Monthly Archives: August 2012

“Drug Chart” by The Flaming Lips

Ever since I saw The Flaming Lips on Sunday night, I’ve been obsessed with their song, “Drug Chart.”  The song was a mystery to me at the show, so afterwords I did a little research and found out the song was part of their Gummy Skull series.  Part awesome limited-edition packaging, part thumbing of the proverbial-nose at modern music distribution, The Flaming Lips put out some songs on a USB encased in a life-sized candy replica of a human skulls.   They’ve been charging a few hundred bucks  per skull and only made a small quantity, which is super-cool if you were a bit well-off and able to buy one.  I’d heard of this project, but didn’t realized they’d been doing it for more than one song release.  Apparently they put out a bunch of music this way back in 2011.

“To listen, or not to listen…that is your question!”

Thus, the reason I was totally bewildered by “Drug Chart” on Sunday, was because it was a very limited released song.  It’s a strange song and an even stranger choice for the band to play live (especially at a festival).  The song opens with a hypnotic drum roll and anemic baseline.  Just when you’re nice and lulled, Wayne starts coo-ing about a litany of drugs, including marijuana and crystal meth.  Does that sound incredibly stupid to you?  It kinda is…but for some reason, I fucking love this song.  I can’t even explain why I love, because I can barely understand it.

The mysterious quality to the song is appealing.  But it’s more than that.  I can’t quite put my finger on it.  I wish I could read the lyrics, but alas I have been unable to find them online (I will be your best friend forever if you find them).  I guess it’s just as well, I’m sure I’d be disappointed if I was able to decode the song properly.  For now I’m content to let the mystery wash over me: I’ve been listening to it on repeat and enjoying the rush.

If you’re a bit of a freak, youu can listen to the song:

And if you decided you want to take multiple “trips” like I’ve been doing…you can go here and download the whole thing for free, along with all the other Gummy Skull songs. You can even download the song “7 Skies H3” a 24-song(!).

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LouFest 2012: Day #2 Wrap-Up

The second day of LouFest was almost dangerously-loaded with bands I wanted to see. Not that I wasn’t stoked about seeing the Day 1 bands, but the second half of the festival was wall-to-wall acts I was dying to see. Taking many of the lessons we learned from Day #1, my wife and I headed down to Forest Park with folding chairs and a change of clothes. Change of clothes? Yep, despite the bevy of awesome bands before us there was darkness literally looming on the horizon. With a 50% chance of rain, we knew we were gonna get wet…little did we realize just how wet we were going to get.

Day #2 started (for us) around 2-ish. We skipped the first two bands and started the day with fellow Missourians Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (SSLYBY). I have SSLYBY’s first album, BROOM, but I don’t consider myself to be a huge fan. They do have a very pleasant indie pop-rock sound somewhat akin to something off the early Weezer albums. As we set up our little chairs, we also popped in ear plugs. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I used ear plugs, but after standing close to the (way too loud) Dinosaur Jr. stage the day before, I still had a lingering ringing in the ears. When given the choice between looking/being cool or retaining my hearing, I’ll choose my hearing every time. Still, it felt like a very old man thing to do. My friend Mark randomly stopped by and made me feel better about using them*.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

SSLYBY were about as good as they are on their records, which isn’t really a compliment or a criticism, it’s just a fact. I wish I could muster some feeling for them one way or the other, but I can’t. They did play my two favorite songs of theirs, “Sink/Let It Sway” and the uber-fantastic “Pangea.” Up next was a band I’d never heard of, Wild Nothing. The band, who hails from Virginia, has a pleasant, slightly 80’s-ish pop sound. We didn’t move over to their stage, but what I heard wafting across the field was pretty good. They’re definitely a band I plan on checking out on Spotify.

The day’s first disappointment was Cults. I was really looking forward to seeing the guy-girl rockers. I was hoping they’d show up with White Stripes-style two-person set-up, but instead they came with a full band. And while that made them sound fuller (and more like the album) it kinda bummed me out. They played, among other things, their most popular song “Outside” and a pretty cool Leonard Cohen cover, “Everybody Knows.” Lead singer Maeline Follin was cute in her little white dress, and the music was solid–but they just didn’t do it for me. I was hoping they’d show some chutzpah, instead I felt Cults played it pretty safe.

Cults & Crew

After Cults it was time for Dawes, a band I was really looking forward to seeing. Dawes hand’t even shown up on my radar until a few weeks ago when I was messing around on a message board for Warren Zevon fans where they were mentioned as having Zevon-like qualities. Dawes has a vibe that’s closer to Jackson Browne in my mind than his friend Zevon, but they have some Zevonian tendencies. What I really like about them, though is that how they have that carefree, California sound but also seem really down-to-Earth. When the band took the stage, the storm clouds that had been threatening us all day somehow managed to get even scarier. Living in tornado country, summer thunder storms are taken pretty seriously here, so it was both a relief and a bit unnerving when the band announced they’d play until “they were told to stop.” Call me crazy, but I always think it’s a bad idea to trust money men/bean counter’s with my life. Anyway, it started to lightly rain during Dawes’ set, but we still got to hear a lot of really good tunes. My favorites of the set were “Fire Away,” “When My Time Comes,” and my personal favorite “A Little Bit of Everything.” The set was good but cut short by a downpour of rain.

Evil clouds lurked behind the Magical Mystery Horn.

Running across the field in the rain, my wife and I were able to take shelter under one of the few picnic table umbrellas they festival had mercifully set up. We found ourselves huddled with a handful of young (but grizzled) festival goers. As we watched the rain fall, they enlightened us on the art of sneaking drugs and alcohol into concerts. One particularly devious trick they shared involved using hot water to reseal a vodka-filled Dasani bottle. Checking our iPhones, we saw that the festival had been “postponed indefinitely.” With $70 (a piece) tied-up in the day’s tickets, and nowhere really else to go, we bravely waited for the rain to stop. When it did, we were all thoroughly drenched. The umbrella had become so thoroughly drenched that the water was able to pass right through it. There were kids slip n’ sliding through the mud and chicks going sans shirts. It was actually pretty rad.

Dawes…please excuse the crappy photo but it was scary outside.

Then word got out, via Facebook, that the last two musical acts would indeed play, and there was much rejoicing. We set-up near the Dr. Dog stage, determined to finish the festival. I really loved Dr. Dog’s debut album, but a lack of funds kept me from really getting into their music when I was in college. At the time they came out, the band seemed poised to follow a path to breakout success much like the Kings of Leon. Alas, that breakout never came and I always wondered why. Though I wondered, I never really caught back up with the band’s output, to see what they were up to. Dr. Dog’s sound is a throw-back to classic rock bands with a backwoods sensibility, like The Band and Gram Parsons. I had high hopes for the band’s LouFest appearance, but the deck was stacked against them: we were soaked and Wayne Coyne was on the other stage periodically rushing out and confetti-bombing the crowd while the band’s crew set-up. As I watched Dr. Dog play, I kept seeing people turn and look over at The Lips’ stage. Once the The Flaming Lips techs were testing the band’s laser, there was a small exodus over to where The Flaming Lips would play at 8:00. I’d never seen a Flaming Lips show, but I knew the legends–and I knew we had to abandon Dr. Dog so that we could get as close as possible.

I changed into some dry clothes, took a piss, bought a beer, and then hunkered down in the hippie-fest that is a Flaming Lips crowd. Though it was dark and drizzly, it was impossible to miss the cloud of pot smoke hovering near the stage. There were kids dressed like X-Men and Astronauts, chicks with balloon animal hats, face paint: basically all your typical Flaming Lips freaks. The show started, the clouds parted, and The Flaming Lips bombared the crowd with streamers, confetti, massive ballons, and super-trippy music. Oh, the music was trippy. The band opened with “Race for the Prize” which was so sun-shiny-super that it banished all memory of the terribly cold rain. The band’s stage show is the stuff of legend, and I’m here to tell you: it’s all true. The confetti blizzard, the strange characters (giant rabbits stalking through the crowd), Wayne climbing in the plastic ball and running over the crowd, the lasers…it’s all true.

Wayne in a ball.

Do you remember that scene in MAN ON THE MOON when Jim Carrey (as Andy Kaufman) has that big show at Carnegie Hall at the end? The one where he keeps up-ing the sweetness ante, until by the end of the show he has Santa Claus come out and everyone gets on a bus to enjoy milk and cookies? That’s what a Flaming Lips show is like. It’s much, much weirder, but the band projects that child-like joy/everything is possible feeling. The Flaming Lips are one of those bands that somehow never got the memo that irony is “in” and sincerity is “out.” I truly believe that Wayne Coyne thinks that all one needs is peace, love, and drugs. He could just be a really good actor, but I doubt it. In today’s musical clime I find that sincerity to be very refreshing.

The Flaming Lips perform “Laser Hands.”

The band played the awesome “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” and everyone was feeling super-groovy. I expected them to continue playing light, cotton-candy festival fare but things took a darker, more obscure turn. The band played a couple of gloomy songs back-to-back. Well, they were gloomy for The Flaming Lips…which means there was still giant foam hands that shot multi-colored lights at a massive disco ball. Their newer stuff is more creepy electronica than it is trippy psych-pop, which is what I expected them to play. The band ended the dark part of their set with a strange song called “Drug Chart” which I had never even heard of. Things became more upbeat as the band finished up with “What is the Light?” before closing with the awesome “Do You Realize??”

“All You Need Is Love” and huge balls of confetti.

“Do You Realize??” is The Flaming Lips version of “All You Need Is Love” and “Hey Jude.” It’s a simple, but powerful, song that manages to walk the line between very happy and very sad. I did not expect them to play this song (even though it is so popular) because they seemed to be digging a bit deeper than the typical festival setlist of “hits”. It was a tremendously upbeat way to end a 2 day festival mired by by weather. It was awesome seeing The Flaming Lips live and I would recommend to anyone reading this: if you get a chance to see them do not hesitate, do it. You will not regret it.

The second day was quite the adventure. I had a lot of fun at LouFest 2012 and hope the organizers can continue to grow this fledgling festival into something with staying power. If the line-up next year is HALF as killer as this year’s I’ll definitely be buying tickets. If the bands aren’t as good I think I might volunteer and see it for free. Anyone want to pour water or sort through recycling with me?

*My friend Mark is a bit like Gandalf from LORD OF THE RINGS in that he tends to show up only when he is truly needed. And like Gandalf, he can never stay for very long. There is no doubt a trilogy’s worth of material on what the hell he does when he isn’t  in the main tale.

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LouFest 2012: Day #1 Wrap-UP

I’ve never before attended a festival concert.  That’s kinda strange considering how much I love live music, right?  Well here in the States, festivals aren’t quite as common as over in say, Europe.  In fact, the festivals we have here are pretty damn tame by comparison.  Back in their heyday, I remember seeing footage of Oasis shows overseas that had larger attendance than the population of my hometown.  I live in a mediuml-large American city, St. Louis, and though we are a college town, we really don’t get very many massive music festivals (I don’t count traveling travesties like Van’s Warped Tour or Oz Fest). However, thanks to a relatively new festival (this is the third year) St. Louis finally has a rock festival worth talking about.

Forest Park is the jewel of St. Louis.  That’s where our zoo and art gallery is located (both are free, both are awesome).  It’s a special place where St. Louis goes to return to nature and relax.  It’s also where I was married a few years back.  A festival concert located with the park is a great idea, and since I live within walking distance of the park (and I love rock) I decided to buy two day passes.  The bands this year are pretty good, I think.  This year’s headliners are Flaming Lips, Girl Talk, Dr. Dog, and Dinosaur Jr. Of the 16 bands performing this weekend, I’ve only see one live before–I saw Dr. Dog at an awesome, free in-store event at Vintage Vinyl many years ago (someday I’ll write a post about that with the footage I shot).

Anyway, I went down to the park right when the box office opened at noon to pick up our wrist bands (the Mrs. was along for this adventure).  Getting their super-early was nice because it gave us an opportunity to scope out the various vendors that had set-up shop.  Probably the best vendor was local record shop Euclid Records little “Festival Store.”  They had a nice fat stack of CD’s and *gasp* vinyl records for sale, representing all the bands on the line-up.  Other vendors of note were Sony, who had a PS3 mega-rig and Spotify (the killer-music service) had a big green bus where they were presumably trying to explain what the heck Spotify is.

Euclid Records Festival Store. Schweet shwag.

There was also a lot of really cool local restaurants and bars who’d come out to set up a little vending stall.  The place was a ghost town because it was so early so we took our leave until later that afternoon when around 4:00.  I felt bad skipping all the early Saturday bands, but I knew that because the majority of bands I wanted to see play tomorrow, I decided we’d better take it easy on Saturday.  After all, I’m getting to be a pretty old dude.

The skies, which earlier in the day had been bright and cheery, had taken on a nasty gray hue.  While we waited for alt-country dudes Son Volt to take the stage, the sky unleashed a ten-minute deluge.  Earlier it had been hot, now we were chilled to the bone with cold rainwater.  Such is life here in the midwest.  Anyway, it continued to drizzle off and on all night, but for the most part the major rain was over just before Son Volt came on.  I’d never really heard much Son Volt, but I found them to be pretty awesome.  As I get older, I find myself liking alt-county more and more.  With just enough (read: not too much) twang, I really enjoyed them.  The beginning of their set featured a lot of simple love songs, which I thought were the best.  My favorite was “Dynamite” of  their album AMERICAN CENTRAL DUST.  Another song I really liked was “Windfall” which struck me as being a bit Neil Young-ish. As they neared the end of their set list, the songs got a bit political/environmental, and I didn’t like them as much as the love songs.  Still, I thought the band put on a great show and helped provide some variety to the days music.

Son Volt, putting a little twang in LouFest.

The next band was Dinosaur Jr.  Now I don’t know much about Dinosaur Jr., but I did enjoy their last album FARM when it came out a few years ago.  I especially liked their song “Ocean In The Way” off that record.  Did Dinosaur Jr. play that song? I honestly don’t know.  I don’t know because the band was so loud it was pretty difficult to tell. The band was surrounded by a fat stack of Marshall amps. To say that Dinosaur Jr. was loud is a terrible, terrible understatement.  They played their entire set at volume that can only be described as “Stupid Loud.”  Watching them, a trio of aging hipsters, was actually kind of magical.  The band seemed to spin a sonic cocoon around themselves.  Washing themselves and the audience in layers of eagle-scream guitar solos and a blizzard of effect pedal wah-wah, Dinosaur Jr. seemed to transcende age.  They played with the daring and the viciousness of  much younger men.  I won’t use the term possessed, but it did seem as though something overcame them, particularly J. Mascis.  Mascic, who looks eerily like Gandalf, whipped his long white hair life a madman, it was fantastic. Unfortunately, the sound system was cranked so loud that the only song I could pick out with any certainty was their epic “Feel The Pain.”  As their most famous song, it was met with a cheer from the mixed-age crowd (there was everything from toddlers to 60+).

Dinosaur Jr. in the middle of making me deaf.

After Dinosaur Jr. finished their sonic assault on my eardrums, it was time for the evening’s headliner…Girl Talk.  Now, I’ve written about my rather mixed feelings towards Girl Talk before, so I won’t re-open that can of worms.   But for those that don’t know, Girl Talk is really just one dude, DJ Greg Gillis, who illegally samples the shit of the pop music songbook (without paying or asking for permission).  What sort of live “performance” could there really be for an act with such a schtick?  Well it was about what I expected: a nerdy white dude with a laptop, confetti cannons, balloons, toilet paper blowers, and a wall of LCD screens.  And yet, Girl Talk’s show was fun and funky, and it was just the palate cleanser one needed after the heaviness of Dinosaur Jr. The samples came fast and furious, and despite myself (and how tired I was) I found myself dancing.  Or at least, the closest approximation a fat music blogger can do.

LouFest “Orange” stage.

Overall, day one of LouFest was awesome.  My legs ache and my ears are ringing.  I can’t wait for tomorrow.

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The Legend of “You Really Got Me”

Perfection.  There are some who think perfection is only an idea, a theory that can never be truly realized.  And then there are people who have heard “You Really Got Me” by The Kinks.  I have nothing against complex, intricate music; I think there’s something to be said about an intricate symphony.  But when it comes to rock music, simpler is always better.  When Ray Davies wrote “You Really Got Me” in 1964, I’m confident that he wasn’t aware of the importance of what he was doing, he wasn’t trying to change the world, just write a tune.   But as one of the first successful songs built exclusively around a power chord, “You Really Got Me” proved hugely influential.

Simply put, heavy metal and punk rock could not exist without “You Really Got Me.”  That is not my opinion, it is a fact.

The riff that launched a 1,000 bands. It’s the rock music equivalent of E=MC2

But besides being built around a simple, repetitive power chord, “You Really Got Me” is notable for a unique distortion effect created by guitarist Dave Davies who cut the speaker cone of his amplifier with a razor blade.  The simple song with a unique sound was an instant hit, and saved The Kinks.  According to Ray Davies, the band’s record contract included a provision that The Kinks had ave a hit within three songs or their label would drop them.  The band’s first single, a cover of “Long Tall Sally” and follow-up single “You Still Want Me” proved to be dismal failures.  That put an incredible amount of pressure on the band, who literally had one shot to write a hit song or lose their deal with Pye Records, their record label.

“Fuck Off”

Interestingly, there are two legends surrounding the song, both involving the song’s guitar solo.  One of the rumors circulating is that Page played the guitar solo on “You Really Got Me,” but he didn’t.  During the 1960’s, Jimmy Page was the world’s most unfamous, famous guitar player.  Instead of being in a band, Page worked as a session man, or hired gun, playing on just about any and all tracks that paid.  He wasn’t well-known to the general public, but behind the scenes he was well regarded as a top-session guitarist.  Ironically, more people probably heard him play anonymously than when he was in  Zed Zeppelin.  He’s even on the theme-song for GOLDFINGER of all things.  And while The Kinks did use Page as a session player, he didn’t play on “You Really Got Me.”  The truth, it turns out, is stranger than fiction.

Ray Davies amazingly claims that not only did Kinks guitarist Dave Davies play the guitar solo, but that the word “fuck” is in original recording of the song.  The story goes that as the band was recording the song, Ray shouted to Dave Davies (in encouragement )as Dave started to play the solo.  Misinterpreting this gesture (imagine if you were about to record a solo and someone just randomly yelled at you) Dave, who was standing before a hot mic, allegedly told Ray to “Fuck off.”  Ray Davies claims that they kept the take, and that the band tried to cover it up with an “Oh No” but that it’s still there.  Davies says that with improved CD-quality sound technology the “fuck off” is quite audible.  After studying the song for several hours, I can tell you that there is without a doubt an “oh no!” just before the solo…beyond that…I just don’t hear it.

Regardless, “You Really Got Me” is an amazing song that launched the career of The Kinks and also changed rock music forever.

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Hindu Love Gods: Warren Zevon & REM Cut a Record

I’ve made no secret about my love of Warren Zevon.  As a song-writer, Zevon remains unmatched in his ability to combine heartbreaking sincerity and with a vicious sense of humor.  Warren’s career, like the roots of a gnarled tree, is a rat’s nest of odd choices and strange left-turns.  One of the stranger oddities in Zevon’s catalogue is the HINDU LOVE GODS album.  The Hindu Love Gods was basically Warren and alt-rockers REM sans-Michael Stipe*. The band had “existed” for a couple of years before finally coalescing around Warren’s 1987 album SENTIMENTAL HYGIENE.

The story goes,  after playing a smattering of live gigs in the early 1980’s with Zevon (as The Hindu Love Gods) REM agreed to serve as his back-up band on the his latest record.  Zevon, a notorious party-animal/man with a serious substance problem, got soused with REM and in between recording the “official” record also wound up recording a collection of covers.  Eventually, this raw, unusual collection of mostly blues covers was released by Giant Records as HINDU LOVE GODS.

Hindu Love Gods: Peter Buck, Bill Berry, Mike Mills, and Mr. Warren Zevon.

The band recorded two two tracks by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson  (“Walkin’ Blues” and “Traveling Riverside Blues”), a song by Muddy Waters (“Mannis Boy”), and  a Woody Guthrie cover (“Vigilante Man”).  The songs are all really well done, and Zevon’s growly voice is perfectly suited to the blues.  The album’s country number, “I’m A One-Woman Man” is probably the album’s biggest joke (Zevon was a well-known womanizer), but it’s also a solid-cover.  All-in-all, HINDU LOVE GODS is a faithful blues record recorded by two unique musical entities.

“The End”

Except that’s not “the end.”  You see, in the middle of all these odd-but-logical blues numbers, Zevon & Co. also cover Prince and The Georgia Satellites(?).  Even if you’re not a fan of the blues (shame on you!) HINDU LOVE GODS is something you should check-out just for “Raspberry Beret” and “Battleship Chains.”  I‘m not a huge Prince fan, by any stretch, but The Hindu’s version of “Raspberry Beret” is pretty badass, taking the slower-groove of the original version and injecting what can only be described as “drunken urgency.”  There’s something to be said about the art of the cover song:  it’s one thing to do a song justice, it’s another thing to completely change the way the listener regards the original.  I also think that a truly great cover will renew or add to your appreciation of the original.  And that’s just what The Hindu’s cover of “Raspberry Beret” does.

The band’s cover of The Georgia Satellites’ “Battleship Chains” doesn’t re-invent the wheel nearly as much as the cover of “Raspberry Beret,” but has a charming bar-band intensity that the original southern-rock version lacks.  What on Earth made them choose Prince and The Georgia Satellites? There couldn’t be more diametrically opposed acts (at least in my mind).

These two songs lower the album’s seriousness and raise the screw-ball factor.  Instead of a reverent, back-to-our-roots blues tribute (á la late period Eric Clapton), these two songs clue the listener-in on just how wild and wooly these recording sessions were.  No doubt Zevon and REM have a reverence for classic blues, but HINDU LOVE GODS is really just a couple of dudes having tremendous fun in a recording studio.  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander: HINDU LOVE GODS is an entertaining curiosity.

*Stipe would appear briefly on SENTIMENTAL HYGIENE and did play with The Hindu Love Gods live.

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My Top 5 Most-Anticipated Albums

2012 is nearly over can you believe it?  Seems like only yesterday I was writing about 2011 (The Year Of The Battling Gallagher Brothers). Time flies when you’re having fun.  Speaking of fun, there’s a bunch of really cool records that are coming out at the close of 2012.  In fact, there were so many really awesome records about to  “drop” that I actually had trouble narrowing it down to just five!

So how does an un-released record get on my “Most Anticipated” list?  Well, it has to be an album whose release date I’ve been eyeing for a while.  The record has to have an “official” release date DAY and MONTH…none of this “September 2012” nonsense where the record company can repeatedly move the street date.  And lastly, the record has to be something I plan on going out and BUYING the day it comes out–that means it’s an album I’m super-duper stoked about.

My Top 5 Most-Anticipated Albums:

1. HOT CAKES by The Darkness (August 21): I don’t have very long to wait for this one, and yet it feels like I’ve been waiting for seven years.  I guess that’s because I have been waiting for seven years!  I seem to be in the minority that believe 2005’s ONE WAY TICKET TO HELL…AND BACK! was better than the british-rocker’s debut PERMISSION TO LAND (otherwise known as the album that spawned “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”).  The band broke up, but like a phoenix from the flames, The Darkness have returned.  The new songs are growing on me and all the reviews I’ve read have been positive.  Here’s hoping for an amazing comeback.

HOT CAKES

2. CENTIPEDE HZ by Animal Collective (September 4): I’m a late-comer to the greatness that is Animal Collective, but I’ve been voraciously consuming their entire catalogue.  They seem to be one of those rare bands that seem to get more daring and more creative the bigger their audience gets.  I was completely and utterly blown away by their last album, MERRIWEATHER POST PAVILLION, with it’s luscious electro-freak-rock vibes.  I really can’t wait to see what the band pulls out of it’s freak bag.  And with song titles like “Monkey Riches” and “Applesauce” how can this be a bad record?

CENTIPEDE HZ

3. TEMPEST by Bob Dylan (September 11): Alright, I know what you’re thinking…Dylan, really? Well I think Bob’s last few records have been just as good as anything he put out in the 1960’s.  There.  I said it.  Well, maybe not CHRISTMAS IN THE HEART so much as MODERN TIMES.  MODERN TIMES was the album that made me truly fall in love with Dylan and give into the fact that he really is as good as they say he is. TEMPEST is rumored to be Dylan’s final album (the title of the album being an allusion to Shakespeare’s final play).  This one is sure to be really weird and epic, just like a good Dylan record should be.  There’s supposed to be a 14+ minute song about the Titanic on the  album, if that doesn’t get your juices flowing I don’t know what will.  Another song is going to pay tribute to fallen Beatle John Lennon, which should be sweet (although he’s been dead for 30 years, what’s been the hold-up, Bob?).  Love him or hate him, if this is his final album don’t you wanna experience it?

TEMPEST

4.  BATTLE BORN by The Killers (September 18): I know, I’m just as surprised as you are.  Who’d have thought that the HOT FUSS boys would still hold my interest four albums into their career.  Sure, the band hasn’t lived up to the hype that singer Brando Flowers notably likes to cultivate, but I’ve really enjoyed watching them slowly morph into Bruce Springsteen-like “heart-land” rockers.  The album is named after the motto on the Nevada State-flag and comes after the band enjoyed a bit of a hiatus…that’s about all I know.  They released a serviceable first single back in July titled “Runaways.”  It was just okay, I know I shouldn’t be as excited about this record as I am but I just can’t quit this band.

BATTLE BORN

5.  LONERISM by Tame Impala (October 9): Australian psychedelic-rockers Tame Impala have mercifully recorded a new album! I am super-excited about this because I am in dire need of awesomely-trippy, chilled-out tunes.  If you haven’t experienced the band’s first album INNERSPEAKER I urge you to get a pair of headphones (really good ones) and drift off with Tame Impala.  I was worried that the band might not be able to live up to their amazing first album, but if the new songs are any indication, LONERISM is going to be just as good as the first record.  Go treat yourself to the glory of “Apocalypse Dream.”  You deserve it.

LONERISM

Honorable Mentions:

911 by Trash Talk (October 9)

PUSH AND SHOVE by No Doubt (just for the train-wreck factor) (September 25)

JACK SELLS THE COW by Robert Pollard (September 18)

SHIELDS by Grizzly Bear (September 18)

FOUR by Bloc Party (August 21)

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New ZZ Top Song Is Pretty Radical

Last Wednesday I packed a bag and hit the beach.  Vacations are fun, but long flights suck, which is why I always hit the local bookshop for some rock magazines before I go anywhere.  I tend to read books while in the air and nervously flip through magazines during the pre-boarding activities.  Anyway, I picked up the latest issues of my two all-time favorite rock ‘zines: MOJO and Classic Rock Magazine.  Both are British, come with a free promo CD, and are ridiculously expensive for this Missouri boy.   But despite the small fortune I had to shell out, they were both worth it (tangent: why are there no good American music magazines?).  Now that I’m home, I’ve been spending a little time with the promotional CD’s, which is a fun way to come-down from a vacation.

This month’s Classic Rock Magazine featured a ZZ Top cover-story and this month’s CD  has their new song “I Gotsta Get Paid.”  The song is off their forth-coming album LA FUTURA.  I’ve never written ZZ Top off, per say, but I’ve never eagerly anticipated their more recent albums either. Expecting a by-the-books “Dinosaur of Rock”-type album I pretty much wrote LA FUTURA off.  But then I heard that the bearded boys had fired their managers and hired super (bearded) producer Rick Rubin to produced LA FUTURA.  Needless to say, my interest perked up considerably.

Rick Rubin, the 4th member of ZZ Top.

So how is the song?  “I Gotsta Get Paid” is actually pretty damn good.  The song, a pretty obscure cover of “25 Lighters” an old rap song by DJ DMD, has an appropriately swampy groove.  Billy Gibbons voice is just getting better (and scarier) with age.  The song, while heavily influenced by Rubin, remains true to ZZ Top’s blue roots.  Rubin’s got a knack for taking older acts and breathing new life into their careers, and from what I’ve heard of LA FUTURA, it sounds like he may have done it again.

You can listen to the first four songs of LA FUTURA on Spotify (released as an EP titled TEXICALI).  Give it a listen and tell me what you think:

And for those that are interested, here’s the original version of the song:

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Memories of (Fat) Elvis

Controversial statement: I like so-called “Fat Elvis” better than “Young, Not Addicted to Pain-Killer Elvis.” Fat Elvis had a better wardrobe, had more of a flair for the dramatic, and hung out with cooler people. Sure, he was full of himself (literally) and a bit paranoid, but Fat Elvis was cool. Actually, I feel really bad for Elvis, fat and thin. He was a prisoner of fame and success. Other than Jesus, I can’t think of a single person more famous than Elvis. Can you imagine what that must of felt like? I can’t.

One of the last vacations my family took was to Graceland. It was so surreal and sad. I can still see the big metal gates of his estate. They weren’t just keeping people out, they were keeping him in. Having one’s home turned into a museum is the very definition of success, right? I mean, there’s an entire cottage industry based on showing slack-jawed yokels (such as yours truly) the home of a dead rock-star. What must it be like to literally create a vast economy? One that supports hundreds of people long after you are dead?

Fat Elvis meets the Devil.

Elvis was more than a man–he was a God. And he had the problems of a God.  I hope that wherever he is now, he has some peace.

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The Eye of Faith Vintage 11.11.11.

“They say I live a fast life. Maybe I just like a fast life. I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. It won’t last forever, either. But the memories will.”

-Dennis Wilson


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Since the summer started we’ve been excited to write a piece on Dennis Wilson, the infamous bad boy and drummer of The Beach Boys; the band that brought the beach lifestyle to the forefront of popular culture in the 1960s – a romantic notion that still resides in the populous today.

It’s hard to think of that era without the The Beach Boys and their iconic sound, a mix of harmony, rhythm, soul, and blues all dedicated to Southern California youth culture of surfing, cars, and girls.

Hits such as Surfin USA, California Girls, and Good Vibrations, encapsulated the image we still associate with the notion of surf and beach…

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“Silver Shifter” By TSAR

I’m a sucker for catchy-pop songs.  What I really love is when a band sneaks up from nowhere and beans me on the head with an amazingly catchy song.  A really good song will implant itself in your brain–a truly great one will feel like it’s always been there. The first time I heard “Silver Shifter” by L.A. rockers TSAR I felt like it had always been with me. The band’s 2000 self-titled album is chock-full of diabolically awesome ear-worms.  It’s the sort of record that plays in your head while you’re trying to go to sleep.  It’s no small feat to write a good song, especially one that feels so fresh but at the same time so familiar.  TSAR’s sound is reminiscent of Cheap Trick, but with a touch more punk and glam.

TSAR, these guys seem legit.

“Silver Shifter” opens with a ringing phone and quick “hello” before exploding into pop bliss.  The lyrics are twisty and rhyme in all the right places.  There’s a sweet guitar solo and cheery hand-claps, what more could you ask for in a great song?  On the surface the song seems to be about a car, but I’m 99.999% sure that the is about a nasty-injectable drug:

Seven is never enough 
Slide her into the stuff 
Slow gun and a colorful flag 
Shift her into the swag 
Silver shifter, shift it out

The slow gun is the plunger of a syringe and the “colorful flag” is a bit of blood, right?

Softer down for the counts 
Love comes in every ounce 
Silver is up for appeal 
Shifter is making me real

Blissed-out junkie poetry with a shimmering guitar hook–that’s a potent combination.  In days past, men would write very intricate poems about God or a sunset, today’s rockstars expend just as much mental energy writing about banned substances. Why are all the best songs about drugs?  Maybe it’s because like God or a sunset, drugs are a powerful artistic muse.  I guess there would be more awesome songs about D.A.R.E. posters if D.A.R.E. posters expanded the consciousness or shaded the gray world a brillant new-hue.

Regardless, “Silver Shifter” is awesome song on an awesome record. I highly recommend both TSAR albums.

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