A Couple of Thoughts on Music Criticism

A consensus exists for a reason. Otherwise, the pronouncements of anyone who claims, say, Coltrane or Hendrix could barely play their respective instruments, for instance, would be taken seriously in that regard. 

Also, when faced with valid criticism of an artist you are partial to, responding with "Oh, you're just trying to be cool", instead of a substantive rebuttal, is the equivalent of invoking "Godwin's Law" in music discussion circles.

As you were...carry on.


To Be or Not to Be...Irrelevant

One of the most pointed dismissals directed towards a veteran artist is to call them irrelevant. It’s a slightly less disrespectful version of has-been, and is meant to convey the sense that there is no use for them or their music in the current climate. But it seems that truly and accurately defining actual irrelevance has fallen into the realm of Potter Stewart, the noted US Supreme Court justice whose candor elicited the popular phrase “I know it when I see it”, when asked to judge the threshold of pornography regarding a particular film. (He did not consider Louis Malle's The Lovers to be obscene.) His response a highly appropriate one when facing subjective matter with a lack of properly defined parameters. But if you’re as prickly as we are with the judgment of many if not most current music “critics”, you might want to repair to the nearest salt mine.

We came across a recent video clip of Everclear playing their big 1995 hit “Santa Monica” as an encore alongside fellow '90s denizens Spacehog at Portland, Oregon’s Crystal Palace this past summer, to what looked like a sold out crowd (cap. 2,000). Now, we’re pretty sure the folks who write about music these days would readily deem Everclear—and Spacehog—as irrelevant. (For the record, we’re not making an argument one way or another.) But if you can play to a couple thousand fans more than 20 years into your career at “regular” venues, as opposed to state fairs and oldies revues—many of those singing along to “Santa Monica" at the top of their lungs seemed, in all likelihood, to have been toddlers when the song was a hit—what is it, then, that makes an artist irrelevant?


Living Colour Turns 30; Celebrate with Anniversary Tour

Hard rock pioneers Living Colour will celebrate their 30th anniversary with a 20-date tour to kickoff in their hometown of NYC on November 28th. Here are the dates, so far:

11/28     Irving Plaza     New York, NY           
11/29     Tupelo Music Hall     Londonderry, NH           
11/30     Paradise Rock Club     Boston, MA           
12/1       World Cafe Live     Philadelphia, PA           
12/3       Stafford Palace Theatre     Stafford Springs, CT           
12/4       Newton Theatre     Newton, NJ           
12/5       Ridgefield Playhouse     Ridgefield, CT           
12/6       Tally Ho Theatre     Leesburg, VA           
12/7       Rams Head Center Stage     Hanover, MD           
12/9       City Winery     Nashville, TN           
12/10     Cat's Cradle   Carrboro, NC           
12/12     Culture Room     Ft. Lauderdale, FL           
12/13     State Theatre     St. Petersburg, FL           
12/14     The Masquerade     Atlanta, GA           
2/2/15     Shiprocked Cruise    Miami - Great Stirrup Cay Bahamas           
2/3/15     Shiprocked Cruise    Miami - Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas           
2/4/15     Shiprocked Cruise    Miami - Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas           
2/5/15     Shiprocked Cruise    Miami - Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas           
2/6/15     Shiprocked Cruise    Miami - Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas


Milestones: The B-52s 'Cosmic Thing'

After the October 1985 death of Ricky Wilson, the band’s guitarist/songwriter/founding member and sibling of vocalist Cindy Wilson, The B-52s found themselves emotionally and professionally adrift and badly in need of a positive jolt. That their next album turned out to be both a smash hit and one of the finest moments of their career was more than what the proverbial doctor would’ve ordered.

Helmed by Nile Rodgers and Don Was, who underlined their funky grooves and updated their sound without curtailing their trademark wackiness and fun, Cosmic Thing [Reprise-1989] was a resounding critical and commercial success, not to mention quite the comeback. However, it wasn’t exactly an immediate turning of the tide: reception to lead-off single “Channel Z” was rather lukewarm. But the second single turned out to be a doozy.

On its way to becoming their biggest ever hit, “Love Shack” was the B-52s' first no.1, first Top 40 hit, featured an iconic video clip, and eventually made Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of all Time”. That it catapulted Cosmic Thing into the stratosphere is quite the understatement.

Which by no means is to say the album was filler-laden, as subsequent singles “Roam” and “Deadbeat Club”, as well as the soothing instrumental closing track “Follow Your Bliss”, will readily attest to. And while Cosmic Thing remains an unequalled triumph in the band’s latter catalog, it’s one of a couple of classic albums to their credit. Not too shabby. Ricky Wilson would surely be very proud.


Back to Church

Glad to know (and hear) The Church are back. (This one is actually reminiscent of Dead Young Friends.) Further/Deeper, the Australian combo's 25th album, will be released on February 3rd, 2015.



Taylor Swift has titled her upcoming album after the year of her birth. Also released that fateful year were Neneh Cherry’s Raw Like Sushi [Virgin], The Cure’s Disintegration [Elektra] and The Stone Roses self-titled debut [Silvertone-RCA], all on the same day, no less. 

Maybe if Miss Swift had those particular albums in mind she wouldn’t have ended up hiring the likes of Max Martin and Diane Warren to work on her record. But that private jet and its accompanying airport hangar ain’t gonna pay for themselves, so… 

Also, leave NYC the fuck alone. It's been Disneyfied enough; stick to Miami or Las Vegas.


Taiwanese Democracy?

Um, Axl? Yeah, don't mean to rush ya, man—not that attempting to rush you has ever borne fruit—but it's been almost 6 years since this one. Just sayin', you know? Cool.


Whatcha Gonna Do?

[courtesy of iMDB]

Much ado has been made—and rightfully so—about The Simpsons 
being on the air for 25 years. But guess what other TV show debuted in '89 and is STILL running...


Foo For Thought

As his band’s videos can attest to, he can get a little too comfortable with silliness. And more often than not the Foos’ songs can be a tad basic and plain. But the guy has written a few gems over the years—especially on the first three albums—and he’s one of rock and roll’s true believers. At a time in which so-called artists are using their fame to lend their names to fragrances and fashion lines, Dave Grohl has used his clout and celebrity superpowers for good. He could be marketing “Everlong” anti-perspirant, do a “My Hero” tie-in with a sub shop, or use "This is a Call" to sell Android phones. But no. 

Yes, he’s taken advantage of his status to live out his teenage bedroom rock and roll fantasies and play with a number of his heroes—the guy has Paul McCartney on speed dial, jams with Rush, drinks with Lemmy, and is in a band with a member of Led Zeppelin, for Pete’s sake!—but he also invests his time and money in documentaries about the magic of music, basically. So, while we harbor a few minor gripes about the guy, as far as current rock stars go, we could do much worse. 

Oasis - "Supersonic"

Definitely Maybe [Epic] was released in late '94, putting the British rock scene on notice. Many hit singles would follow but this was the opening salvo.


Rain Tree Crow - “Pocketful of Change”

When is a reunion not a reunion? Does adopting a new name but maintaining the aesthetic blueprint count? 

Wanting to break with their collective musical past, the members of Japan reunited as Rain Tree Crow almost a decade after their last album. But after the resulting self-titled album [Virgin-1991] was deemed not commercial enough to survive under the RTC banner, a desire to revert to the Japan moniker was nixed by vocalist David Sylvian, who exerted so much influence over the proceedings it became a solo album in everything but name.

And so concludes the discography of Japan and, with the death of bassist Mick Karn in 2011, the Rain Tree Crow album is now the band’s last musical statement.



Collision - "Chains"

Led by singer/guitarist Nik Chinboukas, this talented Queens, NY power trio was, arguably, a victim of bad timing: their 1992 self-titled debut [Sony/Chaos] sounded a tad out of place amongst the alt-rock boom of the early '90s and would likely have gained more traction had it been released 3-5 years prior.