Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Raw Power Reissues

Where does one start when jumping into The Stooges?
For me, it began with Raw Power.
The original mix.
Bad choice.
At least for a little bit. I kept reading how great it was and I stuck with it. I went beyond the weird mix placement-chocked it up to Bowie inexperience at not knowing what to do with such primordial ooze-and I listened to what was taking place individually.
Crunching guitars?
End of days vocals?
Everything else, well, I guess I'll have to wait for the reissue.
I can't believe it's been over a dozen years since Iggy re-wrote the album with a brand new mix. It totally rules by the way-I wish I would have had it when I first bought it-because it turns everything up to eleven and sounds as close to the real thing that we can probably get.
But there's something endearing about that original mix, the way it sounds unlike anything you've ever heard before and it just barks at you for a half-hour. Without understanding a word or figuring out a note of what's being played, you just know that The Stooges circa 1973 is suffering from serious brain damage.
Either mix is essential, just get the damn thing already.
Or if you're like me, buy it again.

Friday, April 23, 2010

AC/DC Live

I’m debating whether or not to do full review of the AC/DC show because the band is wrapping up their Black Ice tour-just a few US dates remain, and those are make-up dates from when Brian Johnson took ill and the band was forced to cancel shows. The other reason is that the band hasn’t changed their setlist at all during the two years they’ve been on the road.
Technically, they did add a song (the list is up to 19 songs total, 4 from Black Ice) and they’ve replaced one with another. But the core of the set-beginning, ending and encore remained the same and all of the choreographed material in between. By “choreographed” I mean “The Jack” striptease, the “Hells Bells” bell, the blow-up Rosie during “Whole Lotta Rosie,” the songs that featured something going on with material being played.
With so little being changed and so little time left, what’s the need to do a review?
For one, it would just serve as a document of a good time-something that you’d expect to begin with. They are a band even at this stage in their career that is a hoot to witness. I suppose a review would serve as a testament that-regardless of how little the band has progressed-even at this age they can still put on a great rock show.

First of all, I totally dig the set up for tickets, even though it had me worried somewhat.
The show was not done through Ticketmaster/Live Nation-it was an Iowa promoter selling tickets through an Iowa outlet. There was little saved by doing this-tickets still ran about $90 a pop-but there was no hidden charges added on.
The outlet also made ticketholders with choice seats physically come and pick them up at the venue before the show. This was a plus for anyone who lived in Des Moines-you could simply stop by the ticket office and pick up your ticket prior to the event-but for someone like me who lived a couple hours away, you didn’t feel like everything was good to go until you actually were holding the tickets.
And no, you couldn’t have someone pick them up for you-you had to be the one and you had to provide them with a photo id. This was all to prevent scalping and fraud and-if things ran as smoothly as what I experienced for future shows, I’m on board with this method. No problems-and I heard that even if you had to go to the box office immediately before the show to pick up your tickets, it wasn’t that long of a wait.
The tickets, by the way, were awesome. Tons better than the overpriced ones I bought for Chicago and maybe even better than the floor seats located directly in front of the stage and extended jetty. The reason why is because visibility upends location, and if I can view the stage unobstructed without having to crane my neck or fight a seven-foot-tall yeddy in front of me, gimmie that seat.
And I was still close enough where I could (in my younger days) take a couple of long jumps and get to center stage in a matter of seconds.
But I’m not in my younger days. I’m built for comfort. I ain’t built for speed.
Kudos to Wells Fargo Arena for being cool to everyone-including the drunk thirty-something dudes sitting in front of my wife and I. We (and others around us) endured a five minute long spat between them because one of the fucktards wanted a Miller Lite instead of a Bud Light. They were harmless-not even a real distraction-even when one of them tripped over himself getting back to his seat after a potty break.
Security didn’t frisk us, which meant the possibility of weed smuggling an easy endeavor. This may mean nothing to you-but consider this: it’s AC/DC. Now I’m sure security would have busted anyone trying to light up (there was a hint of weed in the air), but I’m not certain that they would have necessarily thrown you out if you were busted with it.
You see, we’ve gotten to a place where smoking a joint at an AC/DC concert is a rare thing-and that blows my mind. Where is the danger?! And at least the event staff at Wells Fargo aren’t complete fascists about a little excessiveness.
They even let some crazy AC/DC lady run up and down the stairs any time Angus or Brian came to our side of the stage. She was in her middle-forties and armed with only a camera phone, she pined for the idea shot.
Prior to the show, she spoke with not one, but two security personnel in trying to get over the barrier for an even better photo op. They declined her request, of course, but they tolerated her craziness and incessant stair runs throughout the show.
Her antics later got her face plastered on the jumbotron, which was an incredible gift considering how unattractive she was.
They also let a mom bring her special needs son down towards the end of the stair to get close to the action during “Thunderstruck.” The kid went crazy when Brian came over and pointed to him. It was touching. Seriously.
As much fun as we had watching the band, the crowd, and the load-out (well, maybe I was the only one that thought that was fun) who knows if AC/DC has another tour in them and if they’ll be able to physically muster another one in a few years. Johnson’s in his sixties and the Young brothers are closing in on it, so who knows if they (especially Angus) will be able to give a two-hour plus barrage of running, soloing, and constant time-keeping. I’d almost be afraid of seeing them again for fear of disappointment, but I wouldn’t be able to suggest that you check them out before they finally do.

The review at Glorious Noise can be found here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Recess Monkeys-My Girl

Somewhere around here, there's a review of the Chilliwack album that "My Girl" is from. It was the song that was playing when I walked into my first high school dance and promptly stood to the side of the gym in Wright Fieldhouse with the other guys in my class. It would take a few years before we got enough courage to actually dance to a fast song.
We were sad fucks back then, but we made the most of our weekends-particularly when we got drivers licenses. Prior to that, we had mopeds and SCTV on Friday nights. Much of the first season hasn't aged well, but it got better as the years progressed. By the time Martin Short joined the cast, it was downright brilliant. You can find Saturday Night Live still ripping off some of some of the sketches today.

I can spend hours lost on YouTube looking at shit and a few of those would be devoted enitrely to SCTV stuff.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

God's Pee Reunites

Truth be told, I didn't even know they had broken up. I just thought it was an extended hiatus, but come to think of it, it had been a long time since their last effort.
I still think that Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven is one of the best albums released in the past decade.
Pretty good for an instrumental, don'tcha think?
I know that it may sound pretentious, but I'm a sucker for the huge olympian swells of racket that these anonymous Canadians dish up and I would love to witness it in the flesh.
At least with a reunion, there's the chance that I'd get to see it live.
One would think, but it looks as though Godspeed You Black Emperor are going to be pricks about it and do the obligatory All Tomorrow's Parties date before closing the chapter again after some spotty tour dates that I'm sure won't come anywhere near Iowa, of course.
It looks like only 9 American stops will be scheduled.
So you're saying there's a chance!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fuckin' Magnets, How Do They Work?

I am fascinated by the Insane Clown Posse. I sincerely hope that some day, they come out and tell all the Juggalos "We did it all for the money, suckers!" Then, all of the Juggalos will get mad and kill them for taking them for a ride.
That's the only way that I.C.P. will die.
I'm convinced of it.
Because there is no way that rational people will view the Insane Clown Posse's latest song "Miracles" and think "Damn, this is really good."
Hear me when I tell you that "Miracles" isn't good...it's great.
But you know what I mean. It's the same thing when I tell you that Glitter, or Death Race 2000, or Plan 9 is great. It in no way means that I'm suddenly down with the clown.

And Daniel O'Brien just may be the best writer at Cracked because he's done a great piece on this song here and he's convinced me that I needed to add Tiptoes to my Netflix queue.

Friday, April 16, 2010

An Open Letter From Live Nation.....er, Ticketmaster

I didn’t think a response would come this quickly.

I know-some of you are surprised I even got a response, but not me.

You see, I work for a large corporation and I talk to a variety of different people every day. From the rude and wealthy to the poor and illiterate, and I speak to them using a variety of different ways. No matter how rude, stupid, or incomprehensible their correspondence is to us, we reply back to them.

So why should my letter to Live Nation Entertainment be any different?

Here’s the weird thing: the response came from Ticketmaster, not Live Nation Entertainment.
What, do you guys have to get rid of the old letterhead?

And the other thing that isn’t so weird, but they could have addressed it: my original letter was addressed to, but the response came from Terry Lilly, the Assistant Consumer Support Manager. You heard right, I wrote to the CEO of Live Nation Entertainment’s ticketing division-Nathan Hubbard-and I got a response back from the assistant manager. I’m sure Terry is likeable enough and is competent at what he/she does, but couldn’t they acknowledge that I went from the top of LNE’s food chain to someone down to the first rung of salaried positions in like two seconds?

Not even a phony baloney “Mr. Hubbard asked me to attend to your letter personally…” could do?

The good news is that they are apologizing (which is all I was really asking for) and have even asked me to call them to see if there’s some way they can make it up to us.

So whaddya think…Should I call them?

Keep in mind, we already have choice tickets and I strongly doubt that Mr. or Mrs. Lilly can do much better.

But why not try, right?

Here’s the reply back with my calls of bullshit in red.

"Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback about your bad experience on Ticketmaster.com. We really are concerned with the satisfaction of our customers and appreciate that you are a dedicated fan of live music. I’m sorry to hear that you weren’t about to get the tickets you wanted for the Iron Maiden show. I’ve got to say that I was sincerely touched by the simplicity of that sentence for some reason. If you give Consumer Support a call at 304-XXX-XXX, I or any of my team, will be happy to reach out to the venue on your behalf to attempt to obtain the tickets you were looking to secure. Allow me to explain contributing factors to the difficulties you described.

Ticketmaster distributes tickets for live entertainment events to the general public as an agent on behalf of Ticketmaster’s clients, who are venues, promoters, entertainers and sport franchises. I don’t live under a rock, sir. Thanks to the recent merger, there is no difference in many cases between Ticketmaster and the venue as some are owned by Live Nation. The venue in question for Iron Maiden is one of those facilities. As an agent and ticketing services provider, Ticketmaster does not determine the number of tickets available for any event, nor does it determine the pricing of the tickets that are available. How about all of those bullshit add-on charges on top of the ticket prices? The pricing and availability of tickets is determined by those with the responsibility of presenting the event such as the artist, the event promoter, and/or the venue. We know what kind of tickets the artist had-and it wasn’t much-and since you own the venue, well that means you’re responsible for the availability, doesn’t it. And the promoter? Look, I know most promoters are complete douchebags, but I know for a fact that the promoter isn’t sitting on all those tickets. Are you suggesting that they’ve worked out deals with Ebay brokers before they’ve secured a deal with Ticketmaster? Does that mean that Ticketmaster has absolutely no pull in negotiating with the promoter before tickets go on sale so that they can sell decent seats to their customers? That doesn’t sound like you’re the “master” of tickets at all! That sounds more like Ticketstowardstheback or Shittyseats.

When a popular event goes on sale there are literally hundreds and sometimes thousands of customers simultaneously attempting to purchase tickets across all distribution channels. There’s more to this paragraph, but essentially Tilly is trying to suggest that a bunch of people camped outside the venue and called Ticketmaster right when tickets went on sale at 10:00am. You know, like it was 1982 again.

The next paragraph says that sometimes the artist is so big that everyone tries to get tickets to it and not everyone can get them. This paragraph assumes that I’m retarded and didn’t know this fact.

Ticketmaster does whatever it can to make the ticket purchase process as fair, efficient, and user-friendly as possible. Tickets sell out extremely quickly for high-demand shows like this. We understand how frustrating this can be for fans looking to purchase tickets to high-demand
events. When Ticketmaster sells tickets via a fan club pre-sale or to the general public on behalf of its venue, promoter, or sports team clients, we do not give preferential or favored access to ticket brokers. To the contrary, we are always working to improve our software and policies to thwart unfair consumer practices. Here’s where it got interesting. I thought that they were going to address my biggest complaint: how did a broker secure tickets for the best seats at the Iron Maiden show and then turn around and sell them on Ebay in literally five minutes? There is no way! Those tickets were acquired beforehand, which to me demonstrates preferential treatment at
some level. Never mind the broker had tickets for not just this show, but other cities and bands too.

Again, please reach out to my department to let us know the number of seats you were looking to purchase and any other applicable criteria. I wanna meet Nicko McBrain! I can’t make any guarantees, but as a good gesture would be happy to do everything in our power to provide you exceptional service. "

All in all, a nicely worded letter that apologizes, offers a half-assed explanation, and offers a form of severance. Honestly, I’m not one to ask for anything for free. If I had waited until later on that night to buy tickets and then noticed all of the good seats were gone or that the event was sold out, I wouldn’t have even complained.

But this thing was rigged from day one.

The Midwestern in me wants me to just take it up the ass, relent that I overpaid a broker for tickets, and then up the irons in July. The greedy part of me-the same one that sees people trying to take advantage of everything, work the system in their favor, or just think they’re entitled to everything-wants to call Ticketmaster up and see how they’re able to compensate.
Because we know there’s no shortage of Maiden fans out there and a lot of them are willing to spend top dollar on good seats to see them.

Present company included.

Flaming Lips - The Dark Side Of The Moon

Have you heard about the off-Broadway performance of Romeo and Juliet that forgoes the actual work of Shakespeare in favor of a bunch of strewn together narratives, lifted from vague recollections of the play?
The Flaming Lips (along with Wayne’s nephew’s band Stardeath and the White Dwarf) have seemingly taken a similar approach to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and channeled that landmark effort into a vaguely reminiscent cover album. It’s a pairing that surely will grab the attention of fans of either band with supporters of the Lips’ unique blend of weirdness probably getting the award for higher tolerance.
“Why?” is perhaps the biggest question resulting from this project, but then again, why release an album that requires four separate cd players just to hear the complete songs? Why spend the good part of a decade making a charming-but-frustrating science fiction/Christmas movie? And speaking of Christmas, why release a ‘Silver Trembling Fetus” Christmas ornament?
Clearly, reasons why are an afterthought of the Lips-or specifically, Wayne Coyne’s-thought process, which is precisely why the band has remained a relevant force in today’s music. Remember all of those great ideas you came up with while you were stoned? Well, Coyne delivered on his even if some failed under the weight of their own nonsense.
“But I tried, didn’t I, Goddamn it.” as McMurphy says in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. “At least I did that.”
The Floyd Freaks are rolling in their grave, placing the original Dark Side up there like the Sistine Chapel, equating the Lips’ reworking as vandalism. They see each bit of distortion, every “off” arrangement, and each sonic “mistake” as a flaw, only recognizing the pristine beauty of Alan Parsons’ mix as a gold standard.
But what if the Lips tried to emulate such precision? I think that those cries of “Judas!” would be just as loud and even a few vocal fans of the Lips like myself would also be troubled. A few years back, the Lips did a note-perfect rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” which was more notable for its facsimile than for its performance.
Not so here, the Flaming Lips treat Dark Side of the Moon like a stoned retelling in your older brother’s bedroom.
Taken in that context, the effort is actually better than it needs to be. The band(s) consider Pink Floyd’s version was in Billboard’s Hot 200 charts for like a millennium, to the point where the rag changed the rules midstream. The Lips have considered the possibility that you’ve heard the album a few times and-thankfully-ripped the thing through the shredder. “Breathe” is fueled by a two note Suicide bass and David Gilmore’s soothing slide guitar is replaced with feedback. Floyd’s primitive sequencing on “On The Run” is reduced to a Krautrock beat and a nifty guitar sequence. “Money” relies on tour-mates Black Moth Super Rainbow’s vocoder and a cheap drum machine. It isn’t until “Us and Them” where the similarities begin to reveal themselves-but only slightly. The chord patterns may sound familiar, but its clear that the Lips were on a mission to pay homage here instead of playing connect the dots.
What’s telling is how accurate the band is in getting Dark Side’s crazy quotes-monotonously recited by Henry Rollins-at precisely the same moments as the original. They replace Clare Torry’s octave-bending scales with Peaches’ distorted wails.
All of it, from the originality of the reinterpretations to the barely trying facsimiles, is a hoot. It’s a blast to hear in a social gathering and it’s a joy to examine in the confines of your inner ear headphones.
But make no bones about it, Dark Side of the Moon like its inspiration is a real attempt at taking rock to a higher ideal. This isn’t some thrown together mockery that’s as disposable as the kilobytes holding it together. Only the delivery method (an ITunes exclusive) makes the project seem half-hearted, which is somewhat disheartening.
Both efforts are genuine in their desire to challenge the listener and themselves and both of them deserved to be heard in the format that it was designed for. Since only one of them is and since one has over thirty-five years of permanently embedding itself into the dna of classic rock, the Lips have an uphill battle with those listeners content with the original.
For anyone who can try to imagine a bizarro world where Dark Side is a clean slate of endless possibilities, the Flaming Lips’ version is as challenging as the one that inspired it.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Flaming Lips - Embryonic

It’s hard to judge Embryonic at this exact moment. Not because there’s any question about its greatness; the album is a wonderful freak-out that places the Flaming Lips smack dab in lysergic territory. The reason it’s hard to judge the album is because it comes at such a critical point in the band’s career. You begin to question if you’re celebrating the music or, in fact, merely celebrating the fact that the band has finally released an album that shakes free those fringe supporters who dig the band’s euphoric highs, but can’t handle the bad vibes that sometimes show up when coming down.
Yes, count me as one of those who questioned if the band’s creative mojo was in jeopardy. With every festival show came complacency, the notion to play it safe and hash out material that would only continue the tradition of confetti favorites and bubble-walking anthems. I actually liked parts of At War With The Mystics, but I could sure as shit identify the three or four songs that would inevitably be featured their live set.
I can’t hear which songs from Embryonic that will fit inside their notorious live shows. I can’t hear them because it’s hard to think of the abundance of melancholia throughout the album in the context of the feel good vibe of the Lips’ live shows.
It shares the icy distance and isolation with the Christmas On Mars score, but it also shares Zaireeka’s sense of uncomfortable weirdness.
Kudos to producer David Fridman for keeping Embryonic in an infantile stage; the record sounds wonderfully unfinished, allowing the listener to develop the mix with their own imagination. There’s plenty of distorted drums, fuzz bass, twisted guitar parts and ethereal keyboards tacked around the landscape.
A complaint, however, needs to be lodged for excessive use of harp sweeps, Fridmann has now used this technique far too often and it’s time for him to look towards other tools to promote sonic statements (slide guitar? Drum roll? Piano arpeggio?).
Minor production quips aside, Embryonic is a blessing for old-school fans who have grown troubled with the band’s scripted themes, videos, and pre-recorded parts. Embryonic is raw weirdness, created by a band that felt stifled by a reliable script that has served them well for the past decade. The band sounds like they’re ready to re-examine a time when things weren’t so tidy and pre-programmed.
Finally, the punk rockers are taking acid again.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Star Death & White Dwarfs - The Birth

If the cover doesn’t give it away, the sound in the grooves of this long-player surely will. The reason why Stardeath & The White Dwarfs sound like the Flaming Lips is because they employ them as roadies.
Oh, and the leader is Wayne Coyne’s nephew.
Who knows if nepotism gets you a deal with Warner Bros., and at this point, who cares? But it is kind of neat to think how a psychedelic rock band from Oklahoma released their debut album on a major label before the vast majority of us had even heard a note. And when you line up The Birth next to the Lips’ own debut Hear It Is, you’ll notice how meticulously crafted the youngsters have made their debut. Indeed, if we’re comparing apples to Uncles, SWD are already around the sonic landscape of Hit To Death In The Future Head.
Which ain’t a bad album to emulate, if you ask me.
Clocking in at an efficient half-hour or so, SWD use every bit of magnetic tape to flex their stereophonic arrangements and obvious talents as multi-instrumentalists. On the moments when they’re not taking blotter moments from their neighbors, they’re taking cues from MGMT, spinning moments of swirling keyboards and gnarly bass patterns together for a trippy nod towards dance floor rhythms.
Highlights are when the band just gets down to simple jamming-like the thunderstick-workout “Those Who Are From The Sun Return To The Sun” and when they stay close to the Lips’ script. “Smoking Pot Makes Me Not Want To Kill Myself” ends the effort with a wink to Uncle Wayne’s creative song titling and with the ability to make a few chords sound like an epic statement. Then you start remembering that you heard almost the same kind of strategy just a few songs before (“The Age Of The Freak”) before realizing: Stardeath & the White Dwarfs may have finished the load out on their journey out of the Milky Way with The Birth, but they’re light years away from their own masterpiece.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Accept - Balls To The Wall

If you’ve ever seen the video for Accept’s “Balls To The Wall,” you know how ridiculous it is and how un-photogenic that lead singer Udo Dirkschneider is. There’s no way that these guys should have done a band video until after they had dominated the metal scene with their music.
Because their music is crushing, envelope pushing stuff with incredible riffs and a vocalist that not only features one of the best metal vocalists around, he was born with one of the best metal names ever.
Say it with me: Udo Dirkschneider.
Balls To The Wall is famous for a few things, the wonderful title track which ranks as one of the best heavy metal songs ever and for a few songs that may (or may not) be metal’s first overtly homosexual songs ever.
The lyricist for the band happened to be guitarist Wolf Hoffmann's wife, Gaby Hauke, and she consistently provided the band with weirdly themed material that seemed out of place for a metal band.
“London Leatherboys” sounds like it’s about the gay S&M subculture, but Hauke clarified that it was about a more metal topic of bikers. “Love Child,” she acknowledged, was about homosexuals, but that the theme was more about opression rather than sexual identity.
The cover art was singled out for its homoerotic image, and all of this seemed to be the focus of the band rather than how great the music was within. In addressing all of the accusations about homosexual things, Accept's guitarist Wolf Hoffmann seemed to grow frustrated with the topic, at one point declaring "You Americans are so uptight about this." while admonishing that it was a non issue in other parts of the world.
To that point, the title track of Balls To The Wall could be about dog raping robots and it would still rule. The rest of the album is just as heavy and just as catchy. It doesn't reinvent the wheel like the album before it (Restless and Wild) and it’s not as lofty as the album that followed it (Metal Heart), but it provided Middle America with an honest-to-goodness metal album that nearly destroyed anything else from that year and it continues to resonate as a timely metal document.
Just don’t let the video spoil that fact.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shearwater and Wye Oak at Gardner Lounge

I don’t know if I’m sensing the pretention of Grinnell University before I even get there or if it’s just something that actually happens, but the feeling overtakes me and I automatically get me guard up every time I’ve been there.
It’s the entire “You spoiled little rich kids” feeling and yes, I’ve used the quote from Eddie & the Cruisers quote before, but that’s what I feel like saying each and every time I make my way on to their campus.
It’s their college-no question about it-and it’s a fine institution. I’d just like an acknowledgement of our state in some fashion-not just the clear-cutting that takes place when bright minds from around the world stop over to take advantage of the higher learning and then leave our fare state as soon as the diploma is in hand. I’m not suggesting that they stay here. I’m only wishing that they’d take a little bit of our state with them after they leave.
Shouldn’t that be part of the learning process too?
In the short amount of time that Wye Oak was here, I was flattered by lead vocalist Jenn Gardner’s words about Iowa. She’s from Baltimore, Maryland-a city that I actually want to visit some day-and I know so very little about that community. Here’s what I know: I know that the Baltimore Ravens are merely my Cleveland Browns in some hideous relocation that was an embarrassment to the NFL; I don’t recognize the current incarnation of the Cleveland Browns as they too are an embarrassment to the NFL. I also love the show The Wire which was based in Baltimore and it depicts the city into two very different areas: the refurbished East side and the volatile West side in which murder victims are placed in abandoned buildings, covered in lye, and left to decompose.
I’m sure that there’s more to Baltimore and I’m leaving out a huge part of the city, but until I get there, that’s as much as I can tell you.
Oh, and they have cheese steaks or crab cakes, I can’t remember which ones.
Wye Oak doesn’t sound like a Baltimore band, given those totally inaccurate perceptions, but I’m sure living there is a lot more challenging than it is here in Iowa-which is why I’m very prideful and appreciative of my state.
“I think if I lived here, I could become a better person.” Gardner said, in her heartfelt words about Iowa.
It’s true, the lack of everyday craziness can make you a better person. The less time you spend commuting does give you more time to spend with the kids, reading, listening to music, whatever. The dim and unimaginative call the state “boring,” and for a time growing up-in high school at least-it can come across that way. But as you get older, you realize it really isn’t. And you appreciate things more like a Shearwater/Wye Oak concert.
Which is why I was startled that so few attended the show. I didn’t expect a huge gathering, but I at least expected more than the three dozen that showed up last Wednesday. The last show at Grinnell that I saw was Spoon, and even that was nowhere near being sold out-but at least a couple hundred people showed up.
Even then, however, I felt that the cold ambivalence of snobbery was afoot in the crowd. Groups of people ignoring the music and gathering in a circle to talk and share wine. I mean, isn’t that something you could do in your dorm room? If this music is only a cursory part of your life, why not do others who regard it as important with the service of staying home?
They were there at the Shearwater/Wye Oak show-less so, but still there-dressing up as women to draw attention to themselves when the stage was full of way talented musicians that deserved better.
I’m exaggerating somewhat as the show was as intimate as you could imagine, but the point is that it fed into my perception of Grinnell and the students who attend there. These are the future? Our brightest? Our blue-blooded sons and daughters who will take their established names into another cycle of privileged? Weren’t they afforded the manners that is supposedly an intricate part of such wealthy upbringing?
And if not, couldn’t they use their time in our state to learn some of it? From, yes, those simpleton farmers and small-town folk who take their sweet time driving, eating, and getting to the point?
Maybe that’s the reason the show was so sparsely attended: both bands are notoriously meticulous in their execution that to witness it would be like playing a game of Risk with some farmer who thinks small talk is a discussion on future grain markets.
Whatever the case, all I can tell you was that my perception of Shearwater and Wye Oak was completely spot-on from what I’ve read and hear of each band.
And my perception of Grinnell College has not changed after the show either, and until I see otherwise, I don’t hold the students there in the high regard that they obviously hold themselves.

A full review of the show without the commentary of the university can be found at Glorious Noise. (link will follow when review is posted)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Apples To Apples

All of those commentators are right: the cd is dead and music files dwarf any form of music format. It’s been so long since I bought a cd that I was actually surprised when I drove home and saw a box full of cds sitting in front of my door.
I couldn’t wait to emerse myself in them.
Notsomuch for the music, but for the content. You see, one of the was one of the new Hendrix reissues (I know, I know) that boasts better fidelity and a dvd. To that point, the dvd is a joke-it only runs about 15 minutes-but you do get to see a salivating Eddie Kramer break down key tracks and I dig shit like that.
I love watching people like him, George Martin, Roy Thomas Baker, whoever, sitting in front of a big console and isolating tracks.
Who wouldn’t give a toe to be that guy?
For the brief running time, I suppose it is pretty interesting-and considering what I paid for the disc, I’d even suggest that it was worth the price of admission.
Especially considering it would have been the same price to download the file from iTunes or Amazon.
The beauty of those services is how immediate it is and how it’s now becoming the only option available for some of those out-of-print titles. I recently did a review of The Dream Syndicate’s Medicine Show for Glorious Noise after remembering how great that album was. I could have shelled over $50 for an original copy of the out-of-print cd of that title, half of that for the vinyl version, or gone cheaper for a cassette copy that would surely rub the oxide off the moment I began to play it on my never-used NAD cassette deck.
Or I could have-and I did-download the entire album and the companion live e.p. for under $10. In just a few moments on a Sunday night at 10:30, I was listening to a relic from my past.
But those discs grabbed my attention. Sure, I immediately uploaded them to my iPod (in fact, the last time I tried to use my NAD cd player, it skipped, jumped, and was more hassle than it was worth) but then I opened up the disc and read the liner notes just like old times.
When you make a price point that’s comparable to a download, there’s a chance that I’ll choose the cd. Unless it’s a new artist, in which case, I’m gonna stay with the file until I’m sure that I want a permanent, hard copy. Full disclosure, I get a lot of stuff for free to review and have the luxury of deleting it after I’m done with it, but even then there’s another option. You’ll often be granted access to an audio stream, which I use a lot and then compose the review on the fly. After two or three spins, I’ll determine if the release is hard drive worthy and then download the file. If it meets an even higher criteria, there’s a chance that I may buy the actual disc of it.
Deerhunter, Animal Collective, and Love Is All seem to be sure things.
Classic albums and others from my past also take priority-but even then, it’s not a sure thing. If you’re still going to jack me for $15 a disc, I’m going to look for a free copy.
Haven’t you heard? We’re tired of getting ripped off and we know you’re making a nice profit on every cd!
At the same time, it’s hilarious that only NOW has Universal Music gotten the hint and they're offering most of their catalog for $10.
You’re a little late, hoss. That would have been huge news a decade ago when it counted.
The labels need to fess up and start following Apple’s lead. I know I recently poked fun at their hissy fit with Amazon, but let’s be honest-there’s really nobody that can touch them in terms of technology and developing products that appeal to our most human emotions.
Like music.
If they can bring the remaining two things that still have me buying cds-album art and lossless audio-then I’ll be stopping my cd purchases for good. It's practically there right now (this was the first cd purchase for me in 2010).
And because Jobs is a music fan like you and I, there’s a good chance that the last bastion of physical music appeal is coming soon. The iPad sounds and looks awesome. It's the kind of device that would enable you to listen to music and look at the album art at the same time. Or watch the video for the lead track. Or watch the producer isolate tracks on the "making of" documentary that came with your album purchase. Or maybe it would even let you isolate the tracks and do it yourself.
Hell, I should copyright that idea for an iPad application!
And now that Apple has bought EMI records (acquiring the Beatles’ catalog in the process), they be able to press forward with those ideas-starting with rock music’s most famous band.
Sure, other labels can stick to their guns and try to force up music prices again, but with Apple as a loss leader with a nice catalog of artists to promote, those labels are facing a losing battle and a diminishing market share.
There is very little to not convince me that Steve Jobs is working on a completely different level than most other CEOs and that his vision is at a point where I’d be a fool not to put Apple ahead of any other copy when it comes to computers, phones, or any other electronic device.
Plus, he's a music fan on top of it all.
I can't say the same thing about Bill Gates.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mountain Goats - The Life Of The World To Come

More religious than Songs The Lord Taught Us and halfway towards
“No Shit?” CCM territory, The Life Of The World To Come finds John Darnielle tip-toeing around religious topics without letting the gospel touch his pen.
This is spiritual music only in the sense that Darnielle is in the dumps and thinks religion as a way to add solemn tones to his songbook.
“1 Samuel 15:23” kicks Life Of The World off in fine fashion, if not for the blue-balls feeling you get at the end of the song’s tense four minutes. During that entire time-indeed, throughout the album-you get the feeling that something great is just about to take place. But it never does. The song exemplifies the rest of the album, most of it recreating a slow build only to have it get stuck on the way up to something memorable
“There’s more like me where I come from” he sings on “Samuel”, and boy, he ain’t foolin.
The album’s real concept isn’t religious-but human nature, as constructed in obtuse world play. It’ll hardly win over new converts, but The Life Of The World To Come won’t disappoint long-time fans who will discover hours of joy piecing together the narrative thread that binds this record.
Rightfully so: that cock-teasing potential of greatness does get incredibly close with side one closer “Genesis 30:3” which is going on a mix-tape sometime real fucking soon. Featuring only Darnielle and a piano, it ends up being one of the album’s most powerful moments despite the minimalism. The line “For several days the visitors were here” sounds like a message from God himself during this Thanksgiving break.
The other notably entry is the heartbreaking, cancer-vignette “Matthew 25:21.” What more can be said of a song that begins with “They hooked you up to a fentanyl drip, to mitigate the pain a little bit” and ends with “You were a presence full of light upon this Earth and I am a witness to your life and to its worth” other than the fact that John Darnielle hasn’t lost his ability to create jaw-dropping prose.
These moments are snuggied in between bits of flat up-tempo yawners and thinly arranged bits of religious pathos
“A kind and loving God won’t let my small ship run aground” he sings on “Romans 10:9” and there’s a certain amount of truth to that on The Life Of The World To Come. While Darnielle certainly hasn’t run aground with the latest Mountain Goats’ offering, the bible certainly didn’t steer him towards greatness.

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Lou Zoom

Wow. I don't know what to make of this.
Not so much the idea of an IPhone application that helps old people, but that Lou Reed is marketing it and in some ways leading people to believe that he developed it.
Yes, it's Lou saturated in color to hide his wrinkles promoting an application that zooms your IPhone contacts.
Nothing wrong with that...but Lou Reed?
It's neither funny nor all that motivating; do they really think that Lou in oversized glasses and poking a $300 phone with a Japanese Sai is good marketing?
And the name Lou Zoom? Reeks of his ego more than a memorable name for an app that may indeed have a market.

Friday, April 2, 2010

OCD Chronicles: Black Crowes-"Good Friday"

Not a true OCD moment as this song hasn't been repeating in my head for days on end like other entries to this personal series. But since today is Good Friday, this Black Crowes classic is spinning internally.
The same thing happens on Christmas (Big Star's "Jesus Christ"), the 4th of July (Bruce Springsteen's "Independence Day"), and Halloween (Sonic Youth's "Halloween") and all of these moments are obscure enough that most people have no idea when I belt out
I will not forget you
Nor will I except the blame

How this song (from Three Snakes And One Charm didn't gain the band automatic entrance into the classic rock vaults is one of life's great mysteries-indeed, the band has a bunch of potential classics that curiously didn't get airplay even though their DNA is filled with AOR lineage.