Archive for the ‘Music’ Category.

To A Friend Who Is No More

But who was so much more…

 

 

See you on the other side, Laura, where we’re all 16 again.

Devo Guitarist Bob Casale Dead at 61

It’s Saturday night and an 11 year old boy lays in front of the TV watching late night television. His father had passed away the previous winter and his mother is downstairs, sorting things out for her small home-based business. His small runty white cat lays beside him, flicking her tail as she watches him laugh and guffaw at skits performed by John Belushi, Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtain. He starts to get sleepy but keeps on watching. Things had been tough since his dad died, and were going to get tougher in the coming years. But in a few seconds it would not matter.

5 men in yellow hazmat suits take the stage. His little mind blown would be blown and 2 minutes 48 seconds later things would never be the same for that young boy.

 

Destination North Carolina

In my mind I’m goin to carolina
Cant you see the sunshine
Cant you just feel the moonshine
Maybe just like a friend of mine
It hit me from behind
Yes I’m goin to carolina in my mind. – James Taylor

Comfort

I imagine sitting next to a roaring fire in a cabin somewhere in a cold and beautiful place listening to Neil Young’s Harvest.

Rolling Stone: Size Doesn’t Matter

I regularly start the morning here in the Philadelphia area with the Preston & Steve show on WMMR. Today they mentioned the fact that Rolling Stone magazine was resizing. Evidently single copies sales of the magazine have been declining as of late, and publisher Jann Wenner believes it is partly due to the magazine’s large format.

The jocks at Preston & Steve may know the real problem for the magazines decline. Preston Elliot mentioned that he let his subscription lapse because the magazine’s politics became “too intense,” specifically citing the mags anti-war cartoons. Casey, another member of the morning crew, noted that the magazine tended to give 5 stars to every Bob Dillon release and implied that the magazine was out of touch with contemporary music. He also wondered how much impact the Internet had on the magazine.

I stopped reading Rolling Stone years ago after Greider became repetitive and PJ O’Rourke started publishing elsewhere. The magazine never reflected my musical tastes which tended towards the underground-side of things. At the time the J Geils Band was gracing its cover I was listening to Bauhaus and Skinny Puppy – two bands that I doubt were ever mentioned in the pages of that magazine let alone profiled.

I’d love to see the magazine’s demographics since I’d bet the average age of Rolling Stone’s readership is deep in Geritol territory. Even when I was in the targeted demographic the magazine seemed to cater more to the ‘60s Generation than to my own, which may be why Spin magazine did so well (at least initially).  More recently Maxim and similar magazines have done well with the young, covering lifestyle and music topics with edgy yet profitable aplomb. I notice that Maxim has twice the circulation as Rolling Stone does, and is thriving on – and off – the Internet.

However Preston Elliot’s comment about the politics of the magazine is dead on given its worship of Barack Obama, a point made all the more apparent in this photo of Wenner taken from the IHT story.

Jann Wenner & Barack Obama Resized Covers
Jann Wenner Seeks Relevance

I’ve discussed Wenner’s efforts on Obama’s behalf here and even suggested the next cover in his Obamassiah series:

The Obamassiah

Perhaps I’ve gotten Wenner’s support of Obama wrong. Maybe he isn’t using his music magazine to push his personal political views; maybe Wenner is hoping that Obama supporters will see Rolling Stone as hip and relevant – just like the candidate himself.

The unfortunate truth is that nothing lasts forever. Rolling Stone’s best years ended in 1976 as its demographic shifted into building careers and families away from creating socialist utopias fueled by pot smoke and Hendrix. Changing its size and having Obama grace even more covers will not make the magazine any more relevant. Like the aging hippies who read it generations ago, it’s time has passed. Like Rolling Stone’s readers have, Wenner needs to move on.

Control – The Life, Death and Legacy of Ian Curtis

Watched the movie Control. This movie is based on the book by Deborah Curtis “Touching From a Distance,” about her life with Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis.

Control Movie Poster

The fact that I’m writing about this movie says a few things: first that I’m pretty out of touch since the movie was released at Cannes in 2007;  second that at my age I still listen to and like Joy Division. I’m not embarrassed by either of these facts.

For those who don’t know Joy Division was a band that became quite successful in the UK in the late 1970s. On the eve of their 1980 tour in the US Curtis hung himself in the kitchen of his flat. After his death the band later reformed and became New Order which went on to achieve a level of fame and success that no doubt would have troubled Curtis. Nonetheless Joy Division became a prominent band in modern rock, influencing contemporaries like U2 and The Cure (Robert Smith dedicated “Primary” to Curtis) as well as later bands like Nine Inch Nails (who covered Joy Division’s “Dead Souls”) and The Killers, who covered the Joy Division song “Shadowplay.”

Control the movie will appeal to Joy Division, New Order fans – but I doubt it will work for anyone unfamiliar with the music or Ian Curtis’s persona. The movie is shot in black & white which fits the subject well, as anyone familiar with the music will attest. The cinematography is excellent, but I think the movie would have benefited from tighter editing. At least 20 mins of the 2 hour 3 minute long movie could have hit the editing room floor thereby preventing a few dragged out scenes that the movie could have done without.

Where this music truly shined was the acting; Sam Riley channels Ian Curtis in a way that I haven’t seen since Val Kilmer played Jim Morrison (an influence of Curtis’s by the way) in the 1991 Oliver Stone film. The rest of Joy Division – Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, and Stephen Morris – played by Joe Anderson, James Anthony Pearson, and Harry Treadaway – are played so convincingly that it’s hard for all but the most die-hard Joy Division fans to realize that the four actors playing Joy Division actually played and sang the Joy Division songs in the movie. While I missed Joy Division due to age and geography, I have seen video of the band, and Riley’s portrayal of Curtis is spot on. The spastic dancing, the hiding behind the microphone, the soul-penetrating icy stares – all done perfectly by Riley. Add the fact that the band does not lip synch any of their songs almost sent me to my collection once or twice to compare the songs in the movie to the songs on CD.

Ian Curtis may not be as well known as James Dean, Jim Morrison and more recently Heath Ledger, but his death at the age of 23 just before his band was on the brink of success in the United States has created a similar legacy to those stars who were cut down before their prime. The movie accurately portrays him as an enigmatic figure who viewed his talent as a burden, one that ultimately consumed him.

As someone deep into middle age I recognize such talent as a siren song and know that Talent and its attendant Muses comes in other, less lethal, varieties. Better for Curtis to have lived a quiet life with his wife and daughter in the English countryside like Sting than to have ended his brief life prematurely.  Would Joy Division have made it in the USA had Curtis lived? Would the band have changed modern music as much as it has already if Curtis had lived? No one knows for sure, but I wish that Ian Curtis would have at least tried.

The Cure in Philadelphia 05-10-08

We saw The Cure last night- and weren’t the oldest geezers at the show (nor for that matter was Robert Smith). The band played for just shy of 3 hours, mostly old classics with a sprinkle of new songs. Opening band was 65daysofstatic – an instrumental band from Sheffield whose sound reminded me of Jesus & Mary Chain with hints of old New Order/Joy Division. The Wife is a huge Cure fan and she wasn’t disappointed. I tend to like everything up through Disintegration and neither was I.

The new stuff is still recognizable as Cure but it’s completely devoid of the old dark undertones/angst. Guess the Paxil works – or Robert just isn’t as depressed as he used to be. Either way the new stuff isn’t half bad; mediocre Cure beats most bands’ best stuff any time.

Our ears are still ringing; it’s the first live show we’ve seen in over 16 years, and I’d forgotten how loud rock music can be. We got home close to midnight after picking up the Kid from the Mother-in-law. 20 Years ago I used to go to clubs that didn’t even open until that time. Amazing how Life changes you, or you change to fit Life – or both.

Here’s the current lineup and a shot of the band from Wikipedia. Robert and Simon looked pretty much like this, while Porl looked like Elton John ca 1977,  wearing a mesh top, vinyl pants and red high-heeled platform shoes.

The Cure in Singapore Aug 1, 2007 - Source: Wikipedia

House Music

I’m a big fan of House Music having lived in Chicago in the mid 1980s and listened to 102.7 FM WBMX. On Saturday night the station played non-stop house music, and for a teenager from the suburbs making his first forays into the club scene it was exactly what I was looking for. House blended disco and funk with elements of new wave, punk and industrial – all genres I liked – and added a strong kick drum on each beat.

The music was distinctly American thanks to the blending of funk, separating it from the European techno and trance genres that were evolving separately at the time.

Wikipedia has an excellent history on the genre here.

I made a few recordings of BMX’s Saturday Night Dance Party in 1985/86 and have ripped them to digital. I hope to add them here soon and will host them until I get slapped by a lawyer threatening me with an IP violation lawsuit.

UPDATE: Here’s one
BMX Saturday Night Dance Party, Feb 13, 1987

Imogen Heap – Musical – and Technological – Genius

This has to be one of the most remarkable performances I’ve ever witnessed by a musician.




For the lazy, Imogen Heap is performing live in a radio studio. She begins her performance with some a cappella which she instantly records and plays back. She then layers her voice over the track again, records it, and plays it back instantly again. As she’s playing back herself singing, she then claps in accompaniment, which she then records and layers with her singing.

Throughout the entire performance she uses the recording and playing back of various elements from the same performance to create a deeply textured sound impeccably woven “on the fly” – all from elements that did not exist in any form before she took the stage.

My musical tastes are rather eclectic and range from Abba, through Skinny Puppy to Buckwheat Zydeco. However I can appreciate talent and artistry in anything – and Ms. Heap has both in spades.

Her performance reminds me most of Thomas Dolby and Tom Ellard. However she does with her voice what Dolby and Ellard do with samples and instruments.

So if you are still lazy, click and watch the video above. I guarantee you that you’ll have never seen anything quite like it.

I Listen to Some Bizarre Stuff…

The older I get, the more full-blown eccentric I become. For example, I still listen to some of the downright weird stuff I liked back in the 1980’s. Worse, I subject the Kid to it. Hey, if he wants to listen to Green Day, he’ll have to drive his own car.

Until then, he’ll have to put up with this:

Kraftwerk:



This is true techno music.

Legendary Pink Dots:



Modern psychedelia. Beautiful, hypnotic and freakin’ weird.

Sisters of Mercy:



Rocking goth. I think part of me will always want to be Andrew Eldritch.

The Cult:



More rocking goth. I remember when this song cleared the dancefloor at Chicago’s Club Medusa in October 1985 for being too “rock”. Ian Astbury continues channeling Jim Morrisson after all these years…

Skinny Puppy:



I still have a Skinny Puppy sticker on my car.

I’m a card-carrying member of the Republican Party. A strong supporter of the NRA. I continue to support President George Bush, the war in Iraq and the Global War on Terror. I am pro-Life, pro-Choice and believe that a strong family is the bedrock of a civilized society.

But I still have a Skinny Puppy sticker on my car. And I love this music.

Strange Musical Kick

I’m on an odd musical journey right now. I’ve been listening to a lot of techno trance but augmented with classic Severed Heads and Cabaret Voltaire. I’m also curious about rappers like J Dilla – who passed away just this year. Digital Imported Internet Radio is a good place to check out when the Kid has taken over the PS2 - like he has now.

There is a heavy psychedelic vibe to all these tracks, which may coincide with a deep love of surrealism, Dada, and Discordianism. All of these genres resonate with an innate appreciation I have for Zen. Zen has been there for me at some pretty tough times. I turned to it when I sobered up, and learned to rely upon it in my college days.

Too bad I suck at it. I think of Zen the same way a poodle imagines itself as the pitbull. I appear to be the very antithesis of Zen, yet when I imagine the person I would love to be, that person is inevitably a Zen roshii.

Perhaps Zen’s Truth in non-thought is a natural desire for someone who thinks too much.

Or not.

I Laugh Alone – at Green Day

I wrote about why I dislike this band in this post. Just in case you think I’m some old fuddy-duddy, here’s what’s been rocking my gas guzzling SUV:

1. Christopher Lawrence – a master of trance techno
2. Joshua Ryan – a discovery after using Music Map , one of the most original music search sites I’ve ever found.
3. Minor Threat – I’ve got straight edge…
4. Jethro Tull – Okay, sometimes the gnomes and the elves of the forest take over my CD player. It’s not something that I’m proud of but it happens, no matter how many “no-elf” strips and gnome traps I leave in the car.

Green Day has made yet another song that irritates me like the musical equivalent of poison ivy: “Walk Alone”. If ever there was a song that was ripe for a Weird Al parody, this has gotta be it. It’s the song that every 18-21 male whose girlfriend has ditched him listens to right now. It’s got the heavy lyrics that can only be appreciated by kids whose hearts have been mildly plucked…

Not ripped out of your chest, stomped on, and thrown into a vat of acid suffered. No, that only comes after decades of dealing with the “fairer” sex.

My response to Walk Alone is gestating, but until then I can only say:

Get over it.

American Idiot – Proof Punk Is Dead

I’ve been trying to figure out just what the hell Green Day is singing about in the song “American Idiot”, so I googled and found the lyrics here.

I figured it was some kind of Lefty, Moore-ish rant. Truth be told, I can’t make heads or tails of it.

Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alien nation.
Everything isn’t meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow.
Convincing them to walk you.

Who’s the idiot: Americans who support Bush and the War on Terror, the kids who buy their CDs or the songwriter who can’t get his message across? Convincing them to walk you? What, is that supposed to mean that I’m a poodle? Can I be a Rottweiler? But you said “we’re not the ones who’re meant to follow”. So… WTF?

Punk is about being direct. I thrashed at an Exploited show where the British hardcore band sang “F*** the USA”. You can’t get more direct than that. The lead singer got hit in the head with a beer bottle during that show too. One has to love Freedom of Expression.

I still listen to the Dead Kennedy’s and Minor Threat. I’ve pared back on the Goth because honestly, I’ve got plenty of drama in my life without needing to make more up. And I love my trance techno – even if it is the musical equivalent of a jackhammer. And there’s still the odd moment when I crank Ozzy Osbourne or Ted Nugent. Yes, an idiot I know once said something wise once: “The music you listen to at 16 will be the music you’ll listen to for the rest of your life”. Smart man, that idiot.

Every time I hear about how Left American university campuses are, I think of this lyric from the Dead Kennedy’s Holiday Classic, “Holiday in Cambodia”:

Play ethnicky jazz
To parade your snazz
On your five grand stereo
Braggin’ that you know
How the niggers feel cold
And the slums got so much soul

Yep, Jello Biafra used plain speech to get his point across. So what is with Green Day’s artsy crap?

Punk is sure dead if Green Day claims the mantle of “Punk Band”.

Update: 12/21/2004
It just dawned on me this morning who the true American idiot is: The kid who listens to Green Day, whines about Bush – then doesn’t vote.

If you want change, you have to do more than listen to a song about it. You have to do more than slap an anti-Bush bumpersticker on your car or post at SmirkingChimp.

Why didn’t these kids vote? I think it’s because their parents couldn’t do it for them.

Go ahead. Listen to Green Day. Whine about your world. Then do absolutely nothing about it.