The Lonely Minotaur

Music & Concert Reviews

Can we talk about how awesome a year 2002 was for indie music? — February 16, 2019

Can we talk about how awesome a year 2002 was for indie music?

By the time of my senior year of high school, class of 2000, I was desperately pinning away for a back to basics rock revival. By 1999 grunge and Brit Pop, my two biggest genre obsessions, were basically extinct. Hip Hop, Boy bands and a rap/metal hybrid were dominating the charts, the airwaves and the television. Basically my worst musical nightmare. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I finally began to see a beacon of hope. That hope was The Strokes. Seems cliche to write but they really were transcendent without really being overly revolutionary in September 2001. They helped kick the door down and were at the front of the march towards the rock revival over the next handful of years. Sure other bands might have been technically more advanced and ambitious but nobody looked cooler as they played good old fashioned rock n roll with killer melodies and lyrics. Finally, after many years waiting, the tides were beginning to turn. My prayers were about to be answered. 

When the calendar flipped to 2002 a whole new era of bands were emerging, getting tons of press, played across radio and television and most importantly inspiring people to pickup the guitar again as an instrument of art. Being a rocker was cool again it seemed. I knew a vast purple patch of great music was starting to take hold across the globe, I just didn’t realize fully at the time how tremendous the overall year of 2002 was. It really was an incredible time of new bands bubbling up (The Walkmen, Interpol, The Coral) and more established bands (Wilco, Flaming Lips, Bright Eyes) hitting their artistic apex all at the same moment. If anyone really wants to get a feel for the excitement of these times I highly suggest buying Lizzy Goodman’s book “Meet Me In The Bathroom” which focuses on the rock revival in New York City between 2001 and 2011. 

So in honor of the year 2002, I’ve decided to rank my Top 20 albums of that year and provide a killer playlist of outstanding tunes. Enjoy. 

Top 20 Albums of 2002

  1. Wilco – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 
  2. Coldplay – A Rush of Blood To The Head
  3. Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights
  4. Sigur Ros – ( )
  5. Doves – The Last Broadcast
  6. Broken Social Scene – You Forgot It In People
  7. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi battles the pink robots part 1
  8. The Soundtrack of Our Lives – Behind The Music 
  9. The Walkmen – Everyone Who Pretended To Like Us Is Gone
  10. Bright Eyes – Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground
  11. Beck – Sea Changes
  12. The Coral – The Coral
  13. Spoon – Kill The Moonlight
  14. Death In Vegas – Scorpio Rising
  15. The Notwist – Neon Golden
  16. Sonic Youth – Murray Street
  17. Iron & Wine – The Creek Drank the Cradle
  18. Blackalicious – Blazing Arrow
  19. Trail of Dead – …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
  20. DJ Shadow – The Private Press

 

The Playlist

The Walkmen – “Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone”

Wilco – “Heavy Metal Drummer”

Doves – “There Goes The Fear”

Coldplay – “The Scientist”

Pearl Jam – “Down”

Oasis – “Songbird”

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives – “Nevermore”

Iron & Wine – “Faded From Winter”

DJ Shadow – “You Can’t Go Home Again”

The Coral – “Dreaming of You”

Interpol – “PDA”

The Flaming Lips – “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1”

Broken Social Scene – “Cause = Time”

Bright Eyes – “Lover I Don’t Have To Love”

The Hives – “Hate To Say I Told You So”

Beck – “Lost Cause”

The Notwist – “Consequence”

British Sea Power – “Childhood Memories”

Moby – “We Are All Made of Stars”

Spoon – “The Way We Get By”

…And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – “Relative Ways”

U2 – “Electrical Storm” (William Orbit Mix)

Death In Vegas – “Scorpio Rising”

Damon Albarn – “Sunset Coming On”

Sigur Ros – “Untitled 4”

Ekkehard Ehlers – “Plays John Cassavetes 2”

Boards of Canada – “Dawn Chorus”

Blackalicious – “Blazing Arrow”

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Bang”

Sonic Youth – “The Empty Page”

Badly Drawn Boy – “Silent Sigh”

LCD Soundsystem – “Losing My Edge”

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Can’t Stop”

Bruce Springsteen – “The Fuse”

So This Was 2018…. — December 30, 2018

So This Was 2018….

I have to admit that with each passing year I find less and less albums that I truly love enough to listen to straight through on multiple occasions. I’m not sure if that is a reflection of the current state of the music industry or just my own personal listening habits. I still think there are tons and tons of fantastic tracks being made on a yearly basis. I’m just not finding a lot of them strung together on the same album release it seems. There are still rays of hope out there for the future of the album format. Rookie bands like Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever, Soccer Mommy and Foxwarren delivered the goods and have my complete attention moving forward.

Anyways, without further ado, here are 10 of my favorite albums of 2018 followed by 25 of my favorite songs from this calendar year. It is a pretty eclectic list that leans hard on indie rock but with a handful of hip hop jams sprinkled in. Also thank you to anyone who has read this site over the last few months. It is very much appreciated.

 

My Favorite 10 Albums

Kurt Vile – Bottle It In

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard

Soccer Mommy – Clean

The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt

KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

Bill Ryder-Jones – Yawn

Low – Double Negative

 

My Favorite 25 Songs

Kurt Vile – “Loading Zones”

Spiritualized – “A Perfect Miracle”

Arctic Monkeys – “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino”

Bill Ryder-Jones – “Don’t Be Scared, I Love You”

Bradley Cooper – “Maybe It’s Time”

Young Fathers – “In My View”

Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

Soccer Mommy – “Your Dog”

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Kite”

J Mascis – “See You At The Movies”

Interpol – “If You Really Love Nothing” (Reimagined by Petr Aleksander)

Thom Yorke – “Unmade”

Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever – “Talking Straight”

KIDS SEE GHOSTS – “Reborn”

Low – “Disarray”

Kanye West – “Ghost Town”

Conor Oberst – “No One Changes”

Foxwarren – “Lost On You”

The Coral – “Reaching Out For A Friend”

The 1975 – “Love It If We Made It”

Rostam – “In A River”

Parquet Courts – “Tenderness”

Iceage – “Pain Killer” featuring Sky Ferreira

Jonny Greenwood – Tree Synthesisers

Jeff Tweedy – “From Far Away”

 

 

 

I’d Love It If The 1975 Made It — December 8, 2018

I’d Love It If The 1975 Made It

I walked into A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships having never listened to a note of music from The 1975 prior. Sure I’ve seen the name over the years on various music sites and concert posters in New York City but I never engaged the music until now. I only really took notice when comparisons with Radiohead’s Ok Computer started popping up online. Led by lead singer Matty Healy making the very first allusion to it over a year before its release. Those are big time claims and being a massive Radiohead fan, I decided to jump in and investigate those bold proclamations. The gauntlet has been thrown down. Will The 1975 answer it’s call?

To be honest, the album sounds nothing like Ok Computer sonically. The production is way too pristine and upbeat for Radiohead despite some really dark lyrical content from Healy. The only true hallmarks of Radiohead’s musical footprint can be found on “How to Draw / Petrichor” which sounds like Kid A noodling meets Aphex Twins’ “Girl/Boy Song”, “Be My Mistake” and “Surrounded by Heads and Bodies” that share different elements of “True Love Waits”. The former borrows ideas from the “True Love Tape Loop” and the latter from the acclaimed acoustic rendition found on I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings. The homage gathering the most attention is “The Man Who Married a Robot / Love Theme” with its robot/Siri/Alexa like voice over narration. I’m not too keen on the robot’s commentary but the background music is beautiful and again harks back to the “True Love Tape Loop” as mentioned previous. 

What A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships does contain in its 58 minutes is harsh critiquing of today’s modern society and the way millennials behave within it. The album is short on solutions to these life headaches but has no problem declaring a list of grievances in grand fashion. Another underlying theme on this record is Healy’s heroin addiction and recovery. Every song you think is about love is actually an ode to heroin. It’s just cleverly disguised. The LP contains three huge bangers, “Love It If We Made It”, “Give Yourself a Try” and “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You)” which serve as the tent poles for this release. I find great merit in a guitar based band that can still crank out a catchy tune that can currently be heard on what is left of modern radio and rack up huge Spotify streams. I’m curious to see where The 1975 take this newly found universal acclaim and hype. Matty Healy seems like the type of guy who wants to be a huge star, in a huge band and has no problem letting you know that. What makes that even more impactful is he has the music to back up those claims. The band promises their next album will be out by next summer’s festival season that is currently titled Notes on a Conditional Form. We shall see if Matty Healy can find any real emotional connection in society he so desperately is searching for on A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships.

Grade: B+

Mark it….FAB! The Best of The White Album box set — November 24, 2018

Mark it….FAB! The Best of The White Album box set

The White Album turned the big 5-0 this week and much like last year’s 50th birthday celebration for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a grand rollout of goodies was included. Giles Martin, son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin, remixed the entire album for today’s millennial ears with some good and some getting use to results. The remix will of course take some time to adjust to, the White Album has sounded only one way since 1968 and not many ever called for it to be cleaned up or fiddled with in the first place. It’s a masterpiece through and through. Warts and all.

The highlight of this extravaganza is of course the Esher demos that were done at George Harrison’s bungalow in May of 1968. It features almost every song on the proper album plus songs like “Not Guilty”, “Junk”, “Child of Nature”, “Sour Milk Sea” and “Circles”. It’s basically The Beatles Unplugged and it makes me wonder why something like this wasn’t mined decades ago because the material is a fantastic listen. If you love The Beatles go out and buy it. You won’t be disappointed. It’s worth the price of admission alone. 

The rest of the deluxe box set includes a wealth of studio demos and outtakes. I’ve listed below what I feel are the true gems of the batch and offer new perspective on The Beatles creative process.

Revolution 1 (Take 18) – A 10 minute slow honky tonk attempt with plenty of messing around and jamming. The Beatles still unsure what direction to take John’s new protest anthem.

A Beginning (Take 4) / Don’t Pass Me By (Take 7) – Ringo’s debut Beatles composition begins with a lovely George Martin conducted orchestral arrangement (previously heard on Anthology 3) before a country hoedown takes over.

Good Night (Take 10 with a Guitar Part from Take 5) – A complete 180 from the lush strings laden version that caps off the studio album. Ringo is joined by John, George and Paul who sing supporting harmonies with finger picking guitars. Truly a breath taking moment for this box set. Who knew material of this caliber lay in the vaults?

Cry Baby Cry (Unumbered Rehearsal) – A stark contrast to the final acoustic rendition, this attempt at the song is led by heavy organ playing that reminds me of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” which was a huge influence on John Lennon back in 1966.

Helter Skelter (First Version / Take 2) – A slow burning 13 minute bluesy rocker with loads of guitar jamming and minimal drumming. A far cry from Paul trying to make the loudest rock song ever made in retaliation to Pete Townshend writing The Who classic “I Can See For Miles”.

Hey Jude (Take 1) – Simply one of the coolest cuts found in the entire box set. Paul warming up his vocal cords moments before uttering the iconic opening “Hey Jude…” makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The last 3 minutes or so is Paul just going completely mental improvising his lyrics and losing himself in the process. Fabulous stuff.

Not Guilty (Take 102) – Without question one of the best songs The Beatles never released and I’m not sure why. George’s tune fits the overall vibe and ascetic of The White Album. This version of the song features a dirtier sounding guitar compared to the one found on Anthology 3 and an extended jam outro.

Let It Be (Unumbered Rehearsal) – Really more of a song fragment compared to the cherished version found on the album of the same name. This “Let It Be” is a bluesy psychedelic run through. Not really sure how else to describe it. I only wish we had a full 3 to 4 minute version. So fascinating to listen to after all these years.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Third Version / Take 27) – The previous outtakes of this future Beatles masterpiece were of an acoustic approach. Take 27 is heavy, grittier, with sharp guitar licks as George and Eric Clapton hone in on the final definitive version.

Happiness Is a Warm Gun (Take 19) – It has often been said that “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” is basically the entire White Album condensed into a 3 minute version. I’ve always agreed with that take. This is one of the best songs John Lennon ever sang. Superior vocals. Listening to take 19 you realize that it took a lot of work to make this song rise to the level of perfection we are so use to.

Honey Pie (Instrumental Backing Track) – When you take off Paul’s vocal track, you begin to realize that “Honey Pie” sounds like some lost Vaudeville classic from the 1920s. I have to imagine George Martin had his paws all over this one as the final product is beautifully crafted.

Long, Long, Long (Take 44) – Always one of my favorite White Album contributions, this outtake has the ghostly and eerie atmosphere dialed back several notches. Driven by George’s acoustic strumming, this song feels less about God as George once claimed and more about lost love rediscovered. The fade out ad libbing by George is also a fun little treat.

I’m So Tired (Take 7) – I’m a sucker for John Lennon studio banter and this outtake features some great stuff at the front and back ends. Not to mention John playing and singing superbly as the final version of “I’m So Tired” is eventually realized.

Julia (Two Rehearsals) – One of John’s most personal songs. You can feel his pain and longing for his mother who was taken too soon from him. Not far removed from the proper studio version. This raw outtake sounds like you are sitting right next to him in studio two in Abbey Road.

The next question is what will Apple Records and Giles Martin turn their attention to next? The smart money is on the 50th anniversary of Abbey Road but I wouldn’t be too keen on that by its self. Abbey Road already sounds like a modern day produced album and most of those songs were born out of the Let It Be sessions from earlier in 1969. I wouldn’t be against Apple Records combining the celebration of Abbey Road to also include the full sessions of Let It Be. We know a treasure trove of material was recorded during that time period. Endless hours of  outtakes, band arguments and studio jams. That is how I would personally handle potential 50th anniversary specials in 2019.

A Film Full of Dreams — November 21, 2018

A Film Full of Dreams

Hot on the heels of 2016’s excellent Supersonic documentary which covered the early years of Britpop legends Oasis, Mat Whitecross delivers A Head Full of Dreams on his former college friends Coldplay. The film is framed around their last album of the same name and how it has become the culmination of everything Coldplay were striving towards since 1999……or at least that is what Chris Martin believes. The film leans heavy on the early years pre 2005’s X&Y with some fantastic and very intimate footage of Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Guy Berrymore, Will Champion and the behind the scenes fifth band member Phil Harvey who comes out of the rock doc as the understated hero of the group who keeps it all together. Seeing the band in their late teenage years, in their dorms messing about on guitars and making bold proclamations is worth the price of admission alone. You just really never get to see material this innocent, candid and raw on most bands. When do you get to see rockstar baby faces full of braces, pimples and bad hair? Now it certainly helps that they had a film junkie classmate in Mat Whitecross who always was carrying a camera around campus recording what he sees. It also helps immensely that he went on to become a successful documentarian and Coldplay to global super star success. A perfect marriage for a project like this. 

As a fan of their earlier material, Parachutes to the end of the A Rush of Blood To The Head campaign, I found everything I saw fascinating and nostalgic for the first hour or so. The highlight of this film for me was seeing Chris in studio hitting the opening bars for “The Scientist”. It was obviously one of the earliest moments of him playing that song. Long before it would be adored by millions. A moment like that literally made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Another moving piece of the doc was seeing Chris in 1998 boasting into the camera about where the band is heading and will accomplish in the next 3-4 years and then seeing that juxtaposed with their headlining slot at Glastonbury in 2002. An epic moment. I truly loved the band’s initial image and musical direction of Bends era Radiohead meets Jeff Buckley. It was sad to see them leave that path following the blowback of X&Y despite the sonic pop flourishes of Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends in 2008. The biggest turning point in the band’s career thus far was Phil Harvey leaving the band temporarily during X&Y (he would later return in 2007) and the negative vibes surrounding that album/tour despite robust sales. Chris Martin and company basically decided they wanted to be liked and be liked by a vast majority of potential listeners across the world which translated to more pop infused songs (“Viva La Vida”, “Paradise”, “A Sky Full of Stars”) and mega star collaborations (Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Rihanna). There is no shame in that and whatever fans they lost in that transition they picked up legions more as they elevated themselves to U2 global status. Coldplay is no longer a band, they’ve become a brand. 

The film oddly enough sprints through the albums Viva La Vida, Mylo Xyloto and Ghost Stories during its second hour. The pace was too fast for albums that connected to wide audiences, generated massive hit singles and really could have benefitted from using more time to explore those phases of the band’s career. However, nobody wants a 3 to 4 hour film so tough choices needed to be made. This reminded me how for Oasis’ Supersonic documentary, Mat Whitecross wisely focused only on their debut Definitely Maybe and mega hit follow up (What’s The Story?) Morning Glory and now legendary gigs at Knebworth in August 1996. The framing of that film worked brilliantly for Oasis as it really got to the essence of what that band was all about. It was a roller coaster ride over a three year period. Coldplay on the other hand are a band still in progress which begs the question of why is this film being released now with what seems like a lot of meat still left on the Coldplay bone? I think a documentary of this subject matter would be better served years down the line when Coldplay is no more. The footage will always be there. The stories can only get more rich with the passage of time. Coldplay’s dream is still being lived. 

Bill Ryder-Jones – “Yawn” Review — November 4, 2018

Bill Ryder-Jones – “Yawn” Review

Bill Ryder-Jones is back this month with his fantastic fourth solo album titled Yawn. When we last met Bill he was showcasing his “slacker college rock” infused album West Kirby County Primary. On that effort Bill embraced Pavement, The Strokes and shades of Lou Reed realism. On Yawn Bill takes his love of American guitar music even further by shining the spotlight on some of his slowcore influences such as Low, Bedhead, Duster and The Rivulets. A deep dive into many under the radar bands but bands people should really get to know since their fingerprints are all over this new record. 

The vocals on Yawn are all sung in a hush like manner, the lyrics tend to lean very sad but the guitar parts sure do burst with soaring optimism. Bill has a knack for writing about the experiences of everyday mundane life but he makes it sound ever so beautiful no matter how drenched in sadness some of the song topics might be alluding to. His mother on “Mither”, his father on “John”, his brother on the album cover or past lovers like “Time Will Be The Only Saviour”. The entire kaleidoscope of the human condition can be heard on Yawn. 

When Bill isn’t singing on the album he lets his guitar do the talking in grand fashion. The opening salvo of “There Is Something On Your Mind” and “Time Will Be The Only Saviour” really set the tone for a loud, swirling and feedback soaked sonic adventure. That theme is continued with great success on “Mither”, “And Then There’s You” and the roaring finale “Happy Song”. On Yawn Bill Ryder-Jones manages to become the Ray Davies of the head and heart while also showing the ferocious guitar swell of Neil Young’s Crazy Horse. Buckle up for a slow burning yet highly rewarding ride of life’s constant ups and downs. 

Grade: A

Diving Into My Pearl Jam Bootlegs — October 26, 2018

Diving Into My Pearl Jam Bootlegs

I decided to relive all the Pearl Jam shows I’ve attended over the years via the fantastic bootleg series the band have provided fans since 2000. It took about a week to listen to all the shows in chronological order but I’m glad I did it. Some of the moments on these bootlegs literally transported me back in time. Maybe some of you were at these gigs as well. Looking forward to a new Pearl Jam album and tour in 2019. Enjoy. 

Phoenix, October 21, 2000

My first taste of the Pearl Jam live experience came my freshman year of college at Arizona State on the Binaural tour. It rained all day and night. The first rain I ever encountered while living in Arizona made for a wet and sloppy time on the lawn that evening. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Eddie even remarked during the show they only put this stop on the tour so the band could finally get some sunshine. Highlights of the gig included hearing both “Long Road” and “I Got Shit” in the same setlist (That has got to be a rare combination), a  hilarious Uncle John story, a cover of The La’s “Timeless Melody”, “Betterman” with the “Romanza” guitar intro with Eddie belting the final chorus note for almost 20 full seconds and lastly “Yellow Ledbetter” ending with a medley of Van Halen riffs (“Ain’t Talking About Love” & “Eruption”). Unfortunately this concert is now known as “the show before the show”. Pearl Jam’s 10th anniversary concert was looming the following night in Las Vegas and with that came all the glory, hype and the first ever Pearl Jam performance of “Crown of Thorns”. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for the Phoenix show because it was my first, the setlist was energetic and it left me hungry for more. A lot more.

Camden, July 5, 2003

In stark contrast to the rainy Phoenix show back in October 2000, the Camden/Philadelphia gig over 4th of July weekend was a hot and steamy affair. Temperatures were in the high 90s and the humidity was extremely dense. The band took the stage and rifled through “Can’t Keep”, “Brain of J”, “Save You”, “Do The Evolution”, “Spin The Black Circle” and “Green Disease” at a breakneck pace before finally acknowledging the crowd after “Given To Fly”. Mike McCready’s ferocious guitar solo in “Even Flow” seemed to last about 2-3 minutes in length with the crowd loving every second of it. What made this show unique for me was what occurred in the middle when fireworks were being displayed over the Delaware river right above the Tweeter Center amphitheater. The band when realizing this during a 9 minute, politically charged version of “Wishlist”, decided to launch into “Rockin’ In The Free World” mid show for probably the first time in the band’s history. Eddie said it would be the soundtrack to the beautiful sights above but also the “sounds of Afghanistan”. Other highlights in the set included “Breath”, the joyous b-side bounce of “Down”, an epic performance of “Black” and a tender cover of “Hide Your Love Away”. Not a bad way to spend a 4th of July weekend in the city of Brotherly Love.                                    

New York, July 9, 2003

Night 2 at Madison Square Garden had very big shoes to fill after the legendary setlist that was unleashed the night prior. That evening saw Ben Harper joining the band for two songs (“Daughter” and “Indifference”), a cover of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth”, the 4th ever performance of “Crown of Thorns” by Pearl Jam and the stage shaking noticeably after the run of “Breath”, “Betterman” and “Do The Evolution” to end the first encore. Needless to say, night 2 had its work cut out for it. Pearl Jam kicked off the festivities by playing a rip roaring version of “Crazy Mary” with some incredible organ work by Boom Gaspar. By far my favorite ever version of this song. Please check it out if you’ve never heard it before. From there the boys leaned on some old faithfuls to get the crowd fired up; “Hail, Hail”, “Corduroy”, “Dissident”, a soaring “I Am Mine”, “Given To Fly” and “Even Flow”. Following “Even Flow” Eddie decided to call Johnny Ramone from the stage and play him a Ramones song. Johnny’s phone went to voicemail so Eddie and the Garden sang him “I Believe In Miracles”. Other highlights from the first set were “Untitled”, “Present Tense”, a gorgeous rendition of “Nothingman”, the punky love ballad “State of Love and Trust” and a super charged “Porch”. The first encore break was memorable for Ed reading fan made signs in the crowd that included my personal favorite which read “PLAY ‘LEASH’ YOU PUSSIES!”. Didn’t happen but funny regardless. Eddie also told stories of how people met, fell in love, married and named their children after band members. The final stretch of the show featured a lively crowd singalong to “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town”, the understated “Alone of None” and a fist pumping “Alive” to end the first encore. I always believed Pearl Jam could easily end their performances with “Alive” rather than the cliche “Yellow Ledbetter”. Great song but it’s tiring when 90% of their gigs end with it. MSG night 2 will never get the glory and prestige of the first night which got a special DVD release but for me, pound for pound, song for song, night 2 is just as good as anything the band did the night prior. Great show. Fantastic bootleg. 

Newark, June 3, 2006

Another hot stormy evening in New Jersey as Pearl Jam looked to complete the final gig on their current tour leg. Severe thunder and lightning storms were plaguing the area for much of the last two days or so. This would later impact the show for a few minutes when several microphones cut out in the middle of “Animal”. I’m not the worlds biggest fan of their self titled/Avocado album so I wasn’t sure what to expect with the show tonight. All in all it felt like a pretty eclectic setlist overall. Songs like “Rats”, “Garden”, “Hard To Imagine”, “Don’t Gimme No Lip” and “Leaving Here” were dusted off. It seemed like the band was going to empty the tank tonight with a month off before their next gig. It was great hearing Stone take lead vocals for “Don’t Gimme No Lip” and finally hearing “Hard To Imagine “ which was on my bucket list for years. If memory serves correct, Mike had a double neck red guitar like Jimmy Page for “Inside Job”, by far my favorite track off the Avocado LP. So glad they performed it. 

Newark, August 7, 2008 (Eddie solo)

Pearl Jam do not sell bootlegs of solo Eddie gigs so I’ll have to rely on my memory to paint a picture of the evening. First off the NJ Pac Center is absolutely beautiful to look at. Eddie even mentioned during the show that NJ Pac is now his favorite venue to perform at. Despite being solo Eddie did not lay up for one single second. He still performed a robust 29 song set with a strong mix of solo compositions, cover tunes and Pearl Jam throwbacks. The moments I really locked in on during the performance were Daniel Johnston’s “Walking The Cow”, Cat Stevens’ “Don’t Be Shy”, “Man of The Hour”, an unreleased Pearl Jam song “Unthought Unknown”, “Rise”, “Porch”, Pete Townshend’s “Let My Love Open The Door” and “Hard Sun”. A fan asked Eddie near the conclusion of the gig what the lyrics for “Yellow Ledbetter” are. He then went into a very emotional tale on the origins and subject matter for the song. Some deep stuff on a Persian Gulf War veteran returning home and basically being shunned from the community he grew up in. Echoes of Vietnam could be felt strongly in Eddie’s words. Lessons are still being learned it seems. I took some pretty good videos during the show (including the “Yellow Ledbetter” story) that were quickly taken down from YouTube based on copyright infringement. A shame really. Gigs like this should live on just like standard Pearl Jam bootlegs. That story was tremendous and worth a listen from all Pearl Jam fans. 

Newark, May 18, 2010

My third straight Newark show. Each one vastly different than the previous one with great surprises along the way. This was my first time in the new Prudential Center and it is a beautiful arena. Pearl Jam would break it in with a rather unique setlist approach. The running order of songs felt like the band were picking the tunes out of a hat. Early appearances of “Alone”, “Immortality” and even “Whipping” popping up in the second encore. That seemed out of place to me but that was the overall theme on the evening. The biggest surprise song for the night was by far “Brother” (with lyrics) getting played. I think it was the 8th time ever and hasn’t been performed since this Newark show. So honored to get this old Ten era throwback. Another shocker was getting the lone Backspacer tour performance of “Footsteps”. Been dying to hear that one live for many many years and it did not disappoint. Other highlights of the gig were Eddie wearing a Walter Payton jersey, getting a Tom Waits cover “Jersey Girl” for just the second time by the band and “All Along The Watchtower” assisted by Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses. It was nice for the show to end with something random and fresh as opposed to the standard “Yellow Ledbetter”. 

New York, May 2, 2016

The energy for a Madison Square Garden show is always next level stuff. I hadn’t caught a Pearl Jam show there since July 9, 2003. The second of two epic stops at the world’s most famous arena. That was almost 13 years ago. Where did all that time go? All those yesterdays. Crazy man. Crazy. The band came out with roaring renditions of “Corduroy”, “Mind Your Manners”, “Once”, “Animal” and “Given To Fly” to open the Garden Party. Next Eddie welcomed two of the newest members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to the stage….Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick to perform their monster 1978 hit “Surrender”. Already this gig had the feeling of a very special night. Next the band launched into the “MAN” trilogy but this time with a little wrinkle to kick things off, “Elderly WoMAN Behind The Counter In A Small Town” into “NothingMAN” followed by “LeatherMAN” and finally “BetterMAN”. An incredible four song run that really brought the Garden to a boiling point. I’m not sure how many times prior the band played these four songs together like this. I’ve seen prior setlist over the years feature the “Nothingman”, “Leatherman” and “Betterman” trilogy but never with “Small Town” mixed in. Either way it was an awesome experience to say the least. Pearl Jam went all meta on us next by busting out “Garden” while in the Garden. I wanted this badly back in 2003. Glad I got it in 2016. Underrated Ten track and my buddy Anthony’s go to strip club jam. It took over 16 years but I finally got to hear “Jeremy” live. Bad ass tune as always and like millions of others when they were 11-12 years old, fell in love with the band via this song. I’ve always been a fan of the slow burner “All or None”. The guitar solo reminds me of mid 70s Pink Floyd. That flowed into my favorite track off Lightning Bolt, that being “Pendulum”. Great atmosphere created not only in the studio but also in a live setting. Really dig the lyrics as well. Another standout moment during the gig was the back to back appearances of “Breath” and “State of Love and Trust” from the movie Singles. Gotta be a rare combo to hear both like that. Stellar stuff. Pearl Jam had one final surprise up their sleeve for the audience. Sting joined the group unannounced for a cover of “Driven To Tears”. Definitely didn’t see that coming. Nobody did. Interesting that no songs from Binaural, Avocado or Backspacer were performed thus the setlist had a greatest hits feel to it. The lesson of the night is to never miss a Garden Party if you have the opportunity. Pearl Jam always slay at these gigs. 

Remembering “Navy Blues” — October 12, 2018

Remembering “Navy Blues”

Truth be told in the fall of 1998 I had no idea who Sloan were. Sloane Peterson a definitive yes. Sloan the band a profound no. That was until my buddy Dave enlightened me about this great Canadian rock outfit called Sloan. Dave, knowing I was a huge Beatles and Oasis junkie, told me that the closest thing he’s heard to a modern day Beatles record was Navy Blues which had just dropped earlier in the spring. So I did what any 17 year old kid living in suburbia would do in 1998. I drove to the mall. Luckily for me the now defunct Wall music store had the album for a crisp $18.99. I bought it without hearing a single note played. These were the days before Napster, Limewire, Kazaa, iTunes, YouTube, Spotify, etc. Only ways to discover a band were radio, television, a concert, maybe a music magazine (usually British) or simply word of mouth. 

Sloan come out of the gate swinging on Navy Blues. Songs like “She Says What She Means”, “C’Mon C’Mon (We’re Gonna Get It Started)” and “Iggy & Angus” are pure late 70s arena rock on steroids. Nothing but power chords and monster riffs. Navy Blues has more in common with a Kiss album than say Rubber Soul. That is not to say the album doesn’t contain Beatlesque moments because it definitely channels some serious mop top vibes on “Sinking Ships”, “Seems So Heavy” (an incredible Lennon Revolver era vocal take), “Suppose They Close The Door” and “I Wanna Thank You”. For me the show stealers on this record are the pre-game hockey anthem “Money City Maniacs” and the bouncing “Stand By Me, Yeah”. Two timeless tracks I’ll ride and die with on my iPhone forever. 

What strikes me the hardest when listening to Navy Blues is the production. The album sounds so organic and real. As if all band members are recording this album in the same small room, at the same time, to tape. This is clearly an analog production. Great separation between instruments, hard hitting vocals and the drumming is absolutely on point from start to finish. Whoever mixed this LP hit a home run that hasn’t landed yet. Great ears to say the least. I’d be curious to hear other bands/albums who have had this kind of mixing treatment.

It’s been twenty years and I’m glad my buddy Dave pushed not only Navy Blues on me but Sloan as an underrated band from the north. I think Dave used The Beatles line just to draw me into buying the album in the first place. Clever bastard. Discovering their discography and seeing them evolve over time has been a real pleasure. I was excited to learn that Sloan have hinted at a Navy Blues tour to commemorate this album in 2019. Hopefully a vinyl re-release is also in the works because I’m dying to add this piece to my collection. If you made it this far into my trip down memory lane you either love this album too or should rush out to listen to it. You’ll be rewarded. Trust me. 

Spiritualized – “And Nothing Hurt” Review — September 10, 2018

Spiritualized – “And Nothing Hurt” Review

Jason Pierce’s eighth album under the moniker Spiritualized is a super charged tour de force performance for the 52-year old singer-songwriter. Pierce composed most of the album on his laptop using Pro Tools, scrapping it once and starting over when not satisfied with the original results. Most of the album was visualized in Jason’s head as broadcasting messages from space back to Earth concerning matters of the heart. The idea of love is a big part of this record, love from the past, the present and the future to come.

Naturally the album contains many Spiritualized hallmarks: space jazz, garage rock, psychedelia, R&B, gospel and lush strings. Opening track “A Perfect Miracle” sounds like a spiritual successor to the young man who wrote “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” 20 years earlier. This time however, closure is found and peace of mind finally achieved. Life moves on constantly and sometimes love does too. Pierce is no longer chasing the perfect idea of love. These days he is just happy to find a girl who wants to dance to Big Star on the radio as illustrated in the lullaby shuffle of “Let’s Dance” or drive endlessly down the road hand in hand like on “Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go”. Elsewhere Pierce pledges on “I’m Your Man” that he is not going to be anybody’s ideal Prince Charming, someone free of vices or sin, but he will love you faithfully and that is all he is looking for in return.

Pierce has floated the idea recently that this will be his final album under the Spiritualized umbrella. With output this strong and inspiring, one can only hope he deeply reconsiders this notion of stopping. There is still a lot of meat on the Spiritualized bone to devour in years to come. This is a musical project in peak form after almost 30 years of activity. The only thing that will “hurt” is if the music stops.

Grade: A-

Thom Yorke Announces “Suspiria” Soundtrack Album…. — September 4, 2018

Thom Yorke Announces “Suspiria” Soundtrack Album….

What has only been teased and hinted at over the last year has finally been confirmed today. Thom Yorke is indeed back with a brand new soundtrack album for the upcoming horror film Suspiria which is out stateside October 26. The album will feature 25 tracks ranging in scope from proper song structures, instrumental compositions and brief interludes that are heavily influenced by Berlin in the late 70s. Also of note is that this is one of the few Yorke projects in recent memory not to feature longtime producer and collaborator Nigel Godrich at the helm. This time Yorke is co-producing the record with Sam Petts-Davies.

To kick things off, a supportive single was released across various musical outlets titled “Suspirium”. It is a simple yet melodic piano ballad with a haunting Yorke vocal delivery. Hopefully a song like this will be performed on Yorke’s upcoming North American tour in November. One can only pray it will be along with other key tracks from the film. Yorke described the making of this soundtrack as “a form of making spells” and seeing what transpires in his home studio. As of now we have heard only “Suspirium” along with short instrumental pieces heard in the film’s two trailers that remind me of the work Philip Glass did for the Vietnam War classic Hamburger Hill.

 

Tracklist

  1. A Storm That Took Everything
  2. The Hooks
  3. Suspirium
  4. Belongings Thrown In A River
  5. Has Ended
  6. Klemperer Walks
  7. Open Again
  8. Sabbath Incantation
  9. The Inevitable Pull
  10. Olga’s Destruction (Volk tape)
  11. The Conjuring of Anke
  12. A Light Green
  13. Unmade
  14. The Jumps
  1. Volk
  2. The Universe is Indifferent
  3. The Balance of Things
  4. A Soft Hand Across Your Face
  5. Suspirium Finale
  6. A Choir of One
  7. Synthesizer Speaks
  8. The Room of Compartments
  9. An Audition
  10. Voiceless Terror
  11. The Epilogue

 

You can pre-order the album here:

https://store-us.wasteheadquarters.com/products/suspiria-music-for-the-luca-guadagnino-film