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March 03, 2006

To Ignore or Make Fun of Jack White's Latest Essay?

jack white
Jack White "points out" the hypocrisy of criticism

I'm going to go more with "agreeing" with him. Jack White posted the following essay on the "Message" area of the White Stripes homepage. The section always provides an interesting but odd look at what the man is thinking. You can view the specific essay in three parts right here: Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3. (This may help explain who the "Billy Childish" mentioned in Part 3 is.) He makes some pointed claims regarding his opinion of critics, ("The only public expression that isn't 'allowed' to be critiqued") and the Good ol' days of journalism, ("There was a time when we had great writers, and respected journalists who had earned their position as tastemakers, and won peoples respect with their 'knowledge and insight.'") But the part that I find myself agreeing with is a comparison that Jack White intended in a completely different manner.

He wonders in Part 2, "Who are all these people on VH1 trashing everyone? Why does a failed stand up comedian have the final word on the Rubick's Cube?" He is of course referring to I Love the (Decade), but also to "Best Week Ever", which puts the events of the past week into the same format as the I Love the (Decade) show. White means to question the "Critic's Credentials" of both internet music journalism and these previously unknown figures on VH1. But I think he has unknowingly hit on a different point that the two share in common and that I think is far more important and dangerous than simply everybody having a platform to share their opinion.

Looks like Jack White wants to ruin VH1's "Week"!

The danger I see, (exemplified by VH1s airing of I Love the 90s five years after the decade ended, and by the internet music journalism community), is the breakneck pace at which they move from topic to topic. VH1, determined not to let a pop culture matter slip by, take it, sound bite it, and move on. Was Temptation Island important? Was it funny? Will we be talking about it in five years on I Love the 00s? Who cares! We've moved on. Even the "big guns" of recent pop culture, items that would be guaranteed home run references a decade from now such as Brokeback Mountain or the Dick Cheney shooting, have the same life span on the pop culture spectrum as a disposable reality TV show or celebrity divorce.

The problem with music is that like pop culture references, there is just too much content to review. Let's face it, there are tens of thousands of acts whose tastes and talents are so outside the realm of popular convention that they have no chance at developing a popular following. The internet, however, allows these acts to at times be afforded the same level of exposure as talented, innovative artists. It is great that reviews can be written of these obscure artists that cause people to stand up and take notice, maybe purchase a CD or attend a concert. The problem is that the unceasing avalanche of reviews makes this a near impossible task. Since Mr. White singled out Pitchfork, let's do the same.

Pitchforkmedia.com published 25 reviews a week. If you factor in a few weeks off, that's still over 1200 cds per year. That's a daunting amount of reviews to even read, let alone listen to. If every CD is an hour long, and you get 8 hours of sleep a night, than it would require 20% of your waking life to listen to each of those CDs just once. And as everybody knows, and as reviews usually note, most music takes a few listens, or hearing it in the right setting, to have it sink in and gain a real appreciation for it. So obviously, nobody is going to listen to every CD reviewed by Pitchfork for reasons of cost and time management, not to mention the eclectic realm of tastes and genres that Pitchfork covers. They will pick the CDs that sound most appealing to them based on the reviews. This is, if I'm not mistaken, the most basic purpose of a review of any form of art: to let people know if it is something they should experience for themselves.

The only question a music listener should ask themself, is "Should I trust these reviews?" Jack White would say that the anonymity of the internet makes this impossible since you don't know anything about your reviewer. I believe however, that much more fundamental to the problem of trust is the issue of the which records Pitchfork decides to review. Let's break down how I see their review process as working: First of all, Pitchfork, music blogs and internet music lovers as a whole, do not focus on a large portion of musical releases that the general public does. Look at the Friday Charts, and compare this to who has recently been on the cover of Rolling Stone, or topped the Billboard charts. Artists such as Britney Spears or Nickelback will not be reviewed as a matter of editorial discretion: these websites do not feel that their audience will have any interest in listening to this music, so they don't review it.

The records that make the cut then, are records which presumably Pitchfork believes their audience are considering listening to and will thus be interested to learn their opinion about. A positive review can encourage you to go out and buy a record or, occasionally, Pitchfork will take the opportunity to savage a release that it feels is not worth the plastic it's printed on, let alone its readers time. The Pitchfork phenomena of propelling previously unknown artists to the top download charts or blog discussion has been well documented in the Friday Charts. A "Best New Music" review, of which Pitchfork has dealt out six in the first two months of this year, as well as the less enthusiastic but still coveted "Recommended" reviews, are Pitchfork's methods of singling out artists which they truly feel are most worthy of their readers' time. There are also, of course, good reviews that do not attain either status. A negative review can also be a vaulable tool, cautioning that an artist's new album may not live up to expectations and is therefore probably not worth a listen.

That brings us to the third possibility for a reviews tone: albums that are not part of the "Enthusiastic Endorsement" camp nor the "don't-buy-this-crap" camp. You can pretty much classify these as records that are destined to have a lesser impact on the music scene. Some CDs by notable artists, such as Neil Young's "Frustrating" new album "Prarie Wind" have received mediocre ratings. A review such as this is usually necessary, because Neil Young is a relevant artist and discerning musical listeners are curious to know if he's recovered his stride later in his career, a la Bob Dylan. But what about all the other Pitchfork reviews, the majority of Pitchfork reviews, that also fall into this category? These are artists who do not have Neil Young's stature, who do not even have Belle and Sebastian's stature. They are unknown artists, releasing records that Pitchfork deems as mediocre. If anyone was prioritizing which of the records Pitchfork reviews would be worth trimming down in order to attain a realistic list of CDs they could listen to and really get a feel for in any given year, these would be the ones they would cut.

So why review them? Why inform the public, "This artist that you've never heard of released an album that probably isn't worth your time, especially not when there are many other artists whose work we actually recommend highly." For many bands, this front page review on Pitchfork could easily be the most press they will ever get in their career. 15 years ago, they would have received no widespread press whatsoever, other than word of mouth or late night college radio play. Though many, I'm sure, appreciate just having their band name out there, to me, the never ending sea of information, reviews, and critiques somehow makes most of the artists in the stream of reviews even more forgettable. By giving attention to everything, you diminish the value of the things that truly deserve it. After all, how many times can you really listen to that Best New Music CD, when the stack of other CDs that need reviewing is just getting bigger every day?

Of course, this is the way things work these days. People on VH1 attain their 15 minutes of fame by commenting on the other people who attained their 15 minutes the previous week. Both are forgotten in a few months time. This week The Eels and Merle Haggard share review space with Hank, Philip Smartzis and Electric President . Will these artists too be forgotten? Were they ever known? Should they ever be known? I find it difficult to even find time to think about these questions. After all, we've got 25 more reviews coming next week.

Friday Charts 3/3/06

Every so often you hear a news story about downloading that references Big Champagne, which is a company that tracks the prevalances of downloaded music and videos. I wonder how different what they do is from what I've been doing here, basically looking at a preprepared list of the most shared albums and reporting them back. Anyways, here are the top ten most seeded albums on a certain site. If there are links on a particular album, it will take you some place where you can sample the music or find more info about an artist:

1. The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
2. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
3. The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
4. Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon
5. TV On The Raio - Untitled, Unmastered 2006 release
6. Liars - Drum's Not Dead
7. Calexico - Garden Ruin
8. Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops
9. David Gilmour - On An Island
10. The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth

That the Yeah Yeah Yeahs new album was anticipated is no surprise, although it still has around half of the seeds of At War With The Mystics. What is more interesting is that people would be this interested in an unfinished version of TV on the Radio, (described as "High on vocals, low on drums.") Evidently it still sounds impressive, although the band has asked blogs to remove MP3s they posted. Also interesting, but none too surprising any more, is the Tapes 'n Tapes album The Loon, which has been not only available, but officially released, since last year. However, on Tuesday, the following review appeared, (guess where?) and shot the album up the charts. I was incredibly underwhelmed by the record. For the names they tossed out to compare it to, (Pavement, Beach Boys and Pixies), it sounded like a garbled, amatuerish, unpleasent mess. Lastly, David Gilmour proves that you don't have to be a flavor of the month in order to have musical snobs take notice. But if you're not pulling down the latest salivating review from Pitchfork, it helps to be an ex-member of one of the biggest, most popular and most fondly remembered music groups of all time.

March 02, 2006

Concert Tomorrow by Singer Who Once Met Fred Savage!

young Jenny Lewis Album Cover.jpg

The Union-Tribune interviews Jenny Lewis, who performs with the Watson Twins at the San Diego Women's Club in Hillcrest on Friday night. Times like these are instances where you can truly see the advantage of an online reporting platform vs. print. If you had just picked up the paper and read the article, you would never know that you had the capability of downloading all but one of the albums songs from Lewis' record label's website and listening to them while you read the article! Unfortunately, the one song missing is probably the most famous track on the album, the cover of the Travelling Wilbury's "Handle With Care" so I stuck it on the radio.blog on the front page for now. My opinion is that it the album is ok, but the cover song is awesome, although Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie's voice is an obvious weak link. If they replaced him with My Morning Jacket's Jim James, (who has toured with the other two guests, Conor Oberst and M. Ward), then we'd really have something.

Just a few more points of interest. One, is that if you go to www.jennylewis.com and click over to links, you find a link for not one, not two, but three seperate myspace pages. Rilo Kiley myspace, Watson Twins myspace and Jenny Lewis With Watson Twins myspace. Secondly, Lewis was the co-star of The Wizard, Fred Savage's epic late 80s hour and a half Nintendo ad, most famous for unveilling Super Mario Bros. 3. X-entertainment has full coverage of the movie, as well as the following video clip where in order to stop a criminal from getting away, Ms. Lewis shrieks "He touched my breast!" to get the attention of the casino floor. So that's probably a lot worse than any embarassing home video of you that your parents ever showed to your friends, and Jenny Lewis turned out alright.

March 01, 2006

The La-La-La Mix

Seeing this mix of songs with Nonsense Syllables on You Ain't No Picasso reminded me of my girlfriend's longstanding project of making a mix of only the parts of songs that use La-La-La as lyrics, (No Fa. No Da. Just La.) We have a permanent iTunes playlist called "lalala" and everytime something pops up on random, it gets dragged over. To my surprise, she actually created a first draft of the mix a few months ago, and the above post has inspired me to post it for everybody. If you can identify all the songs...well then I guess you just know your La's.

Download the MP3 here.

San Diego Serenade Interviews The Bloody Hollies

The Bloody Hollies

There's a little theory called the "pocket watch theory" that some crazy religious folks use to "prove" the existence of god. It pretty much goes like this: you wouldn't look at a pocket watch, with all its complicated gears and mechanics, and assume that that watch just came into being through pure chance. You would, of course, assume that some unknown master watch maker diligently crafted this perfectly functioning system. So therefore, God created life as we know it.

That jump in logic is intended for dramatic, and probably mocking, effect. But what I intend in all seriousness, is that San Diego may have its own retort for this crazy watch maker analogy. I will call it the Bloody Hollies Theorem, and it breaks down like this: take your ideal of what a rock song should be. Tight rhythm sections, killer guitar solos, a voice teetering on fraying any possible second, and enough spontaneous energy to power the amps they're playing with. You would, of course, assume that some band had diligently crafted this sound over the years, played together since the days of their parents garage and spent every possible free minute ensuring that their music was getting into as many people's stereos as possible. I mean, something that sounds this good couldn't have just come into being through pure chance, could it?

The Bloody Hollies may never be bigger than Jesus, but through the effortless rocking of their music, they very well may disprove the existence of god. Their records and live performances have an impassioned energy to them that leads one to believe the band is infused with an intense ethos and maniacal work ethic behind their records. When I talked with Bloody Hollies singer/guitarist Wesley Doyle, however, I found almost the exact opposite to be true. Through our conversation, as Doyle repeatedly brushed off through the milestones the band has achieved with a nonchalant "they just sort of happened," I found myself amazed and impressed. Here I was speaking to someone who has put out several records of terrific garage style rock and roll, toured Europe, and gotten enough press attention that the band eventually caught my eye, and the main impression I was getting from him was that, eh, a few things went right, a few things went wrong, and here we are. The strange thing is, despite his nonchalant attitude regarding breaking up and reforming his band, promoting it on the internet, or finding his footing in a new local music scene, when Doyle told me that he has no doubt the band is going to become a big band in San Diego, I believed him. It would be hard to think differently once you've heard the music.

What is also inarguable is that when Doyle packed up and moved from Buffalo, NY to San Diego a year ago, San Diego's music scene gained the kind of band that it's been sorely missing. As the Bloody Hollies gear up to start playing regular shows in the San Diego area towards the end of March, I talked with Doyle about the bands history, why they set up shop in San Diego, what it takes to move your band across the country, and how it feels to be so close to making the big time.

Bloody Hollies Singer/Guitarist Wesley Doyle

Doyle began by clearing up what had happened at a show a few weeks ago that was reported about in the CityBeat as one of the concerts of the week, (this was the original report that I found out about the band because of.) Evidently the Bloody Hollies drummer was friends with one of the members of Ramones tribute band "Pinhead," and had added the band onto Pinhead’s bill at Blind Melon’s in PB without bothering to find out details such as if the band knew about it, and whether or not the Bloody Hollies bassist was back in Buffalo, (he was.) The band found out about the CityBeat article, and figured that they might as well get together and play with out a bassist, but it ended up falling apart, and people such as me who ended up heading over to Blind Melon’s to see the Bloody Hollies were instead forced to settle for a Ramones tribute band with a singer who’s a "Fat guy that doesn’t even look like Joey Ramone" according to Doyle. (I decided to go home.)

San Diego Serenade: So what is something that the average San Diego Resident wouldn’t know about Buffalo? Have any other bands ever come out of Buffalo?

Wesley Doyle: Well the Goo Goo Dolls…Snapcase….

(I pretend like I’ve heard of Snapcase)

WD: (Realizes I’ve never heard of Snapcase) Snapcase is pretty big in Buffalo, but they were an underground band. There’s lots of underground bands. That’s sort of the tough luck story of Buffalo. There’s lots of talent, but for bands that start out with the intention of doing music as a career, the odds are against you from the start. You have to go about things different ways, because there’s no industry presence whatsoever. You have to start with the intention of getting the hell out of Buffalo. New York City is six hours away, so you’re not going to be playing showcases there every weekend.

SDS: So how much of your getting signed [first to Sympathy for the Record Industry (White Stripes) then to Bomp (Black Keys, Brian Jonestown Massacre)] was dependent on your touring? How much time were you spending on the road?

WD: We definitely played more shows outside of Buffalo than in Buffalo. We were the kind of band that nobody back home paid attention to until they heard us on college radio and then realized that we’re from Buffalo. Buffalo is a very cliquey town, music-wise. If there’s a band that’s getting popular, you don’t necessarily want to support them. It’s easy for a backlash to happen because of jealousy.

SDS: How was the decision to move to San Diego become the next logical step in the band’s progression?

WD: Well I had wanted to move here for a while. I had friends here, and used to visit a few times a year when I was in the Marine Corps. I sort of made my mind not to stick around Buffalo because of the band, which was the reason I was staying there. We are able to tour and sustain it without having to live there.

SDS: How did you convince the rest of the band to come to San Diego with you?

WD: Well, our drummer is married…He was really excited about the new record coming out, but the reality of touring a lot made him realize that it wasn’t really going to work out. So I found a new drummer and guitar player out here. And we recently parted ways with our bass player, who was still living in Buffalo.

SDS: How do you go about telling someone they’re not in the band any longer?

WD: I had the drummer tell him. He was better friends with bass player anyways. He just didn’t want to leave Buffalo. Liked the cold too much I guess.

SDS: So you’re sort of like the Axl Rose keeping the band alive from one iteration to the next.

WD: I guess… Having a member in Buffalo that was taking the time and spending the money flying out for every show was a lot of pressure. I like to do things naturally. I don’t like to be in the position of having to make sure this guy’s taken care of while he’s here, or have to write songs by a certain date.

SDS: When has having new songs by a certain date be an issue?

WD: Well, some people in Europe, they wanted us to tour, but not with the same songs we toured with before. I don’t want to make an EP of five songs, I’d rather save those songs for an album.

SDS: What is your popularity like over in Europe?

WD: Europe is spotty, just like the US. Some shows are big, some shows are horrible. But they’re buying records over there too, so you’ve got to go play shows. It does seem like they’re more willing to listen to stuff that’s not on MTV. Over here it seems like it’s not cool to go see a band if they’re not already rich and famous, which to me…I just don’t get the point of that.

The Band Performs in the Netherlands
The Band Performs in the Netherlands

SDS: When you move to a new city as a band, how do you go about setting yourself up in the local music scene?

WD: I didn’t do anything really. I just kind of wanted to live out here and go on tour. We had booked a show here before the last US tour. Troy picked it up, we got on Fox Rox, more press like that CityBeat mention sort of just follow.

SDS: Where have you played around town so far?

WD: The Casbah, Zombie Lounge, Ken Club. First few shows at the Zombie Lounge were pretty insane. A few more low key shows. We had no bass player for some, so we didn’t want to hype them too much.

SDS: How do you measure your success as a band? Obviously there are different levels of success over the course of a bands life, starting with your friends liking it, then strangers coming to your shows, people you don’t know wanting to interview you…And while you haven’t achieved worldwide fame or anything, you’ve still had some of the higher level milestones that other bands dream of, like European tours, Peel sessions…

WD: The John Peel thing wasn’t that big of a deal. It’s sort of the thing where he plays every band on your label. We’re friends with Margaret Garrett of Mr. Airplane Man. She asked us, “Did you know that John Peel plays your record every week?” I was flattered, and we were in the middle of booking our first European tour, which was routed through London. So I casually emailed his producer. Unfortunately, John Peel died the week before we showed up.

SDS: Ouch…

WD: We still did the recording session. It got played, someone in England told me they heard it.

SDS: So if something like a Peel session is “not that big a deal,” what do you consider to be a big break?

WD: My definition of a big break…I don’t know. At one time we were doing a lot of showcases for Sire records. We were talking with [Sire president] Seymour Stein. He came to see us several times, we developed a brief friendship. Then when it looked like we might get to put a record out, label shakeups happen and Seymour Stein isn’t in a position to sign us anymore. It seemed like there were lots of potential “Big Breaks” like that right after our first album came out in the summer of 2002.

SDS: The Washington Post called your 2004 set at SXSW one of the highlights of the show. How far can an endorsement like that take you? Does it open more doors or just make things seem more tantalizingly close?

WD: Well that was “Big Break #2” as far as I’m concerned. It’s the kind of thing that….I never want to give up. I like making music, it’s an outlet for creativity. But when something major like that draws you close, makes you believe that you’re pretty close to breaking out…You get kind of used to those kind of “Big Breaks” after a while. What means everything is selling records. You can get a million great reviews, draw 2,000 people to a show, but if you’re not selling records, you’re not going to have the industry behind your band. All the reviews and accolades are basically a feather in your hat. It’s nice. It kind of validates what you do. But even a write up in a magazine as big as Rolling Stone won’t mean a thing for an artist’s career if they can’t translate that into record sales.

SDS: You say that selling records is the key to a bands eventual success. What I had heard and read is that the way the bands make money is through selling merchandise and concert tickets and that CD sales are a very small percentage of what the band makes….

WD: Well selling records is still very important to the record label. It’s the litmus test of how well you’re doing. Being a really big local band has is the kiss of death to a band’s careeer. It’s the most meaningless plateau there is. Everyone in your town will either already have bought your CD or you’ll have given it to them. What you want is to be able to tour and draw large shows across the country, and you’re just not able to sustain that without record sales.

The Bloody Hollies - If Footmen Tire You.jpg
The newest record - If Footmen Tire You...

SDS: Your band has formed in an era when everybody has broadband internet connections and where Napster has come and gone and been reinvented countless times. Are you trying to harness any of the newer ways to promote your band?

WD: I haven’t really ever gotten involved with creating media attention. I’m not pushing a “product,” the “Bloody Hollies Brand.” We’ve always been kind of lucky. The first record was just us really clowning around in the studio, and we got a really small label in Rochester to put it out. The next record came out on Sympathy, and that exposed us to the whole “Garage Scene” that was taking off then. The labels have always done a good job of getting the word out. My thing was concentrating on putting together a good band. So we have a website, there’s not much else we can do. We don’t even have any management these days. Having management was really just an excuse for us to be lazy. When you realize that that guy is lazy too, you sort of wonder “What’s the point?”

SDS: You say you’ve gotten lucky, but at some point in time you have to acknowledge that you’ve got a great sound and that the quality of the songs and the performance speak for themselves, no?

WD: Well, we’ve had our share of bad luck, but we’ve also created our own luck with the sound of the band. The day we finished the last album, we were sitting there with [Producer] Jim Diamond, and we knew that Sympathy wasn’t going to put it out. They’re more focused on reissues and one shot records where if a band makes it big, he can make money off selling their first record…But John Diamond said, you can put this out on any label you want to. It would be stupid not to put it out. We contacted Bomp, sure enough, they put it out.

SDS: What are the plans for the band in the coming months? Gigs around town?

WD: Well we finally have a new bass player. He was in a band in Detroit, The Amino Acids. Our guitar player put an ad on Craigslist for a bass player, quite a few people responded. So now we’ve got four guys in the band, and we’ve got four guys on the same page. I have no doubt that we’ll be a big band in San Diego within the next year. But we’re gonna get the ball rolling again, play San Diego, play LA, and play up the West coast until at least summer.

SDS: Are there any other local bands you can recommend?

WD: I don’t see as much live music. I’d rather hang out in a seedy bar.

The Bloody Hollies official site can be found at www.bloodyhollies.com

MP3 downloads: "Swing", "Downtown Revolver", "Cut It Loose."

February 28, 2006

"Mardi Gras" in the Gaslamp - We Can Do Better

Say No To Gaslamp Mardi Gras

Somehow, word get out that San Diego's Mardi Gras celebration in the Gaslamp Quarter is the "Biggest Mardi Gras Celebration on the West Coast." That promise lured me down there the first year I was out here, and I've heard it exclaimed to me by excited newcomers a few times since, so someone must be promoting this blatantly false ideal. I left early the one and only year that I went down to the Gaslamp for Mardi Gras, and I feel bad for anyone who will only be able to experience the day through this imitation. Here is why it does not measure up to any real celebration of Mardi Gras:

1. $20 dollar entrance fee. Ostensibly this goes towards the bands, which this year include KC & The Sunshine Band. Obviously, nobody floods down there for the bands. Otherwise, Chateau Orleans in PB would have a packed house everytime Tomcat Courtney plays. So the $20 is sort of an entry fee for a Street Scene that you're not going to watch the bands at.

2. That includes the Street Scene festival pricing for booze. 5 dollar Heinekens, 7 dolar hurricanes. Down on the streets of New Orleans, you can buy a product known as a Huge Ass Beer, or a 151 Hurricane. They're not overpriced, and they pack a punch.

3. The food is small portions of expensive garbage with long lines.

4. Big warning on the home page: "Please DO NOT BRING: CAMERAS OR VIDEO CAMERAS. They will not be allowed." Awesome. It's such a wild and crazy time that we are adament that you can't bring a camera for some unspecified reason!

5. The parades in New Orleans are the kind of thing where you suddenly understand that all the other parades you've ever seen have done their best to give parades a bad name. There are floats the length of a footbal field, King Kong floats that throw bananas at you, ridiculous beads so heavy that they could kill a man if they hit him in the head, and the riders on the float frequently have a strict nudity for beads exchange program. Alternatively, I saw someone getting cited for flashing the year I went to the Gaslamp.

6. I repeat: I saw someone getting cited for flashing the year I went to the Gaslamp.

Pretty much the whole event is akin to the Eddie Murphy routine from either Delirious or Raw, where his mother says that instead of buying Eddie McDonald's, she will make him a hamburger that is "Better than McDonald's." Young Eddie is intrigued, but when he is presented with the hamburger that is round like a meatball, oozing with grease and has onions sticking out of it, he realizes that some products are best left to the people who deliver to your expectations. If you're down with a twenty dollar cover on top of whatever cover the bars are charging to experience a more crowded Gaslamp quarter, be my guest.

I suppose I should link to information about the blues and displaced New Orleans musicians that are performing, in case people still want to check them out:

7:00 PM - The Frappe' Brass Band
8:15 PM - The Wild Apache Mardi Gras Indians
9:30 PM - The 504 Brass Band
11:00 PM - Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove

Click Here for the full musical lineup

Wish You Were In New Orleans?

Mardi Gras Mambo!

Despite everything that has happened in New Orleans recently, Mardi Gras appears to still be going strong. Having spent four consecutive years a few years back attending the festivities, you understand that being out and about in Mardi Gras is the kind of thing that affects all five of your senses. Unlike San Diego, as mentioned in the previous post, New Orleans may hold the record for the most self referential, New Orleans glorifying songs. Thus, the day won't be complete until you've listened to a never ending loop of the following four songs that is playing everywhere you walk and in every restaurant, bar or place of business you enter:

1. Mardi Gras Mambo
2. Iko Iko
3. They All Ask'd For You
4. Mardi Gras in New Orleans

I sat at a blackjack table at the Harrah's New Orleans one time while they played some sort of "Now That's What I Call Music" hits package. I debated aloud asking the pit boss to switch it over to the Mardi Gras Mambo mix, since the Backstreet Boys weren't really capturing the spirit of the city, but the dealer pleaded with me not to. Evidently if you live and work in the city, the above four songs are pretty much the equivilent of having a never ending car alarm blaring wherever you go. But one day out of the year, they'll be the perfect background music for you Mardi Gras Party. I've put them in my Radio Blog, to the right, along with a few other choices, for your listening pleasure.

Those of you who might want some more diversity in your aural replication of New Orleans would do well to check out Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box Of New Orleans. It's a four CD box assembled by Chuck Taggart, who runs the Gumbo Pages, a exhaustive source of New Orleans Culture, Music and Food. For our Mardi Gras party tonight, we're cooking up some of Chuck's recommended recipes from different restaurants and chefs around town, and our musical selections will draw largely from the above box set. So pretty much our evening is in one man's hands, and I really hope he knows what he's doing.

Lastly, I found this unique little live Tom Waits medley in my collection, and decided to post it today in honor of the city and the holiday. It's perfect for this years celebration of Mardi Gras: Booze soaked and raspy, a little somber to start out, but impossible to keep the good times down. Three songs, that all flow together, so get them all as a package deal.

Download MP3s below:
1. Tom Waits - I Wish I Was In New Orleans
2. Tom Waits - When The Saints Go Marching In
3. Tom Waits - Since I Fell For You / New Orleans Reprise

And after this, no Tom Waits for at least a week.

February 27, 2006

San Diego Songs

The San Diego Blog wonders where all the songs about San Diego are. Well this website is named after "San Diego Serenade" by Tom Waits. "San Diego Serenade" isn't some song pandering to the residents of a city though, calling out local landmarks and such. It's really just a love song and if you listened to the lyrics, you'd really have no way of guessing the song's title. However, based on the short list of songs that people are coming up with, I guess we will have to take what we can get. In addition to "San Diego Serenade," Tom Waits' "I Can't Wait to Get Off Work (And See My Baby on Montgomery Avenue)" off of the album Small Change and "The Ghosts Of Saturday Night (After Hours at Napoleone's Pizza House)" off of "The Heart of Saturday Night," both share the record for the longest song title that happens to be about a small slice of life in San Diego. They detail the time Waits spent working at the infamous National City Pizza House.

For further information about how strapped San Diego is for a song, this commenter seems to think that the best song ever written about San Diego was by the Velvet Fog himself, Mr. Mel Torme. He puts out a call for a local band to cover it as their ticket to stardom. You had better hurry though, because the rendition of it that he claims Mel Torme's son and one of the members of Toto are working on is going to be tough to beat.


Disappointed by the Bob Dylan Musical? Download the Real Thing!

Bob Dylan Live at Brixton Academy
Bob Dylan performs at Brixton Academy in London on November 21st, 2005

With the controversial "Bob Dylan Musical" causing San Diego residents to debate the artistic staus of Bob Dylan, I thought I would provide some evidence that Dylan the contemporary entertainer is still relevant and rockin'. I present to you the show that Bob Dylan played in London at Brixton Academy on November 21st, 2005. This bootleg has gotten some press recently, it was even reviewed in Rolling Stone. It is notable for a couple reasons. First of all, guitarist Link Wray had just died two weeks earlier, and Dylan paid tribute by opening the show with a rendition of his famous instrumental "Rumble." Secondly, he decides to treat the Brits to a shortened version of "London Calling," which obviously brings the house down. And Thirdly, he plays the Basement Tapes song "Million Dollar Bash" for the first time live. As I mentioned in the previous post, I consider Dylan to be very self aware of how the public perceives him, so let the debating of his intentions here begin It is nice to see these rarities popping up once in a while, because I've seen several Dylan concerts on the "Never Ending Tour" that he's been on for several years now, and while he is in good form, the setlists are kind of predictable. Every show ends with the less exciting every time you hear it"Like a Rolling Stone," "All Along The Watchtower" combo. His stage intro for every show, however, set to Copland's "Rodeo" is the best in the business.

These little wrinkles that Dylan tosses in, along with above average recording quality for an audience mix, and the tight form his band demonstrates makes this show definitely worth a listen. When all is said and done, this Never Ending Tour stage of Dylan's career will dominate a sizeable portion of his timeline as a performer. Since he's been on the tour, he's released two of his finest albums, opened up to Martin Scorcese's camera, penned his autobiography and shows no signs of slowing down.

Plus, as an added bonus, if you download and burn this show, the kind people on the internet have done you the favor of designing TWO separate album art sleeves for you to adorn your jewel cases with. Now get busy downloading, and hope that Twyla Tharp doesn't find out about this show and include Million Dollar Bash (Kanye Remix) in her production of "The Times They Are A-Changin' 2: Still A-Changin'"

Download MP3s and album art below:

Disc 1:
1. Introduction
2. Rumble / Maggie's Farm
3. The Times They Are A-Changin'
4. Million Dollar Bash
5. It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
6. Moonlight
7. Down Along The Cove
8. Boots Of Spanish Leather
9. Cold Irons Bound
10. Mr. Tambourine Man
11. Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum
12. Visions Of Johanna

Disc 2:
1. Honest With Me
2. Waiting For You
3. Highway 61 Revisited
4. London Calling
5. Like A Rolling Stone
6. All Along The Watchtower

Album Art 1 - JPG
Album Art 2 - JPG

The Audience They Are A-Divided

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Letters to the editor flow into the Union Tribune yesterday regarding a somewhat more negative review of the new musical "The Times They Are A-Changin'." Critic George Varga takes the musical to task for reducing Dylan's

"rich body of work to a simplistic, plot-challenged exercise in warm, fuzzy nostalgia."

Varga also feels that:
"The target audience for this Broadway-bound show, apparently, is graying baby boomers for whom authenticity matters less than entertainment value. And this audience may like the idea of Dylan a lot better than it does Dylan himself..."

His assertations result in several letters to the editor, some defending the play for trying something new, others applauding Varga for defending the complexity of Dylan's songwriting. I still know that I would hate this play, but the overall tone of Varga's criticism seems to be that Dylan's work is untouchable, that it is upon some higher plane of art that shouldn't be subjected to this. As someone who is familiar with the twists and turns that Dylan himself put his music through, (listen to Live At Budokan, where his songs are given the Vegas "Big Band" treatment, for example,) there is no reason to afford the man this off-limits stature, since he has never believed in it himself. As reader Dolores Christensen points out:
If Dylan wanted to never change his work, he wouldn't have added electric guitar and the Band to his performances.

Dylan has demonstrated over the years that he has an incredibly perverse and inscrutable sense of humor. There is no way that this show negatively affects his reputation, if anything it results in criticism like Varga's, which glorifies his work even more. That's what makes all the bad Dylan material from the past four decades still remain intriguing to people: you're never quite sure if you're in a a big joke or not.

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