Thursday, February 21, 2013
The Mark Lanegan - Duke Garwood Album is Coming. And I’m a Little Nervous
My love of Lanegan is well known throughout the world. Or, at least, throughout my little group of friends. Lanegan has a new album coming out soon with a gentleman named Duke Garwood. It sounds like it could be a bit of continuing embrace of the kind of Americana that Lanegan has often touched on, but there might also be a more “brave” aspect to the music.
And that makes me nervous.
Music, movies, literature that tries too hard to be brave-- to push boundaries too self-consciously-- tends to be the kind of music that I don’t much listen to. I like my music to be lacking in pretension; I prefer it to be straight-forward and honest in its emotions. So, what will this new duo bring? Well, here’s a taste:
Friday, October 01, 2010
The Not So Bright Life of Zomby
I’m listening to a song that hasn’t been on regular rotation in my iPod for years. Maria McKee’s “If Love is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags)”, which I absolutely love. Great stuff.
However, it plays to the worst of my own personal mental defects. It plays to the bits of me that movies, music, and literature to adore the idea of suffering instead of savoring the happiness that life has handed me. When she sings, “If love is shelter, I’m gonna walk in the rain,” I’ll be damned if I don’t want to fall out of love so that I can taste a little misery.
I’ve often said that happiness is overrated--and I am pretty happy--but I meant it in what I thought was an entirely different context. I’m coming to the conclusion that I might just be emotionally allergic to happiness.
And, boy, is that stupid.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Midnightish Music Lamenting the Ending of Summer
Louder than my normal midnight musical offerings, the The Raveonettes’ “Beat City” has a kind of has a My Bloody Valentine meets early sixties pop thing going on (which might also explain this little ditty). Mostly, though, it’s a bit of noisy fun.
I hate it when summer starts to go away.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Billie Joe Armstrong Embraces His Inner (Very American) Idiot
Britain’s Q magazine--one of a handful of music magazines that I still read regularly--published a sort of musical overview of the last decade that, of course, incorporates a look at the political events that shaped these years. Predictably, my opinions weren’t well-represented. In fact, reading music journalists writing about the musings of rock stars on some of the weightiest issues of our times isn’t likely to wake any slumbering brain cells. It is rarely interesting, it is even more rarely insightful, and it is close to never useful to any larger debate.
Witness, for instance, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s take on Obamacare:
There’s a nuanced view of health care that neither seems to have any understanding of what assistance was in place for the poor before Obamacare nor of any of the practical issues of how to properly administer any healthcare plan. Deep thought is not this man’s strongest suit.
Of course, if he had simply said that I wouldn’t be writing this post. That’s a very tame grade of dumb. What is more impressive is the full-on weapons grade dumb that he exhibits when asked this by Q’s interviewer, “If you went for a beer with Bush, do you think he’d turn out to be quite a nice guy?”
Billie Joe’s answer is, well, inflammatory.
What a ridiculous, silly little man.
If you’re inclined to read the interview, you can find it on page 61 of the January, 2010 issue. Why, yes, I am a little behind on some of my reading. Why do you ask?
Update: Having read the magazine, I find a very specific trend to be intriguing. Of all of the interviews in the issue, when the musicians were asked about the best and worst of the decade, those who went political answered almost unanimously.
Worst of the decade was President Bush. Which seems a tremendous hyperbole when you consider the global economic meltdown, the terrifying natural disasters, and the rise of Real Housewives of Wherever.
Best of the decade was President Obama. Which seems just as tremendously premature. I imagine, though, that his actual job performance won’t be changing their minds.
And precisely none of them mentioned Osama bin Laden, terrorists, or the 9/11 attack. Defining the “worst” thing of a decade is always difficult, but here’s the thing: no matter what you think of former President Bush, he did not go into office intending to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. If anything, he had sounded during his first campaign, like a mild isolationist. The worst thing of this past decade could very easily be that thing that precipitated the wars that no one really wanted: the terrorist attacks that murdered thousands of innocents. Not just terrorist attacks in the US, but around the world.
I find it mind-boggling that not one of the people interviewed noticed that the worst “thing” of the decade was the surge in deadly, radical Muslim terrorists working hard to destabilize governments around the world.
I truly love music, but these are not serious people.
Friday, July 02, 2010
I Find Myself Wondering…
...If there is a big spike in folks either Googling or trudging over to YouTube to watch Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans.” And, if so, if there is a subsequent spike in secondary searches (from people like me) listening to “Sink the Bismark” again for the first time in years.
Because, seriously, those are awesome songs.
Well, if so, let me simplify your morning.
And then, if you find yourself wondering at my wondering, check this out. I’ve just discovered that my wife doesn’t know either of these songs--has never even heard them.
Her parents neglected to educate her properly. Bad parents. Bad, bad.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Birthday Presents for the Discerning Screaming Trees Fan
Sweet Oblivion is being re-released on vinyl. Which is freakin’ awesome.
It also might help blunt the pain of the Lee DeWyze win. If that doesn’t, a quick dose of 16 Horsepower might help.
And if you want something a little more light-hearted, try Richard Swift’s “Would You?”
American Idol: The Old Guys Are Better Than The Young Guys Edition
(Spoiler Down Below)
One thing about watching fogies night is the realization that the old, professional singers are, in large part, out-singing their American Idol counterparts. Including some of those who made it pretty far into the show. Including one of the guys who had a chance to win tonight.
Seriously, Lee DeWyze seems like a really nice guy, but his voice isn’t particularly good, he can’t seem to remember (or maybe he just doesn’t appreciate) the melody, he doesn’t connect emotionally to the song, he’s charismatic in the same way that firewood is charismatic, and he’s boring.
I like pop music and my disappointment in the show isn’t a reflection of the songs that they sing (although what I wouldn’t have given to see them have to tackle, say, Corrosion of Conformity night). It’s a reflection of the fact that they pile outrageous praise on vocal performances that simply don’t deserve it like, for instance, Lee’s take on “The Boxer.” He had zero understanding of the emotion or the subtlety of the song and, honestly, it was a horrible song for a night where they were supposed to be singing inspirational songs.
“The Boxer” may be defiant, but it’s hardly inspirational either in tone or in subject--it’s a hard song about someone who, in the words of Social Distortion’s Mike Ness, is “born to lose and destined to fail.” Unlike the Ness song, though, Simon and Garfunkel’s boxer keeps standing up to take the next punch. That’s not inspirational because there is precisely nothing in the song or the character they paint that leads anyone to believe that the guy is going to win the fight (much less “win” in life)--he’ll just gather more scars and wish he could find his way home. His life will leave him lonely and he’ll continue to take his solace in “the whores on Seventh Avenue,” but that’s an empty and cold life by anyone’s standards.
Inspirational? I don’t see it.
If he had managed to sing it well, I might have forgiven him, but he didn’t. In fact, of the episodes that I saw this year, there really weren’t a lot of highlights--and what few bright spots there were didn’t come from him.
Tim Urban, with one of the most limited voices on the show, managed one of those high points when he sang “Hallelujah.” While it didn’t capture the emotional wallop of Leonard Cohen’s original (another guy with a seriously limited voice) or the transcendent beauty of Jeff Buckley’s version, but he put heart and soul into the song and came out with something special in its own right. Perhaps it was that he managed the emotional connection that most AI performances simply can’t reach. Or maybe it was that you could tell that he was standing right at the ragged edge of his vocal range and giving his all to make it as good as he could possibly manage.
And Tim--we called him Smiley around the Zomby household--was the picture of good grace. His parents must be proud. He stood in front of judges who were brutal and, week after week, he faced their criticism with good humor and a brilliant smile. Even when you could see that something had gotten through, he didn’t let the smile fail. And, finally, the judges relented, even to the point of almost admitting that they had treated him poorly. Still, he smiled, did his best, and enjoyed his opportunity to be in the spotlight.
He didn’t deserve to win the show, and I’m not suggesting that he did, but he had something that nearly none of the others had this year: a natural charisma and good spirit that had me pulling for him whenever we caught the show.
Tonight, though, the two who had a chance to win were a second-rate vocal talent with little charisma and a much more vibrant vocal talent (and a bit of a throwback to the early late sixties in style) who wilted a bit as the show went along.
And while I enjoyed most of the songs that Bowersox had a part in, the truth is that they were often outshone by artists well past their prime. Did you catch Joe Cocker’s moment? The man still has a bigger voice than anyone else on the show (and Lee positively disappeared beside Cocker and Bowersox in that moment--it was obvious that he wasn’t even in the same weight class).
How about Alice Cooper with his immense showmanship and command of the stage? Or Michael McDonald’s duet with Big Mike? Both of the old guys showed up big (even if the audience seemed largely confused by Michael McDonald).
The truth is that American Idol largely crowns second-rate talents and, while I’m happy for the winners, they are mostly music history footnotes just a few years after they win. Tonight, between these two, the winner should have been Bowersox, but the prize went to a guy who probably won’t be remembered except to the Idol-obsessed masses. He’ll make gobs of money (because there are some big guarantees) and he’ll live the life of a star for the next couple years (more than I’ll ever experience) and he won’t much matter in the grand scheme of things.
With Simon Cowell’s retirement from the show, I’ll be mercifully released from the last, tenuous hold that American Idol has used to lure me in with increasing irregularity.
What a relief.
Soulsavers and Mark Lanegan singing “Can’t Catch the Train.”
Sadly, I won’t be able to use Lala’s features to embed songs since Lala disappears in a few days. PS- If you were in the mood for something louder, this, from the same album, might fit the bill.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Sad Day for Metal Fans: DIo has Died
Fans of Sabbath, Rainbow, and Dio will all be mourning today.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
All You Zombies…
No, it’s not a call to arms. Neither is it a short story by Robert A. Heinlein.
Well, actually, yes it is both of those things on some days, but I’m not talking about them right now. I’m talking about the Hooters’ song by the same name. It came up while on BYO.fm today--which, more about that later--and I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy this song. There’s a touch of synth toward the end that I could do without, but the song itself is awfully darned catchy. It was followed by Arbouretum’s “Pale Rider Blues,” which I believe I’ve talked about here before. If not, then treat yourself to this nine-minute, slow-building dose of dark thoughts. Not to mention that you’ll find the album, Rites of Uncovering, has some of the most impressive guitar solos that you’ll ever find on such a deeply folk-influenced album.
It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it is phenomenal.
I suppose the funny part is that after those two picks, BYO sidetracked me into Bernie Mardones’ “Into the Night.” Which, no, I will not apologize…
God bless random picks from my giant freakin’ music collection. The problem with having tens upon tens of thousands of songs at your disposal and a seemingly unquenchable thirst for more and newer music is that you forget to appreciate the good and great stuff already in your library. The same could be said for books. The problem with having a finite lifespan is that there is just too much to see, learn, hear, read, and experience for one, short life.
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Quick Hits from a Nicely Spent Saturday
Darling girl and I have started haunting a little used book store here in Aurora. It’s run by an older couple and it sits in an anonymous little strip mall where the only real draw is the book and those two who seem to have been running the place for something close to ever. Anyway, when I was finishing up my run, I happened to spy a little hardback copy of Bill Mauldin’s Up Front.
I grew up with “Up Front,” which was Mauldin’s World War II infantry-eye view of World War II. Mauldin himself was an infantryman and his characters, Willie and Joe, were one of the most honest looks at the infantry that you could find, warts and all.
It may sound strange to hear that I, who wasn’t born within decades of WWII, grew up with those guys, but it’s true. One of my father’s friends had this same book and another (the name escapes me, sadly), and I read through not only the cartoons, but Mauldin’s commentary about the soldiers, the war, the cartoon, and the stories that inspired it all. I would still say that if you want to get an idea of who wartime grunts really are, this is a great place to start. It doesn’t sugarcoat the guys, but there is an obvious, gentle affection to the poor bastards who carry the load.
The technology and some of the terminology have changed, of course, and there is an old-fashioned feeling to the cartoons, but there is a reason that his fellow soldiers loved him, there’s a reason that he enraged Patton and the Eisenhower protected him, and there’s a reason that he won a few Pulitzers for his work. I have no idea what kind of a guy he was in the real world, but “Up Front” was as much a love letter to the infantry (and more authentic) as Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.
Of course, I picked up the fragile old book--pages yellowing and tearing in a few places--and brought it home with me.
Mauldin had a very obvious concern for his fellow soldiers and was concerned that the returning soldiers wouldn’t be taken back in by the country that sent them off to war. A bit that I read pretty close to the front of the book probably bears repeating today:
If you see a copy next time you’re in your local used book store, I highly recommend picking it up. It’s well worth the few bucks you’ll spend. Mauldin passed away a few years back, but he’ll be remembered as long as his doggies have to go to far off lands to fight wars on behalf of the rest of us. Mauldin told their story, perhaps, better than anyone else has ever managed.
I also picked up a copy of PJ O’Rourke’s wonderful Parliament of Whores. It might seem a little dated--the book is nearly two decades old at this point and some of the stories stretch back to 1988--but it’s still a fun romp at the expense of the political class (finished with a painful look in the mirror).
Anyway, here’s a quote for you. It’s from the opening paragraph of the chapter entitled, “The Three Branches of Government: Money, Television, and Bullshit.”
I grew up reading this stuff: is it a wonder that there is a streak of cynicism in me that rears up now and again?
Lastly, we also picked up Crazy Heart since the local Blockbuster didn’t have one to rent.
No regrets on that. It’s a wonderful movie with absolutely stellar performances and surprisingly good music. It might be a little smaller than some people might expect--there are no grand gestures and no earth-shattering themes--especially given all of the Oscar talk. But it’s that tightly-focused look at one lonely, old, alcoholic that keeps the movie good.
No politics, no “brave” agenda about racism or sexuality or any supposedly hot-button issue of the day, and no overblown sentimentality leave it being a wonderful movie with more humanity, by far, than something like Avatar. Of course, I’m also of the opinion that District 9 was the best science fiction story last year, so take that as you will.
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and I have to say it again: the music was surprisingly good. Jeff Bridges, as Bad Blake, actually made a credible country music artist. I didn’t realize that he sang so many of the songs in the film, but was pleasantly shocked by just how well he pulled it off.
That’s not my favorite song from the movie (that would be “The Weary Kind”, but that song isn’t sung by Bridges) but it has the bonus of featuring Collin Farrell, too. Again, surprising.
And here’s one more for the road.
I hesitate to throw this story in the mix, but I can’t stand not mentioning it. I realize that not everyone is heroic in action or willing to sacrifice for others--although I hope that if I’m ever tested, I would would be both--but this story is not only one of the saddest things I’ve read in a very long time, but also one of the most shameful. Not shameful to me, of course, but to those people who saw, who knew, and who still did nothing.
If I were to say a prayer on this day it would be that I am never so callous, never so uncaring, never so low as to leave a man dying in the streets while I did nothing. I’m sure that some of the passers never noticed, never saw the blood, and never realized what had happened, but, just as surely, some of them did see.
This man deserved far better not only because he had acted with courage to save a woman that he didn’t even know, but because he was a human being dying in the streets. He didn’t have to die and he deserved far, far better than this.
Shame, shame, shame on those people who let the man die.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Mood Music. Or Moody Music. Or Loud in Another Direction.
This is from Mark Lanegan’s first solo CD, The Winding Sheet from way back in 1990--which is a depressingly long time ago.
If you’re curious, here’s the Lala version of the entire album in all its rough glory. I once described it as being a lot like a demo tape. It’s not polished, the mix is a little rugged, and no one would say it was over-produced. What it is, though, is in the tradition of old, southern Americana in the same line as Chris Whitley’s Dirt Floor. Brilliant stuff, but not to everyone’s taste.
Back in ‘90, this album was quite a shock to people who were more used to Lanegan as the voice of the latter day psychedelic rock of Screaming Trees and went mostly unnoticed in the music world. His next album, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost was where i discovered his moonlighting gig and where I fell in love with his solo stuff. But this album, a little rougher around the edges, has its own charm.
“Ugly Sunday” chugs along like something Johnny Cash might have sang and the mood, though a little less country, hits the same ground. “Down in the Dark,” one of the few full-on rock songs in the mix, makes its way onto my road trip playlists regularly (and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Screaming Trees album). It’s after this opening salvo, though, that the songs really surprise.
“Wild Flowers” and “Eyes of a Child” are quiet, sweet little gems. Not happy--this was coming from a man who was getting serious about his drug addictions--but pretty, gentle, tender songs with very little adornment. That’s for the best since they stand so well on their own. “Wild Flowers” has an echoey sound that gives it the intimacy hearing a song played live in a church. “Eyes of a Child” has a more full sound and more full instrumentation, but, with the tone of these two songs, it would have been impossible to avoid putting them one after the other on the album.
As much praise as I can give some of these songs, though, this half of the album is ridiculously uneven. “Juarez” is a sleazy mess and it sounds terribly out of place. “Woe” feels unfinished. “I Love You Little Girl” is, perhaps, too light for a Lanegan album.
But you forgive it when you hear the scary, nightmarish “The Winding Sheet"--a ghost story that’s gothic in the old, unposed sense of the word. The chiming bell-like guitars in the foreground play over a fuzzed-out drone in the background while Lanegan sings of ghosts and God and dying. Wonderfully evocative.
Another song--the song up there in the YouTube clip at the top--that makes it worth the trip is the angry take on the old standard “In the Pines.” Here, with its roots in Leadbelly’s reading, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” sounds very little like most of the bluegrass, country, and backwoods blues versions of “In the Pines.” Here it is aggressive and menacing (helped along by Curt Cobain singing in the background and playing guitar, Chris Novoselic on bass, and Screaming Trees’ own Mark Pickerel pounding drums). The blend of Lanegan’s and Cobain’s vocals near the end of the song is about perfect--and a sad musical footnote of their aborted attempt to start a side-project together.
It’s a good album that might have approached greatness, surprisingly, by killing off a few of the weaker songs that detract from the high points.
Still, this is one of those hidden bits of the whole “grunge” thing that made that whole, overblown (yes, that’s an intentional reference) scene worth revisiting. Especially now where the pop music has become so overproduced and soulless, filled with whiny voices and Justin fucking Beiber, that we could use something to remind us of what music sounds like when it isn’t grown in a lab.
A Very Small Eulogy. Of Sorts.
Shawn eulogizes Pete Steele (if you know him at all, I would guess that you’ll know him as the lead singer for Type O Negative or maybe Carnivore).
RIP you twisted bastard. And, since I believe in the power of grace and redemption, I’ll even hope that, as Shawn says, “the Christians are right.” By some reports, Steele had returned to Catholicism over the last few years of his life. For a guy who had problems with substance abuse and depression, at very least, I would hope that it provided some peace and comfort.
Shawn’s right about one thing, though: I’m pretty sure God wasn’t digging on a lot of those songs…
Fair warning: the song gets a little loud and a little profane. Your cube mate might not like this stuff.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Midnight Musical Interlude No. 2
If you were hoping that you could join me in listening to semi-random music while working late into the night, then here’s your chance. A late night list of tunes to nudge your creative spirit (or irritate the neighbors).
I consider both to be worthy goals.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Midnight Musical Interlude No. 1
It’s been a dreary day here in Denver. A gray, weepy game with drizzling, cold rain and snow. For a melancholic soul like me, it’s a catalyst for the worst of my own mind. Fears, worries, and a creeping, spidery awareness of my own failings poke at the back of my head, needle sharp and insistent. Much of it comes from memories that play in my head as if the I was living through some of the worst moments of my life again.
I can see, hear, smell, and feel everything that happened in those moments. Sometimes I think I understand junkies and alcoholics. If you can’t turn off the noise in your head by shear force of will, if you can’t find a way to get away from the most vicious bits of yourself, then drugs and booze are a hell of a temptation.
Which is one of the reasons I stopped drinking at one point in my first marriage. Not that it saved us, but I started to understand why I liked drinking so much, and it wasn’t a very happy realization.
Some of you know that I lost a friend when I turned 21. He died an ugly death around the same time I started bartending--a death directly attributable to his alcoholism. I had been drinking since I was about 13, but his death was almost like someone firing a starter pistol and I was racing to the bottom of the bottle. Most people that I knew then were drinking because it was part of the party; I was drinking because I wanted to kill myself. I had a very specific view of myself and I wanted to destroy the person that I saw, I wanted him to sink away and never come up for air.
Of course, it wasn’t always that way and it wasn’t constant--which is why I never quite made it to either addiction or suicide, why I still had friends, and why, when I grew up some, I found out that I could be okay. That I could start shaping my life to be something better, something happier and more full. I think I also learned that loneliness is largely a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But some nights, old habits crawl back in.
Which, if you know me well, probably explains my taste in music. If I have to relive the worst bits of my life, then the soundtrack should fit, right?
With that introduction, here are a few songs that I’ve been playing today. Enjoy.
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