Music and Popular Culture

“Goodbye,” from The Well Wishers: Saturday Video Roundup

Greetings from the Pop Underground – here’s a track from one of my best CDs of the year…

Those who follow along know that I have a weakness for “Power Pop” – that retro, guitar-driven genre originally practiced by the likes of The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Badfinger, Big Star, The Who, The Raspberries, and others of that ilk. You don’t hear it much on the radio, sadly (although Foo Fighters have been on a roll of late) – we’re talking about a largely underground movement here – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t as dynamic as ever.

One of my favorite practitioners of the craft, The Well Wishers, released a new CD this year. It’s called A Shattering Sky, and like everything else Jeff Shelton has done in his various incarnations (WW, The Spinning Jennies, Hot Nun), it’s packed to the rafters with ringing guitars and melodic hooks and positively viral earworms – if you’re like me this disc will be buzzing around in your head for days. Continue reading

“Evil Eye” from Snake Rattle Rattle Snake: Saturday Video Roundup

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake had the release show for their new CD, Totem, last night at the Gothic in Denver. Jeez, I wish I could have been there. I think the disc officially drops this week, and thanks to a free preview the other day, I can say without reservation that this is one of the top releases of the year – and it’s been a hellacious good year.

Here’s the first video.

Happy Saturday, yo.

Two perfect indie pop songs by Veronica Falls: Saturday Video Roundup

Many of us quest for the perfect pop song. There are any number of candidates for the title, too – I could probably spend the day rummaging through my iTunes and come up with dozens of worthies.

What’s amazing is that I have discovered two more, and they’re back to back – tracks #2 and 3 on the new Veronica Falls CD, Waiting for Something to Happen. Check out “Teenage.”

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Dir En Grey: Japanese Metal from Hell (Saturday Video Roundup)

Godzilla ain’t the only hardcore badass from Japan.

I’m not the Japan expert around here – that distinction falls to blogger, poet, photographer and Japanophile extraordinare Dan Ryan – so I won’t pretend that I know anything about J-Pop. It just felt like a nice day to do something a little different for SVR, and I’ve been thinking about Dir En Grey for the past couple of days.

They’ve been around for a number of years and seem to have evolved through some changes (both musical and visual), so you can surf YouTube and find a range of styles – everything from a sort of melodic Metal that we might associate with, say, Queensryche, to moments that, more than anything, remind me of Tool, to hell on Earth horror Metal that would scare the piss out of Lordi, to straight-up Nu Metal. I’m not so much into the weasels-ripped-my-throat-out brand of singing, but hey, you might like it.

So let’s get our J-Metal on, shall we? We’ll start with “The Final.”

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Beat the Meetles: Beatles mashup mania (Saturday Video Roundup)

The Beatles have collaborated with some of the world’s most popular artists through the years.

Mashups have become their own art form, and perhaps nobody has been more important to perfecting the genre than The Beatles. Take their famous collaboration with Motley Crue.

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The grimm reality of Matthew Grimm: Saturday Video Roundup

It’s Matt Grimm Day at S&R and we’re celebrating music with a social conscience. Join us?

Matthew GrimmWe love great bands and artists of all stripes around here, but by now it’s probably no secret that we’re champions of the overlooked genius. I don’t know. Maybe I’m projecting because I think more people ought to pay attention to me and as such I identify with those who don’t get the credit they deserve.

Whatever. My personal narcissism issues notwithstanding, our friend Matthew Grimm is a recording artist whose talent merits the attention of a very large audience. Continue reading

St. Paul & the Broken Bones: Paul Janeway may already be one of the greatest Soul/R&B singers in history (Saturday Video Roundup)

“I have seen the future of music and the name of the band is St. Paul and the Broken Bones.” – Rosanne Cash

Photo by David A. Smith/DSmithImages

Otis Redding. James Brown. Wilson Pickett. Marvin Gaye. Smokey Robinson. Al Green. Stevie Wonder. Van Morrison. Sam Cooke.

And now, Paul Janeway.

Sometimes I make bold predictions. Sometimes they might sound a little outlandish, and my friends will encourage me to step away from the ledge. Maybe this is one such time, but I don’t think so. I recently discovered a band called St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and have very quickly come to suspect that in front man Paul Janeway we’re seeing the early days of a legendary talent. Continue reading

RIP JJ Cale: a brief remembrance

JJ Cale is dead at 74.

Many years ago I worked as creative and production director at a radio station. Cale, on tour, was scheduled to play a local venue and that venue, one of our clients, wanted to run a series of spots promoting the appearance.

Simple enough. These kinds of ads were fairly boilerplate – you developed maybe 15 seconds of copy with the whos, whens, wheres and so forth, and intercut it with 15 seconds of clips from the artist’s most famous tunes. Which is what I did, obviously making generous use of “After Midnight” and “Cocaine.”

Shortly after the ad began airing the owner of the station loomed into my office, wondering what the hell I was thinking. Ummm. What? We’re a family station (which was bullshit, but never mind) and you’re promoting drug use! Get that off the air.

I had absofuckinglutely no idea what he was talking about. You have to understand something. I have worked with and for some bad people in my career, but this guy was without question the most evil, fourth-rate, stupid piece of shit in the lot. If you put a gun to my head and told me say something nice about him, the best I could do is that since he was such a fat bastard, when he died he’d provide nourishment for a greater than average number of worms.

Turns out the problem was “Cocaine.” His dumb ass thought it was a pro-drug song. Really?

If you wanna get down, down on the ground; cocaine.

No, seriously?

If your thing is gone and you wanna ride on; cocaine.
Don’t forget this fact, you can’t get it back; cocaine.
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie; cocaine.

Okay, I can see that if you weren’t born with enough intelligence to process subtlety and nuance you might miss that it was an anti-cocaine song, but how do you turn it into an advocacy tune?

Unless, you know, you’re only listening closely enough to make out one word and that’s all you need.

I was forced to recut the promo and for the remainder of my brief time at the station was probably regarded as some kind of back-alley drug dealer and perhaps even pimp. No, wait – if he’d thought I was a pimp he’d probably have wanted to know if I could hook him up for a discount.


Sorry. Apologies for the ranting. JJ Cale was one of the great ones and he never got a fraction of the credit he deserved. It’s a shame that his death calls to my mind that particular scumnozzle.

Thanks for everything, JJ. Ride on.

Saturday Video Roundup: the Spanish Inquisition Mashup Edition

I’m a sucker for wack-ass mashups that no normal human being could possibly have seen coming. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition Mashup, bitches. Make sure you stick around for the whole show – I saved something special for last.

You didn’t expect a Nirvana/Europe mashup, I’ll bet.

Nobody expects Metallica meets Herbie Hancock.

Adele vs. The Eurythmics? Okay this is a little less left field than the others, but it’s pretty good.

Daft Punk and Billie Jean? I’m pretty sure Michael Jackson never saw this coming.

There’s no video for this one, but that’s okay – the music alone is the funniest thing I’ve encountered this week. Imagine, if you will, a collaboration between Rick James and Dio. You can’t possibly imagine that, you say? No sweat. Click play.

But there’s one thing you do see coming – a great Saturday. Be safe out there.

Saturday Video Roundup: Natalie Maines, out on her own

Natalie Maines has a new solo CD set to drop Tuesday. It’s entitled Mother, and it’s simply wonderful. If you’d like a preview you can stream it at NPR.

I think we can now safely call Maines a former C&W artist. Mother, which is largely a collaboration with Ben Harper and his band, lies solidly to the Americana side of the spectrum, and the overall sound has more in common with ’70s California Country Rock than it does anything that has happened in Nashville of late (although the ’70s Cali comparison isn’t really fair, either – Mother is substantively and tonally far more nuanced and reflective than anything The Eagles ever dreamed of doing). There’s plenty of stylistic range, too. In addition to songs that would be at home on the last couple of Dixie Chicks discs (read, post-we’re ashamed of George Bush era), there’s one balls-to-wall rock moment that’s straight off a Bell-Rays CD as well as a fantastic cover of Pink Floyd’s “Mother” (hence the CD title – see a recent live performance below).

I’m absolutely ecstatic about this record for a couple of reasons. First, I love great music. Duh. Second, there can’t be many artists in the world whom I respect more than Maines. The progressive stances she has taken, all completely at odds with the mouth-breathing politics that surround corporate C&W establishment and fan culture, and her willingness to accept the financial price attached to her integrity mark her as one of the more important social figures of our time. Maines is a throwback to the awareness and activism that marked the 1960s, and we could sure as hell use more Dylan, Lennon, Baez and Mitchell analogues here in our modern shut-up-and-sing security state era.

No, she’s not going to starve, regardless, but it’s refreshing to see someone who realizes that there are other logics in life besides ca$h. How many of our big stars today would stand up and do the right thing if they knew it was going to cost them most of their audience and endanger their careers?

Something to think about. Meanwhile, there doesn’t seem to be an official video out yet, but there are a couple things on YouTube that give you a hint about Mother. Up first, a live performance with Harper and his band of the title track. Roger Waters ought to be proud.

And here’s a life performance of “Take It On Faith.”

Happy Saturday. Be careful out there.

Saturday Video Roundup: Mash The Beatles

It’s amazing how many really cool mashups seem to incorporate The Beatles. Or maybe that isn’t amazing at all. I mean, they were the freakin’ Beatles. Anyway, I know we’ve done this theme before, but best I can tell, it ain’t broke, so I ain’t fixing it.

Here’s The Fabs and Queen doing one of my favorite tunes off of their blockbuster album, Jazzey Road, “Fat Bottom Girls Come Together.”

Also, this is a rare outtake from those same sessions.

Many of you probably never knew that The Beatles collaborated with Bob Marley.


Meet The Zepples.

Finally, have you ever wondered what The Beatles would have been like if they’d had David Lee Roth as their singer?

CATEGORY: MusicPopularCulture

Saturday Video Roundup: New music of interest in early 2k13

It’s way too early in the year to be talking best of, especially since we’re anticipating 2013 releases from some of our favorite artists (like Jeffrey Dean Foster, for instance, and The Lost Patrol, to name another). But there is some new tuneage out already that we’re digging on. So for your ArtsWeek SVR, have a listen.

Up first, Bear in Heaven, a band than I’m guessing owns at least a couple of Pet Shop Boys CDs.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Eels fan. E and the boys are back with a new one that’s a bit of a departure in some respects. I’m still trying to get my head around it, and while I do, here’s “New Alphabet.”

One more from a band I have just discovered, The Capsules.

Happy Saturday, and Happy ArtsWeek. Go have fun.