If you haven’t heard, I got engaged.
And you MUST listen to Kenna – New Sacred Cow
I got Jackie the CD of the Pearl Jam show we went to; it’s fucking great, the sound is absolutely pristine, I wish every band would do the same for their fans. Still listening to a lot of them lately, and the new Fountains of Wayne has been getting heavy play as well. It’s not as consistent as Utopia Parkway, there are actually a few rather abysmal numbers IMO, but the best material is as good as anything they’ve ever done, just pure sublime pop music by the reigning kings of the genre. No particularly good shows coming up this month, the summer seems to be pretty dead in terms of quality bands touring, but at the start of Sept. is Street Scene, a massive festival held all over the downtown area for three days. REM is headlining; also appearing are Bad Religion, Social D, Wilco, X, G Love, Goo Goo Dolls, Love, Arrested Development, the B 52s, Macy Gray, Nickel Creek, the Sex Pistols, Finch, Presidents of the USA, the Dropkick Murphys, Rev. Horton Heat, Kathleen Edwards, AND THAT’S JUST THE BANDS I CARE ABOUT!
So, after my brother’s recommendation, I picked up the new Guster today. Just listened to the first half of it. I think it’s become my favorite Duncan Sheik album.
More pithy comments to come upon further contemplation.
Having borne witness to the Rock Machine that is Pearl Jam for the first time last night, I can only sit here and wonder: why did I not do this sooner? Is this what I’ve been missing out on for the last 10 years? What was I thinking? Mike McCready, bleached blonde and shirtless, chopping with his Flying V like some emocore kiddie who thinks “grunge” was some classic rock movement that happened once upon a time, then throwing it back behind his head for a solo like that other guy from Seattle, the guy who took too many drugs and died too young, 30 years before anyone heard of Kurt Cobain. Stone and Jeff, steady, consistent, tying down the sails as the maelstrom of sound propels them forth, a pair of granite boulders holding their ground since Before the Dawn of Time (aka Green River) and sure to be there after the end of it. Matt Cameron, perhaps the most solid drummer of his generation, who played on the demos of the 2nd greatest band of his generation, then took ten years off to form the 3rd greatest band of his generation and see it to completion before returning to the fold. (Oddly, with Cameron on board, were Chris Cornell to make a cameo with Pearl Jam it would be a de-facto Temple of the Dog performance). And of course, Eddie Vedder, hair cropped short, beginning to show his age on his face, but possessor still and always of the Voice of His Generation.
Yes, that’s right, the Voice of His Generation. Cobain’s gutteral rasp of nightmare fantasies and searing angst captured the true depths of our emotions in ways not seen before or since, the id of the lonely born in a town of with too much rain and not enough hope, but Vedder spoke to the full range of our feelings. Kurt was the perpetual victim, lost in a haze of anguish and heroin; Eddie was the survivor, left to come to terms with what had been done to him and to figure out what happens next. In Pearl Jam’s most successful single, Vedder sang of the boy who “seemed a harmless little fuck” but turned into a “lion” when pushed too far. But that was never Eddie’s place. Jeremy was Cobain’s brutalizing sadness, Staley’s dark fantasy world, Corgan’s overweening megalomania. Eddie Vedder was the brainy shy loner who sat in the back of the class, watched Jeremy make himself unerasable in a shower of blood, and spent the rest of his life trying to make sense of it all, to cull meaning from pointless self-destruction, most importantly to chronical it all, action and reaction. Eddie Vedder’s destiny was to tell us what Jeremy spoke in class that day. Ten years later, he’s not longer swinging from the rafters, but he’s still shouting from the rooftops.
If Pearl Jam are no longer in their prime, I shudder to think how tremendous they must have been in, say, 1993. But though the height of their popularity is likely behind them for good, they may well be in their prime right now. Older, sure, but no worse for the wear. Neil Young seems to have rubbed off on them; their live show is ferocious, their newest work is still relevant if no longer quite as compelling. “Better to burn out than to fade away” makes no reference to the observer; fading away isn’t about how bright you glow compared to the other stars in the sky, its about how hot the fire burns in your own Heart of Darkness. Who cares if they’re no longer in the spotlight; they’ve still got the passion, the mission, the will and the way, and they don’t look ready to give up the ghost anytime soon.
Last night’s setlist was perfect for fans like me, the ones who loved all of PJs earlier work but lost interest with each proceeding album. Very heavy on stuff from Vs. (my personal favorite), with the newer hits thrown in, a few gems from their latest effort Riot Act (I’m gonna have to go download the whole PJ catalog as it seems there’s some great songs I’ve just plain missed by not picking up the last few albums), and some tremendous renditions of old-school covers (Crazy Mary and Sonic Reducer). And in their ongoing quest outdo Phish and become the most fan-friendly band in history, the concert is available online NOW. Yes, that’s right, I saw them last night, and the show is available, officially, in it’s entirety, right now. 15 bucks to download the unmastered MP3s off the website immediately; they’ll follow up with a fully mastered 2CD set at your doorstep in 7-10 days. Now THAT’S service.
Other than the covers, highlights of the show included searing versions of Courduroy, Blood and Rearviewmirror, full crowd singalongs to Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town and Daughter, Eddie pulling this fantastic trick with a mirror, diverting the beam of an overhead spotlight into the audience, Eddie ranking on fellow San Diego legend Jewel, Eddie rocking out on the electric Ukulele, and well, Eddie just being Eddie.
I listened to Elderly Woman again this morning on my way to work. It’s long been one of my favorite PJ songs. There was a time where I would have ranked both Ten and Vs. in my top 10 favorite albums, but as they dropped from the public eye and my music tastes grew through phases of anthemic rock, 80’s post-punk, alt-country, and nu-indie/emo, they somehow got left behind in their small grunge town. They changed by not changing at all. I loved them, but hearts and thoughts they fade away. Then, last night, I walked into the arena to find them behind the counter. My god, it’s been so long, I never dreamed I’d return, but now here they are and here I am. This time, I’m not gonna leave.
[Man, this totally reminded me of how much I miss music writing. I need to get back into it. Anyone know of any magazines, newspapers, zines, whatever that could use a music writer?]
The White Stripes rocked my ass. The venue was way overpacked, hot as a mofo, the opening act (Whirlwind Heat) were truly godawful, they played annoying fucking Betty Boop cartoons for what seemed like forever in between acts, everyone was late going on, and I can’t deal with this shit anymore, I’m too old for it. But the White Stripes rocked my ass.
DL’d the new Live CD yesterday; gave it a quick listen. Need to listen again, then maybe I’ll post an actually CD review (god knows it’s been long enough since I did one). First impressions – better than V (ok that’s not saying much), but stuck in all the old Live cliches, to the point that they’re biting melodies and rhythms from other songs of theirs. Right now I’d rate it below Mental Jewelry, Throwing Copper, and Distance to Here, but above V, maybe right on the same level as Secret Samadhi.
So it turns out Live has a new album coming out at the end of May, the single (“Heaven”) apparently just hit radio, though I have yet to hear it. Goddamn if I can’t help but get excited.
Live are my boys. They came out of a crappy not-quite-small town on the right half of PA, like me. I remember catching the Operation Spirit music video for the first time in late 1991, and from that first listen I was instantly hooked. (As a side note, that day might have inadvertantly been the sing most important day for me musically, which is saying a lot when you’re talking about a guy with 2000 CDs. It was an afternoon at Shaps, probably a Saturday, and we were watching MTV and playing Strat-o-Matic as we were wont to do for hours upon hours at the time, and that day I heard for the first time both “Operation Spirit” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” To this day, both bands remain in my top 10.)
I bought a cassette tape of Mental Jewelry right when it came out (I’ll admit to not picking up the debut EP til a few years later) and wore it out. Literally. After which point, I popped open the plastic cassette case, spliced out the three seconds that had been mangled by my walkman, scotch taped the tape back together outside and in, and proceeded to listen to it for years longer.
Throwing Copper was released in January of 1994. One year to the day in January 95, propelled by the album’s third single, Lightning Crashes, Throwing Copper hit #1 on the Billboard album charts, and Live were no longer my little secret.
Secret Samadhi, their follow up, took them back to producer Jay Healy (who recorded their independant “Death of a Dictionary” tape), and as on DOAD he fucked up the production beyond belief, drowning the thing in keyboard flourishes while reining in the edge on the guitars. It was the beginning of the end in terms of their mass popularity, and a mediocre album at best.
The Distance to Here was a fucking masterpiece, bar none. The bands’ time had passed, boy bands and Britney were at their apex, and it went pretty much unnoticed (except for perhaps a little airplay for The Dolphin’s Cry). But it was a return to for for the band.
Then they released V. So bad it’s not worth talking about, really. Just unlistenable.
So why am I so excited anymore? I wish I knew. I think it’s just that I know the potential is there for another Mental Jewelry, or Throwing Copper, or Distance to Here.
Plus, there’s the new album title. Birds of Pray.
Note the spelling.
Fucking brilliant I say.
It’s been a while since I latched onto a particular band (maybe the Old 97s around 1998 were the last one I got into in an obsessive kind of way). Other favorites of mine are either long gone (the Replacements, Husker Du) or at least should be (the neutered Our Lady Peace; its not really an overstatement to equate cutting out your founding guitarist / key member with cutting off your gonads, eh?). So it’s nice to know I can still get excited by something like this.
OK, off to finish up my work and troll the Live website for every little bit of info on this new release I can find 🙂
Just got this month’s Rolling Stone. The new White Stripes disc got 5 stars. 5! For any of you who are regular RS readers, you know that they NEVER give 5 stars, unless you’re Mick Jagger or David Bowie or Bruce Springsteen. They give maybe two 5 star reviews a year, tops. Of course, this means I now need to go download the CD; I really like 7 Nation Army but I wasn’t planning on getting the CD, but this has changed my mind.
You know, as a magazine, RS has gone to shit, as have most of the music mags (barring, say, Big Takeover), but they still have the best reviews and reviewers in the business. Like in Almost Famous, it’s my dream job. I don’t even want to go on the road with bands doing features. I just wanna sit on my plus couch in my hip office, listen to CDs and pound out reviews all day, then spend the nights going to concerts
Lots of good shows this month; White Stripes, Bright Eyes, the Faint, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Plus CDs from the White Stripes and all the Uncle Tupelo Reissues.
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