New Mountain Goats: As Many Candles As Possible

Video: the Mountain Goats – “As Many Candles As Possible”

the Mountain Goats - As Many Candles As Possible (Official Lyric Video)

Directed by Lalitree Darnielle. From Getting Into Knives, due October 23 on Merge.

Remember back when the Mountains Goats announced Songs for Pierre Chuvin how John Darnielle causally mentioned that “the entire band was decamped at an undisclosed location working on the next Mountain Goats album” when the pandemic started raging out of control and “the work schedule [they] had planned for spring probably wouldn’t be panning out”?

Well, they apparently got enough done in those first few days of March to make a whole album out of it. And that undisclosed location? Sam Phillips Recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee. So that’s pretty cool.

“As Many Candles As Possible” is the first single from the project and it’s a good one. I’ve been getting a little discouraged but the lack of guitars and abundance of what I half-jokingly call “jazziness” on recent Mountain Goats studio stuff, but this sounds like a badass rock and roll song with some gnarly lead guitar. It also features howling Hammond B-3 courtesy of Charles Hodges, the legendary Memphis organist who played on all the Hi Records hits recorded at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios.

So yeah, the Mountain Goats are digging into that deep Memphis soil, from the earliest days of rock and roll, through the funky soul of the sixties, all the way to the garage stomp of the Cramps, and beyond.

Seek out a cave by the ocean while you wait out the rain
Dial down the weak bits and crank up the gain.

Yeah!

The Mountain Goats: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Flat Five: Drip a Drop

Video: The Flat Five – “Drip a Drop”

The Flat Five - Drip a Drop (official lyric video)

Lyric video by Max Crawford and the Flat Five. From Another World, due November 13 on Pravda/Augiedisc.

Oh this is good. “Drip a Drop” is exactly what we need right now!

America, we’re giving you a warning:
We’re making love, not no stinking civil war!

If you’re not familiar, the Flat Five is basically all your favorite bartenders from the Hideout together in a band that emphasizes dreamy harmonies and effortless pop hooks. Actually, I don’t know if the three dudes in the group (Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, Alex Hall) ever served drinks, but Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor sure did. Hogan and O’Connor, of course, appear in the liner notes of half your record collection, contributing vocals alongside powerhouse singers Neko Case and Mavis Staples as well as clever songwriterly folks like Andrew Bird, Robbie Fulks and the Decemberists.

The Five released their debut album on Bloodshot in 2016 and now Pravda is putting out their new one. Keeping it all very Chicago!

The Flat Five: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Flat Five: Drip a Drop

Music, Politics & Iggy on a Cruise Line

So a question is to what extent does a musician “own” her or his music, not necessarily in a legal sense–which is certainly more than a trivial consideration vis-à-vis the livelihood of people–but in that the music represents, one suspects, though can’t be certain of*, what that person’s beliefs are.

This thought occurred as a result of the law suit filed in the Southern District of New York by Neil Young against the Trump campaign for the campaign’s unauthorized use of “Rockin’ in the Free World” and “Devil’s Sidewalk.”

Other musicians who have objected—not all in court—against the use of their material by the Trump campaign over the years include Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Pharrell Williams, Tom Petty (his estate) and The Rolling Stones.

Which brings me back to the original question. Why does an organization like Trump’s campaign think that those musicians in any way represent the thinking, beliefs or social mores of Donald Trump? Aren’t many of these people antithetical to that?

Would, say, the Biden campaign use—unauthorized or otherwise—music from Ted Nugent or Toby Keith?

Music is a fundamental part of our culture. As such it reflects, in many ways, our values.

While one could argue that music has long been co-opted for reasons political and, more substantially, commercial. For example, right now you can hear “Magic” by Pilot in a TV commercial for diabetes drug Ozembic and Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” in a spot for Anoro, which is a COPD medication.

And who can forget the soundtrack for a Royal Caribbean cruise line ad from a few years back: Iggy’s “Lust for Life”? A waterslide? An endless buffet? Umbrella drinks? Sandals, socks, Bermuda shorts and overstuffed swimsuits?

In those cases, of course, the songwriters are undoubtedly being compensated for their work, and it is hard to imagine a political case being made against ads for medications (unless, of course, one is anti “Big Pharma,” which Trump has declared himself to be, so one wonders what pop song his people will roll out for that position—the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin”: “And all the politicians making crazy sounds. . . “?).

One interesting aspect of the Neil Young situation is that it wasn’t until January of this year that he became an American citizen. “Rockin’ in the Free World” was released in 1989. “Devil’s Sidewalk” was released in 2003.

Which means that the Trump campaign has been not only music from a man who does not reflect or support the candidate’s ostensible positions, but from a man who was, at the time he released those songs, was a foreigner. And we know how Trump feels about them.

*This is problematic in some regards as let’s face it: many songs are written about fictional situations so it is impossible to say that anyone is making authentic statements in their songs, as it may simply be a reflection of what seems to be relevant in the market at the time of composition.

Continue reading Music, Politics & Iggy on a Cruise Line

The True Story of The Stooges at Goose Lake Tapes

Today marks the release of The Stooges Live at Goose Lake 1970, a release so unlikely it kinda boggles the mind. Not only are there very few live recordings of The Stooges, but this particular recording of this particular performance is so drenched in legend that to even suggest there was a clean documentation of it sounds like a tall tale. 

I’ve been very lucky to be friends with and play in a bunch of bands with Joshua Rogers. We met in the early 90s and quickly established a musical kinship that took us through dalliances with glam, mod, garage rock, Americana and beyond. Early on we dubbed him “Gadget,” not just for his love of technology but for his impeccable timing as a drummer. It’s almost as if he were designed to be a drummer–programmed, as such.

If you knew Joshua well in those days you also knew his dad in some way. Jim Cassily loved Josh’s musical projects and loved facilitating them however he could. In addition to being a king storyteller, Jim was an inventor with a specific interest in how rhythm has residual benefits relating to motor skills, balance and lots of other stuff I don’t understand. The Interactive Metronome became a key piece of his technological legacy, something Joshua knew well as his dad would have him clap along with a metronome as part of his learning the drums.

And the stories he would tell…Our early bands spent time recording with Josh’s dad and that meant hours of exposure to the various tales he would weave throughout the process of setting up for a recording session. I was a natural skeptic in my youth and basically considered “adults” to be full of shit. Especially Boomers who took any opportunity to tell us how much better everything was in their day, so I was probably more dismissive to his storytelling than I had any right to be.

“Dad was such a legendary bullshitter that it was hard to sort of keep the stories straight,” Josh joked in a recent call where we caught up on this crazy adventure. 

As a kid it was sometimes hard for Josh to discern fact from his dad’s colorful fiction. “Friends laughed at me because I told them he was a member of the Oak Ridge Boys.” This bit of fantasy was likely the result of Josh’s conflating some joke Jim may have told him about having sung with the Oak Ridge Boys and the fact that he could sing in the same register to hit the most famous part of their most famous hit, “Elvira.” When you’re a kid sometimes you miss the nuances of a joke. 

There were also brushes with fame that would sometimes get jumbled up in the telling or retelling. “I thought he had dated Janis Joplin, but mom says no. He–like everyone else–thought she was scuzzy. He did work with her though, but I’m not sure to what capacity. And he did date Debbie Harry.”

Wait, what? 

“Mom jokes that he chose her over Debbie Harry. That’s what he would tell her.”

“Eventually, I started to take dad’s stories with a big hunk of salt.”

The original Goose Lake recordings, stored in a vodka box.

The Stooges’ performance at Goose Lake was pure rock and roll myth. It was the last show with the original line-up. Bassist Dave Alexander was summarily fired from the band by Iggy immediately after leaving the stage because he was so stoned or scared or whatever that he couldn’t play. At least, that’s how the story went.

But at what point does a story become history? Sometimes it’s just when it’s been told enough times by enough people and sometimes it’s when there’s some corroborating evidence. Such is the tale of how a box of tapes in a farmhouse basement in Michigan made its way to Nashville, via Chicago.

Continue reading The True Story of The Stooges at Goose Lake Tapes

When to Stop Trying Unsuccessfully to Sell a Song

A little over ten years ago we came across “Dispatches From a Guy Trying Unsuccessfully to Sell a Song In Nashville,” a new column for McSweeney’s by a guy in Indiana named Charlie Hopper, and it immediately made me question my implicit animosity toward modern mainstream country music. Or at least it made me think about the validity of some of those ideas about authenticity. And ever since then, over a total of 53 dispatches, Hopper has continued to explore the mechanics not just of the Nashville machine but also of art, dreams, responsibility, and ultimately coming to grips with the idea that life doesn’t typically work out as cleanly as a three-minute song.

Remember how excited we all got about Gary Benchley, Rock Star? Instead of our hero achieving indie rock glory within a year, imagine if Paul Ford had decided to stretch that story out over ten years with Benchley’s band never getting signed to Original Syn Records. It would’ve made a way more realistic story, and it wouldn’t have had to implode into cliches at the end. But Benchley was fiction.

Art has to tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Life, on the other hand, tends to be a whole lot of middle.

Yesterday, McSweeney’s published Hopper’s final dispatch. It doesn’t really tie everything up neatly, but it’s a good ending. Maybe not the happy ending we’ve all been rooting for, but it’s good.

Maybe I’m going up. Maybe I’m making headway. Connections. Friends. An impression. Progress. Maybe I’m learning something. Or maybe this is a little time alone in which I will suddenly hit on an idea that nobody has said exactly that way before. Like a greeting card writer providing normal people the words they feel but can’t find, as Barbara Cloyd the songwriting coach tells us at her seminars.

Maybe I’m going down. Maybe I’m wasting time. Maybe I’m embarrassing myself and, later, when they realize how I misspent some of the valuable hours of their childhood, I’ll have been embarrassing my kids. I’m probably also squandering money and draining the possibly limited pool of tolerance my wife seems to have dammed up for me — money and tolerance that I will want later when it’s gone.

I’m going to miss Hopper’s column. I’m a middle-aged dad with a dayjob and an anachronistic interest in rock and roll that I mostly hide from my co-workers and from the other parents at my kid’s school. It feels ridiculous a lot of times to care about all these stupid bands as much as I do. But I do. And Charlie Hopper articulated the balancing act that folks like us struggle with as we attempt to act like reasonable adults.

Catch up on all of the Dispatches From a Guy Trying Unsuccessfully to Sell a Song In Nashville, and then follow Charlie Hopper on instagram where shares photos from around his neighborhood and writes about the records he’s listening to.

New Phoebe Bridgers: I Know the End

Video: Phoebe Bridgers – “I Know the End”

Phoebe Bridgers - I Know the End (Official Video)

Directed by Alissa Torvinen. From Punisher, out now on Dead Oceans.

Well at least now we know how Phoebe Bridgers keeps wearing those skeleton jammies without them disintegrating off of her body: She’s got a whole locker room full of them!

But that’s the only optimistic part of this whole video, which perfectly conveys the existential dread of life in during a pandemic. Keep washing your hands, but they’ll never get clean. You’re constantly haunted by ghosts of your past self and your dying future. And it all culminates in a completely socially distanced concert at an empty Los Angeles Coliseum.

The billboard said The End Is Near
I turned around there was nothing there
Yeah, I guess the end is here.

The final message seems to be: Kiss old age goodbye. Embrace death. We’re all doomed.

Phoebe Bridgers: web, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Surveys and Selflessness

If there is one thing that is well known it is that Americans like to eat. They may not always eat the best of foods (predicated on the proliferation fast-food restaurants), but be that as it may, they go out to do it. Yes, there is an explosion in delivery service demand, but there is the reopening—and reclosing—of restaurants across the country.

The researchers at Morning Consult asked a statistically valid group of Americans about when they’d feel comfortable doing certain things.

And when it comes to “Going out to eat,” the number of Americans is robust.

That is, 30% of those answered “Next month.” And the information is as fresh as July 20-22.

In addition to which, 18% said next two or three months, 9% next six months, and just 28% said more than six months. Only 14% didn’t have an opinion.

But when it comes to concerts, things are not as robust. A full 46% said it would be more than six months. Eleven percent said within the next six months. Twenty-four percent had no opinion. The remainder is split between next and the next two to three months. Doing the math, that says 55% are looking at early next year and if we add the uncertain 24%, that means that there is only 21% who are saying they’ll go soon.

So this means about a fifth of those surveyed are ready to go. That should be contrasted with the 38% of the hungry who are going to be served within the next three months.

(In case you’re wondering, going to the movies is slightly less challenged, with 52% saying six or more months before buying a seat and a bucket of popcorn.)

Perhaps what some music promoters ought to do is to bring back dinner theater.

Admittedly a cringeworthy idea, but they’re going to need more than 21% to make their nut. So maybe they need to forget the whole concerts at drive-ins and setup concerts at restaurants.

///

In both economics and philosophy there is an interest in the notion of altruism, doing something selflessly for someone else.

As it is described in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Behavior is normally described as altruistic when it is motivated by a desire to benefit someone other than oneself for that person’s sake. The term is used as the contrary of ‘self-interested’ or ‘selfish’ or ‘egoistic’—words applied to behavior that is motivated solely by the desire to benefit oneself.”

It goes on to say that there is a question of whether that is ever really the case that one behaves in such a manner: “According to a doctrine called ‘psychological egoism’, all human action is ultimately motivated by self-interest. The psychological egoist can agree with the idea, endorsed by common sense, that we often seek to benefit others besides ourselves; but he says that when we do so, that is because we regard helping others as a mere means to our own good.”

In other words, if you have $5 in your pocket and are on the way to Starbucks to buy a beverage but then see someone who is evidently needy and panhandling, by giving that person your $5 are you being selfless and altruistic—forgoing that delicious drink—or is the act of giving that person the money even more satisfying to you than the beverage, therefore providing a benefit to yourself?

Which brings me to Garth Brooks.

Continue reading Surveys and Selflessness

New Beths: Jump Rope Gazers

Video: The Beths – “Jump Rope Gazers”

The Beths - "Jump Rope Gazers" (official music video)

Directed by Annabel Kean. From Jump Rope Gazers, out now via Carpark.

Not as immediately catchy as the singles from 2018’a Future Me Hates Me, the latest from the New Zealand’s finest takes a while to sink in. The hooks are more subtle, but they’re in there.

I’ve never been the dramatic type
But if I don’t see your face tonight
I… well I guess I’ll be fine

I’m still regretting not going to see the Beths when they played a tiny venue in my town last year. Can’t remember what my lame excuse was for not going, but I can guarantee it was stupid. It sure would be fun to see a show at a club, wouldn’t it?

Don’t you wish you lived in New Zealand right now, where they have effectively beat this fucking coronavirus? I do. Apparently, I’m not alone: 80,000 Americans expressed interest in relocating in May. I guess “I’m moving to New Zealand” is the new “I’m moving to Canada.”

At least maybe then we would get to hang out with the Beths.

The Beths: bandcamp, twitter, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Daystar video: People Get Lonely

Video: Daystar – “People Get Lonely”

Daystar - People Get Lonely

From The Complete Recordings, out now.

Check out the latest video from GLONO co-founder Derek Phillips’ band Daystar! This time around he and his Portland bandmates reveal what they’ve been up to for the last six months.

Spoiler alert: Not much!

“People Get Lonely” is a power pop highlight of The Complete Recordings, looking back on the ideals we had when we were young.

We laughed and swore to fight, and never said goodnight
But you know… People get lonely

Does the rhythm guitar remind you of the Velvet Underground? Or is it more of an Apple Rooftop concert vibe? Either way, it’s a trip, it’s got a funky beat, and you can bug out to it.

Daystar: web, fb, bandcamp.

An Odd Couple Create a Lifeline for Venues

“Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,
To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.”

“The Mourning Bride”, William Congreve, 1697

It may be hard to conceive, but there was actually legislation presented in the US Senate this week to help keep the spotlights on and the amps operating at small music venues.

Why is what is literally named the “Save Our Stages” act so surprising is because it is sponsored by two people who seemingly have nothing more in common than the fact that they work in the same building.

One of the sponsors is Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the woman who had been running for the Democratic presidential nomination with the message that a bit of common sense and decency (contrasted with the ways and means of the current resident of 1600) are in order.

The other is John Cornyn (R-TX), the man who is generally seen only standing behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, positioned in such a way that you have the sense that he would take a bullet for Mitch, the senator who has proven to be as craven as is conceivable.

The word from Klobuchar is “Minnesota’s concert halls, theatres, and places of entertainment, like First Avenue in Minneapolis, where Prince famously performed, have inspired generations with the best of local music, art, and education. This legislation would help ensure that small entertainment venues can continue to operate, and serve our communities for generations to come.”

Which has a sense of Midwestern practicality and forthrightness about it: she evidently understands that the arts are not superfluous to the education of people of all ages.

Cornyn said, “Texas is home to a number of historic and world-class small entertainment venues, many of which remain shuttered after being the first businesses to close. The culture around Texas dance halls and live music has shaped generations, and this legislation would give them the resources to reopen their doors and continue educating and inspiring Texans beyond the coronavirus pandemic.”

Given that the reopening of Texas—based on the explosion in the number of cases of COVID-19—occurred a bit too soon thanks to Governor Greg Abbott’s evident fealty to the King Who Is Wearing No Clothes, one hopes that this means that the reopening Cornyn is referring to is something that will happen only after there is control of the virus.

Cornyn strikes me as the kind of politician that only Hunter S. Thompson could have adequately described.

What is interesting (and laudable) about the act is that it would provide six months of financial support to venues (including paying employees; it would allow the Small Business Administration to make grants that are equal to the lesser of either 45% of operation costs from calendar year 2019—you need to base the amount on a normal year—or $12 million) that are not arms of giant organizations.

Continue reading An Odd Couple Create a Lifeline for Venues

Rock and roll can change your life.