Growing up I was influenced greatly by the east coast punk, post-punk, and hardcore movements. One of my my heroes was Minor Threat and Fugazi singer Ian MacKaye. Although I had heard of them before I only recently discovered MacKaye’s short lived band Embrace, which only ever put out one album. Those of you that are fans of any of MacKaye’s work will find that Embrace is simply outstanding. It is more melodic than most of Minor Threat and Fugazi. However, the guitar work by Michael Hampton is completely incendiary. Check out song two on their album, Dance of Days, up above. Those of you that love post-punk and hardcore will find a singular sound here.
Cockney Rejects East End Babylon Film Trailer: http://youtu.be/fDTA6wk6r3Y
Watching this to get in the zone for my solo show today at Strange Brew at 4pm. It will give you an idea where my head is at. Today is a song swap with friend and songwriter Kacy Crowley. In Austin, Texas at 4pm. Don’t miss my maiden voyage!
BODY COUNT – Talk S**t, Get Shot (Official Music …: http://youtu.be/sokdL-0iV9s
Many of you won’t understand why I love this video. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t make me laugh every time I watch it. It has questionable morals, but it is a fantasy. It is the musical equivalent of a grind house movie. The Ice man is creating a violent fantasy in which those that anonymously talk shit on the internet are hunted down and killed for their deeds. It’s so over-the-top that for me it crosses over into the realm of comedy. Also, in an age of PC plastic popstars, I am happy that Ice-T and his heavy metal band Body Count dare to go to insane lengths to offend. The album as a whole ping pongs back and forth between absurd fantasy and astute social commentary. It was Bob Dylan himself that compared Ice-T’s poetry to throwing horses over cliffs. He is just having fun. Whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul, I can put on Body Count and find a cheap laugh and a twisted smile.
The above video is comedian John Oliver talking about the worst time he bombed onstage. It is truly hilarious. It’s short and I don’t want to ruin anything by telling you what is in the clip.
As someone that makes his living on stage there is definitely an element that I can relate to in it. There are good nights, bad nights, and nights in between. So much is out of your control. As a musician a terrible sound man can make your best efforts futile. One time on my birthday I drunkenly fell off the stage. These things happen. The only difference between an amateur and a pro is that the pro gets back up and just keeps going. Over time you learn not to be embarrassed or defeated. We are all unfailingly imperfectly human.
I mentioned how much I love the guitar playing of The Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly a couple days ago. I posted one of their most well known studio compositions, Otis, along with that post. Here is a great live version of one of their other signature pieces, Sketch For Summer. Notice how much sound they create with two people. Notice how the composition of what Reilly is playing is finally honed, like a jeweler crafting a diamond. I love the liquid quality of Reilly’s guitar, almost as if he is painting with sound. One of the true masters of the instrument, who should get much more recognition than he does.
The above link is to the information concerning my first solo show this Sunday in Austin, Texas at Strange Brew (An incredible sounding room) at 4pm. It will be a song swap with friend and fellow Austin artist Kacy Crowely. I’m trying not to go the typical acoustic guitar/singer songwriter route. I’ll be playing electric guitar and be backed up by the amazing percussionist Alex Moralez. This is uncharted territory as I have always performed my songs with my brother Ben. I am both scared and excited. If you are in town on Sunday come join me on my maiden voyage. My aim is to leave you pregnant with thought.
In the future when all’s well…
I read reviews at Pitchfork, even though I rarely agree with them. Pitchfork at least takes reviewing albums somewhat seriously in an age where reviews seem more like tweets than actual criticism. More and more magazines and sites seem to be mistaking a half a paragraph as enough information to base an informed purchasing decision on. I’ll at least give Pitchfork their due in that they put out an awful lot of longer form criticism. The problem, however, is that most of the opinions you encounter there are ones that you can pretty much guess in advance, especially when it comes to rock music. Their writers seem to disparage anything where actual songwriting is involved. The more an album is a collection of weird sounds, and the less it actually features well crafted songs, the better chance it has of being highly rated.
The thing is, really great songs are hard as fuck to write. We actually need more artists that are actually saying something in a way that reaches people. I love all kinds of music as long as I feel an artist is doing something that comes direct from their soul and they are not just following trends.
Their is a band called The Knife that I like. Their last album, Shaking the Habitual, was a really interesting record. It dealt in avant-garde soundscapes much more than it dealt in pop songs. If it were a painting it would be more of a Jackson Pollock than a beautiful landscape. But do you know how many times I actually listened to the entire record in one sitting? I haven’t once. It’s pushing the envelope and that’s important, but it’s not really enjoyable other than as an intellectual exercise. As a musician I really appreciate that kind of thing, but it’s a hard thing to love. Pitchfork gave it an 8.4 and called it the best new music. If you read the artwork that comes with the album you know that The Knife have a political agenda, but you would be hard pressed to really get that agenda by actually listening to the music.
Meanwhile the new Morrissey record is really subversive politically and in a way that anyone listening could get. It’s because he uses the form of the pop song as his platform. There are intelligent lyrics that tackle everything from gender politics to animal cruelty, but they are all delivered with melodies that are undeniably catchy. His new album World Peace is None of Your Business has some really interesting arrangements. The album starts with tribal percussion and a didgeridoo. I’m Not a Man, perhaps the most subversive pop song that I have heard in some time, with an incredible melody, even starts with a minute and a half of strange noises. What I’m getting at is that this isn’t simple guitar, bass, drums stuff, although I love traditional rock n roll as much as anything. But I can’t help but think that Morrissey was punished a couple points by Pitchfork because he actually dared write memorable melodies. His album was awarded a 5.9.
The new U2 album got only 4.6 points. I wouldn’t say that the new U2 album, Songs of Innocence, is one of their top three albums, but it’s really good. Every song features really strong melodies and great playing from musicians that play as a true band. I personally like it more than probably any record they have put out since Pop. I think Bono as a lyricist was at his peak between The Joshua Tree and Pop. However this new album has songs that deal with IRA car bombs and the death of his mother. It’s not exactly bubblegum. But out of the three albums it is the most traditional in terms of writing and arrangements. This is a rock n roll band album by and large. But anyone that has ever written songs with things like guitars and melodies will know that what they are doing on this record is not the kind of thing that is easy. It would be much easier to get a bunch of weird instruments and make an atonal soundscape.
I want a world where I can hear both. I like that I can flick on my iPod and shuffle between The Knife and U2. Out of the three records I like the Morrissey one the best as I think it is the one that straddles the gap between the intellectual and emotional the best. But out of the other two, I can tell you flat out I am going to listen to the U2 one way more. It’s more emotionally resonant. And also, even though it seems more traditional, creating great songs is actually the harder magic trick.
I feel lucky though that as a music fan I don’t have to choose. There is different music for different occasions. Everyone has slightly different tastes and opinions. However, I can’t help but feel that Pitchfork tilts the scales too far in one direction. I feel like our mainstream culture has been dumbed down too much. If you look at the music of the 60’s you will see that this wasn’t always the case. There was a time when music could be popular and important. Now Pitchfork alone isn’t responsible for this. A great deal of it has to do with other aspects of our free market culture run amuck. But sometimes I wish the writers over at Pitchfork would realize that intelligence and subversive thought don’t necessarily have to exist apart from accessibility.