Oct 092010

“so you’ve been to school for a year or two and you know you’ve seen it all”

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Merlin Mann on Dead Kennedys and Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables.

Amen. Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (FFFRV hereafter) is not only a powerful, visceral album, it’s also an important one. And not just in the abstract, critical way of being influential, but also in the more personal way of “this album might just change or even save your life.”

I think I first heard FFFRV in probably my Junior or Senior year of high school. This was a period of my life when I desperately want to look like, think like, act like, feel like, be like Sid Vicious. Now, any of you who know me, know that I will never be Sid Vicious. I’m too large and too gentle, for two things. But I wanted to be punk. Which, in retrospect, is patently absurd, but human desires are nothing if not absurd.

But FFFRV spoke to me. “Holiday in Cambodia” put a big, fat finger on … something that bothered me that I still couldn’t even put into words and wouldn’t for years yet. “California Über Alles” spoke to the sort of hormonal anti-establishment streak in me that’s only possible at seventeen. “Viva Las Vegas” made me feel irony long before I actually ever understood it.

So go read what Merlin has to say. Then go and find a copy of FFFRV. Listen, dance your arse off, and understand that no matter how alone you feel, you never are.

Nov 302009

Foo Fighters + Serj Tankian + Dead Kennedys = Crazy Awesome

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Foo Fighters and Serj Tankian covering “Holiday in Cambodia” by Dead Kennedys.

Fuck.  Yes.

Come for the awesome cover, stay for Serj’s endearingly spastic dancing.

Sep 242008

Tuesday Playlist for 2008.9.23

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Intro: There’s nothing quite like a rock show after a long hiatus to get me excited about music again.  The Shondes show this past weekend was brilliant (as was an all-too-short weekend in Seattle with friends and family).  I’ll have a full review up in the next couple days, but in the meantime, your regularly scheduled music column.

Listening: The new Amanda Palmer album (Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, Roadrunner Records) is pretty awesome.  It’s a lot like the Dresden Dolls material, but it focuses a little more on lyrics and is even more keyboard-heavy.  Also to say that the album is “a bit Freudian” would be to submit a strong contender for “Understatement of the Year” award.  The album is completely dominated by themes of sex and death. And while the presentation may be a bit gratuitous for some people, Palmer definitely gives off the vibe of being completely comfortable with her subject matters.  It’s rare to find someone who sings effortlessly about such taboo topics as rape, abortion, and murder.

If such topics don’t throw you off, however, and you like a dark, piano-heavy sound, it might be worth checking the album out.  Palmer’s vocal work is largely pretty good (though a few tunes get a bit overly warbly for my tastes) and the writing and musicianship is superb.  (The album features work from musical guests Ben Folds, East Bay Ray [Dead Kennedys], and Zoë Keating [Rasputina].)  So if you’re a fan of the Dresden Dolls, or like dark, jangly, well-crafted tunes with a decidedly Freudian bend, you should definitely give Who Killed Amanda Palmer? a listen.

The other album I picked up recently was Costello Music (Fallout Records), by the Fratellis.  I had never heard the Fratellis before “Henrietta” (the opening track to Costello Music) popped up on Pandora, and I was immediately hooked.  The whole album is full of noisy, jazzy pop tunes.  “Henrietta” serves as the perfect opening for a fantastic pop cabaret.  The whole album is energetic with fun guitar hooks and infectious rhythms.  I strongly recommend this album for anyone who listens to music at all.  If you have ears, you owe it to yourself to give this album a spin.  I guess I can’t guarantee that everyone will love it as much as I do, but if it doesn’t get you dancing in your chair, or at least tapping your foot, then you should consider consulting a physician, since you may well be dead.

Upcoming: So I come to find out today (from the lovely Ann) that Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley, the Postal Service, and numerous side projects) has a new solo album out?  It’s called Acid Tongue and there’s stunningly little information about it on the interwebs.  It was apparently released earlier this month, but it flew well under the radar getting there.  So scads of new albums out today and in the next few weeks.  I’m personally curious to hear the new Thievery Corporation album that hit stores today.

Also those mad genius in the Flecktones are coming out with a Christmas album.  I’m generally not that big on holiday albums, but if anyone can make a non-annoying version of “Jingle Bells”, it’s probably these folks.  Or at least a version with a few awesome solos.  (Seriously: Viktor Wooten could play John Cage’s “4’33″” and still manage to fit in a bitchin’ bass solo somewhere.)

And of course, there’s the new Oasis album, Dig Out Your Soul, which it seems like I’ve mentioned pretty much every week for the past few months.  October 6th needs to hurry its ass up.  Not that I’m excited about it or anything…

One other veteran release to look forward to is the 13th studio album from The Cure, which hits shelves (both physical and digital) on the 14th of next month.

Thinking: Oh man, it was so good to get to go to a proper rock show again.  A tiny college bar, crowded right up against a tiny stage, dancing my ass off to some truly awesome rock.  It was amazing.  As I said, I’ll write a more complete review in a day or two, when I get a chance, but suffice it to say that I’m still grinning about it.  And seriously, if any of you ever get a chance to see either the Shondes or Peter Parker live: GO!  You won’t regret it.

It got me thinking, though, that there’s a huge difference between going to a concert or a festival and going to a rock show.  Rock shows in local venues have a certain intimate feel to them that you just don’t get when you see a big-name band in some mega-venue.

Part of it is just the difference in physical space.  At the Oasis show I went to a few weeks ago, I would have been hard-pressed to be able make the stage with a thrown bottle.  At the Shondes show, I was pressed right up against the stage for most of the set.  (In fact, the venue was so small that people were afraid of getting too close.  It took some coaxing from Shondes singer Louisa Solomon to get people to actually get right up to the stage.)

I don’t think that’s the whole picture, though.  There’s a difference in energy and general feel as well.  There’s a particular kind of intensity and atmosphere at local shows that is almost never replicated by bigger bands playing in bigger venues.

News: So apparently John Lydon’s shilling butter now?  I guess he’s really running out of ways to surprise and offend.  I mean, it makes a certain kind of sense: you’ve basically made a profession out of shocking people, but after being part of the most controversial band in history, personally offending pretty everyone you’ve ever met, and making a stunning array of racist, hateful, and politically inflammatory statements, what can you do to really catch people off guard?

Sell butter.

My hat’s off to you, Johnny Rotten, I really never saw that coming.

But you know what surprised me even more?  Trent Reznor working to save cute, fuzzy animals.  (I’ll leave “Closer”-inspired, animal-related jokes as an exercise for the reader.)  Wonders never cease, I guess.

Song of the Week: This tune’s way too fun not to share.  Here’s “Henrietta”, by the Fratellis.  It’s the opening track on Costello Music and it’s all sorts of awesome:

P.S: There are not words to express how much I want Jon’s hat.

Feb 062008

Had a discussion at the last No Excuses Thursday (or maybe the one before?) with regular commenter and friend-of-the-blog Josh about which we thought was the best American Punk band. He said Greenday. I said Dead Kennedys. And just because I can, here’s another classic American band that I think does the punk thing better than Greenday ever did. This is Black Flag doing “Six Pack.”