Saturday, April 23, 2016

Prince Died

So Prince died a couple of days ago. Meh.

Back in January, I wrote a post about the deaths of David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Paul Kantner. I was a little upset that some twit who writes for the New York Daily News used the occasion of Frey's death to write an unflattering article about The Eagles. (As an aside, my Uncle John worked his entire working life for the Daily News. He wrote a column called "The Inquiring Photographer". If he were alive today, he'd be horrified at what a rag the Daily News has become.)

But anyway, here it is 3 months later, and Prince is dead. And I find myself uncomfortably with a more sympathetic feeling for the Daily News twit.

Here's the thing. As I've said previously, music is the most important thing in my life, other than my family. And Prince's entire career basically ran through the prime of my life. And never once was I moved to purchase even one Prince album. That might sound like a small thing, but I literally own thousands of CDs. There aren't a whole lot of major artists I've totally snubbed.

Now Denise likes Prince. And that was enough for me to sit through the entire film Purple Rain at least once, and to sit through parts of it a few more times. (Forget about Under the Cherry Moon, though. I could never handle more than about 10 minutes of that).

Our friend Chip Sciacca, of the late great local band This Island Earth, used to do sound for Prince at some of his live shows. And Chip always spoke of him in a complimentary way.

But I just never got what people saw (and heard) in Prince. He had a few songs I though were decent, most notably "When Doves Cry".

I think part of it was because it seemed like the guy took himself so seriously, but he was so unrelentingly goofy. A few examples: 1) When she was getting started, he tried to talk Vanity into using the stage name "Vegeena". Vageena? really?; 2) Remember when he changed his name to Squiggle (or whatever the hell that stupid symbol was supposed to be)?; and 3) "Oooo, Vicky Vale!". He always just seemed like a guy who a living, breathing caricature of a pretentious pop star. 'Nuff said.

Anyway, if you're one of the many to whom Prince and his music meant something, my apologies to you, and my condolences for your loss. I really feel bad about being the kind of butthole who has to piss on someone's memory of an artist they loved. With so many fans who loved his music, I accept there must have been something there.

I was just never able to hear it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sucks.

I could probably end my post right there and you'd have the gist of what I want to say. But I guess I should explain.

First of all, it's in Cleveland. Really. Cleveland.

But that's not the worst of it. The worst is that it's perfectly willing to induct rap artists, blues artists, artists from various genres that have little to nothing to do with rock, but they deliberately snub artists from one of the more important rock sub-genres, progressive rock.

How many progressive rock artists have been inducted into the Hall? Well there's Genesis. Certainly the Peter Gabriel lineup was a progressive rock band. Not sure if they would have been inducted if it weren't for the poppier Phil Collins version of the band, but whatever. We'll give them that one.

Then there's Pink Floyd. That's a legitimate entry. 'Nuff said.

Wikipedia lists both Queen and Rush as progressive rock bands. I'm not totally sure about this categorization of Rush, and it took years and a lot of arm-twisting from their fans to get them in there, but OK.

I'm not sure if most people would consider The Who a progressive rock band, but with the rock operas, sometimes use of synthesizers, etc., they certainly had progressive rock elements.

And that's about it.

No Jethro Tull. No Yes. No Moody Blues or Emerson, Lake & Palmer, or even King Crimson. Don't even think about bands like Strawbs, Renaissance, Procol Harum or Gentle Giant. We have N.W.A. though. Boy, do we have N.W.A.

The problem is that the induction process is controlled by a closed little club of people who obviously let their personal tastes and prejudices rule supreme over any kind of logic or fairness. Jann Wehner and his little cabal rule the process with an iron hand, and they keep the process of who gets selected and how as secret as they can. I'm pretty sure there is some human sacrifice involved, some upside-down crucifixes. Definitely some Satan's penis kissing. It's the only thing that makes sense.

I love music. It's one of the most important things in my life. But if I gave you a list of my favorite 20 bands/artists of all time (which I won't, at least not today. After the last couple of posts, I'm all listed out for awhile), only nine of the 20 are currently R&RHoF inductees. Two of them aren't eligible yet, so there's a valid reason there. One of them, Rush, had to practically break down the doors. And I appreciate that a band like The Good Rats were never that well known nationally, although I think they should have been. But what about the others? The answer -- most are progressive rock bands, the sub-genre that dare not speak its name. (At least not in Cleveland).

So until Jethro Tull and Yes, at least, are inducted, I will never visit The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I'll always maintain that Jann Wehner sucks. Because he does.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Top 20 Songs of 2015: Part 2

I can't believe it's taken me until April 1 to post this. Work hours and health issues have just been kicking my ass, but better late than never, I guess.

10. Pvris -- "Smoke"

This is a band from Lowell, MA who hit it big last year with their White Noise album. They got a lot of coverage from magazines like Alternative Press and playing last year's Vans Warped Tour. This is a slow song with a lot of sexual heat. What's with spelling "Pvris" with a "v", though? For some reason, my iPod just can't cope with it, and I have to look them up by the album name instead of the band name. It's annoying. Anyway, lead singer Lyndsey Gunnulfsen has been getting more love in the press than any alt rock female singer since Hayley Williams.

9. Meg Myers -- "Desire"

This is another slow song sung by a female singer with a lot of sexual heat in the mix. Meg Myers is a Los Angeles resident (by way of Nashville, TN). Her debut CD Sorry made my Top 10 this year, not bad for a new artist. The album charted on the Billboard 200, and the song peaked at #17 on their Alternative Songs chart. She sings with some definite attitude. She claims to have been heavily into grunge, but her interest is in mixing it in with some nice pop hooks.  I think she's done a decent job of that here.

8. Lord Huron -- "Meet Me in the Woods"

I expected the Strange Trails CD that this came from to be a heavy rock album, probably because I was mixed up and thought the band had named itself after Lord Humongous from The Road Warrior film. Instead, it turns out Lord Huron is an indie folk band from Los Angeles. Nevertheless, there's a kind of darkness to this album, and particularly to this song, which hints of unspeakable acts going on in the woods ("There ain't language for the things I've seen/The truth is stranger than my own worse dreams"). And there's nothing I like better than a nice dark song.

7. Tang -- "The 11th Hour"

Tang's Blood & Sand was my Number One album for 2015, and this song is a good example of why. It's kind of medium-paced, with both melodic and screamo vocals, and the lyrics are full of images of armageddon. The song has some great dynamics, with soft breaks that contrast nicely with the points where all hell breaks loose. And although the song holds up just fine by itself, there's a great moody intro track called "Ashes" that leads into it. Blood & Sand was my Number One album of the year from the first time I heard it, and this track is one of the reasons why.

6. Elle King -- "America's Sweetheart"

This is what they used to call "shitkicker" music, with some driving banjo and a country-sounding vocal. To listen to her, you'd probably think Elle King was a Nashville gal, but she was born in Los Angeles and currently lives in Brooklyn (and frighteningly enough, apparently she's the daughter of Rob Schneider, the comedian). The song is about drinking, picking up guys and then dumping them, and otherwise  trying her hardest to not be a role model. ("What do you want from me/I'm not America's sweetheart"). It's not usually my style of music, but she does it really well.

5. Death Cab for Cutie -- "Little Wanderer"

As Death Cab is wont to do, this is a stark number, kind of quiet and sad. It's about a long distance relationship and what it's like to be the person that stays at home while the other one indulges in wanderlust ("But someone's gotta be the lighthouse/And that someone's gotta be me"). The song is bittersweet, and the music fits the theme.

4. The Juliana Hatfield Three -- "If I Could"

Weird coincidence, but this is the second song in a row on this list where the theme is long-distance relationships sung by the partner who stays behind. As compared to the previous song, this one is faster-paced, and the chorus has a really strong hook. The album is called Whatever My Love, and although Hatfield has been active as a solo act over the last 20 years, this is the first time The Juliana Hatfield Three has been back together since 1993's Become What You Are album. "If I Could" is a little less sad than "Little Wanderer", but no less worthy a single.

3. Jeremy Gilchrist -- "Letter from the 21st"

Jeremy Gilchrist is a singer-songwriter who currently resides in Vermont. This song is one of his strongest ever. It's basically a musical love letter to a future generation and an apology for the world our generation has left for them. The song is slow and a little sad, but there's also a sense of optimism that the future can be better, even if the present is less than ideal ("Sorry you can't drink money/It suited us just fine"). Though the lyrics are sarcastic and at times filled with mild despair, there's a sweetness in the hope that maybe future generations will learn from our mistakes. Nice job by a former Long Islander.

2. The Decemberists -- "Make You Better"

For most of the year, I thought this song was going to be my Number 1. It's certainly worthy. It's slow and fairly sparse, and has a strong vocal by Colin Meloy. I'll be honest -- I have no idea what some of the lyrics mean, beyond the fact that they're  about a relationship that's obviously gone south ("I want you thin fingers, I wanted you, thin fingernails"). But the words are kind of poetic, and the song definitely evokes a wistful feeling. There's also a cool video for it, featuring the band playing on a German television talk show while the clueless host fantasizes about hitting on his beleaguered production assistant.

1. Antigone Rising -- "My Town"

Antigone Rising has released two EPs in the last two years, Whiskey & Wine Vols. 1 and 2, and if they'd have released them as one full-length LP, it would have scored high in my Top 10 Albums list. Lead singer Nini Camps has always had an exquisite voice, and this is one of her strongest numbers. The song has a rural or small town feel to it, and while it might be an idealized vision, I really want to live in this town ("There's something here for saints/And for sinners like me"), where they "give second chances" because "We're hopeless romantics like that". This band has always managed to make a career for itself, but in a fairer world, they'd be huge.

So that wraps up my musings on 2015. I'm just starting to listen to some stuff from this year, so hopefully next post, I'll have something a little more up to date.