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Archive for the ‘OutKast’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANKO JONES-Garage Rock! A Collection of Lost Songs From 1996-1998 (2014).

Danko Jones has released nine albums an a bunch of EPs.  Back in 2014 he released this collection of songs that he wrote and recorded before his first proper single (1998).

This is a collection of raw songs, but the essential elements of Danko are in place. Mostly fast guitars, simple, catchy riffs and Danko’s gruff voice, filled with braggadocio.  With a cover by Peter Bagge!

He describes it:

Back in the 90’s,the Garage Rock scene, as I knew it, was a warts-and-all approach that favoured low-fi recordings and rudimentary playing over any modicum of musical prowess in order to glean some Rock N’ Roll essence. However, once a band got better at their instruments, songwriting and stage performance, the inevitable crossroads would eventually appear. Deliberately continuing to play against their growing skill would only evolve into a pose. There were a lot of bands who did exactly this in order to sustain scenester favour. We did the opposite.

What you hold in your hands is a document of what we were and where we came from. We didn’t know how to write songs and could barely play but we wanted to be near to the music we loved so badly. We ate, slept and drank this music. We still do. That’s why we have never had to reunite because we’ve never broken up. After 18 years, we’ve stayed the course, got tough when the going did and, above all else, we have never stopped. This album is the proof.

The first two songs are the best quality, with the rest slowly deteriorating with more tape hiss.

1. “Who Got It?” a big fat bass sound with lots of mentioning of Danko Jones in the lyrics. [2 minutes]
2. “Make You Mine” is 90 seconds long.  With big loud chords and rumbling bass Danko says “one day I’m going to write a book and let everybody know how to do it.  Seems to me there a lot of people around who want to see if I can prove it.  I been a rock prodigy since the age of 20 and my proof… my proof is right now.”
3. “I’m Your Man” is a bit longer.  The quality isn’t as good but the raw bass sound is great.
4. “She’s Got A Bomb” is good early Danko strutting music.
5. “Rock And Roll Is Black And Blue.”  He would name an album this many years later.  This song is fast and raw and only 90 seconds long.
6. “Dirty Mind Too” This is a fast stomping one-two-three song that rocks for less than a minute.
7. I’m Drinking Alcohol? This is funny because later he says he doesn’t drink.  I don’t know what the words are but the music is great–rumbling bass and feedbacky guitars with lots of screaming.
8. “Love Travel Demo” and 9. “Bounce Demo” are decent demo recordings.  “Bounce” has what might be his first guitar solo.
10. Sexual Interlude” “ladies it’s time to take a chance on a real man.  I’m sick and tired of seeing you women selling yourselves short, going out with a lesser man.
11. “I Stand Accused” Unexpectedly he stands accused of “loving you to much.  If that’s a crime, then I’m guilty.”
12. “Best Good Looking Girl In Town” a fast chugging riff, “oh mama you sure look fine.”
13. “Payback” This one sounds really rough but it totally rocks.
14. “Lowdown” Danko gives the lowdown: “You want a bit of romance?  I got you an bouquet of Flowers and a box of chocolates.  Why you crying for?  That ain’t enough?  Me and the fellas wrote this song just for you.”
15. “One Night Stand” garage swinging sound: Danko is a one woman man and you’re just his type.
16. “Instrumental” is great.
17. “Move On” is a long, slow long bluesy track about love.

It’s not a great introduction to Danko, but if you like him, you won;t be disappointed by this early baby-Danko period.

[READ: August 10, 2019] I’ve Got Something to Say

In the introduction (after the foreword by Duff McKagan), Jones introduces himself not as a writer but as a hack.  He also acknowledges that having something to say doesn’t mean much.  He has too many opinions on music and needed to get them out or his insides would explode.  He acknowledges that obsessing over the minutiae of bands is a waste of time, “but goddammit, it’s a ton of fun.”

So this collection collects some of Danko’s writing over the last dozen or so years. He’s written for many publications, some regularly.  Most of these pieces are a couple of pages.  And pretty much all of them will have you laughing (if you enjoy opinionated music writers).

“Vibing for Thin Lizzy” [Rock Hard magazine, March 2015]
Danko says he was lured into rock music by the theatrics of KISS, Crue and WASP.  But then he really got into the music while his friends seemed to move on.  Thin Lizzy bridged the gap by providing substance without losing its sheen or bite.  And Phil Lynott was a mixed race bassist and singer who didn’t look like the quintessential rock star.  What more could Danko ask for? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BIG BOI-Tiny Desk Concert #793 (October 9, 2018).

Like everyone is America, I loved OutKast’s “Hey Ya” when it came out (still do).  And that album was pretty great (if a little long).  And then they kind of imploded.

I was always more of a fan of Andre 3000’s trippy side than Big Boi’s pop side.  And yet for this Tiny Desk, Big Boi is  aton of fun and the songs are really catchy.

These guys helped redefine the sound and style of hip-hop in the ’90s, incorporating funk and psychedelia while transcending genre boundaries. As half of OutKast — still the only rap group ever to take home Album of the Year at the Grammys —

The energy in the room was buoyant and vibrant from the moment they walked in the door. OutKast star Big Boi, Sleepy Brown of the prolific Atlanta production collective Organized Noize, and their eight-member backing band have been working together for 20-plus years, and their chemistry is instantaneous and undeniable.

And Big Boi is hilarious from the get go:

We have come from the planet of Stankonia to give y’all three big songs behind a tiny-ass desk.

The set starts with OutKast’s: “So Fresh, So Clean.”  It sounds as good as it did in 2000, and possibly a little better live.  Big Boi’s voice instantly sounds like it does on the record (the way he echoes clean).  The bass (Preston Crump) sound great running through the song and the gently echoing guitar (David Brown) sounds great.

The backing vocals (Keisha Williams and Terrance “Scar” Smith) are spot on.  Perhaps the biggest surprise comes from the trumpets (Jason Freeman and Jerry Freeman).  It didn’t occur to me that he’d use them, but they really make the track.

After the track, he cracks up the room by saying “the Tiny Desk needs a Tiny fan” (of course they are all wearing matching hoodies that say TRAP HOUSE (in the style of WAFFLE HOUSE).

Big Boi continues to thrive as a solo act, riding the charts with last year’s Boomiverse and its hit single “All Night.”

He describes the song as a “current pop smash hit with L.A. Reid–the first hit to launch that label.”  It opens with a super catchy and fun piano riff (very old-school sounding). The piano is a sample which DJ Cutmaster Swift plays on his Mac and then scratches it on the turntable.

Holy cow is that song catchy.  I love at the end when Big Boi and his rapping partner Sleepy Brown mime the piano part perfectly.

The final song is “The Way You Move” from 2003’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.  He describes it in a hilariously casual way as “one of the biggest things we’ve ever done.”  It opens with some great scratching and the snappy drums from Omar Phillips.  This is a song that was a little too poppy for me on the record, but man it’s an undeniable track.

It’s a terrific set and one that I wish was ten minutes longer.

[READ: October 14, 2018] “The Coast of Leitrim”

This story seems like a simple case of a loser-ish guy trying desperately to woo a woman.

Seamus Ferris is thirty-five.  He lives alone in an inherited house and he has fallen hard for a Polish woman who works in a cafe down in Carrick.  He has no mortgage, which is a plus, but he’s not especially exciting, generally speaking.

He feels that the situation is like a vast love affair, although he has never spoken to her–more than ordering anyway.  But he knew that she was sensitive, with a “dreamy distracted air” and she was “at a remove from the other mullockers who worked in the cafe.”  She was pretty but no supermodel–Seamus admitted he himself was not hideous.

Using some sly detective work–he peeked at the work schedule while using the toilet, he learned her name and then did some research on Instagram.  Her full name Katharine Zeileinski was unique enough for him to be able to narrow down the account quickly.  She didn’t post much, but what she did suggested she was single. That’s all he wanted. (more…)

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grant12SOUNDTRACK: BELA FLECK, EDGAR MEYER, ZAKIR HUSSAIN-Tiny Desk Concert #70 (July 26, 2010).

belaBela Fleck is a rather legendary musician, and yet I realized I don’t really know that much about him.  And somehow I never knew he was a banjo player (that’s a pretty serious omission on my part).  I had never heard of the other two musicians, although they are apparently world-class masters of the bass fiddle and the tabla.

I also didn’t expect this Tiny Desk Concert to be so interestingly world-musicy.

This set is only two songs but each is about 7 minutes long and they are both very cool (and from the album The Melody of Rhythm).

Fleck’s playing is amazing, with a tone that is often unlike a standard banjo sound.  And I absolutely love the tabla–I am fascinated by this instrument.  The first song, “Bubbles” is an amazing demonstration of Fleck’s banjo.  About midway through he is playing in a decidedly middle eastern style (which works great with the tabla).  And when the bass starts getting bowed around 1:50, it adds an amazing richness to this already cool song.   There’s a cool bass solo (I love that the tabla pauses a few times during the solo).  The ending is just wonderful.

Before the second song, “Bahar” (which means “springtime”) they talk about being nervous, which is pretty funny.  This song opens with the bass fiddle’s bowed notes (including a very very high note).  This one seems to be a more solo-centered, with some elaborate work from Fleck after the introduction. And the tabla solo, while brief, is really cool to watch.  I prefer the first song, but the more traditional nature of the second song is a nice counterpart to the first.

[READ: August 24, 2015] Grantland #12

I enjoyed this issue as well.  This was mostly the spring and summer of 2014, which sounds so long ago, and yet so many things seem so current.

CHUCK KLOSTERMAN-“The Life and Times of Kiss”
I love this article about Kiss.  And I wrote about it back here.

WESLEY MORRIS-“Poison Candy”
This is about the disastrous state of female comedies.  It focuses on the movie The Other Woman which is ostensibly a female centered comedy but is entirely other.

BILL SIMMONS-“Sterling’s Fold”
A drumming down of Donald Sterling.  It’s hard for me to believe that this happened over a year ago.

ZACH LOWE-“Building the Brow”
An article about Anthony Davis of the Pelicans, who is proving to be better than anyone imagined. (more…)

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hiro1SOUNDTRACK: ASAF AVIDAN-Tiny Desk Concert #340 (March 2, 2014).

asafAsaf Avidan is a 33-year-old, Israeli singer, formerly with a folkish rock band called Asaf Avidan & The Mojos.  He has since gone solo and is touring the States.   His voice is the most notable thing about this performance—it’s feminine, but not in a conventionally feminine way.  It’s got a husky Janis Joplin vibe or maybe that weird Billie Holiday thing that she does.  And yet Asaf Avida is (clearly) a man and when he belts out songs, his voice is incredibly powerful.

And yes indeed, he knows how to use his voice very well.  His voice would be unconventional even if he was a woman—it’s creaky and crackly, it warbles and rises and swoops and yet it is very powerful nonetheless.  And I can see it being very polarizing.  I didn’t like it at first but it really won me over.

“My Latest Sin” is a slow finger plucked song (the guitar is beautiful) and most of the song is pretty quiet, but man can Asaf belt out the lines when he wants to. “Different Pulses” is a more robust song musically (even though it is just him on guitar). When he sing the “oh ho” part, he hits some real falsettos, but is still very powerful.

The way he mixes up his incredibly high pitched voice with the gravelly and growly makes this an incredibly engaging performance.

As he introduces the third song, “Reckoning Song,” he explains that it was remixed as an ambient song–which he hates.  He had asked the remixer to take it down, but the guy refused.  And it has since hit 150 million hits.  He’s grateful for the attention, although he still hates the remix. His version is quiet and powerful with some beautiful catchiness.

I’m very intrigued by this fellow and want to hear more.

[READ: June 20, 2014]  Johnny Hiro Book 1

This book collects the first three Johnny Hiro stories (from 2007-2008).  It was originally published by AdHouse books with the cover that you’ll see below.  This Tor reprint is identical (as far as I was willing to investigate).

I was immediately intrigued by the cover and the title.  I loved the play on Hero and Hiro and when I saw that a Godzilla type monster attacks them on the first page, I was sold.

So Johnny Hiro is an average Japanese American kid living in New York.  He has a bad job as a sushi chef, but he has a beautiful Japanese girlfriend who loves him very much.  Of course, when the first story opens and Mayumi is pulled away by “Gozadilla,” things aren’t looking that good for him.

But here’s some wonderful things that do happen in the story: Johnny rescues her while wearing her Hello Bunny slippers (she’s concerned that he will stretch them out); we learn that Gozadilla is mad at her because her mother stopped him in 1978 from trying to rampage Tokyo (so this is a revenge mission) and, best of all, they are saved because Mayumi calls Mayor Bloomberg for help (she got his number from the phone book because of an article in the New York Times).  Oh and the monster attack has left a huge hole in their exterior wall. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BELLE & SEBASTIAN-Write About Love (2010).

I’ve enjoyed Belle and Sebastian’s music since their debut album all those years ago.  For some reason I didn’t get into this album as much as previous releases.  In part it’s because the band has morphed quite a lot from what they used to do.  It’s true that I have really enjoyed their more rocking songs on their more recent albums, and this one is full of them.  It’s also true that a band needs to evolve, but somehow this album just never really gripped me.  I think it’s because the album takes so long to start.  The fade in is like 20 seconds!  But I’ve listened again with renewed interest recently and I’m changing my mind a bit about it.  There are plenty of great songs on this disc. 

“I Didn’t See It Coming” is a classic B&S song (after that awful delay).  It’s a wonderful duet with Sarah Martin (this is how to do a duet, guys–the ending is fantastic!).  “Come on Sister” is one of the great faster B&S songs.  The “gotta have a little FAITH” line is great and then the unexpected shift into the third part of the sing is just stunning.  I also love “Calculating Bimbo” first because who would every have thought there’d be a song with that title but also because Murdoch sings it so wonderfully.  I generally don’t like slow music, but there’s something about slow B&S song that I find myself leaning in instead of tuning out.

“I Want the World to Stop” is another wonderful “rocker.”  It’s a fast paced little ditty with great backing vocals (and it always makes me go “two, three, four” before the chorus kicks in–always the sign of a great song).

“Little Lou, Ugly Jack, Prophet John” slows things down really far.  Possibly too far for me. It’s a duet and it reminds me just a little too much of a Beautiful South duet (not a particular song, just their style).  And I have to say that The Beautiful South would have done it better.  After looking at the liner notes I realized that Norah Jones is the duettist here.  I like that Jones has been providing her services across a wide spectrum of music (Foo Fighters, OutKast etc) but I really just don’t have anything good to say about her.  The melody is nice though.  I also didn’t realize that the sing came out on Norah’s disc before the B&S disc.

The album quickly redeems itself with “Write About Love,” a great keyboard fueled rocker (with backing vocals from Carey Mulligan who I don’t know, but who nails the song “I haaate my job”).  “I’m Not Living in the Real World” has lots more keyboards and oooh vocals (it reminds me of a Who songs from Sell Out) and it’s sung by Stevie. 

From the there, the disc kind of slows down.  “The Ghost of Rockschool” is the least memorable song on the disc for me (although the horn section is nice).  “Read the Blessed Pages” is so quiet (even for B&S) that it kind of gets lost on the disc.  (The instrumental break is pretty though).  “I Can See Your Future” opens with a catchy horn blast that kind of wakes you from the slumber of the previous song.  “Sunday’s Pretty Icons” opens with a cool guitar riff, but it’s not all that memorable either.   While these last few songs are fine, they’re not as strong as the beginning of the album.  They kind of meld together. 

So I guess what I’m saying is that the first half of the disc is great and the second half is okay.  The  good songs are worth it though.  I’ll stop being so hard on the disc.

[READ: January 5, 2012] Machine Man

Don’t worry if you’re suffering from Barry blog overload, this post is about Barry’s new novel, which I just finished.

I have enjoyed Barry’s previous novels quite a lot.  They typically deal with corporate skewering and this book is no exception.  Except that the corporate skewering takes a back seat to the major sci-fi elements of the story.  Before I mention the story itself, I wanted to mention the origin of the story.  In the Acknowledgements at the end of the book, Barry explains that his fans had been nudging him to write something.  And while he had been doing projects, he hadn’t written a book in a while.  So he decided to write the book online.  He wrote a few hundred words a day and posted them online.  And then he sat back and waited for the comments to come in.

He talks about how he’s basically showing everyone his rough draft of a story and letting people tear it apart.  But he found that his fans were supportive and even offered ideas (which he then callously stole, muhahaha).  And so the story online is actually rather different from what appeared as the final draft.  (No, I’m not going to read the online version, but you can.  It’s available here).

Anyhow, as the story opens, Dr Charlie Neumann (I just got the bad pun of that name, shame on him and shame on me for not seeing it sooner) loses his phone.  He feels totally cut off without his phone.  The scene seems a little over the top (he checks his car while wearing only a towel) but it shows how technologically dependent he (and we) feel most of the time.  This kind of mild slapstick scene resolves itself in a shockingly brutal way.  When Dr Neumann gets to his office (he’s an engineer at Better Future) he finally sees where he left his phone.  Unfortunately, he has already started an industrial vice and he’s distracted by his phone long enough to have his leg crushed by said vice.

When he wakes up in the hospital, he is surrounded by people trying to help him–nurses, doctors, therapists, but he’s really just distraught about the loss of his leg.  And then he sees Lola Banks, who is bringing him a pile of artificial legs.  Lola is quite possibly the first woman who Charlie has ever spoken to who seems in any way empathetic to him (Charlie is, admittedly a pretty cold and cerebral individual). She shows him some prosthetics which he’s not too thrilled by.  But when Lola reveals that Better Future is paying for top of the line stuff for him, she shows him the highest end of the high end legs.  And Charlie falls in love (with Lola and the legs). 

Lola Banks proves to be an interesting person.  Not ony does she not recoil from Charlie and his handicap (it is her job), but she seems to almost admire Charlie for seeing the beauty in the prostheses.  Lola proves to be the kind of woman who falls for certain kinds of men, but with Charlie it’s different.  Really, it is.  Shut up, it is.

Although Charlie does see the beauty in the prostheses, he can’t help but see how they can be improved (he is an engineer after all).  And so, he sets out to make the artificial legs not just replacements but better than their human counterpart.  Better Future is on board with helping Charlie recover (which is quite nice, and somewhat unexpected coming from corporation hater Barry), but we see that Better Future knows what it has with Charlie–a single-minded, focused engineer. A man who only wants things to be more efficient.  So when Charlie starts outfitting the prosthetics with motors (and considers putting in wifi) the company is kind of impressed.  And so is Charlie.  The leg is heavy and a little unwieldy, and it’s not very pretty (it has hooves), but it sure works. 

The problem, as Charlie sees it, is that his intact leg is holding back his new invention.  How can he fully test the artificial legs if his human leg is less than the prosthetic? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: The Believer July/August 2010 Music Issue Compilation CD: “We Bumped Our Heads Against the Clouds” (2010).

Of all the Believer music compilations, this is by far my least favorite.  It would be oversimplifying things to say that the music is not for me, but in many respects it is not.  Chuck Lightning, the curator of the project states that this compilation is more or less a look into the state of the union for black artists.  And that invariably means a lot of R&B and songs that might be heard on Glee (I like the show, but I never know any of the music).

Deep Cotton’s “Self!” reminds me of novelty dance hit from the late 80s.  Of Montreal, who I thought sounded totally different from this, offer “Hydra Fancies” which is as catchy a disco anthem as any disco anthem can be.  Roman GianArthur’s “Depraved Valet” is an amazingly falsettoed Prince knock off.  Cody Chestnutt’s “”Come Back Like Spring” is a simple almost acapella ode to spring.  Saul Williams’ oddly titled “B.S. in a Tampon” is a spoken word with acoustic guitar that reminds me of Gil Scot-Heron.  Janelle Monáe’s “Cold War” is the first really catchy song (the la las remind me of Carole King), although  I could do without the overstated “Calinda” part and the extended fade.

The first song I really liked was BLK JCKs “Iietys” which sounded enough like TV on the Radio to be really interesting.  Spree Wilson’s “Chaos” also sounds like TV on the Radio (the more R&B side of the band, although the guitar solo is a dead ringer for “Hotel California.”  Scar’s “Rewind” is the song that should be on Glee.  I want to hate it but it is so damned catchy, I can’t.  Again, those Oh Oh Ohs are too perfect (and the auto0tune of course is unassailable).

Rob Roy’s “Velvet Rope Blues” is my favorite song on the disc by a large distance. It’s a weird rap that reminds me of The Streets, with an awesome sung chorus ala OutKast.  Hollyweed’s “Have You Ever Made Love to a Weirdo” is a trippy, juvenile space rap that is really silly.  Sarah hates it but I kind of like it, as it’s in the spirit of Frank Zappa, (although I hate the sax solo).  Fear & Fancy’ s “Off the Grid” sounds also not unlike OutKast.  And George 2.0′ s “Turn Off the TV” is a anti-TV rap rant (with the somewhat ironic conclusion that you yourself might end up ON the TV).

M.I.A. is probably the biggest name on the disc. “Born Free” is a weird little track of highly distorted vocals over a punk guitar buzzsaw sound.  But her vocals are mixed so loud in the mix that they sound unrelated.  It sounds not unlike a Go! Team track.  This track makes me wonder how she became such a sensation.

Hot Heavy & Bad’s “One” returns to that disco sound in the vocals with some contemporary bass sounds.  It wears out its welcome pretty quickly.  Tendaberry’s “Cold Boy” sounds like a less horn-y Fishbone.  Mother Novella offers one of the few all guitar songs, “Closer 9 1/2” and it’s an okay mid tempo rocker.

The final song is pretty awesome in theory: Nina Simone covering Alice Cooper.  That’s right, Nina Simone covering Alice Cooper.  Sadly I don’t know the Alice Cooper song, so it’s a bit lost on me.

[READ: September 16, 2010] Speaking with the Angel

I bought this volume when it came out (and apparently donated $1 to TreeHouse at the same time).  It’s a collection edited by Nick Hornby (and the cover is designed similarly to the way High Fidelity and even About a Boy were at the time (“the Hornby look,” I suppose).

I didn’t buy it for Hornby alone, although he does have a story in it, but because it looked like a really promising collection of stories from authors I liked.  And for some reason I didn’t read it until now.  It includes 12 stories, and as the introduction notes, $1 was donated to TreeHouse.org.uk (in the US $1 goes to TreeHouse and another $1 goes to New York Child Learning Institute).  I don’t know if the money still goes there, but you can donate with a form at the back of the book.  (more…)

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