The Sue Me, Sue You Blues and “Blurred Lines”

There are a lot of music—what? Not purists, exactly. And not scholars. I guess music…grouches—out there crowing about the recent ruling against Robin Thicke and Pharrell re: “Blurred Lines.” I love Marvin Gaye as much as the next guy and also believe artists should be compensated for their work, but this verdict is nonsense. And the scale of it borders on dangerous.

The core of the case seems to be centered on whether Thicke and Pharrell “stole” Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give it Up” as the foundation for the massively popular “Blurred Lines.” A jury sided with the Gaye estate and awarded them a $7.3 million settlement. I don’t know if you’ve been paying attention to the music industry the last decade-plus but I can tell you making $7 million on any one song is quite a feat. The award basically negates any original contribution Thicke and Pharrell brought to “Blurred Lines.” You can find lots of debate about song structure, melody and scales elsewhere. The important thing to consider is that songwriters now need to document and compensate any and all sources of inspiration or face legal jeopardy.

Now back to those gloating about another upstart “entertainer” (vs. artist) getting what’s coming to him. Consider the number of songs from your favorite (read: legitimate) artists that might not be here if held to the same standard applied to “Blurred Lines.” You can Google how many times Keith Richards has acknowledged nicking riffs from Chuck Berry, and I won’t even get into Led Zeppelin’s long history of “borrowing” from their idols. Just consider two songs from our most beloved band, The Beatles.

If that riff doesn’t sound familiar then you need to go back and listen to “I Feel Fine” again.

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New Drug Cabin video: Sapphire

Anybody remember Ambulance LTD? No? Just me? Well I really liked the album they released 11 years ago. Until I did a search I had completely forgotten that I had seen them at Lollapalooza in 2005. Time flies.

The guy from Ambulance has a new band called Drug Cabin with the guitar player from Pretty Girls Make Graves and–from the two songs I’ve heard–the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. If psychedelic singer-songwriter pop music is your bag, you might want to check these guys out.

Video: Drug Cabin – “Sapphire”

Audio: Drug Cabin – “Handsome”

Yard Work is out now and Wiggle Room is due April 7 on 401K Music.

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New Sondre Lerche video: Lucky Guy

Video: Sondre Lerche – “Lucky Guy”

It’s hard to believe I’ve been listening to Sondre Lerche for over ten years. Seeing him at the Double Door in Chicago on his Two Way Monologue tour is still one of my all-time favorite concert experiences. The way he connected with the audience was something that went far beyond his heartthrob status at the time. He’s dreamy, for sure, but he’s also super talented and ambitious and he’s never stayed in one spot musically for too long. I saw him a few years ago at Hope College (Sufjan’s alma mater) where he was busting loose with some totally skronky lead guitar action.

This song, “Lucky Guy,” is stripped down and lovely.

Norge!

Has Father John Misty become Roger Clarvin?

Father John Misty - I Love You, HonerybearJosh Tillman aka Father John Misty describes his new album, I Love You, Honeybear, as “a concept album about a guy named Josh Tillman” and his relationship with his wife. Being the kind of writer he is, he refuses to stoop to sentimental cliché; instead, he engages in mean-spirited honesty and sarcastic self-loathing. To call Father John Misty “sardonic” at this point is itself a cliché.

And yet this is an album of love songs.

“She and I have created a circumstance in which it’s safe to discuss everything, all this intense, deep-down shit,” Tillman told Pitchfork. “But there’s an anxiety because I don’t know if I trust the world with my intimacies. These songs were written about our experience, now it’s time to universalize them.”

This anxiety is not unjustified. At times I Love You, Honeybear veers close to the oversharing territory mined by Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch as Roger and Virginia Clarvin. “At this point during the soak, my lover and I usually crave spiced meats.”

One’s bourgeoisie sense of propriety might be offended to hear about the “mascara, blood, ash and cum on the Rorschach sheets where we make love.” Then again, the reference to Rorschach tests is telling, since Tillman is clearly proud enough of this line to print it on tote bags. What do you see in that line? If you’re skeeved out by it, well maybe these aren’t the love songs for you. If you appreciate the image, there’s plenty like it to follow.

These twisted tales are set against instrumentation far more lush than what we heard on Fear Fun. Almost every song features strings. Whereas a lot of Fear Fun sounded like the White Album, Honeybear sounds more like Mind Games or Walls and Bridges. The heavy-handed arrangements work great on intense songs like “An Ideal Husband” where everything sounds overwhelming and evil. But “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me” sounds too much like terrible mid-70s puss-pop/soft rock; the slide guitar tone, the soul sister background vocals, the cloying strings, it’s just too much schmaltz.

“True Affection,” on the other hand, uses synth bloops and programmed beats and sounds out of place. Tillman wrote that song “on tour while trying to woo someone with text message and email and trying to make a connection that way and the frustration of that,” he told Grantland. “So that song had to be synthetic and inorganic.” Interesting concept, sure, but a little too clever for the song’s own good.

But these quibbles don’t diminish the impact of the album as a whole. High points such as “Chateau Lobby #4,” “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment,” and “Nothing Good Ever Happens At The Goddamn Thirsty Crow” more than make up for the occasional misstep. Producer Jonathan Wilson knows how to get a good performance down on tape, and as Tillman says, he is “truly singing [his] ass off all over this motherfucker.” His voice is incredible throughout.

I like Father John Misty. I feel like I get Tillman’s sense of humor, and I appreciate the high bar he set for himself on this album. “My ambition, aside from making an indulgent, soulful, and epic sound worthy of the subject matter, was to address the sensuality of fear, the terrifying force of love, the unutterable pleasures of true intimacy, and the destruction of emotional and intellectual prisons in my own voice.” Honesty and earnestness obviously do not come easy for him, but he’s trying…in his own Misty way. He’s still a smartass, for sure, but isn’t that the best kind of person to spend your life with?

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New Courtney Barnett video: Pedestrian At Best

Video: Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian At Best”

I was hoping this video would have a happy ending, but — spoiler alert! — no such luck. A great new song from her upcoming album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, due March 24 on Mom+Pop.

Barnett’s Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas was one of my faves of last year after hearing “History Eraser” on satellite radio. That song nailed just about everything I like in my rock and roll: perfect scuzzy slacker folk fuzz. It sounded like it had been written for me. She was great at Lollapalooza last year too. Hopefully she tours a lot for this album because I’d love to see her in a dark club instead of in a “grove” in the middle of the day.

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New Blues Explosion video, man!

Video: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – “Do The Get Down”

From their upcoming album Freedom Tower – No Wave Dance Party 2015, due on March 24 on Mom+Pop Music. Cool video with lots of crazy clips from NYC public access channels.

I’ve already got my tickets to see these monkeys at the Pyramid Scheme in April. Take a whiff of my pantleg, baby!

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Holy Shit! See the Greatest Rock and Roll Photo Come to Life!

Five years ago we discovered the Greatest Rock and Roll Photo Ever and came up with 101 reasons why it was so great. I’ve stared at that photo for hours since then and dreamed of being at that show, sweating in an off-season ski lodge, sipping sodas with teenagers, rocking out to the System!

Well, video footage from that Mount Holly show still has not surfaced, but we’ve got the next best thing. Footage from the same era (bassist Dan Honaker is even wearing the same shirt!) has been posted to YouTube. Three songs from Barry Richards’ “Turn-On” TV show bring our beloved photo to life. It’s so cool to see young Seger tearing it up. And his band was something else. Drummer Pep Perrine (once again sporting his dog collar!) looks like Iggy Pop. Detroit!

Bob Seger System – “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” (live in 1970)

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Rock and roll can change your life.