Night Music: Benjamin Booker, “Violent Shiver”

I happened on this article in the Guardian today about a new generation of blues rock players who say they learned the blues at least in part from listening to Jack White. Like a game of telephone, mistakes are made.

That’s not really what I mean. Each of the three bands talked about in the story combine modern and old sounds in interesting ways. Benjamin Booker stands out to me, because I could see his mix turning into excellent songs. Right now, this one is probably the best, and it has some excellent drumming and interesting bass playing and Booker is pretty laid back about making some fast and pounding noises with his guitar.

He’s got that diffident voice thing going on, which is too bad, but there’s way more good here than bad. It just isn’t fully baked yet. For instance, Paul Schaffer’s organ part is a nice addition.

You should watch the D.D Dumbo clip, in which an Australian named Oliver Perry one-man bands things using loops, playing African guitar styles (which were at least in part derived from African guitarists listening to Lightning Hopkins), making art rock blues that support his arty vocals and more droney/chanty than catchy melodies. But it’s a cool sound that reminds me to listen to that Dirty Projector’s album I like so much (which nails all the vocal-mix-melody-abstraction issues this music is just starting to explore).

There’s a party in my head, and no one is invited

It’s been a while since my last post. I know you’ve missed me and my young people music. The band I want to share with you all today is Tame Impala. When my friend first showed them to me about 4 years ago, he described their sound as “psychedelic Beatles.” I could definitely hear that in their music, though it is much more modern with use of synthesizers and such on top of their instruments. What I like most about them is probably the lyrics, though the music sounds really good to me as well.

Pretty cool video, too.

The Mouse that is Modest

Although the majority of writers and readers on the site are no longer angsty teens, you all once were, hence your love of rock and roll. As a young woman still experiencing/ suffering from this angst, I have found solace in the music of Modest Mouse. Though they would not necessarily be considered a rock and roll group, the members and music epitomize many of the same values and ideals that make up the very spirit of rock and roll.

There are so many things I love about this band. First of all, their sound. While it is easy for today’s bands to succumb to the typical monochromatic pop sounds to make money and be on the radio, MM sticks to their own unique sound. They are a band that continues to experiment with new sounds and be real while so many others are not. They know how to make a popular record, and yet they are true to their own style. Heartmelting guitar riffs combine with killer drumming, bass, and a multitude of other intruments such as horn, fiddle, banjo, and keyboards, and songs are often accompanied by an overarching violin melody. They have killer instrumentalists all around and even more amazing vocals by my main man, Isaac Brock.

What gets me the most about MM is the lyricism. Brock manages to capture the essence of angst felt by teens and adults alike and put it in words that make me and many others like me swoon. He provides a dark social commentary for cynics like myself to hold onto in this world of sin and materialism. Together, these elements make MM a perfect band for teens and adults alike to hold close as we watch the world go down from our suburban bubbles. Some of my favorite quotes include:

 I like songs about drifters – books about the same, they both seem to make me feel a little less insane (The World at Large)

So all of the businessers in their unlimited hell where they buy and they sell, and they sell all their trash to each other, but they’re sick of it all and they’re bankrupt on selling (Bankrupt on Selling)

I had a drink the other day, opinions were like kittens I was givin them away (Out of Gas)

On my way to God don’t know, my brains the burger and my heart’s the charcoal (Heart Cook Brain)

I’m on a road shaped like a figure eight, I’m going nowhere but I’m guaranteed to be late (Interstate 8)

As life gets longer, awful feels softer and it feels pretty soft with you, and if it takes shit to make bliss then I feel pretty blissfully (The View)

I could easily write an essay about my love for Modest Mouse, but I will leave it at this for now. If you haven’t already, go check them out!

Night Music: Portugal. The Man, “Modern Jesus”

I don’t know anything about this band. Wikipedia says they’re a rock band from Wasilla Alaska. No word if they’ve gotten into any punch outs with the Palins. The music on this cut isn’t rock. There’s lots of electronics and the vocalist is doing a blue-eyed soul thing, and then when they get into chorus it gets kind of over overlaid and sonically compressed, like modern hit songs. Not rock. The album this is from, Evil Friends, was produced by Danger Mouse, who got famous mixing up the Beatles White Album with Jay-Z’s Black Album. He called it the Gray Album, and it was pretty good, but the work of a studio artist, not a hacker. Then he made that giant hit Crazy, with CeLo Green.

In any case, the lyrics on this song are great, “the only faith we have is waking up,” the attitude is strong and I like the vocals and the song itself. And the video is fab. This may be the sound of a rock band turning into a pop band, but I like it.

New Night Music: The Menzingers, “I Don’t Want To Be An Asshole Anymore”

I read a good review of this band’s “punky” new record last week and waded in. These guys are from Scranton PA, and the band’s name is the phonetic spelling of the German word for troubadour, which is kind of what gives here. You would hope that the sons of coal miners and refinery workers would be clawing (or digging) like mad to escape the brutal lives their parents lived as they struggled to get their little honeys into college and away from a life of Walmart and picking scabs off the inside of their various orifices. Kind of like Steve, who hails from around those parts, but no.

This kind of punk is really singer songwriter pop bleating catchy tunes above some well struck drums and jangly-hard guitars. I listened to a bunch of Menzinger’s songs and this one is the best I heard, but if you like it you might find something you like more in their catalog. If that’s the case, I’d suggest you try harder. There’s no reason to settle for competent fake punk.

By the way, I tried to be grumpy about the video but I couldn’t. Perfect.

Hmm, Menzingers, kind of like telling jokes about men. Kind of like that video. Brilliant.

Lunch Break: The War on Drugs, “Red Eyes”

They played in the city last week and I saw some video of their shows in Philly, which the writer at Gothamist raved about. I didn’t get real excited by the tunes, but for modern jangly indie rock they sounded pretty good. I thought I’d keep my eye out, in part because they have a good name.

They also have a new album coming out. I haven’t heard it, but I have heard this:

I like the propulsion, the simple drumming, the guitar and layers of shimmery sounds, and I like the way it breaks a couple of times (you’ll see what I mean if you listen). I’m not keen on the reverby buried slurred vocals. I’m not predicting this is going into my rotation, though it might, but it is new rock of some interest, which is rare.

New Rock: Gary Clark Jr., “Bright Lights”

The Grammy nominee for Best Rock Song who wasn’t a 60s artist and doesn’t sound like a harder-edge Bee Gees is Gary Clark Jr.

The song he was nominated for is from his okay debut album, Black and Blu, which shows off a variety of blues, soul, r’n’b and rock styles. It features a horn section and a wicked guitar solo, but suffers I think from a lack of real passion from Clark. He’s performing, but I couldn’t help think that if Dave Grohl was playing drums, driving him forward that he would have taken home the miserable little prize.

This older song, on the other hand, goes large. In other words, no accordions.

New Rock (Grammys Edition): Sirvana, “Cut Me Some Slack”

I watched a little bit of the Grammys show tonight, before switching over to the fading Downton Abbey. But fading is way better than faded.

The show opened with Beyonce singing the drunk song about surfing, and it all felt a little like Liza Minelli in Cabaret, except Beyonce is noticeably more curvaceous. And it is only by outrageous analogy that maybe we all become Nazi officers watching her.

Jay Z appeared and it was nice to see them work together and even be a little affectionate, though they live such mediated lives it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s putting on the show. In any case, I suspect if Turbonegro was watching they got no erection. This was pure entertainment.

Speaking of that. Before the show started there was a commercial for a casino that used a Macklemore and Ryan song, that really inspirational one in which you hold your hands higher, to advertise their $50 free play. WTF? These guys are selling their songs for commercials?

And then, 20 minutes later, they were winning Best New Artist and hyping how they made their elpee independently. No label support at all. That sounds good, but not if you’re selling your hits for cheesy commercials for dubious products. Sure, endorse the Neutral Milk Hotel Mangum condoms. That’s hip. Offer a $50 rebate for casino gambling? Eat bad buffet.

The music I saw was all terrible. The best was a Keith Urban-Gary Clark Jr. collaboration on an insipid song that must have been Urban’s. Clark is an excellent rock guitarist and he got gritty on Urban and smoked him a little in their solo part, but it was more dispiriting because the better songwriter was pushed aside for the more popular country dude.

Which led to the Best Rock Song category. The nominees were an embarrassment of old. The Stones were nominated! Ozzy and his crew, too. The winner was this song, written by Sir Paul McCartney and Nirvana’s Dave Grohl, Krist Novacelic and Pat Smear. In this clip Sir Paul isn’t really sure about their names, other than Grohl’s, which is fair. My grandfather used to have the same problem with my girl friends.

So, the live clip lets you see how Sir Paul interacts with his youngers (guys pushing 50, right?). But the sound sucks. They didn’t win for that. They won for this:

Like everything Grohl is involved with, this works just fine as rock. It sounds like a Wings when they were most rockish, mixed with the breast-pounding vocal of How Do You Sleep and other Lennon tirades. And it’s good to see Sir Paul pounding it a bit.

Obviously, the selection of this tune as Best Rock Song of the year has no bearing on what the actual best rock song of the year was, but what was the best rock song of 2013?