New Tommy Stinson: Dream

Video: Tommy Stinson’s Cowboys in The Campfire – “Dream”

From Wronger, out June 2 via Cobraside.

I hate music. It’s got too many notes. Tommy says so.

That’s my favorite Replacements song. You can picture 13- or 14-year-old Tommy Stinson in somebody’s basement or garage, in a band with older kids, complaining about having to learn his bass parts. It totally reflects that teenage frustration with doing anything hard. And Paul Westerberg was smart enough to capture it. It’s perfect.

Forty years and a several interesting music careers later and Stinson seems more than comfortable with all the notes. His latest project, Cowboys in The Campfire, with his longtime friend Chip Roberts, is well-crafted singer-songwriter Americana, and it sounds great. Stinson’s voice is soulful. And you believe him when he sings, “It don’t take much to coax these ghosts from the box.” There’s a longing and a hopefulness that makes you root for him and hope those dreams come true.

Stinson says, “I’m not one to be pigeonholed – but I’m not putting a lot of thought into it that I DON’T want to be pigeonholed. For me it’s always been that the songs pretty much tell you what they’re going to do. I can sit there and work a song into the ground, forcing my will on it, or you can listen to the song and go, ‘What does this want?’ and do that. I’ve always done it that way. Ultimately it’s more about, ‘Let’s try and get the best 10 and take what we’ve got and make them the best they can be.’”

That no bullshit attitude is exactly why we all love this guy!

Tommy Stinson: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Who Are They?

When is a band not a band? That is, generally it would be thought that a group of people get together and decide that their individuality will contribute to a collective undertaking that will be known under a given label, or name. They don’t lose their individuality. But their performances with others are subsumed by the work of the band. It can become the case that except for fans the name of the collective is known while those of the individual members aren’t. So if a member or two happens to leave the band only to be replaced by others, it very well may be that the “band” continues to exist much as it did before, although for those who are fans the absence of the performer(s) may be enough for them to consider the band disbanded.

In some cases it is thought that there are individuals within a band—considering the band as a collective—who are more instrumental to the existence of the band as a whole than others may be and so as long as they are part of the performance, the band continues to exist.

An abiding example of this is “The Who.” The band began in 1964. The members were Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon.

Albums the band released include:

  • My Generation (1965)
  • A Quick One (1966)
  • The Who Sell Out (1967)
  • Tommy (1969)
  • Who’s Next (1971)
  • Quadrophenia (1973)
  • The Who by Numbers (1975)
  • Who Are You (1978)*

But in September 1978 Keith Moon died. Kenney Jones replaced him. Oddly, or appropriately, Jones was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—as a member of the Faces/Small Faces.

The band kept performing and recording. Then in June 2002, John Entwistle died. Entwistle was replaced by Pino Palladino.

Consider: The Who became what is considered to be The Who not merely as a result of Townshend’s playing and writing and because of Daltrey’s pipes and performance. The drums and the bass played a fundamental part of the sound that people became familiar with.

Yet there seems to be an idea that because Townshend and Daltrey were up front, their continued existence and participation are the things that would make a post-Moon and Entwistle organization essentially what it had been before, that the performances are of The Who, not “The Who.”

Isn’t it conceivable that starting in October 1978 and certainly July 2002 that the remnants of The Who, when performing or recording, should have been more appropriately titled Who2 or something of the like? Whatever it was it was not the band that formed in 1964.

But is a band more than a brand? If you have a box of Tide you probably think of it as, well, Tide. And it is Tide. But it isn’t the Tide that was invented in 1946. The formulation is different but the brand name remains the same.

To treat members of a band as being fully replaceable is to really not have a band so much as a brand.

Continue reading Who Are They?

New National: Eucalyptus

Video: The National – “Eucalyptus”

Directed by Chris Sgroi. From First Two Pages Of Frankenstein, out April 28 on 4AD.

At this point every time the National releases something new, we have to ask if it would’ve made a better Taylor Swift song, right? In this case, I think it was the correct decision to keep it for themselves. If Taylor’s going to write a divorce anthem she’s not going to argue about divvying up the Cowboy Junkies and Afghan Whigs records.

Matt Berninger says, “Throughout the record there’s a lot of looking into the abyss and wondering if a relationship has run its course. ‘Eucalyptus’ is about a couple splitting up their possessions after a breakup — like, ‘What are we going to do with the spring water we get delivered, what’s going to happen to all these plants?’ It’s about all those little things you end up having to think about when you’ve become so connected to someone.”

It’s still weird to me that this band is as famous as they are. I like them fine, and I think “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is one of the great songs of its era, but what I like is rarely a good barometer of determining whether or not something will be popular. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The National: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Bully: Days Move Slow

Video: Bully – “Days Move Slow”

Directed by Alex Ross Perry. From Lucky For You, out June 2 on Sub Pop.

Aw, the new song was written after Alicia Bognanno’s dog died. She says, “As someone who has spent the majority of my life feeling agonizingly misunderstood, there is no greater gift than experiencing true unconditional love and acceptance. I waited my whole life for the bond and irreplaceable companionship I had with Mezzi. She was my best friend and my only constant through some of the most pivotal moments and phases of my life. I was a stranger to the level of love I now know exists because of Mezzi. Love you forever; I’m lucky for you.”

“Mezzi was my best friend,” she explains. “She made me feel safe and empowered, she showed me that I was worth loving and never judged me or viewed me as a let down. I always felt accepted, understood and so much less alone. Mezzi was living, breathing proof that I was worthy of being loved.”

I’ve had four dogs in my life. My first dog, Boo, was a blue standard poodle I got for my ninth birthday. She was great. She was my pal. She got sick after I went away to college and my mom and I had to put her down when I was home over a break. At the vet, I remember her lying on the metal table as we were hugging her and saying our goodbyes. She started pushing me away with her strong legs as if she didn’t want me to be next to her. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want me by her side. Then her bowels abruptly exploded diarrhea all over me, head to toe, and I realized in her last moments she was trying to protect me from getting showered in shit. She was a very good dog.

Frankie was my firstborn. She was a red and brown miniature dachshund and she was feisty but sweet. Frankie slept in my belly every night for 18 1/2 years. When she was a couple years old we got her a friend. Georgia was black and tan and was the strangest dog I’ve ever known. She was an angel. She didn’t bark once until she was seven years old. She would eat one kibble at a time and after eating she would lick a spot on the rug for a half an hour. George was terrified of hardwood, tile and linoleum, and would have to ramp herself up to get from one rug to another by spinning in circles. After my son was born, Frank had no use for him but George loved him and stayed right next to him until she got sick and we had to put her down. My son cried, “Now all I’ve got left is a useless dog.” It was true. By that point Frank was a shell of herself. Deaf, blind, no teeth, clearly suffering from dementia and various other ailments. I realize now that keeping her alive for those last couple of years was a selfish act on my part. But I held onto her until the last possible moment, and I still miss her.

Now we’ve got Birdie and she’s quite possibly the greatest dog ever. She was a puppy mill rescue and she’s super needy and suffers from extreme separation anxiety. All she wants to do is be with us and please us. She is the most loving, affectionate animal I have ever known. She’s ten now. And I’ve told her she needs to live forever because I’m not going to be able to handle it when she dies.

New Mediocre video: Pop Song Baby

Video: Mediocre – “Pop Song Baby”

Directed by Naomi Ash and Keely Martin. From the To Know You’re Screwed EP, out April 7 on Dangerbird.

Remember Mediocre’s “Mattress Bitch” from a couple years ago? We featured it right after I got my first covid booster, back when we assumed by now we’d all be safer and closer to normal. Within a month the Omicron variant would obliterate our expectations.

But here we are, plodding along. Doing the best we can.

And Mediocre isn’t taking any of your shit. They know the deal.

You wanna put me in to even out the score
And give yourself a hand for opening the door.

You love to see it when somebody bites the hand that feeds them!

Thanks for your soul, it’s a sold out show
Go write another angry pop song darlin’.

Yes please. Angry pop songs are the best pop songs, and I think Piper Torrison and Keely Martin agree. That’s why they wrote another one!

The band says, “We wanted to write a song that our teenage selves would blast in our bedrooms. As femme musicians growing up in a predominantly male music scene, we pulled from our frustrations of being underestimated and pigeon-holed into certain archetypes. This song and video explores those pressures.”

I appreciate that “Pop Song Baby” explores those pressures without altogether rejecting them. It’s a complicated situation and Mediocre is navigating it beautifully.

Continue reading New Mediocre video: Pop Song Baby

New Brendan Benson video: I Missed The Plane

Video: Brendan Benson – “I Missed The Plane”

Directed by Tomato (Simon Taylor). From Low Key, out now on Schnitzel.

I wonder if it’s as easy for Brendan Benson to come up with brilliant melodies as it sounds like it must be. He seemingly has a million brilliant melodies in his back pocket at any given time. “I Missed The Plane” is no exception. There’s usually at least one moment in a Brendan Benson tune where you’re like, man that’s so good. In this one, it’s the “run, run, run, run, run” background vocals in the chorus; they’re almost imperceptible at first but once you notice them, they’re the best part of the song!

Brendan Benson: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

“Burn, burn, burn”

The entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy opens:

“Louis Pierre Althusser (1918–1990) was one of the most influential Marxist philosophers of the 20th Century.”

The entry goes on to talk about the French philosopher’s impact on Marxist philosophy and his career, and then, dropped into a paragraph, almost like it is not particularly notable, there’s this:

“In November 1980, after a painful surgery and another bout of mental illness, which saw him hospitalized for most of the summer and whose symptoms continued after his return to the ENS in the fall, Althusser strangled his wife. Before he could be arrested for the murder, he was sent to a mental hospital.”

The strangulation almost seems an afterthought.

One can imagine the sentence going “after his return to the ENS”—the famed  École Normale Supérieure—“Althusser took up watercolors.”

No, he strangled his wife.

The Stanford entry goes on to point out that after the murder Althusser lived both in his apartment in Paris and several mental hospitals. It points out, almost with a sigh, “Given his mental state, his frequent institutionalizations, his anomie, and the drugs he was prescribed, these were not very productive years.”

Not for Hélène Rytmann-Légotien, either.


William Burroughs, one of whose literary creations was appropriated for the name of the band Steely Dan, once lived in an apartment with Jack Kerouac during the 1940s. With Burroughs was a poet, Joan Vollmer, who was to become his common-law wife. Kerouac was with the woman who was to become his first wife, Edie Parker.

Kerouac wrote in On the Road: “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’”

An existence of manic energy.

Burroughs and Vollmer, both of whom had drug problems, moved to New Orleans, then, with looming potential incarceration at the notoriously harsh Louisiana State Penitentiary (a.k.a., “Angola”), fled to Mexico City.

In September 1951, Burroughs and Vollmer were at a party in a bar. Presumably both were inebriated. The story goes that Burroughs pulled a pistol out of a travel bag and said to Vollmer, “It’s time for our William Tell act.” Vollmer put a highball glass on her head. Burroughs shot at it. He missed. She died a few hours later.

Burroughs spent 13 days in jail, then, while on bail, fled the country and returned to the U.S. He was convicted, in absentia, in a Mexican court of homicide. He never returned to Mexico.

Vollmer never returned from it.

Continue reading “Burn, burn, burn”

New Feist video: Borrow Trouble

Video: Feist – “Borrow Trouble”

Co-directed by Mary Rozzi, Colby Richardson, Heather Goodchild & Leslie Feist. From Multitudes, out April 14 on Interscope.

Canadians say “borrow” funny. Like bore-oh instead of bar-oh. Which makes sense if you look at the word. Most of the goofy stuff Canadians do makes sense if you think about it. But we still chuckle when they say “about” or “house.” It’s a process. Or, rather, a pro-cess.

In a press release, Lesley Feist said the song “began as a contemplative acoustic morality tale and shape shifted itself into the sound of trouble itself. It’s a mess that holds its own logic. It’s the convincing cacophony that thoughts can be. It saws away at you until your overwhelm pops an air supply in the form of another idea, a solution that starts with accepting there’s no such thing as perfection.” She plays the drums herself.

It’d be interesting to hear the early, acoustic version.

New Sparks video: The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte

Video: Sparks – “The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte” (starring Cate Blanchett)

Directed by Ron Mael, Russell Mael, and Richie Starzec. From The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte, out May 26 on Island.

How much fun is this? The Mael brothers say, “We met Cate Blanchett in Paris at the César Awards last year, little knowing that a year later, one of the great actors of our time (and a splendid person!) would graciously consent to lending her bootie-shaking skills to the first video from our new album, The Girl Is Crying in Her Latte. Dreams really do come true. We will sleep well tonight knowing that forever we can say we co-starred in a film with Cate Blanchett!”

Bootie-shaking skills is right! Blanchett may have lost the best actress Oscar to Michelle Yeoh, but has Yeoh ever shook her bootie in a Sparks video? Plus, Cate already has two Oscars already so she can’t feel too bad about it.

“No Particular Place to Go”

When the 2021 Cadillac Escalade was introduced, the vehicle manufacturer didn’t make a big deal out of the fact that this is a BIG SUV—the passenger volume is 168.4 cubic feet, which doesn’t mean a whole lot until you know that your Honda CR-V has more than 60 fewer cubic feet for people, and we’re talking about the regular wheel base Escalade, not the extended model—as much as it touted “Escalade’s industry-first curved OLED display” that “offers more than 38 inches of total diagonal display area” including “a 7.2-inch-diagonal touch control panel driver information center to the driver’s left, a 14.2-inch-diagonal cluster display behind the steering wheel and a 16.9-inch-diagonal Infotainment screen to the driver’s right.” Cadillac, presumably wanted to emphasize that this isn’t just a vehicle that, depending on the engine selected, has fuel economy of 13 mpg, but an entertainment experience, as it had Spike Lee introduce the vehicle at an event in Los Angeles.

Another point it emphasized was that the SUV features an audio system from AKG that includes 36 speakers driven by three amps that deliver 28 channels. Notably there is what is called “Studio 3D Surround.” The speakers are placed such that it delivers “sound like being with the artist in the recording studio.” AKG, which was founded in Vienna in 1947, invented the dynamic cardioid microphone that became popular in recording studios; its capabilities in the recording studio space garnered it a Technical Grammy in 2010. Although there is something to the fact that Mozart spent a considerable amount of time in Vienna and died there which makes microphones and speakers from a company that was founded there, in 1994 AKG was acquired by Harmon International. AKG Vienna was shut down in 2017 and the HQ moved to Northridge, California, the same year that Harmon was acquired by Samsung.

Automakers across the board are banking on things like screens and entertainment to attract people to their models. While there had been radio head units in the dashboards since the mid-1930s when Motorola was established (there was a 1922 Chevy with a radio, but Motorola made radios an accessible option), by and large they have disappeared, giving way to screens of different sizes and configurations.

Continue reading “No Particular Place to Go”

Rock and roll can change your life.