Category Archives: Articles

Joe Jackson in Ann Arbor: Who Said Anything About Love?

At about the midway point on his month-long tour, we saw Joe Jackson at the Michigan Theater this past Saturday night. It was probably the fourth time we’ve seen him. Some middle-aged fanboys in the row behind us were trying to top one another with shows they’d seen. One said the last time he saw Jackson was in Royal Oak eight years ago, which is conceivably the last time we saw him.

Then, he was playing what was once a movie theater. And the Michigan Theater still shows movies when it doesn’t have live performances on its stage.

The Joe Jackson tour seems to be of places of approximately that size. Not small. Not large. The Michigan Theater seats 1,700 and it seemed as if most, if not all, of the seats were occupied. After the visit to Ann Arbor, it was off to the Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines and the Club Brady in Tulsa, OK, with a few stops in between.

No opening act. Just him solo for several numbers, then joined by bass, Graham Maby, guitar, Teddy Kumpel, and drums, Doug Yowell.

For the last encore number they did “A Slow Song” from Night and Day, which allowed the musicians to leave the stage one by one, which is a fine approach–and one used lo those years ago Royal Oak. Some things remain.

Continue reading Joe Jackson in Ann Arbor: Who Said Anything About Love?

If Music Be the Food of Love, Get Off the Stage

I have a place where dreams are born
And time is never planned
It’s not on any chart
You must find it in your heart

Neverland.

It was 1972. My hair was long, my waist was thin and I had dark(ish) circles under my eyes from too many weekend nights spent drinking in a dive bar with my friends, smoking too many Kools. I was in a band. I ran what was the school’s “underground” newspaper.

And I had a tremendous crush on a cheerleader. Yes, read the previous paragraph again and put the previous statement into context.

Of course, were that just it, what I had imagined was my Hamlet-like charm (“sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought”) would have managed that difference in our outlooks.

But there were a couple of other factors that seem, even in retrospect, to be somewhat insurmountable. Sally (1) had a boyfriend who was a year older and, yes, an athlete who didn’t care for me in the least bit for I represented everything that was pretty much anathema to him and (2) her father was the superintendent of schools and the newspaper I was putting out was causing all manner of organizational upset within the administration’s offices.

So I needed a plan. A plan that would get me in her good graces. Get her to realize that her boyfriend was a boor and that her father could just deal with it. Get her to have even a sliver of the feeling that I had for her for me.

And my plan included Todd Rundgren.

Continue reading If Music Be the Food of Love, Get Off the Stage

New Father John Misty video: Total Entertainment Forever

Video: Father John Misty – “Total Entertainment Forever”

Father John Misty – "Total Entertainment Forever" [Official Music Video]

If you’ve been a bit concerned that Papa John Murphy has abandoned his sense of humor, this new video might cheer you up. It’s pretty funny.

Sure, the lyrics are still a little heavy handed. As Doreen St. Felix mentions in her spot-on review of Pure Comedy, Misty often comes across as a “precocious teenage misanthrope.” Indeed, someone’s been told too many times they’re beyond their years.

But he’s still funny. In a snide, prickish way. He’s an asshole, of course, but he’s funny. We’ve all known that guy. He impresses rubes and wannabes by talking about big concepts and scoffs at the trivialities of the less enlightened. 25 years ago he would’ve had a “kill your television” bumper sticker on his car. Today he’s all about unplugging the internet.

Continue reading New Father John Misty video: Total Entertainment Forever

Number One Records: Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like

Video: Bruno Mars – “That’s What I Like”

Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like [Official Video]

We’ve got a new #1 song, America. Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble.” only stayed at the top spot for a single week. He’s all good though because DAMN. is still the number one album for the second week in a row.

Bruno Mars reached the top of the Hot 100 with “That’s What I Like” for chart date May 13. It’s his seventh #1. And it’s a pretty good song. You have to be a bit of a dick if you aren’t at least partially charmed by Bruno Mars.

“That’s What I Like” might not be as hook-laden as last year’s “24K Magic” and it’s not even close to as irresistible as his 2014 collaboration with Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk.” But honestly, what is?

Billboard points out that this is “the 1,063rd No. 1 in the Hot 100’s history” dating back to August 4, 1958 when the magazine fully integrated the best-selling and most-played pop singles. The chart now also includes downloads and streams.

Continue reading Number One Records: Bruno Mars — That’s What I Like

The Parson Red Heads – Coming Down

Every New Years Eve The Parson Red Heads cover a different album and invite friends to do the same, creating a night where everyone dresses up like someone else to listen to bands playing someone else’s songs. These kinds of tributes are very popular in Portland, which is odd given the huge amount of talent and original music coming out of this city. But I guess it’s also a fun way for some of these bands to wear their influences (or at least their interests) on their sleeves.

Those influences linger just below the surface in the band’s new single, “Coming Down” from their upcoming fourth studio album, Blurred Harmony. According to their press release, the new album is “the overdriven jangle of Teenage Fanclub and Big Star power-pop, the skewed psychedelics of the Paisley Underground, the bittersweet energy of New Zealand’s ‘Dunedin Sound’ movement, and the muted twang of Cosmic Americana, all crammed into 44 minutes.” All of which is true, but mixed up into a stew of its own.

Singer-songwriter Evan Way describes the track as “a song about anxiety, about how life and all it’s mania can start to make you feel like you’re losing it, and how in those moments the people that you love can sort of ground you and bring you back to reality and that sense of safety.”

Blurred Harmony is out on June 9 from Fluff & Gravy Records.

Video: The Parson Redheads – “To the Sky” (Live on OPB)

The Parson Red Heads: To the Sky

Parson Red Heads: web, twitter, fb, amazon, wiki.

*This article has been edited to correct the title of their album and the night they host their covers show.

Old Gibson Plant in Kalamazoo Getting Facelift

I was lucky enough to have spent some of my formative music years in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Not only was it a tour stop for national bands (Kalamazoo being exactly half-way between Chicago and Detroit), but it also had a banging local scene comprised of bands that I still count among my favorites. All of this was built on the foundation of a guitar company that stands as one of the pillars of American musical instruments: Gibson Guitars.

Founded in 1902 as “The Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co., Ltd.” in Kalamazoo to make mandolins and guitars, the main plant was at 225 Parsons St. when Gibson left for Nashville in 1984. Heritage Guitars moved in shortly thereafter and while they made fine guitars, the small company kinda let the building go to pot.

But now new owners Archie Leach and Jeff Nicholson, who bought Heritage Guitars in 2016, are bringing the old girl back to life. Local Spins reports that the company is investing in their history and…ahem…heritage with a $12 million renovation of the plant to “turn the factory into a destination for tourists and local residents, while keeping the legacy of Gibson and Heritage alive and well in Kalamazoo.”

And because this is Michigan, there are plans to include a beer garden and restaurant as part of the renovations, which are expected to be complete by the end of 2018 or in early 2019.

Continue reading Old Gibson Plant in Kalamazoo Getting Facelift

Cool Still Rules: Kendrick Kicks Ed in the Teeth to Take No. 1

Video: Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.”

Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.

Ladies and gentlemen of the United States, I am pleased to announce we have a new number one record. After sitting at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart for 12 of the year’s 18 weeks, that doughy English dweeb Ed Sheeran is finally knocked out. And who better to do the deed than righteous rapper Kendrick Lamar?

Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” is only the fifth number one record of 2017. Back in February I was telling Johnny Loftus about how I’m never exposed to the Top 40 anymore unless I make a conscious effort to seek it out. And when I do, I’m often surprised by how freaky and interesting popular music has gotten. Many big hits are more “experimental” sounding than a lot of stuff being released on our beloved indie labels. We thought we should at least cover the singles that reached the top of the chart, or as Johnny called it: “the most main of mainstreams.” But then dopey old Sheeran just stayed at No. 1, week after week after week. And come on. “Shape of You” is nothing to write home about. It’s so flaccid and predictable it makes John Mayer’s “Your Body Is A Wonderland” sound substantial. So good riddance. Finally.

And “HUMBLE.” is a jam! A sparse one-finger piano riff drives the beat and Lamar’s rhyming is effortless as always. It’s great that an artist as cool as Kendrick Lamar can reach number one on the pop singles chart. Lots of grumpy old dudes dismiss current music entirely, myself included. That’s a mistake. There’s always good new stuff being released and sometimes the most popular song is also the best song. “Sit down, lil bitch. Be humble.” That’s solid advice that we should all be listening to these days. Reminds me of the great Rookie essay by Charles Aaron where he shares some tips for how not to be a jerk; it boils down to: Fall back…listen…question. That’s an important lesson that can take a lifetime to master. I’m still working on it.

Continue reading Cool Still Rules: Kendrick Kicks Ed in the Teeth to Take No. 1

Be Still My Beating Heart – Greta Van Fleet

I was listening to one of those new music mixes on Apple Music and catching up on work when this song popped up and I thought, ‘This new Heart sounds pretty good!” Except it wasn’t Heart, it was Frankenmuth, Michigan’s own Greta Van Fleet. More on that in a bit.

Heart is one of those bands that had a bunch of chart dominating singles, insanely talented writing, vocals and musicianship, especially in the sister duo of Ann & Nancy Wilson, but very few bands wear them on their sleeves as obvious influences. I’m not sure why that is, but I can’t think of a single band where I can say, “Oh yeah, these guys obviously love Heart.”

So when the vocals came in on Greta Van Fleet’s new single “Black Smoke Rising,” I was pleasantly surprised to hear the connection. I mean, there’s no way this vocal performance is not influenced by Ann Wilson, right?

Black Smoke Rising

It gets better. It turns out that it’s not even a modern-day Ann Wilson fronting this band. In fact, there’s isn’t a female in sight! Greta Van Fleet is a four-piece band of dudes—three brothers and a friend! So it’s not a sister act emulating the Wilsons, but a brother act. How great is that?

But wait, there’s more!

Continue reading Be Still My Beating Heart — Greta Van Fleet

Listen to Frontier Justice 3/25/17

Tei Shi has described her songcraft as a communion of many jams, tributaries of ideas meeting on a flood plain to the wide open sea. You can climb inside the layers on a track like 2013’s “M&Ms,” let the stuttering beat of 2015’s “Basically” blast from your imaginary boom box as weird thoughts bounce off your skull on the train ride downtown. And on Crawl Space (Downtown), the Argentina-via-New York City artist’s debut full-length, it’s this kind of stylistic pointillism that’s the name of the game. It’s a headphones record, speaking of train rides; Tei Shi’s vocals drift in from one channel in harmony, while they fill the middle space with Prince screams and hooks to set off another treated blast of brass or a well-timed percussion squall. “Justify” from Crawl Space kicks off this edition of Frontier Justice, and the low-end growl’s nearly as cool as Tei Shi’s multi-dimensional vocal trading barbs with that skittering effect over top. Let it get inside of you.

Spotify: Frontier Justice 3/25/17 (34 songs, 1 hr 59 min)

Speaking of multiple dimensions, Gorillaz have returned from the Fornax Cluster just in time to collaborate with a billion more tastemakers. Reggae has always been central to Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz star map, and here his drowsy vocal meshes well with the melodic chat of Jamaican dancehall hot shot Popcaan. The craziest thing about Gorillaz is how much it always sounds like Gorillaz, no matter what posse of guests Albarn’s rustled up. Perfect example? Jehnny Beth, fearless leader of Savages, leads the pulsing “We Got the Power,” which stands strong on its own even as it’s built from Gorillaz’ signature tool kit.

Debbie Harry has never stopped being cooler than everyone, and “Long Time” is the new proof. Written with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange and feeding on the genetic material of “Heart of Glass,” it’s one of the lead tracks from Pollinator, out May 5, which will also feature collabs with Dave Sitek (TV on the Radio), Johnny Marr, Sia, and the homie Charli XCX. Sitek is also the man behind the curtain on the hazy remix of “Hot Thoughts,” the title track to Spoon’s new record, appearing here alongside , who herself worked with XCX for “Drum,” which certainly bears the British singer-songwriter’s sixth sense for brash pop hooks.

Continue reading Listen to Frontier Justice 3/25/17

“Black Hills that I ain’t never seen”

As long-time readers of this site may recall, there was once a tagline used to describe the ethos of Glorious Noise: “Rock and roll can change your life.”

And now I must report with some sadness that it can change lives in a way that I’d prefer not to imagine.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Ray Davies becoming knighted by the Queen.

And a couple weeks before that I wrote about how Roger Daltrey was working with Rolls-Royce to create a bespoke version of the Wraith motorcar.

Now the two subjects have come together.

The Who version of the Rolls Wraith has come out. It features the artwork of Mike McInnery: the album cover of Tommy is painted on the hood and the birds that are also part of the cover art flit about on the fenders and C-pillars.

But that is but one of nine “Inspired by British Music” cars that has been developed.

Continue reading “Black Hills that I ain’t never seen”