Thursday, January 31, 2008
I vividly remember the day I first heard The Feelies. It was 1989 and I was a sophomore in college working (ok..volunteering) at the college radio station. I used to gleefully pick through the stacks of "Promotion Only" CD's laying around the place. One out of every fifty discs was even worth listening to. One day I came across a brand new reissue of 1980s"Crazy Rhythms" by The Feelies. I had never heard of these guys before but something about that nerdy cover told me to check it out. To this day, it is one of my top 50 favorite discs. The Feelies were from Hoboken, NJ. They only released 4 albums between 1980 and 1991 that only music geeks and critics cared about. Their music was a bizarre blend of The Velvet Underground and Talking Heads with a focus on alternate rhythms and blissed out guitar solos. REM cites them as a major influence as well as many others. I was hooked on them and still am.
The Feelies-The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness
Of course when I heard that former Feelies singer-guitarist Glenn Mercer released his first solo CD in 2007, I was ecstatic. The disc is called "Wheels in Motion" and I've been addicted to it for about a month now. The whole thing has a subdued vibe to it but the jangly guitars, great solos, and Mercer's voice is unmistakably Feelies. In fact, Mercer used many ex-Feelies to perform on the disc but it never sounds like he's trying to recapture the days of old. It is a modern, forward sounding disc and shows that Mercer should continue making his solo work. The combination of the killer guitar work and great melodies keep me coming back to this again and again. Another big bonus for me is the guitar jammy cover of one of my all time favorites; The Beatles-"Within You, Without You". Give the opening track a listen and then go buy the sucker. You will thank me later...
Glenn Mercer-Days to Come
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
I found a first look at the new REM album. REM has long been one of my favorite bands. Because this is supposed to be a return to a harder approach musically for the band, I am actually excited about new REM for the first time in a LONG time. Anyway, read a bit about the new one below. The Disc drops in stores April 1.
This is taken from Uncut Magazine's blog site:
OK, then, I must admit I’ve been sceptical about this one, so disillusioned by “Around The Sun” (three good, if woefully overproduced, songs notwithstanding) that I didn’t even bother to check out any bootlegs of those “live rehearsal” gigs from Dublin last year. . . More fool me, it transpires.
If “Around The Sun” was a glossy attempt to update the moods of “Automatic For The People”, “Accelerate” looks further back into REM’s terrific back catalogue for inspiration. The mixture of crunch and jangle from Peter Buck, the generally speedier pace, Michael Stipe stuffing far too many words into each line while Mike Mills gamely tries to keep up with his harmonies, the attractive gothic woodiness of the folk ballads – all this reminds me a lot of how the band sounded circa “Lifes Rich Pageant” and “Document”.
It’d be mighty rash to suggest “Accelerate” was the equal of those albums, but it certainly draws on their energies. This is not a perfect record, by any stretch, but it is one that improves with every listen, and which this morning sounds pretty much like the best REM effort since “New Adventures In Hi-Fi” (and I like “Up” and “Reveal” more than most critics, I suspect).
The opener, “Living Well’s The Best Revenge” is, I think, the most straightforwardly exciting song they’ve recorded since “So Fast, So Numb”, a breathless hurtle which seems designed to prove they’re still capable of this dynamic, heady, heavily-textured kind of rock. It’s a point which’ll be made ad nauseam in reviews of “Accelerate”, but Buck’s return to electric prominence is both striking and massively welcome. I remember interviews with Stipe and Mills circa “Around The Sun” talked of how Buck busied himself in the studio stocking up their iPods. This time, mercifully, he seems to have contributed a lot more – or contributed a lot more of the sound which REM’s fans generally want from him – to the record.
“Accelerate”, in fact, sounds like the record REM’s fans wanted them to make, not necessarily the record REM may have wanted to make. It’s a small complaint, I guess, when professional pragmatism sounds as good as this. I don’t want to write too much on the specific tracks, not least because I’ve got a very long review to file for the mag in the next few days.
But it’s just under 35 minutes long, and only one of the 11 tracks (“Sing For The Submarine”) outlasts its welcome. “I’m Gonna DJ” you’ll probably know from recent tours and last year’s live album; it’s the worst song here, I think. Besides “Living Well’s The Best Revenge”, I’m currently taken with “Mansized Wreath” (improbably funky work from Mills), the fuzzed-out raga of “Mr Richards” (shades of “Time After Time” maybe) and another breakneck thriller called “Horse To Water”.
If anyone saw the Dublin shows or has listened to the bootlegs, let me know what you think. Judging by "Accelerate", I really should have believed the hype.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
What I do know is what I like. I like David Lynch movies. A lot! "Blue Velvet", the whole "Twin Peaks" series, "Mullholland Drive", and "Lost Highway" are some of my favorite viewing experiences. I love the look and overall feel of his films. I can not think of another filmmaker who does such a good job of bringing you to another world; usually a frightening one. So it was with great excitement when I received Lynch's newest 3-Hour mindfuck; "Inland Empire". With that said, I know enough about Lynch's intensely dark films to realize that you need to be in the right frame of mind to enjoy them. That is why I held on to the DVD for almost a month before I took the plunge.
I will start out by saying that people who are not already fans of David Lynch should stay as far away from this film as possible. Hell, I know huge fans of Lynch that are staying away from this one. I would try to outline the plot, but I can't. Not because I don't think there is one, but I sure as hell couldn't write it out coherently. If you are interested in a "plot" synopsis, you can read the Lynch message boards for the thousands of attempts.
To me, the key to enjoying Lynch's recent films is to not try to figure them out. Turn the lights off, pop this baby in and just let it wash over you. You will be brought into a film that feels more like a dream. In fact, that is exactly the feeling you have when the credits roll; that you have just awakened from a dream. The lighting, camerawork, sounds, and acting all create a transcendental state that I have never experienced before. You may think you have certain scenes figured out until the meaning gets twisted and escapes you. Like most dreams. The movie is like that for 3 hours. Dark corridors lead to characters and other scenes that seeming have nothing in common with what came before.
Critiquing this film like a "regular" movie is almost pointless. Do you review your dreams? Would it do any good to dissect them? Maybe so and maybe not. All I know this film has stayed in my mind like one. I don't know if that makes a good or bad film, but it surely makes for one that I will never forget.
I realize this description would turn off many people to the film. I know many people who think that Lynch is just full of shit and that he just films whatever he thinks is "weird" or "edgy". Many critics think he is mocking his audience at this point in his career. A bonus feature on disc 2 of the "Inland Empire" set proves how wrong that notion is. For 30 minutes, we get to see Lynch on the set explaining to cast and crew the smallest details of what he is going for. And he has it all in his head; not written on some paper. It is amazing to see and is almost as entertaining as the movie itself. What it proves to me is that Lynch is a true artist totally in charge of his craft. Not only do his scenes have a point to make, but the color of a light bulb or the placement of a chair means something to him and apparently to the story.
I can not tell you exactly what "Inland Empire" is all about. What I do know is we need more artists like David Lynch!
Sunday, January 27, 2008
One of my most anticipated releases of 2008 is Gary Louris solo debut-"Vagabonds". Well...the disc has found it's way online (shh!) and I can safely say after two listens that this will be one of my most played of the year.
Louris was/is one of leaders of the amazing Minneapolis band The Jayhawks, which included talented singer/songwriter Mark Olson. Louris was the pop-rock ying to Mark Olson's country-influenced yang and the two of them together made The Jayhawks one of the freshest sounding bands on the planet. After Olson's departure in 1995, the band dropped most of it's twang and Gary Louris rocked on as The Jayhawks without him releasing 3 different, but wonderful CD's.
Produced by the Black Crowes Chris Robinson, "Vagabonds" is a mostly stripped down affair with a wonderful organic vibe to it (no thanks I'm sure to the party favors Robinson brought to the studio). Think David Crosby's-"If I Could Only remember My Name" album meets Gram Parsons. Here is a taste of this wonderful CD, out February 19. Enjoy!
Gary Louris-We'll Get By
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Bobby Womack-Across 110'th Street
This song was just featured in the movie "American Gangster". To me, it was the highlight of that otherwise shitty film. This is 70's ghetto-soul at its best!
These guys seem to be the new "buzz" band of 2008. Their second disc has just come out and I love their mix of Black Sabbath and late-60's acid rock. This track really doesn't sound like the rest of the CD, but I can't stop playing it.
Eddie Vedder-Hard Sun
This is a cover of an 80's tune by a long lost band called Indgo. You can find it on the "Into the Wild" soundtrack, which is a movie I am dying to see. For my money, this is the best thing Vedder has done since Pearl Jam's "No Code" (my favorite Pearl Jam disc).
Ben Harper-With My Own Two Hands
This is the fantastic opening track from Harper's "Diamonds on the Inside" disc. Jah Live!
Arcade Fire-Antichrist Television Blues
When I listen to this song, I can imagine Bruce Springsteen belting this out on the "Nebraska" disc. One of my favorite songs of this decade.
My goal is simple; to turn you on to whatever is turning me on at any given day. Whether it is a cool new band or a nice new DVD release of some old film; this is a venture into
"Relationships of ownership They whisper in the wings
To those condemned to act accordingly
And wait for succeeding kings
And I try to harmonize with songs
The lonesome sparrow sings
There are no kings inside the Gates of Eden"
I remember my 7 year old brain trying to wrap my head around this song in the lifetime ago of 1976. Well, I'm 38 now and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I think this song is as powerful and beautiful as any verse from the bible, any symphony from Mozart, or any film from Scorsese. I can't imagine what it was like for the folk disciples of Dylan in 1965 to pop on Side 2 of "Bringing it All Back Home" for the first time and hear this. What I know for sure is that minds were blown around the world.
In the year 2008, we have seemingly heard and seen it all. But in 1965, minds were still expanding and rules were yet to be broken in popular music. With the album and the song "Gates of Eden", Dylan changed how "songs" could be written. He changed people's perception of what music could be and do to minds. I know he changed mine...
Bob Dylan-Gates of Eden