Earl Sweatshirt: I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside

I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go OutsideEarl, the reform school, bipolar rap prodigy from the hot-for-a-minute Odd Future, surprisingly seems to be the one that really broke out from under the yoke of insta-fame. Surprisingly because for a while there he looked to be the one who had the most to lose. Granted, I’m stuck in the white hipster echo chamber of joints like Pitchfork and the like who are less interested in what’s hot in the ‘hood and more about what they deem to be artful. So it’s a compete possibility that Earl’s haze-filled, jumbled bag of broken appliance-sounding beats may only appeal to an indie crowd unimpressed by 95% of the other hip hop out there. It’s not to say I’m completely in love with this album, as there are times when his delivery slows to a point that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Like a train grinding to a halt. It’s not like I want Twista or anything, but most of the album sounds like it’s stuck in quicksand. Like a guy who’s just popped a handful of Continue reading

The Decemberists: What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World

What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful WorldThe Decemberists are a ways off from their sea shanty days. A long way from tales that meandered through World War I circuses and purveyors of arcane goods and livers of extinct lifestyles. There are less instruments that look like pepper grinders and fireplace bellows and a move toward more traditional, modern day instrumentation. And despite that old sound growing, well, old, their new approach, which hovers somewhere around adult contemporary Americana, I miss some of that 6/8 wackiness. Ironically they even mention the change in the first track, and my favorite track, on the album, “The Singer Adresses His Audience.” It’s almost as if they were like “okay, we’ll give them a Decemberists’ track to start off the album, but in that song we’ll tell our audience not to expect any more.” It’s not as if the rest of the album doesn’t sound like them — in fact it probably sounds more like the older stuff than their last album, The King is Dead, but they clearly found a new Continue reading

Action Bronson: Mr. Wonderful

Mr. WonderfulThe man is like the Chris Farley of rap. On second thought he’s more like the John Belushi of rap. And it’s not just because the man loves Italian sandwiches (lots and lots of them) but because there’s more to him, more under the surface, than just the fat, smirking guy. Sure he’s hard to look at with his giant ginger beard, XXXXL t-shirts and the now ubiquitous tats, but the man can not only rap like a stoned, white Ghostface, but can apparently cook the shit out of a nice Mediterranean meal. He also expands his sound quite a bit on this, his major label debut, showing range that he hinted at on his mixed tapes, but now apparently has the budget to execute. Live instrumentation, including drums, guitars and organs and a bunch of presumably purchased jazz samples pepper the tracks with a laid back vibe that melds with his almost loungey approach to hip-hop with his off-kilter singing and buttery rapping. Despite being laid back, he still has the swagger (however seriously you take it) of a man who is clearly not gorgeous, by continuously refers to himself that way. The perfect track for me that really sets the dude up is “Actin’ Crazy.” He kind of encapsulates everything about him as a person and him as an artist. It’s a dope song. Continue reading

The Hotelier: It Never Goes Out

It Never Goes OutI feel like someone is going to pop out any second and knock my iPhone from my hand while listening to this album and scream, “What the fuck are you listening to, you fucking pussy and your emo shit!” And then I’ll be ashamed that I really dig these guys, but poo-poo those who came before them in the pop-punk/emo genre. Because, at the end of the pain (that’s a very emo reference), these things are not so much different. But what makes it ok for me to bop my head and admire the group choruses screaming “We are the same!” and a lead singer who’s all of fifteen singing “You can’t fix me because I’m so burnt out.” I mean, seriously kid. Then there are lyrics that smack of R.E.M. and the The Get Up Kids and other touchpoints of being tired in a young body. You wonder how these things happen. This heartache. This need to get away from a situation which has barely had the opportunity to mature. It seems that the band’s lead singer was almost pre-destined to be a singer in a band like this having two of the biggest martyrs in literary history integrated into his name, Christian Holden. Yes, there’s our friend, Christ. The guy died for your sins, the scape goat and water and blood and all that. And Holden Caulfield, he of Catcher in the Rye. So what else is this dude gonna do but emote like hell in front of the squealing public?

I am still absorbing the album, and on my first few listens, it doesn’t quite have the impact of their last, breakout album, Home, Like Noplace Is There, but few albums are as listenable as that one, even after multiple spins. Continue reading

2014 Albums of the Year

Looking back, 2013 was a weak-ass year for me for music. I couldn’t even come up with more than eight albums to stick on my year-end list. This year — a much stronger entry, in my opinion — I have not ten, but eleven, entries! Now keep in mind that my canvas is pretty damn small, so I probably haven’t considered some of those avant-garde albums you’re sitting there rocking. You know, the German EDM weirdos, or the pseudo-lounge guy from Bed-Stuy or the instrumental doom metal band from Sweden, or whatever. But this is my list in no particular order. Not the best, necessarily. Just the stuff I like the best:

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Shellac: Dude Incredible

Dude IncredibleI’m a fan of Steve Albini. I’ve written [not-so] extensively about my love of his engineering prowess — most specifically about how awesome he makes drums sound. Most producers these days (and most days) make drums sound like mushy peas. Not my Steve. That is very much on display on this excellent-sounding album. In fact the rhythm section as a whole — that being the drums and bass — are pretty intensely great-sounding throughout the album. Not surprising considering two-thirds of the band is made up of sound engineers. The drums are pounding; the bass is brutish and manly in a thick, rebellious kind of way. The whole album is akin to a Neanderthal playing math rock. Time signatures are all over the place, lines repeat and repeat and repeat, but instead of being spidery and technical sounding, they hit you over the head with a sledgehammer, just banging away in an almost primordial manner. It makes one almost wish that they employed a real Continue reading

Dads: I’ll Be the Tornado

I'll Be the TornadoSomething about Jersey inspires emotion. Very seldom do you get bands from The Jerz that don’t either tug at those emo heartstrings — like the original screamo act, Thursday — or hit you with that sunny nostalgia, like Yo La Tengo. I mean if you really break it down, the original NJ rocker himself, B. Springsteen, trades in nothing more than emotional nostalgia. So here are the oddly and mysteriously named Paramus band, Dads, neither of whom are, apparently, dads. They hit that emo thing often and they hit it hard. Sometimes, like even the best emo, it’s a little too on the nose with its lyrical whining, but they do a great approximated mash up of early Built to Spill, bands like CaP’n Jazz and American Football (neither of which I love, honestly) and a small nod to their more modern compatriots like Japandroids and Patrick Stickles’ pained whelp. They really do a great job of mixing things up, swinging from one indie rock touchstone to another Continue reading

Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2

Run the Jewels 2I have a love/hate relationship with modern rap. Mostly hate. With the whole mixtape thing, it feels like the market has been saturated with a bunch of assholes who have a laptop and absolutely nothing to say. How do I know you slang and shoot? You could be a kid in your basement in Sudbury, MA. Yo, man, yelling at your mom to get you a Dr. Pepper don’t make you hard. Nor do I really give a shit. There’s just too little of substance and dick this, gun that, molly and whatnot. And now I sound like my parents. But, seriously, rap kinda sucks in 2014. So along comes two Gen X dudes, who by all whatever should be completely irrelevant and run out of town as O.G. suckas — if these swag shitheads even know what that is. Instead, older white dudes like me appreciate them for trying to do something more than repeating the same thing 27 times in a song and calling it music. El-P, being an old white dude himself, has an appreciation Continue reading

The Rural Alberta Advantage: Mended With Gold

Mended With GoldThese guys hold a special place in my heart. I absolutely adored their first two albums. Some have called them the poor man’s Neutral Milk Hotel, but I call them the Canadian Rush! Oh, wait… But they really do have a sound that is affecting in a way few other bands are. The have this far-away, harsh landscape thing that somehow marries itself with an almost dustbowl-era creakiness with subtle organs, strummed acoustics and spindly, animalistic drumming. Or at least they used to. This album feels more fleshed-out and “produced” than their last effort. The drumming, rather than all snare and cymbals (but awesome ones) employs a deeper, richer tom and floor tom thing, and the vocal accompaniment is richer than ever before. In other words, it doesn’t sound like it was produced in an isolated barn in the middle of a glacier — but perhaps it was. There’s also less of a rustic, backwoods sound to the record; less instruments that sound like wood Continue reading

Titus Andronicus @ Mercury Lounge

titus andronicus @ mercury lounge

This was my second time seeing Titus Andronicus. My first was in their native New Jersey. Maxwell’s in Hoboken to be more specific. The show was rad (I think they still use that word, right?) This time we took them in at The Mercury Lounge in NYC as the headliners of a fundraiser for the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. It was cool on a couple fronts. The first being that Titus Andronicus are amazing live, full of energy and good times. The second was the fact that Ms. Hipster actually went the to the Williie Mae Rock Camp for Woman back a few years ago, which is like the adult version of the girls’ camp and also benefits that program. Her band at the camp was called Insomniacs–a nod to classic, uh, band names of the past. Titus’ is a reference to an oddball Shakespeare play.

We skipped the first two opening bands (both alums of the Willie Mae camp) to grab some grub, but stood to watch Care Bears on Fire realizing that those garage-rocking girls were completely young enough to be our kids. Creepy in ways I can’t even begin to explain. And then, about eight feet from where we were standing, Titus Andronicus took the stage. The Mercury Lounge is far and away my favorite joint to see shows in NYC. The space is small, the sound is good and it’s super-easy to pop out to the empty bar right outside the performance space to grab another overpriced beer. Granted, this is the first show I’ve seen with “moshing.” I put that in quotes only because it was more like a pack of nerds in plaid kind of gently bumping into one another with their messenger bags (present company included). That said, it was still way more manly than the crowd at the Miles Kurosky and John Vanderslice shows I saw there the last time couple of times.

Of course they sounded great, of course the banter was more than anyone could expect and of course, in the ultimate irony, we had to leave before the show was over (again!) to catch a train home to… New Jersey. Anyway, go see ‘em if you can and you can see the kind of thing I’ve posted below. Sorry for the crappy, tiny camera and my rubbery noodle arms that couldn’t hold the minuscule thing for all nine or so minutes of the song. Go see them if you can. They seem to lose bassists and drummers every couple of months, so definitely hit them and hit them hard before they’re an electronic duo. And make sure Amy Klein , the guitarist and sometimes violinist, is in your sightline, as she could make even a jaded curmudgeon like me smile like my twelve year old self finding that stack of Playboys in my friend’s poolhouse. Too much information?

 

Titus Andronicus @ Maxwell’s

Maxwell’s is one of those places that I swear I had been to back in my early twenties when I had some reason or other to venture to Hoboken. It turns out the place I thought was Maxwell’s was just some sports bar way at the other end of town. I’m a silly fuck. And apparently an old, forgetful one, too. So, after stopping randomly at Black Bear Bar & Grill for a decent burger and an overload of TV screens and waitresses young enough to be my waaaay younger sisters (ahem), we rolled out to a venue I had no idea even existed.

Walking up to Maxwell’s side door, the first person I spied was Patrick Stickles, the lead singer of Titus Andronicus. He wasn’t a hard guy to spot, honestly, with his big mountain man beard and a videographer sticking a camera in his face. The funniest thing was hearing him utter “man, there are some good looking women here tonight” as we strolled by. Ms. Hipster, being the modest woman that she is, thought he couldn’t possibly be referring to her. One look inside at the preponderance of Anthony Michael HallSixteen Candles-clique-clones sitting in the small risers around the tiny performance space cemented the fact that he had to be talking about her. There were no other women there. By the time the first band, Squirrel Nuts, sorry The Spider Bags, took the stage there were at least five women there, one of whom was the lead singer’s girlfriend and another so high on something that she stood on my feet for five minutes without even noticing. There was also a dad there with his son and his two friends, a dude with some sort of weird Star Wars headgear that I’m sure he thought was the coolest in Jersey fashion and some idiot in clam diggers and a crooked Yankees cap perched on his head.

The second opening band was Pitchfork darlings, Harlem. The lead singer was wearing some sort of faux African hip-hop hat that actually made him look like what Hollywood would stereotypically put on a Sean Penn I Am Sam character. And if it wasn’t a low IQ, I suspect there were some d-r-u-g-s or booze involved in his bizarro slurred ramblings between songs. Granted, they put on a good show and made the stoned girl and her idiot boyfriend very happy.

And then the main attraction came out and, as the kids say, rocked my socks off. I’ve already declared their album, The Monitor, the album of the year–and they played the shit out of it. Throw in some of the favorites from their debut like ‘Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ’ and you have a fun-filled romp through the punk NJ countryside. The band itself is amazingly high energy and engaging, ranging from the pure unbridled jumping joy of guitarist/fiddler, Amy Klein, to the almost serial killer intensity of lead singer, Patrick Stickles. You can’t tell from my shitty iPhone photo below, but the man’s sinister sideways stare could melt any cool Jersey shell. The band’s anthemic tunes, rah rah chants and natural NJ fist-pumping exuberance lent itself perfectly to the small space and home state crowd. The only shame, and ultimate irony, was that we had to leave the show before it was over at 1:15 to catch a train to Jersey.

 

titus andronicus

 

Miles Kurosky @ Mercury Lounge

miles kurosky ticket

When one of my favorite bands of all time, Beulah, broke up I cried. Okay, I didn’t cry, but was kind of bummed out, but not surprised. After all, their last album was titled Yoko. Kind of a precursor to bad things, right? Where would I place my cup of sunshine now? Now I would never get the opportunity to repeat the incredible experience I had at the Bowery Ballroom back on 10.16.2003 when Beulah headlined a show at Bowery Ballroom, John Vanderslice opened and we were all treated to a mind-blowing experience that still ranks up there with one of the best shows I’ve ever seen!

I mean, I knew Kurosky would be back at some point spreading the indie rock love, but year after year went by and nothin’. And then the album announcements, the sneak EP and the album itself! And then the show at Mercury Lounge full of dudes in black-rimmed glasses and chicks who just didn’t care that their side ponytail was neither ironic nor stylish. Kurosky himself, in his short-sleeved button up, looked liked any number of dads on a soccer sideline, but chattered in between songs in an oddlyTarantino patter. Checking his watch after each and every song in order to not run over the bands’ time limit as the early act, you could just feel the crowd waiting for him to bust out into a Beulah song or fifteen. The horn section stood ready. The sardonic smile on his face said it all. And then “Landslide Baby,” one of the best break up songs of all time, enthused the crowd and got it higher than a seventh-grade me watching Springsteen in the pot-smoked choked confines of the old L.A. Sports Arena. He went on to play a couple more oldies but goodies and quickly bid us adieu and took off.

The show cemented both Mercury Lounge and Miles in the annals of my music watching history. It should have been much longer and more people like me should have jumped on the Internets to purchase their tickets the second they went on sale for fear they’d sell out. It turns out that hipsters have a short memory and don’t recall what was essentially indie rock hipster’s hipster band (with a touch of nerd) once they stepped form the spotlight and took jobs working at like the Dairy Queen or whatever. Anyway, Mr. Kurosky is back, and is hopefully up to big things in the future.

miles kurosky

Dinosaur Jr. @ Bowery Ballroom

dinosaur jr. ticket @ bowery ballroom

I finally got my chance, albeit twenty years late, to see the now two album deep reunited Dinosaur Jr. at The Bowery Ballroom. I had seen one of the band’s offshoots, Sebadoh, way back when at the now defunct Tramps, where former and current bassist Lou Barlow and his bandmate Jason Loewenstein basically played until nobody was left standing, calling for song suggestions over and over again. Ms. Hipster still has arch-flattening flashbacks of that night and probably lived silently with the fear our Dino Jr. experience would be the same. I told her that this would be quite a different time, but that our first stop on the way to the venue should be at a CVS to pick up earplugs. Thank god.

The crowd was about what you’d expect for a band that’s been around for twenty-five years and has a lead singer/guitarist who majors in guitar masturbation. Meaning lots of dudes, some of whom are graying around the temples, and some younger dudes who heard their cool uncle liked these guys back in his “skating days.” I was a relative latecomer to the Dino Jr. party, my first album being Green Mind in 1991. By that time Lou had already left the band pretty much to start his solo thing. Apparently head honcho, J Mascis, could be a bit of a control freak! My personal history aside, people were there to party. And from the first ridiculous guitar solo, it seemed the boys where there to play their asses off. That was until someone in the crowd decided to complain that he couldn’t hear the vocals. Barlow, apparently off his meds, decided to berate the guy and asked him, “What fuckin’ show did you think you came to see?” Insinuating that Dinosaur Jr. isn’t about singing and lyrics, a semi-slight towards his bandmate, but kinda true nonetheless. Meanwhile, Mascis’ guitar playing was absolutely amazing, but he literally didn’t talk or open his eyes the entire night. Barlow, aside from his short tirade said nothing and stood bent at the waist stroking his bass with his mop of hair in his face. When your Presidents of the United States of America-looking drummer has the most personality in the band, you know you’re in trouble.

As expected the tallest guy in the joint stood right in front of us. He had to literally be 6’8.” And while that would normally be a bummer, he provided us with the first (and finest) example of exactly what we wanted, and knew, would happen: air-guitaring. Trust me, it’s almost impossible not to, but sometimes you have to overcome your desires to keep your self-respect. Big man sold out. He was certainly not the only one, either, as we spied unembarrassed fellows in the balcony, a dude with a ponytail “playing” the solo on “Freak Scene” and several others basically playing Guitar Hero with no controller. I mean, it’s tough. Mascis is like the indie/college rock equivalent of Eddie Van Halen. He can tear the shit out of a guitar. And unlike his hipster brethren, he plays the same ol’ instrument the entire show, tuning up or down between songs. No banjos, no Theremins, no giant Stray Cats axe. The shit was crazy. My only issue with the night–aside from having to keep my earplugs in all night to avoid having my anvils bleed–is that with so many albums to choose from, odds are they’re going to leave out some favorites. I wanted to hear “In a Jar,” dude. But they did play “Wagon,” so at least I walked away pretty happy. So I guess I’ll see these guys again in 2035.

The Decemberists

We walked the eighth of a mile or so from our house down to The Wellmont Theatre in Montclair to see The Decemberists, and could hardly believe how they turned the former shithole of a movie theater that once stood there into a terrific, modern concert venue. And I stood there proudly, secure in the fact that I too had what those hipster kids in Brooklyn had: a legit joint to watch bands play at high volume while drinking seven-dollar beers. Wooohooo! Granted, I don’t think Steely Dan is playing Williamsburg any time soon.

Clearly The Decemberists (who shilled for Obama at some point in the campaign) knew their audience. After all, I believe 89% of Montclair residents voted for Obama, and the other 11% voted for idiots like that smug shit, Ralph Nader, and a smattering of Green and Commie party nobodies. They mentioned the outgoing administration several times, and sang with passion in a new-ish song about Valerie Plame. It was a good time, despite the spastic, swaying Euro guy in front of me, and my fixation on lead singer Colin Meloy and his uncanny resemblance to Dwight Schrute. Here’s the final couple minutes of the show shot on my cell phone. The guy singing way off key to the hippy bs going on is in no way me–so ignore him.

 

Tokyo Police Club

Considering the fact that Ms. Hipster and I were old enough to be the parents of all the members of the two opening bands, I wondered if perhaps we had gotten in over our heads going to a kiddy show. It turned out that we had the stamina and grit to outlast and survive.

The first opening band, The Static Jacks, hails from my adoptive state of New Jersey, and looked the part, right down to their curly brunette locks and something just smelled of The Garden State. It looked, at first glance, not unlike a North Jersey high school talent show. I had checked out snippets of their stuff on MySpace, but when faced with teenagers with guitars who really knows what the hell you’re going to get. It turns out these kids do a damn good approximation of Strokes-like rock ‘n roll. Considering the largest of ‘em probably weighs 125 soaking wet, we were impressed with their power and verve. The gangly lead guitarist does a perfect I don’t give a shit deadpan and the front “man” jerked around like an erstwhile Mick Jagger and made little funnies about their cheap merch available at the downstairs table. Looking back at all the crapass high school performances I had to sit through when I was actually in high school a million years ago, I couldn’t help but think that even if these guys don’t follow the rockin’ path to glory, and end up being ad execs or lawyers or some profession that doesn’t even exist in 2008, they can always look back and say that as high schoolers they fuckin’ rocked New York City. Jealousy doesn’t even begin to cover it…

The second opening band, Smoosh, I knew nothing about (which put me squarely in the minority). It turns out that they’re even younger than the first band, and all girls. We walked back into the main show space about two songs into their set, and the first thing that struck me was the size of the bassist’s guitar. And then I realized it wasn’t the bass that was huge but the girl that was small. It took me a couple minutes to figure out that not only was she small, but she was literally a child. My assumptions were confirmed when after the fourth song she put down her bass and skipped off the stage–presumably because 10:30 was her bedtime. It was pretty hysterical. And then I noticed the headbanging drummer was also looking youngish, and as a matter of fact, the singer/keyboardist looked rather teenagery as well. So it turns out these girls are all sisters, ages 16, 14 and 11. And while I’m not a humongous fan of their Quasi/Mates of State meets Tori Amos thing, it’s always impressive when kids rock it out. And the missus, being a drummer herself, totally dug the 14-year-old with the headband doing her best Tommy Lee impression behind the kit.

So, finally we get to the main act. Now I know the dudes in Tokyo Police Club are young, but compared to their openers, these guys look positively geriatric. They certainly don’t play like old folks, though, as they blazed through a 50 minute set at breakneck speed. Along the way they made at least four or five Canada references (one “border issue” that left them merchless, as well as some playoff hockey reference I didn’t get because I don’t get hockey, along with a couple others), made the crowd clap along and proved that rock and roll can be fun. So many times I go to shows of bands that are awesome on record and am completely disappointed by their live show. One of the most disappointing things is actually when they sound exactly like they do on the album, don’t interact with the crowd and just plow through a set that I could get putting the thing on random on my iPod. Not so with Tokyo Police Club. While they sound amazingly polished on their new record, Elephant Shell, they sound even better live. They really pump up the volume, up the tempo a little bit and the lead singer, Dave Monks, pushes his voice to the brink. The funniest thing is their nerdy keyboardist and backing vocals guy, Graham Wright. He’s that wonderful indie rock anomaly with the horn rimmed glasses, high school physique and the “I can’t believe this band geek is playing in a popular rock band and getting adoration from real fans so I’m going to pour every ounce of energy I have into every performance” unabashed draw. Having only one album (that wasn’t even officially released the night of the show, but was available via download on iTunes and Amazon) and an EP (along with another sorta EP), their set was somewhat limited, but when you’re playing music with such instantly catchy melodies and propulsive drumming and whatnot, it’s a lean but dynamic experience.

So overall I highly recommend getting out and seeing these guys if you have an opportunity, even if you’ve never heard a single note off of their music. And even for us older folks, the crowd wasn’t as young and hipsterish as I thought it would be. There were actually people older than us there–although they were probably the parents of The Static Jacks driving in from Westfield, or the girls’ grandparents. In any case, I didn’t feel out of place at all, and only spied a handful of hipster assholes with skinny jeans, studded belts and white sneakers. And while those guys were busy trying too hard, nobody in the audience had to try too hard to have a good time. Smiles all around. Go Canada.

tokyo police club

The Police @ MSG

So it had been over twenty years since Mrs. Hipster last saw The Police in concert. This was back when she carried a framed 4×6 photo of Sting with her from class to class, setting it up on her desk and dreaming of the day when he would ride up on a white horse and sweep her away to his castle or hive or wherever the hell it is he lived at the time. Needless to say she didn’t end up marrying an amazingly wealthy rock god, but at least I have more of my original hair.

And how did Sting become the music and advertising mogul that he is? Apparently by charging like $90 for crappy seats to his shows. Actually they probably should have titled the tour “Andy Summers, Back in the Black.” We honestly didn’t get the idea to go see the show until several days after the tickets went on sale, meaning that we got what we got and paid whatever The Police, their management and Ticketmaster wanted to take me for.

It was inevitable that the show would be a disappointment. I mean these guys were the seminal rock band of our early lives, and shaped a life full of music appreciation and rock band idolatry. My “Can’t Stand Losing You” 45 played non-stop on my sweet Fisher-Price record player, probably driving my folks to drink. Hearing the song live almost thirty years later was hardly the cathartic, defining moment that I thought it might or could be. And, seriously, what was with all the Andy Summers solos? That man is by far the least talented of the three members, yet they practically gave him a solo in every song–solos that were in no way part of the original tune. It was clear that Sting and Copeland were in one camp and Summers in another. Perhaps they just gave him the droning solos to appease some sense of guilt, or more likely to prove a point. The point being that nobody wanted to hear that crap. Ah, well. At least we weren’t the oldest people there by a long shot.

Pearl Jam

pearl jam ticket

As much as I’ve tried to let Pearl Jam go as part of the grunge ghost that was my college career, they always manage to find a way back into my heart. That 3/4 time swagger (despite being co-opted by inferior bands like, most famously, The Goo Goo Dolls) just socks me in the gut like no indie rock band quite can. It’s no wonder the first minute of the band’s second song, “Corduroy,” had me welling up like, well, the tour nerd standing next to me. There’s something about that song, and a giant arena filled with fist-pumping Gen-Xers that captures the spirit of rock and roll in a way that no sweater and tortoise shell Brooklyn-band-of-the-moment show at the Bowery Ballroom can. Not to discount my bread and butter, but the sheer geek frenzy of the PJ crowd, mixed with the nostalgic blow of Eddie’s mumbling wail sets something off in me that makes me want to high-five fanclub member #163,836 from Scranton, PA. I refrain, of course, because my hipster card is already in jeopardy by just stepping foot in the Continental Airlines Arena parking lot.

pearl jam crowd


So this guy and his buddy were real fans. Such fans, in fact, that the one guy had cataloged in his head every song he had ever seen played live, and only had a couple more to check off before he could retire from touring with the band (and, presumably stick just to his home state and surrounding areas). The fact that The Office is set in Scranton was not lost on me, as I got the true sense that Chilis might honestly be the social hub of the community. Like fan #163,836, the crowd was freakishly caucasian, and remarkably old on the whole. Not that I should have expected anything different. In fact, co-workers have reacted with mixed skepticism before the last couple of shows I’ve seen (I basically see one show per album), as to whether the band still existed (one even asking if it was a reunion tour). They were under the impression the band put out “Jeremy” when they were in eighth grade and promptly gave up careers in music. Silly kids.

 

pearl jam singing


Although nothing made me feel as old as my recent Pearl Jamwork experience, watching the AOL Music Sessions session with PJ in a room filled with the music team. Eddie started singing ”Gone” solo with his guitar, and I looked around the room we affectionately call ”The Death Star” to see a bunch of confused and/or scoffing young faces all but laughing at this old, doddering fool grumbling incoherently about Bush or love or bugs or whatever. It’s grunge, dammit! Geez, thank god the next band they showed was the savior of rock and roll, All-American Rejects. That reminds me of this one time back when KRock still played music; Julie Slater was giving away tickets to the 92nd caller, and that person had a choice of concert tickets between Creed and Pearl Jam. Of course the idiot child who won chose the Creed tickets, to which Slater said, “Really?” The caller went on to say how much Pearl Jam sucked and how great Creed is. That argument is like saying, to a lesser extent, of course, that the Beatles suck and Beatlemania is where it’s at!

 

light show


All I know is that it’s almost impossible not to geek out when faced with one of the stronger molding forces of your drunken coming-of-age. If my college life weren’t filled with grungy basement frat parties and beer-soaked life-affirming mosh pits, I don’t know what kind of person I would be today. I’m sure my liver would be more healthy, and my eardrums a little more intact, but I would never know the joy of sheer testosterone-laden dorkiness. Just ask the giant Jersey meathead sitting in front of me who pointed at Vedder several times during the show and screamed “I love you!” before turning to hug his male companion for the forty-seventh time since they took the stage. Now that’s powerful stuff.

see ya
“later, little grunge dudes”

Casualties of War

So, there I was listening to an old Eric B. & Rakim album the other day… Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but Mr. Hipster may not dig on swine, but he does love his old skool rap. Anyway, I was being lulled to sleep by Rakim’s smooth delivery when I heard a song I hadn’t really listened to–really listened to–in a long time: Casualties of War.

don't sweat the technique

Now, despite being one of the lamest covers of all time, this album, Don’t Sweat the Technique, has this true piece of prognostication on it:

Casualties of war; as I approach the barricade
Where’s the enemy? who do I invade?
Bullets of teflon, bulletproof vest rip
Tear ya outta ya frame with a bag full of clips
Cause I got a family that waits for my return
To get back home is my main concern
I’ma get back to New York in one piece
But I’m bent in the sand that is hot as the city streets
Sky lights up like fireworks blind me
Bullets, whistlin over my head remind me…
President Bush said attack
Flashback to ‘Nam, I might not make it back
Missile hits the area, screams wake me up
From a war of dreams, heat up the m-16
Basic training, trained for torture
Take no prisoners, and I just caught ya
Addicted to murder, send more bodybags
They can’t identify ‘em, leave the nametags
I get a rush when I see blood, dead bodies on the floor
Casualties of war! (4x)

Day divides the night and night divides the day
It’s all hard work and no play
More than combat, it’s far beyond that
Cause I got a kill or be killed kind of attack
Area’s mapped out, there’ll be no, stratego
Me and my platoon make a boom wherever we go
But what are we here for? Who’s on the other side of the wall?
Somebody give The President a call
But I hear warfare scream through the air
Back to the battlegrounds, it’s war they declare
A desert storm: let’s see who reigns supreme
Something like monopoly: a government scheme
Go to the army, be all you can be
Another dead soldier? Hell no, not me
So I start letting off ammunition in every direction
Allah is my only protection
But wait a minute, Saddam Hussein prays the same
And this is Asia, from where I came
I’m on the wrong side, so change the target
Shooting at the general; and where’s the sergeant?
Blame it on John Hardy Hawkins for bringing me to america
Now it’s mass hysteria
I get a rush when I see blood, dead bodies on the floor
Casualties of war! (4x)

The war is over, for now at least
Just because they lost it don’t mean it’s peace
It’s a long way home, it’s a lot to think about
Whole generation, left in doubt
Innocent families killed in the midst
It’ll be more dead people after this
So I’m glad to be alive and walkin
Half of my platoon came home in coffins
Except the general, buried in the storm
In bits and pieces no need to look for ‘em
I played it slick and got away with it
Rigged it up so they would think they did it
Now I’m home on reserves and you can bet
When they call, I’m going AWOL
Cause it ain’t no way I’m going back to war
When I don’t know who or what I’m fighting for
So I wait for terrorists to attack
Every time a truck backfires I fire back
I look for shelter when a plane is over me
Remember pearl harbor? New York could be over, g
Kamikaze, strapped with bombs
No peace in the East, they want revenge for Saddam
Did I hear gunshots, or thunder?
No time to wonder, somebody’s going under
Put on my fatigues and my camoflouge
Take control, cause I’m in charge
When I snapped out of it, it was blood, dead bodies on the floor
Casualties of war! (4x)

And just so you realize… This song was released thirteen years ago! I was locked in a fraternity basement during most of The Gulf War, so I missed most of that fun stuff, but this song about that skirmish has all the same players (well, now we got GW Bush instead of GHW Bush , but you know they’re cut from the same cloth) and a lot of the same sentiments–at least those espoused by Mr. Rakim. And I thought everyone loved war! Anyhow, food for thought.

Ex Hex: Rips

RipsThis irony here — or not so much irony, but pity — is that this is the album Wild Flag probably thought they were making. Or at least hoped they’d make. It’s no coincidence that Mary Timony, one-fourth of that super-group, grabs the reigns here and proves that sometimes the individuals within the super-group are better than the sum of the their parts (see Dan Behar as soloist versus of-late New Pornographers). Timony throws the (s)Ex into the Ex and rocks it old-school, combining your classic Joan Jett / Runaways thing with mid-nineties college indie rock. In fact, songs like “Beast” sound an awful lot like the more rocking tunes of Liz Phair’s circa 1993-94. Timony’s vocals, with her kind of monotone thing, are clearly influenced by Patti Smith. And the songs themselves are part Pretenders with a dash of Ramones. The stuff Continue reading

Chick Lead Singers

I realize, scanning my music collection, that I have very few albums by bands that are fronted by chicks. Sure there are some solo acts (Lily Allen, M.I.A., Juliana Hatfield, etc.), but I have very few modern records on which the only voice heard is that of a rockin’ woman. Notice I say “only,” because there are a bunch of bands out there that have bought into the whole boy/girl thing, but still very few (at least in my collection) that are truly fronted solely by a chick. I’d like to think I don’t have a bias against the whole female voice thing, but perhaps I do have a deep-seated problem with estrogen in my rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve actually discussed this with several female acquaintances of mine (just to see if I do indeed have a problem), but to my surprise almost to a woman they claimed to also like the sound of a male voice fronting their bands. Then I started to think that perhaps there was just a dearth of chick-lead bands out there, or that record labels themselves had a bias against the whole thing. Even a relatively testosterone fueled modern rock (or whatever it is these days) radio station like K-ROCK in NYC featured only one band that I can think of off hand in heavy rotation in recent memory. And that was the suckass Evanescence group–and that was a bunch of years ago at this point.

And then I realized that maybe the issue is that there is a lack of interesting female voices out there. I have my wonderful eMusic account from which I’ve discovered countless bands, but will rarely download a band’s album when lead by a chick unless that chick’s voice is in some way intriguing, different or just all-out kick-ass. That tends to fall into a few categories for me: Chrissie Hynde, Edie Brickell, Kim Deal or PJ Harvey. I’m not really sure why, but it seems to be true more times than not. Well, whatever the case, here’s a rundown of the only ten current-ish chick-fronted bands that I could scrape together in my collection:

1. The Blow
2. Cat Power
3. The Detroit Cobras
4. Heartless Bastards
5. Land of Talk
6. The Pipettes
7. Pretty Girls Make Graves
8. St. Vincent
9. Sybris
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Of course there are other older bands scattered around in there (Sleater-Kinney, Hole, The Breeders, The Muffs, etc.), but those really represent a time gone by. Perhaps it’s the public’s lack of openness to the prospect, or perhaps it’s just me…