Thursday, April 30, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Most of the bands we mention in Most Awesomest tend to have been around a bit longer than the guys below, but She Hate Me's laudacious (yeah, that's right, laudacious) review is well-timed, as their new album, 'Art Brut Vs. Satan' hit stores this week. Revel in the drunken insanity, shitheads.
If this clip of Eddie Argos doing a keg stand at some college party in Philly does not endear you to the lead man from Art Brut, then you and I don’t have the same definition of awesome.
Consider some other facts about the goofiest fuckers in rock n roll today:
(1) the new album is called “Art Brut vs Satan”. This is funnier if you consider some of their past declarations: “Yes, this is my singing voice, it’s not irony, and it’s not rock n roll. I’m…just…talking…to the kids”. Werd the fuck up.
(2) The first single from that album is called “Alcoholics Unanimous”.
(3) The album was recorded during one week in Oregon that was “punk as fuck”.
(4) Modern Art makes them want to rock out
(5) They want to be the band that writes the song that makes Israel and Palestine get along.
(6) Eddie Argos’ drink of choice is apple juice and vodka. I’ll stop. These guys just GET IT. They are insanely likeable and their live show is hilarious, on top of being just fuckin’ awesome. Also, the bass player is named Frederica Feedback. Points awarded.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
You have to hand it to She Hate Me. This guys thinks A LOT. See below for his latest, and I think, greatest.
A recent press release / blog entry by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor announcing that Jane’s Addiction will be backing him on his 2009 farewell tour got me thinking about something that seems to come up over and over again: Nirvana’s status as the Godfathers of modern rock n roll.
“Towards the beginning of my career in Nine Inch Nails, our biggest break came in the form of an invitation to perform a series of shows with Jane's Addiction. These performances essentially created and defined the term "alternative" rock in the US , created an ongoing festival franchise that is still thriving (Lollapalooza), set the stage for Nirvana to shift popular taste a few months later…”
This notion of Nirvana as rock’s modern paradigm shifters has generally been accepted as fact because, since 1991, Rolling Stone, Spin, NME and MTV (The Industry, if you will) have needed an easy crutch to explain a phenomenon that was already upon us – the triumph of “alternative” rock over hair metal bands – and, of course, a superstar to make money off of. And so they used Nirvana as a way to market a new commodity – the commodity of “cool” -- to a new generation. The Industry created a brand and sold their wares to unsuspecting humps like myself. And they hit the jackpot when Cobain killed himself, which allowed them to place Kurt beside Jimi, Jim, and Janice in the pantheon of era-defining rock martyrs. But with Reznor apparently riding off into the sunset on the back of this legend, it’s time to examine the relatively unimportant question of just how culturally important Nirvana really is.
It should be noted from the outset that, like everyone else who watched MTV in September of 1991, I was somewhat swept away by Nevermind when it first came out. I remember playing it non-stop for a month, but I also remember getting sick of it quickly thereafter. Maybe that’s because, for many of us, this was not a cultural or musical revelation at all. The songs were great (and still are) and catchy and powerful, but if you listened to The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Jane’s Addiction and NiN and all that late 80s college rock / early 90s “alternative” rock, you likely regarded Nirvana as a cool Sub Pop band that broke through. In fact, if it did anything, Nirvana’s popular success probably pushed some of us away from the band. I remember thinking, “What’s the big deal about these guys, anyway?” And I remember scoffing at the “grunge” marketing tag that the record companies attached to the Seattle scene.
While much of Nevermind doesn’t really resonate with me these days, there’s no denying that it is an excellent album, and that its commercial success helped pave the way for a generation of rock fans to explore music outside of the standard commercial rock that radio and MTV shoved down their throats. After Nevermind’s success, mainstream exposure came to bands that previously could only be found on the left of the dial – The Lemonheads, Sonic Youth, Soul Asylum, Dinosaur Jr. et al. But, is that where its influence and importance ends? And was it really Nirvana that ushered in this new era, as Reznor suggests? Wasn’t it “Been Caught Stealing” and “Head Like a Hole” that really brought alternative rock to the mainstream? The idea that Nirvana saved rock n roll, created a whole new genre of music, spawned hundreds of relevant rock bands in the 90s and on forward and generally made it OK to get a tattoo and multiple piercings doesn’t mesh with history. What bands did Nirvana spawn? The Vines? Collective Soul? Silverchair? What genre of music did it invent? Grunge? That label was always a gimmick. What era did it usher in that was not being ushered in already?
Which brings us to crux of our thesis here – whether Nirvana should actually be considered a seminal band at all. In my mind, a seminal act has a lot more to with heralding a new style and changing the way people listen to music than with simply writing some great songs that meant something to their generation. (It’s debatable whether Nirvana’s songs even mean anything of substance to the 90s generation, but whether that is a statement about Nirvana or the decade of the 90s is a debate for another day.) A seminal act should re-define a new expression of music. James Brown was the Godfather of Soul, a clear influence on almost every act in modern music, from Sly and The Family Stone to The Jackson Five to Notorious B.I.G. Dylan electrified folk music and elevated lyricism beyond traditional themes and images. His influence is felt in almost every rock song you hear today. Ditto for The Beatles. Bob Marley was the third world’s first pop star, a man that brought the music of a small Caribbean island to everyone from Eric Clapton and The Police to Wyclef Jean and M.I.A. The Clash – “the only band that matters” – used punk rock to give music a conscience. This DIY sentiment, both in terms of recording and spirit, clearly laid the ground work for indie rock’s proliferation from 1990 to today.
The seminal pioneers didn’t end with the seventies. The Pogues’ mixture of traditional Celtic and punk rock, for example, spawned countless imitators, some of them very bad (see Black 47) but some of them good (see Dropkick Murphy’s). Jane’s Addiction married a variety of different rock styles that we have never seen before or since – a powerful mix of metal, funk, glam, folk, punk, and Velvet Underground-inspired psychedelic art rock. And as Reznor notes, they took this music on the road, packaged it with a traveling carnival and tons of disparate bands with eclectic styles and made the Lollapalooza festival accessible to the young masses. In this way, Jane’s Addiction had a much greater cultural impact than Nevermind, as evidenced by the mainstream’s acceptance of tattoos and piercings, something that was previously seen as an act of rebellion, rather than a fashion statement.
Likewise, the musical impact often credited to Nirvana more rightfully belongs to the Pixies, something Cobain himself acknowledged when he was famously quoted as saying that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was just a simple rip-off of “quiet/loud/quiet” template The Pixies created in the late 80s. Although Nevermind actually was released one month earlier than The Pixies swan song “Trompe Le Monde”, the similarities between The Pixies’ “UMass” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” are interesting. Go to the 1:11 mark (the “chorus” part where Mr. Black Francis tells you that “it’s educational!”), and compare that to the now-classic opening riff of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Whether this was an actual rip-off (ala The Strokes “Last Night” / Petty’s “American Girl”) or just borrowing the template, as it were, is not the point. The point is that Nirvana was channeling something that had been done (and done well) before.
Nirvana seems only to have been an excellent band that existed at the time of cultural transition in this country. It’s easy to forget now, but Nevermind came out at a crossroads in modern history. The Berlin Wall had just fallen, the Cold War was ending, and the 60s anti-war protestors were now running the show; Bill Clinton was playing the saxophone on Arsenio Hall for chrissakes. At least in the post-War era, fifteen year old kids have always wanted their own rebellion, their own heroes, their own soundtracks. But by 1991, with the world spinning off its axis, mainstream commercial entertainment felt hopelessly stodgy and stale.
Enter Lollapalooza and The Real World. All of the sudden kids were being exposed to music that two years prior could only be found on college radio. MTV, now blossoming as America ’s chief taste maker when it comes to pop culture, was realizing that the viewing public was more interested in the “real world” lives of 8 people living together in San Francisco than Sam Malone’s ability to win back Diane Chambers.
Nevermind-era Nirvana was the right band in the right place in the right time. Seattle circa 1991 gave kids their own 1967 San Francisco – a place where it was going down, man, and it all revolved around the music. Except, just as most of the popular San Francisco sounds had come out of the Los Angeles area, the idea of a Seattle grunge scene, at least with Nirvana at the center of it, is a myth. Cobain’s admission that Nirvana was just ripping off the Pixies was his way of trying to separate his band from the other bands in the Seattle scene. He thought of Pearl Jam as the latest classic rock retread – something Nirvana’s sound seemed to be trying to destroy. He thought of Soundgarden and Alice in Chains as simple continuations of the Guns n Roses / Motley Crue / commercial hard rock shite that he so despised. It’s been written before, but 20 years later, it has become increasingly evident that Nirvana really did not have that much in common – at least musically -- with their Seattle brethren after all. They just happened to be a punk-influenced band that sounded (kind of) like their contemporaries from the same geographical region.
Who knows where Nirvana and Cobain would have headed had he not killed himself. He was quoted as saying that he just wanted to be R.E.M., which leads me to think that the classic Unplugged performance was not just MTV catching lightning in a bottle, but a preview of Cobain’s musical shift from loud commercial “alternative” rock to something more like, say, Automatic For The People. Chuck Klosterman wrote a whole book that centered around the idea that dead rock stars become uber-popular mainly because of their death. While overdoses and plane crashes are indeed the things that make legends, I am not so sure this is true in every case.
Cobain, I think, would have gone on to really change his approach to music and likely would have been heralded as a Radiohead-style genius because of it. In other words, he would not only have been “the guy that brought alternative rock to the mainstream” but also the “guy that shunned fame and fortune and went on to release five more classic albums that sound nothing like Nevermind”. He is not necessarily famous simply because of his death, but maybe his death is what has warped our perspective on his cultural, rather than musical, importance. Cobain – like Dylan – was interested in music, not in being the leader of a cultural movement. Death robbed us of Cobain’s future musical experiments and left us with the myth of Cobain as the savior of rock n roll culture.
I’m not dismissing Nirvana as simply as a more accessible version of The Pixies, The Melvins and The Buzzcocks. Just because several bands before The Beatles experimented with psychedelic music doesn’t discount the importance of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It’s that marriage of pop and psychedelia and the accessibility of the songs that make The Beatles so brilliant. Nirvana were clearly responsible for a change in people’s taste in music, but the cultural shift they supposedly ushered in was already occurring. Their breakthrough record captured its teen spirit, but let’s leave the title of Il Padrino to Dylan and Marley, The Beatles and The Clash.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
If you like rock and roll and America and freedom, you probably would have liked Slobberbone. They're defunct now (totally resisted the urge to type 'de-funked' there) but they live on in the form of The Drams. 'Gimme Back My Dog' came off of the awesomely titled 'Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today', a title which likely blew the minds of many of their drunker fans. It did for me.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
She Hate Me saw The Hold Steady and had THE FOLLOWING to say. Also worth noting: their new live album comes out today, and while the timing of this post is purely coincidental, we pondered bullshitting everyone that we somehow managed to actually time something well, which we never have, sooooo ... yeah.
These guys are now four classic albums in and they have gotten to the point where they have more great songs than a full live set will allow, but that did not stop them from basically playing a greatest hits showcase at Irving Plaza on Monday night. They sounded as tight as I have ever heard them, Craig Finn surely benefiting from giving up alcohol for Lent, and while the scene itself at Live Nation’s New York HQ was…how you say…CORPORATE…nothing, not even the cell phone peddlers and Matt Pinfield’s idiotic pre-show speech, could stop the boys from rocking the shit out of what used to be a classic New York City rock club.
It’s fair to say that The Hold Steady have emerged as a much bigger and better band than their “best bar band in the world” title suggests. In fact, I will posit that they have to be considered in upper echelon of best live rock n roll bands in existence right now, along side The Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, LCD Soundsystem and…um, yeah, Radiohead. These bands all bring different things for different moods in different venues, but there are few things as enjoyable as throwing your brew in the air during “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”. If you think you disagree with this statement, then you have never thrown your beer in the air during “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”.
Nor have you stood next to a guy who truly believes that The Hold Steady is his life, as in, “I sometimes camp in a slate quarry where townies stab each other and take meth and then wash away their sins in the Mississippi River and then bust into church toasting Saint Joe Strummer while feeling all resurrected and born again and whatnot. I also sometimes like to vacation in Ybor City, that Tampa hotbed for hood rats, lapsed Catholics and people named after The King of The Franks, only to come home after things got too druggy and the killer parties almost killed me.”
An interesting fact about my buddy’s “The Hold Steady is my life” statement is that he was completely unaware of Craig Finn’s affinity for quoting D Boon’s “our band could be your life” from the Minutemen’s seminal tune, “History lesson, Part 2”. In other words, Finn and the boys clearly write and perform with this idea in mind and it’s pretty interesting that they somehow pull this very thing off. Finn’s stories are perfect reincarnations of Springsteen’s Spanish Johnny characters – the characters that made his fan base so sure that he was speaking directly to them, maaan. Holly and Gideon don’t stand on fire escapes, and they don’t take buses to 82nd Street, but they sure do love their summer festivals and hanging out with townies.
It’s a tough thing to pull off – writing little short stories that speak perfectly to our hyperbolic experiences from the past 20 years and since they actually do it so well, it engenders this almost absurd celebration of those songs during their live shows.
The truth is, there are too few bands bringing words and music together as seamlessly as The Hold Steady are doing right now and there are far too many little indie bands like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart that are filling our satellite waves with twee 80s pop that wasn’t very good to begin with. The Hold Steady is our life is because they take all the good rock music from the past and package it as concise summary of what the fuck is up: the energy of the all ages New York Hard Core shows, the positive vibe of a Specials show, 80s post punk like Husker Du and The Replacements, topped off with classic AC/DC rock riffs and The Boss’s knack for melody and street poetry. In other words, it’s exactly what rock n roll should sound like in 2009.
Multitude of Casualties
Sequestered in Memphis
Don't Let Me Explode
Ask Her For Some Adderall
Most People Are DJs
Lord I'm Discouraged
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Stuck Between Stations
Thursday, April 2, 2009
NOT BAD. I know I like to bash a lot, but this is NOT BAD. I like it. It can stay. Rolling Bone could take a hint here. Fucking shameful that Amazon gets it better than a professional magazine, a magazine that sucks at its own mission, but a professional magazine nonetheless. FUCKING SHAMEFUL, Rolling Bone.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Our favorite self-mythologizer recently released a statement saying he is retiring from music and blogging. The former, we kinda care about – we’d like The Cardinals to keep the muhfuckin' rock coming. The muthafuckin' ROCK, we say. The latter is news only in the sense that it’s a giant fucking relief. The problem with Senor Adams is that he is almost impossible to like or dislike based on his musical output alone. There’s just so much Gawker-style nonsense that goes on outside of the records he releases. (He is now engaged to Mandy Moore, for example. You read that right. We can’t wait for the breakup album.)
Some cats saw his video of “New York, New York” shoved down our throats after 9/11 and called him out as a gigantic hump (we didn’t). Some have seen him play a 30-minute version of “L.A. Woman” at The Roseland and responded with a 30 minute hoisting of the middle finger (we did). Let’s just say that we understand why Paul Westerberg can’t stand this dude. Why does he whine so? Why does he record rap songs? Why does he blog about satellites and Mars and diet coke and Slayer? Why do I know how many speedballs he did at HiFi with Parker Posey in 2003? Why the fuck did Brownies ever shut down in the first place? Goddammit.
Himself actually spoke to Adams outside of the Bowery Ballroom, sharing a cigarette and discussing some Discovery Channel show about satellites while Adams giggled like a schoolboy and Himself's ass got all wet from sitting on the sidewalk in the rain. This says more about Himself than Adams, as one of them was too drunk to think to stand under something. What an asshole!
There will be no answers to our questions about Adams and yet, the guy has like 30+ classic, classic tunes in his catalogue at this point. If he could avoid stabbing himself and us in the eyeball every now and then, he might not be regarded as a one-man humpstrumental. That’s his perogative though, I guess. Chuck Klosterman is inclined to think that he’s an underrated semi-genius and we are inclined to agree with 80% of the things Klosterman says. Ergo, Ryan Adams is 80% semi-genius, 20% hump. Cheers, Ryan. You’ve made it.