Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Andrew W.K. on I Get Wet and I Get Wet

Phillip Crandall's book on Andrew W.K.'s I Get Wet for the 33 1/3 series combines several of my favorite things, yet somehow passed my expectations. Crandall reviews the album and its history lovingly and objectively, going deep into Andrew Wilkes-Krier's background, recording process and artistry, with revelations that will surprise and enlighten even Andrew's biggest fans (trust me). I'm happy to report that I Get Wet is one of the best books in the series, and worthy of its album. Enjoy this video the two made for Slate, and check out the party-worthy book here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

AC/DC, "For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)"

For Maxx, who was a great guy to experience the Black Ice tour with.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Motörhead, "R.A.M.O.N.E.S."

I'm a U2 fan, and I have not been enjoying the bad press they've gotten for Songs of Innocence's rollout. Tyler the Creator's meltdown and the applause he got for it represents American at its privileged worst--that's what you're getting mad about, kids? A free album from the world's biggest band in your media player (or, as Bono put it, "junk mail")?

However, as a U2 fan I hold them to high standards, and on initial listens Songs of Innocence does not reach them. First single "The Miracle of Joey Ramone" feels like a self-conscious effort from a media giant to hold onto its increasingly distant punk roots. It's more in line with a major rock star yelling "I'm not Justin Bieber" than anything on Rocket to Russia.

The best tribute to the Ramones remains this song, from another punk and metal pioneer.

Like the Ramones, Motörhead made an entire career off basically one fast, loud and catchy song, rewriting it album after album with mind-blowing consistency (other than AC/DC, there isn't another band that has gotten away with it for so long). On their excellent 1991 release 1916, Lemmy and the gang became one of the only bands to pull off a successful Ramones impression, honoring them with a song the Ramones liked so much they ended up covering it (with Dee Dee on lead vocals). Gabba gabba, see them go.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Melvins, The Star-Spangled Banner

"'Confusing' is the best way to describe it. It's not a diss. It's respectful. It's just a more neutral version of it, I guess."
--Buzz Osborne

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Têtes Noires, The New American Dream

As a rabid devotee to the music of '80s Minneapolis, I'm not sure how it took me so long to acquaint myself with Têtes Noires. Thankfully, writer Jim DeRogatis endorsed them on Sound Opinions, and I've been enjoying Têtes Noires ever since.

"Têtes noires" is French for "black heads," named for the band's hair color, and they released three indie-label studio albums over five years of touring*. Their second album, American Dream*, was recently remixed and reissued as The New American Dream, and I can't get enough of it. Years before anyone was called a riot grrrl, this irreverent sextet was reimagining punk rock (new wave? folk rock? help) with keyboards, violin, non-drum kit percussion, acoustic guitars, hand claps and up to six-part harmonies. The music is often upbeat, sung in cheerful voices locked in skintight harmonies graced by brash, subversive lyrics. 

It's rare to hear authentic punk music that you could put on a mix tape for your parents, which makes The New American Dream more dangerous than your brother's hardcore. Têtes Noires is the kind of band that can charm you into lowering your guard before landing one upside your head ("Recipe for Love," "Pretty Boy,") in a good way. The social commentary is sharp without being preachy, and relevant 30 years on ("Peace, Piece by Piece," "American Dream,") while the musicianship sounds tight but uninhibited. As songs like "True Love," "Moonie" and "Family Ties" earworm their way through me for hours on end while I struggle to catch up to them, I'm reminded of Ralph Ellison's quote about masking in Shadow and Act.

"It is in the American grain. Benjamin Franklin, the practical scientist, skilled statesman and sophisticated lover, allowed the French to mistake him for Rousseau’s Natural Man. Hemingway poses as a non-literary sportsman, Faulkner a farmer; Abe Lincoln allowed himself to be taken for a simple country lawyer—until the chips were down. America is a land of masking jokers. We wear the mask for purposes of aggression as well as for defense, when we are projecting the future and preserving the past. In short, the motives hidden behind the mask are as numerous as the ambiguities the mask conceals."

*Apparently their boisterous shows would sometime include a cover of Motörhead's "We Are the Road Crew". If anyone has a recording of this, please send it to me.
*Released in 1984, the same year as Purple Rain, Zen Arcade and Let It Be. What was in the Minneapolis water?