Your Arsenal (1992) by Morrissey

Categories: 1992 and Music.

I hate Morrissey, both personally, as I find him an objectionable human being and cannot understand why anyone would find him charming, and musically, as I find The Smiths really underwhelming and Morrissey’s solo music (that I’ve heard) to be hilariously middlebrow for someone so full of attitude. Morrissey talks a lot about a certain type of music and then makes music very different from that. He basically doesn’t walk his own talk. And his music is boring. Read More

Generation Terrorists (1992) by Manic Street Preachers

Categories: 1992 and Music.

What do we do with a record like this? It’s called Generation Terrorists but sounds like it was produced by Mutt Lange or Bob Rock or someone like that. (Well, the production is maybe not that bad.) We have the bizarre amalgam of 80s hard rock (or “cock rock” as some call it) with extremely political lyrics that belong in punk songs. Is the idea to make super accessible and conventional music but to sneak in the lyrics so that young, impressionable youth are converted? I mean, if that’s the goal here, I’m not sure how much it succeeds. How Read More

Night Moves (1976) by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

Categories: 1976 and Music.

For much of my life I have had a hatred for “boomer nostalgia” – movies and music that lionize growing up in the 50s and 60s as if it was just the bees knees. I am getting to an age where I am finally able to better understand the appeal of such nostalgia – I’m likely a sucker for some nostalgia for growing up in the 80s and the 90s – but I still think that art that relies on a such a strong emotional pull to a particular generation probably can never be truly great art. Truly great art Read More

Pretenders II (1981)

Categories: 1981 and Music.

I have no idea why, but I’ve never had any interest in listening to The Pretenders. I don’t know what it was exactly but they never seemed like a band I should listen to. Maybe a little too mainstream rock for their own good, or something like that. So imagine my surprise when I hear this album and I actually like it. I like Hynde as a songwriter more often than not (something I was not expecting) and, on the whole, the record is grittier than I was expecting (and is much more “rock” than some much other 80s rock). Read More

Trouble at the Henhouse (1996) by The Tragically Hip

Categories: 1996 and Music.

I’m pretty sure this was the Hip’s biggest album. It has a couple of their bigger hits on it – including “Ahead by a Century” which, if not their biggest hit, never seemed to leave Canadian radio in 1996. But I get a strong sense of deja vu from this record, particularly from “Gift Shop” which reminds me of another Hip song so damn much (I just can’t quite place it right now). I like some of their records from the first part of the decade and I’m not sure that this one really improved on any of them. It Read More

High Voltage (1976) by AC/DC

Categories: 1975, 1976, and Music.

AC/DC’s first international release is actually a compilation of music from their first two records, released only in Australia. (Oh, the days when music was that regionalized…) I haven’t heard either of those records, so I don’t know if they did a good job of compiling this, but my guess is they did. This record establishes exactly what has been since: big, simple, sleazy rock music. And, for some reason, I don’t mind the misogyny as much from Bon Scott, perhaps because I think he didn’t know any better, perhaps because this is very much the template for all future Read More

Crazy Hose (1971)

Categories: 1971 and Music.

Depending on how you count, this is either Crazy Horse’s debut, their second album or their third album: there’s The Rockets album from 1968 and there’s their first collaboration with Neil Young from 1969. I haven’t heard The Rockets’ album, but the Neil Young album is one of my absolute favourites. There are two things missing from this record: Neil Young the songwriter (present on only two songs) and Neil Young the guitarist (entirely absent). The band has compensated by featuring Jack Nitzsche, Ry Cooder and others. (I had no idea that Crazy Horse wasn’t a trio when it was Read More

Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part 1 (1970) by The Kinks

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Ostensibly Davies’ fourth (???) song-cycle, this album is really just a collection of vignettes about the music industry and related themes. I’m not sure there’s a story here and the theme is rather looser than the previous song-cycles, so to my ears it’s not quite the classic as some of their previous albums. That being said, this is a pretty great collection of songs. “Lola” is the obvious standout, but there are plenty of other great Davies songs here. And so, though it is not among their very best work, it’s still a pretty good Kinks record. 8/10 Read More

Foo Fighters

Categories: 1995 and Music.

What I wrote in 2011: “I hate post-grunge.  It’s one of those few genres that I discriminate against as a genre (a practice I try to avoid).  But this has a lot going for it that most post-grunge doesn’t, namely: energy, passion, a teeny tiny bit of grit, and a relative amount of stylistic diversity (I said relative). But there are some big problems: I hope that sometime in the future Grohl started writing decent lyrics (I haven’t listened to any other albums).  These ones are…um…not very good.  And he very clearly wants you to hear them (as only one Read More

How We Held Our Post (2011) by Causing a Tiger

Categories: 2011 and Music.

Causing a Tiger is two fifths of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (or, if you prefer, 100% of Rabbit Rabbit) plus Secret Chiefs 3 bassists/Ceramic Dog guitarist Shahzad Ismaily (who, here, plays a guitar somewhere between a regular guitar and a bass). This is their second album, apparently. The tracks were “improvised” though to my ears it sounds more like un- or under-rehearsed rather than completely improvised. This reminds me a lot of other “jazz musicians playing rock music” stuff that has been coming out in the last decade (like Ceramic Dog) only a) two of these people aren’t really jazz musicians Read More

Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who (2007, Paul Crowder, Murray Lerner, Parris Patton)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This is a fawning, awkward fluff piece of one of the greatest bands to come out of the British Invasion. I love the Who – there was probably a time in my life when they were my favourite band – but this film feels like the Official Version, something vetted by Daltrey and Townshend so that we are okay with the fact that they have continued on after the deaths of half the band. I know it’s cool to reunite now, but I am firmly on the side of Zeppelin here. The film is awkwardly episodic – we’re meant to Read More

Tonight’s the Night (1973, 1975) by Neil Young

Categories: 1975 and Music.

Neil Young was a star for the first time in 1973. And yet even though he was star, and he was expected to pump out further “Heart of Gold” style hits, his life was a mess. Whether or not he may acknowledge it now, he had drug issues. And within a rather short span of time, the rhythm guitarist for one of his bands died, and then a roadie died, both of heroin overdoses. And he was expected to keep playing “Heart of Gold” and writing more stuff like it. Instead he made this record. I can’t remember why it Read More

Live at Leeds (1970) by the Who

Categories: 1970 and Music.

Is this the greatest live album of all time? I never used to care about live albums. I never used to care about live music. Music used to live in my bedroom and I had no idea that there was some other side to it. Frankly I didn’t understand why people went to concerts. The idea that a band could be better on stage than in the studio seemed totally insane to me. Totally unfathomable. I was forced to confront that idea when I went away to university and seeing (not very famous) bands became a standard thing: a couple Read More

On Artistic Greatness

Categories: Music.

Greatness means many different things to many different people and certainly conceptions of greatness vary from field to field. Most of our associations with greatness are no doubt based upon feelings rather than rational reflection. If we don’t have a mutually acceptable concept of greatness, then you can hardly agree or disagree with me about the Beatles greatness. Read More

The Beatles Are the Greatest Rock Band of All Time and I Can Prove

Categories: Music.

It’s been a while since I posted and the reason was I was finished my latest book. Though I try to keep this blog to politics only, I figured I would break that rule – again – for this new book of mine. Below, is an excerpt. I used to take the greatness of the Beatles for granted. Though I would often drunkenly argue in their favour, I assumed my interlocutors were merely arguing with me because they were drunk, and not because they really, truly believed any band could be more significant to the history of “rock” music than Read More

Listening to You: The Who at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 (1970, 2004, directed by Murray Lerner)

Categories: 1970, Movies, and Music.

You should watch this if you like Live at Leeds.This is a pretty great performance by the Who at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Some of the songs are the same from Live at Leeds, but there is enough of a variance in the set list that this is worth watching. And, you know, you can actually watch the band here. Really you should see it even if you aren’t a Who fan, as it’s pretty great for any fan of live rock music.The one issue is the camera work, some of which seems to be intending to Read More

The Secondman’s Middle Stand (2004) by Mike Watt

Categories: 2004 and Music.

Watt’s second album is an interesting thing: a guitarless trio playing what I guess you could call post-hardcore rock and roll with lyrics that often seem almost country. I’m not sure if that description sums it up. Idiosyncratic might do a better job. The musicianship is excellent – this is Watt after all, perhaps the best bass player to emerge from the various American punk scenes of the ’80s – and the arrangements are consistently interesting. The songs aren’t the most compelling despite, or perhaps because of, their idiosyncratic nature. It’s certainly a unique beast. 7/10 Read More

RIP Ray Collins

Categories: Music and RIP.

Ray Collins died on Christmas eve. Because he was Ray Collins, I didn’t find out about it for four days. Collins was Zappa’s earliest lead vocalist in the Mothers of Invention – that is, when Zappa himself wasn’t singing – which was actually initially Collins’ band under another name. He also provided backing vocals to these early Mothers albums and numerous other Zappa projects (allmusic lists around 30 credits). He contributed some rhythm guitar and percussion as well to the early Mothers albums, when they were still an actual band, and not just whatever Zappa was doing that day. I was Read More

Jack White live at the Sony Centre, October 3, 2012

Categories: 2012 and Music.

The opener was Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. They play a mixture of pre-rock and roll styles of music including things like Western Swing and jazz and other styles from that era. The band is very solid – especially his guitarist – and as a singer he is definitely authentic, but this is pure revivalism and hard to take as anything more than just very, very competent nostalgia. White played what could be called “the hits” (though it was relatively – relatively – free from singles). There was a good selection of White Stripes song from the entire Read More

Fever to Tell by Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2003 Interscope)

Categories: 2003 and Music.

I avoided this like the plague when it came out: I didn’t like the single then, but moreover (and more importantly for me), I was getting sick of bass-less bands and I wasn’t about to hop on the garage rock band wagon (and frankly I still don’t get the deal with the Strokes). But this is a great record. First, it’s way more diverse than I ever imagined. These guys clearly listen to interesting music beyond the obvious touchstones. It’s also highly accomplished for this kind of music. There are lots of musical ideas in it, something you would not Read More

Contraband by Velvet Revolver (2004 RCA)

Categories: 2004 and Music.

I remember the instant hipster derision when this came out. Specifically, I remember watching the lead single’s video, and a friend of mine – a hipster if memory serves – was nearly apoplectic when Slash stepped forward to play the solo. Apparently such a longstanding expression of “rock” authenticity was just totally uncool, at least at that moment in time. Read More

Blunderbuss (2012 Third Man Records) by Jack White

Categories: 2012 and Music.

I don’t know what people were expecting but all I can say is that hype is a terrible thing. It’s funny reading all the disappointment on RYM. As much as I loved the White Stripes – and I did, and I do – one thing I can’t say is that they were particularly original or groundbreaking. I like them because they are a particular style of music and an aesthetic I like, and though I don’t necessarily like that lack of said aesthetic here, I can’t say I’m disappointed by getting more Jack White. What were the rest of you Read More