Big milestone for the site

According to our goofy little counter, Glorious Noise has had 10,000 unique visits (whatever that means) since we started in February. I think that’s pretty cool, and I’d like to thank you all for stopping by. Even if you just got here by searching Google for “Britney Spears fucking.” (It’s true — you’d be amazed by the referrer logs — people are creepy!)

We’ve got our own radio station now so be sure to check it out. It’s served up by Live365, who — despite their barrage of ads — might go out of business any day now, so get it while you can. There’s a version of it for people with broadband connections and one for people with slower connections. We will be swapping in new songs every couple of weeks or so until we get bored with it and then it will probably just stay stagnant. But there’s over four hours of music, so rock on.

Also, recently there’s been some activity in the message boards, so please go in there and participate. That’s what Glorious Noise is all about. Well, at least that’s part of it. Some of it is just us making noise, but we want to hear your noise too, so get in there are rant!

Anyway, thanks to all our readers for making this site as “successful” as it is. I guess I would define success to mean that it feels worth the time and effort that we’re putting into it. If it stops feeling worth it, we’ll stop doing it. If it’s not 100% fun, right? Thanks again. We love you all.

Yeah, I talked to Jeff Tweedy last night

I did actually. Wilco was on WXRT’s Sound Opinions last night and I called in and got through. I was taking notes on the show for an article in Glorious Noise, so I didn’t have time to think of a decent question to ask, so I asked a dumb one. At least that’s my excuse. I’m not very familiar with the whole radio talk-show call-in technique. I should have had something prepared. But I didn’t. Oh well. I still talked to Jeff Tweedy last night.

It was a cool show. They played some songs live in the studio and talked a lot. The hosts, Greg Kot from the Chicago Tribune and Jim DeRogatis from the Chicago Sun-Times, are obviously big fans of the band and big music geeks, so the show had a comfortable, laid back atmosphere. They talked about last Tuesday’s events and how it changes the way we listen to Wilco’s new album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. “A lot of weight has been added to a lot of music,” Tweedy said, when asked about the significance of the song “War on War.” “Music is all about spirit,” he said, and that the message of that song is “working towards less fear is the only way to live” and that you’ve got to “learn how to fail.”

Jeff TweedyThey talked about how they’re going on their upcoming tour because the new record is out now. Unofficially, of course, but everybody who wants to hear has already heard it. In fact, they’re streaming the whole album from their official website. It’s so insane that Reprise wouldn’t release this album. Apparently, after they sent the final mixes to the label, Reprise responded by saying that they “don’t hear it,” according to Tweedy. Not even the record label cliché, “We don’t hear the single.” They straight up didn’t hear it, the fucking morons. When asked when and where it was going to come out, Tweedy said, “It will come out eventually and actually it’s out there now. It’s a fact of life right now that once one person gets it, everyone can have it.” They’ve come to accept this apparently. “Music needs a listener,” Tweedy said. But we better not hold our breath for it to be released officially. Not this year anyway according to the band. They’re still “trying to figure out some ways to put it out,” whatever that means.

Then they got around to the subject of the changing line-up. By this time I was on the phone on hold, trying to think of something decent to ask. So I couldn’t take notes very well, but I did catch a few things. “People grow in different directions at different speeds. Things change. Friends leave.” And when asked what he thought about how some of the fans freaked out about Bennett leaving, Tweedy said, “I understand why people feel that way. People don’t like change. Ken [Coomer, former drummer] and Jay contributed an enormous amount to the band.”

Then it was time for some calls. They took mine. “Jake’s got a question for you guys.” I stumbled around for a second trying to thank them for not making me feel guilty about downloading the new album. “You should still feel guilty,” Tweedy said to me. Ha ha, everyone laughed. They told me that they hope I buy the album when it comes out. “Oh I will, I will,” I said like the nerdy little fan that I am. Then they plugged their website some more and tried to remember its address. Then I asked my question, “I’ve heard that Jay had, like, hundreds of guitars and stuff. Do you guys have any equipment left?” Yup, that’s what I came up with. Tweedy snickered a little and said something like “We’re doing all right” or something like that. The hosts said something like “You should see their rehearsal space. There’s this giant wall of guitars,” and Tweedy sighed, “Not anymore…” So it was kind of funny. The next guy who called asked something far more intelligent and interesting, but I don’t remember what it was.

Then they started on their Desert Island Disks feature. Tweedy immediately threw out “I Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates” by Melanie. Leroy Bach wanted “The Cricketer” by Roy Harper. John Stirrat requested Colin Blunstone’s “Say You Don’t Mind.” Glenn Kotche said he would have picked “Sister Ray” but instead he opted for a song by the English psychedelic band, Patto. Tweedy then officially chose “Don’t be So Fearful” by Bill Fay from his 1971 album, Time of Last Persecution.

Then it was 11:30 pm, and although the show was going to go on for another hour, I am a working stiff, so I had to get some sleep. Too bad my cassette deck and all my blank tapes are in storage, otherwise I would have taped it.

CAN YOU SMELL WHAT THE ROCK IS COOKIN?

Pop Plugs in the Patch Chords in a Paean for Posterity

Johnny Loftus

Soon, the pop princesses will fail their piss tests, and be sent off to the glue factory. This is no great prophecy; it’s simple fact, like poor ol’ Leslie Visser, pushed out to pasture in favor of Melissa Stark. But this is pop music, not Monday Night Football. And I’ll bet you the combined cost of Eric Dickerson’s speech therapy classes that the stable of pop divas currently inhabiting MTV and Neutrogena ads will be out in the back 40 chewing their cud by year’s end.

But whatever will the KISS-FMs of this world do? What vacuous tripe will replace Mandy Moore in the hearts and wallets of a million pre-teens, frantically dialing the KISS lines when they hear the touchtones, hoping to score tickets to an arena show featuring 20-minute sets by performers whose names they do not yet know?

Fortunately, the uber-producers that record companies look to for this sort of thing have an answer. And it seems to be the Rock. No, not as in Kid. And not that howl coming from the gaping maws of The Bald And The Angry (Stain’d, Disturbed, etc.). No, the rock of which we speak is the twee kind, consisting of cheap power chords and overblown, Hanson-like production, currently being purveyed on pop radio by the likes of a re-tooled L.F.O. You remember L.F.O. A boy band before boy bands were boy bands again, L.F.O. blew up the 1998 Spring Break scene with their ode to girls who wear Abercrombie & Fitch. These dorks were 2 dudes short of Color Me Badd, but had left the shitty flow and re-tread back beats intact. Well, in a twisted turn of events that has to make the three guys who are actually in L.F.O. truly feel like the commodities that they are, the group has re-emerged in a new millennium as the American BB Mak, singing a ditty about –really? – a girl. But this time, in the accompanying video, one of the faceless dopes who isn’t the frontman totes a Les Paul, hesitantly strumming along with the song’s simplistic power chords and looking all the while like he’s afraid Slash is going to return any minute, drunk and angry, wondering why the fuck this pretty boy is trying to play his guitar. But it doesn’t matter how convincing L.F.O. are as rockers (they aren’t), or how much actual rock is contained within the cheap walls of the song (not a lot). For the producers and label figureheads brokering in Pop, the addition of electric guitar and some Eddie Money sensibilities to their normal collection of Blackstone The Magician drum tracks and keyboard blips is a way to subtly distort their product into something ostensibly new and exciting. L.F.O. – re-packaged and re-sold for your purchasing pleasure. “And listen for those touchtones for your chance to attend the KISS-FM Star Party, featuring L.F.O., EMF, ELO, and EE Cummings!”

There’s nothing memorable about L.F.O. They will most likely complete their 2-month run of mall appearances and low-level arena gigs, and find themselves back in their holding tank at Jive Records, waiting to be re-assembled as a klezmer group. But their re-emergence under the guise of Rock marks what could be a disturbing trend, as the Pop life breaks down and the money train runs out of gas. Rumor has it Britney’s covering “I Love Rock & Roll” on her upcoming record. The popularity of Incubus will no doubt spawn soundalikes performing a less-talented version of that band’s Alice In Chains-meets-Ben Harper soul-core. And a young lady named Michelle Branch is making waves in multilple radio formats with her song “Everywhere,” a number that grafts the riff from Barenaked Ladies’ “Old Apartment” onto the pacing of Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” all the while with Michelle cooing like a cross between Britney and Jewel. The Rock is definitely back on Top 40 radio, but in a homogenized form that does nothing to save an already decrepit format. It will be interesting to see if this trend towards power chords continues, especially if Britney releases her Joan Jett cover as a single. But if the Rock becomes the new Pop, chances are it’ll be the same old, same old situation, the same old song and dance, and won’t do any artist who actually cares about his or her craft any favors.

Madonna’s always been a trend-setter. Maybe that funny photo of the Material Girl jamming on a Les Paul will prove truly influential, and not simply a photo-op.

JTL

Jay Bennett’s Big Night Out

September 16, Schubas, Chicago IL (opening for Allison Moorer)

By Phil Wise

Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy casts a long shadow. His former songwriting partner in Uncle Tupelo, Jay Farrar, is still living with comparisons some seven years after the two parted ways. Now, just weeks after announcing his split from Wilco, guitarist/songwriter/keyboardist Jay Bennett presented a set of ten songs in 30 minutes ranging in style from Elvis Costello-inspired pop to goofy country bumpkin sing-alongs.

Nursing a severely cut finger, Bennett enlisted the help of fellow Chicago scenester, Edward Burch (playing the very same Epiphone guitar featured on the cover of Wilco’s sophomore release Being There), to accompany on guitar and vocals. The two meshed onstage together like a partnership should with Burch providing not only levity in his stage banter, but inspiring vocal harmonies pulled straight from the Paul McCartney playbook. It made for the most musically rewarding half-hour I’ve experienced in ages.

Debuting selected cuts from his someday-to-be-released solo album (some three years in the making), Bennett and Burch ambled through a set peppered with bitter sweet love songs, the best of which was “Mirror Ball,” co-written with Bennett’s friend Sherry Rich. Bennett made several cracks about his Wurlitzer electric piano sounding too “Billy Joel,” but the stark accompaniment provided startling renditions of these soulful and melodic songs.

But it wasn’t all kisses and tears. Bennett and Burch also played a rousing rendition of the Woody Guthrie-penned “They’ll Be No Church Tonight,” presumably from the Mermaid Avenue sessions, and a rambling country knee-slapper “Watching Junior Drive,” which brought a rousing applause and caused Bennett to quip, “It’s always weird when the stupidest song you’ve ever written gets the biggest applause.” Bennett struggled honorably through the flat picking of the latter with his injured finger and still managed to amaze me with his playing.

Though never prominently featured on a Wilco recording, Bennett’s vocals were surprisingly strong and soulful. His voice is low and gravelly, sounding a bit like Elvis Costello doing his best Leonard Cohen impersonation. And while his voice may not be as distinct as Tweedy’s (ah, so the comparisons begin), it’s strong and possesses its own quality.

Jay Bennett was a key player in the evolution of Wilco’s sound and instrumental in the songwriting as evidenced by the credits from Being There through to the anxiously awaited Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and I was sorely disappointed to hear of his departure from the band. While I was confident Jeff Tweedy would carry on and continue to create great music, I was afraid Bennett would slip away into the darkness and the wake left by Wilco’s front man. After last night’s performance I think it’s safe to say that I’ll not soon lose track of Jay Bennett as long as he’s willing to step out of the shadows.

Missed this show? Catch Jay Bennett and Edward Burch at The Hideout in Chicago, September 24.

Obsession, Insanity and Fanaticism

There’s a new article about Syd Barrett on Last Plane to Jakarta. As with the vast majority of John Darnielle’s writing, this piece is at times hilarious and insightful and celebratory and sad. He hits pretty close to home for me in one of his famous “footnotes” discussing the track, “Opel” which remained unreleased until 1988:

It was a great moment for music, but a terrible moment for obsessive people around the world. For years we’d wondered what might lay gathering dust on some London studio shelf or in a Cambridge bedroom — what hidden treasures, what lost masterpieces? When sub-par material is unearthed, there’s hope for us: perhaps someday we’ll learn to enjoy what we have and stop losing sleep wondering whether there are unreleased full-band recordings from the Birthday Party’s final, turbulent, incredible year together. Perhaps we will stop digging through the endless morass of the internet trying to find Joy Division bootlegs we haven’t heard yet. (There are none.) Then something like “Opel” turns up — a lost recording that confirms the possibility that the very best stuff is still unheard. There is no hope for us, my friends. We are doomed to our sad record-collector existences.

I’ve done my share of obsessing. And I can tell you that it’s not healthy. I’ve driven myself pretty close to the edge of some fairly Syd-like insanity over some bands in my day. And it’s bad. You end up burning yourself out after while. That’s why you’ve got to learn to take it slow. Take it easy. You gotta just get it under control. Can stop any time. I’m still a record collecting addict, but I’ve learned to manage my addiction.

I went through a phase in high school when I bought every Smiths twelve-inch. That was a difficult thing to do on a part-time dishwasher’s wages in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thank God for Vinyl Solution and Zak’s Diner, I guess. Herm at Vinyl kept that Smiths bin well-stocked and my Zak’s let me work just enough to buy my records. After I owned everything ever released (the elusive “This Charming Man” single was the final Holy Grail), I stopped listening to them. Almost completely. Only recently have I let them back into my life again. Slowly. And with an objectively critical ear. Johnny Marr’s production doesn’t sound nearly as perfect to me as it used to. It sounds muddy and overproduced a lot of times. You don’t really need twenty-five layers of guitar parts on one song, do you? And Morrissey’s lyrics which I once swallowed hook, line and stinker now mostly sound overdramatic and silly. But there are moments that cut through the nostalgia and still stand up on their own. “I Know It’s Over” is still a beautiful song. My man Phil is working on an extended feature about people’s continuing obsession with the Smiths. I look forward to seeing what he uncovers in the souls of all those people who are still feeling what I once felt.

Yes: Close to the Edge

I’m told by Jeff that if I try to argue that the contempt with which the band Yes is treated is nothing more than some sort of reverse snobbery that I will be piled on by virtually every person who has anything to do with this site.

Given that the Comments section is open to the entire Internet world, this could be a big pile.

While I don’t want to completely deflect attention away from the Red Cross that is below, I do want to bring back some attention to normalcy: Although, as Jeff argues below, it is important that we maintain some sense of vigilance, it is also essential that we don’t allow ourselves to ignore many of our usual concerns and interests because to the extent that we do, the Bad Guys win. And that is unacceptable.

One more disclaimer. I am making an argument for Yes, not for any of the other bands with which they are normally associated; I am making an argument for their recorded music, not for the live performances (which I have never seen—hell, Phil, 30 years per Crenshaw show, and none for this band: What kind of fan is that?), which I suspect must be fairly disturbing nowadays (which may explain why they are rolling out with an orchestra).

OK.

Seems to me that people are dismissive of Yes because the music is highly produced/engineered. It is labeled “Art Rock.” On the one hand, one could say that if rock is worth its, well, rocks, then it is Art. Consequently, to be called “Art Rock” is a compliment, one unappreciated by those who are using the term as an epithet. On the other hand, there is the idea that “rock” is fundamentally, well, fundamental, and to the extent that music is heavily artistic (in the sense of being something that is consciously thought out and executed in a manner that is calculated), it is bad. Perhaps this is a particularly American notion, one that can be best summed up in a Walt Whitman term: “Bardic yap.” Pure rock is argued to be “yap.” And Yes ain’t Yap.

There are few guitar players who have a signature sound, guitar players who can play on the recordings of bands with whom they are not associated and who could be identified from their pure sound. The Edge. Pete. Van Halen. And a few others. One of those that I’d put on the list is Steve Howe. Through the years, he has been able to pull sounds out of his guitar that overcome the excessive flourishes of Rick Wakeman’s Grand Central Station-sized keyboard array. He has been able to play notes that distract us from the Hobbit-like lyrics and sounds of Jon Anderson. (BTW: Howe, on his solo albums, has a voice with an inverse relation to his guitar playing: Just Say No.) But Howe’s distinctive sound, supported by the remarkable drumming of, especially, Bill Bruford and Chris Squire’s bass, create remarkable music.

Perhaps the music that is produced by Yes simply isn’t rock. It is in a category onto itself (and, yes, I can imagine some of the categories that it can be put in by many of you, most of which are noxious). But let’s put that notion aside. Let’s assume that it is rock based on nothing more than the characteristics of the (1) time it was created; (2) the instruments with which it was created; (3) the nature of the people who create(d) it, it is rock.

So what’s the problem?

Let the games begin.

Hunter Thompson for president in 2004

Hunter Thompson for president in 2004

He never claimed to be anything but a nice guy and an athlete… And now Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is finally back on ESPN Page 2 after his summer vacation:

This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won’t hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force.

Good luck. He is in for a profoundly difficult job — armed as he is with no credible Military Intelligence, no witnesses and only the ghost of Bin Laden to blame for the tragedy.

Yes, indeed. I think it’s time I pack up my wife and dogs and move to Woody Creek and start my own compound. Weekly updates from this political guru are not nearly enough to keep me fixed up. I need a fat shot of HST!

Feeling the Burn in the Motor City (Revised)

So it seems no one really got my point. So it’s gone. The article may still be hanging around in caches somewhere, but I can’t help that. I can, however, make what I’m saying clear.

What happened Tuesday was terrible. It was inexcusable and unjustified. But I think it was preventable. As the responsibility for our security falls with our government, a government supposedly of, by and for the people, we need to take a closer look at our roles in the political and social systems in this country. We need to become more involved. Not just when crises like this happen, but all the time. Our government and our society failed to protect us on Tuesday. We need to make sure we will be protected in the future. That doesn’t come without participation. The only way we can honor those who died is by changing things so that something like this doesn’t happen again. There is a considerable body of evidence out there indicating that a terrorist event like this was imminent, yet nothing was done to prevent it. Let’s not just go back to normal, let’s fix what broke in the first place and keep things from breaking in the future.

Please stop flying into buildings

Please stop flying into buildings

God help us. I get into work today to find a group of people staring at the television. Just as I realize that the smoking building is the World Trade Center, I see a plane fly right into the second tower and explode. Live on tv.

All the major news websites are totally down right now. Either overwhelmed or just plain off. This is fucked up.

Rock and roll can change your life.