Friday, June 30, 2006

Doctor May


At the risk of degenerating into a music trivia blog, I just had to mention an interesting tidbit I heard today. Apparently, Brian May, legendary guitarist for Queen, is back on track to complete his PhD in astrophysics, which he abandoned in the 1970s. Could be that he was busy with something else at the time. Read more about it at NME.com. Also, check out May's official web site.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Can I Get a Fact-Check on That, Please?

I just came across the following mind-bending factoid, quoted courtesy of AllMusic.com:
"Elvis Costello was as much a pub-rocker as he was a punk-rocker and nowhere is that more evident than on his debut, My Aim Is True. It's not just that Clover, a San Franciscan rock outfit led by Huey Lewis (absent here), back him here, not the Attractions..." Now, how can that possibly be true?!? Next thing, you'll tell me that Neil Young and Rick "Superfreak" James were college roomates. Oh wait...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Via Vegas

Up-front non-legally-binding disclaimer: Via Vegas is a vehicle for Glenn Perachio, my friend, former roomate, and former bandmate. Having got that out of the way, let me just say how much I'm enjoying his recent work. Glenn seems to have come full-circle. When we first met in the late-1980's in college, we shared a passion for The Church and The Smiths. Later in college, his songwriting influences were more informed by funk a la Red Hot Chili Peppers. In the late-1990s, he led a band in Minneapolis called The Bison Burns, that seemed more influenced by Summerteeth-era Wilco. These days, Glenn seems to have returned to Starfish-era Church. I was impressed by a group of 6 songs he was offering for download on his website Via-Vegas.com a year or two ago; particularly, Love at Antietam, which starts off slow but offers a big melodic payback when the chorus kicks in. More recently, he's recorded a couple of new songs, of which The Distance is my favorite with it's snarling, atmospheric guitars. You can listen to the aforementioned 2 Songs at Via Vegas' MySpace site, as well as two others. I've had some difficulty tracking down Via Vegas within MySpace. If the provided link doesn't work, go to my own MySpace page and follow the link to Via Vegas. And yes, he's my only MySpace "friend," and frankly, I'm comfortable with that, no matter HOW old you SAY you are...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Never Mind the Bollocks

I just watched a documentary from 2002 called Classic Albums: Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. It was a lot of fun, and I'm eager to compare it to The Filth and the Fury, another documentary about the Sex Pistols from 2000, which Steve posted about here. I gather that documentary is perhaps more historical whereas this one is more focused on how the music was made. It featured many interviews with producers and sound engineers who worked on the classic album itself. I have a pretty low tolerance for lengthy discussions of studio wonkery (I don't know what compression is and I don't care to learn), but I found those pieces fascinating. As I'd often heard, Sid Vicious played not a note on the album; all of the bass lines were guitarist Steve Jones basically playing the same bar chords an octave lower. Also, while Steve Jones is no Kevin Shields, there are many more guitar tracks on any given song that I'd realized. Basically, it turns out that the Sex Pistols--with the glaring exception of Sid Vicious--were actually quite talented musicians.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the documentary, which included individual interviews with all four members of the band (by which I mean to include original and current bassist Glen Matlock, who co-wrote many of their greatest songs), was how generous they were to each other and how sad and wistful they were over their lost opportunities. I just wasn't expecting quite so much perspective from Johnny Rotten, I guess.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

An Epitonic for the Troops


The other day, out of the blue, I got an email from the fine folks at Epitonic announcing their return from the dead, or at least a year-and-a-half coma of their own choosing. Started in 1999, Epitonic was a free and legal source of indie rock MP3 downloads. However, for some time now, their site has essentially been dormant with no new MP3s being added. Now, it looks like they're back with new material and a new site design. The material is great, but the site design is ill-advised, weird, and just plain non-intuitive. Nevertheless, if you can figure out how to navigate the new site (which seems to be inspired by Tetris or a crossword puzzle), you can find some great downloads by bands like Mates of State, Cat Power, Spoon, Coco Rosie, and more.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mylo

I finally got around to listening to the Mylo album Destroy Rock & Roll that has gotten a ton of positive press. Like most I had heard Drop the Pressure but I had not really dug into the album.

All I can say is what took me so long? It is an incredibly diverse album. Recorded at home on simple computer equipment, Mylo hits on a bunch of styles and tempos including Acid House and Downtempo. Favorite tracks on the record include Sunworshippers, Valley of the Dolls, In My Arms (with the sample from the 80s hit Bette Davis Eyes) and Emotion 98.6 (which sounds a bit like Moby). You can listen to a sampling of songs on myspace but this really is a diverse album and a must own as well.

Amadou and Miriam

Another band I have been listening to an awful lot lately is Amadou and Miriam and their album Dimanche a Bamako. Amadou and Miriam are a married couple from Mali that are both blind. They are very popular across Africa and Europe and their music, like Nomo, is also Afrobeat but it has been more accurately been described as Memphis guitars combined with African singing. Checkout the songs La Realite and Senegal Fast Food on Myspace and you will end up buying the whole album.

Nomo

Saw the band Nomo at Bottom of the Hill last week. Originally from Ann Arbor, they are now on a long, long tour and the night in San Francisco seemed to catch lightning in a bottle. From the outset they were absolutely on fire. Nomo plays a combination of Afro-Beat, Dub Reggae, and Funk, very much in the same vein as Fela Kuti from Nigeria in the 1970s.

With searing horn solos, little singing, and a rhythm section keeping a ferocious beat, they tore through about an hour set. One of the first songs was Nu Tones which is on their new release from Ubiquity Records called New Tones. I have no idea what instrument the leader of the band was playing on this song but it is a relentless and quickly captured the attention of crowd that had been lulled to sleep by possibly the worst opening act I have seen in years. You can listen to this as well as two other songs at Myspace.

The Futureheads are Spinning

All too rarely, I add a new album to my mental list of albums I'll be listening to for the rest of life. That august list includes classics like My Bloody Valentine - Loveless, the self-titled debut by The Stone Roses, the self-titled debut by The Clash, anything by The Beatles from Help through Sgt. Pepper, and Simon and Garfunkel - Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (yes, you're reading that last one correctly).

In 2004, I added the self-titled debut by the Scottish group The Futureheads to the list. There isn't a song on that album that doesn't make me want to shout along in a bad imitation of a thick Scottish accent. Late in 2005, I posted here about Area, a new single by the band.

Within a few short days (June 13), News and Tributes, the sophomore album by The Futureheads will be released in the US (it's already out in the UK). Until then, you can content yourself with Skip to the End, the lead single from the album, which Insound.com has posted for free. Do I like it as much as anything from their debut? Not really. Am I worried about the quality of the 2nd album living up to the 1st? Significantly. Notice how many of the albums listed above are "self-titled debuts" rather than sophomore surprises. Will I still enjoy the debut album if News and Tributes sucks? You bet! Just this weekend, I listened to the The Stone Roses' debut and hardly thought at all about their ridiculously tepid, grandiose-titled follow-up Second Coming. So, don't worry Futureheads, your place on my list is secure! They'll be so relieved.