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5.31.2006

Thom Yorke - The Eraser

Well it's leaked to the internet.... Thom Yorke's first solo album, recorded, I presume, during the recording sessions for the next Radiohead album. So lets get first things first... you can download it here.

I'll admit that I've been sour on the last couple of Radiohead albums, I feel like after Kid A they lost what made them special, losing that pop edge that made them stand out from a sea of dramatic mopers. Amnesiac seemed to me like leftovers, and Hail to the Theif just didn't click.

So it's safe to say I've only checked out Thom's solo album out of sheer curiousity. And my verdict is... the album is spectacular! "The Eraser" is marked with minimal programmed drum beats, and processed minimal keyboards. Of course, an album by the singer of a popular band will insure that the singer's voice will be the most important instrument in the mix, and "The Eraser" is no exception to the rule.

LA Times has a decent story about how The Eraser came together.

Pitchfork has a track by track "first listen"

5.30.2006

Republic of Safety go on a Vacation


After blowing away Toronto music fans with the Passport EP (packaged as an authentic passport to the "Republic of Safety,") RoS are back after signing with Ta Da! in Montreal and with four tough new tracks on the Vacation EP (which is released today!).

The biggest change between this EP and the last is the band's former double barreled blast of bass playing beauties were traded in for one singular female bass player, who adds considerable sex appeal to the four-piece.

The EP starts off with "Disposable World," a gutsy track that is vintage RoS, yearning after Utopia and some hardcore riffs screaming "It's your world, don't throw it away!" The second fiery track is "Vacation," featuring Owen Pallet from Final Fantasy layering his smooth violin over pounding drums and screaming guitars. "The Insects" is an overbearing, massive aggressive stomp where Maggie MacDonald channels her inner Karen O waiting to break out. The EP then finishes with "The Favourite Game," beginning with a tiny techno beat and climaxing with dying guitars and whispers.

Check out this band if you've heard the buzz and have never given them a chance! For some, you might find the tracks challenging, but the joy and zest that burst out of their music make it all worthwhile.

MP3: Vacation from "Vacation EP"

MP3: The Favourite Game from "Vacation EP"

The two other tracks are available at their Myspace page.

NOW gave the EP four 'N's

Zoilus loves the Republic of Safety, and considers Vacation his anthem

Chart reviews the EP

Preparing for Pitchfork: Matmos


Matador recording artists Matmos is the work of two stellar musicians, M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, seen above posing with a cow uterus. If you check out the "about" section on their website, you'll get a description of all the interesting things they've used in their performances to create unique and creative sounds. Like the following;

amplified crayfish nerve tissue, the pages of bibles turning, a bowed five string banjo, slowed down whistles and kisses, water hitting copper plates, the runout groove of a vinyl record, a $5.00 electric guitar, liposuction surgery, cameras and VCRs, chin implant surgery, contact microphones on human hair, violins, rat cages, tanks of helium, violas, human skulls, cellos, peck horns, tubas, cards shuffling, field recordings of conversations in hot tubs, frequency response tests for defective hearing aids, a steel guitar recorded in a sewer, electrical interference generated by laser eye surgery, whoopee cushions and balloons, latex fetish clothing, rhinestones on a dinner plate, Polish trains, insects, ukelele, aspirin tablets hitting a drum kit from across the room, dogs barking, people reading aloud, life support systems and inflatable blankets, records chosen by the roll of dice, an acupuncture point detector conducting electrical current through human skin, rock salt crunching underfoot, solid gold coins spinning on bars of solid silver, the sound of a frozen stream thawing in the sun, a five gallon bucket of oatmeal.
It would be fair to say that the style of music you'd call their strange brew is "Musique Contrete," which is essentially abstract electronic music, a hybrid of organic and electronic sounds edited together. Mind you, where Matmos breaks away from the electro-acoustic pack is their affinity for adding a beat to their tracks... almost dancable for the truely dedicated.

Their latest album, "The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast," released last May, is a tribute to dead gay icons. If you are up for something a little bit more on the adventuresome side of techno, then you'll want to give these guys a chance.

MP3: "Roses and Teeth for Ludwig Wittgenstein" from "The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast"

MP3: "Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan" from "The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast"

MP3: "Lipostudio" from "A Chance to Cut is a chance to cure"

More MP3s of the band are available here.

5.29.2006

The TTC is on strike

So will I work or not be going to work today? I can't say I'm a fan of this job action. So, I at least took some pictures. What's your take on the strike? Leave your comments here.

CTV.ca has up to date coverage and video reports/interviews here.

Preparing for Pitchfork: Matthew Dear


Now I know it seems like I've slipped into unknown territory here with the techno artists and such on this "Preparing for Pitchfork" special, but it's a welcome change to writing up blurbs on bands that I already know about and forcing myself to listen to something new and cover the fest's Biz 3 stage artists in the process (even though I'll probably stick to the bands... you never know).

Matthew Dear is one of the techno artists I've given a listen to and turns out to be a pleasant surprise... his mix of upbeat techno-pop is sensible and well maintained like a charming banker on Bay Street with a shag haircut and 500 dollar hair wax.

Dear possesses a raw artistry at creating dance floor grooves and is heralded as one of the industry's best DJ's. This summer he's touring under the guise of "Audion," a sexed up version of his regular persona.

MP3: "But For You" - Matthew Dear

MP3: "Rubber" - Audion

MP3: "Just Fucking" - Audion

MP3: "The Pong" - Audion

MP3: "Kisses" - Audion

Download "Matthew Dear as Audion - Fabric 27" radio promo here.

Pitchfork reviews "Matthew Dear as Audion - Fabric 27"

5.28.2006

Trailer Park Boys.... and RUSH!

Canadiana fans will dig this clip (hattip goes to J.Kelly) of Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys performing "Closer to the Heart" with RUSH and Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies on the CBC no less.



But you might find this a little more enjoyable if you want a little more performance from Bubbles....



Now if you are wondering how the odd pair of Bubbles and the Trailer Park Boys were ever connected to RUSH, they'res actually an episode of the show called "Closer to the Heart" where Alex Lifeson guest stars as the boys try to make their way into a sold out concert. Check out the show on YouTube, with parts one, two and three.

And I'll carry on the synergy of Trailer Park Boys and rock n' roll with this Tragically Hip video which features not only the boys, but Don Cherry as well.... it could qualify for being more Canadian than a Mountie covered in Maple Syrup.



And one last clip.... if you were wondering about the decor in the first clip... this should explain it.

5.26.2006

Top 50 conservative songs.... ever!


Here's a pretty cool article I found by way of Byron Crawford (Nullus), where the New York Times lists what they believe are the top 50 conservative songs in rock and roll, which by NYT standards means anti-communism, anti-tax and pro south, so there's a bit of an American slant here.. Most of these kinds of lists are usually pretty bad, but their picks are actually pretty smart. Here's their list... read their explainations here.

1. "Won't Get Fooled Again," by The Who.
2. "Taxman," by The Beatles.
3. "Sympathy for the Devil," by The Rolling Stones.
4. "Sweet Home Alabama," by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
5. "Wouldn't It Be Nice," by The Beach Boys.
6. "Gloria," by U2.
7. "Revolution," by The Beatles.
8. "Bodies," by The Sex Pistols.
9. "Don't Tread on Me," by Metallica.
10. "20th Century Man," by The Kinks.
11. "The Trees," by Rush.
12. "Neighborhood Bully," by Bob Dylan.
13. "My City Was Gone," by The Pretenders.
14. "Right Here, Right Now," by Jesus Jones.
15. "I Fought the Law," by The Crickets.
16. "Get Over It," by The Eagles.
17. "Stay Together for the Kids," by Blink 182.
18. "Cult of Personality," by Living Colour.
19. "Kicks," by Paul Revere and the Raiders.
20. "Rock the Casbah," by The Clash.
21. "Heroes," by David Bowie.
22. "Red Barchetta," by Rush.
23. "Brick," by Ben Folds Five.
24. "Der Kommissar," by After the Fire.
25. "The Battle of Evermore," by Led Zeppelin.
26. "Capitalism," by Oingo Boingo.
27. "Obvious Song," by Joe Jackson.
28. "Janie's Got a Gun," by Aerosmith.
29. "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," by Iron Maiden.
30. "You Can't Be Too Strong," by Graham Parker.
31. "Small Town," by John Mellencamp.
32. "Keep Your Hands to Yourself," by The Georgia Satellites.
33. "You Can't Always Get What You Want," by The Rolling Stones.
34. "Godzilla," by Blue Oyster Cult.
35. "Who'll Stop the Rain," by Creedence Clearwater Revival.
36. "Government Cheese," by The Rainmakers.
37. "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down," by The Band.
38. "I Can't Drive 55," by Sammy Hagar.
39. "Property Line," by The Marshall Tucker Band.
40. "Wake Up Little Susie," by The Everly Brothers.
41. "The Icicle Melts," by The Cranberries.
42. "Everybody's a Victim," by The Proclaimers.
43. "Wonderful," by Everclear.
44. "Two Sisters," by The Kinks.
45. "Taxman, Mr. Thief," by Cheap Trick.
46. "Wind of Change," by The Scorpions.
47. "One," by Creed.
48. "Why Don't You Get a Job," by The Offspring.
49. "Abortion," by Kid Rock.
50. "Stand By Your Man," by Tammy Wynette.

Add your own additions to the list in the comments!

5.25.2006

Highlights from 'American Idol' finale

Sure, deep down, I know that you love a little bit of shmarmy television pop music? And who can resist Idol, right? Well, get them while they're hot... here's a few highlights I enjoyed from the last episode of this year's American Idol contest.


Clay Aiken surprising that guy imitating him on stage... scripted? Perhaps. I've always liked this Elton John song too... "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me." And I like Aiken's new "hipster" do... like mine!



Now, I remember somebody doing a horrible Prince cover this year... was it Paris singing "Kiss"? Anyways, I was totally shocked to see Prince appear on the show. He is still a consumate performer... I wish he would have performed "Black Sweat" but his little medley is pretty amazing anyways.



I didn't particularily love Elliot's performance of "One" but I wanted to put it up because Mary J. Blidge just blows this poor boy out of the water. The reason why is simple... he is just "singing" the song with this big goofy grin on his face, content with knowing that he is a "good" singer. But the song is sad, painful even. For some reason, I haven't liked any other performances of this song that Blidge has done.. but this version, when she takes over, rivals the feeling that Johnny Cash wrings out of his version.



And as a bonus... here's a clip of Taylor Hicks performing Sly and the Family Stone's "Higher" from his club days.



So why should anybody care about Idol? Look to the King and you'll find out why...

An experiment with "Yesterday" aka "Yesterduh"


Fans of the Beatles and interesting psychological experiments will want to check out Brian Joseph Davis's latest project, "Yesterduh." Setting up a makeshift recording studio in a local art gallery, Davis would stop people on the street and invite them into his studio to sing "Yesterday" with the aid of an instrumental track, with no rehearsal or lyrics sheet. The result is wildly creative and silly. Here's Davis' explanation for the project from his site:

The frustrating inability to dislodge a mentally tortuous song from one’s head lasts approximately two hours for half of the population, and up to two days for the 5% most affected by the phenomenon Researchers at Dartmouth's Psychological and Brain Sciences Department found that subjects will call on auditory memories to fill in gaps when music they are familiar with is stopped.

Magnetic resonance imaging tests also indicated that gaps in familiar songs induced more activity in the brain's auditory association area than unfamiliar ones. Just behind the forehead, the rostromedial prefrontal cortex connects to a set of circuits, which acts as the brain’s primary musical ear. The same system that gives us our sense of melody (some good, some bad), allows familiar musical data to be almost literally branded in the memory. The ubiquitous “Yesterday” is deeply ingrained in our collective memory, but how well do we actually remember it?
Sounds like fun, no? Check out these choice MP3s, the first is a mix of 60 participants singing the song at the same time... an odd mix of random choral harmonizing and snickering. The second is a compelling take on the song by Aki Onda. More MP3s are available here.

MP3: Yesterduh (All Together Now)

MP3: Yesterday (feat. Aki Onda)

Thanks to Torontoist for the tip.




5.23.2006

New track by David Bazan (Pedro the Lion)


After the "Pedro the Lion" moniker was finally dropped, David Bazan has embarked out on his "official" solo career. Whether he has been solo after the "Whole EP" could be debated, but anyways... Bazan is releasing "Fewer Moving Parts," an album recorded by himself in his home studio, performing all the tracks. The EP is more or less split up into two parts, one half an acoustic take on the new tracks, and the other a more "rock and roll" take.

Over on the Bazan MYSPACE, you can hear the live staple "The Devil is Beating His Wife" in both the acoustic and "arranged" versions. If you caught Bazan on tour with the Undertow Orchestra, you probably heard this one already.

The newest track from the EP is "How I Remember," a intense, derranged ode that signals Bazan's new path... less coddled emoting, and more freewheeling, scattershot interpretations of the world in his darkened horizon.

MP3: That's How I Remember - David Bazan

Here's the lyrics:

How I Remember

I go out in public now more than you might think
But only after several drinks
That’s how I remember

Then if I see any girl I’ve ever met before
I run like hell for the door
That’s how I remember

Memory records selected shorts and interpretations
Then later plays them back as gospel fact
That’s how I remember

With one eye open you can focus like a camera
On whomever you are capturing
Without exception I prefer it as a way to document
The objects of my interest

Red and yellow black and white are precious in his sight
But who he roots for in a fight
That’s how I remember

So every time I find a girl beaten gagged and bound
I let her go and write it down
That’s how I remember

5.15.2006

Preparing for Pitchfork: DJ A-Trak


I can pretty much guarantee you've heard DJ A-Trak before. His most mainstream gig to date is working with your favorite self-obsessed rap hero Kanye West as his touring DJ. Of course, in an interview of late that I saw of DJ A-Trak, he claims to have added the "get... get down" sample into the "Gold Digger" single.... but for real, the kid has skills to pay the bills.

The young DJ was born out of Montreal, who bought a pair of turntables at a young age and went pro -- winning DJ competitions around the world. He toured with a DJ troupe and founded his own label, and has just released a DVD, "Sunglasses are a Must."

Many have called A-Trak "the DJ's DJ," and Alain Macklovitch has continued to achieve more and more mainstream success. I'm not an expert is DJ culture in any way, but from what I can tell, he has a fresh and fluid style that is all over the musical map, but he manages to tie it all in together with a cool contemporary vibe. Live, I'm sure his scratch routines will impress fans of turntablism, and for those who like to dance, the will appreciate his skill at creating some deft beats.

Check out a few tracks at DJ A-Trak's MYSPACE

Popmatters reviews "Sunglasses is a Must"

5.11.2006

Preparing for Pitchfork: Hot Machines


Are you ready for a healthy dose of lo-fi, beat-up, feak-out garage rock? Then the Hot Machines will satisfy your hunger, coming at you straight from the Chicago deepfryer. Drenched in boiling oil, the trio of rock maniacs are making bodies shake all over. At times they attack you with the steeley gaze that comes from working too many midnight shifts at a greasy diner, while also driving with the kind of raw force that rips up road and land in a rage of fury and paranoia.

Fans of the Gris-Gris will be into the stripped down southern-twang of the Hot Machines, and will enjoy the free abandon that comes after a messy breakdown... a hallmark of the Hot Machines sound. Lead singer Alex White reminds me alot of Lara Yazvac, the passionate and energetic lead singer of the Tough and Lovely, who brings to mind the druggy haze of the sixties. Alex White has just released her own solo project "Miss Alex White and the Red Orchestra," which doesn't deviate too much from the Hot Machines sound.

The pedigree of the Hot Machines can't be beat... Jared was once upon a time in The Ponys, Matt is in the Baseball Furies and Alex White... is Alex White.

MP3: Tear it Apart - The Hot Machines

MP3: Out of Style - Miss Alex White and the Red Orchestra

Check out the band's MYSPACE account to hear more songs, including the amazing track "Hole in my Heart."

5.10.2006

Candlebox... going on tour?!?


Alright, so as any good music fan that grew up during the nineties, I loved my fair share of "grunge" music (and still to this day). I'll admit that my tastes differed from other fans, prefering Soundgarden to Nirvana, and Pearl Jam to Alice in Chains, but I further have to admit, I always loved Candlebox.

Are you asking yourself, "Who?" Well within a few seconds of listening to "Far Behind" will remind you easily of who they are, considering that this band's big single dominated the Billboard charts for a staggering 6 months or so. Of course, the band always denied they were "grunge" and claimed to just play rock music, despite being a major-label signing from Seattle.

My love for Candlebox is solely based around "Far Behind," which is probably the most perfect of fleeting grunge-radio staples (don't get me wrong, their other big single, "You," is a very close second). It's "emotionally charged," some throaty growls, a quiet verse (with a little chorus on the guitar, natch) and a loud chorus (fully distorted), an extended guitar solo and a little metal riffage at the end. Look at the end of the post for the video.

After the Candlebox flame blew out in 1999, reports are now saying the band is back for a special club tour, featuring all the original members. Rolling Stone talks to the band, and Kevin Martin says:
"I've been producing. I have a solo project called the Hiwatts on my own label -- started that in 2000," frontman Kevin Martin says of what's been keeping him busy since Candlebox went on "indefinite hiatus" in 1999. "And I got married last year."

Getting married is an important part of the story, as Martin credits his wife with helping to reunite the group. "I met my wife five years ago. She's Australian -- she's very grounded," he explains. "And she made me realize I was longing to play with these guys again, because I was continually talking about it."

But get this; Candlebox is going to get political:

Martin, who admires the political stances of artists such as Green Day, Neil Young and System of a Down, wants to use his new music to speak out on the issues as well. "There hasn't been a great musical movement since the early Nineties, and hopefully that changes," he says. Martin points to one of Candlebox's new songs, tentatively dubbed "Stand." "It's not a new concept -- it deals with exactly what we've been talking about: 'Stand up for who you are,'" he explains. "People want great music. And if you can give them great music that has a point and is poignant, I think you can change people's opinions."

And this is kind of strange:
Martin adds, "We're adding MySpace friends everyday."
Now the band isn't hitting the road for no reason, as they will no doubt be supporting their upcoming Greatest Hits album, followed of course by, obligatory new material. Tickets look a little pricey, but if you're in Toronto and you want to see them play the Opera House on July 22, it's going to set you back 25 bucks a ticket.

To remind you why you should go, check out this video of the classic song:



And before I post up an MP3, here's a disclaimer... I had a pretty hard time tracking one down because of the song in question was amongst a list of songs that were part of a lawsuit against a family by the recording industry mafia, but get this, the family didn't even own a computer. So here's a decent version of the song, performed live.

MP3: Far Away by Candlebox

But get this, you can download the song at the band's MYSPACE account! Be their friend!

Check out the tour dates at the official website

More on the Candlebox Wiki

And one more Candlebox video before we go, this one is of "You" from 1993.

5.09.2006

Guest blog: Pearl Jam's self titled album

Hey all, Tyrone here. To commemorate the release of Pearl Jam's self-titled album, I knew there was only one person I could turn to in order to have it reviewed properly. So after 100 posts or so of solo blogging, I present to you all my first "Guest Blog" by Steve Johns, also known as the world's biggest Pearl Jam fanatic. Check out his well-written blog here and enjoy his review!


Firstly, allow me to slap a giant, big disclaimer on this review: I’m one of "those" Pearl Jam fans (i.e., the kind who follow them around on tour), and thus probably shouldn’t be writing a review of their latest, eponymous album. So bear with me; I’m trying hard to be objective, even though I lost the ability to be objective where Pearl Jam is concerned in June 1998. Pearl Jam, whose cover art features an avocado (more later), has been described as a comeback, of sorts. It certainly marks the first time since the early 90s that Pearl Jam has openly courted mainstream acceptance; the album’s lead single, "World Wide Suicide", is Pearl Jam’s first hit song not about teen death since "Better Man" more than a decade ago. But the album itself isn’t a radical departure for the band, which leaves me to conclude that the people who’ve been hailing Pearl Jam as a reclamation project are either a, still in denial that Pearl Jam c. 2006 is a different band from the one that wrote Ten back in 1991, or b, blissfully ignorant of the band’s recent catalogue, which contains some of its finest, most inspired music.

Ever since No Code, Pearl Jam has conscientiously eschewed the sound that defined its early career in search of something more organic-sounding. In some cases, the results have been spectacular; in others, they’ve been spectacularly mixed (see Riot Act, for instance, an album positively brimming with potential which fails, ultimately, to hit the mark). On Pearl Jam, however, the band has consolidated its sound: the album rocks really frigging hard, yet also contains some of the most beautiful songwriting of the band’s career. The band–clearly inspired by the treasure trove of old school punk they dug up during the 2004 Vote for Change tour–comes charging out of the gate with an emphatic, five-song opening salvo; "Comatose", in particular, is the hardest song they’ve written since "Spin the Black Circle". After that, the album settles into a more relaxed groove, but the writing remains strong; "Gone" and "Inside Job" are particular standouts, while "Unemployable" is either a, one of the catchiest songs in the Pearl Jam catalogue, or b, so annoyingly catchy you’ll end up flinging your copy of Pearl Jam out the window with Eddie Vedder’s "oh-uh-ohoh" ringing in your ears.

Pearl Jam
is also notable for channelling the vitality (or vitalogy, if you would) of the band’s live performances. Diminishing album sales haven’t made Pearl Jam tickets any less of a hot commodity; witness the band’s 2005 Canadian tour as evidence of the band’s enduring popular appeal (not many bands could sell out an arena tour without an album to support). Capturing the essence of the Pearl Jam live experience in the studio has proved elusive for the band, especially in recent years. They’ve certainly succeeded this time. Adam Kasper, who produced the album, deserves some of the credit, but I would argue that the main reason the album sounds as good as it does is drummer Matt Cameron, who’s been with Pearl Jam since replacing Jack Irons in 1998. Cameron is unquestionably the best drummer in the band’s history (although a segment of fans, bizarrely, still prefers Dave Abbruzzese, and are holding out for his return in the not-too-distant future). He’s had a galvanizing effect on the band’s live performances; with each tour he’s grown more and more assertive, to the point where it’s now difficult to imagine Pearl Jam without Matt Cameron. But on Binaural and Riot Act, Cameron wasn’t able to fully flex his muscles; both of them contained hints of his indelible style, yet it still felt like he was being reigned in. Not so here: Cameron’s drumming is front-and-centre, and some of the songs (see "Marker in the Sand", for instance) recalls his most inspired work with his previous band, a little-known outfit called Soundgarden.

Eddie Vedder, meanwhile, is up to his old tricks–raging against the Bush Administration ("World Wide Suicide"), observing the plight of the American working class ("Unemployable"), visiting with the family of a U.S. soldier ("Army Reserve"). But he’s also shed the churlish, oh-how-the-weight-of-the-world-is-bearing-down-on-me image hewn during the early 90s. In fact, "Life Wasted" could be read as a self-deprecating indictment of Vedder’s earlier persona, an act of reflection that would have been unthinkable back in the day. He’s still Earnest Eddie; I wouldn’t expect that to change, nor would I want that to change. But the fact that he’s able to step back and laugh at himself (which he does, quite literally, in "Life Wasted") is an indication that Vedder and his band are growing up.

Which leads me, rather circuitously, back to the avocado on the album’s cover. Rumour has it that a giant billboard with an avocado on it kept watch over the road leading to Pearl Jam headquarters in Seattle, but that seems too convenient an explanation. So I went over to Wikipedia, and found that the avocado is actually an official symbol of the Green Party, which Pearl Jam (and Vedder in particular) famously championed during the 2000 U.S. presidential election. Which means, at least in my mind, that the more things change with Pearl Jam, the more they stay the same–a sentiment which could easily be applied to the new album, as well. Pearl Jam should remind the people who fell off the bandwagon in the mid-90s that the band is still very much alive and kicking. For the rest of us, it’s as satisfying as anything else the band has released. Eddie Vedder has denounced "the middle" at least twice during the band’s career: in "Porch" in 1991 and in "½ Full" in 2002. Here, however, Pearl Jam has found the middle, and found it satisfying. Sometimes, change can be a good thing.

Alright, while that might be Steve's take, here's my own.

I guess I basically have the same complaint about every new Pearl Jam album -- not enough guitar solos.

In the midst of the grunge revolution, there were only two bands that tried to keep the blessed guitar solo alive. The first was Soundgarden, who were never given enough props for expanding what a guitar could sound like. Soundgarden also blessed every song they did with excessive noodling by Kim Thayil, and it made every song awesome. Pearl Jam also kept the guitar solo alive by including really melodic and essentially really meaningful solos that featured heavily in many songs.

Like Brian May's guitar solos in Queen songs, you want to sing every guitar note, and if you put on "Alive" or "Black" I could probably sing you the entire solo. Now, from my understanding of Pearl Jam mythology, Mike McCready, who is responsible for the solos, stopped because he way into drug abuse and just couldn't do it… which explains Vitalogy's "punk rock" sound of ragged guitars and No Code's "experimental" sound, because they were compensating for the lack of guitar solos. Then the band did more "group collaboration" on Yield, which did not yield more solos, and even Binaural and Riot Act, while bringing back the guitar solo somewhat with "I Am Mine," "1/2 Full" and "Save You," were ultimately disappointing in the solo department.

The good news is, there are a few solos on Pearl Jam, but they are just way too short. Yeah, they are blisteringly fast, but blink (sonically) and you'll miss it. Other than that, there's not much new or exciting about this latest Pearl Jam album. They have a few fast songs, a few slow songs, and a few somewhere in between. This isn't Pearl Jam taking chances, but who knows, maybe another member of the band will screw themselves up on drugs again and the band might do something interesting for once. Don't get me wrong, Pearl Jam will always be a powerful band that packs an emotional punch, even if they're always going to be tied to the nineties with a giant swath of plaid shirt.

That was fun, we should do this again!


5.08.2006

Red Hot Chili Peppers "Stadium Arcadium"


"Stadium Arcadium," the ninth studio album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers (or, the third since "One Hot Minute") is going to be overwhelming rock fans this summer with it's massive 28 tracks that fall within the four to five minute mark.

I've been a massive RHCP fan for a large part of my life, and the furthest "band memory" I can remember is either requesting "Under the Bridge" at my aunt's wedding when I was 10 years old (the answer was no) or bouncing around in the middle of the day to the "Higher Ground" music video on Videoflow.

When "One Hot Minute" came out, I was all over the album in a big way, as it really broke from the alternative sound of the mid-nineties, and "Aeroplane" is just one of those classic songs that really shows the exuberance and wonder the band showcases so well. Sure Navarro was a lame guitarist and stole away the band's heart, but it really lead to the return of the "classic" RHCP lineup.

Now, some hardcore fans will argue that the only classic lineup is one that includes Hillel Slovak and defines anything before "Mother's Milk," but I will put forward that John Frusciante helped make the band into one of the world's best, and not just a white-eyed funk punk band. The four-piece at the time of "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" spawned the most real tracks the band ever created, and resonated hard with fans around the world. It's a cliche, but "Under the Bridge" is still a song that gives me shivers.

And it's that same lineup that regrouped in 1998-99 to produce "Californication," a stark and measured album that reached an emotional core that the Peppers never had before. The funk numbers were there, but this time the band came out with "Scar Tissue," "Californication," "Otherside," and "Road Trippin." The band was back, and maybe Frusciante was still learning how to play the guitar again, but the band had regained its soul in a new way.

This all lead to "By the Way," which opened the Chili Peppers to the new century in the same way the "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" opened the band to the nineties. "By the Way" will always be remembered as Frusciante's album because his fingerprints are all over every track. At times the background harmony was excessive, but he took the band to new places again, and as his guitar playing skills returned, the songs spread out with impressive detail. In addition to Frusciante's guitar theatrics, Anthony Keidis also wrote the finest lyrics of his career, tackling broader themes of love, instead of just fucking, dreamy landscapes, anti-consumerism, gang violence and heartbreak.

So where does that place "Stadium Arcadium" in the RHCP canon? Considering that Flea, one of the founding fathers of the band, was about to leave the band during the "By the Way" tour and managed to rediscover the fun in the band. Flea's renewed passion in the band shows, because instead of the guitar dominated songs of the last album, Flea's intricate and mammoth basslines return to the new dense RHCP sound and pushed the band into sounding more on this record like they do in performances... which is powerful, free and uplifting.

The album begins with "Dani California," the big radio single, and probably the most striking songs on the double-album. Anthony checks in with the same girl from "Scar Tissue" and "By the Way," and from my interpretation, finally puts the troubled girl to rest. You can hear from this song, that the band is really firing on all cylinders, as there's some bass funk, powerful drums, smart lyrics and a wicked guitar solo, which all adds up to launch the "Stadium Arcadium" off the ground.

"Snow (Hey Oh)" is destined to be another single, with it's enchanting chorus and and laid-back summer vibe. The background chorus vocals are used perfectly and don't overbear the song in anyway. The band shows restraint and starts to throw their weight around by the end of the track.

Then the funk hits. "Charlie" brings back the funk. There's a twitchy little bassline and a skittering guitar part that opens up into a soulful chorus, uniting the funk Chili Peppers to the new "mature" Peppers. Another sure-fire single for sure. But instead of a sexy ode, you get "My heart your skin your love, I'm in."

"Stadium Arcadium," I can't say I'm in love with this track. That doesn't mean I won't love it later, but after the first half of the album gets off to a strong start, I'm disappointed it slows down with a ballad already. Because this is a fairly accessible song, it will show up on the radio, but maybe at the cost of a more worthy song. In all fairness, the song ends strong with a pretty cool space-jam that will no doubt sound great live.

The funk comes back again on "Hump de Bump," one of the liveliest tracks the band has busted out in a while. Better yet, Flea pulls out the horn, which adds to the freaky-styley vibe. The band keeps the spirit alive with "She's Only 18," a track which could fit right among all the sex jams on "Blood Sugar Sex Magik." This song is officially slated to be the next single.

"Slow Cheetah" starts off as kin to "Road Trippin," with it's quietly fingerpicked guitar and plaintive vocal from Anthony about a girl dressed like a "wedding cake."

Flea takes centre stage on "Torture Me" for a quick bass solo before the crashing guitars and drums break in this huge-sounding song, which could be devastating live.

"Strip My Mind" is a mid-tempo ballad, that is redeemed at 2:51 into the song exactly with an epic solo from Frusciante that ends far too soon.

The guitar theatrics return on "Especially in Michigan," which features Omar Rodriguez-Lopez on guitar, returning the favour to Frusciante, who lays down some amazing guitar solos on the last couple "Mars Volta" records and has no doubt influenced Rodriguez-Lopez in a big way. I think my expectations for this track was far too high, and there was not enough interesting guitar things to satisfy thing.

"Warlocks" features Billy Preston on the keyboard, and is another monstrously funky number that will have fans getting down in a hard way. Preston gets into the groove with a wah-wah piano part that sounds like Stevie Wonder getting down with the band.

The most striking part of "C'Mon Girl" is the lively-fingered bass line from Flea, and I'll admit that the chorus sounds a little formulaic. Mind you, the last 30 seconds are pure bliss. On a typical album, this is where the band would start to pull out all the stops, but you can tell from this less-than-classic outing that the band is indeed settling in for a double-album haul.

"Wet Sand," again is not a bad song par se, but doesn't really seem to have a point to it. Again, perfect for a laid back afternoon, but will probably have fans looking to skip ahead to see what's next. But like the ballad songs on this album, it ends really well with the band rocking out and Frusciante unleashing another giant solo.

Frankly, the band should have stopped the first "half" of the album there. "Hey" is a great track, but is sequenced out of place. I like the song's jazzy sound and it's one of the better songs on the album and I think it will get overlooked.

The second half of the album begins with a slow burn instead of bursting out of the gate like the first half. "Desecration Smile" is largely acoustic based, but at times Anthony sounds like he's parodying himself. I think it'll be a while before I come around to this one. But I'll admit it -- in a years time I'll probably love all these songs.

"Tell Me Baby" is a refreshing surprise, starting with a sensitive guitar part that changes channels and the band immediately busts out an immensely funky number. Definitely an album highlight.

"Hard to Concentrate" is an oddity - kind of a Ben Harper-esque low-key gospel African jam, with singing slide guitar.

The band's Sly and the Family Stone influences creep up with "21st Century," with a stomping bassline and crisp guitars. The slick wah-wah guitars are also a treat in this track.

"She Looks to Me" is a pretty good song, but doesn't do much to stand out amongst "Stadium Arcadium," as it's a straightforward rock number that wouldn't sound out of place on modern rock radio.

I'm on the fence about "Readymade," because overall it's a rock-solid riff, that has Frusciante and Flea lock into a tight groove, their bass and guitar intertwined. The funny part about this song is they almost sound like the Black Crowes when the break down the song.

"If" brings the album back down again with an intimate bass part and what sounds like an accordion as backup. It does it's job because when "Make You Feel Better" kicks in, it's like a shot of adrenaline, or a pure shot of the Beach Boys condensed.

"Animal Bar" is another great song, which shows Anthony getting down with a refreshing show of passion and intensity and single-handedly makes the almost new-wave song special.

The Anthony show continues with "So Much I," who keeps the long-running album's spirit alive with the was he breaks out with manic energy, enough so to carry the band to the song's glowing chorus.

"Storm in a Teacup" will put a smile on the face of any fan who is looking for a pre-"Mother's Milk" kind of jam. This song is part of the mountain of evidence that while the band continues to trade in emotional depth, it hasn't forgotten how to funk it out and will have your head shaking, just like "Suck My Kiss."

It finally starts to feel like a theatrical "end of album" run when "We Believe" creeps in with a careful groove that slowly builds and builds. It's followed closely by the reigned in bounce of "Turn it Again," which is ghostly and sparse with a haunting falsetto chorus.

"Death of a Martian" is the final album track which takes its time, carefully skulking around before breaking into an electrifying conclusion.

What more can I say about "Stadium Arcadium" at this point? Not much. I think I'll have to reassess how I feel about the album in a year's time, but at this point I'll say that it is amongst the best RHCP has ever done. The things people say about double albums, like they can all be improved by condensing them down to one album, and they are too long to consume, are both correct. I think the band should have stuck with the trilogy idea, but releasing the albums separately, in 6 month chunks. I feel worn out after listening to this double album, but then again, I felt worn out after "By the Way." The only thing I'm sure of is that if listeners give it a chance, they will no doubt find a few songs they will love, and a few they will skip right over.

And if you made it this far, congrats. What was I thinking to review every track on this double album?

If you were keeping score -- this is how I laid it all out...

Dani California - keeper
Snow (Hey Oh) - keeper
Charlie - keeper
Stadium Arcadium - pass
Hump de Bump - keeper
She's only 18 - keeper
Slow Cheetah - keeper
Torture Me - keeper
Strip My Mind - pass
Especially in Michigan - pass
Warlocks - keeper
C'Mon Girl - pass
Wet Sand - pass
Hey - keeper
Desecration Smile - pass
Tell Me Baby - keeper
Hard to Concentrate - keeper
21st Century - keeper
She Looks to Me - pass
Readymade - pass
If - pass
Make You Feel better - keeper
Animal Bar - keeper
So Much I - keeper
Storm in a Teacup - keeper
We Believe - keeper
Turn it Again - keeper
Death of a Martian - keeper

All in all, not a bad keeper to pass ratio. Most bands approaching the 25 year mark can't boast those kinds of numbers... look at Metallica, or, well I can't really think of too many bands that have been going as long as the Chili Peppers these days. Sure, there's U2, but those guys have turned into a nostalgia act of sorts and are not doing anything nearly as interesting as RHCP.

Here's the band's performance from SNL, performing "Dani California"



And here's the band's tribute to rock and roll in "Dani California." I still can't get over how clever a video it is, considering it's a pretty cliched pitch, but all the "imitations" are so spot on...

Flea as Bootsy!



Anthony as Danzig!



Frusciante as a Beatle guitar solo!





The band performing "Tell Me Baby"




Here's a handful of MP3s.. if you are looking for the full album, it's not hard to find.

MP3: Hard to Concentrate

MP3: Torture Me

MP3: Warlocks

5.04.2006

Preparing for Pitchfork: Man Man

Man Man are a wild Philadelphia collective that have been winning over fans with their crazy live shows and their inventive recordings. In Febuary the group put out "Six Demon Bag," a monster's mash of off-beat instruments, exhurberance and twisted rock n' roll.

The band is a welcome addition to the canon of freaky psychidelica, falling somewhere in between Tom Waits, Screaming Jay Hawkins and Captain Beefheart.

As Stereogum points out, their live show is unrelenting and dares to stand out from faceless indie-rockers. But the band isn't all spectacle -- a closer look at their songs reveal a brain and a heart and a sophisticated sense of wordplay. First time listeners may get the idea that it's all a big joke, and maybe it is, and maybe that's the point.


MP3: I, Manface

MP3: Van Helsing Boombox

VIDEO: 10 lb. Moustache

VIDEO: Engwish Bwood

Check out Man Man's official website

Here's Ace Fu records' bio of Man Man

Stylus reviews Six Demon Bag

Man Man were featured on SPIN.com

Prefix interviews Man Man

5.03.2006

Preparing for Pitchfork: Band of Horses

Band of Horses have broken onto the indie-music scene in a big way in the last few months, easily appealing to fans of The Shins and Death Cab for Cutie. The group was formerly known as Horses, and call Seattle and their label Sub-Pop home.

While the band's style of music is rooted in alternative country, it explores more ambient textures and gives a breadth of sound that is wide and full. Their first album "Everything All the Time" drenches guitarist/singer Ben Bridwell's voice is a sea of reverb, which makes the guest appearance by Jim James from My Morning Jacket all the more fitting.

Every song is heartfelt and the album centres on the instant classic "The Funeral," an epic pop song chock full of catharsis that the band will probably have to perform at every show for the rest of their career, which isn't such a bad thing.

The one thing that may turn off some listeners is that every song is more or less tied to the same mid-tempo beat, and at times the songs can really bleed into each other. On future albums, there's no doubt that the band will start to sound like themselves and less like the sum of their influences.

Check out the video for "Funeral"




MP3:
Wicked Gil

MP3:
I lost my dingle on the red line...

MP3:
Funeral

MP3:
Bass Song

Check out the band's myspace for more

Pitchfork reviews "Everything all the time"

San Diego Serenade has a Band of Horses live show for download

5.02.2006

Preparing for Pitchfork: Mountain Goats

A longtime recording project of John Darnielle, The Mountain Goats more or less were first committed to boombox tape starting in 1991, and launched a prolific career of haunting lo-fi classics.

But a stark change occurred with the Mountain Goats when Darnielle hooked up with producer John Vanderslice, known for his own amazing studio theatrics and his own solid solo records. Vanderslice has gained prominence lately by working on projects like Death Cab for Cutie and The Decemberists, so the results of his work with Darnielle is a far more accessible and mainstream that anything ever released by "The Mountain Goats."

Stylus describes the band as simply: "nasal guy with good lyrics and manic acoustic guitar strumming."

In 2005, Darnielle released the heart breaking album "The Sunset Tree," an album that embraced the confessional side of The Mountain Goats, in which Darnielle explored his own relationship with his recently deceased step father. Call it "Upbeat downer music" if you like, as Darnielle wallows in sadness, pity, misery and betrayal, the delivery is wistful and spry, perhaps to help keep Darnielle one step ahead of his own demons.

It's the scorn in his voice that makes Darnielle stand out in a crowd of sad singer-songwriters. And as a seasoned solo performer, he promises to put on an aggressive live show that will no doubt be intense and passionate.

MP3: This Year

MP3: Dilaudid (live)

MP3: Palmcorder Yajna

MP3: No Children

MP3: Two-headed boy (Neutral Milk Hotel cover)

MP3: The Boys Are Back In Town (with remix to Ignition)

A Mountain Goats fan website

The Mountain Goats wiki

The official Mountain Goats website

Pitchfork reviews "The Sunset Tree"