Recently I saw the art-metal band “Pelican” at the Bottom Lounge on Lake Street in the West Loop. It was a Thursday night and I just took a cab over there by myself. Pelican is one of my favorite bands – they play metal in a major key with no solos or lyrics (OK, they did have one song with lyrics). It sounds boring, but definitely isn’t (to me at least). Recently they had a switch out of some key players but since I hadn’t seen them before I couldn’t tell the difference and they sounded fine. Here is a brief movie of them playing “Lost in the Headlights” which is the first song from them that I heard that I really liked.
Archive for the 'Music' Category
As a rock music fan, it is difficult for me to stand back and appraise the impact of rock and roll in an objective and neutral manner. Growing up, I listened to music continuously, and over the years have bought it in almost every format from album to cassette to CD to digital. I owned early MP3 players (like the Rio) on to pretty much every variety of iPod. In addition, I have been going to concerts for many years, some of which I’ve discussed in the blog. I’d consider myself pretty knowledgeable about rock music from the ’60s through today.
At Lollapalooza I’ve seen the growth of “Perry’s Stage”, which is an electronic music tent. Here is a link to a post I wrote about it after the August 2011 show. I noticed how the young kids migrated over to the DJs and had a great time, while the “old” concert goers sat on blankets and watched the mainstream acts.
Today we look back on rock music as if it has always existed in its current form but it used to be an electric, alive, underground party. The rebellion has moved over to hip hop but the party migrated over to electronic music. Rock doesn’t stand a chance today in the popular consciousnesses compared to the DJs.
While rock bands struggle to find a few thousand fans at a show, the “Electric Daisy Carnival” can pack in over 100,000 fans a day. Here is the link to the trailer for the inaugural event that they will hold in Chicago.
It is amazing that the last Grammys telecast didn’t feature much in the way of electronic music, but then again they have not been a very good indicator of anything. They had many performers but none of the electronic winners were highlighted (last year they had a mash up with Deadmau5 and Dave Grohl, at least). The Grammys too are in the thrall of the past, but that’s to be expected since their demographics and voters skew so old.
It is easy to figure out where they kids are going. They are heading where ever there are bikinis and a good time. Bye bye rock music.
Cross posted at LITGM
…at Grim’s Hall.
Speaking of things Irish, there is an interesting Dublin-based blog called Sibling of Daedalus. Check it out.
…people are still writing songs about the Civil War.
Josephine, by Rory Lee Feek
The song is based on actual letters written by Confederate soldier J W Robison to his wife Josephine.
I am reminded of something Connie Willis said:
Because the Civil War isn’t over. Its images, dreamlike, stay with us — young boys lying face-down in cornfields and orchards, and Robert E. Lee on Traveller. And Lincoln, dead in the White House, and the sound of crying.
The Civil War disturbs us, all these long years after, troubling our sleep. Like a cry for help, like a warning, like a dream. And we pore over it, trying to break the code, its meaning just out of reach.
Posted by Lexington Green on 31st January 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
“When I talk to Loretta, she makes me feel like number one!”
The Nervous Eaters, Loretta (1976)
Classic Boston early punk rock. Rough and satisfying.
Neko Case, Loretta (2004)
A nice (dare I say superior) remake by Miss Case, who has exquisite taste in covers.
(I have always thought the original version sounded like it grew out of a jam based on the Velvet Undergound’s White Light / White Heat. But that is just a guess.)
Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.
Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.
Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.
A wonderful 3-D representation of the Iglesia San Luis De Los Franceses. Just click on the link–then you can look around inside the cathedral. Use arrow keys or mouse to move left/right, up/down, and shift to zoom in, ctrl to zoom out.
Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm
Lappland in pictures, from Neptunus Lex
Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos
A Romanian Christmas carol, from The Assistant Village Idiot
In the bleak midwinter, from The Anchoress
A Christmas reading from Thomas Pynchon.
An air traffic control version of The Night Before Christmas.
Ice sculptures from the St Paul winter carnival
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, sung by Enya
With Youtube it is easy to try out new music so I recommend that you check on some of these links and see what you think. iTunes is also just a couple of clicks away.
Bob Mould – The Silver Age – Album
Bob Mould was the lead singer and guitarist of Husker Du, the seminal punk (?) band. After they broke up he went solo, formed the great band Sugar, and then got weird. He’s back now, guitars blazing, and it sounds great. Here he is playing the lead single “The Descent” on Letterman.
Calvin Harris – Feel So Close – Single
This simple, hypnotic song with a very humanistic video is one of the best songs of the year (see it here). The sparse use of electronics in all the right places is what moves it into something great.
LCD Soundsystem – Shut Up and Play the Hits – DVD
The great electronic band LCD Soundsystem fronted by James Murphy disbanded this year and he had a farewell tour and DVD of their final shows in New York City. I had the privilege of seeing LCD Soundsystem three times and they put on a great show every time. Here is a clip of them playing “All My Friends” from the DVD.
Soundgarden – King Animal – Album
When Soundgarden came back to Lollapalooza I was amazed at how great Chris Cornell’s voice sounded. This is their first album in many years and it is as if they never left. Here is “Been Away Too Long” on Letterman.
M.I.A. – Bad Girls – Video
The video for MIA’s song “Bad Girls” was completely original and new. Talk about doing your own stunts… check it out here.
Afghan Whigs – “Lovecrimes” – Song
The Afghan Whigs were a great alternative band back in the day known for “Gentlemen” and other hits. Front man Greg Dulli is still out there making great music and he reformed the band – this is their cover of a Frank Ocean song “Lovecrimes” You can download it for free at their web site here.
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Here’s a Christmas-y song that I think is beautiful:
The song was written and sung by Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.
Here’s what Hynde said at a rock concert in 2003, not that long after the 9/11 attacks:
“Have we gone to war yet?” she asked sarcastically, early on. “We (expletive) deserve to get bombed. Bring it on.” Later she yelled, “Let’s get rid of all the economic (expletive) this country represents! Bring it on, I hope the Muslims win!”
I like several Pretenders songs (Back on the Chain Gang, for example), and this pretty much spoiled them for me. I’m not boycotting the group…I don’t turn the radio off if one of their songs comes on…it’s just…sad.
Fast forward to 2012. The Korean rapper known as Psy (“Gangnam Style”) was scheduled to perform at a Christmas concert (a benefit for Children’s National Medical Center) which is traditionally attended by the President of the United States. It turns out that in 2002, he smashed a model American tank onstage “to oppose 37,000 U.S. troops that descended on the Korean Peninsula” (in the words of a CBS Local writer who seems to be as ignorant of history as Psy himself evidently is)…and a couple of years later, he rapped:
Kill those f***ing Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives/Kill those f***ing Yankees who ordered them to torture/Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers/Kill them all slowly and painfully
This rant was apparently inspired at least in part by the murder in Iraq of a Korean missionary by Islamic terrorists after the SK government refused to cancel its plan to send troops in support of the Iraq war.
After the information about Psy’s past performances came out (and Psy issued a standard pro-forma apology). some people thought that Obama might have declined to attend a concert at which Psy was a star attraction. But they were wrong, and he did attend.
One would think it would be obvious that for the commander-in-chief to attend a Psy concert..given the above backstory..is highly disrespectful to American military people, and indeed to Americans as a whole. What would have been most appropriate would have been for the concert organizers to disinvite Psy. Failing this (and there might have been contractual reasons making it impossible even had the organizers been inclined this way), Obama could have issued a brief statement of regret that it was impossible for him to attend given Psy’s comments about Americans. This would have demonstrated that the President has respect for his own country, and that he expects such respect to be shown by others.
No one familiar with Obama’s history would really be surprised that he did not choose this course. What is slightly surprising, and more than slightly disturbing, is that Obama’s attendance seems to have been just fine with many Americans, and with most of the old-line media. This Atlantic writer, for example, uses the Psy-Obama handshake to bash any “right-wingers” who might see anything wrong with Obama’s presence at the concert.
Of course, when a couple of months ago Americans in Benghazi were actually killed, as opposed to just being threatened with being killed, most of the old media showed great lack of interest in digging into the feckless Administration behavior that led to this debacle.
What is pretty clear is that we have a substantial number of people in this country who simply do not identify as Americans. They may identify with their profession, or with their social class, or with their educational background and asserted intellectual position, or maybe even with their locality…but identification with the American polity is missing. (And this phenomenon seems to be strongest among those whose self-concept is most closely tied in with their educational credentials.)
What such people do generally care about…a lot..is coolness, which means they care about entertainers and celebrities. We now have a President who apparently cares more about the transient glory of being associated with a flash-in-the-pan rapper (and whoever else sang at this concert) than about showing respect to those he has the responsibility to command. And this is evidently just fine with many among the media and academic elites.
From time to time I have to report out on the insanity of the Rolling Stones lists and their fixation with Bob Dylan, the sixties, and other obscurities. Here I had to revise their top guitarist list which was comically irrelevant, as well as their equally terrible top guitar songs list.
While I know hardly anything about hip hop relative to my knowledge of rock everyone knows that putting Eminem on the cover is a gaffe in that community. Even Eminem himself would probably cringe at being the face of hip hop, when you have icons like Jay-Z, Tupac, Biggie, Snoop, Dr Dre, and Kanye. Sure he’s the best white rapper alive but really…
Then onto the list. These songs are so old I even remember them.
1. “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash from 1982
2. “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang from 1979
3. “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambattaa from 1982
4. “Sucker MC’s” by Run-DMC from 1983
5. “Nuthin’ But a “G” Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop from 1992
It is hilarious that Rolling Stone put their “musty test” to rap just like they do to rock (Bob Dylan) and guitar (Jimi Hendrix). They are really saying that those first four songs that are 30 years old or even older are the best hip hop songs? They are definitely old and were pioneers but that isn’t the best. Fine I’ll agree with #5 but the first four gotta go.
Luckily the list is so laughably bad right from the top and with Eminem on the cover I don’t need to spend even five minutes thinking about it. This post basically wrote itself.
Cross posted at LITGM
Dave Brubeck, whose music’s wit so delighted my parent’s generation – died at 91. He reminds us of another era, when smoking meant subtle lights in a dimmed room and when pauses spoke as couples in quiet clubs paid thoughtful respect to a music that moved and innovated and then returned to its roots before launching out, reaching out, again.
The obituaries seem fewer – he played long into a different culture. But Brubeck and Theolonious Monk and Jerry Mulligan were the sound tracks of the Baby Boomers’ parents and remind us of a vision that took notes, creating again and again a new order, a new beauty. Improvisations are grounded on Youtube: the interaction between musicians and an engaged audience lost, they remain to explain that time and those people. As the sixties became the seventies, we thought the fifties plastic, conformist, simple. All those vinyls my father loved remind us it was more complicated than we knew – perhaps because they were, themselves, like the music -laconic, cerebral even. Elvis and the Beatles, rock and country – for decades they all lived side by side with Brubeck.
I don’t know how many Tom Russell fans there are among the Chicago Boyz and Grrlz and Readerz, but whatever the number is, I think it should be greater, because TR is IMO one of the best singer/songwriters working in America today. He’s just published a new book: 120 Songs, with lyrics, guitar chords, and stories about how each of the songs was inspired and written.
Some other TR songs:
Russell’s concert tour is now on the east coast; schedule here
Singer Tom Petty is an Obama supporter and doesn’t like it when Republicans/conservatives use his songs…still, I can’t help thinking of his lines:
Well the good ol’ days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn
Jonathan is right that we should eschew despair; still, we need to face the fact that the situation is very, very serious.
I have been following the cover song debate here at Chicago Boyz with the mantra “if you are going to do a cover, make it your own.”
Here is Ryan Adams covering Bob Mould’s “Black Sheets of Rain” on Letterman. I always liked Bob Mould and of course Husker Du (just downloaded the new album and will be giving it a spin, sounds great) but I have to say that Ryan Adams improved upon Bob’s version of this great song.
I started the video about at the 2:25 mark… typical of Ryan Adams there is a self indulgent time when he wanders around getting ready to play. But hell, the guy is a genius, so what do I know.
[Jonathan adds: I wasn't able to get the video to start at the right place. You will have to move the slider to the 2:25 mark to get it to start there.]
“Celebration Day” is the Led Zeppelin concert movie commemorating their 2007 one-time only show in London with John Bonham’s son Jason on drums. Here is a link to the web site trailer and show times.
I highly recommend that you head out and see the show in a theater, preferably one that is LOUD. Led Zeppelin sounds fantastic, playing a variety of songs from their 10 album catalog, with some unexpected choices. Robert Plant’s voice sounds great, Jimmy Page can still play everything, John Paul Jones plays a variety of instruments (including an amazing 10 string bass), and Jason Bonham is great on drums (with a bit of vocals on “Misty Mountain Hop”).
Cross posted at LITGM
In the wake of the first Presidential debate, a lot of people have been using boxing metaphors, analogies, and images. Which reminds me of three good songs:
Simon & Garfunkel, The Boxer
Tom Russell, The Pugilist is 59
Tom Russell, The Eyes of Roberto Duran
Posted by Lexington Green on 29th September 2012 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Strutter, the KISS classic, a standard in The Donna’s set:
Our standard: “If you are going to cover a song, rip it apart a bit and make it your own.”
The Donna’s version exists in a world where punk rock happened. They do an all girl version of a hairy chested, swaggering guy song, and do it without irony. They own it and make something out of it that is their own. I love how the crowd is singing along so loudly. I wish I had been at that party.
The official Donna’s video of the song also pretty cool. (Brett looks fetching in Paul Stanley’s makeup.)
Relationships don’t always work out. That’s why there are breakup songs.
Sometimes, the feelings leading to a breakup are mutual…neither partner wants to keep the other one around anymore. And yes, I think Obama is as dissatisfied with us, the American people, as we are with him. He clearly finds us to be very inadequate and unappreciative.
So, time to move on. And in honor of the impending breakup between American and Barak Obama, here’s a selection of fine breakup songs.
(From my old Sgt. Stryker archive – a meditation on 9/11, written on the third anniversary)
Around the time of the first anniversary of 9/11, I saw a drawing commemorating, and making a bittersweet comment about anniversaries, memory and the passage of time. Quick pen sketches of the WTC towers, each with a sequential date underneath; 9/11/02, 9/11/03, 9/11/04, but with each repetition, the outline of the towers became mistier, more diffuse. The first anniversary to me was almost unbearable, as much of a psychic battering as the event itself. The second was a sad and thoughtful occasion, and now we are facing the third year, and the day falls on a Saturday; not a work day for most of us. Curiously, that seems to set the event a little aside, this year. I will not be walking into the glass and granite lobby of the office building where I work— a lobby that looks eerily like the lobby of the WTC buildings, owing to the fact they were built at about the same time, following many of the same architectural precepts, and which houses many of the same sort of businesses, although on a much smaller scale— on a glorious September day, not knowing that the towers had already been hit, they were burning, and thousands of people doing the same job they did every day would be dust and ashes in the next few moments.
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Brian Deese was one of Obama’s auto-industry “Czars”….for a time he was the Czar for General Motors. He is now Deputy Director of the National Economic Council where he’s “charged with coordinating policy development on several Administration economic priorities including tax policy, financial regulation, housing, clean energy, manufacturing, and the automotive industry.”
I wrote this little song in his honor and posted it originally on 6/11/2009. To be sung to the tune of “Ruler of the Queen’s Navee.”
When I was a lad, I was smart you see
So I went to Yale to get a law degree
I studied hard and I impressed some profs
But I thought I could do better so I blew it off
(he thought he could do better so he blew it off)
I quit and went to work for Hillary’s campaign
And they were really quite impressed with my most excellent brain
When Clinton dropped out Obama wanted me
And now I rule the U.S. auto industree
(when Clinton dropped out Obama wanted he
That’s why he rules the U.S. auto industree)
I never sold cars at a dealership
And I never worked the plant on the midnight shift
Or stayed up all night a-workin’ on a car design
Or fixin’ up the flow on the assembly line
(he never even saw that old assembly line)
I became a political man you see
So now I rule the US auto industry
(a political man most grand is he
so now he rules the U.S. auto industree)
I never had to wrestle with a P&L
To prove that I could run a business really well
I never executed any sales campaigns
Or handled the logistics with the trucks and the trains
(he never had to worry with the trucks and the trains)
Instead I was chosen by the “O” you see
So now I rule the US auto industry
(Obama reached down and annointed he
so now he rules the U.S. auto industree)
Now kids everywhere if you want to succeed
I’ve got some advice that you’ll do well to heed
Don’t go into business as an entrepreneur
Cause your odds of success they’ll be increasingly poor
Just become a political man like me
And some day you too may rule the auto industree
(just become a political man like he
and you too may rule the auto industree)
Original CB comment thread here
Music, and original words to the Gilbert & Sullivan song, here.
I recently saw the retrosilent film The Artist (which I thought was pretty good), and by chance, a couple of days later I picked up a magazine with an article on the history of early talking-picture technologies. This in turn led me to do some Internet searching. One of the early sound-movie technologies was something called Vitaphone. With this approach, the sound was recorded separately from the film, using a very large (16 inch diameter) phonograph record.
“How on earth did they ever keep the sound and the picture in sync?” you may well be asking. During recording, the camera and the record-cutting machine were both driven by AC synchronous motors powered by a common line; during exhibition, a direct mechanical connection between projector and record-player was employed. Lots of detail about the process, as well as a review of the pioneering talking movie Don Juan, in this 1926 NYT article.
Vitaphone was heavily used by Warner Brothers and its sister studio First National between 1926 and 1931–in addition to feature films, the technology was used for over 1000 short subjects. While the technology offered good fidelity by the standards of the times–electronic amplification was used–the separation of picture media and sound media made editing difficult, and during exhibition of a film it was necessary to change the records every 10 minutes or so.
When Vitaphone was displaced by the sound-on-film approach, circa 1931,some–but by no means all–of the Vitaphone movies were transferred to the new technology. The Vitaphone Project, which has been active since 1991, is dedicated to finding the old films and old disks and bringing them together in playable format again.
Czarist Russia, in color (the first link at this post doesn’t work anymore, but the rest of them do)
Several good songs about the rodeo:
Tom Russell, Bucking Horse Moon
Tom Russell, All This Way for the Short Ride
Dan Seals, Everything That Glitters (is not Gold)
Judy Collins, Someday Soon
(Earlier songs-with-related-themes post: Heartsignals)
Earlier in the summer I asked Dan if he wanted to see the band PELICAN when they came into town for a show. Pelican is a pretty obscure band – they are an all-instrumental band (no vocalist) and they play using major (not minor) chords unlike most metal acts and have few guitar solos. In linking to wikipedia for this post I noted that Pelican might be broken up as of June, 2012, or at least one of their main founders left.
Pelican is the type of band that gets no radio airplay, as in, ZERO. Their music is nowhere in the popular culture. However, they are a great band and I have all their albums and enjoy listening to them, particularly when I work out.
Dan surprised me by saying “Of course I would like to see them, but I can’t make that date.” I was surprised by him wanting to go immediately until I thought, hey, this might be a reason why he is a big Pelican fan too…
Every so often I “fill up” Dan’s shuffles with new tunes that he uses when he works out. Working out for Dan isn’t what it is for you or me – it probably is an hour long at a pace that would KILL you in the first five minutes. It is also hilarious that Dan has the older generation shuffles, but they still work fine and hold at least 500 MB of songs, which is enough for a workout or trip, and by now they are completely expendable. If you are kind of a shuffle collector too check out the Wikipedia page for the history of the iPod and go down memory lane too (these are a mix of first, second and fourth generation shuffles, the cursed third generation didn’t have the ability to move forward or back without touching a dumb little thing on the headphones and thus sucked).
Thus even though Dan and I don’t live in the same city nor are we around at the same time to listen to music, we like a lot of the same bands, and whether they are (relatively) obscure bands or not, they are in heavy airplay in our respective heads all the time, thanks to the iPod. This isn’t completely new, since people have passed around “mix tapes” since time immemorial, but the atomization of the listening experience is now virtually complete.
If you go to Pandora you can make your own custom playlists – I have Pelican there, too (along with a lot of obscure bands that they link to) and then there are a host of metal and / or hard rock channels on Sirius / XM that play songs that would NEVER get on the radio. There are a lot of great rap / hip-hop stations there too, including some old-school ones that give me a laugh.
On the topic of metal – I saw an interview with Rodrigo Y Gabriela, on the Guitar Center sessions on Direct TV (highly recommended, they also had an awesome one with Social Distortion and now Megadeth doing “Symphony of Destruction”) where this double acoustic guitar band (you need to watch them to understand, also a lot of percussion) said that in every town they have ever been to around the world there is a local metal scene, the only type of music that can make that type of claim.
Radio in Chicago is absolutely miserable – unless I am listening to local sports or perhaps news there is no point turning it on at all – so the choices are Sirius / XM in your car or just hooking up your iPod to your stereo. You can also stream Pandora through your car, as well, if your data plan allows it.
So as mainstream radio completely dies (for rock, at least) it is replaced by a customized format of local and specific choices that are as unique as the listener. Anything you want can be found or acquired. And Pelican fans (along with other obscure bands) can put it on heavy rotation where ever they go. Sometimes as I work out in a big health club I laugh to think about what would happen if they streamed what was on my headphones throughout the club or from the guy next to me who, for all I know, is into music even more obscure.
Cross posted at LITGM
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This year, for the first time in several years, I didn’t go to Lollapalooza. The people I normally go with were exhausted by the heat and the lineup wasn’t that exciting. I am a heavy metal fan, but damn, Ozzy was old back when I saw him with Randy Rhodes (on TV) and that was about 25 or so years ago.
We went to see the Afghan Whigs at a Lollapalooza after-show at the Metro. The Afghan Whigs are fronted by Greg Dulli and he has had a great career, not only with the Afghan Whigs who hit it semi-big in the 1990′s but on his own. It was great to see him back in the spotlight again.
There was a DJ and an opening act and the Afghan Whigs didn’t go on until 12:15pm. But they went right on time at 12:15pm and sounded great. There was a horn section and their heavy groove with hard rock thrown in method was working.
I learned something else – I am too damn old for the Metro. That place was completely packed and you couldn’t see anything unless you wanted to push to the front and battle everyone in a sweatbox. I don’t know if it was oversold or it was always like that (my older memories of the Metro are faded) but there were people everywhere and I basically watched it from the hallway. You’d need to stand in line and rush to the stage and sit through the opening acts to see pretty much anything at all (literally) and, hey, forget that.
On another note Lollapalooza was a rain soaked mess on Saturday. They evacuated it and everyone apparently just poured out into the surrounding neighborhoods, as if that is some sort of “plan” (you’d want to go to shelter, right?) While we were in Wrigleyville checking out bars and waiting for the show we saw an immense stream of completely f’d up people covered in mud just screaming, howling and weaving around. It looked like some sort of mud bomb went off. There was even a guy passed out on the mailbox that his friends were trying to drag him away from (an inside joke for Dan).
If you are interested in the Afghan Whigs or Dulli’s solo work which I’d highly recommend some tracks to download are
- Gentlemen, Somethin’ Hot, 66, Dobonair, Miles Iz Ded, Honkey’s Ladder
- Teenage Wristband, Bonnie Brae, On the Corner (the Twilight Singers)
- Cigarettes (Greg Dulli)
Cross posted at LITGM