LP Review: The Dead Daises, “Make Some Noise”

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Maybe it was the release of Metallica’s hard, heavy metal single, “Hardwired” that put me in a hard rock/heavy metal mood, but all weekend long I found myself searching out something loud to listen to. I needed some “rawk!” Maybe something a little less punishingly hard than the excellent “Hardwired…” I needed some 80’s style metal. Luckily, my friend Drummer Blake reached out and mentioned a band to me that I’ve been hearing about lately, the Dead Daisies. I had some vague ideas that they were a hard rock band but wasn’t sure what to expect. Drummer Blake assured me, “all members (of the Dead Daisies) are monster players.” Man, he wasn’t kidding.

The Dead Daisies are almost more of a musical collective than a band, sort of like the Queens of the Stone Age. They have some members who seem more or less permanent but they’ve had quite a few folks revolve in and out during their brief history. Members past and present have played with Motley Crue, Whitesnake, GnR, Thin Lizzy, INXS, the Cult and even some of the backing members of the Rolling Stones and Xpensive Winos. That’s quite a pedigree, if I do say so myself.

Is it possible for a band to be a “Supergroup” if its members all come from bigger bands, but no one has ever heard of these particular musicians? The most well known guy currently in the band is John Corabi who is most known for his one LP stint as lead singer of Motley Crue… and here I thought Corabi was a rock and roll footnote… boy, was I wrong. Doug Aldrich is the lead guitarist (who actually came in to replace Richard Fortus who left with Dizzy Reed to rejoin GnR on their spectacular reunion tour). Aldrich apparently played guitar with Whitesnake and Dio and the guy can shred. The line up is filled out by Marco Mendoza (Thin Lizzy) on bass, Brian Tichy (Whitesnake) drums and David Lowy on rhythm guitar.

“Make Some Noise,” their current album, which came out on August 5th is a hard rock party. I really had a lot of fun listening to this album this weekend. The music reminds me of Slash’s last solo album with Myles Kennedy, “World On Fire.” That’s not to say Aldrich is as good as Slash, nobody is as good on lead as Slash but Aldrich can play. The tunes on this album have a similar sound. “Long Way To Go” kicks the album off like a cannon shot. It may be my favorite song on here. But there are many stand outs here – “Last Time I Saw the Sun,” “Mainline,” and “Freedom” are all kick ass, upbeat hard rock tunes. These guys rock like it’s 1987 again and I mean that as a compliment. In one tune I even heard somebody mention cocaine… ah, the 80’s.

The band does two really great covers, CCR’s “Fortunate Son” in what may be the most muscular, rocking version of that song ever done, and The Who’s “Join Together” to end the album. Full disclosure: I love both of those songs, so I’m prejudiced, but those covers are perfect for this band. I especially like to turn up the volume on “Fortunate Son.” The title track, “Make Some Noise” is a shout along stomper that could have been lifted from a Quiet Riot album… Ah, the flashbacks…Needless today, there are no ballads here…If you rock this well, who needs to slow it down for the chicks.

I’m not seeing a lot about these guys in the music press or hearing any of this great rock and roll on the radio, terrestrial or satellite, but if you dig hard rock, do yourself a favor and check out “Make Some Noise.” I found myself smiling all weekend while I listened to this album. Pour yourself something strong and that smile might even cross your face too!

Double Devil Horns to all of you!

Cheers!

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Metallica’s New Single: “Hardwired,” a Breakneck Badass Return

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 Ah, Metallica. Is there a band who inspired so much loyalty in their early days and so much ire in their later career? I wasn’t in the first wave of Metallica fans who flocked to the band’s anger and alienation over the course of their brilliant first four albums: “Kill ‘Em All,” “Ride the Lightning,” “Master of Puppets,” and “…And Justice For All.” It was quite a creative run over those first four albums. It could be argued they set the template for all hard rock/heavy metal going forward. What they were doing ran counter to everything that was going on in metal during the 80s: big hair, make up, songs about sex, and lycra. Metallica was just raw, angry emotion set to hard, loud guitar played as fast as possible. “Louder, faster” was their mantra. Those first wave of fans were fucking rabid. I remember my friend’s little brother’s roommate. who tattoo’d “Metallica” on his inner arm. He was in med school. Could you imagine some little old lady in an ER being treated by this guy in scrubs who happens to see the Dr’s bicep with “Metallica” tattoo’d on it… heart attack cart, stat!

I got in on Metallica around the time of the “Metallica” album, aka “The Black Album.” For some reason their turn toward shorter, more “riff-driven” songs was seen as a sellout. You can only take the 10-minute epic metal tunes so far, folks. I saw them on the Lollapalooza tour and I was impressed by “Ain’t My Bitch.” I was going through some things, anyway, I liked that tune a lot. I bought the “Black Album” and then worked my way backwards through the four early masterpieces. My fandom was shaken a bit during that whole “Load”/”Reload” period. It was hit and miss for me – I still despise the song “Fuel.” I did like the covers album “Garage Inc.” I had basically drifted away from Metallica as each successive album took longer and longer to appear. When suddenly, four years ago, “Death Magnetic” came out.

I really liked that album. It wasn’t a rehash of their old stuff, but it seemed to be a modern update of that long, epic song pattern they’d created on those early albums. It was a true return to form, as they say. Suddenly I found myself back at the turntable putting on “Ride the Lightning” and air-guitaring to “The Call of the Ktulu” while head banging with such intensity my cat would run and hide and believe me, that cat loved me. RIP, Merlin.

It took four more long years, but Metallica have finally returned with a new single “Hardwired,” basically the title track of their new album due in November, “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct.” And I must say, if they were thinking they were going to get any airplay on terrestrial radio with the chorus, “we’re so fucked, shit out of luck…” I’d say they were pretty accurate on that whole “self-destruct” thing. I’m trying to imagine that meeting with the record company, “Ok, it’s been four years guys, but the new single is going to be unplayable on the radio, yeah fuck radio, we’re Metallica!” Ah, Hetfield, always thinking ahead.

This new tune, “Hardwired” is hard rock played at breakneck speed. It’s fast and dirty. And I mean it’s sleazy dirty, and that’s a good thing. It’s also fast, like they all said, “Ok, meet me at the finish line guys…go!” From a sonic palette, it sounds very much akin to the sound of “Death Magnetic” but this tune clocks in at barely over 3 minutes, something unthinkable on that last album. The gaps between the tunes were longer than the length of “Hardwired” on the last LP, “Death Magnetic.” The song hits so hard and goes by so fast there’s almost a punk ethos here. Lar’s drums are manic, like a heart beating so fast it’s about to explode. Kirk Hammett’s guitar solo, while brief, is as melodic and intense (and quickly played) as anything he’s done. Kirk is truly one of the great lead guitarists and I don’t think he gets enough credit. Hetfield is the usual Hetfield, he just barks out the lyrics with unbridled enthusiasm.

This song absolutely “RAWKS” and should be checked out by anybody into metal, Metallica or just plain good fucking heavy metal.

Double “Devil Horns” to all of you, Cheers!

Travelogue: Fear And Loathing* In MSP Airport: I Meet a Bernie Sanders Fan

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*A weak homage to Hunter S. Thompson

I’ve always loved the writing of Hunter S Thompson. “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” was given to me by my dear friend DJ and it’s one of my all time favorites. One of the things that seems to get glossed over these days is the brilliant political writing he did. “Fear And Loathing On the Campaign Trail ’72” is a fascinating read. Of course, I’ve always been a little obsessed with that era of American history. Not only did Hunter write his book in ’72, published serially in Rolling Stone magazine, but he came up with the idea for Tim Crouse’s “The Boys On the Bus” detailing the press’s and the campaign’s symbiotic (and at times ethically challenged) relationship. Apparently, early on in the ’72 campaign, cigarette holder clinched between his teeth, Thompson said to Crouse, while pointing at the pack of reporters, “Those are the bastards you really oughta be watching…” True words indeed…

Despite my enjoyment of Hunter’s political writings, I’m not a political person per se. I enjoyed reading his books because of the historical perspective that it gave me, however warped that perspective may have been. I try to never discuss politics unless “I’m talking a little treason” amongst likeminded friends at the pub. I like the words of Little Steven’s song, “I Am A Patriot” in regards to my view on politics:

I ain’t no communist
And I ain’t no capitalist
And I ain’t no socialist
And I ain’t no imperialist
And I ain’t no democrat
And I ain’t no republican
I only know one party
And it is freedom

Needless to say BourbonAndVinyl won’t be endorsing any candidates. I certainly would never ever talk about politics to a stranger. And yet, this being an election year, politics is on everybody’s mind. It’s hard to avoid a political discussion even in the oddest places… say, in a tavern on a concourse of the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport on a cold February evening. And while it’s not exactly a political story… in honor of Dr Gonzo, I must share. And I will say, as a disclaimer, I admire Mr Sanders and this is in no way meant to be derogatory toward him or his followers. I just thought it was a good story and weird things continue to happen to me…


I’ve always considered Minneapolis a gem of a city, since the first time I visited there a decade ago. The downtown has a lot of great nightlife and restaurants. I even had a rather wild evening there where I ended up in some place called Nye’s which I thought was in Canada, but that was a different B&V post. The main problem with Minneapolis is it’s too fucking cold. I honestly don’t know how anybody lives there. I wander the downtown ant-like tunnels and walkways to avoid going outside, still shivering, surrounded by Nordic types who seem oblivious to the cold. More power to them.

For reasons unclear, the team that works for me there always seem to summon me up there in the dead of winter. I never get to visit Minneapolis during their all too brief 4 day summer season, it’s always February when I get to go to Minny. It’s hard enough to fly but in winter to fly to Minneapolis means you have to peel layer after layer off when you get on the plane and then put it back on again when you land. I had spent two very cold, crazed nights in Minneapolis and was, as usual on these trips, exhausted when I got to the airport. I had been forced to again strip off layer after layer while being x-rayed and probed by the TSA people only to have to put everything back on again. I lumbered down the concourse where my gate was, looking like an extra on The Revenant set and I couldn’t help but think, after the stressful business reviews I’d attended, that perhaps a libation might ease my travel woes and warm me up. Near the Burger King, I spotted a pub and to my surprise, an open seat at the end of the bar. I went crashing through tables and people with my coats, bags and winter gear to claim the open seat.

“Is this seat open?” I asked. The bartender and the rumpled woman in the next seat seemed all too eager to both say in unison, “No, sit down.” I ordered a bourbon from the harried bartender and covertly glanced at the woman to my right. Her hair was a long, tangled mess. She couldn’t be local because she was only wearing a t-shirt that was belted at the waist with what looked like rope. Her arms were pasty with blotches of sunburn. Her wrists had too many bracelets to count. I thought perhaps she was somebody coming home from a vacation or perhaps a hippy escaped from her commune. In front of her sat a extra large screwdriver with an extra shot of vodka on the side. She looked a little bleary and I didn’t really feel like talking to anybody anyway so I just sort of closed myself off. It’s like that scene in the movie Sharky’s Machine, where the black cop goes completely blank. I was doing that imitation to avoid speaking to this drunken stranger.

“Sssso are you headed home or headed ssssomplace elsssse?” the woman slurred at me. Home, I answered. “Me too, I’ve been in Phoenix… my mom is sick. I was staying at my brother’s house.” Now that she had played her sick mom card I had to come out of my Sharky’s Machine zen place of detachment and at least talk with her. I could tell she was hammered. “I got stoned with my niece, I’m the cool art teacher aunt.” Sure, lady, sure.

The TV was tuned into CNN and suddenly beady-eyed candidate Scott Walker was on the screen. My bar mate became extremely agitated…I guess because she was a teacher and Gov Walker had done a lot to destroy the teacher’s union in Wisconsin. “This fucker is the devil…” she exclaimed loudly. When I saw the rest of the bar turn toward her, I considered egging her on but returned to my zen quiet place. “Who are you  gonna vote for?” she asked me suddenly. Geez lady, why not ask me if I go to church or if I masturbate? “Uh, I don’t talk about politics, ever…” I had hoped that response would shut her down. But after slamming her vodka shot, finishing her screwdriver and quickly ordering another, she asked me again. Suddenly I found myself trapped in a conversational loop that didn’t appear to have an end – she’d ask who I was voting for and I’d decline to answer. It was like that comedy routine, “who’s on first?”

“You remind me of my brother…I bet you’re a Republican.” I was dressed in a suit and tie and looked like an off-duty narcotics agent, I could see where I might give off that vibe, but again I declined to give her a definitive answer. My politics are more “fluid.” “You remind me of my brother she repeated.” At least she’d stopped asking me who I was going to vote for. I hadn’t asked her but suddenly she volunteered, “I feel the Bern. I’m 100% behind Bernie Sanders and I say fuck anybody who isn’t.” She was significantly more agitated and in order to deal with her, I quickly ordered another bourbon. I was wondering when the jack booted thugs in airport security were going to burst into the bar and club her into submission. I only hoped I wouldn’t be collateral damage. She ordered another large screwdriver but said she’d settle for a shot of vodka… the elderly bartender gave her a glass of orange juice and said, “Sweety, I think you’ve had enough.” Wow, here was something I’d never seen before, a person cut off in an airport bar. It’s like a crack dealer turning down a junkie with money. You just never expect to see that.

Being cut off seemed to jar her back to reality briefly. She started asking every 2 minutes, what time it was. Her flight was in another ninety minutes and she had to get back to Green Bay. When I looked at my watch the third time, to verify that only 2 minutes had passed since her last asking me, she noticed my wedding ring. “So, you’re married?” Uh, yes. “I am too, but I have to tell you, I’m very attracted to you…” Uh, oh this was getting weirder. I’ve been married a long time… nobody had seriously worked me for ages. I went back to my zen place of blankness. I didn’t respond at all. I sipped my bourbon and wished they allowed smoking in this bar, even though I don’t smoke. Now seemed like a good time to start.

“Yes, I’m very attracted to you. You remind me of my brother.” I had to pause and consider that sentence for a while… Before I could truly digest her simultaneous attraction to her brother and me, she leaned in and conspiratorially whispered, “Do you think there’s a unisex bathroom around here… we could lock the door.”

Um… no.

I wasn’t sure what kind of incestuous fantasy this vodka crazed socialist was working on, but I’m happily devoted to the Rock Chick… I was having none of this. Maybe my suit made her consider me “the man” and she wanted me to “stick it to her” in a literal way. I considered saying, “I’m flattered” but by this time she had a death grip on my forearm and I was wondering how I’d explain getting into a fist fight with an art teacher in the MSP airport to the authorities.

Thankfully, the bartender, who had been intently listening to all of this, likely with the idea he was going to have to restrain this woman at some point, set another bourbon in front of me, it was apparently gratis, and gave the socialist art teacher her bill. Jumping on his train of thought, I said, “Quick, you must get to your gate, it’s almost flight time…” despite the fact that only a few additional minutes had passed and this woman had another 70 minutes until flight. It seemed the appropriate time to motivate her movement.

As she staggered slowly away, she turned to say good bye and I whispered, “Don’t worry, I’ll never vote for Trump…” It was the most I’d said publicly about politics in years but I felt she’d earned it. I don’t begrudge anyone their politics and I admired her devotion to Bernie Sanders but I just wasn’t going to talk politics with her in an airport bar. I certainly wasn’t going to join her in the bathroom either, but that goes without saying. And off she staggered, a tangle of scarves, coats, and luggage. I’ll never know if she made it home alive or not. I just thank God she didn’t locate a unisex bathroom…

It did turns out the bartender, who had been highly entertained by the entire exchange, did charge me for that last bourbon. Oh well, it was worth it to get her out of there…

Cheers!

“City Lights” – Single From The White Stripes/Jack White “Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016”

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As anybody whose read B&V before knows, I’m a huge fan of archival releases. If an artist has anything in the vault, I’m typically interested. Be it Bob Dylan’s official “Bootleg” releases, Springsteen’s “Tracks” or Van Morrison’s “Philosopher’s Stone,” count me in. Sometimes there’s a hidden gem in there, something the artist for whatever odd reason decided not to release. Maybe it didn’t fit the album it was recorded for. Musicians, what are you gonna do? If there’s a rare B-side tucked away in there, count me in…”what? there’s an acoustic demo with a saxophone… shit I’ve gotta have that.” I think the thing that draws me in the most when an artist opens up the vaults and releases stuff from their archives is that it many times provides an insight into their creative process. Of course, the Rock Chick says I’m just a obsessive compulsive “completist.” Which, sadly, may also be true.

With that as a backdrop, it probably comes as no surprise that when I heard Jack White was releasing something called “Acoustic Recordings 1998-2016” that I’d be forced to investigate. I’m a huge Jack White fan. I think of the White Stripes as one of the really great bands of all time. Their fusion of punk and blues was something I didn’t think was possible. I was lucky enough to see them on the “Elephant” tour (and several others) and Jack White simply amazed me with his energy and his lead guitar/keyboards/vocals. I had a buddy who saw him on his last solo tour and he compared it to seeing Hendrix (not that my buddy ever saw Hendrix, but he was that impressed with Jack’s guitar playing)… high praise indeed. I even followed Jack to the Raconteurs but I was only really interested in the tracks where he was the lead singer. “Steady As She Goes,” and “Blue Veins” from the first album and “Carolina Drama” from their second record stand out amongst his best. The Rock Chick dug the Dead Weather where Jack supposedly only played drums, and did some limited vocals, and I liked those tunes too. Jack is so charismatic that he’s going to pull the focus in any band he’s in.

With all that guitar hero talk it’s often easy to forget that the White Stripes and Jack’s solo stuff also has a strong acoustic element. “Hotel Yorba” and “We’re Going to Be Friends” immediately spring to minds as Stripes’ classics. “Love Interruption” has some nice acoustic work over some groovy keyboards. After thinking about those tunes, the whole “Acoustic Recordings” concept started to make sense to me.

The album isn’t released until September 9th but I’ve perused the song list. Unless these are all “alternative” versions, the songs on disc one mostly look like previously released songs. Meaning this is just a way of packaging up the acoustic stuff, no revelations to be found. The second disc looks like it has more acoustic demo/alternative mix stuff on it. We’ll just have to wait and see when the disc comes out.

However, until that time, we do have one song, billed to The White Stripes and Jack White that has been released, “City Lights.” I didn’t recognize the song but Jack was kind enough to add “Previously Unreleased” to the title to help tip me off it was something from the vaults. It’s all acoustic guitar and Jack singing in a minor falsetto. There is some light percussion, but I don’t know (based on the dual billing White Stripes/Jack White) if that is the mysterious Meg White playing the shaker? Call it my Sunday night mood, but there is something about Jack’s acoustic strumming on this song that recalls Led Zeppelin III but that may be the wine talking… It’s a quiet number that finds Jack in a somber mood. It is heavy on their folksy side, perhaps that’s what made me think of the acoustic side of Zeppelin… I almost wonder if this is a plea to Meg to return to the band when he sings, “every move suspends an action, any attempt to engage will push away, what you want becomes a magnet, opposing poles, never meeting.”  I love the imagery of the singer being on a plane headed toward someone… powerful stuff.

“City Lights” is a very good song from Jack White. It makes me hope there are some more alternative mixes/versions on “Acoustic Recordings” to explore. I certainly have something to look forward to on September 9th now…

Cheers!

Charity Single/Bowie Tribute: “Cat People” feat: Dave Gahan, Mark Lanegan

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 “And I’ve been putting out fire…with gasoline”

It would be virtually impossible for me to pick a “favorite” Bowie tune. But perhaps influenced by the film starring a comely Natasha Kinski of the same name, “Cat People” was always a particular favorite of mine. There was something about that tune that always hit me hard… perhaps it spoke to the urgency of being in my late teens when I first heard it? I can still remember the first time hearing it playing over the credits as the movie ended and thinking, “what is that?”

Bowie recorded a different version of the song for the album “Let’s Dance” but when I first heard that version, I knew something was different. The guitar had been punched up and the percussion was different. It was still a great version of a fabulous tune, but something was missing. I didn’t hear the original version until the second semester of my freshman year, the one I commonly refer to as “the dark semester” when I changed colleges, for a chick no less, and moved in with a man that I still consider, to this day, to be a sociopath. I mean, I’m no doctor, I’m just a bourbon drinker but in my opinion this guy’s lack of empathy or conscience at least puts him on the sociopath scale.

We were talking one day about Bowie and I mentioned I loved the tune “Cat People,” which most people considered obscure. Out of nowhere he produced the soundtrack album, with that fabulous picture of Kinski’s head and shoulders, soaking wet in the rain with eyes glowing green…Oh yes, Natasha, I still see you in my mind… er, uh, I digress. When he put the album on, my mind immediately returned to hearing the song in the theater. The slow build at the start, Bowie’s painful, plaintive howl as the guitars kick in when he screams “with gasoline,” followed by those fabulous, tribal drums in the background. Chills still go up my spine. I actually stole that album from him… maybe he wasn’t the only sociopath in the room… Don’t judge me… I fully admit to having a problem when it comes to collecting music.

Now, on the heels of the tragic loss in January of the icon himself, David Bowie, comes a version of the song from Martyn LeNoble and Christian Eiger. I couldn’t help but think, when I read about the cover song, “the balls on these guys.” It’s a pretty risky chance to take to cover one of Bowie’s most idiosyncratic tunes. The recording was made both as a tribute to Bowie but also for a charity benefitting liver cancer research. I had never heard of LeNoble or Eiger but apparently they have connections to the Soulsavers and Depeche Mode respectively. For the most part the vocals are handled by Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan. I was not familiar with Mr. Lanegan or any of his previous work, but I might suggest he haul Tom Waits in for a DNA check because I think he might be Waits’ illegitimate son. And yes, Dave Gahan’s majestic voice is on the tune, but it merely sweeps in at the end for the counterpoint chorus of “been so long, so long, so long…”

I approached this song with caution due to my reverence for that original version that I hold so dear. I must admit, I love what these guys have done with the tune. I read it described as “bluesy” but I think the more proper term is “swampy.” This version is less dramatic than Bowie’s but they capture the longing and the need almost as well in this slow boil version. Lanegan’s vocal turn is especially on point. He captures the burning desire perfectly with his gravelly voice. The song has an almost menacing undercurrent that really grabbed me. At first I was disappointed Gahan didn’t sing more on the song, but his use at the end to sing the chorus back and forth with Lanegan is the perfect crescendo, as if Gahan was an angel answering Lanegan’s demon… or maybe I’m reading too much into it.

This is a great tribute to David Bowie and a great song to boot. And, the cherry on top, it was done for charity. So spend a buck, pour someone you love (or someone you want to love) something strong and whisper, “you wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through…”

You can find the tune at this link:

http://martynlenobleandchristianeigner.bandcamp.com/

Cheers!

Green Day’s New Single, “Bang Bang” – Rock Chick Approved!

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I was once again forced by my corporate overlords to travel to California this week. I actually ended up in San Francisco for most of the week, which is coincidentally only a bridge away from the home base of Hall of Fame Punk Rockers, Green Day. Ironically, it was only last weekend I lamented that Green Day were overdue for some new music,  and whilst I was in their neighborhood, Green Day drops a new single on the world. As I read on line recently, I’m not sure if that’s truly irony or just coincidence, because Alanis Morissette really confused me on the whole “ironic” thing but I digress.

I was beginning to worry about Green Day. It’s been four years since they’d released three albums at once, “Uno,” “Dos” and “Tre.” Billie Joe Armstrong had a very public meltdown and ended up in rehab for addiction to prescription drugs. It goes back to what I always say, kids, stick to dark brown, murky, fermented fluids. Pills and powders only lead to trouble. A few years ago Billie Joe did release a beautiful, quiet duets album of Everly Brothers’ covers with Norah Jones, “Foreverly.” And while I loved that record, it’s not exactly punk or even rock. It’s not a record I’d put on at a party. It’s more of a, sitting on the roof with a tumbler of Blanton’s and a cigar kind of a record.

I am probably the only person who really dug the trio of albums they released in 2012. Like everybody I got on the Green Day bandwagon when “Dookie” ruled the world. That album was inescapable. I eventually sold it, it was so overplayed. “Insomniac” and “Nimrod” never really interested me and it wasn’t until I met the Rock Chick and she reintroduced Green Day to me that I got back on the bandwagon. On one of our early dates, I took the Rock Chick to the record store and she bought a giant stack of CDs which included Green Day’s “Warning.” Wow, that album knocked me out. Overlooked masterpiece? I think so.

Then Green Day went into this “punk rock opera” phase that was hit and miss. I liked “American Idiot” but “21st Century Breakdown” was a bit “meh” for me. When they announced the trio of records in 2012 I was excited as it appeared they’d come out of the rock opera phase and were going back to their punk rock roots again. And, while I loved those records, they were pretty polished for a punk rock band. It was a return to shorter songs, freed from any “story cycle” but the rough, punkier edges had been sanded off. The Rock Chick immediately dismissed the music as overproduced schlock and despaired of bands growing older and losing their edge. I eventually got her to slip “Stay The Night,” “Makeout Party,” “Kill the DJ” and few others onto her “Green Day Playlist.” Even Billie Joe Armstrong admitted that they were striving for a more punk sound but ended up getting the opposite on those records. I don’t care, “Kill the DJ” is still a great Green Day song, no matter what anybody tells you.

So it was with great trepidation that I told the Rock Chick that Green Day had released a new single. I returned from California and quietly mentioned they had a new single out, hoping for some modicum of interest from the Rock Chick. We immediately purchased “Bang Bang” and after the first listen through, to my considerable delight, the Rock Chick nodded, smiled slightly and said, “Well call me pleasantly surprised…” Trust me folks, this is high praise from the Rock Chick.

I have to tell you, “Bang Bang” was everything I thought “Uno,” “Dos,” and “Tre” were going to be. It’s a raw guitar sound that I just love from these guys. Tre Cool’s drumming on this tune is amazing, he’s simply one of the best drummers out there. Mike Dirnt’s bass line is in the pocket, baby! (I’m not even sure what that means… but the bass line is awesome) This tune rocks with an urgency I haven’t heard from Green Day in a long time. The lyrics feel torn from the headlines. The song tells the story of a mass shooting from the viewpoint of the deranged shooter. Controversial, perhaps – but it certainly makes the point that maybe, just maybe, we ought to rethink gun laws around here. “I want to be a celebrity martyr” howls Billie Joe Armstrong and you almost worry he’s armed. It’s chilling, thought provoking and it rocks. What more can you ask for from rock and roll. I was reminded of some of the stronger political stuff the Clash did back in the day. If the rest of the new album, “Revolution Radio” (a title I just love) is as strong as this first single, this is going to be not only a great album, but an important album.

Turn it up loud on this hot summer day and enjoy!

Cheers!

Artists Who Changed Their Music to Escape Fame

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*Photo shamelessly borrowed from the Internet, gettyimages, Paul Bergen

I just love this photograph of Pearl Jam from their early days. The only guy who looks happy is the drummer, in the middle, and they fired him. Likely on the HR form it read something like: Reason for Dismissal: Cheerfulness or Enjoying the Fame.

My corporate overlords are asking me to travel quite a bit more and I haven’t been able to write as often as I’d like, my apologies. It has given me a lot more time to think about music… and lately I’ve been thinking about fame. Ah, Fame, it’s such a cruel, fickle beast. Bands often form, write music, tour and work hard to achieve financial stability and yes, fame. But once it happens many bands/artists don’t know how to deal with it. There are certain levels of fame that nobody is ready for. Not everybody can be the Beatles, who not only embraced their fame, seemed energized by it. Well, McCartney anyway, Lennon seemed somewhat unnerved by it all.

Fame has all kinds of effects on an artist and not always good ones. Many artists, feeling the pressure to repeat earlier heights of record sales crumble under the pressure. Many artists turn to drugs, alcohol or just plain break up the band. Or sometimes the effects of fame are even worse…bad juju indeed. There are as many reactions to fame as there are artists, I suppose.

Lately, I find myself thinking about those artists/bands who decided to take control, take the bull by the horns as they say, and purposely change the trajectory of their artistic arc. The artists who, commercially speaking, tried to take a dive. The goal seemed to be to thin the herd of rabid fans, hanging on every word. These acts literally altered their art (in my opinion) to reduce their fame…

Bob Dylan: After a two year period that saw Dylan “go electric” and record three classic masterpieces: “Bringing It All Back Home,” “Highway 61 Revisted,” and “Blonde On Blonde” Dylan retreated to upstate New York to Woodstock (pre-festival fame Woodstock). This creative burst is beautifully documented on the box set, “The Cutting Edge” reviewed earlier in B&V. Dylan just wanted to get away, rest and spend some time with his wife and new family. Then, he had a motorcycle accident. Or did he? I’m not usually a “second shooter on the grassy knoll” guy, but I wonder if Dylan faked the whole thing to get a break in his crazy schedule. The guy was being touted as the “voice” of his generation. He was the appointed leader of the Hippy movement… heavy responsibility for a guy who is really just a singer… or a poet, depending on your outlook. After secluding himself in upstate NY and hanging out in a basement for a year with the Band, recording some pretty amazing music, but not really sharing it, Dylan emerged with a quiet, acoustic based “John Wesley Harding.” While considered a classic by critics, it was quite a dramatic departure from his three prior albums. It’s like Dylan rewrote the book on a career in music. He went on to record a country album, “Nashville Skyline.” He really didn’t recover commercially until “Blood On the Tracks” by which time his rabid audience had diminished and mellowed out.

Neil Young: Neil Young’s trajectory was similar to Dylan’s, perhaps without the messianic overtones… the 70’s were a more cynical decade after all. Young released “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere,” and then “After the Gold Rush” and joined CSNY. He was poised to explode. I don’t think he realized how big he was going to get when he delivered the mellow, extremely popular “Harvest.” You couldn’t get away from “Heart of Gold.” Neil said, on the liner notes of the excellent greatest hits package “Decade,” that he found himself in the middle of the road after “Harvest” and decided to steer his career into the ditch…he said he’d meet more interesting people there. He dismantled his following by delivering the live LP, “Time Fades Away,” which oddly seemed to declare war on his fans. Young was exorcising demons, but his fans were left to exorcise Neil.

Bruce Springsteen: Springsteen’s career has been a study in the art of controlling your fame. He released “Born To Run” and ended up on the cover of Time and Newsweek… after a 4 year absence due to legal issues with his management, he delivered the grim classic “Darkness On the Edge of Town.” Punk was prevalent and so he probably rode that wave, plus he was pissed about the court stuff and the four year absence. Finally, in 1979 he released “The River” which gave him his biggest seller to date… rather than capitalize on that success he retrenched with “Nebraska” an album I still struggle to listen to without being put on suicide watch. He finally reached his peak potential when he released “Born In the USA” but quickly retrenched to “Tunnel of Love.” Release something that makes you huge, follow up with a quiet personal album to make the crowds go away…it’s the best of both worlds.

Fleetwood Mac: Nobody saw the huge success of “Rumors” coming. Lindsey Buckingham, fueled by the punk movement took control of their next album and drove the band in experimental, weird directions. Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie apparently didn’t get the memo and continued to record solid mid tempo rock songs causing a very disjointed approach.”Tusk” is a masterpiece in my mind but it was heralded as a huge disappointment upon it’s release. I see it for what it was – Buckingham responding to the pressure of repeating “Rumors” by taking the band in a less commercial, artsy direction. When the LP doesn’t sell as much as the last one, you just say the audience didn’t “understand your creative vision.” It’s a great strategy really. Although Mick Fleetwood did drive out to Lindsey’s house after the reviews were in to say, “you blew it, mate.”

Prince: “1999” was such a breakthrough record for Prince. He, along with Michael Jackson, were one of the first black artists to breakthrough to a broad white audience. He followed up with the movie/LP “Purple Rain.” Prince, a control freak, whose goal had always been world domination, and who actually accomplished it, responded with the quirky, artsy “Around the World In a Day,” an album I bought the day it was released and sold a week later. Yeah, I was one of the fans Prince exiled from his fan base with that record. Prince never really regained his commercial/artistic mojo. That’s the risk when you purposely try to kill off your fame… sometimes you’re successful.

Nirvana: Kurt Cobain, almost 30 years after Dylan, was also tagged with that “voice of his generation” tag. Based on Dylan’s response to that in the 60s and what happened to Kurt, you might want to avoid that tag. After “Nevermind” seemingly destroyed everything that came before it and revolutionized music in a way that punk only dreamed of, Cobain felt painted into a corner. He had wanted to only be as big as say, Sonic Youth, not bigger than the Beatles. In response to the world-wide worship, Cobain and Nirvana delivered the abrasive album “In Utero” an album that was such an obvious attempt to drive fans away and yet it was still wildly popular. “Heart Shaped Box” is still my favorite Nirvana tune. Sadly Kurt never reconciled his fame and for a myriad of reasons ended up sadly ending his own life… the most tragic tale I’m gonna tell.

Pearl Jam: I read an interview with Eddie Vedder once, and he said they were playing a bar that had a free hamburgers in the parking lot while they were set to play. He got on stage in front of an empty room (everyone was eating outside), closed his eyes and when he opened them, the entire bar was full of enthusiastic fans. He went on to say that was how Pearl Jam’s world wide fame happened, seemingly in the blink of an eye. “Ten” was such a huge album and it’s follow up “Vs” despite the “us vs you” implied by the title, was just as popular. Finally PJ put out “Vitalogy” which I consider a classic but like “In Utero” it was a clear attempt to “thin the herd.” You only have to take one look at the picture above and you can tell these guys were uncomfortable with the fame that had resulted from their music. Eddie took these guys down a path that saw them stay a solid live draw, but their music has never sold like it did early in their career and I think that’s how Eddie wants it… Vedder’s only proper solo album was a ukele album…clearly not a guy looking for wide commercial success or additional attention…

That’s it for now folks. Did I miss anybody on this list? Please add your thoughts in the comments if you’re so inclined.

Have a great weekend! Cheers!