TRAX: MisterWives – Machine

Audio: MisterWives – “Machine”

MisterWives – Machine (Audio)

MisterWives is the band nineteen-year-old-me would’ve loved — a cool girl out front, being super posi and singing huge, soaring hooks. There’s also a groove, and that’s like No Doubt in its earlist, best moments. And oh yeah, there’s a horn section. There are less and less great things in this world, right? It’s a fucking hellscape out there. Who does not want to jump up and down in rhythm with a bass player wearing a drug rug.

This song goes the other way.

Yo, dummy: We’re not part of your machine.

JTL

Jack White in Detroit

Jack White was born in Detroit. He went to Cass Tech High School, which numbers among its alum people including Diana Ross, Alice Coltrane, Donald Byrd, Kenny Burrell, and Regina Carter. Good company.

Although White moved to Nashville, once a Detroiter, always a Detroiter.

In 2001 White established Third Man Records. In Nashville.

But what may be more important is the establishment of Third Man Pressing. In Detroit.

Jack White’s company is producing LPs in Detroit. It is a 10,000-square foot factory that “officially” opened on February 25.

It is a production facility that presses hot vinyl between a set of dies into discs that has a capacity of 15,000 records a day.

Although “Detroit” is known for cars, in actuality, there are only two automotive plants in the city limits proper, the Jefferson North Plant where Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos are produced, and the Conner Avenue Plant, where the Dodge Viper is manufactured. Viper production ends this year. So there may be just one car plant.

Detroit. One car plant. Imagine.

(And the company that runs that plant, FCA US, is a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which is owned by Fiat, which is based in Italy. That car that Eminem drove in that Chrysler commercial a few years back? It was built in Sterling Heights, Michigan, not Detroit. Close though.)

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New Conor Oberst video: Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out

Video: Conor Oberst – “Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out”

Conor Oberst – Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out (Official Video)

From Salutations, due March 17 on Nonesuch.

So apparently Oberst’s last album, Ruminations, was just a collection of demos for this new album.

According to Nonesuch:

When Oberst wrote and recorded the songs on Ruminations, entirely solo—with just voice, piano, guitar and harmonica—he intended to ultimately record them with a full band. In the midst of putting together that band, the passionate responses Oberst was getting to those first solo recordings, from friends and colleagues, encouraged him to release the songs as-is, in their original sparse form, as his seventh solo album: Ruminations, which was released in October 2016. Meanwhile, Oberst simultaneously moved ahead with his plans to record with the band. Salutations includes full-band versions of the ten songs from Ruminations, plus seven additional songs.

So that’s kinda weird, right? Feels like a rip-off. Like maybe they should’ve just held on to the ten demos on Ruminations and included them as a bonus disc with Salutations. Who does Oberst think he is, Ryan Adams?

Then again, who cares anyway since nobody buys music anymore, and we can just stream them together or separately or not at all. The concept of the “album” as a cohesive piece of work is probably antiquated and anachronistic (and rockist!) at this point. Or maybe not. The only scarcity left in the music marketplace is people’s attention, and I’d rather not spend mine on demo collections when your ultimate intention is to put out a full-band album. But that’s just me.

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New Spoon video: Can I Sit Next To You

Video: Spoon – “Can I Sit Next To You”

Spoon – Can I Sit Next To You

From Hot Thoughts, due March 17 on Matador.

Like a lot of Spoon songs “Can I Sit Next To You” takes a few spins to reveal its mysteries. Simple and supple, groovy and woozy, each sound placed deliberately in the mix, this becomes the soundtrack to walking through crowded streets on a sunny day. “Gonna get kicks every night / no one’s holding me back / no one’s changing my mind.” Let’s go.

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My rock and roll library update

The Zapple Diaries: The Rise and Fall of the Last Beatles Label by Barry Miles (Harry N. Abrams, 2016)

Do we need another Beatles book? Is there any facet of the Beatles’ 12-year existence as a group that hasn’t been written into the ground? Well, at least until Mark Lewisohn completes his definitive multi-volume history, it looks like we’re going to continue to get more. This one is a specific first-person look at the big-idea, short-lived subsidiary label that the naive idealists formed to release experimental recordings. Miles was hired to record poets such as Charles Bukowski, Laurence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg. Spoiler alert: Zapple ended up only releasing two records (vanity projects by George Harrison and John Lennon) before new manager Allen Klein fired everybody and closed shop.

The Underground Is Massive: How Electronic Dance Music Conquered America by Michaelangelo Matos (Dey Street, 2015)

I’m probably not the intended audience for this book since I don’t really know the difference between house and techno and jungle and dubstep, and I don’t particularly care. Dance music people are very into genre differentiation, but it’s still rock and roll to me. I do, however, enjoy reading well researched and engaging history, and this book is full of that. Lots of young people doing their own thing, making their own scenes, getting loaded, and digging music. Despite the fact that Matos has claimed “The book is not about recordings,” I could have really used a soundtrack when reading it since virtually all of the music was unfamiliar to me.

Sound Man: A Life Recording Hits with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, Eric Clapton, the Faces… by Glyn Johns (Plume, 2014)

It’s rare that I start but don’t finish a book. This is one of those rarities. For all the characters and events this guy witnessed, you’d think he’d be able to come up with some interesting insights or at least a few good stories. Nope. It’s just tame and boring. Which is a shame because I’ve read interviews with Johns where he’s been hilarious and opinionated. Unfortunately, this book — at least the first half — doesn’t reveal any of that.

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life by Joe Nick Patoski (Back Bay, 2008)

I picked up this book after reading Patoski’s Oxford American article about drummer/character Paul English, “Watching Willie’s Back.” Willie Nelson is an American hero whose greatness has only occasionally been captured on tape despite the fact that he’s got 50+ years of recording under his belt. This book goes a long way in explaining what it is about Willie that makes him such a compelling and unique figure. He’s as close to the Buddha as this country is every going to produce.

Continue reading My rock and roll library update

Listen to Frontier Justice 2/19/17

The Thousand Points Of Light Memorial Waterfall lies dry at the center of the Super 7 Mega Mall food court tetrahedron, and everybody’s got an opinion as to why. Hair triggers, we have them. In this new reality of hot takes and burning questions, it’s fun to clamber onto a roof and shout “BELL BOTTOMS” over and over into the night sky. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion strut their way outta “Frontier Justice” in its college radio days and into this new consciousness, the latest FJ delivery system being Spotify. And speaking of that new consciousness, on this set JSBX drops into the void between Danny Brown‘s stuttering, claustrophobic “Ain’t It Funny” on one side and Lady Gaga‘s “Diamond Heart” on the other. Young, wild Americans, both.

Spotify: Frontier Justice 2/19/17 (35 songs, 2 hr 3 min)

At the top of the set, Norway’s Sigrid makes her debut with “Don’t Kill My Vibe” and M.I.A. returns with the typically martial “P.O.W.A.” Minor Threat and Agent Orange remind us that the establishment was riling up the youth in the early moments of the Me Decade, Patti Smith remains royalty, and “Said It Already” is new, incisive and grooving from young Londoner Ama Lou. Elsewhere, Tommy Genesis oozes volatility and effortless after-hours club cool on “Art,” and Dai Burger wants to be your class president. Did you know Michelle Branch is back? Hopeless Romantic is her first full-length in 13 years; it was written and co-produced with Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, and sounds like it. Angel Olsen released one of 2016’s best records in My Woman — The engrossing, cinematic “Sister” is a highlight — and digging deep into the Spotify Sound Vaults reveals classic material in a new light: Elvis Presley brings both vulnerability and bluesy swing to an alternate take of “Heartbreak Hotel,” and The Supremes are full of funky soul on “Bad Weather,” the 1973 nugget produced and written by Stevie Wonder.

There’s some Ratt along the way, because after all, what goes around comes around (and they’ll tell you why), L.A. Witch is back with cool new stuff for Suicide Squeeze, RTJ remind us to stay hungry and pissed, and Eminem is no less than unhinged on “No Favors,” one of the many standouts on Big Sean‘s terrific new record I Decided.

Making playlists isn’t protest. It’s not political action. But it can be a soundtrack for both dancing and dissent, and do its best to uphold the art of discourse, which in these polarizing times is increasingly under attack. And if you want to completely check out, there’s always room on Goat‘s delightfully weird magic carpet. Here, “Try My Robe.”

JTL

You can also try an Apple Music playlist. Let me know if this works. -ed.

Continue reading Listen to Frontier Justice 2/19/17

Watch the MC5 kick out the jams in Germany in 1972

Video: MC5 – Beat Club Recording Sessions: Bremen, Germany 1972

MC5 – Beat Club Recording Sessions: Bremen, Germany 1972

This footage is amazing. It’s from the weird time right after they had kicked out original bassist Michael Davis. They were in Europe promoting their third and final (and best) album, High Times, although they don’t play anything from that record in this clip, filmed for the German television show Beat-Club. They had been dumped by their record label, and their former manager John Sinclair was accusing them of being greedy junky sellouts. Things were not looking good for the Five. And yet…

Watch this footage!

Everything great about rock and roll is here on display. Sonic Smith’s furry hat, Machine Gun Thompson’s Norton Motorcycles t-shirt, Wayne Kramer’s dehydrated pastiness…I mean, come on! Even fill-in bassist Steve (“Steev”) Moorhouse looks cool. But nobody can get anywhere close to the glory of Rob Tyner with his fantastically crazy teeth, magnificent afro, and face dripping with sweat even before he counts in the band with his famous “Kick out the jams, motherfuckers!”

This nine-minute extended freakout version of their greatest hit (peaked at #82 in 1969) goes off into jazzy weirdness before coming back around again with Kramer and Smith intertwining guitar leads, getting as funkadelic in their own way as Eddie Hazel and Garry Shider.

They play five songs in total over two separate sessions (clearly differentiated by the new shirts in “Ramblin’ Rose” and “Black To Comm”). The total running time is under 30 minutes and although it would great to have even more, this is really enough to prove that the MC5 is still grossly underrated despite all the praise they get from people like us.

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New Dawes video: Roll with the Punches

Video: Dawes – “Roll With The Punches”

Dawes – Roll With The Punches (Official Video)

Dawes is back with a new video from their 2016 album We’re All Gonna Die. This one co-stars Mandy Moore who looks sad and pretty as ever.

I’m still not 100% sold on the slick direction of their last couple of albums. It’s all a little too 80s Don Henley…or something. But still, this band has released one of my favorite songs of the millennium (2009’s “When My Times Comes”) and one of my favorite albums of the decade (2011’s Nothing Is Wrong), so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

And they must be reading my mail, because they just released a streaming-only live album called We’re All Gonna Live. “The album includes selections recorded over the first four shows of the An Evening With Dawes tour, and was mixed, mastered and released within 15 days.” No time for slickness there, pally. Right on.

Killer Mike and El-P find out if NPR has rhythm

Video: Run the Jewels – Tiny Desk Concert

Run The Jewels: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

This is so great. I love these guys. They exude the righteous joy performers feel when they know they’re doing something awesome. RTJ can be fun and playful and serious and cutting all within the same verse. I wonder if Mike and El realize how much we need them right now and how perfect they are for this moment in time.

Songs performed:
“Talk To Me”
“Legend Has It”
“A Report To The Shareholders”

The Pepsi (Non) Challenge

While there may have been some consternation or disappointment that Lady Gaga didn’t take the opportunity at the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl Halftime Show (PZSSBH) to make a political statement of some sort regarding the Muslim ban, the dissing of two U.S. allies, nominations of an array of Wall Street billionaires to the Cabinet, throwing shade on federal judges, making outlandish claims about voter fraud, or comparing American citizens with Vladimir Putin, did you happen to notice that this was the Pepsi Zero Sugar Super Bowl Halftime Show?

There’s no business like show business and something like the PZSSBH is the biggest business of them all each January on screens across the planet.

It has long been a mystery to me why there are performers like Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. But it is less of a mystery when you figure that there are those who are going to watch the Super Bowl because they like football and so they’re going to watch the Super Bowl, or those who are going to watch the Super Bowl because they are at a party where there are so many and so large screens that it is impossible not to watch the Super Bowl, and then there are those who might click over every now and then to see if they can catch a commercial. Or if there is some performer playing at the stadium with a stage set that is only dwarfed by those used for the Olympics Opening Ceremonies.

You want to sell those people some Pepsi Zero Sugar. You hire Gaga.

Continue reading The Pepsi (Non) Challenge