KKK Took My Baby Away X 2

The National, a ponderous musical enterprise that some speak of rapturously and whose music I’ve never been able listen to for more than a minute or two before changing the dial, played recently at the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. They covered the Ramones, local boys one and all, and led off with a dark story.

The Ramones demonstrate how to do it right.

News of the Day: Beyonce Elpee contains Side A of an album by Zex

It took me a while to figure out what happened. But I think this is it.

Beyonce put out a vinyl version of her universally acclaimed musical/video project this week. It’s on yellow vinyl!

The problem? Side A doesn’t include Side A of Beyonce’s album. Somehow the pressing plant instead injected a side of a Canadian punk rock band called Zex’s songs onto that Beyonce A Side.

Good for Zex, though it’s hard to see where the audiences overlap. But the mishap got me listening to a few Zex tracks. (Frankly, I’ll listen to anything Canadian.)

My evaluation? Zex has a dynamic singer and decent chops, but the songs? Yeah, I know. Try this:

And you know, after listening to so much crap fake punk rock for a long time, this stuff seems pretty heartfelt, which is nice. Songwise? Maybe not all the way there, but the heart and head are in the right place.

I hope the mistake helps them. Here is an interview about the whole fiasco.

Are We Not Men? Pick Your Favorite Song from Devo’s Debut.

For some reason I’ve been thinking about Devo lately. Not in any profound way, just thinking about listening when I got a chance. I got a chance today while making dinner. On goes Are We Not Men? We are Devo, which starts with the brilliant Uncontrollable Urge, moves onto (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, which I owned on 7″ long before the elpee came out, and then goes all over the freaking place. And I do mean freaking.

Remembering, at the time, I grouped the band with the Talking Heads, who had a similar angular geeky-ness, and the Tubes, who had an over the top theatricality. When I listen now I hear mostly classic rock moves, filtered through a novel lens, a lens which made it both surprising the band existed and that they then made hits with mainstream success and surprising that we didn’t see just how inevitable that was on first listen.

I think what I mean is, we knew weird. We loved Zappa, dug Alice Cooper, admired Captain Beefheart, but each of those personalities carved out his own space on the edges of taste and sensibility. They had some pop exposure, but they were happy to exist as novelties.

Devo carved out that space, then tried to bring the whole dang world into it. They were weird, uncompromising, and ambitiously popular, not content to reside on the sidelines with the other freaks. That was cool.

So, while listening to their first elpee tonight, I was struck by how strong the songs are. How little there is that is thrown away. Maybe none of it. And as I went from song to song I said to myself, That’s a great tune. Then, Oh, that’s a good one. Oooh, love it. Which got me thinking that maybe we all have different favorite songs from Are We Not Men? We Are Devo.

I’m laying claim to Mongoloid. It was the first Devo song I heard, it is the one I know all the words to and compulsively sing along to, but I’m pretty sure there are strong cases for others. What’s your favorite song on Devo’s first album?

 

Specials and Amy Winehouse

Live in 2009. The music is good, but do the Specials seem like a multiracial band? And is Amy really a part of all this?

I like the music, I love the song Ghost Town, and I’ve become a huge Winehouse fan. She is amazing. But there was a missed opportunity here (and it was a bit odd just how the crowd was). Not blaming the band, but wasn’t the goal a more integrated following?

Nick Lowe on Elvis Costello’s TV Show

Here’s a clip from something I’m amazed by. Elvis Costello hosted a TV show for a couple of years, and it is really good.

Nick Lowe shows up and sings his song the Beast in Me, which is pretty powerful. But the conversation matters, too. Like, what does it cost (or gain) a bass player to sing lead? Here’s an answer.

Alice Cooper Connoisseur

Good story about Alice Cooper, fame hound, meeting Andy Warhol, fame hound, and buying one of Warhol’s Little Electric Chair silk screens.

Fast Forward 50 years and Alice discovers a multi-million dollar work of art in a tube, never having been displayed after he bought it for $2500.

Today Alice says it makes sense that he bought it, even though he doesn’t remember it, because he was in a fog of drink and drugs. Shep Gordon says it totally made sense for him to buy it, because his girlfriend liked it, the electric chair and all. And what a happy ending!

 

Rolling Stones, Connection

They were showing Shine A Light in the park tonight on one of those big blow up screens, and, it turned out to be a fantastic sound system. Nothing better in the middle of a heatwave to see the Stones outside in somewhat cooler air.

I thought I’d seen the movie before but I was wrong. The nexus of Stones and Scorcese had someone how slipped past me.

Here’s the review. If you like the Stones, you will like this show. The songs are arranged a little differently, but the rearrangements are astute and advantage all the supporting players, so the front guys can play their rote parts, hit their marks with passion, and even if the ravages of age a little apparent, make us forget that this is 50 years later. It’s a great performance.

In the middle of the show Mick hands off to Keith for You’ve Got The Silver, which is a terrific tune that advantages Keith’s game but less than full voice. And then, surprisingly, the show move on to Connection, one of the oldest songs they played, one of my favorites from Between the Buttons. This is a pop hit that has a more insidious pop hook than the overt grabbers of Satisfaction or Get Off My Cloud or Paint It Black, and was never released as a single, so was never a hit.

But it lives on. Scorcese obviously understands the limits of a non-pop historical song from an audience perspective and uses that to glide into Keith interviews when he was young and when he was old. Good stuff, all, but it diverts our attention away from the performance, which is remarkably winning in spite of its limitations.

I particularly like that dynamic, so I wanted more of the performance, but what I can share is this Italian version of the song and intercuts. I hope it suffices. By that I mean, I think this is fun.