Category Archives: Music

Friends of the Earth?

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Every spring, right around Earth Day, I am astonished, astounded and humbled by how Mother Earth pushes forth new growth. Despite everything we do to her. Despite all that we take for granted. Despite the perpetual spew of carbon into the atmosphere and so on and so forth. In my collage, above, I try to convey that feeling.

However, the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, said it best—this from the Doors’ song, “When the Music’s Over”:

“What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
And tied her with fences and dragged her down…”

Here’s one of the best videos of the Doors performing the song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLAr-WlxMZY

Rebirther: A Memoir-ish Book From Singer/Songwriter Todd Snider

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It must be a little frustrating, or off-putting, or maybe worrying, to be a singer-songwriter who’s best known for telling stories between tunes on stage. Didn’t people come to hear you sing? That’s the strange predicament that the singer Todd Snider has found himself in — he’s made a name for himself because of his outrageous rant-stories that he launches into to set up his material. To be fair, he’s funny as hell, like a jittery speed-freak after several beers retelling some of his best near-death anecdotes for the edification of all. Don’t get me wrong: people like his songs, too. But it’s fitting that Snider has finally written a book, since his narrative riffs in front of crowds always seemed to beg for being set to the page and bound between covers.

Snider’s “I Never Met A Story I Didn’t Like” (out this month from DaCapo Press) rehashes some of his best material, about getting wasted, getting arrested, hanging with his idols, or generally pissing off the rich and powerful. It’s a book of unabashed road stories, drunk tales and thoroughly baked shaggy-dog sagas. Continue reading

Cat Stevens??!!??!!

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct another crop of musical icons this Thursday night in Brooklyn. At least this year they’re giving nods to deserving folks like Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham.

Some of the “undercard” at this year’s ceremony seems dubious at best but, hey, it’s their museum and they can induct whoever they want. Besides, everyone keeps their own private rock ‘n’ roll museum locked inside their hearts. However, the RRHOF really scraped the bottom of the barrel this year with Cat Stevens. Wow, nothing says “rock ‘n’ roll” quite like “Cat Stevens,” ya know?

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When last we saw this Cat (aka Yusuf Islam), he was still refusing to admit that he backed the Ayatollah’s 1989 fatwa on the novelist Salman Rushdie for the “blasphemy” of having written the novel The Satanic Verses. But this piece of video, proof that Stevens/Islam did in fact call for Rushdie’s death, just won’t go away:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Oienjf0GK8

Perhaps sensing that the ceremony had become more of a wake or an entombment than a celebration, the Hall has opened the event to the public for the first time, and is holding it in a basketball arena (Barclays Center, where the Nets play). In years past, the induction ceremony was for high-rollers only, with seats and tables going for king’s ransoms. They’re not exactly giving the seats away this year, with prices ranging from $55 to $576.40. But still, you can go:

http://www.barclayscenter.com/events/detail/rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-induction-ceremony

The highlight of the ceremony in Brooklyn will, no doubt, be Bruce Springsteen inducting his former E Street Band, and performing with them, and perhaps the well-deserved, belated salutes to Epstein and Oldham. Every inductee’s presenter has been decided and announced (e.g. Michael Stipe will induct Nirvana, Tom Morello will induct KISS, etc.). Everyone but poor Cat Stevens.

Might I suggest Salman Rushdie be given the honors? Turnabout is fair play. And it just screams “rock ‘n’ roll”!

Rushdie

 

 

Monkee See, Ugly Do

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The 36th issue of Ugly Things, the singular garage rock zine that’s been exalting obscure brilliant bands for over three decades, is a must-read for followers of an extremely popular ‘60s band: The Monkees. A nearly 50-page treatise on the versatile, long-lived, barely famous California rocker Craig Smith contains a lengthy digression about his being cast to star in a ‘60s TV series called The Happeners, a more realistic version of what The Monkees were doing around the same time. A later chapter gives details of then-Monkee Mike Nesmith’s interest in Smith’s band Chris & Craig. Nesmith met the group while they were rehearsing in a recording studio, and he ended up producing their first album. The article also mentions that Smith had attended the same school as Micky Dolenz. Nesmith was interviewed for the story, and while he seldom gives interviews about his Monkee days, he’s very open about other bands and projects of that time. Ugly Things (named in honor of one of editor Mike Stax’s favorite bands, The Pretty Things) has the power to raise the importance of bands thought minor, and can add fascinating tidbits to the legends of bands you thought you knew everything about.

British Invasion, British Perspective

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MOJO Magazine, which has maintained a rep as the most thoughtful and historically minded of rock magazines throughout its 20-year history, is published in England. They had no real need to weigh in heavily on the 50th anniversary of The Beatles appearing on Ed Sullivan, since there’d been numerous Beatle 50th anniversaries in the past couple of years which could have been considered a higher priority to British readers. Continue reading

Billie Joe Armstrong & The Quartos

These! Paper! Bullets! Yale Repertory Theatre

These Paper Bullets, the Yale Repertory Theatre world premiere which features new Beatles-style songs by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and a script (adapted from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing) by Rolin Jones, who’s written for TV’s Weeds and Friday Night Lights, opened March 20 and closes April 5.

Those who need Billie Joe Armstrong to be all Green Day all the time won’t know what to do with his Lennon-McCartney pastiches (circa 1964). But these are sturdy, catchy numbers that you want to hear over and over. In the show, they’re played live and loud, with convincing Beatlesque harmonies and guitar jangles, by The Quartos—actors David Wilson Barnes, Bryan Fenkart, James Barry and Lucas Papaelias. All The Quartos play their instruments for real. Barry is a member of the first national tour of the rock musical Million Dollar Quartet, Papaelias was in the original cast of the stage musical version of Once, and Fenkart has released two albums as a singer-songwriter.

A couple of Armstrong’s songs are contained in video ads for the show found on the Yale Rep site, here. A couple of numbers, like the second-half showstopper “Regretfully Yours,” really need to be seen in the context of the show (and its romantic Shakespearean plot) to be fully appreciated.

There’s nearly an album’s worth of music in this show—besides Armstrong’s songs, there’s incidental music composed by Broken Chord, the New York company which also is in charge of These Paper Bullets!’s overall sound design. No word on whether any of this will get released, or if These Paper Bullets! has a life after Yale. But Billie Joe Armstong’s recent foray into harmony-based pop suggests that fans can accept him outside of his ’80s punk persona. Having his Beatles-theater songs out there wouldn’t be any kind of stretch. And they’re songs you want to own.

 

Voice of an Angel

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Angel Olsen’s new album Burn Your Fire for No Witness is one of those lo-fi listen-in-close things that has become a production-style genre unto itself. What makes the difference is the range of the songs. Olsen’s got the unpredictability, insouciance and soothing nature of early Liz Phair. There’s the expected rawness here, but also an elegance, and a wondrous self-confidence.

Shadowsister

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DJ Shadow met one of his idols, ‘70s prog rock keyboardist Robert Jan Stips, a couple of years ago, and has now cooked up a compelling, contemporary, somewhat confounding and endlessly provocative remix of portions of the album Dona Nobis Pacem by Stips’ band Supersister, which was formed in Holland and released several albums on Polydor. For those who think most ‘70s prog rock is too slow and meandering, this is the antidote. The beats propel the sounds, and the sounds wind around each other exquisitely, all grounded by Stips’ inspiring keys. “Dona Nobis Pacem (DJ Shadow Remix)” is available as a free download here.