As the ifsixer who blogs the least, I know it's hard to get me to move from my regularly vegetative state to write a review of any sort. But, as the resident pop wuss rock enthusiast, I had to review John Mayer Trio's new live release, Try!
For those individuals who have flirted with the idea of buying this disc, my advice is simple: Don't. I love soaring SRV and Hendrix inspired guitar licks as much as the next kid, but this album falls dramatically short. I think the most crushing factor is that Mayer has finally offered a musically rich and adventurous detour from his normally insipid and paternalistic Grammy winning singles... but the opportunity is lost completely. How, you ask? Bluntly, his vocals suck harder than a Hoover.
Not since the movie adaptation of Rent have I been so underwhelmed and disappointed by what could have been a creative masterpiece. And it makes me wonder, this guy is clearly living well and has set aside a nice little nest egg for himself - why can't he afford a vocal coach? Has no one told him that he is mediocre at best, and painful at worst as a vocalist? When he was a pop singer I didn't mind too much - the guitar skills made up for it. From the nasal and unreliable falsettos to the poor tonal intonation to the unsupported breathing, I find myself wanting to find the dub versions of these songs. Throughout the entire album it sounds like Ashlee Simpson mimicking Joss Stone. Mayer's tone quality, his approach, none if it manages to fit into his revisitation of the blues. And unfortunately, no amount of virtuousity from his trio-mates can save this sinking album.
So while I raise my glass to Mayer's move away from the vapid, I hope that next time the John Mayer Trio will try! a little harder. Camille12:31 AM
"What is it, I've had a long night. You don't wanna know."
"Right. Well whatever you did, I hope you ate something."
"Hey! Save your accusations for Aimee Mann, have you had a look at her recently?"
"No, but let me get to the point. You know that Extraordinary Machine album you recorded in 2003 but we refused to release, because it wasn't, you know, commercial enough?"
"Yeeeaahh? (muffled obscenities)"
"Well, we'd like to release it this year."
"Here's the thing, though. We'd like to make "Oh Sailor" the lead single."
"Just... not that version of it. We want you to play it faster and keep your right foot off the sustainer pedal. Can you do that?"
This was a long and silly way of saying, check out Fiona Apple's "Oh Sailor" at her MySpace page. (myspace.com/fionaapple)
UPDATE: In comments (er, comment), Paul wonders, as he has before, about whether the storyline offered up by the cast of characters involved can be taken at face value. I replied a while back, but it looks like Enetation ate my comment. I think there's reason to be suspicious, given the history of major bands and artists who shelve albums. Off the top of my head:
--The Beatles, Get Back
--The Beach Boys, Smile
--Dave Matthews Band, Lilywhite Sessions
The first one was an "eh" situation, mostly about the band not liking it. The circumstances of the second example are too unique to be a precedent. And the third is similar to the first, with the band choosing instead to go a new direction (the underrated Everytday) to rediscover their mojo.
But then there's Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, which was a peculiar situation where there was a similar official storyline to the Fiona-gate, in a sense. Their label refused to release the album, but it was eventually released through a different label under the same corporate umbrella. So maybe if this is all how it happened the Fiona story holds water. Then again, Wilco got an acclaimed documentary out of this, so who knows. Bren1:35 PM
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Just listen and let me know what you think. It's as simple as that. I love it. You'll need Realplayer.
Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl have always been two sides of the same coin, that coin being adolescent angst rock. While Kurt moaned and screamed a private torment and rebellion, seemingly lifted from bathroom walls and disorganized spiral notebooks, Dave's music with his post-Nirvana outfit the Foo Fighters is grounded in a reckless, hopeful adolescent heart, aching to give itself to the world around it. "In your honor I would die tonight / For you to feel alive" he screams on In Your Honor's title-track opener, with its machine-gun drums and guitar riff borrowed from Radiohead's "Sulk". Grohl is one of rock's more sincere singers, and he is not willing to taint his passion with irony or cynicism. Good for him! Throughout the first CD of this double-album (the 1st CD is all hard rock, the 2nd is mostly acoustic, we'll get to that), Dave makes one thing clear: he will accept no half-measures. "There is no way back from here!" . . . "I swear I'll never give in!" . . . "No one's getting out of here alive this time!" . . . "This is the last song that I will dedicate to you!" I add the exclamation points because those lines are all sung/screamed.
Why is this pristine sincerity so interesting? Because this is Dave Grohl, who had a front-seat to the highest-profile rockstar death since Mark David Chapman asked for an autograph. That he can still rock out after that says a lot for the adolescent spirit and how it's the real driving force of so much hard rock, even as its gods grow longer and longer in the tooth.
So other than Dave's singing, how is the first CD of In Your Honor? Pretty good. The mix is far superior to that of the hyper-compressed sonic nightmare that was 2002's One By One. The riffs are often catchy ("No Way Back", "DOA", "The Last Song"), Taylor Hawkins can wail on his drums the way the Fighters' predecessor behind the kit could, and none of the songs warrant skippage, the least of which being the passionate lead single "Best of You", the Foo's best single since "Everlong". The Foo's sophomore album, 1997's The Color and the Shape, will continue to be their standard-bearer for me, with the two-guitar punch of "My Poor Brain" and "Wind Up", and the drama of "February Stars" and "New Way Home". That dynamic drama is the only thing missing from the first CD of In Your Honor, save for the well-crafted outro of "End Over End", but the driving rock from start to finish renders this omission not a grave one.
If the first CD of In Your Honor is everything we'd expect from the Foo Fighters, the second CD is exactly what we wouldn't have expected. While the adolescent emotional base is still there, Dave and company bust out the acoustic guitars and give us an out-of-left-field resurrection of Elliott Smith. While two songs near the CD's end break the mood -- the jazzy "Virginia Moon" featuring Norah Jones (!?!?), and the bouncy jewel "Cold Day in the Sun", with Taylor on the lead vocal -- CD two has the feel of a somber, candlelit room, as Grohl sings to the walls around him. The disc has an air of loneliness; "I'd have to lose everything just to find you" he sings in "What If I Do?". It continues in the somber, harmonica-laden "Another Round", and the beautiful, string-clad "Over and Out".
The song everyone will be talking about, though, is "Friend of a Friend", which Dave wrote about meeting Kurt Cobain and becoming his roommate in 1990. "He's never been in love / But he knows just what love is / He says 'nevermind' / And no one speaks", Dave sings plaintively over a well-chosen pair of 9th chords. Grohl has only alluded to Kurt in lines, here and there, on past albums ("I don't owe you anything!", "I still remember every single word you said and all that shit that somehow came along with it", "Feel it come to life when I see your ghost"), but never over an entire song; "...Friend" proves that it was worth the wait, capturing Cobain's shyness and inner demons with subtle precision.
The double-album closes with "Razor", featuring a nifty guitar riff halfway between Celtic and prog-rock. It left me longing for more music (the sign of a good album), and wondering what will happen on the next Foo Fighters album, when the two sounds they have given us will likely merge in some manner. Good work, boys.
(note: when I say "adolescent" I don't mean "childish" or anything negative, I mean unscarred, pure, and such) Bren6:38 PM
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Sold out shows make me cry.
Team Rebecca/Andy/Paul/Peter/Lawrence (or RAPPLa, as I like to call us) secured a total of ten tickets for the sold-out Bloc Party show on May 31 at Slim's. These aren't being price gouged just yet. After fees and whatnot, they were $15 each, so I imagine they'll end up being re-sold for between $25 and $30 each.
Ben Folds, on the other hand, is a bitch. Unbeknownst to me, tickets for his show in Saratoga went on sale today at 10am, and had I not just happened to be browsing benfolds.com today because I was bored at my overpaid job, I wouldn't have ever known they were available today. I was able to buy one (1) ticket no less than ten minutes before they were completely sold out. Bullshit, says I. After fees, this one (1) stupid ticket cost me almost $70, but due to the popularity of the act (the tour also features handsome Rufus Wainwright), I think I can get a handsome chunk of cash for my ticket. However, at the same time, I really want to go see Mr. Ben. I saw him in November of 2003 at the Warfield (for a modest $20), and it rocked my little socks off. But going to see Ben Folds by myself would be sad a lonely. So I need to find two tickets (sitting next to each other) for not a million bajillion dollars. Any leads?
**Update. I'm a dork. Just the presale is sold out. Yay for me and the American way of life.** Rebecca C. Brown2:05 PM
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Why you gotta act like you know when you don't know?
Upcoming Album Releases:
Ani DiFranco - January 20
The Coral - January 27
Moby - February 3
Jonny Greenwood - February 24
The Hives - February 2004
Melissa auf der Maur - February 2004
Garbage - Early 2004
The Vines - Early 2004
The Who - Spring 2004
Wilco - Spring 2004
Beck - Summer 2004
Ben Folds - 2004
Chemical Brothers - 2004
Eels - 2004
Interpol - 2004
PJ Harvey - 2004
Queens Of The Stone Age - 2004
R.E.M. - 2004
U2 - 2004
Coldplay - Late 2004
Paul McCartney - Late 2004
Oasis - Late 2004