Tobacco-NatHistoryMus

Tobacco live @Los Angeles Natural History Museum, June 6, 2014

The best way to describe Tobacco is it sounds like the future. In 1982. Thanks in large part to the heavy use of analog synthesizers and vocoder, a Tobacco song is equal parts cable access and 80s porn soundtrack.  In fact, when you check out a Tobacco video, or see them live, you’ll see both. After you drench yourself with the sonic fluids of  a Tobacco album (I recommend the latest release, Ultimate II Massage), you’ll end up hating yourself a little bit for feeling like 1982 was the end all be all and the last 20 years has been nothing more than an exercise in futility.

For your Tobacco sampling pleasure, here are three videos that are not only NSFW, but may be habit forming.

 

Streaker-Directed by Eric Wareheim of  Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!

 

Side 8 (Big Gums version)

 

Hawker Boat

Rooftop party-blackbars copy

Now is the time when every marketer and ad agency is gearing up their summer campaigns where you’re supposed to party on rooftops with a cool DJ toasting to each other’s health, wealth, hot dates and the hotness of being cool during the hot summer…or something like that.

But really, when you get right down to it, a lot of what summer entails is trying to stay cool, literally cooling down your environment, your state of mind, so that you don’t end up going ballistic at the slightest provocation.

So, what better companion to have along for your ride to the beach or to that hip rooftop party, or to the desert to bury the bodies…or whatever the hell else you do during the summer…than music that evokes the darkness of winter, the darkness of life, or just the dark? Because the dark is much cooler than the light.

 

I Break Horses-Faith

 

 

Fever Ray-When I Grow Up

 

Ladytron-Destroy Everything You Touch

 

VUM-Hall of Mirrors

 

Purity Ring-Belispeak

 

Follow me on Bloglovin!

 

TFF_Mad_World

Nobody will ever fully agree on “the greatest” song or songs ever written. Music, art for that matter, is incredibly subjective, and as such has many inherently different values to different beholders. Just like awarding Grammys for “best” music, or Academy Awards to movies and games, it really is a fool’s exercise to try to delineate between the best of the best when in all actuality, the differences between quality works of any art are so personally subjective that it becomes a popularity measurement. The songs I feature in this series are what I believe to be the greatest songs ever written, for reasons that are mostly personal, but also are of a certain quality level that maintains some legitimacy to the claim. You may disagree…and that’s cool. Feel free to comment on the post with your thoughts about this or you’re own greatest songs ever written.

The first Tears For Fears album, The Hurting, was responsible for opening up my eyes to the alternative music scene that had been gelling together since the mid 70s. In fact, The Hurting signaled my departure from listening to hard rock stations and bands; it ushered in my own personal musical awakening that led me to Punk, New Wave, Post-Punk, Post Modern, Goth, etc. If it wasn’t for the discovery of The Hurting, I may never have discovered The Smiths.

I recently came to the realization that the Tears For Fears classic song, Mad World, off of The Hurting,  was also worthy  of being placed in the same category as How Soon Is Now? as Greatest Songs Ever written, according to Me. The opening drum beat starts with an odd jungle cadence of the concrete variety, laying down a bleak landscape. As this beat segues into a heavy, foreboding synth line, Curt Smith’s  vocals,  vulnerable, melancholic and even incredulous, echo the overwhelming helplessness that modern life seems to have wrought on humanity, as poignant today, as it was  in 1983.

 

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places
Worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere
Going nowhere
Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression
No expression
Hide my head I wanna drown my sorrow
No tomorrow
No tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world
Mad world
Mad world
Mad world

 

 

 

As bleak as the song is when it starts, there is a pop sensibility woven throughout the song that keeps it from being just a novelty of the New Wave age from which it was born. Add very relatable lyrics and subject matter that will continue to endure as long as the human race continues to progress at breakneck speeds, and it’s a song worthy of sitting right next to How Soon Is Now? as two of the greatest songs ever written.

When comparing the two songs (and I don’t really want to compare them, because they’re both masterpieces in and of themselves) it is an interesting footnote to this piece to briefly consider the quality of the covers of these two songs over the past thirty years. And again, this only a personal perspective, but going back and reviewing the various covers of How Soon Is Now? there is a realization that it’s a damn near uncoverable song. Probably a testament to Johnny Marr’s virtuosity in both writing and playing, and Morrissey’s inimitable vocal styling, but there is not a single cover that stands out as worthy of it’s source.  I appreciate and welcome new and different arrangements, but it seems that every cover I listened to, just couldn’t strike the right tone with either the intro, or the vocals…or both. In fact, the best cover I found was the all-instrumental  Rockabye Baby! version from the album Lullaby Renditions of The Smiths.

Mad World, on the other hand, has one specific cover by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews that first appeared on the soundtrack to Donnie Darko. Their version transcends the source material to the point that the arrangement in and of itself has allowed it to stand apart, generating it’s own spate of covers. In fact, I saw Tears For Fears cover the Gary Jules/Michael Andrews version of their own song at KROQ’s Inland Invasion 2004.

As I went down the rabbit hole of cover versions of Mad World, I also discovered that Susan Boyle also did an amazing cover. I have to admit, after researching this piece, I became a Susan Boyle fan.

I dare you not to get chills when you listen to these two cover versions below: Gary Jules & Michael Andrews  and Susan Boyle. Now please excuse me while I go wipe the tears out of my eyes.

 

 

 

This is a nice companion from Ker’s Corner to the post, Lana Del Rey Takes Me Places and Gives Me Video Games I wrote a few weeks ago. Enjoy…and take a moment to follow Ker’s Corner.

Ker's Corner

I apologize for my absence recently. I was extraordinarily busy with finals and such, and realize I have been neglecting Ker’s Corner (which makes me sad). However, I am back in the swing of things, and to kick off my return, I wanted to talk about the Lana Del Rey concert I attended last night.

I have been a huge fan of Lana’s since 2010, and have been wanting desperately to see her live since then. Unfortunately, I was a slacker and didn’t attend any of her early shows because I assumed she would tour rather frequently. Big mistake, obviously, since I have every so casually been waiting now for four years… but alas, the day finally arrived.

Jimmy Gnecco(from the band Ours) opened for Lana, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also wondered the whole time what it must have been like to tour with someone who had written a…

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Quote  —  Posted: May 12, 2014 in Music

Photo by Scott Penner, Flickr: Papa Emeritus II - Coachella 2013

Photo by Scott Penner, Flickr: Papa Emeritus II – Coachella 2013-Some Rights Reserved

 

Manchester Orchestra at House of Blues, Anaheim on Sunday May 4th marked the 8th live show I’d seen in a 3-week period. I see a lot of shows, but this was a particularly prodigious stretch for me.

Some observations:

There were some milestones during this stretch…Ghoul, with Iron Reagan was the first time I’d ever visited The Roxy…and a couple of weeks later I returned to the Roxy to see OFF!

 

Ghoul @ The Roxy, April 13, 2014-courtesy of Vulture Video

 

Iron Reagan @ The Roxy, April 13, 2014-courtesy of Vulture Video

 

Keith Morris (OFF!, Circle Jerks, Black Flag) and Lee Ving (FEAR)—whom I saw on a panel at a screening of The Decline of Western Civilization I and III a week before seeing OFF!—are two of the baddest-ever members of the AARP. At 58, Morris is still as menacing and frenetic as ever on stage with the energy and anger of a 20 year-old disaffected street punk. Ving for that matter holds his own at the age of 64, as I witnessed last year when Fear played House of Blues Sunset.

 

OFF!-Borrow and Bomb/I Got News For You (Official video)

 

 

Lee Ving w/Dave Grohl and Sound City Players-The Palladium in Hollywood, January 2013

 

Russian Circles at The El Rey marked the third time I’d seen them play live in the last three years while Ghost at The Fonda was the second time in a year. Both bands are so technically amazing to watch and hear.

 

Russian Circles performing Geneva @ The El Rey, April 10, 2104

 

Ghost performing Stand By Him @ The Fonda, April 27, 2104. Courtesy of  KanonMadness.

 

Cage The Elephant has a crazy-ass lead singer named Matt Schultz, who climbs every vertical surface within reach and channels Iggy Pop; Juliette Lewis, who opened for Cage The Elephant has an awesome set of pipes. Saw them at The Observatory if you’re keeping score (I am).

 

Cage The Elephant performing Sabertooth Tiger @The Observatory

 

Despite the reviews you might read of Mogwai’s last two releases, they’re still in good graces with their fans as they sold out their show at the El Rey and there was no lack of enthusiasm for the songs they played off of Rave Tapes.

 

Mogway performing Remurdered @ The El Rey

 

Nails might just be one of the most visceral bands I’ve ever seen…or rather felt. And Iron Lung, who opened for them, might just have the angriest drummer in the world, as well as the heaviest sound a two-piece could ever produce. Honestly, my body didn’t recover until two days later. Of course The Echo is a small place, so the sonic waves that assault you have very little opportunity of dissipating.

 

Iron Lung @ The Echo, May 1, 2014-courtesy of Vulture Video

 

Nails @ The Echo, May 1, 2014-courtesy of Vulture Video

 

And Dillinger Escape Plan? Well, let’s just say OFF! the night before took the wind out of the sails of this old guy, and while we hung in for a couple of the opening acts…the 11:30 set for Dillinger Escape Plan was tantamount to climbing Mt. Everest without no legs and no sherpas…it wasn’t gonna happen.

 

Back to Manchester Orchestra…perhaps two of the biggest beards in music (excluding ZZ Top) belong to  singer Andy Hull and drummer Tim Very. And they’re a pretty great live band as well.

 

Manchester Orchestra on David Letterman

 

Video  —  Posted: May 9, 2014 in Music
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The-Smiths-How-Soon-Is-Now?

The Smiths

 

Nobody will ever fully agree on “the greatest” song or songs ever written. Music, art for that matter, is incredibly subjective, and as such has many inherently different values to different beholders. Just like awarding Grammys for “best” music, or Academy Awards to movies and games, it really is a fool’s exercise to try to delineate between the best of the best when in all actuality, the differences between quality works of any art are so personally subjective that it becomes a popularity measurement. The songs I feature in this series are what I believe to be the greatest songs ever written, for reasons that are mostly personal, but also are of a certain quality level that maintains some legitimacy to the claim. You may disagree…and that’s cool. Feel free to comment on the post with your thoughts about this or you’re own greatest songs ever written.

    I have always maintained The Smiths is one of the greatest bands ever; and How Soon Is Now? is one of the greatest songs ever written. The opening guitar riff is unmistakable. Johnny Marr’s rolling guitar jangle folding back unto itself, abruptly accentuated with what I can only describe as a warped train whistle preluding a lush and vaguely psychedelic melody destined to frame Morrissey’s painfully relatable lyrics:

 I am the son And the heir Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar I am the son and the heir Of nothing in particular   You shut your mouth How can you say I go about things the wrong way I am human and I need to be loved Just like everybody else does   I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar I am the son and the heir of nothing in particular   You shut your mouth how can you say I go about things the wrong way I am human and I need to be loved just like everybody else does   There’s a club if you’d like to go you could meet somebody who really loves you so you go, and you stand on your own and you leave on your own and you go home, and you cry and you want to die   When you say it’s gonna happen “now” well, when exactly do you mean? see I’ve already waited too long and all my hope is gone   You shut your mouth how can you say I go about things the wrong way I am human and I need to be loved just like everybody else does

The legendary John Peel had an interesting take on The Smiths lyrics in general:

“I mean on more than one occasion I’ve actually laughed out loud at Smiths lyrics, & I don’t often do that, I don’t often laugh out loud at anything very much. I think that they’re very funny lyrics and I cannot understand why people assume that what they do is essentially miserable. I suppose because there’s a lot of references to death and pain & so forth in the lyrics but again its done in the way you know were it’s sort of ironic. I don’t see them as being miserable at all, I get rather cross when people tell me that they are”

Morrissey’s lyrical brilliance works lies in being both ironic and sincere, and more than a little relatable. He manages to touch very specific, yet universal human emotions, many times from the perspective of being homosexual in the rough-edged, industrial grittiness of 70’s and 80’s England. With How Soon Is Now? there is that commonality of looking for relationship…human touch and companionship…but not being able to overcome a deep shyness to connect with someone else on the same level, the way everyone else seems to be able to. It reminds of a time in college when I agreed to go clubbing and immediately felt so out of my element, so awkward, so pathetic that I spent most of the night sitting in a booth alone, waiting for my friends to close the deal with their new acquaintances so that I could get a ride back to my apartment. Of course it didn’t help that I couldn’t dance, was probably dressed inappropriately, had no gift for small talk and held more than a little disdain for the club-kid stereotypes that populated the club. Looking for love in all the wrong places so to speak. More often than not it’s songs that strike a deeper chord that tend to live on and influence other artists. And the greatest songs are the ones that make you stop whatever you’re doing at that very moment and just listen.  How Soon Is Now is firmly planted at the top of that category. Thirty years after its release, it still stops me in my tracks and causes me to break out in chills.

Image

 

A lazy warm afternoon.  In a meadow. A light, tepid breeze sweeping through the air, a reminder that spring is hanging around, not quite ready to pass the torch to summer. With each gentle gust, the air is filled with particles of life-giving flora…and the winged creatures that live on that flora.  Unfiltered sunlight flows over the landscape, lightly washing the brilliant greens, yellows, reds and blues with a coat of bright white, another signal the seasons are in transition.

Sitting at the corner of the bar surrounded by ashtrays and empty martini glasses. The mirror on the back wall behind the dimly lit liquor shelf is tinged with smoke…and so is the bartender. Every so often, the door opens at the front of the establishment, the fading light of a hot summer day spilling in to upset the status quo and briefly illuminate the interior, a harsh peek behind the façade of faded elegance.  And just like that, stasis returns, and the rough edges are smoothed out by shadow and the underpowered glow of ancient, incandescent lights.

To me, this is Lana Del Rey.  Of course most of her videos also perpetuate a similar type of imagery so my subconscious has probably succumbed to subliminal manipulation.

 

 

There is plenty of derision to go around on the internet about her lyrical ability, her engineered image, her mismatched vocal  styling and, yes, her Saturday Night Live performance. And nobody in the business of reviewing music can agree on whether her lyrics are  good, bad, sexist or subtext.

 

 

I don’t care, all I know is that when I listen to her album Born to Die, I tend to find myself whisked away to the places described above. (I’ll be honest, though, I have no idea what a meadow really looks like…I live in LA. And if I had my choice I’d request to only be whisked away to the bar scene.) It’s her voice reminding me of Nancy Sinatra and Peggy Lee; it’s the Americana-tinged guitars and sweeping orchestral vistas underscored by perfectly placed hip-hop beats and samples that seamlessly mesh retro pop with now pop.

With the release of her new single, West Coast, I look forward her next full album release. Where it will whisk me off to, who knows? But I hope there’s a bottle of bourbon there.

 

esben-and-the-witch

Esben and the Witch-Photo by Angel Ceballos, courtesy of Matador Records (http://www.matadorrecords.com/esben_and_the_witch)

 

I distinctly remember my first Dark Wave moment. High school, of course (isn’t everyone’s first dark music moment in the throes of adolescence????). I was sitting on the sidelines, after playing my varsity soccer game, watching the  junior varsity play their game because we all took the same bus to and from. My prized possession at that time was my portable cassette player. The ability to put on headphones and essentially create a soundtrack to the surrounding real life was simply mind-blowing for me at that time. And at that very moment, I was listening to The Cure’s relentlessly dark and depressing album, Pornography. Something about the grey skies of a late winter afternoon, combined with a post-game adrenalin comedown and accented by teenage-y angst and depression perfectly matched up with the song like “A Strange Day”.

 

At the time, I didn’t really think I was listening to Dark Wave, or Goth…I lumped a lot of the stuff I was listening to that wasn’t out-and-out New Wave or Punk into the Alternative  umbrella. I was defiantly against other specific genres—Top 40 Pop, Metal (Glam Metal actually, though I didn’t quite know that at the time), Country. And it seemed really, really important at that time to define myself by what types of music I listened to, and the types of music I chose not listen to.

Fast forward to now. Music genres aren’t so easily defined anymore, yet, in the collective effort to further define a sound, so many different sub-genres and sub-categories of genres have been created, that my head spins when I try to have a conversation with anyone else about it. Yet, these still provide valuable signposts for trips down the rabbit hole…because it still helps to define the nature of a sound, even if it is slightly ridiculous just how granular these labels have become.

So, back to Dark Wave…and Goth…and Nightmare Pop, and Dark Ambient…and Folk…and Gothic Pop…and, well, the list goes on that can be used described one of the artists I’ve gotten into over the past three years, Esben and The Witch. My initial label was New Goth, but really that was my own feeble attempt to categorize a sound that was much more complex in its underlying influences. It was the discovery of this mesmerizing, and disturbing, video for the track, “Marching Song” off of their first full length album, Violet Cries that forever bonded me to this band.

 

 

They’ve since released a second, evolutionary album, entitled, Wash The Sins Not Only The Face, that seemed to further underscore that the band isn’t so easily defined by my “New Goth” label. In fact there were so many different influences underneath their sound that I was slightly ashamed that I tried to pigeonhole them under one banner.

 

Now, with the promise of a Steve Albini-produced new full length release coming out summer 2014, Esben and the Witch have teamed up with another band, Thought Forms, to release a split 12″ on Invada Records, due out April 7, 2014 and featuring my new favorite, a scintillating track titled “No Dog”.

 

Painting by Erin Magee, Courtesy of The Sad Bastard Book Club

I have a hate-love relationship with Tuesday. From a work perspective, Tuesday is the worst day of the week. Mondays get a bad rap, but really, Monday still has a bit of an afterglow from the previous weekend…unless that weekend featured a death, jail time, puking or some other crappy event. Wednesday’s hump day, so you know things start to look good by the end of the day. Of course Thursday and Friday are givens in that the end of the work week is coming and all looks optimistic again.

But Tuesday…Tuesday is a Country song where your dog dies, your woman cheats on you and you drink too much all on the same day, every week. There is nothing good about Tuesday. Friday the 13th should be changed to Tuesday the 13th. The only thing that keeps Tuesday from being a complete loss…it’s the day new music drops.

The Sad Bastard Book Club, purveyors of Post-Americana Doom Folk from San Francisco have dropped a new EP, entitled: The Crow Nose Quartet’s “Carrion, My Wayward Son.”

A fitting release for a Tuesday, with song titles such as “I May Be the Final Nail, But it Took a Team to Build This Coffin,” and The Ruins of Machu Picchu Were an Ancient Prototype For the Future of Detroit.” If you’ve ever spent time in San Francisco, in the summer, you may identify with the disposition of The SBBC. Fog rules the season…in fact if you’re looking to get away the oppressive heat of anywhere else, you vacation in San Francisco, because you’ll be met with the wind, cold and gloom befitting of the Yorkshire moors from Wuthering Heights. Beyond the weather, though, The SBBC writes music reflective of a band that is openingly wondering how the hell did we get to this point, and now that we’re here, where do we go from here.

Image  —  Posted: April 2, 2014 in Music
Tags:

GaryNuman-HollywoodForeverCemetery-10-17-2013

I saw Gary Numan play another amazing show at The Mayan in Los Angeles last night. It was the second time I had seen him in the space of 6 months (I briefly talk about the first time  on an earlier post…go read it or reread it…NOW).

Anyway, a buddy and I met up before the show for dinner, then had a drink at a hotel right around the corner from the venue. As we get in the elevator to head down to the lobby, a young woman follows us in and asks us where we’re headed. With a bit of a old guy arrogance, I proudly proclaim we’re off to The Mayan to see Gary Numan. She smiles, and says,

“Cool! I’ve never heard of Gary Numan.”

Our jaws drop as we reply in unison “What???? You’ve never heard of Gary Numan????”

“No, I’m sorry,” she laughs, “I’m young. I’m only 21.”

After more gnashing of teeth, and moaning and groaning I finally encouraged her to search for the song “Cars” on Google, and she politely bid us adieu as we all exited the elevator.

Eventually the shock wore off, and perspective set in. Actually a couple of different perspectives:

  • I am definitely of a different generation than the majority of people I encounter on nights out in the various trendy night spots that make up the LA live music scene. I am not so vain that I don’t acknowledge my age, but I do get duped at times by the fact my taste in music parallels a lot of what “the kids” are listening to…and that is directly due to coming of age musically in the 80s.
  • Gary Numan was never “mainstream” (I actually could substitute “mainstream” with a disparaging version of the term “pop” in this case) enough to warrant cross-genre, cross-generational recognition. Sure, anyone who grew up in and around the 80s knows at least the song “Cars”, and possibly Gary Numan. However, whereas a band like U2 continually evolved a pop sensibility that managed to keep them relevant to the masses, Gary Numan evolved his music to more fully embrace and define a genre and in turn maintain a relevance akin to Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie.

So, in the spirit of my encounter on the elevator, I’m going to feature three Gary Numan songs, two from his 80s catalog, and one from his latest, and brilliant, album, Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind).


 
Of course “Cars” is a classic, not only as a genre and decade defining song, but as a medium-defining music video as well.


 
“Are ‘Friends’ Electric” off of the 1979 Replicas album that also featured another favorite song of mine…”Down in the Park.” On a side note, as I’m sifting through various performance on YouTube, I realize that it is imperative I find my way onto those secret guest lists where you get to see bands like Nine Inch Nails play intimate venues like  The Echoplex, with guys like…Gary Numan.


 
Finally, “Love Hurt Bleed”, from Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind).