11/12/2017

Drown In This

QUICKSAND
Interiors
[Epitaph - 2017]


Comparisons are frequently made when discussing music, whether it’s critics giving readers a point of reference or the audience using elements of an artist’s sound or style as shorthand in an effort to dissuade or entice fellow listeners.

In an admittedly superficial way, this came to mind when taking into account the similarities between ‘90s favorites Quicksand and My Bloody Valentine. While the latter exploited a new formula and ended up with a masterpiece, the former made the best of an established format, with some great moments along the way. But then there’s the shared circumstances: difficult followup recording sessions; crippling internal tensions; stopgap reunions; and of course, the 22 year gap between albums two and three.

Conversely, while the return of MBV, third record in tow, was treated as a major event, it can be argued that only the most diehard and faithful among the followers of the influential NYC post-hardcore unit led by the great Walter Schreifels were patiently awaiting the third installment of this particular saga. But in an interesting twist, Quicksand’s album is the one truly worth the wait.

With Interiors the band has attained that elusive duality of having one foot in an illustrious past while expanding the horizons of their sound. It’s quite evident that Schreifels’ stint in Rival Schools during Quicksand’s breakup and his brief foray into the singer/songwriter realm have informed the melodicism of this collection of songs. But the wallop that anchored their first two albums is ever-present across the board, even in Interiors’ most ethereal moments. Yes, indeed.

If Quicksand can manage to keep their past internal dissonance in check and go for the long haul, their future is most certainly one worth looking forward to. Welcome back, gents.

Highlights: Lead off track and first single “Illuminant”, “Under the Screw”, “Warm and Low”, “Cosmonauts”,  “Feels Like A Weight Has Been Lifted” and the title track.

11/09/2017

Mossy Elixir: Rolling Stone at 50

"You're probably wondering what we're trying to do. It's hard to say: sort of a magazine and sort of a newspaper. The name of it is Rolling Stone which comes from an old saying, ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss’. Muddy Waters used the name for a song he wrote. The Rolling Stones took their name from Muddy's song. "Like a Rolling Stone" was the title of Bob Dylan's first rock and roll record. We have begun a new publication reflecting what we see are the changes in rock and roll and the changes related to rock and roll."

So stated publisher Jann Wenner in the November 9, 1967 inaugural issue of his magazine.  A lot has transpired over the subsequent five decades. For much of that time it was incredibly powerful and influential, anointing stars and prolonging careers, while nurturing a small army of talented writers who left their stamp on topics ranging from pop to politics. (A couple of whom, particularly Matt Taibbi, rescued the magazine from total irrelevance in the ‘00s.) When it was good, it was very good. And for a long stretch the magazine deserved its exalted reputation as the mainstream's go-to source for rock and pop culture with a splash of politics. But, along the way, the missteps piled up and at times in a seemingly tone deaf and almost deliberate manner. That its online comments section—regardless of the topic at hand—has become a nest of often disgusting vitriol-spewing for a significant number of reactionary conservatives, is as far removed from its hippie, San Francisco origins as one can imagine.

Rock and roll’s diminishing stature as youth culture’s lingua franca, not to mention physical publishing’s economic woes have sent many other competitors to their graves. Yet Rolling Stone lingers on. How much longer? “We’ll see”, said the blind man.

[Above: Rolling Stone no. 980, Aug. 11, 2005]

9/19/2017

Rocking in the Name Of

PROPHETS OF RAGE 
self-titled 
[Fantasy/Concord - 2017] 

Pop is more disposable than ever. Hip hop is the new ‘hair band’ nonsense. And rock—at least its mainstream iteration—is pretty much dead. So with today’s young bucks too busy marketing their clothing and fragrance lines to care about standing for anything else during these turbulent times, it's a good thing to have a bunch of old farts willing to step up and embrace what used to be the province of disaffected youth: the voice of anger and discontent. And not a moment too soon.

Expanding on the Rage Against the Machine formula of pairing knockout riffs with socially conscious lyrics by supplementing them with funkier grooves and more weed friendly lyrics, the rap/rock supergroup sextet demonstrates once again how the much maligned hybrid could be transcendent in the right hands—and with B-Real and Chuck D on the mic, backed by the instrumental RATM powerhouse, one could not ask for better custodians.

Truth be told, this perhaps isn't the long awaited 4th RATM studio album of original material. And, consequently, reactions across the music-crit intelligensia have been lukewarm or dismissive of these middle-aged, musical provocateurs, as they give a pass to the current Nero-like pop and rock and rap stars who can’t be bothered to be artists. Pay no attention to that noise; that’s all about profits. What we have here are prophets. And yes, they do indeed rage.

Highlights: “Hail to the Chief”, “Unfuck the World”, “Who Owns Who", “Smashit”.

3/20/2017

Today in Music History (March 20)

1969 John Lennon marries Yoko Ono at the British Consulate Office in Gibraltar. Lennon details this event--and his and Ono's subsequent bed-in--on The Beatles' "The Ballad of John and Yoko".

1973 - Slade hit No.1 on the UK singles chart with "Cum On Feel The Noize", the group's fourth UK No.1.

1977 -T Rex play their final ever gig.

1982 - Joan Jett And The Blackhearts begin their seven week run at the No.1 spot on the US singles chart with "I Love Rock 'n' Roll", a No.4 hit in the UK. The song was written and originally performed by The Arrows.

1991 - Michael Jackson signs a $1 billion contract with Sony, the richest deal in recording history.

Today's birthdays include...producer/dub icon Lee "Scratch" Perry (81); guitar great Jimmie Vaughan of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan (68); and Stray Cats drummer Slim Jim Phantom (56).

3/16/2017

Today in Music History (March 16)

1948 - Billie Holiday is released from prison early because of good behavior.

1974 - During a US tour Elvis Presley plays the first of four nights at the Midsouth Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee. He hadn't played his hometown in over a decade.

1977 - After being with the label for just six days the Sex Pistols were dropped from A&M. 25,000 copies of "God Save The Queen" were pressed and the band made £75,000 ($127,500) from the deal.

1992 - During a Metallica gig at Orlando Arena fans dangled an usher by his ankles from the balcony as trouble broke out at the concert. The band were charged $38,000 for repairs and cleaning after the audience trashed the building.

2010 - A rare Led Zeppelin recording from the group's 1971 gig at St Matthew's Baths Hall in Ipswich, England was unearthed at a flea market. The bootleg copy of the audio from the group's gig on November 16th 1971 was picked up for just "two or three pounds" by music fan Vic Kemp.


Today's Birthdays include...Heart guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Nancy Wilson (63); Public Enemy's own Flavor Flav (58); singer/songwriter Tracy Bonham (50); and Van Halen bassist Wolfgang Van Halen (26).

What We're Listening To...

Field Music is a British band that has been around for over a decade now. Tones on Town is our fave of theirs.

• Of the two brothers in Field Music (both are multi-instrumentalists) one records on his own as School of Language. The album Sea from Shore is in the same vein as Field Music but a tad less polished, in a good way.
 

The Holy Fuck are Canadian dudes whose music can probably best be described as instrumental electronica played with (analog) instruments. Latin is very cool. "Red Lights", "Latin America" and "Lucky" are our fave tracks.

• Ex-Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes' Matador is one of the best records we've heard in a while. Probably better than anything his old band ever did.

Martin Courtney is from a Brooklyn via NJ band you may have heard of called Real Estate. His solo record Many Moons is mellow, singer/songwriter fare but lively, with some breezy tunes.

3/14/2017

Paupers, Pirates and Pop Stars

HOW MUSIC GOT FREE: 
A Story of Obsession and Invention
Stephen Witt
[Penguin - 2015]

Witt chronicles the invention of the mp3, the widespread music piracy it made possible, and the response from both the music industry and law enforcement to these developments. Interestingly, Witt’s portrait of the music pirates, for the most part, falls into either trying-to-be-cool (as in the infamous Rabid Neurosis group that disseminated thousands of albums over its decade run) or the altruistic but legally na├»ve (ex: Oink’s Pink Palace, which counted NiN’s Trent Reznor among its members) yet fails to achieve sympathy for any of them. (In case you're wondering, Napster is barely mentioned, which makes complete sense within the context of Witt's narrative.)

The music business is ostensibly represented by Doug Morris, one of the most colorful and successful executives the industry has ever known. Morris’ rise depicts how the alternately greedy, embarrassed and ultimately successful in its own way music business still manages to exert an imposing influence despite a decimated marketplace (100+ million CDs were sold in 2016, down from 500+ million a decade prior).

How Music Got Free is an informative and, at times, a compelling read; one whose best attributes, arguably, are depicting how across-the-board greed and stupidity does not affect everyone equally, regardless of intent or milieu; and how the battles for copyrights and preservation of intellectual properties in this seismic market and paradigm shift (streaming services are the number one method of consuming music these days) left artists to suffer the financial consequences. As one of the top former pirates himself responds, when asked about his listening habits these days, "I have a Spotify account like everybody else."

2/14/2017

Sister's Gonna Work it Out

Never been big on Beyonce and can't really see what the fuss is all about. But the fuss has been undeniable: not since Madonna in her decades-ago heyday has a female pop artist garnered the devotion of the masses like Mrs. Carter has, which also includes a significant amount of critical admiration, as well.

But Beyonce's fans have so much emotional investment in her career that her perceived snub at this past Sunday's Grammy awards exploded into as far reaching areas as treatises on how the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, aka the Grammys, by failing to properly recognize the greatness of Beyonce's most recent album, have put into question the role of the popular black artist in our society and how...

Oh, please. Calm the fuck down. So the Grammys goofed. Big deal.

I am not for a second defending whatever faux pas the Academy made in this particular case, but being surprised about this is akin to discovering that it snows in the Northeast in February. Deserving artists are snubbed year after year. It happened to Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Bob Marley's children have waaaay more Grammys than he ever got. And we all know how Jethro Tull was once infamously awarded Best Metal Performance (?) over Metallica. (For those unaware, JT isn't even a metal band.)
 
YMMV, of course, but being disappointed about Grammy awards is too much of an investment for anyone.

2/13/2017

Quote of the Day: 'Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip'

"People for some reason, and this happens, had been sharpening their knives for Aaron Sorkin and I don’t know why. It’s like you’re about to give birth and people are standing around and the baby is born and immediately they start saying, 'Why is he crying? Why isn’t the baby standing and talking? You’re not a good parent!' And that’s what they did to Studio 60, they immediately leapt on this new creation and immediately compared it to West Wing and any other movie he’d done..."

- Actor Steven Weber from the cast of Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on the unfair attacks that led to the demise of the show.

Pop Life (and death)

Here's something to ponder: a significant portion of music fans under the age of 25 barely know who Prince is. Sobering, huh? The go-to explanation is that the young folks who consume music via YouTube or streaming services aren't that hip to the late Minneapolis Monarch because the man was no fan of these platforms and made sure his music wasn't featured on them. No more. As of yesterday, Grammy Sunday, Prince's catalog will be available via Amazon Music, Napster (?!), Pandora and Spotify

On the one hand, any opportunity for people to discover this legendary artist's music is a beautiful thing. However, one can’t help feeling kinda weird about something he vehemently opposed in life now being a reality, less than a year after his death. Hmm…