Saturday, May 1, 2010

Must Watch Music

MTV long ago devolved into a collective of reality/scripted half hour showcases for spoiled teenage girls, pregnant teenage girls, and incredibly overpriviliged women who behave like girls. That's a bit general, but the point is that even though MTV long ago stopped caring about music videos, they do still exist. They're no longer marketing tools - no one really plays them on national television anymore. We instead buy them on iTunes and watch them on our iToys.

As the music industry continues its shape-shifting, it feels like there's no longer a pressure to deliver a certain type of video to promote an artist or album That music videos have been pushed to the back of modern-day pop culture's collective consciousness is a good thing. There is freedom. Not a liberation provided by the seemingly endless possibilities offered by the technology of our times, but an artistic uprising more interested in presenting a vision, no matter how controversial or twisted.

Regardless of what the idea of a music video means in 2010, there are plenty of great ones floating in the cyber ether. I've got a few of my current faves below in case you're interested.

MIA - Born Free

It's cinematic, controversial, intense, and a little shocking. It's MIA. "Born Free" is from her upcoming third album which should be out June 29, 2010.

The Morning Benders - Promises

Way too young Bonnie and Clyde clip is beautifully stylized. The same can be said for this song and the rest of the Morning Benders' latest album, Big Echo.


the morning benders | MySpace Music Videos

MGMT - Flash Delerium yeah, this is a big ol' slice of WTF from our friends Andrew and Ben. They are the nucleus of MGMT, a band that suprisingly broke through to the mainstream the last couple years, but have stayed true to their disturbingly twisted visions to make the music they want to make, not what will sell a bunch of records. It's called art and this video is absolutely artisitic. Or something

Monday, November 23, 2009

Return of the Rock!

And the supergroup. And the power trio. And unfulfilled expectations.

Honestly, I didn't set my expectations too high for Them Crooked Vultures. I had every reason to, but have been burned so many times by the seemingly random amassing of individual personalities, so great in their original guises, for the sake of creating a 'supergroup.' Whether driven by ego or just the need to 'branch out' from their day jobs, supergroups rarely deliver the goods or live up to the precedent set by the true SUPERGROUPS throughout rock music history.

Classic Rock is the bedrock of the supergroup nomenclature, historically speaking. Cream, Blind Faith, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and Bad Company were all successful, both commercially and in the eyes of fans.

The last 20 years have seen a few collectives worthy of the title 'supergroup'. The "Grunge" era produced Mad Season and Temple of the Dog, both bands pulling from the cream of the Seattle sound's then-contemporary crop. Members of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Screaming Trees came together to pay tribute to a fallen comrade who left this world far too soon to the rockstar cliche heroin overdose (Temple of the Dog, a one-time only tribute to Mother Love Bone's Andrew Wood) and to dive even deeper into the smack-fueled darkness of another mercurial Seattle figure (Mad Season and Alice in Chains vocalist, Layne Staley, another victim of heroin's grip, though many years after Mad Season made magic with Above.) There was A Perfect Circle featuring members of Tool, Nine Inch Nails, and Smashing Pumpkins, which essentially was the voice of Tool doing similarly dark, but equally adventurous musical explorations.

Then there was Velvet Revolver. The vocal force of Stone Temple Pilots laid over the guitar and rhythm section of Guns N Roses. It was new and exciting for about a week and the love affair (for me at least) was over. This was kind of expected. As good as the music in G'nR was at times, it was Axl's voice/antics/ego that overshadowed the band far more often than should have been allowed. Stone Temple Pilots was the opposite creature. The band was very tight, at times adventurous and inventive; anchored by, but never eclipsed by Scott Weiland's vocals. Sure, Weiland got mad press for his heroin holidazed behavior, but not before the band delivered the goods for their first couple albums.

As much as I wanted to like Velvet Revolver and didn't, I equally wanted to love Audioslave. Unfortunately, I ended up loathing them more than Velvet Revolver. The vocals of Soundgarden meets the guitar of Rage Against the Machine equals dream pairing in my books. The results were depressingly stale; at their best never even fully recalling Cornell or Morello's worst days in their 90's "Rock God" jobs. It all sounded so very predictable; merely an empty corpse of what should have been a new lease on life. Yes, both Velvet Revolver and Audioslave moved a shitload of units and played to audiences hungry for their heroes, but when history is revealed, these two bands will just be the bands that came after G'nR, Soundgarden, STP, and RATM. Four of the best bands of the late 80s to mid 90s. Magic doesn't often happen twice.

Magic rarely happens once, if at all. For it to hit twice, you would need some pretty supreme talent. Someone like Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana and head Foo. You'd need someone like Josh Homme, a decent enough guitarist and vocalist who almost single handedly (along with Grohl's Foo Fighters) kept ROCK alive this decade. Queens of the Stone Age had their moment in 2003 when Songs for the Deaf unleashed the instant classic, "No One Knows" on an unsuspecting audience. Well, those not familiar with QOTSA's previous output at least. Since then, Homme continued his never-ending desert trek, making music equally rocking and unfocused. And you sure as hell would need the bass player / keyboardist for Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones, who has avoided limelight since Led Zeppelin upped the ante for what hard rock could be some 40 years ago. Yeah, you would definitely need Jonesy.

Well, the Gods have spoken and these three dynamic forces have combined to create a real supergroup. My expectations were met and exceeded with every listen of TCV's eponymous debut.

The first two minutes of lead track, "No One Loves Me & Neither Do I," hint at potential greatness. Tease is actually a better term. But then the song slams into gear and the album is off and running replete with narcotic riffage ala Homme and some of the tightest grooves this year from what I consider a dream rhythm section in Jones and Grohl.

"Mind Eraser, No Chaser" and "New Fang" follow up with more heaviness and are doing something right as both are in the Mixtape's top five currently. "Scumbag Blues" is the sonic love child of Cream and Led Zeppelin; Homme aping the vocal style of the former's Jack Bruce while Jones throws down an organ solo that could be dubbed "Re-Trampled Under Foot."

"Interlude with Ludes" is classic Homme, all desert woozy and dripping with an especially demented sexuality reminiscent of his best QOTSA material. "Gunman" is a textbook lock and load groove fest and every other song on this killer collection sounds like it will hold up well 10 years from now. I personally hope these guys are on album five by then.

Monday, November 16, 2009

RIP Ken Ober

Children of the 80s, game show fans, pop culture is a sad day. No one knows why Ken Ober passed away at 52 today and it really doesn't matter.

What does is that he has died and thankfully, left a lasting impression on those of us lucky enough to witness Remote Control, MTV's first game show in an age where reality shows were relegated to the likes of 60 Minutes and 20/20. Ober was awesome as was the show.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Girls Album to Remember.

The album is Album and Girls are actually two guys - Christopher Owens and Chet White. There is a crazy back story that is almost too unreal to be true (check it out in the glowing review that prompted me to buy it). More important and impressive than that is the music - a pastiche of sounds siphoning the spirit of a time most Girls fans' parents probably weren't alive for into a modern-day lo-fi aesthete that renders freshness and urgency to .

The obvious vocal points of reference are Elvis Costello and Buddy Holly. Several of Album's best moments feature Owens' earnest attempt at combining the two legends' vocal tones into an entirely new creation. Opener, "Lust for Life", is all Costello circa "Peace, Love, and Understanding," while "Big Bad Mean Motherfucker" shreds like Buddy Holly trading in the horned-rims for a surfboard and a mohawk. That is to say, it's rockabilly gone punk with a dash of sun. The Holly vibe returns on "Summertime," some of the best five minutes and forty seconds I've spent listening to music this year.

"Morning Light" ditches the punkabilly vibe for a two-and-a-half minute suckerpunch of shoegaze - Jesus and Mary Chain and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club fans will approve - before spinning around 180 with the beautifully spacious instrumental, "Curls."

The centerpiece of Album is without a doubt, "Hellhole Ratrace," a seven-minute slow burner of a track that begins with acoustic sparseness before layering on feedback, bass, and handclaps until you forget that Owen's has been essentially singing the same vocal refrain the entire song. It's cathartic, yet restrained; unforgettable, but subtlety so.

For the initial listens, Album works as a collection of styles. "Morning Light's" fuzzed-out bliss. "Lust for Life" and "Laura's" Costello-leaning tendencies. "Headache's" lounge croon. You get the picture. After about a dozen spins, the idea of styles begins to fade, replaced by a brilliant collection of songs that won't leave your head and an album that, for me, is easily the best debut of the year.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Fucking Blasphemy

Sorry. Really no other way to put it. I'm all for Guitar Hero and Rock Band introducing a new generation of music lovers to some great songs and legendary musical figures of the past. I'm all for technology (for the most part) being the mechanism that brings about such an education. But re-introduce the past, don't re-imagine it. I've played video games for enough years to truly appreciate unlockable characters, levels, and powers. Kurt Cobain singing Bon Jovi = bad enough. Kurt Cobain approximating Flavor Flav's "Yeah Boy!!!" in "Bring the Noise"? That's just downright ridiculous. Courtney Love, you selfish bitch, you have eclipsed Yoko Ono as the worst "rock and roll wife or ex-wife" ever. I understand providing a future for Frances Bean, but selling out her dead father? Unacceptable. The fact that Grohl and Noveselic most likely had to sign off on this too makes me scratch my head til it bleeds.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mos Def's Michael Jackson tribute in Portland

Yesterday would have been Michael Jackson's 51st birthday. Mos Def graced Portland with a nice little MJ tribute complete with moonwalking at his Roseland Theater performance last night. I was down on the floor watching Mos own the stage when he broke into "Billie Jean." It was a nice surprise. Mos did a bit of "Rock With You" as well last night. What struck me is how these exquisitely crafted songs hold up 25-30 years later. They sound as good today as they did when MJ earned his self-proclaimed "King of Pop" title. As for the rest of Mos Def's performance, it was bangin'. The dude is entertainer personified.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures performances from Lowlands Festival


"New Fang"

Pure bliss. More as it is appears.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The quick back story. Arctic Monkeys blew away the UK with their 2006 debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. WPSIATWIN became the fastest-selling debut album in British music history, breaking the mark previously held by Oasis's Definitely Maybe. The album also won the 2006 Mercury Prize. The Monkeys blew up and even "Bet U Look Good on the Dance Floor" was a minor US hit. The critics loved them, across-the-ponders went nuts for them, and the American listening public for the most part didn't care.

Just 15 months after they released their debut, Arctic Monkeys dropped Favourite Worst Nightmare, the band's sophomore release. In the UK, the record's first day sales of 85,000 outsold the rest of the Top 20 combined. The album was clearly a step forward from what was one of the best debut albums of the last 30 years. FWN capitalized on the band's ability to go from aggressively, well-constructed full-on rock jams to quiet, moody ballads, all the while becoming a tighter and more intelligent musical unit.

Next Tuesday, Aug 25, Arctic Monkeys release their third full-length album, Humbug. I've been listening to it for a few weeks and I must say, I'm impressed. It took a while to really embrace the album as a whole, but the band continues to grow musically and stay true to their specific vision. This is a band that won't go away until it's ready. Teaming with their previous producer, James Ford (aka Simian Mobile Disco) and bringing main Queen of the Stone Age, Josh Homme, into the fold resulted in a darker, wiser, and even tighter group than before.

Humbug succeeds as a musical statement of where the band is now and where they might be going. "Dance Little Liar," "Pretty Visitors," and "Potion Approaching" all bump and grind with QOTSA inspired riffage and Alex Turner's witty songwriting. "Cornerstone"is an instant classic - Turner's typical tale of dark bars and darker women, but with the wisdom and maturity that spending three years as Britain's saviours of rock can instill in both songcraft and songwriting. "Dangerous Animals" should fail on principle alone; there hasn't been a good "spell-along" song since Toni Basil's "Mickey" back in the early 80s. The song doesn't fail, but instead, is packed with Turner's snotty sneer and fiery drumming courtesy of modern-day percussive God, Matt Helders. The rest of the album toys with heavy psychedelic tinged guitars, tightly-constructed rhythms, and succeeds in creating a new sound that the band wears well.

The album shows the Monkeys maturing and making music on their own terms. Humbug is the product of a band experimenting with new sounds, both confidently and defiantly. The hooks may not be overtly present, but as cliche as it sounds, the album does sound better the more time you spend with it. This is a band hell-bent creating music on their own terms. I, for one, have spent a lot of time with Humbug these past few weeks and am already anticipating their next album.

Them Crooked Vultures: More to drool over

I'm slowly swaying from my original stance of cautiously optimistic to Mega Fanboy status.
This could be something special if and when it drops. A tour has been announced so an album seems logical. More will appear here as it becomes available.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

File Under: Tease

Them Crooked Vultures. John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, and Josh Homme together making music. Potential for greatness. The inevitable high expectations. And now, a tease of what can be.