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Category: Music (page 1 of 4)

Remembering R.E.M.

I was 15 years old the first time I can accurately recall hearing an R.E.M. song.  I used to listen to 105.9 WHCN in Hartford on this cheap Emerson brand AM/FM clock radio while I got dressed and ready for school in the morning.  And there it was – “Fall on Me.”  It had an immediate impact.  I went out and bought Life’s Rich Pageant later in the week and R.E.M. and I went from there.  R.E.M. became one of THOSE bands.  One of those bands was always with me while I growing up during high school and starting to figure out who I was during college. 

Rem Document Album Cover

It helped that back then, they had a new album out every year.  Document became one of my favorite albums of all time.  I purchased Green the first day came out.1Out of Time became the album of the summer of ‘912 and dancing to “Shiny Happy People” was a great way to meet girls during that time.3  Monster came out right when I was moving across the country and I listened to it continuously on some long days of driving. 

But then R.E.M. started to fade for me.  It was one of those cases of just not being able to maintain the high level of musical excellence they set early on.  Pretty much every album after Out of Time frustrated me to some degree, regardless of how much I wanted to like the album.  “Everybody Hurts” may be a great song, but I still hate it.  To me, it was a sign of the edgy college radio band I loved completely losing it.  The Michael Stipe started showing up places I could care less for him to show up in.  Like that show Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel.4  In fact, in the last 15 years my favorite R.E.M. memory is the time Keturah and I went to see a Patti Smith concert in Seattle and Peter Buck joined in to play a few songs. 

R.E.M. will always be part of my youth.  And now that they’ve broken up, perhaps its time to for me to forget about how disappointed I am in what they became and recall how great they once were


  1. Bought it on tape actually.  Which I partially blame for not liking it the album so much 

  2. Summer of ‘91 was when I moved into my first off-campus house in Burlington, VT 

  3. But the more interesting girls knew that “Me in Honey” was the best song on the album. 

  4. And by the way, I’m not overly happy about Eddie Vedder being on that show either 

Wilco in Boston

Good show by Wilco at The Wang Theatre this past Tuesday night. Certainly not the best show I’ve seen them play1 but one of the better performances I’ve seen from them in recent years.

It helped that it was at the beautiful Wang Theatre in downtown Boston.  It helped that it was a standing show. Past few Wilco shows I’ve seen have been at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley.  Which itself is at a great venue, but less great when everyone decides to sit on their ass. 

It helped that the album Wilco is releasing next week is a bit more up tempo and exploratory2 than the most recent releases, especially the boring to tears Sky Blue Sky album.  The new album – The Whole Love – certainly isn’t Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but then again Wilco will never make another album that great again. If you haven’t accepted that yet, you should.  Give it a listen if you haven’t yet.

One thing of importance I noticed during Tuesday’s performance was less reliance on Nels Cline.  He’s still great and ever present and I certainly can’t imagine Wilco without him.  But in past years, he was more at the forefront and the band would, at times, just get out of his wand let him explore his sonic space.  There was much less of that on Tuesday. He was more integrated with the rest of the band. The power drill he sometimes brings out was nowhere to be found.

Some final ruminations:

  • “Art of Almost” is a great song.  Nice direction the band is heading in with this one.  Actually, it reminded me of LCD Soundsystem and makes me think of what an entire album of that sound would be like from Wilco. In the future, I bet we see this take the role previously occupied by “Spiders (Kidsmoke)” during their live performances.
  • Speaking of “Spiders (Kidsmoke)”…first time I’ve seen them3 perform without that as part of the set list
  • “I’m the Man Who Loves You” really needs those horns.

 

2011/09/20 Set list.  Wilco at the Wang Theatre.  Boston, MA. 

  1. Art Of Almost

  2. I Might

  3. Black Moon

  4. I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

  5. One Wing

  6. Bull Black Nova

  7. At Least That’s What You Said

  8. One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)

  9. Shouldn’t Be Ashamed

  10. Whole Love

  11. War On War

  12. Born Alone

  13. Handshake Drugs

  14. Impossible Germany

  15. Dawned On Me

  16. A Shot in the Arm 

    Encore –

  17. The Late Greats

  18. I‘m The Man Who Loves You

  19. Monday

  20. Outtasite (Outta Mind)


  1. Best show I’ve seen from them was at the Fillmore in San Francisco after they released A Ghost is Born. Among other things that night, they closed with a cover of “Don’t Fear the Reaper” 

  2. My friend Jeff refers to that as Wilco’s krautrock-y stuff 

  3. If my memory is correct, this was Wilco show #5 for me 

The day I discovered MTV

It was 30 years ago today that MTV began broadcasting.  I was a 10 year old boy living in East Hartford, Connecticut – a typical suburban neighborhood where kids rode their bikes everywhere and played kickball in the streets while their parents did their best to shield them from the realities of life.  At the time, my family’s basic cable TV system included a tethered punch key system that looked something like this.

Early cable tv box.  Photo credit: http://uk.ask.com/wiki/Cable_television_in_the_United_States

 

That’s right, tethered.  As in, no wireless remote control. As  a 10 year old boy with little attention span, I probably scanned all 36 channels of that box on a daily basis.  It was impossible for something like MTV to escape my attention. Discovering MTV the morning of August 1, 1981 was basically my first day of pop culture education.

That summer, my routine consisted of sleeping until mid morning, eating breakfast, watching TV, then riding my bike to the town pool which opened at Noon.  After a full multihour dose of MTV, it was onto the pool where I met my friends lined up outside waiting for the gates to open. Just like we did every day.  But this day was a bit different. Everyone was hit by the MTV thunderbolt that morning and the big topic of conversation was “did you see MTV this morning? It’s on channel 25.”  Every day would now involve discussions like “Did you see THAT video? It was awesome!” 

Basically, growing up would never be the same again.

Five albums Phish should consider covering for Halloween 2010

I have no idea if Phish is actually going to keep up their Halloween tradition of covering an entire album.  But if they do, here’s 5 I’d hope they’d consider.  This isn’t a prediction list as much as it is a wishlist.

  • Pavement – “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain”
  • Boston (self titled)
  • Wilco – “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”
  • David Bowie – “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”
  • Fleetwood Mac – “Rumors”.  But only if they can get a female vocalist or two to sing the Nicks/McVie parts.  Like Neko Case

The best album of 2009

I’ve told enough people about this and repeated myself so many times that it made sense to write a post about the recently released album by The Black Crowes.  Simply put – best new album of 2009.

image

If you have yet to hear it, head over to Amoeba Records or click open Amazon or iTunes or wherever and get yourself a copy.  You won’t be disappointed.  It was recorded over a week in Levon Helm’s studio barn in Woodstock, New York.  Recorded with an audience in attendance over various sessions that took place that week. 

Most likely, you’re like me and you haven’t even considered The Black Crowes for over 15 years.  But this isn’t the same band.  There’s a lot of depth and maturity in these songs.  It’s totally surprising and breathtaking.  Unless I told you that it was A Black Crowes album you probably wouldn’t even realize it.   

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