Tag Archives: Oasis

Beach Slang at the Summit Music Hall 03/12/2017

Last night, bone tired after a 10-hour shift at my second job, I mustered the will to check out Beach Slang. They were opening for Minus the Bear, a band I still haven’t heard (yeah, I left once Beach Slang finished their set, don’t give me that look…I’m old). As some of you will recall, I got into Beach Slang in January 2016 after I discovered their first record a few months behind everybody else. You’ll remember I wrote that had I heard it on time; it easily would have been my #1 album of 2015. Beach Slang put out a second album, A LOUD BASH OF TEENAGE FEELINGS, last year that I was somewhat lukewarm about. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t ambush me the same way that first record did. While the songs were all great and the passion was still there, there was very much a “been there, done that” feeling to the proceedings. Before seeing the band last night I was a little worried that perhaps the band wasn’t as good as I thought they were and that maybe that first album was a bit of a fluke. Well, maybe fluke is too strong a word as music fans we all know about the “one hit wonder” phenomenon. Sometimes artists only have one really good album in them; there’s no shame in that. Well, there’s also the “sophomore slump,” which also explains why so many second albums aren’t quite as good as the first ones. Anyway, I don’t think either of these conditions applies to Beach Slang, especially after last night.

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The night began when the Californian three-piece band Sand took to the stage. They were a strange band, mixing indie rock with prog flourishes and doom metal-ish riffs. The (very young) audience seemed to titter every time the paunchy, balding bassists banged his head and slapped his bass. I thought they were cool in an unconventional sort of way. The drummer was goofy and did most of the singing (love those singing drummers), and the guitarist was technically great, but a bit lacking on the stage presence. The songs they played were pretty strange, and as I said tended to have heavy riffs and progressive structures. None of the songs they played stood out or were particularly catchy, per say, but I wouldn’t be opposed to hearing more of their music. Once Sand finished their set, the venue (or someone) had a “rock and roll comedian” come out and do 5 minutes. I’ve heard of comedy at rock shows but had never witnessed this phenomenon first hand. I was nervous for the guy (whose name escapes me), but he held his own with the standard druggie material. After he had finished his bit about secretly liking Crocs, Beach Slang hit the stage.

The first thing I noticed was just how odd lead singer James Alex looks. He’s a pretty tall dude, with a huge mop of shaggy hair. He was wearing a blue blazer with a heart patch sewn onto it. The band came out carrying plastic cups, Alex’s had a red liquid that he proclaimed was vodka and cranberry juice. Immediately I noticed the band’s guitarist was a chick. Beach Slang’s last tour imploded last year when their former guitarist Ruben Gallego was accused of sexual assault. Ultimately, both Gallego and drummer JP Flexner were let go from the band following an explosive concert in Salt Lake City. James Alex comes across as a pretty thoughtful, caring guy and when the news of the assault allegations hit he seemed genuinely upset. The fact that he replaced Gallego with Aurore Ounjian, a woman, surprised me–though I shouldn’t have been surprised Alex’s way more progressive in his thinking than the typical indie rocker. I expected the band to give a dashed off, slightly crappy performance if I’m honest. Not because Beach Slang come across as though they’d be shitty live, but because Alex seems to worship Paul Westerberg and The Replacements. The Replacements were extremely notorious for the quality of their live gigs, which often devolved into drunk messes.

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Much to my surprise, and delight, Beach Slang put on a stellar performance. Despite being the evenings middle act, Beach Slang came out and acted as though they were headlining. There were friendly chats with the audience, an impromptu cover of the Oasis classic “Wonderwall,” and zany stage antics (falling to the floor and spewing vodka cranberry juice all over the stage, playing the opening riff of “Smooth” whenever Alex said “it’s a hot one”). Alex was manic and full of playful energy as the band blasted through their best songs. I really enjoyed hearing “Porno Love” and “Ride the Wild Haze” from the first album live. Songs from the new album also came off really well including the Replacements-like “Spin the Dial.” They closed their set with “Atom Bomb” a song I didn’t really care for very much when I heard it on the new album. Played live, however, the track’s furious energy clicked with me and I came away with a new found sense of respect for the song. Besides the before mentioned cover of “Wonderwall,” the band also did a killer cover on The Pixies classic “Where is my Mind?”

Not only did Beach Slang sound about as good live as they do on their albums, but they managed to successfully walk the tightrope between super-fun and while singing gut-wrenchingly earnest rock songs. Alex wears his heart on his sleeve (besides on his blazer) and his music touches on serious topics like isolation and confusion. He writes music that comforts his fans and speaks to them in ways I haven’t seen an artist do in a long time. There’s something tragic in the music of Beach Slang, and I fully expected this concert to be a bit of a self-serious bummer. I was glad to see how goofy and cheerful Alex was, but I can’t help but think the silly ruffled shirt and mop of sweaty rocker hair is hiding some incredibly dark stuff. I was ultra tired when I went to the venue but left floating on a cloud of optimism fueled from seeing a passionate artist connect with his fans. I can’t wait to re-listen to both albums this week and hope I get a chance to see Beach Slang again–perhaps even in a headlining slot.

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Collins, Phil

A few years ago, I wrote about some of my musical guilty pleasures. Included on that list was the band Genesis. I’ve had Phil Collins on the brain for a few weeks now, and I’m not sure why. Then last week I read an article about how he’s planning on playing at the opening ceremonies of the US Open at the end of this month. It’s a big deal because Collins has all but dropped off the face of the Earth these past few years. The reason for this has varied, depending on who you ask: Collins can’t hold drumsticks anymore due to a crippling back/nerve issue, he wants to spend more time with his family, he’s near death after years of substance abuse, and he’s so rich he doesn’t need to perform or record music anymore. But the biggest reason given for his extended absence from the spotlight–he got sick and tired of all the criticism.

This leads me back to my post from 2012 on my Top 5 Guiltiest Musical Pleasures. Genesis made the list, but why? It’s wasn’t because of their bizarre and sometimes beautiful early prog-records with Peter Gabriel. It was because of Phil Collins. I grew up on classic rock radio and Collins’ work with Genesis and his first few solo albums were in heavy rotation back in the 1990’s. Even today, his biggest songs like “In The Air Tonight” are played almost as often as FM staples like “Stairway to Heaven” and “Hotel California.” Growing up, Collins and Genesis never struck me as particularly cool nor did they strike me as uncool. This was not the case among my peers. I had a friend in Junior High who used to get teased mercilessly because his mother was a very, very big Phil Collins fan. I liked this guy a lot, but there were so many other things about him people could make fun of, so why was his mom being a Phil Collins fan such an issue?

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Is this the face of the most hated man in popular music?

I have two theories about why people hate Phil Collins so much. The first is that Collins was simply just too damn successful. The ubiquitous nature of his music during the 1980’s and early 1990’s made people sick of him. The same reasoning can be applied to The Eagles, who also have gone from beloved to hated by the culture at large. Getting over-played on the radio isn’t the band’s fault, but the listening public can only take so much before a backlash begins. Modern radio with its limited song rotation certainly did nothing to help either Collins or The Eagles. By playing “Life In The Fast Lane” 50 to 100 times a day, people got sick of The Eagles. Likewise, Collins was overplayed both as a successful solo artist and as a member of Genesis. Collins was a double-threat releasing hit songs by himself and with Genesis, though many people might have trouble telling them apart, especially near the end of both his solo career and his life with the band. Collins became a symbol of the old guard, his success was so great he became locked in an ivory tower. This made him the perfect target for the younger bands emerging in the 1990’s who showed real disdain for him (specifically Oasis, who were merciless in their public criticism of Collins).

The second reason Collins has become so hated has to do with Collins the artist. Phil Collins has two modes: mindless pop and painfully earnest sincerity. People can handle one or the other, but when an artist tries to exist in both worlds people start having problems. A good example of this is “Another Day In Paradise.” The song was written by Collins at the end of the 1980’s and tackles the issue of homelessness. It’s a serious subject, one that is undercut by the fact that it’s being done by a millionaire who made his fortune off of bubblegum pop like “Sussudio.” Collins tried to make both serious art and product, essentially trying to exist in two different boxes. This was something that people simply couldn’t reconcile. Making matters worse, a large swath of the listening public finds earnest sincerity fake when it’s attached to a smarmy-looking millionaire.

But none of this is very fair to Collins, is it? After all, it’s not his fault that he was so successful. And it’s not his fault that he’s able to make simple pop music and music with a bit more weight behind it. I don’t think the man’s career is unblemished (it isn’t) or that he hasn’t recorded more than a few stinkers (he has), but I do think the level of hate for Collins is simply disproportionate to his contribution to popular culture. Even if you don’t particularly like him or his music, you can’t help but admit that “In The Air Tonight” is an interesting, cool, song. In fact, I can’t think of another song that’s like “In The Air Tonight” that became a massive hit.

So I’m removing both Genesis and Phil Collins from my list of Guilty Pleasures and instead owning the fact that I like a large portion of the music he’s created. There’s been a sort of ironic appreciation of his career over the past few years, but I want it to be known that there is not a drop of irony in my love for Phil Collins. Human beings are petty, sometimes jealous creatures, and my guess is we needed a whipping boy. I’m sorry that person had to be Collins, but at least he seems to have been able to take it. Imagine someone like poor Morrissey saddled with a Phil Collins-level of public malice! He’d have thrown himself under a bus or train decades ago. I suspect that there are more than a few people placed in that awkward situation of secretly liking something that’s seemingly universally despised. If you’re such a person, my recommendation to you is to cast off the shackles of conformity and own your opinion. Unless you like Nickelback, in which case you’re not right in the head.

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GOOD TIMES! by The Monkees

Can somebody please tell me when it was that nostalgia became such a huge commodity? I don’t remember there being so much reverence for the past when I was a wee lad. Sometime in the 1990’s when they started adapting shows like The Brady Bunch and Lost in Space into feature films is when I became aware of nostalgia for the first time. I used to think it was kinda sad/lame, but now that I’m turning into an old fart I’m beginning to see the appeal. Anyway, I bring all this up because when I first heard that The Monkees were going to put out a new album in 2016, I was pretty much nonplussed but I could smell the nostalgia in the air. These long lost reunions never yield anything close to good, so I wrote the whole concept of a new Monkees album off.

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The Monkees were never really my thing. Besides being too young to watch their television show, I was born in an era where they were considered a joke. A sad, pale corporate imitation of The Beatles. Growing up I was a Beatle-fan and had no time for The Monkees and their less-than serious 60’s shtick. It wasn’t until I got much older that I learned that while The Monkees weren’t exactly serious musicians, they had a ton of real talent backing them up. People like Carole King and Harry Nilsson were penning songs for the imaginary TV-band. It was around the time that Gorillaz came out that my attitude towards The Monkees started to change. Perhaps I’d judged them too harshly. Less of a band and more of a cultural happening, The Monkees occupy a very strange (very meta) part of 1960’s culture.

So what about this new 2016 album, GOOD TIMES? Well, I got interested in it a bit once I found out that Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne was going to produce the record. Then I found out The Monkees were tapping Andy Partridge of XTC and Rivers Cuomo of Weezer to write songs. Then I heard the album would feature new covers of Harry Nilsson and Carole King songs–and the deal was sealed for me: I had to hear this record. It’s a strange thing to log into your Spotify account and boot up a new album from The Monkees. But that’s the world that we live in now, so that’s what I did a few weeks ago when the album was released. To my shock, GOOD TIMES! is a fantastic pop album that’s a ton of fun to listen to. Is this groundbreaking, earth-shattering music? No. Is GOOD TIMES! a soul-lifting, life-inspiring album that reaffirmed my love of music? Not quite. Is it the best Monkees album of all time? Yeah, it is.

I realize that statement, “best Monkees album of all time,” might seem like faint praise…because it is…but remember this is band that put out “Last Train to Clarksville.” While not the greatest song of all time, “Last Train To Clarksville” is a one of the better bubblegum pop songs from any decade, not just the decade when Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney were at their pop zenith.

GOOD TIMES! opens with Nilsson’s “Good Time,” a soulful, sweaty party song. Lead singer Davy Jones has sadly left us, so Micky Dolenz does most of the singing (though Jones does appear posthumously on one track, the Neil Diamond-penned “Love to Love”).

“You Bring the Summer” is a lovely, charming pop ditty that recalls the quaint, innocent teenybopper party songs of the early 1960’s (read: before the drugs really hit). Written by Andy Partridge, the track sounds like it’d belong on the gentler-side of one of his Dukes of Stratosphere recordings. There are a couple of odd British phrases (i.e. “sun cream” rather than “sun screen”) that add a glaze of weirdness to an otherwise basic (albeit very proficient) pop song. Rivers Cuomo’s song “She Makes Me Laugh” is easily the best song on the album, a sunny song of love and devotion. The track artfully blends Beatle-esque rock with Beach Boys-like backing vocals. This is the sort of song you hear and when you get to the end you hit “repeat” so you can go again. The only part of “She Makes Me Laugh” that bums me out is the fact that Rivers isn’t able to conjure up a song like this for Weezer. Whatever happened to Mr. Cuomo and Co. can’t be blamed on a lack of talent–Cuomo can still write a really great song. I guess there’s always the next Weezer album, but I digress…

Another really great track is “Me & Magdalena,” a soft ballad written by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie. The song has a dreamy, twilight feel that’s very comforting…it took me a few listens before I picked up on the fact that the song is ostensibly about death/dying. It’s not the buzzkill that you’d think and is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the material on the album (i.e. it’s more than just a fun pop song). This song is so good, in fact, it’s got me thinking I need to revisit Death Cab (a band that I never really gave a fair shake to if I’m being honest).

“Birth of an Accidental Hipster,” the strangest track on the record, has the most interesting pedigree. Written by Oasis founder Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller of The Jam, “Birth of an Accidental Hipster” is weird. There are weird vocal effects and the song yo-yos between faux-psychedelia and campfire sing-a-long. The first time I heard it I was convince that it was the worst song on the record. Then I saw that it was written by two to of the best British songwriters of the last 30 years, so I gave the track another chance. Then I gave it another chance. And another. Eventually the song wove it’s magic on me and it’s one of my favorites on the record. But like “Me & Magdalena” it doesn’t feel like a Monkees track, it’s a bit of an outlier. But that’s a good thing.

“Wasn’t Born To Follow”is a Carole King/Gerry Goffin song that was most famously covered by The Byrds. The song has a pastoral, Kinks-like quality that I really dig. Like the Harry Nilsson track that opens the album, this older song is less bubblegum than those written by the youngbloods. It would have been interesting to hear an album of just these type of songs. I found the tonal shifting with these more meaningful songs and the new bubblegum was a bit dizzying. GOOD TIMES! is front-loaded with new, sugary songs and ends on decidedly more adult fare.

Overall, GOOD TIMES! is…well…a really good time! A handful of these songs will probably haunt my playlists for years to come. I wouldn’t call this an all-timer by any means, but for a 2016 Monkees album, GOOD TIMES! is pretty outstanding. Worth noting, there a bunch of non-album tracks that one can hear depending on the venue by which they consume the record. On Spotify/digital streaming services, the bonus tracks are “Terrifying” written by Zach Rogue of Rouge Wave and an electric uptempo version of “Me & Magdalena.” I’m not a fan of the latter, but “Terrifying” is damn good and probably should have been included on the album proper. I’m half tempted to seek out the other bonus tracks just to see what other fantastic nuggets were omitted.

Put aside your preconceived notions and give GOOD TIMES! a shot if you’re a fan of any of the songwriters mentioned above and/or if you’re a fan of old-fashioned pop music.

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BE by Beady Eye

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Beady Eye, the gutted remains of what used to be the Brit-Pop band Oasis, put out their second album this week.  Beady Eye’s first record, DIFFERENT GEAR, STILL SPEEDING was Liam Gallagher’s confident blast of bravado and proof that he could hold his own without his brother Noel.   Back in 2012 I proclaimed 2011 to be “The Year of The Battling Gallagher Brothers.”  Liam was the first of the Gallagher brothers to release a post-Oasis record and ultimately I felt his Beady Eye record was better than Noel’s strangely titled High Flying Birds record.

Fast forward to 2013, and my expectations were high as I fired up BE.  Would Liam be able to deliver another stellar album or would Noel’s absence be more fully felt?  My first impression was that BE was closer to the denser, mid-period Oasis albums like HEATHEN CHEMISTRY and STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS.   I love both of those records, but they took a couple of listens before I found myself singing along.  Similarly, BE lacks the big hooks of early Oasis.  Also toned-down is the usual Beatles-influence.

BE has a spacey, almost distant quality that frankly took me by surprise.  There are definite tempo changes throughout the record, but everything sounds quieter and more subdued that DIFFERENT GEAR , STILL SPEEDING.  Standout tracks include the Lennon-esque “Iz Rite” and the quiet, dare I say introspective “Soon Come Tomorrow.”

The album has songs that should be rockers, like the third track “Face The Crowd,” but nothing on BE takes off like on Beady Eye’s first album.  So initially I was a bit underwhelmed by BE’s low-key shift, but after a few spins I warmed to the album. BE feels like a transitional album for Beady Eye.  On one hand, I’m a little sad Liam isn’t just doing Oasis 2.0 music…but on the other hand I’m glad he’s branching out into new territory—even if he that means we don’t get a few less raucous rockers.

I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t address BE’s most interesting song: “Don’t Brother Me.”  This is the song all of us Oasis fans have been waiting for—the one in which one of the Gallagher brother’s waves a white flag.  With lyrics like, “In the morning/I’ve been calling, I’m hoping you understand/All and nothing, I’ll keep pushing/Come on now, give peace a chance, take my hand, be a man” this is song is 100% aimed at Noel.  I know what it’s like to have a tempestuous relationship with a sibling, someone who you can both deeply love and feel tremendous anger towards.  “Don’t Brother Me” probably isn’t going to mend any Gallagher family fences (Liam sings about being sick of  “your lying, skimming, and you crying”) but it’s a start.

The worst thing I could say about BE (and actually I did this during much of Noel’s HIGH FLYING BIRDS) is that during most of the songs I found myself singing the chorus of “Fade Away” that ultimate-classic of an Oasis song: “While we’re living, the dreams we had as children fade away…”

BE gets an (un-ironic) “B”.

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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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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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2011: The Year of the Battling Gallagher Brothers

Sibling rivalry. 

 In my head, having a brother is like having a built-in best friend, though I know the reality is very different.  Everyone I know with a brother seems to have some sort of issue with him.  Noel and Liam Gallagher, the creative force behind the last great british rock band that mattered, have to my knowledge always been in a state of embattlement.  Locking horns over creative differences is one thing, giving each other brutal back-stage beat downs is something else entirely.

The Gallagher Brothers...in better days.

When the boys could work together, the music they produced was astounding. Oasis never was anything other than two British lads trying to out-Beatle The Beatles. In the 1990’s it worked and Oasis became a household name with hits like “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova.”  But then drugs and conflict pulled the band down a rabbit hole of mediocrity and diminishing album sales.  Initially I was not a fan of the brutish Brit-rockers.  I found Liam’s nasally, Lennon-obsessed vocals to be grating.  And I didn’t see much value in Noel’s rather by-the-numbers balladry.  I’d always been a huge Beatles fan growing up, and I found Oasis to be more  rip-off than torch-passing tribute.  I’ve softened on this position over the years and my appreciation of Oasis oddly grew as their general fame receded.

During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s Oasis put out a string of competent, though somewhat spotty albums that were both risky and highly indulgent.  Most people were turned off by albums like STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS and HEATHEN CHEMISTRY, but I found them to be much more interesting than their “safer” Beatle-esque material.  This period of the band’s life was marked by heavier (than usual) in-fighting and heavy cocaine abuse.  Then in 2005 the band released DON’T BELIEVE THE TRUTH and had a minor comeback.

In 2008 the band released DIG OUT YOUR SOUL and went on tour.  I was lucky enough to see Oasis perform in Chicago on what was to be their final tour.  The concert was great but the album they were supporting was lackluster.  When the band broke up in 2009 I was saddened but not surprised.   The boys had finally called it quits after some sort of altercation occurred back stage and Liam ended up breaking Noel’s guitar. These type of shenanigans, which seemed quaint back in the “Wonderwall” days seemed pathetic.  Especially when you consider that they’re both pretty damn old to still be getting in backstage fights.  If you can’t get along then move on.

Which is what both brothers said they were going to do.  I didn’t anticipate the both of them to release albums this year.  I figured, like I think most people did, that when Oasis broke up that would be the end of the brothers Gallagher.  I thought that perhaps they’d fight over the name Oasis, maybe even mount competing tours. I can close my eyes and almost see each of them proclaiming their version to be the “true” Oasis.

Liam, I was certain, was going to be fucked without Noel.  He was the principal singer but not the band’s main songwriter. All the big hits were Noel’s, who besides writing songs was also the lead guitarist.  In fact, when Oasis played live, Liam seemed very awkward just standing there, waiting to sing.  He’d often clutch a tambourine, to give himself something to hold, but for the most part he looked pretty lost.  When one of Noel’s songs came up (the ones he actually sang), Liam would leave the stage entirely.

So the brother who wrote less, played no instruments, and was generally regarded to be the chief fuck of the band was going to have a hard time as a solo act.  That much I was sure.  Noel, on the other hand, seemed more like George Harrison–a brilliant artist stifled by being in the world’s biggest band. Surely the break-up of Oasis would be a good thing for his career/music.  Without Liam constantly offering him roadblocks and hoging the limelight, he’d be free to become the star he always seemed to be.  That’s what I thought was going to happen.

But life is funny and people are always surprising.  Liam and the remaining members of Oasis formed the band Beady Eye and announced they were recording an album only months after the break-up.  Two years later DIFFERENT GEAR, STILL SPEEDING came out and was pretty damn good.  Not only did Liam beat Noel to the punch by having his album come out first, it wasn’t a complete distaster.  “Bring the Light” a rollicking piano number and “The Roller” were better than anything late-period Oasis were putting out, even on their “comeback” DON’T BELIEVE THE TRUTH.  Not every track was what I’d call classic, but the album didn’t disappoint. Liam hadn’t embarrassed himself.

Noel and Liam, wondering which them is inappropriately dressed.

So, if Liam’s album was great then Noel’s album was going to be FANTASTIC.  Right?  Well there was silence on the Noel Gallagher front for several months, then it was announced that his album and band was going to be called NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS.  When I finally got my hands on the album I recognized two of the songs.  Unlike Liam (who was not regarded as the writer) Noel had recycled two unreleased Oasis songs for his solo debut.  Those tracks, “(I Wanna Live In a Dream In My) Record Machine” and “Stop the Clocks.” These songs aren’t super-obscure either.  Hell, they played “Record Machine” when I saw them in Chicago and “Stop the Clocks” was the TITLE of their greatest hits compilation (though it was ultimately left off because Noel wasn’t done tinkering with it). Noel the master songwriter had taken longer to release an album of old songs?

Something didn’t feel right.  And while NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS is just as good as Beady Eye’s album, there’s still something very wrong with that.  I almost feel like Liam stepped his game up for the Beady Eye record and Noel slacked off and gave us something good but not his best work. The two Oasis-era songs were good and “If I Had A Gun…” and the single “The Death of You and Me” are very catchy…but ultimately I feel like by not completely screwing up his album, Liam stole some of Noel’s thunder.  Both Liam and Noel are busy touring and have announced new albums for next year.  Only time will tell if the Gallagher brothers will ever make amends and reform Oasis.  If they weren’t family, I’d say it was a remote possibility, but with blood you never can tell.

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