Archive for March, 2012
I was listening to a friend recently talk about his band playing on NBC’s The Today Show or something like that, and the absurd notion of waking up at 5:30 AM to go play 10 minutes of rock music. But you know, it’s one of those things you just gotta do if you’re really trying to have commercial success. At the best points, you’re joking with Conan before hitting his stage. At the low points, you’re fighting with Al Roker for the last gluten-free hot-dog. So this got me thinking about compiling the greatest morning talk show performances of all time, but frankly I didn’t have the stomach for all the archived Katie Couric footage today. Instead, I’ve been contemplating the best TV moments when a rock band appears unexpectedly. Yeah, we all expect them to rock the late night talk show, and forget all the dumb reality show crap. What about when all the sudden your favorite band is a guest cook on Iron Chef? That’s what I’m into. Here’s my Top 3 moments.
1) Pink Floyd Plays the First Moon Landing
How fucking cool was the BBC back in the day? On the evening of July 29, 1969, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were taking the first human steps on the moon, the BBC actually had Pink Floyd live in the studio to jam along to the footage. I know this sounds like some LSD fantasy – Dude, what if… – but it’s actually legit. This video below has the original audio, but is spliced on top of some later moon footage since the video/audio original seems to have been lost. Originally entitles “But What If It’s Made of Green Cheese”, it was later classified as “Moonhead.”
2) Jeff Tweedy Does The Weather
Last December, before some Wilco hometown shows in Chicago, they must have been doing some sort of in-studio thing for the local station. And some genius producer decided it would be hilarious to have Tweedy do the weather. Well, he was right. His sarcastic charm sets the whole weatherman profession back a good 10 years. Great moment.
3) Gwar Appears on Joan Rivers
The legendary day-time interview from 1990 is magical. Joan Rivers is hilarious, Oderus Urungus is hilarious – it’s a lot better than when they went on Springer. You gotta love when her return-from-commerical music blends into one of their tunes. Fuck though, remember when people really cared about this band (for better or worse?) They used to be huge.
When I first went to see The Morning Benders 2 years ago, I had only heard a couple of their songs. They walked the line between being overly mundane, and potentially having a grittier edge hidden underneath. I figured any band with a name like that though, must put on one hell of a crazy live show. There’s only been a handful of times in my life when I’ve really had a bender that was full on into the morning, and they usually involved times of massive debauchery. So how bummed was I when these really young, timid, quiet kids came out and played one of the most boring live sets of music I’ve ever seen. Ugh, just dragged out nothingness… Complete sub-par, sonic beige. I thought it was a complete mockery of one of the better band names I had heard in a while.
So today the band announced that since Bender is a rude word for a gay dude in England, they’re changing their name to Pop Etc. Geezus Krist. First off, you’re an American band – who cares what the word means to London folks? Hell, they’d have no problem naming a band with the word Fag in it (cigarette). In fact, there was a GREAT American rock band called The Fags, which featured Eugene Hutz of Gogol Bordello back in the early 90′s. You gotta stand up for your name, and take away the connotation of the word. Hell, if it pisses off the English, just go for it anyway – it’ll give you more street-cred. But oh yeah, that’s right, you never had any balls in the first place so thus a name like The Morning Benders was completely irrelevant to any aspects of your lives. On the band’s press release they say, “Now all we needed was a band name. We came up with two options: “The Beatles 2″ and “The Morning Benders.” We went with The Morning Benders.” Great back-story guys. And c’mon, Pop Etc? Without even a hip period or something – I guess they felt Fun. just blew up the scene with that. Well either way, I’ll continue to not care about their career. I still like that name – can I take it now? How’s that work? If they abandon the name, can I make a new band called The Morning Benders? Or does it have to be The New Morning Benders? Nah, that sounds like a Bob Dylan bluegrass cover band. The Real Morning Benders? Nah, that sounds like a Marco Benevento cover band. Ahh, forget it. It’s not just a clever name…anyone? anyone?
However, if you’ve never heard of The Halo Benders, that’s a whole different story. They’ve rocked the bender name for years and years, probably knew the other reference, and gladly didn’t give a fuck – like you should do in rock music. The Halo Benders are a project with one of my heroes, Doug Martsch of Built to Spill, and Calvin Johnson of Northwest indie-god fame, and they co-wrote one of my favorite songs of all time, “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain.” Here it is below, because I don’t even want to show any dumb Pop Etc crap.
And here’s The Fags killing it:
Now I am not the biggest metal fan by any means, but there is some shit I really dig. My problem is not with the abrasive nature, the speed, or the volume though, my problem is when bands use those 3 things to hide the fact that they’re crappy musicians writing crappy songs. Not even ironically crappy songs you know? Just complete 12 year-old basement fat-kid shit. The best heavy-metals should utilize the intense nature of the genre to craft intelligent songs that manipulate pop and melody in functions other genres can not. I know there’s a lot of arguments about the distinction between metal, and heavy metal, and all that, but there seems to be a consensus on Black Sabbath kinda getting shit going. And at the time it was released, Sabbath may have seem loud, and dark, and evil, but it doesn’t sound bad by any means. So just because you’re singing about dark shit, and playing loud and heavy, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to learn how to play the friggin’ guitar.
Annnnnyway, my point is that Red Fang fucking rules. They are the living embodiment of the non-hipster Portland, Oregon scene – a world where the true emotions of punk and metal find a home to exist and thrive. They definitely fall partially into the sub-genre some call “stoner-rock”. Which essentially is just a newer term to distinguish modern heavy rock from speed metal. I think somebody came up with it when they needed a way to label Queens of the Stone Age. So think that kind of steadier bass-heavy groove, and then Red Fang turns it up another several notches in speed, intensity, pocket-lock, and self-satisfaction. To put it as generally as possible, mash QOTSA with the intense melodic attack of Mastodon and you’ll find Red Fang. Ehhh, but don’t think they do the speed arpeggio shit – it’s really just more hard rock. And they’re better than both those bands anyway if you ask me. Which you do, because you’re reading this post.
They signed recently with the metal label: Relapse Records, and they’re currently at the beginning of a 5 month Europe tour. In other words, they’re crushing it. And oh yeah, here’s the best part – they’re videos are friggin’ hilarious. I believe they’re all directed by this fella Whitey McConnaughy, and he knows how to totally embody what this music, this scene, this band, and this town is all about. These videos are what Portlandia could be if it edged it up a little bit. I recommend watching all 3. Right now.
“Wires” – This video’s epic. From last year’s Murder the Mountains and showing the best way ever to blow a $5,000 dollar video budget. If you’re like me, you’ll fall for this band even before the song starts. The tune itself is great though, it’s incredibly simple, (2 chords more or less) yet somehow sounds new and refreshing. When the spaced-out breakdown came, I was fully on board with this band. And then the milk exploded… Featuring a Brian Posehn cameo for extra-special seal-of-approval.
“Prehistoric Dog” - The first in this trilogy videos. Killer friggin’ hook, lyrics about vengeful space-wolfs, and the band’s take on the LARPing sensation. I love this tune.
“Hank is Dead” - The latest video from just a couple months ago. Featuring the band playing live from their station wagon while cruising the PDX streets, and leading up to an actual Red Fang air-guitar competition. Witness the love.
You may not think you’ve heard the band Fun. yet – yeah, that’s right, with a period like moe. But I assure you this song has leaked into your ears from somewhere. When it’s in the distance, it has the anonymity of any random pop-rock radio tune. Up close though – it’s fucking awesome.
Now this band’s been around for a few years – but they’re calling this latest album their actual debut some reason. Whatever. Here’s the thing… I think this is positively the best thing they’ll ever do. That 6-note jump up in the melody is a rarity in pop, and the ability to have a groovy hook come from that is sometimes a once in a lifetime kind of thing. Not that the band isn’t good, but I just don’t think they got the lasting power. And that happens. But sometimes the one hit that comes from a one-hit wonder is a killer fucking tune, and think this has a good shot at being the real record of the year. Actual Grammy-style, Record of the Year. I wish they could keep it going. At their other best moments, they do sound rather Queen-esque, especially lead singer Nate Ruess, and that’s obviously meant as a huge compliment, but I’m not sure if it’s all there. But what the fuck do I know? We’ll see.
So forget about the original, the hot shit is this acoustic version that’s blown up lately. I can’t believe it’s from November – I guess this tune being in some Super Bowl ad really launched it. Anyway, here’s why I love this shit: First off, getting Janelle Monae on your track is huge. If you don’t know who this girl is yet, then you’re out of the loop on modern female James Browns. Girl kills it. Total pro. Class act. Spot on shit. She becomes whatever song she is singing, and on this video you can just see her digging into this cut – it’s radical – not something that you see in shit on the Top 40 these days. Let alone at fucking number one and on the cover of Billboard Magazine.
Anywho, what would have blown in this video is if they did the cheesy look at each other and smile thing that most duets do. They don’t because Janelle is so locked into the music. And it makes it even better when you see Ruess anticipating her vocals and getting that sly smile because he knows how amazing it’s about to sound. Great cut, killer version. I hope I don’t get sick of it once I’ve heard it 200 times in 2012. Again, we’ll see.
And here’s Janelle’s “Tightrope” from 2 years ago – just in case you let this one slip by.
Despite my constantly triumphing carnal knowledge of all things music, there’s 2 worlds of which I am fairly clueless. One is whatever that Redneck Emo shit they call Country is these days, and the other is the smooth-ass world of R & B. Now I don’t give 2 fucks about Emo Necks – I know there’s nothing for me in that world. However, the smooth ass booty-spanking jams of the R&B world don’t frighten me -I’m just completely in the dark about where to go for good smooth beats. It seems a lot of those folks just take themselves way too seriously, even that new cat The Weeknd that everybody loves – it’s just too tense for me.
Thus, I’ve been completely ignoring all the references to Frank Ocean I’ve heard over the past year. Even when he started linking up with Odd Future, I presumed it was more of a funny thing for them to do. Well Mr. Ocean, I sincerely apologize, because you are the smooth ass, hilarious booty-grind magic-man I have been waiting for. It’s like totally taking the dirty hilarious world that Tyler the Creator and his OFWKTA crew bring to hip-hop, and flipping it to the R&B world. I’m late in the game to this fella, but get on board if you are as well.
Here’s the video for “Novacane” – featuring Frank smoking a blunt while he imagines getting fondled by naked chicks and a panda bear. If I follow the story-line of the lyrics correctly, he went to Coachella to see Jay-Z, met some hot girl who was there to see Z-Trip, and the two of them went somewhere to smoke a blunt. He starts getting really fucked up and the girl tells him that she laced the grass with novacane. I think that’s what’s happening – it’s awesome either way.
And here’s “Swim Good.” First off, I love the direct embrace of improper English – I really think it’s a powerful statement on preconceived notions of a black artists’ intelligence – seriously! But c’mon, how can you deny the man when he’s like, “I want to write a bad-ass song called swim-good?” It’s completely different than whatever fool forget to tell The Ying Yang Twins that the symbol is a YIN-YANG – I think that was a total ignorant goof on their part. However, this song on the other hand would be nothing if the hook was “swim well.” Whatever, those 50 words are more than anybody should really philosophically think about his video. Dig it, it’s my fucking jam.
So April 2nd marks the one year anniversary of the final LCD Soundsystem show at Madison Square Garden – a seminal event in modern music history – proof that you can still arise, own hearts and change other people’s lives, then say goodbye all within a decade. It’s honestly a sign that longevity has nothing to do with passion and to what degree you can really affect people. It only ever needs to be one song, or one moment – music has that phenomenal ability to completely change your entire view or self and reality in one instant. And that shit happens all the time. Anyway, it was one of the top 5 shows of my life and I’m dying to see this fucking movie. The anniversary seems like as good a time as any to drop it, but as yet – nothing. They did just release the clip above though, which only increased my salivation. Here’s the trailer below. And here’s my full review of the gig at State of Mind.
If J. Spaceman‘ s epic, orchestral Jesus-Heroin music has never made you say “Holy Fuck” before, than I assure you this new video for “Hey Jane” may just do the trick. I’ve posted the track above, because the video is definitely one of the racier things I’ve seen in a while. The song itself is classic Spiritualized – a monstrously huge sound, simple melodies, and a sonic emotion parallel to The Velvet Underground’s “Black Angel Death Song” but with a back-beat. I’m sure the use of the familiar female title “Jane” is also not merely a coincidental allusion to the mind of Lou Reed.
The song has two main passages – at 8 and a half minutes, it could have very easily been split into a Part 1 and 2 thing. But I’m glad it doesn’t, because this band has never been about taking the brief road out by any means. This is very clearly what you should be expecting when you first hear this record. My question is to whom pushed the concept of this video – it’s kind of like half a season of The Wire compressed into 9 minutes. The ending is massively brutal – so if the visions of trans-gender drag queens throw you off in the beginning, I assure you it ain’t gonna get any prettier. Did Spaceman say, hey this is totally what I was thinking about when I wrote this song? It very well could be, he definitely can be dark enough for it to be so. The credits do say it was commissioned by some woman named Juliette Larthe, so maybe we’ll cast the dark shadows on her. Now this isn’t to say the video isn’t good – it’s really well done, and definitely draws you in. But it is fucking brutal, for sure. Don’t let the kids watch. Either way, I’m stoked to hear the full album in a few weeks, and I’ve totally realized that Fat Possum is my favorite label out there right now.
It’s the day after St. Patrick’s day so… let’s watch videos. I still watch em’ -people still make em’ – in fact I feel there’s a new Renaissance of quality music videos being made again. Here’s 5 that have owned me this week. Let’s make a regular thing out of it, why not?
1. Gotye – “Easy Way Out”
This album has a unique magic to it that is hard to replicate these days, but it helps when you can quiver the upper ranges in eerie echos of Peter Gabriel. You’ve heard “Somebody I Used to Know” on 70% of all potential radio-dials in the past month, but this video for “Easy Way Out” displays more of his true sonic manipulation.
2. The Shins – “Simple Song”
James Mercer really gives off the impression of being a total square, but videos like this show that he’s got an absurdly dry sense of humor to him that makes you sigh in relief for him actually being human.
3. Bon Iver – “Towers”
A new video from Bon Iver featuring (surprise!) natural sepia tones with someone moving around real slowly. There is a pattern to Bon Iver, but if you dig the album, then videos like this perfectly match the tone.
4. Tool – “Reflection”
OK, those were 3 really mellow tunes so let’s ease out of it with this ridiculous video for this tune from 2001′s Lateralus album. I presume ayahuasca consumption has never been displayed in better detail. If you got 11 minutes to launch out, this video is pretty friggin’ ridiculous.
5. Stephen Malkmus – “Jenny and the Ess-Dog”
This video is horrible – one of Malkmus’ much more phoned in efforts, but still kinda what the cat has always been about. Either way, this is one of my favorite solo tunes of his, off his first solo album in 2001. Brothers in Arms and a dog named Trey – what else do you need?
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.