Posts tagged ‘Music’

Rekkids: David Bowie, “Heroes”

I currently have 1,884 albums on my 160GB iPod. I will listen to them all, in a random order, and write about them.

This seems as good a place as any to admit that there are scores of albums in my music collection that I have never listened to, not even once.

There was a period of time several years ago when one of my favorite pastimes was surfing usenet for random, obscure, and interesting music. I hope I’m not incriminating myself by admitting that. It was the closest my internet content stealing experience has ever come to the joy of browsing a well-stocked indie record store, except I was broke so I couldn’t afford that, and anyway, would I really have taken a chance on half the stuff I swiped for free? Or would I have even found most of it at all? I’ve got 200MB or so of 1930’s era singles sold at newsstands as Hits of the Week; are those on iTunes yet?

Anyway, now I spend far less time exploring for music and engage in strategic acquisitions. A favorite artist has a new record, I hit Amazon for the download; nine bucks and five minutes later, it’s on my computer.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that Bowie is a pretty massive blind spot in my musical appreciation, including “Heroes,” which I realize I have owned for a few years now and have NEVER EVEN LISTENED TO IT. In general, I like what I know, but I don’t know enough. Man, that should be on my tombstone.

I am doubly ashamed to admit that my first exposure to “Heroes” was as part of a medley in the Baz Luhrmann musical vehicle Moulin Rouge, which is the kind of film you really love minutes after seeing it, but a few years later feel kinda embarassed about. I once owned it on DVD, so it was like embarassment I could carry around with me in a clamshell case.

Being a Bowie ignoramus, it’s hard for me to jump in here and get anything together on his second collaboration with Eno. Especially because of the Eno part. He’s…well, he’s ENO, you know? It’s a bit difficult to stumble along and pretend I can speak to his work cause I don’t know squat about it yet.

I will say that the long “instrumental” sequence on “side two” of “Heroes” was one of those listening experiences that seems to require packing a doob on the album sleeve to really appreciate. It’s a soundtrack for being stoned, or for some kind of werid tantric sex, and a bit of a hard listen. I did like the skronking saxophone near the end, devoid of any warmth whatsoever.

What’s always surprising to me about Bowie’s songs is his bittersweet chord changess. The chorus of “Sons of the Silent Age” is full of relative minor changes that just typify regret and wistfulness for me. It’s all over the place in pop music but Bowie seems especially fond of them. I think Paul McCartney was too.

When Bowie’s bittersweet chords are lathered in Eno’s clinical, dark production, you have a recipie for ambivalence, and I mean that in a good way. You don’t know whether to approach the songs or keep them at arm’s length; you’re not sure whether you’ll understand them or not, and even if you do, they may try to hurt you in the end. Or have some weird tantric sex. Either way.

Rekkids is posted alternately at Pop Geek and Alert Nerd. Catch up with the Alert Nerd entries here.

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May 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

Why I Hate Bon Jovi

My youngest sister is 25 years old and she loves Bon Jovi. I am guessing it has something to do with Jon Bon Jovi, who I think she thinks is “hot,” even though his face betrays clear evidence of various injections and surgeries.

I’ve always thought of Bon Jovi as “Springsteen for dummies,” with all due respect to my sister, who’s not dumb. We all have our weak spots. She likes Bon Jovi; I watch Jersey Shore. It happens.

As I watched their performance on the Grammys last night, the real reason I dislike them came to the fore: They’re absolutely uninspiring performers. Granted, they’re older guys now, so maybe back in the day they set the stage aflame with the heat of their music. But last night, on an internationally televised program and whilst accompanied by an awkwardly-strutting blonde woman in too-tight pants, their performance felt thick, bloated, OLD. It felt nothing like a dynamic live event and more like a Performance Of A Hit Song By A Band. No nuance or texture to the music; no frills or riffs or standout moments that indicated that anyone involved on stage was doing anything other than going through the motions.

(It’s also helped me learn a good general barometer for these types of bands–if your drummer needs to wear special gloves, they’re probably not a great drummer. Max Fucking Weinberg doesn’t need special gloves. He just ROCKS OUT WITH HIS STICKS AND HANDS.)

There was even a very minor element of surprise to their performance; the final song in the band’s short set could be voted on via the internet. I held out small hope for some kind of random upset or vote-rigging that would force the boys to play an unrehearsed rare album cut or even better a weird cover. Instead, we got “Living On A Prayer,” or at least about a minute of it. It reminded me of the album version. It sounded exactly like it.

Because they’re a Jersey band and they themselves seem to consider Springsteen an inspiration, it’s hard not to compare them to the E Street crew, who play with finesse, creativity, nuance and unbelievable ENERGY pretty much every time out. Look at any of the other Asbury Park scene artists and you’ll find the same ethos.

I don’t think Jon and the boys from Bon Jovi realize they don’t give a shit, but they really don’t seem to give a shit, so neither do I.

February 1, 2010 at 1:49 pm 10 comments

No Hiding Place

More Elvis Costello, from his 2008 release Momofuku, a shockingly tight record considering I’m pretty sure it was thrown together in a week so he’d have new product on the shelves when he opened for the Police on their final tour.

To me, this is the ultimate “fuck you” song to the internet.

In the not very distant future
When everything will be free
There won’t be any cute secrets
Let alone any novelty

You can say anything you want to
In your fetching cloak of anonymity
Are you feeling out of breath now?
In your desperate pursuit of infamy

January 15, 2010 at 12:24 pm Leave a comment

High Fidelity

Elvis Costello & The Attractions, “High Fidelity” (1979)

That’s from a 1979 Elvis Costello & the Attractions show \at Lehigh College in Bethlehem, PA. The show was just a month after what’s become known as the “Bramlett incident,” in which Costello drunkenly dropped the n-word referring to Ray Charles in an effort to win a bar argument.

What’s notable about the show is that Costello tried out a few songs later to be included on Get Happy!! his next album. While in the studio, Costello and the Attractions hit upon the concept of framing the arrangements as a tribute/homage to classic soul music; at the time of this show, however, it’s clear he had no such concept in mind.

In its early form, “High Fidelity” loses much of its desperate momentum and instead becomes a heaving, heavy pop punk song that draws a stronger line forward from the sound and style of Armed Forces. You can hear the same vestiges in the gig’s versions of other Get Happy!! songs.

Elvis Costello & The Attractions, “B-Movie (Live)” (1979)

Elvis Costello & The Attractions, “Opportunity (Live)” (1979)

You can also hear a heightened edge of rage in Costello’s attitude throughout the show; clearly his unfortunate words of a month before and the ensuing fallout had left him with a bitter taste about America. He dedicates “Oliver’s Army” to “the bones of all the Redcoats buried around here,” then launches into maybe the most incendiary version of the song I’ve heard, before it became a more comfortable staple of his live act (and before he and the band were sick to death of playing it, I’m sure).

Elvis Costello & The Attractions, “Oliver’s Army (Live)” (1979)

There’s an abundance of high-quality early live EC bootlegs available, as well as the “official bootleg” Live at the El Mocambo, but after this tour there’s a more typical availability–one to two great recordings from each tour, and a slew of audience tapes. This particular show is notable as it captures an artist in a turning point in his career, both in terms of his music and his relationship with his audience.

January 8, 2010 at 10:06 am Leave a comment

25 Songs of X-Mas: “Christmas at K-Mart”

“I musta died and gone to heaven, cause hell is Christmas at the 7-Eleven…”

Known as “the Lenny Bruce of the Blues,” Root Boy Slim recorded six albums and allegedly got a $250,000 recording contract based solely on “Christmas at K-Mart.” Worth every penny, I’d say.

December 9, 2009 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

25 Songs of X-Mas: “Feliz Navidad”

The Jose Feliciano classic. I live for those horns every year. This song swings and rocks.

(Fair warning: I will someday own one of those light programming machines and bore you every year with my own choreography to obscure X-Mas tunes.)

BONUS: Debbie Harry covers “Feliz Navidad” with Spiraling. They give it a cool Blondie vibe.

December 8, 2009 at 4:28 pm Leave a comment

25 Songs of X-Mas: “Christmas Wrapping,” The Waitresses

This is an xmas tune that I sorta rediscovered a couple years back; I always knew it was out there, but I never recognized its awesomeness till I sat down and gave it a close listen. A snide yet heartwarming story of “missed connections” with a happy ending, a detached vibe that belays the need for human interaction, and the horns. Oh yes, the horns.

(It’s also another tune with a horrific cover by a Radio Disney standby; avoid the Miranda Cosgrove version at all costs. The Donnas have a cover too but it has no horns, and thus, isn’t quite as good.)

December 7, 2009 at 4:28 pm 1 comment

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