Category Archives: Music

Le Ballet D’Or

Spandau Ballet is reforming!!! Whoo-hooo?

Is this anything anyone was ever waiting for?  I’d vote for ‘no’ – unless you are their accountant or collected the rent on their flat every month.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with them, per se.  But there is nothing right with them either.  They are just…………..there.

I remember back in the day, my mother seeing them on some tv show singing, “True” – it couldn’t have been MTV, as we didn’t have cable then – and said aloud:  (paraphrasing, but close) “oh, why can’t all these bands be nice and wear suits like this group.”

I think I bruised my eyelids from rolling the eye balls so hard.

I’m sure she didn’t think that of the Beatles when they wore their suits back in 1963, so maybe she had come along with the times – to a degree.

“True” bored the ever-loving-shit out of me.  It was a time of decent enough music (though many would disagree), but man, the word “banal” just comes to mind.  I give credit where credit is due – their follow-up single, “Gold”, was the best song that was never a James Bond theme song (not that it was rejected or anything – I just meant in the style of…...).

But other than that?  Really – what is/was there?   How does reforming constitute anything more than playing rib-fests across the country?  They’re destined to be double billed with Rick Springfield for g-d’s sake!  Maybe it will be a throw-down to see who is the opening act.

Clearly they are serious about this little jaunt.  They even have an official website.  Hell, they were broken-up about 15 years before the inter-highway was even built.  Though I don’t think anyone other than these chaps were chomping at the bit to snag the URL.

Me?  I’m just holding out for the big Modern English reunion.  It’s coming.  Right?

Song by: Counting Crows

Record of the Month – Classic

Another installment of a disk I have enjoyed over the years. I’m trying to keep the Record of the Month posts to be fairly new releases. Classics are going to be ones that are at least 5 years old.

I vacillated between this debut disc, Kite, and Kirsty MacColl‘s sophomore album, Electric Landlady, but I went with this one. Duh.

America most know Ms MacColl for writing Tracey Ullman’s “They Don’t Know”, (not that most have ever really known this fact – or the song) but she was so much more than that. She was a witty and poignant songwriter who also did a great job of performing – in that, oh-so British way.

Jon almost had me post this last month when in Mexico, as we were not far from where Kirsty died in a tragic speed boat accident almost a decade ago. But he certainly got me thinking on when (not if) to include her music.

The version of Kite I have no longer exists. The ones currently out there are remixed within an inch of their life with lots of additional, lesser known and less stellar tracks. I think they dilute the experience.

The disk, produced by her then husband, Steve Lillywhite (responsible for U2’s first three disks, Talking Heads and a plethora of other music out there), comes across as poppy and light-hearted. That is, until you really listen to it. Don’t get me wrong, it can just be pop, but more often than not, it can be sociallyconscious, heartbreaking and/or sad.

The original disk consisted of 15 songs, a third of those not even hitting three minutes in length, they were snapshots almost. Most of the songs are originals, but a few covers. MacColl does a decent cover of the Kinks  “Days”, but ironically, two songs later she does her own song, “15 Minutes” which sounds like it could be a Kinks song.

She also does what I consider an incredible cover of the Smiths “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby” (at least the original release).  It ranks up there as one of the best cover songs ever done and she does it without losing any of Morrissey’s tongue-in-cheek behaviour.  The Smiths, Johnny Marr makes appearances as both musician and co-writer on a few tracks.

As the album goes, I have some favourites, as you might guess: “Free World”, “What Do Pretty Girls Do”, “Dancing in Limbo”, “You and Me, Baby” and “LaForet de Memosas”.

I am not sure how easy Kite is to find outside of iTunes, but it is available there.  Go and sample.  I think you’ll like.

2008 Music

For the 2nd year in a row, I have not come across a disk strong enough that I would qualify as ‘CD of the Year’.

Many releases had good aspects, but nothing that stood out so much that I went ‘WOW’.

But there are some disks that had really outstanding music, so I’ll do a top song list – in no particular order:

  • Losing Touch – the Killers
  • Juliet of the Spirits – the B-52’s
  • I Will Possess Your Heart – Death Cab for Cutie
  • Mercy – Duffy
  • 24 Hour Break Up Session – Local H
  • Human – the Killers
  • Love Runs Deeper – Lindsey Buckingham
  • U Want Me 2 – Sarah McLachlan
  • Sex on Fire – Kings of Leon
  • Great Beyond – Aimee Mann
  • Supernatural Superserious – R.E.M.
  • Cowboys – Counting Crows

What’d I miss?   What would you have included?

Record of the Month

I figured I’d do a monthly ‘what I’m listening to’ kind of thing. This could be viewed as a lame placeholder kind of post. And probably it is. But it’s my blog! So there!


I will say, no one is more surprised by my like of the Killers than myself. I think I said that after I took my nephew to their concert pushing two years ago now, I would guess. Sure I had heard the hits of Hot Fuss on the airwaves and really took to “Somebody Told Me”, but not enough to buy the album.

It was their follow-up, the underrated and under appreciated Sam’s Town, that I really liked. Sure Sam’s Town had some Springtseen-esque qualities, or almost plagiarism, but it still worked. Their third disk of b-sides and out-takes was just that – killing time until a new disk landed. And it has.

Much like their first two disks, the Killers’ new release, Day & Age, comes across as trading on many older styles. Last time it was some Bruce, but this time they are back to (re)visit Bowie, Roxie Music, Duran Duran and New Order, as they did on their debut. Yeah, they have influences from my past, but on the other hand, they seem to pull much of it off as their own.

For musicianship and vocal talent, the Killers are quite adept and perform fairly well. They are all credible in their playing and singing.

Day & Age was produced by Stuart Price, who did Madonna’s Confession on a Dance Floor. You can hear some of that in this work, especially in “Human”, but for the most part, he blazes no new trails.

With “Human”, the group may have achieved the best pop song of the year. While the song was built for, but failed at, radio airplay – I’m a bigger fan of the opener, “Losing Touch”. With the horns and the vocal changes, it has a Bowie-like feel. “Spaceman” is also fun and could be a radio hit.

“A Dustland Fairytale” could be from Sam’s Town (read: Springsteen again) in style. The slow burn of “The World That We Live In” is kind of surprising to me. Ditto with the chorus to “Neon Tiger”. And I like the traditional disk closer, “Goodnight, Travel Well”. None of these will make a radio playlist ever. (I say ‘traditional’ because the iTunes version contains an additional three songs.)

And while there are other strong songs on the disk, there are some clearly weaker material (“Joy Ride”, “This is Your Life”).

If you’re looking for depth when it comes to lyrical content, you may as well look elsewhere (“you sold your soul, like a Roman vagabond”. Really??). Brandon Flowers (no relation, I don’t think, to the accomplished and world-acclaimed, Rebecca), might possibly be the gayest straight man ever, but he is not passing off meaningful words to most of these songs. You just have to take it for what it is.

I guess Day & Age is a three and a half-star disk. I would bet the material presents better live, but this is just a regular recording that you can skip and play what you wish.

Sing

I took up Tornwordo’s Music Meme post for a few reasons – I’m big on music, and it is Sunday and a travel day…..and I had to post something!

I am not sure I have a type of music I like – though my friends will say ‘good….but down’. Or is it ‘down……but good’?Either way, the inflection on the last part of either goes up. I too have helped morph my partner’s musical tastes……not that he doesn’t have his own. But I am less likely to be influenced by his choice of artists. No judgement.

Since I travel a lot, I use my iPod a lot. I don’t get shuffle. How it works, that is. I will find it playing the same artist a few songs later. I mean, I have 2000 songs on it…..mix it up Apple! And if I start over after rebooting, recharging, or whatever, I seem to get a lot of the same songs I had just heard (I swear Sarah McLachlan’s “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” is always right there!).

That all being said – below are the 10 shuffled songs. No filters. Take it for what it is.

01. Counting Crows – Cowboys
One of my top favorites off their last disk Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings

02. the Killers – Sweet Talk
Had never heard it before this shuffle. I just put it on my iPod from their b-side disk Sawdust. Not bad at all. Is it radio material? No, or it wouldn’t be on a b-side disk. Ok….as I keep listening, it kind of drags on.

03. Blondie – Die Young Stay Pretty
A little new wave. A little reggae. All good.

04. Dave Davies – Imagination’s Real
Ray’s brother and fellow Kink’s member from his solo debut back in 1980 (?). It was the only song I liked from his disk. He’s an incredible guitarist – not that you could tell from this song, but I still like it.

05. kd lang – So in Love
From Red, Hot + Blue. And AIDS fund raising disk with artists covering Cole Porter songs. Truly what kd’s voice was made for.

06. Damien Rice – aime
Great song. Acoustic guitar. Some strings. That’s it.

07. Rosanne Cash – Pink Bedroom
John Haitt song. And nothing is more fun than an upbeat song about a teenage girl who is young enough to have a pink bedroom, but also pregnant. 1985 song – and I love the line ‘she’s got her records and they’re all imports’. ahhh….I remember only buying those…..because I was so cool!

08. Annie Lennox – Something So Right
Paul Simon has almost never sounded so good.

09. the Carpenters – Superstar
….because Karen Carpenter is just that good of a singer. Even if Richard was tres fey.

10. Marti Jones – Back of the Line
An oft mentioned artist here on my blog, but a rarely heard one. Seriously, check her out. Off her third solo disk Used Guitars (1988?). One of her first songs she wrote, as until this time had usually just covered other’s songs.

Weird. I just noticed, not one song from the 90s. Two from the 70s. A number from the 80s and the rest from this century.

Song by: the Carpenters

Tusk

I was going to call this “Bread & Circuses”, but apparently I used that song title back in June. So, now what?

“Baby Elephant Walk”? The White Stripes have a disk called Elephant, but not song title by that name. So I guess I’ll just go with the obvious. Well, obvious to me.

The other day, the circus came to town. To get the pachyderms from the train to the arena, well, they have to walk them up E. 9th St. No other way to really do it. I actually was late to a conference call to go down and see them. The street was already lined with folks just waiting for the free show. Some guy even asked me, “Is there going to be a parade for something?”. When I told him the real reason, he just shrugged and walked away.


I’ve never been to the circus. It was nothing that ever intrigued me. Clowns. Freaks. Sideshows. Guys in tights. One can get that at any gay bar.

…and there was not a PETA protester in sight – which I thought might happen.  ….at the elephant escort, not at the gay bar.

But as I go back to Tusk, I have a weird story to relay that I’ve been carrying around for about 30 years that I’m not sure I ever told anyone, as they probably would just think (more) weirdly of me.

You know me and my dreams (though I haven’t written about one in quite a while). One night back in 1978, I dreamed I was in this huge group photo, sitting on some loading dock that had dozens of people in it, including the members of Fleetwood Mac. The next morning I woke up and WMMS (home of the Buzzard!) made a concert announcement that the band would be headlining the World Series of Rock.

Flash forward another year or so, when Tusk was actually released. Two disks, that had intricate packaging with each record getting two separate sleeves, or basically eight areas of artwork. Some were straight on band pictures, but two were collages of pictures, doodles, and elephants. But one of those small pictures in the collage was one of dozens of people on a loading dock – the exact one I had in my dream 16 months or so earlier.

It kind of freaked me out, but I was 16.

I’d show you the actual image, but nowhere in Goooooooogle can I find it.  I thought geeks scanned and posted everything.

Song by: Fleetwood Mac

Record of the Month

I figured I’d do a monthly ‘what I’m listening to’ kind of thing. This could be viewed as a lame placeholder kind of post. And probably it is. But it’s my blog! So there!

These may or may not be newly released disks. They might not even be a good disk – just what is been in heavy rotation in my car (as usually the iPod is playing anywhere else). Whoa! has Lindsey Buckingham not aged well – physically.  How many covers shots were taken before they finally settled on this beauty?  eeek.  He looks like a beaten man.

Buckingham, however, has aged just fine musically.  At least with Gift of Screws.  His solo album track record isn’t all that great.  I say that every other disk he releases is listenable.  That is not to say they aren’t all interesting, just not everyday kind of fare.

Gift is his only his fifth release in 27 years. He clearly peaked with 1992’s Out of the Cradle, and while 2006’s Under the Skin was great musically, lyrically and vocally it majorly lacked.  And that is has always been his biggest issue as a solo artist.  Buckingham is clearly a great arranger, producer and guitarist – possibly one of the most underrated guitarists that is out there.  But the experimentation he started on Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk has gotten the better of him.

Without other singers/songwriters/musicians to balance his quirks, sometimes he just comes off as the Howard Hughes of pop music.

That being said – Gift of Screws brings Buckingham back to center.  Left of center for sure, but a bit more normalcy for the listening public.  There are Tusk and Cradle elements in the songs, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say it sounds like any of this other albums.  But some of them sound some of this other songs.  I don’t think he can help himself with his multi-layered vocals.  Not a bad thing, and it is not nearly as annoying as it was on Under the Skin.

Yeah, I’m a sucker for late 70s Fleetwood Mac, so I find the best songs to be “Did You Miss Me” and “Love Runs Deeper”.  His guitar work on songs like “Bel Air Rain” is exemplary (as it is on “Time Precious Time” – but with weak weak vocals), but how does the beginning of “A Right Place to Fade” not pull directly from his Rumours song, “Second Hand News”?  …and not just the beginning, I guess.  “Underground” and “Treason” reflect some Cradle work.

Incorporating the past with the present isn’t a horrible thing or equates to selling out.  There is only so long one can stand out on the edge beforealienating your buying public.  Buckingham has stepped off that edge, possibly just in time.

Will the disk get any kind of radio or VH1 support?  No, but it is a decent disk that should at least have the chance to be heard.