Monthly Archives: November 2012

“Imagine A Jump”: The Greatest Van Halen/John Lennon Mash-Up

Last week while I was bunkered down in New York City, waiting for Hurricane Sandy to do her worst, my wife’s best-friend Becky bravely sacrificed her iPhone’s battery so that we might have some tunes by candlelight.  I love going through people’s iTunes, I find it a nice way to both get to know AND judge the shit out of someone.  My iTunes is an atrocious mix of the best and worst of rock, pop, jazz, country, and blues music.  There’s things in it that I’m proud of…and a lot that I’d rather you just skip over.

Imagine there’s no Red Rocker.

Becky’s iPhone was filled with a lot of her favorite bands: Green Day and Barenaked Ladies.  Not exactly my cup of tea, but I’d say I like both those bands enough.  Anyway, as I browsed her iTunes, I noted that she had Van Halen’s “Jump” one her phone twice: once from the album 1984 (GREAT album by the way) and again from a Greatest Hits compilation.  I laughed and pointed this out.  She had an explantation, but there was no need: “Jump” is great song so why NOT have it on your phone?

Becky loves it when I take pics of her sleeping, that’s why we’re such good friends.

Becky also had a large quantity of The Beatles on her phone, as well as some John Lennon solo stuff. That got me thinking, had Becky heard Mighty Mike’s “Imagine A Jump”? She hadn’t, and it really bummed me out.  Mighty Mike is this French DJ that does mind-blowingly awesome mash-ups.  Seriously.  Before Mighty Mike, I thought DJ’s and mash-ups were lame, but this guy’s Queen/Michael Jackson mash-ups changed my mind.

I strongly urge you to go on his blog and download/listen to all his songs, there’s not a single bad one in the bunch.

“Imagine A Jump” is one of Mighty Mike’s best.  It’s the acapella/vocals of Van Halen’s “Jump” merged with the hauntingly simple piano of John Lennon’s classic “Imagine.”  The best part? The (slowed down) vocals actually work with “Imagine.”  The upbeat, devil-may-care Van Halen song is transformed into a downbeat, depressing ode to suicide and desperation.  I know that doesn’t sound particularly fun but it’s actually a cheeky bit of fun.

This is amazing. Thank you Mighty Mike:

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Axl Rose On Jimmy Kimmel: My (Delayed) Reaction

I understand that this is now old news at this point, but I’ve been unable to write about Axl Rose’s recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel.  Part of the reason was that I was horribly stranded in New York City during the recent super-storm/clusterfuck.  But another part was my brain’s slowed reaction to the appearance.

Axl was appropriate for the entire interview, except for his stupid hat.

On one hand, I found Axl’s first major TV interview to be a colossal disappointment and a great relief.  It was disappointing because Axl looks like someone’s bloated dad.  Look, I’m a fat, nerdy music writer so I can say it:  Axl used to be a rock adonis, and now he’s pudgy old guy.  The hat was also stupid.  I know it’s not cool to be balding or whatever is going on under that hat…but for crying out loud Axl, that hat makes you look insane.  It’s easy for me to say own your baldness when I still have a head full of hair, but I think it’s pretty vain when rock stars refuse to take off their hats/headbands.  You know who my all-time rockstar hair hero is? James Taylor.  James Taylor went bald and took it like a man. He didn’t bother with any coverup or conspiracy, he was like “this is what my head looks like.”  Kids today might not think it ballsy but there was a time when James Taylor was known for his giant mane of hair.  He wasn’t a hair-metal guy by any stretch, but he did have nice hair.

Enjoy all that sexy hair, 1970’s James Taylor, cos it won’t last…

But I digress. This post is not about hair.

So Axl’s gotten old, I can deal with that.  The bigger disappointment was also the thing that gave me tremendous relief: Axl Rose wasn’t insane or weird (hat not withstanding).  He was plainspoken, friendly, and engaged in talking with Jimmy Kimmel.  Kimmel even made a point of saying how surprised he was that Axl was talking to him during the interview.  The pictures of Axl’s Halloween Tree and his story about how he likes to see kids freak out when they see it was cool.  Some might say that the critical and commercial failure of CHINESE DEMOCRACY has humbled Rose, and that’s why the man we see is so down-to-earth and normal.  But I don’t see it that way.  The way I see it, Axl without all the bullshit is just a normal dude like you or me.

I’m sad that he wasn’t bizarre and we didn’t get some crazy sound bytes out of the appearance–but mostly I’m glad to see that Axl isn’t the douchebag the media have portrayed him to be.  On a side side note, I was glad to see The Whigs perform later on in the episode (I’ve seen them live a few times and they’re awesome) but I was REALLY REALLY sad that Guns ‘N Roses didn’t play a song instead.  How awesome would that have been?

Lastly, the reason we got this odd bit of Axl publicity: the Vegas shows.  Had I not just spent all my money and remaining vacation time stranded in NYC, I think I’d actually go out and catch one of the GNR Vegas shows.  In a perfect world, the last show of the band’s month-long stand would be televised or streamed online AND we’d get a Live Album released next year.  But the reality is: after these shows, the US probably won’t see Axl or Guns ‘N Roses for a while.  Maybe I’m wrong, I hope I am.

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Flaming Lips & Tame Impala Collide On “Children of The Moon”

In my review of the latest Tame Impala album, LONERISM, I noted that Tame Impala sounded a bit like Oklahoma freak-rockers The Flaming Lips.  I think that both bands share a common 60’s-LSD-Beatleband strand of DNA, but what would happen if the two bands were to meet?  Would a rainbow-colored funnel of sunshine spew trippy death all over existence? Or would they just make a  really nice song?

The Flaming Lips are good at a lot of things, but spelling is not one of those things.

Turns out they’d just make a really nice song.  The Flaming Lips put out an album of collaborations this year called THE FLAMING LIPS AND HEADY FWENDS (sic) which features Tame Impala.  The song, “Children of The Moon,” might not be as epic of mind-blowing as one would hope…but it is really good.

The song leans more towards the Australian rockers mellow-gold rather than The Lip’s more purple nurple sound.  Still, you can definitely hear how The Flaming Lips magnified Tame Impala’s more understated vibe (to great effect I think).

Check it out:

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LONERISM by Tame Impala

Australian daytrippers Tame Impala burst onto the collective consciousness in 2010 with their fantastic debut album INNERSPEAKER.  That record, which I once described as perfect Sunday morning chill-out music, set the bar pretty high for the band.  I honestly didn’t expect to hear from Tame Impala so quickly, especially after lead singer/songwriter Kevin Parker released an album of similarly psychedelic (but far woolier) tunes under the name Pond in March of this year.  Much to my delight, however, Tame Impala is back with their new album LONERISM.

In case your’re wondering, the sign on the gate reads: “Dogs, even on a leash, are not admitted beyond this point.”

What I find most interesting about the album is that it’s both a leap forward and a step back.  Sonically, the album is lightyears ahead of INNERSPEAKER, which itself was hovering at the very finge of our soloar system.  The band pushes the band’s sound even further into space with it’s  heavier use of synthesizers.  Parker has said in interviews that LONERISM is more prog/indulgent that the last record.  And while that typically is a negative, in this case the songs on LONERISM run wild without running completely away (the longest song clocks in at just over six minutes).  The band’s vast, spaced-out sound is pushed to the limits on such tracks as “Mind Mischief” and “Apocalypse Dreams.”  Both tracks sound like a calmer, mellower, less cartoon version of The Flaming Lips.  LONERISM also recalls Todd Rundgren, whom the band has cited as a major influence.

That said, LONERISM is also a bit of step back in that lyrically the majority of the songs deal with personal issues of loneliness, isolation, and social awkwardness.  The best example of this is the woe-is-me jam “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?” in which Parker sings about being alone and only thinking he’s happy. This material would probably seem whiny, self-pitying, and immature except that it’s swathed in a big bouncy beat.  The trippy vibe takes an emo kids lament and transforms it into the inner musings of a stoned philosophy major.  The albums themes of isolation are also represented on the album’s cover, which is a photo taken by Parker at a French public park.  I think the shot of the happy people viewed through the bars works best with “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?”  Tame Impala was smart to both expand their telescope sonically while at the same time write more personal songs. It keeps the band from floating away entirely into the stratosphere where the listener is unable to relate to them.

Sitting amongst the green.

Special mention should be made concerning the band, specifically Kevin Parker’s affinity for John Lennon.  John Lennon’s ghost looms large on LONERISM, specifically on the albums best songs “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” “Sun’s Coming Up,” and “Elephant”.  Parker’s vocals eerily channel the former Beatle throughout the album, but on “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” sound like a lost PLASTIC ONO BAND track.  “Sun’s Coming Up” sounds like a sleepy/boozy Lennon demo for one of his piano ballads. “Elephant” which is my favorite track on the album, sounds like “For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” merged with “I Am The Walrus.”  It’s a lumbering rocker that wouldn’t stick out too much on MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR.   The homage/influence of Lennon will probably turn off as many people as it switches on.  I don’t think it’s 100% fair to give Tame Impala too much grief about this because:

1. The dude can’t help who he sounds like

and

2. There are worse things to be like than John Lennon.  Do Tame Impala rip off The Beatles? No.  Do they re-invent the wheel? No, but what they create vast sonic murals of trippy space rock and they do it well–end of story.

Ah. Freak. Out.

Tame Impala have forged a solid second record with all the big, epic sound you’d expect from the band that brought us INNERSPEAKER.  However, more than just delivering more of the same, the band has stretched their legs and dug a little deeper for LONERISM.  The album, while not as top-to-bottom perfect as INNERSPEAKER, still manages to capture the imagination and delight the listener.  To say that LONERISM is a headphones album would be the understatement of the year.  Switch off the lights, pop in your ear buds, and close your eyes.

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