Monthly Archives: February 2010

Hearts & Thoughts They Fade…Fade Away

Nearly 17 years ago Pearl Jam released their 2nd album & one of the defining albums of my teenage years, VS. While the album was released in October of 1993, rehearsals started in February which is when the demos that you will no doubt be listening to shortly, are from. In February of 1993 I was 16 years old getting fully ingratiated into the grunge scene, leaving the sounds of gangster rap that my peers were listening to in the rear view. I became a bit more of an outcast than I already was, at a new school hanging out with guys that listened to things that I no longer had a connection to.

Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots & later Green Day & Bad Religion sparked something inside of me that connected me to a sense of rebellion or awkwardly connected me to disconnection. Always feeling like the outcast or at least the observer to everyone else’s enlightenment, but now I felt like I was the enlightened one & they were still waiting to take the blue pill. How could they not understand the beauty in a simple guitar riff? Was it the nearly unintelligible lyrics of Eddie Vedder, my newest hero?

Eddie was a long haired Sampsonian figure who screamed his angst into a microphone that might as well have been dipped in gold. He sung of boy’s killing themselves in front of their classmates, dissidents & the guilt of being alive while others around you drop like flies. It was my teenage years personified. Everything I couldn’t express in so many words, Eddie & Kurt did for me. I’d retreat to my bedroom, after observing the animals in the cage all day within the confines of the school & the factions that existed between so many different people from similar backgrounds.

I would sit in my room listening as Mike McCready did things with a guitar that until then I had never heard before. Eddie sung things like “Daughter”, not so cryptically speaking of violence, when all she seeks to do is please her parent. Reminding me of my own relationship with my father. No, it wasn’t a physically violent relationship at all, but the conversations were rarely pleasant. We had a weird, never comfortable relationship.

Something that spoke to the inner demons he shared with his own father. That disconnection I spoke of earlier was never more evident than when my father & I spoke. We connected on so few levels that when he died in 2001 there was a guilt that arose from having a weight lifted off my shoulders & having that last argument with him moments before he died. It never set well with me, but I always turned back to Eddie & the way he seemed to internalize everything. Not the healthiest response to be sure, but a coping mechanism nonetheless.

Often times people think of their High School years fondly as a time that they were at their peak or when they met people they made lasting lifelong relationships with. They go to their reunions to reacquaint themselves with lost time, a time when they were the king of the court. For me, high school was an observatory experience that jaded me & at the same time helped me become the writer I am today. Without the experience of those early years I never would have been able to coherently describe things the way I seemingly can now.

Without, what people offhandedly refer to as “The Grunge Years”, I never would have had that outlet that helped me to cope with things that I had no way of grasping in reality. It was because of this music that I picked up a guitar & taught myself how to play. It was because of this music that I enhanced my vocabulary. They were using words like the aforementioned dissident, making me wish I’d paid more attention in Mr. Hughes’ English class. It showed me that intelligence & music could forge a beautiful bond.

This album meant so much to me when later the same year as my father died, my grandfather succumbed to the cancer that ravaged his body. The man that I idolized had left an indelible mark on me, so much more than the man who raised me. The life that he told me I could have from working hard to achieve whatever my goals were. Starting work as a 12 year old washing dishes having taken a train to California with a friend to owning his own business & living near the beach. All the stories came flooding back & that clear refrain came into my head as we held a wake for him:

Hearts and thoughts they fade…away…
Hearts and thoughts they fade…away…
Hearts and thoughts they fade, fade away…
Hearts and thoughts they fade…

Versus Demos – 1993

Alone

Animal

Blood

Daughter

Dissident

Glorified G

Go

Hard To Imagine

Indifference

Leash

Rats

Rearview Mirror

Small Town (Elderly Woman…)

Whipping

If They Can’t Find a Way To Help Her They Can Go To Hell

So it may come as a bit of a surprise to some people, but I’m a pretty big reader. I read everything I can get my hands on: books, magazines, The Huffington Post, The L.A./N.Y. Times & other music blogs. One blog that I try to read daily is Heather Browne’s Fuel Friends Blog. I can’t tell you how many new artists I have discovered by simply reading this fantastic blog. I do, however, have to take issue with something she recently wrote & while it may seem like an innocuous statement, I found it to be quite hyperbolic & pretty much baseless.

Josh Ritter is one of the most important songwriters of our generation, consistently producing breathtaking songs that are rife with symbolism, rich with meaning, and brimming over with the kind of heart that I want to have.

Most important songwriter’s of our generation? Really? Josh Ritter is a fantastic writer who regularly puts out great music, but most important of our generation? Not even close. He’s not even that well known. I do think he’s talented, but as far as his importance to music…I can’t understand how he is remotely important. He’s not standing up for anything, speaking out against injustices or even bringing something new to the table.

Important songwriters of our generation (I guess that’s applying to Generation X) would be more like Billie Joe from Green Day, whether you like his music or not with American Idiot he said some pretty unpopular things to many people & received quite the backlash for standing on principle. Another would be Jeff Tweedy who revolutionized the alt-country genre twice with Uncle Tupelo & then Wilco. Ryan Adams has such an amazing body of talented work that he is a better example of one the most talented writers of our generation.

This is the problem with today’s over-saturation of music. It used to be that everybody knew pretty much who everybody was, but now with everybody being slotted nicely into their own little groups, labels like, “greatest songwriter of our generation” are just tossed around without so much as a thought.

I contend that Josh Ritter is not very important at all. If he stopped writing music, sure it would suck, but would the world be that much worse off? Think about how shitty music has been since Ryan Adams decided to get married & be happy. Elliot Smith, who again I’m not a huge fan of, was one of the most important songwriter’s of our generation & that is prevalent in the number of artist’s who try to emulate his sound.

I find it slightly irresponsible to be so hyperbolic & I’m pretty surprised that someone usually so spot on with her exclamations would just spout off like that. It’s not innocuous, it’s not small, this our music, this is important to many of us who believe that this is a renaissance in music much like the ’60’s was the evolution. I love Heather’s blog, she is extremely knowledgeable in regards to music, but in this case just flat out wrong.

Girl in the War (Live at the Record Exchange) – Josh Ritter

Wings – Josh Ritter

Bandit (Live at the Record Exchange) – Josh Ritter

The Art of Feeling Naked in Your Clothes

It’s been a week or so since I wrote anything. Writer’s block? Laziness? Nothing to write about? Who knows? I’ve been sitting on this topic for a few days & now I feel the time is write to truly express my outrage (probably not the right word). Coachella, in case you live in a cave (talking to you Osama), is a 3 day music festival in Indio, California in April every year that highlights some of the most amazing bands & usually showcases new & old alike. This year, however, the lineup is shit. Talk about getting right to the point.

Last year the headliners were Paul McCartney, The Cure & The Killers. This year it’s Jay-Z, Muse & Gorillaz? Jay-Z is awesome & I’ve wanted to see him forever. He’s one of the best rapper’s around, but Gorillaz & Muse? I just don’t understand why Muse is blowing up so huge. They’re good, but headlining material? Not so much. I saw them at the Download festival a few years ago opening up for Beck & the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They’re a nice band, with a nice sound. Hardly, headlining material. Don’t even get me started on Gorillaz who were another nice band about 5 years ago.

Sunday might as well be labeled has-been night with Pavement, Sly & the Family Stone & De La Soul also on the bill. 2009 had Franz Ferdinand, Morrissey, The Black Keys, Leonard Cohen & Paul McCartney & that was just the first day. What happened to getting the biggest acts in the world & showcasing them. It’s like the promoters for Coachella threw in the towel & just said “fuck it, we’ll see if Stephen Malkmus wants to get an underachieving 90’s band back together!” They’re not even headlining!

It’s get’s better. In their infinite wisdom they have decided not to sell individual day tickets, but to reduce the cost of camping.  This, to me, is a sign that they know they’re not going to make their money back with such a subpar lineup. If I had their money & the time they had form one year to the next to lock down anyone I wanted here’s 10 of the artists I would get.

Bruce Springsteen – Have him headline like he did at Bonnaroo. He’ll play for 3 hours like McCartney did & leave everyone with a memorable experience. .

Born to Run (Unplugged) – Bruce Springsteen

Thunder Road (Acoustic) – Bruce Springsteen

The Avett Brothers – Yeah I know they’re playing Day 1 on a shitty side stage, but I’d get rid of Grace Jones & move in the Avett’s. Poor planning once again.

Laundry Room – Avett Brothers

It Goes On & On – Avett Brothers

The Pixies – They’ve been playing again recently & would’ve been a helluva better option than Pavement.

Here Comes Your Man (Live) – The Pixies

Hey (Live) – The Pixies

Blitzen Trapper – An amazing band that would’ve fit nicely with Passion Pit & Grizzly Bear on day 1.

Furr – Blitzen Trapper

Wild Mountain Nation – Blitzen Trapper

Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – They came out with one of the best underground album in years (probably since The Grey Album) & John Waters will be playing on Saturday.

Revenge – Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse featuring Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips

Little Girl – Feat. Julian Casablancas

Dr. Dre – He’s coming out with a new album. Could’ve gotten Eminem on stage with him & screams West Coast much more than the New Jersey native Jay-Z.

Nuthin’ but a G Thang – Dr. Dre

Forgot About Dre – Dr. Dre feat. Eminem

Guns ‘N Roses – What better venue than Coachella to try & get the original line-up together for a one-off? This is what Coachella used to be about, getting bands back together after years of strife.

Don’t Cry – Guns N’ Roses

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Guns N’ Roses

Led Zeppelin – They’ve been talking about getting back together for a couple of years now. Wouldn’t Coachella have reaped the benefits of getting such an amazing act on their queue?

Black Dog (Live) – Led Zeppelin

Going to California (Live) – Led Zeppelin

My Morning Jacket – They bring their own audience much like the Dead, but talented. They are a band that would bring people from across the country to the event, unlike say…Muse or Grace Jones.

One Big Holiday (Live) – MMJ

Where to Begin – MMJ

Oasis – What better venue than to get the Brothers Gallagher to kiss & make up once again than Coachella. They could bring a global audience to watch what could turn out to be great music or a great fistfight. Either way the crowd is entertained.

Live Forever (Unplugged) – Oasis

What’s the Story Morning Glory (Unplugged)- Oasis