Report from Salt Lake

Okay, I’m not really at the Olympics. (But I have been watching the Canadian broadcast on CBC, so I’ve got a much better idea of what’s going on out there than those of you forced to suffer through the NBC version.) Regardless, I see something happening in Utah that’s cool and applicable here: As you may have noticed yesterday, a U.S. snowboarding posse swept the medals in men’s halfpipe. (A day earlier, an American bagged the gold in the women’s event.) This was the first time our country had swept an event since 1956; then it was men’s figure skating. That’s a pretty long time between sweeps—and a lot of cultural distance between the events.

Think of figure skating as it existed in 1950s. You can’t? Neither can I, but I can’t imagine that this Olympic pillar of conservatism and propriety has really changed so much. Then or now, it’s a far cry from snowboarding and its upstart rebellion. Rock, both its fashion and the music itself, largely fuel the snowboarding image. From Social Distortion to Outkast to Cyndi Lauper, we heard it all the past two days, blaring over loudspeakers as mohawked and headphoned riders rocked the pipe in their baggy pants. That snowboarding has taken to the Olympics could be viewed as yet another case of a corporation (is there anything more corporate than the IOC?) co-opting cool, marketing the counterculture.

But I didn’t get that impression. No, the snowboarders did their thing without compromising the tone, peacefully coexisting with the rest of the Olympics. And the figure skaters maintained tradition, a Russian team winning the pairs competition due to a judging decision right out of the Cold War era. If anything, I saw the triumph of the stokified in Salt Lake as a poignant comment on how lucky we Americans are to live in these coolest of times.

Consider it yet another triumph of rock and roll, in the unlikeliest of venues.

Declarations of Independence: Interview with Bob Andrews of Undertow Records

Undertow Records is an independent label based in Chicago. In April, they are going to release Jay Bennett’s first solo album (with Edward Burch). They do a lot of other great stuff too, and I was lucky enough to interview Bob Andrews, the guy who runs the show. He had a lot of interesting things to say about working on the more human side of the Music Industry over the past decade or so. Check it out!

Continue reading Declarations of Independence: Interview with Bob Andrews of Undertow Records

Happy Birthday to Glorious Noise!

It was one year ago today that we started this thing. How do you like the new look? Expect more changes over the next several weeks as we work out some new features.

One thing you’ll notice is the ad. It took us a year to burn through our initial round of venture capital, and now we’re going to have to get some money. We hope you don’t think it’s too obtrusive. At the same time, we really do hope you support anyone who buys an ad on Glorious Noise. Once we get things rolling, you can expect one ad per month. That’s it. If you know of anybody who might be interested in an ad, send them here.

This new layout relies pretty heavily on some newer web features, so you may need to upgrade for the full effect. If you can’t do that, you can always use the mobile version which works on Palms, cell phones and other personal devices with web browsers.

Anyway, that’s what’s new. Feel free to let us know what you think about the new look.

INORDINANCE

Super Bowl XXXVI Makes Al-Qaida Run For The Hills —

“No more Terry Bradshaw!” they scream.

Johnny Loftus

Each year, the concentric rings of florescent gluttony emanating from the Super Bowl reach further and further out, before they eventually dissolve, say, around the time pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in late February. But this year, on top of the reams of ad money and endless sports media backslapping that have become traditions, Fox’s coverage of the Super Bowl was spun as an “America RULES!’ boondoggle on par with James Brown’s “Livin’ In America” spectacle preceding Apollo Creed’s bout with Ivan Drago.

And I still don’t know what an Mlife is.

The event played out on a series of levels. In the center was the game itself, which was treated as a non-event til midway through the second quarter, when it became clear that the AFC’s New England Patriots were not the Washington Generals to the NFC’s St Louis Rams’ Globetrotting “Greatest Show on Turf” act. Revolving around the game was the usual Sunday slumber – which on Fox is dominated by JB, Terry, Cris and Howie’s towel-slapping antics and barely tenable game analysis. But because of September 11, and in anticipation of the patriotic daisycutter that will detonate over Salt Lake City next week, Super Bowl XXXVI was almost forgotten amidst the Up With America! fervor lancing through every aspect of the event.

 Mariah Carey sobered up long enough to competently lip-synch our national anthem. A full-figured gal, Carey’s pinup girl good looks nicely complimented Fox’s troops-in-Kandahar breakins. Here’s what you’re fighting for, boys. Get home safe, you hear? And when you do, visit Mariah at the group home, where she’s gearing up for a tour of America’s roadhouses and supper clubs, selling her new release from the trunk of her 1986 Nissan Sentra. Vanity license plate: CRAZY4U.

 “Sir” Paul McCartney, looking spry in his casual tracksuit, performed “Freedom,” his wretched song penned in the wake of 9/11. The sentiment is to be applauded. But like Neil Young’s “Let’s Roll” before it, the song just sucks. A better Macca moment came during halftime, when he harmonized with Terry Bradshaw in a version of “Hard Day’s Night” straight out of the decaying brain matter knocking around inside Bradshaw’s skull. The erstwhile Steeler QB played too many games without his helmet on, and it shows. For his part, McCartney took it all in with good-natured charm, not even flinching when the decidedly un-funky James Brown suggested that McCartney’s old band changed the world “with their moptop haircuts.”

 U2 made the most of their 12- minute halftime gig, even if the heart-shaped stage and “Beautiful Day” don’t have the same freshness they did over a year ago when we first saw and heard them. Bono’s entrance through the crowd was a nice touch, as was the brief coda of “MLK” before the Edge’s sparkling intro to “Streets Have No Name.” Instead of his usual sermon on peace and love, Bono chose to let an enormous projection of 9/11’s victims speak for itself.

It’s been suggested that an American band should have performed at halftime. Who, Grand Funk Railroad? U2 is no longer just an Irish band. While Bono’s proselytizing is at times overwrought, he and his band have truly become a band for the world. Their message is clear, but their music supports it with appropriate amounts of rocking and songcraft. They were the perfect choice for this year’s halftime show, reinforcing the patriotic flair of the show with their trademark grace and sound.

By the end of the fourth quarter, a slush fund of ad dollars had amounted to a memorable Broadway chimp, a few funny Budweiser ads (“I’m doin’ fine. My brother just picked me up from the airport and…”), and the fact that Britney would have been hotter in the 1950s. Because of the Patriots’ late game heroics, Fox had to push its tribute to departing broadcast icon Pat Summerall into the post-game. But when it finally came, the video montage was accompanied by some extremely awkward on-camera banter between the ancient Summerall and his booth partner for 21 years, the monolithic John Madden. It only got worse when each member of Fox’ broadcast crew delivered a soliloquy about what Summerall meant to them (or at least what he meant to their fledgling careers as moronic broadcasters). It may have been time for the 71-year old Summerall to hang it up, but Fox’ treatment of his farewell was concurrent with the network’s bludgeoning, substance-less brand projection. Even drunk, senile, and old, Pat Summerall has more class than goose-necked desk warbler Cris Collinsworth.

Given the Fox network’s penchant for brazen cross-promotion, Super Bowl XXXVI’s patriotic bent could have been so heavy-handed as to make the terrorists hate us more. The cast of “That 80s Show” reciting the Gettysburg Address in Valley Girl accents, perhaps? Instead, the event combined reverent patriotism, exciting football, and a hint of that “don’t fuck with us” cold war chest-thumping that defined Rocky IV and America in the 1980s.

And in the end, a red, white, and blue team of upstarts and never weres, led by a spunky kid QB with corn-fed good looks and an “aw, shucks” smile, knocked the cool kids’ block off, and made the Vince Lombardi trophy their own. If that doesn’t sound like a script written for America in 2002, I’ll submit to a Quizno’s product testing seminar.

JTL

Interview with Jay Bennett

Interview with Jay Bennett – “I left the band when Jeff said, ‘A circle can only have one center,’ and I surmised from that it wasn’t going to be me. My thinking was, if the band is an ellipsis and I can stay or it can be circle and I’m out. So I left.”

Statuesque

While there is what seems to be an excess of attention to the feats of Alicia Keys and U2 vis-à-vis the upcoming Grammy Awards®, what is perhaps of more interest is that there are other performers who have been nominated for various awards who have gotten little if any run, probably because many people are completely unaware that these performers are doing anything nowadays.

For example:

*Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” James Taylor. Think about that for a minute. I mean, didn’t he do that song about 20 years ago?

*Best Dance Recording. “Angel.” Lionel Richie. Well, he did sing once about dancin’ on the ceiling.

*Best Pop Instrumental Album. “Voice.” Neal Schon. No, Steve Perry doesn’t seem to be nominated for anything. But don’t stop believin’.

*Best Metal Performance. “The Wizard.” Black Sabbath. Ozzy must be Iron Man. You’d think he’d have succumbed to rabies or something by now.

*Best Rock Instrumental Performance. “High Falls.” The Allman Brothers Band. Consider this: back when the band was popular (post-Duane), Gregg was going out with Cher.

There are a few other curiosities, as well. Take the category “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.” Who do you think would be in that category? I’m guessing that you didn’t think Rosemary Clooney, who is up for “Sentimental Journey—The Girl Singer and Her New Big Band.” Anything but the girl.

While I am not familiar with the work of Brave Combo, I suspect that they might be a good group, judging by the name of the album that’s up for the best album in its category: “Kick-Ass Polkas.” I can just picture some of my relatives whooping it up at a VFW hall.

Clearly, the best name of any work that’s up for an award this year comes from one Bill Kirchen, who is in the Best Country Instrumental Performance category: “Poultry in Motion.” There are a lot of groups who try to come up with clever titles. They don’t have a clue.

The most disturbing nominee this year is in the Best Spoken World Album for Children. Let me repeat that: “Children.” The name of the recording in question is “Timeless Tales & Music of Our Time.” Sound innocuous enough, right? Well, then consider the person doing the speaking: Dr. Ruth Westheimer. “Timeless Tales…” hmm, maybe she spins a story about the oldest profession.

ARE THE BRITISH COMING?

Coldplay and Starsailor make a case for intelligent music on the radio

Johnny Loftus

For a few years in the mid 90s, Oasis had its moment in the American sun. With the larger US pop audience becoming enamored of “Wonderwall”‘s balladry and the bottom-end stomp of “Supersonic,” it seemed like the group’s systematic takeover of the UK might launch them into the American consciousness as an assault team for its Brit Pop brethren to follow. But it didn’t take. Somehow, their unabashed reverence for the Beatles and T.Rex was labeled a bad thing, and their sparring partners in Blur were just too fey for a Hootie-fied US pop scene. Both groups have continued to create solid albums. But many Americans can only point to Liam and Noel’s loutish behavior when questioned about Oasis, and it has required his being turned into a cartoon for Blur’s Damon Albarn to finally receive larger recognition in The Colonies. The Verve’s sale of “Bittersweet Symphony” to Nike was likely the last gasp of The Great 90s British Invasion.

But lately, a slight change has been brewing in the playlists of Stupid Radio nationwide. Out of the space between Staind’s high school talent show bombast, the N’SYNCified rage of Linkin Park, and Creed’s moronic, self-righteous buggery rises the cracked falsetto of Coldplay’s Chris Martin, cooing softly over the plaintive keys of “Trouble.” In today’s rapid-fire radio formats, it’s amazing that anything slow is even played, especially if your name is not R Kelly or Brian McKnight. So the fact that Coldplay’s “Yellow” made such an impression on listeners that programmers would allow a few minutes of breathing room between their listless yapping is quite an achievement.

In fact, Coldplay has been nominated in not one, not two, but three Grammy categories: Best Rock Song for “Yellow” (up against U2 – TWICE! – for “Elevation” and “Walk On”); Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocals for “Yellow”; and finally their Parachutes LP in the Best Alternative Music Album category. Are things coming up Brit again?

Some point to Martin’s vaguely Matthewsian vocal style as reason for Coldplay’s fame. But what about Jeff Buckley? The DMB fans scratch their well-groomed heads. Isn’t he that guy who drowned that Brad Pitt is going to make a biopic of? Well, yes. But he (and his father, Tim) are also a big influence on not only Chris Martin, but also his Northern Soul brothers in Travis’ Fran Healy and now Starsailor’s young James Walsh.

Riding the wave of recognition for well-appointed, moody rock music crested by Coldplay, Starsailor (another recipient of NME’s rendered-meaningless “Best Band Ever” tag) has quietly begun moving from the world of CMJ to the universe of MTV2 and a stage near you. Currently touring the US with dancefloor warhorses Charlatans UK, Walsh and his mates are defining themselves as another English group thoroughly wrapped up in the throaty dynamics and instrumental touches of the late Buckleys.

And it’s working. Love Is Here, Starsailor’s domestic debut, is lodged at 165 on the Billboard Top 200, and M2 is working them into an influential rotation that is already largely responsible for the popular recognition of Gorillaz, Jimmy Eat World, and even India.Arie.

While M2 – not to mention music directors at Stupid Radio everywhere – is still trumping the godawful moan-core in the hearts angry young bald men everywhere, it’s interesting to note the slight swing that Coldplay, Starsailor, and Travis are having on the minds and wallets of the larger record-buying public. With strong work in a similarly intelligent vein on the way from MoWax’s South, not to mention Richard Ashcroft’s forthcoming sophomore solo effort, Coldplay’s popularity might be the best thing to happen for UK music in America since the halcyon days of “Wonderwall.”

And best of all, none of these new guys have maladjusted relationships with their guitar-playing brothers.

JTL

Rock and roll can change your life.