Thursday, July 14, 2005

how was your live 8?

It's a bit after the fact, but I figured I'd express some of my thoughts on the Live 8 concerts two Saturdays ago...

...The coverage - MTV and VH1 really did a shitty job, to tell you the truth. They had an opportunity to use their separate channels to show different artists and expand the coverage you received. Nope, all day the channels had the exact same feed. Therefore, if Bon Jovi was playing Phili on MTV, a quick glance at VH1 showed the same damn thing. They missed a golden opportunity to give you a choice. Show Bon Jovi on MTV and show Maroon 5 on VH1, or whoever. Having two channels with the exact same coverage of over 5 different concerts is the stupidest production decision I can fathom. So if you were suffering through 40 minutes of the Black Eyed Peas and VJ babble on MTV, VH1 gave you no relief.

...VJ's - Why did the VJ's have to talk so much? The ratio of VJ commentary and airtime to actual performances must have been something to the effect of 2:3.

...The Who - Ehhh ... please retire or something. Roger Daltery performed with his fucking reading glasses on. Two members are dead, and the other two wont quit.

...Collaborations - Having Richard Ashcroft perform with Coldplay was a nice surprise. Same with U2 and Paul McCartney doing 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band'. But Elton John dragging an obviously wasted Pete Doherty on stage for 'Children of the Revolution' was kind of gross. Why did Rob Thomas get to sing with Stevie Wonder? Why was Rob Thomas even slotted near the headliners? Nice guy, but the only thing worse than Matchbox Twenty's 'Push' is the slow, solo piano/voice version he played at Live 8. And what was the point of having George Michael come on to sing 'Drive My Car' with Paul McCartney? I didn't even notice he was there until Paul waved him off the stage.

...Africa - I applaud MTV/VH1 for showing some of the 'ethnic' groups at the foreign concert locations. But why only brief clips? I know Orchestra Baobab never make it onto TRL, but these guys are legends in their neck of the woods and deserve more airtime.

...AOL - It's the first time in my life that I didn't hate the company. For those of us with fast connections and filled with MTV hate, AOL MUSIC streamed continuous video from each concert location. Therefore, you could watch whoever you wanted to, while it was happening. Three cheers for AOL ... huzzah!

...Freddie Mercury - It is generally agreed that Queen stole the show back in 1985, when Live Aid was just a 'humble' two concert event. One of Freddie's crowd pleasing trademarks was how he'd getthe crowd to follow him through various vocal riffs (Like, I sing day-ooo, then you sing day-ooo). I could swaer I caught some perfomers trying to do the exact same thing at Live 8. Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day and Scott Weiland of Velvet Revolver come quickly to mind. A tribute? My imagination? Who knows...

...Pink Floyd - Their fine performance, smart set list, and news making reunion probably stole the show at Live 8. Roger Waters was grinning from ear to ear the entire time. Like The Who, most of the band was looking pretty battle worn. But unlike The Who, they don't pretend to still be virile rockers. It was really nice to see Roger and Dave sing together again. And their curtain call was touching.

...Paul McCartney - I'm a bit sick of seeing Paul perform EVERYWHERE, and the Live 8 group performance of 'Hey Jude' was predictable and too long ... but hearing 'Helter Skelter' was a nice surprise.

Friday, June 24, 2005

smashing pumpkins to reunite???

Read about it here: Corgan plans to Un-Smash The Pumpkins

As a long time fan of this dead band, I'm frankly insulted by this news. Billy put out an ad about this purely to promote his solo album. It's no coincidence that this news came out the week his album was released. The man wants to remind everyone of his past glories so they'll be inspired to buy what is, in my opinion, a weak collection of songs produced to the point of un-listenability.

I seriously doubt that James Iha (who left the stage of the farewell Chicago concert like a man with a plane to catch), would really want to get involved with Corgan again. Corgan has ripped him in the press and in his blogs. Even if James has gotten A Perfect Circle out of his system, I can't see him joining this foolish idea. D'Arcy has had her own problems with Billy as well. So unless she needs cash to finance her habit (if she still has it), she's out too. And Jimmy Chamberlain seems more interested in being a father and having his own band, the Jimmy Chamberlain Complex. Besides, not only is there no emotional benefit … where’s the financial one? It would be different if Billy Corgan’s solo album, poetry book, and Zwan disaster were raking in the cash … but they’re not. The Pumpkins broke up at a career low point, commercially speaking. You don’t just magically overcome that with a 5 year absence. Maybe after 10 years … like The Pixies or Jane’s Addiction.

Billy strikes me as a talented but insecure man with a large chip forever on his shoulders. He's never felt like he's gotten the proper respect or acknowledgement for his accomplishments. And I might try to sympathize, if he wasn't always so confrontational and whiney about it. Have some self-respect, let the past take care of itself, and stop over-calculating every move. Just move on.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

the darker side of rick rubin

Word has it that Rick Rubin and Neil Diamond are working together on Diamond's next release. They are both hoping for the same magic that revived Johnny Cash's career.

You can read the story here: Diamond Teams With Rubin

Though Neil Diamond better bring a few allies or some lawyers, because I hear working with Rick Rubin isn't all joints and daisies...

(Los Angeles - recording session for Johnny Cash's fifth Rick Rubin produced album, the album he died before ever completing...)

Rick Rubin - "Man, we need to get some positive vibes in here. Jimmy! Go light up some more incense! Now ... where were we? You still with us Johnny?"

Johnny Cash - "I think I need some tea Rick, my voice is getting a little raw. Can't we make these sessions shorter?"

Rick Rubin - "No can do, Boy Named Sue. You don't have much time left with us. We need to get as much music out of you as possible before ya pass. I can hook you up with some tea though. Jimmy... ?"

Johnny Cash - "Oh no Rick, not that herbal eastern kung fu stuff you gave me yesterday. It tastes something awful and burns my throat"

Rick Rubin - "Nonsense man! You're the 'man in black'! A little imported herbal zen tea wont harm you! Stop being such a baby! Now, let's move on to the next song."

Johnny Cash - "About these songs. Nine Inch Nails? Depeche Mode? Why am I singing these songs Rick? I don't like them and they're depressing. I've spent my career being dark and gloomy. I've only got a few years left, and I want to get more positive."

Rick Rubin - "Positive doesn't sell Johnny boy! Now let's get rolling! Jimmy, are we cued? Alright. Ready in the studio?"

Johnny Cash - "Aww Rick, I'm so tired. We haven't stopped recording in 6 months and I need to rest. It's been four albums! My hands hurt so..."

Rick Rubin - "Hey Johnny, I hope those aren't negative energy waves I sense coming through the microphone."

Johnny Cash - "This is just all too much ... I don't want to be here. I just want to stay home by a warm fire, read a good book and watch my grandchildren play."

Rick Rubin - "That doesn't sound like a hit single to me. Aww FUCK! I got some of my tofu vegan pita sandwich all in my beard. That's not making it out for days. Damnit Johnny, concentrate! Now you're making me upset. You don't want to know what I do to the Red Hot Chili Peppers when they lose focus. Unless you want to see the dunge- ... I mean, the 'special rooms' beneath my studio..."

Johnny Cash - "I'm tired. And I miss June so much."

Rick Rubin - "Well keep carrying on like that and you're going to join her before the day is through! Now let's do this, man! Daddy needs another gold record! Someone get me a smoothie."

Johnny Cash - "zzzzzzzzz ... zzzzzzzzzzzz ..."

Rick Rubin - "Damnit, not again! My aura is getting all warped today. Jimmy! Johnny's out again. Grab the horse adrenaline and give him another shot, pronto! That should help us get two more songs out of him before the night is through. We still have to track 'Down In A Hole', '1979', and 'There Is A Light That Never Goes Out' ..."


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

records that ruined my life, part two

QUEEN - 'Made In Heaven'

Far be it from me to walk all over the grave of a respected legend. Freddy Mercury was one of the greatest frontmen of all time. His vocal range and expressive tenor were without peer in rock music. He controlled the audience in ways that few have duplicated. He exuded endless amounts of energy, enthusiasm and love while on the stage. He was also a hell of a piano player. He and his band have inspired legions of rockers - including Axl Rose, Def Leppard, Mike Patton, Metallica, and Nirvana (Freddie Mercury was even name dropped in Kurt Cobain's suicide note).

So I would never, ever seek to disrespect the dead... Thankfully, the remaining members of Queen have already done it! So I guess I've got the green light! Currently, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor are touring with ex-Bad Company/Free vocalist Paul Rogers. And yes, they are calling it Queen. They've also performed in the recent past with Robbie Williams on vocals. At least bassist John Deacon chose to steer clear of the wreckage. It's too bad he didn't avoid the disaster pictured above...

If there is one thing that's hard to do, it's finishing your career with a bang. This album is commonly referred to as a 'Swan Song', and few bands end their careers with quality. For every Abbey Road (The Beatles), Relationship Of Command (At The Drive-In), or Avalon (Roxy Music) ... there's a Machina (Smashing Pumpkins), It's Hard (The Who), or Cut The Crap (The Clash). Queen's final album had comfortably found it's way into the former category. Innuendo was written in the shadow of Freddie Mercury's impending death. The lyrics, moods, and themes of the album seem to not only serve as a warm look at an accomplished career, but reflect a sad but triumphant farewell. Classics of the album include 'These Are The Days Of Our Lives', 'The Show Must Go On', and the epic title track.

But they couldn't leave well enough alone, could they? Apparently recorded during and after the Innuendo sessions, Made In Heaven was in fact made in poor judgment. Saying that they were acting on the 'final wishes' of Freddie, the band squeezed out what little creative energy they had left to complete the music that backed his last vocal tracks. And thus they made THIS, the last official album, ruining any chance to end their career on a high note.

Made In Heaven begins on a high note with the simple and humble 'It's A Beautiful Day'. The track is a brief showcase of Freddie's immortal optimism and stirring voice. Unfortunately, everything is downhill from there. The title track does it's best to 'rock', with a wall of guitar riffs and big drums. But this track would have been filler on even some of the band's most disappointing albums. When Freddie is singing, the bland melodies and cheesy lyrics try to become endurable. But other times, such as on the dreary 'Let Me Live', the other band members chime in with their forgettable vocal talents. And regardless of who's singing ... many of the songs are just plain bad. For a band who really knew how to string together a few hooks, this album is seriously lacking in that respect. These songs feel like leftover, half developed (if not rejected) ideas.

If the title of the song 'To Much Love Will Kill You' doesn't scare you away, the song sure will. Brian May penned this one. He also wrote 'Tie Your Mother Down' and 'Fat Bottom Girls'. I just can't explain it... I guess Rod Stewart refused to sing this one, so Brian felt like he had to do something with it. I could go through the rest of the album, but that would require me to relive it. And that's just mean. Come on people, I'd rather listen to side 1 of Hot Space. I mean, I sold back this album and DIDN'T sell back Queen's Flash Gordon album (though that is more due to laziness than anything else). Besides, how can you deny the urgent glory of the vamp at the beginning of that album??? "Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun ... FLASH! OOOHHH OH! ...SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE!!"


Sunday, June 12, 2005

live aid 2005?

Maybe hell has frozen over and pigs (on the wing) are flying. Looks like the original Pink Floyd line-up (WITH Roger Waters) may reunite for the cause of poverty and blah blah blah... Point is, these rich British dudes may actually bury the two decade old hatchet and perform together for the first time since 'The Wall' tour. I honestly never thought this would happen... But even if it does ... don't hold your breath for them to do anything else...

Now if only Tony Banks can get Phil Collins to stop singing monkey love songs and Peter Gabriel to dig out that foxhead, we'd be in business!!!

Rumors and lies...

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

bad religion 6/7/2005 - house of blues, san diego

As I was standing in line outside of the sparkling new House of Blues in downtown San Diego, a promoter walked past the line handing out fliers for an upcoming concert. A young kid in an AC/DC shirt (not Butthead) took one and scanned the line-up with his blond friend (not Bevis). "The Circle Jerks??? Oh yeah, that's a great band name! I really want to go to that concert! Ha ha ha..." Thus the perils of an all ages show...

Tuesday night ushered in the final night of Bad Religion's four night stand in San Diego. It also was a CD release party of sorts for the opening act, Death By Stereo. Supported by Bad Religion's home brewed Epitaph label, Death By Stereo was welcomed with open arms by many in the crowd. Efrem Schulz, their Glenn Danzig-meets-Coby Dick (Papa Roach) frontman screamed, growled, and sang his way through a powerful punk-metal set.

They effectively mixed metal riffs with punk rock structures, jumping back and forth between styles with ease. Some of their choreographed stage moves were a tad cheesy, but the band was professional and well rehearsed. One thing that did distract me was Shulz's excessively serious stage bravado. The man takes himself way too seriously. His demands for the audience to display 'the horns' and middle fingers went largely ignored (in my intoxicated section anyway).

Bad Regilion took the stage and changed the mood for the night immediately. They replaced the seriousness and attitude of the opener with jokes, laugher, and positive energy. Here was a veteran group of punk-rockers who didn't need to impress anyone or earn respect. This gave their set a warm, loose, and intimate feel. Singer Greg Graffin chanted into the mic like a street politician. In between songs, he and the band bantered freely with the audience and even took friendly jabs at Death By Stereo. Flanking Graffin throughout the night were punk legends Greg Heston (Circle Jerks) and Brian Baker (Minor Threat). Bassist Jay Bentley squinted and grinned all night, looking like a stoned Dave Grohl while battling allergies.

They plowed through classics like 'Anethesia', 'Suffer', '21st Century Digital Boy', 'Infected', and the ancient 'Fuck Armageddon...This Is Hell'. The show was paced remarkably well, with Bad Religion playing three songs in a row, then breaking to talk. This strategy kept the energy flowing and interest peaked. The band also delivered newer gems from their latest release, The Empire Strikes First. Sing-alongs went hand in hand with waving fists and thrashing bodies. The old-school punks felt young again, and the young kids received a rock-n-roll lesson. And as the encore came to a thundering halt, it seemed that no one left unfulfilled. Based on the crowd response, I'm surprised they didn't book 4 more nights in San Diego. But with multiple nights ahead of them in Anaheim and LA, I guess they had places to go, and people to teach...

Saturday, June 04, 2005

weezer - 'make believe'

There is a percentage of the population, however small and awkwardly groomed, who still cares about what Rivers Cuomo has to say. Granted, this is a much larger percentage of people than the 3-4 people who care about what I have to say. The main difference is that I actually HAVE something to say (except on Tuesdays). Rivers gave up communication after the commercial failure of Pinkerton left him emotionally wrecked, and left the band in splinters. Thus, any attempt to dissect the lyrics from Weezer's latest album, Make Believe, will either leave you disappointed, frustrated, or more tellingly ... bored.

The token Weezer themes are there: insecurity, unhappiness, failure, broken hearts, etc. The problem is that the meanings are obvious. No use of subtlety, clever metaphors, or imagery. Just bad rhyme-by-numbers type lyrics. Like the stuff you were writing in seventh grade! Observe:

We Are All On Drugs -
"We are all on drugs yeah
Never getting enough (never get enough)
We are all on drugs yeah
Give me some of that stuff"

Peace -
"More and more I can't say no
So afraid of letting go
If there's something I can grab
You can bet I'll pay the tab
Counting all the flowers
Waste the precious hours"

Haunt You Everyday -
"I don't feel the joy
I don't feel the pain
You were just a toy
I am just insane"

Not only are the lyrics under whelming, but the message can come off as so insincere. It's tough to listen to a rock star who lives in LA whine about the upper class of Beverly Hills, when he could easily afford to live there as well. And the music video was atrocious and contradictory in its own right. 'Pardon Me' is an apology to all the people he's been a jerk too. Well, if any of the stories in the latest music magazines can be believed, he's still a self-absorbed jerk. His band members know where their paychecks come from, so they endure the abuse and the irrational behavior. Cuomo's 'Freak Me Out' better be addressed to himself. Because anyone who lives alone in a closet with a pet gecko, only to run off for the occasional hardcore meditation retreat couldn't possibly be freaked out by anyone other than himself.

The music and melodies also fail to deliver. Each song is a tightly packed pop-rocker with big choruses and flashy hooks. Except these hooks catch nothing. 'Perfect Situation' and 'Hold Me' could share the same chorus for all I know. 'Peace' bores me to tears, and I couldn't tell you how rest of that album goes. It just doesn't stick in your head. 'This Is Such A Pity' is a rare moment where the band breaks out of their frat-rock groove and shift styles. It's a new-wave track with a surprisingly decent hook. Unfortunately, the song is new-wave in a Loverboy or bad-Billy Idol way. Leave your Depeche Mode and Human league at home please.

By the time 'Pardon Me' kicks in, I'm so sick of this album that I'm actually praying that this is an Incubus cover. But alas, it's not to be. 'My Best Friend' puts up a good fight for the title of Worst Song On The Album. With its cheesy lyrics and bass melody stolen from The Beatles' 'Taxman', it just barely loses out to the even worse: 'We're All On Drugs'.

Now some of you may say: "Hey, give them a break! It's catchy, fun, summer music! It doesn't need to be 'deep' or a great masterpiece. Stop being a snob and just except it as good pop music!" And I would ... if it was good. But with so many great bands out there, and the rising costs of CDs and downloads, we have a right to be choosey about what we spend our dollar on. This Weezer album is not worth your yen! Compare it to the latest music by The Arcade Fire, Pinback, The Postal Service, etc, etc... At this point, Weezer is just a 'brand name' living off of past glories. Thankfully, I still own these past glories. So whenever I feel the need for some Weezer, I can take a ride back in time ... while I sell back this crap...