Tag Archives: Queen

NEW SKIN by CRX

Led by Nick Valensi, the lead guitarist of The Strokes, CRX’s debut album NEW SKIN is an interesting mix of Strokes-ish indie rock and a blend of influences ranging from throwback classic rock, shimmering pop, desert rock (!) and even metal. I didn’t have CRX on my radar until the official Strokes Facebook page mentioned that Nick’s album was releasing at the end of October. I knew that this was going to be an album for me when I saw that the first comment on the post bemoaned the fact that NEW SKIN had such a strong pop sound.

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At this point in time, The Strokes are a bit like the UN: a good idea in theory that doesn’t ever seem to pan out in the real world. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but the last record produced by the band was really forgettable. It’s a shame, too, because they’re a talented bunch of lads. This has been proved time and again as the various band members have put out great solo records. Guitarist and keyboard player Albert Hammond Jr. has put a couple of jaw-droppingly good records over the years (seriously, go check them out) and lead singer Julian Casablancas put out an electronic-infused album a  few years ago that had a couple of great tracks I still listen to today. Valensi’s band CRX now joins the esteemed pantheon of Strokes-solo projects that  make me miss the glory days of the band.

When NEW SKIN opens, it sounds like The Strokes doing The Cars with a dash of Cheap Trick. Because I’m such a fan of power-pop I got really excited by the album’s first few tracks. In particular, the album’s opening track “Ways to Fake It” which, if I’m being honest, sounds like a lost cut off The Strokes FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF EARTH. Rather than mumble and moan like Casablancas, Valensi’s voice is refreshingly presented crystal clear and I think this is what saves the song from being a straight-up Strokes track. “Ways to Fake It” is the best track on the album and the perfect choice for a single to entice Strokes fans to listen to the rest of the album. The second track “Broken Bones”is a moody slow-burn with some great guitar work. I also really liked the loopy New Wave “Anything” and “Unnatural” which reminded me of early Queens of the Stone Age (of all things).

The second track “Broken Bones”is a moody slow-burn with some great guitar work. I also really liked the loopy New Wave “Anything” which reminded me of Albert Hammond Jr.’s first solo record YOURS TO KEEP. The out-of-left-field”Unnatural” also tickled my fancy, mostly because it reminded me of early Queens of the Stone Age (of all things). I wasn’t expecting the album to pivot as much as it did near the middle and end, but pivot it does. The last few tracks on the album lean heavily on hard rock and metal side of things. Particularly “On Edge” which definitely has a Motörhead vibe and the final track “Monkey Machine.” Despite these variations, CRX never really enters the metal genre proper the veneer of pop polish coats all of these songs. And this is my biggest criticism of NEW SKIN is that it plays things a little too safe, Valensi gets right up to the edge of doing stuff his fellow bandmates aren’t doing (either in The Strokes or solo) but doesn’t commit and cross that line. Valensi, who I think has a good voice, just isn’t up to the challenge of coloring outside the lines of the typical indie-rock vocal performance.

I think that NEW SKIN is a solid debut that I hope is the first of many records. I’d like to see the band explore more of their roots and influences a bit more and challenge themselves with a bit of experimentation. Hopefully by doing this CRX will be able to justify their existence as more than just a placeholder until Valensi’s other band gets back to work.

 

 

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RIP David Bowie

I’m sitting at my dining room table on the Monday after the David Bowie has died and I’m trying to figure out what to write. “Heroes” is quietly seeping out of the wireless hi-fi I use to fill my house with music, and it feels both absolutely perfect and totally wrong. I think the problem is, like many people (I think), it wasn’t until he died that I gave David Bowie his proper due.

David Bowie was a rock star. David Bowie was a poet. David Bowie was an artist. David Bowie was an actor. David Bowie was a style icon. David Bowie was weird in a way that wasn’t always cool or accepted (at least initially) but he was always true to himself. When I think about all the ways he impacted me both as a rock fan and as a human being I find myself really amazed.

David Bowie

1976: David Bowie poses for an RCA publicity shot in 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

I laugh whenever someone says “that’s freaky” because I think about the Flight of the Conchords bit where “Bowie’s in Space.” My wife and I have a private joke about her driving related to the song “Moonage Daydream.” He played Tesla in my favorite Christopher Nolan movie. How can David Bowie be so many things? Because above all else, David Bowie was a true artist who managed to find a way to stay in the mainstream and on the outer edges of culture.

The first time I heard David Bowie and knew that it was David Bowie was when I got into Queen and heard his (amazing) duet with Freddie Mercury “Under Pressure.” That he steals the show out from under one of rock’s most charismatic frontmen should be all anyone should ever need when it comes to Bowie’s rock credibility. But then there were the albums, the width and breadth of which I have only just begun to fully examine. Would you believe that I only last month sat down and listened to DIAMOND DOGS? That’s a fucking brilliant album. David Bowie has at minimum six records most rock fans consider essential.

I wrote a review of ALADDIN SANE a few years ago and to this day it’s probably my favorite Bowie album…however in recent years I’ve started to reconsider HUNKY DORY. And then there’s ZIGGY STARDUST to re-evaluate and reconsider. The man’s catalogue is so expansive, I could spend the next few years just exploring his music. And I probably will. Last week, on his 69th birthday, David Bowie released his final album BLACKSTAR. I’ve only heard the title track, and even though it’s really freaky-man (ha!) I feel like I owe it to Bowie now that he’s gone to dive fully into his last album. Weird space jazz? Just another page in the book of Bowie.

Goodbye, David Bowie.

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THE LAST OF OUR KIND by The Darkness

Let me get this out of the way: THE LAST OF OUR KIND is hands-down my favorite album to come out so far in 2015. Not that there’s been much really good rock music released this year. Still, even if there had a few more notable releases this year, I’m confident this album would still be a beacon of hope. The Darkness are back and better than they’ve ever been.If you like boisterous, 1970’s-style rock full of cocky-swagger that’s fun/catchy as hell…then The Darkness is your band. Many people, most people I’d wager, really only remember the band from their hit “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” from 2003’s PERMISSION TO LAND. To those people I say: get bigger record collections. Seriously. The band’s second album ONE WAY TICKET TO HELL…AND BACK was a staggeringly leap forward in my opinion. The songs were better, the hooks were way catchier than the first record, and lead singer Justin Hawkins amazing vocal prowess truly shined. The band then went through a period of darkness (pun intended) when Hawkins left the band and went into rehab.

This baby pilot has permission to land.

This baby pilot has permission to land.

But The Darkness returned in 2012 with their third album HOT CAKES. That record (you can read my review here) was another homerun for the band.  That they’ve never really let me down is both kind of amazing and little scary every time the band releases a new record. The turmoil surrounding them this go-round involved their drummer (I call this AC/DC Syndrome). First, long time drummer Ed Graham left the band in September 2014 and was replaced by Emily Dolan Davies (whom you can read about/ogle here). A lady drummer in The Darkness? How positively progressive! Alas, it wasn’t meant to be…and Emily left the band in April of this year citing a desire to work on “other projects.” So while Davies is on THE LAST OF OUR KIND, The Darkness have a new drummer in the form of Rufus Taylor. That’s right, the band that sound more than a little like Queen went out and got the son of Queen’s drummer to be in their band. So there was definitely some rock star shenanigans and/or drama surrounding the band while they were recording THE LAST OF OUR KIND. Does any of that make it onto the record? Nope, not in the slightest.

THE LAST OF OUR KIND opens with the sounds of the ocean and an old man reciting a poem about Vikings before the opening guitar riff of “Barbarian” hits. This is important because the album has a very strong Norse/Viking theme running throughout. Now while I wouldn’t go so far as to call THE LAST OF OUR KIND a concept album, there is a definite thread tying all the songs together. And that thread is kick-ass Norse warriors.“Barbarian” is pretty much The Darkness’ version of “The Immigrant Song.” Though whereas Led Zeppelin’s song is an ethereal chant, “Barbarian” is the rowing song of bloodthirsty men on their way to plunder foreign shores. While the first track conjures the spirit of the mighty Zep, the second track “Open Fire” definitely calls forth The Cult. It’s really just the guitar effect the band is using, but this has torpedoed many fans’ opinion of the song (which is the album’s second single). I’ll admit to being less-than-enthusiastic about the track the first few times I heard it, but it’s been growing on me (pun intended) the more I listen to it.

After this pic was snapped both the lady drummer AND the bird quit the band.

After this pic was snapped both the lady drummer AND the bird quit the band.

The album’s title track is probably the most Darkness-y track on the album. “The Last of Our Kind” is jam packed with Hawkin’s trademark faux-falsetto* and lyrical bravado. On the surface, the song is both a celebration and a lamentation about Norse warriors—but we all know that the song is also about The Darkness and their place in the modern rock scene. The track features some really great use of guitar harmonies that reminds me of Thin Lizzy. Not to let the ladies down, THE LAST OF OUR KIND also has a couple of really good love songs. For example,“Wheels of the Machine” which is a very cock-rock style love song featuring a lot of tough fire/burning imagery (tough love).  The song is notable for mentioning the object of Hawkins affections is named Sarah. This is important because the most kick-ass song on the entire record is “Sarah O’Sarah.” That song opens with some of the most propulsive guitar I’ve ever heard. I love big sloppy love songs and “Sarah O’Sarah” is pretty great. Lyrically it’s dopey (and again features lots of burning/fire references) but I like how vulnerable and straightforward the words are. Similarly, “Hammer & Tongs**” has a joyful we’re-back-together-and-that’s-how-it-should-be vibe that’s a refreshing change from most love songs in the arena rock genre/wheelhouse. Also, let me point out that this song again features really heavy usage of fire and burning imagery. Weird***.

Other tracks worth mentioning are the arena-ready anthem “Conquerors”  and “Mudslide.” The former closes out the album and features bass player Frankie Poullian on lead vocals.“Conquerors” surprised me and makes me wonder what great albums we’re missing out on from a Poullain-fronted band. Meanwhile, “Mudslide” which is the only track co-written by Emily Dolan Davies,  has a nice Bonham-esque quality (read: steady, thumping drums). Man, it’s a bummer that Davies ended up leaving the band.

THE LAST OF OUR KIND is definitely a throwback to a bygone era. Back when rock bands (and their album sales) were much, much bigger. Though they aren’t nearly as popular as they were at the height of PERMISSION TO LAND’s initial success, The Darkness continue to bravely churn out records that are top-to-bottom fantastic. I can’t remember the last time I actually purchased an album—after hearing THE LAST OF OUR KIND I immediately hopped online and bought a physical copy. I also can’t recall the last time a band put out a record that I could listen to multiple times without skipping a track. And that brings me to my only complaint/quibble about THE LAST OF OUR KIND: it’s way to short. With only ten songs and a total running time of 41 minutes, the album feels like it’s over too quickly. So while there’s no fat on the album and I praise it for not having any skip-able tracks, I do feel bummed every time the final song “Conquerors” comes to a close. I guess if I had to pick between a good album that’s long and great one that’s a bit on the short-side, I’d pick the short one every time. So, here I am in June with my pick for album of the year: THE LAST OF OUR KIND.

 

 

 

 

 

 
*The first draft of this review (yes, I know could you imagine how terrible these posts are BEFORE I edit them?) referred to Hawkins’ vocal style as a “falsetto.” This apparently isn’t true. Though I really don’t understand why it isn’t, here is a tweet from the man himself:

Feel free to explain this to me in the comments.

Feel free to explain this to me in the comments.

**Hammer & Tongs is a euphemism generally meaning “energetically, enthusiastically, or with great vehemence.” So there ya go, you learn something new every day.

***I really didn’t notice just how much fire/burning/flame imagery THE LAST OF OUR KIND had until I sat down to write this review. Seriously: “Open Fire,””Wheels of the Machine,” “Sarah O’Sarah,” and “Hammer & Tongs” all do this. It’s almost like a lyrical tic. 

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“Open Fire”: The Darkness Sound A Bit Like The Cult

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So I’m sitting here listening to the latest song from The Darkness, and all I’m hearing is The Cult. The English rockers, known more for sounding like Queen, have a new album coming this summer titled LAST OF OUR KIND. That’s not the big news. The big new is that they now have a lady drummer, which I must admit is kinda hott. That’s “hot” with two T’s. Her name is Emily Dolan Davies which is just about perfect, don’t you think?

Hott.

Hott.

I don’t mind this song, in fact I think I kinda like it, but that guitar tone has qualities that remind me of The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary.” The song’s a nice bit of English cock-rock, something that this world is sorely in need of if you ask me. I liked the band’s last album,  2012’s HOT CAKES, though I don’t think it made much of an impact…I didn’t hear anyone anywhere talk about it. Let’s hope that LAST OF OUR KIND brings the band a “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”-sized hit. It could happen.

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New Album Round-UP #1: HOT CAKES by The Darkness

I feel like I’ve really dropped the ball lately concerning all the new albums that have come out over the last month/month and a half.  I wish I could say I’ve fallen behind because I live such a fast-paced, exciting existence.  The truth is: I’m a fat, lazy, music blogger.  To be fair, there has been an unusual glut of awesome, noteworthy album releases these last few weeks, but is that an excuse? My backlog started innocently enough: one awesome release (the new Darkness album) came out last month and before I knew it another had come out…then this week Bob Dylan and ZZ Top both put out new albums.

So in order for me to clear my dockett of album reviews, I’m going to knock ’em all out at once!  Presenting the Great New Album Round-Up!

The Darkness are hoping this record will sell like…their first album, PERMISSION TO LAND. What did you think I was going to say?

HOT CAKES by The Darkness:  For many people, The Darkness are a bit of a joke band.  And while they most certainly do not take themselves seriously (at all), The Darkness are a seriously awesome rock band.  The music and lyrics are always 100% solid.  After the band’s second album the band broke up…well sorta.  Lead singer Justin Hawkins left the band and formed a new band, Hot Leg.  The rest of The Darkness tried to soldier on without Justin, but it didn’t work-out.  When I heard the band had gotten back together and recorded a new record (and that Justin had cleaned up his act) I got both excited and worried.  Excited because a new Darkness album would be fantastic, but worried because so much time had passed since the last album.  Would the band be able to deliver the grand-rock hooks and cheeky shenanigans?

Turns out The Darkness still got it! HOT CAKES is a fantastic and FUN rock record.  Remember having fun?  It seems like everyone wants to be so serious lately, which is fine…I guess…but sometimes all I want to do is rock.  And smile.  The Darkness have delivered an awesomely upbeat album for these gloomy days of late 2012. The album opens with “Every Inch of You.”  The song is about Justin’s desire to give his audience…everything.  Despite the (semi-gross) goofy-entendre,  I really feel like Justin & Company are sincere in wanting to give us fans as much bang for our buck as possible.

The song begins with Justin singing:

“Baby I was a loser 
Several years on the dole
An English man with a very high voice 
Doing rock and roll 

There are seas of sleeveless T-shirts 
And cues around the block 
And every man wanting so 
Wants to do 
Suck my cock”

That pretty much sets the tone for the record: cartoonishly over-the-top and loaded with falsetto.  No Darkness album would be complete without a few obligatory Queen-references, and HOT CAKES as a few very Queen-like songs.  The super-catchy, sing-a-long “Keep Me Hangin’ On” and the quieter ballad of hope “Living Each Day Blind”  both recall Freddie Mercury’s famous band.    More blatantly, however is “Forbidden Love” which, unlike the other two songs, actually sounds exactly like something Queen recorded.  I think you could actually play “Forbidden Love” to a causal rock fan and they might not realize it isn’t Queen.

So is this a rip-off, homage, or tribute?  I guess that’s for you to decide.  Me, I see them as a little of all three.  Does it bother me that The Darkness owe so much to Queen?  No.  The Darkness aren’t pretending they’ve invented the wheel with these songs, they know their place in the history of music.  That respect makes it ok (unlike say, Brandon Flowers from The Killers who refuses to accept that his band has become a Springstein-lite band since their second record…and insists that each new Killers record is the second coming).

Worth mentioning is the awesome Radiohead cover at the end of the album. The Darkness have really outdid themselves with this one.  The band has taken the somber “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” off of THE BENDS and reworked it into a hard-charing rocker.  I strongly urge you to check out Radiohead’s version if you aren’t super-familiar with it and then give the Darkness cover a listen.  It’s hilariously awesome and the epitome of everything I love about this funny, brash, rocking band.

Basically, if you were a fan of the last two Darkness records you will love HOT CAKES.  Unfortunately, I feel this record isn’t going to win them very many new fans.  Sure, the songs are just as good as they were before–but I feel like a band like The Darkness has a very limited amount of appeal.   I don’t agree with the people who dismiss them, but I can see where they are coming from.  HOT CAKES is a great release from an awesome band.  If you dug them before get HOT CAKES.

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The Defending Axl Rose 100th Post Spectacular!

This is my 100th post here at DEFENDING AXL ROSE. I’ve been vaguely aware that the 100th post was looming on the horizon, and as such I’ve been trying to figure out what to do to commemorate this (small) milestone. In the end, I decided to go back to the very beginning. Not to December of 2011 when I saw an interview with Axl Rose on VH1 Classics (the impetus for this blog), but rather ALL the way back.

It’s embarrassing, but my earliest memories of music are of The Thompson Twins. My mother was a Thompson Twins fan and in the early 1980’s that was what was playing in our house. “King For A Day” and “Don’t Mess With Dr. Dream” were the soundtrack to my early, brain-forming years. I guess that explains why I am so hopelessly, utterly fucked-up. Luckily, it wasn’t all bad 80’s synth music in my house, I was also exposed to The Beatles very early in life. I have many fond memories of jumping on couches with my little sister listening to REVOLVER. That more than makes up for having the Thompson Twins forced upon me.

Right after I saw WAYNE’S WORLD (with it’s awesome “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene) I went to the mall and bought my very first music-purchase: a cassette copy of CLASSIC QUEEN. I still have the cassette:

From there it was a steady decline into to the seedy world of CD’s, vinyl records, turn tables, MP3 players, foreign music magazines, and did I mention CD’s? I own a modest 500+, but only because my wife has made me feel a bit self-conscious about my collection. There was a time (pre-Spotify to be sure) where I’d buy six or seven CD’s a week. Some of my favorite memories involve record stores. I’ll still never forget the time I went to the Virgin Record store in Nashville, it was like a dream come true…to this day I’m convinced they had every single album I wanted/would ever want (even stuff that hadn’t been recorded yet!). I know I’m supposed to hate big-chain stores, and I do, but that Virgin Record store was my idea of heaven. That’s all gone now, which is probably just as well. If heaven existed on Earth, what would mankind strive for?

Speaking of striving and working, I have pledged to continue to work on DEFENDING AXL ROSE until the end of 2012. I can’t say what will happen after that, but if people remain interested (and there’s still awesome music to write about) I’ll keep going. I want to thank everyone who’s ever commented on one of my posts, it really does mean a lot. Since starting this blog I’ve discovered a really cool online community of music nerds that have made me feel super-welcomed. So big thanks to them as well. I’ve added a Blog-Roll to the side-bar, anyone reading this should go visit all of those websites (they’re all awesome).

I guess that’s it for now. One hundred down.

Rock On.

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Your Next Favorite Band: Jellyfish

They say that stars that burn twice as bright burn half as long.  I want to introduce you to a really amazing power-pop band from the 1990’s, but before I do I must warn you: they only put out two records.  If you’re the kind of person that obsesses over really awesome shit that never got its proper due, maybe you should sit this one out.  Jellyfish was a band that I grew up with and to this day I still love them and smile whenever I hear one of their songs.  I’ve met precious few people who’ve even heard of them (or can remember them) and that’s a real shame because they put out two damn near perfect records.

A word about “power-pop.”  I really feel stupid using that term and not just because it sounds like a super-caffeinated soft drink.  In general, I really dislike the concept of “genre.” But I must admit that it does serve as a nice bit of short-hand when you’re trying to talk to people so I’m going to use the term “power-pop.”  Power-pop is basically rock music that features strong lyrical hooks and big guitar riffs.  Melodies and harmonies are also really important in power-pop.  A lot of the British invasion-era rock could be considered power-pop, but for the most part the term is applied to bands that came after/were influenced by those bands.  So The Beatles are not considered power-pop but Badfinger (who came later and are basically the same band) are power-pop.

BELLYBUTTON-era Jellyfish. Awesome musicians with terrible fashion sense.

Jellyfish was formed in 1989 in San Francisco, California. The band had several members over the years but the foundation of the band was two super-talented, multi-instrumentalists: Andy Sturmer and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr.*  Andy was primarily the drummer and Roger played keyboards.   For their first album, Roger and Andy were joined by bassist Chris Manning a duty that was also shared by Steven Shane McDonald (of Redd Kross-fame, another great power-pop band from this era) and guitarist Jason Falkner.  To say that these  lads had talent is the worst kind of understatement–there really were four geniuses in the band. And while that helped make the first Jellyfish album, BELLYBUTTON, an instant-classic…it also lead to a lot of tension.

BELLYBUTTON came out in 1990 and was met with moderate success.  The album spawned three singles, “The King Is Half-Undressed,” “That Is Why,” and “Baby’s Coming Back.”   Some quirky music videos and a funky day-glo image helped get people’s attention, though the band was never a true household name.  BELLYBUTTON’s sound is one of lush harmonies and catchy-as-hell choruses.  The Beatles and Beach Boys are all over this record (they even mention The Beatles by name in  “All I Want Is Everything”). And while the band doesn’t ever quite go full-on psychedelic, they get close.  It’s a bit difficult to say “this is what Jellyfish sounds like” because like late-period Beatles (and super-druggy Brian Wilson), Jellyfish experiment with different sounds and instruments.

Among the kaleidoscope of 1960’s-ish sounds there are are two really nice ballads, “I Wanna Stay Home” and “Calling Sarah.”  “I Wanna Stay Home” in particular almost sounds like it belongs on a totally different record.  It’s a very sincere song that’s about having to go even though you just want to say home.  The very next song “She Still Loves Him” is a haunting tale about an abusive relationship, it’s a great song, with some really sharp lyrics and an awesome guitar solo…but it also feels very odd after “I Wanna Stay Home.”  BELLYBUTTON, while a fantastic record, is not a unified work of art.  Instead it’s more of an awesome Frankenstein’s Monster of a record, with a bunch of really awesome bits sown together.   There are a ton of really nice little details that really don’t appreciate on the first few listens.  Some of my favorites include: the nice trumpet part at the beginning of “Bedspring Kiss”, the faux-live effect/crowd sound on the Cheap Trick-like “All I Want Is Everything”**, and the dreamy piano noodling that plays before “She Still Loves Him.”

In 1993 the band put out their second album SPILT MILK.  This album sadly did not feature most of the band from the first record–gone was everyone but Sturmer and Manning Jr.  A new bassist, Tim Smith, was added to the mix along with a few session guitarists.  Despite the change in personnel, I actually prefer SPILT MILK and think it’s the stronger of the two records.  SPILT MILK is interesting because Jellyfish takes the 1960’s British-Pop aesthetics of BELLYBUTTON and apply a thick coating of Glam Rock.  What you get is something that sounds like Queen-by-way-of-The Beatles.  Oddly enough, despite losing their guitarists, SPILT MILK also has way better guitar parts/solos, though Roger Manning’s keyboards do wind up taking a more prominent role.  SPILT MILK is full of such dualities: it’s a keyboard album with awesome guitars, dark and angry but has a playful song about masturbation (“He’s My Best Friend”).

The album opens with the quiet, lullaby-like “Hush” which ironically leads into the explosive “Joining A Fanclub.” I can’t say enough about how awesome “Joining A Fanclub” is.  Ostensibly about the dangers of stardom and hero worship, the songs is a really headbangger.  It’s the kind of song you hear while driving and it causes you to get a speeding ticket.  Every time I hear it I think about Robert Downey Jr. (who at the time this song was written was constantly getting into trouble with the law).  I also really love “New Mistake” with it’s twisty-lyrics about an “oops” pregnancy–the best part? At the end the baby grows up and marries a pop singer (because it’s time for her to make her “first mistake.”).  This is the kind of song that keep me up at night it’s so awesome.  I almost don’t believe it was crafted by mere mortals.  I also can’t help but marvel at “The Ghost Of Number One” which seems to poke fun at the fact that the band knew that they weren’t going to reach the level of success that they deserved.

Like BELLYBUTTON, Jellyfish’s second record also features some interesting experimentation. I’m confident that I’d never been exposed to Klezmer music*** before I heard “Bye Bye Bye.”  That song alone is worth the purchase price of the album, it’s simply a stunningly awesome song, and was definitely not something you heard on the radio in 1993 (or hell today for that matter).  The album ends with the magnificent, circus-themed “Brighter Day.” The song is a fantastic way to close the record and unfortunately the recording career of Jellyfish.  And when it ends all you want to do is start the whole thing over again. 

So what happened? Well a lack of success and bruised egos led Jellyfish to die an unglamorous death, alone and relatively unmourned.  Jason Falkner and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. both have had relatively successful solo-careers (Falkner in particular has recorded some amazing records).  Lead-singer Andy Sturmer gave up being in bands and is how a producer.  Over the years the band has developed a somewhat cult-following online.  I wrote my one and only Wikipedia entry in 2006 when a greatest-hits compilation called BEST! was released.  It’s not a very long article, more like an album stub but for some reason I felt compelled to write it.  Jellyfish is one of those bands I simply can’t imagine living without and it bums me out that so few people are aware of them.  I highly, highly recommend Jellyfish. 

 

ENDNOTES:

*Fun fact, the “Jr.” had to be added to Roger’s professional name because it turned out there already WAS a semi-not-really famous musician named Roger Joseph Manning.  What are the chances of such a thing?  Now go win that super-obscure power-pop bar-trivia.

 

**It sounds like LIVE AT BUDOKAN, get it?

 

***Jewish Eastern European music. It’s as awesome as it sounds. 

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Highly-Unscientific Rock Poll: All-Time Greatest Front-Man

Sometimes there are questions too big for one man. Sometimes, in the search for ultimate truth, we must seek the guidance of others. And then there are times when one wants to increase traffic to one’s blog by actively seeking participation of one’s small readership by stoking the fires of eternal debate…

Yes friends, it’s time to review the lastest statistical disaster I like to call my HIGHLY-UNSCIENTIFIC ROCK POLL!  It’s been a while since this poll was conducted, sorry that it took so long for me to get my act together but I had some stuff come up and I wasn’t able to devote myself to DEFENDING AXL ROSE like I should have/like to. I knew that this poll would be controversial but I didn’t know just HOW near and dear Rock Frontmen were to people’s hearts. What makes a good font-man?  He (or she) has to be charismatic in addition to being a good singer/performer.  A good front-man is like an ambassador for his/her band.  Musicians can be pretty difficult to get along with and some of the best technical players are completely unable to connect with human beings–and that’s where a front-man comes in.  Unlike just about every other part of a band, a front-man is really hard to replace  (more on that later). Anyway, I opened Pandora’s box and asked DEFENDING AXL ROSE’s followers “Who is the All-Time Greatest Front-Man?”  Here are the results:

8, 7, and 6 (no votes) Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, and Kurt Cobain:  Honestly, these were all solid choices and the fact that MICK JAGGER got ZERO votes should tell you how cut-throat this poll was.  Jagger pretty much came to define the classic rock front-man: the swagger, the bat-shit crazy dance moves, the delivery. Roger Daltrey is another excellent “classic” front-man in the same tradition as Mick Jagger.  The Who was an explosive band (literally, go ask Pete Townshend about how explosive they were–if he can hear you) and to front a band like The Who was no easy task.  More than just being a rocker, Daltrey paved the way for more theatrical front-men when The Who started doing rock operas. Kurt Cobain was the most modern front-man on the list and as such, Cobain’s role in Nirvana was much different than tossing his hair and strutting around like a rooster.  Cobain helped popularize the “tortured” front-man.  By making himself less accessible to fans, Cobain drew us all in closer.  That’s very different from Jagger’s chicken-dancing.  Still, as awesome and important as these front-men were (seriously, try to picture their respective bands without them) they got no love from my poll-takers.

3. (TIE one vote each) Axl Rose, Robert Plant, and Lemmy Kilmister: I bet you thought I voted for Axl Rose, didn’t you?  Well as much as I love and respect Axl, I didn’t vote for him.   And from the way this poll panned out, not very many of you voted for him either.  Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s self-proclaimed “Golden God” only got one vote as did Motorhead’s fugly metal-head Lemmy Kilmister.  Lemmy and Mick Jagger are the only two front-men on this list that I’ve actually seen in person and let me tell you–Lemmy was waaay cooler in person.  He’s ugly, loud, brash and he know it. Robert Plant’s mellowed significantly over the years, so I can understand why many people don’t hold him in as high regard, but in his hey-day he was considered a force of nature.  Guitarist Jimmy Page has spent the past 30 years trying to find someone as dynamic as Plant to front his music–and he’s come up dry.

Axl. Axl, Axl, Axl…what happened?  He’s a bit like Mick Jagger mixed with Cobain’s stand-offishness, mixed with a gallon of gasoline and asshole.  I think he’s a brillant front-man but I think he shot himself in the foot with his inability to work well with others, a trait that every good front-man needs.  A front-man fronts a band, he doesn’t just represent himself–which Axl is often guilty of doing.

2.  Ozzy Osbourne (2 votes):  The Oz Man Commeth! I recently took a long car trip and one of the things I listened to was Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, what a band that was!   Ozzy’s great because he has fantastic range both vocally and the kinds of songs he can do–scary ass Satan songs? Check.  Whistful ballads? Check.  Rockin’ anthem? Check.  The bitting the heads off stuff sure helps, too.   He’s a legend of hard rock and I was not surprised he came in second.  There’s a reason he’s got an entire FESTIVAL named after him (he married a pushy ball-buster, I kid! I kid!).  There’s a (mostly complete) Black Sabbath reunion hitting the road right now and I would love to check them out.

Before I talk about the #1 I feel that I should acknowledge that there were a few requests that I add a few font-men, specifically Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame and Bono from U2.  I didn’t add these two because frankly, I’m not a Radiohead person (nothing wrong with them) and Bono slipped my mind.  Initially I wasn’t going to do anything but ignore these requests…then I thought about it and decided that what I would do is have another poll and then have the winners of each poll battle it out.

But that was before Freddie Mercury swept this poll.

#1. Freddie Mercury (13 votes): This doesn’t really surprise me.  When the topic of font-men come up, Freddie’s name always comes up.  You want charisma? Mercury had more than enough, he was oozing charisma.  Queen’s a awesome rock band because they were so many different things: gay/straight, operatic/balls-to-the-walls rocking, playful/dead serious–but despite their duality, they were always amazing.  How badass was Freddie Mercury?  He was still writing and recording music right up to his death.  How committed to his art was Freddie Mercury? Doctors told him for years to fix his overbite and he refused, he was worried correcting his teeth would change the sound of his voice.  That’s commitment.  That’ s love.  And you know what? He did it all for you, the listener.   If I was on my deathbed, you better believe this blog would be the last thing on my mind.  Freddie just wanted to make music and he did.  He complimented his bandmates and helped make them superstars. A few years ago, Queen re-formed and tried to solider on with Paul Rodgers, a legendary front-man in his own right (he was in Free and Bad Company).  How did that go?  Not so well…it wasn’t that Rodgers was bad–he just wasn’t Freddie Mercury.  Freddie Mercury is the greatest rock front-man off all-time.

Poll Closed.

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