Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

In case you're wondering, my kids will be Trick or Treating tonight as Cindy Lauper and the lead singer of Krokus.

Here's a sweet rendition of "Scary Monsters" featuring Bowie macking on Gail and Reeves Gabrels just killing it on the guitar.

Scary good indeed.

If I recall, this is from some MTV show in the late 90's when Bowie records began having another resurgence in quality. I remember that the show actually had someone else scheduled to appear-another big name who cancelled the day of the show.

They call up Bowie who was on tour and asked if he could fill in, to which he did and ultimately ruled the occasion.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Singles 45's and Under: Aerosmith - Uncle Salty

Aerosmith began as a single for me.

“Dream On” to be exact, released a few years after it appeared on the debut.

Released when the iron was hot after the release of Toys In The Attic, “Dream On” was all over the radio that year. The flip side was another song off of the debut, “Somebody.”

I liked both songs enough to pick up another single, this time “Walk This Way.”

As awesome as it is, I was also drawn to the flip side, “Uncle Salty.” Sometimes a friend from the neighborhood would come over to my house when the weather was bad and we’d fart around and look for things to do. A favorite for me was “Uncle Salty,” where I’d put a lot of emphasis on the creepy line “Oooh, it’s a sunny day outside my window” of the chorus.

It wasn’t until college that I actually bought the full-length of Toys In The Attic. A guy I knew at college suddenly found God in the form of a girl who was herself a heavy Christian.

Evidently, she pulled out an ultimatum, telling him that his extensive collection of rock and roll cds had to be reduced, particularly the ones she felt were immoral.

Now all of this was explained to me by this guy, who went on to offer me the unbelievable price of $4 a cd if I wanted to help remove some of the offending titles.

I chose Aerosmith’s Get Yer Wings, Toys In The Attic, and Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime.

I also bought a couple of Marillion 12” singles.

He asked if he could buy those back a few months later. When I asked him why he had a change of heart, he went on to explain that the Christian girl when back with her boyfriend, leaving my acquaintance in the cold.

In retrospect, I probably should have offered to return the 12” Marillion singles. He liked them more than I ever did and he probably needed them more too.

But I wanted to teach him a lesson to not discount the music that fueled his experiences, and for him to cheapen it because of a girl’s lame brain idea or to demonstrate that the music doesn’t hold power over him was ludicrous.

He also drove a Yugo.

We didn’t speak much after that, but I have a strange suspicion that he’s probably right where I left him a few decades before: still in the basement of his parent’s home.

Check out the rip of The Beatles "I Want To Tell You" in it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Steven Tyler Distracts Media From Suspected Drug Use By Knocking Out His Teeth

I listened to Aerosmith Rocks today, and a short while afterwards I was farting around the intertubes and ran into article that referenced how Steven Tyler’s recent slip in the shower in South America was not caused by a slippery tub.

The suggestion was that Tyler has fallen once again into the wonderful world of narcotics once again, but the suggestion seems to have sparked Steven to respond swiftly and firmly that this was just a simple case of food poisoning.

Between this and the god-awful Axl “Tiny” Rose performance in front of a million people below the equator, South America has become quite the cash cow for aging hard rockers. Evidently, they’re willing to pay top dollar to see these artists, even when they’re well past their prime to which Aerosmith is a part of.

The band has become so relevant at this point in their career that the feuding reported between Tyler and guitar Joe Perry seems downright silly since the band doesn’t seem to be operating like a modern rock unit at this point.

But when it comes to living in the past, Aerosmith does a great job of milking every single dollar out of their aging clientele for one more walk through of “Sweet Emotion.”

Ten bucks says these guys don’t even travel together anymore; I’ll bet that Tyler’s got his own accommodations, putting him in an isolated spot that, even if the fall was due to using, none of the other band members would have be reliable witnesses to unusual antics.

But pictures speak a thousand words, don’t they.

Take a look at Axl's latest GnR line-up and how they tackle "Welcome To The Jungle."

It's almost unlistenable.

He's out of breath. Out of tune. And out of his mind if he thinks this level of blind support will last for very long with performances like this.

I can't believe that bearded guitarist has a job after this show.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Duran Duran Live In Chicago

After Duran Duran’s refreshingly retro All You Need Is Now released earlier this year, I’ve been seeking an opportunity to see the band live, curious to learn if these New Romantics could still translate their youthful exuberance on stage.

What I wasn’t expecting was how their youthful exuberance would ultimately be trumped by the crowd, a demographic that would ultimately be referenced by their Twitter feed (more on this later) as “M.I.L.F.-tastic.”

Yes, at least ¾ of the crowd would be of the female persuasion and, yes, at least ¾ of those ladies were 35 or older. But you would have lost at guessing the collective age of the crowd if you had closed your eyes and listened to how loud these ladies screamed the moment the band took to the stage for Friday night’s sold out performance at the Chicago Theatre.

Within seconds, the female contingency reverted to a room full of 14 year-old girls and on several occasions, their volume exceeded the band's.

It was slightly offsetting at time, particularly when Duran Duran used their perfectly composed set list to convey a sense of lineage with art rock influences while apeshit fans couldn’t remember how to use the toilet properly.

I shit you not: my wife reported back to me that the lady in front of her in the bathroom became so excited at the opening chants of “Please please tell me now!” as she entered the stall that she simply pissed all over the toilet seat and left it for my wife to negotiate.

While the lack of civility upset my wife, it only added to my environment. Suppose this woman was a lawyer just hours before? Was this the same kind of behavior she displayed a quarter century ago after a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine and a cassette of Arena?

My mind pondered the possibilities.

All of this was fueled by Duran Duran’s blatant attempt at making sure the show would be the polar opposite of what the crowd probably wanted it to be: a nostalgic trip that featured only the hits.

In fact, bassist John Taylor asked the rhetorical question “Who says nostalgia can’t be fun?!” at one point, treating it like a bumper between the healthy amount of new material right before starting on another one of their endless hits from the 80’s.

The funny thing is that it worked, thanks in large part of how All You Need Is Now acts just like an outtake from Rio or Seven and the Ragged Tiger.

Their stage featured kinetic lighting, most which mimicked old school led displays and color schemes. Above the stage were four hologram masks where they displayed male faces, the chick on the Rio cover, and-for the artsy “The Man Who Stole A Leopard”-a woman who transformed into a creepy leopard face before the end of the song.

Musically, the band was spot-on with Roger Taylor propelling the unit with metronomic qualities. He was quite impressive as was John Taylor in his low-end duties and silver-streaked hair. Nick Rhodes remained stoic and expressionless, save for the band presentation moment where LeBon called out his name and the ladies squealed, causing Rhodes to give up a smile.

Simon, not to be outdone, had the crowd yell out his name during the roll call. And when that wasn’t good enough, he had them do it again after asking “What’s my full name?!” He looked smashing with his new facial hair and he wasn’t afraid to get a tad political at a few points during the set.

For “Ordinary World,” he offered a dedication to all of the troops coming home from the withdrawal of Iraq. At another point, Simon requested that George Bush and Tony Blair be tried for war crimes, causing a few noticeable boos from parts of the theatre.

But before anyone could get too political, Duran would crank up another pop gem and the crowd eagerly fell in line.

The only drag on the set came during one of my least favorite Duran songs of all time: the instrumental “Tiger Tiger.” For some reason, the band chose this song to introduce a momentum stopping Twitter interlude where attendees could tweet their thoughts to the band and the messages would appear on a screen behind them.

So essentially, we got to hear a brief intermission piece while people in the floor section (it was a bit fuzzy in the balcony seats) could read things like “Damn I look good tonight!” and “John is so HOTTT!!!” from their neighbors.

Thankfully, “Tiger Tiger” was the only setback (unless you encountered poor manners in the ladies room too) that I could find with Friday’s performance. If anything, Duran Duran demonstrated the right way to avoid the nostalgic trappings of a band that could easily fall into the hands of revival tours and state fair circuits. They’ve chosen to abridge their newer material with the best parts of their past making a seamless setlist of old and new.

Score one for Duran then, and while the crowd may need some work in order to match the band's perfect blend of nostalgia vs. modern chic, the first item a certain fan should follow is "If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie and wipe the seatie."


Before The Rain>Planet Earth
A View To A Kill
All You Need Is Now
Blame The Machines
Come Undone
Safe (In The Heat of the Moment)
The Reflex
The Man Who Stole A Leopard
Girl Panic
Is There Something I Should Know?
Tiger Tiger
Careless Memories
Leave A Light On
Ordinary World
Hungry Like The Wolf
(Reach Up For The) Sunrise


Wild Boys>Relax

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise

Monday, October 24, 2011

No Age - Everything In Between

Age and nostalgia have nothing to do with it: what No Age does pales in comparison to what has been handed down before. Moreover, it was more rebellious, more dangerous, and it didn’t have the luxury of working in the wake of a few dozen pioneers benefiting from clever genre titles.

Speaking of: No Age’s third record is better than its tightly wound predecessor Nouns because it’s taking some risks at widening their noise-rock roots and putting those bits of distortion, scratches, and squawks into neat little boxes of verse-chorus-verse.

It’s a blast, for sure, particularly with the rapid-fire “Fever Dream,” a three and a half minute blast of Sonic Youth expressway with a chorus consisting of nothing more than guitar sirens.

“I want to steal everything from you” goes a line from the album closer “Clem Trails,” and No Age makes no secret of the blatant influences that abound in this record. The band lifts, steals, and plagiarizes to the point where I’m sure there are kids spinning this record today who are hearing it as groundbreaking stuff.

It’s not, but it is progress for these two and it’s good enough to encourage them and their muse to lift freely from the SST Superstore.

The hooks are loaded in front, and as Everything In Between proceeds ahead, the songs get noticeably more heady and intriguing.

Members Randy Randall and Dean Allen Spunt starts fucking around with guitar loops and shoegaze patterns on the instrumental “Dusted” before leading into another worthy vocal-less “Positive Amputation.” Over a slow piano, a wall of distorted guitar repeats four notes until a lengthy fade-out begins.

It’s off-shoots like these that give Everything In Between a nice start to finish feel. No Age clearly have seen that the key to their relevance is through longevity, and with noise-rock stomps clearly having a very limited self-life, the duo have begun focusing on making more than what their original formula allowed.

It’s less about “growing up” or “maturing” and more about coming to terms with the idea that there’s very little chaos left in merely replicating the noise of No Age’s forefathers

This review originally appeared in Glorious Noise.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

No Age Documentary

A bit of press that fell through the cracks last month.

"Renowned filmmaker/photographer Todd Cole and experimental art-punk duo No Age joined forces to create and document a unique performance for the band's "Inflorescence." Cole and No Age were paired as part of a series of creative collaborations fostered by the Levi's Film Workshop, a temporary creative film production facility housed inside the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles.

Todd Cole and No Age are LA-based creative pioneers. Cole is a filmmaker/photographer, whose work has been exhibited internationally at galleries, museums and festivals and featured in publications ranging from the New York Times to i-D. No Age is the duo of Dean Spunt and Randy Randall, they are on a constant journey to explore the furthest reaches of sound. They set out with one particular rule in mind: To write songs that we would be psyched to listen to. They have been been at the epicenter of the DIY art-punk scene in LA, now famously known as having its epicenter at The Smell, a clubhouse where art-life/music-life welded and inspired a creative movement and attitude which has fertilized a purple patch of likeminded punkers and artists around the globe.

The No Age performance took place inside the Film Workshop, marking the close of the Film Workshop and celebrating MOCA's "Art in the Streets" street art exhibition, a groundbreaking show that saw over 200,000 visitors, breaking all attendances records in the museum's history."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's Discord And Rhyme

I have to get out more often.

The band that opened for Duran Duran last night had a #13 Platinum single from last year.

I only noticed because some members of the crowd perked up when they played it, proving that singles evidently to get noticed by some people.

Neon Trees is a four piece with a touring guitarist that is on stage with them, while being noticeably behind the four actual members.

I often think that being a touring guitarist must be one of the more shittier jobs in the world of rock music. Somewhere between roadie and video producer.

Their music was good enough for me to at least check them out on Wikipedia, and it’s there when I first noticed.

That underneath all of that new wave hair gel and faux Mohawk of lead singer Tyler Glenn is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I drew up this neat joke suggesting that they should team up with Edgar Winter before I realized that Edgar is into Scientology and not a Mormon.

You can check out their video to that aforementioned hit to see if you’re a fan, but musically I can only take too much sugar before my teeth hurt.

Plus the dude really went overboard with his Duran Duran worship.

The best moment was when Glenn was going on and on about how much the music of the 80’s meant to him, name-checking bands like The Cure, Duran Duran, The Smiths….until he was interrupted by a guy who screamed “Flock of Seagulls.”

“I heard that…” shot back Tyler, before prancing over to the other side of the stage.

There’s a full review of the Duran set still to come, but here are some observations:

• The women in attendance managed to drown down the band at some points, both in cheering and in singing. There were moments where they hurt my ears.
• Most couples consisted of women dragging their sorry-assed men to the show, a few reluctantly. The rest of the men actually knew a few Duran Duran songs and would dance a bit during the popular songs.
• There was one couple-the kind with the reluctant spouse who didn’t give a rat’s ass about the band-that sat in the aisle ahead of us. The gentlemen was an African-American in his mid-50’s, and it was painfully obvious that he was dragged kicking and screaming to the show. I kept making up bits of dialog in my head, pretending to be the voice of this man, usually involving a bit of dialogue like “Look at these dumbass English crackers with their lipstick and eyeliner.” The couple left before the set ended.
• The chick in her thirties next to my wife kept hitting m’lady with her butt. She didn’t like it while I certainly didn’t see the harm in it.
• The suggestion to hit the assailant back with a good old fashioned pillow fight back at our room in the Hyat didn’t go over too well.
• There was a dude in his fifties at the front of the stage who referred to himself as Beyonce when Simon put the microphone near his mug.
• Everyone stayed put for the most part during the new stuff, with a bit more noticeable smartphone activity until a more famous song showed up.
• A bunch of Duran fans turned into Republicans.
• Or maybe they were Reagan fans back in the day.
• My wife and I had a complete role reversal than the rest of the couples in the crowd. While most wives dragged their husbands to the festivities, I dragged my wife.
• After the show, my wife was overheard stating “I didn’t know they did “Ordinary World.’”
• They added Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” in the middle of “Wild Boys.”
• Fans in the crowd did the repeats at the end of “the figureheads have fell, fell, fell” just like the song.
• The Best Song they did was “Leopard” off the new one.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Madonna's Sex Book!

Madonna’s book Sex was released on this day in 1992.

My girlfriend at the time bought a used copy of it. The $50 price tag was heavy on our radio “personalities,” but I’m guessing that nowadays, that $50 investment must be worth something in the form of a sealed copy.

Not that we would have left it sealed. The idea of nude pictures of Madonna would have been exciting for both of us.

I may have indeed teased her about the idea of a “book” by Madonna, and the ammunition of having Vanilla Ice in the book was positively deadly.

He was well beyond his shelf-life by that point while Madonna was rejuvenating her career for the third time.

It’s hard to believe that this type of nonsense was considered controversial back then. Then again, now that I’m a parent I can see the restrictive point of view quite clearly. Just a few days ago, I was scolded for channel surfing and stopping on Tosh.0 in front of the children.

Meanwhile, an open copy of Sex lay on the coffee table.

Even though that old girlfriend kept her copy of Sex after we split, it doesn’t mean that I haven’t looked for another copy for myself on eBay.

It’d be a hoot to gander through that book now.

And it’d be scary to consider that the people in those images now have a couple of decades added to their flesh.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mouth Bleeding...Pants Unbuttoned

Here's a letter I wrote at work today.

The incident and the people involved are totally fictional.

I'm not easily riled at work, but sometimes people deserve a little bit of insanity for the way they treat other people who are trying to help them.

And then there are people who show up in the news for something stupid they did while drunk.

For that, I'm happy to share the incident with their parents in the form of a letter.

It's worth the 44 cents.

George XXXX
XXX N. Governor St
Iowa City, IA 52245

XXXXX Mayher Dr.
Orland Park, IL 60467


Last week,your son James kept hitting me about the face, intensely intoxicated, and would not provide me with any reason of why he was using violence against me. He would swear at me right before using a closed fist to strike me. Two teeth came out after it was all over; my dentist will replace them with artificial ones, but I would just like to know why he beat me.

I’ve never met your son before. Why does he hate me so? Why did he hit me? What have I ever done to him?

I couldn’t leave my home for three days. I was an emotional wreck. The headaches passed after the fourth day, but the mental trauma is too deep to leave me. I keep thinking he’s watching out for me behind the tree, ready to pounce.

For a moment as he was hitting me, I could see in his eyes that he would have continued to punish me had he not gotten up and ran back into a local tavern. I gathered my things that I dropped after the first punch knocked me down and went home. I put my broken teeth in my pocket in case the dentist needed them.

Please, make him come home so that I can walk the streets of my town without fear of his vicious retribution against me. I don’t even know him, but I’m sure he will strike again, lashing out at me for God knows what. I’m dreadfully frightened and I’m sure my next beating will be more severe.

I just don’t understand why this young man has chosen me as his victim.

I pray that he will stop punching me. I fear my heart will stop after his next attack.

Any help you can provide would be appreciated.


George XXXX

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Whatever, Nevermind

I dragged my ass writing this piece.

Each attempt ended in some cynical bit that tried to wash over how vital Nevermind was or it ended in some finger-pointing accusation, like it was the album’s fault that modern rock music doesn’t feel like it’s moved much from the record’s birth two decades ago.

And twenty-years ago feels like forever ago-you twenty-something will know this quicker than you think.

Everything seemed so black and white back then. You had those songs that you and your friends liked and then there were those songs that everyone else liked. The two never seemed to cross each other very much.

You heard songs on the radio and you understood that they were designed this way. The “design” was that there had to be some kind of pay-to-play provision to even get these songs on the radio. What else could be the reason why a song like Timmy T’s “One More Try” ended up at the top of the charts.

Surely, no one really bought these singles, did they?

For anyone who was noticing back then, you could see these “rules” change in the weeks following the release of Nevermind, and it’s an even that will probably never happen again in today’s fragmented and insolated musical platforms.

But I remember a time-perhaps naively-when it seemed like we won.

I don’t trust anyone who claims that they knew Nirvana would be huge after hearing Bleach. From what I remember after hearing it was how much more I liked Mudhoney.

I didn’t necessarily hate Bleach when it arrived at our university’s radio station, I just liked a bunch more records instead of it and my playlist during my evening shift at the station reflected it.

A couple of years later, the liberal playlist of the university station was traded for my first real full time job in the industry: a small-market top 40 station A half-year into the gig, I was promoted to the position of Music Director and given a raise of a dime an hour. I was told to mirror the charts of Radio & Records magazine, a trade publication and mirror our playlist of it. The guideline was that 10 of the songs should be from the top 10 of the A.O.R. charts, another 10 should be from the Top 40 charts, and the remaining 10 should come from the adult contemporary charts.

Since I was the station’s Music Director for only a few months, I followed the instructions pretty religiously I was more concerned with keeping that extra dime an hour than trying to lobby for up-and-coming hits that I personally liked.

Besides, there wasn’t a lot of appeal in my choices anyway.

One of the best parts of the position was that I was able to take a bunch of the promotional albums that we didn’t use and I’d trade them in for stuff that I wanted for myself.

About once a month, I’d take a bunch of stuff from the station and drive up to Iowa City to trade them in. I’d buy one disc for the station’s library to make it look legitimate, but make no mistake about it: these trips were designed primarily to fill out my own collection.

“Have you heard the new Nirvana album?” asked the record storeowner during a visit in September 1991.

Thanks to my experience with Bleach, I gave an ambivalent response.

That mood changed he put Nevermind into the store’s cd player. The opening chords-F.B.A.D.-a clever lift of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling.”

By the end of “In Bloom,” my copy had already been secured.

In my excitement, I immediately played Nevermind for my girlfriend. I was disappointed that she didn’t see the brilliance of it immediately out of the shrink-wrap. Instead, her first reaction was to comment on the album artwork.

“That’s not very nice to his fans!” she declared after staring at one of the sleeve photographs.

It was the picture of the band, out of focus, with Kurt giving the lenses a middle finger.

She felt that his pose was a slight to potential fans, an additional “Fuck you!” to the demand “Here we are now, entertain us.”

Personally, I thought it was awesomely appropriate.

I played it for a friend at work and within days he brought his copy to work.

“That hidden track at the end is awesome!” he told me.

“What hidden track?” I asked.

My friend instructed me to wait a few minutes after “Something In The Way” and a hidden track would begin playing.

I did as instructed, but after the last song on my copy played, my cd player stopped.

There was no “secret track” on my disc.

I used a contact in my Rolodex at work to make a quick call to Geffen Records. My promotional representative revealed that about 50,000 copies of Nevermind were initially shipped without the “secret“ song, “Endless, Nameless.”

That meant my copy was one of the initial pressings while my co-worker’s copy was the one released after the first pressing ran out.

Sure, my copy was a little rarer, but I was bummed that I didn’t get “Endless, Nameless.”

My friend was right: it was awesome.

The Geffen contact also advised that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would be released to Top 40 the following week.

By this time, MTV had some videos under a “Buzz Bin” distinction. Essentially, it was a select few videos that they began airing outside of their regular rotation, a spotlight of bands and songs starting to gain traction with the mainstream. It seemed that my little discovery was everyone’s little discovery, and most of those listeners who were quite content with what the mainstream was providing them were suddenly getting hip to this awesome anthem for the disenfranchised underground.

It transcended those early supporters, not so much because of the glossy Andy Wallace mix, but on the merits of the song’s power itself. Yet beyond this, I still didn’t think that it would be enough to pull the same audience that our own radio station catered to.

“Wouldn’t it be crazy if we added “Teen Spirit” to our playlist?” my friend suggested one day at work. I’d just gotten the “radio edit” of the song as my promotional guy warned me about.

For whatever reason, I never imagined that “Teen Spirit” would go beyond a Buzz Bin distinction, with a few daring rock stations adding it to their playlist. I thought that the song would be well received in larger markets, and I was envious that we couldn’t be a bit looser with our playlist.

At my station, the question “Will it play in Peoria?” was a legitimate one. And the last time I checked, Warrant just had a sold out show at an arena in Peoria.

The song leaped up the charts with the full-length not far behind in its trajectory.

I now had plenty of ammunition to add “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in case my Program Director questioned my decision. To be safe, I rigged it so that the song only played after 5:00 p.m.

In radio, they called this trick “lunar rotation.”

But we began receiving requests for “Teen Spirit” even during the waking hours, proving once again that the song was speaking more to just kids and young adults. It was turning into one of those generational touchstones, the kind that I’d read about in old Baby Boomer reviews and testimonials.

I was witnessing our generation’s own “Like A Rolling Stone,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand, and “Satisfaction.” There were moments before this when I considered such a modern equivalent existed, but nothing a definitive as Nirvana’s “Teen Spirit” and Nevermind.

Cobain, through one selfish act managed to call that assuredness into question somewhat, but I think now that it merely rattled my faith in rock music than diminished the power that Nevermind has. By questioning the merit of that album, I was-in some weird passive/aggressive manner-trying to distract the admission that I related so much to Nevermind, as did a bunch of people who I probably not share much else in common with.

And by pretending to ignore this record’s importance was in itself a defense mechanism that tried to somehow erase the fact that Cobain’s death profoundly impacted me.

That’s a discussion for another time.

I will admit that, prior to his death, I attempted to collect as much as I could Nirvana related. My faith presented every import and rarity as something I needed to collect.

After his death, those purchases stopped-as did listening to Nirvana’s music. Aside from the occasional radio moments, I haven’t listened to Nirvana in quite some time. If it’s the 20th Anniversary of Nevermind, my guess is that it’s probably been at least 15 years since I listened to the album in its entirety.

I have no plans to acquire the newly minted deluxe editions that are being released in the same manner of major label greed that I’m certain Cobain detested. But that’s my decision, and I have no beef with anyone who wants to pursue this new packaging.

For many years, I wondered about the band’s Madison sessions. I wondered if there was anything to Andy Wallace’s extra sugar, or if it was all some kind of half-hearted attempt by Cobain to shift the blame on why all of those mainstream carpetbaggers suddenly found a connection with mantras like “I swear that I don’t have a gun.”

Yeah, I was curious. But not to the point where I felt that I needed to re-purchase Nevermind to get a glimpse behind the scenes. The was the end result-the same record that I bought twenty years ago this month-that changed my life back then.

I can’t expect that anything in addition to that record will change my mind, and I doubt if a re-issue, or any record for that matter, will be able to replace those original feelings.

Such a task is impossible today. And judging by the gamut of emotions that Nevermind has given me over the past two decades, I’m not so sure that I want a record to impact me in the same way ever again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nevermind Nirvana: The 10th Anniversary of The Strokes' Is This It?

To rock and roll scribes, the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind has prompted a whirlwind of musings about the record over the past few months, present company included.

And while many writers reveled in the sheer nostalgia of the event, many of them seem too young to fully grasp the impact that Nevermind had on music upon its original release. It’s not that their thoughts aren’t warranted or worthy of your eyes, it’s just that most generations tend to look for their own cornerstones, and I began thinking about which albums released during their time of influence would be counted as vital documents of a younger cultural shift.

So get off my lawn, you kids, and let me return the favor with my own thoughts on which album you should replace Nevermind with.

One of the first albums that came to mind was Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Jeff Mangum’s frequently acknowledged classic concerning something about Anne Frank. I must confess, however, that I don’t really understand how or why this record has found its way into so many hearts.

While I would be more than willing to grant this album a five-star review based on its original arrangements and provocative attention bestowed on it, I wouldn’t go as far as to admit that it was immediately recognized as a record who’s influence was so great that it managed to change the course of rock music, even a smudge.

Its subject matter was too historic, its words too academic, and its music too obscure to really grab hold for a country of young musicians to follow the path that it laid out. Hell, even the name of the band screams equal parts inside-joke and pretentious word-play.

OK Computer by Radiohead is sited frequently, but at its core the record is another off-shoot of previous records from other artists in rock’s storied history. As much as I love OK Computer, I feel like spinning Wish You Were Here afterwards, simply because its lineage mirrors the very same classic rock albums that I grew up with.

Plus, it was released not very long after Nevermind, so maybe today’s young adults think of Radiohead in the same terms as I thought of Pink Floyd.
If it were up to me, I would choose a record that is also celebrating a notably anniversary this year: The Strokes Is This It?

The caveat I begin with is that in no way am I comparing The Strokes one-and as of this writing, only-masterstroke with Nirvana’s clarion call. As many scribes have correctly pointed out, Nevermind may be the last record that was album to change the course of rock music because it was the last record that was able to utilize the old-school paradigm.

And since radio has become an irrelevant delivery system, dead from the moment it was purchased by Clear Channel and homogenized from a home office thousands of miles away from its city of license.

And since MTV 86’d music content for Snooki, making all of those Teen Spirit cheerleaders that appeared in the video a relic to their generation only.

And since record labels viewed their customers as the enemies and chose to fight for the same level of profit that they’d always gotten from huge mark-ups.

And since all of these events happened, that old school paradigm is no longer gospel, making it impossible for any act to achieve the same kind of success that Nirvana experience, thereby eliminating any possibility for an event like Nevermind to take place again.

But for a moment in 2001, it looked as though The Strokes may be on to something.
A decade later, we’re still waiting for that confirming follow up, and based on the lackluster albums they released since that time, it doesn’t appear that the band is capable of living up to its original promise.

I would contend that, because of this, even the appeal of Is This It? Has suffered somewhat. We no longer view the record with the same enthusiasm as before, but does that make its impact less worthy?

Hardly. Whether your opinion of The Strokes or Is This It? Is enthusiastic or unfavorable, there’s little in denying that-for a brief moment-the band prompted an influx of like-minded bands or blatant rip-offs, all using the Velvet’s “What Goes On” rhythms underneath a bratty vocalist who wants little more than to get to your apartment.

Bratty is how we like our New Yorkers. Plus, we’d heard little from NYC rock unit for the better part of two decades before The Strokes turned their tiny rehearsal space into the archetypal Butch Vig sound of the new millennium.

And yeah, that sound was sorta important because by 2001, you could buy enough software for your laptop to make your own demos sound like they were done at Smart Studios. Is This It? Reminded us that even upper Middle Class brats needed to rehearse, and you can’t feign rock and roll legitimacy on looks alone.

Naysayers, I know you’re gonna tell me “That’s the problem!” that this band was created on hype alone. For me though-as someone who noticed The Strokes because of said hype-I’d suggest that it was authentic-at least in the beginning, because nowadays, I’m not sure if The Strokes have delivered enough to warrant that Spin cover shot, or even the lead review in your favorite mag.

But a decade ago, I can’t tell you how pleased I was with that first single, with the Capital mid-60’s swirl label and-more importantly-the 3 songs featured within short player. It sounded like the torch that the Velvets passed on to Television were finally getting passed on to the new millennium.

Finally! A new guitar rock band from N.Y.C. that I could feel good about while feeling all warm and fuzzy from those familiar guitar tones and Big Apple attitude.

The fact that they couldn’t keep it up with each subsequent release doesn’t make the debut shine less brightly, and the fact that-since we’re feeling all teary-eyed and retrospective this month, let’s not forget The Strokes’ anniversary for an album that briefly hinted that another cultural shift was getting ready to take place.

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Stooges Book Released: Head On-A Journey Through The Michigan Underground

There's a newly available American edition of The Stooges: Head On biography that's available in the U.S. after originally only being released in 2007 in the U.K.

Hopefully, there's an entire section completely devoted to why the band went from a trilogy of must-have records to a band with three must-have records and one ill-conceived reunion album produced by someone (ahem, Steve Albini) who should have known better.

The good news is that Scott Ashton participated for the update.

The bad news is that Scott Ashton only previous discussion was to try to convince Iggy how much his name sounded like "Rock Action."

Here's the press release:

The Stooges: Head On-A Journey Through the Michigan Underground

Written by Brett Callwood

Foreword by Alice Cooper

Afterword by Glenn Danzig

Published by Wayne State University Press

Size: 6 x 9, Pages: 200, Illustrations: 14

"With each 'Stooge' getting close to equal billing, Callwood's research results in a thorough exploration-and explanation-of the band's seismic importance to the
Detroit music scene. Interesting, amusing, and engaging, The Stooges: Head On will enlighten even the biggest Stooges fan. -TL, Rhythm

"The drugs! The debauchery! The decadence! The wild-man performances from Iggy Pop, a man with a taste for peanut butter-not to eat, but to smear on his chest-and broken glass, which he likewise worked into his flesh while on stage. It's all here in Brett Callwood's exhaustive account of the rise and demise of the Stooges, the Michigan band who effectively invented punk rock." -David Cheal, Telegraph

"It's a good book. I thank you for writing it." - Iggy Pop

If the MC5 were Detroit's political spokesmen for the disenchanted youth of the 1960s, then the Stooges were the loutish kids, heckling from the back of the room. While conventional wisdom says they could barely play their instruments, the Stooges left an indelible mark on the world of punk rock, and the band's initial three albums-The Stooges, Fun House and Raw Power-are bona fide classics. In The Stooges: Head On author Brett Callwood treats the band's story not just as an early chapter in the career of its famous front man, Iggy Pop, but from the Stooges' beginnings at the end of the 1960s, to its end in the early 1970s, and to its reunion in 2003 through the present.

"Writing a Stooges biography was a no-brainer for me," Callwood states. "My first book is about the MC5 and in researching that while still living in London, I had traveled to Detroit / Ann Arbor and fallen in love with the whole area and its music. I had made many friends and established many contacts that were and are associated with both the MC5 and the Stooges, so that made the process easier to get started. Also, when I wrote this book there wasn't a decent Stooges book on the shelves. There are a lot of Iggy books out there, but mine is the first full Stooges biography."

In compiling this exhaustive account of the band's history, Callwood interviewed all of the central and sometimes Stooges members, including Iggy Pop, Ron and Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Mike Watt, Steve Mackay, and Scott Thurston, and largely lets the band tell its own story in numerous long quotes. Callwood details the band's genesis as teenage friends in Ann Arbor, their time living together in their legendary party houses in the 1960s, and the recording of the three original Stooges albums. He examines the addition of James Williamson to the band on Raw Power and how it changed the band's sound and dynamic, along with the band's fateful meeting with David Bowie on its first British tour.

As Iggy broke out as a solo artist during the 1970s and 1980s, Callwood charts the Asheton brothers' post-Stooges experiences, with Ron's turns in The New Order, Destroy All Monsters, and Dark Carnival, and Scott Asheton's time with the Farleys and Sonic's Rendezvous Band. He also provides an overview of Iggy's solo career, the seeds of a reunion that were planted with a collaboration on Iggy's Skull Ring album, and the eventual reformation of the band and the recording of their fourth album, The Weirdness, in 2007.

Originally published in the U.K. in 2007, The Stooges: Head On has been revised to expand on the original story and also to consider Ron Asheton's untimely death in 2009 and his musical legacy, the band's fate without Ron, and the Stooges' long-overdue introduction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.

"Scott didn't want to talk at all for the first edition... He rarely does interviews," said Callwood. "However, after his brother passed away and I was writing for this American edition, he talked to me and really opened up. It was a very moving, humbling experience."

Wayne State University Press is a distinctive urban publisher committed to supporting its parent institution's core research, teaching, and service mission by generating high quality scholarly and general interest works of global importance. Through its publishing program, the Press disseminates research, advances education, and serves the local community while expanding the international reputation of the Press and the University.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Flaming Lips - I Found A Star On The Ground

For several weeks, I’ve been following a plethora of Lip tweets-primarily Wayne and Stephen’s tweets-concerning a song they’d composed that goes on for hours.

If you haven’t heard, the release schedule of the Flaming Lips circa 2011 is riddled with strange packaging and uninspired noodlings and pairings with like-minded psychedelic purveyors that neither inspire or do much justice to the Lips impressively good catalog.

The idea started as a 24 hour song-which I guess is still underway-and then it got whittled down to a 6 hour song for reasons only know to the band.

It was tweeted that they were having a bunch of trouble with the computers used to tweak and store all of this hard drive data, which should have surfaced as a digital warning that the band should just trash the entire idea as a pointless publicity stunt.

I mean, why not just focus another Skeleton walk for Halloween (which was cancelled this year, btw) and call it good?

On the surface, the six hour song-also know as “”Found A Star On The Ground”-sounds like a test of endurance-for both the creator and the listener. The illusion of four musicians sweating and aching over their craft, the shout “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!” comes to mind, but can you be really sure that meticulous performances and countless takes are nothing more than the point and click of a mouse-duplicating each rhythmic measure into endless loops?

You cannot, particularly with the Lips’ history of using tapes during live performances.

But I must confess that the song-barely available as a legitimate release and posted in three different segments via Soundcloud, is amazingly listenable.

Sure, “Found A Star On The Ground” is nothing more than a Steven Drozd piece looped ad infinitum for a few hours with a bunch of added bits and pieces added over the continuing patterns. It’s a work tape of meandering weirdness with moments of creative inspiration. It’s probably best under the influence, and there’s nothing that can save it from the weight of it’s own girth. But as far as pointless promotional drivel is concerned, wouldn’t you want to waste an entire day under the direction of the Flaming Lips?

The downside is that this once-a-month project that Wayne Coyne has conjured up is confusing epic motions with lasting worth. An occasional foray into the bizarre record industry is fine and it’s something that makes the case for the Lips place in rock history. But to overdo them only manages to place their impressive catalog into the realm of the ridiculous. It shortchanges what is an otherwise impressive history, with more than a handful of efforts rubbing shoulders with the title “masterpiece.” And by dumping out a quarter-days worth of music just for the sake of doing it, you’re only managing to shortchange the legitimately awesome albums the Lips have created.

Below is the massive release in its entirety thanks to the awesome Lips fan site, Slow Nerve Action.

The Flaming Lips - Found a Star on the Ground [Part One of Three] by Slow•Nerve•Action 3
The Flaming Lips - Found a Star on the Ground [Part Two of Three] by Slow•Nerve•Action 2
The Flaming Lips - Found a Star on the Ground [Part Three of Three] by Slow•Nerve•Action

Saturday, October 15, 2011

George Harrison: Living In The Material World

Nobody can question Martin Scorsese’s body of work, but there is growing evidence that his documentary work-specifically the films devoted to his generation’s pipers-is growing increasingly celebratory and decreasingly informative.

The word “forgettable” did not apply to a Scorsese film, but that is a good adjective for his last effort, Shine A Light, a late career concert documentary on The Rolling Stones. Shine A Light is not a very good indicator of how good the Stones were as a live unit, and it does not show them as anything but aging dinosaurs whose better days were well behind them.

He returns with Living In The Material World, nearly four hours of archival material pieced together to give us insight on this complex artist. The effort is deserved, as Harrison has probably been the most private of the members of The Beatles, with even his autobiography I Me Mine reading as a cherry-picked collection of memories that provide a basic overview of his life while not seeming overly concerned with digging too deep into touchy subjects.

Living In The Material World is no exception. Whether it is Scorsese’s own strategy or producer/spouse Olivia Harrison’s instructions to avoid controversial topics, the movie serves as a basic introduction to George while passing over his musical output with a vague eye.

You hear very little on the conflict between George and the rest of the Beatles, other than the common knowledge that his allotment of one song an album was beginning to be questioned.

Conversely, so little time is spent on his solo work the fact that after Harrison’s only post-Beatle masterpiece All Things Must Pass that there is little evidence to suggest that he had much to offer the music market after that record anyway.

Could it be that the dominance of Lennon/McCartney creativity during the Beatles prompted Harrison to work that much harder at his own craft and without it, he’d gotten lazy?

While I don’t expect a documentary to completely rail on the subject-particularly when the family is participating in its development-I do expect that it should be a fair representation of the subject.

Let’s be honest: I’m hard pressed to come up with an album’s worth of good George Harrison songs after All Things Must Pass and, to that point, even Scorsese agrees based on the song material he includes on this documentary. There is very little post-All Things Must Pass music underneath the endless praising and personal antidotes.

Even during the film’s first half, so much time is spent on explaining Stu Sutcliff’s role in the Beatle’s early development that you wonder, “Who is this documentary about?”

Added to this, the film spends an inordinate amount of time on John Lennon that you begin to wonder if Lennon’s own criticism of I Me Mine right before his murder made an impact on George’s life, to the point where the film goes out of its way on making sure John gets the proper credit.

And all of this makes you wonder if we really need four hours to tell the story of George Harrison.

Is, perhaps, the reason we knew so little about “the quiet Beatle” is because his first role was his finest? His comfort level and talents were best matched as the silent counter-balance to John and Paul and, without them, he began to notice the limitations of his own talents?

We’ll never know, particularly if Living In The Material World claims to be the definitive overview of George Harrison.

There’s a sticky feeling to it too, as we learn why Harrison felt such a connection to the Hindu religion, but we get little insight to the suggestion that Harrison was far from being the idealistic beacon that the film likes to hint at.

His friendship with Eric Clapton is given ample airtime, but very little is spent on the dynamic of Clapton’s approach to George’s first wife, Pattie, other than to describe the infidelity as nothing more than an off-shoot of the “freedom” within swinging London.

There is a bit of candid information at the end of Living In The Material World, when the severities of Harrison’s wounds resulting from the attack made on his life when an intruder stabbed him on New Year’s Eve, 1999.

Apparently, George was close to death after the attack and he is extremely lucky that his wife Olivia was there to beat the shit out of the assailant with a nearby fireplace poker.

All of this came after Harrison was undergoing cancer treatment, and there is a bit of suggestion that the attack also contributed to George’s health deteriorating, just before another cancerous growth was discovered.

The growth led to the Harrison camp getting involved with Dr Gil Lederman and his controversial cancer treatments in Staten Island. While there, Lederman managed to break the traditional doctor/patient role when the “good doctor” took Harrison’s frail hand to initiate a barely conscious autograph.

I use this story from the last days of Harrison’s life as an example. This may not have been the most glowing story of George’s life, but it was part of it and it serves as a perfect example of why Harrison shied away from the limelight that his career created. Even while he was dying, Harrison was forced to deal with fame when his primary focus should have been with his health.

It was a well-known story, but Scorsese leaves it for us to discover. And it makes us consider “How many other stories did Martin Scorsese leave out for the sake of making nice with the Harrison estate or for the sake of making his subject matter more like a deity?”

Friday, October 14, 2011

Kim And Thurston Break Up!

There is a good article over at, or at least as good as it gets when you read the news that Kim and Thurston are breaking up.

Ok, technically they’ve separated, but isn’t that always the precursor to the more-popular act of divorce, in this case the ubiquitous alterna-couple that have become the shining example for everyone else that cool people can still find each other, marry, have cool kids and live in a bizarre Ward and June Cleaver world of hipster middle age.

Serious, they were role models that made such an antiquated act seem kinda cool, an adjective for any example of a cool couple that weds.

They always seemed like two, strong-willed people who made room for each other both out of respect and out of a deeper connection (i.e. love). What a bummer if that wasn’t a little bit true, and what a bigger bummer if we’ve seen the end of Kim and Thurston as it related to a singular concept: a husband/wife team that-for at least seventeen years-was the epitome of being a role model for marriage.

And now that distinction falls on Iowa’s own Dave and Barb from House of Large Sizes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Are You Ready For Some Rednecks?

Hank Williams Jr. is harmless.

Yet his insensitive comments have triggered the 24 hour news cycle outlets into a frenzy of commentary, causing Bocephus’ camp to release a statement that make him look more like a big pussy than a Southern redneck.


This appearance would have done no damage to his fan base and the story would have been forgotten before Wednesday.

And well it should be. It’s Hank Williams Jr., after all.

The motherfucker took a face plant off a mountain over thirty-five years ago. It’s taken people that long to figure out that he doesn’t have brains left to know what he’s doing?!

Wait, let me clarify. He’s got enough sense to parlay an entire career off of his old man’s legacy-remember, he started out doing his daddy’s music like some kind of impersonator-until he used his own tragedy to transform himself into some kind of rebel-rousing Southern rock icon.

Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone should give two shits about what Hank Williams Jr. thinks about Obama.

If you were to ask me that question a day before his appearance on Fox & Friends, I would have guessed, “He probably doesn’t like him.”

But no. The planet is outraged and even the hosts of Fox & Friends look startled than Hank Fucking Williams Jr. said something completely stupid.

Have you fucking heard any one of his songs?!

True story: I used to work at a country radio station, one that featured a transplant Program Director who wanted to transform the station’s format into a playlist that more ladies could relate to.

In other words, it became this boring, almost adult contemporary station that played a lot of Kenny Rogers and very little real country.

I pressed him once after looking at a copy of Radio & Records, a trade magazine that every small-market radio station seemed to view as “The Bible,” after taking a look at the nationwide country music radio chart.

I noticed there were huge gaps in what we were playing versus what was on the country charts.

I also noticed this during my Sunday afternoon playlist where I spent the entire afternoon simply playing the Weekly Country Music Countdown show.

“That Hank Williams Jr. song is a big hit elsewhere. How come we don’t play it?” I asked.

“We’re trying to appeal to more women.” He explained before bluntly adding “And women don’t like that stupid redneck shit!”

From then on, Hank Williams Jr. was labeled as “stupid redneck shit” until I understood that there was a place for stupid redneck shit every so often, particularly if you’re a heavy metal band that’s trying to do something “ironic.”

And then Kid Rock came along and made Boshephus uncool again.

So no, I wasn’t shocked by anything that Hank Jr. said and I wasn’t surprised either.

ESPN acted like they were; they promptly removed him from the Monday Night Football promotional introduction which had millions of sports fans like myself yelling “It’s about time! That song is as overplayed as Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock” was when that piece of shit was used for Chevy truck commercials.

Realizing that Monday night football provides him with enough royalties and paychecks to knock off at least an entire half-year of casino dates, Hank Jr. grovels like a little Republican bitch trying to make it all go away.

My bet is that they have made enough of the "Are you ready for some football!" promotional bumpers that Hank Jr. will be back next week.

And our country’s news outlets will by then be focusing their lenses and microphones on the next dumbass.

To quote his son, Hank III "Most musicians aren't worthy of a political discussion."