3/23/2019

Too Fast For Love

The Dirt
directed by Jeff Tremaine
[2019]

Despite being based on a tell-all book that doesn’t skimp on the sordid details, The Dirt comes across as lacking in both story and character development in comparison, and feels quite rushed in how it depicts the band’s origin story, subsequent rise to fame, fall from grace and eventual resurrection, not to mention the changing music scene of the early ‘90s that pushed aside bands like the Crüe. (The life-size poster of Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten outside the Crüe’s rehearsal studio is, by its lonesome, supposed to clue us in on that latter development.)

Some folks have chastised Netflix for programming The Dirt in the midst of the #MeToo movement, which is ridiculous, considering the movie revolves around the true life and times of a rock and roll band prone to debauchery (depravity?) during the ‘80s, a decade mostly defined by a carefree attitude towards drugs, greed and hedonism.

However, those of us who’ve read the book, and/or know how it all went down, will find it hard to get past the movie feeling like a sort of a visual checklist and not a story. Whereas for those vaguely or plain unfamiliar with the Crüe, one can surmise them experiencing a rated-X Lifetime movie about an ‘80s hair band and little more.

Bottom line: The Dirt is entertaining and doesn’t suck but it fails to live up to its source material. Or even the hype, for that matter.

3/19/2019

Days of Future Past

Something curious happened while we were not paying much attention: Rock, popular music's dominant global force for decades, has reached the age when the average person begins to contemplate retiring, feeling perhaps vital still, but not as when the brio of youth gave it its verve. (When was the last time a new rock band captured the attention of the masses?) So, taking this as a starting point, it might be a good opportunity to try to analyze where the record industry is in general and where it could be headed in the not too distant future.

Due to the many ways in which technology has impacted our lives, it's interesting to observe the various attempts to discern how we will consume music as the music industry undergoes more changes in its structure. It's important to point out that the music business operates in a slightly different realm than other areas of entertainment and popular culture: despite streaming, people still watch TV, go to the movies and even purchase movies and TV series in physical formats, while the consumption of music in physical formwhich was the main form of distribution during the second part of the 20th century in particularhas diminished considerably, despite the recent (relative) boom of vinyl. (And notwithstanding the various options offered by technology, live concerts still remain the main revenue source for artists at all levels.)

There's talk of various subscription models (a la cable TV) as MP3 sales decrease continuously and compact discs are relegated to the stuff of memories. (Beginning a few years ago, computer manufacturers stopped adding the optical disc drives necessary to read CDs / DVDs, the first indication of a possible future physical obsolescence.) But if there is something that cannot be ignored it's that the factors that invariably determine how the masses consume music are price and convenience. Frequently, sound quality is brought up as driving the commercial behavior of consumers (and the audiophile community is a strong example), but the reality is that the other two factors mentioned above have prevailed more often than not when the public decides how to spend its money vis-a-vis music.

What is undeniable is that we are experiencing a historical moment, one in which there is more access than ever to all kinds of music, regardless of genre or style. However, despite appearances, it seems that no particular form of music will be dominant as we see specialized niches pop up like never before. This could open the door to all kinds of innovations in terms of both art and commerce. And if the last few years have taught us anything, it's that change might be right around the corner.

Will it be minor or all encompassing? The only thing we can dare predict is that the erroneously considered dead and buried major record labels, still in possession of billions of dollars at their disposal which they've been using to finance the likes of Spotify, as they manage to become profitable (along with the catalogs of thousands of popular artists), as well as the mighty Internet, will be involved in one way or another in how consumers enjoy pre-recorded music. 

"We'll see," said the blind man.
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3/01/2019

Sailing on the Seas of Psych

THE CLAYPOOL / LENNON DELIRIUM
South of Reality 
[Prawn Song/ATO – 2019]

On paper this doesn’t necessarily seem like the most auspicious of collaborations: Les Claypool is a proggy alt-rocker with a fondness for the weird and absurd, while Sean Lennon is a melodic singer/songwriter with a taste for psych. But these two talented gentlemen have made the most of their common ground, namely that sweet spot where Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd meets John Lennon in “I Am The Walrus” mode with a dash of early ‘70s King Crimson, which they further explore to much fruition on this, their second album.

Despite the name recognition of the two principals involved it’s hard to imagine a wide audience for this kind of record in the current musical climate. But perhaps this is the album the masses need to experience in order to shake them free of the oppressiveness of the by-the-numbers pap they are bombarded with on a daily basis. Or maybe just give ‘em something to hate. Regardless, if a trippy, psychedelic vibe that grooves is your cup of tea, there is much here to warrant repeated refills. Drink up! 

Highlights: First single “Blood and Rockets: Movement I / Saga of Jack Parsons / Movement II, Too The Moon”, “Boriska”, “Easily Charmed By Fools”, “Amethyst Realm” and the title track.

1/02/2019

UnCoolio

"We bullied Hootie and each Blowfish, and we liked how it felt, so we didn’t stop. We laughed them out of the game for no good reason, while we let Dave Matthews Band continue kicking around the same hacky sack for their next few albums. We shamed them in a way we never did Counting Crows, and to this day Adam Duritz walks the earth with a hairdo that answers the question: what if a fireworks display could be brown?" 
- Dave Holmes, Esquire magazine, January 2019.

It always seemed like those who supported H&tB were the same ones to turn on them when it was deemed no longer cool to like 'em. But here's the thing: they were never cool. Talented and hugely popular? Sure. But they were never cool. Regardless, they were singled out for being bland and/or hokey when there were, as Holmes points out, plenty of other guilty parties out there who did not suffer the same fate. (Dishwalla?)

One could argue H&tB were a reflection of their followers: folks who were, as most young people are, preoccupied with notions of cool but, not knowing how to discern this elusive designation in the middle of the 1990s alternative nation, latched onto something they could readily identify with, only to later find out it was the uncoolest strain of them all and eventually bailed.

But time has a way of blurring memories, burying shame and enabling the embracing of nostalgia, as we've seen with the throes of middle aged women attending New Kids on the Block concerts in the 21st century. And judging by recent developments one assumes Holmes' mea culpa might be unnecessary: the Blowfish are touring this summer and playing venues like NYC's Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl, so this is not has-beens embarking on a low-key, low rent affair.

Again, Hootie and the Blowfish were never cool and will never be more than an outfit which put out bland, ably performed pop/rock. But now, as their fans have gotten older, they get to acknowledge that and still enjoy them just the same. Good for them.

12/23/2018

2018: The Year in Review (Sort of)

Yes, it’s been another 12 months, and with it comes another abridged and personalized version of a yearly recap. Let’s get crackin’, shall we?

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
KAMASI WASHINGTON Heaven and Earth [Young Turks]
















If not this one, then…
Oh, if only Donny Hathaway were alive to hear this.
FAVORITE ALBUM
Didn’t really have one this year…

FAVORITE SINGLE
DOJA CAT “Roll With Us” [Kemosabe/RCA]

The first single off Amala, the debut album by LA’s answer to Cardi B, is as shallow and expletive-laden as anything comparable out there these days, but it’s the enticing guitar-led, dream trap with atmospheric background vocals that make the song irresistible.



VIDEO OF THE YEAR
CHILDISH GAMBINO “This Is America”

One hell of an artistic statement, the video clip for this engaging hip-hop/R&B hybrid, is a timely depiction of current US culture and pregnant with symbolism: people gleefully dancing and being all-out consumers while engulfed by chaos; gun violence in which the weapons are treated with more care than the victims; Death riding a pale white horse (from the biblical book of Revelations); and spectators capturing it all on their cellphones.
At a juncture in which so-called artists are seemingly more preoccupied with shilling for their own clothing lines and fragrances and making fools of themselves in all kinds of ways, Gambino reminded us all what it is to be a talented, socially conscious artist and what they can do in that regard when so inclined.




FAVORITE COVER/TRIBUTE
BROWNOUT Fear of a Brown Planet [Fat Beats]


The Austin, TX latin funk soul brothers pay tribute to Public Enemy with a collection of instrumental covers that must be heard to be believed. And enjoyed, of course. (“Bring the Noise” is among the highlights.) You better believe this hype.

MOST CONFUSING ALBUM
JEFF TWEEDY Warm [dBm]

An intimate confessional album, The Wilco leader’s official solo debut, were it not for the mostly lo-key production and being released under his name, could be the band’s most recent record. Like the “solo” albums by the late Tom Petty, the point of making a record identical to those you make with your still active band might be lost on anyone not the titular artist, but the songs themselves are top-notch and it’s a shame Wilco itself did not get to tackle them. 

Runner up:
ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IMPOSTERS Look Now [Concord]

Declan, if you were going to work on another collaboration with Burt Bacharach why pray tell would you use the Imposters if you weren’t going to rock out? Talk about a bait and switch…and who OKd that hideous album cover?

MOST DISAPPOINTING ALBUM
GRETA VAN FLEET Anthem of the Peaceful Army [Universal]

Anything that gets folks rocking out, especially in these times of mainstream rock and roll’s diminishing returns, is a godsend. But pinning one’s hopes on musical ventriloquists feels bittersweet, to say the least. Jeez.

MOST DISAPPOINTING SONG
DAVE GROHL “Play”

An almost half hour instrumental amalgam of latter day Foo Fighters channeling Pink Floyd, Rush and Yes performed solely by Grohl, “Play” is a decent and enjoyable composition but it’s the kind of song you’ll watch on YouTube, marvel at the man’s prodigious talent and inevitably forget not long after. 

BEST REISSUE
JOHN COLTRANE Both Directions at Once [Impulse]


Unreleased studio gems from the titan of the tenor sax recorded in 1963.  

Runner up (various):
THE BEATLES self-titled aka The White Album [Apple]
MILES DAVIS & JOHN COLTRANE The Final Tour [Columbia/Legacy]
ERIC DOLPHY Musical Prophet [Resonance]
LIZ PHAIR Girly-Sound to Guyville [Matador]
PRINCE Piano and a Microphone: 1983 [Warner Brothers/Rhino]



MOST DISAPPOINTING CONTINUING DEVELOPMENT
Rock music’s irrelevance in the mainstream

We’re not ready to ask for the death certificate quite just yet but our beloved is definitely on life support, as far as the masses are concerned. And what has taken its place is largely abominable. (Thank God for indie rock.)

UNFORTUNATE MUSIC BUSINESS TREND
Artists woefully remunerated for streams of their recordings

The streaming services allege they are paying out a substantial portion of their revenue (as high as 70%, according to Spotify) but major label artists are seeing miniscule fractions of that. Meanwhile, the labels—who are, um, “silent” business partners with the streaming services—remain mum on the subject.

MOST APROPOS POP CULTURE REFERENCE GUIDE
Vulture publishes a ‘Who’s Who’ of C-Z list celebrities

Put together for those of you with a spouse, children or otherwise good friends who routinely mention or, God forbid, follow many of these famous-for-being-almost-famous, tabloid denizens, Kardashian worshippers and wannabes, this past April the folks at Vulture put together something they called “Welcome to the Who-niverse: A guide to the many, many celebrities whose names make you say…"Who?", a handy primer designed to help one tell these people apart. Good grief!

FAVORITE DEVELOPMENT TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2019
The release of Dr. Dre’s Marvin Gaye biopic

Here’s hoping the rapper/producer can succeed where others’ attempts failed (notably, Cameron Crowe, F. Gary Gray, Lenny Kravitz and Scott Rudin) by virtue of being rebuffed by the estate of the legendary Motown icon.

Runner up:
A new Guns N Roses album with Slash and Duff.


GOODBYE
Jefferson Airplane/Starship vocalist Marty Balin; avant garde composer Glenn Branca; noted drummer Leon “Ndugu” Chancler; the one and only Roy Clark; Motorhead and Fastway guitarist “Fast” Eddie Clarke; Nokie Edwards, guitarist for The Ventures; the Queen, Aretha Franklin; legendary Chilean crooner Lucho Gatica; jazz/latin band leader, trumpeter, percussionist Jerry Gonzalez; jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove; former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan; noted trumpeter Hugh Masekela; blues guitarist Matt Murphy; Charles Neville of The Neville Brothers; The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan; bassist Joe Osbourne of studio legends The Wrecking Crew; Pantera’s Vinnie Paul; drummer for Cracker, The Plugz, Social Distortion and Izzy Stradlin, Charlie Quintana; bluesman Otis Rush; Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks; The Fall’s Mark E. Smith; record store pioneer Russ Solomon; Agent Orange/Adolescents bassist Steve Soto; jazz legend Cecil Taylor; guitarist Wah Wah Watson; the great Nancy Wilson.

Once More With Bleeding

EVEN TWICE
Muchmore’s
Williamsburg, BKNY
12/23/18

With a righteous stomp reminiscent of Local H and the gleeful abandon of Lightning Bolt, Brooklyn’s Even Twice may share the spirit and intensity of their aforementioned two-man brethren, but on Sunday night they rocked the house with the kind of high-octane set one would expect from a couple of Ramones fans who own some Rush records.


Blasting through 30 non-stop minutes of their own brand of no nonsense rock and roll, Bob Hait (vocals, bass) and Pat O’Shea (vocals, drums) performed choice cuts from their two previous albums and an upcoming third produced by Paul Q. Kolderie (Dinosaur Jr, Hole, Morphine, Pixies, Radiohead), leaving it all on stage, as required and expected.

They’ll be likely coming to a town near you in 2019. Miss them at your own peril.

12/20/2018

MILESTONES: 25 Notable Albums from 1993

Not a list of the best or the biggest released that year (although some of those are included here) but a rundown of some interesting albums, many of which were debuts, some are the artist’s seminal or most controversial release, a few were game changers and some of ‘em just never got the love they deserved. Regardless, you should revisit each and every single one; shame on you if you missed 'em the first time around.
Together, they not only have in common a 25th anniversary in 2018, but can be seen as a clue as to what was in the water in the year of our rock and roll nineteen hundred and ninety-three.

In alphabetical order by artist:

FRANK BLACK self titled [4AD/Elektra]
THE BREEDERS Last Splash [4AD/Elektra]
DEPECHE MODE Songs of Faith and Devotion [Warner Bros]
FIREHOSE Mr. Machinery Operator [Columbia]
FISHBONE Give a Monkey a Brain and He'll Swear He's the Center of the Universe [Epic] CHARLIE HUNTER TRIO self titled [Prawn Song]
JELLYFISH Spilt Milk [Charisma]
LENNY KRAVITZ Are You Gonna Go My Way? [Virgin]
LIVING COLOUR Stain [Epic]
MELVINS Houdini [Atlantic]
MORPHINE Cure for Pain [Rykodisc]
ME’SHELL NDEGEOCELLO Plantation Lullabies [Maverick]
NIRVANA In Utero [DGC]
LIZ PHAIR Exile In Guyville [Matador]
PORNO FOR PYROS self titled [Warner Bros]
THE POSIES Frosting on the Beater [DGC]
SMASHING PUMPKINS Siamese Dream [Virgin]
SNOOP DOGG Doggystyle [Death Row]
TEARS FOR FEARS Elemental [Mercury]
TEENAGE FANCLUB Thirteen [DGC]
VARIOUS ARTISTS Judgment Night soundtrack [Immortal/Epic]
PAUL WELLER Wild Wood [Island]
PAUL WESTERBERG 14 Songs [Sire/Reprise]
WU-TANG CLAN Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) [Loud]
YO LA TENGO Painful [Matador]

12/16/2018

This One’s For The Ladies: 5 Female Drummers You Should Be Acquainted With

Due to ignorance, sexism, laziness and what have you, women behind the kit don’t get the respect they deserve. And it doesn’t help much that the most visible female drummer of the last 20 years [cough*Meg White* cough] is such a musical disappointment.
We’re obviously not going to change the world but feel it’s quite worth it to highlight and point out some badass ladies that deserve every bit of your attention.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

CARLA AZAR 
Her current gig—playing for Jack White since 2011—is her most high profile yet, but this L.A.-based drummer is a fixture on the Hollywood independent film circuit as a composer and is a founding member of indie cult favorites Autolux.

Recommended track: Sample Azar’s tasty Bonham-meets-Chamberlin groove on “Turnstile Blues”, the leadoff track from Autolux’s debut album Future Perfect [DMZ-2004].


CINDY BLACKMAN 
Inspired to play drums after seeing the late great Tony Williams behind the kit, Blackman is an impressive jazz and rock musician who is probably best known for her longtime stint as Lenny Kravitz’s touring drummer. But Blackman has an imposing list of credits to her name, including playing with Ron Carter, Bill Laswell, Joe Henderson, Mike Stern, and Cassandra Wilson, in addition to her own records and duties as an international drum clinician. In 2011 she played drums for her husband Carlos Santana’s one-off reunion with John McLaughlin.

Recommended track: Her playing on the tribute to the legendary saxophonist on “For Wayne (Shorter, That Is)” from her album Music for the New Millennium [Sacred Sounds-2005] is both groovy and sublime.


SUSIE IBARRA 
California-born, Texas-raised and a resident of NYC since 1989, Ibarra is a noted jazz drummer with a predilection for the avant garde and experimental who's also worked the likes of Arto Lindsay, Thurston Moore, and Prefuse 73. Ibarra is also known for exploring the music of her Filipino heritage and other styles of music from around the world.

Recommended track: “Logistic” from the David S. Ware album Go See the World [Columbia-1998].


PATTY SCHEMEL 
Courtney Love’s larger than life persona is why Hole were (in)famous but Patty Schemel is why they kicked ass as a band. A longtime favorite of ours, Ms. Schemel is a badass rock and roll drummer who deserves way more props and recognition than she gets: one need only listen to her both explosive and propulsive stick work on Hole’s “Violet” from Live Through This [DGC-1994] to hear why.


JANET WEISS 
Overshadowed in the iconic indie rock band Sleater-Kinney by the songwriting partnership of Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker (as well as their relationship drama), Weiss has demonstrated over the years her mastery behind the kit in and out of the group (Bright Eyes, Stephen Malkmus, Quasi, The Shins), as evidenced by her ranking by Stylus Magazine as one of rock’s top 50 drummers.

Recommended track: Plenty of Sleater-Kinney songs of course but to hear Weiss in a freer, more open context, “Real Emotional Trash”, the ten minute title track from the 2008 Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks album [Matador] is a must listen.

10/31/2018

Mr. Jones' 21 Favorite Covers of All Time

[As always, when attempting this kind of exercise, familiarity and poignancy—as well as considerations of time, space, length, reader interest, etc etc etc—will inevitably lead to some favorites falling by the wayside. But such are the pitfalls of compiling a list of any kind, although slightly less stress is involved when the main criteria is favorites. And so, with that out of the way, and in alphabetical order by artist, have at them. Cheers. - KJ]

RYAN ADAMS “Wonderwall” (Oasis)
Noel Gallagher likes it so much he plays it this way now as a solo artist. Props.

JON AUER “Gold Star for Robot Boy” (Guided by Voices)
A heartfelt rendition of an indie rock classic and a lesson in what covering a song is all about.

JON BRION “Voices” (Cheap Trick)
Mr. Soundtrack took a nice ballad and made it a dark, sad, lovelorn, midnight piano and vocal lament.

THE CARDIGANS “Iron Man” (Black Sabbath)
Even Ozzy digs this trip hop-inspired re-casting of a metal classic.

GUSTAVO CERATI "Bajan" (Pescado Rabioso)
The original, written in the early '70s by the late great Luis Alberto Spinetta, is a revered classic in Argentina. This cover introduced it to a new generation.

EVAN DANDO “Frying Pan” (Victoria Williams)
Always loved this one, despite finding the original to be quite underwhelming.

DEVO “Satisfaction” (Rolling Stones)
The quintessential cover version. Take notes, boys and girls.

DIVIDIDOS “El Arriero” (Atahualpa Yupanqui)
An Argentine folk song of protest played as a blistering SRV blues tune.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR. “Smile” (Charlie Chaplin) 
A wonderful tribute by the man who ably played him on the big screen.

EARTH WIND AND FIRE “Got to Get You into My Life” (Beatles) 
I’m an apostle in the Church of McCartney but this one beats the original by a country mile.

FIREHOSE “Walking the Cow” (Daniel Johnston) 
Probably the best thing Firehose ever recorded w/Mike Watt on the mic.

PETER FRAMPTON  “Jumping Jack Flash” (Rolling Stones)
Yes, I love this one. And while the classic original was from 1968, this cover sounds as if it was a Sticky Fingers outtake. (Check out the version from Frampton Comes Alive, tho.)

TED LEO + PHARMACISTS “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” (Split Enz)
The original is nice enough but Mr. Leo gives it some bite and rocks the crap out of it.

HIGH LLAMAS “Frankly, Mr. Shankly” (The Smiths)
Sean O'Hagan and co. transport this one from rainy Manchester to sunny Southern California courtesy of a Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds-type arrangement. Yeah.

SEU JORGE “Life On Mars?” (David Bowie)
When it comes to Bowie covers, this one is hard to beat...it was even a fave of the man himself.

GARY LUCAS + GODS AND MONSTERS “Jack Johnson/Ghostrider” [live]
A Miles Davis/Suicide medley by the esteemed guitar virtuoso Gary Lucas (Captain Beefheart, Jeff Buckley) and his killer Gods and Monsters trio on their self-titled album.

LUNA “Sweet Child O’ Mine” (Guns N Roses)
Longtime favorite o' mine, which is, um, pretty sweet.

ELLIOTT SMITH “Because” (Beatles)
First heard it in a movie theatre during American Beauty’s closing credits. Still blown away.

TUCK & PATTI “Castles Made of Sand” (Jimi Hendrix)
I really wish Jimi had lived to hear Patti Cathcart sing one of his tunes with that incredible voice.

BUTCH WALKER & THE BLACK WIDOWS “In Bloom” (Nirvana)
Take a song, make it your own and give its fans another reason to love it. And maybe win over some other folks, too. Hats off, Butch!

YES “America” (Simon and Garfunkel)
It never stops being a tad weird to hear Jon Anderson sing about the New Jersey Turnpike, but it's a great cover of a beloved tune, so...


Very Special Mention: Mark Kozelekof Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon famerecorded an entire album of acoustic covers of Bon Scott-era AC/DC songs (What's Next to the Moon) that must be heard to be believed. Awesome.

10/30/2018

Big Star - 'Columbia' [audio+video]

For anyone who had ever followed them, Big Star’s April 25, 1993 reunion performance at Missouri University was a most improbable and unpredictable occurrence: the beloved cult heroes had been broken up for 20 years, had no current or planned activities, and only came about because a MU student decided to contact Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens on a whim and they, incredibly, said yes.

The show—with Big Star acolytes Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of The Posies joining Chilton and Stephens—was captured for posterity as Columbia: Live at Missouri University 4/25/93 [Zoo-1993] and those of us who are quite partial to the band rejoiced over this fine-sounding document of what turned out to be the final and longest-running incarnation of the power pop deity considered by some to be the “American Beatles”.

But be still my beating heart: footage of the Columbia, MO show has been synced to the album’s audio by one Juan C. Marioni and uploaded to YouTube. God bless you, sir.