Anticipation is a bitch, don’t you know. I and half of the Western world anticipated Guns n Roses‘ long suffering “Chinese Democracy” with the fiendishness of a junkie 5 days without a fix only to have the deliverance render not so much as a contact high. When will I learn my lesson? It’s not as if I and the other half of the Western world didn’t “know” that this Chris Cornell/Timbaland thing wasn’t going to work out in anyone’s favor but still…there was a shred of hope that from somewhere within the walls of the recording studio, amid the Auto Tuner, the drum machines, the vocoder, the copious amounts of hallucinogenics, etc., that something akin to.. hell, even the worst Audioslave tune, might come out of collaborating with a one-trick pony on repeat like Timbaland. This miracle musical thing I hoped for underneath this week’s full moon despite my previous blog (actually rant from hellfire) on this subject. Some of you remember it, don’t you…Just Like (Career) Suicide.
From the monkey yelps of “Ground Zero” to the unwarranted misogyny in “Part of Me” (“that bitch ain’t a part of me”) which I look forward to the day when a young man is crooning that little ditty to or about Cornell’s daughter, to the limp-dicked “Long Gone” to the “hey, hey!” and that annoying…what is that…a Wurlitzer twirling in the background of “Watch Out”? He’s criticizing some chick’s driving skillz and in my head I’m seeing backup dancers in booty shorts but I’m not feeling the rock. My iTunes classified the album’s genre as “Rock”. Where’s the f*cking rock?
Absent. AWOL. On leave. Taking a time out. Pissing on itself in shame. Thirteen tracks and one bonus track- “Two Drink Minimum” which is a deep, saloon bluesy trek of regret and the album’s only redeeming feature- but it’s wasted here because the ship still sinks faster than the Lusitania. Thirteen tracks and I got up to #11 and then called it a day. My laptop is pretty and I love her and here I sit questioning the insult of having the 119 MBs of “Scream” taking up space on my hard drive. That space would be better utilized by The Village People because there’s honor in disco as it served a purpose and knows it’s place in the grand scheme of things. Here, Cornell actually has the belief that “Scream” is an artistic breakthrough, his best album (I cut him slack because he always says that about his most current project), and Timbaland…I don’t know what he’s thinking about other than trying to put a rock star in the clubs. With so much gloss, bells, tinkering whistles and effected aural textures Timbaland effectively buries the very thing that is supposed to be the star of the show: Cornell’s ungodly vocal ability. Not lost at all because it apparently never showed up for duty, are the stormy and beautifully abstract nature of Cornell lyrics. Instead what we get are the arrogant plastic words of attitude that make contemporary R&B so much the crap that it is today. I can’t go anywhere near an R&B station because the sounds that pass for good music embarrass me…and I’m Black.
Cornell sings “I’m a long way away from home” in the faux-sitar, dance with sounds of the Middle East “Take Me Alive” and truer words were never spoken/sung by the man’s extraordinary voice. “Carry On”, his last solo effort from 2007, received a lukewarm reception from fans and critics alike due to its over arch of a cheesy adult contemporary nature. That mellow album had its moments and, I swear, still has the potential to actually grow on you and bless him for his treatment of “Billie Jean” Sure, many diehards who cut their emotional teeth on Cornell screaming bloody hell like a bat with its nuts on fire atop insanely loud guitar riffs couldn’t digest “Carry On” but that was to be expected. Others simply appreciated the fact that everyone’s favorite grungy rock god was now a guy in his 40’s, married with children, a restaurant owner, living in *gasp* France, and well hell, was just seemingly a dude finally at ease in his life. Fast forward to 2009 and “Scream” and well, here we are.
Life is hard. And the funny thing is I’m not “mad” at Timbaland. How could I or anyone be? The guy has his gig and he walked right into this project and did exactly what it is he does so very well, what it is that’s made him successful. Cornell on the other hand, is supposed to be the ship’s captain and responsible for his creative output. One thing that Cornell has always had in his favor is the fact that the man has always been musically contradictory; although the label of “grunge” will follow him until the day that he dies, he’s consistently expressed himself through unique collaborations (Temple of The Dog), projects (solo work on “Great Expectations”, “Casino Royale” and “Mission Impossible 2” soundtracks), and simply going his own way (the incomparable “Euphoria Morning”). If “Scream” would have yielded anything that resembled crazy, mind-blowing artistic leaps that really did channel “Dark Side Of The Moon”, man there’d be no more a vocal champion for this (inconceivable) ultimate mash-up than me. Instead “Scream” comes off as little more than piss poor, thinly veiled attempts at what amounts to a musical sex change for the sake of a rock dude mainlining the mediocre mainstream. Media placements with Verizon Wireless…okay. ABC’s drama “Life On Mars” pimping the tune “Ground Zero”…alrighty. I won’t begrudge those things, but I will note how out of place they feel to me but completely apropos for music that would otherwise go nowhere without so much public push.
And that’s all I got. I’m actually surprised that I was able to eek this many words out on a subject that I thought I’d forgo but something about “Other Side Of Town” really pissed me off. Oh yeah, Cornell babbling about a girl dissing him because he screwed up and he has the nerve to ask “What type of shit is she on”? Mind if I ask that very question of you, Mr. Cornell? You really don’t wear this ghetto-fab, urban league, shout out to your homies crap well, and you really should have left that side of town the moment Timbaland began to eviscerate your sound, but hey, get your street cred on, dawg. Holla.
On the flip side, this project is downright fascinating…in that perverse watching a car crash kind of way. Is it wrong of me to almost wish that Cornell was using at the time he conceived this? I could excuse and completely forgive if he told me there was drink/drugs involved.
March 10, 2009
Interscope / Universal
1. Part Of Me
3. Sweet Revenge
4. Get Up
5. Ground Zero
6. Never Far Away
7. Take Me Alive
8. Long Gone
11. Other Side Of Town
12. Climbing Up the Walls
13. Watch Out
14. 2 Drink Minimum (bonus track)
From the Facebook archives…
I’m gonna have to forgo the old adage of if you don’t have something nice to say then say nothing at all because I’m aggravated and I make my apologies to you, friends, who favor this band. You know that I care for you and your opinions but also know that music is a bit more to me than a listening hobby.
I really and truly went to see Glasvegas wanting to like them; hoping that the live renditions of song coupled with their individual spark would make me see the light. Make me hear what I’d been missing. Make me say, “Now I get it!”
Instead it made me say. “Jesus, is it over yet?”. The show was free and I want my money back. The drummer in a short mouse, her skills nonexistent and looked as if the juvenile beat she was keeping was too much for her to handle. Obviously it was because she fell behind that beat repeatedly. Meg White could eat her lunch…and we all know that Meg’s a professional amateur at best, but what she lacks in technical skill she more than compensates for with bouncy enthusiasm. The saying that “a band is only as good as it’s drummer” never rang so true and crystal clear as it did last night as I stood on the Amoeba floor two snaps and a circle away from letting the Brooklyn out. The music was repetitive and uninspiring, quite boring,based on the same back beatsong after song, and I kept waiting (actually hoping) for The Shirelles or The Ronettes to pop out from behind the curtain and throw down some backing whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh vocals and synchronized dance moves to break up the nonsense. No such luck.
The most interesting thing about this show was the stout guitar player’s kicks:
And again, I went WANTING to like them. Honest. Nothing changes my opinion about a band more than seeing them bringing it live, but Glasvegas had nothing to bring except a lame ass Joe Strummer wannabe poser. I went with 3 other people…and we all walked away with the same assessment, yet not once did one person try to influence the opinion of another. Considering that I don’t like my time wasted, I pulled out and started reading my latest copy of Blender Magazine towards the end…I try never to travel without something to read.
After the festivities we went to eat and had an after-action review of the show. Over cheesecakes, carrot cakes, tea, coffee and ginourmous hamburgers there was concurrence round the table that this band’s 15 minutes are overdue to be at an end. Wow. And to make matters worse, my soul was restless and wanted something to neutralize the off feeling that they instigated. Our choices were go to The Troubadour where The Entrance Band and The Growlers (whom I also dislike) were playing or Good Hurt for simpler, acoustic fare. I chose Good Hurt. I needed soothing and conversation more than crowded, noisy agitation.
I guess that the reason why this was blog-worthy is because it’s a rare thing that I should ever walk away from a musical experience feeling something akin to outright animosity. That never happens. Even if the nature of the music is not my cup of Lady Grey tea, I can always glean some redeeming feature; why others may feel it and, so, appreciate it at that level. Not so much with, Glasvegas. And the fact that their music pissed me off pissed me off and now my karma/law of reciprocity is all fucked up and I will always resent them and their craptastic music because of it. I was shooting stills for this show. I stopped. I felt like I was wasting my time.
Except for the guitar players kicks.
October 14th, 2009…..
Earlier this year I had moment that amplified my emotional nerves, rubbed me the right and wrong way simultaneously and it went a little something like this: (this may ramble but work with me)
It all began with listening to the new album by Spinnerette and engaging in a reasoned online discussion regarding said album and its frontperson, Brody Dalle (or Mrs. Josh Homme, to you) who fronts Spinnerette, her second solid band. It felt good to have something of this nature to talk about because, well, it doesn’t happen often to me. The next thing I knew, I was sitting backstage at the Del Mar Fair in Del Mar, CA staring (gawking) at, what was to me in my musically formative years, the purest face of rock and roll in the female form: Joan Jett. Jesus H. Christ and she looked just as hot and hardcore and black leather-clad as she did on the cover of “Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth”.
I reminisced about beautiful things of old; singers of the female type who were the exception and not the rule, managing to insert a well-heeled (or sneakered) foot onto the rock and roll platform without tripping over their stilettos and embarrassing themselves or their chromosomes. Tina Turner taught a skinny English guy named Mick Jagger how to strut his stuff and crossed a racial divide with guts and legs that would not be denied. Janis Joplin bansheed her way to and through blues-infused rock and scarred us for life even as she lost hers. Patti Smith can’t sing worth a damn but she more than made up for it with grit, spit, punk, and poetry. Debbie Harry marked her punk-new wave territory in Candies mules and lip gloss with Blondie in tow. Pat Benatar? Well, what’s there to say about her pint-sized, tough sexuality and rock operatic pipes?
The musical landscape is a constantly changing/evolving entity that shifts in tune with the cultural climate and these days (rarely for better, overwhelmingly for worse) the umbrella that covers the descriptive but generic genre of “rock” has expanded to be inclusive of just about any piece of fluff that floats to the top of the Hot 100. Avril Lavigne “rocks”…according to rebellious poseurs who shoplift studded bracelets from Hot Topic. Sheryl Crow “rocks”…meh. To my ears she’s degenerated to harmless twangy adult contemporary. Awesome body, though. Recently I watched Heart blow through The Who’s “Reign O’er Me” on VH-1 Classic where Ann Wilson hit three successive notes with a devastating vibrato that nearly made me cry. Nancy? Still slinging her axe with blond ambition and when she hit her knees at the front of the stage I think I turned gay. I also wondered why the hell not one female performer was tapped for The Who’s VH-1 Rock Honors show. I guess only male musicians saw the light in “Tommy”. Yeah. Anyway, when that that moment was over, I was left with the task of reconciling my past with the present in order to find some happy medium that satisfied my very precise jones: the intrinsic need for women who rock. Not women who “pop”, but women who rock although, yes, I admit that occasionally the twain shall meet (paging Pink).
But to “rock” (the verb) is as subjective a term as any, as is to “suck”, but I easily apply either and do so as I see fit. To my ears Tori Amos is as formidable a figure of rock as is a non-drugged out, unskanked version of Courtney Love as is Nona Hendryx even though they’re of three different musical species which may make it difficult, especially today, to find sharp and definitive words when answering the question, “What is rock?” (the descriptive noun). There are too many subgenres of the genre, fusions with other genres, and scenes within scenes depending upon your locale; something I’m joyfully reminded of every time I listen to the first track of Pearl Jam’s latest album (must love some well place surf guitar rock). Whereas “rock & roll” was a subversive term to describe black folks getting busy, it also became a mindset of making the noise that moved the room, made girls scream, made the boys dance, and gave parents fits thinking the generation was doomed to hell. It’s agitation and jubilation. It’s rebellion and contrast. It’s expression and release. It’s uncomfortable and familiar. And very importantly, it’s independent. And it can have, has had, and always should have fierce and competent women speaking for it, representing it, and, no, Lady GaGa doesn’t count, to my ears (yes, I have to qualify that). Personally I find it lock, stock, and barefoot barrel in the incomparable Beth Hart and the combustible Aja Volkman, but those are names that aren’t on the tips of many of your learned tongues, yet they are two women who absolutely burn me with their talent and raw passion. Hart’s lack of wide recognition tends to burn me, as well.
In fully honoring my gender, I defend the notion that XX representation should come not only in the position of frontperson, but also in the rear, to the left and to the right. If I say “girls with guitars” who do you think of? Anyone other than Nancy Wilson? Seems to be that there’s a gaping hole regarding a female counterpart to Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page. Perhaps women have traditionally just been more comfortable and confident in their singing abilities, less in the masculine arena of electric shredding as it calls for posturing and ego; things not considered particularly attractive traits in women. Let’s be honest, some of the most notable female guitar players, although quite skilled, are more known for their singing (Melissa Etheridge, Bonnie Raitt, Jewel, Susan Tedeschi, etc.) and/or for leaning more towards an acoustic guitar, certainly not for pushing musical boundaries or pioneering new playing styles or techniques. In August, UltimateGuitar.com gave a list of “12 Greatest Female Electric Guitarists”, most of who were standard alumni . Even so, my question is, other than the first three, who else have you heard of? And, in truth, the lovely Joan Jett is kind of iffy on that list because she’s more a rhythm master who injected some much needed chick swagger into the game rather than a true guitar hero. And there was one omission on this list so glaring that that it invoked my “You gotta be shitting me” face. Earlier this year I sat in on a most intimate gig by a guitar goddess at a most unlikely venue literally .7 miles from my home. I say unlikely because I know her skill to far outweigh the location but hell if I wasn’t grateful to not have to haul my ass up to LA. But there she was fleshing out her live set in tiny places like the OC Tavern in San Clemente. No vocals, strictly acoustic guitar, and I was in awe. Kaki King. You might want to know her, what she has accomplished and is capable of which is a most intricate and unique style of playing, incorporating slapping, tapping, picking, and fanning on her acoustic and electric guitars. There’s a reason why she’s landed on Rolling Stone’s “New Guitar Gods” list.
Drummers? Bassists? Bueller? (and please don’t even mention the overly girled-out position of keyboards/piano)
By the way, where are all of the women in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Outside of those admitted as band members (Chrissie Hynde/The Pretenders, Debbie Harry/Blondie, Stevie Nicks & Christine McVie/Fleetwood Mac, etc.) and Janis Joplin you might be hard pressed to pluck your brain for the name of inducted women. That’s because of the over 200 inductees, only 20 are women and no, Joan Jett, Heart, and Pat Benatar are not among them. Yes, I looked. I had to, it hurt my head trying to come up with names. (does Madonna really count? Another discussion for another day) You would think that that if a hallowed place such as the RRHoF were to have a theme song it would be Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock and Roll”. What? Too obvious?
Before I let this fly, I asked who your women of rock & roll were as a gauge. You gave many that I expected, a few that I didn’t, and one or two which got an eye roll.
Ann & Nancy Wilson, L7 (guttural and dense guitars), Courtney Love, Tori Amos, Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, Veruca Salt, Meshell Ndegeocello, Kim Deal, Kim Gordon, Pat Benatar, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, Nona Hendryx, The Runaways, Linda Perry, Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks, Karen O, Lita Ford, Brode Dalle, Joyce Kennedy, Beth Hart, Mary J. Blige (the soulful side of things), Wendy O. Williams, Patti Smith, Siedah Garrett, Ani DiFranco, Gail Ann Dorsey (bass player), Pretty Girls Make Graves, Jane Child, Shingai Shoniwa, Melissa Auf der Maur, Hayley Williams (Paramore), Nikka Costa, Dixie Chicks, Vixen, (fill in your blanks here)
And yes, just say “NO” to The Donnas. They suck on a level called pale shade of wannabee.
In the grand scheme of things rock & roll always been and perhaps always will be a man’s world (at least in my lifetime) but I’m always looking out for the *she* who makes me want to tap into my inner rock chick. I’m glad and grateful for those who have been and am always on the lookout for who will be. At the end of the day it’s your music, your groove. And although I’ll argue the validity and value of a band/artist/music with you on any given day, if it moves you then it’s of worth.
Now where’s my Spice Girls CD?
NOTE: This was written approximately 12 days after I moved to Los Angeles, CA. I was getting ready for work, the sun was shining (as it often does in December), and I had not a care in my immediate world. And then…
Yesterday morn I was getting ready for my day listening to an LA radio station (first mistake, right?). Now I’m hardly naïve or unawares to the ways of the world but Jesus H. Christ, there should be a limit to levels of craptasticness.
The precious seconds of the intro of a fantastic song (drums, baby) was trying to punch its way through my speakers in order to get to me. Sadly, it was met and defeated by a stupid ass DJ running his mouth over that incredible drum solo and I can’t tell you how insulted, annoyed, and pissed the fuck off I was. The walls of my apartment could have told you since they were witness to my loud and uncontrolled “Shut the fuck up!” I even surprised myself when that happened; I don’t yell often, but for those few seconds I was livid. Other than getting murdered on the streets of Los Angeles, the one thing that I truly, TRULY dreaded about moving here was the ass sucking quality of the radio that I would be forced to endure. I’m the customer, the consumer, and I should be who you try to please on a daily basis. KROQ…let’s not go there. Indie 103.1; you truly have your moments while playing the LA-game. 98.7…haven’t fully formed an opinion yet, it’s not looking great but I’ll get back to you. My annoyance (and some of you know that I annoy quite easily) was the provocation for one of my FB and Twitter updates. Twitter automatically updated my Myspace status. Last night someone read that Myspace status and took the time to contact me with their thoughts:
“Hello, We found your comment about radio station DJ’s “running their mouths” over the music. Since the beginning of radio, entertainment came from the music and the personalities playing the music. The science for some formats, to talk during the beginning of the instrumental and finish before the vocals. Is the information being given non-informative or entertaining? Radio is meant to reflect the local community, thoughts, and attitude. If there were no DJ’s, this “flavor” would be lacking and be no different than an iPod playing. Therefore, do you EVER get any chuckles, pertinent information or a local vibe when listening to the DJ speak? As the beginning of the song plays(which let’s be honest, you’ve heard before), is it really that intrusive to hear the DJ give information or say something funny? Another analogy would be the hip-hop DJ’s doing their thing over an instrumental prior to the vocals starting.
Thanks for your time.”
I stared at that communication with my head tilted to one side, as I wondered if this response was for real. So this morn I took the time to respond with my thoughts:
“Are you serious?
Yes it’s intrusive because you’re interrupting the very reason that I’m listening to the radio in the first place…THE MUSIC. Not the DJ’s banal conversation which s/he can rightfully engage in before the song begins and after it ends. If that’s the “science” of radio then it’s painfully faulty and if you’re in the radio industry you should be able to see that. If you even remotely like music you should be able to see that. I was completely livid as the morning DJ from 103.1 ran his mouth over the brilliance of the killer drum intro of Them Crooked Vultures song “New Fang” and that treatment of the music continued until I turned the radio off. Couldn’t believe that he thought his chatter was more important than the reason that he has a job in the first place.
I just moved to LA and the one thing that I was dreading above all (along with the crappy playlists and hearing the same song 6 times in one day) was the insipid radio nonsense of DJs more interested in the sounds of their own voices that the tunes they should be spinning. This I can say because I spent the past 5 years listening to a successful radio station out of San Diego that actually RESPECTS the music enough to NEVER talk over any part of a song. EVER. It was a written law and standard operating procedure. And I found those DJs great, funny, intelligent, and a fountain of information…when the songs weren’t playing. The science is adjustable.
So forgive me if I find your argument lacking because I’m really a music lover.
I didn’t look at the Myspace profile of the sender; at that point I didn’t really care.
PS: that San Diego radio station that I referred to was FM 94.9. According to them, it’s about the music.
Dear Kings of Leon:
I love you and I think you and the rest of the civilized world are aware of that. But never let it be said that my love is blind and cannot discern sounds good from sounds bad from sounds meh. And so everything that I say from here on is meant with my love:
For better or for worse when a band is as aurally distinct as Kings of Leon what comes with it, like road weary baggage, is a fierce protective streak for the little things that made you fall for them in the first place: little things like the rough and Nashville dirty, STD-optional, gender bent, bar room brawl, beer drunk, grudge fuck, cheap sex rock and roll, as well as not being able to understand one word that came out of Caleb Followill’s pornstashe-draped mouth. Fashionably, they came from an unfortunate place but musically…bless their humble hearts.
Over the years you, Kings of Leon, have traversed from being a band that couldn’t get arrested in the US to being able to walk off stage mid-performance due to an avian biological threat. How did we get here? And how the hell did we get to this fifth studio album, “Come Around Sundown”?
I’ll never begrudge a band for attaining success, mainstream or otherwise, because let’s be real: at the end of the day, a band’s got to pay the bills and hopefully have something left over to, I don’t know, buy a Happy Meal. And I’m all for progressing with your art because it should never be a static and repetitive thing. That being said, you guys have taken “mainstream” and “progression” to a level that I never thought I’d hear from you: boring. Dishwater dull, “is this the same band who made Aha Shake Heartbreak?”, you’ve gotta be shitting me, snorefest. Where to begin?
Your latest offering “Come Around Sundown” is a full collection of what sounds like KOL taking for granted the fact that “Use Somebody” and “Sex On Fire” were exceptions to the KOL rule and I had no idea that all of you, so young, could collectively sound so…old. Jenny-come-lately fans for whom you suddenly became sex candy with “Because of the Times” and sealed the deal with “Only by the Night”…this album’s may be for them, and then only because of “Radioactive”, the one spot of life even if the video does take “token black character” to a ludicrous place. But I cut my ear-teeth on the dark and self-conscious, often self-derisive, oft biographic, ball thrash of young dumb southern rockers who didn’t give a fuck but really did. And I thought U2 hit a grindingly mind-numbing Adult Contemporary low with “No Line on the Horizon” but you can almost forgive that: they’re in their 50’s, for fucks sake.
All others, if they’re like me they’re going to have trouble telling one reaching-for-the-rafters song from another on “Sundown”. Somehow you’ve even managed to make Nathan’s fluid drumming sound tedious and Matthew’s guitar seem more shimmeringly calculated than usual as every track feels like an ill-suited attempt for rock arena glory and that’s not what made my Kings of Leon such charmers. Gone are the rough sonic edges and vocal craft where I envisioned Caleb busting a nut in the heat of the song’s moment. And lyrically the closest that you seem to come to tapping into your restless, Jack and coke(caine)-fueled creativity is something about a bloody nose and panty hose in “Birthday” and the ever so plodding “Mi Amigo” where your girl praises your impressively sized genitalia and wants your skinny ass at home. Glad to hear it and now that I have visions of Caleb with a “big old dick”, my life has never been so complete.
Let’s look at it from another perspective: Kings of Leon’s first two albums were like rough, yet thoroughly satisfying sex.
These last two albums are obligatorily making love with the lights off and that’s something I can find no joy in whatsoever.
I think that Chris Cornell‘s “Scream” was the last time that I had such an effusive flow of f-bombs or other unladylike written words but that was because Cornell and that album pissed me the fuck off with it’s sheer awfulness and the insult that it was to music. Deja fucking-vu. Thanks for that, Kings of Leon.
Now where’s my “Youth & Young Manhood” CD?