It’s The Song I Hate

Former Ron Paul acolyte and current Republi-tarian Eric Dondero has decided to fully eliminate all Obama supporters, left-leaners and democrats from his life. He’s excommunicating every Obama voter and shutting them down from even the smallest interaction with his personal economy. He’s encouraging others to do the same. Only by an extreme boycott of all democratic voters, he supposes, can one force others to finally see how they’re destroying the country.

Unfortunately for him, and others who hope to follow the same path, this extends to his music tastes:

I don’t listen to music by Democrats any more. I try to do some research on the political leanings of those I listen too. Oingo Boingo called themselves “libertarians” in the early 1980s. I listen to them. Neal Peart of Rush called himself an Ayn Randist couple times. I love Rush. I like pro-British patriot Frank Turner out of the UK. The Guardian did a big interview with him over the summer, and he said he was a “libertarian.” And of course, there’s always Ted Nugent, and KISS, both hardline right-libertarians. Marshall Tucker Band, Kid Rock. Did you know lead guitarist for Stealy [sic] Dan is also a rightist. The Lt. Dan Band. Madison Rising is great. Metallica and Motorhead have expressed right leanings in interviews.

Honestly, doesn’t always work. I miss sometimes. But if Springsteen or some other leftist America-hater comes on my Sirius/XM channel and I can get to the dial fast enough, I will switch it.

Elton John is a toughie. You know he leans left. But he made friends with Rush Limbaugh of all people last year. So, I give him a pass. Oh, and the Beatles had that classic “tax man.” John Lennon’s personal aide in his last few weeks of life, was interviewed last year, and said that he turned into a Reaganite in the last few months before he was killed. Isn’t that ironic?

God save the poor libertarian / Republican who tries to remain pure in his music listening. There aren’t many options available. And when you expand the pool of options beyond Rush or Ted Nugent :(, you end up grasping at any remotely plausible anecdote or sliver of justification just so you can listen to the Beatles.

Yes, all the Beatles hated Britain’s aggressively progressive tax system, so they moved to the U.S. But Lennon was probably not a closet Republican. And I have a feeling Elton John’s detente with Rush Limbaugh was related to the $1 million he was paid for the wedding gig. Still, all is not lost for the principled libertarian music fan. You may not be able to indulge Rage Against The Machine. But you can probably enjoy some Green Day or Dwight Yoakam.

Show of the Decade?

According to this precious Civic commercial, it’s a small-scale Ra Ra Riot gig.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VRrSuj-9no

I’m all for including fledgling bands in commercials that get major airtime in NFL game breaks (as this one did). But it’s a bit tone deaf to plug this middling indie band as some sort of major deal everyone should already know about. It’s embarrassing, even for the band. There are three possible reactions to seeing a Ra Ra Riot show hailed as a once-in-a-decade event:

  1. You’re a fan of the band and you’re happy to see them get some exposure. But you can probably think of 30 other average indie bands better than Ra Ra Riot.
  2. You’ve heard of Ra Ra Riot. Maybe you like one of their songs. But, at best, you think the band is a cultural blip. At worst they’re a symptom of the bland, know-nothing aesthetic currently plaguing “indie rock” music. If the Civic is the car version of this crap, I don’t want it.
  3. You’ve never heard of Ra Ra Riot. Best case scenario, you conclude this is a fictional band, and given the other cues in the commercial, you think you might consider buying this car for your college-aged kid. Worst case scenario? You’re annoyed the “show of the decade” is some band nobody’s ever heard of. You decide if the car is for some subset of music cognoscenti, it’s certainly not for you or your kid.
This commercial tells people who have heard of Ra Ra Riot that Honda doesn’t know anything about music, and by extension their customers. For people who haven’t heard of Ra Ra Riot, they hyperbole is also a potential turn-off. And this is all before you consider the actual music. Which, in my opinion, is less than compelling. I don’t like the band, and even I know they’ve got songs better than this one.

The synergistic commercial for both product and band can be done and done well. Apple is an obvious example, and the rule they follow is a good one: let the music speak for both the product and the band. If the song is good, you won’t have to tell the audience what to think about it.

Car companies have done this well, too. I can even think of a precious indie example done right. Here’s this gem from Ford and Band of Horses.

Too often

seminal

anthem

angular guitars

from the ashes of

not since

return to form

critically acclaimed

overhyped

great leap forward

a step back

changing the face

classically trained

raw

tropes

fusion

fragmented

arguably

a worthy addition

a poor man’s

explosive

introspective

wry

second-wave

dreaded sophomore slump

vinyl offering

personal demons

transitional record

singles band

eschewed

off-kilter

meta

on crack

on acid

hodgepodge

Rube-Goldberg

lurking just beneath the surface

minimalist

elliptical

elegy

manifesto

harrowing

haunted

ethereal vocals

worth the price of admission

sprawling double album

penultimate

culmination

UPDATE:

fiercely independent

owes a debt to

lo-fi

Wilco (Repeat)

On Friday, I saw Wilco play for the first time since 1996. I saw both their shows at the now defunct Satellite lounge, before taking a break from their live shows for…well, I guess 14 or 15 years. The Wilco I saw back then were, as now, a fantastic live band. They weren’t the collection of session pros and slumming avant garde players they have now, but they were still expert players and road veterans. They knew how to lock in their sound, play in the pocket, and get the crowd singing along.

None of that has changed. They’re still an ace band, capable of blending bar-band punch and country-rock tropes. They may have embraced Bonaroo-friendly Krautrock and Sonic Youth jams, but even as they’ve done so, their records have actually become less obtuse, less cluttered with sonic detail. And more dad-friendly. All of which I view as a good thing.

But something bummed me out about the show. It was this:

Kicking Television (live album from 2005)

Houston, TX 5/6/11

  1. Misunderstood (Being There)
  2. Company in My Back (A Ghost is Born)
  3. The Late Greats (A Ghost is Born)
  4. Hell Is Chrome (A Ghost is Born)
  5. Handshake Drugs (A Ghost is Born)
  6. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (YHF)
  7. Shot in the Arm (Summerteeth)
  8. At Least That’s What You Said (A Ghost is Born)
  9. Wishful Thinking (A Ghost is Born)
  10. Jesus, Etc. (YHF)
  11. I’m the Man Who Loves You (YHF)
  12. Kicking Television (AGIB-era B-side)
  13. Via Chicago (Summerteeth)
  14. Hummingbird (A Ghost is Born)
  15. Muzzle of Bees (A Ghost is Born)
  16. One by One (Mermaid Ave. Vol 1)
  17. Airline to Heaven (Mermaid Ave. Vol 2)
  18. Radio Cure (YHF)
  19. Ashes of American Flags (YHF)
  20. Heavy Metal Drummer (YHF)
  21. Poor Places (YHF)
  22. Spiders (Kidsmoke) (A Ghost is Born)
  1. Ashes of American Flags (YHF)
  2. Bull Black Nova (Wilco the Album)
  3. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (YHF)
  4. Kamera (YHF)
  5. Handshake Drugs (A Ghost is Born)
  6. One Wing (Wilco the Album)
  7. War On War (YHF)
  8. A Shot in the Arm (Summerteeth)
  9. At Least That’s What You Said (A Ghost is Born)
  10. Via Chicago (Summerteeth)
  11. Impossible Germany (Sky Blue Sky)
  12. Airline To Heaven (Mermaid Ave. Vol 2)
  13. Jesus, Etc. (YHF)
  14. Theologians (A Ghost is Born)
  15. Hummingbird (A Ghost is Born)
  16. Walken (Sky Blue Sky)
  17. I’m the Man Who Loves You (YHF)
  18. The Late Greats (A Ghost is Born)
  19. Misunderstood (Being There)
  20. Spiders (Kidsmoke) (A Ghost is Born)
  21. Heavy Metal Drummer (YHF)
  22. I’m a Wheel (A Ghost is Born)
  23. Hoodoo Voodoo (Mermaid Ave. Vol 1)

So, basically, six years later, we’re still getting heavy doses of YHF / AGIB and not much else. Only two songs off each of the last two records. The two records that were mostly recorded with their current lineup.

They’re in the middle of recording a new record. But we didn’t hear any of those songs, either.

And we didn’t get anything old. Only one song before 1998. And the old stuff they did grab were the same selections they played on on Kicking Television.

Finally, no covers. Certainly nothing like the double-dipping of Doug Sahm classics I got in ‘95-96.

Look it was a good show. I’m not saying it wasn’t. Tweedy’s voice is in fine shape, and he was relaxed and in a great mood. Set had two encores and was generous in length. It was the first time I’d seen the band play with Nels Cline, and the dude did not disappoint. He even shredded the place up with some lap steel.

I was just disappointed in the set list, I guess. But am I identifying a malaise—a larger problem with the band? Maybe. A relatively new site called Setlist.fm allows fans to upload, share, and embed setlists. Which is cool. Even better is the ability to view aggregate data about a band’s set selections and the albums they draw from. Here’s what the data show from the 2011 tour so far:

image

What does this tell us? That Wilco thinks (or thinks their fans think) their best records are behind them. They are entering the downside of their career when new material yields only diminishing returns, and the road becomes an extended oldies jam / ATM machine. One could rebut this apparent trend with stats from 2010, which showed a much more even distribution over the last four records’ material. Although they still played hardly any covers.

What does it tell me? That I should have gone to last night’s show in Oklahoma (also attended by the Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne). Those two tracks off their first record, A.M.? They were from last night’s set. Including one of my all-time faves, “Passenger Side.”

Post Script: Recently, Paste compiled a list of the “30 best Wilco songs“. I have no comment on that except to say my list would include “Dash 7” from A.M. More interesting to me is the insight that Setlist.fm provides.  They have more than a decade of setlists from Wilco, and can give us a competing picture of what the band thinks their 30 best songs are.

Finally, I should say I am WAY happy to be back on NAP as your occasional guide to dad-rock and internet-based music enjoyment. Make sure you follow the new NAP on Facebook and Twitter.

Hello, it’s me

It’s been a while since I let Ramon take over for me full time, physician but I’m back tonight filling in for Danny while he’s out of pocket. You might be wondering what I’ve been up to, salve musically speaking. Or more likely, you are not.

Nevertheless, here are your updates.

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Most recently I’ve been listening non-stop to Rdio.com. You my remember I reviewed this service back in June, but I switched to Mog after awhile, mostly because Rdio didn’t have some of my favorite labels, including Matador, Merge, Rough Trade, and 4AD. They recently solved this problem by adding the indie rights conglomerate Merlin, which negotiates deals for all these labels. Added to the other strengths I mentioned in my review, the new music made for an irresistible package. Rdio has nearly every feature Lala.com used to have, including the ability to build random playlists out of your virtual collection of music. I hardly ever listen to the mp3s on my hard drive anymore.

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I’ve spent most of the last few days jamming the reissued Jayhawks classics Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass. I discovered the Jayhawks when they opened for the Black Crowes at a couple of Houston shows in 1991-92. They’ve been one of my favorite bands ever since, but I found myself partly agreeing with the Pitchfork review: Tomorrow isn’t as great as I remember it being. I remember it fondly because I found it when I was 16, but in retrospect, I can tell it’s not up there with the near-perfect Hollywood Town Hall. I’ll go even further: it’s not as good as the two of the great records the Jayhawks made without founding songwriter Mark Olson. Sound of Lies and the underrated Rainy Day Music are late-era records I’d recommend ahead of the better selling TTGG.

What’s the difference? It’s the songwriting, not the sound. The Jayhawks have always sounded like the Jayhawks. But some songs, and some collections of songs, are better than others. BTW, I didn’t mention Smile, the record that immediately followed TTGG. That’s because it’s an awful, over-polished mess produced by Bob-freaking-Ezrin of all people. I’m not sure who thought the dude best known for Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall would be a good match for a country-folk band, but they were wrong.

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I just finished watching the Pavement episode of Ace of Cakes. I don’t normally watch the show (or any reality television) but it was pretty good. Here’s the cake they made for the last show of the reunion tour. Major props for nailing the band’s signature iconography. Pavement somehow managed to have a consistent approach to their album art and merch despite using relatively intricate artwork by several different artists. The cake smartly tied all that together using a central symbol that made no sense. It was just like Pavement.

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My favorite music lately has come from the wonderful CD/DVD experience that is They Might Be Giants’ Here Comes Science. As Josh noted a while back, it’s hard to imagine music better suited to the children of music snobs. People who want their kids to love good music that doesn’t sound like condescending crap. TMBG marry a fairly sophisticated musical palette with engaging lyrics that accurately convey some basic, elementary-school science. Nearly all of it, except for the ridiculously catchy choruses and droll animated videos, goes right over my 16-month-old son’s head. But it doesn’t matter. Because these songs will grow with your kids.

When they’re 5 years old they’ll appreciate the useful mnemonic for a rainbow’s colors.

And when they’re 10, they’ll remember why they want to be a paleontologist.

Really, TMBG’s new status as elite purveyors of kids music hasn’t changed what they’ve done all these years. A great song is a great song, and your kids won’t feel like they need to leave these science lessons behind as they get older. Hell, I still listen to Flood, and I didn’t see the band live until I was well into my 20s.

I can’t wait to tell Patrick I was at the show.

Audiogalaxy

image

Another weekend out of town for me, help but I didn’t want to let it pass without recommending an excellent new old music service: Audiogalaxy.

Yes, that Audiogalaxy. Around the turn of the Millennium it was one of several post-Napster file sharing options for downloading music illegally. Now it’s a simple application for your desktop and mobile phone that lets you stream your own ill-gotten music library for free. No uploading required, and no monthly fee. It works, and it’s awesome.

Perhaps the most pleasant thing about it is how fast and seamless it is. A tiny program must first be installed to your Mac or PC desktop. It takes about 30 seconds. Once installed, it will automatically locate your music folders. Now, as long as your computer is turned on, you can stream your entire collection of digital music for free. From anywhere. If you get the free mobile app for iPhone or Android, you can listen in your car or on the bus. Or wherever you have cell phone data access.

My favorite feature is the prominent “shuffle collection” button. This will take your 30k songs and put them all on shuffle, without having to build a playlist or select songs. It is the best music streaming feature I’ve seen / heard. It’s so huge and clickable, it will be the first thing you do.

There are some negatives. For example, there’s no Last.fm integration. And the promised Facebook features that will let you stream and explore your friends’ libraries aren’t yet live. Nor is there the expected integration with allmusic.com (which is included in other fee-based streaming services).

But these drawbacks are minor. If you want to play your digital music library over the Web or through your mobile phone, there’s no better, easier option than this one.

Try it.

No Money Down

I had a busy weekend. Way too busy to finish my Matador at 21 mixtape. Much of my time was on the road, listening to the Little Steven’s Underground Garage station on XM. One of the last tracks we heard was Chuck Berry’s "No Money Down.” Not sure I’d heard it before. Or if I had I didn’t pay attention. This is the first time I noticed its lyrics about buying the process of buying a car:

Chuck demands a car that did not exist in 1955.

Well Mister I want a yellow convertible
Four – door de Ville
With a Continental spare
And a wide chrome wheel
I want power steering
And power brakes
I want a powerful motor
With a jet off – take
I want air condition
I want automatic heat
And I want a full Murphy bed
In my back seat
I want short – wave radio
I want TV and a phone
You know I gotta talk to my baby
When I’m ridin’ alone

Yes I’m gonna get that car
And I’m gonna head on down the road
Yeah, then I won’t have to worry
About that broken – down, raggedy Ford

I want four carburetors
And two straight exhausts
I’m burnin’ aviation fuel
No matter what the cost
I want railroad air horns
And a military spark
And I want a five – year guarantee
On everything I got
I want ten – dollar deductible
I want twenty dollar notes
I want thirty thousand liability
That’s all she wrote

The song is funny, I guess, because it flips the script on the wily car salesman. “I will accept your fanciful offer, if you accept my impossible list of features and demands.” It’s also pretty funny for me personally, as a auto former claims adjuster, because deductibles and the value of liability coverage are not often subjects of rock songs. Or really, any other pop culture artifact.

When I half-heard the song the first time, driving in my car just now, I assumed it was a later record made when TVs and phones were more common accessories.

But, no, this track was cut in 1955. Chuck Berry = Jules Verne.

Another post about radio and KTRU…

Just kidding.

I’ll be in Baltimore through Tuesday. It’s my second time. And I’ll mostly be in the touristy Harbor portion attending a healthcare lawyers’ conference. But this will post on Saturday, and Jordan and I will be going into DC. Which is nice, because it’s my birthday. Which I share with loads of awesome people, like William Faulkner, Glenn Gould, Mark Rothko, Shel Silverstein, Scottie Pippen, and my favorite ESPN columnist, Bill Simmons.  Oh, and can’t forget T.I.

This is my favorite Baltimore song. I like it even more than “Streets of Baltimore”.

Jayhawks – “Baltimore Sun”

In the Baltimore daily newspaper
Miracles really happen that way
Now you know me much better than any
And that is why I can call you my friend
Call you my friend

In all the time that I’ve known you
Never knowing that I let you down
In the tide of desperation you stumbled
With nothing to show but these empty arms
Empty arms