Missed Music

Music you didn’t know you needed…until now.

The weekend mix: Here’s to new parents

I’m an uncle. Very exciting stuff. Little Rainey was born into the family yesterday. My own daughter is 9 now. I hazily remember the first few weeks after she was born. We didn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a stretch for 6 weeks. You don’t know problems from normal baby stuff. Having a baby can be hard adjustment for the body, the bank balance, and the bedroom. It’s a tough job.

Good luck with that.

Of course, there is no greater source of wonder, joy, and fear than your own baby. You can have an academic understanding of how having a baby will change your life, but until you actually do it… It’s the difference between reading the ingredients list and actually eating ice cream.

A lot of artists have been moved by their own experiences as children, lovers, and parents. Here are some I got to thinking of when I heard the news.

  1. Joy – Phish
    Phish has written a lot of songs about nothing in particular (“Stun the puppy, burn the whale. Bark a scruff and go to jail.”) and about fictional situations. This is a heartfelt song Trey wrote to his daughter. “We want you to be happy, ‘cos this is your song too.”
  2. Mama’s Always on Stage – Arrested Development
    These guys were talented and had a positive message. I wish they could have kept it together. This track has it all: a fast, danceable groove, rocking harmonica, exuberant backing vocals, and praise for mothers from Speech. It’s a must-have for your collection.
  3. All U Can Eat – Ben Folds
    In this song, a father advises his son not to be an ugly American.
  4. Isn’t She Lovely? – Stevie Wonder
    From one of my top 5 desert island discs, “Songs in the Key of Life.”  This is one of Stevie’s most celebratory songs. Every second of the 4-minute harmonica solo is worth close attention.
  5. Three Is a Magic Number – Blind Melon
    15 years later, I’m still sad about the untimely death of Shannon Hoon. Shortly after the birth of his daughter, Nico, and shortly before he died, Blind Melon covered this Schoolhouse Rock classic.
  6. You’re My Girl – Neil Young
    Neil Young visited Motown on his album, “Are You Passionate,” and wrote this great song about taking his daughter out into the woods to show her some things.
  7. Wild World – Cat Stevens
    Old school. Before he changed his name to Yusuf Islam and called for the murder of Salman Rushdie for insulting Islam and Allah (may he be praised eternally), Cat Stevens was a loving father and great songwriter.
  8. Daughters – John Mayer Trio
    “Try!” was fantastic live album, which I just realized I should write up this week. Some of the pop Mayer writes loses me, but he’s a tremendous talent and rocked that album. This is a live performance at the GRAMMYs.  “Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers be good to your daughters too.”
  9. Beautiful Boy – John Lennon
    This wonderful, soothing John wrote for Sean is part lullaby, part fatherly advice and also contains a favorite lyric of mine, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
  10. Mother Mother – Tracy Bonham
    Ms. Bonham writes a letter to her mother about going out into the world. The gutsy and honest vocal performance makes this track rock.
  11. A Father’s Son – Citizen Cope
    Greenwood laments a man’s life gone wrong because he didn’t grow up like his father.
  12. When You Dream – Barenaked Ladies
    This is a surprisingly sober and beautiful song from these goofballs. He wonders what a child with so little experience could dream about.
  13. Robots for Ronnie – Crack the Sky
    This 70’s rock band that almost made it big reminds me of Phish in their goofy lyrics and brilliant, often jazz-influenced music. This ballad is about parents buying a robotic friend for their fat loser of a son.
  14. To Zion – Lauryn Hill
    People advised her to think of her career, but she decided to have the baby. She says, “Now the joy of my world is in Zion,” referring to her son, Zion David-Nesta Marley (grandson of Bob Marley).
  15. New Mistake – Jellyfish
    They wound up sounding an awful lot like Queen on their second album, but since I like Queen, that’s not a problem for me. This is a cool power pop examination falling in love and having a baby.
  16. Alligator Pie – Dave Matthews Band
    Dave Matthews is still putting out great music. His daughter, Stella, asked, “Daddy, when you gonna put me in a song?” 2009, apparently.
  17. Kooks – David Bowie
    My all-time favorite song written by a father for his child. Bowie invites his child to “…stay in our lovers’ story.” Listen and read along.
  18. Sons & Daughters – Decembrists
    I like the hopeful tone of this song. He promises a better world for our children, which is what we all hope for.

I may return to this topic, because I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface of songs inspired by artists’ children. Enjoy this song with a coke because, you know, we have to stay straight for the kids.


March 6, 2011 Posted by | Alternative, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Jam Bands, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | 2 Comments

The Friday mix: Halloween songs

My daughter is a ninja this year. I’m glad we’re past the whole princess or fairy or fairy princess thing. Ninjas are way cooler and she knows it. Halloween has been my favorite holiday since it overtook Christmas when I was about 8 years old. I love the weather, the candy, the fantasy, the fear. All of October is great leading up to it. As I did last year, I put together a Halloween mix for you. Enjoy.

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns.

  1. Monster Hospital – Metric
    I wanted to kick this mix off with a scary as hell video. Enjoy. Metric’s lead singer, Emily Haines, is a member of Broken Social Scene, but this song sounds more like an old Breeders tune. It might be a protest song. “I fought the war but the war won.”
  2. Looking at the Invisible Man – The Dead Weather
    Jack White and Alison Mosshart at their funky freakiest. A dirty bass line and weird lyrics make this sound bad ass. I wasn’t crazy about this follow-up album, but I really like this song.
  3. Miracle in the Bazaar / Lockjaw – Todd Rundgren
    This is from the album “A Capela,” a project by Rundgren in which every sound on the album is some straight or electronically manipulated product of Rundgren’s voice. I really wanted to just put on ‘Lockjaw’ – a fable about an ogre who nails lying children’s jaws open with a rusty nail, using his head for a hammer. It begins at the 4:14 mark of this link. Still, ‘Miracle at the Bazaar’ is kind of creepy, so it fits.
  4. Deadweight – Beck
    This was released on the ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ soundtrack back in 1997, so you may have never heard this gem. It’s a winner, if you edit off the minute of chaotic noise at the end.
  5. Dead Man’s Party – Oingo Boingo
    Who writes better spooky party music than Danny Elfman, the man who wrote the music for Nightmare Before Christmas and who voiced Jack Skellington when he sang? Yeah, that would be no one.
  6. Evil Guh – Jookabox
    This was a really cool project, and this song’s dark topic, plodding pace, and disturbing delivery make it perfect for the holiday.
  7. Phantom Don’t Go – Jookabox
    Twofer, because it really is cool and both work nicely in a Halloween mix.
  8. Johnny Is Dead – Q Tip
    Bummer for Johnny; good news for us. A simple keyboard backbone for Q Tip, but it’s all he ever needs.
  9. Dead Man Walking – David Bowie
    Brrraaaaaiiiinnnnssss! This is some of Bowie’s later, less organic rock. I still really like it.
  10. Heaven’s Dead – Audioslave
    Cornell has my favorite voice in rock n’ roll. And he can write a great melody. Great song.
  11. Scarecrow People – XTC
    They wrote some oddball songs and this is one of them, but God help me I love these guys.
  12. Bloody Cape – Deftones
    What would a Halloween mix be without some crunching metal? The Deftones lay some violence on us.
  13. In My Blood – Starsailor
    OK, so the tone of this song is hopeful, not spooky. The title makes it belong, plus the song is cool, heavy pop. It reminds me a lot of Black Crowes, actually, which is odd since the band is British.
  14. Wolf Like Me – TV on the Radio
    The more I hear TV on the Radio, the more I like them. I saw them at Bonnaroo and they were impressive. This is a great track.

Enjoy this mix with a black martini. Have a good weekend and a great holiday.

October 29, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Classic Rock, Hip Hop, Mix CD, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

Well rounded folk rock from musical veteran Lou Barlow

Lou Barlow is a bona fide rock star. I had no idea who he was when I picked up his 2009 release, “Goodnight Unknown.” The disc was surprisingly good. I liked song after song and started to wonder, “Who is this guy?” The songwriting was remarkably mature and I had never heard the name. Turns out Lou Barlow was a founding member of 3 bands you may well have heard of, Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, and The Folk Implosion. I have some Sebadoh on my iPod. I don’t have any of the other two, but I’ve heard of both. So Barlow has been as successful musician for over 25 years. He knows how to write a rock song and it shows on “Goodnight Unknown.”

Apparently part of the unknown is the inscrutable cover art.

Barlow doesn’t try to do too much on this album. They play their instruments, you don’t get many crazy arrangements, and the sound is relatively clean. The strength of “Goodnight Unknown” lies in the simplicity and quality of the songs. The melodies are engaging, the lyrics are meaningful, and the arrangements all fit. It is not the best album I have heard this year, but it is a rock solid effort by a musician who knows his way around a recording studio. In fact, Barlow himself produced the album with a little help from Andrew Murdock (who has worked most notably with Godsmack and Alice Cooper). Give my favorites a spin and see if you’re not interested.

  • Sharing – Basic, slamming percussion and regular chords hit 4 per measure march this song along behind Barlow’s alto.
  • Goodnight Unknown – This is a big and friendly pop song with a bit of a 60s folk-rock throwback feel. Just a bit, though.
  • Too Much Freedom – Here is a quieter, acoustic song with a pretty melody and deep lyrics. I like the variety of sounds Barlow and company are comfortable playing.
  • The Right – More simple percussion and breathy alto singing. This reminds me of ‘Sharing,’ but it’s even catchier.

As I said, I don’t have any Folk Implosion or Dinosaur Jr. Any suggestions as to what I should pick up first?


October 20, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Folk, Popular, Rock | 3 Comments

Rock solid new material from Stone Temple Pilots

Like many people, I loved Stone Temple Pilots back in the day, particularly their first two albums, “Core” and “Purple.” The band broke up after Dean DeLeo and Scott Weiland nearly got into a fistfight during the last show of their fall tour in 2002. The members went their separate ways and released 7 years worth of other projects before Weiland’s wife made a phone call that led to a reconciliation. The band recorded some songs and the DeLeo brothers produced it themselves (against Atalntic Records’ wishes) while on tour (which is why it took 10 months to mix), with a little help from a stellar musician/producer, Don Was.

Not fresh, but hot.

The result is a self-titled album that doesn’t really break any new ground for Stone Temple Pilots, or anyone else for that matter, but reminds you of why you liked STP so much. It is not a great leap forward, but it is a bold step back. I have to confess I didn’t really like their last album, “Shangri-La Dee Da” and only ripped one song from it. “Stone Temple Pilots,” however, has a bunch of cool songs. I don’t need hot, new groundbreaking work. I’m glad to hear them back in the saddle again.

Check out these 4.

  • Between the Lines – This was the single and it has a video. The video isn’t great, but the girl is. The song rocks and I like the lyrics.
  • Take a Load Off – This one sounds straight out of 1992 at the sunnier end of grunge.
  • Hazy Daze – The lick is hot and I love the buzzing guitar sound they use on this track. The vocal melody is cool and the harmonies at the chorus are great.
  • Peacoat – This has the crunching guitars and bright vocals you remember from their early days and they still do it well.

I realized that all the songs I picked were throwbacks. They did take some chances on the album, and if you want to hear some of the weirdness you should pick up the album. It reminds me of some of the weirder stuff Led Zeppelin did on some of their albums. Kind of cool to hear, but not something I need coming up on random on my iPod. Ultimately, these guys didn’t knock this comeback album out of the park, but they did stretch it into a slide-in double.


October 13, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Hard Rock, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

Amazing alternative pop from Danish duo The Asteroids Galaxy Tour

The Asteroids Galaxy Tour is a modern alternative pop duo from Denmark consisting of vocalist Mette Lindberg and producer Lars Iversen. Well, they are a duo in the studio, though they bring more musicians with them on the road. They got their big break when Amy Winehouse heard their demo tape and asked them to open for her in Copenhagen. After that, the band had a song picked for an iPod commercial and now they seem to be on their way.

You just have to trust me on this one.

I have to confess, I picked up their debut, “Fruit,” from the library with low expectations. I didn’t know about the iPod commercial and had never heard their name. The cover is a bit goofy and even as the disc began the opening few bars only revealed that the singer has a peculiar voice. As the album progressed, however, I heard creativity, superior production, great arrangements, and just all-around solid songs. I find I am constantly reminded of other bands when I listen to this and I drew some of those comparisons in the descriptions below. So some of it is derivative, but that is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. The sounds they borrow are fresh and not nearly played out, and they bring something of their own anyway.

I know some of you are reading this and saying, “Strange and derivative Danish pop, eh? Oh, boy.” But really, the variety of sounds they play is almost Beck-esque and the conviction and courage with which they play even their stranger songs makes them work. I ripped 6 of the disc’s 12 tracks so I’m giving this a whole-hearted thumbs-up. Give these a listen and see if you don’t agree.

  • Lady Jesus – The first verse just has acoustic guitar and hand claps backing a simple but appealing melody that is gang sung. Eventually, keyboards and horns come in and it bounces along irresistibly.
  • The Sun Ain’t Shining No More – The funky groove reminds me of “Walking on the Sun” by Smash Mouth. The main differences, in fact, are strings instead of keyboards and female lead vocals instead of male.
  • Push the Envelope – Great big, crushing keyboards and power chord guitar back Lindberg singing a brilliant vocal melody. This is not a track that makes you want to get up and dance, but it is powerful and cool.
  • Satellite – The verses remind me a bit of The Breeders because of the thin, slightly weird guitar line and the vocal melody. The chorus is straight up mainstream pop, though.
  • Hero – This is a mellow and slightly oozy love song with sparse occasional horns. This one reminds me a little of Macy Gray, actually.
  • Inner City Blues – OK. This is a fantastic cover of this Marvin Gaye song. Fantastic. This is Cat Power meets Zero 7. If you follow this link, make sure you stay for at least 2 minutes until the song gets going.

“Fruit” came out just under a year ago in September of 2009 (in Europe, October in the U.S.). One hopes they are hard at work on a strong sophomore effort.


September 20, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Popular, R&B, Rock | Leave a comment

Smart and funky pop from Luscious Jackson

Last week, I mentioned Luscious Jackson and realized I have never written up their great 1994 release, “Natural Ingredients.” I’m not sure how I overlooked this album for so long. It stayed in my CD player all fall that year and 9 of the disc’s 12 songs are still on my iPod (There are 14 tracks, but 2 of them are under a dozen seconds long).

These are some funky, funky women.

Luscious Jackson (named after NBA star Lucious Jackson) consisted of four women. They were pretty hot but, surprisingly, not assembled by a marketing team to appeal to the broadest slice of the 18 to 35 demographic. The women play instruments and write their own songs. Jill Cunniff and Gabby Glaser, the band’s primary songwriters, paid for the first demo with money they made at their restaurant jobs. Theif first gig was opening up for the Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill. They signed to the Beasties’ fledgling label but only released a few albums before breaking up in 1999.

Their first LP, “Natural Ingredients,” has elements of hip-hop, disco, and pop, though they are usually lumped into that nearly meaningless category, alternative. The songs are not full of blistering solos or complex instrumental lines. Rather, the individual parts are often pretty simple, but fitted together like an audio jigsaw puzzle. The melodies are simple but appealing and the production is top notch. If you missed this album when it was released, check this out.

  • Citysong – They create a great, funky groove with the keyboard riff, some occasional bongos, saxophone, and harmonica. This is a great way to kick off this disc.
  • Deep Shag – As John Cusack said in High Fidelity about sequencing a mix, you have to start strong and then kick it up a notch. This is my favorite song on this disc. The hook is catchy and the lyrics are honest and deep.
  • Angel – This has an almost retro disco feel, but it’s cooler than anything the Brothers Gibb put out.
  • Strongman – “It takes a strong man to stand by a strong woman. Yes, it does.” Yes, it does. This links to a live performance of this song, but they do a really good job with this live.
  • Energy Sucker – The video that accompanies this song on YouTube appears to be from some dreadful show. The song is what you’re here for, however, so just listen to the grinding guitar riff and funky percussion.
  • Rock Freak – I mentioned above how well produced this disc is. Here is a prime example. The guitar and keyboards are nicely mixed to play with each other during the verses. Some cool fuzz and flange is put on the guitar at the chorus and there is a little vocal sample that gets thrown in for spice.
  • Rollin’ – The verses are minimalist with sparse work by the guitar and keys, but the chorus is big with sweet harmonies.
  • Surprise – The percussion is busy again on this track and the vocals occasionally range into an almost Middle Eastern sound. Overall, it’s just a solid rock tune, though.
  • LP Retreat – This is such a strange tune. It reminds me of some of the weirder stuff Digable Planets has done. Surely someone must have sampled this to rap over it by now. The groove is so damn cool.

I got their other releases with high hopes, if not expectations. This was the best one, though. Lead singer Jill Cunniff released a solo album in 2007 called “City Beach.” I heard it and liked it, but not as much as this great album.


August 23, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Hip Hop, Popular | 4 Comments

Inventive alternative pop from Charlotte Gainsbourg and Beck

I have been exchanging some musical favorites with a new reader. I turned her on to Mos Def’s “The Ecstatic.” In turn, she led me to a fantastic disc by Charlotte Gainsbourg. If you know Charlotte Gainsbourg, it is probably from her roles as an actress in The Science of Sleep or perhaps 21 Grams. It turns out she is also an accomplished musician, and her 2009 release, “IRM,” is a brilliantly realized album full of evocative and beautiful songs.

She's got a devil's haircut. In her mind.

Charlotte Gainsbourg is the daughter of a British actress and singer and a French singer/songwriter, actor, and director. Her uncle is a screenwriter. Her grandmother was an actress (in Noel Coward musicals). Her grandfather was a lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy and a WWII espionage operative. I think it’s safe to say she has some heavy-duty genes working for her. All that intelligence, daring, and creativity have come together in Charlotte to create a multifaceted artist. Beck (Hansen) collaborated with her on this release and brings his prodigious songwriting and production talents to this album. You can hear his fingerprints all over this disc, but it doesn’t wind up sounding like just a Beck album. Instead, it is a true collaboration, with both artists making artistic contributions.

I recommend you check out these 8 tracks.

  • Master’s Hands – This is a simple and quiet tune that Gainsbourg sings quietly in front of rhythmically vamping guitar and percussion that sounds like it’s played on homemade instruments. It’s an unassuming song except for the gorgeous strings bridge.
  • IRM – This one sounds most like a Beck song, so she gets mechanical sounding synthesizer and prominent percussion. It’s not a pretty song, but this fully developed idea is funky and cool.
  • Le Chat du Café Des Artistes – My French is even worse than my Spanish, so I don’t know what she’s singing, beyond a cat in a café full of artists or something. Most of the song is pretty cool, but the whole thing hangs from the strings arrangement, which is eerie and perfect.
  • In the End – Acoustic guitar, violins, and glockenspiel support Gainsbourg on this appealing lullabye.
  • Me and Jane Doe – This reminds me of some cross between Liz Phair and Animal Collective, if you can imagine such a thing. The guitar and backing vocals are repetitive, but I don’t get tired of the hook at the chorus at all. I love this song.
  • Vanities – Here is another pensive, plodding song. The energy is low, but the harmonies are unexpected and gorgeous. Again, violins are used to great affect in fleshing out the song.
  • Trick Pony – This song jumps out as a real rocker after some of the quietly beautiful songs that populate much of this album. I love the reverbed slide guitar at the end of the song.
  • Dandelion – Gainsbourg’s breathy whisper and violins turn this blues riff into something like Beck playing with Dylan’s sound.

The thing I love most about this album is there are no half steps. The ideas are fully realized and listening to the songs one gets the feeling there are no accidents. Gainsbourg and Beck know exactly what they are trying to achieve with each song. The album goes to some interesting places without ever trying to do too much at once. I admire that kind of vision, focus, and inventiveness. Pick this one up for sure.


August 18, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Popular | Leave a comment

The Friday mix: pack your suitcase

Travel. There is nothing like it to broaden the mind, heal the soul, and make you appreciate home. My wife is on a plane to Korea right now. I also have an old friend who just got back to the U.S. from Thailand. He visited me this week and is driving back home to Texas via Chicago this weekend. This put me in a mind to assemble a mix of travel related songs.

Oh boy. I still have another pair of shoes to fit in there.

  1. Stay Where You Are – Ambulance Ltd.
    Everyone needs time off. I have friends who take “staycations.” I don’t do that very often. It’s affordable, but why do you work if not to be able to go cool places. No, you have to get out and…
  2. See the World – Gomez
    This is why everyone leaves home, right? OK, business occasionally, but everyone likes to see someplace new at times. This is a sweet acoustic melody about traveling and finding yourself a mate.
  3. Leaving Home Ain’t Easy – Queen
    One of the things that makes Queen so fantastic is all four members are great songwriters. This is one of Brian May’s songs about how setting out into the world is hard on you and on the people you leave behind.
  4. Go Outside & Drive – Blues Traveler
    If you want to travel, this is inevitable. This is from “Save His Soul,” which was always my favorite Blues Traveler album. In BT’s typical sunny pop fashion, John Popper is overcome by inertia in this song.
  5. Setting Forth – Eddie Vedder
    Vedder did the soundtrack for Into the Wild and it is fantastic all the way through. My favorite song on the album is a cover of “Hard Sun,” but this one is also great.
  6. The Bed’s Too Big Without You – Sting (feat. Rankin Roger)
    Sting does a much more up-tempo version of this song without The Police. The version released on The Truth About Cats and Dogs soundtrack features Rankin Roger (of The English Beat and General Public). Sadly, this sample doesn’t give you much, but here is a mediocre live version with Rankin Roger.
  7. Woman Driving, Man Sleeping – Eels
    Well, instead of missing your significant other, bring him/her along. I love a road trip. E completely captures the feel of a late night drive on this track. Love it.
  8. The Way – Fastball
    I included this for the chorus, “Where were they going without ever knowing the way?” The downside of driving is getting lost. This tune always makes me think of Smash Mouth. I like the retro feel and the keyboards.
  9. Airline to Heaven – Billy Bragg & Wilco
    Well, you can always fly. You can’t get to most places without doing it. This is a fantastic track from “Mermaid Avenue Vol. II” that features the winning combination of joyful acoustic guitar and handclap percussion.
  10. Plane Crash – moe.
    This is the genius of Rob Derhak, the bass player. The song is towering, with several distinct passages, but the lyrics are just perfect. And I have to confess, I think about this song most times I get on an airplane.
  11. Mr. Cab Driver – Lenny Kravitz
    If you flew – and didn’t crash – you need a cab. Kravitz tells us of the difficulty a dreadlocked black man has getting a cab. It’s from his first album and the energy is unbelievable.
  12. Camping Next to Water– Badly Drawn Boy
    OK, so it’s not how you get there, but what you do when you get there. One of my favorite reasons to travel is to go camping. Damon Gough has a delicate hand with this pretty acoustic tune from “Hour of the Bewilderbeast.”
  13. Homesick – Kings of Convenience
    If you’re gone too long from home, no matter how cool your vacation is, you miss it. Seems like more than half the songs the Kings write are melancholy, but they are nearly all beautiful. They’re very Simon and Garfunkel, but that’s OK with me.
  14. Many Rivers to Cross – UB40
    UB40 does a fantastic job with this old Jimmy Cliff song about struggling against adversity to find your way home. Both the lead and backup vocal performances are wonderful.
  15. Souvenir – Neil Finn
    “It’s nice to go traveling, but it’s so much nicer to come home.” — Frank Sinatra. Hopefully, you picked up a souvenir to remember it. Finn has a great talent for pop songs. This is a pleasing melange of strings and guitar with well-mixed percussion.

As I put this mix together, I discovered it is a rich topic and I imagine I will put together a few more mixes along these lines in the future. Enjoy this with orange juice from a can and a teeny tiny bottle of airline vodka. Have a great weekend.

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Alt Country, Alternative, Classic Rock, Jam Bands, Mix CD, Popular, reggae, Rock | Leave a comment

The best new album I have heard in a year from Them Crooked Vultures

Them Crooked Vultures is a true supergroup, unlike some bands that aspire to that moniker. It’s just a 3-piece, but what pieces: Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and The Eagles of Death Metal on lead guitar and vocals, Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters on drums, and John Paul Jones of Led (Freaking) Zeppelin on bass. In retrospect, I’m not sure why it took me so long to listen to their self-titled album, “Them Crooked Vultures.” I had heard about this project, but no one had played it for me or told me about the music. Last week, my brother told me I had to have it, so I picked it up.

Miraculously living up to the potential of this project.

Wow. My very first time through this album I loved it. Song after song had me checking my iPod to see the title. As is commonly noted about 3-piece bands, there is nowhere to hide. You have to be on your game 100% of the time to create a full sound. Well, all three men are notorious monsters on their instruments and they have created a sound here that is not only full, but also complex and edgy. Some of the songs hearken back to older rock, but it sounds like inspiration, not borrowing. Not to mention it’s OK for your band to remind people of Led Zeppelin if one of their members actually plays with you.

I’ve been a big fan of Homme’s for years. His twisted melodies and lyrics are the hardest, darkest, and coolest music to pump from my speakers since old Alice in Chains. Grohl is, of course, a great singer, songwriter, and guitarist, but it’s great to have him back on drums. In fact, Homme and Grohl have worked together before on the great Queens of the Stone Age album, “Songs for the Deaf,” on which Grohl played drums. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that John Paul Jones is so very impressive on this album, but I was. I guess I expected him to have lost a step, but he still has his chops and carries as much of the load as anyone else.

I could write up every song on this album, but I won’t. Just give a listen to these half dozen and you will want to go buy this album.

  • No One Loves Me & Neither Do I – I’m not sure what it is about having John Paul Jones in your band that makes you write hooks like this. The song rocks and the lyrics are fantastic.
  • New Fang – All three men are kicking ass in this song, though perhaps Grohl is hitting it the hardest on drums. It’s hard to say. One thing for sure, this song demands maximum volume from your sound system.
  • Dead End Friends – This one sounds more like something off of “Songs for the Deaf,” which is a good thing, of course.
  • Elephants – Jimmy Page would have been proud of the guitar work on this one. It is very Zeppelinesque all the way through, but not tired sounding at all.
  • Reptiles – Homme’s guitar riff is busy and jangling, Jones is relentless on bass, and Grohl keeps things moving along. Something about the vocal melody reminds me of Cream.
  • Warsaw, Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up – This has a dirty, swinging groove and cool lyrics during the verses and then odd harmonies at the chorus. I love how heavy the song feels when they jump back into the verses after each chorus.

I picked these six more or less at random from this disc and have left out a bunch of great music, like ‘Spinning in Daffodils,’ ‘Interlude with Ludes,’ and ‘Caligulove.’ This album is all killer, no filler and I hope these guys had enough fun doing this that they want to do it again. Maybe if we all go buy it and see their shows they’ll make so much money they’ll HAVE to go back into the studio.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Hard Rock, Popular, Rock | Leave a comment

Surprisingly good electronica from Perry Farrell

I was a huge fan of Jane’s Addiction. Their second album, “Nothing’s Shocking” would have been the soundtrack to a movie made about my freshman year in college. Their next album, “Ritual de lo Habitual” was also very strong with a lot of great music. The band broke up after that with members spinning off in various directions. Jane’s lead singer Perry Farrell and drummer Stephen Perkins stayed together and released a couple albums with Porno for Pyros. The first was great, the second was OK, and then they too broke up in 1998.

Maybe I shouldn't call it surprising.

By the time Perry Farrell released his solo debut, “Song Yet To Be Sung” in 2001, he had been spinning records as a DJ for a while and was getting into more electronic sound. This album features a lot more synthesizer and drum machine than I have heard from him before or since. He also spends less time wailing. He still does wail on this album, but he does some gentle crooning too, always in the service of the groove. Perry Farrel is Jewish (he was born Peretz Bernstein but picked his stage name as a play on ‘peripheral’). The lyrics on “Song Yet To Be Sung” are inspired by Kabballah, a discipline concerned with mystical understanding of the Torah. So you get the occasionally deep and esoteric lyrics you expect from Farrell. You also get some simple melodies dressed up with a lot of accompaniment, which you would also expect from Farrell. The production throughout this disc is great and the whole project just showcases another side of a talented and growing artist.

I have read reviews of this album from people who didn’t like Farrell branching out and moving away from his rock roots. This project completely works for me, though. Farrell shows remarkable versatility, great melodic sense, and a flair for experimentation. You might have trouble laying your hands on it, but give these tracks a listen and you will want to make the effort.

  • Song Yet To Be Sung – Here not just the lyrics, but the melodies and harmonies are inspired by Jewish traditions, though this song has a thoroughly modern sound. Ominous synthesizers and tribal drums ooze behind Perry and lots of background vocals.
  • Did You Forget – This song starts slow and strange. It stays a little weird, but about a minute in, the percussion kicks in and Perry starts wailing the way you remember from Jane’s Addiction.
  • Our Song – A very bouncy, bright, and danceable song. This one almost always lifts my mood when it comes on.
  • Say Something – This follows ‘Our Song’ perfectly on the CD. It’s mostly drum machine and layers of vocals, though there is a little synth in the background. Sadly, this sample plays you the bridge, not the verses or the chorus.
  • King Z – Oozy percussion and a pleasing piano riff are eventually joined by eerie violin and screaming guitar as Farrell sings another Jewish-inspired melody.

Farrell is a remarkable fellow. He founded Lollapalooza. He has worked with a great many people in a wide variety of styles all over the world. Read about some of his philanthropic work. My only complaint about Farrell is I seem to have had really bad luck when I see him live. I saw a Jane’s Addiction show that was cut short when Farrell was hit in the face by some debris thrown from the audience (understandable). I saw a Porno for Pyros show in Denver that lasted 90 minutes and the band took 2 breaks (inexcusable). I won’t go see him live again, but I will buy anything he releases.


July 12, 2010 Posted by | Alternative, Electronica, Rock | 1 Comment