Like many people, there are songs constantly streaming in my head. They can fade in like a mist, or come crashing onto the scene like a warthog. They can drown out things like real-life conversations, or simply hang in the background while I go about my day. It’s like having a built-in music player, sans record-industry meddling. iTunes, meet iBrain. Now kindly go get iBrain a Dr. Pepper.
The thing about my iBrain, though, is it doesn’t cost anything. Not a dollar a download, not one cent a download, nothing. Even better, there’s no account to sign up for, no annoying emails to block, and no mega-corporation to decide what songs are allowed to be there. Unless you count taste. I usually let Taste, LTD pretty much do what it wants.
So here are a few of the songs that have been occupying my iBrain rotation as of late. Feel free to listen in, start your own mental download, and show the industry suits that you’ll listen to whatever you want, when you want. As long as it’s not while your boss or significant other is saying something important. That’s just bad for business.
The Vines, Autumn Shade II. Like the first one, but Craig Nichols nailed the wispy, esoteric harmonies even harder, and it survives more than three listens.
Blur, Tracy Jacks. Because that guitar part is catchier than a left-fielder with sonar. Whoa, did a sports analogy just make it onto this blog?
Radiohead, I Might Be Wrong. This riff could smash a hole in the side of your grandaddy’s barn without an ounce of remorse. I heard it even robbed a nun in broad daylight. Shame on it.
David Bowie, New Killer Star. The bassline to this song would make me punch a guy in the face, if the music video didn’t make me feel dizzy.
The Primrose League, Stealing All Those Cars. It’s not as well-known as some, but the intricate guitar work and vocal harmonies manage to find their way into your bloodstream.
The Smashing Pumpkins, Hummer. That opening solo is like a bucket of cold water on a saturday morning, but somewhat more awesome.
The Von Bondies, C’mon, C’mon. Ok, I watch TV. But screw you if you don’t appreciate 1-2-4 guitar stumming and a loud voice. At least I’m not repping Jet.
Versa Vice, It’s Clear. Another lesser-known band, but the guitar and bass are the muggers who 1-2 you to death in the alleyway behind Circle-K.
Blur, Death of a Party. I usually try to avoid dumping the same band on people twice, but the creepy vibes from this one have a tendency to linger. You just try to shake them off.
Queens of the Stone Age, Make It Wit Chu. Who knew a song titled in text speak would actually be good? Josh Homme once again demonstrates his ability to get inside your head with a piano and a guitar.
Gran Ronde, Wisdom. This short number hits the pleasing-guitar-riff quotient right on the head.
There are three things everyone seems to have opinions about: politics, religion, and Radiohead. On two of those topics, one dissenting view can cause a flat-out argument. When it’s Radiohead, it can cause someone to go insane. It’s quite a phenomenon.
That’s because, like politics and religion, Radiohead is complicated. When an ardent Radiohead fan hears disparaging remarks, or even worse, lack of acknowledgment about their favorite band, it’s easy for them to assume the disparager is uninitiated, and therefore not equipped to make the call. Because “getting” Radiohead isn’t like “getting” Puddle of Mudd. It doesn’t just happen after hearing a couple of songs on Internet radio (“They’re so dreary and weird … how can you like this?”). Most people who are wanton over Radiohead have listened to them for years, seen them evolve, and have grown immensely attached to them.
This is why whenever you ask someone what they like about Radiohead, you get a vague, impassioned gushing of adjectives, with no real explanation. It can leave you even more clueless than before. Or thinking your friends are hippies.
But if you’re into music, and a little open-minded, Radiohead is totally worth getting into. Because the hype is true. They’re like the 200-piece orchestra of pop bands. They’re a punk mentality shoved into something that is about as far from punk as you can get (without involving bagpipes or accordions. Yet.) Their music explains why Thom Yorke is so twitchy and paranoid, and why he sings like that. (He doesn’t always.) Radiohead is pure, 80-proof sonic bliss, if you get what they’re doing.
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Apparently, Oasis guitarist and absolutely the most arrogant dude in rock history, Noel Gallagher, has left the band after the cancellation of a Paris concert Friday. This sucks big time.
Oasis had planned to play the Paris concert Rock en Seine Friday night, but canceled just before they were due onstage. Event organizers explained, holding back no detail, that the cancellation was caused by an “altercation.” (Further details provided that the altercation occurred “in Paris.”)
Afterward, the hard-headed guitarist, who has also written the bulk of Oasis’ material and provided backup and occasional lead vocals, posted a statement on the band’s Web site saying he was calling it quits.
The statement reads: “It’s with some sadness and great relief to tell you that I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer. Apologies to all the people who bought tickets for the shows in Paris, Konstanz and Milan.”
If Noel means what he says, and we all know how insistent he can be, then it’s definitely a sad event in music, especially considering the new direction the band had been taking. Now who will bear the brunt of my obnoxious snob analogies? I don’t know.
The story is available at NME.com.
Followers of Justin Kennedy’s Twitter stream the past few months got a nice indie-2.0 treat: a ride through the backstreets, pubs and record shops of the UK on the coattails of Los Angeles-based indie outfit Army Navy. Fans tweeted and gabbed with the band as they toured in support of their self-titled debut album, released in October 2008.
Sending Twitter updates from the road, from motel rooms, and from wherever they could find free WiFi, front man Kennedy kept followers posted on the band’s crazy, rowdy and sometimes grueling tour through the angled country with pics, jokes and commentary. One tweet spoke of “living off very little sleep, lots of pints, and walking miles every day with all our gear,” evoking images of the band trudging through narrow, rain-soaked alleys, amps hoisted above heads like Vietnam grunts. In reality, it wasn’t far from the truth.
“It was pretty brutal,” Kennedy said through a recent email interview. “The tube is great and gets you all over, it’s just lugging all the gear into the tube and trying to find the clubs was a bit stressful … Next time we are hiring a helicopter.”
At least the beer was good.
“There have been lots of amazing shows, and we’ve met some great people along the way as well,” Kennedy said. “So it all balances out.”
The band played pubs, record shops and festivals for a week straight in July, even hitting two places on one day. Surprisingly, each location seemed to find them in front of familiar ears.
“We find we have a few fans in towns all over… I guess it’s the power of the internet,” Kennedy said. “People can really come across music wherever they are now, even if the local record shop doesn’t have the album.”
And the UK isn’t the only new soil on which the band has trodden. Among Kennedy’s Twitter pics they can also be spotted setting up to play on the Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. The band hung out with Conan himself and performed “My Thin Sides” in front of the comedian and a live studio (and Internet) audience.
“We are all massive Conan fans, so it was a really exciting and scary opportunity,” Kennedy said.
Of course, with good fortune always comes shitty luck. The band managed to get almost all of their gear stolen during a Seattle tour stop in May, losing several vintage guitars, drums, amps and other equipment. It happened in the oddest of places – out in front of Kennedy’s parents’ house.
“We always bring our gear in on tour, but we thought we would be fine out in Port Orchard, Washington,” Kennedy said. “But we were wrong. We have no idea if people knew we had gear or they just lucked out.” Among the lifted items was Louie’s dead grandfather’s ’76 Telecaster. “It really sucks,” Kennedy said.
Fans and online music publications rallied to the band’s support, calling for the lynching of equipment thieves everywhere, and alerts went out to keep an eye on area pawn shops. The band posted a blog entry on Myspace, and are patiently waiting for any word.
But for now, they’re concentrating on better things — like the next record, and the next tour.
“We are in pre-production … we’re getting really close,” Kennedy said. “Also we’re about to put our debut album out in the UK and follow it with another, bigger tour this fall. Then releasing the next album early next year is the plan.” (Namewise, Kennedy is torn between Living Poor With Style and The Last Place I Want to Be is in My Head. We’ll see.)
If all goes well, Army Navy will be another solid entry on the list of indie bands the rest of the world worships, that most of the U.S. still doesn’t know about. Which would make them as good as any great indie band out there. But hopefully it will be better than that.
Radiohead has released a composition written in honor of Harry Patch, the last remaining UK veteran of World War I.
Patch died July 25 at age 111, having been one of the world’s last four survivors of the First World War, the third oldest man in the world, and briefly the oldest man in Europe. As Thom Yorke says on Radiohead’s Web site, “I had heard a very emotional interview with him a few years ago on the Today program on Radio4. The way he talked about war had a profound effect on me.”
The song, inspired by Patch’s story, was composed and recorded a few weeks before his death. Johnny Greenwood arranged the strings, Yorke wrote the lyrics, and everything was recorded live in an abbey.
The song’s feel is old-fashioned and awe-struck, the way one would imagine a dirge for every fallen soldier would sound. The lyrics are bleak and dark, evoking an old war documentary or Normandy footage. It is sparse and delicate, and powerful at the same time. The abbey’s echo can be heard in the strings, giving it an ancient, wooden feel.
“Harry Patch (In Memory Of)” is available for download at Radiohead’s site and can be previewed, 30 seconds at a time, through a somewhat irritating flash player. The cost to download is 1 UK pound, or around $1.70. All proceeds are going to the Royal British Legion.
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I know, that headline sounds kind of pretentious. You should be able to like whatever you want, and no one else should have anything to say about it. But the problem is, it’s not usually like that. At least, not until you figure out how to avoid all the judgmental assholes you know. Until then, it seems like someone else always has something to say about the things you like, and the things they think you shouldn’t like.
For example, rock guys aren’t supposed to like rap. It’s not “rock ‘n roll” to like rap, so all the judgmental asshole rock guys (there are a lot of those) will get on your case about it.
Screw that. Here is a list of rap songs you can safely own up to liking, with some points to defend your opinion with, in case your taste in music is descended upon by the over-opinionated quotient in rock fandom. As long as you can shove logic in their face, you win and the assholes lose.
Outkast, Rosa Parks. This song is as accessible to the rock-listening population as any Red Hot Chili Peppers number. Believe it or not, there’s a guitar in there, and it’s playing a pretty sweet melody. There’s also a wood block, which is as rustic and down-home as any cowbell. Plus, the flute sound and lyrics make it seem almost zen, which is more or less the opposite of your stereotypical hip-hop ditty, and hence something rockers can get behind. It’s also named after a pioneer in civil liberties, so that’s worth some history cred. What history cred does Fall Out Boy have to brag about?
Busta Rhymes, Gimme Some More. Not only does it have an actual violin track (borrowed from “Psycho,” no less), the background is filled up with … bass and drums. How much simpler can you get without involving empty coffee cans and three-gallon buckets? Besides the basic appeal of the music, Busta Rhymes is just funny (his name is BUSTA RHYMES). Again, not like some rappers. And the video? On par with Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More” as far as hallucinogenics go. Hallucinogenics are way rock ‘n’ roll, man.
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