Sunday, November 27, 2005

WXRT is finally showing Little Steven the love he deserves. Little Steven's Underground Garage was ostensibly airing on WCKG, but good luck finding it. Who knows what obscure hours they had shunted it off to, especially since they couldn't be bothered to list its correctly scheduled time on their web site. (If I had enough free time and spite, I'd check for how long it takes them to finally remove it from their site.)

Not only will the show now air on WXRT 93.1 FM, possibly the only commercial radio station left in Chicago where DJs have any say over their playlists, but they're giving it a proper kick-off. Lin Brehmer will be interviewing Little Steven on Monday morning. The show will air Monday nights from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I attended a 40th birthday party recently. Most of the music was by the Who and Led Zeppelin, which left me thinking about the fact that my music taste continued to evolve well after high school and college. Since I'll be turning 40 myself next year, I started contemplating the perfect birthday mix. Starting from the premise that my iPod Shuffle holds about 120 songs, I figured I should come up with three songs from each year of my life. Then my mind started spinning with all the ways I could interpret this concept: my favorite songs at each age versus music that I've discovered after the fact, i.e. is "Undercover Angel" by Alan O'Day a better representative song for 1977 than the Ramones' "Teenage Lobotomy"? Should I include songs which aren't necessarily my favorites but I so strongly associate with specific times in my life, such as how "Relax:" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood and "Push It" by Salt-N-Pepa were the party staples that bookended my college years. Should "Head Like a Hole" be classified as 1989, the year Pretty Hate Machine was released, or 1990, when I first saw Nine Inch Nails and went on to see them twice more in just a few months? How do I narrow down to one favorite song by the Clash, the Police or the Cars?

I have about four months to work on this project, but I've already reached two conclusions. One is that I'll finally need to get software to digitize my vinyl, if only because it would be more convenient to have "Macy, Macy" by the Push Kings on something other than a single. The other is to not fret over making the perfect mix that strictly adheres to a precise set of self-imposed rules and just assemble 120 songs that will make me happy.

I hope to post the complete playlist in the future.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Tribune ran a round-up of reunions and comebacks, including joking about how hardly anyone remembered New Zealand's Straitjacket Fits well enough to have noticed that they reunited in April. Fellow Flying Nun labelmates the Bats are so far off the radar that they didn't even warrant mention, despite releasing their first studio album in a decade, The Bats at the National Grid. Fortunately, WLUW is all over it, playing a track every time I turn on the radio, it seems. Ah, cozy, jangly New Zealand pop at its finest!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Concert Recommendation: Seu Jorge, Empty Bottle, Tuesday, September 20

I didn't get a chance in advance to mention Seu Jorge's show last night at the Logan Square Auditorium, but it sold out, so plenty of people heard about it anyway. Due to some customs issues for the artist originally scheduled to appear at the Empty Bottle on Tuesday night, Jorge is filling in for another Chicago appearance.

Don't know who he is? Check out The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. On the whole, the movie was too arch, but it had lots of cool and funny moments. The Brazilian Jorge provided many of the cool ones, singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese, accompanied on acoustic guitar. Should make for an intriguing evening of entertainment.

Seu Jorge plays at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago, 773.276.3600 on Tuesday, September 20 at 9:45 p.m.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The members of the Music Library Association are doing their best to destroy the image of librarians as stodgy. To illustrate this point, I present the following, with contact information removed for the sake of privacy, especially since only MLA members can enter. I'm already composing my entry, which I may post here after the deadline.


The Ad hoc Committee on MLA's 75th Anniversary is pleased to announce the MLA 75th ANNIVERSARY BLUES LYRIC COMPETITION. The competition, which feeds off of--and, we hope, honors--anniversary host city Memphis's valid claim as the "Birthplace of the Blues," is open to all individual members-in-good-standing of MLA with the exception of a) the panel of judges; b) the Ad hoc Committee on MLA's 75th Anniversary; and c) MLA's Board of Directors.

The contest begins as soon as you see either this notice on MLA-L or its counterpart, soon to appear in the Sept./Oct. MLA Newsletter--in other words, now!

Winners will have their blues performed by members of the MLA Big Band during the pre-banquet cocktail hour in Memphis. Our first-prize winner will take home a 4-CD set from JSP Records entitled Masters of Memphis Blues, which has generously been donated by ...


1. Lyrics must somehow reflect or involve music librarians and/or music librarianship.

2. Lyrics must be humorous.

3. Lyrics must fit a standard, 12-bar blues of one type or another.

4. A submission may contain lyrics for one, two, or three 12-bar blues chorus stanzas. (Contestants need not submit three stanzas; three is just the maximum.)

5. Contestants should be prepared to offer an example of an existing, recorded blues to which their lyrics could be performed, to assist the Big Band in preparation. "To be sung to the tune of 'Move It On Over' as recorded by George Thorogood" is an acceptable direction. Contestants should also be prepared to clarify by phone any rhythmic ambiguities or "text underlay issues."

6. Only one entry per person.

7. Entries may be sent either via postal mail, postmarked 13 January 2006 at the latest, to . . .

8. The decisions of the judges (subject to approval by the MLA Board) are final.

9. A maximum of three entries will be selected for performance during the pre-MLA-banquet cocktail hour, with the 1st-prize winner to be featured last.


To get contestants in the spirit, the following points are suggested, though none should be considered a hard-and-fast rule:

1. A standard blues chorus usually consists of two lines (the first lne, the first line repeated once, and the second line).

a. A lyric in active first-person tense is a good way to begin. "Woke up this morning" is a standard first phrase. "Took the bus downtown" is unusual, but much bluesier than "Drove my car uptown."

b. To complete your first blues line, allow a rest of two beats, then add a second clause: "Took the bus downtown (rest, rest), to get my fortune read."

c. Usually the first line is repeated to serve as the second line of a blues, so make it good, and leave your listeners hanging for the next new line.

d. The third line of a blues is the punch line--you are telling jokes, in a way. And make it rhyme with your first line. "I got off at the Peabody, to find the gypsy Fred." (On seeing this lowbrow example from the judges, contestants should feel encouraged to submit better lyrics.)

e. Contestants are welcome to take an existing blues and base their lyrics on the tune. After all, that is what many blues musicians do. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" is a good example of a blues. "Rock Around the Clock" and "Move It On Over" are in a different, but very acceptable verse-and-refrain blues form. "Blue Hawaii" is not a blues, even if it was sung by Elvis Presley.

2. The blues is a feeling. The following are some cultural bases for libraries:

a. You don't find the blues, the blues find you. Anyone looking for trouble usually deserves it. That is especially true for patrons with overdue books.

b. To have the blues, it helps more to be too hot than to be too cold. No one ever heard of a bluesman named Blind Joe Eskimo.

c. Dark, shaded areas like jails and juke joints are good places for the blues. In libraries, good dark places for the blues would be the stacks, or the storage room for book sale donations. So would the staff lounge, if at least one bulb is burned out. Technical services areas are generally too bright for the blues.

d. It helps to have a sense of ironic humor to sing the blues. That's why library administrators are not known to have the blues.

e. Blues is about doing with what you have. A library booktruck with over 15 years of use is as blues as a dented Chevy station wagon. A brand-new Pentium with a DVD burner and surround-sound speakers is not blues at all.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Finally got around to listening to Waiting for the Sirens' Call, New Order's latest album. The most accurate assessment is that it sounds like a New Order album. At its best is "Krafty," with a Stephen Morris's danceable beat, Peter Hook's bass in the forefront, synthesizer swashes from whoever has replaced Gillian Gilbert (now home with her and Stephen's kids), all topped off guitar riffs and vocals from Bernard Sumner. And it has a stereotypical New Order song title: concise and with no obvious relationship to the lyrics. The disc bottoms out towards the end with "Jetstream" and "Guilt Is a Useless Emotion," mainly because of the cloying female backing vocals, making it similar to the remixed versions of their hits on 1987's Substance compilation. At the time, it is just made the songs monotonous; now it sounds dated, a cheesy '80s production value that inspires no nostalgia.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Despite the inconceivable amount of destruction and despair in Katrina's wake, trumpeter Irvin Mayfield expressed some beautiful, eloquent thoughts on the symbolism of jazz and New Orleans on NPR's Morning Edition today:

On the other hand, New York City is in fine shape these days except for one legendary music spot on the Bowery.  CBGB's, the birthplace of punk, has lost its lease, and its landlord has refused to renew it despite pleas from the music community and many members of the city council.  The Village Voice has the story.,sotc1,67478,22.html

Monday, August 15, 2005

Interesting interview with Echo & the Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch on, particularly because it bodes well for their upcoming album Siberia. McCulloch acknowledges what has been my complaint with the band's recent work, that it's essentially a McCulloch solo effort on which guitarist Will Sergeant happens to appear. But the new disc finds them working as a band again. I'll believe when I hear it, but to hear McCulloch describe it, you might actually be able to tell that Sergeant is playing on this album.

The band hits the Metro in Chicago on Friday, November 25.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

I had previously defended the Mooney Suzuki for working with trendy producers the Matrix, figuring there was only so much that the producers could do to fuck up a great band's sound. I was wrong. I bought Alive & Amplified on an impulse, discounting the poor reviews I'd glanced at. On their previous '60s-influenced disc, Electric Sweat, they gave shout-outs to Pete Townshend by name on "In a Young Man's Mind" and with reverential power chords on "I Woke Up This Mornin'" (currently on display in the Mitchum Man series of commercials). But the new album embraces the '80s in bad ways. We can blame the production team for the histrionic female back-up singers, but there's no excuse for a hair metal band-worthy tune about getting it in with groupies.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Although I lived in Philadelphia in 1985, I made no attempt to get tickets to Live Aid and even skipped town the day of the show, heading to New York for the weekend. Although I was, and still am, a huge music fan, my taste at the time was heavily Anglophilic. So all of the acts I would have been interested in seeing were playing in London, not Philly.

Likewise, I paid little attention to Live 8, even though I could have gotten to the Philly show without much inconvenience. By now, my taste in music is just too obscure to devote my time to such mainstream acts. I wish Bob Geldolf et al. the best of luck in their noble goals, but I was just as happy to watch live Tour de France coverage on Saturday.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Good news for the Double Door. The owners of the Wicker Park music venue and its landlord struck a deal to keep the place open. Throngs turned up in court today in support of the club as they were about to start the trial over the lease dispute. The Double Door web site has more details, but the short version is that the landlord claimed that the tenants didn't provide proper notice to renew their lease. The Double Door claimed that they had done so and that the landlord was just trying to force them out to replace them with a chain retail store. The Tribune has the full story.

Others will trot out names like Liz Phair, the Smashing Pumpkins and the Rolling Stones as proof of what an important institution it is, but my own list of highlights for the club skews more towards the obscure, which is why it's important to have clubs with capacity for a few hundred. Some life-affirming performances I've seen there:

New Bomb Turks
Magnetic Fields
Detroit Cobras
You Am I

It was also one of the locations in High Fidelity, a movie about obsessive love of music. Lounge Ax, where another scene was filmed, has closed since the movie was shot six years ago. I'd hate to see the list of closed venues grow.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

It's time for another post-WLUW-fund-drive CD review round-up. As much as I love the station, I still don't like to listen to the fund-raising blather, which in some cases is even more boring than the usual DJ blather.

The Kaiser Chiefs are another '80s post-punk influenced band, sounding vaguely like Gang of Four, XTC, etc. Their debut Employment gets off to a raucous start with "Every Day I Love You Less and Less." But there's so much filler that it doesn't bode well for a long-term career.

When I reviewed Madeline Peyroux's debut Dreamland in 1996, I commented that a chanteuse was a welcome change of pace after too many divas.  These days, Celine is too busy working Vegas and Whitney is too busy working rehab for either to be dominating the charts, but in the American Idol era, vocal subtlety is still an underappreciated art. Peyroux's new disc Careless Love mines the same Billie Holiday territory as Dreamland, to the point that I really wonder why she needed eight years to issue a follow-up. I can only guess that it took the popularity of Norah Jones to resuscitate label interest in genre, which makes the album feel like more of a lifestyle accessory than music.

The best thing I've heard lately is Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out.  The title says exactly what it is, but it must be heard to be believed. Recorded over several years on an 8-track deck, Haden sings the album in its entirety a cappella, including the instrumental parts. She even recreates the original album art, replicating the scenes of each of the band members. The results are amusing, fascinating and beautiful. The arrangement makes the lyrics more distinct. Haden's concept draws attention to what an ambitious, original and half-ludicrous idea the original was: an album that includes commercials. The highlight is "I Can See For Miles," which, along with the Police's "Every Breath You Take," is one of the loveliest songs about stalking ever written.

Monday, May 30, 2005

I've been troubled by the widespread suppression of dissent that has become so commonplace under the current President. It's bad enough when it is carried out by the government, but its even worse when nongovernmental bodies do the same out of fear of backlash. I'm a big enough Nine Inch Nails fan to have seen them about 10 times, to still cling to my well-worn Pretty Hate Machine tour t-shirt and to buy their new albums the week of release. Until now, I've never known anything about Trent's political opinions, so obviously he's not one to really wear them on his sleeve. But MTV was so alarmed that they would have an image of George W. Bush as a backdrop while playing "The Hand That Feeds," that NIN decided to pull out of the MTV awards rather than ditch the photo.

The full statement is on the band's official web site, and I was surprised that actually covered this in their news section.  MTV's official statement in response says they were "uncomfortable with their performance being built around a partisan political statement." As political statements go, it's a rather vague one. Therefore, the situation is all that more disturbing, that MTV is afraid of a single artist who merely hints at disagreeing with the current administration.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Concert Review: Gang of Four, Radio 4, Metro, Chicago, Wednesday, May 11

If a decade or two ago I had ever seen New Order, the Pixies or Wire put on as great a show as Gang of Four did on Wednesday night, I would have had second thoughts about skipping their recent reunion tours. While those other bands certainly recorded a bunch of great songs over the years, there was little point in going to their concerts. For all their charisma and stage presence, one could be just as entertained putting all their CDs on shuffle and spending the night on the sofa.

Not so Gang of Four. Dave Allen, Andy Gill and John King prowled, pranced and pounced on the stage, even if Hugo Burnham was a tad detached behind his drum kit. It was hard to decide what was best about "To Hell with Poverty," that is was instantly recognizable from the first searing guitar chord or that the lyrics were still so relevant in the current era of Republican callousness.

Dave Allen and I were both laid off by the same company when the dot com bubble burst. While I'm glad that, like me, he other skills to fall back on, I can't help but be jealous that his new job is lots cooler than mine as a librarian, even if I do get to spend the taxpayers' money on Gang of Four CDs.

Even if Radio 4 haven't carved a more unique identity than "Gang of Four admirers with more complex percussion," they have written some good songs in their own right. I finally figured out why they haven't connected as a live act. Especially after seeing the hyperactive Gang of Four, I realized that part of the problem is that, with all their gear, Radio 4 have nowhere to move around on stage even if they wanted to. But the bigger problem is simply the sound mix. The bass is cranked so high it drowns out all the other instruments, particularly the scratchy guitar.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Concert Recommendation: Gang of Four with Radio 4, May 11 & 12 at the Metro

Before there was Franz Ferdinand, the Futureheads and a myriad of other early-'80s angular punk revival bands, there was the original angular punk band, Gang of Four. Their songs are now underground classics, epitomized by scratching guitars and throbbing basslines: "I Found That Essence Rare," "I Love a Man in a Uniform," "Damaged Goods," etc. Their influence is all over the charts these days. And the original line-up has reunited to bask in the warranted glory.

Admittedly, their first reunion tour in 1991 for Mall, which only included original members Andy Gill and Jon King, didn't make much of an impression on me. But I wasn't as familiar with their back catalog then.  More importantly, the rhythm section of drummer Hugo Burnham and Dave Allen is with them now, and Allen is not only a distinctive player but also has considerable stage presence. So this tour bodes better than those for, say Wire or New Order, influential bands who don't provide much worth watching in concert.

Radio 4, a Brooklyn band who take lots of inspiration from Gang of Four but haven't gotten nearly the level of publicity as their like-sounding peers, are opening. I've seen them twice and found them somehow lacking. As much as I love their edgy, driving recordings, they haven't connected yet live. But I view it as a "yet," holding out hope that they'll find a way to make their shows more invigorating.

Gang of Four play with Radio 4 at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773.549.0203 at 7:30 on Wednesday, May 11 and Thursday, May 12.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Concert Recommendation: The Wedding Present, Saturday April 23 and Sunday, April 24, Double Door

I'm definitely a music first/lyrics second music fan. If the music doesn't hook me, I won't stick around to find out if the lyrics are worthwhile. The main reason I've been such a devoted fan of David Gedge's career is my awe for his lyrics, but it was his bands' music that lured me. Lured me in to the point of running out to buy their CD the day after I saw them for the first time. It's frenzied, and it invites a frenzied response, although they've certainly come to appreciate the power of a slower tempo at times. Still, nothing beats the sight of Gedge attempting to saw a guitar in half with his bare hands.

At this point, there's considerable overlap in personnel between the Weddoes and Cinerama, and the last few Cinerama tours included Wedding Present songs, so they may be trotting some Cinerama numbers as well as highlights from their splendid return, Take Fountain.

The Wedding Present play the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, 773.489.3160, at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 23 and Sunday, April 24.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Movie Review: End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones

Some details about the individual members of the Ramones have emerged with their passing in recent years, but End of the Century made me realize just how little I knew about them. I was familiar with the basic story: four degenerates from Queens formed a band. Their distinctive aesthetic of three chords and three-minute songs defined punk and has been hugely influential, notably for other artists that have gone on to greater popularity, but the Ramones themselves never had the big commercial breakthrough for which they hoped. The movie not only chronicles this story in much greater detail but also lets their personalities emerge. The guys are complex and not always very pleasant, and the movie doesn't shy away from this. There are plenty of revelations as well as lots of music and concert footage that cements their well-earned reputation.

The DVD includes extra footage, such as Marky explaining how their style of playing required so much stamina that it was more difficult than more florid rock and the mostly-forgotten Richie Ramone reminiscing about Johnny's dismissing his suggestion of using a minor chord.

The hardest part of watching it was realizing how many people in it are already dead. Joey had already succumbed to cancer before the film was made, although he was in plenty of the archival footage. Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone and Joe Strummer were interviewed for the movie, and all were gone before the movie's release last year.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Concert Review: The Wonder Stuff, Metro, April 12

Miles Hunt has managed to alienate some people in his lifetime. As mentioned in my previous post, two former Wonder Stuff members are pissed off that he's using the band name without them. In introducing a song at last night's show at the Metro, he related an anecdote that involved mutual acquaintances describing him to a friend using an epithet that rhymes with his last name. One imagines that his caustic wit his cost him some friendships over the years, but it's that same caustic wit that makes him such a distinctive lyricist. However, biting words aren't enough to captivate attention, as I learned catching his solo shows about six years ago. For that you need a full band, and Miles brought them along with the re-formed Stuffies. (He got encouragement from Joe Strummer. Who's to argue?)

As four burly security guards lined up in the no man's land between the stage and audience, I thought, "That's awfully optimistic." The band were never terribly popular in the U.S. even at their peak 15 or so years ago, and it's not exactly like their reputation has grown since then. In other words, I expected a small, aging crowd. What I didn't expect was that I wasn't the only one to have memorized the lyrics to Eight Legged Groove Machine or how well both the material and the band have held up. Miles and fellow founder Malc Treece were having a blast and were energetic performers, tearing it up on guitars and vocals. The new recruits on bass and drums had little of Miles and Malc's chemistry but were sufficiently talented.

With the reincarnation of the band, they are taking nothing for granted. Miles joked about the apathy with which their latest single was greeted in the UK, especially compared to the chart heights they reached in their heyday. But it's hard to call it pandering when they were singing things like, "I didn't like you very much when I met you/And now I like you even less" and "Radio Ass Kiss on the air." The show was a revelation, that the Stuffies really were just as good as I remembered them, and that it's unfortunate that so few people latched onto their galloping insult-a-thon on the first go-round.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Concert Recommendation:  The Wonder Stuff, Tuesday, April 12, Metro

Band reunion season continues unabated. The Undertones and Gang of Four will be in Chicago within the next month, but first up is the less-heralded Wonder Stuff. Although lead Stuffy Miles Hunt's sharp wit set him apart from his grebo counterparts, his acoustic solo appearances lacked oomph without a full band.

So it's great to see the eight-to-ten-legged groove machine back together, although, um some of those legs are stomping in protest. Two previous members are not involved and are taking offense that Miles Hunt, Malc Treece and some new recruits are billing themselves as the Wonder Stuff. Call it the battle of "Who Wants to Be the Disco King?"

The Wonder Stuff play with As Fast As at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773-549-0203, at 7:30 on Tuesday, April 12.
Concert Review:  Ash, The Bravery, Metro, April 8

I've gotten over my initial wrath, but I feel like I'm cursed when it comes to seeing Ash. Of their four stops in Chicago in support of Free All Angels, I missed one because of health problems and one because I was sitting in traffic for two hours trying to get to godforsaken Tinley Park where they were the opening band on the Area2 festival. So I was thrilled that they were scheduled to headline the Metro. Until I got there a little past 8 p.m. and discovered that, rather than headlining, they were in the middle slot and I'd missed the opening of their set.

I can guess the scenario on why this happened: They are probably touring with the Bravery. The Bravery aren't really hyped, but they do have a massive advertising budgeting, their fancy coiffures arousing public curiosity. Once the audience gets a load of the haircuts, they weren't bothering to stick around for Ash, who don't have the same marketing push. So the bands swapped spots to increase Ash's exposure rather than suffer the indignation of headlining to a half-empty house. But it is nonetheless a massive frustration to Ash's small but determined following, especially when I timed my arrival without regard to catching the opening acts and there was no advance announcement of the switch.

But I'll take what I can get: Tim Wheeler's young metalhead-turned-pop-punk (manifested in an astonishing collection of flying V guitars). Charlotte Hatherley's inherent coolness. The infectious giddiness of "Kung Fu." The new material from Meltdown doesn't make it an immediate must-buy, but shows the potential to grow on you.

As for the Bravery, why don't they just skip the music and cut straight to the hair styling product endorsement contract that they are so clearly gunning for, except for the mismatched keyboardist who must have been out sick the day they met with their stylist and wardrobe consultant.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Album Review:
The Wedding Present
Take Fountain

There is always a fear the first time one listens to new material from your favorite band that this is the one to destroy your faith, the one that will break your heart. I am happy to report that Take Fountain, the long-awaited return of the Wedding Present, doesn't break your heart, it breaks your heart. It takes all of a minute and a half for David Gedge to deliver the zinger, "In case you suddenly remember that I'm still alive."

In the old SAT world of analogies, Iggy Pop's Naughty Little Doggy is to Avenue A as Cinerama's Torino is to Take Fountain. With the former albums, it was obvious that all was not right at home; the news that Iggy had gotten divorced and that Gedge had split from longtime partner (and Cinerama co-conspirator) Sally Murrell was hardly a surprise. And in both cases, the latter works are the "back on the market" albums. Gedge is dealing with rebound relationships ("I'm From Further North Than You"), meeting the ex's new beau ("Mars Sparkles Down on Me"), discovering that he's been seduced and abandoned (opening track "Interstate 5") and just trying to get on with life after the demise of a long relationship ("Larry's"). On one had, the return of the Wedding Present also means a return of the frenzied, noisy bashing that Gedge mostly suppressed in Cinerama, despite overlapping personnel. But influences of the near decade of Cinerama surface, too, with string arrangements and an extended homage to Ennio Morricone.

While the reunion of the Wedding Present is certainly cause for celebration, it's not like David Gedge disappeared during the nine years of the band's inactivity. Regardless of whether he's wearing his Cinerama or Wedding Present hat, he continues to amaze with his precise takes on heartbreak and the general awkwardness of love.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

VH1 doesn't broadcast the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony live presumably so that they can edit it down, but this should also give them time to do fact-checking rather than building up inaccurate hype. In teasers during the show, they claimed that Bruce Springsteen and U2 would be performing together live for "the first time ever" and that it was a "once-in-a-lifetime" union. Except that Bruce had shown up at their show in Philly on September 25, 1987, joining them for "Stand By Me." It was an intimate club, JFK Stadium, in front of only about 80,000 or so fans.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Concert Review: Interpol, Aragon Ballroom, March 11

Interpol just don't cut it as mope rock. I am now twice the age I was when I first discovered their influences, most notably the Chameleons and Joy Division. Those early bands helped me weather the emotional turmoil of my college years. The last time I saw Interpol, September 2003, I was mightily depressed for more adult reasons, and they didn't alleviate my misery.

But I was in a better frame of mind during their show last Friday night, and it all worked. Their lyrical vagueness didn't matter, nor that Antics doesn't break much new ground from Turn on the Bright Lights. Musically, they were strong, and bassist Carlos D. provided the rock star wardrobe and moves. He's also found an effective styling product so that he's no longer fussing with his hair between songs. It all just washed over me.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

As part of a pitch during WLUW's pledge drive today, the DJ pointed out that they played a deep cut from Gang of Four's Entertainment, not just "Damaged Goods" or "I Found That Essence Rare," as if to imply that the commercial radio stations are all over those "hits." It also made me realize the extent to which I discovered the punk and post-punk of the '70s and early '80s mostly after the fact and almost exclusively from great radio stations, mostly of the non-commercial variety. So while the Drive brags about their Deep Tracks from Beatles albums, I'd settle for a commercial station that regularly features even shallow tracks from Entertainment, Pink Flag or All Mod Cons.

And while I heartily endorse the 'LUW pledge drive, that doesn't mean I actually want to listen to it, so I've been catching up on my CDs. As much as I'm enjoying Franz Ferdinand and the Futureheads, I don't know if I can claim to be listening to new music when it sounds like much like Gang of Four, the Jam and early XTC. These are well-chosen influences, but I'm not sure if it helps my hipster cred to be listening to such young bands or if I'm just a stick-in-the-mud because I'm not venturing into new sounds. I think the distant time frame wins out on cred points. The Mighty Lemon Drops were clearly riding the coattails of Echo & the Bunnymen, the former emerging during the latter's peak in popularity. But Franz Ferdinand and the Futureheads are reviving an aesthetic from 25 years ago, which I think therefore makes at least one of them the new Stray Cats.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I gave up on Spin in 1992 when they couldn't be bothered to fact check that March 10 was a Tuesday, not a Sunday, which called into question plenty of other facts they reported that weren't so easily verified. But they occasionally have some useful nuggets of information. Namely, although I'd already heard that Gang of Four are back together, I learned first in the latest issue of Spin that Pop Will Eat Itself and House of Love are, too. No U.S. tour dates announced for any of the three bands yet, but Gang of Four claims an American schedule is coming soon.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Looks like Lance Armstrong will be subject to another round of questioning. Some of his critics have wondered whether his cancer treatments enhanced his performance as a cyclist, a claim he has repeatedly dismissed. But at last night's Grammy awards, Melissa Etheridge, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, gave a rousing, spirited performance in tribute to Janis Joplin, certainly besting much of he "competition," mainly the tentative "Across the Universe," performed by a group of nervous, under-rehearsed all stars. So either cancer treatment does indeed enhance performance, or Melissa, like Lance, just came in better prepared.

Monday, February 07, 2005

WXRT DJ Terri Hemmert recently played Aztec Camera's cover of Van Halen's "Jump," noting that she was playing it from vinyl, the b side of a single, because the track wasn't available on CD. Which had me pondering, is "b side" becoming an antiquated term, unfamiliar to the youngest generation of music listeners (a.k.a. Kids These Days)? CD singles, which were never very popular, usually have additional tracks, but there is no flip single to them like a 7-inch has, which makes "b side" arbitrary nomenclature to begin with. With the growing acceptance of buying single tracks as downloads, there aren't even additional songs attached to better known recordings.

A high school student responded "What's that?" when I said, "LPs" to her.  She knew what records were, but the concept of a long playing record was meaningless to her even though I think of it synonymously with "album." I didn't think to quiz her on 8-tracks.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Wanted: Sign of the Apocalypse, musical variety

The music world is currently faced with a void: no musician to serve as evidence that our society is headed directly to hell in a hand basket. After several years in that position, Eminem's shock value has worn off. Limp Bizkit were already washed up by the time Fred Durst threw a hissy fit in Chicago in 2003. Four years ago, The Onion was already joking "Marilyn Manson Now Going Door-To-Door Trying To Shock People." There's a limited shelf life for shock value, especially, in Manson's case, when your entire raison d'être is marketing yourself as a musician to piss off and horrify teenagers' parents. But we always need to have one, and no one new has emerged now that Eminem is a routine part of our cultural landscape, despite Janet Jackson's best efforts a year ago.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Pop is the comedy of music. Because it's accessible, it is undervalued by "serious" fans. "Oh, you have to listen to this at least ten times before you really get it," is the kind of praise offered to esoteric rock albums, as if there's a something wrong with music that is instantly enjoyable. Sonic Youth are lauded for becoming intentionally more obscure.

Instead, let's give props to Junior Senior, the duo whose D-D-Don't Stop the Beat is astonishingly fun from the get-go. I love Daydream Nation as much as the next music snob, but I doubt Thurston, Kim, et al. could come up with anything as catchy as half the tracks on that CD, especially these days.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Concert Review:  Die Warzau and DJ? Acucrack, Metro, January 7

Holey and Stinky are back. Die Warzau duo Van Christie and Jim Marcus aren't widely known by that appellation, but that's what my editors and I dubbed them after smelling the former when he was setting up for their opening slot for Nine Inch Nails and learning about the latter's fondness for body piercing from their publicist. Big Electric Metal Bass Face was a tasty slice of industrial funk and "Strike to the Body" sounded like a Nitzer Ebb track, which isn't a bad thing. 1995's Engine was well-regarded, but I never heard about it at the time, perhaps because I had not yet moved to their home of Chicago.

So Die Warzau's first activity in a decade was worth investigating. Based on the facts and slogans projected on the screen before they started and on Marcus's exhortations for equal rights for gays and lesbians, their reunion may have been inspired more by recent political activities than by artistry. There are worse reasons to resurrect a band, like money, and the Metro was only moderately full, so we can rule out the cash incentive.

Their performance was likewise moderately successful: not outright bad, but nothing really clicked. Maybe it was the lack of a strong funk groove that drove me to see them several times in '91. Frontman Marcus is quite passionate in his political beliefs. He might be better served seeking another communications medium for his activism.

DJ? Acucrack: Thrashing at my PowerBook. The pair made a lot of sound, but none of it was a distinctive. They had some other equipment, but the most notable thing was that they really enjoyed cranking at their computers.