What the Hell Were They Thinking?!

Nothing major, just a little exercise in hardcore head scratching courtesy of some of the biggest pop culture blunders of all time. Here's five of 'em in chronological order:

1. After disco and its backlash had both passed on to musical history, Sylvester Stallone is chosen to direct a sequel to Saturday Night Fever, the dreadful Staying Alive, which killed John Travolta's career until Quentin Tarantino miraculously brought it back to life more than a decade later with Pulp Fiction. (Which he tanked again 6 years later with Battlefield Earth also destroying Barry Pepper's chances of ever being a leading man again.) [1983]

2. As if their US fans weren't already non-plussed by the band's new found affinity for dance music, Queen dress in drag for the "I Want to Break Free" video. Downhill in North America as far as record sales after that. [1984]

3. Thinking she's ready for greener pastures Shelley Long leaves Cheers. The show continues for 6 more successful seasons. Meanwhile, Long has a couple of Brady Bunch flicks as the highlights of her post-Cheers resume. (Recently, she's been on a few episodes of the current hit show Modern Family.) [1987]

4. '80s and '90s king of network TV Stephen Bochco--the man who gave us Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue--decides it is time to combine police drama with musical theatre on the small screen and thus Cop Rock is born. Yes, Broadway + badges. Excellent formula.
(It's no. 8 on TV Guide's 2002 list of "The 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time.") [1990]

5. Chris Cornell decides to record Scream and hires Timbaland to produce. The less said... [2009]


2012: The Year in Review (sort of)

As has been the case over the last few years, we've been quite underwhelmed by the world of pop culture in general, so once again this wrap up is an abridged and personalized version of what we would normally put together at this point of the year. Basically, just a bunch of faves from the past 12 months. So, with that in mind, dig in and enjoy!

Van Halen A Different Kind of Truth [Interscope]

"[It] might not be an all-time Van Halen album...[b]ut after so many years of fumbling dysfunction that reduced the once-proud Van Halen name to a laughingstock, [this album] matters because it’s a reminder of why this band mattered...For whatever reason, when Roth is in the band, Eddie Van Halen plays guitar like the world wants him to play guitar....Together, Eddie and Diamond Dave have achieved a simple yet hard-to-pull-off goal with 'A Different Kind Of Truth': Sounding like the Van Halen we (want to) remember."

- Steven Hyden, The AV Club.

Runner up:
Nada Surf The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy [Barsuk]

It’s quite something to see a band rise from the ashes of a doomed career and re-establish themselves as one of the main purveyors of their style of music. Many had left these guys for dead after “Popular” had supposedly condemned them to ‘90s one-hit-wonder status, but they bounced back and released one of the best records of the past decade, 2003’s Let it Go. And on their most recent one the Brooklyn-based trio did not disappoint. Ridiculously early in the year we had a feeling it would be our fave album of the year. If we could only predict lottery numbers in the same way...

David Myrh Soundshine [LoJinx]

Myrh was half of Swedish power poppers The Merrymakers, so it's not a stretch to assume  that his solo debut would be a strong collection of '60s-influenced power pop not unlike his former band's. Unsurprisingly, The Merrymakers were also Jellyfish acolytes--that band's Andy Sturmer produced their Bubblegun album--which would explain why this platter recalls the late lamented San Francisco quartet and at times could pass for their long lost third album. (Hell, even the cover art is reminiscent of Bellybutton, Jellyfish's debut album.) Regardless, it's pretty solid and one of the best records of its kind in a long while.

Bob Mould Silver Age [Merge]

So, what's in store for aging indie/underground/alt-rock heroes? Uncle Bob decided to face the other side of 50 by putting out his most vital sounding rock record since Copper Blue, that's what.

Honorable Mention:
Lee Ranaldo Between the Times and the Tides [Matador]

The man behind a handful of Sonic Youth fan favorites has never been the go-to guy on any of their albums. So, would his first ever singer/songwriter album be a bunch of filler? Actually, it's quite good. And Ranaldo's lead vocals--normally a minor distraction, at best--are in surprisingly solid form here; slightly reminiscent of Michael Stipe, in fact. (Oh, and the album's not folky, but an accurate representation of its basic description: a member of Sonic Youth making a singer/songwriter record.) It took SY's future to become a question mark for this non-expected career reinvention to take place but it's a welcome development, nonetheless.

Stew and the Negro Problem / "Curse", from the album Making It [Tight Natural]

Released in advance of their first album after the Passing Strange adventure, Stew and musical partner Heidi Rodewold summarize the dissolution of their romance in a sad, brilliantly executed, four minute pop song. Excellent.

Sugar Copper Blue [Merge]

Merge released remastered and expanded versions (2 CD+2 DVD) of the 2 albums and Beaster EP Sugar released on Rykodisc but, on its 20th anniversary, no less, we want to single out the classic debut album; an indie rock classic and the commercial and musical highlight of Bob Mould's post Hüsker Dü career.


We saw a couple of decent flicks (Argo, Flight, The Amazing Spiderman, Two Days in New York) but nothing rocked our world.

The massive flop of the Adam Sandler/Andy Samberg vehicle That's My Boy. Unlike the movie, THAT was funny.

Veep [HBO]

When it comes to TV shows, our heart belongs to cable. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the insecure, conniving, and sometimes clueless Vice-President of the United States, is our respective sweetheart this year. Yes, Veep is cringe comedy a la The Office or Curb Your Enthusiasm, but when the writing is tight--which is often--it can give those shows a run for its money.

Runner up:
House of Lies [Showtime]
The Newsroom [HBO]

The always watchable Don Cheadle leads a team of cutthroat business consultants in the highly stylized dramedy House of Lies, while the great Aaron Sorkin returns to TV with another big-time drama. And if the former is practically flawless in all departments, the latter can hold its own, even if it tends to occasionally slip in a manner routinely decried by Sorkin's many detractors. Yeah, it gets heavy, but it's Sorkin, so...

"No One Will Ever Love You"

Performed by Connie Britton and Charles Esten from the cast of ABC's Nashville, if this heartfelt ballad with more hooks than a bait shop is where country music is headed, we want in.

NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino; Soul Train honcho Don Cornelius; funkmeister Jimmy Castor; Mothers of Invention vocalist Ray Collins, legendary bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn; Bee Gee Robin Gibb; Men at Work's Greg Ham; vocalist/drummer Levon Helm; the inimitable Whitney Houston; the one and only Etta James; The Monkees' Davy Jones; jazz drummer Pete La Roca (Art Farmer, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean); Jim Marshall, creator of the iconic amps that bear his name; jazz pianist, composer, and arranger Mike Melvoin, father of Wendy (Prince, Wendy and Lisa, Girl Bros.) and Jonathan Melvoin (The Dickies, Smashing Pumpkins); hard rock guitarist Ronnie Montrose; Argentine rock icon, singer/songwriter/guitarist Luis Alberto Spinetta; the legendary Ravi Shankar; Donna Summer; Rich Teeter, drummer for The Dictators; "King of the cuatro", the great Yomo Toro; former Fleetwood Mac vocalist/guitarists Bob Welch and Bob Weston; Beastie Boy Adam "MCA" Yauch.


Goodbye, Cruel World

Need a playlist to get you in that end of the world kinda mood? Here's ten tunes to get you started (in alphabetical order by artist):

1. AC/DC "Highway to Hell" from the album Highway to Hell [Atlantic-1979]
2. Black Sabbath "Electric Funeral" from the album Paranoid [Warner Bros-1970]
3. Blue Oyster Cult "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" from the album Agents of Fortune [Columbia-1976]
4. Jeff Buckley "The Sky is a Landfill" from the album Sketches from 'My Sweetheart the Drunk' [Epic-1998]
5. Chris Cornell "Preaching the End of The World" from the album Euphoria Morning [A&M-1999]
6. The Doors "When the Music's Over" from the album Strange Days [Elektra-1967]
7. The Police "When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around" from the album Zenyatta Mondatta [A&M-1980]
8. R.E.M. "It's the End of the World as We Know it (And I Feel Fine)" from the album Document [I.R.S.-1987]
9. Smashing Pumpkins "Doomsday Clock" from the album Zeitgeist [Reprise-2007]
10. U2 "Until the End of the World" from the album Achtung Baby [Island-1990]


Yes - "Astral Traveller" (1970)

Before it got bloated and full of itself--right around the time the punks showed up, more or less--prog was an innovative and often transcendent expression of rock's polar opposites: accessible and inviting melodies coupled with an impressionistic reliance on instrumental virtuosity. But when it worked, as it often did in its '70s heyday...oh!

"Astral Traveller" is from Yes' sophomore album Time and a Word [Atlantic].


1978-1982: The Lost Half Decade

As the bland part of the '70s was coming to a end, most of the big names of the decade were on a crappy record-making binge (the Stones' Some Girls being one exception). And despite the mighty Ramones' ground-breaking albums, punk was a fringe, underground thing here in the colonies. In the midst of this was a window before mass consumption-intended "new wave" and "hair" metal took over, one in which some really cool rock and roll managed to sneak in. Actually, some of it has become down right legendary. Those records have always gotten their deserved accolades but it seems like the particular time period in which they were released does not. Perhaps this is due to overlap between decades. Regardless, we think recognition is long overdue.

A baker's dozen of notable releases from the era:

AC/DC Back in Black [Atlantic-1980], The Cars (self-titled debut) [Elektra-1978], Cheap Trick At Budokan [Epic-1979], The Clash London Calling [Epic-1980], Elvis Costello This Year's Model [Columbia-1978], Iron Maiden Number of the Beast [Capitol-1982], Joe Jackson Look Sharp! [A&M-1979], Ozzy Osbourne Blizzard of Ozz [Jet-1980], Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers Damn the Torpedoes! [Backstreet-1978], The Pretenders (self-titled debut) [Sire-1980], The Police Regatta de Blanc [A&M-1978], Van Halen (self-titled debut) [Warner Bros-1978], XTC Drums and Wires [Geffen-1979].


Digital Band: Rush

It's widely accepted that MTV by virtue of the video clip becoming a very powerful promotional tool, rendered obsolete "faceless" artists and those who the camera was not fond of, so to speak. Yet, by late 1982 this venerable trio of non-matinee idols managed to reach Billboard's Top 10 and sell a million copies of Signals [Mercury-1982], their most recent album. More importantly, it's one of those rare examples of an artist modernizing their sound--the influence of another trio with a singing bassist was keenly felt: the middle section in "Digital Man" is reminiscent of "Walking on the Moon"; and there are some other "new wave" flourishes throughout the album--without becoming dated and stale over the years.

Unfortunately, this was unacceptable for the band's long-time producer Terry Brown who resisted the band's departure from the more prog-rock inclined material of the band's past, a move championed in particular by vocalist/bassist Geddy Lee. The shift in direction paid off both artistically and commercially and paved the way for Rush enjoying a successful run on both fronts that stretched thru the first half of the '80s.


2012 Milestones

As 2012 comes to an end we thought we'd look back and take stock of a few albums, movies, etc. that celebrate significant anniversaries. Here we go:

- The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan all debuted in 1962, 50 years ago. And although the latter two are still active, it's also the golden anniversary of Paul McCartney's musical career.

- Three legendary debut albums had milestones in 2012: Are You Experienced? [Reprise-1967], Never Mind the Bollocks, It's The Sex Pistols [Warner Bros-1977] and Appetite for Destruction [Geffen-1987], turned 45, 35, and 25, respectively. And lest we forget: The Doors' debut platter [Elektra-1967]. Meanwhile, Radiohead's landmark OK Computer [Parlophone-1997] turned 15, and two lauded records of the 21st century celebrated 10th anniversaries: Beck's Sea Change [DGC-2002] and Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot [Nonsuch-2002].

- Billie Joe Armstrong and Mike Dirnt (Green Day), Melissa Auf Der Mar (Hole), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), and Wyclef Jean (Fugees), all turned 40 this year. So did a couple of power pop classics, Big Star’s #1 Record [Stax], and Todd Rundgren's Something/Anything? [Bearsville], as well as, arguably, prog rock's finest recorded moment: Close to the Edge [Atlantic] by Yes.

Our annual recap, is right around the corner...


A Case of Joni

For all their snark and hipster than thou bullshit--which ultimately only serves to encourage their sheep-like following to erroneously believe they are both "in the know" and somehow above the contempt of the writers and editors--the folks at the dreaded Pitchfork have a surprisingly knowledgeable and nuanced grasp on the classic rock thingie, as evidenced by their reviews of The Beatles remasters and overview of the Yes catalog.

The batting average continues to rise in this regard with their take on the Joni Mitchell no-frills box set, The Studio Years, 1969-1979 [Rhino-2012], which does little more than compile the particular 10-album, 11 year output of this seminal singer/songwriter, a period considered "a striking reminder [of how] no single artist has had a run like" Mitchell. But whatever the box set may lack in terms of extras--a bold move in these days of ever-dwindling record sales--the Pitchfork overview makes up for with valuable insight on "an innovator of singular talent, whose influence was vast, immediate and long lasting". Indeed.


Genesis - "You Might Recall"

Aside from the fact that many albums never made it into the digital age, the jump from vinyl to CDs as the music industry's main format also meant truncated versions of certain records as well.
Case in point: Side 4 of Genesis' self-explanatory Three Sides Live [Atlantic-1982] includes 5 studio tracks, two of which, "Paperlate" and "You Might Recall", were dual A-sides on the UK EP 3 x 3 [Charisma-1982]. The former became a hit single, but "You Might Recall" only got minor exposure and was more or less banished to obscurity when Three Sides Live was released on CD with the studio tracks excised. However, "You Might Recall"--which was originally slated for Abacab [Atlantic-1981] and is now available on the Genesis 1976-1982 [Atlantic-2007] or Genesis 1976-1992 [Atlantic-2000] box sets--is the more interesting of the two and is practically--at this point anyway--a long, lost Genesis single. It's also proof that Phil Collins' pop leanings within the band weren't always a bad thing.


From the Vaults: Ironhorse

Because his voice is so distinctive and this is yet another 2-guitar/bass/drums combo, it's hard not to label singer/guitarist Randy Bachman's late '70s band Ironhorse as a less successful Bachman Turner Overdrive, with whom he'd just parted ways with at the time. Actually, significantly less successful is more like it: the short-lived Ironhorse released a self-titled album in 1979, which includes the minor US hit "Sweet Lui-Louise" [below], and a 1980 followup, Everything is Grey [both albums on Scotti Bros Records] that got little to no airplay outside of their native Canada. BTO reunited in 1983 and with the exception of a 4-year hiatus starting in 2005, have been going strong ever since.


Flaming Lips Cover King Crimson Debut

So, why cover a tune when you can pay tribute to the whole album, right? Oklahoma's fearless freaks tackled Pink Floyd's classic Dark Side of the Moon [Harvest-1973] three years ago on The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs with Henry Rollins and Peaches Doing The Dark Side of the Moon [Warner Bros-2009]; now it's King Crimson's turn.

Playing Hide and Seek with the Ghosts of Dawn is a Flaming Lips song-by-song cover of In the Court of the Crimson King [Atlantic-1969] and is now streaming here. No word on when it'll be available for sale.

It must be nice to be practically unassailable, huh? Almost any other indie-identified artist would be chastised for attempting this sort of rapprochement to classic rock. The Lips have now gone down this road twice. Hmm...


Don't Chase After This One

A flop which soon went out of print, Chevy Chase's self-titled musical comedy album [Arista-1980] is probably what you think it would be: a slickly-produced, self-indulgent mess, indeed, but one that must be heard at least once.

Is he singing "Let it Be" in a chipmunk voice? Does he list numerous celebrities of limited physical stature in his parody of Randy Newman's "Short People"? Does the album actually close out with with Chase's take on "Rapper's Delight", called "Rapper's Plight"?

Click here and find out for yourself. You'll be quite glad he's Chevy Case and you're not.



King Animal
[Seven Four Entertainment/Universal]

It's been 16 years since their last studio album of new material--during which vocalist Chris Cornell led a mixed bag solo career along with membership in Audioslave--and at first it seemed like a big fail for Soundgarden was just around the corner: that Iron Man song, "Live to Rise", didn't do much to get fans truly excited for the studio comeback, combining a sub par tune in the latter-day solo Cornell vain with some admittedly classic Kim Thayil riffage. Then they decided to kick off the unfortunately titled King Animal with "Been Away for Too Long", instead of choosing a more apt song than a "My Wave" retread--which still rocks, btw--to address that particular point. However, upon further inspecttion, the Seattle quartet have put together an album which won't tarnish their legacy but won't really add to it, either. And if that sounds like damning with faint praise, my apologies; King Animal is actually better than that.

But here's the thing: while this album shares a similarly crisp production with Down on the Upside [A&M-1996] and at different times can remind one of Badmotorfinger [A&M-1991] and Superunknown [A&M-1994], it lacks the majesty of the latter and the visceral power of any of them, and often comes across as a heavier Cornell solo album ("Bones of Birds", "Worse Dreams"). Fortunately, it also lacks any embarrassing moments. And incongruous chocolate-bar-stuck-in-the-peanut-butter tunes as had occasionally popped up on Audioslave albums are not much of a concern here, thankfully. (Although there are a couple of tunes reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age--"Attrition"--and Blind Melon--"Black Saturday"--respectively, neither one of which amounts to more than filler. And at least one tune--"Halfway There"--may have been an actual outtake from a Cornell solo album. (Probably not Euphoria Morning [A&M-1999], tho.) Oh, and Cornell's upper register is shot. These days he needs a fire engine ladder to reach the high notes he once effortlessly captivated millions of fans with. But that's been going on for a decade now, so...

Ultimately, the best thing one could say about King Animal is that it sounds like it could've been seamlessly released 2-3 years after Down on the Upside and broken up the band anyway. It's a grower and it doesn't suck.

Highlights: "Non-State Actor", "Blood on the Valley Floor", "Bones of Birds", "Taree", "Worse Dreams". 


Hammerin' Hank Hangs 'Em Up

If you were expecting some sort of 20th anniversary commemoration for their first major label release, the seminal Rollins Band album, The End of Silence [Imago-1992], sorry. As it turns out, the band's namesake has no intention of resuming his music making endeavors.

I must say that I miss it every day. I just don't know honestly what I could do with it that's different. I don't know in what other way I could ring that bell in that I rang it very hard and very urgently for many years and at my age now I see my peers, not exactly by name but people loosely around my age, going out and playing thirty-year-old music or trying to maintain some kind of foothold.

And it looks a little desperate, a little balding, and a little rotund and I'm neither balding nor rotund. So I just don't want to go, "Hey here's 'Low Self Opinion' again. Come on kids!" It feels like being in year five at the university, like shouldn't you be doing something else?

The last Rollins Band studio album--with Rollins accompanied by L.A. band Mother Superior--was Nice [Sanctuary-2001]. In 2006, the 1994-1997 Rollins-Chris Haskett-Melvin Gibbs-Sim Cain lineup reunited and played some shows opening for X and performed on TV for the season one finale of The Henry Rollins Show but nothing more came of the reunion.


"I Know What I Like"

At the height of prog rock's popularity hit singles weren't really frowned upon but they were certainly not a goal actively pursued by bands of the genre. After all, it was nearly impossible to get epic 10 and 20 minute songs on pop radio, no matter how catchy. Regardless, Genesis managed to have a Top 40 hit in the UK with this ode to complacency from the album Selling England by the Pound [Atlantic-1973].

Genesis went on to have many chart hits, but this was their first and last with original vocalist Peter Gabriel, who left the band to embark on a solo career after the following album, the epic landmark known as The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway [Atlantic-1974].


The Death of Tim

Happy Birthday to Steve Dildarian (42), creator, writer and director, as well as the voice of the protagonist of the now-canceled show The Life and Times of Tim (HBO). Yes, its crude animation makes South Park look like a Michael Bay extravaganza, but the show some have called an animated Curb Your Enthusiasm was nothing less than a half-hour of pure comedy gold.
Want proof? The first season episode “Latino Tim” / “The Priest is Drunk”--each half-hour was a two-fer--is especially hilarious.

Latino Tim/The Priest Is Drunk from Bob Morrow on Vimeo.


What's the Matter Here?

It's always interesting to see how artists who had a notable measure of success in the past are barely remembered (Humble Pie, and Nazareth are two examples that come to mind) while others linger on in the collective memory regardless of how much popularity and/or critical acclaim they may have had in their initial run. 10,000 Maniacs are in the former category. Such are the vagaries of popular music.

25 years after the release of the upstate New York band's creative and commercial high point, 1987's In My Tribe [Elektra], it seems as if current music fans are largely unaware of the Maniacs, while those who are of age to remember them and may have even been fans of the band, might not be aware of the band's continued existence. (Although truth be told, they haven't released a studio album in this century.) And former lead singer Natalie Merchant, who had a prominent solo career in the mid-'90s, hasn't had much visibility of late, despite continuing to make music and releasing albums as recent as 2010.

Perhaps this might be related to the fact that at its core 10,000 Maniacs' music is dated but in a way that isn't obvious like the big, cannon-like drum sounds and cheesy synths of certain '80s acts, but in that bland, "college rock" soundscape that recalls the less fun parts of the late '80s thru the mid'90s. As the All Music Guide's Chris Woodstra snarkily remarked in his review of In My Tribe, the album once "served as one of the soundtracks for P.C. living and was required listening on college campuses in the late '80s." Ouch.



A bit of trepidation is always present when a beloved band comes out of retirement or nullifies their breakup, especially if they intend to record new music. Soundgarden is no exception.

As a unit, Chris Cornell, Kim Thayil, Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron have not released an album of new music in over 15 years. That will change on Nov. 13th with the release of King Animal, which was produced by Adam Kasper, who was also on board for the last Soundgarden album, Down on the Upside [A&M-1996].

Cool, right?

Except, the first single from the awfully titled King Animal, "Live to Rise"--which was released as a tie-in to The Avengers movie--has some nice riffage bolted onto weak verses which sound like they were leftovers from the second Cornell solo album. And the album's lead off track, "Been Gone Too Long", is kinda meh. (And let's not even get into how painfully obvious it has become that Cornell's voice is mostly shot, in so far as a classic Soungarden caliber-type performance is concerned.)

But there is hope.

"Non-State Actor", with its Louder than Love [A&M-1989] via Down on the Upside vibe, started streaming on Halloween and is quite promising. Check it out below before the stream is cut off.


Gustavo Cerati: Solo

One of the major figures in the world of Latin American rock, Gustavo Adrián Cerati Clark (born August 11, 1959 in Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a musician and producer best known as the singer/guitarist/frontman for Soda Stereo, the legendary rock band he led for a decade and a half (1982-1997). But Cerati's own influential solo career itself--which came to a halt due to a stroke suffered in 2010--is almost as long as his tenure in Soda Stereo, and in some circles, accorded the same level of respect as his former band.

Although his career did not formally start until after the conclusion of Soda Stereo's 1997 farewell tour, Cerati's first solo album, Amor Amarillo [BMG U.S. Latin-1993], was released while he was still a member of the band--Soda bassist Hector "Zeta" Bosio co-produced the album and played on the title track--and months before Dynamo [Sony], Soda Stereo's penultimate album, saw the light of day. Despite Cerati not touring behind it, Amor Amarillo did not go unnoticed, but instead became a favorite among Soda fans, to the point that Cerati was performing songs from the album live more than a decade after its release. Among these is "Bajan" written by Argentine rock legend Luis Alberto Spinetta in the early '70s.

(Two years earlier, in 1991, Cerati collaborated with Daniel Melero on an album titled Colores Santos [Sony] under the name Cerati/Melero. The album's marked electronica-based sound, influenced not only the sound of Soda Stereo's then upcoming album, Dynamo, but Argentina's burgeoning electronica scene as well.)

Having wrapped up his commitments with Soda Stereo, Cerati began the next stage of his music career with Bocanada [BMG U.S. Latin-1999], a batch of electronic pop that firmly established him as a solo artist. Five singles were taken from Bocanada ("Puente", "Paseo Inmoral", "Tabú", "Engaña" y "Río Babel") each with a corresponding video clip. Moreover, "Verbo Carne" was recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios with the London Session Orchestra, conducted by Gavin Wright.

After writing the soundtrack for the movie + bien (or Mas Bien) in 2001, Cerati released Siempre Es Hoy [BMG U.S. Latin-2002], which was expected to rock out more and rely less on electronica, but the opposite turned out to be true. More lighthearted on its surface than Bocanada, despite upheaval in his personal life at the time, Siempre Es Hoy, however, was received in a lukewarm and unenthusiastic manner.

Speculation was rampant as to the direction Cerati would take on his next release, after Siempre Es Hoy turned out to be the lowest-selling of his solo albums. One theory circulating at the time back posited his return to a guitar-driven rock sound after a decade of making electronic pop pushed him away more and more from the sound of the band that made him an international star. (Although in truth, Siempre Es Hoy was less dependent on electronics and showcased his guitar more prominently than other previous releases.)

After a long wait and some four years after the release of Siempre Es Hoy, Cerati returned with a straight up, guitar-loaded rock album, whose pre-order sales were such that the album went platinum before officially going on sale. With the arrival of Ahí Vamos [BMG U.S. Latin-2006] came the burning questions: Did Siempre Es Hoy's relatively low sales lead to a supposed reconciliation with a rock-oriented sound, dusting off the guitars, cranking up the amps and indirectly revisiting past glories? And would the album exceed or at least match the expectations it had been saddled with? Leadoff track "Al Fin Sucede"--in addition to second single "La Excepción" and "Uno Entre 1000", the latter with a chorus the size of a house--immediately confirmed Cerati's intentions to rock out and the album was promptly hailed as a return to form. Which is not surprising since at different points Ahí Vamos is reminiscent of essential elements from the final three Soda Stereo studio albums: Canción Animal [CBS-1990], the aforementioned Dynamo, and Sueño Stereo [BMG U.S. Latin-1995].

After touring behind Ahí Vamos Cerati joined his former Soda Stereo bandmates for an epic reunion tour that saw the band perform for about 300,000 fans in 22 dates--including 3 shows in the United States--before going back into retirement.

In an interview given towards the end of the previous decade, the ever pragmatic Cerati referred to the division that characterizes his fanbase: rockers on one side and the devotees of his brand of electronica on the other, and how their numbers respectively expand and contract depending on which which way the muse guides him. Well, if Ahí Vamos was made to appease the rockers, Fuerza Natural [Sony-2009] seems to have been written in pursuit of self-satisfaction. Mellow in a way not heard since Bocanada but without that album's heavy electronica vibe, Fuerza Natural leaned more towards a poppier, singer/songwriter vibe. It also includes "Cactus", a song in which Cerati once again explores his native country's folk music.

During the tour for Fuerza Natural and after a concert in Caracas, Venezuela, Cerati suffered a stroke on May 15, 2010. He remains in a coma ever since.



It wasn't all what you think/remember it to be, you know?

New Releases

Among the notable releases seeing the light of day today are:

BOSTON SPACESHIPS Out of the Universe by Dawn: The Greatest Hits of Boston Spaceships [Fire]
CAFE TACUBA El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco [Universal Music Latino]
THE DOORS Live at the Bowl '68 [Elektra]
OF MONTREAL Daughter of Cloud [Polyvinyl]
THE SWORD Apocryphon [Razor & Tie]


The Great Rock and Roll Swindle

Is this what they meant?

Communication Breakdown

How 'bout the press stop asking Led Zeppelin about a possible reunion and the band's answers be less pissy? OK, then.

Like Suicide?

Most of the time, we believe artists should come out of retirement only to celebrate their past achievements and not potentially embarrass themselves and tarnish their legacies with albums that were best left on the rehearsal room floor. (What's up, Stooges?) Therefore, bands we love making a comeback disc always make us nervous. Which is why the 2 new songs we've heard, plus the title of the upcoming new Soundgarden album itself has us worried. Hmm...

Stones' Setlist

In case you missed it, last week The Rolling Stones posted a pic via Twitter with a handwritten list of songs they have presumably been rehearsing for their upcoming 50th anniversary, 4-date mini tour. Obviously, this is not meant to be a complete setlist, but it gives us an idea of what they're thinking of playing. Hmm...


GnR Rock The Bridge

Guns 'n' Roses wouldn't seem like anyone's first choice for an acoustic gig, but that's exactly what went down last night when the L.A. rockers performed a completely sans electric 7-song set at Neil and Pegi Young's annual benefit for the The Bridge School, which helps children with physical disabilities. (Traditionally, artists play acoustic at the benefit, which has been going on since 1986.)

And it wasn't all mellow either: rockers "You're Crazy and "Welcome to the Jungle" made the cut, the former in a funky rendition which you can enjoy below.

(Among those also on the bill were Eddie Vedder, Jack White, The Flaming Lips, and of course Neil Young with Crazy Horse.)

GnR's Bridge School setlist (10/20/12):

"You’re Crazy"
"Used to Love Her"
"Welcome to the Jungle"
"Sweet Child O’ Mine"
"Paradise City"

Teenage Angst Has Paid Off Well

According to NME, CBS has picked up Smells Like Teen Spirit, described as a sitcom in which a teenager skips "Harvard and instead opts to launch a multibillion-dollar Internet company from his garage with the assistance of his sister, best friend and his 1990s indie-rock parents."

Yes, we know what you're thinking: Did Courtney Love approve the use of the title of Nirvana's most famous song? Well, song titles can't be copyrighted so, that's that. Oh, you mean...nah, we don't care to opine on someone blatantly cashing in on '90s nostalgia in the cheesiest of ways.


David S. Ware (1949 – 2012)

Saxophonist David S. Ware, whom the New York Times called "a powerful and contemplative jazz saxophonist who helped lead a resurgence of free jazz in New York" and a master improviser who was probably one of the few true musical heirs of the great John Coltrane, died this past October 18th in his native state of New Jersey due to complications related to a kidney transplant.

He was 62 years old.


"Letting the days go by..."

An early MTV staple widely considered Talking Heads' signature song, these days the interpretation that "Once in a Lifetime" [Sire-1981] is about the idealism of youth compromised by the arrival of midlife and its attendent ennui, holds more ground than ever. "Same as it ever was", indeed.


Keith Richards: Rock's Rhythm Guitar King

It seems a bit surreal but no one under the age of 50 has known a world without Keith Richards.  
And in that half century--with and without but mostly with the Rolling Stones--the man who in many circles is considered the archetype of the modern rocker, has left an undeniable mark on the world of music and rock guitar in particular. Like his most obvious influence, the legendary rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry, Richards has created a signature style, one that has made him one of the instrumental standard bearers of his chosen genre. Widely regarded as one of rock's greatest rhythm guitarists, Keef's influence is both immensely recognizable, and seemingly ubiquitous. 

 Unlike his idol Berry, Richards was never interested in being a solo act and only became one in the '80s when his fractured relationship with Mick Jagger almost cracked, due to the Stones' frontman not being interested in making music with the band at the time.
Keef subsequently put together the X-pensive Winos, in which he shared guitar duties with noted musician and producer Waddy Wachtel and released two studio albums--Talk is Cheap [Virgin-1988]; Main Offender [Virgin-1992]--and Live at the Hollywood Palladium [Virgin-1991], before returning to the Rolling Stones.

Although his guitar was an important part of the Stones' sound during the first decade of the band, one could say that Keef's subsequent influence lies in the work he did immediately thereafter. Specifically, on the albums Sticky Fingers [Rolling Stones Records-1971] and Exile on Main Street [Rolling Stones Records-1972], iconic rock masterpieces both. However, many agree--including Richards himself--that his style was slightly curbed when he paired up with the great Mick Taylor, which made for a more uniform six-string approach, as Keef adapted to the role of rhythm guitarist while Taylor settled into the lead guitarist slot. And yes, although their roles were quite defined at the time, songs like "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" from Sticky Fingers, with its bold improvisation, would probably not exist in the same manner with a different configuration of guitarists.

The arrival of former Faces guitarist Ron Wood into the Stones' lineup in the mid-seventies, gave Richards a partner with whom he could switch between rhythm and lead in an improvised and more intuitive manner; effortlessly and sometimes within the same song, like a nimble four-limbed guitarist, a musical dynamic that's been going strong for almost 40 years at this point.

And yes, Keef will bury us all.


Maladjusted, Indeed

The staff at the Brooklyn rehearsal space where Morrissey and his band recently geared up for a spate of NYC shows and TV appearances (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Colbert Report) could not wait for him to leave, due to an alleged excess of prima donna attitude. Among other things, he demanded no one eat meat in the entire building while he was there; and had a fit if anyone smoked outside, in front of the building. Everyone knows Morrissey has a reputation for being difficult but, really?

Remaining NYC dates:

10/10 - Radio City Music Hall
10/12, 13 - Terminal 5

The Album: Valid or Relic?

Although its existence precedes the '60s by several decades it was not until the second half of the decade that the album became the primary vehicle for artists to disseminate their work, in so far as the realm of popular music is concerned. What's more, it's no exaggeration to postulate it was not until The Beatles released their iconic Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [Parlophone-1967] that the album truly established itself in this regard.

Previously, the 45 RPM single had occupied that distinction and the album was used simply as a collection of singles by any given artist. But the arrival of Sgt Pepper's changed both art and industry, and for over 40 years albums remained the undisputed medium for both the music and its distribution.The single was still an effective format, but the album remained king of the industry and ruled thusly. Yet, for reasons that could be discussed extensively elsewhere, the single began to lose its importance and began its relegation to a minor role, courtesy of many of the major labels who moved in that direction when the compact disc replaced vinyl as the primary pre-recorded format in the '90s. (Previously, and for a relatively short time, the pre-recorded cassette was the more popular format overall.)

Coincidentally, this was the golden age of the music industry in terms of revenue. And, in pursuit of greater sales figures, the single, according to some observers, was deliberately underminded by the major labels, which would have notable consequences. Traditionally, the single had been the introduction to record-buying for teens and pre-teens and other young people with limited incomes. And with many albums hovering around $18 at that time, much of this youth sector was marginalized. However, the industry was experiencing a level of earnings never seen before and paid little attention to cultivating the buying habits of a new generation.

But with the 21st century's advances in computer technology, as well as easier and faster internet access becoming more pronounced each day, the dissemination of music via the digital realm was directly affecting the dominance of the album. The arrival of the digital descendants of the Walkman, mainly the iPod, and virtual stores like iTunes, meant that the consumer would have the option to purchase their favorite music as individual songs, if they so wish, regardless of whether these were singles or not. This is the world we live in today.

These developments have prompted major artists like Pete Townshend, Elvis Costello, and Billy Corgan, among others, to consider the album a dead format from an artistic point of view, as the possibility of the consumer acquiring individual songs robs the artist of the power to determine how their work is heard, which, in artistic terms, was the album's main role. So the question is, what does this mean for the format? Will artists cease to create concept albums like Dark Side of the Moon, for example? Is the public's attention span no longer enough in this regard? Or will artists continue to make music that requires both time and effort from listeners, despite the new options available to them?

We feel it's important to take into account how the younger generation of music fans' consumer patterns and preferences manifest themselves from here on out. In other words, if consumers start their new musical adventures via albums that are considered classics of their respective genres, it is quite probable that they adopt the album as the format to absorb the work of the artist of their choice. (Provided the given artist still believes in the album as a format, of course.) On a personal note, and for many reasons, we would not like to see the album done away with as a musical statement. But we can not ignore the radical changes that have been carried out in recent years. That's why we believe it will be very interesting to witness the outcome of this particular situation and hope it is not detrimental to the music itself, or to the way its creators face these innovations, in terms of inspiration and approach. Let's see...

Mothers of Intention

Not aware if it's a common occurrence at this or any sports venue, but immediately after the conclusion of Game 3 of the American League Division Series, between the Oakland A's and the hometown Reds, at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, this is what they played over the PA as fans were filing out of the stadium:

Pretty cool, huh?


Nice Guys Are Losers

According to Rolling Stone, vocalist Chris Brown was seen attending one of Jay-Z's recent Brooklyn shows in the company of former girlfriend and destination of his fists, Rhianna. Can't tell if it's worse that thousands of girls have pledged online their willingness to be on the business end of a Brown beatdown or that Rhianna may have taken him back.


RRHoF Class of 2013 Nominees

Just like what songs should've been excised from a classic double or triple album, who belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of those things continually disputed, particularly by those who feel their favorites have been unduly slighted. However, these might fight themselves pleased once they peruse the list of nominees for 2013 induction. (Although Lord knows how much they'll gripe if their favorites don't get in.)

The artists nominated include the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Chic, Deep Purple, Heart, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Albert King, Kraftwerk, the Marvelettes, the Meters, N.W.A., Randy Newman, Procol Harum, Public Enemy, Rush, and Donna Summer.

And where the hell is Yes? Unbelievable. (Sorry, couldn't let it pass...)

Oh, and instead of New York City or Cleveland--site of the RRHoF itself--the induction ceremony gala will take place in Los Angeles on April 18 of next year and will be broadcast on HBO at a later date.

Dying for Your Art

Not to diminish in any way, shape or form the deaths of Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G., and other rappers who fell victim to violence, but the so-called East Coast-West Coast feud at its most vicious could not hold a candle to the numerous, frequent and often gruesome deaths of artists in the world of narcocorridos.

Due to close relationships with prominent members of the Mexican drug cartels--whose adventures are extolled in narcocorridos, hence the narco part--in recent years, a significant chunk of artists involved in the subgenre, which comes from the norteño folk corridos, have met untimely deaths, rumored to be at the hands of rival drug gangs who target these artists out of spite and/or jealousy.

According to Wikipedia, those murdered include, Valentín Elizalde; Sergio Vega; Sergio Gómez, lead singer of Chicago-based Duranguense band K-Paz de la Sierra; Gerardo Ortiz; Javier Morales Gómez, singer for Los Implacables del Norte; members of Tecno Banda Fugaz, and Los Padrinos de la Sierra; trumpeter José Luis Aquino of Los Conde; record producer Marco Abdalá, manager Roberto del Fierro Lugo, Jorge Antonio Sepúlveda, Jesús Rey David Alfaro Pulido; Nicolás Villanueva of tropical group Brisas del Mar; and four members of Los Herederos de Sinaloa, among others.

In addition, assassins made a concerted effort to kill lead singer for Zayda y Los Culpables, Zayda Peña, who despite not being a singer of narcocorridos or having any criminal affiliation, was allegedly targeted for being the daughter of a Mexican prosecutor.



Linda Must Love This One, Too

Few, if any, songwriters have been covered more than Sir Paul. And while there have been some choice reinterpretations, Macca probably digs this one more than many of the others. He should, anyway.

Happy Birthday

Former Policeman Gordon Matthew Sumner aka Sting (61).
Enjoy these two great live performances ten years apart:

"Roxanne" (arguably, the definitive version) at The Secret Policeman's Ball [1981]

"The Wild, Wild Sea" on his 40th birthday, appropriately enough, in Los Angeles [1991]


Thought of the Day

This article on Grizzly Bear got us thinking...if music is to no longer become a possible path out of poverty for rockers, will we see a future in which only rich kids make rock music?

While Their Guitars Gently Weep

Frequently trotted out as some sort of consolation prize/silver lining, stats showing interest in learning an instrument and, by extension, in music itself, where supposed to be the mitigating factor in the continuously bleak saga of dwindling numbers for pre-recorded music sales. But it turns out the recession of the late '00s--from which we have not completely recovered--put a significant dent in instrument sales. So, despite their large market share, Fender Musical Instruments--makers of the iconic Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars, respectively--have not been immune to the downturn.

Hector Lavoe (Sept. 30, 1946 - June 29, 1993)


Let's keep it short and sweet: after a prolonged absence "5" is back. Why? Well, it would surely benefit--or at least make it cool--to have some interesting story or grand epiphany behind it, but no. The truth is, we found there was no point in posting commentary, reviews, etc. on a regular basis elsewhere, when the ideal forum was just sitting there; in a way, pointlessly cybersquatting. And, obviously, we could use the hits way more than some monster social network site. So, "5" is back.
To our old readers, welcome. Again.
If you're new to "5", we hope you find our opinionated musings and occasional snarkiness to your liking. Stick around, it'll be fun. - KJ