Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Cranberries: Coming Up “Roses”

When I first heard The Cranberries, I wasn’t interested in them beyond their lead singer’s hotness and unique voice. Actually, I saw and heard them at the first time since my first exposure to them was the video for “Linger.” I was slogging through grunge at the time in my best pair of scuffed Doc Martens, and The Cranberries were just a little too light and poppy for my taste. A few years later, when I was slogging knee deep through my undergraduate double major of English and Political Science (with an emphasis on International Politics-the Balkan Wars were raging and Eastern Europe post-Soviet Bloc was an area of interest for me) I heard The Cranberries again (heard only this time) and became very interested in them, and not only in their lead singer’s hotness and unique voice, but her words as well. A pretty Irish girl singing about “a war in Russia and Sarajevo too,” the War Child, John Lennon, salvation, The Troubles (as international political scholars will recognize as the now settled Protestant/Catholic War in Northern Ireland) and being “Free to Decide?” Yeah, it wasn’t long before I developed a major crush on her, and The Cranberries, music in general. I was becoming educated enough, and mature enough, to understand that everything didn’t have to be screamed or growled through the microphone to rock. Good rock, and good alt-rock, didn’t have to wail all the time to be worthwhile.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mike McCready and Star Anna: Keep On (Review)

Given Mike McCready’s affinity for alt-country, dirty blues, and Americana it is no surprise that he’s a huge fan and supporter of fellow Seattle musicians Star Anna and The Laughing Dogs. In fact, Mike likes them so much that he played guitar on several of the songs on Star Anna’s last album, Alone In This Together. Mike has even lent the star power of his name, as a headliner on the song art, to a collaboration between himself and the band that was released on Valentine’s Day this year. “Keep On” plays like a slower, sultrier version of his Pearl Jam gem “Down.” The rustic, acoustic, and slight low key grunge sound of the song perfectly meshes both McCready’s Pearl Jam sound and that of Star Anna’s Americana. It’s a great track that should help get the word out on this great band. Followers of Pearl Jam and their individual members’ musical likes and side projects already know a great deal about, and have a strong affinity for, Star Anna and The Laughing Dogs' music. Those plugged into the Pacific Northwest’s music scene know even more about this great band, and their vocally gifted lead singer, especially because they’ve been lucky enough to get to see them live. Hopefully, with the wider recognition that is bound to come from Mike McCready’s name being listed prominently next to theirs, those of us living outside the Pacific Northwest will get to see them. They did briefly tour outside the Seattle and Portland areas in 2011, but the majority of the shows took place in that region.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One Model Nation: Totalwerks Vol. 1 (1969-1977)

Courtney Taylor-Taylor of The Dandy Warhols has a special place in his heart for graphic novels, as well as the electronic/industrial music of late 1970s Berlin, like Kraftwerk. Both his love for the two come together in the dual graphic novel and album project One Model Nation. While the graphic novel that the music is partially inspired by is brilliant (read my thoughts on it here), the music is just as interesting.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Kurt Cobain: February 20, 1967

So much has been said about Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, his untimely death, his battles with drugs and fame, his notorious wife, his beautiful daughter, etc., etc. that at this point, the only real way to truly get at the heart of what Nirvana, grunge, and “The sad little, sensitive, unappreciative, Pisces, Jesus man” were, and were  about, is to put on In Utero, then Incesticide, and listen. Not just with your ears, but with your thoughts. It’s easy to say that Kurt had been where many of us have been, but it’s not so easy for us to understand where Kurt was. Anyone who even thinks of committing suicide must be in a dark place. Many who think of committing suicide leave that dark place, either on their own or with the help of someone who truly loves and cares for them. Kurt never did. No one will ever fully know why, except for the man himself. He left a great deal of joy behind him though, and obviously that should be the focus of any energy spent on understanding, through his words and music, Kurt Cobain ,the man and his music.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Band of Skulls: Sweet Sour

Jack White really started something. That’s not to say that he invented or even particularly popularized minimalist, bluesy-grungy guitar playing, but the success of The White Stripes has definitely created an opening in mainstream music for the popularity of bands such as The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather (both of which are Jack White projects), The Black Keys, The Kills, and a multitude of other bands with similar sounds. Band of Skulls is one of these “other bands.” The band, which consists of Brits Russell Marsden, Emma Richardson and Matt Hayward, creates a well-rounded, thick, chunky, and requisitely dirty sound on their new release Sweet Sour, but unlike their musical father, Band of Skulls are nowhere near as bluesy as they are grungy. Also unlike their musical father though, they rock a good bit harder. If only Sweet Sour was an album full of these types of tracks. On the tracks where they muster the most muscle, Band of Skulls soars sonically. On the tracks where they get contemplative and quiet, I want to simply fall asleep while listening.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Foo Fighters, Wasting Light, and The Grammys

When Dave Grohl (wearing a Slayer t-shirt!) got up to give his Grammy acceptance speech and stated that "To me this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what's important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that's the most important thing for people to do,” I couldn’t help but think back to Eddie Vedder’s acceptance speech for Pearl Jam’s winning of a Grammy for their track “Spin The Black Circle” several years ago. Eddie stated “I don’t know what this means” in reference to his band’s winning of a Grammy. There was a time that I would have agreed with Eddie. I myself wondered  just what winning a Grammy meant, especially since so many musicians that I really am not into win most of them. That time period extended from just about the time that I became interested in “alt” rock to just before Dave’s speech during the 2012 Grammys. (Well, not exactly…but it makes for a better story don’t you think?)

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Darkness Wins the Super Bowl (Ad Contest)

I am one of the Apple sheeple that the Samsung Galaxy Note commercial was dogging on, yet I simply loved this commercial, which ended up winning the Super Bowl of Ad Contests yesterday. Yeah, the Clint Eastwood one was great and powerful. The Seinfeld one succeeded in making me feel my age. (Jerry’s grey hair really struck a chord with me…), and the hilarious anti-Twilight Audi commercial pure genius. In fact, if I wasn’t writing this article for my music blog, then it would have probably won the Super Bowl of Ad Contests instead. It was Justin Hawkins though, and his crazy 70 rock/hair metal parody/tribute/revitalization band’s “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” power ballad, which is still potent (surprisingly) 8 years after it debuted, that really served as the perfect anthem for the perfect feel good commercial. I remember turning to some of my friends during the commercial and remarking how “The Darkness represents everything that is antithetical to my music tastes, but man I sure did enjoy that album.” So much in fact, that since I saw that commercial yesterday, that song has been stuck in my head, and that album has been cued up on my iPhone all day.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Eternal Descent

As some of you might have noticed, my other (and heretofore main) writing gig is for one of the best independent comic book review sites on the web, comicbookbin.com. My two recreational and literary passions are both comic books and music, and I’ve discovered that I have a great deal to say about both subjects. Everything that I have to say isn’t extremely profound or groundbreaking (most of the time), but from time to time I stumble across something that really inspires me to let loose, and the words just seem to flow and flow…and every once in a while I come across something that intelligently dabbles in both of my favorite pastimes. They are few and far between, but every once in a while I find a real gem of a project.