Monthly Archives: December 2014

Ring in the New Year with Snoop Dogg & Marty James

Well here we are, the end of another year.

After a long absence, I decided to start writing about music again here at Defending Axl Rose. I’d like to think this came about due to personal growth and/or gained musical insight…but the truth is I moved across the country and restarted my blog while I looked for a new job. And for the month I was unemployed Defending Axl Rose had near daily updates. Then I found work and the posts came less frequently. I wish I’d done more, but I suppose could have done much less, too.

Snoop-Dogg-featuring-Marty-James-New-Years-Eve

My New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is to write more, not just on Defending Axl Rose but in general. We’ll see. U2 once sang that nothing changes on New Year’s Day, and that’s true it doesn’t. The change happens at 11:59 the night before.

Hoist a glass and say goodbye to 2014 tonight, preferably with some killer tunes.


See you next year.

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“Home By The Sea” Is A TWILIGHT ZONE Episode Written By Genesis

Genesis has always been a guilty pleasure for me, but a pleasure nonetheless. I’m not sure how you feel about Genesis, but I have an odd fascination with the band. In fact, I think I love them. It’s not like I really had a choice in the matter, I grew up in the 1980s thus the band is encoded in my DNA. My love for the sappy, syrupy Phil Collins-era eventually led me to the darker, stranger stuff generated in the 1970s when the band was led by Peter “Shock the Monkey” Gabriel. I can (and do) defend a lot of bands, but Genesis has always seemed indefensible, even to me.  Having one of the periods most famous drummers and then using the then-fashionable drum machine on your records? Egregious.

But amid the  puppet music videos, the drum machines, and embarrassingly earnest love ballads, Genesis never really stopped being a prog-band at heart. Even long after Gabriel had vanished from the band Genesis would tuck weird (and lengthy) progressive rock songs onto their albums. These songs no doubt confused the average pop fan who bought their records for the radio singles. Worse, however, these progressive artifacts always seemed to bring the band’s albums grinding to a halt (even though many of these songs are quite good). I find it interesting that a faction within Genesis fought the good fight to keep the band weird even as they were churning out mega-pop hits like “Invisible Touch.”

"Spoooky"

“Spoooky”

As the 1980s wore on, Genesis evolved away further and further from Gabriel’s version of the band replacing his cold theatricality for Collins’ affable charm. And yet, even as they basked in the neon glow of the mainstream (read: MTV), the band continued to make strange music that the public enjoyed.  I’m not 100% sure, but I have the feeling that the majority of people consuming Genesis’ music were oblivious to the darker nature of some of the bands output. I am no exception. The best Genesis songs, in both the Gabriel and the Collins era, are the ones that strike a balance and perfectly merge the band’s bizarre oddball sensibilities with more mainstream pop music. For my money, the best peanut butter and chocolate mix of the two sides of Genesis is the 1976 album A TRICK OF THE TAIL, which was the band’s first post-Gabriel album. If you find the Phil Collins stuff to be too poppy and the Gabriel stuff to be too stuffy/overblown, I implore you give A TRICK OF THE TAIL a listen. It’s the best album the band ever released, mostly because Gabriel was gone and Collins had yet to fully commit to being a pop idol.

Anyway, a few months back, I became obsessed with “Home By The Sea” off the band’s 1983 album GENESIS. For most people, myself included, GENESIS is the record where pop finally won out over the progressive side of the band.  I always remembered if for it’s pop hooks.  It was these same hooks that led me back to reevaluate the album. After hearing “That’s All” on the radio for the 10,000th time, I gave GENESIS another listen.

It was just as I remembered. The album is loaded with hooks, but among the tracks one stood out. “Home By The Sea” isn’t just a good song for this period of Genesis, it’s a good song period.  It’s so good, I found myself humming it all day long. I hummed it while brushing my teeth, driving to work, making a cup of coffee, riding in an elevator, and staring up at the ceiling while I waited to fall asleep. In short, I was haunted by the song.

Home By The Sea cover front

The more I thought about the song and the lyrics (the ones I could remember) I realized that despite being catchy, “Home By The Sea” is a dark, strange song. I decided to read the lyrics and re-listen to the song. When did, I was immediately struck by something incredible: “Home By The Sea” is a fucking Twilight Zone episode! Well, not really…but kinda. The song is about someone sneaking into a house, presumably with ill intent, and getting accosted by ghosts!

“Coming out the woodwork, through the open door

pushing from above and below

shadows but no substance, in the shape of men

round and down and sideways they go

adrift without direction, eyes that hold despair

then as one they sigh and moan”

These ghosts are lonely and force this person to stay with them as they relive their lives. The song talks about pictures coming to life and while it all could be a metaphor for holding onto the past (or growing old), on the surface this is a creepy ghost story of a song.

“Images of sorrow, pictures of delight

things that go to make up a life

endless days of summer longer nights of gloom

waiting for the morning light

scenes of unimportance, photos in a frame

things that go to make up a life.”

I’d heard this song on the radio countless times over the years growing up and none of this had ever occurred to me. During my re-listen of GENESIS, I discovered that the song is actually part one of a two-part suite of songs, the other being “Second Home By The Sea.” That second half is a fantastic near-instrumental (Collins sings a bit of “Home By The Sea” at the very end) that adds a sense of grandeur to the ghostly tale. Combined into one, “Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea” is over 11 minutes long which probably explains why it is broken apart (which feels like label interference). But taken as a whole I find these songs to be incredibly powerful.

It’s important to remember that this song(s) appears on the same album as “Taking It All Too Hard.” I can’t think of a greater tonal shift than the leap from “Home By The Sea” to “Taking It All Too Hard.” Sure, the songs don’t appear back-to-back, but the fact that they inhabit the same album is very strange. Not ghosts coming out of the walls strange, but strange nonetheless. That GENESIS reaches such sublime heights while also spiraling so low seems like proof that the band isn’t very good. However, I actually think the opposite. I think it takes real talent and chutzpah to be both on both ends of the creative spectrum on the same record. Straightforward radio pop and a mini-prog suite about ghosts? Amazing. Like something from The Twilight Zone. 

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I’m Man Enough To Admit: I Love Charli XCX

Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’m not some old curmudgeon sitting in his blog-cave…because I am. I rant and rave about music, all the while trying to minimize the amount of frothy spittle that ends up in my beard. I’m very close to being Clint Eastwood’s character in Gran Torino, shouting at the neighbor kids to get off my lawn. What the kids are doing these days hold very little interest for me, but even I am not immune to hype. I hear about some of these new bands/artists and my interest grows as the hype begins to build. Sometimes the attention is warranted, like in the cases of Bruno Mars and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Sometimes, most times I’m afraid, the attention is not warranted—I’m looking at you Iggy Azalea.

Why the hell is she famous again? Oh...yeah...

Why the hell is she famous again? Oh…yeah…

Still, I’m a soundhound/music nerd so if something gets impossibly big I’ll take the time to check it out. The weekend before she appeared on Saturday Night Live (yes, I’m hipper than the foggies running SNL, not but not by much) I gave up and finally listened to Charli XCX. My expectations weren’t very high, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the British pop star is really good. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of electronic music, but when merged with interesting hooks and sultry (read: hot lady) vocals, I’m okay with the genre.

Charli XCX’s song “Boom Clap” is her big single. It’s the song that pushed her onto my Twitter feed and into the zeitgeist. It’s a good song, full of youthful exuberance and swagger. But more importantly, it’s not the only good song that XCX has. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Charli XCX has a bunch of really solid songs. That’s probably because she actually has talent. 

charli-xcx-sucker-final-artwork-print

I sat down and listened to all her music and found that I enjoyed all of it! I especially like her song “London Queen,” an autobiographical song about relocating to the United States. Do people still fantasize about living in America? Part of the song’s charm is how quaint that notion has become. And of course, XCX has a great break-up song, naturally titled “Breaking Up.” I suppose it’s a bit sexist, but if you’re a female pop star you simply must have a great break-up song. I really enjoy how she dismisses her ex’s shitty cologne and tattoo in the song.

But the song that truly convinced me that I really like this woman is the 80s-tinged love ballad “You’re The One.” That song is the jewel in her pop crown. It’s got an awesome, brooding synth beat while at the same time being hopelessly cheery. I listened to this song a few times back-to-back and decided that I was 100% on board with Charli XCX. A week later her album SUCKER came out and found its way onto my Spotify in heavy rotation.

The bottom line? There’s still good pop music being made today. And baring a Lady Gaga-style drop in quality, I’d say that Charli XCX is going to be making a lot of it for years to come.

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