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?
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.
Intro: Well, folks, unfortunately going to be a short one tonight. Work, as always, has me slammed and since I’m working with clients in the Eastern time zone, it means an early morning tomorrow. So here’s a condensed Playlist for you which will have to tide you over until next week or until things calm down enough that I can post a little more frequently.
Listening: The past month or so I’ve really just been listening to old favorites. I think that after almost a year of buying and listening heavily to a new album every week I was kind of craving some of the classics. This week it’s mainly been Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia by the Dandy Warhols and a selection of my favorite Cure tracks/albums.
First off, I really have to say that Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia is the most underrated albums of the past decade. I honestly think that it’s musically and satirically brilliant. The opener “Godless” to the closer “The Gospel” and peaking with the much-loved single “Bohemian Like You” it really is a masterful sendup of turn-of-the-millennium hipster culture and modern society as a whole. Add to that that it’s full of absolutely masterful rock tunes and you have one of the best rock albums of the new millennium.
Secondly, the Cure. Top 5 Cure tunes. Anyone want to play? Mine are as follows:
1.) “Lovesong” (This is as much because I associate it with someone very special as anything else, but it is a brilliant tune.)
2.) “Grinding Halt” (The Cure do Punk back when Punk was still important? Yes, please!)
3.) “alt.end” (“There’s a big, bright, beautiful world/Just the other side of the door.” Yeah, I think we can all relate sometimes.)
4.) “The Lovecats” (Maybe I’m just weird like that, but I kind of want this song played at my wedding.)
5.) “Killing an Arab” (The Cure riff on Camus; what’s not to like?)
Upcoming: Haven’t really seen anything exciting coming up. I have, however, heard great things about the Hold Steady, so I may need to grab the album they released last week. Also, I’m still loving Beck’s latest and I’m planning to review it as soon as I get a chance.
Oh, and then there’s the new Paul Westerberg album. I’ve never been a huge Replacements or Paul Westerberg fan (pardon me while I dodge brickbats from the audience), personally, but it’s there if you’re into that kind of thing.
News: The new Paul Westerberg (late of the Replacements) album that I mentioned above is for sale through Amazon for only $.49. That’s right, less than half a dollar. The whole thing’s a bit gimmicky: a single-track album, called 49:00, for sale for $.49, on July 19th (or as the calender-impaired Westerberg claims: June 49th). Inexplicably, Mr. Westerberg shies at the last gate: the monotractual (it’s a word now!) album clocks in at just 43:55.
Thinking: Why is everyone surprised that John Lydon’s been implicated in a racist dust-up? This is a man who, along with Sid Vicious and co., defined the public shock-persona. At this point, it doesn’t matter whether John Lydon is or isn’t racist; people are scandalized that Johnny Rotten might be. And really, that’s what matters, I think, as far as Lydon/Rotten is concerned.
Song of the Week: Here’s The Cure’s “Grinding Halt” (off their 1979 debut Three Imaginary Boys) accompanied by an awesome stop-motion video done by youtube user badhill:
So apparently John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) either is or is not a racist. Basically all any of the articles on the topic say for sure is that Kele Okereke got beaten. Would it surprise me if John Lydon were racist? Not particularly. But it wouldn’t surprise me if he weren’t, either. As a rule, anything involving John Lydon, Gene Simmons, Madonna, Bono, or any member of the Rolling Stones is best considered a publicity stunt until proven otherwise.