All I Ask For In Music

I absolutely love music.  It is not only my job, but also my hobby and religion.  Anyone that travels with me will tell you that I wear headphones around the clock.  Occasionally this is self preservation, a way to disconnect,  but mostly I just can’t listen to enough albums. 

As long as music seems authentic, I’m a fan.  I don’t care if it is Richard Wagner or Slade.  I love trashy garage rock and sophisticated jazz.  I like Frank Sinatra and Jeff “Stinky” Turner.  I love Motown love songs and Lou Reed’s Edgar Allen Poe influenced album The Raven.  In pop music I am a fan of singers first.   I need to connect in some way with the singer.  I need to feel they are singing with their soul and not just copping someone else’s bit off of the radio. 

Sometimes people think I am a music snob, because I’ll slag off this or that, but I really am open to so many different kinds of music.  I am just passionate about this stuff.  Even if civilization broke down people would still be singing something and banging out rhythms,  even if it was just on a trash can.  You can tell so much about someone just by the way they sing. 

I am reading John Lydon’s new biography, Anger is an Energy, and he is talking about how these TV shows like American Idol and X Factor are ruining singing by making it too much about singing correctly.  He says they are basically making pop stars out of cruise ship singers.  Singing really should be about nothing more than communicating some kind of strong emotion. 

I can’t listen to most of modern radio.  Autotune, unless it is used as an effect to purposely make a voice sound robotic, is killing music.  It takes some of the humanity out of people’s voices.  Life isn’t perfect.  Pain and sadness and even happiness are complicated.  Sometimes a great a singer like Sam Cooke can convey how you are feeling, and sometimes it is James McMurtry with his dry monotone delivery.  Paul Westerberg hits bum notes sometimes, but he always gets the emotion of something dead on.  There are no rules. 

I love intellectual music, but music doesn’t need to be intellectual.  It just needs to be emotional.  So much of what is out there is just vanilla emotions.  There is no pain or sadness or joy.  There is just the imitation of life, sometimes with convenient product placements in tow.  It is the song as lifestyle brand. 

Music should open doors, not close them.  As soon as music becomes too tribal, I am out.  “I am driving my truck and waving the flag because that is what a real American does.”  Fuck you!  “Look at all these things I own that you don’t.”  And fuck you too! 

Tell me how you feel and what you think.  Be complicated.  Don’t parrot someone else’s emotions or thoughts.  Be yourself.  When I plug in my headphones, that is all I ask. 

Damien Dempsey, Stockholm Pop, and Declining Record Sales

Damien Dempsey 2-2

http://mic.com/articles/95260/the-music-industry-is-literally-brainwashing-you-to-like-bad-pop-songs-here-s-how?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social

That is a link that talks about how popular music is driven by how much you hear it, and not by the quality.    The more you hear something the more you are likely to like it.  This is due to the way people’s brains function.  It compares the modern pop world to the Stockholm Syndrome.  Corporations are cramming this nonsense down people’s throats.  

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/album-sales-hit-historic-low-falling-below-four-million-units-sold-20140829

This is an article about how album sales are at an all-time low.  I realize that technology has had an effect, but if one compares todays popular music with popular music in the past, one can’t help but feel quality of the things that are getting the most exposure is also at an all-time low.  

In closing, I will quote part of Damien Dempsey’s song Patience:

Well I’ve exchanged the spear and the sword
For words and melody
Oh what a felony
How the record company pushes this McDonalds music
An aural lobotomy
For those who choose it
Corporations pumpin all this money into pop
To keep the real singers far away from the top
So folks are never told what these corporations do
Fuckin up the planet, exploiting me and you

P.S.  I love the term McDonalds music!  

Book Of Love ‎- Boy

Book Of Love ‎- Boy (1985) [HQ]: http://youtu.be/WVBbIxdCNLQ

Nicolas Winding Refn, one of my favorite directors, has stated that this is one of his favorite songs. (He has directed Drive, Bronson, Valhalla Rising, and Only God Forgives amongst others.)  I must admit that this is an excellent piece of pop art.  I am a sucker for synth pop, because of the combined dance rhythms and strength of the melody.  It also has a certain inclusiveness to it.  Boy or girl, gay or straight, of whatever age, all can twitch and shake like 13 year old girls when it is on.

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The Ecstatic Joy of Bizarre Love Triangle

I try to keep this blog balanced, and not in the way that Fox News means. If I post too many music blogs, I try to find something politically to talk about. If my posts seem to be filled with too much despair at the state of things I try to find something fun for a change. I know that in this day and age one is supposed to niche market, but I get bored talking about the same subject over and over. If you are passionate about something and you do it well, have at it. The world does need people that are focused and knowledgeable about certain issues. It doesn’t necessarily need scatterbrained people like myself that dip their toes in a hundred different pools. But I can’t help but feel that this world is endlessly fascinating, even if it is occasionally like George Carlin said, “when you are born in this country you get two tickets to the freak show.” The last two posts were about the Koch brothers and the sad state of music reviews. I was going jet black for a moment and it is time to temporarily take another course.

I tried to think of something that made me happy. I must admit that a song that has always picked my spirits up is New Order’s Bizarre Love Triangle. Although the lyrics slightly betray the music, the music and melody sound to me like pure ecstatic joy. I’ve always felt this is one of the great pop songs. Temptation might edge this out as my favorite New Order song, but this is up there.

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Give Him a Great Big Kiss

This is the forever cool Shangri-La’s who influenced many of the punk acts of the 70’s. I have an affinity for girl group music and the Shangri-La’s are one of the absolute best. Their greatest hits is simply fantastic and a must buy if you like this period of music.

The Guitar Playing of Alain Whyte

One of my favorite guitar players is Alain Whyte.  He was Morrissey’s guitar player from Your Arsenal through Ringleader of the Tormentors.  He still wrote songs with Morrissey after leaving the touring band, although I do not know yet if he wrote any songs on the new album.  Morrissey pokes some fun at him in his Autobiography, but with Morrissey it is hard to tell if he there is any real animosity or just a sort of backhanded compliments that are the result of his Northern humor. 

Alain Whyte never got the credit that he deserved, largely for the unpardonable sin of not being Johnny, even though he wrote at least 81 songs with Morrissey and contributed to some of his best works. 

I loved the guitar team of Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte, but I prefer Alain’s melodic expressive playing to Boz’s more rhythmic approach out of the two.  They were perfect foils for each other.  Although the guitar playing of the two was rooted in pop and rock classicism I actually felt that especially during the 90’s they were one of the few two guitar teams that were pushing the instrument in new directions. 

They took glam, rock, pop, and rockabilly riffs, and blended them into a unique recognizable style.  Under Steve Lillywhite the pair created what to me are the two high-water marks of Morrissey’s career when it comes to guitar playing.  The albums Vauxhall and I and Southpaw Grammar both feature exceptional guitar playing though they are both very different.  Vauxhall and I is very beautiful and gentle while Southpaw Grammar explodes with volume and energy. 

One of the things that is interesting about their playing is that even when they were playing loud they were often including beautiful melodies under the noise.  Vice versa, even when they were playing beautiful gentle parts there was an emotional quality that created tension. 

Much how Paul Westerberg often updated the guitar playing of the Rolling Stones by making it more melodic, I feel that Whyte, and Boorer with him took preexisting rock n roll templates and added a new melodicism to them.  They might have only been painting new landscapes in the margins, but they were still creating their own language. 

Now that Whyte is no longer in Morrissey’s band he often co-writes pop songs with American pop stars.  However, if you like his work his work with Morrissey I would recommend checking out the album Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams.  This album features Whyte’s guitar playing, writing, and singing.  Some of the songs you will recognize as songs that became Morrissey songs. 

If you are unfamiliar with his playing I would recommend checking out both of the above mentioned Morrissey records.  Although I think Vauxhall and I is the pinnacle of Morrissey’s solo career, Southpaw Grammar may interest you more if you are buying a record for purely the guitar playing aspect if you happen to be a rock n roll fan. Both records feature glorious guitar playing that in and of itself has unfortunately been overlooked for too long.   

More Thoughts On the Golden Age of Music

I’m always wondering why the 60’s and 70’s were such a golden age of music.  I was born in 1978 so I am not clouded by nostalgic feelings.  I don’t mean that good music stopped being made after the 70’s, only that across the board quality was higher then that it has been since.  Even many banal pop songs of that time feature some great musicianship.

I think a lot of it has to do with money.  Artists were allowed to indulge then.  Kevin Russell always talks about how the music industry from that time was decadent.  A lot of those artists were allowed to live in a drug fueled world of fantasy and wealth.  I remember reading that Pink Floyd sent a photographer to capture pictures of the great pyramids for Dark Side of the Moon.  Just those pictures cost more than most people spend to make the actual album these days!

I also think that the record business was in the hands of people that knew how to exploit it for money, but not control it.  By that I mean they knew how to use artists and their talents to make money, but now it just seems like they stick a pretty face and digitally do whatever needs to be done to make the music sellable.  Real artists do things like challenge corporations politically on occasion.  You don’t want too many of those kinds of people running around with too much money.

There were also a lot less distractions.  Lord knows how many people are fucking around on the internet when they could be writing a song.  Look at me right now!

Technological limitations of the time also required that people really be able to perform and play in the studio.  When you have some limitations on what you can do, technology wise, you have to be creative.  You have to find some way to make the sounds in your head without just pushing a button.  When they used to create the sound of echo in the studio they actually had a box called an echo chamber that created real echoes!  Digital effects are getting better, but nothing substitutes for a real echo.

Getting back to distraction, there was also some kind of artistic community, especially if you look towards the 60’s.  It seems like so many people are off on their own trip now.

There was also the antiwar movement, civil rights, and so many great political struggles that people that were college age were participating in, which is precisely the age when people begin to really come of age with their personal stamp on art.

I think drugs played a big part too.  It was the kinds of drugs that people are on.  A great deal of psychedelics will inspire some weird shit to be cranked out!  I just read this morning that most of one of Funkadelic’s albums was recorded in one day and they were all tripping!  I’m also reading Neil Young’s autobiography right now.  He basically says he was high from 18 to 65.  That will definitely move the mind in new directions.

This is a topic that I have talked about before.  I am always curious about why certain things in the culture lead to creative high points in some field.  Look at TV right now.  Everyone is calling it the golden age of television.  There are several cultural and economic reasons why this is so.  But that, my friends, is for another day.