Tuesday, September 30, 2014
A very bright, very vivid cover and a wonderful, wonderful recording. Yes, I did a double-take when "Beady Eye" put out their own song called "Beatles and Stones" or whatever and I thought that, perhaps, they were doing a cover. They didn't. They just used a very similar title.
I like this for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the quasi-3D image on the back, which is very much in line with the non-image projected by bands in the early 1990s.
This one, though, is a classic. I really enjoy this single, although probably not so much this version. At the time of this release, Fontana was using multiple producers who couldn't relate to the band and this somewhat "unauthorized" remix of the single came out without the full blessing of main songwriter Guy Chadwick. But, you could flip this thing over on your turntable and get Love IV and call it a win for the home team.
I highly doubt that U2 is going to pull the trigger on Songs of Experience. I have a sneaky suspicion that they band will retool or break up.
The decision to release Songs of Innocence wasn't the wrong one at all--not by a long shot. It was the structure of the album and the choices that sunk it for critics. No one cares if it was given away for free--that's not the problem.
The problem is, U2 are simply irrelevant to any discussion of modern music.
Monday, September 29, 2014
The horse is already out of the barn.
If you create things and expect to get paid, then, brother, this is not a good time to be in the process of making a living. The people who profit from cheap or free content are doing well. The makers of said content aren't. That's as simple as it gets.
Why highlight Philip Roth? He doesn't even write books anymore. You're talking about a dispute between legacy publishers, which is what Hatchette really is, and Amazon. The time to fight Amazon was over a decade ago when they got into the business of undercutting the prices of publishers.
Amazon has thousands of non-mainstream writers who specialize in niche books that make some money (in some cases, more than you imagine for robot porn and things of that nature). They don't care if Roth is upset. They're not paying attention to anything other than how to get content--physical and downloaded products of any kind--into the hands of people. They only care about getting as many people hooked on free stuff as possible, which is why Amazon has Amazon Prime and other ways of getting content for free.
There are more and more books no one wants to read coming out. There are whole albums full of songs no one wants. There are movies no one goes to see. There's almost no way to make a living writing or making music or making visual art anymore. You can get paid making coffee for people and you can get paid stealing content. You can't do much else.
|The Deftones, Live at Brixton Academy|
I get a little tired of these things.
He was always a self-possessed chap but still, I could only marvel as I often watched him coolly chatting away to the owner of the place—Simon Parkes.
Parkes was famous among music-loving Londoners, not only because he owned and ran the Academy (ably assisted by his Rastafarian second-in-command Johnny Lawes, another London music scene legend I also came to know through Rupert) but because he did so despite having only one arm (as a result of his mother being prescribed and using the scandalously under-tested drug Thalidomide during pregnancy to combat morning sickness).
His hair-raising new memoir, Live at the Brixton Academy, which I inhaled in a two-day binge-read, tackles the issue of his “disability” (I use the quotation marks because he does, writing, “I was certainly never, ever, allowed to consider myself ‘disabled’”) in the first pages. The book begins with a confrontation with a gang of bullies at his new school, one of whom calls him ‘a one-armed spastic’.
I will grant Parkes the right to tell his story but the Brixton Academy was just a venue for music. Parkes didn't create his own music label. He didn't "break" anyone as an artist from what I can gather. He simply caught a hold of the need for London to have a venue that could seat five thousand people--not so much a club and definitely not a soccer stadium. This is what a businessman does, and that doesn't make Parkes an actual piece of music history. He was no different than the guy who made the headphone jack on the iPod--part of what sold music to people without really doing anything else.
So, if a guy got lucky and figured out how to sell bands that were in that middle range between obscure and huge, so what? He made his money, he dumped the venue when he felt he needed to, and that's that.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
The U2 backlash has officially hit peak critic. It would seem that if you are only marginally interested in what the band actually does, your official position has to be that you think they are ridiculous for pairing with the most valuable company in the world to give something away that no one wanted.
And, yes. If you're on the cover of Time magazine, circa 2014, you are not punk and you never will be punk.
Something else to worry about:
With the potential mainstreaming of the smartwatch in the offing, we risk an epidemic of new rudeness. The problem represents an intensification of the blunder famously committed by George H.W. Bush at the presidential debate of Oct. 15, 1992: The president, checking the time, seemed impatient. Some watches lose time; that one helped him to lose four more years. And to glance at an Apple Watch during an important performance is even more objectionable: One is not just hinting that he wishes to be elsewhere in spacetime; he is actively disappearing into cyberspace. It is the height of rudeness to vanish from a conversation without having the courtesy to physically go away.
Meanwhile, there is the question of the Apple Watch’s reception among “watch guys,” hardcore connoisseurs. At Hodinkee—to which one turns for comparisons ofmanually wound dress watches selling for less than $15,000 and news about the Patek Philippe Supercomplication predicted to sell for 15 million Swiss francs at auction—the watch guys are ecstatic. “The streamlined look of the Apple Watch recalls the design vocabulary that Dieter Rams instilled in Braun and the futuristic look that Rado pioneered in the 1980’s,” they say.
This is an amazing age, said Louis CK, and everyone is miserable because of...gadget envy?
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Manic Pop Thrill is the sound of urgency and agitation, a whirling and crashing of guitars and beats. The band was formed out of the ashes of assorted bands and created a well-before-their-time sound that left people scrambling to keep up.
I am a huge fan of all of their work, particularly It's a Good Thing, which is a brilliant song. The packaging of this debut album is very well done. I love the video still cover and the band look respectably Indie without any pretensions. The back photo, where Mack stands with his foot on the wall and all that is a shot they probably wish they could take back. Never pose for a band photo with your legs crossed or with your foot up on anything. Always look like you're ready to spring into action and go make more music, I say.
This is the first version of the band, which would evolve as members came and went, and commercial success never really found them. I've never been able to figure out how things worked in the early 1990s. It always seemed like the really good bands were struggling and the really lousy ones were being feted with success and limos.
Like any reasonable human being, I blame MTV.
Compilations and rarities and releases that are created with an ad hoc sort of mentality have always appealed to me. One of my favorite releases of all time is the original Glass Fish label release of Invisible Hitchcock.
I found it at a record store somewhere in Minneapolis about as long ago as I can probably safely recall. It was the late 1980s. Each purchase was carefully considered and quite dear. A few misses, but a lot of hits that I still have. Is this completely and utterly out of print and forgotten? It should not be.
Embedded somewhere on this disc is an early performance of the Screaming Blue Messiahs, backing up Hitchcock. Virtually all of these tracks are weird, but wonderfully so, and they possess magical properties. Recorded in small studios with virtually no money across the years throughout parts of England, these tracks were cobbled together by the label and released into the world with careful liner notes.
It's too bad that the use of lightly colored text on a light background makes them hard to read. The interior credits weren't even worth scanning--it would tax your eyes to try to read them. Suffice it to say, they are worth reading, just not worth reproducing.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Ian Paisley was proof that there are other countries divided by fanatics and snowball throwers. His death leaves a hole in the politics of Northern Ireland which will have to be filled somehow.
Loyalist paramilitaries became increasingly hostile towards Paisley, particularly over his various "stunts" such as the establishment of a so-called third force in 1981 and later the establishment of the quasi-paramilitary Ulster Resistance four years later.
As well as leading the DUP in Westminster, Paisley got elected to the European parliament in 1979. He caused outrage among fellow MEPs when he interrupted an address by the late Pope John Paul II in Strasbourg in 1988.
Paisley also caused the normally mild-mannered John Major to lose his temper. In a TV documentary on the peace process Major recalled that he asked Paisley to leave Downing Street after the DUP leader continually accused the then prime minister of lying over secret talks between the IRA and the government.
From the IRA ceasefire of 1994 to the Good Friday agreement four years later, Paisley opposed any moves to bring Sinn Féin in from the cold as a way of ending violence. In that period Paisley depicted his unionist rival David Trimble as a traitor and a sell-out over the Ulster Unionist leader's willingness to enter government with Sinn Féin.
Eight years after the 1998 Good Friday accord however Paisley followed Trimble down the same path and agreed to set up a new power-sharing coalition that included his one-time mortal enemies. Asked why he had finally done the deal with his old foes, Paisley explained that the time was now right, now that he was on top and the number one force in unionism.
Anyway, the Irish can sort this all out. Once Scotland cuts the umbilical cord, I have a feeling Northern Ireland can finally do the same. That will be easier now with Paisley gone.
One of the last "respectable" terrorists of our age goes on his way, straight to hell, without a return trip.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
My guess is that the vote will be a "no" but it will be close enough to give Scottish independence a new life for decades to come. What is hurting Britain right now is not the thought of letting go of the Scots but the day to day reality of their own incompetent ruling class:
The leaders of the main UK parties have made a plea for a vote against Scottish independence, as they campaigned north of the border ahead of the referendum.
Prime Minister David Cameron said he would be "heartbroken" in the event of a "Yes" vote, while Labour leader Ed Miliband said the case for the Union came from the "head, heart and soul".
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said the leaders could not be trusted.
A new poll showed 47.6% of voters back "No", 42.4% "Yes", with 10% undecided.
The poll, by Survation for the Daily Record, was conducted before the Westminster party leaders announced their campaign visits.
Mr Cameron and Mr Miliband abandoned their usual Prime Minister's Questions session in the House of Commons to head north, after other recent opinion polls suggested the referendum race was now neck and neck.
The English speaking people of Britain are risk and change averse; they'll take the status quo over everything else if it looks smart enough in a suit. Who even knew that the Scottish flag was the Saltire? And won't they have to remove it from the British flag?
This is the end result of believing that someone has value only if their father was born in the right way with the right amount of money and social prestige. Societies that still function this way are largely corrupt and look like Saudi Arabia or Manhattan.
Let Scotland go. It should have been it's own version of Ireland a hundred years ago.
A very happy surprise, indeed.
U2 partnered with Apple to do what Radiohead did and give away an entire album for nothing except the bandwidth and the computer used to play the files. It was, as the kids say, free. But free music means you have to have an entry into the world of Apple products and an Apple ID and a device on which to store and play the files that correspond to what used to be delivered on a shiny disc. The album is a strange format nowadays, and you can tell by the cover of Songs of Innocence.
What's an "LP" and what's a factory test pressing? Who still collects these things? Audiophiles, for one, and I have a few test pressings myself, as well as radio station only releases and the like. U2 are paying homage to how things used to be--an album would come out as a test pressing when it was being introduced to the music promotion industry--hence, the scrawled text and the stamped look of this release.
What does it sound like? No idea. I downloaded it from iTunes and I'll give it the chance it deserves. You measure U2 albums by decades now, and this is the only album they've put out in this decade so it should be special and unique. Don't hold your breath for the next one--all indications are that they went through a difficult process of going back to their roots for this one, and, to me, that spells finale.
The Verve's She's a Superstar single is a wonderfully designed package. I love the cover and I love the layout of the package. This is one of the most magisterial singles of the 1990s and I highly, highly recommend it.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
Really, there's just one album you should own on vinyl, and that's Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. You can safely own things in other formats. If you have a $7,000 turntable and the appropriate equipment, knock yourself out.
What is this bullshit?
1. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited"For a 23 year old to create such a masterwork is almost inhuman."
Nope. Not gonna own any Dylan albums. I'm not dead yet.
2. Neil Young - After The Goldrush"Bleakness never sounded so poetic and ultimately uplifting as it does on the title track of this
It's okay. He has five albums that are all better--and you can pick them for me.
3. Curtis Mayfield - Curtis"One of the most beautiful voices in music history. "
Great. Never heard it, don't plan to. This is a hipster choice, designed to exclude others.
4. The Velvet Underground- The Velvet Underground & Nico"This record, at the intersection of art and music, defines NYC in the mid 60s and set a precedent still chased by every rock and roll band since."
Nobody really owns this or listens to it, except for hipsters (see above). This is a Rolling Stone magazine pick designed to, you guessed it, make kids in the Midwest feel bad because they listen to Van Halen.
5. John Coltrane - A Love Supreme"An evocation of spiritual awakening, this pivotal record in the master saxophonist's career is more than just a jazz album. "
If you're on heroin, and you're 75, this is an album you listen to once a year, if that.
6. The Congos - Heart Of The Congos"If you only ever own one Reggae album, make it this Lee Perry-produced powerhouse featuring some of the smoothest voices in any genre."
Nobody really owns this or listens to it, except for hipsters (see above).
7. Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love"Broken up into two side-long suites, this album is best experienced on vinyl. Raw passion from a woman with one of the most unique voices in the history of recorded music."
If Kate Bush wasn't playing live this year, no one would mention her name. Great stuff, but she was forgotten decades ago, and consigned to the same place people keep their un-ironic Marillion albums.
8. Wire - Pink Flag"This 1977 effort is a mind-opener for its reductionist approach to rock songwriting."
This is a great reissue--but not something you have to own on vinyl. Wire are best experienced on CD, and their mid-career albums like The Ideal Copy were more fully realized. This was done to cash in on being punks, and Wire were a lot of things, but they abandoned punk as fast as everyone else did when it became fashionable to do so. The Damned, the Buzzcocks, and The Stranglers were all better and had better records. But they were all buried by Elvis Costello and the Police, so, you know. That happened.
9. Ramones- Ramones"One of the best debuts in rock history. So simple, so catchy."
Again, no one owns this or listens to it, but Blondie were certainly better and Talking Heads sold more records.
10. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless"Completely game changing LP, with its smeared textures and gorgeous haziness. People have been trying to figure out how the warped, yet beautiful sounds were achieved, ever since."
Released entirely as a joke on the music industry. This was not an album, nor was it ever really available on vinyl, as it came out in 1991. Paid for by the proceeds from Screamadelica by Primal Scream (which came out just in time to save Creation Records) and Ride's first two albums, all of which are much better than this.
As the kids say, hells no baby. Hells no.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Billy Corgan has said that he might split up Smashing Pumpkins following the release of two planned albums in 2015.
Mr. Corgan can do whatever he wants, but to pretend that Smashing Pumpkins are a band at this point is ridiculous. This is what he has decided to call his solo work because that band, as constituted in the early 1990s, hasn't existed in a long, long time.
It's a brand name. It's not the name of anything that resembles the original band.
Monday, September 1, 2014
This post and the one that follows are basically asking the same thing--why the hell would anyone who is an American go to North Korea on purpose? Or "blunder" into the country? If God sent you there, then you need to ask him to get you out of there.
Doesn't anyone listen to what the State Department says?
Honestly, why are we having this discussion at all? You don't go to North Korea. Period. End of Story.