Got a new address thedemellotheory.com. Come see my barely intelligible musings there.
Last year was a fine year for music, but only a few things really wowed me. That’s not to say it was completely bereft of anything good, but the prevailing theme, at least in my estimation, was that while 2009 was a banner year for new talent & a resurgence of older talent, 2010 had very little to offer. 2011 is shaping up to be, already, one of the better years. The Decemberists came out with a new album on Tuesday & it’s their best album yet. It hits chords in my soul that bring out such joy, that I can’t help but sway.
I suppose I should address the elephant in the blog & explain my prolonged absence. Boredom. That’s it. I was completely & utterly bored with anything that was coming out. I was searching for new & exciting things to come my way. Lissie made an album that I adore, but I couldn’t write anything that hadn’t been said. I had a whole soliloquy ready for the brilliance of Ray Lamontagne’s overnight transformation from Indie darling to bluegrass star & yet nothing came out. There was a block of sorts & much of it came from the draining effects of writing a book about my travels through Europe. A book that is finished in its infant form, but must now be raised into something I can market.
There were a few other albums that I quite enjoyed: Justin Townes Earle, Head & the Heart, Broken Bells, The Black Keys & obviously Arcade Fire which was the best album of the year, but perhaps through my own depression of the musical offerings being put out there or indifference the ability to cognitively discuss these in terms that were worth reading was nonexistent. So here sat the blog. Relatively unchanged throughout the year as I struggled to put my thoughts into words. I feel I’ve made some sort of a turning point, even though I intended to begin writing last week. To be cliche I suppose it’s better late than never.
So I purchased two albums from Amazon the other day (yes I buy my music), where the $3.99 deals keep me coming back & spending on things I would otherwise think twice about buying. I bought Social Distortion’s new album Hard Time & Nursery Rhymes & the aforementioned Decemberists album The King is Dead. Let’s discuss Social D’s new album first. It’s been 7 years since they released an album & a few years since Mike Ness has come out with an album, himself. I’ve always been a fringe fan of Social D’s, as I do not have the dancing skeleton tattooed anywhere on my body. It has that patented loud Gibson sound & gruff Mike Ness nosy drawl, but with lyrics that seem to have more emotional impact than ever before. Take for instance “Still Alive” where Ness pleads,
“I’m still alive, I will survive, I can handle what life brings, just give me time…I’m still alive, talking the same ol’ jive, I can handle anything that comes my way, just give me another day”
It ends with a short, but beautiful piano solo that made me really feel that this album rivals anything they’ve ever done. It is so reminiscent of early Springsteen that I haven’t stopped listening to it for 3 days. That is, except to listen to The Decemberists’ new album The King is Dead, an album which seems to have awoken them from their prog rock malaise from the past few years. It sounds so similar to early R.E.M. that it came as no surprise to see that Peter Buck contributed to three of the tracks. The opening track almost sounds Tom Pettyesque with heavy drums taking the forefront much like “You Don’t Know How it Feels”.
Colin Meloy really lets loose with his voice on The King is Dead & goes places that I haven’t heard him dare go vocally before. It shows that the risks were worth taking. Changing the sound & straying away from that boring sound have worked wonders & even though it came out in January there’s a distinct feeling that come coincidentally December we will still be talking about this album as one of the best of the year.
I can’t say I will write everyday as I do have a job that requires a good chunk of time, but I will continue to talk about things I love & look forward to talking about new releases from groups like Foxxhound, Two Guns, Cold War Kids, Amos Lee, Drive-by Truckers & Okkervill River. It will be a banner year for Indie music & soon Indie Music will become alternative & all the kids will have to jump on the bandwagon. I’m fine by that. Music should be loved by all & not thrown into some meta category to be hated once it becomes popular to the masses. If it’s good, love it. If it sucks, hate it, but don’t despise popular music for being popular. Despise it, much like I despise She Wants Revenge & Jason Mraz for being bad at music.
Machine Gun Blues – Social Distortion
Sweet & Lowdown – Social Distortion
Still Alive – Social Distortion
Don’t Carry It All – The Decemberists
This is Why We Fight – The Decemberists
Yesterday I purchased the new Witmark Demos number nine in Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series. Among the many gems found on The Witmark Demos are 15 Bob Dylan songs that were recorded by the artist only for these sessions, and which have never been officially released to the public until now. These include the plaintive“Ballad For A Friend,” the civil rights era-inspired “Long Ago, Far Away” and “The Death Of Emmett Till,” and the poignant “Guess I’m Doing Fine.” It really is remarkable. It’s basically Dylan in a studio with his guitar. Much like his album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan it rings true to the essence of what Dylan sought out to be in the beginning.
On this Bootleg Friday, however, I’m sharing the Satisfied Mind Bootleg of Bob Dylan’s Nov. 11, 1975 concert at the Palace in Waterbury, Connecticut. Nothing like a little Bob for the weekend.
Bob Dylan – Satisfied Mind
It’s raining today, not buckets like it will on Sunday I hear, but raining nonetheless. it seems that time of year is upon us. The time when the sun comfortably rests & the rains shower us with the moisture of the heavens. It’s only fitting that a band from the Seattle grunge scene played their first show ever today in 1990. Under the name Mookie Blaylock soon to be Pearl Jam they played a gig at the Off Ramp in Seattle & made rock history. Pearl Jam is one of those enigmatic bands that seems to shun the limelight* & genuinely care about the fans that support them. It seems like such a short time ago that I was listening to this new wave of music called grunge that would come to change my life.
*except when they’re fighting Ticketmaster.
20 years together is a feat for any kind of relationship, but especially a band with all the egos & celebrity that go along with being in a band that has sold out Soldier Field in Chicago among other places. Nirvana was together for less than a decade when Kurt killed himself, Alice in Chains lost Layne Staley to drugs & Chris Cornell did a pop album that was hideous before he decided to reunite with Soundgarden. Through all of that Pearl Jam has stayed together. It hasn’t all been pretty. They’ve made some pretty bad albums, but also some of Rock’s greatest albums including Ten. An album they think was overproduced. So in staying true to their vision I’ve recently gotten hold of the first week rehearsal demos (10/23/90) from a friend & I will now share them with on this the 20th anniversary of Pearl Jam.
Also, because it is raining & I do love it so, here is a poem (not something I would normally condone – poetry that is) by Sara Teasdale that I first saw in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. One of my favorite books of all-time & really less about Martians & more about life in the Nuclear Era.
There Will Come Soft Rains by Sara Teasdale
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
There are some that have asked for zip files & others that want to pick & choose what they download. Unfortunately, right now the company that I store my files with does not do zip files yet & I really don’t want to move to another site. So for now this will have to do, sorry.
Pearl Jam First Week Demos – 10/23/90
As far as super groups go there hasn’t been a truly great one since the Traveling Wilbury’s in my opinion. Monsters of Folk are more like Monsters of mediocrity & the Dead Weather again are just ok, but Fistful of Mercy is one supergroup that may be bucking the trend of average super groups. With Joseph Arthur, Ben Harper & Dhani Harrison this “Super group” has some heavy hitters backing it. Dhani Harrison is the son of George Harrison & looks/sounds so much like his father it’s eerie. I don’t have much info on Joseph Arthur & truthfully I’ve never heard of him, but his voice is pretty great & melds well with Harrison’s & Harper’s. The Traveling Wilbury’s comparison is an easy one to make considering George was in that band & his son is in this one.
I’ll let you draw the correlation between the two yourself, but suffice it to say i am impressed & can’t wait to see them live when they come up to SF.
Anything You Want – Traveling Wilbury’s
Fistful of Mercy – Fistful of Mercy
Handle Me With Care - Traveling Wilbury’s
Things Go Round – Fistful of Mercy
Last Night – Traveling Wilbury’s
I went on Saturday to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival & it was fantastic, but Sunday was the day that I will remember for all my days. My sister & I arrived early in the morning to make sure we had a good seat at the stage where the Avett Brothers would play later that evening. They were the ones we wished to see most of all, but we were eager to see everything that the festival had to offer.
When the Felice Brothers came on, expectations were low. I’d heard of the band from New York in passing, but was not sure of what they had to offer. What they had to offer was a brilliant collection of songs that came across as a hybrid of Bob Dylan, The Band & Tom Waits. We marveled at their presence & we enjoyed them without reservation.
Then came on Moon Alice & we were less enthusiastic about their performance. They were from a bygone generation of Dead Heads that didn’t appeal to my or her generation*. They spoke of doing hallucinogenic drugs & of playing with the Grateful Dead throughout the world. I must put this out there that I have a strong distaste towards the Grateful Dead & Jam bands in particular. It’s great if you’re on acid, but if stoned or drunk it does nothing but wear on one’s patience. Since I’ve never tried any psychedelic drugs (unless you consider pot as such) I couldn’t relate.
*My sister & I are 15 years apart, but oftentimes, if not at all times, she is the voice of reason.
Boodge (what my sister will be heretofore referred to as) & I decided to eat lunch. The sun came out for a spell & we basked in its glory, however short lived & we were asked by a young hippie what we were eating & where we could get it. Whole Foods, that corporate conglomerate that brilliantly markets itself to nonconformists was the answer & she brimmed with near luminescence at the suggestion that we didn’t propagate one of the other corporate establishments such as: Safeway, Raley’s or Lucky’s. As if this corporation was better than the others because it had a better global strategy to make more money by being the organic food headquarters, by being morally just to follow laws about fair trade & by not being afraid to hire those, nay encourage their employees (male or female) to have dreadlocks & beards. A brilliant corporate strategy & one not lost on those that have the power of literacy.
I, however, could care less about any of that. While being a concerned global citizen, my main objective is selfish to be true. I want the best price I can find for my buck. Sure I can get a cup of coffee for a buck & Winchell’s**, but Starbuck’s offers the facilities to sit & write this diatribe for $1.95 so I’m getting more for my money. That, my friends, is economics.
**That is assuming I’m not dating myself & Winchell’s is still around.
After we consumed our hummus & flatbread thing with Spinach we left our blanket & ice chest at our little spot & headed off to wander to the various booths of food & merch before going to see Randy Newman. Randy Newman was uproariously funny. Cracking jokes in-between songs & we laughed as if seated in a comedy club. It was half way through the set that I became distracted by a curious Groundhog, named Gunther by Boodge. He would come up eat a little grass, peer out over the crowd & scurry back into his hole. Shy, but not overly so it didn’t take him to long to become comfortable with me & eat leaves right from my hand.
After Randy Newman’s set, which included scattered boos for playing “I Love L.A.” we headed off to see Elvis Costello, one of the larger draws of the show. We got a spot on a hill about a mile away, which was great for about five minutes until the sheer masses of people began to crowd around us & the young Boodge’s claustrophobia got the better of her. Five songs & we headed off to the Avett Brothers stage. Declan MacMannus would have to wait for another day.
As we walked over, Boodge felt a desire to apologize for her ailments. How heartless must one be to want to subject someone they care about to such deplorable a condition as thousands of people pushing against you & making you terribly uncomfortable. Apologies weren’t necessary as I was none to happy to subject her or myself to something thoroughly unenjoyable.
We caught the Yonder Mountain String Band & they made us dance with a joy that is usually reserved for weddings, funerals & bar mitzvahs. Banjos, fiddles & an accordion ruled the hour as we lost all inhibition to what others may think. We had never heard their music before, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying them as if they were our hometown band making a trip through one last time.
After they finished we anxiously awaited the band we wanted to see most of all. Boodge wanted them to play “Colorshow” more than anything & wouldn’t you know they came out & led with it. The tempo was set & we lost ourselves in the music. They played songs from their newest album, their older albums & a cover of Doc Watson’s “Blue Ridge Mountains”. The throngs of people made it even better as we belted out the lyrics as though we’d written them ourselves. We sang with reckless abandon as well all peered out over the haze of fog & marijuana smoke that permeated the festival atmosphere.
As if on cue when “Salina” came on we danced like Native Americans dancing for rain & when the lyric “The rain it fell, the story went on. The rain it fell & we got gone” came we all screamed it as a steady drizzle fell in the valley of trees where the stage was situated. Epic is a word that I throw around, sometimes too often, but that is what the scene was in a word. The energy put into that set left us speechless. After an hour & a half of singing & playing their hearts out the boys from North Carolina left the stage to pure love & affection.
In that moment, where we all sang “I & Love & You” & the Avetts left the stage we genuinely felt it. It was nothing but admiration, thankfulness & love for giving us an experience. There are things that have stuck with me in my life, the births of my sisters, niece & nephew, my father’s passing, the first time I saw Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney & Bad Religion. This was one of those moments where time stood still & 100, 000 voices on the ground, in the trees, on hills sang in unison to the heavens. No violence, no strife as the free festival carried through three days of peace due to the benevolence & generosity of Warren Hellman.
As we left the excitement was palpable & life was good. We were throughly exhausted, but it was the good kind. The kind that makes you know that the thing you just witnessed was magical & will be a story that never grows old. We were there, like it was Monterey ’67 or Woodstock ’69. We watched these artists give us joy & in turn we gave them love & admiration. Our lives were forever changed by music & why shouldn’t it be music that changes lives. Why must life always be changed by negative things? Why can’t that those moments of joy stay locked in our cranial cavities like money in a safe only coming out when we feel the need to share. It was a glorious day!
So today for Bootleg Thursday I thought I’d give you a nice little concert form the Doors on their 1968 Waiting For the Sun Tour. It’s a great concert with great sound & I really think you’ll enjoy it. The best part of this concert is that “Waiting For the Sun” is not even one of the songs played & yet it is titled Waiting for the Sun Tour. That is classic idiocy. Now, I have to go back to writing my book, but would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section here or on my Facebook Page or even on Twitter. Join the Matty D revolution & stop bad music. Talking to you Jason Mraz.
Update: So it’s been brought tom y attention that the reason “Waiting for the Sun” not played is because it wasn’t on the album. It didn’t come out until they recorded Morrison Hotel. I should have know that & I’m certain I’ve heard it before, but I apologize for not doing my research.
The Doors – Waiting For the Sun Tour 1968
In my musical musings of late I have come upon a number of fantastic new artists (new to me at least) that I feel the need to write about. I had intended to take today off & write solely in the book I’m writing about wandering through Europe like some sort of hedonistic werewolf, but being that tomorrow is Bootleg Thursday & there isn’t much writing involved in that I figured I could write a bit today & really crank it out tomorrow. You’re welcome.
We’ll start with a delightful young female artist that was recommended to me by Ryan Adams (Totally just name dropped). Her name is Laura Marling & while she’s been around for a little bit I have recently just come upon her as she is finally gaining some traction in the U.S. She has a Suzanne Vega/Lily Allen feel about her that I adore & since she’s only 20 she could be around for a very long time. She’s part of a wave of British artists that accentuate their accents when singing. It used to be that British artists would hide their accents or they would naturally go away when singing, but it seems that trend thankfully has fallen by the wayside. There is nothing sexier in this world to me than a British accent on a hot girl & if that girl can sing I’m over the moon (my new favorite phrase).
Ghosts – Laura Marling
I’m a Fly – Laura Marling
Italian Japanese is a So-Cal/Silverlake band that just recently was named the #1 Local Band by KROQ. Now, normally that would automatically disqualify them as being good, but in this case, for once, KROQ got it right. Italian Japanese, aside from having an odd name are really talented. They’re reminiscent of a band that was blowing up when I was at Live 105 in San Francisco, Silversun Pickups. They have the same tonality & space rock style as SP with a slightly better singing quality. They’re headlining the Locals Only Showcase at the Roxy in Hollywood on Thursday August 19. If you’re out there it would definitely be in your best interest to check them out.
Fitz & the Tantrums are a different kind of band from what you’re used to hearing. They’re a true throwback to the ’60′s. Reminiscent of the 5th Dimension they have a soulful sound all the while keeping it very current sounding. Their new album comes out on Tuesday & I already know I will be raving about it in much the same vain as I have with Ray LaMontagne & Arcade Fire. It has truly been an epic summer for music & next Tuesday (My birthday) will be no different.
There’s a tenderness, almost a loneliness or desperation I haven’t heard in Ray LaMontagne’s voice that seems much more apparent in his latest album than in anything he’s released previously. There’s a great following for Ray, but until this album I was not on it. Oh, don’t get me wrong he had a song here & there & his talent is unmistakable, but there was just something there that I couldn’t grasp. With God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise what you have is subtle perfection. It blows me away & I run back to listen to his old stuff that I have to see if I was wrong.
I still don’t think I am. It may have to do with giving his touring band, The Pariah Dogs, partial credit on the album. Steel pedal guitars & banjos & LaMontagne goes from the shy, soulful singer that we all expect him to be to a perfectly pitched country singer.
Get so tired of all this concrete
I guess I’m tired of all this noise
Got to get back up in the country
Have a couple drinks with the good ol’ boys.
That’s not normal talk for the Boston born singer, but it all seems so natural. It sounds so heartfelt & effortless that you wonder why he hasn’t gone this route previously. This summer is proving to be an amazing one for music with Arcade Fire, Ray & next week’s highly anticipated release of Fitz & the Tantrum’s latest album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces. There has been a lull in music for awhile with the recent pop explosion seems to garner all the music headlines, but this summer seems to be changing the rules. It isn’t like this every year. Oh sure, great albums are released every year, but this summer has truly opened my eyes to people I ever thought I’d be on board for.
I feel the same way Ray does about the city about the country. I miss the city with an undying passion. I’ve been corrupted by it. It’s jaded me & turned me into something of an anomaly in the country. I’m utterly bored at nearly all times outside of the city. To me that noise you hear constantly in the city is a welcome return to reality. Back to Ray, though, this album is his finest achievement. To turn someone who wouldn’t have listened had it not been for his album being up on NPR, into a fan or at least a fan of his latest album, is a monumental achievement.
I try hard to be open minded, but let’s be honest we like what we like & opening that gap has to be difficult. There has to be a special connection with the music or something that catches your ear & your guard drops just enough to realize you’re in the midst of that thing that soothes savage beasts. It’s that ethereal thing that you don’t why or how you love it, but you just do. It’s funny how music speaks to some & not to others. I couldn’t imagine a life without music. I use this blog as my outlet because it is such an all consuming feeling I get when I hear something that speaks to me. It engulfs me like a fire & there is an almost spiritual affect it has on my soul.
Is there anything better than smoking a joint, putting on some headphones, laying back & just listening to the music? It’s something like that that reminds you of how great life can be. Without being pretentious there is a sense of sorrow I feel for those who cannot feel that connection to music. They just don’t get it & it really pains me to know that people can go through life & just not feel anything when they hear something so beautiful that it stands through time as a pillar of an era. Music does that. Ray LaMontagne is yours he’ll never grow old.
New York is Killing Me – Ray LaMontagne
Old Before your Time – Ray LaMontagne
I don’t have much in the tank today as far as music goes. I have to really concentrate on writing the book today so I figured I’d give my loyal fans (all 3 of you) something to tide you over for the weekend. I haven’t always been a huge fan of the Smiths. When I was in High School many moons ago, I was a bit ambivalent towards, what I considered, a whiny sad bastard style of music. The older I got, though, the more I embraced what I realized wasn’t sad bastard music at all, but more alternative love songs.
We all have this notion that love songs have to be sappy & kitschy. What Morrissey, with the help of Johnny Marr do is create a musical universe where they can express all their frustrations, thoughts & feelings in an honest sometimes even violent way. Their new wave style changed alternative music & was part of the Second British Invasion Wave that came through in the ’80′s along with the Cure, Depeche Mode & Culture Club (I left out Wham! on purpose). So here’s a great concert of theirs from 1986 in L.A. where I wish I was right now.
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Thank Your Lucky Stars