There aren’t many places these days where a guy can rock his 1991 Damn Yankees tour t-shirt and not raise a few eyebrows, but a Bob Seger show is right at the top of the list. And no, I’m not talking about some hipster ironically sporting a thrift-shop find – I’m talking about a bro proudly showing his affection for the Nuge. Such a sight was simply another part of the landscape for the Silver Bullet Band in Portland last Saturday night, and just one of the many reasons I couldn’t wipe an ecstatic grin off my face for two days straight. I’ve seen a lot of natural born entertainers over the years, but Seger may have taken the cake. The man is unabashedly overjoyed with life, and to not fall under his spell while seeing him on the stage is a feat no mortal man can achieve. Remember that uncle who used to sneak you beers at the family reunion when you were a teenager? That’s Seger. You know the one dude in the pack of Harley-riders who clearly doesn’t beat his wife? That’s Seger. Ever have one of those bosses that give you the day off without asking because he knows you went to see The Allman Brothers the night before? That’s Seger. He is the epitome of the stand-up working man, and he also knows how to rock out harder than most fellas a third his age.
Unfortunately, my late arrival meant I missed all of Joe Walsh’s opening set, but it did mean I walked in just as the lights went down. I grabbed a quick beer and headed to my seat where I was predominantly surrounded by aging women with faded rose tattoos on their necks – yeah, this was gonna be a good night. Now I’ve thrown my fair share of triumphant fists in the air, but it was hard to keep up with this crowd. Nobody in the room however, could even compete with Seger’s steady assault on the air above his head. One hand on the microphone, and the rest of his knuckles pointed at the sky – that is the man’s casual stance. If he wasn’t in that formation, then he was running around the stage beaming his shiny fake teeth like they were a war medal. Oh, and pointing. Sweet Jesus does the man know how to point. Backup singers got a showcase line? They’re getting pointed at. Guitar solo? That’s a pointing. Alto Reed taking his legendary sax solo in “Old Time Rock and Roll?” You better believe he’s getting pointed at. But the band is having the time of their lives as well – how could they not? They’ve got these songs on lock, and as a whole the entire Silver Bullet organization was straight up killing it. You’re not going to find a tighter rock pocket than the one that forms when the drummer from Grand Funk Railroad is on stage. To quote Homer Simpson: “The competent drum-work of Don Brewer? Oh, man!”
And the hits? Well, they just kept coming. I had almost forgot what an amazing combo “Travelin’ Man” into “Beautiful Loser” is, but the woman in front of me doing her best Stevie Nicks impersonation as she sang along assured me that I’ll remember forever. A couple new tunes fit into the rotation seamlessly, with lyrics about being on the road and all the other Seger cornerstone images you’d expect. An unexpected cover of “California Stars” by Wilco via Woodie Guthrie was perfectly Segerized and held up great amongst a sea of heavier rockers. Even “Like a Rock,” a solid decade after its run as the theme song for Chevy trucks came off as the solid ballad of its original intent. The only tune I wanted to hear that he didn’t play was “Shakedown,” which 25 years later apparently still can’t be separated from its life at the tune from Beverly Hills Cop 2.
By the time “Katmandu” came exploding out to close the show, the 67 year-old had been playing for a solid 110 minutes straight. He’d take a short breather before coming out for the combo encore of “Against the Wind” and “Hollywood Nights” – both as epic as you could possibly expect. But wait… no “Night Moves?” Oh no… the house lights are still off… boom second encore! “Night Moves” and then “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” to bring it all home. This is what a good ole’ fashioned rock concert is truly supposed to be, and despite a few changes in the set-list, I doubt you could distinguish much from this night and one of his shows from 40 years ago. Some people just have the right formula from the start.
In honor of my giddy exuberance for seeing one of my all time favorite bands to ever exist in the universe play at the tiny Doug Fir Lounge tonight in Portland, I thought I’d do an “official” ranking of their albums. Folks are always asking me where to start with Built to Spill, and I usually get flustered in the moment as my love for the entire catalog rushes through my head. And truly, there isn’t really a “bad” Built to Spill record out there, let alone really a bad song. So while I could escalate this list to include anything that Doug Martsch has ever done, and every EP they’ve ever released, I’m gonna keep it strictly to the main albums – which conveniently equal 10 as of now. Once you’ve brought all these into your life, then you can get the solo album, and the Halo Benders albums, and the Treepeople records, and for the love of God the vinyl EP of “They Got Away,” but for now let’s start here. Here are the greatest Built to Spill albums. From worst to best…
This mid-2000′s record was the only time where things just didn’t seem to really click. It could have been the exclusion of Phil Ek as producer, or just the drain of the Bush-era, but it’s definitely my least listened-to record of theirs. Although, closing track “The Wait” is one of my all-time favorites.
Sure, technically this one probably shouldn’t be on the list since it’s actually more of a collaborative record with fellow Boise band Caustic Resin. However, both bands have shared members at various points and we can’t neglect to have this album which opens with the classic “When Not Being Stupid is Not Enough.”
The first record has its moments where Martsch is obviously way in love with Dinosaur Jr., but that is in no way a bad thing. It doesn’t really have a specific stand-alone tracks, but it’s still a classic Portland late-afternoon, happy-hour bar album. Maybe the best background record the band created.
Basically a compilation record of singles and outtakes from the first few years of the band, this album contains my go-to version of their classic track, “Car.” It’s a lot rawer than the other studio version, but has a lot more spunk to it. Also has the great “So & So, So & So From Wherever Wherever.”
The really cool kids will try to tell you that this second full-length album is their finest work – before the band got all “polished up.” It definitely is the first time we realize that Martsch is gonna put his entire bleeding heart and soul into his music, and that he has the potential for being the soundtrack to your life.
A solid record from front to back, and a worthy successor to the brilliant Keep it Like a Secret in 1999. Opening track “Strange” is probably my go-to song in life to get my head back to normal after moments of deep sadness, frustration, or anger. Maybe the most forgotten and hidden gems of any album.
A perfect glimpse of the true power. A few tracks from both Perfect From Now On and Keep it Like a Secret, a brilliant version of the original Halo Benders’ track and my favortie song of all time, “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain,” awesome take on Love as Laughter’s “Singing Sores Make Perfect Swords,” and a 20 minute “Cortez the Killer.” Essential stuff.
Nearly 20 years deep, and the guy makes one of his greatest albums ever. The brilliant “Hindsight,” the incredibly brutal “Things Fall Apart,” and the overwhelming faith that bands can still be amazing and prolific as they get older. A great starting point for new listeners.
There’s always debate between this and my number one for which is more amazing, but there’s no doubt this albums is a key part of my DNA. It always felt to me like a record of J. Mascis fronting the Grateful Dead. There’s a reason they did a 2008 tour playing this record in its entirety – “Made Up Dreams” is as close as you can come to a perfect song.
Surely the easiest way to convert any newbies to the band. Despite some folks thinking this was the over-polished, quasi-sell-out moment for the band, this is actually when the true power of Built to Spill came into fruition. Every song is a stand-alone classic – “Sidewalk,” “Timetrap,” the genius “You Were Right” – this is the record that made me fall in love with this band for the rest of my life.
Here’s “Strange” -
Well yeah, of course we should care… it’s David Fucking Bowie for Christ’s sake. But the real question is whether or not this new song that suddenly appeared a couple days ago on his 66th birthday is any good. Well when I think of Bowie in the modern era, I think of 2 things. One is “I’m Afraid Of Americans,” the Trent Reznor collaboration from 1996, and two is when he came out with Arcade Fire to perform “Wake Up” in 2005 – the 2nd of those things being one of the greatest moments in music from the past decade. Seriously. So my initial instincts about any new Bowie music are that they’re either gonna be influenced by the weird industrialized feel or Reznor, or by the new generational epicness of Arcade Fire. Thus I was ironically a little surprised that this new track “Where are We Now” off his upcoming album, The Next Day, seems to be most influenced by old school David Bowie.
Here’s the thing… the first half of this song is ridiculously boring. It’s incredibly slow, with him just listing off names of places in Europe that none of us have heard of before. If it wasn’t the man himself who composed it, most people would write it off as mundane art-schlock by a Bowie wannabe. But the thing is, he is himself, and thus we have to give the music more than any random grain of salt. So while if it was somebody random I would have never made it to the end of the tune, I kept going with this one and realized that it’s actually pretty dope once the drums kick in around the 2:40 mark. It garners a very cinematic feel to it, and you can’t help but really dig on the closing lines that took him forever to get to: “As long as there’s sun/rain/me/you.” So yes, I’m glad this song exists, and it does deserve to be in the Bowie catalog, but it does leave a looming question of what the rest of this album portends to be. If this track is the centerpiece of the album, than there could be some boring shit on there but also some really cool, deep introspective old genius shit. If this is the highlight of the record, then we’re in for a long disparaging listen to one of our musical heroes. We’ll just have to wait and see, but for now the dude’s alive, he’s here, he’s making new music, and even though no one under the age of 25 will ever hear it, it’s worth it for some of us aging audiophiles to actually give a shit.
Ok, so last month on Cinco de Mayo, I hopped in a party-bus here in Portland, became massively inebriated, and had one of the top 20 most raging concert experiences of my life seeing Van Halen in Tacoma. The band was on fire – Eddie was a friggin’ monster, taking his new grasp on sobriety and channeling the thunder gods through his fingers. David Lee Roth was still a total ham(fortunately) and his vocals more or less were able to last the whole show. What was most noticeable though, was the ridiculous amount of fun the entire band was having on stage with one another. Eddie would laugh at Roth’s crazy old ninja moves, unable to wipe the massive smile off his face during their entire 2 and a half hour set. They all laughed with and at each other during slight flubs that only accentuated the raw rock attack they were showcasing. Shit was beyond my expectations, and believe me after waiting 25 years to see one of my all time favorite bands, my expectations were fucking huge.
So what’s been driving me crazy since the show is the fact that whenever I try to tell somebody how totally epic and amazing the performance was, I’m always met with a “Yeah, too bad they hate each other and couldn’t keep it going.” This comment is derived from the fact that last month VH announced they were postponing a large string of upcoming dates. Rolling Stone printed an anonymous insider comment claiming that the band hated each other. And that total douche-bag Sammy Hagar instantly posted comments on how he was expecting the cancellation to happen earlier, stating: “They’re hard people to get along with, those brothers… Otherwise I’d still be in the band.” But HERE’S the thing – all those comments and rumors were complete bullshit. The band was quick to announce that actually they’re just old and didn’t realize how worn out a 250 date tour would leave them. They say they’re getting along “famously” and that they just need to catch their breath. But the fact that Van Halen are happy with each other isn’t news – so nobody covered it. It’s the same thing as when Fox News fully reports on someone being accused of a crime, but will never file a follow-up report stating that the person was falsely-accused. People just want to hear shocking and shitty news, so even Rolling Stone didn’t care enough to publish a follow-up saying: “Our bad – VH is actually rocking and happy.”
So guess what? The band is on fire, happy, and probably ready to rock for another 10 years. Oh and Sammy Hagar? He’s a washed-up piece of shit playing in the ultimate “stuck in 1988″ band of all time. You know why you’re not in VH anymore Sammy? Because you fucking blow, that’s why buddy. I can assure you, no-one walked out of Tacoma last month saying – “I really wish they would have pulled out a ‘Right Now’” – Nobody buddy… your name wasn’t even mentioned. So watch David Lee’s video post below, where he explains the postponement – sadly it seems only 4,000 people have watched it. That essentially means there’s probably a solid half-million folks out there who think the band hates each other, since no new folks re-reported on it. So now the evil ways of Fox News are infiltrating Rock and Roll. Just sit back and let Eddie fucking melt your face already people.
Like myself, every child of the 80′s has their go-to artist that transcends any feelings of irony or manufactured nostalgia. You know, that band or song that instantly makes you feel like it’s 1987 and you’re about to go ride your big-wheel down suicide hill. For me, that guy is mother fucking Peter Cetera. Love the guy – can’t get nearly enough of the man. And when it comes down to the raw meat of the situation, “Glory of Love” is my jam and a friggin’ half. It’s one of my Top 3 favorite songs of all time, probably much due to its’ inclusion on the soundtrack of the fabulous film, Karate Kid II. C’mon, the end fight in the pit of fire, then this track comes on… and then to get you all psyched up for the beginning of Karate Kid III which they knew was kinda gonna blow, they just show still clips of the fight scene from Part 2 and play the song again – Oh man, that was flippin’ radical.
But you show me another cat who owns the high end better than Mr. Cetera and I’ll show you a dingo on fire. Before I post my Top 5 all time Peter Cetera songs though, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The man is such a class act on top of being a quality artist, that he will send you a personalized autographed picture if you send him a self-addressed envelope. I know right? Sometimes your heroes really are golden. Go here for further instructions, but careful his main-frame may get overloaded when word really gets out.
1) Glory of Love – The hot shit. The song. THE song. And what a touching video with the lovely scenes of Okinawa.
2) Next Time I Fall in Love – Both of these first 2 tunes were released in 1986 – good God, what a year. The duet with super-Christian “Amy Grant” is a friggin’ banger – careful what it’ll do to your heart’s inner core. The classic 80′s key change will own you.
3) If You Leave Me Now – Next we go back another 10 years to Chicago‘s prime years. I always thought their horn-driven jazz-rock was incredibly lame, but when they let Cetera step up for the ballads, I held the proverbial phone. Probably the best “Ooooh Ahhh” song ever.
4) You’re the Inspiration – Still Chicago but from 1984, and ironically the inspiration Peter probably needed to realize his potential as a solo artist.
5) Little Dancing Man – My geeky love for the completely absurd Tim and Eric Awesome Show: Great Job boiled over when they brought in Cetera to record this epic jam for their new TV show about Ted Danson getting shrunk down to 6 inches. Sometimes life gives you amazing gifts.
And here’s the end-fight from Karate Kid II in case you forgot how incredibly epic it really is.
The master of pop-rock, Nick Lowe, still has fucking got the ability to write a catchy tune in a vein that most people would manufacture into drab hokeyness. If you have no clue who he is, then you’re wrong – because you do. The seminal, legendary, epic, cool-as-all-hell album Jesus of Cool was released in 1977 – if you’ve never heard it, then go purchase it right now. Or sit down and purchase it right now, or however these damn kids get their flibbity-flobiyt hard drive doohickity thingies… When released in the U.S. the album was given the less bad-ass but still epic title, Pure Pop for Now People. Which subsequently is why the independent record store in Burlington, Vermont is called Pure Pop Music – an ironic twist for people who don’t know the album and thus think that is the stupidest name for an independent record store ever.
Anyway, this is the album that has “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass” and “Heart of the City” for starters for tunes novices would recognize from the random cool, oldies station. “Cruel to Be Kind” – you know that one? He also wrote a bunch of tunes for Elvis Costello including “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?” Epic shit, get into it.
So Wilco seem to have been paying massive homage to Lowe as of late – bringing him up for encores at a couple shows, playing “Cruel to Be Kind” and also dropping quick cameos in the new video for “Sensitive Man.” The song and the video are both innocent and charming in a way that only Lowe seems to be able to pull off. Anybody else trying to do a song like this would just sound like a complete tool, but Nick Lowe has some magic pop touch that transcends lyrical preconceptions. It’s really fucking bad-ass when you think of how hard it is to pull something like that off. Hell, Wilco themselves sometimes sound like complete jack-asses when they try to be like Nick Lowe.
Here’s the brand-new video for “Sensitive Man”
And here’s “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass”
And here’s my favorite – “I Love My Label” – another tune Wilco have been pulling out lately after they released it on Record Store Day last year. Hot friggin tune though.
Here’s Nick coming out with Wilco in Milwaukee in December for “Cruel to Be Kind.” I can only dream of being this hip when I’m 63.
“ Celine Dion isn’t in Las Vegas to perform. She’s here to kill it. Again… she isn’t aiming for applause. She’s looking for rapture.” – USA Today
We all know that USA Today is the go-to source for what is hip in music today, and I guess Carlos Santana got tired of being off their radar. So fuck it, cheat on your loyal wife of 34 years and pull the ole’ fat-Elvis maneuver – Vegas residency baby! Yep, continuing an odd string of public decisions the guitar-God has made in the past few years, Carlos has now announced 31 Vegas dates for 2012. Or in his words: “I am deeply honored that our new home in Las Vegas is House of Blues at Mandalay Bay. It will be a really special opportunity for everyone to share in the music together.” Yeah, a magical sharing opportunity for whatever coked-out bridal party happens to be in Vegas on a Wednesday in May.
I’ve really been thinking about this hard since the announcement a few days ago. Sure, there’s some a amazing musical experiences to have in Vegas – Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles Love. But my question is whether this is one of the least rock and roll moves for an artist to make. I guess Vegas has a gritty rock reputation, but the idea of just bunking down in the Desert of Sin for an extended period of time definitely brings to mind a less-than-sacred aspect of music. Right now Santana went from being on the short-list of influential rock artists, to a list that includes Celine Dion, Shania Twain, and Cee0-Lo Green dancing around in feathers to the greatest pop hits of yesterday and today.
I guess it’s cool if you happen to be in Vegas and you’re like, “Oh shit, let’s go get hammered and see Santana shred.” But I can’t help trying to shred this icky feeling I get from this whole thing. Does he need the money? Is he going to give the money to some huge charity? I’m sure he hops on a jet directly after the show and is home smoking a fatty in Marin within and hour, so that’s gotta be nice. Maybe he feels like there’s an electronic debauchery that’s taking over the Vegas nightlife and he needs to come in as a force of good will to resupply the essence of rock’s nuts back to Sin City. I want to believe that this man has enough magic in him to make musical decisions that are beyond my capability of understanding, but I’m afraid that his wife took all his money from him when he started banging a girl half his age and now he’s trying to replenish it. Am I wrong? Will he say? Oh well, too bad we’ll never hear any reviews of the show since what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Right? Get it? Ahh, screw you anyway – here’s the master at the top of his game.
The dreamiest band on the planet by any logical or nonsensical standards. These songs just keep fucking coming, and thank fucking God for that. Read the full review HERE at State of Mind.
Plenty of bands have crossed the void, witnessed the void, or feared the void — but Dr. Dog is the first one to embrace and unify with it. There’s always been a tight bond with sadness in the Philly band’s songs, but in the warm way that perhaps only the Grateful Dead have lyrically produced before. Here on Be the Void though, we find the dueling songwriters of Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken unified in a transcendent tale of existential passage like something from a Tool record, but minus the sensation that snakes are trying to crawl out of your eyeballs. Reverting back from the polished tones of their last album, Void finds the band nestling once again in the gritty roots of rock, and modestly asserting their foothold as the torch-bearers of the nameless soul we sometimes call rock and roll…