Long time coming, this one. My two cents on one of the best song-for-song albums I know, over at 10Listens:
The better heading for this essay is probably “Classic and Underappreciated,” because when Marshall Crenshaw’s self-titled debut was released in 1982, it sold pretty well, had a single that charted and made enough of a dent in the minds of enough listeners for Crenshaw to make an ongoing career out of it. Still, for all his talent and for all his good songs, Crenshaw’s is not a name that pops up as often in conversation as other tunesmiths’ might. Among glasses wearers of his generation – not the most scientific way to parse this material, but hey – he had more in common with Buddy Holly than Elvis Costello or Warren Zevon, both more biting in their wit, though not appreciably more intelligent, at least compared to the persona put forth in the songs on this album.
Read the whole thing here.
I love this band, but I still tried to be objective with my latest review for 10Listens:
The subtitle of the excellent new Foo Fighters documentary is Back and Forth, taken from a song of the same name from Wasting Light. Looking at their career, which now spans seven full albums, plus other releases, the phrase “back and forth” also addresses their constant touring but more importantly captures a certain restlessness in the band’s music from album to album, even while acknowledging their classic sound. For every louder album, it seems that, singles aside, there’s oddly enough a lower-key one coming up next. I admire bands that try to stretch their sound but, honestly, I was also very much hoping that Wasting Light would be a return to form for these guys, coming home from a largely acoustic vacation and itching to play loud and fast, unapologetically, having some real fun again and, if you like, recapturing the excitement of youth before all this growing up got in the way.
My anticipation grew over the last few months as the band released bits of music, the attacking opening riff and line of the first track, “Bridge Burning,” and even the entire “White Limo,” a souped-up “Weenie Beenie” complete with a typically jaunty video. These songs hinted at Dave Grohl reincorporating some of the energy he let fly with Them Crooked Vultures and, almost ten years ago now, Queens of the Stone Age. Incidentally, that kind of bothered me in recent years, how he’d frequently slow down and soften the Foo Fighters’ music – often to a beautiful degree, mind you – while having louder fun with other bands. Whether those chances were taken elsewhere to protect the Foos’ brand, or Grohl was purposefully using his most popular platform to be widely, if more quietly, expressive, that anxiety has been thrown aside. Wasting Light thankfully shows these guys going with what brung them.
Continue reading ‘Foo Fighters: Wasting Light’
Another 10Listens review:
The insistent power of No Color sneaked up on me. Picking out the parts straight away, I heard acoustic guitar and some kind of percussion, not a typical drum set. The biography confirms it: Meric Long sings and plays mostly acoustic guitar, and Logan Kroeber handles those odd drums. Some guest spots and overdubs and electrics aside, that’s all the instrumentation there is. Other bands run with this minimalism, less being more, stripping down the sound for a more intimate approach. But on this record, the pair chases down something completely different.
I’d say that rather than trying to merely get a message across to the listener, these two are more interested in creating a mood, putting the listener in certain state of mind. And generally, they succeed. The music is quite often terrific. But also: the rhythm is more important than the specifics. Guitar chords seem to be repeated more than they are changed. Snatches of melody show up here and there and disappear, only to be brought back, or not. The songs aren’t really formulaic, especially on the first half of the record: Except for the awfully catchy sing-song refrain of “Going Under,” it’s hard to decipher which might be a verse and which might be a chorus. Honestly, for the first few listens, this strange structure frustrated me and my expectations. The nearly indecipherable lyrics didn’t help me understand the mechanics any better, and made me think wordless chanting might have been the better play. But after a while, I went ahead and gave up trying to think like that, and only then did I really begin to enjoy the bulk of it, turning off rather than turning on.
Continue reading ‘The Dodos: No Color’
My second review for 10Listens, added today:
Just over a minute into Beady Eye’s debut, Liam Gallagher addresses the elephant in the room: “Nothing ever lasts forever.” It’s hard for me to imagine that’s not mostly about his old band’s new situation. Beady Eye is technically just Oasis minus Noel Gallagher, but personalities aside, on paper that’s a huge loss – of a guitarist, sometime singer, and maybe most significantly, of the band’s principal songwriter. Comparisons between the groups are inevitable but needn’t be harped on, nor oversimplified to a dismissive degree. But by such comparisons, even owners of a morbid curiosity should be reasonably impressed by Beady Eye’s efforts here, readily acknowledging the flashes of excellence even if on the whole they’re only occasionally as pleased as before.
In a way, Beady Eye have found themselves in an enviable position. While their work might have been greatly anticipated, expectations might also have been lower than of, say, Noel’s next album, given his creativity. On my first listen, I found myself giving them almost too much credit for any degree of artistry, so long as they delivered the fundamentals, which they did: It didn’t take long for me to think that at the very least, these guys really just wanted to play some fun music, the music they might have grown up on. And for a portion of the record, they do just that. Continue reading ‘Beady Eye: Different Gear, Still Speeding’