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Archive for the ‘Michael Weinreb’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS-“Magic Johnson” (1989).

Just before the Red Hot Chili Peppers totally took off and became stadium stars, they released Mother’s Milk.  It was a commercialized realization of their three earlier more raw sounding funk rock records.  It was one of my favorite records of the late 80s.

Since Flea is interviewed in this issue of Grantland, and since he’s still a fan of the Lakers, it seemed like a good time to mention this song.

It opens with some martial drums (from then new drummer Chad Smith) and band chanting about M A G I C.  The lyrics are sung very quickly (I’m not even sure what they say half the time).  About 80 seconds in some wild guitar work burst forth, but it’s largely a chanted song of bass and drums.  There’ s a brief jam at the end where Flea shows off some great basswork and John Frusciante gets to do his thing again.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard it played anywhere (maybe at Lakers games?), so here’s a chance to hear it:

[READ: May 8, 2012] Grantland 3

One thing is for sure, Grantland loves it some basketball.  Basketball is the most widely covered sport in the published Grantlands so far. (The first issue even looked like one).  Since basketball is such a pop culture-referencing sport it actually works pretty well as a subject–with lots of different angles–especially given the state of the NBA lately.  Some other things on the Grantland staff’s minds include–the dangers of football and inadequacy of helmets to protect kids and Tim frickin Tebow (still!).  I don’t think an issue has past without talking about him yet.  I realize that’s a function of the time of these publications but… ew!

Nevertheless, the writing remains exciting and interesting, even for a non-sports guy like me.

(more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD FLAG-Wild Flag (2011).

For reasons unclear to me now, I wasn’t psyched when I heard about this band.  Despite the fact that it was 2/3 of Sleater-Kinney and the force behind Helium joining together, I didn’t jump for joy.  But now that I have listened to the album a million times, I can say that it is one of the best albums not only of that year, but of many years.  Man is it good.

Sleater-Kinney was a great band, they were melodic and tuneful but also abrasive and occasionally off-putting.  Who knew that the majority of the adhesiveness came from Corinne Tucker (well, she was the screamer, admittedly).  It’s pretty clear that Carrie Brownstein is bringing a ton of melody (and a wee bit of amativeness) to the mix.  Mary Timony always included trippy imagery and a weird kind of whispered/loud singing voice.  The tunes are so catchy so strong, so singalongable.

There’s little moments in each song that are amazing.  The backing vocals (and the pitch shift in the chorus) in “Romance”.  The way “Something Came Over Me” sounds so different from “Romance” (and is clearly a Timony-sung song).  I absolutely love the guitar “solo” that begins each verse and how it stands out but fits in so nicely as a baritone guitar sound (I assume from Carrie?)  “Boom” is just a full-on rocker with some great guitar pyrotechnics and Carrie’s more extreme vocals.  And man is it catchy.

“Glass Tambourine” is a cool trippy psychedelic workout  that’s still catchy and interesting.  “Endless Talk” has a strange British retro vibe.  (Carrie seems to be singing with a kind of punk British voice).  And there’s lot of keyboards.  It’s great that the album has so many different sounds, but still sounds cohesive.  “Short Version” has some great guitar soloing in the front and back.  “Electric Band” is like a perfect pop song–great backing vocals, great poppy solos and a cool video to boot.  “Future Crimes” is another amazing tune, with a keyboard solo!

“Racehorse” is probably my least favorite song on the disc.  It’s got some cool parts and some interesting swagger (and I like the live versions where they really jam) but the album version feels a little dragged out (although the chorus is really hot).  The disc ends with the wonderful “Black Tiles” which could easily be a Helium song, but which still sounds very Wild Flag.

And, I can’t say it enough, Janet Weiss is amazing on drums.  I feel badly because I tend to leave out the keyboardist–because I don’t know who she is or the band that she came from.  But her keyboards play an essential role in the music.  They fill out the spaces that the two guitars don;t always fill.  They even introduce the opening of the album.

If you go back through previous posts you’ll see I’ve mentioned them 3 times already because they have special bond with NPR and three of their concerts are available there.  I can’t wait for more from them.

[READ: May 8, 2012] Grantland 2

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Grantland #1.  So I was pretty excited to get Grantland #2.  #2 has all of the elements that I loved about #1–non-sports articles about entertainment (video games, music, TV), and sports articles that are short and digestible for a non-sports fan.  This issue also features a number of really long articles about basketball.  I like basketball fine, but I can’t say I paid any attention to the lockout.  Thus, much of this was lost on me. It probably doesn’t help that I don’t know any sports people either.

I may have said this last time, but I will reiterate for Issue #3–for those of us who don’t follow sports, or those of us who may not remember back to September when most of these articles were written, or heck, for people who are going to read this in ten years’ time:  For certain articles, can you give us an epilogue about what happened after the article was written.  If you speculate about  the lockout. Have an epilogue to say about how the lockout turned out.  If you talk about a game 5 of a series and the series didn’t end, have an epilogue that tells us how the series ended.  It doesn’t have to even fit the style of the article, just a few words: so and so ended like this. It can show how prescient the writers were.  And it can help us complete the stories.

So, despite a few articles that I thought were too long, (although probably aren’t if you love basketball) I really enjoyed this issue of Grantland, too. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKBABE THE BLUE OX-“Basketball” (1998).

This was the first song I’d ever heard from Babe the Blue Ox, and I was hooked (sadly, The Way We Were, where this song is from was their last album).  This is also my favorite songs about sports (and it will never be played in an arena).

It opens with this great funky keyboard over a cool walking bass line.  And after a verse about playing basketball, we get the gorgeous bridge: “pass it to me, I am free, look there’s no one guarding me) sung by one of the women in the band (who sounds vaguely like Edie Brickell).  When the chorus kicks in “And when she gives it to me, I am as high as can be” both singers harmonize wonderfully.

There’s even a cool instrumental break.

Everything about this song is catchy and wonderful.  And it should have been huge.

[READ: December 21, 2011] Grantland

McSweeney’s seems to keep trying to push me away.  Or maybe they are just trying to push me out of my comfort zone.  First they publish Lucky Peach, a magazine about cooking (with recipes that contain ingredients that I couldn’t find anywhere).  I don’t read cooking magazines, but I loved this one.  Now they publish Grantland, a book about sports.  I don’t follow sports.  At all.  I used to play sports and I used to watch sports, and then when I got out of college, I did neither.  I have a very good knowledge of most sports (so I can still follow any game that’s on), but as for actual people playing the games right now–I’m ignorant.  So, why on earth would I want to read this book about sports?

I was pretty sure I would finally not be getting this book until I read the author list: Chuck Klosterman, Colson Whitehead (!), Malcolm Gladwell (?)  I knew this was going to be no ordinary sports book.

So it turns out (and I didn’t know this until just now) that the book is a collection of works from the website Grantland, which is created and run by Bill Simmons.  I haven’t explored the site but it sure looks interesting enough–longish articles about sports and culture and all kinds of interesting things.  And evidently this issue is a sort of best of the website.  The whole Grantland experience, including this book, are connected to ESPN, indeed, ESPN gets a copyright for the book, McSweeney’s is just the publisher.

And this volume was wonderful.  I couldn’t put it down.  I even wound up putting aside a book I was in the middle of to read it.  None of the articles are terribly long and, despite the basketball textured cover (which is very cool–no one can walk by and not touch it) the variety of sports covered is wonderful: from boxing to cricket!  And there are short stories and essays about the entertainment industry as well (articles on Shia LeBeouf and Amy Winehouse (!)).

If I had one complaint about the book it’s that many of the articles don’t give a time from when they were written.  I assume they are all fairly recent but since I don’t follow sports I can’t say for sure.  The other problem is that several of the stories end with a game/match unresolved.  Clearly they have been resolved since then, but even one line saying what happened would be comforting for those of us not glued to ESPN. (more…)

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