Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Only in the Summertime


Song: Only in the Summertime
Artist: Possum Dixon
Album: New Sheets




Back in college I became aware of Possum Dixon, a Los Angeles born band who was capitalizing on the Alternative Rock boom of the early 90’s. I had heard “Watch That Girl Destroy Me” from their self titled debut on MTV’s Alternative Nation, but had grouped them in with the various one-hit wonders of the day. Thanks to a mail order record distributor sale, I got their debut on a whim for $1.98. That deal seemed even more of a bargain as it turned out that the record was quite good, and the odd instance where the single was not as strong as the other tracks on the record. I was suddenly a Possum Dixon fan.

In 1995 they released “Star Maps” their sophomore follow up. They held on to their quirkiness but expanded on their pop sound. I thought it was even better than the debut and while it seemed they were on the verge of a serious hit song (not just an alt rock hit) there still wasn’t a track there to take them home. The band, and possibly their label Interscope, were hearing the same thing because for their third album, 1998’s “New Sheets” they hired The Cars singer-songwriter and budding producer Rick Ocasek (Weezer, Nada Surf) to helm the record. The result was what I can only describe as Possum Dixon doing The Cars… which is a good thing. I loved the record, and thought that it was truly the solid delivery of what the band had promised on… putting a pop sheen on their brand of art punk.

Unfortunately, despite the catchy songs and solid album, it did not speak to the masses. The band soon broke up and it would be their final record. Upon doing some research I found out two interesting things… first, during the period of the first two albums the band engaged in recreational then destructive heroin use and members came and went due to this, though they cleaned up before “New Sheets.” Second… fans of the band didn’t really like “New Sheets.” It seems what I liked about the record many thought was its debit… the pop sheen dulling their “sound.”

Honestly this reminds me of what is currently happening to Rilo Kiley. Fans of that band are claiming that they have “sold out” and their songwriting has taken a dive in quality because they seemingly are aiming for the mainstream. This school of thought really drives me crazy as I see it as a progression to writing actual melodies and solid tunes. I love the new Rilo Kiley record, and I loved “New Sheets…” am I just a pop loving fool or do hipsters just need something to be disappointed about? I don’t know.

“Only in the Summertime” was one of my favorite tracks from Possum Dixon’s last record and I highly recommend it, as well as all three of their albums.

Enjoy.

A video from each record…

Watch That Girl Destroy Me


Radio Comets


Holding (Lenny’s Song) [clip]

Monday, October 29, 2007

Son of a Gun


Song: Son of a Gun
Artist: The Vaselines
Album: The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History




The Vaselines were a Scottish band formed in the 80’s by Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee. Their sound took a very DIY indie approach with off key vocals and subversive subject matter. Like The Raincoats, the Vaselines got their greatest exposure from the help of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain who publicly raved about the band and covered many of their songs. “Son of a Gun” was covered on Nirvana’s b-sides album “Incestiside” along with “Molly’s Lips.” Nirvana most famously covered the bands “Jesus Don’t Want Me For a Sunbeam” which they performed on their MTV Unplugged special and album.

The band only lasted through one release and has performed sporadically in past years, opening for Nirvana, and lastly performing in 2006 (they hadn’t done so since 1990) part of a joint tour that Kelly and Frances did together to promote their own solo work.

The bands best known songs were issued (once Cobain was raving about them) as a collection called “The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History.” If you’re a fan of quirky lo-fi indie-pop I highly recommend it.

Enjoy.

Jesus Don’t Want me For a Sunbeam (live)


The band also (oddly) covered the Divine track “You Think You’re a Man” which is really, really, something…

Friday, October 26, 2007

Piece of Me


Song: Piece of Me
Artist: Britney Spears
Album: Blackout



Dark… it’s raining, and we slowly enter what looks to be a warehouse space. Thunder is heard outside, the moon letting in the only light upon the large room. Not a lot can be seen in the low light but a look to the floor shows something… what is it? A crack of thunder hits again, and then suddenly lightening… which flashes light on the room. The space is large but we only see the floor of the corner of the room; there are bodies, a pile of them lying in all directions clothed sparingly and tied down by what looks like large chains. We are suddenly close on the face of one of the bodies… a small amount of blonde hair sticks to the forehead by what looks to be dirty sweat, we only see a closed eye. Thunder again, and when the lightening crashes the eye flashes open, the pupil dilates, a scowl forms fiercely across the mouth. A noise which sounds like an alarm is heard and then a heavy beat.

The pile of bodies begins to move, jerky… as if they have been lying there for years and are re-learning how to move, to walk, to stand. There are moves and motions of ecstasy as the bodies come to life, the chains pressing hard into their sweat-wet skin, hair is flung back to the beat in an act of re-birth. In the center the blonde rises, also covered in sweat, chains, and the touch of the bodies around her. Her head flips up, pushing the blonde tresses back away from her face. It is Britney Spears. She is in a skimpy all black tattered outfit. She pulls at the chains, pauses to enjoy a male hand that moved slowly over her glistening torso. She turns back to sing against the hard driving beat; “I’m Miss American Dream since I was 17…”

The scene above doesn’t exist. It’s a fantasy… an idea of what I, we, COULD see as the video for one of Britney’s new songs “Piece of Me,” which may be the second single. The above is completely imaginable in the Britney universe, part “I’m a Slave 4 U” but a bit scarier, uncomfortable. While listening to this song this is what I envisioned. But it continues… and the warehouse space fills with “people” parasites that swarm the group. Despite the growing danger, Brit and her orgy/posse do not budge in their sexual convictions… they NEED to do this, and they need to do it FIERCE. But as the parasites multiply and come closer they begin to endanger the group, poking, threatening with fire. And when Britney comes to take them on looking strong, even a bit scary, a knife is branded and she is slashed across the stomach. The blood starts to emerge slowly and the sight of it excites the parasites, and there suddenly seems to be more. Britney is unfazed, and continues to sing… “I’m Miss bad media karma, Another day another drama, Guess I, can’t see no harm, In working and being a mama…” The parasites don’t hear her… they just want more.

“And with a kid on my arm, I’m still an exception.”

As the song progresses the parasites will claw at Britney removing pieces of flesh. She continues to sing, and sex it up, rubbing the sweat from her face only to be replaced by blood. They do not stop and continue until her arm is torn off, and more… and yet she does not stop… and the chained bodies continue their writhing among blood, sweat, water, and the encroaching crowd of blackness that has begun to tear them all apart.

I don’t really know how this little fantasy ends… I guess I am waiting to find out. We’re ALL waiting to find out what Britney is going to do next and you WILL hear about whether you like it or not. Does she have the kids? Did she go tanning today? Was she out all night? What was up with that VMA performance? Her record is going to suck…. On and on… ugh.

It’s been four long years since we got new music from Britney Spears, though it might as well be ten years. It’s not that she hasn’t been in the public eye, actually… thanks to daily blogs and entertainment “news” we’ve gotten to hear about every time our girl goes into a gas station rest room without shoes, goes to Starbucks, gets married, shaves her head, exposes herself… it just goes on and on. We seem to all be obsessed with Britney, and it’s reached a fever pitch.

I have personally been very suspect of all these media reports, and shocked by our need to tear this girl down. It’s that blood that we want that gave me the images above, and the hope that this four-year strong downward spiral is simply equal parts running from the limelight, tabloid fabrication, and a complex marketing plan that has us all believing she’s a gonner, a victim of her own celebrity. I’ve mentioned before how torn I am about Britney, and perplex at my own seemingly endless interest in her, despite the fact that her music, what I like to find most important, has been wildly inconsistent and her albums (again, what I consider the true creation of an artist) have never had any type of cohesion. Britney was from the beginning an excellent performer… which holds very little weight to me. (Though after watching the VMA performance I realized that that is a huge piece to miss.)

The VMA’s were disappointing, the video for first single “Gimme More” was so minimal you either surmise that she no longer feels the need for a big, bigger, biggest! brand of showmanship (yeah right) or that, right in line with our daily train wreck updates, she was barely committed to the shoot, barely sober, and the result is the best a bunch of editors could do with the footage. The official album cover (above) kinda stinks (enough to have fans petitioning a different one be created, some have done it themselves) and the leaked tracks sounded pretty awful, or flat out embarrassing.

Check out the official video for “Gimme More”

Over three million views and counting…

So while we have been set up for one of the worst public falling out’s in entertainment history this side of Jacko and Whit, there are a lot of things that don’t quite add up to me. And while there is some part of me that wants to think this is all some big crazy marketing plan, the question I need to ask myself is… why? Why not just do things like they always have been? Well… maybe because it’s not guarantied anymore. Christina’s record kinda tanked, though it was a big ‘ol mess… and remember, we all remember that BRITNEY kissed Madonna during that VMA performance, do you remember that Christina was there as well?

So the video idea above is me coming up with what I envision, what I hope, Britney could do at this point, and “Piece of Me” is the perfect platform for her to answer all, make a statement, and return to what we all remember that was Britney Spears. And why do I still care? Well… “Gimme More,” her first single from “Blackout,” has been spinning over and over on my iPod non-stop. It’s her best single since “Slave” (Yes I think it’s better than “Toxic”) it’s her best selling since her first (“Baby, One More Time”) and, with “Blackout” arriving early next week she’s releasing her best album EVER. So why not take all of these expectations and just BRING IT, and in a way nobody expects. Sure, my video idea of Britney being ripped apart and blood everywhere certainly isn’t going to get on MTV… but in the age of the internet who cares?! It will be seen, it will be judged… it will be Britney Spears 24/7 everywhere. Kinda like Madonna in the 80’s no?

Over the last month and a half over thirty songs of Britney’s have leaked which is unprecedented (for any artist not to mention one of her caliber) and literally amazing. What is suspect though is how they came out. Just as she was shaving the head, fighting K-Fed, and attacking the paps with an umbrella, “Baby Boy,” a pretty embarrassing ballad popped up along with a couple so-so dance tracks. But slowly more stuff leaked, including stuff that is actually on the album BUT they were demo versions (or my favorite… the leaked “Pieces of Me” had singing and comments by some fag fan over the music saying “LOVE Britney!” and “this is almost as hot as me”) and soon some blogerotti were calling the new stuff pretty good. Just when there was a day or two without something new of Britney to report, new songs came out. Of course the label acted as if they were freaking out and moved the release date up because of the leaks. (Yeah and that was ANOTHER story that made the rounds one day. There has literally been something to report on this girl every day of the week.)

But yeah… the record is actually pretty good, and might just be great. It’s her most consistent, and the songs are all pretty strong. While “In the Zone” had a bunch of great songs it was a mess… it was Britney trying to be everything to everyone, hitting every demographic, and just seemed like a collection of songs, not an album. In fact, “Blackout” is her first that feels like a real album. These are club tracks that are fun, edgy, and work together. The topics are pretty much the same, “You’re sexy, I want you,” “I’m sexy, you must want me,” “I’m sexy can you handle me?” and yet there are a few hints into what is going on in her life. “Toy Soldier” shows her disappointment in men (to an insanely catchy beat, most likely a single) and “Why Should I be Sad” the one track that seems to be strictly about K-Fed, though not explicitly. After Paris Hilton put out what I argue was a killer pop-club record that was catchy, consistent, and edgy (none of which it had the right to be) it seems partying with the girl helped Britney to form a singular idea. You may have wanted a complete disaster, but “Blackout” is far from it. Finally… let’s mark one point for Britney Spears!

I have quite enjoyed this entire process of hearing all of these songs in various forms and versions… it has let her fans become Jr. A & R people. “Baby Boy” was pretty much lambasted by everyone that heard it (as publicly detailed on blog after blog) and it didn’t make the album. The catchy, sexy, and daring “Radar” seemed to thrill fans beyond belief… and there it is as track three. There was a lot of music, and even a few that I thought were album worthy but didn’t make the cut.

Here are my thoughts on the record track for track:

Gimme More – It’s killer. She’s taken elements of hip hop (the current top-dog of pop music right now) and infused elements of electro and club music. Catchier with every listen, honest to goodness sexy.

Piece of Me – This could have been awful, and it’s amazing it’s not really. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY wants to hear entertainers complain about how hard being a celebrity and the limelight is. The audience can’t relate, but in the case of Britney it makes sense. There hasn’t been a pop star that’s had this kind of media abuse Britney’s seen and lived, and she doesn’t just rest on complaining a little… she wants to take people on; “You want a piece of me?” she asks/attacks. Not to mention this is a pretty amazing club song. It’s sexy, futuristic, and the first time I’ve thought the girl had something to actually SAY.

Radar – Pure elctro-pop and one that has seriously grown on me. It’s produced by the same crew that did “Piece of Me” as well as “Freakshow” and “Toy Soldier.” The song ismodern, fun, and the direction I’d most like to see Britney take on. Help the US catch up with Europe Britney!

Break the Ice – Another fun club track from Nate “Danga” Hills, who did “Gimme More” as well as three other tracks on the record. Oddly, this song sounds like it should start the album as she opens with “It’s been a while, I know I shouldn’t have kept you waiting…” I think it’s not the first track because it’s just not as strong as “Gimme” but it’s good, again a catchy dance track that is bouncy and not quite hip hop.

Heaven on Earth – The Gorgio Moroder style beat will recall Donna Summer and Kylie, and what starts off as very sexy turns more loving and upbeat pop. This one reminds me the most of the Paris record and more like some of her “In the Zone” work. Not in love with it but think it’s good and fits on the record.

Get Naked (I Got a Plan) – sexy bouncy track that is the most hip hop on the record. Though it’s a little strange, a lot of vocal tricks, not just Britney but the male voice as well. (Whom I don’t know.) Another catchy fun club track. I’m sounding repetitive here but understand that this is no small feat. The songs are consistently good and varied.

Freakshow – Well okay, this one is my least favorite on the record. It’s okay, just a little uninspired.

Toy Soldier – This one has catchiness to spare. I love the simulated military drum and the chorus is killer. I hear a hit with this one.

Hot as Ice – This one was one of the leaked demos and it’s been spruced up a little (for the better) in this full version. It cracked me up then, and does now. It’s a semi-goofy update on 70’s funk with a ridiculous chorus that I LOVE. (“I’m cold as fire baby, hot as ice, if you’ve ever been to heaven this is twice as nice.) She steals Rick James back up singers for this one… was anyone expecting that? I really like this one, despite it being goofy.

Ooh Ooh Baby – Might be my favorite on the record. It starts with a Spanish guitar and Gary Glitter a-la “Rock & Roll Part II” beat, and then the vocal melody seems to be stolen from The Turtles “Happy Together…” but when the chorus kicks in you are sold. This is from dance-pop mastermind Kara DioGuardi who wrote my favorite track on the Paris record (“Not Leaving Without You”) and she works her same magic here. GREAT.

Perfect Lover – Last Nate Hills production, I like this one okay. It seems she is going for the Stefani vein here, mixed with her own “Slave 4 U.” Serviceable album track.

Why Should I Be Sad – Britney always likes to go personal and introspective on the last track. For “In the Zone” it was the cringe-worthy but single anyhow “Everytime.” Luckily we have this Pharell Williams creation (the closest to a ballad on the record though it’s not really that either) instead of “Baby Boy” which seems to be about the same thing (K-Fed) but catchier, more interesting, etc.

While this is Britney’s best, it still isn’t the “album” that I think she might have in her, and if you didn’t like her before you won’t now. It’s not a complete reinvention. Given the different production teams working on track for track it still feels disjointed, like a mixed tape… but only slightly. (It will remind you of Gwen Stefani’s work without the self-consciously weird stuff.) Yet it does come together better than any other previous effort. And also, while it may not have that artistic collaborative whole that say Timberlake’s “Futuresex/Lovesounds” did, it’s a better record than Justin’s (yes, unbelievable huh) as it doesn’t lose it’s way. It’s lean and mostly all top quality songs.

The album is being released Tuesday so we will all soon find out how it will do and what Britney will do by way of promotion. In the past, she would be everyone selling the hell out of it… will she? Or is she really living in her own self absorbed drug addled universe? (It was reported that when asked what her second single for the record was she responded that it was “Someone” and that she was looking for dancers for the video to come out in December. There isn’t a track called “Someone” on the record though… red herring or is she out of her mind?) I would really like to see something as edgy and fun as the music is here, and even more so, I would like to see Britney make a statement. We’ve taken the internet/TV instant access type of “journalism” that really boils down to tabloid garbage too far, Spears being one of the first stars/victims. She’s the perfect person to comment without apology and “Piece of Me” is the way to do it. I remember when “Entertainment Tonight” used to be actual entertainment news about upcoming music and movies and not focused on Lindsey’s latest rehab stint and when the nightly news was about the country, the world, and less Anna Nicole Smith. Burn your U.S. Weekly!

Unfortunately I’m still tuned in, and while I can blame cultural osmosis for some of this stuff the truth is I am on Britney watch as she captivates me in ways I don’t quite understand. Maybe I should be embarrassed about it, but since the rest of the world seems to be as well… I’m just one of the gang.

Stay tuned…

Enjoy.

The fake “Blackout” covers come courtesy of Rolling Stone (whom Britney has helped sell many a magazine) whom collected “fan” created alternate artwork. Take them in, get what you need, chew them up, and spit them out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stay


Song: Stay
Artist: Shakespeare's Sister
Album: Hormonally Yours





Shakespeare's Sister would end up as just a footnote in the history of pop music, though their very successful sophomore album, “Hormonally Yours” showed promise for the band, reaching #3 on the UK charts and saw six singles released from the album, four making it to the top 40. The band was formed in 1988 by Siobhan Fahey whom had just left the pop trio Bananarama, she added American singer-songwriter Marcella Detroit to the group though despite sharing songwriting and singing duties, only became a 50% member for the second album. Their first, “Sacred Heart” featured only Fahey on the cover, videos, and writing credits. The bands name derives from a song by The Smiths.

Despite the strong positive response from the public for “Hormonally Yours” and singles “Stay” and “I Don’t Care,” the band split due to a bout of depression and “physical exhaustion” for Fahey. Though she “re-formed” the band (without Detroit) for one-off soundtrack songs for “The Flintstones” and “Shopping.” A restart/reinvention in 1996 proved unsuccessful and since Fahey has worked on variety of projects and maintained a fairly active fan community website started in 2002 and subsequently shut down in July of this year.

But for a moment in time, Shakespeare's Sister made quite a splash on the international music scene. They were quirky, visually arresting, and had a brand of left-of-center pop that seemed unique and going places. The duo’s style and videos actually got them in trouble when the “Stay” video was released. Due to their goth look and a scene in which they raise the dead, Germany dubbed them as “witches” and the video was banned. Crazy!

“Hormonally, Yours” is a great album, and “Stay” is a pop song that will endure in my humble opinion.

Enjoy.

Stay


I Don’t Care


And you know you’ve made it in the U.K. when French and Saunders do you…

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Human


Song: Human
Artist: The Pretenders
Album: Viva el Amor





The Pretenders are one of the greatest rock bands to come out of the early 80’s and Chrissie Hynde one of the best female leads well… ever. They are responsible for some of the best rock tunes to come out during this time period, “Brass in Pocket,” “Stop Your Sobbing,” “Talk of the Town,” “Message of Love,” “Back on the Chain Gang…” the list goes on and on. Honestly, no serious rock fans collection is complete without their greatest hits collection. Originally there was “The Singles” a killer collection of their 80’s material that was a must until “Greatest Hits” came out in 2000. This collection groups together the majority of the tunes from “The Singles” and adds some of their 90’s material… that was pretty great as well.

Despite the bomb that was 1990’s “Packed!” the band returned in 1994 with “Last of the Independents” which spawned the singles “Night in My Veins” and “I’ll Stand by You.” It was a great revival from a great band and is one of their best offerings. I haven’t followed the band much since then, but was a big fan of the single “Human” from 1999’s “Viva el Amor.” The song sounds like classic Pretenders, the guitar work is ace, Chrissie sounds amazing, it’s all the more shocking when you find out that they didn’t write the track… in fact it’s a cover of the song “Human on the Inside” by The Divinyls, remember them? It’s a great song despite not being written by the band. (Besides, the Divinyls have been around just as long.)

Enjoy.

Human


Don’t Get Me Wrong


Back on the Chain Gang (live)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Just Fine


Song: Just Fine
Artist: Mary J. Blige
Album: Growing Pains




I can’t really say I’ve been a HUGE Mary J. Blige fan, I have liked a lot of her songs, and do not contest her voice, which is amazing. I am a fickle Blige fan, content enough to latch on to the good singles and ignore the rest. A few years ago she released the monster single “Family Affair” which I consider her best upbeat work to date. It’s a flawless Dr. Dre production that ruled the airwaves at the time of its release. The album it came from, “No More Drama” is the only Mary album I own. I liked about half of it, despite its at the time unanimous critical praise.

It sort of shocked me to read that Mary had not only two albums that came out after “No More Drama” but a brand new one, “Growing Pains,” out next month. Even better was the fact that first single “Just Fine” is stellar… a winning mix of old school soul, up to date beats, and a positive “things are awesome!” outlook that you just don’t usually find in the Mary “my life is an awful, awful mess” Blige discography. You’ll hear odes to Michael Jackson, some killer Blige wailing, and just a great track… fun, upbeat, and yet I’m not sure I hear a hit. It doesn’t have the urban edge that “Affair” had so many years ago, but I must remind myself that Alicia Keys seems to be finding success in a song of similar ilk. Not a club banger, but upbeat, soaring, and now that I think of it… POSITIVE.

Actually the more I think about it the more I think these songs may play into a larger significance. There’s a lot of hurt, confusion, and disagreements going on in the world and while that is easy to become overwhelmed by, sometimes you just have to look around and think; “I’m just fine.” I completely welcome a new positivity to the world of pop music. I think it (and the world) needs it.

This is a good one.

Enjoy

Remember Mary…

Real Love


Be Happy


Family Affair

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side


Song: The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side
Artist: The Magnetic Fields
Album: 69 Love Songs





While “quirky” can often be a bad word when it comes to music, (and more often than not just a lazy term given to acts you can’t really describe,) sometimes it just fits, as long as the context is one of admiration. There is no other word I can muster that better describes The Magnetic Fields 1999 opus “69 Love Songs,” an album that I adore and which continues to fascinate me. The album is exactly what it’s called… sixty-nine songs on three volumes (23 tracks per disc) that all revolve around one theme: love. Some are less than 30 seconds, some are sung by men, others by woman, but all have a quirkiness to them that is odd yet completely endearing.

The Magnetic Fields formed in Boston, started by New York City singer-songwriter Stephen Merritt in the early 90’s. They recorded a slew of albums through the 90’s but it was with “69 Love Songs” that they finally got more attention and the audience they deserved. It’s an amazing collection that is in turn humorous, heartbreaking, and eponymous. For indie-rock fans it is a must, or anyone that enjoys small stabs of emotional truth peppered through varied, quirky little tunes. (There’s that description again!)

The album can be purchased as a three album box set (which includes a sizable booklet) or separately by volume. The collection should be taken as a whole, and a look at the list doesn’t give me a clear winner for best of the three as my favorite songs from the album are peppered throughout all three volumes. I suppose if I had to give you one to start with I would say to just go with volume one. It’s the start for one thing, and it also has a few tracks that I consider a good template for the album as a whole. “I Don’t Believe in the Sun,” “A Chicken with Its Head Cut Off,” and “Come Back from San Francisco” are some of the best of the collection, all found on volume one… but I must warn you, there are gems throughout.

Also on volume one is probably my favorite song of the bunch, “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side.” It’s a catchy fun little ditty that highlights Merritt’s off-kilter humor and heart-on-your-sleeve aesthetic. It reminds me a lot of my early New York days for a slew of reasons, what the best songs should.

I also recommend their follow up album "i" which was released in 2004. It's a smaller concept (all the songs start with "i") but continues the sound of "Love Songs" which expanding the vibe a bit.

Enjoy.

Yeah! Oh Yeah! live

Thursday, October 18, 2007

DUI


Song: DUI
Artist: Har Mar Superstar
Album: The Handler




While I usually don’t find much enjoyable about novelty acts (or songs) if something is catchy, fun, and a bit ‘wink-wink’ enough I usually fall prey. (See Electric Six and The Darkness.) I suppose the reason being is that they are often not very good. Anyone with an actual knack for music usually goes a bit more serious. In the case of the aforementioned Electric Six and The Darkness, they mix their goofy lyrics and over the top tunes with actual melody, arrangement, and killer playing. I unfortunately think these bands aren’t respected enough because they are written off as jokes, and while Electric Six keeps plugging away at making new music The Darkness had a massive first album but the second went nowhere, despite being rather good, and soon after the lead singer went to rehab. But that’s so in right now anyhow.

Har Mar Superstar is another novelty act that actually has some musical talent. The guy look slike Ron Jeremy, but sings like he’s Prince. (Actually you should check out his dead-on Prince take “Sextape.” It’s “Delerious” meets… well, Paris Hilton.) I haven’t been intrigued enough to go out and purchase a full record, but I heard his song “DUI” and really loved it. It was fun, ridiculous, but musically pretty accomplished.

Enjoy.

See this goofball at work:

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Careless Whisper


Song: Careless Whisper
Artist: The Gossip
Album: Radio 1. Established 1967




BBC Radio 1 was launched in 1967 aimed at the under-thirty youth market in the U.K. and has for those forty years gave their listeners the most up to date acts of the day. I’ve never listened, but am familiar with Jo Whiley’s Radio 1 show in which acts of the day will perform their tunes live (mostly acoustic) or covers of recent pop hits. Last year saw the release of many of those recordings entitled “Radio 1’s Live Lounge” on two discs which included some fun left-field covers such as Franz Ferdinand’s take on Gwen Stefani’s “What Are You Waiting For?” Keane doing U2’s “With or Without You,” and The Futureheads Kate Bush cover “Hounds of Love,” which helped that band find their audience. Unfortunately excluded from the compilation was Scissor Sisters cabaret take on Franz’s “Take Me Out” and Nelly Furtado’s quiet lush acoustic version of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.”

This month, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the station, they are releasing another two disc set entitled “Radio 1. Established 1967.” They have taken a song from each year the station has been in operation and had a current artist do a take on the song. Kaiser Chiefs start things off with The Move’s 1967 song “Flowers in the Rain” and the song cycle continues with various tracks performed by The Fratellis, Foo Fighters, Kylie Minogue, The Raconteurs, The Fray, and beyond. My favorites include:

Amy Winehouse covering the 1969 Johnny Nash track “Cupid” (made popular here by Sam Cooke)
Robbie Williams take on The Kinks 1970 classic “Lola”
Franz Ferdinand’s cool rock version of Bowie’s “Sound and Vision” from 1977
and Groove Armada’s groovy mix of Madonna’s “Crazy For You” from 1991.

There is actually a ton of fun stuff on the compilation and if you are fan of covers I think it might be the must have release of this year. My hands-down favorite is the Gossip’s take on the George Michael ballad “Careless Whisper” from 1984. The band start it off quiet, with lead Beth Ditto in effect whispering the start of the song only to break loose on the chorus and turn it into a punk rock all-out explosion. It’s amazing.

Actually, with this and their non-ironic take on the Aaliyah jam “Are You That Somebody,” I am advocating the band to do a covers record… I actually think it would be pretty great. Beyond that though, after a successful run on the “True Colors” tour with Cyndi Lauper, I think this band are set for something big. They are getting a ton of press attention, and have really built on their sound moving toward dance rock from straight up indie punk with some great results. They will be a band to watch in the future for sure.

Enjoy

A poor quality video of The Gossip performing the song in Amsterdam


Scissor Sisters performing “Filthy/Gorgeous” on the channel


The Killers doing “Mr. Brightside” acoustic

Monday, October 15, 2007

2 Hearts


Song: 2 Hearts
Artist: Kylie Minogue
Album: 2 Hearts Single





Back in March, and then again in May, a slew of new Kylie songs had been leaked to the internet that were apparently for her upcoming album which wasn’t due until November. Fans quickly put all the tracks together as a full album, created artwork, and sent the album around virally. There were some really fun tracks, some GREAT tracks, and a few that were just so-so. I knew that Kylie, according to media reports, was aiming for a killer “comeback” album that would contain multiple sure-fire hits, so I was pretty sure this was not it, at least completely. And besides, a leak that many months in advance would be surprising as albums are not usually together and completed that far in advance.

Just as a few more songs got leaked, the official track list was released (found here) and it turns out that only three of the leaked tracks were actually on the album. Some were not surprising (the soon-to-be-smash hit “In My Arms” was on almost non-stop repeat on my iPod) and some were; (the exclusion of “Fall for You,” a killer upbeat dance track that seemed like a sure thing.) I thought that, once seeing the full list, that “In My Arms” was sure to be the first single but instead the as yet heard “2 Hearts” was slated as first. It had been said that Kylie was still looking for a can’t fail smash for the lead single, one that could top “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” Once “2 Hearts” was named that song, the anticipation to hearing it was riding high on the internet.

Just last week the song, and video, debuted and it was on one hand not anything like what I expected, and also just what I should have expected. Since I was expecting an über-catchy slice of electro-pop, the more piano tinged semi-rock vibe of “2 Hearts” threw me off. It sounded good, but not great… I must admit I thought “is this it?” (After all, I remember hearing “Slow” for the first time and just instantly knew Kylie had done something hit worthy, but also groundbreaking.) I listened to it again and the sexiness of the song (Kylie’s patent) became more evident, and the jazz-hip base line (that brings to mind the Stray Cats) began to grab me. By fifth listen I was ready to claim the song as genius and realized that Kylie had in fact done it again, found the perfect lead single that is not only catchy but unlike anything she’s done before. Bravo!

The name of the new album has been entitled “X” as it is her tenth studio album and it is shaping up to be one of the more anticipated releases of the year. From what I have heard I think Kylie has worked with some great people on this record and no doubt has a huge hit on her hands, at least in Europe. We will see what America decides to latch onto, and if “2 Hearts” can be like “Can’t Get You” was in 2001. Just as Britney is doing with her new album, due a bit early now because of internet leaks, Kylie has recorded a slew of songs to see which work best and discard the rest. Kylie’s throw-aways are pretty good, with some being musts to have for super-fans, so my anticipation of the new record is pretty high. Since Goldfrapp came in with one of the best electro-pop records of memory with “Supernature,” Minogue is set up to re-prove that she is the queen of European Dance-pop.

Hail!

Enjoy.

2 Hearts

As always Kylie looks stunning, this is so hot!

Friday, October 12, 2007

15 Steps


Song: 15 Steps
Artist: Radiohead
Album: In Rainbows





What a week! I’m a little Radiohead’d out… but it’s been worth it, and nice to look back and re-visit their history, their albums, and how they have grown and changed as a band. And it was fun, I must say, to reclaim that excitement of getting an album on the day it was released, along with everyone else, eager to pour into something new from a band that continues to excite us.

I’ve decided to go track to track through each of the album’s ten songs. Partly an initial reaction and also how it’s grown on me… in two days.


15 Steps

A beat heavy opener, somewhere between “Idioteque” and “Packt Like Sardines.” It’s a very groovy song, a good opener. There doesn’t seem to be a chorus per say, so it’s not really a sing-a-long. The kids cheering in the background is so strange… a lot of kooky little sounds happening there near the end. Sounds like it might be about suicide… a sunny opener!

Bodysnatchers

Wow… Radiohead discover their inner Zeppelin and decide to ROCK! They haven’t come this close to all out rock in a while it seems. Good groove… but again, there doesn’t seem to be a chorus. Wait… wow, given the rocking that this song is doing you don’t realize how unbelievably depressing the lyrics are. “Has the light gone out for you? Cause the light’s gone out for me.” Ouch.

Nude

This one has been around for a while… like “O.K. Computer” era. It has been a live favorite for some time, was originally entitled “Big Ideas (Don’t Get Any)” which has been, along with “True Love Waits” the most eagerly awaited studio version of their unreleased stuff. It’s lush, dreamy, quiet… but again, no chorus. There are words that repeat… but this is not sing-a-long material. I reminds me of “Pyramid Song” a little, but not nearly as sweeping or mysterious. I think this one could have been a little better.

Weird Fishes / Arpeggi

This is such a strange song; I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. I have no idea what he could be talking about, but the end line; “I’ll hit the bottom, hit the bottom to escape” doesn’t really sound like things are in a happy place. This is another groovy one though again… no chorus. Just Thom singing his poetry over the groove. I do like it, though I think it is somehow smarter than I.

All I Need

Wow, I really like this one. It’s easy to forget that Radiohead can actually be sexy. (See “Talk Show Host”) This one has a downbeat vibe, a bit of an 80’s beat… though slowed down. And how simple… “You are all I need; you are all I need.” It’s actually quite lovely, a love song for the scary dead of night. Might be my favorite on the album, though again not a pop song. This one seriously gets better with each listen.

Faust ARP

This one is a beautiful acoustic ballad married with sweeping strings and a great vocal from Thom. I would almost call it Beatlesque.

Reckoner

The beats are back… and that beat, man it sounds very early 90’s, though when the muted guitar kicks in you don’t really think of anything but Radiohead. Thom is working the falsetto seriously. It’s a bit industrial but remains lush and dreamy. I’m not sure what the song is about, but guess what… there’s no chorus!

House of Cards

Another groovy one, with odd sound effects that remind me a little of Fleetwood Mac, who don’t actually do sound effects so I’m not sure what I’m talking about. Sure to be oft quoted as Thom uncharacteristically opens with “I don’t want to be your friend, I just want to be your lover.” The drums are simple and quiet, there’s a distorted guitar, and Thom’s words, which I like, just sort of ride the beat. This is a dreamy one, I just wish there was something to sing along to.

Jigsaw Falling into Place

Starts with a simple high hat and an acoustic guitar, and then the beat comes in… feels like we’re in for a treat. This one sounds like the Cure a little with, you know… less joy. This one is punchy yet meandering; I like it, and has a sense of urgency that the other songs lack. But there are no hooks, and while there are repeated lines, once again there is no attempt to make any of it catchy.

Videotape

Wow… a beautiful but very creepy death ballad. If you have been searching and searching for that perfect dramatic song to play at your funeral, look no further. It’s mostly just piano and Thom’s voice, with mild sound effects until the beat kicks in… which I really like. This is such a creepy sad song… a true death march. The album closes with Thom (or someone) leaving a videotape of himself for his dear ones before he offs himself. “This is my way of saying goodbye, because I can’t do it face to face.” Oh man… that’s some seriously rough times. The drum beats at the end seem to be out of sync… like everything is unraveling. And it ends with; “No matter what happens now; You shouldn’t be afraid; Because I know today has been the most perfect day I’ve seen” Well… at least he ends it on a positive note, if ending in suicide can be considered positive. Despite the tough subject matter I really like this one, though it’s scary… just very evocative.

So, after just two and half days of absorbing the record I feel mixed about it. It can be quite beautiful, and sonically it’s pretty impressive. There are a lot of little things going on under the surface, and I am discovering new things with each listen. I do wish that it was just a little catchier though. This was my problem with “Hail to the Thief” the first Radiohead record I didn’t love. I had listened to that album sporadically this week in anticipation of the new record to try to put my finger on why I didn’t dig it. I still am not sure why, and there are definitely songs on that album I really like, it just doesn’t work like their last records.


What “In Rainbows” seems to share with “Hail to the Thief” is a lack of theme, something that ties the songs together and makes it an album. (or at least, this has not become clear to me yet.) I think “In Rainbows” may just be the most depressing and downbeat of their albums, it’s more groove based, setting a mood versus being up and down tempo-wise.

I certainly will continue to listen to the album, and let its layers continue to unfold. There is a part of me that thinks there is much more to discover with this album, so repeated listens could be fruitful. While I don’t necessarily need a full record of anthemic choruses, I do wish they had tried to be a bit more catchy. A look back to “O.K. Computer,” and even a lot of “Kid A” and “Amnesiac” had tunes you could really get into, and sing along to. I am not finding much if anything on “In Rainbows” that hits that.

With yet another song cycle of strange, uber-sad tunes, Radiohead has once again left me hoping that a straight ahead pop record still could be in the cards in the future. Though it seems they have no interest in returning to their “The Bends” roots. I will let out a sigh to this, but being challenged as a Radiohead fan and listener is something that comes with the territory, and they get the respect and adoration they have because of this.

I don’t want to sound like I am too down on the record… because there are things in here that are very exciting and frankly, just remind me why they are considered one of the most innovative and exciting bands working today. If you are a fan I urge you to get it… especially since you can pick what you pay for it! Radiohead have certainly continued their mystique here, and unfolded more challenging dramatic music.

I am not sure what “In Rainbows” means for the industry, though just this week Trent Reznor has announced that he is leaving his label to go it alone just as Radiohead has. But I think that we have more of these kinds of strange marketing plans ahead. They plan to release the album somehow early next year as a single CD format, and of course the discbox will be shipping December 3rd which includes a second disc of b-sides, which may be worth it alone to me. I haven’t ordered it yet, don’t have an extra $80 to kick around at the moment. But come to think of it… that would make a mighty fine wecastmusic holiday gift no? (wink-wink)

If you have has a chance to listen to "In Rainbows" I would love to hear your take in the comments section.

Enjoy.

Some “In Rainbows” tracks live:

All I Need


Jigsaw Falling into Place


Videotape

This one is a must watch, just Thom on the piano. This song has really gotten under my skin, truly truly haunting.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Idioteque


Song: Idioteque
Artist: Radiohead
Album: Kid A





“Kid A” is most likely the strangest album ever to debut in the number one spot on the Billboard album chart her in the U.S. It is a testament to what Radiohead had done as a band up to that point that the record could chart so high without a single released, without a video, without really anything to hook the record buying public except possibly… “what are they going to do after “O.K. Computer?” It is pretty safe to say that nobody could have predicted Radiohead’s next move… a modern band that had done what they had done has never, before or since, done anything like “Kid A.”

When “Kid A” was released in October of 2000 the reaction was pretty mixed. Some immediately hailed it as a masterpiece, others found it wildly disappointing, expecting a big rock album from the band, which had instead married the strange coldness of “O.K. Computer” with a newfound love of electronic music and jazz. The songs were strange, obtuse, and I suppose not what anyone had in mind. It has since been herald as a masterpiece, with some arguing it as the bands best. It was up for an ‘Album of the Year’ Grammy, and won the ‘Best Alternative Album’ award. In 2005, Pitchfork and Stylus Magazine, in separate lists, both named “Kid A” the best album of the last five years. It continues to divide fans of the band, and has only grown in mystique from those trying to figure out what it all means.

When I got “Kid A” I honestly didn’t know what to think of it. It was hands-down strange, but there were songs I liked right away, many of which were unlike anything I had expected from the band, but none the less had elements from other music I dug. “Idioteque” for me was the song that just all out blew me away. It was catchy, yet creepy. Dancy… but not a dance song. It was a song that I couldn’t stop playing, at first drunk on the strange beats and propulsive movement the song had, and then… and only much later did it grab me lyrically, unfolding a mystery that was so visual to me, yet so abstract.

The mystery behind “Kid A” is certainly part of its allure. The term “Kid A,” as Thom Yorke has said, represents the first human clone. Certainly the title track sounds like a lullaby, a portrait of a newborn with a growing ominous feeling behind it which strengthens as the song progresses. It is also the quiet before the storm that is “The National Anthem,” one of the most innovative and exciting songs the band has written. Chaos, a deep groove, and lyrics that give you nothing by way of information on what the hell is going on… it is as if something is terrible is happening, and it’s impossible to understand any of it. What is shocking about that song is that despite all of that, it is very very listenable.

I haven’t spent a lot of time reading into theories about the album, what it means, and what the band was trying to accomplish with it. With most art I like to see what it means to me, and what I get out of it. I do like to hear what the band likes to say about their work, but fortunately Radiohead also like people to make up their own minds… willing to just put something out there and let their audience sort it out. What we did know is that the band had recorded enough for a double album but decided against it. Instead, they released the second batch of songs as “Amnesiac” less than a year later. It was called a “companion piece” rather than a sequel or continuation. Again, a mystery to ponder and try to decipher.

As mentioned there were no singles or videos made for “Kid A.” Instead, the band created what they called “blips,” short animated clips that were available to view on their website, itself a maze of dead links, dead ends, and more mystery. Here are a few of the blips:







You can find more on YouTube, just search “Kid A” and “blip.”

In 2005 SPIN writer and journalist Chuck Klosterman released “Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story” a loose book chronicling his trek through America visiting places famous musicians died. It’s a fun book, and I recommend it to anyone who’s a music geek like myself and also appreciates the sardonic, and snarky. In the book he uses one chapter to illustrate his theory that Radiohead, with “Kid A,” foreshadowed the events of 9/11. As outrageous as that sounds, let me just say as someone that knows “Kid A” very well, and was in New York for 9/11, his arguments are pretty scary. Honestly, after reading the chapter I was pretty freaked out for a good three hours afterward. (Where actual 9/11 freaked the entire population of the largest city on earth for a good two weeks.) You can read one guys take, with an excerpt from Klosterman here. You can give as much weight to that as you want, but what this illustrates is how deep the mystery of the album is.

What this proves to me, and my thoughts on the album, are that it is basically a story about the start of a world apocalypse, done as a pop album. To me “Kid A” is the idea of a global nightmare born from our own evil self-destruction. If “O.K. Computer” is the feeling, the warning, that our technology is numbing us and pushing us closer to the end of individuality, then “Kid A” is the result. As seen in the blip above, and throughout the artwork of the album, there are creatures referred to as “bears” that seem to multiply, implying the first clone concept, that seem to take over the world… a global epidemic, and one in which we in fact created ourselves. While Klosterman equated “the National Anthem” as when the planes hit the towers, I see it as when things first go very wrong with the clones, and then subsequently with “How to Disappear Completely” we have the lush, dream like, stage where the reality of what happening doesn’t seem real. Thom repeats “I am not here, this isn’t happening.” Denial.

Later, with “Idioteque” it’s the return to chaos, the virus is out… “woman and children first.” I could be the full out war of humans vs. the clones as Thom asks “who’s in a bunker?” and then pleads “I have seen too much; I haven't seen enough,” and “This is really happening.” With this tune Radiohead create a new genre… ‘apocalyptic dance.’ Oy. The record ends with the lush, old Hollywood-feeling “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” It’s beautiful, and closes the awful story with the sun coming up again, and ends with silence.

And then there is “Amnesiac”


Artist: Radiohead
Album: Amnesiac





After the loose narrative of “Kid A,” another concept album in a completely different way that “O.K. Computer” was a concept album, the thought of “Amnesiac,” an admitted collection of “other songs” done during the “Kid A” sessions, was a little less than thrilling for fans. Who wanted leftovers? The thing is, “Amnesiac” contains some of Radiohead’s best songs, and the term “companion piece” fits well. It might not have the narrative that “Kid A” does, but it certainly feels like it comes from the ideas of that record, with similar themes and at times similar vibe. (Especially compared to their other albums.) Thom has said “Something traumatic is happening in Kid A, and this is looking back at it, trying to piece together what has happened.”

That thought, if you run with my narrative from “Kid A,” is pushed further from the first video from “Amnesiac” for the single “Pyramid Song.” The video shows a being on a station in some water-logged terrain, then diving down to uncover a world now completely submerged.

Check it out… it’s beautiful:

Yeah, it reminds me of “Waterworld” too.

“Amnesiac’s” artwork depicts the album as a book, possibly the story of “Kid A” and the tale or survival. I’m reaching here… but again this is what I see when I listen, and take in the visuals that were presented for the album.

“Amnesiac” is an essential Radiohead album and holds key tracks from their catalog. It is marred by its comparisons to “Kid A” because that record is so concise. But the two together mark what I feel is one of the more interesting creative periods for the band, as well as their most sonically complex. The production on these two records are some of the best I have ever heard and really continued to solidify Radiohead as THE band of the time.

You might think my theories are crack-pot, and Radiohead themselves might agree with you, again simply stating they are just writing “a bunch of pop songs.” “Kid A” fascinates me, and is much more melodic than it gets credit for. I would love to hear your take on the album and what it all means.

Enjoy.

Other videos from “Amnesiac”

Knives Out


I Might Be Wrong

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

No Surprises


Song: No Surprises
Artist: Radiohead
Album: O.K. Computer




While Radiohead’s “The Bends” wasn’t an all out smash… the record was certainly gestating with people, and “what’s next?” seemed to be the question. For me, I was getting more and more into the record and finding new layers, depth, (and hooks) with each listen. Their touring with R.E.M., one of the biggest bands in America at the time, had surly paid off. And while spoon-fed America wasn’t totally hip to them yet, (when discussing the band and trying to get people to get “The Bends” many people would say “Wait, isn’t that that “Creep” band? Didn’t they go away?”) the U.K. was certainly taken with “The Bends” despite still going through the huge Brit-pop phenomenon. Radiohead were British, but pop they were not.

Apparently, when the band gave their record label “O.K. Computer,” the follow up they had recorded in various locations in the countryside of the U.K. as well as various points in Europe, their reaction was… “Career suicide.” Though, this was the same label that thought the “The Bends” had not one single on it. It ended up having five top-40 singles in the U.K. and is now considered a pop classic. When “Computer” was released and put out to the public, things would never be the same again for Radiohead. The album was almost universally acclaimed and the buzz on the record, and the band, was pretty deafening.

I remember hearing all the talk about the album but it was not yet out in the U.S. (“O.K. Computer was in fact the last Radiohead album to have a staggered release date from Europe to the States.) I do remember getting the record the day it came out and listening to it in my ’85 Honda Prelude as I drove around campus. I remember thinking it was very slow and quiet, and maybe a little boring. This thought is absolutely ridiculous to me now, as the record rocks pretty hard… but it was my lesson to never judge a Radiohead album from first listen, their stuff is just has too much depth. After a couple weeks I believe I had decided it was one of the best records I had ever heard… and it didn’t leave my CD player.

As almost universal acclaim was sweeping the world for the record, most hailed it as a concept record for our times, an up to the minute bleak revelation of the cold modern world and the corporate consumerism that was becoming a global phenomenon. The band was quick to dismiss this, claiming it was “just a collection of pop songs,” but those songs, and the album speak for themselves. Even the track titles, “Airbag,” “Paranoid Android,” and “Karma Police” hint at the merger of technology, consumption, and personal dread. It is because of this that the record remains so important today… as the world has only grown MORE into the scary cold world that “O.K. Computer” envisions. It’s also rather catchy, and seriously rocks… despite being, you know… totally depressing.

Since its release it has been covered in it’s entirety as a reggae album by the Easy All Stars, as well as an indie rock tribute compiled by Stereogum. It was on the shortlist for the 1997 Mercury Music Prize, it was voted by the readers of Q magazine as the best record of all time in 1998 and then again in 2006, VH1 listed it as the number 94th best record of all time, NME placed it 16th, Pitchfork gave it number one in the top 100 albums of the 90’s, Rolling Stone listed it #162 out of the “500 Greatest Album of All Time,” It was voted #1 in a poll of 100 Greatest Albums of all time by the U.K.’s Channel 4, Spin Magazine listed is the number one album of the last twenty years, and TIME Magazine listed it as one of the 100 best albums of all time.

When I DJ’d parties in college I was actually pretty surprised that “Karma Police” was requested as much as it was, in between 80’s tunes you could dance to, “Genie in a Bottle” and “Mambo No. 5.” That song was the bands biggest modern rock hit here in the states after “Creep” and while the album wasn’t an out of the gate smash here, (it debuted at #21 here, #1 in the U.K.) it certainly grew their audience as everyone everywhere in music was talking about the band. I unfortunately didn’t get myself together to go see the band live, but their shows were also that of legend, with the entire “O.K. Computer” period elevating them to one of the more important working bands around. If they thought the world was listening for the follow up to “The Bends,” it was nothing like that after “O.K. Computer.” How do you follow up one of the best albums ever made?

It is very difficult for me to pick a favorite song from “O.K. Computer” because they are all so good. Personally, “No Surprises” holds a special place for me as an import song in my life, and a testament to the power of music. It was the third single from the album and an odd, scary, beautiful song. In retrospect it is pretty simple compared to the rest of the album, and yet fits right in place with everything surrounding it. It sums up the record for me, and can personally fit anytime one might feel frustrated and powerless. I remember the song coming on randomly after a particularly emotional weekend years ago when a felt personally (and romantically) more confused than I have ever been. It was early morning, and the sun was just rising, shinning of the dew on the streets and everywhere of the morning. The familiar ding of the glockenspiel brought everything together for me and I remember just losing it on my drive home. So for me the song is always a reminder that in life there are moments of no control and while they can be scary, and resist as we might, we must learn and take from them.

“No alarms and no surprises please.”

Below are some of the best videos Radiohead have done, with “No Surprises” being particularly terrifying.

Enjoy.

Paranoid Android


Karma Police


No Surprises

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

High & Dry


Song: High & Dry
Artist: Radiohead
Album: The Bends





Back in 1995 two college roommates and I got tickets to see R.E.M. in Buffalo, N.Y. At the time, R.E.M. was pretty much my world… I had fallen in love with them since “Out of Time” and subsequent records, and the purchase of all of their early records solidified them as my favorite band. I hadn’t seen them live yet, they had just released “Monster,” their “rock” record and I can’t think of any show I had anticipated more before or since. Unfortunately, the band and the show did not live up to my expectation. (Though they have since blown me away on both the “Up” tour and their “Greatest Hits” tour… it was, after all the tour that Bill Berry had a brain aneurysm, Mike Mills had to undergo abdominal surgery, and Michael Stipe had hernia surgery. It was sort of “The Tour that Broke R.E.M.” In more ways than one.) But more importantly, that show was my introduction to the greatness of Radiohead, who were opening for the band on the tour.

Despite knowing their MTV alt-rock hit “Creep,” I didn’t care much about seeing the band… all of my excitement was for R.E.M., and I was actually a little surprised they had chosen them as an opener. (What… was Candlebox busy?) What I, and most of America, had gotten wrong was that Radiohead were not a flash in the pan grunge act. Despite “Creep” being a huge single, it wasn’t represented of Radiohead… or at least what they were about to accomplish. When they began to play I only recognized “Creep” as well as “Fake Plastic Trees” which was their current single, the first from their sophomore album “The Bends.” I have NEVER had a concert experience like I did seeing this band for the first time. I knew none of the other songs and yet they electrified me from start to finish. I bought the album the next day and thus started my Radiohead obsession. Who was to know that in just three more albums they would be considered one of the most import bands of the last decade, basically creating the careers of acts like Travis, Coldplay, Keane, and Muse.

Tomorrow marks a big day for Radiohead fans, and for the music business in general as the band are releasing their seventh studio album in a very unconventional way. While rumors had Radiohead working on a new album for an early 2008 release, it came as a huge surprise when last Sunday the band posted a short note on their official website stating they had completed the record, and you could get it in just seven days off of their website. As you can imagine, the blog-sphere exploded… why hadn’t this thing leaked yet? But that wasn’t the end…

With the completion of their sixth studio album “Hail to the Thief” in 2003, Radiohead had satisfied their contract with EMI, basically making them label-less. Since then, they have taken the longest break between albums (just over four years) since they started making records. But tomorrow will see the “release” of “In Rainbows” and because of this I am making this week “Radiohead Week” here at Wecastmusic. Though the week is short I will spend the next three days discussing the music of Radiohead’s past and then on Friday, will do my best to do a three day review of the new album.

First off, this new record is important not only because Radiohead is currently one of the more important rock bands on the planet, but its distribution is unlike any other thus far done by such a major act. The download of the album is currently only available through the website www.inrainbows.com which is part of their official site and the kicker is… you decide how much you want to pay for it. That’s right, you decide if you’re going to pay anything (you can enter “0”) or up to £99. I chose £5 or ($10) which I thought was fair. Or, you can also order the “discbox” which contains the album on CD and vinyl, including a bonus disc of extra tracks, along with artwork, booklet, and the download available tomorrow. (The discbox is shipping “around Dec. 3rd” and costs £40 or $80… yikes.) I am not sure I get the strategy, but I am sure hoping they publish the amounts people paid for it. Just to see what people decided it was worth. Crazy!

Well, enough about “In Rainbows,” more on that on Friday…

I decided to highlight “High and Dry” off of “The Bends” as it is one of my favorite Radiohead tracks, and a good start if you know nothing about Radiohead. Actually… “The Bends” is a good jumping point because this is where Radiohead mastered straight-up rock songwriting. The depressing lyrics were there, but all in all this was the last time the band did anything “straight-forward,” and it is excellent. Literally every song is now considered a modern masterpiece and while in retrospect it may seem like just a collection of songs (vs. the album-as-concept they donned for “O.K. Computer”) it is by all accounts “classic’ just twelve years old now.

The band has said this record was difficult to make, as they were trying to at once cater to the MTV crowd that made “Creep” a hit, and wanted to repeat on that, but also just to make a much better record. They didn’t get a hit bigger than “Creep” (and still haven’t) but the album went platinum none the less, and 3x platinum in the U.K. Many still consider it their best, I just think it’s awesome… one of the best melodic modern rock records around.

The album has only grown in popularity and truly didn’t take off until the release of final single “Street Spirit (Fade Out.)” It was an understatement that after the records cycle was complete, the world was waiting for what they would do next….


Enjoy.

Fake Plastic Trees


High and Dry

I’ve always liked this video too.

Street Spirit (Fade out)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Falling Down


Song: Falling Down
Artist: Duran Duran
Album: Red Carpet Massacre






Say what you will, but I am hard pressed to come up with a band that has lasted as long, with as many line-up changes, and sporadic (and extreme) dips in popularity, as Duran Duran. The 80’s band that keeps on keepin’ on. From their height in the “me decade” to the popularity decline in the late 80’s and very early 90’s, the resurgence from the self titled 2003 album, and re-decline in sales and relevance, and then the hugely popular 25th Anniversary tour, Duran Duran has soldiered on like a Cher solo tour, unwilling to stop and yet continue to move forward musically.

I have to be honest and admit that I do not own one full Duran Duran album, only their Greatest Hit collection. And as 80’s nostalgia goes, there isn’t a better place to start than a collection of their hits which were strong, huge, and well… SO 80’s! From “Girls on Film” to “Rio,” “Hungry Like the Wolf” to “The Reflex,” and “Wild Boys” to “A View to a Kill” (the only Bond theme ever to go to number 1 on the pop charts) this band really packed in the hits. They helped to make MTV come up AND be worth watching.

The band is returning next month with their twelve studio album to be entitled “Red Carpet Massacre.” How have they decided to once again make a stab at relevance? Why hire the can-do-no-wring duo of Justin Timberlake and Timbaland of course. The duo helped write, record, and produce four tracks form the record including “Falling Down,” the first single. Oddly, “Falling Down” doesn’t sound anything like a JT and Timbaland song, and actually… I don’t really think it sounds like Duran Duran either. The album is produced by Danja, who is currently enjoying a hit with the new Britney Spears “comeback” single “Gimme More.” Again, “Falling Down” sounds like none of this so I am interested in hearing the rest of the album.

Also worth noting is that Andy Taylor left the band in the middle of recording. Because of this the band decided to re-record the entire thing without him. Ouch.

Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think of this song… I’m still up in the air about it.

Enjoy.

The “Video Band”

Girls on Film


Hungry Like the Wolf


Wild Boys


Notorious

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dance Pattern


Song: Dance Pattern
Artist: Electric Six
Album: I Shall Exterminate Everything Around That Restricts Me From Being the Master





Another month, another new Electric Six album. Well… not exactly, but the bands new record, scheduled for release next week, comes pretty hot on the heels of last years “Switzerland.” The new album, “I Shall Exterminate Everything Around That Restricts Me From Being the Master” does not differ from the Electric Six formula; catchy disco-rock, cheeky lyrics, and songs either about dancing or dancing and looking sexy. I am a huge fan of this band, but after a few listens to the record, I wonder if they are running out of steam a bit.

The bands output, in my opinion, has slowly dipped in quality. Their debut “Fire” had the one-two punch of hit singles “Danger! (High Voltage)” and “Gay Bar,” not to mention killer album tracks like “I Invented the Night” and “I’m the Bomb.” “Señor Smoke,” the follow up had a lot of great moments, and some now E6 classics, and while not as consistently stellar as “Fire,” the release of third record “Switzerland” made “Smoke” seem better in retrospect. Despite this, if you like the bands sound you will find something worthy in each album, 100%. I am still listening to the new record though, as I sort of felt the same way about “Switzerland” when it came out and ended up liking it quite a bit.

Ironically, in a press statement for the last album they made it a point that there would be no songs on the record that had the word “dance” in the title. I had never thought about it, but on their two first records there were no less than five songs including some variation on the word… “Dance Commander,” “Improper Dancing,” “Nuclear War (On the Dance Floor),” “Dance Epidemic,” and “Dance-A-Thon 2005.” While they took a break for one record, on “I Shall Exterminate” they get three songs in and then drop “Dance Pattern,” another fun slice of ridiculousness that has thus far been the stand out to me. Stereogum described it as “Scissor Sisters Blues Explosion,” which sounds about right to me.

I often criticize acts for not doing anything new on an album and sticking with the formula as it usually bores me. E6 have done exactly that and it doesn’t bother me… their “thing” is unique and honestly, just not deep enough to want (or expect) much more. Long live Electric Six, but maybe they should take two years to record the next record and aim for something as good as “Fire.”

Enjoy.

Dance Commander


This is funny…

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sing


Song: Sing
Artist: Annie Lennox
Album: Songs of Mass Destruction




While not prolific, Annie Lennox has always been a dependable artist, releasing albums of a certain quality… you always know you’re in for something good. I had always been a Eurythmics fan, but it was a pleasant surprise when her solo work, without the assistance of ‘other Eurythmic’ Dave Stewart was comparable. (Less there were any haters whom assumed Dave was the mastermind, as some often do. “Diva,” her first solo record released in 1992, was a smash out of the gate including hit singles “Why” and “Walking on Broken Glass.” Her second, “Medusa” was a covers record, but contained the hit ballad “No More I Love You’s.” It wasn’t until 2003 did she release another solo album, the excellent “Bare” which I can not recommend enough.

So, it is with great excitement that a brand new solo album finds release this week. “Songs of Mass Destruction” finds Annie doing what she does best… there are the tender ballads, and synth-soul upbeat numbers, and as always… Lennox’s strong, distinct voice. I have only had the change to listen to the album twice, but knew almost immediately I was going to like it.

This album is Annie statement on the status of the world right now. She notes; "It is a dark album, but the world is a dark place. It's fraught, it's turbulent. Most people's lives are underscored with dramas of all kinds: there's ups, there's downs - the flickering candle, half the people are drinking or drugging themselves to numb it. A lot of people are in pain .” Despite the truth in this… we don’t seem to be talking about it. But sister is doing it for herself!

“Dark Road” is the first single, most likely chosen as a good representation of the album… vs. a hit single. I am really digging “Sing” a song written for those affected by AIDS. It’s a powerful song helped by her guest singers. She got a few woman together to sing on the track with her… maybe you recognize a few: Anastacia, Isobel Campbell, Dido, Céline Dion, Melissa Etheridge, Fergie, Beth Gibbons, Faith Hill, Angelique Kidjo, Beverley Knight, Gladys Knight, k.d. lang, Madonna, Sarah McLachlan, Beth Orton, Pink, Bonnie Raitt, Shakira, Shingai Shoniwa, Joss Stone, Sugababes, KT Tunstall, and Martha Wainwright. (!!!) Madonna is the most prominent, singing a verse by herself where the others create a chorus toward the end of the song.

I’m really digging the album so far. If you are a fan I recommend it!

Enjoy.

Dark Road