Monthly Archives: June 2017

MALE by Natalie Imbruglia 

There’s no non-creepy way to admit this, but I find it sexy when a female artist covers a song written by a male and doesn’t change any of the gender stuff in the lyrics (a love song about a woman staying about a woman and the like). Conversely, I think it’s pretty cool when a male singer does the same thing and doesn’t change the lyrics, which is rarer, but always super-ballsy. I bring this weird quirk about myself up because I specifically sought out Natalie Imbruglia’s cover album MALE because the concept behind it was that she would be covering songs written exclusively by men/male-dominated bands. Sadly, upon listening to the album, I discovered that Imbruglia swapped all the gender-specific lyrics. So, the Zac Brown Band song “Goodbye In Her Eyes” becomes “Goodbye In His Eyes.” At first, this bummed me out, but as I listened to MALE more, I forgot all about my weird hang-up/fetish and found myself enjoying the shit out of this record.

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Normally cover songs don’t do it for me, usually because the originals are always better. The times that cover songs work are when something dramatic is done to change the way the song is presented. Except for one track (which I’ll get to in a moment), none of the songs on MALE are better than the original versions. The songs are slower, more acoustic versions of the originals, sung by a woman, but remain very faithful to the original artists. And yet, I found myself utterly charmed by Imbruglia’s covers. Part of what makes MALE such a treat, besides Imbruglia’s talent as a vocalist, are the diverse choice of songs. The songs run the gambit from the aforementioned Zac Brown Band (country) to Death Cab For Cutie (modern Indie Rock) to The Cure (classic goth rock). Some of the artists are no-brainers, like Neil Young and Cat Stevens, however, there’s enough oddball song choices to spice MALE up and keep it from becoming too cliche. Examples of song choices that surprised me:  a twinkling twee-like cover of Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open the Door,” Damien Rice’s “Cannonball,” Tom Petty’s “The Waiting,” and a cover of Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush.”

That last track is the one song on MALE that outdoes the original. I went back and listened to “Instant Crush” on Daft Punk’s 2013 album RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. The song, sung by Strokes lead singer Julian Casablancas, is a great track but Imbruglia’s version is vastly superior. For starters, the lyrics are ineligible. The famously mush-mouthed Strokes singer isn’t done any favors by the Daft Punk production which distorts (autotunes?) his vocals all to hell. And stripping the song down into an acoustic number adds a serious amount of weight/emotionality to the song.  That this song is the lead single of the album isn’t surprising, the quality of Imbruglia’s “Instant Crush” cover is pretty fantastic. “Instant Crush” opens the album, which probably isn’t the best idea in the world because the rest of the songs don’t measure up to its high-quality.

Don’t get me wrong, MALE is a great album as far as cover records go, but at the end of the day, it’s a curiosity. The concept behind the album, covering songs written by men, doesn’t break any new ground and most of the songs aren’t really about being men, per say. So the concept doesn’t hold as much water has I’d like, and the songs aren’t better than the originals (for the most part), so why am I writing about MALE? The album came out nearly two years ago and yet I still find myself listening to it. It’s a great last song of the night album, something I can put on when my kid is winding down to go to bed. Also, Imbruglia does have a beautiful voice, and her delicate touch adds a vulnerability to already heartbreaking songs like Neil Young’s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and the Iron & Wine track “Naked As We Came.”

Take a moment to check-out the “Instant Crush” cover, and if you dig that, check out the rest of MALE. I think if you go in with guarded expectations you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable it is.

 

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Metallica At Mile High Stadium 06/07/2017

With a throbbing head and ringing ears, I sit and wonder where to begin when it comes to last night’s Metallica concert. For starters, the band sounded fantastic, and the show they put on was top-notch. It had been a long time since I’d attended such a massive concert and I forgot how nice it could be to surround oneself with so many rock fans. On the other hand, the sheer scale of the event was staggering, and while I can tell my grandchildren that I did, in fact, see Metallica, I only saw them as distant specs and projected on skyscraper-sized monitors. It wasn’t as bad as the time I “saw” the Foo Fighters in St. Louis with my back literally against the upper deck of the venue. Nothing will ever be that bad because I refuse to attend a concert with seats that bad. Still, the vibe was certainly different that most of the concerts I attend these days. Is bigger better? Normally I would say “no,” however Metallica’s show was so bombastic and well-done that I couldn’t imagine seeing the band in any way other than ‘larger-than-life.’

I walked down an urban bike/running trail from my office just outside of downtown Denver to Mile High Stadium. My first order of business was to get a lay of the land. Fans had been at the stadium since 4:00 pm that afternoon (for general admission floor seats), but I didn’t arrive on the scene until 5:00pm-ish. They had wisely set up a merch stand so people could buy shirts before entering the stadium. Because tailgating was allowed, I was greeted with the strange sight of metalheads cheerily swinging Coors Light while they chatted with the friendly policemen (and women) providing venue security. I waded through the sea of black t-shirts and made my way to Little Machine Brewing, a nearby craft brewery I sometimes frequent.

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About halfway to the brewery, which is about three minutes walk from the stadium, I realized that it was going to be packed. And it was. Little Machine was completely taken over by metal enthusiasts getting their buzz on before the show. Still, I was able to buy a few beers and eat an (amazingly delicious)  plate of street tacos. If you’re in Denver, you’ll have plenty of options of places to get good craft beer, but I highly recommend Little Machine Brewing. Paying my bar tab, I headed back towards Mile High to begin the arduous process of getting inside. At least, I thought it was going to be arduous, but in fact, it was very easy. The lines were long but moved fast. Unlike many of fellow metal fans, I didn’t have anything resembling a weapon and was swiftly inside.

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These tacos, which I got from True West Tacos, were so damn good. 

I found my seat during Volbeat’s set. Volbeat is a Danish metal band that was very melodic and seemed like a fun group of dudes. I wish I could tell you more about them, but frankly, by the time I was settled in my seat their set was nearly over. I’d heard the band before and enjoyed what I heard, but I’m afraid I will need to revisit them at a future date before deciding if I like them or not. Once the stage was rearranged, Avenged Sevenfold took the stage. I only really knew the band from “The Beast and the Harlot” which was in one of the Guitar Hero games. People seem to be really divided about them online, for what reason I do not know. They seem like a slightly less generic modern metal band. They certainly didn’t blow me away, but I didn’t find them intolerable. Many of their songs blurred together, and I wasn’t even sure if they played the one song that knew. However, remember I was several beers into the evening by this point.

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The view from my seat, I was very close to where the GA section began. 

When Metallica finally took to the stage, it was dark, and the crowd had sufficiently swelled to an impressive “thousands.” They opened their set with the title track off their new album HARDWIRED…TO SELF-DESTRUCT! They immediately followed that up with another new song, “Atlas, Rise!” I was very glad that I’d gone back and re-listened to the new album, as part of me had expected a greatest hits-type show and didn’t think knowing the new songs would be very important. The band played a few more songs including “The Unforgiven” and “Creeping Death” before the night’s major snag hit. The band finished “The Unforgiven” and left the stage; a voice came over the PA and announced that the “show was not being canceled” but was “being postponed due to lightning.” During the first few songs a slight, not unpleasant, mist had begun to fall. By the time the band left the stage, it was starting to rain lightly. I didn’t see much lighting at first, but that might have been due to the band’s light rigs.

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Notice the RIDE THE LIGHTNING shirt in the foreground. The humor was not lost on the crowd.

So, a band who has an album titled RIDE THE LIGHTNING took at 30-45 minute break because of a possible lightning danger. To be fair to the band, Mile High Stadium is huge, and the upper decks were filled with people who could have easily been struck by lightning. Not to mention the huge speaker/light towers the band had erected on the field. Still, there was much complaining as everyone huddled inside the stadium and wandered around buying things and drinking more. It was at this time that two over-priced stadium beers were purchased and consumed. I was thankful for the good (relatively cheap) beers I’d had at Little Machine earlier.

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It was lightly raining. 

 

Eventually, the rain cleared and the clouds parted. The band retook the stage, restarting their show with “Now That We’re Dead,” my favorite song off the new album. Metallica’s stage show consisted of laser lights, flame pillars, Hetfield growling, and some light fireworks. The real fireworks came in the form of Kirk Hammett’s blistering guitar work and Robert Trujillo’s fantastic bass playing. Hell, the band as a whole were top notch, sounding fantastic. Even though I paid too much money for my ticket, I still feel as though I got my money’s worth just because the band sounded so damn good.

There was one encore, which consisted of “Fight Fire With Fire” and, of course, “Enter Sandman.” Denver was only shortchanged two songs due to the weather delay and the strict curfew. A few minutes after midnight I was stumbling outside the stadium trying to decide the best way to get home. Dazed and confused, everyone seemed happy and satisfied with their experience. Also worth noting, there were exactly zero fights witnessed by me and no shitty behavior.I feel like metalheads get a bad wrap, but for the most part, they are peaceful D&D nerds who look scary but aren’t. I wore a Guns ‘N Roses shirt, only partially trolling, and no one said anything (I was expecting an “Axl Sucks” or two).

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Squint and you can almost see them…

If you’re on the fence about seeing them, I would say “do it.” Pull the trigger and go, the show they put on is worth the money and who knows when/if the band will tour again. As far as dinosaurs of rock go, Metallica is definitely still hanging on to their prime.

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Pre-Metallica Concert Thoughts

In a few hours, I’m going to be seeing Metallica here in sunny Denver, Colorado. This morning my son and I listened to the band’s “Top Hits” on Spotify, and I must admit it got me jazzed for this concert. Growing up, all my friends listened to the local hard rock radio station, while I stuck to the classic rock station my parents liked. This meant that I missed out on Metallica at their late 80’s-early 90’s peak. Before I could form an opinion on the band, the whole Napster thing happened, and I found myself unwilling to give the band a shot. In hindsight, Metallica’s argument against Napster/illegal downloading of music isn’t as terrible as it seemed to me at the time. Now that I exist in a world where music is all but free, I can see that there were serious consequences. Small, up-and-coming bands went from making very, very, very, very little money to none at all. The Jay-Z’s and Beyonce’s of the world make a staggering amount of money, but nobody else in the music business does. Well, Metallica continues to do alright, too.

aHR0cDovL2ltZy5jY3JkLmNsZWFyY2hhbm5lbC5jb20vbWVkaWEvbWxpYi83NTcvMjAxNy8wMi9kZWZhdWx0L21ldGFsbGljYV9iaXJ0aGRheV9iYXNoXzBfMTQ4Njk5MzYxMi5qcGc=Anyway, it wasn’t until I went to college and started listening to a greater variety of music did I check out Metallica. One of the first albums of theirs I ever listened to was ST. ANGER, which as we all know by now, wasn’t very popular when it was released. In many ways, I feel like Metallica is a bit like Weezer in that their rabid fan base automatically hates every new album they release and wistfully pine for the previous albums…the same ones they trashed upon their initial release. Of course HARDWIRED…TO SELF-DESTRUCT has been pretty well-received, but I feel like this is the exception that proves the rule.

My affection for Metallica was further cemented by the 2009 Guitar Hero video game; if I’m honest, as pathetic as it will probably sound, most of my exposure to Metallica came from this game. Now with Spotify, I’ve gone back and listened to all their albums in their entirety (except for that awful 2011 Lou Reed collaboration album LULU). I enjoy their 1983 debut album KILL ‘EM ALL, mostly because it sounds like a band full of enthusiasm and intensity. But their super-popular 1991 ‘Black Album’ is also really good. Honestly, all their albums are solid which is rare in the world of metal and the world of music in general.

I’m excited to see how well the band is live, I’ve heard they are amazing. I will document what happens in a couple of days. I’m also really interested to see what the crowd will be like. I’m picturing a lot of gray hairs (mine included). For one thing, the tickets were a bit steep, and as a younger colleague pointed out to me today, “Metallica are old men.” But metal is a weird genre, one that is very fixated on the past, so I imagine there will also be plenty of younger metalheads in attendance as well.

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