New Song Alert: Shirtless Icon Iggy Pop’s New Aptly Titled “Frenzy” – Primal Rock N Roll Recalls ‘Raw Power’

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“I’m the guy with no shirt who rocks…” – Iggy Pop, 2022

I must admit I spent most of last week still in that Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Dream Canteen haze I’ve been in lately. But then Friday, like a thunderbolt, Iggy Pop released a brand new song, the aptly titled “Frenzy” and the next thing I know I’m jumping around with my shirt off, pumping my fist in the air. Music just… hits me sometimes.

I’ve admitted in these pages before, I didn’t grow up listening to Iggy Pop. Growing up in a conservative, small city in the Midwest, Iggy Pop wasn’t something you were going to hear on the local radio. The powers that be – the suits – who tightly controlled what people hear on the radio, weren’t going to put something as visceral and subversive as Iggy on during drive-time. The suits likely thought Boston was dangerous. I’m not sure I knew who Iggy was until I got to college and started reading Rolling Stone. His 1977 albums (2 in one year!) The Idiot and Lust For Life produced by David Bowie were always in those Rolling Stone “Best Albums Ever” issues and in college I had started religiously reading Rolling Stone so I’d heard the name… well, I’d read the name. I sort of relegated Iggy to that list I had in my head of artists that critics dug but no one else did… although ultimately I did end up listening to most of those bands (Digging In Deeper: Artists/Albums To Expand Your Music Collection; Don’t Be Afraid!). And in those very same pages of Rolling Stone every artist who they interviewed, if they were punk influenced, hard rock at all, would mention Iggy Pop as an influence. I thought he was just one of those artists other people name-dropped to sound cool. I figured most of them had never really listened to him, they just wanted the street cred. Even on cooking shows I’d see Iggy – Anthony Bourdain worshiped him.  At best I may have heard Iggy on MTV, likely something from 1986’s Blah Blah Blah, his final collaboration with David Bowie but it didn’t connect with me at the time.

I don’t know how I avoided Iggy for as long as I did. I knew he was pals with Bowie and I’ve been a huge Bowie fan since the early 80s. I just never jumped the fence over to Iggy’s side. Sometimes we take circuitous routes to find an artist, but my journey to Iggy was beyond odd. In 2013 I was driving in my car and the local radio station had just got their copy of the Queen of the Stone Age’s then new LP …Like Clockwork and they went old school and played the whole thing on-air. I connected with that album immediately… I seem to remember pulling my car over and parking in a lot near my house so I could hear the whole thing. That sent me deep into the QOTSA catalog. Then in 2016 I heard Josh Homme of the Queens was producing and playing on a new album of Iggy Pop’s entitled Post Pop Depression. I figured Iggy and Homme would be an interesting pairing. I heard the single, “Gardenia” and I was hooked. I bought the album and man, I loved it. The next thing I know I’m buying The Idiot and Lust For Life, the very records I’d scoffed at in college. Those albums are simply put, masterpieces. Iggy’s career has been a little up and down since so picked up albums scattered through his solo career from New Values to Blah Blah Blah to American Caesar. I even dug parts of his last LP Free with it’s horns and jazz-style tunes. It was a cool stylistic left turn. At the time, I may have been clandestinely video taped by my daughter in Snapchat while dancing to “James Bond” from that record. I was doing a Travolta in Pulp Fiction twist thing… it felt right at the time… although I’m not sure I wanted that captured for posterity, there may have been drink involved.

It took me a while but eventually I took the plunge and went deeper into Iggy. I started buying albums from his first band, the Stooges. The Stooges were formed in Detroit Rock City by Iggy and the Asheton brothers after Iggy had seen Jim Morrison and the Doors in concert. The Stooges just RAWK. If you’re looking for visceral, proto-punk, off the chain rock and roll, it’s the Stooges you’re looking for. Listening to their three LPs – The Stooges (1969), Fun House (1970), and especially Raw Power (1973, produced in part by yes, Bowie) – you begin to understand why every punk rocker in the late 70s and hard rocker of the 80s would name check Iggy. The Stooges era was when Iggy would tear his shirt off and crowd surf… occasionally either cutting his chest with broken glass or smearing peanut butter thrown at him from the crowd all over his chest… which would have been my choice rather than self harm with broken glass. The Stooges were primal rock n roll. They tapped directly into the Id, into that lower brain stem. I’m not sure Iggy has worn a shirt since those days…

Don’t get me wrong, Iggy has really rocked hard in his solo career at times, but I don’t think too many will disagree with me that he hasn’t rocked as hard as the Stooges, well, ever since. And then yesterday I heard “Frenzy.” Oh my god does this song rock. It takes me right back to Raw Power. It’s produced by Andrew Watt who I have quickly become a big fan of. He’s produced some modern pop stars, Post Malone and Miley Cyrus but he seems to be a neo-classicist when it comes to rock n roll and produced stellar albums from Eddie Vedder (Earthling) and Ozzy’s last two LPs (the comeback Ordinary Man and the recently released Patient Number 9). Watt also plays guitar on “Frenzy” with what appears to be his “go-to” rhythm section of drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and bassist Duff McKagan (Guns N Roses). They make a helluva band. They played metal for Ozzy now they’re playing punk for Iggy. The circle is complete.

The track starts off with a dash of feedback before the heavy, fuzzy guitar riffs start. The drums and bass hit like a division of Panzer tanks invading the town square. Iggy sound viciously unhinged, spitting out lines like “I’m in a frenzy you fucking prick, I’m in a frenzy you god damn dick.” The man has never been known to mince words. And let’s admit it, we’ve all been there a time or two. For a guy who I thought might hang it up after Free, Iggy is back and better than ever and when he sings “My mind is on fire, I will not retire,” I think we have to believe him. Watt, with Chad and Duff, have captured the real spirit of the Stooges here. And I love that Iggy can still embrace that kind of well, raw power. Here’s the video:

Again, I thought Iggy had shuffled off into retirement. There’s no retirement shuffling for Iggy fucking Pop folks. The good news is that this isn’t just a one off single from Pop and Watt. It appears Andrew and his all star rhythm section are sticking around to record an entire album. I don’t know when it’s coming or what it’s called, but if this is how it’s going to sound it’s going to be a very, very rocking fall.

Turn this one up to 11, pour some Woodford, take your shirt off, get some peanut butter and behold the power (raw or otherwise) of Iggy Pop! And don’t be surprised if you hear me mumbling, “I’m a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm…”

Cheers!

LP Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers Return With 2nd LP of 2022, ‘Return Of The Dream Canteen’

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“I’m at the county fair, haystack ride, I pull your hair…” – Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Tippa My Tongue”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have released their second double LP – yes their second double LP – of 2022. That’s a whopping 34 tunes – 36 if you count the Japanese bonus tracks – in one year. That’s 1972 level output, when artists put out two or three albums in a calendar year. Or maybe we should be comparing this to latter day Prince who was always extraordinarily prolific but especially toward the end. I had read before Unlimited Love came out that the Peppers had something like 50 tunes finished…which may mean a third LP is waiting in the wings? The auspicious return of guitarist John Frusciante really sparked the creative energy with these guys. I’m always a huge believer in the chemistry of specific individuals creating music together but man, there is A LOT to digest. But I can also say there is A LOT to like here.

I really liked Unlimited Love and having gone back and re-listened to it this week I stand by those feelings. I will admit I’m surprised they decided to release that album first. It was a little restrained and you had to hunt for Frusciante’s very distinctive guitar solos. This new album, Return Of The Dream Canteen, is to my ears more upbeat and bright. This is absolutely not an album of “leftovers.” It stands on it’s own artistic merits. I have to admit I like this album much better than Unlimited Love and I’m on record as really digging that album. This album does remind me more of Stadium Arcadium, but that may just come from the sprawling nature of this album. While Frusciante’s wonderful guitar is all over this album – and it’s glorious to behold – Flea is also all over this record as well. Or, as I described it on the first record of the year, this album is also very Flea forward… he is the greatest bass player of his generation. Drummer Chad Smith is also quietly becoming one of my favorite drummers.

I have heard many people complain – or in my case chuckle – about Anthony Kiedis’ lyrics. I’m beginning to think he just tries to find cool syllables that go well together than actual words that make sense. I mean, the guy has never been accused of being the second Bob Dylan… he’s no John Prine or Bruce Springsteen. Kiedis is more like David Lee Roth in that it’s all about vibe and feeling. All I can tell you is that I’ve been singing the words I quoted above for weeks…”Haystack ride, I pull your hair…” The words just put a smile on my face. I will say, while the Chili Peppers have always been the “Good Time Boys” – they’re only a few  years older than me and they remind me of cool upper class guys from my high school – there is a bit of nostalgia that has crept in, much like when I get together with my old drinking buddies from college. Kiedis references Van Halen, Hall and Oates, the Clash, Frank Sinatra and Cheech & Chong. Even these goofballs get caught looking backwards.

As I said, I probably like this album better of the two released this year. Frusciante in an interview about Unlimited Love said they’d left the best stuff for the second album and I’d say he was right. I think if they’d released this album first they might have seen a little more momentum – this stuff feels more summery and Unlimited Love seemed more autumnal. There’s a classic trope in rock and roll that in every good double album there lurks a classic single album. I was never sure that was really true until I heard the outtakes from Tom Petty’s Wildflowers. Yes, they were great but releasing only a single album at that time was the right move, Wildflowers as it was originally released is a stone cold classic. And just like Unlimited Love, I think Dream Canteen would have benefited from a few cuts/edits. I think you could amend the classic trope in this instance to say there is probably one classic double album lurking in these two double albums. I’m waiting to see people start doing their edited, combined playlists for these two records to refine them into one great album. “Tippa My Tongue” followed by “Black Summer” and such? Maybe I’ll take a stab at that like I did Springsteen’s Human Touch and Lucky Town, distilling those down to just one album. Personally, I like having all of this music, one big smorgasbord of funky tunes.

This album is, if anything, funky. It’s like the Peppers have rediscovered their funk-metal roots. There’s a bit more pop here than in the old days. There’s not as much menace in their tunes this time around. Perhaps they’re just happier or maybe they don’t rock as hard without their demons. I always thought Robin Williams was funnier when he was on coke, which is probably a terrible admission on my part. I do appreciate their willingness to experiment with different sounds. This album is certainly less… shall we say… monochromatic than their classic Stadium Arcadium. There were rumors Frusciante only returned because he’d gone through a messy divorce and needed money. Even if that’s true, he brought his A game to this music. I feared he’d lost his ability to write rock songs after Unlimited Love. He allays all fears on this record.

The album starts with the first single “Tippa My Tongue” which I already reviewed, but man it’s an earworm extraordinaire. It’s in my head most mornings when I wake up. “Peace and Love” is another great pop tune with a heavenly bass line. It’s laid back, midtempo, joyfulness makes me wonder if the Chili Peppers are actually… happy? “Copperbelly” is another great pop tune towards the end. It’s more of a ballad really. While there are some lighter, poppier moments, these guys still can rock with the best of them. “Reach Out” starts mellow but then Frusciante carpet bombs us with heavy riffs. It reminds me of “Ready Made.” “Fake as F@ck” is another great rock tune here. It also starts slow and then explodes. The tune just shimmies and shakes and has a really trippy ending. “Bag of Grins” is a throbbing tune with great tribal drumming from Chad.

I love the Van Halen tribute “Eddie.” Kiedis crams more VH references into that song than I can even think of. You can’t sing about the greatest guitarist ever without a tasty guitar solo and Frusicante blows me away on this track. It’s not an attempt to imitate Eddie, just a tribute about him. “Bella” is a funky track where Kiedis is trying to convince a young woman to move out of L.A., which is counter to everything he’s ever written about California. “The Drummer” is another cool throbbing track that sounds like a loose electric wire is shocking me…very jittery. I love that song with it’s soaring chorus. “Carry Me Home” has Frusciante’s most blistering solo of the album. “Afterlife” is pure funk and it’s impossible to stay seated while it’s playing. “Handful” actually conjures the aforementioned Clash’s song “Ghetto Defendant” but maybe that’s just me.

I could literally go on and on about the tracks on this record. There are a lot of great ones. If I was going to edit this thing, there are a few tracks that I didn’t connect with as much and might consider cutting. I didn’t like “My Cigarette” the first time I heard it but it has grown on me. I do like the sax solo on the tune. “La La La La La La” is a piano driven ballad that misses the mark, badly. The final track, “In The Snow” is just ok. It sounds like they employed a drum machine and Kiedis does some spoken word pieces that are… ridiculous. But those are the only misses to me on an album that stretches out over 17 tracks.

If Unlimited Love didn’t scratch your Peppers itch, Dream Canteen will certainly do the trick. This is truly the strongest album they’ve put out since Stadium Arcadium. It’s a real triumph. Would these two double albums been better as perhaps just one, more focused double album? Probably. But then it wouldn’t be the Chili Peppers if they’d shown some restraint. And believe me, restraint is overrated. Turn this one up loud with a tumbler of rye and get ready for the funky rock n roll, baby.

“Please don’t remember me for what I did with DavidYou know I’m talkin’ David LeeAm I ready?Please don’t remember me, for what I did last night, ohI guess I played a flying V.”

Cheers!

LP Review: Bush, ‘The Art Of Survival’ – A Great New Album From A Band I’d Almost Forgotten

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Maybe it’s just me but it seems like there has been a lot of great music that has come out over the last few weeks. Autumn is always a great time of year – leaves start turning wonderful colors, NFL football is in full swing, we can wear flannel shirts over our concert t-shirts and maybe even put on a sweater. I look great in a sweater but who doesn’t? More importantly, suddenly bands start putting out music. As the Chili Peppers once sang, “Autumn’s sweet, we call it fall.” Every time I look up a great new album has come out – from Ozzy’s Patient Number 9 to Jack White’s Entering Heaven Alive to Starcrawler’s She Said to the Cult’s sublime Under The Midnight Sun, music is coming at me fast and furious… even Billy Idol put out a great new EP, The Cage. Most of this music is stuff I was anticipating. But an amazing album came out a few Fridays ago that I certainly wasn’t expecting. I wasn’t expecting it because I’d kind of lost touch with this band… Bush. As I listened to this great new album, The Art of Survival, I realized I’d been ignoring this band at my own peril. I was absolutely blown away by this new LP.

My relationship with Bush has always been tumultuous. It’s like this woman I dated in the late 90s during Bush’s heyday… before the Rock Chick, of course. We’d fight and then inevitably break up and go our separate ways and then she’d show up at my door at 3 a.m. wearing only high heels and a trench coat. It’s hard to think rationally during an episode like that, but I’m getting off topic here. I’ve admitted in previous posts, when a wave of some new musical movement comes, it tends to overwhelm me. When the Hair Bands took over the world (and especially MTV) in the 80s, they all sounded alike to me. I was still assimilating all the great music of the 60s and 70s, educating myself about Cream and the Allman Brothers or early Dylan, just trying to catch up. I mostly ignored the hair bands. I was slow to get on the Guns N Roses bandwagon because I dismissed them as just “another hair band” after seeing the video for “Welcome to the Jungle.” Then I heard “Paradise City” and realized how wrong I’d been. It wasn’t until this millennium that I got deep into Motley Crue.

Grunge was no exception to my guarded approach to assimilating the latest and greatest music. Suddenly it was everywhere. Thanks to a woman I used to know I was early getting on the Pearl Jam bandwagon. She left her copy of their debut CD Ten at my house and it went into high rotation until she showed up, stormed in and took it back. Soundgarden was another band I really dug but then I used to describe them as the new Black Sabbath. They were more metal than grunge to my ears and I like metal. Alice In Chains was probably the next band I had pegged as being “important” enough for me to invest time in. It was their EPs Sap and Jar of Flies that drew me in. I was more cautious with Nirvana, for reasons now unclear. The hype around them was just so big it was off-putting. I believe it was their Unplugged album that turned on the light bulb on them for me. Well, that and the song “Heart Shaped Box,” which is still their best tune in my opinion. In Utereo was actually the first LP of theirs that I purchased.

There were just so many grunge bands that were on the alternative rock radio station at the time. So much good music to sort through… Hole, Blind Melon, Green Day (who weren’t grunge they were proto-punk but they broke at the same time) and even Jane’s Addiction who I also don’t consider grunge. I’m only scratching the surface with that list… I’m surprised Bush was even able to pierce my consciousness. I remember really liking “Everything Zen.” It had a great line that I thought my brother could have written, had I lived in L.A., “Should I fly to Los Angeles, find my asshole brother.” “Little Things” and “Comedown” were also on the radio a lot and I liked both of those tracks. But oddly enough, it wasn’t until I heard “Machinehead” that I purchased the album. That song, “Machinehead” was on every exercise mix tape/disc I put together for about 5 years after that… That debut, Sixteen Stone was indeed a great album. The themes were very dark but since lead singer/rhythm guitarist/songwriter Gavin Rossdale was so good looking people tended to overlook his dour Cobain-esque view of the world. I would describe Sixteen Stone as one of the essential albums from the grunge period.

I didn’t jump on their second LP, Razorblade Suitcase, until I saw them in concert, which was literally by accident. I was on a disastrous vacation in Jamaica with a buddy of mine, the medical student, when we were forced to flee the resort and country early. I think I told the airline officials my grandmother died so they’d let me change my tickets. It was truly harrowing. Anyway, we flew back home 2 days early and somehow ended up at a Bush concert… there was a lot of rum involved in the whole episode… luckily no warrants were issued and international incident was avoided. But I have to say Bush killed it live and I was really glad to be at that show. They were great. I heard them do the song “Cold Contagious” and immediately bought the second album. But after that, I have to admit, they faded out of view for me. I think they tried some electronica stuff which was the rage back then… see Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore for reference. Then, in 2001 I think they broke up. I read that the guitarist didn’t want to tour any more. You’re in a world famous band, you gotta get off the couch and leave the house once in a while.

It was the Rock Chick who, in 2011, turned me onto the new version of Bush’s then current album, Sea of Memories. At that point Rossdale was the only original member. He was joined by Chris Traynor on lead guitar, Corey Britz on bass and Robin Goodridge (who has since been replaced by Nik Hughes) on drums. The critics didn’t dig it but I did. “The Sound of Winter,” a galloping rocker, was probably my favorite track on that album but “The Afterlife” was also a fine rockin’ tune. “Baby Come Home” and “She’s A Stallion” are also tunes that spring to mind. Sadly, at that point, like my usual tumultuous relationship with Bush, I lost track of them again, which is a real shame. I recently went back and listened to their previous album 2020’s The Kingdom and damn if it’s not a great little record. I had completely missed it.

As I mentioned before, I was surprised to see Bush had a new LP out a few Friday’s ago, the same date the Cult’s new LP Under The Midnight Sun came out. When a band we dig puts out a new album the Rock Chick and I tend to spend that Friday night here at the B&V labs listening to the new music. We cranked the new Cult album a few times and I mentioned in passing that Bush put out a new album and I really wanted to check it out. The Rock Chick put it on immediately… I was not prepared for how heavy these guys have gotten. They are RAWKING. The first track “Heavy Is The Ocean” exploded out of the speakers. All that existential angst that was the backbone of grunge is still present in Rossdale’s singing and songwriting. He sounds, frankly, more pissed off than worried. “This fuckery could be the death of us,” he repeats towards the beginning of “Heavy Is The Ocean” and it sums up how I feel about the world. There is a rocking urgency to these songs that demands your attention. If you’re like me and you’ve spaced these guys off, I strongly urge you to get back in.

As I said, “Heavy Is The Ocean” is one of the best songs these guys have ever done. It has this heavy quiet to loud thing that was always a great punk rock move. I do like that he’s not all dour on the track when he sings, “we crack but we don’t break.” Clearly climate change is the theme here. Nik Hughes is a bruising drummer. “Slow Me” is another intense tune that has moments of quiet beauty interspersed in it. “Slow me, I cant’ let go, it’s a cold wind that blows…” He goes on to sing, “Everybody’s right, everybody’s wrong… wars have no endings…” This stuff is torn from the headlines and yet feels very personal. “More Than Machines” is the first single and it’s another outstanding track. It’s a great track in support of women’s rights. It’s a goddamn rally cry. “Everything wrong should be right, girls, You in control, Not the government…”

“May Your Love Be Pure” pulses and throbs with anger… “Money makes the world goes round… not much rain in California… yeah we need water…” Great, great stuff. “Shark Bite” is also another track that may contend for heaviest riffage here. It’s as though Bush is stomping their foot and saying, “Pay attention.” “Human Sand” also contends for one of my favorite songs. “I believe in terrestrial angels, Believe in the power of one, I believe in life ever-changing, Believe that we are not done.” Oh, hell yes. “Kiss Me I’m Dead” is another bruising riff rocker. “Gunfight” is another in that same vein. All of these tracks rock and deserved to be cranked loud.

There are two tracks that are ballads, ala “Glycerine.” The first is “Creatures of the Fire” and it’s as you would expect from Bush and Rossdale, simply beautiful. But the album ender “1000 Years” is the most beautiful slow track these guys have ever done. It’s just gorgeous. It’s a break up tune, “You were wrong to me, You set me free, But I wish we could sleep, For a thousand years, I love you best, When there are no fears.” I can’t say enough about these slower moments on the record which are both great change of pace tunes but please don’t take that as me discounting either of them.

The two tracks that I didn’t connect with as strongly – and I still like – are “Identity,” a quick paced, meet me at the finish line rocker and “Judas Is A Riot,” a riff heavy track with the great line “I’ve got a house full of sorrow but beauty is where beauty sings.” I still like both of these tracks – full disclosure the Rock Chick did not – they’re just not as strong as the rest of the album. That said – don’t let that scare you away from this album based on those two tracks. I’ve been bouncing back and forth between Bush and the Cult all week and it’s been an awesome week.

This is the best album Bush has done since Sixteen Stone. If this new, urgent lyrically, riff heavy thing is their new direction we all need to be paying more attention to Bush. This is certainly one of the best albums of the year for me and seeing as I had no idea it was coming, that says a lot. And remember…”this fuckery could be the death of us…”

Cheers!

LP Review: The Cult, ‘Under The Midnight Sun’ – A Sublime Listening Experience

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I can’t believe it’s been six years since the Cult’s last album, Hidden City. As Dylan sang, “time is a jet plane, it moves too fast.” When a band I really like waits that long between LPs, and they all seem to wait that long between albums these days, I worry that my anticipation will get the better of me. Sometimes when we let our anticipation run wild we can be disappointed. I know that happens to my buddy Arkansas Joel every time U2 puts out a new LP, but then they did hit a rough patch there for a while so that’s understandable. The Rock Chick was disappointed with Unlimited Love from the Chili Peppers, released earlier this year but again, that was anticipation fueled by Frusciante’s return. I actually liked that album… But for every LP we’ve been disappointed by there are many albums that utterly satisfy – Ozzy’s Patient Number 9 or Billy Idol’s new EP The Cage were both wonderful recently released albums.

And yet, even knowing the Cult would likely deliver, I too was worried about that old monster, anticipation. My excitement for the new album was given a shot of jet fuel only a few weeks ago when I saw the Cult live here in KC at the Uptown Theater. It was a great, great show. I feared that anticipation would somehow cloud how I felt about the album. Then I saw that the album was only eight songs long. That’s what, barely over a song a year since the last record. I heard rumors that it was all pretty “midtempo” or “monochromatic.” Critics were a bit “meh.” And yet as I’ve spent the last four or five days listening to nothing but Under The Midnight Sun – a title inspired by a show they played in Finland where the sun was up all night – all I can think about the Cult (Ian Astbury, vocals; Billy Duffy, guitar; John Tempesta, drums; and I’m unclear who played bass… Grant Fitzpatrick may have played on the LP, Charlie Jones is touring with them) is “My God, they delivered.” The Tom Dalgety produced Under The Midnight Sun is a wonderful, nuanced, spiritual listening experience.

Inevitably when folks talk about the Cult, they’re thinking of their late 80s heyday when they released a trio of iconic albums: Love (1985), Electric (1987) and of course, Sonic Temple (1989). But back in those days, toward the end of my college party experience and the beginning of my corporate, first job exile in Arkansas, I wasn’t paying any attention to new rock n roll. I was immersed in the past. I was listening to stuff from the 60s (the Beatles, The Band) or the 70s (Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Faces, and the Allman Brothers). It’s like I felt I had to catch up on all the music that had passed before I started listening to rock n roll. And admittedly after my corporate masters exiled me to Ft Smith, Arkansas – something I’ve never forgiven them for – my main conduit to new rock was MTV. All hard rock bands basically made the same video so I became numb to the then current music… I should have been paying attention, especially to the Cult.

It wasn’t until I met the Rock Chick that I was turned onto the Cult. The first LP they put out in the new millennium, while I was actually paying attention, was Beyond Good And Evil. My main experiences with their music have been with their latter career. Don’t get me wrong, I love those late 80s masterpieces. I saw them on both the recent tours for Love and Electric when they played those albums in their entirety. But beyond that I have really enjoyed everything they’ve put out since Beyond Good And Evil. To gear up for the release of Under The Midnight Sun I put on Born Into This, not Electric. And so because of that, shall we call it, delayed perspective on the Cult I tend to look at their new albums in the perspective of what they’ve done since 2000 vs what they did from ’85 to ’89. And frankly I think 1991’s Ceremony deserves to be in the conversation as well – it’s a super album but Kurt Cobain and grunge killed everything that came before it including Ceremony.

Yes, I will admit I was disappointed we only got eight tracks on the new album. It is, as advertised, a mostly midtempo experience. There are two wonderful ballads that serve as great change of pace moments. And yet despite any hard rock anticipation I was fostering, I find this music utterly captivating. While the music is immediately identifiable as the Cult it only has echos of stuff they’ve done in the past. I feel like this is new ground for them. I’m like most Cult fans, I’d have loved a screaming rocker like “Dirty Little Rock Star,” or “Rise” to pump things up a bit… or yes a “Fire Woman” would be nice. But that’s just not where these guy’s heads are at. I would have thought they could have pulled a few more tracks together – at least two but I’d have loved four more to get us to 12, the standard CD length – and had they done that and made those additional tracks screaming rockers this album would likely rank amongst their best. In my mind, it still does rank quite highly.

There is a passion and urgency to the songs on UTMS. Billy Duffy is really the hidden star here. His guitar is less aggressive than what I’m used to but his playing is shimmering, smokey guitar riffs and solos. Maybe because half the band was in England and Astbury was in New York there’s a yearning in this music. Although it’s mostly a spiritual or universal yearning. A hope that we can come together on this planet. “Give me mercy, a new language.” That line, “a new language,” really resonated with me. It’s like we’ve forgotten about compassion and love and this music is a spiritual touchstone to guide us back. There is a certain majestic quality to this music that bores into my brain. Lyrically it’s as if Astbury – whose baritone is in fine form, what a voice! – is looking at the universe and needs to express the existential angst. And did I mention his voice? One of the best in all of rock n roll.

There were two songs released prior to the album coming out. I reviewed “Give Me Mercy” already so I won’t beat that horse but the more I hear it the better I like it. As mentioned, the lyric “Give me mercy, a new language, give me mercy, love will find you” is like a lost Buddhist mantra. The second track they put our prior to the album release was “A Cut Inside” which is probably the heaviest riffing, hardest rocking song here. Even I’ll admit it’s more of a simmer than an explosion but I still really connect with this song. It was both great in concert and in the car… some tunes just have to be cranked up while you’re speeding on the parkway… “A Cut Inside” has a soaring chorus, “Caught in a lie, tears in my eyes…” I love Tempsta’s drumming on the track. He now may be the longest tenured drummer in the Cult.

“Mirror” is the opening track and it sets the sound palette for much of the rest of the record. Duffy’s plaintive guitar weaves in and around of Tempesta jungle drumming. Billy plays a great solo on this track as well… Ian’s baritone is sensational, “Love, love, love, forget what you know…” “Vendetta X” may be my favorite track here. It’s got a slightly, dare I say, funky riff/drums thing going on. It’s got a low key intensity and kind of reminds me of some stuff on Dreamtime (for you really long time Cult fans). Astbury keeps singing “Sucking on a dirty blade, fighting over Love and Hate,” and you believe him the way he spits out the words. “Impermanence” is another great track in that midtempo vein. “Outer Heaven” is slightly mellower, but I wouldn’t call it a ballad. It starts with a nice wash of strings. Billy works up a bit of a squall on the track over Tempesta’s now galloping drums. That one ends as almost a religious chant. It’s another highlight here.

As mentioned there are two ballads on the record and they’re some of my favorite moments. “Knife Through A Butterfly Heart” ranks amongst their best ballads ever – right up there with “Edie (Ciao Baby)” and “Nico,” two of my favorites. It’s all haunting acoustic guitar – which we don’t get to regularly hear on a Cult album – and strings. Billy does lay in some nice electric notes weaving around the edges of the track until the end when he delivers the killer solo. It’s another personal favorite on this record. The title track, which ends the album is also a highlight. It’s a very cinematic track. It has strings that had me thinking about James Bond and the Rock Chick thinking about the show Dexter. It also has a lot of acoustic guitar. I’ve heard it described as a “spaghetti Western of a song,” and I get where they get that description. I just think it’s a cool. “Under midnight sun, with creatures of the wild, lost in love’s illusion, all will fade in time.” Damn, that’s some heavy stuff right there.

This is a really great album. Don’t let any of your expectations or anticipation get in your way on this one. It maybe a grower for some people. Put this one on and turn it up, pour something strong and let the lyrics and guitar was over you. It’s not going to rattle your fillings but it may just move your heart. I’m just happy we’ve finally got some new Cult to listen to.

Namaste!

New Song: Stevie Nicks’ Covers Stephen Stills’ “For What It’s Worth” – A Protest Song For The Ages

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*Image above taken from Stevie Nicks’ Instagram page

For those of you who are handwriting-reading impaired like me, here is the text of Stevie Nicks’ handwritten note regarding her new cover of the Stephen Stills’ penned song, originally recorded by the Buffalo Springfield:

I am so excited to release my new song this Friday (9/30). It’s called “For What It’s Worth” and it was written by Stephen Stills in 1966. It meant something to me then, and it means something to me now. I always wanted to interpret it thru (sic) the eyes of a woman – and it seems like today, in the times that we live in – that it has a lot to say…

I can’t wait for you to hear it. Stevie Nicks

There’s something happening here but what it is ain’t exactly clear, There’s a man with a gun over there telling me I got to beware” – “For What It’s Worth,” Stephen Stills

We’re not a political blog here at B&V. As I’m fond of saying, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” But there are occasions in this life where art and politics intersect. The best of art – whether it’s painting, poetry or music – reflects the times in which it’s created. And to quote the movie Aliens, Hey, maybe you haven’t been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked, pal!” These are deeply troubled times. I keep waiting for someone to step forward with a protest song that captures the moment. From Iran – where the “Morality Police” killed a woman for not wearing her hijab “correctly,” – all the way to Ohio, women and their basic human rights are under siege from conservative, uptight, old men. Who will step forward and lead us musically out of the darkness… Will it be some new artist? Sadly, no. It’s icon, legend Stevie Nicks, who has recorded a song originally written in 1966 by Stephen Stills, who has captured the current moment’s protest in song. Words written almost 60 years ago seem so relevant today… “there’s a man with a gun over there, telling me I got to beware…” Sad that this song still feels so urgent today.

I’ve been a fan of Stevie Nicks almost from the beginning of my life long obsession with rock music. Like so many great bands, it was my brother who turned me on to Fleetwood Mac. He had purchased Rumours and one day I had wandered into his room and ended up staying for the entire album. I’m not sure how it happened but a few days later my brother entered my room which was rare (“Get out of here Curtis, I don’t hear you unless you knock.”) and he was carrying Rumours. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He’d trade me that legendary album for my copy of Supertramp’s Breakfast In America. I had worn that album out with repeated plays. My brother and I never bartered albums. And, to this day, this is the only instance of us trading an LP in our long and storied history. Believe me, I’ve known this guy my whole life. Anyway, I remember sitting in my room listening to “Dreams” while I stared at Stevie’s image on the cover art. We all had a crush on Stevie. She was the cool chick you could drink a beer (or a wine cooler) with, maybe get high and if you’re lucky possibly make out with and it’d be no big deal.

Her first solo LP, produced by Jimmy Iovine Bella Donna, came out when I was a junior in high school. I think it made my list of best solo debut LPs… I remember driving up and down the main drag of my neighborhood and cranking “Edge of Seventeen.” Her duet with Tom Petty, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” is one of the greatest duets ever. I just found out the Rock Chick is a huge fan of the duet “Leather and Lace” by Stevie and Don Henley. It says a lot that she digs the song since, like “The Dude” she hates the Eagles. I was in college when The Wild Heart came out. Oh my, we loved that album. It was on that tour – her first as a solo artist – that I got see Stevie live in concert in Wichita, Kansas. Joe Walsh opened up that show and kept saying how great it was to be “home.” We thought he was joking. Turns out he was from Wichita. I ended up in the front row by the stage during the encore when Stevie sang “Beauty And The Beast” which I thought was for me… I was a bit of a beast in those days. What a band she had that night – Liberty Devito on drums (from Billy Joel’s band), Benmont Tench on organ (Heartbreaker), Roy Bittan on piano (E Street Band), and on guitar, legendary session guy Waddy Wachtel (Everly Brothers, Zevon, Keef). Instead of a t-shirt I bought an 8×10 glossy, black and white photo of Stevie which remained on my wall until I graduated.

It wasn’t hard to be a Stevie fan in the 70s/80s. At the time Lindsey Buckingham had sort of lost his mind and Stevie’s songs were the typically the best ones on the Fleetwood Mac LPs. I like Christine McVie but she was a bit saccharine for me back then. Nicks was on a roll. But after The Wild Heart, Stevie kind of got consumed by her drug habit. From there my relationship to Stevie’s music, like so many of my relationships before the Rock Chick, was “on again, off again.” The Rock Chick owned and still loves Trouble In Shangri-La. I had taken a long break from Stevie’s LPs until I bought In Your Dreams. I thought it was a strong comeback album. I also jumped in on 24 Karat Gold, although admittedly it was her recording a bunch of songs she’d written in her heyday. Her latter day music is the kind of stuff I started this blog for.

Which all leads me to her cover of “For What It’s Worth.” You know we do love our cover songs/cover albums around here. Stephen Stills wrote the song in 1966 for his then band the Buffalo Springfield after witnessing the riots in L.A. protesting a 10 pm curfew. Once again old, uptight men trying to force the hipster boomers into going home early. While that is such a boomer reason to write a protest song, Stills’ words were prescient. “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” Here is the original version of the song:

I know Stevie has been performing this song on her current tour. Because folks, if you don’t think the “Morality Police” can come to your hometown, you haven’t been paying attention. In the last few months the U.S. Supreme Court has rolled America back to the Dark Ages. I’m surprised they haven’t legalized burning woman accused of being witches at the stake… which I do think Stevie is a Wiccan but that’s another post… Stevie just owns this song. I can’t say enough about her version. And yes, Waddy Wachtel is on the lead, buzz-saw guitar which hovers over the song like a police helicopter over the poor part of town. Stevie’s voice is hypnotic. At the end she keeps quietly, almost whispering the lyrics. It’s a simply amazing version of the song. Even the Rock Chick exclaimed, after I played the track, turned up to 11, in her car, “That’s an awesome song.” She did have to ask me who originally sang the song but not everybody is a musical obsessive. Here is Nicks’ version of the song:

Everybody really does need to “look what’s going down.” We’ve got to stand up for women now more than ever. All women everywhere deserve freedom. It may be time to start “takin’ it to the streets” people. Turn this amazing protest song up as loud as it’ll go, burn your bra and more importantly, register to vote. Whatever your political persuasion. Sorry if this PSA rocked your world.

Cheers!

Review: Billy Idol With Steve Stevens – The New EP ‘The Cage’ – Superb, Prime-Idol Rock n Roll, Yes!

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It’s been about a week and half since Billy Idol and his wonderful partner in crime, guitarist Steve Stevens, released their latest EP The Cage and man, it’s simply superb. It rocks so hard it makes me feel like it’s 1983 and I’m going to take the t-tops out of the Camaro and drive up and down Main Street with my car stereo turned up to 11… maybe grow my mullet back. I must confess, prime Billy Idol always puts a little steam in my stride.

I feel bad I’m only now getting around to writing about this new Billy Idol EP. With new LPs by Ozzy Osbourne (Patient Number 9) and Starcrawler (She Said) combined with going to see the Cult in concert here in KC last week (a very special evening) my rock n roll cup “runneth over” so to speak. Late summer and fall have always been my favorite times of year and this year is no exception. Great music to go with the great weather. Soon I’ll be sitting on the patio in the “wee small hours” with headphones and (yes!) a sweater on while nursing a tumbler of sour mash and ruminating on… everything.

Billy Idol burst onto the scene as a solo artist after leaving his first group, the English punk band Generation X in the early 80s. He somehow connected with guitarist Steve Stevens and things took off from there. His first album came out in the summer of 1982 and I’ll have to admit, I don’t remember hearing any Idol in KC on the radio at the time. Of course I was immersed in Van Halen, Journey and the Robert Plant at the time… I do remember after going to college in the fall of that year (gads, has it been that long?), seeing – not hearing – Billy Idol on MTV. You read all the time about how MTV helped certain artists’ careers and it’s true for many. For Billy Idol, to a bunch of beer drinkin’, Midwestern kids just out of high school I have to say Idol was kind of hurt by his videos in our circle. What can I say, we were small minded. Were we just afraid of punk rock? Punk had already affected all of our favorite bands, so why the fear? Idol’s blonde, severe crew cut and leather clothes put us off for some reason. He was always snarling and punching the air. We were used to rock stars that looked like hobos – long hippy hair, a couple of guys with beards (usually at least the bass player or the drummer), all dressed in blue jeans and tie-dye. Actually by the mid-80s it was more likely our rock stars were wearing spandex and yet we were still put off by Idol?

I remember working in the kitchen where I lived that fall of ’82 and hearing “Hot In The City” on the local (mostly pop) radio station and really digging it. Of course I had no idea it was Billy Idol. I remember thinking, while hearing the song and melting in the heat of the dishwasher (I could never get away from crappy kitchen jobs) and thinking, “This guy is a real crooner…he sounds a little like Jim Morrison.” Then I’d go to the common room and MTV would be on – because it was always on except football Saturdays/Sundays – and see “Dancing With Myself” and think, “This punk rock guy is crazy, he’s killing zombies.” I was listening with my eyes and not my ears. I don’t know if I’m the only one who let video imagery turn me off a band? I was the same way with Guns N Roses, I’m embarrassed to admit. If you’d blind folded me and tied to me a chair – and I had a girlfriend at the time who tried once – and made me listen to the music I think I’d have jumped right in on Billy Idol. I remember hearing “Eyes Without A Face” on my car stereo and then going to work and singing “Steal a car go to Las Vegas, oh the gigolo pool…” on the loading dock until my foreman Howard said, “Shut up and load the barrels on the truck.” It was then that I started to think Idol might actually be, well, “ok.” But of course by early 1984 everybody’s hair had kind of taken a step toward the more chaotic so maybe I was more emotionally prepared to accept a guy with a blonde crew cut by then. Finally, somewhere in there, a guy named Walt (name changed to protect the guilty) moved in with us and he had Rebel Yell on cassette. Man, we wore that thing out. “Blue Highway” is still my favorite track from that album and should have been a hit.

I have to admit, after Charmed Life in 1990, I sort of lost touch with Idol. He put out a couple album over the first 15 years of the new millennium and while I was hoping for the best I couldn’t connect with them. Then, last year in late summer he released an EP entitled The Roadside. I think he and Steve Stevens may have found the perfect vehicle to release new music. EPs only have four songs they have to focus on. The lead track from that one was “Bitter Taste” and it’s not only one of Idol’s best songs EVER, it’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, period. Oddly, despite absolutely loving “Bitter Taste,” and shouting that fact from the rooftops, I didn’t review The Roadside. I’ve gone back and listened to it. “Rita Hayworth” and “You Don’t Have to Kiss Me Like That” are strong tunes. I remember being oddly disappointed when I heard the rest of the EP. I think “Bitter Taste” was so huge it eclipsed the rest of the songs to me. And admittedly, I didn’t like the ballad “Baby, Put Your Clothes Back On,” because… who says that?!? to anyone? But in retrospect The Roadside was a fine comeback for Idol.

The Cage is definitely a harder rocking affair than the previous EP. The lead off track, which is nominally the title track, “Cage” is just a huge hard rocking track that I can hear people in the arena singing along to. I can’t say enough about how great Steve Stevens’ guitar is. I have reviewed this song already, so I don’t want to beat the dead horse, but it’s a great rock n roll anthem. And I will say “Cage” was in high rotation here to end my summer.

The next track is “Running From The Ghost” and it’s a stunner. It covers a lot of the same themes that “Bitter Taste” did. A man looking back at his checkered past not with regret but perhaps more resolve. It’s a “yeah it was tough but it was what it was” kind of track. It starts with just Billy’s voice and a piano. I thought it might be a ballad. But then then some light percussion and strings come in. You can feel the track building. And then Steve Stevens’ guitar pops in and melts your face off. Guitar notes hitting you fast and furious. It’s a great, great song in the car. Billy sings over rumbling drums while Stevens weaves his guitar in and out through out the song. “I’m running from the ghost, the ghost inside of me, heavy on my mind.” Talking about ruminating over a tumbler of sour mash… Great guitar solo from Stevens on this track too. It ends the way it started, with just Idol’s voice (which may be treated) and that haunting piano. Splendid stuff.

The third track, “Rebel Like You” of course harkens back to Idol’s big song “Rebel Yell.” It starts with the sound of a motorcycle. It’s about the singer meeting his soulmate in the front row of a show. It’s an upbeat, bouncing rocker with an infectious chorus, “Yeah it’s alright, now you’re here.” I wish I could have written this track for the Rock Chick. I totally get the vibe. Like “Cage” I could see this track bringing the crowd to it’s feet with arms thrown in the air. I can’t get over how great Billy and Stevens sound on these rocking tracks. He obviously had some pent up energy to expend after the lockdown.

The last track is “Miss Nobody.” I’ll admit it’s a complete left turn. It’s still upbeat. Idol actually speaks the lyrics vs sings them. There are background singers… it’s kind of, well, Vegas-y. But I still really like it. I think the Rock Chick is a little more reserved about the track but while I blasted the new EP in her car on Saturday for her she could see I was into it and didn’t say much. Idol sets the scene in the first lyric, “I was walkin’ ’round MacArthur Park, It was late night and the streetlights sprayed the dark.” Idol just sounds like he’s having a great, naughty time and who isn’t down for that? The track is like nothing I’ve heard Idol do, and yes, when the back-up singers sing the chorus they overwhelm Idol’s voice a little and I understand if I alone dig this tune but I’m into it!

This is great new music from Billy Idol and I think none of us would have guessed he’d still be this vital in 2022… I’m sure many of us would have guessed he wouldn’t be here in 2022 but let’s not get negative. Everybody needs The Cage on high volume. When I reviewed the song “Cage” I said that Idol had arrived to “save summer.” He may just be saving my early fall as well! Turn this up to 11… get out the Camaro (but don’t drink and drive) and have a ball!

Cheers!