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The Greatest Post Ever for the Greatest Band Ever

25 Oct

For the most part, I’m out of bands so I’m going to give my ode to the greatest band of all time: The Beatles.  The thing about The Beatles is that they are in an almost exclusive club of bands that weren’t reactionaries to the times in which they lived in. They defined the times.  I used to think (incorrectly) that The Beatles were overrated.  I mean, songs like “Love Me Do” and “Help” and “Please Mr.  Postman” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” are just simple pop songs, yet they formed the mold for future rock groups to follow.  In addition to setting the paradigm of 2 guitars, bass and drums, The Beatles also added elements of  music of black musicians like Little Richard and Chuck Berry with white musicians like Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley that would influence rock n roll music for decades.

So let’s put The Beatles impact on music on the backburner for now and just look at the music itself.  The Beatles first phase was the “Love Me” phase characterized by simple song structures, simple I love you, love me lyrics (like the song above).  It’s what first captivated America on the Ed Sullivan show performance and really sparked Beatlemania.  Fast forward to the time they played Shea Stadium and decided to stop touring. So born the social commentary Beatles, who started growing beards and doing drugs.  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is their seminal work from this period, almost a rock opera that is considered one of the greatest (according to Rolling Stone the greatest album of all time) that introduced innovative techniques for recording that included adding musicians in addition to just the fab four and experimenting with innovative recording techniques.  Just check out the sound below that builds upon the original Beatles sound.

Last but not least of the Beatles phases results in their last album while together and my absolute favorite: Abbey Road.  It shows a mature group who’s ability to combine their music together in the face of falling apart absolutely amazes me.  Listen to the White Album and you will hear a band at war with itself.  Each individual song sounds like it was done by an individual member and in fact that’s the case.  In fact, all members except for Ringo refused to record when another member was in the studio.  There were George songs, John songs and Paul songs.  Abbey Road sees the Beatles come together for one last hurrah and tolerate each other.  Their individual tastes and song writing abilities combine to create a concept album like Sgt Peppers of epic proportions.  Just listen to the whole album.  It’s a piece of absolute genius.

The Distant Future: Comedians who Happen to Sing

20 Oct

I would like to apologize to my dedicated following for posting a few days late, or one day early (matters which way you look at it), but my schedule has been unrelenting.  I will, however, attempt to cheer whomever I can up with the following group of musical comedy geniuses who have made me cry simply from laughing hard on more than one occasion.

New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo is the description the comedy duo Flight of the Conchords gives themselves.  Don’t let it fool you.  Flight is the best (and most popular) guitar based acappalla rap comedy folk duo that just happens to use bongos, rap and funk in their music.  My favorite thing about Flight on the musical side is that they (as their description suggests) are real musicians.  Songs aren’t simple four chord songs with a single melody, but they use varied instrumentation, vocal harmonies and expand upon simple musical structures.  On the lyrical side, Flight stands out for their comedic style.  If Flight was a girl, she’d be the one you’d want to bring home to mama because their humor isn’t crude or vulgar but witty and clever.  Just check out their name (Flight of the Conchords).

While Flight takes a mostly clean approach to comedy, most comedians use vulgarity and crudeness as part of their acts and many musical comedians are no different.  Enter Stephen Lynch.  Lynch would be the kid you’d never want to get near your parents for fear he might curse, tell inappropriate jokes and be an all around %*$&#*$.  Lynch’s style isn’t for the easily offended or overtly sensitive.  However, if you do enjoy jokes about just about any topic imaginable, Lynch is your man.

The Misfits

14 Oct

I’d like to pay homage to some bands that I haven’t quite gotten to talk about, not because of any faults with these bands, but because they each bring something different to the table.  Whether it be through interesting instrumentation, unique song structure or unique influences, I couldn’t quite fit the following bands into any other category. Here goes nothing.

They may have recently garnered a Grammy for Album of the Year and yet it’s still not the Arcade Fire’s best album.  Don’t get me wrong, the winning album is good, but it gets away from their baroque roots in favor a more modern rock sound.  “Neon Bible” and “Funeral” both sound like complete orchestras as many of the band members play multiple instruments, accentuated as band members switch up what they play during songs (compared to the new album which is more guitar heavy).  The varied instrumentation and the influences of multiple styles of music makes Arcade Fire more than a band that keeps churning out similar sounding albums, but a group of musicians that creates many different cool sounds.

Beirut also features a full band but centers really on a single particular influence not normally heard.  I mean, who listens to Eastern European folk music (like polka) and decides they want to start a band with it?  If you didn’t get the hint, that’s what the members of Beirut did, fusing Eastern European folk music with indie pop sensibilities, highlighting such a global span with songs in other languages, notably French.  Like  Arcade Fire, Beirut does not rely upon the guitar and instead mixes up instrumentation to create music corresponding to their influences.

An Ode to A Dreamer

10 Oct

This post isn’t really going to be music related but it is something I want to get off my chest.

I’m going to confess something.  I’ve never owned a Macintosh, a Mac Pro desktop, or the slim and elegant Macbook Air. I’ve not even owned the powerful Macbook Pro.  I’ve never owned a Shuffle or an iTouch, not even an iPhone numbered one thru 4s.  In 21 years the only reason why I can’t say I’ve never owned an apple product is the iPod that I’m currently listening to, which by now is from the technological Stone Age (it doesn’t even have a touch screen!).  But sitting here, writing on a machine that I bought in lieu of Mr. Jobs’ lineup of a Mac laptop, he still has done me a great service that I can only repay by sharing.

I’m not here to tell you the impact that Steve Jobs had on the computer industry or that his dream of a personal computer is a major reason I, as a young kid, had a personal computer in my house.  Someone would have eventually gotten the idea, hell someone probably even had the idea before Mr. Jobs, but it was Apple at the forefront of the computer revolution that allows me to write this sitting at my desk in my home.  You don’t need me to say that Jobs’ impact as head of Apple revolutionized cell communications with the iPhone and that his iPad tablet is changing the way companies can do business and students such as myself can take notes, share them and stay wired to the rest of the world with a tablet.   I wanted to toot his horn just in case you weren’t sure how important he was and still is, not just in the world of computers, but also in that everlasting quest for technological perfection. As Jobs’ life and work become his legacy, I wanted to share what Jobs’ conquests meant to me: that the dreamers haven’t quite lost yet.

Apple wasn’t started by a man with a fancy college degree, but a college dropout who audited classes while sleeping on friends’ floors and returning cans for money.  Jobs’ aspiration wasn’t to be a businessman and Apple wasn’t created simply to make money.  The company’s modest beginnings in a garage so sharply contrast with its current success and this paints such a strong rag to riches dream that it’s founding mission sometimes gets obscured. This, though, is what resonates with me the most.

It gets hard nowadays to recognize that not everything Jobs touched turned to gold and that many of his works were financial failures.  It took a legend to remind me of something that I had long forgotten, that the path to success does not start with a college degree, nor end with the lack of one, but dreaming and that success itself is not defined by financial reward, but by making your fantasy reality.  Despite the stress in academia to stay grounded and to be realistic, Jobs reminded me that being grounded is just a state of mind and that unrealistic dreams are only those you don’t have the passion to see through to completion.  The grind of everyday life made me forget that I must limit the size of my dreams only to the limit of my personal ambition, that the path I choose must be my own and that success will come regardless of how others measure my success but I won’t forget ever again.

Remember When…?

5 Oct

Remember when the macarena was the dance to do?  Or how about when you could turn on the TV and watch new episodes of Seinfeld or Friends or could scream about how terrible The Phantom Menace was and still be considered relevant.  Yes people, I’m talking about the music in the 90s and I don’t mean Brittney or Christina, ‘NSync or the Backstreet Boys (pre-coming out of the closet) or even the Tupac/Biggie feud.  I’m glorifying these bands of the 90s to help create a musical legacy that isn’t just gangsta rap posturing, soulless pop or teen idol emptiness.

I’m going to start off with probably the nerdiest  band of the past two decades: Weezer.  Pick a color either blue, green or red and you’ve picked a great album. Listening to Weezer is sort of like being shot into an alternate universe where your angst isn’t particularly angsty and it doesn’t hurt because you yourself can trivialize it to the point of hilarity.  In that alternate reality though, all memory of Buddy Holly and Mary Tyler Moore are preserved so you don’t need much else.

Now I would be remiss to talk about 90s music without mentioning the great grunge movement of long greasy hair, angry angst, unwanted popularity and battles against commercial success.  My favorite band from this lovely genre is Pearl Jam, whose battles against their own popularity included taking on ticketmaster and refusing to release one of their most popular songs as a single.  That being said, Pearl Jam could both rock (on Even Flow) and ballad (on Better Man) and are one of the still relevant grunge acts of the 90s.

In a totally different universe from pretty much anything else I listen to lies Rage Against the Machine.  Built primarily on testosterone and pedal effects, Rage built up a following because their anger was directed not at themselves or evil heart breaking harpies but at the unseen forces that control our political and economic landscapes.  Switch out Rage frontman for Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and you get Audioslave which I confess is not a 90s band but draws heavily from grunge music and is definitely worth a listen.

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