could have ever imagined. It’s really a remarkably beautiful thing and surely a video that many of us will still remember and want to throw on a year from now. Which coincidentally will be the exact same time that the world and the internet completely forget that David Bowie released a new album in 2013. Sorry D-Bo, but you just got out Bowied. You can’t fuck with cool shit in space. Watch both videos below.
Over the past 15 years, I probably contemplate the potentiality of a Talking Heads reunion about every 4 months or so. And I’m not saying I have one of those What If/Wouldn’t That Be Cool moments, I’m saying I literally imagine myself at such an event and try to visualize what exactly is happening. I’m in one of those 4 month moments right now, spurred on by watching disastrous footage of recent Rolling Stones gigs, contemplating the cycle of events that could lead to a Ween show in 2013, and by reading a recent quote from Robert Plant where he actually hints about wanting to do a 2014 Led Zeppelin tour. So here’s my really shitty vision of being at a T-Heads reunion show: I’m in Madison Square Garden and I’ve somehow landed tickets at face value even though face is like $135… half the crowd is over 50, and 2 songs in I realize that 25% of the crowd knows nothing except for “Burning Down the House” and “Once in a Lifetime.” The band is essentially just running through the motions, and David Byrne has a look on his face like he just traded his soul for a ham sandwich. The guy sitting behind me then taps me on the shoulder and asks me both to sit down and if I can stop smoking that joint. I’m bummed – I feel hollow – I think back to when I wrote a blog about imagining this moment and realize I should have accepted fate as it was… Am I right? Can’t we all see that situation? So here’s my really awesome vision:
I’m in NYC’s Roseland Ballroom. The Heads have announced a 23 night run there dubbed All or Nothing. Tickets were hard, but I managed to land some $70 ones at face for 2 consecutive nights in the middle of the run. The stage set-up is minimal – very little lighting – and the full lineup is there. Alex Weir and Adrian Belew are both on guitar – Belew in amazing form after his stint in the Nine Inch Nails reunion. Tina Weymouth is thumping the bass with all the pent-up passion she’s been waiting to unleash for the past 30 years. It feels like it’s not even the same woman I’ve seen play with Tom Tom Club. It’s hot in there. It’s smoky. It’s sweaty. Each show of the run has followed a fairly similar setlist, but there have been divine moments that make each night stand out. This is a Tuesday, and currently the band is 8 minutes deep into “The Great Curve.” I am getting down harder than I ever have in my life, but still not as hard as the 70 year old woman sweating bullets to my left. To my right, a 21 year old EDM kid stands still staring at the stage with his mouth on the floor and a slight tear coming down his face. During “Houses in Motion” I glance to my left and notice James Murphy dancing anonymously amongst a circle of friends. At several times during the gig I check my pulse to make sure I’m still on planet Earth… And am I right on this one too? Couldn’t we all see this?
Sigh… dreams and fantasies can really mess with your head sometimes, but that’s what makes our weird human brains so amazing. God bless you David Byrne, and God bless whatever decision you ever make to reconstruct my reality. A few months back a friend of mine turned me onto the Bonus Tracks that were released on a Remain in Light reissue. I had never heard them. They crushed me. I cried when I first heard this jam called “Right Start” – it’s kind of like a mash-up of “Lifetime” and “Electric Guitar.” I imagine it as the soundtrack that the great creator had playing in his head when he was manufacturing the universe, and I kind of imagine the after-life as a world where this thing is just playing on loop for eternity. Dig in…
Time for another Ween update. While it seems like the dust has settled on Gener and Deaner calling each other out in public forums, it doesn’t seem that there is of yet any reconciliation with one another – be it personal or musical. But recent events could potentially lead one to believe that not all bridges are burnt between blood brothers, and the biggest cue is the unified connection both parties share with bass player Dave Dreiwitz. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting Dave, he’s one of the more happy-go-lucky guys you’re ever apt to encounter in the music business. He’s one of those “down for anything” kind of people, and while that may branch into some sexual and/or psychotropic avenues that could be somewhat off-putting, the dude’s hard not to love. There’s been a few interviews and comments inquiring about what led to him playing with Marco Benevento, and every reply seems to lean towards “He asked me so I said yes.” And as great as it is to see Dreiwitz out on the scene, every time I see him play I realize that there’s really only one place he really should be – and that place is laying down the low end for Ween.
So just a few weeks ago, April 14th to be exact, Dreiwitz was scheduled to play a gig with Ween drummer, Claude Coleman, at Ween’s former homebase – John and Peter’s in New Hope, PA. A couple of phone calls went out to old friends, and suddenly the gig turned into a 4/5ths Ween reunion as Deaner and keyboardist Glenn McClelland joined in. They pulled a full set composed mainly of Deaner’s songs from Ween, and reports were that it was obviously a fantastic evening for everyone involved. Now cut to today, May 8th, and Gener has announced that at tonight’s gig in Connecticut, as well as the following 2 shows in Mass and Brooklyn, he will be accompanied by Dreiwitz on the bass. This means that within 3 weeks time, Dave will have played a full show’s worth of Ween tunes in 2 separate parts. While he doesn’t seem to be one to ruffle any feathers, and I personally have no clue as to what levels of communication happen backstage, one could only hope that at least some word could be brought up about the New Hope gig from a few weeks back. Because I’m sorry, I don’t care how fantastic any Aaron Freeman gig is, there’s no way it can contain a smidgen of the magic that a Ween gig had. And after a solid year of sobriety, one would also hope that Gener is beginning to contemplate the possibility of maintaining his sobriety while playing with his old band mates. It seems to me that the Boognish is singing in the distance right now – like a siren of yore calling to sailors – calling and urging the patriots of its message to reunite and reforge the magical rock strength that has been missing from the universal musical spectrum. I’ve got my nuts crossed.
There was a time in my youth when I was straight-up addicted to Mountain Dew. The destruction of a 6-pack was an easy afternoon affair, and when they made the genius and frightening move to introduce the wide-mouth can to the soda universe in the mid-90s, shit got out of control. The first can was like a primer – it wouldn’t even touch my mouth. It’d just kind of rapidly coat my throat in preparation for the subsequent can that I would take a solid 90 seconds to savor. Thus it was right around this time when my teenage hippie mind decided this shit was no fucking good for me. It was also right around the time when the rumors began to circulate about Yellow-5 making you sterile… or impotent… or doing something shitty to your penis – I can’t really remember. Anyway, despite not having touched the stuff in nearly 20 years, I still hold a fondness for the natural absurdity of the product itself. Thus, I’ve been quite intrigued by the past week’s news of two different musical spokespersons being fired from the Dew’s ad campaigns.
Here’s the thing: MTN DEW brings to mind off-the-wall, zany shit. So they try to get some zany motherfuckers to hype the stuff. You’re not gonna get the dudes from Bon Iver to promote the Dew, you’re gonna get some nutso jack-off like Lil Wayne. But if you’re the Dew, you should have been prepared for Weezy to drop the occasional line causally referencing a lynching victim from the 50′s as he just did with a horrid line about Emmett Till. Thus the Dew just dropped him. As a side note, as somebody who keeps getting hospitalized for near-fatal seizures, maybe chugging Mountain Dew isn’t the best idea for Weezy anyway.
So what other nutso rappers could the Dew go to – well how about Tyler the Creator? He sarcastically raps about rape and murder on a casual basis – sure he’d be great at bringing in the kids. But whoops, Tyler’s latest directed commercial for the Dew was deemed overly racist and was pulled down. It featured a goat standing in a police lineup with some black fellas, and in my opinion wasn’t really racist. The problem was it just wasn’t funny. Either way – that’s two strikes in about 4 days for the Dew, and perhaps it’s time they rethought their promotional attack. That is, unless this was all some intentional move to use random controversy to put their name in some unexpected places. That’s obviously quite potentially true, but I think they’d be better of showing some hyper-teens chugging the liquid sunshine. You know, Bieber that shit out or something. Or even better, just have this fake-ad by Thomas Lennon and Kerri Kenney play on a loop somewhere all day.
Portland was insanely psyched about Trey playing the small capacity Crystal Ballroom a couple weeks back – so psyched in fact that the majority of them neglected to pay attention to the concert. So yeah, it’s time again for my usual West Coast Phish oriented indoor gig review – shut the fuck up people. Read the whole thing HERE at State of Mind Music. And just as a clue as to how loud the crowd was in the back, here’s video of the “Black Dog” encore, which believe it or not featured the least amount of audience murmurs all night.