In 1983 on a cold day in early January, my parents pulled a broken-in LP of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac out of its sleeve and proceeded to get it on. This is how I was conceived or at least it’s the story my mother told me.
This act set the course of musical life (the LP that is, not the sex ... well I guess the sex did, too). I am forever bound to have a deep love for bands that are legitimately talented but are cursed by mainstream appeal. I will now confess that I love Pearl Jam. Call them clique or sell-out, but Eddie Vedder sings better than you and most likely whoever you’re listening to right now. And any guitar solo from their early work would melt the fingers off most players.
Pearl Jam has just released a re-mixed version of their debut album, Ten. Brendan O’Brien took on the task of reconstruction. O’Brien has produced all of Pearl Jam’s albums since Ten along with albums for the Stone Temple Pilots, Korn, Bruce Springsteen, Dan Baird, Bob Dylan, Velvet Revolver, AC/DC and many others.
Pearl Jam was noted for their instrumental take on Grunge music, which some blame for their popularity. They took Grunge to the masses or possibly jumped on board as just before it arrived. But the instruments are the backbone of Ten. Hell, Vedder's audition into the band was adding lyrics to some already-formed songs.
For the uninitiated, the re-mix of Ten isn’t wildly different from the original. But O’Brien has brought the instruments forward, showcasing the complexity and originality of the guitar riffs and the no-speed-limit driving force of the drums.
Vedder was what brought me to Pearl Jam, but this new sound does not mask his influence or identity. It frames it better than before. Before you saw the image of the band rocking out together in a dirty room, trying to break free, like in the first Saw movie. Now you get The Shining with the guitar riffs hacking through a door Vedder sticking his head through and screaming at you.
The re-released edition of Ten comes in four different packages. These range from a double-CD set to a monster $140 library including some vinyl LPs, DVDs, CDs, a cassette and other memorabilia. The marketing is good. It’s too good. $140 would have stocked the band’s shitty apartment with beer, pizza and weed for months in 1991 when the album was released.
For a fan and complete vinyl addict, I went for the double LP set that sells for less than $20. The set includes two 180 gram records (that's heavy for record); one record pressed with the original Ten and one with the Ten Redux. But I would recommend getting the digital download from your favorite online store. It will include the original tracks, the Redux tracks and some solid B-Sides that until now were really hard to come by.
My favorite track on Ten is "Why Go" about a girl in a mental institution. "She's been diagnosed by some stupid fuck, and mommy agrees, yeah," Vedder roars in the first verse. The entire album was forged out of the culture of the early 90's, and I hate to think that we're still stuck there, but the words are current. "Jeremy," with its Basketball Dairies/Pre-Columbine lyrics, was brought up in conversation the other day when I was speaking to a friend about the March 11 school shooting in Germany. In a sad way, the album showed me that very few of the problems of my generation have been solved.
For a Pearl Jam fan, this new release of a classic is perfect. Ten has those character-defining anthems that can reach down and pull the angst-ridden teenager out of the depths and into your passenger seat. But the new Ten is even more immediate, personal and close.
It is like walking down a dark alley after a long day at work. Steve Gossard, Jeff Amant and Mike McCready sneak up behind you and push you to the pavement. They stab their guitar and bass plugs into your spinal column. Dave Krusen starts beating out a rhythm on your bowels. And Eddie leans up to your face and spits into your ear. Lubing you up … for his comfort, not yours. After an hour of feeling them all inside you, Eddie says, “remember that.” It’s a question and a command.
Then you drive home in your Buick and wonder where those flannel shirts went that you had in high school. You throw your tie out the window. You feel like a sell-out and maybe you are, but that still doesn’t make what just happened any less amazing.
I usually shy away from album reviews, but when I opened the FedEx package on my doorstep and found the new Dirty Heads album, complete with promotional rolling papers (presumably to accompany the album), I decided to take a second look because obviously this was intended to take my worries away and make everyone feel great.
In 2008 The Dirty Heads splashed onto the music scene with their debut album Any Port in a Storm; this year, they follow it up with their long-awaited album Cabin by the Sea. Cabin is a true master class that sticks to the So-Cal altrocker vibe for which The Dirty Heads are known. When popping the disc in the dash of the car, the first chord of "Arrival" instantly enthralls you and throws you into the cabin by the sea with a group of friends enjoying life the way it was intended to be. The song that really struck a chord with me was “Spread Too Thin” because I think everyone can relate to being pulled in many directions every day and wanting to just slow down for a minute; Cabin by the Sea allows you to take a break and do just that. Cabin is the perfect summer album, ranging from the summery feel-good Reggae of "Your Love" to the Hip Hop vibe in "Smoke Rings" to the poppy acoustic flow of the title song.
Every time I listen to Cabin by the Sea it takes me away from the daily grind and monotony. There are many collaborations on the album, including with Matisyahu, Del the Funky Homosapien, Rome and Ky-Mani Marley. One of the coolest parts of this album is the accompanying DVD, which takes you behind the scenes of the recording process at Sonic Ranch Studios in Texas.
Cabin by the Sea is a must have for the summer. The album hits the shelves and online outlets tomorrow.
The Hank Williams family Country music legacy is fairly remarkable when you consider how three generations of men have built up audiences that would likely stand aghast at one another. Hank Williams, Sr., is a founding father of Country and Honky Tonk Music as we know it and, rightfully so, a certified historical figure, institutionally and critically bestowed with all the respect due our revered cultural heroes by the Time-Life crowd.
There are concerts that are fun and there are concerts that kick your ass. If you were at the sold-out U.S. Bank Arena Friday night for the opening date of The Black Keys first headlining arena tour, you probably got your ass kicked.
First up, Arctic Monkeys caused a ruckus on the floor. Most (but not all) of the folks in the seats wandered around aimlessly or sat there, watching listlessly. There was certainly uproar in front of the stage, though. But as the English boys played, sang and sassed, the crowd in the arena filled in and loosened up. It helped that their lighting guys strobed the shit out of them, too. The seizure-inducing lights may have been Morse code for “Love Arctic Monkeys. Swoon over our accents.” If so, it worked. By the time Arctic Monkeys closed with “When the Sun Goes Down,” the crowd on the floor had nearly doubled and, at the very least, those in their seats were nodding their heads and smiling. Those boys put on a fun show.
After spending the entire intermission only getting halfway through the beer line, nearly everyone gave up and fled to their seats when The Black Keys began. Not that anyone sat, though — they were all too busy dancing and freaking out. Strictly speaking, The Black Keys may not be from Cincinnati but it’s safe to say we treat them like hometown boys, anyway. Dan Auerbach (singing/guitar) even recalled playing Southgate House a few years ago. Upstairs. In the small room.
From a titanic disco ball that lowered from the rafters (for only one song) to the graphics on the screens behind them, the show was far different from their days playing tiny rooms. With each beginning there was an outburst of recognition. The middles of songs gave way to dancing, flailing and air guitar (or drums) and each ending note was drowned out by thousands of shrieks, whistles and catcalls.
Two things were learned last night. First, if you have any doubt about the amount of noise that one guitar and a set of drums can make, go see The Black Keys. Their albums don’t do justice to the sheer volume Auerbach and Partrick Carney (drums) are capable of producing. Second, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard an entire arena try to whistle.
If you weren’t there, you missed the best kind of Friday night possible. If you were, you’re probably already making plans for the next time The Black Keys come to town.
Two of Cincinnati's finest play much aniticpated homecoming show and exceed expectations
“I’ve been waiting for this for six months,” Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli said to start off the Cincinnati-spawned Rock crew’s first concert in the Queen City since a Sept. 25, 1999, appearance at the same venue. That ’99 show turned out to be the Whigs’ last public concert anywhere before the group’s recent return on a global reunion tour earlier this year.
As the extended band built upon the swarming buzz of opener “Crime Scene (Part One),” a lot of fans in the audience could relate to Dulli’s excitement for a hometown show, something most for years thought would never happen. They’ve been waiting a lot longer than six months (when the show was announced), though. More like 13 years.
The show kicked off a little after 9 p.m. with Cincy favorites Wussy. The foursome is opening several of the shows on the Whigs’ current U.S. run. Though the group had some sound issues (they clanged away to get levels a little before starting, apologizing and telling the audience they hadn’t gotten a soundcheck), many in the crowd got swept away by the rockers’ ragged, emotive and infectious sound. Though the Cincinnati stop on the tour is obviously the show where the audience would be most familiar with Wussy (many fans around me were dancing and shouting every lyric back as co-frontpeople/singers/guitarists Lisa Walker and Chuck Cleaver switched off vocals), it was fascinating to see that moment on people’s faces when you can tell they’ve been lured in — “Hey, these guys are really good.” It bodes well for the band, which will join Heartless Bastards on tour as soon as the Whigs dates end.
Short on its trademark hilarious banner (a theme for the night, though in Wussy’s case, it was difficult to hear much of anything the members said between songs), Wussy busted through a great set that touched on all four of their studio album releases to date. Like the albums, that created a great “calling card” of a set for potential new fans, as Wussy moved from more emotionally moving, slow swaying songs (like opener “Waiting Room” from last year’s excellent Strawberry and the transcendent “Muscle Cars” from 2009’s self-titled effort) to its often humorous (though still often just as passionate) and punkish upbeat tunes like the uber-catchy “Happiness Bleeds” and the relentless, wired “Pulverized” (another Strawberry track).
The core quartet was rounded out by John Erhardt, a former bandmate of Cleaver’s in The Ass Ponys who added some tasty shading with his pedal steel guitar (unfortunately, his contributions were probably effected most by the weak sound, which often made him inaudible in the mix). Whigs bassist John Curley sat in on a song, putting a jolt into the crowd and leading bassist/multi-instrumentalist Mark Messerly to joke that, while everyone should be excited about the Whigs reuniting, they were now going to be treated to a “Staggering Statistics reunion” (Curley played in that local band with Wussy drummer Joe Klug; SS singer/guitarist Austin Brown was not present, so it was really a 2/3 reunion-ish).
Between sets, the anticipation of Whigs’ fans that could be seen on social media sites since the show was first announced six months ago was becoming palpable. The lights went down, the crowd erupted and The Afghan Whigs took the stage (adorned with a simple red backdrop, reminiscent of the one at the old Southgate House, and a shimmering disco ball) to kick off an hour-and-a-half-plus show that showed that this was far from the same band that performed at Bogart’s 13 years ago.
The Whigs have always been an amazing live band, but the current incarnation was a different kind of amazing — tight, focused and seemingly thrilled to be playing with each other again. Exemplifying the band’s decision to return for a full tour and do things smarter were the mere physiques of Curley and Dulli, who seemed to have recognized the unhealthy trappings of touring and preemptively hit the gym hard so they were ready for them. The always rail-thin original guitarist Rick McCollum was his usual enigmatic self, knocking out his brilliant, snaking leads while practically hidden on the far left of the stage. Though fairly subdued, occasionally McCollum stepped out of the shadows, doing his Jimmy Page-influenced stutter-step stage moves.
The Afghan Whigs were literally a different band than 13 years ago as well. Longtime associate Doug Falsetti was back on percussion and back-up vocals, but there were plenty of new faces — guitarist Dave Rosser and drummer Cully Symington (members of Dulli’s Twilight Singers) plus Rick Nelson, who played cello, violin and keys.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the Whigs that broke up in 1999 and the one that played last night was focus. I personally missed the funny, sometimes baiting banter for which Dulli’s infamous, but it made the show more powerful and fluid just sticking to the songs. The Afghan Whigs proved themselves one of the best live Rock & Roll bands on the planet right now with a no-BS set that hit upon songs from their entire career.
That was another “new thing” — the band’s last Bogart’s show featured no material from the Whigs’ first two SubPop albums (save standard finale “Miles Iz Dead” from Congregation). Last night, the band did “Miles” as the finale again, but also did ferocious versions of Congregation’s “I’m Her Slave” and “Conjure Me” and even “Retarded,” the fiery lead-off track from the 1990 SubPop debut, Up In It.
Instead of the swaggering “gentleman” teasing the crowd and making jokingly arrogant statements between songs, Dulli came off like a master frontman, taking off his guitar for the old R&B cover of “See and Don’t See” and roaming through the crowd, dancing frequently and, most importantly, hitting every note. Dulli has reportedly quit smoking and it has done wonders for his voice. In the past, he’d sometimes gasp for air doing a song like “Conjure Me” or nearly choke on some of the more throatier howls; last night, all cylinders were clicking and he hit all the right notes, including the “Yeah!” yells of “Retarded” (one of the best screams in Rock & Roll), which he's now nailing probably better than he has since the group recorded the song.
The more upbeat material from the Whigs’ swan song, 1965, got the crowd moving even more intensely as the Whigs grooved hard on their distinctive funkiness. And tracks from Gentlemen and Black Love were received like the classics they are, from the ominous “Fountain and Fairfax” and the whip-snap of “Gentleman” to the woozy teetering of “When We Two Parted” (which was given a bigger, sharper reworking), a hard and heavy “My Enemy” and a soaring “Faded,” one of the best “ballads” of the ’90s during which the group paid tribute to one of the best ballads of the ’80s, “Purple Rain.”
The Whigs have always quoted from other songs during their sets (kind of like how a Jazz saxophonist will sneak in various melodies while playing) and last night was no exception. Dulli inserted a touch of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette” into “66” (a holdover from their final touring days) and also worked up a snippet of The Emotions’ Disco classic “Best of My Love” as an intro. And during their most recent new song, a great cover of Frank Ocean’s “Lovecrimes,” Dulli (playing keys) segued into “Wicked Games” by Canadian R&B newcomer The Weeknd.
Early on in the set, Dulli thanked Wussy for opening up and remarked on how Cincinnati has always produced a ton of great bands. “Always has, always will,” he added. Those words carry a lot of weight coming from a Cincinnati music icon.
I came away from the show with one thought — “This can’t be it.” Yes, the group is returning for another Bogart’s show on New Year’s Eve, but The Afghan Whigs are better than they’ve ever been right now and, judging from various interviews, all three members are enjoying the experience immensely — why stop now? If they can get through this tour with those good vibes still peaking, why wouldn’t they make a new album and keep it going?
UPDATE: Here's is the full setlist from the Bogart's show Oct. 25 (from setlist.fm):
1. Crime Scene, Part One 2. I'm Her Slave 3. Uptown Again 4. What Jail is Like 5. Conjure Me 6. When We Two Parted/Over My Dead Body (Drake cover) 7. Gentlemen 8. Crazy 9. Best of My Love /66 (The Emotions cover) 10. My Enemy 11. Retarded 12. See and Don't See (Marie "Queenie" Lyons cover) 13. Lovecrimes /Wicked Games (Frank Ocean cover) 14. Going to Town 15. Who Do You Love?/Fountain and Fairfax (Bo Diddley cover) 16. Faded Encore: 17. Miles Iz Ded 18. Into the Floor
Reviews of new and recent recordings by Kevin Hearn, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, the Dex Romweber Duo, Shonen Knife and others
Well, we’ve taken down the free SPCA fluffy kitty/puppy day planner from the kitchen door and put up the free World Wildlife Fund animal kingdom mother/cub book of days and that can only mean one thing: We didn’t wait until late February to switch to the new year’s calendar, which is typically par for our course. And with the new year comes a change for I Shall Be Released; my weekly review column (or semi-weekly, depending on schedule and level of brainlock), normally found as a web-exclusive feature, has been moved to the spiffy Daily Beat music blog, where you will find it from this day forward. I’m not sure why I was upgraded to first class, but I’m sure everyone now expects me to be punctual and timely to line up with the whole “Daily” theme of the thing. Fly me, Mandy, keep the gin and tonics coming, and I’ll see what I can do to live up to my new seat designation in the better section.
As for today’s post, much like the tail end of last year, the newer stuff is up here, the older catch-up reviews are down there and it’s all good under the hood. January looks light enough to accommodate my outstanding 2011 reviewage while I sample what the new year is bringing. And based on the release sheets and the stuff showing up in my mailbox already, 2012 is shaping up to be another great year for music. And in case no one’s pointed it out yet, we’ve got exactly 100 years before we can make Rush jokes similar to the crop of George Orwell zingers that went around in 1984. Well, someone can make Rush jokes; those of us in the here and now will all be dust in the wind (let the Kansas jokes commence). Read on, literate music fans, and happy new year!
Local singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist S.R. Woodward is not your average clean-cut, guitar-strumming, doe-eyed heartthrob. No, this guy is far too weird for that racket. Combining slightly-flat-yet-charming harmonies sung in a baritone warble with peppy, synthesized musical backing tracks, he’s a troubadour of minimalist ditties that lie somewhere between cheeky and heartfelt.
In a lot of ways, Cincinnati's Over the Rhine belonged to the world almost as soon as they birthed its spectacular debut album, 1991’s Patience. There wasn't really an evolutionary period involving chops-honing and building an audience with local bar gigs every weekend before becoming a songwriting and performing powerhouse that could stand toe-to-toe with its peer group on the national level. Karin Bergquist and Linford Detweiler sprang fully formed from Zeus’ forehead as a mature and supremely talented duo with the undeniable ability to mingle heartache and joy with words and music and find an indelible way to invest each emotion with a taste of the other.
Walk the Moon was one of my personal highlights from the recent MidPoint Music Festival, where the band played a high-energy set wonderfully showcasing its dance-friendly beats, New Wave jubilance and Art Pop creativity. As solid as the foursome is live, I was still a bit stunned by how advanced, imaginative and proficient Walk the Moon comes across on its enchanting debut album, i want! i want!, which is to be released Saturday in conjunction with a multimedia event at The Mockbee.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This year's 20th anniversary edition of Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant Park was once again a live, breathing, three-day mixtape featuring star artists (Coldplay, Eminem, Foo Fighters), established performers, cult heroes and up-and-comers. Local writer Leyla Shokoohe attended her very first Lollapalooza this past weekend and agreed to write about the experience for CityBeat. Below is her report on Day 1 as well as video from some of the performances mentioned, mostly from Lollapalooza's YouTube page. Keep an eye on this space for Day 2 and 3 dispatches soon.