Supernatural Superserious from REM

March 28, 2008

In fairness, here’s the new REM single and video from their album Accelerate due out April 1. (I wish I’d have been there to talk them out of that shitty album title.)

There’s no doubt that it’s better than any post-1995 REM, but I’m not sure yet. My heart rebels against distorted power chords in REM songs. That’s just not REM to me. It is a cool song in a Cheap Trick/Flamin’ Groovies kind of way. Judge for yourself.


Talk about the Passion

March 27, 2008

I walked by the music rags at Barnes and Noble and saw REM on the cover yesterday. Jan Wenner and Co. say their new record is a return to form, but I’ll believe it when I hear it. Anyhoo, it ignited a big REM kick for me, so I thank them for that and, quite literally, nothing else. *(Except maybe Hunter S. Thompson)

This is a 1982 appearance on Later with Jools Holland on the BBC. (A note to all you “swingers” out there: British Broadcasting Company, not Big Black Cock.) It’s a crying fucking shame the latter two songs are cut off. This is the best live version of “Radio Free Europe” I’ve ever seen or heard. The tidbits of “So. Central Rain” and “Talk about the Passion” are also firstrate, with an energetic and inspired performance by Buck-Berry-Mills, and Stipe at his enigmatic/poignant best.

Bow before the Axer

March 23, 2008

This comes to us courtesy of J. Hessian, aka the Axer-Lickmaster Chopper-Beastmaster-Fretboard Bopper. He says it’s his new site. You be the judge.

P.S. The rumors are true: the Axer is brushing up on his piano “chop.” If Billy Joel and Blackie Lawless formed a band…

The Incredible String Band Got Me High

March 17, 2008

I’ve been trying to lighten my record collection in preparation for an upcoming move in May. In this painful process, I’ve encountered all sorts of vinyl that had somehow worked its way out of my listening rotation. One such record is The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter by the Incredible String Band, released in 1968. I bought it used sometime in the late 90’s because Stephen Malkmus from Pavement mentioned it in an interview. Can’t you just picture me reading Spin surrounded by obscure colored 7″ vinyl? I am a living cliche’, but at least I’m aware of it and in recovery. I listened to it a lot when I first got it, but it soon lost its way among more obvious choices.

ISB has been talked about a bit more in the past few years with the emergence of a new freak or psych folk movement, whatever you want to call it. Their influence can be heard in the music and aesthetic of Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsome, Amimal Collective, and others. Many major artists of the 60’s count themselves as ISB fans, including Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Stones, Jimmy Page, and Pete Townshend.

If you’re interested in finding the source of the river, here are two songs to check out. The first is “The Half-Remarkable Question” from Wee Tam and The Big Huge, released in 1968. The second is “Painting Box” from The 5000 Spirits of the Layers of the Onion, from 1967.

Please forgive the occasional lack of sync between audio and video.

Please Read the Letter, David Coverdale

March 9, 2008

If you don’t have Raising Sand, you should get it. I know it makes you feel oh-so-un-rock-and-roll to buy a record by a 60-year old guy and a bluegrass singer, but it really is one of the best albums I’ve heard all year. I must admit to feeling a little “NPR” when I listen to it, but it is a truly moving listening experience.

“Please Read the Letter” is my favorite song on the record, which is quite a compliment to Mr. Robert Plant, who wrote it with Jimmy Page well after the glory days of Led Zep. Some of the best songwriters of the 20th century are featured on the album of mainly covers, from Tom Waits to John Prine.

My brother Andy owns all Zeppelin-related product (Yes, this inlcudes both the Coverdale/Page album and the Death Wish II soundtrack by Mr. Page.), so I already knew “Letter” from Page and Plant’s 1998 Steve Albini-produced album Walking into Clarksdale. The album was and is a pleasant surprise.

Both versions are completely valid for their own reasons, but, as always, decide for yourself. The live version comes from CMT’s Crossroads, not the Ralph Macchio film of the same name.

Hypnotic Beauty from Sun Kil Moon

March 5, 2008

Mark Kozelek should be washed up. He had his run in the 90’s with the respected and acclaimed Red House Painters. He made a name for himself as a solo artist with unique folk covers of hard rock songs from AC/DC, Kiss, and others.

In 2003, he made the best album of his career and one the best albums of the year under the band name Sun Kil Moon. Ghost of the Great Highway, with its sad droning songs covering subjects as varied as heartache, boxing, and Judas Priest, casts a spell on the listener that will not let go. Sun Kil Moon’s sound makes me think of Neil Young and Crazy Horse
playing songs by the Cocteau Twins, or vice versa.

Ghosts was followed by a love-it-or-hate-it Modest Mouse covers album called Tiny Cities. If you know and like Modest Mouse, Kozelek’s John Denverish takes on their classic song takes some getting used to. With patience, the album will grow on you. I promise.

Sun Kil Moon’s new album April comes out, shockingly, on April 1. The first single is called “Moorestown.” It is achingly beautiful and sad in a way that you can’t put your finger on. It’s gotten instanly under my skin. I’ve watched this video five times in a row now. It’s one of the better fan-made videos that I’ve seen.

Rundgren Fun Footnotes

March 4, 2008

Here are some other interesting facts/rumors/myths relating to Todd Rundgren:

*Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon, had an 8-track tape of Rundgren’s first solo album The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, in his hotel room on the day of the murder. He acknowledged an obsession with Rundgren.

*Actress/model Liv Tyler believed Todd Rungren to be her biological father for the first ten years of her life. In 1988, it was revealed to her that Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler was actually her father.

*Rundgren is one of a myriad of artists rumored to be the inspiration for David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character. The others are Marc Bolan and Vince Taylor.

Bonus freaky video for your viewing pleasure.

Rundgren Reconsidered

March 2, 2008

My friend Tim saw a Todd Rundgren solo show a year or so ago and said it was without a doubt the worst show he had ever seen. That’s really saying something. According to Tim, who I should say is a generous soul, Rundgren was unprepared and uninspired. I feel guilty because my recommendation was one of the reasons for his reluctant attendance.

If you know him only for “Hello, It’s Me” and the admittedlly awful gimmick/song “Bang on the Drums All Day,” you don’t know him at all. In the late 60’s, he was the creative force behind The Nazz, a band that effortlessly synthesized the psych-blues of the British Invasion with the soul of Rundgren’s native Philadelpia.

If you don’t know his music, you certainly have unwittedly heard his work as a producer. His production resume’ is as iconoclastic as any in rock history. Believe it or not, he produced Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell, XTC’s Skylarking, and seminal records by the New York Dolls, Grand Funk Railroad, Patti Smith, Badfinger, and Cheap Trick, to name but a few.

Other than an early version of “Hello, It’s Me,” “Open My Eyes” is the signature song by the Nazz, appearing on numerous psych-rock compilations. Check out that tape-phasing. It’s badass.

“Rocks Off” gets my Rocks Off

March 1, 2008

As the clumsy juggernaut that is The Rolling Stones, Inc. beats its dead horse for all with $150 to spare, perhaps for all eternity, it is easy to forget that the Glimmer Twins are Rock and Roll incarnate. They have the best catalog of songs in the rock canon save perhaps Lennon/McCartney and maybe Dylan. They have more swagger, groove, and sexuality than any other band in rock’s brief history, period; never has a band been so loose and so tight at the same time.

Yes, I know it’s wrong to tour without Bill Wyman and with 40 backup singers, but give them a break all the same. They’ve earned it.

P.S. If Exile on Main Street is does not make your Top 10 album list, you’ve probably only heard “Tumblin’ Dice” on classic rock radio. And that makes you an idiot.

Some like K.K. Downing more than Glenn Tipton

February 27, 2008

I have a weakness for Judas Priest. I always have. Any band name that illicits a sigh and head shake from your mom is a good one.

I intend zero irony in posting this video. It completely got me off. To start a big arena rock concert with a long drum intro followed by twin axemen appearing in clouds of smoke is exactly as it should be done. I admire anything that’s done right.

Please forgive the overly clever Sun Kil Moon reference in the title (if you know it.)