“If soccer is about realizing a collective intention against the limitations imposed by the game and the resistance imposed by the opponent, then Barcelona epitomized soccer yesterday. Forget the backlash, your anti-mass-media skepticism, conspiracy theories, blog rage, and Heineken. If you love sports you were lucky to watch that.”—http://www.runofplay.com/2011/05/29/grace-has-its-moments/
[F]or much of the day, my Twitter feed was a cornucopia of rapture humor, much of it very witty. “I feel fine,” one friend dryly noted. But … the overall tone was aggressively mocking—a roomful of comedians one-upping each other to belittle the morons and hysterics who’d wrapped their lives around the notion of apocalypse.
When the storm came last night, and the fingers of cloud descended from the sky, Mike faced it alone. I wonder what it was like, watching his house break apart and scatter across the earth. I wonder what he saw, crouched in that bathtub with his life swirling around him. The opening skies? The angel visitant?
“It isn’t even so much that the Replacements have a lot of great songs, but rather that the totality of their early catalog, the great songs along with the very bad songs, create a context that is much more than the sum of its parts. They built a world where anything was possible, a universe rich with far-reaching wormholes, where razor sharp left turns were not only possible but pretty much guaranteed.”—Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus, in the middle of an excellent interview about what Our Band Could Be Your Life means to him.
“I think both devoted followers of contemporary music and dogged nostalgists operate under a fallacy. Champions of the new want to argue that a dozen or so instant classics are released each year by musicians who are pushing their respective genres forward, while those who prefer to stay stuck in the past would argue that in essence, everything’s already been done.”—
One thing that didn’t get mentioned in the article is the issue of access - although they do make a passing reference to Linda Holmes’ excellent recent piece about "culling," which touches on it. It’s incredibly easy to come in contact with a huge amount of music these days. Given that 90% of everything sucks (according to my inner curmudgeon), one is faced with an awful lot of not-good music, which makes it harder to spend the time searching out the good stuff which continues to be created. There are only so many hours in the day that aren’t swallowed up by the minutiae of everyday life (not to mention the important things). If, when one strikes out on a mission to discover something new, one is confronted with a ton of crap, I think it’s totally understandable to say “fuck it” and retreat to the safety of one’s tried-and-true favorites.
I don’t know, it’s tough. I love music - I always have, and I hope I always will. I’ve expended countless hours, and dollars, seeking it out, learning about it, and reveling in it. It’s certainly made my life better. But it is hard to continue to find good music without either “culling” (writing off huge swaths of what’s out there) or depending on trusted guides like a radio station, blog, or friend - which is de facto culling anyway.
It’s one of the reasons I love Facebook so much. My friend list is varied enough that I get exposed to plenty of stuff that I might miss if all I did was listen to XRT and read I Am Fuel and Pitchfork. Not a week goes by that I don’t hear something I’ve never heard before that totally clicks. It’s an incredible testament to the power of music and as long as that keeps happening I can’t imagine I’ll ever stop searching for it.
30 Day Music Challenge: Day Twenty One - A Song That You Listen To When You're Happy
Old 97s, “Barrier Reef”
This song encapsulates everything I love about the Old 97s: a solid riff, clever lyrics, and a beat that moves you along and makes you want to dance, or, at the very least, bounce around. There are lots of different types of 97s songs: silly ones like “Murder or a Heart Attack,” wistful ones like “Rollerskate Skinny,” heartbroken ones like “Salome,” but “Barrier Reef” captures everything Rhett’s songs are typically about: the thrill of the chase, coupled with the vague sense of dissatisfaction that comes when the chase ends, whether it ends well or badly.
“Everybody is the gate keeper of all that is holy of whatever little world they are involved in.”— Tom Tango. He’s talking about golf, but he could just as easily be talking about pop music, or astrophysics, or beer, or anything else that some people are very interested in…
“Writing a review of a Sloan album has gown a tad formulaic over the years. One opens with the “why the hell aren’t they more famous?!” question. This is usually followed by the observation that while the band’s four members all share songwriting duties and have definite personal styles that define their contributions the group’s catalog as a whole has an uncanny knack of holding together as a cohesive and singular voice.”—The new Sloan record comes out today, and Chicagoist likes it. Go buy it!
30 Day Music Challenge: Day Twenty - A Song That You Listen To When You're Angry
Rage Against the Machine, “Down Rodeo”
Speaking of clichés. I don’t always understand what Zack de la Rocha is yelling about, but I understand that he’s often angry. In this case, it’s race and class inequality - but really, isn’t it always?
As far as I can tell there was no official video made for this song - it wasn’t even officially released as a single, though it did (and does) get quite a bit of airplay. So I leave you with a video of college kids throwing weights, with “Down Rodeo” as the background music. You’re welcome.
“There is no screen or rule that will protect every fan, but the horror stories of Alexis Hoskey and Sue Cooney provide a good example of an area where a league-wide policy—in this case, for fan security—would benefit the game. A simple directive from the Commissioner requiring clubs to extend the protective screens down the foul lines would go a long way toward reducing injuries. The cost per club wouldn’t run much more than a Major League minimum salary. If the NHL can revamp its policy for the sake of its paying customers, the $7 billion industry that is Major League Baseball should be able do it, too. That approach would certainly be more effective than waiting until more tragedies unfold; unless the status quo changes, it’s probably just a matter of time before we see another fatality. Baseball’s owners have the power to change the trajectory on the issue of fan safety, and there is no reason why it should take a death to make it happen.”—BP’s Jeff Euston on ballpark safety. I think nets around the whole grandstand are inevitable; as Euston suggests, owners must make the change soon in order to avoid a fatality.
“Over 10 percent of Mays’ career plate appearances came against Hall of Famers. And these weren’t chump Hall of Famers: Spahn, Drysdale, Roberts, Koufax, Gibson, Bunning, Carlton, Jenkins, Sutton and Niekro (and, to a lesser extent, Seaver, Marichal, Wilhelm and Ryan).”—
30 Day Music Challenge: Day Nineteen - A Song From Your Favorite Album
The Clash, “Clampdown” and “The Guns of Brixton”
I don’t know if London Calling is my favorite album, but it is one of a handful of albums that has a claim on that title. I know I’m firmly in cliché territory talking about how great it is, but clichés are often clichés because there is truth to them. It’s a great fucking album — there isn’t a weak track on it, and I’d say that there are easily a dozen songs on it that qualify as great, and two that would probably make my top 100 songs of all time.
Of course, that assumes there is such a thing as my “top 100 songs of all time,” which there isn’t. For a while I tried to keep a list of great songs, with an eye toward eventually ranking my favorites, but given how many songs I hear in a day, and how many of them I think are great, that list got long really fast, and then I’d hear a song on the radio and want to put it on the list, but forget, and then it would be gone until the next time I hear it. It was a fool’s errand, and that’s coming from a guy who loves fool’s errand lists.
You know what would be awesome? A Flickchart-like interface that would let you rank songs. I know that Baseball Reference just introduced something similar for baseball players but really this is a methodology that screams out for use everywhere: books, TV shows, ex-girlfriends, you name it.
Anyway, London Calling is awesome — (among the) best ever — and songs like these are why.
30 Day Music Challenge: Day Eighteen - A Song That You Wish You Heard on the Radio
Imperial Teen, “Yoo Hoo”
God, I love this song. The sneery vocals, the weird percussive backing-vocal breathing, that fantastic guitar sound. It’s everything a power-pop song should be. I’ve come back to power pop (again) in the wake of the 20th anniversary of International Pop Overthrow, and I still think it’s a damn shame that it took a crappy movie like ‘Jawbreaker’ to expose these guys to a larger audience.
Speaking of ‘Jawbreaker,’ here’s the video for “Yoo Hoo” in all its MTV-approved light bondage-y glory. Remember when Rose McGowan was hot? Aah, the 90s…
Peter, Bjorn & John, “Young Folks”
Pixies, “La La Love You”
Paul Simon, “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard”
Otis Redding, “(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay”
Andrew Bird, “Fitz and the Dizzyspells”
Bangles, “Walk Like an Egyptian”
Peter Gabriel, “Games Without Frontiers”
30 Day Music Challenge: Day 17 - A Song That You Hear Often on the Radio
Nirvana, “Come As You Are”
It’s interesting to me that this has ended up being the Nirvana song that gets played the most (at least on WXRT). I’d prefer to hear “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I think, since to this day that song still crackles with energy every time I hear it. “Come As You Are” is a little too down-tempo for me, though I do appreciate Kurt’s rare guitar solo, and the repeated “I swear that I don’t have a gun” lyrics is still chilling.
Herewith, for no reason and with very little forethought, are my top eleven favorite Nirvana songs:
1. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
2. “Negative Creep”
3. “Drain You”
4. “About A Girl” (Bleach version)
6. “Love Buzz”
9. “”Come As You Are” (Unplugged version)
10. “Verse Chorus Verse”
11. “All Apologies”
(I re-arranged that list ten times in the half hour I just spent looking at Nirvana videos on YouTube, so don’t hold me to it.)
Bonus video: Nirvana doing The Vaselines’ “Jesus Doesn’t Want Me For a Sunbeam” during the Unplugged session. Check out Dave Grohl simultaneously playing kick drum, high hat, and bass, while singing harmony. Unreal.
30 Day Music Challenge: Day Sixteen - A Song That You Used To Love, But Now Hate
The Kings of Leon, The Bucket
So this 30-day music challenge…it’s 30 days of writing, with a 30-day break in the middle, right? And now we all see why I could never have made it as a professional writer.
Anyway, back to the countdown. It’s not this song that I now hate, per se (and I do take exception with the use of the word “hate,” as I discussed previously); instead it’s the band. When that first Kings of Leon album (Youth and Young Manhood, with a cover that paid homage to Queen, of all things) came out, they felt like nothing more than a bunch of scruffy guys from Tennessee who loved Thin Lizzy and played country-inflected rock about girls, and drinking, and drinking with girls. I sort of grouped them together with The Hold Steady and hoped I’d get a chance to see them live and jump around and get drunk and act stupid. “Molly’s Chambers,” “Holy Roller Novocaine,” good stuff. They got to open for U2, and it was a heartwarming young-fuckups-make good story
Then Aha Shake Heartbreak (with another Queen-inspired cover) dropped, and parts of it were pretty good too, especially “The Bucket,” which actually had a sort of new wave-y vibe. It felt like they were really growing as a band, and I was interested to hear what they did next - which was Because of the Times, which barely left an impression on me before the one-two punch of “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” turned them into the biggest thing on the planet, the next hope for rock’s salvation, etc.
Problem was, both of those songs feel completely devoid of emotion to me. They certainly feel a long way from the rawness of the first record or the experimentation on the second. I’d blame too much time spent in proximity to Bono but I fear the reality is just that they got a taste of mega-stardom and decided they liked it, so they, consciously or not, started pumping out mediocre AOR rock and, one assumes, counting their money. I can’t blame them, I guess, but it really caused me to reconsider what I liked about them back in the day - a lot of those early songs sound retroactively hollow and formulaic, and I can’t remember the last time I listed to a KoL song on purpose.
Except for “Holy Roller Novocaine.” That songs is just awesome.
“For those who can bracket it and enjoy the many amazing things about the music, it’s one of the least interesting things about the group—misogyny and homophobia are everywhere, but music this vital is not, necessarily. But if you, or truths you care about, are on the business end of those taunts, it’s an incredibly significant deal; it might as well be a picket line you’re crossing. This, in the end, is the hopelessly selfish complaint I’m making: I wish I could embrace the pleasure I get from this music without feeling like a scab, without knowing I can bracket things and include myself in a way that’s not so possible for others around me.”—Insightful writing by Nitsuh Abebe about Odd Future. How should one interact with challenging (and sometimes brilliant) music that has abhorrent lyrical content?