Concert Review: Starcrawler, 10/14/2019, At Kansas City’s Riot Room – Punk Rock Rag Doll Delivers

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*Photo of Arrow de Wilde taken by your intrepid blogger shortly after she spit water on me

Well there’s not much that gets me out on a school night any more… especially on a Monday. Rock and roll is about the only thing that will cause me to muster out of the house when I know I’ve got a busy day the next day. It wasn’t always like that… just last night I was musing over a beer about how cool it was when I was younger, in high school, to go out on a week night. I can remember looking out of the sun roof in a friend’s car staring at the moon and stars and thinking I was really fucking alive.

And speaking of being fucking alive, the Rock Chick, our friend RJ and I went out last night to Kansas City’s Riot Room in Westport to see some live punk rock courtesy of Starcrawler. I loved their first album (New Band Alert: Starcrawler – Edgy Punk Rock From Los Angeles) and had eagerly bought their new one, just out last Friday, Devour You. We drove down to Westport around 7 last night and ducked into a restaurant for a couple of vodkas and some food. I saw this couple walk by the window. The guy had green hair and make up. The gal had white grease paint on her face and jet black lipstick like a goth Harley Quinn… I thought, oh yes, this will be a great crowd.

We slipped over to the Riot Room right before show time just as the opening act was leaving the stage. I had no idea what to expect from the crowd. I hadn’t been in the Riot Room since it was the Hurricane, back in the day, as the kids say. There were about 50 people milling about in the bar. It was a diverse crowd in terms of age and appearance. The aforementioned goth couple were in there. There were some older guys in concert t-shirts and one guy who looked like my dad… the authorities might want to check up on that guy.

Right at 8pm the lights went down and drummer Austin Smith came on stage, quickly followed by bassist Tim Franco. From the other side of the stage, out of the darkness came guitarist Henri Cash. I was watching him put on his guitar when, literally out of nowhere lead singer Arrow de Wilde materialized on stage. If David Bowie and Patti Smith had a child, it would be Arrow de Wilde. She’s as thin as a quietly muttered whisper. Wearing what looks like an old ballet uniform, stained in fake blood… I liked the fact that in front the blood was painted to look almost exactly like a knife wound… and white boots, she prowls the stage like an escaped animal, and I mean that as a compliment. Her facial expressions could easily lead one to assume she’s utterly insane… forget Joaquin Phoenix in The Joker, this chick is the real deal. RJ asked me after the concert, and I think she was serious, “who hurt her?”

The show was part rock show, with Henri Cash’s guitar loud and ferocious – believe me, my ears are still ringing today – and part performance art. I haven’t had that much fun on a Monday in a long, long time. The rhythm section was tight and strong. I’m not sure how to describe Arrow’s on-stage presence. As I said, its part performance art – she tied the microphone cord around her neck at one point and into her mouth like a gag at another point – and part full on rock and roll. She jerks with the music as if she had hinges instead of joints. She spits, she blows her nose on the crowd, she spit water on me, she mauls the front row of the crowd. She picked her nose and yet I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She’s a seriously riveting performer.

They played for an hour. My only complaint is they needed to turn up the vocals. Arrow’s voice got lost under the guitar and bass during a few of the verses. She’d banshee wail the choruses so you could hear her then but if they’d just turned her vocals up a notch or two, it would have been perfect sound. Cash’s guitar pedals malfunctioned at one point and that took a while to fix… as they get bigger they’ll have guitar techs to handle that stuff. In between songs, Arrow tended to just flop down on the stage and drink water. She’s like a punk rock rag doll.

They played tunes from both albums and went back to their first single, “Ants.” There were so many highlights – “I Love L.A.” and my favorite from them, “No More Pennies” were stand out tunes. “Bet My Brains” was particularly unhinged. “Pussy Tower,” “Hollywood Ending,” “Pet Semetary,” and “You Dig Yours” were all great. It was played loud and fast and I loved every minute of it. The Rock Chick and RJ stood toward the back of the crowd, but I was right up in front of the stage, one person back, in front of the microphone stand punching the air. There’s just something about being that close to the band that hits me in the lower brain stem.

To end the concert, Arrow came crashing off the stage, after biting a fake blood capsule and rubbing the blood all over her face. She crashed into me and the creepy old guy, and then staggered to the back of the crowd where she fell to the ground. She then jumped up and hopped up on the bar in front of the Rock Chick and RJ…she jumped off and disappeared into the basement. The crowd was elated and ready for more, but they were clearly done… I’d have liked to stuck around to see if the band came out and signed autographs, but we ducked into a restaurant next door, the Westport Cafe, for a night cap. What a great Monday. Keep your eye on this band… like Greta Van Fleet, it’s great to see these younger kids playing straight up, fuck you, rock and roll.

Cheers!

 

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Green Day: New Single, “Father of All…” – Trying Something New?

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I’ve always considered myself to be a “catalog fan” of most the bands/artists I like. By that, I mean when I find an album by a group I like I tend to go backwards from that point in time and buy all of their albums, i.e. the entire catalog. As an aside, I heard Courtney Love of Hole once describe her band as a “catalog type of band, like Bob Dylan.” Uh, not quite babe. Don’t get me wrong, I like Hole. With most bands, after I’ve secured the back catalog I tend to buy each new album from that point onward. I tend to look forward to these new albums, like emails from old friends.

Green Day falls into that “catalog” type of band Ms. Love was speaking of. I bought Dookie, like we all did. I did not replace it when it was removed from my apartment by a young lady I was dating. You couldn’t escape that record and I’d grown tired of it…I figured let her have the album as I hadn’t provided much else to her. When I met the Rock Chick, one of our first dates was to a record store and she picked up Insomniac and Nimrod. She already had Dookie and the underrated gem, Warning. Suddenly, I was back into Green Day.

I was surprised to learn that after the recording of Warning and the subsequent tour, the band almost broke up. Billie Joe Armstrong, lead vocalist, guitarist and songwriter had hit a writer’s block. There was so much pressure on him to repeat the success of Dookie he had become afraid to even present ideas to the band, Mike Dirnt (bassist) and Tre Cool (drummer). They had to go into couples er, band therapy to work it out. Billie Joe finally admitted he wanted to write something like “Bohemian Rhapsody.” He wanted to move the band in another direction but was afraid to mention it to his bandmates. They emerged with a stronger bond and the hit album American Idiot. 

Now, I also subscribe to the great man theory of rock and roll, something I stole from a history class. It posits that there are certain important people, these “great men (or women),” who can have a major effect on rock and roll in their time.  I think about Billie Joe Armstrong this way, the same way I think about Jack White or Beck. I’ve been impressed with Armstrong’s constant search to expand or change Green Day’s sound and approach. He’s always striving for something new. It’s not like he’s releasing a string of albums of oldies (ahem, Rod), he’s pushing the band in different, brave new directions.

They went from the new punks on the block to writing Rock Operas, ala the Who. After a couple of those albums (American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown) they veered back into non connected, “collection of songs” type records. For reasons unclear, he decided that Green Day should record and release three albums at once, Uno!Dos!, and finally Tre! (a play on the drummer’s name). Billie famously had a breakdown during the tour for the triptych of albums. He’d bitten off more than he could chew.

Clean and sober, Billie Joe and Green Day returned in 2016 with Revolution Radio, which ironically the Rock Chick didn’t like but I loved, LP Review: Green Day “Revolution Radio,” They retrench and relaunch. Well, I loved that trio of records prior to that, but I think I’m alone in that, but I thought Revolution Radio was a punchy return to form. The Rock Chick feels that they’ve become too polished and are more “arena rock” now. She longs for a track as nasty as “Geek Stink Breath.” She’s not wrong. All rock and roll could do with a little less polish.

Ever the workaholic, while Green Day took some time off, Billie Joe kept working. Like his 2013 duets album with Norah Jones, Foreverly, Armstrong decided to work with a side project. By the way, everyone should check out Foreverly, choosing Norah Jones to sing with him was an inspired choice. I hope they work together again. Anyway, last year Billie put out a side project with a new band, The Longshot, that was more in keeping with his day job in Green Day or his first side project, The Foxboro Hot Tubs. I loved the album and all the EPs they subsequently put out, LP Review: ‘Love Is For Losers’ From The Longshot, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s New Side Project, and The Longshot Return (Already?) With A Single and 3 EP’s – Billie Joe Armstrong Can’t Stop!. The Longshot was a rocking good time… certainly it seems that Armstrong was having a lot more fun than he had in a while. I mean, they covered Ozzy’s “Goodbye To Romance” for fucks sake!

Green Day recently released a new single, the title track from an album that won’t come out until February, Father of All… The first time I played the song for the Rock Chick, she stood up and walked out of the room. I have to admit it was quite a surprise. Upon further listens, it does sound like Green Day but that first listen was a stunner. Let me say, first and foremost, Tre Cool’s propulsive drumming is the best thing in this song. I realize Billie Joe wants to drive Green Day in different directions, but he’s deploying a falsetto that sounds utterly foreign to me. I will say the track, after that initial surprise, has grown on me. It’s punchy and has a great punk-like energy. I like Billie Joe’s guitar work on the track. Mike Dirnt lays down an aggressive bass line. It’s certainly not arena rock.

It took me quite a few listens but I finally got to a point where I can say, I don’t hate it. I can’t say I love it, I can’t say it gets me excited for what’s next on this new album like most first singles do. I typically only review stuff I like on B&V, to get the word out there. This post is truly the exception, I’m more baffled than anything. I’ve liked almost everything Green Day has done, so I’m hopeful the album surprises me, whatever direction Armstrong and the lads decide to go in. I’d still recommend checking this song out, but approach with caution, it doesn’t sound like Green Day… which was probably the point in the first place.

 

 

 

LP Review: Liam Gallagher’s ‘Why Me? Why Not.’

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As I have often shared here on B&V, I got married later than most of my friends…after a life of misadventure. I got married in my late 30s and by then I’d pretty much settled on the group of people I considered “friends.” My attitude was simple… I had enough friends, I didn’t need any more. I admit, it was a short sighted attitude to take at the time. Most my friends are parents now and have disappeared into what I call the “parent tunnel.” Thank God my friend Doug is still around for the stray beer every now and again (and yes, we’re overdue for one of those).

I met my wife during this period of thinking I had enough friends. And, like me, she brought her own group of friends with her into the relationship. I’m sure it’s the same for people who get married in their 20s or in their 60s for that matter. Your partner always brings their own set of friends with them. I wasn’t really emotionally prepared for that. I was a bit of a loner. I went from hanging out with people who were as comfortable to me as an old Stones’ concert T-shirt to meeting all of these new people. Don’t get me wrong, I liked a lot of those people… the late, great Nancy springs to mind (The Rock and Roll Drinking Songs iPod Playlist (for Nancy, my friend)), as does the dynamic duo of J&P. I generally think of most of my wife’s friends as my own friends now… although in truth they only put up with me because of her.

The hardest part of getting to know my wife’s friends was the “hanging out as couples” thing. Suddenly I was expected to join her and her gal pal and the gal pal’s husband for dinners where I was expected to show up sober and converse like an adult. I was given strict instructions to talk about things other than rock and roll… grrr. I never realized how hard it was to find another couple that you both enjoy hanging out with. One of the early exceptions to this rule was this wonderful couple my wife had known for years, who I’ll call Tracy and Rich, because well, those are their names. When we moved into our house together, the Rock Chick and I started throwing parties. I would labor for hours to put together a playlist for these parties. Stuff that was rocking but not any melt-your-face metal… nothing too obscure, no B-sides, no Allman Brothers’ “Mountain Jam” (which goes on for thirty minutes). It was hard work, but I felt good about it. Invariably, we’d be at the party, me glorying in the majesty of my playlist when Rich, from the aforementioned couple, would approach me and say, “Hey man, can you put on that new Oasis album?” The next thing I’d know, my playlist was on the scrapheap of history and we were jamming on Don’t Believe The Truth. Sigh.

Oasis was a band that I had largely ignored during their heyday. They were in that post-Nirvana wave of rock bands that didn’t catch my attention the way Pearl Jam, Soundgarden or Alice In Chains did. I vaguely remember hearing them described as Brit-pop but that might be wrong. I do remember seeing them on MTV and despite speaking English, the channel had to use subtitles. I remember the lead singer Liam Gallagher, when he’d heard some criticism leveled at Oasis by George Harrison, saying that Harrison was “a nipple.” Dude, its George fucking Harrison? What is a nipple? I mean, I know what a nipple is, but why would you call someone that?

But, as I was to learn quickly, like the group of friends that your significant other brings into a relationship, there’s a host of music coming with them too. And, at my age, I’d already pretty much determined which bands I was going to listen to. For the most part my wife and my musical taste are that perfect Venn Diagram, with a tremendous overlap in the middle. She’s turned me onto some great bands over the years. Green Day was one she brought me back to. And, like Rich, she loved Oasis. I will admit, their last few albums were fantastic – Don’t Believe the Truth and Dig Out Your Soul are the type of albums this blog was founded to talk about. We actually saw Oasis at Red Rocks in Denver on the tour for Don’t Believe the Truth and somehow we scored first row tickets. I made the mistake of playing air-guitar and Liam not only saw me, the nipple mocked me. They certainly make it hard to slip onto the bandwagon.

I followed, or actually the Rock Chick followed Liam into Beady Eye after Oasis broke up. After their first album, I lost interest. Then Liam went solo and in 2017 released As You Were and I’ll admit to being extremely, pleasantly surprised (LP Review: Liam Gallagher, ‘As You Were’ A Pleasant Surprise From an Unpleasant Man). That was truly a great album. The song “Chinatown” is still in high rotation around here. I was doing some musical spelunking a few Friday’s ago and discovered Liam was back with a new album, Why Me? Why Not. 

I’ll start off by saying, I really like this new album. He brought back the same producers from As You Were, Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt and they have again crafted a great Oasis-like album. Liam may miss his brother Noel’s songwriting a bit but he’s found some perfect collaborators and he’s making some of the best music of his career. I will say, overall, this album is not as fabulous as his first record, but it’s a very strong sophomore effort. Maybe my expectations were just higher after that first record? As the Rock Chick said, while generally being positive about the record, “There’s just no “Chinatown” here, babe.” Harsh? Liam, along with his producers have found a way to make music that sounds fresh/new at the same time as sounding “retro.”

The album kicks off with the first single, a rocking tune, “Shockwave” that starts with guitar riffs and harmonica, hell yes! It fades into my favorite track here, the shimmery, acoustic “One of Us” where Liam’s voice just soars. The first true ballad on the album is up next with the beautiful “Once.” I’m very impressed with the wealth of emotions Liam expresses in this group of songs. He’s upbeat (almost too much so) on tracks like “Now That I’ve Found You” and darker on “The River” and even sad on “Meadow.” His voice is the key to tying all of this together.

I will say, there are a couple of moments where he veers too far into “pop” territory. The aforementioned “Now That I Found You” which the Rock Chick didn’t like but I did is an example. I feel there’s a little vulnerability underneath the happy bluster of that track and it pulled me in but it is very pop. The only track I didn’t like was “Halo” as its almost, dare I say, “jaunty.” I don’t do jaunty. It has someone hammering on the piano like it’s “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and not in a good way. The final track “Glimmer” is another poppy track that sort of lost me…

That said, there are a lot of songs I like here… “Gone” almost sounds like it’s from the soundtrack of a “spaghetti western” and I mean that as a compliment. “Alright Now” is a beautiful, wistful track. “Be Still” has a great riff which almost reminds me of “Downbound Train” (only at the very beginning, and the Rock Chick says I’m nuts). Even on first listen each song seemed to open up and reveal something special to me. I credit Kurstin and Wyatt for that effect…

I highly recommend this record and I’ll say it now, you can expect this record to be on my “best of” albums of the year. I highly recommend checking out Why Me? Why Not. even if Liam can be a bit of a nipple now and then…and yes, I still play air guitar Liam… deal with it.

Cheers and Happy Autumn, folks!

 

RIP Ric Ocasek – Singer, Songwriter, Producer for New Wave/Rock Band The Cars Has Passed Away

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*Photo taken from the internet, from ABC News and likely copyrighted

Well this one is gonna leave a mark… more bad rock and roll news this past weekend when it was announced that the Cars’ lead singer, rhythm guitarist, songwriter and all around seemingly nice guy Ric Ocasek passed away peacefully in his sleep Sunday. On the heels of Eddie Money’s loss on Friday, it was a tough weekend. While my love of Eddie Money may have been singular to me, everybody loves/loved the Cars. My heart goes out to all his family and friends.

People tend to think of music in terms of “decades.” We often hear about the 60s or the 70s when people try to quantify and qualify music. I guess if you’re trying to get your head around a certain era or a certain sound it makes some sense. I don’t think music, music trends or the arc of certain bands’ careers fit neatly into those boxes. The Cars (and well, Eddie Money for that matter) certainly don’t fit neatly into the 70s or the 80s box. There was a decade in music from 1975 to 1985 that you can carve out, with it’s own distinct vibe and that’s where the Cars fit in (and really it’s more like 1978 to 1988). You could argue that with Van Halen, they may have ruled that “sub-decade.” Many of those bands started off as straight forward (for lack of a better description) 70’s rock bands and then morphed in the era of synths, drum machines and MTV to survive the first part of the 80s. No one made that musical transition more seamlessly than the Cars, helmed by Ric Ocasek.

My god, the music this band made was just phenomenal. The Cars sprang seemingly out of nowhere from Boston (although Ric Ocasek and bassist/vocalist Benjamin Orr had been knocking around in bands long before that). They were a quintessential Boston band. Hell, Ocasek had even hired David Robinson of the Boston band The Modern Lovers (Digging In Deeper: B&V Artists/Albums To Expand Your Music Collection – Don’t Be Afraid!) as his drummer… both Ocasek and Jonathan Richman (leader of the Lovers) were huge fans of the Velvet Underground whose music influenced both groups.  Inspired and excited with his new drummer, Ocasek responded with a batch of songs that would become the Cars’ (Ocasek, Orr, Robinson with keyboardist Greg Hawkes, and lead guitarist Elliott Easton) masterpiece debut album, The Cars. They should have named that album The Cars Greatest Hits because it is a perfect record – and one of the greatest debut albums of all time. They were able to fuse rock and roll and the blossoming New Wave sound into something uniquely their own.  The songs on that debut record… “Good Times Roll,” “Moving In Stereo,” “My Best Friends Girl,” “Just What I Needed.” Big rock with great, twitchy vocals. Ocasek and Orr’s vocals with Easton’s economical guitar solos and Hawkes ever present keyboards was the perfect mix.

They followed up in 1979 with what may be my favorite Cars’ LP, Candy-O. The Vargas painting on the front cover, with a beautiful woman on the hood of a muscle car… it’s iconic to me. There was no sophomore slump for the Cars. You couldn’t escape those first two albums, they were so huge…those records were the soundtrack to my high school years. They’d had so much success Ocasek was able to indulge his more experimental side with their third record, 1980’s Panorama. While that was a commercial and critical setback, it still had some great songs – “Gimme Some Slack,” “Touch And Go,” and a song I like to play for my wife, “Don’t Tell Me No.” I think that’s when I saw them play on Tom Snyder’s Tomorrow show, the closest I ever got to seeing them live… They rebounded in 1981 with the more “pop” album Shake It Up which has my all-time favorite Cars’ track, “Since You’re Gone.” As a brokenhearted teenager, post-breakup (my first), mooning over lyrics like “Since you’re gone, well, the moonlight ain’t so great” was habitual.

It was 1984’s Heartbeat City that blew the Cars into the stratosphere… they ruled the airwaves and MTV. With hits like “Drive” (sung beautifully by Orr), “You Might Think” and “Magic” the Cars were even bigger than in the early stage of their career – and believe me they were already huge. It was at that time when geeky looking Ric Ocasek ended up dating and marrying supermodel Paulina Porizkova, leading all of us nerds out here to think we had a shot with the prettiest woman in our lives. Any time I saw an average dude with a smokin’ hot lady, I’d say, “That’s the luckiest guy you’re gonna find, this side of Ric Ocasek.” There was a lot of conflict on Heartbeat City – Orr wanted to write more, Robinson was pissed as Ocasek used drum machines vs his drumming. They never quite recovered from that conflict… after the uninspired Door to Door the Cars split up for good. Orr and Ocasek never reconciled and Orr passed in 2000… sad indeed.

The thing that really set the Cars apart, for me, are the lyrics. Ocasek wrote more like the Beat poets he admired than a traditional songwriter who tells a story, like say, Springsteen. The lyrics for “Hello Again” read like a string of bumper stickers: “You might have forgot/the journey ends/you tied your knots/you made your friends/you left the scene/without a trace/one hand on the ground/one hand in space.” That’s a great way to start a song. Bowie is always heralded as the artist who was out there for the misfits. And yes, he was. But Ocasek ranks right up there with Bowie for all of us outcasts. He wrote songs about geeky guys lusting for the prettiest girl in school. It may comes as a surprise to readers of B&V, but I wasn’t exactly “popular” in high school… I blame the acne. Ocasek’s vision spoke to me. He wrote and sang with an icy coolness, a detachment that seemed to come from the outcast, the person sitting on the edge of the party, people watching. And yet, he still wrote with a vulnerability that was so honest. He did all of that while making us want to dance… the music of the Cars, like much of the music of that decade was just fun.

Ocasek went on to produce for a lot of different bands ranging from Suicide to Weezer, to name but a few. Everyone who worked with him raved about what a great guy he was. Ocasek even produced a couple of tracks for No Doubt which I never realized. He could make edgy music yet had a great ear to make songs radio friendly. He had to be amazing to work with in the studio. The Cars did reunite for one last album in 2011, which was sadly long after Benjamin Orr had passed… I wish he and Ocasek could have reconciled prior to Orr’s death… maybe now they can. The resulting 2011 album Move Like This, with the remaining members of the Cars save Orr was one of those unexpected treats and great, late-career albums that B&V was built on. I would recommend it to anybody. It wasn’t Candy-O, but it was a strong record. Sadly now that sound, that voice has been silenced. All I can think regarding Ric Ocasek is, “since you’re gone, well, nothings makin’ any sense.”

RIP Ric Ocasek. Your music will last forever… and not just because of Phoebe Cates’ topless scene in Fast Times At Ridgemont High, set to “Moving In Stereo.” Although I’m sure that won’t hurt…

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Friday New Music DJ’ing & Greta Van Fleet’s New Single, “Always There”

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This past Friday was a lot like other Friday’s here at the B&V labs. I had returned from a long week of travel in the service of my corporate masters that found me in Phoenix and St. Louis. I’m usually pretty burned out after all of that “work” and I’m typically anxious to seek the comfort of my own home, my own bar and more importantly my own stereo. The American Royal BBQ was taking place this weekend, and the Rock Chick and I could have headed down there, but it’s only fun if you know someone whose actually competing so you can get free samples of freshly smoked beast. Otherwise you’re just hanging around in a smokey parking lot. I get that experience at Arrowhead Stadium 8 times a year…oh yes, I get my fill on smokey parking lots.

One of the great things about a Friday at home with the Rock Chick is our propensity to start doing some musical exploration. Many a Friday, I’ll turn the DJ duties over to my intrepid wife, the Rock Chick, and she’ll serve up a host of classic rock and alternative tracks that lasts well into the wee hours. Gone are the days where we had our drunken dance parties… now we just drink and rock, and let’s face it, I never danced so much as convulsed. I’m rhythmically challenged on the dance floor.

Lately the DJ parties have gotten even better since we now have Spotify here at the house. We can now actually explore outside the confines of our own music collection. After a long and respectful homage to the late Eddie Money who passed FridayRIP Eddie Money, B&V Mourns The Loss of the “Money Man”, I actually took the DJ helm and found a Spotify playlist, “New Rock.” Pretty straightforward on the title there… Not a hugely creative bunch down there at Spotify… I started paging through all the new music that’s come out and damned if I wasn’t a tad surprised at all the stuff that’s already out or coming out.

After wading through some music I should have avoided (the Goo Goo Dolls are still around? Puddle of Mudd?), I discovered there’s a whole lot of music coming out that I’m excited about. I had heard that Liam Gallagher, erstwhile singer of Oasis had a new album coming but I had no idea he’d put five songs out already. The Who have released their first song from their impending album, which I was thrilled about. It’s been 12 years since their last LP and all I can say is, it’s about time. After that I found a playlist entitled “New Alt” and quickly turned the DJ duties over to my wife… that music is more in her wheel house. I did hear some great new stuff…and yes, eventually we’re going to have talk about this new Iggy Pop album.

All of that said, there was a method to my madness in pulling up the New Rock playlist. I was looking for (and found) the new track from millennial Zeppelin fans Greta Van Fleet. I had heard it and wanted to play it for the Rock Chick. Much has been said and much has been complained about in regards to Greta Van Fleet. Me, I’m a fan. I tend to agree with PNW Bob who says, “they don’t deserve the hype or the backlash.” I still can’t believe it’s been two years since the Rock Chick burst into my office and said, “I don’t know who this Greta Van Fleet chick is but she sounds like Zeppelin…”

The new track, which I’ve read was a surprise, is entitled “Always There.” It was cut for a soundtrack to some movie, “A Million Little Pieces” which I will profess to knowing nothing about. I don’t know whose in the movie, nor do I care. All I care about is new GVF. I actually knew they were in the studio making new music and had heard there might be another album, the follow up to last year’s Anthem of a Peaceful Army, but maybe they just cut this single. I certainly hope we’re treated to more new Greta… I’m seeing them in concert next Saturday with my friend, Drummer Blake and I must say, excitement is brewing here at the B&V labs. Naturally, I will dutifully report in with my thoughts after the concert.

As will be no surprise to recurring readers of B&V, I really like “Always There.” The track starts off as a bit of a strummer… with Jake Kiszka melding acoustic and electric guitars. Josh’s vocal starts nuanced before later turning on the Plant-banshee wail. The real star on this track is Sam Kiszka on bass. His lilting, rolling bass carries the song along and takes it to “Over the Hills And Far Away”-classic territory. Danny Wagner’s drum fills are a perfect compliment to the rolling bass line. At about the half way point Josh turns up the vocal volume and a choir like backing vocal comes in to elevate the whole thing to 11.   Nobody makes music like this any more, especially at their age. I think they’re slowly finding their own voice (despite my “Over the Hills…” comparison, I just can’t stop doing that). I look forward to whatever these guys do next, and I can’t say that about a lot of bands these days.

Do a little musical spelunking next weekend… see if you find something you didn’t know about, it’s good for the soul. And check out this new GVF track, its something that you will definitely enjoy.

Cheers!

B&V Returns From Vacation With A Playlist: Songs of Home

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“Home is where the heart is…” – Pliny the Elder

The Rock Chick and I share a love for the open road. There’s nothing like jumping in the car and driving long distances with music blaring and the wind and sun flowing in the windows. I just have that Jack Kerouac ‘On the Road’-jones, I suppose. While I’ve spent most my life in Kansas City, there’s a gypsy soul in my heart and I love to keep moving. Last week the Rock Chick and I jumped in the car and headed out to points West, to the mountains, to see our daughter and have a little vacation. Things get stressful here at the B&V labs and sometimes you gotta get away… see different stuff, talk to different people, try on different clothes.

Now, I’ll be the first person to admit what a privilege it is to be able to go on a vacation. Not everybody can take off work and actually travel. I will also be the first person on the planet to profess his undying love for my wife and child. We are typically a very good squad to travel with, a very tight-knit group. Those caveats aside… after about three days on the road with my family, I just can’t wait to get back home. I miss my own bed and pillow. I like sitting on my couch in front of my TV drinking my bourbon. Paying $14 a drink didn’t help things. And whilst I love my family, no matter what group you’re traveling with, eventually you’re gonna hit a wall. What starts off nice turns, well, for lack of a better word, crabby. Three people in a confined space doesn’t always work. I travel for my work so my time at home is sacred. Naturally on the back end of my vacation, after spraining my ankle by stepping in a hole, whilst gazing up at the beautiful mountain scenery (because I love the mountains and they hate me… I just don’t perform well at altitude), my thoughts turned to home… which then turned to rock and roll songs about home.

When I got back home last week, I found that we’d finally sold my wife’s deceased father’s home. It’s out in the country, literally in the middle of nowhere. The guy who was renting the place moved out and left a mess. Even at the zenith of my bachelorhood, I couldn’t have imagined living in the filth this guy did. We gathered a squad of intrepid friends  who went above and beyond the call of duty and helped us clean out the two barns. It was a dystopian nightmare in those fucking barns, but we cleaned it all up. My thanks to all of them. As I was going through all of my late father-in-law’s belongings, it felt bittersweet. I was close to him. I was glad to be cleaning up the place but kind of sad to let go of this last vestige of “him.”

I have to admit, the sheer volume of stuff in that barn made me think of George Carlin’s definition of home, as just “a place for your stuff.” My father-in-law was a bit of a hoarder. He had over 200 guns. I’m not a gun guy… I’m still baffled by that. More confusing still was his collection of over 180 large, semi-trucks. These were adult Tonka toys. He had a full size road-grader. He had several fire trucks. He needed a really big place for his stuff. As I cleaned out his barn, under a sign that read, “Free Beer… Tomorrow,” I couldn’t help but think about mortality and the passing of time. But more importantly, having just returned home from a brief vacation, I thought about the nature of “home.”

Is “home” just a place for our stuff? Here was this big farm, actually a ranch since he ran cattle on the land, full of big trucks and guns but at the end of the day my father-in-law lived by himself. He always seemed to have a girlfriend, but I never really got to know any of them because as soon as I learned their names, they were gone. I think he was a happy man but do we ever know the mind of others? We got down to see him as much as we could but he lived in a pretty remote area. Is life really about who dies with the most toys wins? Do we just stack up our money and stand on top of it to decide who has the most value?

The only thing that I could come up with as I pondered these deep thoughts in a cavernous barn full of refuse, is that “home” is more than just a building where we keep our stuff. It’s a feeling. I gazed over the group assembled in that barn, three close friends and my wife, and reflected on seeing my wonderful daughter the week before and I realized, “home” is not a building. It’s not what Carlin thought it was, “a place for my stuff”… it’s this network of friends and family. I think Billy Joel sings it best in the song “You’re My Home,” when he sings the line “Well I’ll never be a stranger and I’ll never be alone, wherever we’re together, that’s my home.” Not to be maudlin folks, but as my friend Alfonse always says, “it’s all about love.”

I hope that where you are you are surrounded by family and friends, that you are truly home and happy… As always you’ll be able to find this playlist on Spotify under the title “BourbonAndVinyl.net Songs of Home.” I will add any suggestions to the playlist made in the Comments section… I have to admit, I was surprised at the number of really sad songs about home… what is it about home that causes such longing? There are a host of emotions in these songs… but doesn’t home always evoke a host of emotions? From longing to get back home to longing to hear from someone whose left home… it’s all here.

  1. Aerosmith, “Home Tonight” – The ending track from Rocks, I love the guitar coda.
  2. Cinderella, “Coming Home” – These guys were the bluesiest of the hair bands. I’ve always dug them.
  3. Genesis, “Home By the Sea” – An epic, almost creepy track from them.
  4. Paul McCartney, “Eat At Home” – Ok this song is about sleeping with your spouse, but the metaphor works.
  5. The Beatles, “When I Get Home” – Great deep track by the Beatles.
  6. Neil Young, “Homegrown” – Great track that finally got released on American Stars N Bars. 
  7. Silvertide, “Ain’t Comin’ Home’ – Great little hard rock song from a band the Rock Chick turned me onto.
  8. Roger Daltrey & Wilko Johnson, “Going Back Home” – Title track from an overlooked gem of an album.
  9. Led Zeppelin, “Bring It On Home” – Bluesy, bluesy Zep.
  10. Chuck Berry, “Thirty Days (To Come Back Home)” – Chuck issuing an edict to his woman to get on back home. We all miss somebody out there on the road.
  11. Bush, “Baby Come Home,” – From the great late period record, The Sea of Memories. 
  12. Scorpions, “Coming Home” – For the Scorpions, home was the stage!
  13. Eric Clapton, “Lonesome And a Long Way From Home” – From his first eponymous solo album. Great track.
  14. Boston, “Let Me Take You Home Tonight” – Lame come-on, or great song. I’m leaning toward the latter.
  15. Delaney and Bonnie, “Comin’ Home” – With sizzling lead guitar by Clapton.
  16. CSNY, “Our House” – “With two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard…”
  17. Ozzy Osbourne, “Mama, I’m Coming Home” – Great Ozzy track from a great album.
  18. The Allman Brothers Band, “Please Call Home” – I love this song. I love both their first two albums Artist Lookback: The Allman Brothers’ First Two Albums, 1969-1970.
  19. Phil Collins, “Take Me Home” – Phil gets a bad rap, but who doesn’t dig this song?
  20. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Hometown Blues” – I have these all the time… but when I leave I just end up coming back.
  21. Joe Walsh, “Home” – Laid back, longing from his Barnstorm era.
  22. Eddie Money, “Take Me Home Tonight” – I hear the Money-man is ill. Here’s to a speedy recovery!
  23. Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, “Got To Be A Better Way Home” – From Asbury Park’s other great export…
  24. Bruce Springsteen, “My Hometown” – Speaking of New Jersey…
  25. Jackson Browne, “The Naked Ride Home” – Title track from a great Jackson Browne LP…in which he convinces a young lady to ride home with him, naked. I could never pull that off.
  26. Little Steven, “I Don’t Want To Go Home” – From the great Soulfire LP, LP Review: Little Steven’s ‘Soulfire’ A Triumphant Return To His Solo Career.
  27. Paul McCartney, “(I Want To) Come Home” – The saddest, sweetest song on here.
  28. White Stripes, “There’s No Home For You Here” – The Stripes say good bye to somebody.
  29. B.B. King, “Nobody Home” – B.B. doing a great kiss off song. It’s a shame when you can’t go home.
  30. Bruce Springsteen, “All The Way Home” – From the great Devils And Dust album.
  31. Tom Petty, “Home” – From the deluxe edition of Highway Companion. 
  32. Billy Joel, “You’re My Home” – The best description of my vacation…
  33. Gregg Allman, “I Believe I’ll Go Back Home” – Great blues from his next to last solo album, Low Country Blues. 
  34. Motley Crue, “Home Sweet Home” – Classic song by the Crue.
  35. J. Geils Band, “I’ll Be Coming Home” – I still can’t believe these guys weren’t bigger in the 70s. What a great, overlooked band.
  36. Blind Faith, “Can’t Find My  Way Home” – “Cuz I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home…” I think we’ve all been there.
  37. Elvis Presley, “Stranger In My Own Home Town” – The King, returning to Memphis and finding himself a stranger.
  38. Iggy Pop, “Home” – From the great, Brick By Brick. 
  39. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, “Country Home” – A quintessential 7-minute jam from Neil and most importantly, the Horse!
  40. Rod Stewart, “Oh God, I Wish I Was Home Tonight” – Rod doing the “call my girlfriend back home” song.
  41. The Vaughan Brothers, “Long Way From Home” – Stevie Ray and Jimmie laying it down.
  42. Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Comin’ Home” – Good ol’ southern rockers, headed home.
  43. David Byrne, “Everybody’s Coming To My House” – A song in which David invites everyone to his house, and then sings, “And I’m never going home.” Hysterical.
  44. Robert Cray, “I Can’t Go Home” – People forget how big the bluesman became in the late 80s.
  45. Led Zeppelin, “Baby Come On Home” – Early track that only came out on an album on Coda. 
  46. Sam Cooke, “Bring It On Home To Me” – The best voice in the world, doing one of the best songs in the world.
  47. Simon & Garfunkel, “Homeward Bound” – The folkies best song in my opinion.
  48. The Allman Brothers, “Leave My Blues At Home” – Steppin’ out and leaving your blues at home… God knows we all need to get out more.
  49. Roger Waters, “Home” – “Everybody has a place, they call home.”
  50. Buffalo Springfield, “On The Way Home” – This upbeat Neil Young track sums up how I feel when we load the car for the trip home…
  51. U2, “A Sort of Homecoming” – Epic, earnest… “I am coming home…”
  52. Stephen Stills, “Go Back Home” – Gut bucket blues… I seem to be drawn to bluesy numbers for this playlist.
  53. Bruce Springsteen, “Long Walk Home” – One of his finest late period songs. About geopolitics but it works.
  54. Foreigner, “Long, Long Way Home” – Epic rock song.
  55. Steely Dan, “Home At Last” – Steely Dan chronicling Odysseus’ famous trip home from the Trojan Wars.

There it is folks! Hug a loved one. Cheers!

 

B&V’s Favorite MTV “Unplugged” LPs

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As a kid growing up, my parents didn’t even have basic cable. All the TVs at the house had the old rabbit-ear type antenna. When there were multiple football games being broadcast on New Year’s Day, my dad would bring three TVs down to the living room and watch all three major networks (yes, only three) to catch every game. If one of the TV’s screens was out of wack, I’d often have to stand in the corner, one hand on the TV set, one hand in the air, just to make the picture clear. I was the Human Antenna. Thankfully in those days I wasn’t facing the New Year’s Day hangover… that didn’t come until later.

Eventually, shamed by other parents, my parents got basic cable so we kiddos could watch Sesame Street to build our young minds. We had the most bare-bones cable package you could get. My father, who closely modulated the thermostat to save cash, wasn’t about to “piss away money” on cable TV. There was no HBO or Showtime at the house. If I wanted to see any R-rated stuff, I had to do it the old fashion way, sneak into a theater (thank you Bo Derek for 10). The neighbors had HBO and on a sleepover I once saw Lynda Carter, the original Wonder Woman, in a biker movie and she was topless. It was like “discovering plutonium” as they say on Seinfeld. I couldn’t help but think, at that tender age, “fuck yes, I’m getting HBO when I’m on my own…I’ll never leave the house.”

It wasn’t until I was in high school that I discovered there was something called MTV, short for Music Television. My buddy Matthew and I went up to Kansas State to visit some older friends of ours who were already up at University. As I was wandering around the labyrinth of the dorm filled with hallways and separate rooms (it was like walking in a human-sized ant farm), I came upon a room with like 5 guys crammed around a TV. They invited me in and lo and behold, they were watching MTV. Back then MTV was like radio with videos, one after another… Mostly the videos were crude concert footage with low grade effects, but I thought it was really cool.

Eventually, much to everyone’s surprise I graduated from high school and was accepted to a state university. Where I lived, they had the opposite philosophy as my father and bought the most expensive cable package available. We had every channel on the planet, save for pornography, on the TV in the common room. Invariably, late at night on weekends, I’d end up in the basement in front of the TV with a few of the other drunken, lonely heart’s club types and we’d watch MTV videos until the sun came up. The crowd down there got thicker during finals week… we all needed something mindless after exams so after drinking we’d end up watching countless videos. Of course, there were great videos and then crappy, pop music type videos. I can always remember thinking, “Ok, if the next video sucks, I’m going to bed…” Invariably one more decent video would come on and I’d be stuck for another thirty minutes. It was so relaxing it could be described as mind erasing.

When I moved into exile in Arkansas, there was literally no rock and roll radio. MTV, who had begun to schedule some regular broadcast shows into their programming was still predominantly playing videos. Nowadays you’re more likely to see a music video n the weather channel… MTV got me through the tough years down there. MTV is where I discovered Guns N Roses, the Black Crowes and many other bands. They certainly weren’t playing that music on the radio in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. It was around that time, I believe in 1989, that MTV began what may be their greatest legacy, the ‘Unplugged’ series. I’d always heard they were inspired by a video awards show where Jon Bon Jovi, looking coke-addled (he always looked that way to me) and Richie Sambora got on stage with only two acoustic guitars and played “Wanted, Dead Or Alive.” That was cool, lets do a show like that… The concept was simple, put a band on stage, give them acoustic guitars and let them play stripped-down versions of their tunes.

They started the series with some minor to semi-big bands. I think Squeeze was on once. But it wasn’t until 1991 when Paul McCartney performed on ‘Unplugged’ that the show took on some “next-level” kind of rock and roll credibility. McCartney took the next step and actually released his performance as an album (well, as a CD), the first artist to do so. It was a limited edition of only 500,000 copies and I had one in my hand in a record store in Warrensburg, Mo but didn’t have the cash and passed up buying it, which I obviously regret to this day. After that it was Katie-bar-the-door. Everybody was on ‘MTV Unplugged’ after that. Strangely though, not all the artists released the results on an album/CD.

There were all manner of performances on ‘MTV Unplugged’ from the sublime to the questionable. It got to the point where ‘MTV Unplugged’ became “appointment television” for me and my friends. If there was a band we really loved, we’d make sure we were together, beer iced down, in front of the television ready to watch. I remember I was flying back from St. Thomas the night Robert Plant and Jimmy Page did their Unledded episode of the show but I got stuck in a hotel in Atlanta and missed the show. I was in the only hotel on the planet without MTV. I was pissed.

Thinking about those ‘Unplugged’ shows I decided to compile a list of the B&V favorite ‘Unplugged’ albums. This is not a list of the best performances from the show – many acts chose not to release an album after being on ‘Unplugged.’ But, for the ones who did, and there were many, these are the 10 albums I find myself going back to after all this time. Again, we’re only talking about actual LPs here, not performances on MTV. Yeah, they’re a little mellow, but who cares, a good acoustic evening is just what the doctor orders sometimes.

Honorable Mention

  1. Pearl Jam – Eddie Vedder was simply unhinged on this performance. He writes “Pro-Life” on his arm in magic marker while teetering on a very unstable bar stool. They put a blu-ray disc of the performance in the rerelease of Ten, but have yet to release it as an album. I wish they would.
  2. Aerosmith – I have a bootleg of this performance and it’s awesome. They were still bluesy and sounding like the old 70s Aerosmith at this point. Huge mistake not to release this one.
  3. The Rolling Stones, Stripped – The Stones never deigned to be on MTV’s ‘Unplugged,’ but they went ahead and recorded their own, predominantly acoustic album and it’s one of their better live documents.

The BourbonAndVinyl Top 10 ‘Unplugged’ Albums

  1. Nirvana, MTV Unplugged In New York – This is simply the best MTV Unplugged ever. This was a sublime performance. Stripped of the sturm und drang, Cobain’s brilliance as a songwriter and dare I say, writer of melodies rises to the fore. This is not only a great acoustic concert it’s just a great concert. Bittersweet as it was released after Kurt Cobain’s tragic end.
  2. Alice In Chains, MTV Unplugged – I love AIC when they’re heavy, like on “Man In A Box” but I always loved the acoustic based Jar of Flies. This performance was a perfect extension of that. While I’m the first to admit nobody probably needed an acoustic version of “Frogs” there are some great versions of “Killer Is Me,” and “Over Now” just to name a few. It would be Layne Staley’s last concert.
  3. Paul McCartney, Unplugged – I love McCartney in this stripped down show. Like his recently released Amoeba Gig (Live) album (LP Review: Paul McCartney, ‘Amoeba Gig (Live)’ – His Best Live Album?), playing in front of a small audience brings out the best of him. Beatles tunes, solo hits, and rare covers make this a special performance.
  4. R.E.M., Unplugged: The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions – This album only got released in 2014 and I’m hoping it serves as an example to all those bands who held back on releasing their performances. R.E.M. was a very strumming/acoustic based band to start with… They’re perfect for the ‘Unplugged’ setting. I probably lean more toward the 1991 session, which was when they were touring for Out of Time. However, the 2001 set, when they were touring behind Reveal has some beautiful and melancholy moments that are irresistible. Obviously, I’d play one disc at a time.
  5. Rod Stewart, Unplugged…And Seated – Rod has always had that perfect melding of acoustic and electric, folky and rocker. The thing I love about this album is he brings back Ronnie Wood, his erstwhile band mate in the Faces and they return to Rod’s best period, when he was on the Mercury label, and tear it up! I believe there was a lot of drink involved.
  6. Eric Clapton, Unplugged – McCartney may have given ‘Unplugged’ it’s credibility, but Clapton showed that these albums could be a commercial juggernaut. This thing sold a ka-jillion copies. At the time we all loved the acoustic version of “Layla,” done here as a shuffle… It kind of got worn out. I like the older blues covers he throws in here. Chuck Leavell who plays with the Stones now is on piano and he has a fabulous solo in the song, “Old Love.”
  7. Page/Plant, No Quarter (aka Unledded) – These guys turned the whole concept of ‘Unplugged’ on its head. Some tracks are live, electric versions of their old Zeppelin tunes. Some are straight up acoustic and some are just great experiments, fucking with their sound, i.e. “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” The spirt of experimentation ran through three new tracks released on this album, the first Page/Plant collaborations since Zeppelin broke up. It would have been nice to see John Paul Jones here too, but that’d have upped the pressure.
  8. Eagles, Hell Freezes Over – I may be fudging a little here… this started off as an ‘Unplugged,’ but there is really only one acoustic take on a classic, on a sublime version of “Hotel California.” This was the first time in 14 years the Eagles got together, if they want to plug the electric guitars in and go for it, why not… It’s certainly what Springsteen did on his ‘Unplugged’ with much less spectacular results.
  9. Bob Dylan, MTV Unplugged – People will scoff at this entry. Dylan was coming off two great, unappreciated folk/acoustic records when he did this ‘Unplugged.’ He’s engaged and playing faithful versions of classics here. It was, for me, the beginning of his recording come back. It seemed like he cared for the first time in a long time. There are great versions of “Shooting Star” and “Dignity” on this record too.
  10. 10,000 Maniacs, MTV Unplugged – I’m like most guys from this era. I don’t have any 10,000 Maniacs, I never liked the 10,000 Maniacs, I never bought their albums. However, almost every woman I dated, and there were a few, had this or some of their other albums. After  hearing a few times… because I was a bit of a man about town in those days, I realized Natalie Merchant’s vocal performance makes this the only 10,000 Manaics album you need. I love the cover of “Because the Night” written by Springsteen but made famous by Patti Smith.

Cheers!