2009 was quite a year. A lot of people died. In this year’s introduction, I’d like to focus on three people who shaped my taste and helped develop my obsession with music.
Mary Travers was the cute blonde in Peter, Paul and Mary. As a toddler, I listened to the Peter, Paul and Mommy album on headphones connected to a reel to reel player. We have Super8 home movies of me in a diaper doing it. In college, I took my mom to see one of their reunion tours. I blubbered with nostalgia and joy through the entire set.
Like every other person alive in 1983, I fell hard for Michael Jackson. I, however, continued to respect and defend him for the next 20 years. My first real concert was the Jacksons Victory tour at the Pontiac Silverdome. I may have stopped buying his records after Bad, but I continued to love his singles and videos. And I dreamed of a Rick Rubin style, stripped down, soul comeback. Imagine if he’d hooked up with the Dap-Kings!
Wilco was my favorite band through most of my twenties, and during that entire time their guitar player was Jay Bennett. He was a perfect sideman and creative foil. And it’s a goddamned shame that he went out the way he did. Would the Democratic healthcare reform have saved him had it been enacted years ago? Who the fuck knows? But it’s a tragedy that a dude who gave the world so much joy went out like that.
Another year, another decade, another bunch of people. Gone. But hey, at least there was a bunch of great music to listen to as we regained our cynicism after a brief, audacious moment of hope…
My ten favorite new releases
• Wilco – Wilco (The Album) – I never would’ve guessed that after 15 years, Wilco had it in them to release an album this great. My toddler agrees.
• Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South – The other album my kid and I agree on. Dad rock? Whatever. It’s good.
• God Help The Girl – God Help The Girl – A breath of fresh air from the Belle and Sebastian gang.
• Arctic Monkeys – Humbug – The English boys get scruffy and spooky in the desert with Josh Homme.
• Mos Def – The Ecstatic – This made me want to tune back into hip hop. Let me know when something this good comes around.
• The Mountain Goats – The Life Of The World To Come – I prefer the shouters, but Darnielle is starting to convince me that his quiet ones can be as powerful.
• Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion – Didn’t want to believe the hype, but these songs are fascinating little trips. Neither as weird nor as poppy as some would have you believe.
• Joe Pernice – It Feels So Good When I Stop – As fun to listen to as the novel was to read. Pernice is an American treasure.
• Art Brut – Art Brut vs. Satan – It’s like they’re writing songs specifically to appeal to me.
• Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard – One Fast Move or I’m Gone – Lyrics by Jack Kerouac, what more do you need?
• Neil Young Archives – Finally released. As flawed as this is, it’s a hell of a collection and it sounds great.
• Beatles remasters – Digital audio has come a long way since 1987.
• Big Star – Keep An Eye On The Sky – They’ve never sounded better. Some of the alternate mixes and demos are revelatory.
• The Sinatras – Life In Flames – I’d been waiting for this for 15 years. So happy to finally have it.
It was our first year with a new President since the dawn of this new millennium. It was also a rough year for some of our favorite artists, some of whom did not live to see 2010. Here are a few of the things that caught my eye on a look back on 2009.
As the guitarist for The Stooge’s Ashton is responsible for some of the best guitar tones on record and for planting the seed that would eventually grow into American punk. Too bad fucking Jann Wenner kept The Stooges out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until he was dead.
A bit of the ol’ good news, bad news. Apple finally dumps their dopey DRM, which anyone with an extra ten minutes could undue by simply burning the songs to a disk and then re-ripping them to iTunes, but then they cave to major label demands for tiered pricing for certain releases. The result—no surprise to anyone paying attention—is that profits are up but with fewer shoppers. To try and reverse that trend, Apple and some majors did what majors have always done: Reissue, repackage, repackage. The jury’s still out on that.
We’ve always loved Jay Bennett. We have a handful of albums and years of memories of live shows, videos, interviews, and articles, but Jay Bennett is gone. For whatever reason he was on our minds this year even before he shuffled off this mortal coil. We penned 21 Reasons Why Jay Bennett Should Be Back In Wilco way back in February. We put Wilco (with Bennett) on our list of 13 Artists We’d Pay More Than $50 to See in March. We covered his lawsuit against Jeff Tweedy in May. And then we covered, and mourned, his death on these pages for the next several weeks. I still contend that his tenure in that band produced Wilco’s finest albums and I can tell you I had a hell of a good time seeing that band live. Godspeed, Jay Bennett. Godspeed.
It was a year of loss and a year of healing. Our favorite British rock band of the last several years nearly reunited with Peter Doherty and Carl Barat making nice and then three-fourths of the band convened for a sweat soaked 6-song set in London. Here’s hoping 2010 brings them all back together for some touring and recording.
Portland is a music town and the people turn out when one of their own makes good. M. Ward is about as lovable as they get—and he kind of looks like Riviera’s Josh B., which made me all the more homesick. Still though, great show in a great room that was topped off with Voodoo Donuts. I ain’t complainin’.
Larry Crane helped Elliott Smith build Jack Pot Studios in Portland, Oregon. So, he was a friend of Elliott’s, involved in producing and recording some of our favorite songs on record, and is an audiophile who can translate into plain English the complexities of what makes “good sound.” That is the perfect interview subject. He’s also always been very forthright with us regarding the archiving and releasing of Elliott’s back catalog, and for that we thank him.
He’s been crazy for years…and violent too. The law finally caught up with ol’ Phil and not only did he get 19 years to life for murdering Lana Clarkson, he had to endure a mug shot sans wig that circulated around the Internet like a bullet ricocheting in a studio.
This video and song is still just fucking awful.
It’s very easy to dismiss later-day Michael Jackson as a weirdo and alleged pervert. Heaven knows he made himself an easy target with some of his behavior. But Michael Jackson recorded some of the hottest and best selling music of the second half of the 20th century. Personal life aside, that’s something to remember.
GLONO embedded some of our posse deep within the Jam band scene and they came back stinky but smiling. Rothbury 2009 was kind, man. Very kind.
Speaking of summer festivals…GLONO again covers the best organized rock festival out there and get’s soaked on day one, burned on day two and three, and wasted throughout. But not even Lou Reed could kill the fun.
He’s out for now. It seems Noel has finally decided that he can’t stand Liam’s mouth anymore. Somehow it took nearly 20 years to come to that conclusion.
More than two decades in the making, GLONO’s favorite band from Southwest Michigan finally releases their album. Sure, we’d had most of this material in other formats and on various releases, but here it is compiled into an album and properly mastered. Sheila’s not the only one glowing, boys.
Awesome pics of Jack White’s new band. Jack knows imagery.
Best of ’09:
• Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
• The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
• Sonic Youth – The Eternal
• Baroness – The Blue Album
• Polvo – In Prism
• Fever Ray – Fever Ray
• Blue Roses – Blue Roses
• Japandroids – Post Nothing
• Mastodon – Crack The Skye
• Slayer – World Painted Blood
Alan M. Paterson
1. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II by Raekwon
2. So Far Gone by Drake
3. Jay-Z x Radiohead by Jaydiohead
4. Middle Cyclone by Neko Case
5. Jay Stay Paid by J Dilla aka Jay Dee
6. Actor by St. Vincent
7. Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do by Major Lazer
8. The Blueprint 3 by Jay-Z
9. Relapse by Eminem
10. Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City by Ghostface Killah
Concert of the Year: Jane’s Addiction at Lollapalooza 2009.
Track/Single of the Year: “Best I Ever Had” by Drake
Video of the Year: “Cornelius” by The Bloody Beetroots
My top ten albums of 2009
• Eels – Hombre Lobo
• Mumford And Sons – Sigh No More
• Peter Doherty – Grace/Wastelands
• Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications
• Obits – I Blame You
• New York Dolls – ‘Cause I Sez So
• The Dead Weather – Horehound
• Richard Hawley – Truelove’s Gutter
• Pearl Jam – Backspacer
• The Horrors – Primary Colours
10 Things About the Rock & Roll Fall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary Concert as Shown On HBO
1. “Fellow Students. . . .” Tom Hanks is considered a good actor. And I suppose perception is reality. But I still wonder why Peter Scolari never got more props. Donna Dixon got Dan Ackroyd, which is some sort of reality. Anyway, here’s something I don’t understand: Why did Tom Hanks open the event? Does he have some sort of association with rock and roll? Sure, he undoubtedly listens to it. But I drive a car and I don’t think they’re going to have me behind the wheel of the pace car at the Indianapolis 500. More to the point: Why was he wearing a suit and reciting a speech? Had he had a mortarboard on his melon, it would have been straight out of a high school valedictorian presentation. Had his “hail, hail rock and roll” been stated any more stiffly, it may have been the case of terminal poleupassitus.
2. Really. Crosby, Stills & Nash. Why no Young?, I wondered. Maybe he was in a studio somewhere listening to magnetic tapes or doing some loops for a movie. He would have been helpful. But his surname would have been ironic in the context. Stephen Stills is one of the most underrated guitar players that still plays guitar in public. If you don’t believe me, listen to Super Session. OK. It was released in 1968, not 2009, but I’d put that on a top 10 list of any fraction of time.
3. Fuck You. Several years ago I was in a corner bar somewhere in Bethlehem. PA, not the seasonal one. There was a group of businessmen sitting at a table. One went up to the bartender to get a round of drinks. He looked very professorial. For some reason, the following exchange occurred:
“Fuck you,” said the businessman to the bartender.
“Fuck you,” came the snappy reply.
“No, fuck you!”
At this point veins were popping.
And then, just like that, it stopped.
Ozzy seems to be enchanted with the word. Bethlehem is a steel town. Iron is a constituent of ferrous materials, like steel. Maybe there’s something there.
4. Wonder(ful). Although the Motown Museum sounds like it might be quite a place, it is on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit that is far less grand than it sounds. There are abandoned houses, a strange looking funeral home, and generally the sorts of buildings that might be appropriate for crime movies, which probably explains why the tax credit that the state of Michigan is giving to film makers seems to be working so well. That said, I still have a problem reconciling Stevie Wonder with “rock and roll.” Be that as it may, the pairing of Jeff Beck and Wonder on “Superstition,” which Wonder had written for Beck, was, well, wonderful. (When Beck finally did it with Bogert and Appice and used that kooky Peter Frampton-play-your-voice-by-singing-into-a-tube device, it was less than wonderful. At least that part sucked, or blew. His guitar playing, however, was fine.)
5. Sister ‘Re. While in the Motown territory, a word about Aretha. Well, not her precisely. So she comes out, backed by a horn section, six backup singers, and other band members. And there was a guy. He was wearing a sequined jacket. He had his back to the audience. He was—what?—the conductor? Now while there were several musicians playing, isn’t it a bit much to have a guy conducting tunes that aren’t heavily orchestrated? There’s something to be said for flamboyance. And it was quite a contrast with Annie Lennox’s “HIV Positive” black T-shirt. (That was a rock and roll move, no?)
6. Mick. There were plenty of legends on the stage at Madison Square Garden, which, I suppose, is certainly appropriate because were talking “hall of fame,” which is—say in terms of sports—a place where retired people are venerated. But rock won’t stand for that, so its legends keep playing even if, like Jerry Lee Lewis, they’ve been off their game for longer than most people in the audience have probably been alive. I certainly have fond memories of The Rolling Stones from back in the day. I think if someone were to give me a free, front-row seat to a Stones show right now, I might have to wash my hair or something that evening. Still, when Jagger came out on stage, it seemed to me that he was truly someone from Another Place. Some musicians that are younger than Jagger—say Rod Stewart—have either given up or perform with all of the gusto of the late Perry Como—no, I am not referring to Como as being dead (d: 2001), but as his performances in his relaxed, later years. Jagger was special. His trademarked moves didn’t seem to be a parody of his trademarked moves. He could refer to U2 as a “garage band” in a way that no one else could get away with it (although when Springsteen physically bumped Bono out of a preachy riff, it came close). Really amazing. And a word about Fergie. Her backup vocal on “Gimmie Shelter” was absolutely first-rate. It was exceedingly Merry Clayton-like, which is saying a lot. This year Fergie, in addition to Hewlett-Packard commercials, appears in the film musical Nine. She plays a prostitute who evidentially lives in a defensive machine gun bunker along the seaside in Anzio and teaches young boys about “love” in exchange for pocket change. You might think that Fergie would be great in the role and blow away non-singing performers like Penelope Cruz. Nope. Not even close. Cruz is incendiary in all aspects. Fergie might as well be shilling computers.
7. Good Thing He’s Rich. This is shallow and superficial. But I began to wonder while watching Bono perform and profusely sweat. Have you ever taken a leather coat to the dry cleaners? Not only does it take one hell of a lot longer than one hour, but it is rather expensive. At least for those of us who aren’t rock gods. How much does he spend on dry cleaning? And does the dry cleaner use some non-noxious potion to remove what has to be bodacious—
8. Fuck You. (No, I really don’t have a point here. I just thought that it would be appropriate to throw a little of that in this, sort of like one some guy in a Judd Apatow movie would scream “ROCK AND ROLL!” at some generic point in the plot.)
9. See 6.
10. Has It Come to Chotskies? The full name of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum.” It is the “museum” part that generally gets left off. If you go to a Hard Rock Café, you see bits and pieces of memorabilia. At the building in Cleveland, there is a whole bunch of memorabilia. And like the Hard Rock, there is a gift shop. Does it all come down to trinkets?