Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Other Shoe

Fucked Up released the second video from David Comes To Life, for "The Other Shoe." I don't like the video as much as the one for "Queen of Hearts," but it is one of my favorite songs off the album. Musically, it's got a chunky guitar riff that builds and builds into a melodic explosion. Lyrically, it taps into a sense of impending doom that resonates in these crazy times. "We can't be comfortable when the whole thing's about to fall!" screams singer Pink Eyes, followed by the chorus of "We're dying on the inside."

The album is a rock opera about a factory worker in 80s England who falls in love with a radical named Veronica, only to lose her to a bombing and....I'm not sure what else happens. I can't follow the story, in the same way I couldn't follow Tommy or Quadrophenia.  What I love about the album, and the first third especially, is how it channels the feeling of falling in love and losing love. Having your spouse die is one of the worst things you can imagine, and Fucked Up manage to convey that feeling on this album.

The other think I love about David Comes To Life is its mix of power and beauty. It's full of loud guitarists and a singer who sounds like he's gargling glass, but it also contains strong melodies and some moments of genuine tenderness, albeit delivered like a freight train. It's a trick first mastered by Husker Du - the sound and fury of punk backed with actual melodies and emotions that went deeper than wanting to fuck the system. I'm sure Fucked Up's hardcore fan base is upset that they are mellowing out, but they are better for it. I've listened to that album so much I'm starting to burn out on it, which rarely happens to me these days.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gregory Isaacs and CSC Funk Band Reviews

I did two non-hip-hop reviews at RapReviews recently. The first was CSC Funk Band's debut. They are a funk band made up of people from varied backgrounds, including Gwar and noise rock. They are a little noisy at times, but no doubt great live.

I also reviewed a tribute to Gregory Isaacs. Here's a video of him playing live in 85.

Danny Brown Review

I reviewed Danny Brown's XXX for RapReviews this week. It's pretty amazing. Brown manages to be offensive and witty at the same time, and also drops some deep tracks later in the album. Not safe for mixed company, but definitely worth the download. 

Someone did a video for "Monopoly" using footage from "Repo Man." This has my favorite line in the album: "I'm a smart n%%a that does dumb shit."

Here he is performing the title track live.

Danny Brown - XXX - Die Like A Rock Star - BYOBBQ - BK NYC from Brook Bobbins on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Outside Lands

"Is this the way the future is meant to feel/Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?"

I went to Outside Lands last Sunday. It was my first time going. I am not a huge fan of outdoor festivals, but being as it is within walking distance of my house, I figured I should go.

We got there just in time to see Tune-Yard's set. I have been meaning to check out their stuff for a while, and I'm more convinced than ever. It was an amazing set, a mix of indie rock with heavy African rhythms and some serious vocal chops. The crowd was loving it, and a pit was started with a group of people doing interpretive dances. There were several thousand people watching her, and was great seeing so many people getting into it.

We sort of wandered around for the next couple hours, watching a few minutes of !!!'s set, seeing a little bit of Josh Ritter, a song or two of Little Dragon, before finally settling down to see Major Lazer at  4ish. I was really excited to see them, but instead of doing a Jamaican DJ set, ie toasting, they did an American DJ set, ie spinning MP3s and twiddling knobs on a laptop. Their was a huge crowd (larger than the crowd who came to see Girl Talk, the headliner from the night before). It was nice seeing the crowd jumping in one massive throng, but I wasn't close enough to get into it, and I ended up feeling let down by the whole experience.

Incidentally, Beyonce's new single "Girls Who Run The World" samples Major Lazer's "Pon tha Floor."

Next we headed to the main stage to watch the Decemberists. I am not a fan of them, but they were good live, and Colin Melloy had some good English professor stage banter. I went to check out Beirut at another stage during their set, but was so far back we couldn't really enjoy it. This was the major issue with the festival: it was so crowded that it was hard to get anywhere near the stages, so you ended up in the back surrounded by people talking and half paying attention. It wasn't optimum enjoying conditions, and there was no set we saw besides Tune-Yards that wouldn't have been much improved in a more intimate setting.

There were two headliners: Arcade Fire and Deadmau5. We opted to see the Arcade Fire, who put on a great show, although being so far away we missed a lot of the effect. When I saw them at the Greek a few years ago, a lot of the power of the show was seeing their ten-strong band interact. Instead, we saw whatever close ups the camera men chose to project on the giant screens above the stage. I saw clips of the Deadmau5 show, and it looked pretty amazing. I'm not a fan of his music, but in context, with the light show, it's killer.

We left twenty minutes before the encore, not wanting to fight our way out with sixty thousand people. We managed to catch a 71 that wasn't uncomfortably full, and got home fine. I don't have a burning desire to go to another festival anytime soon, but I'm glad I went.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Husker Du Take Two

Bob Mould, ex-Husker Du ex-Sugar, was on Sound Opinions recently, promoting his new book. I used to be a big Bob Mould and Husker Du fan, but lost my love for them in recent years. Underneath his Midwestern nice guy facade, Mould seems like an egotistical jerk. I really didn't like Sugar, and I've found his post-Husker Du output less than impressive.

 I wrote about Husker Due three years ago on this blog and called them bad rock.  I would like to correct that statement. I found a used copy of their 1983 double concept album Zen Arcade at Amoeba recently, and I was blown away by it. I owned a copy on cassette in the 80s, and I liked it, but I had begun to think of it as cheesy and underwhelming, something that wasn't very good taken outside of the context of the time.
Then I listened to the entire thing again for the first time in almost twenty years, and I realized how amazing the record is. It straddles hardcore punk, folk, psychedelic, and pop-infused songwriting in a way that works as a cohesive whole. Even more surprising, the whole thing was recorded in 40 hours, with almost all of the 22 songs being cut after just one take.

It starts off with "Something I Learned Today," a blast of negative energy that adds melody to the hardcore blast.

"Chartered Trips" is one the better pop songs that Husker Du recorded, and proved that they could operate at a slower speed without losing their power.

My favorite song on the album, and one of my favorite punk songs ever, is "I'll Never Forget You," one of the most emotional and passionate songs cut to vinyl.

Seeing them play it live, they almost match the intensity of their early hardcore days, before their music had any discernible notes, much less melodies.

I also found a cheap used copy of Husker Du's last album, Warehouse: Songs and Stories. I had remembered this album being kind of terrible, but it's held up better than I thought. By this point they had totally abandoned punk, going more for a second-rate REM sound, but there are some gems on the disc.

In my earlier post on Husker Du, I had criticized Grant Hart's drumming, which I said lacked a bottom. Seeing them play live made me realize that he plays like a jazz drummer. It's not my favorite sound, but it compliments the music perfectly.

So the point here is, the critics are right: Husker Du were an amazing band. I may not love Bob Mould's later output, but it's hard to argue with the records the Huskers put out.

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