Archive for July, 2008

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

In a 1999 interview for Rolling Stone, David Bowie said that thirty percent of the lyrics he ever wrote referenced his dreams. My impression is that, considering the characters he played throughout his career and the creativity involved in it, the percentage is quite small. Bowie is not only known as an incredible musician but as a multi-talented artist. “Cracked Actor”, a BBC production from 1974 explores the artist’s US tour “Diamond Dogs”, his drug habit and struggle to let go of his famous alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. The producers chose the title, taken from one of Bowie’s songs, to name the documentary – it seems like the theatrical inspiration and behavior seemed to be present whether he was playing a role onstage or not.

(love the road trip part where he sings along to Carole Kings’ version of ‘Natural Woman’)

One of the world’s most influential musicians of all time, Bowie makes himself always present. His last studio album was released in 2003 and since then we’ve seen him in several different occasions: supporting indie rock acts like the Arcade Fire and Scarlett Johansson, being awarded with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and playing roles in Hollywood features such as “The Prestige” (where it seems that the character was specially designed for him: a modern Wizard of Oz we all know Bowie is).

Arcade Fire's fairy godfather

This summer, two different releases bring us back to David Bowie’s music, although in completely different ways. “Live in Santa Monica ’72”, recorded during his first U.S. tour, and “Life Beyond Mars”, a compilation of covers produced and recorded by emerging electronic artists. Both records illustrate Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars’ phase and their release in the year of 2008 couldn’t be a louder statement that ‘Ziggy’ was a highlight in his career.

“Live in Santa Monica ’72” is considered Bowie’s best concert album and was only available as a bootleg for over twenty years. What once was considered a rarity and part of a fan memorabilia, is now being officially released by Virgin Records. Curiously, it counts on a surprisingly good sound quality, backed by a great set list which includes the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man”, “Jean Genie” and, of course, “Ziggy Stardust”. I believe that the way it was recorded made the album more interesting than it would’ve been if its official release was planned ahead. The mix between instruments, Bowie’s voice and the crowd’s reaction to each and every song seems to bring it all to a perfect equation.

In 2007 David Bowie turned 60 years old. According to indie Hip Hop label Rapster Records, the birthday brought an idea of recording a compilation of covers inspired by the artist’s songs. Rapster is also responsible for gathering electronic artists around Radiohead’s hits for a cover album they called “Exit Music”, released in 2006. (The release didn’t have a good effect on music critics and reviews like Pitchfork’s are harsh on the project. The website gave “Exit Music” a rating of 0.6).

 

Despite the negative reviews towards Rapster’s former cover production, “Life Beyond Mars” comes out in the end of July with a buzz in the online media. With little effort you can find some of the tracks to download. I recognize I didn’t fall in love with the project right away. Even though I consider myself a David Bowie and electronic music fan, it was hard to mix both and have some sympathy for the mash-up at the beginning (even though I like “Earthling”, Bowie’s ’97 electronic-influenced album). A week has passed and it made me look at things in a different way. I allowed myself to know some of the bands, such as Au Revoir Simone – whose keyboards are a trademark of their music and their performance an almost ethereal version of “Oh, You Pretty Things!”, Matthew Dear and Kelley Polar, most of them at the beginning of their careers and assumed Bowie fans.

I couldn’t find any articles that reflected David Bowie’s opinion on both summer releases. It’s hard to imagine his disapproval, though. Known as rock’s first and best chameleon, he walked through his career using different genres as steps and exploring personalities for inspiration. While a live album that reflects one of his best moments as a performer may shine a light over a new generation, a project that translates the same generation’s recycling of his own work might be well accepted by a man that once took risks as a musician himself.

Joy Division’s “Warsaw” – Review

The following is my review for the Joy Division song “Warsaw”, an assignment for the Punk Rock & Underground class at Emerson College.

The challenge here was to review the song with no research or side material whatsoever. Although, being a Joy Division admirer, I think I let myself use of some little known facts to base my opinion on.

Later, I found some information on the web, and I thought this site was pretty helpful. If you wanna do the exercise yourself, feel free to download the file at the end of the page post, THEN read the review, THEN check out the link.

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Some people would say that reviewing music in retrospect is an easy job, considering that time has passed by to show you the background of the scene where it belonged – whatever consequence that movement had on its surroundings is already history. Another group would disagree: to build opinion about music that had a future which you’re aware of, is tough. How to pretend that the artist never became successful and not look at his early work as a promise, for example? Or how to ignore the influence of managers, producers and recording studios on some band’s music when you know their entire career, with its ups and downs? I consider myself part of the second group and have to keep ignoring what I already know and hope that it won’t trespass the opinion line. 

When I first listened to “Warsaw” I couldn’t help thinking about a group of teenagers playing music and following the recipe to become a punk rock band. The simplicity of the song’s structure translated into instantaneous punk reference. The loud but steady bass line, the guitar riffs that were never too risky and the monotone vocals gave me the same impression. The number shouting at the beginning reminded me of The Ramones even though these ones seemed to make less sense than “one-two-three-four”. Despite of that unoriginality aspect, I thought that the recording of the track itself counted on undeniable quality. The instruments could be heard clearly. At times though, I caught myself not being able to tell if drums were being played throughout the whole song or if a synthesizer was also being used.

Finally, listening to and analysing the verses left me a bit mislead – at the same time, I couldn’t understand their meaning due to its metaphors but I also admired the band for writing lyrics like that, considering that I pictured them at an early stage of their career.  I guess my admiration could be justified – they didn’t automatically jump into the mock-rock punk style like many others would, following steps already taken by The New York Dolls, The Dictators ad The Sex Pistols. That formula worked for those bands, but by the content of “Warsaw” I could tell that these guys were trying to send a message, whether it was encoded or not.

As I listened and gathered ideas to review “Warsaw”, I tried not to think of the band as the Joy Division they would become, but as a band like any other. It was easier than I expected, considering the development that time brought to their different fases as a band – at the point where this song was probably recorded, their music didn’t have the character that later they would find.   

 Joy Division – Warsaw.mp3

to all tomorrow’s blogs

I’ve been around for a while, could say I know a few good blogs.

But to me, nothing reaches Kitsune Noir‘s creativity, lightness and, of course, design.

Special recommendation to “The Desktop Wallpaper Project“. The image below illustrates my Twitter page, thanks for the amazing Mr. Ryan Cox 🙂

Summer Jukebox

Picthfork did us a big favor and put together a list of all new releases throughout this summer. Here are my picks:

1) David Bowie – “Live in Santa Monica ’72”  (out by 7/8 )

2) Albert Hammond Jr. – “Como Te Llama?” (this time he’s prioritizing his home country, out 7/8 )

3) Saturday Looks Good to Me – “Cold Colors EP” (7/8, Tuesday sounds good to me)

4) M83 – “Kim and Jessie” single (7/22)

5) Patti Smith & Kevin Shields – “The Coral Sea” (a complex reunion, out by 7/11)

6) Various Artists – “Life Beyond Mars – Bowie Covered” (7/8 )

7) Simian Mobile Disco – “Sample and Hold” (7/28, sample and hold)

8 ) The Dandy Warhols – “Earth to The Dandy Warhols” (7/28 )

P.S: There’s a lot more to come, including The Verve, The Cure and Morrisey. They’re all scheduled for September, and that just doesn’t belong to the Summer Jukebox. Wait and see.

PPS: I did not mention CSS’s “Donkey” due to a lack of interest in it.

Albert Hammond Jr – “Gfc”.mp3

On His Way

Last night I dreamed I was at some airport and bumped into Ben Kweller. He had his wife and kid by his side but apparently wasn’t going anywhere so we sat down to talk for a little while. Considering I’m a fan I didn’t really relax or stopped thinking about all the questions I wanted to ask him about his recent work. I tried to sound professional but always ended up feeling a little silly.

This has actually happened before, I mean, in real life. Back in February of ’06, I drove down to Connecticut to watch a concert and got there two hours early (at that point, I was only here for a couple of months and  wasn’t so sure about the distance between CT and Boston). When I got there, my curiosity led me into the auditorium and I ended up watching the whole sound check, no one else around. At the end I walked towards the stage and asked Ben if I could introduce myself – I’m not an autograph person. We talked about the coming album “Ben Kweller”, his fans in Brazil and took a picture. He is THE nicest guy in rock n’ roll, no doubt about it.

BK is coming out with a new album, “Changing Horses”, in September and I’ve been keeping an eye on the media for news. The other day the My Old Kentucky Blog posted a great review about one of his last concerts, in which he debuted a few songs off of it.

According to Ben, his new album reflects changes in many aspects of his life. He recently moved back to Texas, where he grew up. After living in New York for years, he’s been looking to buy a ranch and writing country inspired songs. The MYOKB interview also reveals the influence of the ‘truck driver culture’ over his new music: “..he will also release a tour-only EP entitled How ya lookin’ Southbound? Comein… (He was very specific with me about the punctuation and spelling on that title, being that it’s proper trucker lingo and all.)”

Here’s a video I found on YouTube of one of his new songs, “Fight”. That’s pretty much all we can count on at the moment. Kweller decided to kick off the “Changing Horses” tour in Europe and the album won’t be available before the Fall (Wikipedia is saying it will only be released on January ’09, but I’m keeping my faith here, if you don’t mind).

 Also, I found a BK version of Willie Mason’s “Waiter at the Station” and decided to add it to the post. Some blogs are saying it’s another new song, but that’s just poor research. The song is beautiful though, worth the download.

Ben Kweller – Waiter at the Station.mp3