Author Archives: admin

Rest in Peace, Malcolm McLaren

One of rock’s oddest and greatest characters left us April 8, and his passing should be noted. His impact was more than deep on the punk and New Wave music that he encouraged and that has influenced, well, hell, just about everyone. He even made a legitimate splash in the then-embryonic world of hip-hop.

I’m saddened and pleased to present examples of all three genres. Rest in peace, Malcolm!

Sex Pistols – “Holiday in the Sun”

Bow Wow Wow – “C-30, C-60, C-90, Go!”

Malcolm McLaren and the World’s Famous Supreme Team – “Buffalo Gals”

10 Apr 2010

“Goodnight, Bad Intentions” by squint

I’ve got a personal connection with this one. The lead singer is my brother, and one of the guitarists is On Deaf Ears co-blogger Normalnorman.

You might think that makes me biased, but it really doesn’t. I’m a critic even when it comes to my own brother, and I tell him honestly what I think of his band’s music, performances, lyrics, whatever.

So you can trust me when I tell you that this song rocks.

Album to follow in July!

squint – “Goodnight, Bad Intentions”

28 Mar 2010

Happy Birthday, Johnny Cash!: “The Chicken in Black”

I think people sometimes forget that Johnny Cash had a sense of humor.

I discovered this over at No Depression. How it eluded me until now, I have no idea.

Here’s all I know about “The Chicken in Black.” From Wikipedia:

Cash’s recording career and his general relationship with the Nashville establishment were at an all-time low in the 1980s. He realized that his record label of nearly 30 years, Columbia, was growing indifferent to him and wasn’t properly marketing him (he was “invisible” during that time, as he said in his autobiography). Cash recorded an intentionally awful song to protest, a self-parody. “Chicken in Black” was about Cash’s brain being transplanted into a chicken. Ironically, the song turned out to be a larger commercial success than any of his other recent material. Nevertheless, he was hoping to kill the relationship with the label before they did, and it was not long after “Chicken in Black” that Columbia and Cash parted ways.

It was released as a single only. It peaked at #45 on the country chart in 1984.

Johnny Cash – “The Chicken in Black”

Happy birthday, Johnny Cash!

26 Feb 2010

Album Review: Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

The debut album of Florida band Surfer Blood absolutely rocks my shit.  There, it’s been said.  If you don’t wanna hang around for the rest of this review, that’s probably for the best, and unless you suffer from poor reading comprehension skills, that first sentence tells you that you should have immediately abandoned this review after reading said sentence, knocking over your crusty computer chair in a mad dash to grab your car keys and fly to your nearest record store to purchase Astro Coast.  Barring that, if you are one of them digital-type persons, you should have at least furiously aggravated your carpal tunnel in the rush to download this album from your nearest legal purveyor of digital music.  Seriously, are you still reading this?  Go on, you can come back later to have your feelings validated about how kick ass of a record this is.  Don’t worry, I’ll be here.

Oh, back so soon?  Well, at this point, you may have given this record one or two spins, and maybe you’re thinking, “That Jason guy from the computer is wack!  This album has yet to change my life in any profound manner.  What a dick!”  Well, stick with it, friend.  I myself had to give this record several spins before I realized what a jewel I had on my hands, and it took me even longer to realize just what Surfer Blood had created:  a perfect pastiche of all of the good things that have happened in indie rock since the late 80’s.

With every spin of Astro Coast, I hear a new glorious influence from some titan of indie rock.  Here’s a list of influences that I have spotted so far:  Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Built To Spill, the Shins, early Weezer, the Pixies, Vampire Weekend (although Surfer Blood derives their influence from the Tropicalia sound moreso than West African rhythms), Modest Mouse, Sonic Youth, Secaucus-era Wrens, Fugazi, etc.  Oh yeah, and throw a little Beach Boys in there, too.  If that list looks as awesome to you as it does to me, then please purchase this record.  Personally, it almost seems to me like someone interviewed me about what my favorite indie rock bands were, and then they proceeded to make an album based on those suggestions.

In addition to the bands mentioned above, Surfer Blood shares a lot sonically with now defunct Austin band Sound Team.  But while Sound Team were criticized (most notably by Pitchfork) for being pretentious, there is not an ounce of pretension to be found on Astro Coast.  This is guitar pop, pure and simple, and there is a simple little lead guitar run at the end of late album track “Anchorage” that summarizes everything I love about this album and good indie rock in general.  Put it on, nod your head, and have a blast with this great new album.

25 Feb 2010

My Favorite Songs of the Year of the Ox

It’s about a week into the year of the Tiger. RAWR!!!

Lets look back at the year of the Ox.

Although many excellent albums were released during this most Bovine of lunar cycles, a few stand out in my mind as truly noteworthy. The nameless decade (I refuse to call it Oughts [fucking Steam Punks]) is over people! A new age is a brewin, three years ago I would have predicted a Grunge revival following the 70’s revival in the 90’s and the 80’s revival in the 00’s, a 90’s revival in the 10’s seemed logical. However, the fact that bands like “Nickleback”, “Creed”, and “Staind”, with the help of the corporate asshats at KROQ, managed to milk Grunge well after the teats of the Puget Sound’s sound shriveled and died off, the 90’s managed to morph into the early 00’s and it might be another 5 to 10 years until the flannel is flyin’ again. Frankly I hope I’m dead by then. I know Neil Young will be.

Well it’s time these youngsters came up with something new (as new as any modern Western music can be anyway). With that in mind, one album stands out in my mind that may help to define this “new” sound I’m looking for. Manners, the first full length album from the band “Passion Pit” was one of the first of what I hope will help to define this new sound that seems to be coming out of the East, hatched in dorm rooms, lofts, and Vermont hippie collectives on Macbook Pros by lovelorn lads and lasses (Passion Pit), Canadian Expats (Metric), College sophomores on LSD (MGMT) and plain old fashioned Freaky McFreaker’s like “Dirty Projectors”, “Animal Collective” and “Yeasayer”.

Anyway, that’s what the kids tell me and the last time I checked the kids are still alright.

Oh and just because it has synthesizers in it doesn’t mean its “80’s”. That’s a shortcut to thinking. How can a decade monopolize a musical instrument?

05 Jan 2010

Hova’s Back

On Jay-Z’s latest album The Blueprint 3, the once and future king of hip-hop elevates bravado to an art-form not seen since his Black Album.  After Hov announced his retirement in 2002, he released two more albums that made you wish he really had quit the game.  It was confusing to say the least.  After clawing his way from being an unknown to being the president of Def-Jam records in ten years time, he left us after delivering the best rap album in a decade.  It’s not exactly a new schtick in rap music.  Too Short used to announce his retirement on every album.  The two albums Jigga released after The Black Album sold well but did not garner much chart success with Kingdom Come’s “Show Me What Your Working With” the only top ten single on either album.  American Gangster, released in 2007, fared even worse on the Billboard Hot 100 with no singles charting above number 55.

With sales already in excess of 1.6 million albums The Bluprint 3 put Jay-Z back on top.  Its third single, “Empire State of Mind” featuring Alicia Keys earned the rapper his only number 1 hit.  “Run This Town” with the ubiquitous Rihanna made it to number 2, but it’s the first single, “D.O.A. (The Death of Autotune)” that made this writer yell “Oh snap!”  The song brings to mind great battle raps like Rakim’s “Follow the Leader” or “I’m Bad” by L.L. Cool J all set on top of brilliant production from No I.D.  The mix of trumpet and electric guitar gives the track a smooth yet edgy sound. He admonishes other rappers to “grow a set” and says the way to prove your street cred is to simply, “get violent”.  That sentiment appears to be at odds with his assertion on “What We Talkin About” that “Ain’t nothin cool about carrying a strap”.  But this is rap music, not a dissertation.  That’s one of the best things about hip-hop:  It doesn’t have to be a seamless world-view. It can be jumbled and contradictory just like its predecessor Rock and Roll.  Example:  the self-proclaimed hater of auto-tune uses an auto-tuner on “Hater” later on the album.

“On to the Next One” and “Off That” are interchangeable, theme-wise. Namely:  Jay-Z is a trend-setter.  What do you expect from the only MC that does yoga?  In “On to the Next One” he proclaims, “Used to rock a throw-back, ballin on the corner, Now I rock a Teller suit, lookin like an owner.”  This song is good but I was hoping against hope that it would be some kind of insane collaboration with The Foo Fighters. (See “All My Life” from FF’s 2002 album One By One) “Off That” continues in the “I’m so avant-garde” vein.  Jay’s awe-inspiring ego is on full display on this one as he reveals that he’s “so tomorrow they order mines on yesterday”.  He even takes a second to get political on “Off That”:

“This ain’t black vs white, my n***a we off that
Please tell Bill O’Reilly to fall back
Tell Rush Limbaugh to get off my balls
This 2010 not 1864”

Once again:  “O snap!”

01 Jan 2010