Archive for September, 2011

The Death of the Supergroup

Posted: September 27, 2011 in Editorials

Crosby, Stills and Nash at their second gig ever (I do not own this image)

“This is the second time we’ve ever played in front of people, man.  We’re scared s**tless,” declared Stephen Stills, guitarist for Crosby, Stills and Nash, at the 1969 Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York.  That’s quite a statement for a member of one of rocks first super groups (a band consisting of already-famous musicians).

Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne’s band, The Traveling Wilburies, were another band that broke the mold for supergroups; Like CSN, The Wilburies had an unmatchable amount of chemistry and never released a bad song.

The Traveling Wilburies from left: back row: Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, front row: Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison (I do not own this image)

However, as the century ended and the music business became more concerned with income rather than the spirituality and joy of music, various rock-stars began to have conversations like:

“Hey, we’re all great musicians, right?”

“Yeah, I’d say so.”

“Alright, then let’s make a band it’ll be amazing”

“Yeah! Alright! Rock n’ roll!”

Chickenfoot, who released their debut album in 2008, demonstrate why four good musicians do not necessarily make a good band.  Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony, best known for singing and playing bass respectively in Van Halen obviously are familiar with one another but, neither guitar virtuoso Joe Santriani, nor Chad Smith, the funky drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, shine to their full potential; they should not be involved with what that greatly resembles an awful Van Halen cover band.

Chickenfoot from left: Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, Chad Smith, Sammy Hagar (from Wikimedia Commons)

Two more supergroups, The Dead Weather, lead by blues-reviver Jack White and Them Crooked Vultures, a trio between Nirvana’s Dave Grohl, Queens of the Stoneage’s Josh Homme and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones came along and brought hope back to the music world.  The musicians are all fantastic and more importantly, they worked together phenomenally and released some seriously great records.

Them Crooked Vultures from left: Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones, Josh Homme (from Wikimedia Commons)

Allison Mosshart of the Dead Weather (from Wikimedia Commons)

So why did the horribly named band Superheavy have to come and spoil the good time?  Why Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones is in a band with Bob Marley’s youngest, Damian, will remain unexplained and completely irrational.  Superheavy’s first album, according to the New York Times, “could be a pretty heavy comedy album if its intent were moved a few inches.”  Clearly, the band members’ arrogance blinded them from realizing that you cannot mix the blues with reggae, alternative rock and ethnic Indian music.

Superheavy from left: Damian Marley, Dave Stewart, Mick Jagger, A. R. Rahman, Joss Stone (I do not own this image)

Musicians used to concern themselves with making quality music.  Nowadays, it’s all about the cash; if calling attention to big names is going to bring home the jackpot, then these guys will stoop that low.   Is this rock and roll?  You tell me.

Review: I’m With You

Posted: September 10, 2011 in Reviews

"I'm With You," the Red Hot Chili Peppers' first album since 2006's "Stadium Arcadium" (I do not own this image)

Rumors of a new album from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, one of the most versatile and influential rock bands, have been circulating the music world since late 2008.  However, the band lineup changed once again: guitarist John Frusciante, who Rolling Stone called the 18th best guitarist ever, departed from the band for the second time.  His good friend, Josh Klinghoffer, replaced him in 2009 and the Chilis immediately began work on I’m With You, which hit the shelves on August 29th, 2011.

Hold on: let’s just take a moment…

OH MY GOD! A NEW RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS ALBUM! YESSSSSS!!!!

And it does not disappoint: I’m With You is fun, catchy and uplifting from start to finish!

Monarchy of Roses:   “Monarchy” kicks off with sounds of the band warming up before the song begins.  This gives the album a live and really personal feel from the first moment, which is something to really look for in music.  The distortion on singer Anthony Kidiedis’ vocals is a little annoying, though the fantastic chorus makes it all worthwhile.

Factory of Faith: A pretty good example of what the Chili Peppers sound like now, “Factory of Faith” places bassist Michael “Flea” Balzary at the front of the track.  The song is certainly catchy, but completely throws the listener off when the techno outro drops.  The last 35 seconds of the song are an album highlight.  It’s nice to see the Chilis embracing the newly-popular genre without overwhelming their songs with it.

Brendan’s Death Song: Although the song’s title is a little abrupt, the lyrics are really beautiful and Keidis sings them with such passion.  Building a song to an explosion so listeners feel the full effect is really difficult and the band does that perfectly on “Brendan’s Death Song.”

From left: guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, bassist Flea, drummer Chad Smith, singer Anthony Keidis (I do not own this image)

Ethiopia:  “Ethiopia,” one of the best songs on the album, starts with a tremendous bassline by Flea, quickly joined by funky keyboards.  This isn’t drummer Chad Smith’s favorite on the album for no reason.

Annie Wants a Baby: “Annie” cannot be called a bad song, because nothing on I’m With You is anywhere near bad but it is one of the weaker songs on the album.  The chorus is pretty catchy, though.

Look Around: This is the best song on the album:  it sounds like a classic Chilis song with a good riff and music and Keidis’ unmistakable rap-singing.  2 minutes and 24 seconds into “Look Around” marks the best chunk on I’m With You: Chad Smith lays a beat and Kedis raps randomly—the band joins in for a powerful bridge.  Who else could that be aside from the Red Hot Chili Peppers?

The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie:  Give the lead single a few listens before judging it: it WILL grow on you, mainly thanks to the unbeatably catchy chorus and bass-line.  The opening beat is absolutely recognizably Chili-esque and the song, although it is a bit mellower than some of their other singles, sounds very familiar to longtime fans.

Did I Let You Know: Chad Smith’s monster beat crashes through in the first moments of the song and guitarist.  Josh Klinghoffer soon joins with impressive electric guitar noodling and astonishingly good vocals.  Also look out for Flea’s terrific trumpet solo.  He really shines on this album.

Unbeknownst to many, Flea is also a talented trumpet player (I do not own this image)

Goodbye Hooray: What would a Chili Peppers album be without a jammy, fast-paced explosion?  Gotta’ love that bass solo!

Happiness Loves Company: Flea gets to show off his new knowledge of theory and piano with this solid piano groove, but the overall song isn’t the best on the album.

Police Station: Wow, is this a beauty.  “Police Station” is pure poetry and one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ prettiest songs.  The piano interlude and guitar solo give this song even more “umph.”

Chad Smith has been pushing the levels of funk drumming since he started playing (I do not own this image)

Even You Brutus?: This piano driven song is a solid competitor for the “best song” title and is terrific from the quiet opening.  Treasure Keidis’ ‘riled-up preacher-ish shouting: you probably will never again hear anything so breathtaking.  This is another song with a ton of umph.  Realistically, the whole album has a lot of umph.

Meet Me at the Corner:  “Meet Me at the Corner” is another pretty ballad, but unlike “Brendan’s Death Song” does not “build-up,” per se, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Both Klinghoffer and Keidis’ vocals are perfect.

Dance, Dance, Dance: “Give yourself a chance to find a way,” Keidis sings. “Dance, dance, dance,” which is not a cover of the Beach Boy’s hit of the same title, demonstrates the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ sheer tenacity through hardship and pain, feelings that resonate throughout both the album and the recent lives of the band-members.

Many fans hate both  I’m With You and the new direction the Chili Peppers are taking.  However, the album maintains a very familiar feel and although it may not be the band’s #1 album, it certainly ranks highly.

I’ve always hated when one song by an artist becomes popular and overplayed, allowing other terrific songs to become overlooked.  So, below is my non-definitive list of underrated standouts.

In alphabetical order by artist:

Lovesong – Adele: A beautiful cover of a song by The Cure.  Adele just puts so much soul into the performance.

City With No Children – Arcade Fire:  A truly powerful song, not to mention the cool backing guitar.

Story of a Lonely Guy – Blink 182:  I honestly don’t understand why this isn’t one of their hits–it’s a great tune with classic hook that rocks like any Blink song.

Wendy Clear – Blink 182:  One of my favorite Blink riffs.

My City of Ruins – Bruce Springsteen:  I cannot express how beautiful and meaningful this song is.  It’s a shame Bruce never plays it live.

Know Your Rights – The Clash:  The skull-crushing opener to the band’s hit album Combat Rock.

Low – Foo Fighters:  Ominous but very cool riff.  One of my favorites off One By One.

Bright Future in Sales – Fountains of Wayne: Easily one of FOW’s best songs.

Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury & The Blockheads: A cult classic. ‘Nuff said.

All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers:  An epic!  This is The Killers’ “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

The Story in Your Eyes – Moody Blues:  Great guitar and some really great lyrics.

Endlessly – Muse:  A slow-cooker that leaves you in tears.

Sunshine on Leith – The Proclaimers:  A real beauty by a band only know for “500 Miles,” which appeared in the movie Benny and Joon.

Mellowship Slinky in B Major – The Red Hot Chili Peppers:  Pure Chilis funk.  You just can’t go wrong.

Readymade – The Red Hot Chili Peppers:  “Aw, clean it up, Johnny,” shouts singer Anthony Keidis just before guitarist John Frusciante delivers one of the best solos of his career.

Teacher Teacher – Rockpile:  No one knows this band, yet this is somehow one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard.

Mind Bender – Stillwater:  Director Cameron Crowe based the fictional band in his classic Almost Famous off this terrific blues-rock band that is as musically talented as the Allman Brothers.

Border Crossing – Throwback: This one is for all the indie lovers.  The drummer went to my camp.

Tweeter and the Monkey Man – The Traveling Wilburies:  The most amazing supergroup ever, consisting of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne, is also one of rock’s most under-respected bands.