[ Saturday, December 03, 2005 ]
Rock and roll fantasy
So, the new album by The Darkness is like a weird acid-trip mish-mash of the last twenty years of rock's poppier side. Even more then their first record, which sounded (at its best) like the best album AC/DC never made (albeit AC/DC with a lead singer prone to falsetto), this new one - quite rockingly titled ONE WAY TICKET TO HELL...AND BACK - is far more bombastic, far more ambitious, at times far more ridiculous, and at times far more sublime.
I haven't quite figured out what references exactly I'd use to try and describe the sounds on this album, but I think the closest ones I can come up with are - believe it or not - Queen or The Scorpions. Then again, there's plenty of Angus Young/Marc Bolan crunch left over from the first album, and at times the song construction (particularly on the Celti-fied "Hazel Eyes," as of now my fave) recalls Big Country, The Hooters, or other big-sound '80s rock. Synthesizers mix with fuzzboxes, Beach Boys harmonies ram up against straight-up KISS crudity, and the whole thing feels like an Ozzy Osbourne fever dream.
It's been getting terrible reviews, which - at their most charitable - describe it as an unworthy follow-up to their debut, and I think I can safely say after two listens that I really
like this album. Not in the way I really
like my favorite albums of the year, or even the month, but I can definitely imagine the desire to rawk out to this surprisingly sophisticated stuff reappearing for a while. The rejection of ONE WAY TICKET TO HELL...AND BACK also strongly reeks, to me, of that ever-annoying tendency among rock critics to accept something as "kitsch" when nobody's heard of it, and then - the moment anybody in the world cares about it - reject it for the very reasons for which we previously lauded hosannas. God bless bands like The Darkness for running straight in the opposite direction of hip, and creating something that, ridiculous and over-the-top as it may be, is nonetheless as pure an artistic statement (in its way) as any of the latest overrated hipster stuff. I'd rather head-bang than shoe-gaze, anyway...
On the box right now: The Darkness, ONE WAY TICKET TO HELL...AND BACK.
Dove With Claws [8:06 AM]
[ Thursday, December 01, 2005 ]
I interviewed Dan Penn tonight, the songwriter/producer/musician who I so coyly refused to name a couple weeks ago. For those who don't know, here's a brief resume on Mr. Penn:
-Wrote (usually with collaborators) about 300 great soul songs, including a couple handfuls of true classics: "Dark End Of The Street," "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," "I'm Your Puppet," "Cry Like A Baby," "It Tears Me Up," "Sweet Inspiration," "I Met Her In Church," "I'm Living Good," "You Left The Water Runnin'," and "Don't Give Up On Me" come to mind immediately.
-An incredibly comprehensive list of Southern soul stars covered his material, from Irma Thomas to Wilson Pickett.
-Produced all the hits for The Box Tops (including those he wrote - "Cry Like A Baby," "I Met Her In Church" - and those he didn't - "The Letter," "Soul Deep"). Has also produced plenty of other great soul and country stars. (He even produced a recent album from Frank Black.)
-Sung with Otis Redding (a duet on "You Left The Water Runnin'" that sounds like Otis double-tracked), played with Arthur Alexander and Percy Sledge, and demoed songs for Aretha Franklin.
-Is himself a celebrated recording artist, with his album MOMENTS FROM THIS THEATRE, made with longtime songwriting partner and expert keyboard player Spooner Oldham, being a particular highlight.
-Is described by Peter Guralnick as "the secret hero of Southern soul music," and is as central a presence in the music as Steve Cropper, Bobby Womack, or anyone else.
-Personifies the ways in which country-soul alters our understandings of race and race culture.
So, to sum up, he's my whole fucking story in a certain way. He's also one of my very favorite songwriters, which connects me to him musically as much as I feel connected to what he represents historically. He's a hero to me on many levels, which made our conversation both nerve-wracking and ultimately fulfilling. This conversation (which may very well be repeated and expanded upon in the future) closes a circle for me that I've felt deeply for a long time.
I hate to be so self-indulgent, but this was a pretty big deal for me. Anyone who wants to talk about Dan Penn with me is more than welcome, but I must warn you that I may go on forever and ever...
Now, it's on to hopeful interviews with Spooner Oldham, Bobby Womack and Mavis Staples...
By the way, I've added Aaron Scholz' blog to the links. Check him out...
On the box right now: Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, MOMENTS FROM THIS THEATRE. That sweet
Dove With Claws [8:28 PM]
[ Wednesday, November 30, 2005 ]
So, as Kenneth has so nicely mentioned on his blog (http://backwithinterest.blogspot.com
), we're putting on a benefit for the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama, next Tuesday, Dec. 6th, at Cafe Montmartre. Oughta be a great event, with the following galaxy of stars:
-Blixie (the hottest thing in underground hip-hop country blues)
-Kenneth Burns (from The Junkers, World's Greatest Lovers, White Mule Country Blues Band, and solo)
-El Guante (hot local MC)
-Jon Henry (ditto)
-Screamin' Cyn Cyn and the Pons (punk rock at its snotty finest)
-The Gilbert Fifther (instrumental country with an irreverent attitude and top-notch musicianship)
The event will also feature Ms. JoAnn Bland, the director of the NVRM and a veteran of the Selma movement. Ms. Bland is as pure a spirit of the Freedom struggle as you'll ever find, and she'll be gracing us with her presence.
Cover is $5, show starts at 8. Be there for fun and revolution...
On the box right now: Nick Lowe, THE SOULFUL SIDE. Mix I made of my favorite artist's more soul-oriented cuts. Brilliant stuff...
Dove With Claws [9:11 PM]
[ Monday, November 28, 2005 ]
Make sure you look at the links below, but something funny just happened...
I was in the library, printing off a reading quiz that the lil' kiddies are gonna get today (hee hee). Somebody had left something they'd printed off, one sheet of type, and - being the bored, curious sumbitch that I am - I took a peek at it.
It appeared to be some sort of diary-like list of travel observations, chronicling the trip taken by the writer (who appeared to be female) across Europe. While most of it was the typical "the food was AWESOME" or "I was blown away" kind of stuff, there was one passage that jumped out. I'll approximate it for you now:
"We went out to a club that night, where I met this Italian hipster guy. He had on big sunglasses, his hair was great, and he was wearing a T-shirt that said 'Hanky Panky In My Schwanky.' I told him I thought it would be funny if I was wearing a shirt that said those words in Italian, and he agreed."
"Hanky Panky In My Schwanky?" That's what we've been reduced to, people? What exactly is a "schwanky," anyway?
On the box right now: Same as below
Dove With Claws [6:54 AM]
Another day, another link
Here's a link to some pictures of Sam, the recently-deceased champion of the "World's Ugliest Dog" contest, three years running. Now, I haven't seen the other contenders, but it's hard to believe that anybody could have even come close to Sam's "talents":
I'm sure he was a fine canine, but he sure wasn't much of a looker...
On the box right now: Various Artists, NAPTOWN SOUL: SOUL AND FUNK FROM INDIANAPOLIS, Volume 2.
Dove With Claws [6:50 AM]
[ Sunday, November 27, 2005 ]
Sign a petition in support of a Roy Orbison commemorative stamp:http://www.petitiononline.com/royvote/petition.html
On the box right now: Neil Diamond, TAP ROOT MANUSCRIPT. The Neil keeps coming...
Dove With Claws [11:53 AM]