Tag Archives: Axl Rose

Guns N’ Roses At Mile High Stadium 08/02/2017

I want to start this post by stating the following: I’m a lame, hipster. I’m not a real fan.  Nothing ever at any time in my entire life has made me happy. I am taking out my own personal frustrations on a millionaire rock star. I am jealous of Axl Rose. I am a terrible writer and this post is full of typos. I am a derogatory term for a homosexual. I am ugly, stupid, bad, dumb, full of shit, hopeless, worthless, and a talentless hack.

There. Now that I’ve already pre-insulted myself, the Guns N’ Roses kooks that come out of the woodwork to complain about this post are going to have a (slightly) harder time thinking of something original to say. I’m not going to beat around the bush kids, I saw Guns N’ Roses live in concert earlier this week and if kinda sucked. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s do the whole concert-wrap-up-post.

 

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The view of Mile High from the neighboorhood where I currently work.

 

The concert was held at Denver’s beloved Mile High Stadium, where I saw Metallica earlier this summer (more on that in a moment). I was a little wiser from my experience at that show, so while the evening played out roughly the same way, I was able to refine my strategy. Once again, I walked from my (current soon-to-be-former) office just outside downtown Denver and took a popular urban walking/bike trail to the Stadium. I arrived shortly after 5:00 pm and immediately went to Little Machine Beer for my pre-show libations and tacos from True West Tacos. This beer and those tacos are the real-deal people, I strongly urge you check them out if you are in the Denver area.

 

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Ordered the exact same thing. 10/10 would eat again.

 

Little Machine sits at the very edge of the far parking lot of the Stadium, so just like before the Metallica show, it was filled with concert goers. But there was a real difference. People tend to think of metalheads as “scary” and “dangerous” but the crowd waiting for the GNR show was much rowdier. They were also less…what’s the most delicate way to put this? Sprinkled with hate. I sat on an outside patio next to a bunch of biker dudes, one of whom had a patch on his vest shaped like the continental United States which was emblazoned with the slogan “We’re full…FUCK OFF!” While I’m sure there were some shitty dudes/dudettes at the Metallica show (after all there were way more people) the shitheads seemed to gather in larger groups and were thus more prominent.

 

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An empty-ish parking lot 2 hours before show time.

 

I finished my dinner and drinks spending around $30 and was then 100% completely done spending money for the evening. I did not, as with Metallica, buy any beers at the show and while I checked out the merch booth, I did not buy anything. Why? Well, I had an early morning appointment the next day (so I stopped drinking) and the merch was crappy, stupid looking, and over priced. The shirts were mostly $45, which isn’t too bad, but $500 for a jacket? Who is buying that? Anyway, I was/am very broke so I saved my (non-existent) money and made my way to my seat. I was four rows from the field/pit area, directly center to the stage. When I arrived at my seat, there were only three people in my row, of course, one of them was sitting next to my seat. He was a pale, very thin, young rocker-kid who was constantly coughing (because he was hitting a vape pen, naturally). Two rows in front of me, a burly biker dude was already throwing up. That’s right, the opening act was only halfway done with his set (Sturgill Simpson, a kinda flat/boring alt-country blues guy) and this guy was already in the puking phase of his evening. This gentleman, whose girlfriend sat stoically next to him, threw up three more times. Near as I could tell, he was just throwing up on the ground next to his seat. Eventually, a pair of stadium employees (poor kids, who were probably making $7 an hour) came a silently mopped up his vomit. The dude didn’t even acknowledge them or say he was sorry. As soon as they were gone he started hitting a vape pen. I expected him to vanish during the show, either dragged off by the staff because he was staggering/falling over, but he was there the entire show.

 

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My vantage point. 

 

Once Sturgill Simpson was finished, we were treated to the best music of the evening: a mixtape of kick ass Ramones songs played over the stadium PA. Getting to hear The Ramones played at maximum volume in Mile High Stadium was so rad, it made me sad that we weren’t going to get to see them rather than GNR. Those songs play like gangbuster whilst sitting in a sticky plastic chair watching a biker try not heave while hitting a vape pen. Highlights included “Danny Says” and “Swallow My Pride” two songs that are definitely in my Top 20 favorite songs of all time. Eventually, The Ramones faded out and Guns N’ Roses took to the stage. This is where the evening started to fall apart. The band opened with “It’s So Easy” and from jump-street, Axl sounded like shit. I’ve been trying to put my finger on exactly what was so crappy about it and all I can think is that he had no spark, no enthusiasm. He also screeched way more than sang throughout most of the night. And it’s a damn shame because Axl once had the greatest range of any pop singer. But time and drugs/hard living have ravaged the voice that was Guns N’ Roses.

 

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The first of many dumb looking hats.

 

When I was a kid, I used to think that there were two people singing Axl’s parts, a dude with a really high voice and another with a deep, low voice. I actually thought that Slash was the dude with the really deep voice. But it was just Axl and his amazing range. Earlier this week, I flipped through the “Fat Axl” memes online, kinda dreading how bad Axl might look. I didn’t think he looked any fatter than any rich dude his age. However, Axl looked fucking ridiculous all night long. He always wore a bandana (which is okay, because he always did that) but atop that, he wore a series of stupid hats. Now look, I like hats too. My friend in St. Louis, Jake, has sold me many a dumb hat at the hat store where he works. The dumber a hat is, the more I want to wear it…in public. These giant leather monstrosities looked incredibly stupid and swapping them out between songs only emphasized just how desperate Axl is these days to keep his head covered. What are you hiding, Axl? I get that losing one’s hair (allegedly) is terrible for men, but here’s the thing: Axl is rich enough that he doesn’t have to get up and perform on stage these days. If you’re that paranoid about your hair, don’t do these shows. Or just wear the bandana. The vest/jacket that Axl wore throughout the night also changed, and while most of these were just terrible, the brown leather with fringe number he wore near the end of the night was truly egregious.

 

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Slash keeping it Slash-y.

 

For the most part, the song selections were about what you would expect from a reunited Guns N’ Roses in 2017. Mostly selections from their debut album (all the hits you can name) with selections from the USE YOUR ILLUSION albums sprinkled throughout. There were, however, more covers than I was expecting and that’s where the band exceeded (somewhat) my expectations. Of course they were going to cover the Wings/Paul McCartney classic “Live and Let Die,” but I wasn’t expected the touching Chris Cornell tribute cover of “Black Hole Sun” (which, if I’m being honest, fucking rocked) and brilliant instrumental cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here.” Speaking of instruments, Slash and bass player Duff McKagan were both aces. Despite having lived just as rough a life (or even rougher?) than Axl, these two are still able to hold their own on stage. And Slash looked even better than when I saw him open a few years ago for Aerosmith. Dude looks like he’s been hitting the gym, good for him. And speaking of McKagen, before I forget, I want to mention the single coolest part of this concert: every time the cameras focused on McKagen’s bass playing we got to see the Prince symbol. Yes, McKagen has the Purple One’s symbol proudly displayed on his guitar. I know that most of the people at the show probably didn’t like Prince, but the shout-out to a legit guitar hero, gone too soon, was awesome. This was the best thing that GNR did on stage that night–they had a small piece of Prince with them.

There were, predictably, only two songs from CHINESE DEMOCRACY: the titular track and the song “Better.” I really like “Better” so I was glad to hear them play it…until they started playing it. The overwrought production of Axl’s infamous album just isn’t replicable live on stage.  They did have a (very young) woman playing keyboards with them who provided occasional backing vocals, which she did on this song, that was also pretty cool. Hearing “Sweet Child O’ Mine” live with Axl singing the vocals (I saw Slash do this song with Myles Kennedy) was noteworthy, but really it sounded like someone else doing a cover. Axl sitting down at the piano for “November Rain” was a legit moment of badassery. At the tail-end of the Slash instrumental cover of “Wish You Were Here,” Axl launched into the ending piano riff of “Layla.” I forgot that Axl was a decent piano player, and the sappy MTV ballad actually sounded decent once he launched into “November Rain.” This was the closest we came to hearing old-school GNR.  Then the band went into the Chris Cornell cover and I started to think, “Maybe this concert was worth it after all.” The band finished that cover and immediately followed it up with the Dylan cover “Knockin’ On Heavens Door.” Despite the ridiculous cowboy getup, Axl did this song justice, too. But then they finished the night’s set with an ear-splittingly bad version of “Nightrain.”

I left while the crowd clapped and stamped their feet in order to demand an encore. Partly because I’d seen enough and partly because, like Axl, I too was getting old and couldn’t stay out all night. I told my wife the next day that seeing Guns N’ Roses live made me wish I’d died at 25, but after careful consideration, I don’t think that’s right. No, I don’t think it’s better to burn out than fade away or whatever other rock cliches you can conjure. I think that it is better to keep living, get old, and give up on staying young forever. Sure, an old man can be goofy compared to a virile young man, but a young man pretending to be young still is even goofier. I can’t be certain, but I don’t think “goofy” is what Axl is going for these days. To all the young bands playing out there today: grow, change, morph into something mature and when you’re 55+ don’t try to be 25.

 

 

Aside: If you’d told me at the start of the summer that the best show of Summer 2017 was going to be Metallica, I wouldn’t have believed you. But boy did Metallica beat GNR in every way. From the live performance, stage presence, pyrotechnics, hell…even the weird stuff they projected behind the better was better produced/not laughable (the GNR material was crappy 2000-era CGI guns and rose petals). 

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12 Days Until I See GnR Live, And I Still Haven’t Fully Reviewed CHINESE DEMOCRACY

I’m not going to start his post with the question, “Does anyone still read this blog?” Even though I really want to, I’m going to avoid the question, mostly because I think I know the answer (and does it really matter?). I’m less than two weeks out from seeing Axl and Slash play together on their Endless Money For All Eternity Tour and I thought it would be a good idea to write something before my emotionally charged concert review (summation?) post that will be coming post-GnR concert.

It’s a little bit funny (this feeling inside?) that my last post was on a Natalie Imbruglia covers album. I feel like many of the people who follow/randomly stumble upon this website don’t get that I’m not exactly the world’s biggest Guns N’ Roses fan and that the title of this website is a bit tongue in cheek. I’m also pretty sure that some of the people on Facebook that follow the Defending Axl Rose Facebook Page think I’m Axl. God bless, ’em, each and every one of them.

Anyway, I have tons of things that I’d like to write about: songs, albums, concerts, the like…but I’ve been mostly unable to get any writing done due to some life changes and the fact that my toddler doesn’t allow me to use my home computer (which I need to write these posts). I am pretty stoked to see GnR and wonder if they will be able to compete with the awesome spectacle that was Metallica. Time will tell. Part of me wants to look up setlists from previous shows on this tour, but I kinda want to be surprised. I do want to hear “Rocket Queen” and “My Michelle.” If you’ve seen them and they don’t play those, please don’t post a comment below telling me they don’t, let my disappointment come naturally.

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This is super mean, but I can’t help but laugh each and every time I see it.

So that’s it for now, just a quick check-in. I’d like to review this country album and maybe talk about the latest Cheap Trick record. I don’t know exactly when I will get to those, but you can definitely count on a post-GnR concert write-up. I learned my lesson with Metallica and will consume less alcohol, so my notes/memory of the event should be better, thus resulting in a better post.

If you’re going to the Denver show, hit me up on Facebook or leave a comment and maybe we can meet up.

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I Might Actually, Maybe, Possibly, Perhaps, Get to See GnR Live!

I’m still smarting from the whole Kanye West concert debacle, but news came a few days ago that Guns N’ Roses were going to hit-up a bunch of US cities not on the original leg of their Not In This Lifetime reunion tour. I remain cautiously optimistic about my chances of seeing the band, even though my native St. Louis and current home Denver are on the list of cities blessed with a tour stop. I mean, Axl Rose is no Kanye West, but he does have a reputation…if I buy a ticket for one of these shows will I be dooming my fellow concert goers?

I missed the first leg of the tour, though my parents (of all people) saw the band in Kansas City and apparently had a good time. This year has been on of many crushing defeats and moments of terrible disappointment…but I’m going to tempt fate one more time and buy a ticket to the Denver show this Friday when they go on sale.

The new tour dates are:

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Axl Rose’s Debut with AC/DC: Defensible Dreck?

Let there be…Axl? This weekend Axl Rose officially hit the stage as the fill-in lead singer of AC/DC. The band resumed their ROCK OR BUST tour in Lisbon, Portugal (I bet you think I had to look up where Lisbon was…you are correct) Saturday with a skeptical world ready to rip the band apart. I was surprised to see so many positive reviews for the show online. The general reaction online from fans has either been a resounding “meh” or a frothing “how dare they!” So when a bunch of major publications praised both the band and the new singer, I was stunned. I think that for the most part, people want Axl to succeed in “coming back.” The sad part, of course, is that Axl never really went anywhere. But with the recent announcement that Guns ‘N Roses would be getting back together it does seem like Rose has come back from the dead in terms of the popular culture.

Curious as to what this mash-up of rock titans would sound like, I was pleased to learn that the band had released some official video of the weekend’s show in Lisbon. The two clips that I saw, one of the classic “Shoot to Thrill” and the newer song “Rock or Bust,” were interesting to say the least. Axl fractured his foot (can you believe the luck?) and was forced to his awkwardly in a rock throne for the performance. It should be noted that this throne was NOT the one used by legendary rocker Dave Grohl when he hurt himself on the last Foo Fighters tour. Watching Axl bob his good leg up and down while his injured foot was propped up came off way less cool than when Grohl sat though shows. Worse, seeing the geriatric members of AC/DC run around the stage like adolescent school boys was strange. People are always saying that the younger generation just isn’t as good/tough/whatever and this visual kinda made it difficult to argue with that sentiment. Axl should have been the Spring chicken injecting life into the band…but instead he seemed older than Angus.

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Oh man, there is no beating around the bush…this sure doesn’t look very cool. 

But all this cosmetic stuff isn’t important if the band sounds great, right? The videos released didn’t have the best sound quality, but it doesn’t seem like Axl sounds right. He’s doing his usual screaming thing, which these days sounds a bit less-than-stellar if I’m honest. Also, he’s doing this weird thing where he’s singing like he’s in GNR sometimes and then at other moments kinda doing a Brian Johnson impression. I don’t think he’s succeeding in walking the fine line between honoring the sound of AC/DC while at the same time coming at these classic songs from his own unique voice. I’d love to know what exactly he’s going for with these performances. As far as these official recordings go, I think he’s generating a sloppy mess that doesn’t tickle my fancy as an Axl Rose fan nor as an AC/DC fan. That said, if I had to see AC/DC without Brian Johnson, I guess I’d want to see them with the absolutely most famous signer available. And, if I’m being honest, if a live album of this material was/is released I’d most certainly give it a careful listen (or three). This isn’t unlistenable dreck, just not as impressive or cohesive as it could be. I’m stunned that so many people are writing about how great this show was and the what a stellar job Rose did. My guess is by not totally sucking,  people are impressed. My expectations were higher than most, which is why I’m not super impressed with what’s appeared officially online.

Also, and I feel bad writing this…but if I paid a ton of money to see Guns ‘N Roses and had to watch Axl flop around in a chair I’d be pretty disappointed. This stint with AC/DC is such a train wreck that the bum foot adds an extra dimension of WTF-ness to the whole proceeding. I feel bad every time I say or write this if I were AC/DC, I think I’d finish up the tour and call it a day. There certainly is no way they are going to be able to top a seated Axl Rose. I feel like there is going to be a really interesting book or documentary about all of this one day…that interests me more than anything else about this whole situation.

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Will Axl Put the “A” in AC/DC?

From the files of “Too Strange For Fiction” comes the rumor that W. Axl Rose, your friend and mine, is going to step-in as lead singer and finish AC/DC’s current tour. Excuse me, what? Seriously, this is without a doubt the weirdest story I can personally recall involving modern rock music. But let’s take a step back to see just how we got to this (really freaking weird) place.

The former-current lead singer, Brian Johnson, announced on March 7th that he would be unable to finish the last 10 dates of the band’s tour. The reason? His doctor told him that continuing to perform would cost him his hearing. Let that sink in for a moment. Brian Johnson no doubt has access to the best healthcare available to human-kind (dude is in one of the biggest rock bands in history). I’m sure there was much “are you sure?” and second-opinioning made before such a lucrative tour was essentially placed on pause. When this story first broke, I thought “damn that sucks, but that’s the price you pay for being in a rock band.” Then it came out that Johnson lost his hearing as a result of driving race cars. Could there be anything crazier than losing your hearing from race car driving? Not being in one of the biggest, hardest rocking bands of all time…no driving a really loud car did his ears in.

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Like most people (I think) yours truly thought that this was finally the end of AC/DC. I remember thinking “Damn, first they lose Malcolm Young to dementia…then kick Phil Rudd out for going bananas/plotting murder…losing their lead singer is the end of this band.” Of course, I should have known better. AC/DC is the band that deified the death of their original (and best) lead singer Bon Scott. A true hellraiser, Scott was AC/DC and yet…after his death in 1980 after basically drinking himself into a stupor. Brian Johnson joined the band, and AC/DC released BACK IN BLACK. You know, the band’s most popular album, the one that even non-fans know entirely by heart. Besides being such a huge smash and a cultural milestone, BACK IN BLACK proved that it was possible for a band to not only move on after the loss of a frontman, said band could thrive. So why wouldn’t guitarist Angus Young want the show to go on and for AC/DC to get a new lead singer?

But this is where the story starts getting…strange. On March 15th comedian Jim Breuer (yes, the stoner-ish dude from SNL) stated that his friend Brian Johnson hadn’t quit the band for health reasons: he was kicked out. Breuer claimed that Johnson was planning on defying his doctor’s orders and finishing the tour. Before he had a chance to work out plans with the band, Breuer claimed Johnson was kicked out of the band.

Brian Johnson is 8 years older than Angus, whom Breuer claims wants to continue the band “for at least another 10 years.” So a much younger lead singer would certainly help AC/DC to solider on and make that sweet, sweet touring money. But who would be cast into the role of frontman? Speculation swirled online, with several people throwing their names into the hat for consideration. My favorite of these was Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist the lead singer from The Hives (whom apparently toured with AC/DC in the past as an opening act). Another interesting person in the running (maybe?) is the Marc Storace, the lead singer of Krokus. This choice seems more likely, as he was asked to audition for AC/DC to replace Bon Scott back in the 80’s, which he famously turned down.

I’ve been trying to figure out where the rumors of Axl Rose joining AC/DC originated from, and it’s a bit tricky. Apparently, both Rose and AC/DC where in Atlanta, Georgia (of all places) at the same time…and this geographical proximity launched the rumor. At least, I thought it was just a rumor. Then late this week, Malcolm Young’s son posted twice on social media that Rose was going to take over singing duties for the band. These posts were quickly pulled down, adding further fuel the the fire that this was serious and that there are negotiations happening right now for Rose to front the band.

Would Axl be a good choice for AC/DC? From a financial and marketing perspective I would say: hell yes. Both AC/DC and Axl could use the bump in promotion. AC/DC are as popular as ever, but having the lead singer from another legendary rock band would do wonders for their bottom line. Axl Rose also stands to reap the benefit$ as well. With the Guns N’ Roses reunion looming on the horizon, anything that Axl can do to increase his visibility and prove that he’s still a great frontman will only help put asses in seats and make him money. A Guns N’ Roses reunion is a certain money maker, but promotion costs money but joining AC/DC would be one helluva marketing campaign. And it wouldn’t cost Rose anything. Hell, if this all turns out to be an elaborate hoax, the reason neither side is coming out and squashing it is no doubt due to the tremendous interest this story has caused.

But that’s not really the question is it? Would Axl be a good fit for AC/DC in a musical sense? No, as much as I love Axl, I don’t think he’s the right guy to sing AC/DC’s songs. He’s not gruff and bluecollar enough to pull that off. Oh sure, one or two songs would be cool, but I can’t imagine he’d be able to pull of an entire setlist of songs from the band in any sort of believable way. And are they going to toss in a GNR song or two? I think that people would expect that and I don’t see Angus wanting to play any of those songs.

I feel really grateful that I had the chance to see AC/DC on the BLACK ICE tour in 2008. I’m also really grateful that I run an Axl Rose-themed blog in a year where we’re going to see a GNR reunion and a possible Rose-fronted AC/DC. Can you imagine what this is going to do to my page views?

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The Life of Pablo by Kanye West

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This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but I love Kanye West. Both the music and the man. This is a rock blog but over the past 10 years or so I’ve warmed to hip-hop, thanks largely in part to the works of Mr. West. I totally get why most people don’t like the persona of Kanye West: he’s brash, arrogant, and sexist. Defending Axl Rose has never been about Axl Rose, but instead about the artists like Rose who operate on a completely different level than 99.999% of the rest of us. These exceptional artists have a vision and spend their lives struggling to bring that vision in its pure, uncompromised, form to the masses. They push boundaries in genre and offer us a window into both the artist and ourselves. Kanye West is a genius on the same level as Brian Wilson. Do I cringe when he belittles Taylor Swift or goes on Twitter and proclaims Bill Cosby “innocent”? Hell yes I do. But Kanye doesn’t really hurt anyone but himself so I forgive him. The music is so good I can overlook his faults.

THE LIFE OF PABLO has been on my must-listen list back when it was called SWISH and WAVES.  When it came out last month, on the Jay-Z backed music streaming service Tidal, I downloaded the Tidal app and contemplated canceling my beloved Spotify subscription just so I could hear the record. I waited, with bated-fanboy breath, for Yeezus to announce when the non-Tidal world would get an opportunity to hear his latest masterpiece. Then the confusion began: the album’s physical sale was delayed and then it was scrapped. West proclaimed his album would never be fore sale on Twitter, despite the fact that he’d already given it away sort of by issuing download codes to the people who attended his NYC fashion show where the album debuted. Now there’s word that Kanye is still editing/changing the album, thus making THE LIFE OF PABLO the Star Wars of rap albums (Kanye = George Lucas).

This review has two paragraphs defending the man and giving context to the release of the album because that’s the only way to interface with Kanye’s music. One can’t like or dislike these tracks without taking the performance art piece that is Kanye West in as a whole. He’s worked (famously) with Paul McCartney and no doubt sees himself as a modern-day John Lennon, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that Kanye West is really the modern-day Yoko Ono (Ono the artist not the Beatle girlfriend).

THE LIFE OF PABLO opens with gospel “Ultralight Beam.” An epic, beautiful track that begins with West’s 4 year old daughter praising Jesus and then builds to a rapturous choir. This song, about as unconventional as a pop song could be, works on a pure emotional level. I’m 100% agnostic but by the time Chance the Rapper comes in near the end I feel like a true Believer. The album descends from the opener’s lofty heights rollercoasting up and down a few times and bottoms out on “FML.” Here is what all the Kanye haters seem to miss about him: he’s not only his own worst enemy, he’s also his biggest critic. “FML” is about how he fucks up his own life. The song is about West’s troubles with infidelity, which is also touched on in “30 Hours” where West feels jealous because he finds himself on the wrong end of an open-relationship (one that he admits he insisted on having). “Real Friends” continues the tradition of “Runaway” and paints West as a workaholic loner who lives in a cold, friendless world. “Wolves” is another somber track where West gives insight into what it’s like to be a solitary figure against the whole of the world. You can’t help but feel sorry for they guy, even when later he compares himself and Kim to Mary and Joseph (yes, that Mary and Joseph).

Of course no review of THE LIFE OF PABLO would be complete without discussing “Famous,” the song where he throws gasoline on his feud with Taylor Swift. I don’t believe Kanye’s assertion that he “made that bitch famous,” but I do think that Swift has greatly benefited from her association with West. Just like Batman needs the Joker, Swift provides the perfect heroic foil to West’s exaggerated douchebag persona. That West has chosen to rag on America’s sweetheart and the music world’s biggest, most popular modern artist isn’t surprising. He’s jealous of her and like the third grade boy tugging his classmates ponytails; he’s picking on her because he likes her. It’s a shame West mars an otherwise perfect song with such a cringeworthy verse. Rihanna and the Sister Nancy sample are such a killer combo and balance West’s tough guy rapping.

My current favorite track, however, is probably the most-Kanye track of all-time. Title “I Love Kanye,” the song is a 43 second song that is just West with no musical accompaniment. The lyrics speak for themselves:

“I miss the old Kanye, straight from the ‘Go Kanye
Chop up the soul Kanye, set on his goals Kanye
I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye
The always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye
I miss the sweet Kanye, chop up the beats Kanye
I gotta to say at that time I’d like to meet Kanye
See I invented Kanye, it wasn’t any Kanyes
And now I look and look around and there’s so many Kanyes
I used to love Kanye, I used to love Kanye
I even had the pink polo, I thought I was Kanye
What if Kanye made a song about Kanye
Called “I Miss The Old Kanye,” man that would be so Kanye
That’s all it was Kanye, we still love Kanye
And I love you like Kanye loves Kanye.”

The track ends with West laughing, and it’s a pretty good punchline, but there’s a lot of naked, personal honesty in this song. I don’t see Kanye as the arrogant asshole he’d like us to believe he his. Nor do I view him as the villain his detractors make him out to be. For me, Kanye West is a tragic figure of Shakespearean proportions. If he was an oblvious asshole even his biggest fans couldn’t forgive him (myself included). But Kanye is acutely aware of his failings and I think would genuinely like to be the good guy.

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There are no big radio-friendly tracks on THE LIFE OF PABLO. There is no “Gold Digger” or “Touch the Sky” on this record. Even if you hate Kanye and despise rap if you’re a music fan you have to respect that he’s one of the only (if not the only) mainstream artist who make albums. The album as a cohesive, artistic whole has been absent from the modern music scene for nearly 10 years (give or take). But the fact that Kanye agonizes over things like track sequences on his records makes this music fan happy. Don’t listen haphazardly to THE LIFE OF PABLO, instead take it track by track as God…I mean Kanye intended. Then when you’re done go online and seek out the endless stream of “I Love Kanye” remixes that have mushroomed all over the Internet.

I had to torrent this album, which is a real bummer. Hopefully something will change and THE LIFE OF PABLO will become commercially available in a wider-release. Though his mental state may be deteriorating, West’s ability to create intricate, interesting music is only getting stronger.

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Lemmy is dead and GnR Lives?

It’s been a crazy week in the world of rock and more than one person has asked me if/when I was going to write a post. I wish I had a good excuse for posting so infrequently, but I don’t really have one. I’m just a lazy bastard. But there were two really big news items this week, so here I am.

First, the legendary lead singer of Motorhead, Lemmy Kilmister, died this week. I wasn’t surprised by this as Motorhead had cancelled a couple of tour dates earlier this year due to Lemmy not feeling well. Like most Motorhead fans, when I heard the news I assumed Lemmy had succumbed to his addictions. Besides being a first rate hellraiser, Lemmy was what can only be described as a “power drinker.” The fact that the dude made it to 70 is really a miracle, if you ask me. When I learned it was cancer and not excess that claimed Lemmy, I was genuinely shocked. Now, did Lemmy’s boozing ways contribute to or even cause his cancer? Perhaps, but the fact remains he didn’t die of liver failure which was what I was expecting.

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Rest In Power, Lemmy.

I saw Motorhead once in the middle 2000’s in St. Louis. They played a killer show with Valient Thorr that to this day ranks in my top 10 concerts. Lemmy’s voice was gravelly and unmistakable; there was never any mistaking him for someone else. I’m not the biggest metal-head, but the metal bands I do like tend to have vocalists that sound unique. Lemmy sure was unique. He also looked like a rock ‘n roll warthog from hell. One of my favorite Lemmy memories was his cameo in 1990’s comedy AIRHEADS where he proclaims that he was “editor of the school magazine.”

His brief cameo is a fun moment made extra-meta because earlier in the movie Lemmy is mentioned by name in a pretty funny exchange with Harold Ramis:

I’ll also never forget the time in 2002 when it was reported that Lemmy was considering having his famous facial warts removed in order to sell them online. I’m not even sure how true that rumor was, but I distinctly remember it being in the news. Anyway, Motorhead is truly an excellent band and Lemmy was one of the last remaining metal gods, he will be missed.

Also this week, it was announced that the rumors were true: the original line-up of Guns N’ Roses were reuniting next year.  Although the only gig that’s been confirmed is a headlining gig at this year’s Coachella Festival in April, the word on the (proverbial) street is that GnR will be also be launching a massive 25 date stadium tour in 2016. This is a huge deal because as we all know, GnR has been steadily touring for the past 20 years but with only Axl Rose as the sole original member of the band.

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Coming to a town near you? 

Does it excite me that Axl and Slash have buried the hatchet and are going to tour? Of course it does! Now the big question: will I be interested in going to see the band play live? I saw Slash earlier this year open for Aerosmith and it was kinda…sad. Slash was perfectly fine, but it was obvious that he was yearning to return to the glory of Guns N’ Roses. The lead singer he’d recruited for his band was an obvious Axl-clone. And while it was an audience who’d shown up to see Steven Tyler and Company, the only reactions the band really got was from the GnR songs they played.

I liken a reunited Guns N’ Roses to the most recent STAR WARS movie. People are only excited about this because of the nostalgic feelings it creates inside them. Nobody really wants to see an older, bloated, graying rock band get up on stage and embarrass themselves. Well, maybe some people do, but I don’t. A reunited GnR would be a time warp to an earlier era in all GnR fans lives. An era that should probably be left in the past, if we were all being honest. I’m sure Slash and Axl could whip themselves into fine-ish form but the real question everyone should be asking is: to what end? Will this be a greatest hits cash-grab-mega-tour? I’d rather they get together and write new music and release an album than just travel across the country using Pro-Tools to mask the ravages of time and sell a couple thousand T-shirts. But that’s just me.

There a many reason I’m not going to Coachella–I’m about to be a father for the first time being just one of them–but I’d consider seeing them on tour if they came to my town. And the tickets were reasonable. And that’s the rub with reunions like this, isn’t it? These tickets are going to be insanely expensive so many long time fans are probably going to be shut out (another reason I’d prefer we just get another album).

Everyone seems to be lusting for the past everywhere I look (again, STAR WARS) and this GnR reunion just seems like another example of that trend. I’m really torn between stoked to potentially have the chance to see Guns N’ Roses live and a little disgusted that the only concerts people get excited about anymore are these Dinosaurs of Rock Reunion Showz. Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% a classic rock fan, but I wish there was a new band grabbing headlines (and dollars) like a reformed GnR.

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UPDATE: CHINESE DEMOCRACY (Possibly) Worth More Than In 2013 & 2012

Back in December of 2013 I noticed that the price of Guns ‘n Roses latest album CHINESE DEMOCRACY had gone up. Comparing the list price against a (super depressing) tweet from 2012, I saw that the album has increased in price by $1.22. The price rose, like a phoenix from the flames, from a paltry $3.66 to a robust $4.88. This was terrible-ish news for people who had not yet purchased the CD (and have very limited budgets). I, on the other hand, saw this as great news because the thought of CHINESE DEMOCRACY costing less than $4.00 feels just wrong.

Go ahead and check-out that first album-price post, it’s much better written. In that post I point out that prices on Amazon are always in flux so this might not actually mean anything. I also noticed (when I was halfway through writing that post) that I wasn’t comparing the price of the album at the same time of the year (October 2012 vs. December 2013). I even think I suggested that I check on the price of the CD in December 2014 to try and be more scientific about studying this trend. Of course I forgot.

I was checking on the status of a separate non-GNR related order this morning and decided to check-in and see what the price of CHINESE DEMOCRACY was currently. To my utter chagrin, the price has skyrocketed from $4.88 to $4.92. That’s an increase of $0.04! If you’d have taken my advice and purchased 100,000 copies of CHINESE DEMOCRACY back in December of 2013 you’d have made a profit of $4,000! Holy cow, I feel like the next Warren Buffet.

So for reasons that are absolutely beyond me, the price of CHINESE DEMOCRACY has continued to slowly climb. Perhaps this current jump in price is related to the “Only 8 left in stock-order soon” note, which was absent from the listing the last time I checked on the price of this album. Could it be a low supply that is driving the price up? I guess. Maybe. Sure.

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$$$

If you don’t own a copy of this masterpiece now is the time to hop to it and buy this sucker. You don’t want to have to pay $5.00 for this thing, do you?

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ROCK ‘N READ: LOVE AND OTHER B-SIDES

Romance and rock collide in novelist Lisa Peers’ Love and Other B-Sides.  Call me lame, but I’ve always been a sucker for a good love story.  Flavored with musical references and plot elements ripped from the headlines, Love and Other B-Sides reminded me of films like LOVE ACTUALLY…only good and written by Nick Hornby. Peers spins a yarn that touches on redemption, aging, find one’s true calling in life, and starting over.

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The book centers on the relationship between aging rocker Stee Walsh and Connie Rafferty, a new fan who comes to the singer’s attention via a tech-savvy super-fan Walsh meets while signing a deal with a digital music conglomerate. Using a highly intrusive computer program designed to “study” the music habits of the buying public, Walsh becomes interested in a woman half a world away who spent the better part of a year purchasing his entire catalogue one song a day.

What’s great about Love and Other B-Sides, is the way it depicts its protagonists, Peers does a fantastic job creating realistic characters.  Stee, already a complex character at the beginning of the book, deepens as he falls in love (real love) with an ordinary woman.   Connie’s character was the one that intrigued me the most, however. All too often we dismiss the partners of rock stars and other celebrities, but they’re people.  How much it feel to dwell in the shadow of a Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney? While the wealth and trappings of fame are appealing, not being taken seriously simply because of one personal relationship would be very difficult. Connie’s character is grieving the loss of an unfaithful husband and Walsh is a former fuck-up who’s sober but inhabiting the remains of a life ravaged by substance abuse. Unlike many love stories, both characters are doing the rescuing, which is refreshing.

One of the reasons I’d never attempt to write a book like Love and Other B-Sides is because I’m not sure I could come up with believable songs/song titles.  Again, Peers crafts believability into her tale by adding intricate musical details and full-song lyrics to her imagined rock stars songs.  Walsh, who musically seems like a much more fun Springsteen, is one of the world’s top rockstars—I know few people with the stones to write songs that are supposed to be world-wide chart toppers, so hats off to the author.

The book moves at a brisk pace, and the deranged computer hacking fan adds an element of unease to the books otherwise light romance. Overall, I’d say that Love and Other B-Sides is a solid debut from a promising, music-centric novelist.  I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the early Axl Rose reference (like Axl, Stee is a red-head) and a late in the story mention of Warren Zevon.  Also, the book features an amusing running gag involving the piano man himself, Mr. Billy Joel.

You can buy Love and Other B-Sides on Amazon.com and be sure to visit Lisa’s awesome blog, LP on 45.

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DEFENDING AXL ROSE: Part 2 “Shackler’s Revenge”

Welcome to part two of a fourteen part series in which I go track-by-track through CHINESE DEMOCRACY. It’s been over two years since I did the first installment on the first song…but I’m back defending Axl Rose!

I’d heard several songs off CHINESE DEMOCRACY prior to the album’s official November 2008 release, but “Shackler’s Revenge” was the first officially-Axl-sanctioned track I heard. The song was previewed in the Harmonix rhythm game Rock Band 2, which came out a month before CHINESE DEMOCRACY was released. I remember playing the game for hours the day it came out trying to unlock the song. When I finally got a chance to play “Shackler’s Revenge” I was pretty disappointed. Unlike the rough leaked tracks I’d heard, “Shackler’s Revenge” had a gritty industrial feel. I was also taken aback by the song’s production, which was busier than most hard rock songs. This negative reaction was repeated when I bought the album a month later.

For the record: not my score, not my Xbox ID, and not screen cap.

For the record: not my score, not my Xbox ID, and not screen cap.

Five years and many listens later, I like “Shackler’s Revenge” much more than I did when I first heard it in Rock Band. That said, this track is probably the most over-stuffed/produced track on the album. Everything about “Shackler’s Revenge” is big. The song has the most credited writers of any song on the album (five in case you were wondering). The song has multiple guitar solos and multiple guitarists. And despite this largeness, the song is the second shortest track on the record, clocking in at three and a half-minutes in length.

The track is an epic, aggressive romp through burning fields of an apocalyptic hard rock landscape. The song might not have struck me as very Guns N’ Roses-like the first time I heard it, but “Shackler’s Revenge” actually has all the main ingredients of a great GNR song. The song features lead and backing vocals from Axl, where are layered on multiple tracks creating a creepy Axl-choir. “Shackler’s Revenge” is angry and defiant with an absolute killer chorus that seems to wag a finger at all of Axl’s doubters.

GNR’s songs are also known for their guitar and “Shackler’s Revenge” does not disappoint on this end. The song features interesting guitar work from the avant-garde guitarist Buckethead and the band’s other guitarist Bumblefoot. I’m not 100% sure which one of these guitarists did the solos, but they’re fantastically explosive. I also really like the dying Galaga machine-like quality of the guitar tone.

The song’s dark, apocalyptic nature recalls the band’s previous “Oh My God.” That track, which came out on the END OF DAYS soundtrack in 1999, almost seems like a proto-“Shackler’s Revenge.” Axl has publically stated that “Oh My God” was released unfinished due to time constraints relating to the release of the film End of Days. A comparison of the two tracks is a fascinating: both have an aggressive, industrial metal feel but whereas “Oh My God” seems to be an endless gushing rant, “Shackler’s Revenge” has a methodical, demonic groove. The more refined “Shackler’s Revenge” is a testament to Axl’s tireless perfectionism. I’m not a big fan of sub-genre that the song mines, but the song has grown on me over the years. That said, releasing “Shackler’s Revenge” as the album’s first single was probably a mistake. From a business perspective, it makes sense to release the shorter more dynamic track but for my money the album’s third track “Better” would have made a better single (pun intended.

But I’ll write more about that when in the next installment of my track-by-track review of CHINESE DEMOCRACY.

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