Wednesday, March 6, 2013
This Spring is the season of the old rocker. I'm telling you. Weren't you asking? Oh. Anyway here's the deal. Youth culture is dead. Trust fund hipsters with beards listening ironically to metal and hardcore, drinking PBR and getting lip tattoos...that was the last of youth culture, it's over. Bye Bye. Those kids may seem rebellious but deep down they all want to be CEO of Starbucks or at least Team Leader at Whole Foods. Off the grid, my ass.
No, no, fearless reader, the only true punks are the original punks, and butter my cheeks if those guys aren't all pushing 50 or 60 or 70 at this point. Is Iggy Pop more punk than the guy from Fucked Up? Yes he is. Who is more like Bruce Springsteen, Brian Fallon or the actual Bruce Springsteen? We could jaw that one up all day and night.The fact is, this culture of ours, (punk/indie/underground/alterna-whatever blanket general term ya gots) will likely not ever die. But it will likely be incredibly boring forever and ever, amen.
There has not, for instance, been anyone who qualifies as a "new Paul Westerberg". Westerberg, the singer/songwriter behind life changing 80s indie/punk/powerpoppers the Replacements (the 'Mats, to true fans), is a true American original. Not original in the sense that he didn't copy Alex Chilton and Johnny Thunders to death (literally), but in the sense that the distillation that came out of him had not been done before and is unmistakably him, and his. Broken hearted, anthemic guitar pop/rootsy rock'n'roll with poetic-ish lyrics and a good dose of midwestern self loathing, it was, and although Springsteen and Dylan and others have gone down that road, nobody can say that the Replacements didn't at least have the courtesy to pave it on their ramshackle trip down, opening the door for lots of other people like the Goo Goo Dolls, Ryan Adams, Lucero, Wilco, Son Volt, etc who all became rich and famous doing a less heartfelt and slicker version of the 'Mats schtick.
^Tommy and Paul Then^
My point here is, there have been no viable successors to Paul Westerberg's throne. There have been no "new Iggy Pops". There have been no British pop/rock bands with the brains and brawn of the mighty Suede. No new David Bowies. And why do we need that? If the kids don't want to produce anything interesting, if youth culture is now safe, watered down, corporate in nature and actually MORE boring than the "boring old farts", why do we need it? Especially not when ALL of the aforementioned artists have NEW work out, or coming soon, that is among their best work in decades.
Just downloaded the new Replacements disc, their first in over 20 years. It was done as an attempt to raise funds for former 'Mats guitarist Slim Dunlap, who has had a very nasty stroke. It's been very successful as a fundraiser, and listening to it now, I can say it's very successful as rock and roll music, as well.
Kicking off with a cover of Slim Dunlaps' solo tune "Busted Up", the Replacements (who now consist of the two main 'Mats, Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson, plus a couple of Minneapolis session guys on drums and 2nd guitar)immediately show much improved chops and a less raggedy/sloppy rhythm than the 'Mats of old, while somehow NOT losing that spontaneous, unrehearsed vibe they always had. It sounds like an older wiser Westerberg and Stinson,yes. Two guys who have learned to play their guitars and sing better over the years. But it doesn't lack one bit in the attitude department. They can still, as Paul put it recently "rock like murder". The song itself is a fun jump blues/rockabilly type roots number, catchy as all get out.
^Paul Westerberg Now^
Next up is former drummer Chris Mars' contribution to the EP, a cover of Slim Dunlap's "Radio Hook Word Hit". Apparently Chris, while not really keen on the idea of being in a room playing music with the other 'Mats, did want to be involved so he recorded this tune by himself and painted the awesome cover art as well. The song is good, a very late 80s/early 90s sounding number, one you indeed could imagine being on the radio in the "alternative" era. It's a good song, well played, and doesn't distract from the greatness that is happening around it, but it's not part of that greatness, if you get my drift.
After that comes the REAL shit. "I'm Not Sayin'" is a cover of a 1960s Gordon Lightfoot song that Westerberg learned through a cover by Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico. I haven't heard the original, but this song sounds tailor made for the band that wrote "Little Mascara", "Left Of The Dial" and "Merry Go Round". It rocks in that catchy, bar-room way while still broadcasting the depth of feeling and subtle melancholy that only Westerberg can wring out of a 3 chord rock'n'roll song. He even throws in a reference to/impression of tragic hero Johnny Thunders at the end of the song when he croons "Don't try..." just like Thunders did on "You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory", one of his finest songs. Perfect. This is the hit, and this is the shit, guys and ghouls.
^Tommy Stinson Now^
"Lost Highway" barges in next, and this one is a cover of a cover of a cover. You see, there was this songwriter in the 1940s called Leon Payne. He wrote great songs, a few of which were covered by the great Hank Williams, including "Lost Highway". Now, Hank was no slouch in the songwriting department his own damn self, but he felt moved enough by this song to give it a haunting, intense treatment that became one of his signature tunes. Then, in the 1980's, a great country punk band from Nashville named Jason and The Scorchers covered it, with a vicious, rocking arrangement that certainly out crunches any previous version. Now the 'Mats have covered that version. They've tightened up the groove by slowing it down a tad, and bringing out the swinging rather than pummeling aspects of the Scorchers' arrangement, but it still ROCKS. Oh my goodness how it rocks. Westerberg's voice cracks a bit in that heartbreaking and human way that it used to, and he endears himself even further by accidentally mush-mouthing the line about the jug of wine, while the band slides and stumbles around him like the Faces on anti depressants and my friend, it's just heaven.
Sadly there's only one more song left, but there's always the repeat button, and I already know I'm going to click on that. The final tune is "Everything's Coming Up Roses". This song is from a 1959 Broadway Musical called "Gypsy", and sure, it's a funny choice, but Westerberg has always had a thing for show tunes. The 'Mats do this one great justice, keeping tongues firmly in cheek while proving that a good pop song is always going to be a good pop song.
Basically, people, this is a new recording by my favorite band of all time. I'm either going to love it despite it's faults or be bitterly disappointed. Thankfully, the boys didn't let me down one bit. It's poignant, it's rocking, it's fun. It's everything the Replacements were at their best, and everything I miss about rock'n'roll the way it used to be. Thanks Paul, Thanks Tommy. Bless you Slim.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
SO listen, since the world is going to end, I don't want to go out on the mostly sour note that was my last Blog entry "More Fun Than A Flaming Yule Log." After reading several of my music geek friends' Year End Top Tens, or 20s, or whatever, I realized that there were, indeed, some records I forgot about that I did buy and did enjoy. There were also a couple bands who released singles or teasers for their new albums this year that I loved but, like a dick, did not include in my year end list. So what follows is my Top Ten best musical releases of 2012.
1) Redd Kross- Researching The Blues LP.
How I forgot about this instant power pop classic is beyond me. Guess I'm going senile. "Stay Away From Downtown" is the song of the goddamn year as far as this lonely cowpoke is concerned. The choppy Riffs, the sweet harmonies, the vague and vaguely familiar lyrics....it's like the innocence of early Lennon and McCartney, covered in '77 era punk rock bile and power pop teeny bop energy. The whole album is a stunner, in fact I'm quite sure it's the bands' best since "Third Eye".
2)Graveyard- "Lights Out" LP
I covered this in my "Yule Log" Blog, so I'm not going to re-iterate. I'll just say if you like the blues, classic hard rock, doom, classic metal or stoner rock...get it.
3)Kurt Baker- "Brand New Beat"
Ditto on this one, covered in the last Blog. I will add that it gets kudos for blatantly ripping off the title of a Gene Vincent song. Because if you're going to rip people off (and you are), then make it blatant and make sure they've been dead since 1972.
4)The Crazy Squeeze- s/t LP
First off, I will state that I do not own this record. I am judging it on the bands' past recordings and the samples I've heard of each song. The fact that this band is a supergroup that features members of the Stitches, Richmond Sluts, and the (godlike) Teenage Frames just seals the deal. Whatever this band does, I like it. It sounds like punk rock and roll with a healthy dose of snotty pop on top, a furious gang bang between the Heartbreakers, the Boys, and Teenage Head. I cannot wait til this bastard sees a U.S. vinyl release, for it shall be mine.
5) Wanda Jackson-"Unfinished Business" LP
I have come to the realization that I don't like Justin Townes earle that much. I really tried, but he just seems like the palest of pale Ryan Adams imitators, with none of his Dad's aching wordplay, slurred swagger, and honesty. He tries too hard, and he's too young yet, and he just ain't doin' it right yet, aside from a couple of good tunes. Why am I talking about him? Well, he had the balls to produce a Wanda Jackson record. It's a real good one. The song choices and feel are spot on, and I needn't mention that Wanda's voice is eternal. Her live performances are sometimes shaky these days, but her last few records have been up there with the best of her ancient 1950s/1960s back catalog. I do her an injustice by whining about her choice of producer. Jack White, producer of last year's "The Party Ain't Over Yet" was a better choice because he had recorded Loretta Lynn and is a massive talent himself. Having said that, "Unfinished Business", I think, is the finer record of the two.
6)Ricky Rat-"Songs In C Major Love" LP
I don't understand the title. I just don't get it. But I never understand anything, so I am not super shocked or anything. Does he love the key of C Major? If so, then why doesn't he marry it? Anyway, you have got to hand it to Ricky Rat. Probably the finest Detroit guitar player (and if you are from Michigan, the land that invented the Gibson Guitar, you are of a special breed to begin with) since Wayne Kramer. As you all should know, he was in thee Trash Brats, a band every hip Michigan kid knew and loved for their cross dressing cross pollination of glam, punk, pop metal and snot back in the 1980s and '90s. Thee Brats were a GREAT band. Ricky's first solo record is also great. While I miss Brian O'Blivion's vocals at times, this disc exhibits the same ramshackle pop punk charm that made Thee Brats such an eternally beloved band. Ricky's voice kinda sounds like Dr. Frank from the Mr. T Experience in spots, which ain't bad. There's also a pretty great cover of Flesh For Lulu's "Time And Space"! All in all, this is a good one in the spirit of Keef and Johnny Thunders' solo stuff. A guitar star stepping out in front of a band with better than fair results.
7)Ghost- "Secular Haze" Leaked Track
Pretty sure this will be the title track of Ghosts' next LP, and it's a creepy, swirly, carnival calliope sounding beast of a thing, with super, super heavy bass and the by now familiar creepily sweet vocals. While this is an official "leak",another new track has leaked via a live version of Abba's "Marionette" (I shitteth you not, people)on You Tube which is frigging awesome. Hope it's on the record. Very much looking forward to it's release in 2013!
8)JD McPherson-"Twinkle Little Christmas Lights" holiday single
This guy just never quits. His album "Signs And Signifiers" was on everyone's year end lists last year, and he's been all over the place since, playing every dive in every town six times on a never ending tour. He's also appeared on every late night talk show from Leno to Conan to Letterman, and blown away mass audiences each time. this cat is gonna be big. This is his first new music since "Signs", and it's a great little sweetly adorable holiday song. Sort of like a drunken Little Richard having his way with "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree", but better. If you can imagine.
9)Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds- "We No Who UR" Leaked Track
I'm including this mostly because I have super high hopes for the new Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album "Push The Sky Away". This song itself is weak milk. Kind of reminds me of U2, or some Irish band doing a song for a charity album or something. Lyrics very good, music very bland. Maybe it'll grow on me, but I'm still holding out massive hope for the album!
Following two years after 2010's "The First Four EPs" collection, this sophomore album finds the punk/alt rock supergroup that is OFF sounding no less pissed off and frantic. 16 songs in just under 16 minutes. Now that is hardcore punk rock. And this is a great album.
Alright, just so you don't call me a grumpy old so and so, that's my year end top ten. Go ahead and cast yer stones that I didn't include whatever 20 something hipster band you're into this week, but I hate the kids. The kids are terrible. It will take amazing things to make me enjoy the kids' music. Even if it's something I should like, like a 10th generation power pop rip off or doom metal band or whatever. I need more than "something I should like". I need something I DO like. Meh. Bah humbug, my blood shit runneth over.
Friday, December 14, 2012
I'm going to be 42 years old in two days. That makes me older than almost everyone who reads this Blog. How do I know? Google stats, bitches. They see you when you're sleeping, they know when you're awake, they know when you've been looking at my blog and touching yourself so stop that. Uh, for goodness sake.
So I was going to write my usual "Ten best records of the year" shit sandwich, but I care not for such ass-clownery at this point. I couldn't find ten new records I liked, really, so I decided to just prattle on about stuff that I did like this year.
Now, forgive me, because it's been a rough year and I could possibly be a bit grumpy. My Mom died this year, I embarked on yet another life changing move to yet another new city (Chicago, land of subway crappers and drive by shootings, not sure if I like that yet), I got a new job that I absolutely hate, have had no time to write or record any new music at all...eh, whatever. You've probably had it rough, too. Nobody's had it rougher than Justin Bieber, who has grown people plotting to kidnap and rape and kill him, all on account of the fact that his music is the equivalent of warm, stuck together gummy bears.
"So what DID you like this year, Chuck Matthews?" I hear you saying out there in the night like a bunch of rude grasshoppers rubbing their hairless leg-stalks together.
As the great Gene Vincent once sang, "Weeellllllllllll....."
NATIONAL TREASURE #1: The GREAT EL VEZ. You may have noticed the photo at the head of this blog post of one very pretty girl, one El Rey De Rock And Roll, and one very drunk guy in a stripey shirt. That's my wife Faith, El Vez "The Mexican Elvis", and me, your humble procrastinating genius. This was taken the other night in Chicago after yet another life affirming X-Mas extravaganza performance by El Vez, his band the Memphis Mariachis and his lovely backup singers, The El Vettes. This man has improved my outlook on life every single time I've seen him play (this was maybe the fifth or sixth time, can't remember). How does he do it? He uses a complex gumbo of political satire, Mexican pride, a mental library of every great song, move, joke, look and sound in rock'n'roll, and of course, the legendary coat tails of Elvis Presley. It's not Xmas until this guy pulls his bag of spangled jumpsuits into town. His show has not changed much in several years (he could probably benefit from including some more recent references musically), but it is the most fun holiday rock and roll show ever. One that doesn't skimp on the jokes, the theatre, or the actual rock and roll.
NATIONAL TREASURE #2: THE GREAT JD McPHERSON. I've been championing this cat since I first heard his record a few years back. Those of you who actually read and pay attention to my rantings here (and Google stats tells me that there's several thousand of you drooling internet weirdos) know that his disc "Signs And Signifiers" was my fave record of the year 2011. His combo of Little Richard/Larry Williams style vocals, jumpin' blues and rockabilly and "aw, shucks ma'am" nice guy-ness has been blowing people away all over the country while he and his band tour their many asses off playing every dive in the nation six times a year. This has all worked out very well for him, as he is now getting rave reviews from national big wigs like Rolling Stone Magazine, and appearing on every talk show in TV land (Leno, Conan, Letterman). JD and his amazing Chicago based band (who don't have a name, and probably should...) are an inspiration. His record, "Signs And Signifiers" is a couple years old now, but it never gets old for me.
GRAVEYARD: "Lights Out"
Everybody knows I'm a big fan of everything from the golden age (you'd call it "retro"), but most of you may not know that for me that includes not only the 50s and 60s, but the 70s as well. Graveyard are a Swedish rock and roll band that combines the best of obscure 1970s occult rock with howlin' blues riffs, a very bleak lyrical outlook and a singer that can shriek and howl like a wide eyed, straining, male Janis Joplin. alot of people say he sounds like Soundgarden's Chris Cornell but I don't give a crap about that. "Lights Out" is their new record and it's amazing. It rocks, it rolls, it's a bit of a downer, but in a great way. It's kind of like listening to Black Sabbath in Jimmy Page's recently renovated 1,000 year old castle in the bleakest of Swedish winter time forests while high on the pot drugs. You like that, don't you?
COCK GREASE POMADE:
I first saw advertising for this stuff on the walls of a bathroom in Austin, Texas at the Continental Club while I was taking a hurried pee-break in the middle of an awesome honky tonk set from Junior Brown. There were stickers that said "Cock Grease" on the walls and mirrors, and being the modest sort of old fashioned fella that I am, my cheeks sort of reddened in slight embarrassment. Then I laughed, then I peed. Then I went on with my life. Later I realized that Cock Grease was indeed a brand of pomade, and having spotted some in Chicago's "BROKEN CHERRY" shop, I bought a tin of it. My verdict? It's the stiffest pomade I've ever tried, in fact a little too stiff if you use the amount you'd normally use of another brand. If firm hold is your thing, look no further. And also, it smells AMAZING. Like honey and sugar cookies and candle wax. Mmmmm. Screw putting it in my hair, I'm going to put it on toast and eat it.
DOCUMENTARY OF THE YEAR:
This is a long awaited fan made doc about one of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. Minneapolis power pop/rock/punk/alternative band the Replacements have influenced pretty much everyone who picked up a guitar since their reign as indie rock kings in the late 80s and very early 90s. This documentary features 1)No Replacements music 2) No Replacements live footage and 3)No interviews with actual band members. Despite that, it does have a lot of famous faces and many hilarious and awe inspiring stories. After watching it, you'll want to listen to their music, though, or better yet, just play one of their records while the DVD is playing. Essential.
DIG THE BRAND NEW BREED: Kurt Baker's new record "Brand New Beat" on Jolly Ronnie Records is a modern day revisionist history of power pop that favors the populist (Rick Springfield, Butch Walker, The Knack) as well as the cult (Big Star, Paul Collins, The Jags) sides of the genre. A new classic and you heard that here first.
That's my year end wrap up. I can't think of anything else right now that I actually liked this year. There are a few things I could mention like LAURIES PLANET OF SOUND RECORD STORE in Lincoln Square, Chicago. They're my new fave record store in my new fave neighborhood in Chi-town.
Let's kiss this year goodbye as it shimmies it's rotten stinking way out the door, and hope the next year is better, shall we? Toodles, kids.