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The Blues Magoos on Kraft Music Hall, “Tobacco Road”

Honestly, this is just psychedelic rock at its peak at its best, with a studio television program that understood the aesthetics of the style of the music, and doing the band justice. It’s excessive in places, but since when does psych-rock understand restraint? Never!

Lou Reed’s Legacy

This is what I’ve always said about Lou Reed’s approach to rock and roll:  for all of the avant-garde moments that challenge his critics and casual fans and what they could never wrap their head around is that, ultimately, he was the blue-collar rock star. Indeed, he was far more blue-collar  than Springsteen and Mellancamp and the like. And this is not because he sang of making ends meet and unionizing problems. Instead, he sang exactly of the kind of environment that fit him best — the mixture that is New York, the high, and the impossibly low. And because he was the artist to do so, it’s what made him the middle class: All of his albums, from the Velvet Underground’s self-titled album to the very end, they have kind of work-man quality to them: he speaks of things no other artist is willing to discuss so frankly, but he does so in such a plain, honest, and frank voice.
But the secret of this is not in the studio albums. As a graduate of the Pickwick school of musical apery, he knew exactly where his bread was buttered. Instead, if you want ANY indication of the sort of artist Lou Reed was, you need to look to his live material. Every song, every version of “Viscous,” “Sweet Jane” and “Satellite of Love” is vaguely the same, but each time performed differently, even slightly. You can look to the simple artistry all you want in the one-chord brilliance of “Heroin,” but the beauty of Lou Reed’s music is that even he performed his songs differently, each and every fucking time. Compare the studio version, to the “Rock and Roll Animal” version, to the one he did with Metallica for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and every one of them is different because that’s the way it goes as he sings them. It is the work of a man whose interests are rock and roll in and of itself, and the avant-garde: Things can be familiar and foreign at the same time, and hell, they should be.
Lou Reed proved that rock can be primitive and artsy simultaneously. “Heroin” is a testament to that philosophy, just as much as anything from “White Light/White Heat,” or “Metal Machine Music.” Anyone looking for one or the other is looking like a fool: Lou Reed  could do whatever he pleased, because he was held to no philosophy, no matter how much he studied, or how much he ignored.
Lou is rock’s everyman. Art, performance, and composition was the 9 to 5 for him. It’s the reason why New Yorkers resonated with him, just as much as it is  the gritty depictions of street life, one of so many in the mid-century era of New York chock full of gritty in-your-face attitude artists. Even his most inaccessible work (Metal Machine Music) is based on the principle that it gives somebody “what they want” (you love guitar sounds? Here’s all the guitar sound you can handle). Lou Reed was simply too busy giving everybody what they wanted to bother with compromise, and that’s the lone reason why he is so loved, hated, revered, tolerated, and respected across the board — no matter who you are.

Review: King Khan and the Shrines – “Idle No More”

King Khan’s first new full album in six years with the Shrines (though, they also put out an EP in between) is called Idle No More, and it could not be more perfect of a title. It’s self-referential not only for the band’s extended hiatus, but reflects the band’s own penchant for wearing its influences and sources on their sleeves as prophets of high-octane, few-frills rock n’ roll. While it’s difficult to eschew that absurd tendency to recall other bands in trying to define how a given song sounds like X (along the lines of something stupid like, “It’s the Rascals showing up, covered in sweat after a marathon of drugs and playing a set with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins down in Muscle Shoals!”), it becomes difficult when the Shrines are so obvious in where they cull their tunes. Any band that plays with less self-assured confidence would come off as hacky, self-important, self-appointed saviors of rock and roll. The difference is: King Khan and the Shrines just may be those saviors of rock and roll by their prowess first, their historical acumen second.

After the Jump: King Khan and the Shrines kick it old school, as they are wont to do

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Another Spin: Tom Verlaine – “Dreamtime”

I’ve been very fortunate as of late when it comes to finds in the bargain bin. I’ve been able to walk away with Paul McCartney’s Ram for insanely cheap, and mix that with the brilliant Moby Grape self-titled album in the same spot. I found Dave Von Ronk’s great 90’s collection of odds-and-ends, Going Back to Brooklyn, for dirt over at Kim’s. But the best find is one that flies under radar, and that distinction belongs to the newly relocated Earwax Records in Williamsburg. I’ve never been a fan, frankly, due to their tendency to overprice for both new and used records, but their bargain bin contained a gem I’ve been desperate to find ever since committing to my love for Television since their eponymous third album. While Television certainly had it’s flaws, I am willing to look back on it fondly at times, and even, maybe, find the need to go back and redo my own review of that record. But there’s a missing link between Television’s second album, Adventure, and their third. That missing link is somewhere in Tom Verlaine’s solo records, and there is no better individual link than his second solo album, Dreamtime. 

After the Jump: TV’s greatest hit.

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Ezra Furman Connects to the 80’s Underground in All the Right Ways

At the ripe old age of 26, I have come to terms with myself as being disconnected from my generation and what has become widely popular with the age groups that I have been lumped in with overtime for stupid and arbitrary reasons. In a society obsessed with crediting or blaming Baby Boomers for all the great things that happened in the 20th century, then quickly lambasted how shameless and listless their progeny, Gen-X, came to be, I enjoy a kind of bizarre ambiguity. In time, since 1999, I can recall reading articles that would define people in similar age brackets being part of “Generation Y.” Then “Generation, Why?” Then the “Nintendo Generation.” I’ve been lumped in with “iGeneration,” for a spell. And then there was that useless catch-all, “The Millenials,” which I do not consider myself a part of, as I can recall a time in my life when I did not have the Internet, or a cellular phone.

For the most part, I meet most of the recommendations I get from my peers regarding music with a skeptical ear. That useless bias for things widely considered classic by the critics and powers-that-be, as well as the “underground” and “secret successes” of bands long-gone get lumped similarly to me. I love anything that doesn’t have the power to disappoint me in the future, as I can only discover the the good things from a band long-gone, even if they were never that popular to begin with. Personally, this has drawn me primarily to the garage/punk bands of the 60’s and 70’s, and modern bands that take that sound directly. Even then, there are some bands recommended to me that I tend to avoid because I’ve developed an ear that can tell the difference between earnestness, trite and hollow tribute, and laziness.

My girlfriend is, admittedly, not somebody who takes music seriously — at least, not as much as I do. Regardless, she has become the default mixtape composer for our car trips together, and lately, she has knocked it out of the park. A lot of the tracks stem from our early days together as DJs at the world’s finest Internet-based college station, VIC of Ithaca College, but she still has the power to surprise. In particular, I cannot believe I missed Ezra Furman and the Harpoons during their college-rock hey-day as a group of absolute nerd-rockers who know the worth of keeping it simple, and isn’t afraid to be so.

In particular, she’s introduced me to “I Wanna Be Ignored,” a hyper-ironic pop-punk tune that combines the absolute best of two original CBGB’s bands — the Ramones and the Talking Heads — and sounds as modern as possible, while seemingly comfortable with the brainy-nervous qualities of New Jersey’s very own, the Feelies.

In a mere 3:37, this band (which has called both Massachusetts and Chicago, IL home) displays a strength for simple-as-all-get-out riffs, but mixed with the nervous, herky-jerk voice style of David Byrne in his prime. It creates a sound that is very much at home with the Feelies around their debut record, Crazy Rhythms, but has something that the Feelies would never dare display: Confidence. Ironic hesitation and shyness is one thing, but Ezra Furman and the Harpoons have a kind of bravery on display when frontman proudly proclaims, “I Wanna Be Ignored” — it’s not just a character to the song. It’s also the Ezra welcoming all to simply enjoy the music regardless of taste and personal background. And damned if it doesn’t work, even when, in the same song, manages to come off as too nerdy for its own good.

It’s difficult to judge whether it’s intentional or not, because most listeners will be quick to point out the originators of any particular influence, rather than the most obvious link (“Speedy Ortiz doesn’t sound like Pavement, because Pavement sounds like Sonic Youth and Television!” would be a recent example).   But in my collection, I would hesitate to liken Ezra Furman to the Talking Heads and Modern Lovers, even if the influence IS obvious. In my mixtapes, Ezra Furman and the Harpoons have earned a spot closer to Camper Van Beethoven and the Feelies by virtue of simplicity — either because an acoustic guitar is all you got, or because it’s all you want to play with. But where a sense of humor is shared among all of the aforementioned bands, Ezra Furman demands your attention, ironically, and for all the right reasons: Music is meant to be loved in the moment.

The Mountain Goats May Have Put On the Best Alternative Show I’ve Ever Seen.

That’s an oddly specific title, and I should really explain — especially considering I had the title in mind as I was coming up with the idea, or rather, the idea is the headline. Either way, I’d like to elaborate.

I’m not terribly familiar with The Mountain Goats. My girlfriend got me into them, and I’ve been intermittent about my enthusiasm about them, seeing as I am averse to most things folk, or quirky, or particularly attached to having emotions come before all else. Still, I adore The Sunset Tree and their latest, Transcendental Youthwas among my favorite records last year, certainly in the top ten. I saw them live for the first time before I knew anything beyond the ‘big’ songs (“No Children,” This Year,” “Love Love Love,” as most people have told me) in Boston at the House of Blues, simply because I knew my girlfriend was into them. After that, I’ve been enthusiastic about getting into the band further, because they put on a terrific live show. It was with this in mind that my girlfriend and I planned to see them at the Church on the Green in New Haven, CT. But unfortunately, my better half came down with an illness, so I went alone (well, with a last-minute friend who was willing to tag, but had no real inclination to see this or any other band, really) up to New Haven to see John Darnielle and Peter Hughes rep the full band in a Protestant Church. And short of a week later, I’ve come to realize just how special this show truly was, and not just for it’s immediate uniqueness (after the jump, I’ll indulge), but because it may have been the indie rock show to which all others SHOULD be judged.

Alone, in the rain, and in a place no Jewish boy should ever set foot without proper invitation, I determined that the Mountain Goats had put on the best alternative/indie show, I’ve ever seen.

After the jump, details and what have you, about the things you do for love, love, love.

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How The Jam Aligned Themselves with Classic Rock Royalty in One Song

Since the beginning of the band’s existence, in both songwriting and appearance, it was clear that the Jam owed an incredible amount of debt to the My Generation era of the Who. From their impeccable covers of “Disguises” and  to their preference for to appear in stylish Mod dress at all times, the Jam could very much have been considered the most authentic representation of true British punk in the late 1970’s, especially when considering their relative lack of success in the States. Where the Sex Pistols and the Clash (among others) became well-known ambassadors of the UK’s version of the genre, it was the Jam’s well-honed mixture of stylistic complexity and Weller’s witty, satirical lyrics a la Ray Davies, that the Jam were perhaps too smart to be the kind of punk that people expected.

But where they didn’t quite fit in with the rest, they excelled as a class of their own. But in one song in particular, the band shows that they’re perfectly fine being aligned with the older guard of British rockers, by being able to build upon their concepts and techniques and create something for the young gobbers to ponder to while they pogo.

After the Jump: Addressing an tired old theme for a new generation of mods and rockers alike.

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