Showing posts from 2014

New On Disc: U2's "Innocence" Lost

Let's face it, it aint easy being U2 - the little Irish band who became self-anointed spokesmen for anthemic, idealist rock'n'roll. Well, the individual members may still retain that idealism, but it's hard to claim allegiance to innocence when you've become more than just a band, but a brand - indeed, one need only muse upon the (some would say unholy) alliance U2 made with media giant Apple as evidence of a corporate sensibility that never existed in their early days. God only knows how much money the band took in to proffer Songs Of Innocence as a free iTunes download prior to its official physical release, but you can bet it wasn't small change.
U2 went so far as to prostitute themselves via a 60-sec commercial for iTunes, where the band is seen performing in that psychedelic, image-painted style Apple used to promote it's iPod - and in case you missed the subtlety, the ad ends with a raised arm (as if in protest-mode) clutching an Apple device. Now, I…

The Twisted, Tortured Genius Of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band [Part One]

Schizo? Probably. Genius? Definitely.

Peaceful people, offering opinions/Protesting what you sincerely know is wrong/Be ready, be ready/You will probably be beaten/You will probably be arrested, and questioned/Your beliefs will be twisted/Your rights will be forgotten/Be ready....”
The excerpt above is not a treatise concerning the recent goings on in Ferguson, Missouri – the tune was written some forty-plus years earlier. Those words are not only prescient in nature, but serve as a rude awakening that things in America have actually gotten worse, not better. The man behind those lyrics is Bob Markley, and the song in question is “In The Arena.”
It opens Side One of Volume 2: Breaking Through, the third album by The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, but before we go any further, a little backstory is in order. Musicians Shaun and Danny Harris (bass and guitar respectively), along with Michael Lloyd (guitars), were three teenagers of marginal aptitude, whose songs tended to be boi…


ALCEST/Shelter (Prophecy)  - The infectious grooves and gorgeous harmonies of Alcest’s Niege (guitars, bass, vocals) and Winterhalter (drums, percussion) are hard to resist. On their album, Shelter, they incorporate influences ranging from U2 and Death Cab For Cutie to Kitchens Of Distinction, and the results are very impressive. From the U2 stylings of “Opale” to the Kitchens-informed “La Nuit Marche Avec Moi”, this music sweeps you away with its dreamy, guitar-driven pop and flawless arrangements. I only wish that, with the exception of “Away” (which sounds like a musical postscript to Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You”), more songs were divided between English and Niege’s native French. Franco-pop doesn’t sell very well on American radio, and Alcest bring a freshness to the genre that deserves to be heard. And enjoyed.  (Grade: B+)

LANA DEL REY/Ultraviolence (Interscope) - If the folks at Interscope were banking on finding the next Amy Winehouse with Lana Del Rey, they chose commerce over a…

RETRO REVIEW: "Tiny Music: Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop" by Stone Temple Pilots

The following review originally appeared in the Boston Phoenix on April 12th, 1996.

Could the eagerly awaited third release from the Rodney Dangerfields of alterna-rock be their swan song? Tiny Music: Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop (Atlantic) finds Scott Weiland, singer/lyricist for Stone Temple Pilots in the throes of a personal exorcism. His ongoing battle with heroin and cocaine came to a head with last year's well-publicized drug bust. Although fellow bandmates assert that Weiland's current rehab stint is going smoothly, their plans to tour in support of the new CD have been put on indefinite hold. Everybody's concerned that if they resume before Weiland regains his balance, the consequences could be disastrous (read: fatal). This might seem like so much well orchestrated bullshit designed to create controversy (or just plain PR), but you wont think so after listening to Tiny Music.

Following an opening instrumental warm-up ("Press Play"), STP dive headlong…

A Conversation With: Butch Vig, Part One

Butch Vig is a very easy person to talk to. On the surface, this doesn't sound so revelatory, except when you consider his pedigree in the rock arena: his alternative outfit Garbage has received numerous awards and a rabid following among critics and listeners alike; he is a talented musician who has played drums for a variety of artists, as well as producing their material. But the one thing he will go down in the history for is helming the landmark album, Nevermind, by legendary (and at this juncture, mythological) band Nirvana. His latest foray finds Vig treading the waters of alt-country with Emperors Of Wyoming, his eponymous band debut – which has already gotten critical praise.
I got the chance to sit down and talk with the multi-talented Vig prior to his appearance at this year's Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame ceremony and concert, where Nirvana was officially inducted. Our conversation was as eclectic and thought-provoking as I would have expected.
DG: I understand the E…

The White Stripes/Black Keys Smackdown: Who's Right?

If you haven't heard by now, White Stripes founder Jack White has a problem with the Black Keys. Rolling Stone, who have been chronicling the feud, wants us to believe that Mr. White is being petty and arrogant (so much so, they've reported the gist of emails concerning White's divorce [courtesy of TMZ, no freakin' surprise there], suggesting this emnity was spurred on by White saying he wouldn't want his kids to attend the same school as Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach.) But frankly, I wouldn't be so dismissive about White's assertions: that his band was first, and that the Black Keys have done a good job of assimilating the style and attitude of the group he founded with drummer Meg White in 1997.

In White's own words, "I'll hear TV commercials where the music's ripping off sounds of mine, to the point I think it's me. Half the time, it's the Black Keys. The other half, it's a sound-alike song because they couldn't license on…

Coldplay's "Ghost Stories" A Quiet Masterpiece

There's a moment that comes near the end of Ghost Stories(Parlophone/WEA), the sixth album proper by Coldplay, where singer Chris Martin breaks my heart - something he hasn't done since opening their watershed release, A Rush Of Blood To The Head with the elliptic-yet-haunting "Politik." There, Chris implored us to "open up your eyes" to the chaos of the world, before making the declaration, "Just give me love over this." I could feel every ounce of sincerity coming through in his voice, but unlike the lovesongs that moved other Coldplay devotees (from "Yellow" to "The Scientist", the latter also on Rush) I sensed that underneath, Chris was crying for the pain of being human. Folks only dance around this topic when writing songs of love, or so I thought.

The song in question on Ghost Stories is "Oceans." As on "Politik", a string arrangement figures prominently, and as on the former, the lyrics are deceptivel…