Showing posts from 2017

Reviewing The Klaatu Discography [1976-81]

Klaatu (aka: 3:47 EST) [1976] - The album that started it all: from the circuitous rumors surrounding the group's members (probably didn't help that Klaatu was on the same label as The Beatles, Capitol) to the deliciously Beatlesque minor single, "Sub Rosa Subway", Klaatu's debut not only showcases the musical dexterity of the band, but as pop albums go in general, is one very impressive album. From the ambitious opener, "Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft" to the Beach Boys-inspired "California Jam", Klaatu seamlessly integrates the classic rock of the 60's and 70's, while their songcraft is equally on-par with the sonic influences on display. The delightful "Doctor Marvello" is a sonic collage of psychedelia (from the backwards piano-chord intro to the shimmering sitar filigrees and reverse-engineered guitar to the Turtles-influenced harmonies circa "You Showed Me"), while the goofy "Sir Bodsworth Rugg…

December Edition: Beck's Pop Sellout, Klaatu Revisited

Beck Colors (Capitol/Fonograf Records) -

After 2014's gorgeous but highly derivative love-letter to 70's AM pop, Morning Phase(which snagged him a Grammy for Album Of The Year), one would've expected Beck to get his freak flag back on, and deliver an au courant, stylistically eclectic and, well, challenging follow-up. Instead, on Colors, Beck appears to acknowledge how much the pop landscape evolved in the 40 plus years since that decade held sway on album and radio charts. That is to say, Colors is as contemporary as anything dominating Billboards Hot 100, and frankly, by extension, everything about today's music worthy of (a much overdue) critique.

Working (and co-writing) with producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Gwen Stefani) Beck's wordplay on Colorsis deceptively analytical of the pop pastiches it cheerfully embraces, which makes this either ironic, or merely schizophrenic. "I'm on a one-man waiting list/I'm bored again/I've buried all my memories&q…

Steven Wilson Plays It (Mostly) Safe On "To The Bone"

Steven Wilson - To The Bone (Caroline International)

Somewhere in a parallel universe, Steven Wilson's seminal band Porcupine Tree would occupy the same stratosphere of exalted recognition as Radiohead: indeed, Wilson was delivering his brand of sonic wizardry as Thom Yorke and Co. were just embarking on their journey toward becoming so fucking special. As a prog rock/art rock savant, Wilson's penchant for embracing elements of folk, progressive rock and ambient/cinematic textures made such albums as Signify, In Absentia, and Fear of a Blank Planet light years ahead of their time.

Considering Wilson's resumé includes internships with the likes of King Crimson, Opeth, Yoko Ono and others, it's surprising he would feel the need to dissolve Porcupine Tree to focus on a solo career - though Wilson has never publicly stated Porcupine Tree was a closed chapter. Nonetheless, Wilson's stepping into the spotlight by name has caused more folks to sit up and take notice. Taki…

2018 RNRHOF Nominees: Nice Choices, But You're Still A Sham(e)

Dear Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

How can I put this? In the lexicon of artistic redemption, you remain forever tainted. And not just because of your bullshit concerning why The Monkees aren't worthy of induction, but Madonna and Run DMC are - although that's as good an example as any. I notice your 2018 nominees list includes some aesthetically worthy names, but your modus operandi remains unchanged, and until the voting body of your nebulous 'foundation' actually rights past wrongs, no amount of lofty acknowledgment and praise will tame the stench of your politically-motivated, inconsistent, and thinly-veiled biases.

This announcement (serving as a precursor to who will actually be deemed worthy to enter your (s)hallowed halls) is little more than a teaser, for just because an artist is nominated, it doesn't insure the majority of music industry illuminati will agree upon giving such recognition - after all, repeat nominees appear on this year's roster, as has…

U2, Quicksand Offer Glimpses (Via Video) Of Their Upcoming Albums

So I'm sitting here, listening to "The Blackout" - a live performance video from the monolith known as U2, and two things immediately spring to mind: one, U2 still knows how to bring it in a concert setting (which should be surprising, given the Dublin foursome have been at this for nearly 40 years), and two, (and this part is gonna infuriate many) this new tune from the forthcoming Songs Of Experience wouldn't seem the least bit out of place on All You Need Is Now, the Mark Ronson-produced album by Duran Duran. You heard me.....I said Duran Duran. And I don't mean that as the pejorative you might think I'm suggesting.

When I reviewed DD's 2010 release, I subtitled it, How To Dismantle A Pop Myth. The U2 comparison then was also deliberate, as I was pointing out that both bands have a viscously loyal following - that is, so long as they adhere to the 'formula' their fans expect; as it turns out, both bands released a couple of daring, experimental…

Overlooked Classic: New Order's Trenchant debut, "Movement"

The Scene: Spring, 1980 - England's Joy Division, archetypes of the post-punk/goth-wave scene, are set to go on their first stateside tour in support of the band's newly-released album, Closer. A month prior, the band released the 7" single, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" - a gloomy, synth-laden elegy to a troubled relationship, that would go on to become the band's biggest and most iconic hit. Lead singer Ian Curtis had long differentiated himself from the rest of the post-punk cabal with his brooding monotone, steely, frenetic stage persona (Curtis's epilepsy was a secret even his record label was unaware of), coupled with a palpable angst that made many wonder if it was theatrical artifice, or the soul-baring confessions of a man not at ease within his own skin.

Curtis battled with depression for most of his adult life: one one level, the band was a lifeline, a saving grace - a place he could crawl into to be insular, while still connecting with a youth cu…

Roger Waters and Todd Rundgren: Outspoken Artists or Leftist Crybabies?

Let's face it: we are living in some very politically-charged times. Seems like the battles lines were writ large with the 2015 US Presidential campaign, where the age of gutter-politics and yellow journalism reached its societal epoch (or should I say nadir?), and it appears there's no turning back. Musicians, always at the forefront of sociopolitical discourse, have spoken out against both injustices they deemed unacceptable, as well as the traditional machinations of the Republic and the elected representatives of that Republic. But while there is a historic precedent between rock'n'roll and the political arena, one has to wonder if at some point, decorum and civility got thrown under the bus.

From the violence-inciting comments of celebs like Madonna (who mused aloud about wanting to "blow up the White House") to the audience backlash hurled at Kanye West when he dared state that perhaps the Democratic party haven't done much to uplift African-America…

WEEKEND RECAP: Lana Del Rey, Pop Tease; Let Us Now Praise Randy Newman

"My boyfriend's back, and he's cooler than ever/there's no more night, blue skies forever" whispers Lana Del Rey on the title track of her upcoming fifth album, getting high with a little help from The Weeknd, before crooning, "Take off, take off, take off all your clothes......" And there lies the walking contradiction that is Del Rey: she wants to embrace the girl-group ethos of the 60's, so much so, she isn't afraid to name check a song by The Angels, yet not content with that genre's innocence/naivete, she pushes the envelope by pleading for something a little more carnal. So when she says "A lust for life keeps us alive" you find yourself thinking less Iggy Pop, and more Claudine Longet. 
Actually, the Longet analogy is fitting on more levels than one might realize - strip away the contemporary sonic trappings, and you will find the simplicity of 60's pop ingenues Longet, Sinatra (Nancy) and even Petula Clark. The album&#…

Weekend Recap: Record Store Day, Norah Jones, Kill The Alarm

Saturday marks the ten-year anniversary of Record Store Day, an event which began back in 2007 as an attempt to revitalize the dwindling independent record store business. Since its humble beginnings, when Metallica visited fans at Rasputin Music in San Francisco to promote a limited-run EP produced specifically for the event, Record Store Day has grown from a grass roots Americana gathering to an international sensation, with both independent and major labels getting in on the action.

Adding to the uniqueness of this happening is the fact that audiophiles can grab limited-edition releases, made only available on the day of the event - often containing rare and previously unreleased material which will never see the light of day on an album proper. In fact, this year's roster of commemorative releases is so huge, the PDF on their website is over 8 pages long, and includes both alternative (The Claypool/Lennon Delirium, The Lumineers, Avenged Sevenfold) and major label heavyweights…

Modern English: A Viable Resurgence

It has come to my attention recently that this month marks the 30-year anniversary of The Joshua Tree, U2's game-changing album that, with a little help from MTV, became a watershed moment for four unassuming lads from Dublin, and would forever inform the musical landscape of 80's rock'n'roll. And so here we are, three decades later - and besides feeling the ravages of time and space, we are also bearing witness to a resurgence of many of the innovative bands ushered in by the era of  The Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star" releasing new music for a new generation.

Two such artists in particular, Depeche Mode and Modern English, have given us new albums in 2017 - Spirit, DM's fourteenth CD, comes out at the end of the week. And only weeks earlier, Modern English (best known for the new-wave hit, "I'll Melt With You") quietly dropped the engaging Take Me To The Trees, marking the first new music by members of the original group in near…

Hanging On The Telephone With.........Mike Watt

My conversation with Mike about "Ring Spiel Tour, '95", politics, music and.......Happy Days?

© Kevin Mazur

DG: Hey Mike, I wanna thank you for sharing some of my work with the blueprint conspiracy (including the collaboration with Morphine's Dana Colley) on your podcast, The Watt From Pedro Show. I'm thrilled to be included with other eclectic artists on your playlists....
MW: Well, I dig the stuff you're doing, man. But I guess we should be talking about the Ring Spiel album right? I'm a little tight on interviews today. Whaddaya want to know?
DG: Correct me if I'm wrong, but the album captures a leg of your tour in 1995 in support of your solo debut, ballhog or tugboat?
MW: Yeah. That tour and album turned twenty-one last year. I guess that makes it legal now. But I mean, you can't call it a solo album.....not really. There's 48 musicians working with me on ball hog or tugboat?. Even if it's "your own band", there's still t…