Monday, August 14, 2017

The Ship of Theus

 Midnight oil at first avenue August 29, 2017.  I am very excited for this one.  They are one of my (if not THE) favorite bands of all time (FBoAT?).  I mean, what is not to love; fierce and powerful live, visually dynamic in so many ways, blistering on albums, outraged, but understanding lyrics that for all their preaching, have enough humor and self-awareness to resonate, and of course, songs with  a shitload more hooks than you’d think.  After Peter Garrett went pro into politics (I was going to say went into politics full time, but I think that’s been true FOREVER) I figured we’d not see their likes this way again.  And even after Peter stepped away from the Fray (see what I did there?), and back into music, he seemed inclined to follow a different path, one that didn’t involve his former bandmates.  So fair play, I’d seen them four times (first time still the most most of course, but all the shows were great), and I was really ok with that being the end.

But everything happens if you let it, and the Oils are back!  And touring.  And they are coming to my town (my hometown?)  Even better, we are getting as near the classic lineup as is realistic these days (I’ll never be COMPLETELY on board with Bones, even though he’s been in the band for 30 years now).  Even accounting for the Gifford/Hillman switch out (and Andrew James on bass before PGII), it’s astonishing to think how stable the MO lineup has been.  Forty freaking years.  Crazy.  And I could not be more delighted. 

Makes me think of all the other bands touring state fairs, summer parks and barns in the middle of nowhere this summer that have constantly rotating memberships .  At what point are these bands even the same band as you knew and loved (or even hated).   Granted, a new lead singer is the most obvious and disconcerting change, but losing a lead guitarist (yes, I mean you, bon voyage jovi) is just as deleterious to a band’s sound and image.  And I can think of a bassist’s signature sound and style so integral to the band’s sound that I just can’t see how they can be the same band (no order).

Seems like some rebranding is in order, and of course, I’m more than happy to throw my two cents on some alternate band names. 

Truth in advertising, accept no substitutes, be advised that contents may appear have settled in distribution:

Beached Boys (c’mon, only Mike Love is left?  And no, as much as I love Disney Girls, Bruce Johnston doesn’t write the songs.  Also, no comment on Brian Wilson is meant.  The man is a genius.  A giant of industry. )

Blood, Sweat and Strangers

Van Whonow (is it wrong of me to almost prefer Van Hagar?)

Great Off White

Winged (winger is mostly intact, but I fell in love with winged)

English Half Beat (Ranking Roger has his own half beat too)

ELNO (but I’d see Jeff Lynne in a heartbeat, cos it’s a love beat and a good vibration, if you are into string theory)

Little River Fraud (not a single one left from the classic era, unless you count Wayne Nelson)

Still Stynx (say what you want, Dennis Deyoung matters)

Stole Temple Pilots (what is wrong with this band?)

Spoiled Prairie League (granted, they’ve always have a flexible lineup, but sheesh)

Atlanta Rhythm Dissection (c’mon, just stop.  Please. They are dead; they are all dead.)

Shortened Journey (although maybe this whole Cain/Schon feud will bring back Steve?)

Foreigner (I feel like there should be something here, but I just can’t put my finger on it, Forgener, maybe?)

Men Without Shame (although if I wasn’t going to Beck, I’d go S. S. S. S.  E. E. E. E. T. T. T. Them.)

Slowco (I will never get over Jay Bennett’s dismissal)

I’m torn about the Four Tops.  They lasted for nearly forty years with their original lineup and I think it was only death and serious illness that caused lineup flux. But being as Duke Fakir is the only original left, maybe folks should know them as the Four Fakes.  (also, Levi Stubbs' Tears is maybe my favorite song title ever, thank you billy bragg.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Album 2016

Harder than I was thinking with lots of worthies falling just off the mark.

1.  Blonde Frank Ocean
2. Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future Underworld
3. Three Phantogram
4. Goodness Hotelier
5. Fever Dream Ben Watt
6. 22, A Million Bon Iver
7. Thick as Thieves Temper Trap
8. Running Out of Love Radio Dept
9. A Seat at the Table Solange
10. Matter St. Lucia

Single 2016

Maybe no order.  but maybe still.

1.  Can't Stop the Feeling! JT
2.  Hand Clap Fitz and the Tantrum
3.  Burn the Witch Radiohead
4.  Cold to See Clear Nada Surf
5.  Famous Kanye
6.  Stranger Things Theme Dixon/Stein
7.  Sorry Bey
8.  The Noisy Days are Over Field Music
9.  Floridada Animal Collective
10. Gardenia Iggy Pop

Monday, July 25, 2016

i know it's going to happen someday

Diana Ross.  Treasure Island.  July 23rd, 2016.   

I didn't hear a symphony, and I could quibble a bit (venue and weird show closer especially), but I was still delighted.  Hell, she looks great (to say nothing of being 72), her four costume changes (4, not 5!) were a delight, she sang live, and she appeared to be having fun (or she's such a professional that appearing and being are indistinguishable  to the audience, and I'll take that any day)

One more off the bucket list and a great companion to the Cure,  Stevie Wonder and Fleetwood Mac who are all recent cross offs. 

Of course, that fabled bucket list sits rather amorphously in my head, adding/subtracting at will.  So, the caveat that I might change my mind at any moment, right here, right now are the ultimate acts I'd really like to see (and would even make travel considerations where warranted).  I'd put ABBA on the list, but impromptu reunion earlier this year, I don't think that's going to happen.  As for The Smiths (or at least Morrissey/johnny Marr...) think what you like.  I'll keep a light on in the window.

Kate Bush (whatever.  who's to say she won't do a residence in vegas?)
XTC (ya ya.  but you'd go in a heartbeat too)
Van Morrison
Strokes (yes, Julian is a bastard, but still)
John Cale
Annie Lennox/Eurythmics
New Order
Elvis Costello
Cock Robin
Sheena Easton
Donnie Iris
Dwight Twilley
Icicle Works
Julian Cope
Marshall Crenshaw
OMD (kicking myself)
Paul Weller
Prefab Sprout (one can hope, right?)
Radiohead (ya never know...I could just end up at some festival one of these days)
Ray Parker Jr
Toto (Oshkosh, Wisconsin, August 31 and September 1st.  just sayin')
Split Enz
The Fixx

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Becoming Sound Again (Redemption 11)

Someone great. Something lost.

Shock.  Realized.  
Troubled, hurting, uncertain.

Held, talked, teared.

Wounded. Not broken, but not whole.
Dependable. Faithful. Universal. Intimate. Selfless.
To solve, to center, to comfort, to remember, to repair, to reset, to return, to salve.


A phrase that resonates
A chord progression that lifts
A melody that warms
A hook that re-engages
A rhythm that rouses

The Cure "Pictures of You" (the churn and misery, the minor chords, the moments of light when the guitars kick in, "the pictures are all i can feel")
Yeasayer "I Remember"  ("you're stuck in my mind, all the time")
The Eels "Last Stop: This Town" (the keyboard hook.  the breakdown freakout.  "i'm gonna fly on down for the last stop in this town")
Bjork "Hyper-Ballad" (that voice.  that rhythm track.  that barely restrained madness "every morning i walk towards the edge and throw little things off.  I go through this before you wake up.")
Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush "Don't Give Up" ("you have friends.  you're not beaten yet.  i know you can make it good.")
Lyle Lovett "If I Had a Boat" (Well, kiss my ass I bought a boat, i'm going out to sea"  Why does a simple guitar riff always connect?) 
Bill Withers "Lean on me" (The opening piano chords, "lean on me, when you're not strong")
Waterboys "This is the Sea" ("These things you keep, you better throw them away."  Anthem it out, brother, anthem it out and sing yourself hoarse.)
The Beatles "Blackbird" ("Take these broken wings and learn to fly")
Jake Runstead (composer) "Let My Love be Heard" (the harmonies.  the sweeping voices.  hopeful.  hopeful.)
Mr. Mister "The Border"  ("We, we must go on now.  Wherever people go, go on together."  the pulsing beat.) 


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

For All to See

The heat wave has arrived.  Summer is here with emphasis so of course it's time to rock out.  What better to listen to, than "Big Red Letter Day" from Buffalo Tom.

Buffalo Tom, frequently derided as dinosaur jr clones (dinosaur jr jr?) had a lot more going for them than that.  Buffalo Tom's sound was/is a built on noisy guitar buzz for sure, but they had big guitar riffs, melodic and production hooks aplenty, and oblique enough lyrics to make it all seem important, for four minutes anyway (four what more could you ask?)   

Released in 1993 on Beggars Banquet, "Big Red Letter Day" was Buffalo Tom's fourth album and a high water commercial mark for the band, merging their fuzz rock with pop sensibilities.  The album became a (college) rock album hit with several singles, most notably "Sodajerk" and "Treehouse," seeing chart success.  Even though BRLD's sound can be fixed to certain time and place, and it certainly doesn't break new ground, it is a brilliant summer album. By turns, raucous and rowdy, boisterous and full of bravado, it has a surprisingly sensitive center and its lyrics are darker than one would expect for such a big sounding album.

The big guitar riffs that lead into "sodajerk's" opening lines "Watch an eyeball, take a freefall, at the mention of a name," waste no time getting down to business and working up a sweat, and although it might not make a whole lot of sense, it's impossible to listen to the "Jerk my fountain" line and not smile.  The band is giving it all they have, but they aren't taking it too seriously. 

Perhaps realizing they were soundtracking a generation x of bar-b-q's, the band pulls back from the sweatabyss welcome-to-the-party opening track.  "i'm allowed" arrives all uncertain and belligerent, looking for a beer and somebody to talk to.  "Came to the party, but I got my own signals crossed.  Thought I was welcome, but I felt like I should get lost."  Navigating a crowd, whether its friends or strangers requires great skill or utter fearlessness and this song has both.
"Seasons change" again with the uptempo rocker, "treehouse" and folks are getting settled in now.  The beer is flowing, the steaks are just about to go on the grill and the sun is still circular on the pool.  Folks are playing some volleyball off to the side of the house and everybody's making nice.  This is what summer is all about, working up a sweat and showing as much skin as possible.

The cool down doesn't take long to arrive again with "would not be denied."  Ordinarily, this fast, slow, fast, slow sequencing would be a bit of a schizophrenic listen, but on "Big Red Letter Day" it's a balancing act of rambunctious ball throwing and beer chugging, exchanged with quiet asides beside the pool, positioning the events later in the evening, if luck and lyric allow.  Having one of the best melodies of the album, as well as the best example of loud/soft dynamics, certainly doesn't hurt the sequencing either. 

"latest monkey" and "my responsibility" continue the up and down sequencing, but the highs aren't as high and the slows are just a little more more.  The food is ready and everybody is digging in as the sun starts to hit the trees.  The party has hit a pause. 

The evening shift starts with "dry land;" uptempo and melodic but nothing extreme.  Food has been eaten, folks are settling into chairs or standing behind them.  Roles are cast, lines are set and the act awaits the musical cue.  Something to sway to, something to nod your head to, but the only thing sweaty now is the beer clenched firmly in a hand.  The transition from the fade of "dry land" to the guitar strum opening of "torch singer" sets a damn near perfect mood.  "late at night" adds some late breaking drama to the mix.  Bracingly pungent and slightly unpleasant, the wind down isn't gonna be perfect and some hearts might be broken before the party is over.  "Suppose" closes down the conflict and gets everybody back in a good mood before heading off into the night.

"Anything that way" leaves the party hosts doing a little clean up, before giving up and promising the rest of it to tomorrow.  They are both wondering if they should have told their friends about their pregnancy or if it's too soon and if that might have been the last bbq in a while.  They upright a couple unsettled lawnchairs and watch the fireflies for awhile before heading into the house and off to bed.

Buffalo Tom's profile was never higher after the success of "Big Red Letter Day," but they were unable to capitalize, despite releasing a couple stellar post-BRD singles in "Summer" and "Tangerine."  Their moment and sound fell into fickle disfavor and after a couple more entertaining albums in the same vein with diminishing results, popularly and artistically the band called it a (temporary) day with "Smitten" in 1998.

How fertile was the songwriting period for Buffalo Tom?  Enough so that they could write and product 4 more tracks for b-sides and compilations that equal anything on the album proper.  In the never ending ultimate sequence quest, here's a "Bigger, Redder, Letter Day."  (and totally not a dig on the original album sequence, just trying to fit the bonus songs in the context of the album instead of pasting them at the end.  adding "the way back" after the "dry land/torch singer" couplet certainly extends a certain perfect mood just a little bit longer and I totally don't understand why "late at night" doesn't end the album)

I'm allowed
Would not be denied
Witches broom (b side)
For all to see (no alternative)
Latest monkey
My responsibility
Butterscotch (b side)
Dry land
Torch singer
The way back (b side)
Anything that way
Late at night
Anything that way (live)
Late at night (live)