1/01/2015

Retro Recycling

We recently found ourselves discussing the pitfalls of the current-day music business, when an acquaintance stated how, since the ‘90s, rock and roll has largely become stagnant by looking back instead of forward. Now, whether or not this is factual, it’s undeniable that rock and roll exists in a milieu that is uniquely rooted in the past as far as its immediate tools of the trade: vintage electric guitars—generally speaking, those that predate 1980 and have a significant market value—are quite expensive and their sales floor is at least $2000 and can reach house down payment figures; the most desired guitar amplifiers are tube powered, a technology that is utterly obsolete save for this particular exception; and the most sought after effects pedals are particularly designed to emulate sounds from 30+ years ago.

But it’s just not today’s established performers: how ‘bout the hobbyist? You know, the well-off doctor/lawyer/businessman who wants to recreate the sounds of his youth when he comes home from the office and/or on the weekend while downing a case of beer with some buddies, and for whom, in many cases, money is no object. You get a guy like Andy from Pro Guitar Shop emulating a classic Stones album track like “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’?” and that credit card is gonna come out of that wallet at blinding speed.

Bottom line: if you come up in an atmosphere where convenience is the dominant factor, you won't care about crappy sounding MP3s, financially compensating artists for their music, etc. And here's the thing: it's not a waste of time to preach these little nuggets to those who otherwise wouldn't know about 'em. Yeah, you might come across plenty of younger folks who will dismiss you as old crank, but you're likely to find people who will appreciate you turning them on to another way of approaching things.

12/30/2014

What We're Listening To

JELLYFISH Spilt Milk [Charisma]
PEARL JAM Ten [Epic]
THE POSIES Amazing Disgrace [DGC]
PREFUSE 73 One Word Extinguisher [Warp]
TODD RUNDGREN Runt [Ampex]

What are YOU listening to?

12/24/2014

2014: The Year in Review (Sort of)

Another 12 months, another abridged and personalized version of a yearly recap. Let’s get crackin’, shall we?

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
FLYING LOTUS You're Dead! [Warp]

When older music fans—in this case, anyone over the age of 35—complain about a dearth of compelling popular music, they are often told to dig a bit deeper past whatever the mainstream is offering and they'll be eventually rewarded. Aside from the fact that having to delve far below the surface is already a tacit indictment of popular music, the search has often been unimpressive and many a time fruitless for us. There are exceptions, of course. And Flying Lotus is a big one.


We're not gonna burden you with even more hype for Steven Ellison's outfit but when each album is more breathtaking than the last, while ably navigating thru such diverse terrain as In A Silent Way-era Miles Davis, Zappa-like fusion excursions, classic R&B, hip-hop, and electronica, the accolades are not just deserved and warranted but as intrinsic as the talent involved in creating these tunes.

FAVORITE ALBUM
SUN KIL MOON Benji [Caldo Verde]

In lesser hands, this could’ve easily turned into an embarrassing example of an hour’s worth of navel gazing, but Mark Kozelek is no stranger to the nakedly personal, and his deft touch makes his tales feel as familiar as a shared experience. Benji’s stripped down, mostly acoustic instrumentation and stark, yet vivid production manage to evoke a panoramic backdrop to his most honest record yet. 

Runner up:
Beck Morning Phase [Fonograf/Capitol]
TV on the Radio Seeds [Harvest]

MOST DISAPPOINTING ALBUM
YES Heaven and Earth [Frontiers]

For the last 20+ years every album released by the one-time prog rock kings comes across as little more than a weak attempt at recapturing a fire long ago extinguished. Each album, at best, Yes-like; self-parody at worst. Sadly, the new age-y Heaven and Earth—which in a bit of irony is more akin to a solo album by departed long-time vocalist Jon Anderson—is no exception.

Runner up:
U2 Songs of Innocence [Island]


MOST DISAPPOINTING DEVELOPMENT
Sia decides to become a pop diva.

There's already a glut of those. How 'bout a moving songstress, instead?

MOST PLEASANTLY SURPRISING ALBUM
PINK FLOYD The Endless River [Columbia]

The revamped leftover tracks
from the bland late '80s/early '90s
incarnation of the band are often
reminiscent of '70s Floyd classics
Meddle and Wish You Were Here 
and actually turned out to be 
a fitting tribute to late keyboardist Rick Wright.

CATCHIEST MEA CULPA
Weezer “Back to the Shack”

Rivers Cuomo decides to apologize on behalf of Weezer, himself and Gen-X for, in recent years, not “rockin’ out like it's ‘94”. You’re forgiven, dude. Ha!


BEST EXAMPLE OF A “BAIT AND SWITCH” SCENARIO
FOO FIGHTERS Sonic Highways [Roswell]

If you’re going to record an album in 8 different cities to highlight their influence on popular American music and soak up their respective vibes, putting out your standard run-of-the-mill FF record is not gonna cut it.

FAVORITE REISSUE
YO LA TENGO Extra Painful [Matador]

An expanded edition (2 CDs) of the New Jersey trio’s landmark 1993 album Painful and finest collection of songs, littered with rare goodies and extras.

BULLSHIT MUSIC BUSINESS DOUBLE STANDARD
The howling over U2's new album being downloaded to every iPhone by Apple. 

Was it, in hindsight, a bad move to give virtually every iPhone user a copy of the the Irish quartet's most recent album? Perhaps, seeing as haters would and did have a field day with this development. But these same folks would likely bitch and moan if U2 deposited $1,000 in their bank accounts, free and clear. Truth is, if these particular iPhone users woke up to find the latest release by Johnny Whatshisname on their phone, they'd surely wonder how it got there for all of five seconds, and then promptly erase it. But it was U2's new one, and since haters gotta hate...

UNFORTUNATE MUSIC BUSINESS TREND
Streaming services paying extremely miniscule royalties to artists while playing the 'altruistic victim' card.

“At least they’re not illegally downloading your songs” isn’t really a business model, bub.

FAVORITE DEVELOPMENT TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2015

New albums from Duran Duran, Noel Gallagher, Gang of Four, The Raconteurs (wishful thinking?), Smashing Pumpkins and, yes, Guns ‘N’ Roses

GOODBYE
Stooges drummer Scott Asheton; the great Bobby “Blue” Bland; GWAR's Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus; bassist extraordinaire Jack Bruce; jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd; Devo guitarist Bob Casale; Argentine rock icon Gustavo Cerati; singer Joe Cocker; founding member and bassist for Jethro Tull, Glenn Cornick; jazz/flamenco giant, guitarist Paco de Lucia; jazz keyboardist and producer George Duke; entertainment attorney and artist champion Don EngelPhil Everly of the legendary Everly Brothers; the one and only Cheo Feliciano; Big Star producer/engineer and mentor, as well as founder of Ardent Records/Ardent Studios, John Fry; original Foreigner bassist Ed Gagliardi; songwriting legend Gerry Goffin; acclaimed bassist/composer Charlie Haden; pioneering rapper Henry Lee Jackson aka Big Bank Hank of The Sugarhill Gang; guitarist Ronny JordanBobby Keys, saxophonist (Buddy Holly, John Lennon, Rolling Stones); Faces keyboardist and Rolling Stones collaborator Ian McLagan; producer Rick Parashar (Pearl Jam, Temple of the Dog, Alice in Chains, Dinosaur Jr.); Arrows songwriter/guitarist Jake Hooker (“I Love Rock and Roll”); Ramones original drummer, founding member and producer, Tommy Ramone; The Jazz Crusaders’ Joe Sample; American music icon Pete Seeger; jazz giant Horace Silver; singer/songwriter Sonia Silvestre; The Outfield guitarist John Spinks; Static-X frontman Wayne Static; revered drummer/teacher Sam Ulano; guitar legend Johnny Winter; the incomparable Bobby Womack.

12/23/2014

File Under: Fizzy Reading

BOB MOULD
See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody
(with Michael Azzerad)
[Little, Brown-2011]

Perhaps we went into See a Little Light a bit unprepared but we weren’t expecting Mould to dedicate a significant chunk of ink to his romances—long-term relationships, flings, one night stands and unrequited crushes, all reflected thru the prism of his awakening as a gay man—and his stint as a writer for World Championship Wrestling, when he could be delving into more details about the internal dealings of Hüsker Dü or, say, the making of Sugar’s Copper Blue or the impetus behind his creative process. The end result is approximately half of this tome coming across as unnecessary overshare.

And while he does cover the entirety of his professional career, we don’t learn much past the fact that Mould has made good money, maintains decades-long business relationships with his attorney and booking agents, and that anyone holding their breath for a Hüsker Dü reunion had best re-caliber their expectations in that regard. Overall, Mould could’ve shed a bit more light on his lengthy career and not so much on the peripheral, non-artistic aspects of his life.

12/14/2014

More Captain Obvious than Sgt. Rock

An old friend once asked if we thought the music industry was racist. We replied that, in our humble estimation, the biz cares only about one color: green. After all, how else do you explain Caucasian-run major labels that had no problem releasing records made by African-American artists denouncing “white devils”; seemingly concerned only with the financial bottom line? In other words, as long as the music was selling those so-called militant rappers could call their record company patrons—and other of the same ethnicity—whatever epithet they felt like.

Having a couple of our songs placed in a few indie films is pretty much the extent of our involvement in the film business—Hollywood experts we are not. But it stands to reason that an art by committee industry in which the final product is often focus grouped to death, would be all about maximizing profits. Which is why we were a bit confused by Chris Rock’s much talked about essay in the most recent issue of The Hollywood Reporter, in which he states the film business is “a white industry”, which largely hires its own, and that black and brown folks are a minority. Also, water makes things wet.

Of course, African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics are not as visible as Caucasians in Hollywood—we’re not as prevalent in overall numbers in American society either. Rock also states that he thought he'd never live to see "black movies making money" and "expected to make money on the same scale as everything else." So, what’s the problem? Now, if Hollywood would rather NOT make money than hire black and other minority folks, then we’ve got a ballgame. Otherwise...

12/08/2014

Luís "Terror" Días (Jun. 21, 1952 - Dec. 8, 2009)

What We're Listening To

JULIANA HATFIELD Bed [Zoe/Rounder]
MICHAEL HEDGES Beyond Boundaries: Guitar Solos [Windham Hill]
TALK SHOW self-titled [Atlantic]
CHRIS WALLA Field Manual [Barsuk]
YES Tales From Topographic Oceans [Atlantic]

What are YOU listening to?

John Winston Lennon (Oct 9, 1940 – Dec 8, 1980)

12/07/2014

Sometimes You Should Judge a Book by its Cover


 

JUDY GREER
I Don't Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star [Doubleday]

CAROL LEIFER
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying [Quirk]

AISHA TYLER
Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation [Harper Collins/It]

Let's start off with the good stuff: Tyler’s lifetime-spanning collection of personal and professional failures—a testament to bad judgement, fearlessness and, of course, stupidity—is sprinkled with blurb praise almost as funny and irreverent as its author’s often cringe-inducing stories. Meanwhile, Leifer’s brief tome is recommended by the likes of Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser, as the basic Mom Lit it happens to be. Tyler is witty and self-deprecating while Leifer’s showbiz self-help book is plain soporific and redundant. (Unless you weren’t aware that showering and being on time for a job interview is a good thing, that is.) Boring, uninformative and not very funny, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying is not much more than name dropping schlock. Good grief what dreck!

When Greer isn’t whining on and on about how people recognize her but can’t pinpoint exactly from what movie or TV show, or getting defensive about being an only child—a subject not very appropriate for someone pushing 40—I Don't Know What You Know Me From briefly touches on her family; growing up in suburban Detroit; the service industry jobs of her youth; her (sorta) long distance marriage with its attendant stepmom duties; and how little, if at all, she had to struggle in Los Angeles on her way to becoming a steadily employed working actress. This one is probably for hardcore fans—you know, the ones who actually know she is—all others should pass.

12/03/2014

Happy Birthday

The one and only beloved Prince of Darkness, and rock and roll icon John Michael Osbourne (66).