Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coldplay Fix You Cover



This is a combination CD single, which features the single, a B-side, a live track, and the video for the song.

For a while, CD singles were marketed this way. I'm not sure if they continue to do this, given that, on the Internet, what few videos are made are generally available for free all the time. There would be no need to put this particular video on a CD single today; a band like Coldplay would simply put that video on their website while their record company would feature it on their website, plus on any other third party website under an official banner (such as on YouTube).

The artwork is minimalistic, and I get that they were going for Legos. The typography is killer, but the obscurity of the block images throws everything off a bit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hex


It was 23 years ago today...

There was a buzz in the record shops. A faint buzz, but a buzz that seemed to increase when the subject of releases and rare, valuable things was brought up.

Steve Kilbey, already producer of notable solo works and on fire after the release of The Church's Starfish album, had a new project out on Rykodisc. It was called Hex. It was done with Donnette Thayer of Game Theory.

It was mysterious and wonderful. It was a must purchase at all costs sort of thing. I have had my copy of this and the follow-up, Vast Haloes, since the days they appeared in the shops (oh, give or take a week, maybe).

If you want to acquire your own, you can visit Steve Kilbey's Bandcamp.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Midnight Oil Beds Are Burning CD3



As near as I can figure it, this is one of those four-track CD3s, or "three inch compact disc" single that was released in the late 1980s. That's my guess, anyway, and I'm sticking to it.

I loved those things, and I'm sorry that I never ended up acquiring this version. Someone somewhere has all of these, I'm sure of it. What a collection that would make--all of the CD3 singles in one place. If this one had been anywhere in sight of me in a record store during that period, I'm sure that I would have sprung for it. Perhaps it was and some sneaky clerk kept it hidden.

Of the handful that I own, all of them came out in the period between 1987 and 1990 or thereabouts. The format did not last very long; but it was certainly preferable to the "cassette singles" that were being released about this time. As for the traditional 45rpm single, well, those never died away completely. Independent bands still release scads of them, as does Jack White and his Third Man Records, to name a few.

This single, by Midnight Oil, has a wonderful quality to it. Beds Are Burning is the song that broke the Oils worldwide, of course, and it is a song of great power and promise, something music simply avoids nowadays. The arch and snarky tone of today's music would never open up for something that reaches from horizon to horizon like this song does.

The remixes are not my thing, but the whole late 80s thing by the Oils was a fantastic time for music, or, should I say, Australian music that was actually getting played in the United States. Without Australian music, where the hell would I be today? A lot less happy, I would reckon.

Added into this package is the track Gunbarrel Highway, which, if you have seen more than one version of Diesel and Dust, was actually an album track for at least one edition.

Friday, June 22, 2012

People Like Barbara Scaff Have Been Brainwashed

David Lowery, Musician and Professor

Honestly, why do they let people speak out like this? What nonsense:

On "NPR intern has 11,000 songs, paid for few"Barbara Scaff: "(Musicians) deserve to get paid, but do they deserve millions upon millions upon millions? NOPE. The rest of us schlubs have to deal with min. wage or being underpaid, why should people who SING for a living get a break from that? And please keep it real, they are still raking in money from perfume sales, magazine covers, movies, selling pics of their babies, and other ridiculous JOBS. I'm supposed to feel sorry for someone who might not have AS MUCH money as they use to but still wears shoes that cost as much as a house payment WHILE people fighting for our freedom, putting out fires, doing backbreaking labor all have to deal with $23,000 or less a year? Get real."
The notion that there are a vast number of spoiled and "rich" musicians out there is a fallacy. The "free" movement from the 2000s brainwashed a lot of people into thinking "free" meant that artists were going to get paid. It was a neat trick--the defenders of stealing the intellectual property of others mounted a massive campaign to put this notion out there that somehow, magically, and without anyone really knowing how, artists were going to make more money by giving away the one thing they could sell to people.

Artists are not getting paid, and artists are leaving the music business in droves. Despite the fact that there are a lot of "releases" out there, those releases are from people who either have no chance at selling a lot of records and don't care or are from people who haven't figured out that there's almost no way to make a living playing and recording music anymore.

Instead of listening to me, read this ENTIRE article by the great David Lowery. There are people killing themselves because their livelihood has been destroyed by the very ideas and attitudes espoused by the woman who is quoted above.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Why Do I Know These Things?


This is a poorly constructed review, and what is evident is that the reviewer looks at the Rush catalog in chronological terms. This is the wrong way to write about and understand the band.

Rush is not a pop band. Rush is a band.

The first few eras can be summed up by simply dating their double-live LP releases. All the World's a Stage concludes the early period, putting a note of finality on their development from a cover band to a working bar act and the addition of Neil Peart on drums. Peart wrote the lyrics because no one else wanted to; the lyrics from the first Rush album were written in minutes because original drummer John Rutsey bailed on completing them.

The band traveled to England and made A Farewell to Kings, beginning a creative period that would conclude with Moving Pictures. This was the era that firmly established a progressive rock foundation, complete with killing that beast off by insisting on shorter songs and arena-friendly tours. There is almost nothing that relates this period to the first period of the band; these albums are technically and sonically more advanced and adventurous.

The third period of the band centered around synthesizers and keyboards; From Signals to Hold Your Fire, the guitar struggled to be heard but the proficiency of the band reached new highs. It would be foolish to relate anything that happened in this period to anything the band had done before; when they convened to make Signals, the band went so far as to reconfigure their equipment setup in the studio in order to break with the past. A lot of fans abandoned the band during this era.

1989's Presto kicked off a fourth period of creative flux for the band, coming after a badly-needed break from touring. The songs on Presto, Roll the Bones, Counterparts, and Test For Echo are decidedly more adult and more personal. During this period, the band toured the world multiple times and enjoyed enormous success, despite critical indifference. This period is not well understood or remembered, and, once again, nothing made during this period has anything to do with the previous three eras in the band's history.

The "break" that occurred from 1997-2002 was the result of a serious personal tragedy. Rush fans understand this, and regard everything that has happened since as one long celebration of the band simply being able to play, record and tour again. Despite the sluggish sound of the band getting underway in 2002, they have evolved and progressed into a formidable touring machine. The opening onslaught medley of the Rush R30 tour (R30 Overture) is a tour de force no progressive band has ever bothered to attempt to match.

Is this new album the start of something new? Who cares?

The main question is, why would you bother reading a Rush review in the Village Voice?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Proper Context of U2 in the 1990s


Here's me--a U2 fan (although one frustrated with everything they've done for the last 25 years) and a great, great post at the Village Voice. I feel like I'm wading through a cess pool of what's wrong with me and why I'm lame. Oh well.

I don't think you can write about U2 without first acknowledging the enormous mind-f*ck that The Stone Roses put on U2 when they emerged in 1989.

Fresh off the commercial and critical disaster of Rattle and Hum, U2 had to sit back and watch the Stone Roses capture the hearts of the people who loved the kind of rock and roll they were championing in the British Isles. Owning America was never in the cards for the Roses, but U2 had always been a European band with a European sensibility. The only thing challenging them was the funky beat of Fool's Gold.

Without that challenge, there would have been no Achtung Baby or a left-turn into bass-driven dance music (funny how no one remembers Zooropa and the Lemon single). And so, Discoteque arrived after the Roses had faded from view and U2 were allowed a moment to contemplate the future.

Pop is the sound of a band that has no idea what to do with itself because giving a crap was flushed from their DNA along with their original intent to make music that mattered. What chased away the original idea of U2 was that Manchester baggy sound.

I think the reason why I'm lame is that I still like old U2 and I understand the context of their stuff in relation to the explosion of the Manchester music scene. There is a solid book out there, waiting to be written, about how the Stone Roses kicked the psychic ass of U2 and changed them into an arena-filling, don't-give-a-shit-no-more megaband, but I'm not going to write it.

Steve Kilbey Artifacts


Steve Kilbey has just released an album on Bandcamp called Artifacts, and it consists of early demos and songs that never made it onto the albums he made as a solo artist or with The Church.

I love the idea of Bandcamp and I hope you can find a way to support what they are doing.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Stone Roses Begging You



The Stone Roses have left Begging You out of their current setlist, but their 27-date summer tour is in its infancy. Will it, and others from their exquisite catalog appear? Given where Ian Brown is these days, music-wise, I would have to guess that it will get an airing at some point.

Who knows?

Begging You features a wonderful cover concept from John Squire, and, for those who are too young to recognize what a diskette looked like when sliced open and covered in paint, well, here you are.

This what makes John Squire such a genius of conceptual art--he can take these elements and make something out of them that holds up. Why 24 diskettes, colored this way, and arranged as if randomly? Well, why not? It's a great cover.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pixies My Velouria Covers



There was nothing more special than the record label 4AD back in the day; no one ever came close to finding that combination of art, typography, design, and cool. That's not to say that a number of record labels didn't come up with great album and singles covers; but no one approached the genius of 4AD.

You could designate an entirely separate blog and look at each and every thing they ever released; the example here is a great place to start.

This single from the Pixies, came during their salad days when their music was being released quickly during the period 1989-1991. This was when they put out three albums, all of them classics, and a slew of great singles. My Velouria was one of them, being complemented by a trio of B-sides. If you were buying records and singles and all that back in the day, you might have found this as a cassette single (ugh), a 12" single (yay), or as a CD single in a kind of digipack deal. Who cares how high it charted? It's a great song.

What I love about the cover is the use of typography and art; it's not twee at all. It is uncompromisingly interesting and cool. And cool radiates through this stuff. The use of strips with red text on the different colored backgrounds is a great example of design, and all of these things float over a letter v in a circle. And, you have to ask yourself--why the superfluous strip below the art direction and photography credits? Was someone supposed to have their name there? What happened?

Neat, neat, neat. What more can you say?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Blondie Heart of Glass Covers




This song was one of those guilty pleasures that I still find it difficult to admit to having back in the good old days of jukeboxes and FM radio.

I remember being, what? Eleven or twelve and just loving this song, even though it was kind of girly. Doesn't that sound awful now? I should have just embraced it, but, back in those days, you weren't supposed to like songs like this. You were supposed to like stupid heavy metal songs.

Heart of Glass is such a classic song. It was so well done, so exotic. I remember we were on a family fishing trip and this is the song that I wanted to hear on the tabletop jukebox.


Remember those things? This is one of those rare songs that I have a memory of that goes back to when it was first released and I have associated it with the tabletop jukebox because they are both of that era and that time and place.

Oh, and this is Elisha Cuthbert, who looks like Debbie Harry.



Why I'm adding this, I have no idea. But, I think it's easy to see that Debbie Harry was and is an icon that we don't show enough appreciation for. Blondie was a huge, huge band and I don't think people accord them the same respect that all-male bands from that era receive.