Monday, May 28, 2012

First new Stone Roses gig!

As reported on Slicing Up Eyeballs and elsewhere, the Stone Roses took the stage for their first public gig since reforming a few nights ago in Warrington in the U.K. (a bit southeast of Manchester). The videos I watched & listened to were big crowd singalongs and you could barely hear Ian. (I hope he's improved singing live over the years, but if not, hearing more crowd & less him would be a good thing :) The guitar on "Love Spreads" sounded great, and the other snippets were pretty good as well.

I did find one video that's labeled as a new song, but to my ears (and many others) it's just Ian riffing different words over "Sally Cinnamon". Either way, it's still fun to listen to. Check it out:




Affiliate music links (if you buy from here, I get a tiny cut - support Your Older Brother! :)

Sally Cinnamon (Single Mix) - Sally Cinnamon - EP
Love Spreads - Second Coming

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Post-Violator Depeche Mode Discography Suggestions - Part One

A couple of months ago, I wrote about my friend Adam and his mega-music list that myself and a few friends are discussion over in a private message on Facebook. Dan mentioned that the Cure were kind of a one-trick pony by Wish, but he hadn't heard much by them after that. So I wrote a post I hoped would educate him on what I felt were the Cure's strong moments after Wish.

Flash forward to a recent conversation, where our friend Jim in naming his favorite Depeche Mode songs from the list wrote:
Best: shake the disease
Worst: I feel you, and all the other stuff post violator that I never listened to.
So, I felt compelled to write a post to Jim listing what I felt were Depeche Mode's post-Violator high points, because I think there are plenty.

Like I did with The Cure post-Wish suggestions, I'll work my way through chronologically. Of all the the albums that came after Violator in the Depeche Mode discography, I want to say that my least favorite is Songs of Faith and Devotion, but that's probably because I was going through a really difficult emotional time in my life.



It was released in March of 1993 around the time I had just broken up with a girl that I had broken up with my long-time girlfriend to start dating. (Did you follow that?) I had realized I still loved my long-time girlfriend and the new girl ... while I cared for her...I don't know. I had a feeling it wouldn't work out. Or I was scared. Or something.

So I ran back to my long-time girlfriend - who (understandably) wasn't too receptive about taking me back. So the lyrics to "Walking in My Shoes" -
Now I'm not looking for absolution
Forgiveness for the things I do
But before you come to any conclusions
Try walking in my shoes
had kind of a deeper meaning for me. Likewise the lyrics to "Judas" -
Man will survive
The harshest conditions
And stay alive
Through difficult decisions
So make up your mind for me
Walk the line for me
If you want my love
 and "One Caress" -
Well I'm down on my knees again
And I pray to the only one
Who has the strength
To bear the pain
To forgive all the things that I've done.
It was a really painful time in my life emotionally, and this album was on heavy rotation - literally, because I worked in a record store at the time. Even the title seemed to be mocking me.

However, I do really like the aforementioned songs, along with "Get Right With Me," "Condemnation," and I've warmed to "Rush" over the years as well. The album opener "I Feel You" has a bit of a "Personal Jesus" feel to it, and kicks things off with authority. This album has a great gospel feel to it in many places, and just feels big in general. Aiming for arena rock and largely hitting the mark, in my opinion.

So, it seems that overall I do like Songs of Faith and Devotion, I just have negative associations with the songs. Which I should probably let go of, because the "long-time girlfriend" mentioned above is now my wife.

If I wanted to say that Songs of Faith and Devotion was my least favorite post-Violator, I want to say that Ultra is my favorite.


The entire album is a slow burn, the ebb and flow never quite reaching a crest. I'm thinking here of songs like "Everything Counts," "Strangelove," and "Master and Servant," where I see a definite high point to the record, both tempo- & songwriting-wise. Ultra has some great songs, but it's more like stringing together a bunch of  "Somebody"s and "Little 15"s.

For instance, I would consider "Useless" to be one of the hardest, fastest songs on the record - but it's not that hard, and it's not that fast - BPM database says 95 - and the fastest is "It's No Good" at 100. Not exactly barn-burners. But Ultra isn't about the flashy dancefloor hits. It's a very musically sensual album by any measure, and the lyrics are delivered in a similar, languid fashion. Check the slide notes on "Freestate" or the opening verse of "Sister of Night"
Sister of night
When the hunger descends
And your body's a fire
An inferno that never ends
An eternal flame
That burns in desire's name
There's not a bad song on the album, in my opinion, and that includes the 3 instrumental interludes. My favorite Depeche Mode tracks off Ultra are "It's No Good," "The Bottom Line," and "Useless." I put "Useless" on a mixtape for a friend many years ago. He didn't much care for electronic music and the song was so different from what I had come to expect from Depeche Mode - the solid 4/4 (real!) drum beat, the fuzzed-out riff - that I thought it would appeal to anyone who liked music in general. I don't know if he liked the song too, but I wanted to take that chance. It's one of my favorite DM songs ever.

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Ok, there's more, but this ran long, so I'm making this a 2-part post. Also, I'm going to do something different. Most of my previous posts were link-riddled to the iTunes store. Yes, they were affiliate links, which means if you click & buy, I get a tiny bit of money for the referral. How tiny? I don't know, but I haven't reached the threshold for a payout yet. Anyway, I've decided to break out the affiliate links to the bottom of my posts. I'll post to the songs and albums on the iTunes store with the note that if you buy, I'll get some small amount of affiliate money. The links in the body of the post will only be to informational or entertainment sites, like DepecheMode.com or my friend's blog. Let me know in the comments if you prefer having the links at the bottom of the post.

And one more thing:

All lyrics © Grabbing Hands Music/EMI Music Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Affiliate links:

Depeche Mode

Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video] - Depeche Mode
Ultra (Remastered) - Depeche Mode

Walking In My Shoes - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
Judas - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
One Caress - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
Get Right With Me - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
Condemnation - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
Rush - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
I Feel You - Songs of Faith and Devotion (Remastered 2006) [With Bonus Video]
Personal Jesus - Violator (Remastered) [Bonus Track Version]
Everything Counts - Construction Time Again
Strangelove (2006 Remastered) - Music for the Masses (Remastered)
Master and Servant - Some Great Reward (Remastered)
Somebody - Some Great Reward (Remastered)
Little 15 (2006 Remastered) - Music for the Masses (Remastered)
Useless - Ultra (Remastered)
It's No Good - Ultra (Remastered)
Freestate - Ultra (Remastered)
Sister of Night - Ultra (Remastered)
The Bottom Line - Ultra (Remastered)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

R.I.P. MCA

On the afternoon of Friday the 4th, I logged in to a social website I belong to and saw that headline on someone's post: RIP MCA.

My stomach sank, my jaw dropped, and my mind raced. I remembered that he had cancer. I remembered that he had not shown up to the Beastie Boys' induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. "I should have known he was this close," I thought. Another friend of mine is a hospice nurse, and when Steve Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO last summer, he told us all "He's getting his life in order. It won't be long now," or something to that effect.

But that's not all I remember about MCA, or Adam Yauch.

My first memory of the Beastie Boys was hearing that awful song on the radio, "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)." I was in high school, and it still seemed lunkheaded and incredibly lowbrow. I would change the station whenever that dumb song came on. To me, this wasn't rap. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five & the Sugarhill Gang were rap.

I think I saw the video on MTV shortly after that, and realized that this was a little *too* lunkheaded. Very over-the-top. This was parody, but it wasn't poking fun at rap culture, it was poking fun at lunkhead culture.



That's when I first saw MCA - whacking a shoe against his head, a move I hadn't seen since Spicoli in Fast Times. Then the door burst down, he strode in wearing his black leather jacket, grabbed a can from a guy, swigged, threw the can at the guy's head, spun another guy around and spit the liquid in that guy's face. Definitely not the kind of behaviour my parents or any other adult I knew would condone.

Naturally, my opinion of the Beastie Boys changed right then and there.

They were part of the soundtrack to my junior year of high school. Our school had a "talent show" where I'm sure some other acts showed real talent, but Pete, Ted and I lip-synched to "The New Style." I took the role of MCA because I had dark hair, could grow stubble, and my dad had a leather jacket I could wear. We later bum-rushed the stage while the emcee was introducing another act. We jumped around, screamed "BEASTIE BOYS!" and then ran off the stage. I was previously kind of a shy kid, but the Beastie Boys brought out my prankster side, a little bravado, and a sense of fun. I wasn't terribly shy after that.

I feel pretty lucky that I got to see the Beastie Boys tour in 1987 with Fishbone & Murphy's Law, but as time passed, my friends and I left the Beasties behind, found 2 Live Crew, graduated high school and went to San Diego to attend my first year of college. The summer before my third freshman semester, Paul's Boutique came out.

I read in Yauch's obits that Paul's Boutique was considered a commercial flop, but I never got that impression - it was immensely popular with my friends, especially the pot smokers. The dense samples and drug references made it easy to burn out and take it all in. These Beasties were more earnest and committed to their craft - still having an incredible amount of fun, but not the lunkheads of Licensed to Ill.

I started working at my college radio station in January of 1990, and while trying to figure out an on-air name, one of the guys in the booth suggested "Sam The Butcher." I liked it because it sounded hard, and I was getting into industrial music at the time. I later realized that he had gotten the Brady Bunch reference from "Shake Your Rump." I'm still Sam The Butcher around the 'net, so the Beasties have remained with me since then.

Check Your Head came and saw the Beasties playing their own instruments once again, which I respected, having taken up guitar myself. However my next big memory of MCA was his signature rhyme from 1994's "Sure Shot" off Ill Communication - "I wanna say a little somethin' that's long overdue/The disrespectin' women has got to be through/To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends/I wanna offer my love and respect 'til the end." This affected me because it was plain spoken respect for women, not something that was common in rock or rap. I grew up very close to my mom and sister, so hearing this made me feel good about listening to their music, and it was a straight up rebuke to the group's earlier misogynistic antics.

Lastly, Yauch has contributed in small ways to my progressive emergence as a Buddhist. From the track "Bodhisattva Vow" to establishing the Milarepa Fund for Tibetan Freedom, he did his thing without getting all preachy. Sure, his efforts for Milarepa & Tibet were large and publicised, but it never seemed in your face. At least not in mine. So, as I got more into Buddhism, I could feel the presence of Yauch supporting me, along with other friends. It sounds weird, or maybe kind of hippie/New Age, but it was one of those things like "yeah…Yauch's a Buddhist. Cool. So it's not just me that understands life in this way." Hard to describe, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

Thanks, MCA. Namasté, Yauch. In little ways, you helped me become who I am.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

ThURGHsday! #7 - Oingo Boingo

URGH! A Music War was probably my introduction to Oingo Boingo:

"Ain't This The Life"

But I would hear their music here & there in early 80's movies like Fast Times At Ridgemont HighSurf II, and the "Squeezit the Moocher" segment from Forbidden Zone. (Trivia Nugget: I had a college radio show named "The Forbidden Zone" that I hosted with a friend of mine. Not as schizophrenic as the movie...but close.)

So Oingo Boingo's music was familiar to me by the time I started getting into them, which was probably mid-80's. I recall buying the cassettes for Good for Your Soul and Nothing to Fear, and I'm pretty sure I didn't know songs off either album when I bought them.


If anything, I knew the songs from Only a Lad better, but probably didn't know song titles. In fact, I'm pretty sure I bought those cassettes looking for "Ain't This The Life" or "Violent Love," a song I heard on 91X in San Diego while there on vacation.


Formed in Los Angeles as The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman decided to focus the band and they cultivated a very different brand of southern California rock that wasn't quite New Wave, but they get lumped in with that early 80's genre. Personally, I think more of synths when I think New Wave (New Order, OMD), not so much the kinetic guitars & horns of Oingo Boingo - but the band did have their share of great keyboard hooks.

But Oingo Boingo always stood out for me in my musical landscape. They weren't a ska band, even though they had a horn section. They weren't New Wave, but they weren't metal or straight-ahead rock, either. They wrote thoughtful lyrics (quite often with an existentialist bent) although few up to "Stay" on Dead Man's Party would be considered actual love-type songs, and even "Stay" is a love song in chorus only. I think.


And that's the tough thing about Oingo Boingo, they're very difficult to pin down, musically - not that every band has to fit neatly in a genre, and I like & respect bands like Boingo precisely because they aren't easily categorized.

I think the first album was mostly Elfman writing the lyrics from the points of view of a lot of characters. The character in "Little Girls" by Oingo Boingo is pretty deplorable, but he's certainly not the same person who sings "Capitalism" later on that same album. After that, though, I think Elfman is more explicit in what he's trying to tell us - listen to "Grey Matter," "Wake Up (It's 1984)," or "Little Guns." Dead Man's Party has its share of fanciful tales - "Dead Man's Party" & "Weird Science." Definitely my favorite cover art of their records - I have a thing for Día de los Muertos.


I readily admit that I haven't listened much to Dark at the End of the Tunnel or Boingo (their final album, not to be confused with Boi-Ngo). Dark End is still Oingo Boingo-like, but "Insanity" - the first track off Boingo - is very much like Eflman's film score work, and the other songs I briefly previewed were more "normal" songs that you'd hear from a regular rock band. And their cover of The Beatles' "I Am the Walrus" is, in my opinion, horrible. (The Oasis cover wasn't much better, but it was better.)

And then Oingo Boingo were no more.

Where URGH! They Now?

Most people know that Danny Elfman has cultivated a very successful career as a composer of movie & TV scores, including The Simpsons opening theme, Forbidden Zone, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Good Will Hunting, Spider-Man and  Meet the Robinsons among many, many others.

I don't think many people know that Steve Bartek has also worked on a good number of film & television scores (Desperate Housewives, Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, An Extremely Goofy Movie, Cabin Boy) and has handled orchestration duties for many of Elfman's scores as well as an extensive list of other movies, TV shows & video games.

While Elfman has declined to perform live since the end of the group citing concerns about his hearing, the drummer, Johnny Vatos, has organized "Boingo Dance Party," including members of Oingo Boingo.

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Last ThURGHsday! - Chelsea, "I'm On Fire"
Next ThURGHsday! - Echo & the Bunnymen, "The Puppet"