Posts Tagged ‘rock’

Random song post, Volume 11

July 2, 2010

Mayday Parade – “Jamie All Over” (A Lesson in Romantics, Fearless, 2007): Combining the dual vocals of frontman Derek Sanders and former vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Jason Lancaster, and boasting a high level of production courtesy of Zack Odom & Kenneth Mount, the irresistably catchy pop rock of, “Jamie All Over, ” can’t be ignored, nor denied.  Jake Bundrick’s drums are simple, solid and laden with just the right amount of creativity without the tendency to overplay.  Rounded out with occasional bursts of half-time during the bridge and outro, “Jamie All Over, ” is yet another excellent entry into a genre that could use more songs like this.

The Swellers – “Fire Away” (Ups and Downsizing, Fueled By Ramen, 2009): Immediately coming out of the gate with a 6/8 attack of aggressive drums and guitars, this unrelenting burst of energy only briefly comes down during the verses, which itself is short-lived, bringing to mind early Foo Fighters.  Even more Foo comparisons can be found in frontman Nick Diener’s vocals and guitar, and his brother Jonathan’s fantastic work on the drum kit, similar to the chemistry found in Dave Grohl and his drummer Taylor Hawkins.  As a die-hard Foo fanatic, it’s easy to see this Michigan quartet filling their shoes one day-in fact, they might already have.

Random song post, Volume 10

June 16, 2010

Had a little extra time on my hands.  Reviewed a few extra songs.  Here ya go.

All Time Low – “Lost In Stereo” (Nothing Personal, Hopeless, 2009): Fun, exciting rock from a band that could very well be sliding into Fall Out Boy and blink182’s shoes at this very moment.  With similarities to most of Cartel and New Found Glory’s respective catalogs of music, it’s a solid entry into the pop/punk genre.

The Spill Canvas – “Our Song” (Realities EP, Sire, 2010): Despite a noticeable gap since their last full-length, South Dakota’s The Spill Canvas have managed to tide us over with the recent release of two EPs, Abnormalities and Realities, the latter of which boasts the single, “Our Song, ” easily the epitome of everything this band stands for when it comes to music and a fine representation of their sound.  Frontman Nick Thomas’ distinctive, somewhat aggressive voice drives the song, while the rest of the band follows along nicely with appropriate guitars and drums.

Weezer – “I’m Your Daddy” (Raditude, DGC/Interscope, 2009): On Weezer’s seventh full-length Raditude, these emo/powerpop pioneers took their already diverse musical history into yet another direction, best indicated on songs like the singles, “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To, ” and, “I’m Your Daddy.  ”  It’s the latter of the two songs that sees frontman Rivers Cuomo in prime shape, bringing back a voice not heard since most of the 90s and a band that seems to remember how they used to sound.  With a fantastic mix of drum machines, synthesizer, and Weezer’s trademark over-the-top guitars, “I’m Your Daddy, ” stands as a great example of how far Weezer has come, and what they’re still capable of.

Silversun Pickups – “The Royal We” (Swoon, Dangerbird, 2009): Awesome.  Just awesome.  Hard to believe such a thunderous sound (especially during the chorus) could come from a bunch of shoegazers like the Silversun Pickups.  Touches of string instruments add to the tension ever present throughout the song, and frontman Brian Aubert’s voice sounds just as good as ever.

GP: “Follow You Down”

May 6, 2010

To be honest, I don’t even know if I’d consider this a guilty pleasure. I’m not at all afraid to declare my love for this Gin Blossoms classic, a song that’s still just as solid as ever nearly fifteen years after its initial release. Modern-day pop/rock bands, take note.

Review: “That Thing You Do! ”

April 19, 2010

So, I know I haven’t been focusing in solely on music lately, but hopefully you can recognize the musical value of some of the items I’ve been writing about, in particular my movie reviews, all of which feature music as a central theme.  With that said…

Released in 1996 and set during the 1960s, “That Thing You Do!  “   is Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, and a fine debut at that.  The story of a garage rock band who rises to stardom on the success of their one big hit song, “That Thing You Do!  “   this movie hits all the right notes, so to speak, and seamlessly pulls off a fun, playful atmosphere that echoes the carefree days of a bygone era.  After losing their drummer to a broken arm, a local Erie, Pennsylvania band suddenly finds themselves in need of a replacement, quickly turning to beatnik jazz drummer Guy Patterson (Tom Everett Scott) to fill in for a gig at a college talent show.  However, after Guy speeds up the tempo of the eponymous song, turning this slow ballad into an upbeat rocker, the group is soon presented with an unexpected wealth of fame, especially after being signed to Playtone Records by a suave A&R representative named Mr.  White (Tom Hanks) and settling on band name The Wonders.  Despite the usual lousy shows and technical on-stage problems any band goes through, they’re eventually added to a nationwide Playtone artist tour that takes them to a variety of state fairs, all the while enjoying the continued rise of, “That Thing You Do!  “   up the charts and the benefits this entails, such as appearances on TV and in a major motion picture.

As is the case with any film, this one features a fair amount of drama and relationship issues, including those between lead singer/guitarist Jimmy Mattingly (Johnathon Schaech) and his girlfriend Faye (Liv Tyler), for whom drummer Guy secretly longs.  We also see as Jimmy becomes consumed with his own visions for the band, and his desire to take the band in that direction, even if that means less a focus on performing live and a greater emphasis on recording.  Guitarist/vocalist Lenny Haise is portrayed as a silly, skirt-chasing buffoon, a role which Steve Zahn performs admirably.  And it’s great to see Guy’s starry-eyed reactions to all the amazing things that happen to him and the band, all the while harboring his continued love for jazz and, especially, the music of his favorite jazz musician Del Paxton, a love that pays off in a big way for Guy as the film nears its conclusion.

Any film that turns its focus towards music, bands, or anything along those lines is already a winner in my book, and this one is a perfect example of all those things.  As mentioned, Hanks does a wonderful job of bringing the audience into the halcyon days of the 60s, when Beatlemania was at its peak and a band not unlike the Fab Four attempted to make a name for themselves.  Comparisons to The Beatles can be found everywhere, from the uptempo snappiness (to quote Mr.  White) of the band’s music, to their nicknames eventually assigned to the band members, all the way down to the drummer swap, which recalls the substitution of original Beatles drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr.  The cast does an excellent job, rounding out their roles to a, “T, “ and making us believe they’re an actual band (in reality, external musicians including Fountains Of Wayne’s Adam Schlesigner composed much of the movie’s music).

I tip my hat to, “That Thing You Do!  “  for again giving those musicians who’ve cut their teeth in bands at one point or another something to watch with fondness, and making us believe that, maybe, being a one-hit wonder is all you really need.

This Is Spinal Tap, finally

April 17, 2010

Not long after awakening the other day, I stood in the shower, musing on what I should blog about next, and This Is Spinal Tap seemed like a logical, obvious choice.  My favorite music-related movie AND my favorite comedy?  Honestly, how could I go wrong?

However, I soon came to realize that, much like the subjects of many of my previous blog posts, any attempts to personally review it would be detrimental to future viewers of this fine piece of cinema-I truly feel hesitant shedding light on any number of the hilarious moments that occur, and would rather let those who haven’t seen the film yet check it out with a clean slate.  Plus, I’ve already touched on some of those moments in my review of Anvil! The Story of Anvil.

What I WILL say is that Michael Mckean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest play their roles as, respectively, David St. Hubbins, Derek Smalls and Nigel Tufnel (the members of Spinal Tap) quite beautifully, under the direction of Rob Reiner, who himself co-stars as Marty DiBergi, a long-time fan of, “Tap, ” who’s self-enlisted to document the band as they hit to road in support of their new album Smell the Glove.  From there, the band runs into problems too numerous to mention, all the while discussing their past accomplishments (and failures), all with humorous, sarcastic wit.  Various elements like their flat-out unusual drummer situation and the entrance of St. Hubbins’ controlling, manipulative girlfriend help drive the, “plot, ” if there even is one.  And there’s no denying that the ending is just plain awesome, one that’s been referenced frequently since then in forms of media like Weezer’s music video for, “Perfect Situation.  ”

The music itself also helps to carry the film, and it’s EXTREMELY refreshing to see a movie about musicians in which the actors actually play their own instruments, and play them well.  The scenes of the band rocking out live in concert are convincingly shot, and while still ripe with hilarity, are mostly hard to distinguish from many, “actual, ” concerts I’ve seen.  Milwaukee residents should take note of their performance at Shank Hall, which is clearly NOT the real Shank Hall-the one we’re all familiar with opened in the years following the movie’s release.

This is where I shall stop-I don’t want to get too much further into some elaborate plot description and end up giving away too many of the jokes.  If you haven’t already seen This Is Spinal Tap, do check it out, especially if you’re a musician.  Chances are you’ll love it, as I do.

Review: “Once”

April 16, 2010

Shot on a shoestring budget and starring two people who had barely acted before in their lives, 2007’s Once has gone on to develop an immense following thanks to its cinéma vérité style, honest storytelling and captivating soundtrack.  A simple story of an Irish street musician (Glen Hansard) who develops a musical relationship with a Czech flower seller (Markéta Irglová), the film is, without a doubt, one of the most honest films about the world of musicians I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing.

Much like a standard musicial, the film allows the songs to further the story, delving into topics like break-ups (“Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy, ” and, “Lies”), a technique which not only showcases each song’s excellence in its entirety, but also provides great framework for show-stoppers like the Oscar-winning, “Falling Slowly, ” an emotional tune that truly gets me every time I hear it.  Even more skillful songwriting makes an appearance during a scene in a recording studio, where the two lay down several songs with the help of a backing band-it is here that we’re fortunate to witness the recording of, “When Your Mind’s Made Up, ” an unbelievable song in 6/8 that gives the soundtrack an additional boost.

As I obviously treasure these songs a great deal, I will not be posting links to videos or mp3s of any of the aforementioned tunes, instead recommending that anyone who reads this blog post take a few hours to watch Once.  I will, however, direct those same readers to the video below, in which Hansard does easily the most incredible cover of Van Morrison’s, “Astral Weeks, ” I’ve ever seen/heard.  Thanks to Tony Memmel for pointing this out!  🙂

At the risk of sounding like the host of Reading Rainbow, if you’re interested in more music from the talented duo that star in Once, do check out The Swell Season, who have released three LPs to date including last year’s Strict Joy.  Hansard has also enjoyed a successful career in his own right, as a member of Irish rock group The Frames and the mastermind behind a wealth of solo recordings.

The Smashing Pumpkins and their two best songs

April 10, 2010

In October of 1995, the ambitious double disc Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness hit store shelves, and soon found as-yet unheard of success for The Smashing Pumpkins due in no small part to singles (and later classics) like, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings, ” and, “1979.  ”  However, it was the multi-layered rock epic, “Tonight, Tonight, “ that would end up converting many a non-fan and expanding their appeal to a much wider audience.  Opening with an orchestral, string-heavy intro, the song soon scales back to a minimum of guitars, drums and bass, with frontman Billy Corgan’s voice leading the way.  The strings are never far away, though, and soon return for the choruses, along with an unconventional drum groove courtesy of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin.  Although the song does calm down once more following that first chorus, it never is quite as quiet as before, and only continues to expand and contract as Corgan sees fit.  It’s this unbelievable songwriting that has resulted in something magical-to this day, I haven’t heard a song quite like it, and I doubt I ever will.

Band With The Best Cover Version: The Felix Culpa (internet-only release)

Following the release of 1991’s Gish, The Smashing Pumpkins reunited one again with producer Butch Vig for 1993’s Siamese Dream, an album which would see the band truly enter the mainstream with songs like the crowd-pleaser, “Today.  “  For an opening track, we have, “Cherub Rock, “ a song Billy Corgan insisted be released as the official first single over, “Today, “ a decision executives as his record label strongly advised against.  One can instantly hear why Corgan made this choice-it’s gritty and grungy, but also incredibly exciting.  A series of rolls on the snare drum kick off the song, almost making the audience wonder what they’re in for, before a repeated guitar riff and drum/cymbal accents materialize, seemingly out of nowhere.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, the band breaks through that wall, and an explosion of sound follows that, thanks to an excellent drum fill on behalf of Jimmy Chamberlin.  There’s no turning back now, and as the band surges ahead, we’re pelted with great moments like the fine guitar solo-every piece of the puzzle that is this song come together and compliment each other extremely well.

Band With The Best Cover Version: Roses Are Red (The Killer in You: A Tribute to Smashing Pumpkins, Reignition, 2005)

Review: “Almost Famous”

April 6, 2010

Ever since his directorial debut, 1989’s Say Anything…, Cameron Crowe has established himself a solid filmmaker with a reputation for blending sincere humor, heartfelt dramatics and storylines that draw the audience in with every scene.  Movies like 1996’s Jerry Maguire weave an emotional web of compelling characters and complex themes, while others like 2005’s Elizabethtown tackle heavier elements like the death of a family member.  His consistency of delivering some of the best films one is likely to see will hopefully continue for many years to come, and it’s refreshing to know that these treasures will remain a part of our collective consciousness long after he throws in the proverbial towel.

Keeping with the theme of consistency, another common thread throughout Crowe’s films would easily have to be the unbelievable soundtrack that accompanies each and every moment, whether it’s the Seattle grunge of 1992’s Singles, or the atmospheric art rock of 2001’s Vanilla Sky.  Furthermore, it’d be hard to picture any other song erupting from John Cusack’s boombox during Say Anything… than Peter Gabriel’s, “In Your Eyes.  “

It is with these images that I invite you, if you haven’t already, to take in a film called Almost Famous.  Released in the fall of 2000, Crowe brings us into a semi-autobiographical journey alongside a fictional rock band, introducing us to a world of sex, drugs, music, and an ever-changing tapestry of relationships.

Set during the early 1970s, Patrick Fugit stars as William Miller, a fifteen-year old outcast who frequently diverts his attention from the accelerated classes his mother (Frances McDormand) has laid out for him towards music-specifically, music journalism, a path which has taken bands like The Who, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan to William’s ears.  After an encouraging meeting with legendary rock writer Lester Bangs (played brilliantly by Philip Seymour Hoffman), William eventually finds himself backstage at an actual concert, expecting to interview Black Sabbath but instead rubbing shoulders with Stillwater, an up-and-coming opening band that features Russell Hammond (Billy Crudup) on guitar and Jeff Beebe (Jason Lee) on vocals.  It is here that William also meets Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), a, “Band-Aid, “ who considers herself less a groupie and more a admirer of the bands she looks up to, especially Stillwater, who’s guitarist Russell shares mutual feelings towards Penny.

From this point, Crowe takes the audience on a wild and, oftentimes, unexpected ride that thrusts William into the heart of Stillwater, where he discovers sides of himself he never knew existed all while witnessing the genesis of a great band.  All the while, Penny and Russell’s relationship experiences similar up-and-down moments, as William watches from the sidelines, harboring feelings of his own for Penny.  The movie picks up speed when William hits the road with Stillwater, charged by Rolling Stone magazine with writing a story about the band-a change that the band members tentatively accept due to their fears of how they’ll be portrayed and the sensitive, band-only information William will now be privy to.

Believe it or not, this is only the beginning.  What Cameron Crowe has created with Almost Famous is, quite simply, the finest movie one will ever see about the world of rock music.  Every little detail, every piece of fashion, every word that comes out of the character’s mouths-it’s all done to a, “T.  “  The characters themselves, from the off-beat humor of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lester Bangs, to Jason Lee’s typical rock star Jeff Beebe, even to Noah Taylor’s band manager Dick, are all richly defined and drawn.  Kate Hudson’s Penny Lane, in particular, is nothing less than a sheer juggernaut of a performance, one of the most original characters one is likely to witness on film.  Watching her in Almost Famous, you can easily see her career beginning from the moment she appears onscreen.

But let’s be honest-putting aside all the characterizations and melodrama, this is a movie about music and the life of a touring musician, and were one to strip this film down to the music alone, it would still succeed admirably.  The numerous scenes of Stillwater onstage are convincingly filmed, thanks in no small part to Lee and Crudup’s performances.  Seeing Russell nearly electrocuted onstage, or the band argue over a shoddy t-shirt design, or the many endless drives in their rusty tour bus-all come together to create a vast palate from which the story draws its heart and energy.  And yes, the drug use, while not as rampant throughout the film as one might expect, still shows up, particularly during a scene at a house party in which Russell indulges in some acid, and utters the film’s most famous line.

And yes, the soundtrack, which features choice cuts from Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and even Stillwater themselves, is another home run for Crowe.

To call Almost Famous merely a film would be detrimental to all it has to offer.  It’s moviemaking at its finest, a film that somehow managed to elevate itself into a higher level previously reserved for works of art that encapsulate every emotion, every feeling, every sensation one gets from listening to their favorite song.  Without a doubt, this is unquestionably one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.