Cacoy “Human is Music” Review

Time is a remarkable thing. Let’s say that you’re one of the many many millions of people who choose to tie their shoes each day, how long does that take? And to get to work? And how long does it take you to complete any number of other tasks throughout the day? Let’s say, continuing with the hypotheticals here, that you are a musician and you choose to record an albums worth of material. How long would that take? For some it may take a week, some years, but in general it takes a lot of preparation and a whole lot of time. The question that follows is, how long does it take people to pay attention to your music and how much of their time are they then willing to spend? In the case of the Japanese group Cacoy it has taken quite a bit of time for their music to be heard in the American market (outside of a very small, very knowledgeable audience). Human is Musicwas recorded and released some three years ago, not long after Cacoy had formed, coming as a union of celebrated Japanese musicians DJ Klock, Saya and Takashi Ueno.

Space and distance, too, are remarkable things. Many wonder what life is like half way around the world. Would daily life be better? What would you do? Who would surround you? Though in some ways there are likenesses and genuine attractions of the same regard between people on both sides of the earth life is strange and it takes time for people and places to adjust to one another. Human is Music is odd in that it doesn’t redefine the barriers to entry of any particular genre, but rather mirrors a global influence and in doing so hits its mark. Tracks such as “Mural Music” confront American urban jazz with a reflection of Tokyo modernism, suggesting that it isn’t necessarily best to be the first performing a style but rather that grace can come from adaptation and manipulation of the norm. Such is the beauty of the album; it reflects what was happening on the verge of music in Japan in 2003, but finds relevance with its mainstream release in 2006. What was true about its songs then is true now. The same goes for what was beautiful and entertaining about the songs. Time is a remarkable thing; it is precious and is worth more than any of us can afford. Sometimes time is wasted and sometimes time wastes us, but for Human is Machine, time has simply proven its worth.

LCD Soundsystem “45:33 Nike+ Original Run” Review

DFA President and LCD Soundsystem patriarch James Murphy laces up his shoes and takes to the track as he follows the pace set by The Crystal Method for the second recording in Nike+ Original Run series. For those unfamiliar with the series, the music is made for running, that’s it; no dramatic inspiration, just one mission: make music that accommodates the runner. And as a runner himself, Murphy has done well.

As the forty-some-odd-minute release flows by it becomes unique in that it completely melds together as one solid sound, staying away from the fault of The Method’s take which distinctly swerved in and out of sound lanes attacking its listener at times with mood shifting tempos and samples. Initially beginning the mix with a casual DFA hand smack Murphy takes roughly four and a half minutes before breaking out transparent gospel and proving his mix to be an adventure in itself.

Mixing in an ode to electronic forefathers The Chemical Brothers at around the ten and a half minute mark adds a bit of raver chick swagger to the mix, something that is definitely good in small doses. Then it hits - the realization that 45:33 isn’t simply music formulated to match a runner’s rhythm, it’s something more, but you mustn’t think, you must run. As the twenty minute mark approaches you realize your head has been unknowingly bobbing from side to side as the tracks front cowbell as a weapon, combating the overwhelming techno siege which too is eventually defeated as trumpets bombard and take over a disco-heavy vocal loop.

There are no breaks, there are no individual tracks and there are no high or lows. As the last two minutes of calming ambiance attest to, 45:33 is one of the most complete pieces of electronic music that has been created in a long time, capturing any number of genres and helping influence the listener/runner into redefining what it is that they like about music. And all under the Nike label? The same company that is endlessly accused of global bullying and misguided corporate ethics? It’s a crazy world and it’s hard to know what’s right and what’s wrong, but sometimes all you can do is run; at least this way you have a proper soundtrack.

Primus “Blame it on the Fish” DVD Review

Speaking from the year 2063, an elderly Les Claypool explains his life throughout the course of Blame it on the Fish. After detailing the origins of his name he recalls “I’m best known for playing with the band Primus. Primus was once a very popular group in sort of the underground cult scene – that’s who I am.” In a flash an old thought is brought back into the forefront, that being, how can a band that sells out tours, has played South Park, and expanded the boundaries of MTV be underground? Cult, maybe, but underground, not really.

Remember how in High Fidelity, Rob, Dick and Barry would compete in a game of coming up with the best top five…top five songs about death, top five musical crimes perpetuated by Stevie Wonder in the ’80s and ’90s, top…well you get the picture. Primus is in my all-time top five favorite bands. With that, it’s hard not to see the band as mainstream because for the past decade the band’s music has been vital to me. Maybe they are underground, though, who can say, really…

Blame it on the Fish isn’t a concert piece; nor is it a deeper biographical look into what inspires the band to continue to make music in a way that no other has ever done. As far a concert piece is really considered, Primus’ 2004 live DVD Hallucino-Genetics covers any craving for polished live footage. And through sound bytes over the course of the band’s career fans have had the opportunity to begin to understand why some of the world’s most talented musicians choose to make some of the world’s most uncommercial music. And as such, the short clips of the band performing warped around found art and brief documentation of the band’s tour for “Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People” should suffice any fan in a way that another concert film would not.

There are moments that help the lost fan rediscover the band though, including Claypool’s on stage grace and ease with the microphone, specifically his introduction to “De Anza Jig,” in which he captures the audience’s capacity before heckling a heckler and slapping out a song the band hadn’t played live for roughly eight years.

If there were to be a downfall of the DVD, it would be that it simply teases songs and plays to the attention of only its long-time fan. For those who haven’t followed the band as close as Blame it on the Fish requires, one should most definitely take the time to devour Hallucino-Genetics as it gives a definite escape into not only what the band has become but what has made it honestly relevant for over two decades. But for those who have followed the band, it comes as a reassurement that we were right all along; Primus doesn’t suck.

A Striking Realization: The Bird and the Bee

Inara George and Greg Kurstin, the duo that comprises The Bird and the Bee, did not know one another five years ago, and it was mere business that brought them together in the first place. Kurstin was to produce George’s 2005 album All Rise, and it was in doing so that the two met and began to form the relationship that has now given us The Bird and the Bee. “Fucking Boyfriend,” a song in which its shocking title is far less distracting than the electronic influenced take on an electric organ ode to a relationship which consumes all. Its beauty and simplicity are found in the low key harmonies that suggest a relationship should be more, not less; a theme that surprises in an age still influenced by Alanis Morissette’s and Fiona Apple’s.

Kurstin, a highly acclaimed pianist, provides a sultry organ backing that allows for George to overcome the listener with her sugar coated vocals. Defining her as such is far from fair, however, as tracks such as “I’m a Broken Heart” teeter close to that of Beth Gibbons – striking Portishead fans with the realization that while anticipation grows for an album that may or may not ever come, there are those who are able to attempt to take the group’s place.

Kentucky Slang & Detroit Grit: Leopold and his Fiction

There’s something odd about the air when Leopold and his Fiction occupies its space, it’s fresh but still smells like something that’s been sitting on your daddy’s record shelf in an uncovered beat up slip cover. The band’s songs are a strange brew of Kentucky slang mixed with Detroit grit, at times sounding like a sober Perry Ferrell, all the while attempting to find balance between pop and bottleneck. The duo is comprised of drummer and Berkeley graduate student Ben Cook, and guitarist/vocalist Daniel Toccalino, both of whom bring their hometown characteristics to the collective.

“She Ain’t Got Time” successfully sets the band’s pace at a high level, one which it primarily stays away from; though in doing so the song relates itself to something familiar to Toccalino’s Detroit home and the band’s which have risen from the city in the past decade. “Go On and Have My Way” connects in a manner specifically associated with a bluesier rock musician along the lines of Robert Randolph. Together the duo provides a fairly accurate depiction of where modern rock might be headed; second generation Strokes fans desperately seeking the importance of .38 Special; which isn’t really a bad place to be.

Deftones “Saturday Night Wrist” Review

Inching the band closer to a sound that it began realizing with 2000’s White Pony, the Deftones return after a three year hiatus with the dramatic Saturday Night Wrist; an album that not only characterizes the band’s direction but displays also what has made it vital since it first released Adrenaline in 1995. Shifting from a purely metal fan base to that of the popularity driven nü-metal, to that of a distinctly mainstream rock fan isn’t something that a typical band has historically had to deal with, let alone overcome. And as the band closes in on a twenty years together it becomes blatantly apparent that the Deftones have done something that won’t soon be forgotten by releasing Saturday Night Wrist.

The longevity of bands’ careers often finds itself dwindling as its individual members seek additional sources for feedback and creative rejuvenation allowing their once mighty symbol to fade into history. With White Pony the Deftones reached a definitive apex and looked as though it too was being lured in by the history’s negative spirits. Though not the band’s highest charting album, though possibly its most well rounded, White Pony represented something more, a mainstream acceptance that hadn’t been fulfilled at even the highest peak in nü-metal. The album’s singles “Change,” and “Back to School” distanced the band from metal, in any sense of the genre, and helped formulate the band as that of a modern rock band instead of a modern metal band.

With its follow-up, 2003’s Deftones, there was another shift, but not to something further musically, but rather a shift in its fan base. The album reached number two on the charts, the band’s highest position, but failed to encourage growth amongst its fan base with the album’s grittingly hard tracks and advanced synth dynamics. The longevity of bands’ careers often finds itself dwindling as its individual members seek additional sources of creative rejuvenation, and following the release of Deftones Chino Moreno escaped into his 2005 nouveaux trip hop production Team Sleep, Chi Ching continued to devote time towards his activism and poetry and Abe Cunningham and Stephen Carpenter continued working with their side-projects (Phallucy and Kush, respectively). Though the Deftones didn’t look to be finished, the band it was most certainly leaning towards those lines.

Saturday Night Wrist does a number of things right at what many consider to be the exact breaking point of the band. Tracks such as “Xerces” and “Mein” featuring System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian keep the White Pony era in the back of the listener’s mind before Wrist pounds “Rats!Rats!Rats!” with Adrenaline like vigor. But once again those outside sources that seem to have killed so many greats are what allow the band to utilize its own uniqueness. Ambient faux-poetry is everywhere and looming moments of repetition are swallowed by typical Deftones command, and in a time when popularity may be at a lull, the band finds its craft at a high.

That being said, Wrist finds itself at times the victim of the band’s history. Multiples times throughout it seems to be catering to its fan circa 1997 and at times it fails at capturing its ever-available power with near-hit performances. It’s hard to allegorize the Deftones with any other bands, past or present, as they have succeeded in a career which now looks to be far from complete and have done so with continual media scrutiny and the previously mentioned shifting fan base. Saturday Night Wrist, while not nearly as strong as some previous efforts, looks to be a balance for its members – allowing each to fulfill their respective artistic paths through a collective voice. More importantly though, it shows that history will not prevail in limiting the bands output by tearing it apart, but rather shall succeed in depicting the Deftones as one of the premier rock bands of this or any generation.

…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead “So Divided” Review

Was it only last year when the boys in Trail of Dead released the critically snubbed Worlds Apart? An album that startled with waves of both brilliance and drudged self-mockery? Since the album’s release fans wondered where their Texas sized heroes had gone and if there would ever be a sincere conclusion to Source Tags & Codes. Fans also wondered when they would again have the opportunity to challenge the band’s increasingly evident limits all the while hoping that they would again be overcome with Trail of Dead’s remote vigor and dramatics. With So Divided the opportunity arises and again the band’s listener is approached with a quandary, to approach the new material believing it to be washed up before ever really given a chance, or rather to listen with open ears. Much of the listener’s direction depends on their personal history with the band, and, as the situation lends itself, history from my point of view begins with a television show by the name of Farm Club.

It was a weekly musical showcase, where bands played before a live studio audience, blossoming at a time when nü-metal was flourishing and rap, not hip hop, had infiltrated even the most outlying Midwestern suburbs. Acts such Primus were standouts and blooming bands such as At the Drive-In were not simply given air-time but the show’s prime slot. One band landed miles ahead of the rest in terms of showmanship and musical intensity however, that being …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Introduced with a video montage that visually depicted its narration, playing up to the bands excesses. Excessive amounts of damaged equipment at the end of each show. Excessive amounts of blood and sweat leached from the band’s members during their performances. But most importantly, the excessive amount of energy showcased on stage, something that was unreal at the time when considering the groups peers to be by-products of the UKs frustratingly calm patriarchs. The introduction slowly gave way to a performance that proved everything once said about them to be correct.

It is reasons such as these that anything released cannot live up to expectation. This becomes more evident as the budgets become wider and the band’s fan base becomes fatigued by anticipation.

It’s not that So Divided is a poor album, it’s as strong at moments as Worlds Apart, but it sounds like what listeners have come to expect. It makes sense for the band to approach pop songs when they’ve attempted to slice through harder emotions for years. It makes sense to give (what is essentially So Divided’s opener) “Stand in Silence” a keen riff that serving as the album’s arena rock moment. So Divided makes perfect sense, precisely its self-damaging downfall. At times it takes unconventional sound, such as the opening percussions of “Wasted State of Mind” and melds it with rock modernism; but in doing so the band stays safe, not pursuing music that serves itself or its listener. Layered pop moans and anti-dramatic ballads are fine and would be reconsidered as such under the context of a band lacking historical flashes of brilliance, but with Trail of Dead it’s hard to forget that there was once so much more. Not to say that re-releasing Source Tags & Codes would fulfill anything either, but it might be a step in the right direction.

Still Got Licks? The Search for Modern Relevance Amongst Yesterday’s Artists

Rock music as we know it is relatively young compared to the distinct genres that classify any number of nation around the world. Even compared to that of basic American jazz and blues it finds itself a younger sibling, stemming from a later seed, which finds itself further down the musical food chain. It’s humorous to hear those who say that rock ‘n roll is dead because at this point in time rock music is so heavily fused with all modern genres that it cannot bear to pass. Its middle aged sibling classic rock, on the other hand, has seen better days, leaving its listener to question the worth of its artist’s increasingly inconsistent live performances and recordings.

In a strange case of events the past year has proven a well endowed market of musicians that chose to defy modern trend and attempted to reconcile their history through the release of fresh material. For some it came as a shocking return to the spotlight after decades of soul searching and for others it was simply another year with another recording. With this list we’ve attempted to analyze eleven of the highest profile releases from a select group of musician who have aged past what some might consider their prime, that being the classic rock artist.

11) Meat Loaf Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster is Loose

Following litigation over the use of the Bat out of Hell trademark between Meat Loaf and longtime collaborator Jim Steinman the final installment of the Bat trilogy found itself released to immediate critical dismissal this year. Steinman, who wrote and produced the tracks on the first two Bat out of Hell albums, finds remnants from other projects he had written contributed to (including a Batman musical which didn’t fully materialize and the previously mentioned “It’s All Coming Back to me Now”) popping up amongst the rest of the Desmond Child-produced confusion throughout The Monster is Loose.

One of the stimulating thoughts that surrounds the album is that of “what if…?” What if the Child-influence on the grossly overdramatic nü-metal “The Monster is Loose” and “If It Ain’t Broke Break It” weren’t on the album? (It might be tolerable as opposed to sounding like Zach Wylde playing at his worst) What if Steinman chosen to contribute to the album, penning even the most under-developed throwbacks to the dimmest of original Bat songs? (The album might hold a candle to the duo’s longstanding legacy instead of reminding many of why Meat Loaf is no longer relevant) And more importantly, what would have happened if Meat hadn’t accepted the role of Robert Paulson in 1999’s Fight Club? (We would probably of had to complain about how blatantly mediocre the majority of the third installment in the cherished Bat out of Hell series was about 6 years earlier)

10) Peter Frampton Fingerprints

Frampton’s return to A&M after leaving the label in 1982 marks somewhat of a homecoming for him as he spent his entire solo career, until that point, with the company. The instrumental album comes as something that questions the last two decades of Frampton’s work as it is the literal peak of where Frampton explains he has wanted to be for years, “the album I’ve been waiting my entire life to make.” With that, his decision to play with the laundry list of celebrity musician that he has met through his years helps in that is adds a level of depth to Frampton’s glossy guitar exterior. In addition to the previously mentioned collaborators are The Shadows’ Hank Marvin and Brian Bennett and Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready and Matt Cameron among others, who all lend their historical sounds to Frampton’s modern interpretation.

On the surface tracks such as the Soundgarden cover “Black Hole Sun” raise the level of craftsmanship of the entire album, with Frampton acting as vocalist by means of lead guitar with both McCready and Cameron by his side. However the deeper one dives into the album, after peeling away its colorful layers, the more one finds who is really at the heart of Fingerprints. Frampton, the man, has been playing guitar for almost fifty years, and in doing so has not only had the means to acquire a broad repertoire, but a taste for it. Frampton, the idol, however still lives within the man. Now more than ever does it feel as though he is attempting to find balance between his Humble Pie days and his Comes Alive days, but all the while it appears as though there is still a hope of retrieving a greater level of stardom. Not something easily done, and not something that is done successfully throughout the course of the album. Fingerprints sways too often, teasing world music sensibilities, circling around Frampton’s key assets while he attempts to prove his broadened abilities. The instrumental album is something that puts Frampton back on course for what could be a positive re-establishment of his career, but for the time being, Fingerprints simply isn’t that.

9) The Who Endless Wire

What’s the difference between The New Cars, The Doors of the 21st Century, or even Blondie’s latest adaptation and that of The Who? To some degree it comes down to questionable intent, that which I don’t perceive to be a problem when considering Endless Wire as a full blown Who album. Daltrey and Townshend don’t have the energy they once did, given, but now they have a lifetime of achievements and experiences yet to sing about; for better or worse that is exactly what comes out in Endless Wire. There’s an essence about the music that both explicitly steals from the band’s history (“Fragments”) and adds another credit to The Who’s catalogue full of amazing contributions (“Mirror Door”). But even at its highest moments there are questionable holes that give cynics’ criticism validity.

Daltrey sounds tired, and expounds far less in the youthful capacity that he did during his prime. Townshend’s modern relevance as a songwriter comes into question as he no longer expels society’s shackles through song, but now instead finds himself writing a lyrical response to Passion of the Christ and an ode to his favorite country singer. Moon and Entwistle’s absence creates a distinct leverage against the band and without condemning their replacements too harshly they in no way match the former band’s pulse and vigor. Had Endless Wire been released a decade ago, it would have met an audience decrying it as cashing in on lost fame, but despite its flaws it now it comes across as one last shot at creating something the tests the limits of age and jaded celebrity.

8) Cheap Trick Rockford

I’m reminded of a lyric by NOFX’s Fat Mike, “When your band has been a band longer than the Ramones, and critics coin you ‘the punk Rolling Stones’ that’s when you know this is for life.” Along those lines I don’t think it would be out of line to classify Cheap Trick the power-pop Rolling Stones. As a band Cheap Trick has continually been together, touring and recording since its first studio recording in the late 1970s, guitarist Rock Nielsen, vocalist Robin Zander, bassist Tom Petersson and drummer Bun. E. Carlos have been honing their collective licks since 1968 where they started in Illinois.

With the album Rockford the group simply continues to keep on keepin’ on, which is miraculous considering its unwavering recording and touring consistency. Unlike some of the bands on this list, and in today’s rock landscape in general, Cheap Trick isn’t a modern vehicle for an expired sum of artists but rather a lifestyle; Cheap Trick is simply how its members have lived for close to forty years. When the modern generation of music fan may only know of your band by a theme song from a retro TV show or as “The Dream Police” guys, it’s hard to say what keeps Cheap Trick writing and living rock ‘n roll in today’s musical environment. All consideration aside, however, Rockford is as genuine and inspired as anything in modern rock and it’s fairly safe to say that for the band’s members, this is for life.

7) Bob Seger Face the Promise

On a recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman Seger discussed his relationship with his family, and how it is the most important thing in his life. Subsequently that’s the exact reason that he hadn’t released an album since 1995’s It’s A Mystery; Seger wanted to maintain his family and watch his children grow. Now returning to music as a Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Famer with a family that supports him Seger continued the conversation by explaining that he has recorded many multiple albums worth of material in preparation for Face the Promise.

Face the Promise sounds like Seger in every way. There are horns where you would expect horns and gritty vocals where you’d expect gritty vocals. Time has taken its toll on Seger’s voice which claws and scratches to grasp for high notes that were once common place in his songs. One of the historical downfalls of Seger’s music is the man’s willingness to play to his audience in spit of his audience. ZZ Top and AC/DC do it too, they play their sounds and their songs over and over, recording after recording. Not to say that playing far within your capabilities is a bad thing, but when attempting to invigorate a recording career with a recycled sound that has been sitting on the shelf for more than a decade, doing so just doesn’t make sense.

6) Elton John The Captain and the Kid

The Captain’s second track “Just Like Noah’s Ark,” with its silky gospel overtones and marching tempo, works for a number of reasons: organs wailing, pounding piano, and a slightly hushed guitar solo. To me, the song is classic rock in its fullest sense, and that’s exactly what John and his partner in crime (songwriting) Bernie Taupin were hoping for when writing The Captain and the Kid. It’s the antithesis of Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell III, it’s a team joining and completing something that still has modern relevance; that being a group of friends looking to complete a story they started some thirty years ago with Captain Fantastic…

Elton John has made a conscious effort to work towards a commercial audience the past few years but I remember a change around the time of his 1995 release Made in England, specifically with the title track. The song included words that started a roaming emotion of personal vindication for John, something that now finds itself perpetuating his outspoken appreciation for minority rights and religious condemnation. Through all that, however, is music, and half of The Captain tells a story as much entertaining lyrically as it is musically. It’s just a shame that for the other half of the album, it’s lyrically foggy and lethargic.

5) Yusef Islam An Other Cup

Marking the 40th Anniversary of his debut release I Love My Dog, Islam attempts to record an album of attempting to reconcile with his pop music past. Releasing some ten albums of religious-based world music since his last Cat Stevens album some twenty eight years ago doesn’t appear to cause any conflicting agenda in An Other Cup. The sound is oh so familiar and Ste…Islam’s voice is as warm and inviting as ever.

“One Day at a Time” is a flowing, quiet song that beautifully elaborates on daily reverence, though unfortunately it is quickly followed by “When Butterflies Leave,” a brief spoken statement concluding “those who worked for tomorrow will not miss the dreams of yesterday.” Islam is sincere in his message with that statement, and likewise throughout the entire album he finds a balance between his pop sensibilities and his modern living. This is no more apparent than in “The Beloved” which calmly finds balance between traditional African music and Islam’s soothing vocals. Commenting on the album Islam noted “I feel right about making music and singing about life in this fragile world again.” As his current contribution shows, it is sometimes allowing ones self the freedom to start over that truly sets a contribution above that of others.

4) Bruce Springsteen We Shall Overcome

As masturbatory as it is for a bloated group of musicians lead by a multi-millionaire to sing and play an album’s worth of protest songs is, The Seeger Sessions band have made an honestly enjoyable album. The spellbinding live show that included a stage literally packed with musicians that many have gawked over throughout the course of the year is a direct result of the original sessions that make up We Shall Overcome. When Springsteen began his voice meant something, he sung songs of heartache, the kind that love cannot redeem; the worker’s heart that was never full because it belonged to someone else for some fifty hours a week. But Springsteen’s through time and fame critics focused their jaded opinions on how a man of his stature could release music for the working man.

But his fans never for one minute succeeded in giving up on the man and held tightly to his words over the course of his long career. With We Shall OvercomeSpringsteen somehow manages to reconcile this working man’s voice in an age that cries for help. Lobbyists and corporations control the government, unionization is corrupted by outsourcing and growing disconnect between those who run the country and the country’s workers. And yet a group of the lesser known musicians fronted by the a member of the country’s financial elite reinterpreting songs made famous by one of the country’s most outspoken voices seems to alleviate this struggle, even if only it is a momentary superficial relief.

3) Bob Dylan Modern Times

Whether it be harmonically flirting with Alicia Keys, appearing as a shadowed figure promoting his new album in connection with Apple’s iPod or honoring the Sexiest Woman Alive© in video Bob Dylan has not only stepped towards staying hip but fulfilled the plea of his album’s title, Modern Times. Even at the slowest parts of the album where the songs seem to move like cold molasses, Dylan maintains the listeners’ attention by breathing his aged words through his lips giving everyone an impromptu history lesson and proving his consideration for the modern listener.

What sparks the most interest in the album’s release besides its remarkable music is its cross generational acceptance. Dylan is by far not a typical classic rock artist but he has done more than any classic rock artist ever has. Not simply in terms of his earlier work, but rather that of shifting his image and sound through time to where he still sits atop the Kingdom of Relevance at age sixty five. Dylan now finds himself at a stage in his career where he is broadly considered to have released his third straight masterpiece, an astounding accomplishment considering Modern Times is his thirty-first release. It’s no longer even fashionable to give mere respect to Dylan, but rather one must now have a deeper sense for who he is. In the movie High Fidelity, Jack Black’s character Barry accosted a customer for not owning one of Dylan’s finest; “Don’t tell anyone you don’t own Blonde on Blonde,” and on TV ESPN analyst Tony Kornheiser has preached the worth of Scorsese’s documentary No Direction Home to the sports nation. Dylan is no longer a musician, no longer a celebrity, but a figure whose music will outlive the passion and reference that lead him to create it. Modern Times is not excluded from that sentiment.

2) Tom Petty Highway Companion

Tom Petty is nothing if not a rock legend and in his most recent effort he steps outside of The Heartbreakers and proves that once again his command and presence is at a musical high. When first released, his single “Saving Grace” proved to be a tricky step towards a choppier, harder Petty; one that hasn’t had a lot of face time on his albums, but a Petty that many immediately fell in love with. The song helped Petty find a niche that had yet to really be filled by any other classic rock star, that being space within modern hipster-dom; fulfilling the label as he would perform on Saturday Night Live, play the Bonnaroo Festival and grace AOL Sessions with a remarkable set.

But what sets Petty apart from his contemporaries? Whether it be the slight drizzle of organ that finds its way into “Night Driver,” the youthful twang of “Jack,” or even the optimistic slide “Big Weekend,” it becomes clear that the answer is Petty’s honesty. As a musician and lyricist he is honest with his listener. As a musician and singer has limits but will still occasionally test them, unafraid of the risk as he knows his fans will accept his choices. And while he continually grows, he keeps just enough of his last album in his mental queue so as to not forget what direction he was headed. “Flirting with Time” doesn’t carry the same lyrical context as “The Last DJ” but could most definitely be found on the same album without question. Tom Petty is an original and with Highway Companion he has continued his sickeningly consistent string of solid rock albums.

1) Neil Young Living With War

Seconds into the lead track on Young’s Living with War, “After The Garden” overtakes its listener, sonically overcoming any hurtles that either time or the media have created. It’s not a plea for liberalism, nor does it serve as a blatant statement condemning the country’s current administration (that comes mere minutes later), but rather a question of realism in our nation. It questions sustainability and substance, both of which are important and critical to not only our world’s future existence but our present existence. What follows in the album’s second track, “Living with War” is a statement that not only expounds on Young’s philosophy, but serves as a mission statement for the global artist, “I join the multitudes, I raise my hand in peace, I never bow to the laws of the thought police.”

In a time when corporate America is attempting to further whitewash the independent media through bullying net neutrality into a corner it is vital that these words be heard. Living with War takes each track, fitting its message into a few mere minutes, and finds more substance buried within than anything else that has been released this year by musician both old and young. The album should not raise question as to whether or not Neil Young is right or wrong but rather serve as an example of anti-authoritative rhetoric, expelling the mainstream media’s bloated apathy and give hope to those who want to explore what is behind the surface of the matter. If questioning Young’s intention and logic is your agenda his premeditated response comes in the form of the song “Let’s Impeach the President.” It is a song that would silence doubters, presenting the inconsistencies of the Bush Administration through evidence served straight from Bush himself. Never would I have imagined that it would take an old farm boy from Winnipeg singing a few songs of political dissent would enlighten and create this great of a plea for a confessional democracy. But I am most certainly glad it did.

Sean Hawryluk (of Ladyhawk) Interview

Ladyhawk is one of a the rising number of bands this year that has seemingly hit highs as response to fan support which has come in the form of online feedback and generous praise of the band’s live show. As the distinction between hype and merit is agonized over and examined in detail Ladyhawk pay it no attention and simply lay it out as best its members know how. In a similar light to that of British Columbian brothers Lions in the Street the band plays their brand of rock ‘n roll with no regard to those around them, they just drink, smoke and play their hearts out. In this interview bassist Sean Hawryluk gives his take on what he really thinks the band’s music is about, why free beer (weed) is the best, and The Tragically Hip vs. the Klaxons.

A lot of sentiment surrounding the band includes thought that Ladyhawk is in some fashion a throw back to classic, pre-innovation-for-sake-of-innovation rock. What’s your take on that?

Sean Hawryluk: We’re bare bones, our plan is no plan. There is no ironic throw back, but we’d be lying if we said that all we listened to wasn’t classic rock. Hopefully that sums it up.

Do you ever get the feeling that you need to try something different just to be heard in today’s musical landscape or are you content doing your own thing?

Sean Hawryluk: We just play songs the way they come out. We need not a glockenspiel or keyboard. We’ll do things the way we do them until we get bored with it, then we’ll try something else.

Do you even pay attention to hype bands that are labeled as rock’s next great savior? UK’s The Klaxons come to mind as of late.

Sean Hawryluk: Don’t know ‘em, don’t vouch for ‘em. I guess that answers the question, no, we really have our heads up our asses when it comes to what’s “hip.” Now the Tragically Hip, that’s a whole nother story, we know a lot about them.

Let’s switch gears - Kokanee beer. When I lived in Calgary, it was my favorite beer and as your beginnings are in Kelowna, you’ve got to be familiar with it. What do you think of the beer and what are some other great brands you’ve come across on your journeys?

Sean Hawryluk: Much like weed, all beer is good beer. Free beer is the best beer.

You’ve had the luxury of playing with a laundry list of bands on both sides of the border, which groups have been the most exciting to play with?

Sean Hawryluk: We’ve been lucky enough to have played with some rad ones…S.T.R.E.E.T.S., Black Mountain, Blood Meridian, Hard Drugs, Magnolia Electric co, Catfish Haven, Pride Tiger, Drunk Horse, Jon Rae and the River, Pequod, Oneida, Oakley Hall, Romance, the list goes on and on…

What hopes do you have for the band in 2007?

Sean Hawryluk: Get a lot of shit done. Release an EP. Record another full length. Tour a shit load. Meet rad people. Party good times.

If Ladyhawk were able to play one final show, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Sean Hawryluk: S.T.R.E.E.T.S., Black Mountain, Magnolia Electric Co., that’d be groovy; any of the above.

Silverchair "Young Modern"

Following up what many consider to be the band’s best album (if nothing else it was their highest selling in Australia) Diorama will be Silverchair’s fifth entitled Young Modern which is set to be released in the Spring of 2007. The band holds a special place for many as their youthful power defied typical modern or mainstream rock radio by creating what some consider timeless music that found itself slightly out of the box. As he continues to rehabilitate from his reactive arthritis singer Daniel Johns proves to have overcome what could have been one of the greatest crushing blows in recent rock history and with the band’s recent performance at the 2006 ARIA Awards Silverchair looks to be back on course for yet another terrific album.

Laurie Shanaman & Aesop Dekker (of Ludicra) Interview

Black metal is a strange thing, to a certain sects of fan it can take on entirely different meanings and embody a completely different lifestyle. Take a comparison between the Norwegian band Immortal and San Francisco’s Ludicra for example. Essentially, there is no comparison to be made yet both are termed black metal. One grew as apart of a new breed of metal, which lauded itself as distinct, bearing unabashed vocals, corpse paint and more spiked jewelry than you can shake a stick at. The other however comes as a reaction to over the top theatrics and an under-produced unrefined mystique. Since the band’s beginning in 1998 Ludicra have been riffling a furious wave of energy that stands as strong evidence that San Francisco’s core is far from soft. In this interview drummer Aesop Dekker and vocalist Laurie Shanaman about the band’s experimental history, its relationship with its historically non-metal label and where the corpse paint has gone.

A lot of bands have had something crucial in their history that lends itself to a metaphor for the band’s existence. What does it mean to Ludicra to have formed on Halloween and are there any special plans for the band’s upcoming anniversary?

Aesop Dekker: The fact that we started playing under the name of Ludicra on Halloween is of little significance. However, every Halloween we play in San Francisco, this year with our friends Asunder, Keen of the Crow, and Aldebaran.

Laurie Shanaman: I forgot Ludicra formed on Halloween, but I wasn’t in the band yet at that time.

Since the rise of the band’s popularity it seems that Ludicra has been accepted outside of the traditional realm of black metal fan. What do you attribute this cross-genre fan base to?

AD: I wasn’t aware of this rise in popularity, but I think Ludicra appeals to a wide variety of people because we aren’t so rigid and genre specific in our approach. We don’t set out to be this or that, we just do Ludicra.

Laurie Shanaman: We love black metal music and it was/is a big influence but as we get older, we also feel the need for experimentation and growth.

Likewise, the band has built a relationship with a typically non-metal label, Alternative Tentacles, and has found success in doing so. How has AT helped the band when comparing it to a strictly metal label?

Aesop Dekker: People often ask this, but Alternative Tentacles does have a history of putting out eclectic music, and some heavy stuff as well that we adore like Neurosis, Amebix, Zeni Geva and Logical Nonsense. With a regular “metal” labels we’d be more likely to get lost in the roster. AT is run by a small group of folks that are available and very supportive of Ludicra.

Laurie Shanaman: Yes, it seems AT is an eclectic label for an eclectic metal band!

After examining the band’s lyrical content, it becomes hard to really place a finger on an ongoing topical base. What would you note as being the greatest ongoing theme throughout the band’s music?

Aesop Dekker: The theme is real life. We write about what we know and deal with day to day, depression, life in the city, relationships, drug addictions, our friends dying, happy things like that. We couldn’t see ourselves writing about forests and Satan, it’s not us and would just get old fast.

Laurie Shanaman: Life’s encounters living and struggling in the city is usually what I write about; forms of chemical depression, dreams, mistakes made, etc.

What is contributing to many black metal bands shifting away from corpse paint and gruesome lyrics?

Aesop Dekker: Perhaps boredom. The genre is too over-saturated with generic bands and rigid rules to remain interesting for any length of time; probably why many of the genres founders have left it behind. I still find some interesting bands here and there but these are the ones willing to take risks or just do it by instinct rather than trod the paths laid out by Darkthrone. It happened to punk as well, too many bands and very little difference between them.

Laurie Shanaman: I’m not sure if I’d be able to write lyrics any other way. The music (of Ludicra) sounds more moody and dark to me then evil and scary. Both Aesop and I write the lyrics for Ludicra and this is the way that follows the mood of our music best. Our bass player Ross is excellent at writing gruesome lyrics in his other bands Impaled and Ghoul.

What has been the your most surreal moment on stage?

Aesop Dekker: There has been a few. My favorite was a show we played in Flagstaff at this house and these kids were crammed into this small house just going nuts, tearing the place apart while we played. They were everywhere, in between us, under drums, just freaking out. I’ve seen people weep while we play, they get very emotional.

Laurie Shanaman: I’ve slipped into another zone a few times playing live, I would forget where I was for a minute, I guess this happens often. Sweating out your demons is a very surreal feeling indeed. That Flagstaff show was crazy indeed, I almost fainted that night from the heat or lack of air, then the cops shut it down..

If Ludicra had one last show to play together, who would you most like to share the stage with?

Aesop Dekker: Madonna.

Laurie Shanaman: Weakling and/or Acid Bath, if they still existed.

Jóhann Jóhannsson “IBM1401: A User’s Manual”

Roughly a month ago it was brought to my attention that Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson would be releasing an album of new material, this time with an interestingly historic running theme surrounding his relationship with both his father and one IBM1401. After initially reading about the project I began to search further as to where the inspiration came from, which would be discovered as an ongoing historical event that ran through multiple generations of his family.

It was in 1964 when the first IBM1401 was introduced to Iceland and Jóhannsson’s father, Jóhann Gunnarsson, became the chief maintenance engineer for the computer. Over time Gunnarsson, an inquisitive music fan by his own right, discovered that the computer’s memory emitted strong electromagnetic waves that produced significant distinctive tones when placed in the range of his radio receiver. Jóhannsson explains that his father recorded the computer’s funeral, of sorts, which it was given in 1971 when the computer was put out of service; a recording which much of IBM1401: A User’s Manual uses as its general basis. When the composition had been completed it was given to choreographer Erna Ómarsdottir for use in a routine which she was developing. Throughout the recording and performance phase of A User’s Manual Jóhannsson collected The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra in order to add depth and significance to the tones and recordings that his father had proven beautiful so many years before. All of this brings us to the album’s official release.

When issued in a comparative manner, A User’s Manual seems fitting for praise that controls no limits. It is a direct antithesis to much of modern anti-technological rhetoric, that ranging from punk rock figureheads Bad Religion (“I Love My Computer”) to any number of other critical sources which find this intimate relationship between man and machine to be both disheartening and counterproductive. The album should be viewed as not simply a commanding composition but one that serves as a forecast for the remainder of Jóhannsson’s career. One of Jóhannsson’s strongest releases was 2004’s Virðulegu forsetar which was ranked as the 37th best album of the year by Pitchfork Media among numerous other year end celebrations, but I feel that A User’s Manual entirely outshines that effort to no end.

Ambient electronica has been a genre that has historically found distinction simply between its artist’s nuances rather than that of dramatic musical separation. A casual listener would most likely have a hard time finding the difference between any number of artists who have at one point in time or another found themselves creating music within the genre’s field. To some degree this can be said for Jóhannsson’s past recordings as well, which swayed very little from the tone-synch that has become ambient. A User’s Manual on the other hand is different. It adds context to the music like never before and does not continue to walk the line of its traditional predecessors. A User’s Manual is brilliant, compelling, and a true piece of art that has the power to spark generations of fan and musician, pushing them to discover inspiration in not simply their surroundings but their history.

The Walkmen “Pussy Cats: Starring The Walkmen” Review

Outside of a certain realm of music fan, despite his overwhelming catalogue and history, Harry Nilsson is still a slightly obscure reference, much like The Walkmen. Despite being “music fans” there is a large segment of people who haven’t had the opportunity to hear music by either Nilsson or The Walkmen, and for the longest time I was one of them. It took me until Bows + Arrows to hear The Walkmen, and that was only after numerous praises from indie’s higher ups. Likewise it was only after similar situation that I heard Nilsson, who I still cannot say that I am overly familiar with, that I was remotely introduced to a sliver of his vast catalogue. While Pussy Cats is generally viewed as Nilsson’s rebellion-stage wag of the finger to his record label, The Walkmen have yet to reach a level of notoriety that exceeds their generally unknown status. With that, Pussy Cats: Starring The Walkmen has the opportunity to serves as, to some, both an introduction to the band as well as impenetrable hero, Harry Nilsson.

But why would a band who had previously released an album of original material this year, which was received to mixed reviews, attempt a cover of what is essentially a covers album at a time when it may find itself artistically drained? Well, for fun, mostly. And there’s really nothing wrong with looking at the album as an afterthought, something that the band did when it knew that its work was done for the day and it was free to kick back and take time off. In an interview with Pitchfork Media earlier this year Walkmen member Walt Martin spoke of the album, “It just sounded like a really fun idea…we got lucky somehow and were able to do it fast. It never got to where it was a real drag. It was fun the whole time, somehow.” Contradicting these statements are thoughts of Pitchfork’s Jason Crock who later wrote of the album, “It’s not hate, it’s practicality: The Walkmen’s note-for-note reproduction of Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats is not being given away as a free download, nor as a CD-R at shows, a fan club release, or even a limited run – they’re just plain asking for your money on this.”

But when taking into account the situation that the band landed itself in this year Pussy Cats seems like a move that had to be made. When your band is stamped and branded with genius overtones and labeled as brilliant, it makes perfect sense to fill the studio with some sixty of your friends and record the children’s standard “Loop de Loop.” When your follow up to what many consider your shining moment finds empty ears from even some of your most devoted fans, attempting to record material that was mastered by a drunk with blown vocal chords just makes sense. It is a note-for-note reproduction, as Crock had previously noted, but it’s a note-for-note reproduction that lands a band relief from both creativity sucking hype and the mental fatigue that follows.

The Walkmen is still unknown to many; yes, but is recording a favorite album of yours amongst a group of friends a crime; no. Pussy Cats: Starring The Walkmen wont serve as a breakthrough allowing the band to expand its presence in both modern rock and the global music community, but it will allow the band’s members to take a mental break from constantly having to live up to what some deem as the band’s full potential. And that just simply makes sense.

J-Sun Atoms (of the Upsidedown) Interview

With the effects of 2004’s Dig! still reeling throughout modern rock, The Upsidedown serve as the link between new and old; between neo-psychedelia and modern garage. Forming over the course of a few years following the break-up of shoegazers The Bella Low lead singer J-Sun Atoms and the other members of The Upsides look to formulate a sound that takes the best parts of the psychedelic rock into the future. In this interview Atoms discusses Dig! and the parties and enlightening gatherings that followed, comparisons between his bands old and new and Brian Hollywood’s recent return to join The BJM on stage.

As the story goes, The Upsidedown formed in 2003 after the break-up of The Bella Low. How do the two bands differ and what caused the change in direction?

J-Sun Atoms: With the way the time continuum worked, The Bella Low broke apart and then Clint andL formed the High Violets in 1999 and then I didn’t form The Upsidedown until 2003, even then it took from 2001 until 2003 for The Upsidedown to come to itself. The directional changes are a proverbial stew of all the members included in this project and some of the same aspects continue in the undercurrent of the songs.

What was the intrigue to go from shoegaze to psychedelic?

J-Sun Atoms: The Bella Low had some of the shoegaze aspects, but it was too much of an entertainment spectacle to be labeled strictly shoegaze. Directional shifts are always occurring and I don’t see it as a turn as much as another gear or a ticket for another train on similar tracks.

Between the band’s formation and its present state, how has its sound changed or grown?

J-Sun Atoms: We know each other and the familiarity is allowing us to trust in the significance of our own experience. Sometimes it’s simple and direct, sometimes it’s ethereal and elusive…I would say half of the amazing stuff we have done has evaporated into the atmosphere, other songs have condensated and rain down and some stick like snow.

If you had to explain the sound of 2004’s Trust Electricity to someone who had never heard your music before, what would you tell them?

J-Sun Atoms: Fuzz pop light. There are many influences there, but most of all it’s our music.

How does your band’s music reflect its Northwestern roots?

J-Sun Atoms: There are some really great bands in the Northwest. It’s hard not to be influenced when you are playing with amazing bands like Hypatia Lake, The Village Green, The Dandy Warhols, The Sun The Sea. You just are touched whether you intend to be or not.

As the band is currently touring, what do you do to take a moment for yourself and have a good time?

J-Sun Atoms: We try to do at least one amazing thing in each city that locals say we should see or else we try to take in the town and get a feel for its underbelly. We had an amazing time at Museum Mechanique in San Francisco. In Arizona we went and saw “the thing” off the highway. I love the outsider art in strange places. The best thing about “the thing” was someone had painted all of this ‘found’ wood into creatures. In Seattle, I’m in love with Ye Olde Curiousity Shoppe and Sylvester the Cowboy Mummy.

You have both The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre listed as “friends” of The Upsides on MySpace. Did you see the film Dig!? If so (and without clumping bands together based on genre alone, but…), how did it speak to you and does its story translate to your band at all?

JA: The movie uses footage from some of the shows that The Bella Low opened for the Dandys and that was just a really magical time to be a band in that Portland scene. One of my favorite memories is an after party at Peter Dandy’s parents’ house and everyone was in the pool all night and Anton sat on the side of the pool with an acoustic and played songs to everyone until the sun came up. We just played a show with Peter’s new side project The Sun and the Sea… it’s really dreamy and verve-like. Courtney is a sweetheart, generous and intelligent. Fathead is a guru, and I had a blast at a BBQ at Zia’s house a few weeks ago, she is a force of nature. This year we played the night before BJM and the Dandy’s at Musicfest NW. But wow! BJM were so great and Matt Hollywood joined them on stage and the Dandys played out of their minds with some really great walls of sound.

Speaking of MySpace, how do you feel its growth has helped the band’s success, likewise with online music sites, blogs if you will?

J-Sun Atoms: We have people from all over the world that are touched by the music and I love that. I don’t like the spam emails from so many bands that say “we saw you are a friend of who ever and so please check out our new music,” sometimes it’s too much and it makes people turn off their sincerity. But overall I love the amount of interest it generates. I just like the genuine interest and we attempt to friend people that seem interesting or have a certain theme running through their blog.

If The Upsides had one last gig, and could share a stage with one band only, who would that band be?

J-Sun Atoms: The Stone Roses.