Let’s camera

A song like “Tokyo Storm Warning” is closer to real life than you think…

You have to suck Tokyo into your lungs and let it rewrite your DNA.

You have to piece together your own reality one combini at a time.

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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

Generation X, whatever, nevermind: reflecting on Kurt Cobain

No one could possibly be THE voice of Gen X, but Cobain was certainly A voice of my generation.

SRHonors_Kurt CobainIn their seminal 13th Gen: Abort, Retry, Ignore, Fail?, published in 1993, Neil Howe and William Strauss argued that the only thing Generation Xers really agreed on was that there was no such thing as Generation X. Given the inherent irony and collective self-denial bound up in any examination of the cohort born from 1961 to 1980, then, maybe Kurt Cobain was the Voice of His Generation.

Whatever. Nevermind.

Yeah, I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here, but not as much as you might think. Gen X is a subject I have studied deeply through the years, and if trying to characterize any demographic that’s 50 million people wide is a tricky enterprise, it’s doubly so with m-m-my generation because we’re so goddamned contrary. Continue reading

Kurt Cobain: If you read you’ll judge

He never surrendered.

Let me tell you about Kurt Cobain.

In the fourth grade we had to do these stupid aerobics gym classes, plastic pink green black steps, Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” pounding off the gymnasium walls.

Riding in the back seat of my dad’s car was the only time I heard good rock and roll. Maybe because he was my dad. I don’t know. “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” was my favorite song.

Until he played a mixtape, windows down flying across the earth in an automobile, with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on it. Continue reading


TunesDay: Who is your favorite band?

Last.FM tells us who we listen to the most. Isn’t that what “favorite” means?

We all have our favorite bands. Most of us probably have a lot of favorite bands, in fact, and if you’re like me, that honor has probably been held by different artists throughout your life. My first favorite, back when I was in junior high, was Elton John (the wonderful Captain Fantastic, still one of my all-time favorites, came out just as I was wrapping up 8th grade). Then, when I was a freshman, the radio exploded with this sound unlike anything I’d ever heard before, and at that point I became a rabid Queen fan.

When I hit college, I found myself in a fraternity filled with unrepentant music freaks. The range of our collective taste was matched only by the intensity of our passion for it. Continue reading


ArtSunday: S— Rock Stars Say…

“I was always wondering did they like me or did they like my songs.” – Neil Young

The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Quote Book by Merrit Molloy (image courtesy Goodreads)

Had some errands this week that took me close – too close – to my favorite used bookstore. My wife had a doctor’s appointment later that day and since I had come away without anything to read, I, of course, bought a couple more books.

Hi, My name is Jim and I have a problem with books….

Anyway, I ran across the marvelous waste of time, The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Quote Book by Merrit Molloy. This slight volume (you can finish it in a couple of hours tops with breaks for whatever you need to take breaks for) is larded with quotes ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. And as you read you can guess which musicians will say which types of things. 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


From The Raveonettes to Belle & Sebastian? Streaming music algorithms shouldn’t suck this badly…

Predicting bands a user is going to like isn’t easy. But surely Spotify, Pandora and iTunes can do better than this.

I’m a freak for new music. Always have been. In a given day I’m usually listening to whatever cool stuff I have discovered recently, backtracking and catching up on bands I haven’t listened to lately, and trying to find new artists to fall in love with and suggest to my friends.

Finding new music is a different challenge than it used to be. Once upon a time you could turn on the radio and hear the latest and greatest. It’s been a long time since that worked, though – now radio is the last place you look for cool tuneage. Continue reading


The year in music (so far): hot damn, 2014 is rocking

Several four and five-star releases already, and a boatload of top artists have releases scheduled for later this year – 2014 might wind up as one of the best years for new music in recent memory.

Given how many talented artists there are out there making music, pretty much every year is a good year for new releases. Some years, though, go above and beyond the call of duty.

2014 is shaping up to be one of the great ones. We already have a few seriously fantastic CDs, just three months in. For instance, there’s the new Dum Dum Girls:

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Rush Sold Out

Walmart “Working Man” ad: Rush sold out their fans. Big time. #WTF

Rush’s decision to license “Working Man” to a company that has declared war on American workers is one of the biggest betrayals of trust in Rock history.

Rush Sold OutYesterday I offered up a brief post wondering what the folks at Walmart were thinking when they chose to use Rush’s iconic “Working Man” as the soundtrack for their ad on investing more money in American manufacturers. Rush, in case you don’t know them, is Canadian, and that struck me as a tad … ironic. Maybe for a follow-up they can do something with Alanis Morissette. Or a Chinese band, if they want to be especially heavy-handed.

Today it’s time to ask WTF Rush was thinking when it decided to sell out to one of the most egregiously anti-working man corporations on the planet.

First off, let’s get some perspective on the claim. The ad says that in the next 10 years they’re “pledging $250 billion to products purchased from American factories.” That’s a lot of money. However, this is a company with 2013 revenues of nearly $470 billion, so the ad shouldn’t be construed as a commitment to go all-in on the American worker. Continue reading


The best CDs of 2013 that I didn’t hear until 2014, part 2: Adam Marsland’s The Owl and the Full Moon

A few days ago I offered up volume one of stuff that should have been in my best CDs of 2013 note, but wasn’t. So now we arriveth at volume the second, whereupon I apologize to Adam Marsland.

Adam has been one of my absolute favorites for a long time. I’m a sucker for the sub-genre we call Power Pop, and he’s among the best. His last studio disc, 2009′s Go West, made my intensely fantastic super-platinum list, and was one of the best PPop CDs I have heard in years. Continue reading


What we talk about when we talk about The Beatles…

On the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, perhaps it’s time to clarify what we mean when we say “The Beatles…”

beatles_2Tonight will be the 50th anniversary of the advent of what most people think of as “The Sixties.” The avalanche of commentary  that has accompanied this anniversary ranges from the hagiographic to the asinine, much of it driven by the political ethos that infuses every aspect of our lives these days. “If only these white guys hadn’t spoiled everything, other artists (implied: more worthwhile) would be more appreciated and influential”; “Without The Beatles no other artists (implied: no matter how clearly brilliant and innovative they were/are) could have accomplished the task of changing the culture.”

None of them spend much time on trying to discover and understand the simple truths of The Beatles as part of the American experience….

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The best CDs of 2013 that I didn’t hear until 2014 (plus videos from all of the year’s best)

CATEGORY: MusicHappens every damned year. It gets to be December and you formulate an idea in your head about the best music of the twelvemonth (I always wanted to use that word in a post). Up through 2012 this resulted in a fairly detailed and often multi-part review of the year’s best CDs. As I noted a few weeks ago, though, I’m retiring from that. Still, I did list what I thought were the top albums of the year.

Then January hits and you start tripping across CDs from the previous year that are fantastic and that would definitely have been on your list had you heard about them before you wrote and posted the damned review. What do you do? Continue reading

Music and Popular Culture

Whatever happened to Country & Western?: imagining an alternate Nashville

It’s easy to see how the mid-1980s Roots revival could have shaped Nashville into something completely different than the wasteland it is today.

Not long ago I was lamenting the embarrassing state of Country & Western music, and if you track down through the comments of that post you’ll see a couple folks, including our boy Otherwise, recommending that I investigate The Hangdogs. So I did, and they were right – Matthew Grimm and Co. could flat out bring it.

It turns out that Otherwise actually knows Grimm and he introduced us, which led to an interesting e-mail exchange and my discovery of his latest solo disc. More on that in a bit.

This whole sequence set me to thinking. There was a moment, back in the mid-1980s, when something really interesting was happening in the music world. There was Lone Justice, based in LA, also home to Dave Alvin and The Blasters. Boston had the Del Fuegos. New York had the Del Lords. Wisconsin gave us The BoDeans. Continue reading

CATEGORY: MusicPopularCulture

Hurray for the Gene Clark No Other Tour

If I had been anywhere near the northeast past of the US last week, snow or no snow, I would have been heading for New York, or Baltimore, or Washington, or Philadelphia, on one of the nights that the Gene Clark No Other Tour hit town. So, what is this? It’s a tour put together by members of Beach House, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear and The Walkmen—and even Iain Matthews, from the early days of Fairport Convention. I even know one or two of these groups. And it’s in honor of an album by the late Gene Clark, songwriter extraordinaire, called No Other, issued in 1974. I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves this album. Here’s the description of the tour in Pitchfork; here’s the generous write-up in The New York Times; here’s a review of the Washington show. Sounds like a great show. Too bad they’re not coming to London. Continue reading


Confessions of a recording artist: I love making CDs, but I hate post-processing

by Michael Smith

Post-production takes all the fun out of the process, and most bands can’t afford to hire Phil Spector like The Beatles did.

As I write this, I’m sitting at my computer and thinking about working more on finishing my band’s new album. Unfortunately, for the last couple of months “thinking about it” is all I seem to be capable of doing.

If I were to break down the workload in terms of percentage, we’re probably about 80% done. It’s been a long road to get here. In the last two years, the band and its immediate family has endured a writer’s block, a couple of job changes, added a new member, celebrated a fantastic wedding, and dealt with a successful breast cancer treatment. Business has been far from usual.

And through all of that, the songwriting is done. Continue reading

WordsDay: Literature

WordsDay: The “Big Book” and its discontents…

Every writer wants a “Big Book”; the question is – why…?

One of the phenomena of the last 30-40 years of publishing has been the “Big Book.” You know the language that is associated with such works: “Must Read!” “Stunning!” “A Triumph!” These “career making” successes have been, for the most part, mixed blessings for the writers lucky? talented? deserving? enough to catch the zeitgeist of the reading public. Some writers have used these as springboards to great commercial success; others, usually the literary fiction types like Michael Ondaatje, the subject of this essay and the author of The English Patient, have found them helpful (Mr. Ondaatje has had a long, distinguished career in literary work as both a poet and novelist before and after this novel found great success) – at least, I assume he found it so.

I’ve chosen a few “Big Book” selections for my 2014 reading list and its update. The English Patient is the first of these and in both its iterations it reflects the classic characteristics of the “Big Book” phenomenon…. Continue reading


The National’s Trouble Will Find Me: art, in a way that popular music rarely is

by Patrick Vecchio

In 2007 I subscribed to a magazine called the Oxford American. It calls itself “The Southern Magazine of Good Writing,” and you might wonder why I subscribed to it, bein’ a Yankee and all, but that’s a tale for another time.

Anyway: The back cover of one issue was a full-page ad with a photograph of what looked like a rock band. The ad contained a two-word phrase—The National—and the word Boxer. Every now and then, I’ll buy an album on a whim, even though I’ve never heard of the band and never heard a single note of their music. So I figured out the band was called The National, the album was called Boxer, and I bought the record. Continue reading