Archive for September, 2011
2011 has proven to be a seminal year for the music I love. New albums from Malkmus, Thurston, Wilco - the intrinisic expansion of dream-pop, and two brand new bands that I will be listening to for quite some time. One is Yuck, and I promise to go into more detail with them in the next few days, but the other is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Now admittedly, it took me 3 separate mentionings to even give this band a shot. The name is obviously odd – and at first, my thought was that not much thought when into it. The other major hangup I had was that people were throwing around clueless terms with these guys – electronic pop, blah blah blah synthesizers – but it just seems that folks are afraid to call something with a digital drum-beat rock and roll. And regardless of the fact that they play with a live drummer and their live performances speak for themselves, this music is rock, and pop, and folk, and highly song-oriented, and light years away from any DJ laptop scenario that they’re for some reason getting lumped in with. And the name…well frankly, now I think it’s genius. Because both lyrically and musically, DEJJ are using touchstone triggers of our national, collective, pop-mindframe, and restructuring them into something beautiful and new. This is the next generation of the next generation – the Jr. to the Jr. that already flipped the game. Below is a snip of my album review, as well as another killer clip of them at this year’s ACL, as well as an ACL interview that really makes you fall in love with them – especially when they express their disdain for folks who put on boring shows that have no focus on the live possibilities.
Check out my full review of their incredible album, It’s a Corporate World, here: http://www.stateofmindmusic.com/entry/1328/Dale-Earnhardt-Jr.-Jr.—It’s-A-Corporate-World/
Quite simply put, Radiohead fucking owned it on The Colbert Report last night. Performing 4 songs over the course of the evening, Stephen Colbert seemed uncharacteristically out of character and noticeably floored after several of the performances. I was most psyched by “The Daily Mail” – a tune that first appeared on the Live From The Basement Session for King of Limbs. It’s a killer conglomerate of all things Radiohead: it starts off with the solo Yorke piano introspect segment – weaving simple allusions into a deep-rooting meld of one’s own universal placement. And then as the horns rise in over a very Amnesiac-ish ascending progression, the kick drum drops in and takes control. The double-drums are perfect enough on this one to make you lament them not rolling with the groove longer, but the song intelligently drops out fairly quickly. Killer cut. They also nailed “Bloom” – really magically with Thom rocking the high guitar lick while Johnny hits the heavy off-beat thing. There were lengthy interviews as well, a dope “Little by Little”, and the show ended with them ripping into “National Anthem”. So hot. They cut Anthem near the end, but you can see it on-line as well as the post-show “Codex” and “Magpie.” Hotness. I’d post the clips, but those Colbert ones get taken down quick, so your best move is to go to www.colbertnation.com and fend for yourself. Instead here’s the “Daily Mail” from The Basement Session, although the only way you can watch the HD version on youtube is to have it flipped, so just pretend you’re watching this performance in a mirror. Or watch your computer screen in a mirror, and pretend you’re watching it normal. Follow me? Or just close your eyes and listen.
Not a bad time to be a TV executive in New York City – the late night talk-shows are crushing this week, or actually I guess they’re literally crushing at around 5:30 – when these things are recorded, but either way. Things kicked off with Radiohead on Saturday Night Live 2 days ago – they played “Lotus Flower” and “Staircase”, although both seemed a little bit dusty. I think it’s more based upon the fact that a spaced out, 2-song performance is not the ideal slot for these guys to lock in their magic, but we’ll see when they appear on the Colbert Report this evening. And the 2 shows they’re playing at the Roseland Ballroom this weekend are gonna be fuckin’ historic, but I don’t want to remind myself that I won’t be there. The important thing to note is that, like at this summer’s Basement sessions, they have Portishead‘s Clive Deamer on a second drum kit. It really thickened up the beat in a way that says, “Fuck yeah, Radiohead should have 2 drummers” and I hope he plays the whole shows, because it’d be great to hear him fill out some of the older stuff. I put a clip of SNL’ s “Lotus Flower” below.
The 2nd NYC TV event of the week is Jimmy Fallon hosting Pink Floyd week. I guess there’s some huge Floyd reissue due out this week – I mean all the Floyd I got sounds amazing to me, I don’t need some weird 3D reissue bullshit – but I’m into having random bands come on each day to play a different song. The Shins re-emerge as a functioning band again – tonight they play “Breathe”. The highlight of the week has got to be tomorrow though, when the Foo Fighters play “In The Flesh” with Roger Waters on vocals. Sickness. This is a much better plan than when they did Rolling Stones week, and closed it out with Phish playing “Loving Cup” while Keith Richards just sat there on the plush couch. C’mon, Keith’s right fucking there – can we get a guitar in the man’s hands? Anyway, MGMT on Wednesday, that country-fuck Dierks Bentley on Thursday, and Pearl Jam on Friday. So tune into WNNNNNNNBC each night this week around 1:20 AM for a glimpse into what late-night television would be like if MTV hadn’t forgotten what the “M” stands for.
Here’s the link to my review of The Lips playing the greatest set I’ve personally ever seen them before – a transcendent live rendering of their masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin. A warm, crisp summer night on an island in Montreal is the perfect place to get a little spun and hear a band perform one of your favorite albums – I highly recommend it. It was fucking beautiful, and got really, emotionally heavy at times. Wayne Coyne cried, I cried, and he gave an amazing speech halfway through about how he, as an in-tune and intelligent human-being, is aware that we are all haunted by the eternal sadness – the darkness that lies in the underbelly of all reality, and how music, and friends, and orgasms are the real way to rise above that. Twas dope. If you’ve given up on The Flaming Lips, now really is the time to get back in touch with em. Here’s a clip of the review, a link to it, and a clip of his amazing laser-hands:
“So as the band emerged from the vagina of a giant, naked woman pounding a cymbal and flying through space, I got one of the biggest shit-eating grins I’ve ever friggin’ had. As this show occurred a fortnight prior to their million-dollar lighting rig getting destroyed in an Oklahoma thunderstorm, (what the fuck was up with stage collapses this summer?!?!), their audio-video syncopation was at an epically high crescendo. While past Lips gigs have left a bad taste in my mouth due to a misdirected focus on the visual aspect of the show, this night was a harmonious boner of everything this band knows and dreams they can be. And lest anyone be confused, guitarist/keyboardist/live sonic wizard, Steven Drozd was beyond human in what he was musically doing on that stage.”
What’s the last R.E.M. song any of us can remember? “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?’? Well, they’ve released 6 albums since then including one this year! Who knew? But honestly, where is anybody gonna hear new R.E.M. tunes? The alternative radio craze has been done for over a decade, and the band hasn’t been able to write a song catchy enough to be played on their past normal channels anyway. And after making an $80 million-dollar record deal with Warner Brothers, they kinda lost any independent street cred they once had. So honestly though, where would anyone have heard a new tune from this band? Not on mainstream radio, nor on college radio, nor in any grass-roots word-of-mouth hype about the hot new sound. I’m sure they have a fan-base that has remained loyal, but I’m also sure that that base has only diminished over the years.
As tough as it would have been, they should have just quit when they were ahead in 1997, and their drummer, Bill Berry got sick. I mean, hell, when you lose the intrinsic power of the world’s greatest uni-brow, where do you go from there? This quote from Stipe in 1997 seemed like a bad omen: “For me, Mike, and Peter, as R.E.M., are we still R.E.M.? I guess a three-legged dog is still a dog. It just has to learn to run differently.” No man, a 3-legged dog isn’t still a dog – now it’s a dog missing a fucking leg buddy.
So I’m sure 99% of people who know R.E.M.probably thought they quit years ago, thus the levels of loss are probably gonner be a little gentler than say, when the Beatles quit. I’m also sure in a year, most people who hear of this breakup now are gonna feel no change whatsoever in their lives. So goodbye R.E.M., and I while “Orange Crush” was cool, and I actually love “Sweetness Follows,” the first tune I wanted to hear after learning of their retirement was the genius Pavement forgotten track: “Unseen Power of the Picket Fence.” I’m not really sure what that title returns to, but it is a killer title, and the song is a fuckin’ killer, and totally about R.E.M. – most importantly Stephen Malkmus’s adamant claim that Time After Time was his least favorite song. Here it is:
Ok, let’s jump right back into this shit. So I’m still in the process of a formal review, but I have to mention how I keep turning back again and again to the Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. album, It’s a Corporate World. First thing you need to do it to get past the name – I guess legally it’s OK, kinda like how Dinosaur Jr. got their name, and word is the guys actually sent the real Dale Jr. some songs and a letter saying they weren’t making fun of hm – of which he totally approved and dug the songs as well. And somehow when you dig deep into the album, the name makes sense. It’s kinda like taking a twisted take of a modern pop acceptance, and adding to it and altering it thusly into an ironic embrace of the power and strength of a name with notoriety. The album isn’t exactly pop-radio-friendly, but it’s composed of things that by themselves would be. Follow me? It doesn’t matter.
The band is composed of Joshua Epstein, and Daniel Zott – two younger fellas from Detroit who made the album last year in Zott’s basement, and within 6 months found themselves selling out 1,000 person venues. The vibe is an organic, and harmonious stab at traditionally solid, good, songwriting and adding to it a funky backbeat and some weird electronic instruments. It’s very reminiscent of the last Dirty Projectors album from a couple years back, and anyone who loved Bitte Orca should immediately make themselves familiar with these guys. Younger ears will associate it more with the slower side of MGMT, but there’s really a much different game-plan here. Much more touching on a timeless organic rock vibe, then an of-the-moment weirdness embrace. The lyrics are a touch of self-degradation, that most often expresses an acceptance of their personal normality. In other words, really good words about how they don’t think they have anything to say. Honestly though, the best music comes from two friends who are open enough to only want to play the songs that they both like and make each other happy. Even if this first album is the best thing they ever do, the rest of their sub-par career will still be worth getting into. But my instincts tell me these guys are somehow only going to get cooler and better.
Here’s a clip of them closing out their set at this year’s Austin City Limits. First off, the bow-ties are fucking awesome, and a universal tangent to the latest Dr. Who (get into it!) Secondly, they not only play their tunes tightly live, but they mess around with him, keep them interesting, and fun for themselves. Third, thank God they were smart enough to bring in a drummer, and not just rely on a beat machine. It rounds out their sound so easily, and it would have been a shame to have gone any rawer. And with a solid beat, they can play a whole song with no guitar and make it still sound huge, like a full band. Here they are aboslutely crushing “Nothing But Our Love” – stay til the end, when they really start raging.