New Johnny Marr: Somewhere

Video: Johnny Marr – “Somewhere”

From Spirit Power: The Best of Johnny Marr, out November 3 on BMG.

Johnny Marr is 59 and looks fantastic. What’s his secret? I don’t know but I’ll bet being a vegan and running marathons don’t hurt.

He’s released four solo albums since 2013 and now he apparently thinks he’s done enough to warrant a greatest hits collection. Throw in a couple non-album singles and a couple brand new tracks — including this one, “Somewhere” — and you’ve got yourself a double album.

Marr says, “For a song to work, it has to be a banger. I know it’s almost uncool to think in those terms, but I grew up in a house where my parents listened to Motown, where you couldn’t get a song released if it wasn’t full of hooks.”

I’m not sure if “Somewhere” is totally a banger but it’s definitely full of hooks!

Johnny Marr: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New Wilco: Cousin

Video: Wilco – “Cousin”

From Cousin, out September 29 on dBpm.

A press release claims this song “is, musically and lyrically, a fight with a relative. Rather, a refusal to fight: the narrator holds their familial opponent in a de-escalatory bear hug, while admitting, ‘My cousin / I’m you.'”

Are you getting any of that from the lyrics? Or from the music for that matter? Because I’m not hearing it. But that’s fine. It sounds cool.

I like that they’re working with an outside producer (Cate Le Bon) for this album, bringing some new sounds and ideas into the mix. You can tell it was still recorded at the Loft though, especially the vocals. Le Bon must not have been able to convince Tweedy to use a different microphone or whatever. They know what they like and it works but it would be fun to hear what might happen if Wilco re-worked their sound even more. Maybe next time!

New Sufjan Stevens: Will Anybody Ever Love Me?

Video: Sufjan Stevens – “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?”

Directed by Stephen Halker. From Javelin, out October 6 on Asthmatic Kitty.

Be careful what you wish for. This new song sounds like the kind of Sufjan Stevens music I love. My favorite albums are Illinois and Carrie & Lowell and it “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?” would fit right into that sonic space. Lyrically it find Stevens desperately yearning for love. But it feels clinical, like an exercise in writing an emotional song. How can that be? It’s got everything I could ask for, including a banjo-like lute introduction. Maybe it’s the lack of specificity in the verses. When he asks to be ritually buried at sea and burned at the stake, is he asking to be punished and cut loose or is it a weird metaphor for wanting a hunka hunka burning love?

Or am I missing the point? I’ve noticed that sometimes my initial impressions of Sufjan Stevens songs are totally different from how I ultimately respond to them. That’s a rare thing and either an indication of complex artist or I’m a simpleton. Could be either. Or both. I’m open to that. I’ll let you know if I change my mind on this one.

Sufjan Stevens: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Camrys, Cornflakes and Superfans

Back in the days of yore—or 2017—the music industry revenues, according to investment firm Goldman Sachs—were pie-sliced like this:

  • $26 billion live
  • $30 billion recorded
  • $6 billion publishing (which it defines as “Revenue collected by music publishing companies, which act as agents for songwriters and composers, collecting and distributing royalties on their behalf.” So when you read about musicians selling their catalogs, it means that those royalties no longer are funneled their way, and the big organizations that consequently own those rights probably invest via firms like, well, Goldman Sachs.)

The people at Goldman Sachs are seemingly bullish on the sorts of returns that can be garnered in the years to come, as this it what they project for 2030:

  • $38 billion live
  • $80 billion recorded
  • $12.5 billion publishing

As you can see, the increase in live performance is the least gain, 46%. Of course, these reckonings were made prior to Taylor Swift’s tour. Publishing is a 108% increase. And recorded music rises 167%. Of course, “recorded music” doesn’t mean just physical media. Clearly, that’s merely a fraction of the total take, which is clearly dominated by streaming, which, Goldman Sachs says has grown 2.5 times since 2017, from 950 billion on-demand streams to 3,359 billion streams.

But those involved in this space aren’t necessarily busting out the champagne because (1) the revenue per steam is down 20% over this period and (2) the average revenue per user is down 40%.

But these billions of dollars certainly aren’t chump change.

Continue reading Camrys, Cornflakes and Superfans

Riot Fest 2023: We’re All Alright

Don’t know about you, but I’m feeling 52. I was a little nervous about attending a three-day music fest this year. Would I have the stamina? Could my feet survive standing up all day long all weekend? Would I still have fun? We missed Riot Fest last year because of fucking covid, so I knew my fest game would be rusty. Nevertheless, I persisted.

And you know what? I had nothing to worry about. And by the looks of some of the people in the crowd, I’ve still got a lot of years left in me. Looking strictly at age demographics, Riot Fest is surprisingly diverse. I was definitely not the oldest person there. And despite its punk and punk-adjacent lineup, they draw a lot of young people too. Turns out plenty of kids still like guitar music. Thank goodness. They’ll be able to push me around in my wheelchair when my feet finally give out on me.

As always happens at fests, there were a couple of bands I wanted to see first thing on Friday. And as always happens, I missed them. I would’ve loved to have seen Olivia Jean and the Bobby Lees. But nope. At least we made it in for Quasi, who were everything I was hoping they would be. After the 2019 car accident that broke her collar bone and her tibia, all fans of rock and roll drumming were scared that we might never get to see Janet Weiss behind the kit again, so it was wonderful to see her back at full strength and as powerful and explosive and musical as ever. And Sam Coomes is a great frontman…or sideman or whatever you call the singer in a two-piece that place their instruments facing each other on the stage.

It’s been thirty years since I’ve seen any incarnation of P-Funk. Back in the 90s, George Clinton would come out on stage in dreads made out of yarn and wearing a Smurfs bed sheet. These days Clinton wears a bejeweled captain’s hat and a custom Cosmic Slop hockey jersey and he’s like DJ Khaled up there, where nobody really knows if he’s contributing anything to the music. He’s the host of the party, making sure everybody’s having a funky good time. And then he goes back to sitting on the drum riser until the party needs another boost. Whenever a survey asks about the greatest American rock band, I always immediately say Funkadelic. George Clinton has had more of an influence on today’s music than just about anybody and he deserves our eternal respect. “Cosmic Slop” is one of the greatest songs of all time, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that from this performance. He’s been on a farewell tour since 2019 and I’m glad I got the chance to see him one more time. But I won’t be sad if he retires for real now.

Continue reading Riot Fest 2023: We’re All Alright

New Micky Dolenz: Shiny Happy People

Video: Micky Dolenz – “Shiny Happy People”

Directed by Micky Dolenz and Andrew Sandoval. From the Dolenz Sings R.E.M. EP, out November 3 on 7A.

Well at least it’s not “Everybody Hurts.” And actually, Dolenz’s cover of REM’s second-worst song is considerably less annoying than the original. The arrangement (by Mike Nesmith’s son Christian) isn’t as cloying and saccharine. It’s still a dumb song, but that’s alright; some of the best songs in rock and roll are dumb (e.g., “Louie Louie,” “Surfin’ Bird,” etc.). It works!

The other three songs on the upcoming EP are “Radio Free Europe,” “Man on the Moon,” and somewhat unexpectedly “Leaving New York,” a 2004 single that failed to chart on the Hot 100. Dolenz says, “Once again, this EP reaffirms my long-held conviction that a solid recording always begins with solid material. You don’t get much more solid than R.E.M. What a joy to sing these classics and honor a team of outstanding writers.”

Michael Stipe says, “Micky Dolenz covering R.E.M. Monkees style, I have died and gone to heaven. This is really something. Shiny Happy People sounds INCREDIBLE (never thought you or I would hear me say that!!!).” Peter Buck adds, “I’ve been listening to Micky’s singing since I was nine years old. It’s unreal to hear that very voice, adding new depth to songs we’ve written ourselves, and inhabiting them so completely.”

The video compiles footage pulled from Micky’s personal archives, which Monkee guru Andrew Sandoval has been excavating for a new book: I’m Told I Had A Good Time: The Micky Dolenz Archives, Vol. 1, available for pre-order now. It’s 500 pages of “photography, artwork, handwritten lyrics, scripts and assorted ephemera” from Dolenz’s collection, spanning 1945-1978 and containing more than 1200 images. Sounds incredible. I own The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story from the same publisher and it’s worth every penny.

Micky Dolenz: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

New King Louie Bankston: Trinkets

Video: King Louie Bankston – “Trinkets”

Directed by Art Boonparn. From Harahan Fats, out November 10 on Goner.

I didn’t know King Louie Bankston but I got to hang out with him one evening thirty years ago, before he was coronated. My senior year of college some pals and I decided to drive from Kalamazoo to New Orleans to go to Mardi Gras. Two girls we knew were living down there so we knew we could crash at their place. That was extent of the plan. Pre-cellphone, pre-google maps, what could go wrong? Worst case scenario was we’d have to crash in the car…or get arrested and hauled off to Tent City, I guess. But it all worked out. Our hosts were friends with the Royal Pendletons who got us up bright and early and took us to the Zulu Parade. Later we ended up at a club called Muddy Waters to see Tav Falco’s Panther Burns. That’s where Louie came in. All the other guys we met looked straight out of a 1961 Sears catalog but Louie had long greasy hair like a hippie! And instead of wearing a sharkskin suit and skinny tie, Louie was wearing a bright red leather motorcycle jacket that said “PRIDDY 78 H” on the back. I was a drunk goofball in a flannel shirt and I was intimidated.

It wasn’t until Bankston died last year at 49 that I connected the dots and realized who he was. After his time with the Pendletons he continued to spread the gospel of rock and roll via a number of bands and projects. His label says “Bankston would ultimately release 53 records in his lifetime.” The closest he came to dipping a toe into the mainstream was with the Exploding Hearts, who released Guitar Romantic in 2003 to critical acclaim. Louie left the band shortly after the album was released.

Harahan Fats, his first posthumous release, was mostly recorded over the four years before he died. “Trinkets” was recorded by Jay Reatard in Memphis ten years prior. It’s sad and sweet and it’ll break your heart.

King Louie Bankston: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

“Ain’t it hard when you’ve discovered that. . .”

I’ve been getting solicitations from Rolling Stone to subscribe in a way that brings to mind donation appeals from the likes of the World Wildlife Fund and National Public Radio. The logos on the tote bags on offer aren’t the only things that are different. After all, the WWF and NPR are not in the business of making a profit (yes, they need money to exist, but there is another reason for their existence other than something measured in terms of EBIT).

Rolling Stone, however, is owned by Penske Media Corporation, which owns what can be thought of as a frightening number of properties including:

  • Variety
  • The Hollywood Reporter
  • Billboard
  • Rob Report
  • ARTnews
  • Artforum
  • Art in America (clearly they’re big on art)

And in the non-publication space:

  • American Music Awards
  • Dick Clark Productions
  • Golden Globe Awards
  • SxSW

There are more.

It is in the profit-making business. (Which could be redundant.)

The company unapologetically proclaims:

Our Mission:

To be the world’s premier publishing and media organization through delivering superior and innovative content, with a commitment to upholding journalistic excellence and driving today’s media evolution, all while offering the finest opportunities to the industry’s brightest talent.

As mission statements go, it pretty much checks the boxes.

Continue reading “Ain’t it hard when you’ve discovered that. . .”

New Mustard Plug: Where Did All My Friends Go?

Video: Mustard Plug – “Where Did All My Friends Go?”

Directed by Geoffrey Hudson. From Where Did All My Friends Go? out now on Bad Time.

Picking up where the first video from their new album left off, this one finds Mister Pug arriving at the venue to play a show for one bemused janitor. I’ll admit I was expecting the place to fill up with headbangers and cheerleading anarchists by the end of the song, but spoiler alert: nope.

Where’s all my jilted girlfriends?
Where’s all my broken heroes?
Why does it seem like no one’s left?

Where did all your friends go? We all went to bed, Dave. That’s where! Because we’re old, and we get tired really early. We try to fight it the best we can but it takes a concerted effort to even leave the house anymore. It’s hard.

But you’re right, of course. It’s always fun to hang out with friends and you never really regret it. I need to remind myself it’s worth it to go out and be social.

The band will be playing some west coast dates in October. If you get the opportunity to see them, you really should. Even if you feel old and cranky. Mustard Plug will make you feel better.

Disclosure: I’ve been friends with these guys for almost 30 years.

Mustard Plug: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

* * *

Video: Mustard Plug – “Doin’ What We Do”

Shot by Geoffrey Hudson. Edited by Mike Sosinski. From Where Did All My Friends Go? out now on Bad Time.

New Lindsay Lou: I Can Help

Video: Lindsay Lou – “I Can Help” (Billy Swan cover)

From Queen of Time, due September 29 on Kill Rock Stars.

I remember this song playing on the radio of my mom’s car when I was a little boy. It’s not cool. It’s always been goofy. But it made it all the way to #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and stayed on the chart for 18 weeks so somebody clearly liked it. And really, what’s not to like? Billy Swan’s original has that woozy ballpark organ riff that your Aunt Phyllis could probably play for you on that Grinnell in the hallway. Bill Swan had the charming, unfussy voice of a songwriter.

Lindsay Lou, a Michigan gal who relocated to Nashville a while back and recently signed to Kill Rock Stars, doesn’t recreate the organ part, and thankfully she doesn’t do the corny false ending either. She makes it her own and it’s…pretty good, actually. She puts some soul into her vocals. Her version is better than Elvis Presley’s, for sure.

A press release suggests she ingested some hallucinogens and saw “a literal manifestation of the sacred feminine” that led to a “spiritual journey of self-knowledge and healing.” And apparently inspired her to cover a 1974 one-hit wonder. Drugs can be unpredictable. Be careful out there.

Lindsay Lou: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Continue reading New Lindsay Lou: I Can Help

Rock and roll can change your life.