I ended up buying a compilation of Hot Chocolate a few years back because they have so many great, wacky songs. …Cadillac is probably my fav though because it’s so deceptively heavy and has genius use of violins. The above version is especially cool because it is actually live. They must have had the horns and strings off-stage.
For slackers like me the Premier Guitar online magazine stuff is great. It’s much easier to peruse and read magazine articles about guitar than actually knuckle down and practice playing guitar.
One day a while back I was reading an article on the history of pedal steel. In short, it’s gone in and out of favour with the commercial country scene since it was invented.
The article mentioned a couple of recent artist who’ve had some sweet pedal steel twanging in their music so I had a quick listen via youtube. Most of it didn’t take my fancy but I came across Nikki Lane and her album All Or Nothin’. It’s got slide guitar on there. Al couple of the stand out tracks are KILLA and were enough to prompt me to buy the album. I still feel woe about this whole buying music digitally situation because it’s so nothing but this album at least came with a digital booklet that has the stuff that used to be liner notes—the stuff that I miss—like reading who wrote the songs, where they were recorded and such.
I guess it’s classified as ‘alternative country’ whatever that is. For me in one way it feels a lot like pop because it grabs you quick with the catchy but then there’s not that many relistens in it because there’s not a lot of depth. Dan Aubergene from the Black Keys produced the album and I can definitely hear his hand in there.
Speaking of interesting, guitar-playing women, I would also mention Courtney Barnett but she’s already getting enough press. Let’s wait to see if her second album’s any good.
Some time ago I mentioned I’m listening to contemporary country music. At first I was doing it ironically but now I kind of like it. It is interesting – that’s what it is. For a while I’ve waved off all present-day music except for a very narrow sliver of the spectrum – alternative stuff and most of which was coming from artists that I’d known about for a good decade or more.
Commercial FM is full of new stuff that I don’t connect with at all. So anyway, this country music, while very much on the commercial edge of what is called country these days, is coming at lyrics and narrative from a different angle. This first one is probably the best example of that, that I’ve heard in the last couple of months. I was driving along, listening to this song and realised, Whoah – is this guy talking about broaching the subject with his SO of moving back in with his mum? Now that’s country!
As it turned out, this guy Tim McGraw is one of the biggest selling country musicians of all time. So I supposed it wasn’t just luck that he hit on a whacky topic, but is in fact speaking the thoughts of a whole generation of disaffected working class.
OMG! The pathos!
The conversate continues:
I love the fact that this next one, Toby Keith’s ‘Drinks after work’ contains the line, Let’s conversate for a little while. I can remember years ago J-e used to say “I want to conversate with you!” when she was frustrated with using English.
I really like the chord changes in the song too. The sound really nails that mild, AOR sound that tickles my funny bone in a perverse kind of way. (Reminds me a little of the theme from WKRP in Cincinnati.) This song also introduces one of the big themes of country music: alcohol. Listening to the radio, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most of the south of the US is permanently drunk. Many, many songs revolve around getting to Friday night, it being Friday night and now we are going to drink. This is where Toby Keith shows his mastermindedness in that he wrote a song about having drinks in the middle of the week.
I also discovered that Toby Keith is a multi-millionaire and owns a chain of bar-restaurants across the US - mainly in the south and midwest. When he tours, he does gigs in these places. No doubt he sings this song, everybody drinks up and buys another beer.
The first thing this reminded me of was I’m On A Boat but it’s different in a way that illustrates the difference between the hip-hop dominated pop scene and this commercial country genre. Even though the on a boat song is a send-up it’s that ‘hey look at me, I am very good!’ strutting that pop is all about these days. And then there’s Dierks Bentley getting drunk on a plane—why? because he’s having relationship problems. That’s the second theme of country. Sure, most popular music is about boy-girl problems, but a lot of pop seems to come at it from the angle of ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’. Country songs like drunk on a plane tend more to the bluesy sorrow and woe is me feeling.
Intertextuality with Taylor Swift
Even though it’s 9 or so years old, some of the songs from Taylor Swift’s first album still get played on this particular station I listen to. The station has a very narrow range of songs they play and you can often hear the same song twice in one day even if you’re only listening to the radio for 15 minutes total, but Taylor’s so damn popular they make exceptions of the age of the album.
This song is definitely right on the edge of pop and contemporary country but I can appreciate the craft in the songwriting and if the wickerpedia page is to believed she wrote that whole album pretty much by herself when she was 16 or 17. It’s ballsy to write a song called Tim Mcgraw when you’re just a newb on the country scene – very clever to pay homage but also hitch a little ride on someone who’s guaranteed to sell platinum.
I haven’t been watching much old TV but one thing I have been going through from its very start is the original Twilight Zone TV series. It’s pretty damn impressive. The first season was waaaay back in 1959 and a lot of the story lines still stack up well. It’s far back enough that almost none of the actors in it cross over into other tv shows from the mid to late ‘60s that I’ve seen. The only exception so far was the episode title People Are Alike All Over that has an actress who later went on to also appear in the pilot for the original series or Star Trek. Funnily enough the pilot leaned heavily on the storyline of the Twilight Zone ep.
There’s been several episodes dealing with the Cold War that I would’ve thought would be too touchy to talk about then plus a bunch of plum science-fiction speculative ideas that were really impressive. The fifties really were a highpoint for SF in book form so it must’ve rolled on into other media too.
Maybe it’s partly the silver-screen effect but the women seemed really beautiful then too. Interesting hairstyles or whatever. I dunno. The above image was schlepped from the TZ wikia site and is from the episode titled ‘What You Need’. I could’ve hunted it down myself but that would mean turning on the other computer.
The title of this here blog post is actually the name of one of the episodes which was also used by the band Nine Inch Nails as a song title 48 years later. To me that’s a great example of how edgy the Twilight Zone was for a TV show. And as such it was stuffed away in the Friday night 10 to 10:30pm timeslot. Wouldn’t want anyone actually seeing it now would we?
That particular episode contained lashings of noir/Hitchcock style lop-sided frame shots and as it happens is available to view on yootoob.
In some ways a good comparison is the X-Files except the Twilight Zone probably had a lot less budget and crammed all its goodness into half an hour. In fact it seems like Rod Serling did a lot of the sourcing, adapting and writing for the first season himself. So the next time I hear The Simpsons or something parodying his quirky narration style I’ll have a better appreciation for how ahead of its time the Twilight Zone was.
In hindsight The Black Keys don’t need me promoting their new album. Mainstream media seems to be doing a fine job of that thankyou. After a few listens I’m kind of underwhelmed by it too. I should qualify that by saying that I didn’t really like their album before that either. I mean, it was okay but not as good as their early stuff. I know there’s only so many places you can go when you just got a guitar and drums, and that was always the thing about the earlier albums; as good as they were, I could only listen to an album and a half before the structures were all too samey. I was listening to the Turn Blue album while washing the dishes and in that dumb way that iTunes does, it started playing the next thing straight after. The next thing was the El Camino album and I tell ya I didn’t know it. ie there’s no difference in the sound of the two albums.
With Turn Blue, some of the production aspects (that this chap danger mouse contributed) sound tacked on. Also as a wannabee bass player the bass sound they used on several tracks sounds really unenthusiastic. And lyrically it’s heavily influenced by Dan’s relationship break-up with some famous woman. Jilted/love songs will always be popular but a little hard for me to relate to in this part of my life.
But I’ll be constructive. So what could have they done? Five or whatever albums of good, raw guitar & drums -> it’s obvious that they had to broaden their sound somehow. I think I would’ve tried some sort of non crowd-pleasing, long concept album. They’ve earned enough money/fame to do something really nutty so why not go for it? For posterity’s sake I’ll include this pic of Dan Ubergene unintentionally (0((()(??????)())))) getting his Hitler on. This could’ve been the look that tipped them in a whole new musical direction.
For me at least The Black Keys have really nailed the the promotional/retail stuff. They’ve been lightly spamming the twitter feed for a couple of weeks now, giving a little taster of their next album, Turn Blue. The first single, Fever is kind of okay but the second one really sounds really good. They were linking to the iTunes pre-order of the album but fuck that with the iTunes fatcat tax. The album is available on The Black Keys’ own website – and at usd $11 that’s value. They don’t mention (and they should) but it’s mp3 format and thankfully at 320kbps.
Dan Aubergine has great taste in guitars and he needs more, so buy album!
This is the second single:
The backyard is a bit of a blank canvas. Barren you might say. I’m hamstrung by not being able to really mess it up because of rental agreements. All up this is the kind of house, we have decided, that would be good to buy, if we were ever going to do that because there’s lots of things we’d like to change. The backyard faces north which is the best I think. The front of a house if for asphalt, road, cars and paranoidly peeking out of curtains onto but the backyard is for living in—and growing stuff in.
I started hacking up some of the lawn near the backdoor along the lines of the permaculture principle of putting the most used things closest. Plus that part of ground probably will get the most sun during winter but I’m not good at geometry so who knows. Believe the hype, there is an app for that but I can’t understand it because again – the geometry.
In right corner of picture is a minor environmental disaster we only just discovered. From the day of moving in there was this terrible strong petrol smell noticeable as soon as stepping outside the backdoor. I couldn’t locate it. Sometimes I’m thick like that. I thought it might’ve been the gas hot water service, but then that’s gas and smells different. It turned out to be a dead patch of grass I guess I overlooked but I assumed no one would ever be so stupid as to pour a can of petrol onto grass. Maybe it was spilled. Either way it happened between us looking at the place and moving in. I had to dig a whole lot out and bin it because after a month it was still just as strong smelling as ever.
*De La Soul* just released a (For Free-z) mixtape of stuff done by hip-hop legend J Dilla. Very cool.
Today we might be remembering Devo because their guitarist Dave Casales died but lets take a look at this track.
The thing I like about this is the drummer and how he was basically doing the work of a drum machine – way back in 1978. Apparently he left after this. It reminds me of what post-rock band Battles were doing 20+ years later.
This is the name of a new album by Lee Ronaldo and the Dust. It should probably be subtitled #firstworldproblems. It’s mostly based on Lee’s experiences of being in NYC during superstorm Sandy. I’m sure a lot of people had their lives or lifestyles messed up by Sandy but I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it’s interesting to compare the effects that natural disasters have on different parts of the world. Rich places: tens of billions of dollars worth of damage and a few people dead, poor places: tens of thousands of people dead and a few hundred thousand dollars worth of damage.
Most of the lyrics are about the weather and being stuck inside, so I can dig that. I actually quite like the album. Enough to have bought it. I only found out about it through that way that ‘friend of a friend’ way that twitter works. I haven’t kept tabs on Sonic Youth since Washing Machine and I was pretty disappointed to hear that Kim and Thurston broke up under messy circumstances and in a way that makes it seem fairly unlikely that Sonic Youth will ever get back together. And so through twitter I saw a life performance vid of Kim’s solo project body/head. I don’t know if they’re stoners – maybe that’s what summer in Germany does to you. And Thurston’s off having an affair—so when I listened to Last Night on Eart I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Lee has basically inherited the Sonic Youth sound. I don’t know what went on with their last however many albums but there was really only one way to go and that was mellower. That’s how this album is and of course it didn’t hurt that Lee also inherited SY’s drummer, Steve Shelley. Kind of like after the Beatles broke up and Ringo ended up living in the guest house at John’s big-arse mansion. And there’s two other guys in there I don’t know who they are.
There are times when the lyrics or singing sound a tad lame, and this is where there is no Thurston or Kim but Ronaldo’s always been a great guitarist and there’s some characteristically sweet chord progressions in there. You can stream the album here
I’ve been battling away with the procrastination and getting a bit of study done of late. It’s related to music and occasionally there’s tracks I want to listen to for reference that I don’t have on any computer here and so I go take a look at youtube. It’s pretty amazing that when you type in artist name – album name – “full album” almost always it’ll show up and you can stream-listen the whole thing. Most middle class people have an internet connection that is capable of that these day. And it strike me that this is probably one main new way that kids are discovering new (old) music now. It’s quicker than illegal downloading and actually it strikes me as odd that the corporate music nazis don’t consider it illegal. Posting 10 seconds of a Simpsons episode will earn you a take-down but as long as it only has a still-image attached you can upload pretty much any album you want and it’ll stay there. Last night I was listening to The Rolling Stones December’s Children. I really like that song Blue Turns To Grey.
I was listening to this radio mix on ninjatune=solidsteel (get in quick because it’ll only be there for a few more days) marking 25 years since Public Enemy released the album, “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back”. It’s pretty good. There’s some interviews in there with (I think?) Terminator X—I didn’t know he could speak…
Anyway, I was washing the dishes at the time and it got me thinking down memory lane. Vague as the memory is I did actually buy that album back in 1988. We, the family, had travelled up to Geelong from our country station one saturday and I was looking around in Brashes (remember Brashes?). Rather uncharacteristic of me, I slammed down my hard-earned pocket money for the cassette of ITANOMTHUB without ever having heard it, or knowing who Public Enemy were or even what kind of music it was.
I just liked that cover and the name ‘Public Enemy’ sounded really cool. And I liked the little silhouette in the crosshairs logo, which on the back was connected to the phrase ‘public enemy no. 1’ I think.
Anyway, upon getting it home and listening to it I found that I didn’t like it at all! There was too many repetitive loop samples and I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I actually took it back to the shop the next week. The usual practice with tapes like this is that there is no returns because, you know, you could just dub it to a blank tape—and that’s like stealing music, but I guess I must have had such a genuine disappointed confused look on my 14y.o. face that I did get an exchange for something else (fucked if I can remember what now).
These days I do appreciate PE’s place in history but not enough to listen to whole albums of their stuff on a regular basis. And a quick look at the track listings of It Takes A Nation, and its successor, ‘Fear Of A Black Planet’, the latter really does have a lot of classic hits on it.
I really like this mash up of Rebel Without A Pause with a bit of Herb Alpert
But I think my favourite PE track is one that Flava Flav takes the front for, Can’t do nuttin’ for ya man. I like his sing-song delivery. I’m going to try and learn how to play this one on the Telecaster.