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But Here We Are
[Roswell/RCA - 2023]

Early reviews suggest it’s a back-to-basics album, implying it’s a throwback to earlier records in the band’s catalog. There’s some truth to that—songwise, this one comes across as somewhat of a hybrid of The Colour and the Shape and There’s Nothing Left to Lose with, for good measure, a sprinkling of late ‘70s’/early ‘80s pop rock towards the back end. But those expecting or insinuating a return to the raw, aggressive sound and feel of the self-titled debut—which, coincidentally, was the last time Grohl played drums on an entire album for the band—are barking up the wrong tree. Well-oiled, veteran, arena rock acts rarely revisit their sonic roots. And if they do it's usually out of desperation, which is obviously not the case in this instance, as the band remains as popular as ever.
Many of this outfit’s detractors bemoan Grohl leaving behind the kit to become a frontman, thus depriving rock and roll of one of the most gifted drummers of his generation. Well, he’s back on this one and the results are what anyone would expect: the man hasn’t lost a step. But the sad, tragic reason why he’s behind the kit cannot be overlooked.
The album is dedicated to late drummer Taylor Hawkins and Grohl’s mom Virginia, whose death last summer went largely unreported. (“Rest” and “The Teacher”, in particular, seem to be directly inspired by their respective passing.) Grohl’s daughter Violet sings backup, noticeably on “Show Me How”, so there’s a bit of a family affair vibe, if not a festive one. This is, after all, a collection of songs responding to absence and grief. It’s not a dour listen, however—as the up-tempo rockers on the record’s first half clearly attest to—but meant to be an expression of catharsis and, as such, the band’s playful, sometimes gimmicky, often goofy vibe is not present on this one.
In the end, it’s a solid record from a band that’s been releasing albums longer than Kurt Cobain was alive. (Which in this instance is kind of fitting since the grief over his bandmate’s death was one of the reasons he started this one.) So, no earth-shattering musical developments just a pretty decent record, one that will be embraced the band’s followers but probably won’t draw in anyone who previously shunned them. I’m pretty sure Grohl is fine with that.
Released June 2, 2023.


Bittersweet Symphonies


Everything Harmony

[Captured Tracks-2023]


Despite having begun their careers as child Broadway actors, these 20-something, Long Island, NY multi-instrumentalist siblings have been formally doing the music thing since high school. And over an EP and three albums—one of them a wild rock opera—Brian and Michael D’Addario have shown themselves to be keen songwriters and arrangers who owe a debt of influence to another quirky set of siblings: the Mael brothers of Sparks.


But they’ve toned down that playful vibe and it’s other influences they channel on album number four: “Any Time of Day” evokes the Todd Rundgren of the early ‘70s; “What You Were Doing” could be a long lost Big Star song; and “I Don’t Belong to Me” is reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ less commercially successful but musically satisfying immediate post-Pet Sounds output, just to name a few.


To be honest, that a couple of musicians who weren’t even alive when Jellyfish disbanded in the early ‘90s—a band with whom they share some musical DNA, as well a bit of a sartorial kinship—this kind of well-crafted, bell-bottom melodicism that chronologically resides somewhere between 1966-1976, is a head-scratching (albeit quite welcome) surprise. Simply stunning. More, please.


Released May 5, 2023.


Lucky 13

Tremblers and Goggles by Rank

In a continuous but seemingly furtive way, Bob Pollard and his most recent of co-horts (Bobby Bare Jr, Doug Gillard, Kevin March and Marc Shue) have made 13 albums in the 5 years since this lineup came together. Not only is this the longest stretch of any lineup in the band’s history but the music they’ve been putting out has been consistently solid if not as seminal as Bee Thousand [Scat-1994] or Alien Lanes [Matador-1995].


Their most recent platter denotes a desire to further expand their sonic palette with melodic and rhythmic shifts that reference prog rock if not necessarily embracing it full-on. But this is no surprise as Uncle Bob has made clear that prog is one of the “4 Ps”—pop, punk and psych being the other three—that inform his songwriting. (For what it’s worth, it’s also one of the more Who-centric records in their catalog.)


While I would recommend this one to both fans of the band and the uninitiated, I would suggest the latter group check out first single “Alex Bell” and then decide whether to delve further into the record. A tribute to Big Star’s founders Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, “Alex Bell” best encapsulates the feel and purpose of the album overall, as it weaves thru melodies and quick turns but in Uncle Bob’s own unmistakable way.


Released July 1, 2022.


Sad But True: Music Is All About Falling In Love

Recently, the CEO of a well-known music services company posted a video on YouTube in which he addressed an incident with a disgruntled client. Said client, according to the CEO, was enraged about spending a few hundred dollars on an ad service the company offers, which yielded no results in terms of further exposure for the client’s music. The client was livid and accused the company of all sorts of things. The CEO countered this with an analogy: treat your career like you would your body and health. Take the proper steps, have discipline and determination and you will have a better outcome. All of which sounds to me like “Get a job, work hard, save money and buy a house”. Duh. No one is hiring an ad service as a mundane, practical step but a way to get a leg up. And if it can’t deliver that…

But that’s not even it.
The sad, undeniable truth that no one wants to admit is that there is no formula or guarantee when it comes to your music. Spending nothing/a little/a lot is not really the key, because luck is the only factor involved when it comes to the music business. Luck may be important in everyday life but in the music business it’s the only thing.
You can have the catchiest, best produced songs, performed by a talented, visually appealing artist, spend millions on advertising and have it go nowhere. Meanwhile, somebody uploads their goofy little song to YouTube and/or Spotify and it goes viral without spending a penny on any kind of advertising. Some artists do exactly what the aforementioned CEO suggests above and are successful. Others have also done exactly what he says and have little or nothing to show for it.
Because contrary to current popular opinion, music is not a product that you can sell like a hammer or a screwdriver, for instance. When you need a work tool such as those, you find the best one you can afford and simply buy it. Music doesn’t work the same way. Acquiring music is like falling in love: it’s about feelings. It’s about how you feel about a certain kind of music. And they can thrust this particular artist or album or song in front of you via advertising and if you don’t connect with it you won’t acquire it. Even if it’s a style of music that you enjoy or even love. Because it’s about feelings. And, of course, luck.


Welcome To The Machine

Hello Turbine

[Tangy Citrus - 2022]


On Jostaberry’s 2020 debut album, Greener Grass, the band (essentially the musical playground of multi-instrumentalist Bruce Hamilton) delivered an intoxicating mix of accessible yet interesting art pop that both challenged and delighted the ears, weaving through different elements and permutations of avant garde, prog and straight up rock and roll.

Album number two further delves into its predecessor’s spiritual allegiance to A Wizard A True Star-era Todd Rundgren, bursting with engaging melodies and idiosyncratic left turns that just seem to make sense regardless of context. But interesting arrangements and sympathetic production can only amount to clever trickery if the underlying songs aren’t up to snuff. Hamilton, as he’s demonstrated before, is not one to fall into that trap. Everything here sounds like it has meaning and purpose, yet the beating heart at its core is far from silent. This is music made with a purpose but anchored with emotion. Those expecting a sophomore slump can move along—nothing to see here. But if you want more of the tasty Jostaberry experience, or have yet to be initiated, dig in.


Highlights: “Roots”, “Connecting”, “The New Savannah”, “Tree Line”, “Planet”, “6 or 7 Miles After”.


After The Hurting

The Tipping Point

[Concord – 2022] 

The question of relevance in popular music is a tricky one these days. And is surely a significant point when taking into account the standing of a band whose so-called glory days were decades ago. But despite the obstacles of chronology often sidelining artists of similar vintage, these gentlemen have managed to maintain an admittedly less prominent, but continued presence within the popular landscape, not only with the enduring popularity of their songs, but also the inclusion of these in beloved movies, as well as nods by current artists such as Drake, Lorde and The Weeknd. And so, almost 20 years after their last album—the critically acclaimed return to form ‘Everybody Loves A Happy Ending’ [Universal - 2004]—a new collection of songs by the Bath, England duo has returned them to the spotlight.


The rekindling of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith’s long-standing but often interrupted friendship coupled with the overwhelming grief from the former’s beloved wife of 25 years passing in 2017, led the two old friends to reconvene in Smith’s Los Angeles home armed with acoustic guitars and not only purposely write some songs, but attempt to capture some of that old magic. Mission accomplished.


While Orzabal’s ruminations on his late wife and his new life without her inform these songs, it’s not a dour experience in the least, but one in which the cathartic balm of letting it out reflects a sense of peace and hope that dovetails with the band’s most uplifting moments. And while their trademark sonic palette is slightly less panoramic this time, it’s still imbued with the feel good nature of their big choruses and engaging melodies.


Welcome back, gentlemen. You have been sorely missed.


Released February 25, 2022.

Here We Are Now

The Nineties: A Book

[Penguin Press – 2022]

To approach this tome as an exercise in nostalgia would be a mistake. What Klosterman does here is attempt to both explain what the last decade of the 20th century was about from a cultural/social/political standpoint and, in doing so, place that chronological span in context. But because he’s made a name for himself absorbing, studying and commenting on pop culture, it becomes the lens thru which his observations and conclusions are refracted. Hence, his analysis equally explores in that manner the significance of the Nirvana/Kurt Cobain phenomenon; sports; the political implications of Ross Perot and his 1992 presidential campaign; and the rise of the internet, for instance.     


And while Klosterman is uniquely suited for a book of this nature, one that acknowledges and mostly focuses on how the youth of the time—aka Generation X, of which he is a member—were perceived and perceived themselves, he comes across here not so much as a participant but more like a well-sourced observer who knows the lingo, understands the vibe but isn’t really that attached to any of it. At least not as closely as one would expect. However, this approach, as it turns out, was Klosterman's deliberate intention to remove himself from the narrative as much as possible, for fear of turning the book into a memoir and thereby compromising his original mission in this case.


Regardless, in the end, this was the book that Klosterman was meant to write. The Nineties is an interesting and, at times, fascinating look at not just what mattered to a generation of young adults of that time and place, but also the way they processed the world around them, and how particular views and stances adopted by Gen-X were brought on by circumstances surrounding them that could not or would not be duplicated today. (The concepts of authenticity and "selling out" come to mind.) 


Klosterman has argued that the ‘90s are the last decade in American popular culture to have clearly delineated characteristics and identity, as opposed to the foggy interchangeability of the first couple decades of the 21st century. For many of us, who have lived through these last three decades as adults, that murkiness rings quite true.


And Now For Something Different…





Park Slope, BKNY



Considering that Even Twice drummer Pat O’Shea was a comedian in a previous professional life, it’s not a stretch to ascribe a certain humorous vibe to the proceedings, although this evening's lineup was no joke.


O’Shea opened the evening at the legendary Brooklyn institution with an acoustic set, accompanying himself on guitar as he wove through parts of his band’s catalog, as well as covers and a song improvised on the spot. It a was a nice change of pace to hear the drummer in a completely different setting but not a foreign one, seeing as O’Shea had been a guitarist in Boston’s ‘90s rock scene.


He was back behind the kit for the debut of Murder Hornetz, a local quartet borne of remote recording at the height of the pandemic last year. Featuring guitarist Jonathan Heagle, bassist Josh Machlin (Les Sans Culottes), and guest Russell Crane on keyboards, along with the aforementioned O’Shea, the foursome’s originals may have tongue-in-cheek titles and references to Star Trek (“Herd Impunity”, “Prime Directive”) but they bring a rock sensibility to their blend of early ‘70s electric Miles Davis circa Jack Johnson with a touch of Wired era Jeff Beck. An auspicious start for a band not to be missed.


Heagle leads his own quartet (which features Crane on keyboards) but his is a modern jazz ensemble despite the presence of upright bass. The four piece execute Heagle’s compositions with a combination of conviction, dexterity and sensitivity that befits a high caliber jazz outfit such as this one. A pleasure, indeed. 


Not your typical Saturday night at Freddy’s—which leans heavily on the straight up rock and roll side—but sometimes those are the best ones.  


Over The Moon

Flat White Moon
[Memphis Industries-2021]

Starting with their fifth album, 2016’s Commontime, Field Music added some indie funk to their angular, prog-informed but highly melodic pop/rock, resulting in their most accessible record to date. 

On this, album number eight, they have weaved together all the elements that have previously characterized their sound in a possibly even more welcoming mix. 

Once again the brothers Brewis (multi-instrumentalists David and Peter) have put together a collection of songs that sounds inviting and familiar while openly displaying their influences without slavish devotion to any which one in particular. 

Highly recommended.


ANNIVERSARIES: 'Around the World in a Day'

Around the World in a Day
[Warner Bros]

Perhaps sensing—and rightfully so—that the follow up to the monumental ‘Purple Rain’ [Warner Bros-1984] would not fare as well no matter how great it turned out to be, the Purple Monarch requested that his label keep promotion at a minimum for this one and only release a single after the album had been out for a month. 

Not a bad move considering album number seven was indeed a musical change of pace and ‘Purple Rain’ was still a current record, having been released almost 10 months prior. But despite the precautions anticipating the mixed reception it eventually got, the album did go double platinum and produced two of his biggest hits: “Raspberry Beret” and “Pop Life”, the former a Billboard #2 that once again become a Top 40 hit (#33) in 2016, in the wake of the man’s death. 

Released April 22, 1985