Monday, November 23, 2009

In Another Time

I like to think that I would have been a huge follower of THE WHO had I been alive during their height. That is not to say that I don't thoroughly enjoy their work and have found their grandiose nature highly intriguing. It's easy to say that I would have been a fan of THE BEATLES or THE ROLLING STONES at the time because they were the logical choices. No doubt I would have fancied both bands but there is something about THE WHO that separates them. Maybe it's that the sense of theater appeals to me. Their songs played more like small symphonies rather than pop songs. They wrote about life and philosophy and the passage of time rather than girls and love. I admit that for a long time I shied away from the band because I just didn't get as much exposure to them as some of the other "classic bands". I highly doubt there will ever be a WHO Rock Band game. Unlike the Beatles they have not completely sold their commercial souls (save for the licensing of their music to the CSI franchise, which is a little sad).

The Who is an interesting amalgam mostly due to the fact that while most of the songs are written by Pete Townsend, he rarely sings them opting for the more soulful Roger Daltry to be his voice. Townsend does chime and opportune times which gives the band an additional depth in that it really is the relationship between the two that makes it work so well. When it works, such as with "Baba O' Reilly", "My Generation" or "Join Together", it is remarkable.

Sure they can be pompous and heavy handed. "Tommy" is both a masterpiece and totally absurd. "Quadrophenia" makes little or no sense. But whether it's their early more raw efforts, such as the brilliant "My Generation", or later on in their career, the Who could never be accused of taking a half assed approach. It's that go for broke, let the music take us where it wants aesthetic that is what initially interested me in their work and it's what I think would have made me a huge fan of theirs. Lucky for me I got them now; even all these years later it still moves me...

Anyone who does not get chills from this might just be dead.

(mp3) The Who -- Tea and Theatre
From the album of about three years ago, all that's left is Daltry and Townsend but still the passion and emotion is there. A great song about the twilight of life and the joy in the little things.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wating for the Cold Weather To Come

One of the downsides of living in Southern California is that you never really get winter. I know, I know a SoCal native bitching about the weather while those on the east coast or in other countries freezing their butts off is bit of piling on, but we write what we know so bear with me. This year it seems that we have had a longer than usual warm period out here which has led to a delay in my pulling out the sweaters and jackets. This is important because I absolutely detest wearing a shirt and tie to work and winter always allowed me to slide a bit on the wardrobe. But it also lacks a certain romance to the impending holiday season when I'm running around in shorts and flip flops. So I have decided to try to get myself in a colder place mentally by drifting to more somber and solemn musical selections. The wife has long held BON IVER up as a bastion of cool indie folk and I have been somewhat resistant. But after finally breaking down and partaking of "For Emma, Forever Ago" and the subsequent "Blood Bank EP" I have come to appreciate his music. His voice has such an ethereal quality that it often seems as if it is floating over the instrumentation rather than part of the song. The arrangements are sparse (fitting with the cold space theme I had been searching for). One can almost feel the frost of the guitar as he strums the notes on "Blood Bank" and "Woods from the ep.

Then there is his contribution to the TWILIGHT SOUNDTRACK. This is not the place to get into my conflicted feelings on this soundtrack. We will discuss that later. But his duet with St. Vincent is a simply beautiful piece of music. It's so fragile and yet so powerful as the sound of two voices melds into one. Bon Iver brings my mind to the cold of winter, and that is a good thing.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The 80's Revival Continues

First THE EDITORS channel vintage New Order and now THE MARY ONETTES have jettisoned their love for the Jesus and Mary Chain for a keyboard and reverb fest that harkens back to The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen and others from that era. The swedish band's latest, "Islands", has a distinct pop feel that is also echoes fellow Swedes The Shout Out Louds. "Puzzles" has a great synth hook as part of it's chorus and a nice string section working in the background. The sunnier outlook on this record is tempered a bit since the lyrics still speak of love lost and bygone times of happiness. I just can't get over the keyboard lines that run throughout the album and how much they remind me of other sounds I grew up with. It's as if the band had "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me" on in the recording studio as they made this record. "The Disappearance of Youth" has a nice acoustic shuffle as lead singer Philip Ekstroms reveals his coming to terms with his advancement in age and the changes it brings to his relationships. For a band that I was quick to dismiss a couple of years ago as another fad band, they have developed depth. It would be nice to see them combine the two influences from their first couple of records into something truly original. But at least they are making some interesting music worth checking out.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

When Do I Have To Give Up The Fight?

It has been brought to my attention that I am now 36 years old. I have a mortgage and car payments. I have two (soon to be three) kids. I wear a freakin' tie to work most days. I have a job where I am referred to as MR. most of the time. I do yardwork on the weekends (occasionally in shorts with socks pulled up to shield me from the weedwacker's rage). I laugh at TWO AND HALF MEN because I genuinely believe it is funny. I no longer watch MTV, and even VH1 is a bit sketchy at this point. You might say that this is the beginning of a mid life crisis, but oh no, it is something so much worse. This is an Indie Rock Credibility Crisis.

I have always fancied myself something of a music snob. This used to spread to movies, TV and books (back when I read things that were not the sports section in my chair half asleep). I have tried to maintain a certain hipness in my listening tastes (despite a somewhat ironic love for U2 and yes I am aware that this makes me a hypocrite). But am I now at a point in my life where I have to surrender that? Do I have to pack up my ringer tees and jeans for polo shirts and cargo shorts? Can a man be both a shining example of suburban malaise and a hipper than thou music aficionado?


It is no small coincidence that REM has played a large part in my listening habits over the past few weeks. They are the epitome of indie cred who have, in their old age, gone for the soft underbelly of commercialism. So when I took to listening to their new live CD it only cemented this moral calamity. "Driver 8" and "Gardening at Night" are still great, but do they still carry the same weight as they did all those years ago? Are they even still the poster children for the now antiquated college radio movement given that they "sold out" years ago? Are they just a relic of a bygone era replaced with blogs, zines and internet podcasts by every 20 year old with a macbook and a microphone? It is my assertion that for those of us who came of age in the true alternative era, REM have always represented the purest and most accurate accounting of band as artists and outsiders who did it the right way. But does that even matter any more?

I have no answers to these questions. This is not a manifesto of my rebellion against the passage of time. It is merely the cries of a middle aged man who very much loves the way he has dressed all these years, loves the music he has collected over time (and still from time to time dips his toes in the current indie waters) and is not ready to put on the black socks and sandals just yet.