Wednesday, November 29, 2017


I feel like Adam Driver is a brother of mine:

The “emo” label is applied pretty liberally, as any sensitive boy singer from an alternative rock band can attest, but it specifically seems to be given to a lot of fictional characters who primarily wear black, have stylish hair, and are often sad or angry. Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3 was totally emo, for example, but Darth Vader is not because he doesn’t have any hair under his helmet. Then there’s Kylo Ren, who is a decidedly emo Star Wars character because of his black robes, long hair, and frustrated whining about not being evil enough. Despite that overwhelming evidence, though, Adam Driver doesn’t think Kylo Ren is emo—partly because he claims to not know what it means.

I missed the "emo" movement in its entirety because I just didn't give a shit in the 2000s. I never used Napster, I never followed or read music magazines after 1996 and there's a good reason for that--I was active duty military.

That fact changed how I followed and consumed music. I was still putting things on cassette tapes (until 2006 or so because of the vehicle that I drove) and I was not interested in reading any of the music magazines from the era of about 1997 to 2004 or so. Emo happened on both sides of that time, of course, but the break in how I learned about and followed music was driven by the reality of having limited accessibility to music information and to the really good record stores.

I swear to God this is true. Up until a few years ago, I thought Neutral Milk Hotel was a parody of a band name, and not an actual band with actual albums. I refused to believe they were a real thing.

Five or six years ago, I looked at an "alternative music" magazine and I thought it was a weird relic from an alternative universe. I didn't know any of the bands. I had never heard of any of them. I did freak out for a minute, and then I realized, "oh, this is the shit I don't care about."

For me and, I suspect, my new brother Adam, "emo" is the shit we never cared about because we were busy enjoying other things.



Someone is Mad at Morrissey in Spanish

Have you read a lot of think pieces about how people shouldn't be mad at Morrissey because he said some things about Kevin Spacey that were meant to convey his own point of view about human relations? I hope you've gotten through a few of them before you stumble though mine on your way to happier things.

Here's one in Spanish. He won't play Argentina. Damn, dude.

I will not defend Morrissey--he can do that himself.

I do think people are misunderstanding one salient point--older human beings who chase after younger human beings for sex are doing something unethical, illegal, and unmistakably evil. Never mind that we are programmed by nature to seek out mates who will carry our emissions and the results of our aggression forward into the future. Society is the reorganization of such things. Yeah, it's fun to bash someone in the head and take their stuff, but we don't allow that. We look for enlightenment and the common good when we organize ourselves into situations that prevent this from happening.

I believe the point Morrissey was making was, "where were the parents?" Or, to expand on the idea, "what did you think was going to happen when you entered the orbit of this horny man who seems charming but can't keep his hands out of your goddamned pants?"

This is not a popular sentiment. You can't blame bad parenting on everything. I think you can say that a parent who would let their minor child party with actors until the wee hours of the morning unsupervised have opened the door to the possibility that someone might take advantage of their child. I totally understand that.

You are not to blame for being sexually assaulted. But, for people of a certain age when it was understood that going into certain places with certain kinds of people would probably result in horrible outcomes, you should know better. I don't agree with the "you should know better" part but I do understand how that idea has worked its way through the culture. Angela Lansbury is a great example of it.

This sort of thing is commonplace in small towns and big towns and in every facet of American life. There's a Kevin Spacey in the auto-detailing community in such-and-such suburb of whatever town you can name. This fucker fucks around, and he's been getting away with it because what the fuck are you going to do, he's at the top of the auto-detailing game in this town. There is a universality of it all. Spacey is a prominent American artist who has been a successful actor for decades. 

Yelling at Morrissey in any language isn't the solution. Being mad at the specific people who can't stop sexually assaulting people is the better way to go.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

How Good Are Electronic Drums These Days?

I am not really a drummer anymore, nor was I ever much of one. I do remember what electronic drums were like--they were awful. Cheap, sluggish, and they sounded terrible. I thought that the market for these things was reduced to triggering effects and not much else.

And while this probably seems like some sort of cheesy ad, it's not. I can't believe how good these things sound. They sound very responsive and like they are of pretty high quality. The video below is fascinating to me if only because I had no idea anyone was actively trying to make these products useful:

Again, this is not an ad of any kind. It's more of a 'holy crap--when did they find time to make these things actually sound good' thing.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

How Can Wolf Alice Make it in America?

Wolf Alice are set to play huge festivals in 2018. They are coming off the release of their second album, Visions of a Life, and this tour should be the one that breaks them in the U.S.

Notice anything?

Eleven days in North America? Really?

They're back in 2018:

Eight days, this time.

How do you expect to make it in America if you're only willing to spend 19 days promoting your latest album? I would hope that popular demand would leave room to add some shows. I don't understand this strategy. I would think that this is a band that could pull in a huge crowd in the Northeast. Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought they were bigger than this.

They're playing with Guns and Roses, Foo Fighters, and Queens of the Stone Age, to name a few. And that's great--I hope they win people over. Why aren't they headlining?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Stevie Nicks

When Tom Petty died, it reminded me of his collaboration with Stevie Nicks, which was a brilliant and groundbreaking move for both of them as artists. Nicks has always been overshadowed by the men she played with, whether it was Petty or Lindsey Buckingham. 

This photo, from a book by Neal Preston, captures the spirit of Stevie Nicks without trying to place her in the context of a partnership or duet.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This is Why You Don't Smash Guitars

Nick McCabe of the Verve once smashed a very treasured guitar:

Those who follow my ramblings online will know I’ve struggled with my many misdeeds. One of the many: my destroyed Les Paul, first night of the Roundhouse, 2007. That was no mere instrument, that was my partner; and that was no way to treat a friend, but you know, the only upside is that it was the guitar that got it, not the pair of two legged warring friends in that then obviously disintegrating band.

I’ve tried, consistently, since 2007 to find 1. someone capable of repairing the guitar, 2. someone willing to invest the care and patience to make it happen.

This story has a happy ending, and you can click over to see how it all turned out. 

Anger gets the better of all of us, once in a while, but it's nice to see how, a decade later, someone was able to see one of their regrets turned into an opportunity to make more music.

Hey Muse

Hey Muse is a song you should hear.

It's by a Minneapolis band called The Suburbs and even if you don't know their history and even if you don't actually like "new" music anymore, it's amazing.

Released this past summer, it demonstrates that all of your old bands can come back and make relevant, urgent music that needs to be heard. I'm embedding this special live version, but the studio album version is phenomenal as well.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bauhaus Undead

Don't tell anyone, but I am a huge fan of Bauhaus and really, really good books.

English goth rock band Bauhaus will have their career chronicled in a new book. It’s called BAUHAUS UNDEAD: The Visual History and Legacy of Bauhaus, and it’s curated by original member Kevin Haskins. Haskins shared personal materials and recollections from the band’s run. The book features handmade flyers, backstage passes, photos, contracts, handwritten lyrics, a Bauhaus comic strip, and more. See the cover art, as well as images from the book, below. Find more information and updates on the book here, and read an excerpt from the “Iggy Pop” chapter here.

This is probably more nostalgia than anyone is prepared for. There was a veritable industry around Bauhaus, using their look, their philosophy, and their incredible run of albums and tours to craft an indelible goth image. This is some of the very best art that you can find from that era.

Monday, November 13, 2017

As You Were

Liam Gallagher has released his first proper solo album, and it is excellent. I highly recommend this release in the vinyl format because it has everything you'd expect from a man who, literally, had no good reason to make this record and every reason not to. This is guitar music in the age of the disposable click track and it sounds like someone actually showed up and tried their damndest to create a classic.

Let's dispense with the main criticism of the record--the fact that Gallagher had to bring in outside help to shape the songs and put it together. This is more common than you think because, nowadays, you can make an album on a laptop. Collaboration can happen without anyone getting on a train and going to a studio. Having extra help might mean more sales, more quality, and enough success to get you through to another release. 

Morrissey has been doing it this way since 1989, using different writers, different producers, and different sounds to create a tremendous body of work. Every Morrissey solo album has his passion and his talent and his ear for a great song. That's what you have here--a man who knows what he can and can't do and is smart enough to enlist people to bring him closer to a finished product that doesn't embarrass anyone. This is not Liam rolling around on thin carpet with a Tamborine and a bottle of gin, emoting out of his ass. This is the work of a proper craftsman who takes a drink at the appropriate time of day when recording. It's not 1997 anymore, and this is the sound of a man who wants to have a seat at the table. 

Pop records can certainly work if they are written by committee. You can't bring in all of the different styles and elements to a project completely on your own unless you're Prince and, come on, who's Prince these days? No one. So, don't expect Gallagher to have played all the instruments and written everything and put it all down on tape in his home studio. If you were to assemble everything he's written from Oasis forward, you'd have a solid body of work. 

For this album, the committee that was assembled got it right. Every song goes by with a handle on what it's trying to do and what it's place in the universe is supposed to be. "Wall of Glass" is supposed to do just what it says--tower over everything. "For What It's Worth" is going to be a live staple for a very long time. I probably like "Paper Crown" better than everything else, but, even then, it's hard to single out tracks because this is a solid body of work. There are hardly any misses and a raft of hits. This is the kind of album that the British music buying public will embrace for a solid two years. Gallagher can tour this one for as long as he wants. And if they can release a steady stream of singles, and put out some solid B-sides, this will feel like a proper success I would imagine. Whatever else you can say, they got the cover right, they got the track listing right, and they didn't miss the mark.

The band is great and the performances are stellar. From what I've seen of the live airing of these songs, someone made the right decisions, and the worst tendencies of indulgence and self-referential flattery are no where to be found. Gallagher tells you what's in his heart, sings it for you, and the song carries it through. If only more "solo" artists could approach things this way, there'd be fewer duds out there. You are never going to hear him overthink anything.

I don't know what this album will do in America, but it's no slouch and no embarrassment. It's straight up rock and roll. There is no deep dive into the complexity of modern life. This is the album that won't confuse you with anything other than surreal forays into late-catalog Beatles and a healthy dose of mid-period Oasis. Remember, the last three Oasis records were largely done as a whole group, with Noel Gallagher writing about half of the songs and with former Beady Eye bandmates Gem Archer and Andy Bell adding their own tracks along with some of Liam's finest tunes (the ones he should be playing live are The Meaning of Soul, Songbird and The Boy With the Blues, and all of them are his, so why not?).

As You Were is better than either of the Beady Eye records, in my humble opinion, and ranks up there with some of Liam's best singing. I don't get why people have to bag on that work, either. Beady Eye had a lot going for it and was maligned unfairly from the start. I can't think of any period where Liam gave up and phoned it in. On As You Were, his performance is spot on. You can tell he held himself in check, sought out criticism, and refined his approach on this album. It was not thrown together in a month in order to start a desperate race with his brother for relevance. It's a sure thing that stands on its own.