Here’s the thing about the Beatles and iTunes deal expected to be announced tomorrow. Much is being made about old copyright issues surrounding the “Apple” name, and how how it’s a big kiss-and-make-up story.
But what it comes down to is this: The Beatles catalog on CD for years was one of the most criminally un-remastered catalogs in all of music. When you bought ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ in 2008, its sonic quality was based on rudimentary standards in CD mastering from 1986.
When the Rolling Stones’ remasters came out in 2002, it set a precedent for the Beatles—not just aurally, but financially. The Stones remasters sold like crazy, and the Beatles took notice.
In September 2009, to great jubilation, the Beatles finally remastered their back catalog. The remasters were only available on CD, not iTunes, and as expected, they broke sales records for CD reissues. In 2009, the Beatles sold over 3 million CDs. For a time, the money rolled right in.
Now, over a year later, sales of those remastered CDs have fallen back to normal weekly figures. How else to jolt sales again? Move to the next medium. Of course—iTunes.
There’s no kiss-and-make-up story. It’s just the Beatles strategically timing the release of their music on newer platforms for maximum profit. Sorry to be cynical, but that’s really the beginning and the the end of it.
Krukow: “And that’s a wrap. Stick around for the postgame show. Our next broadcast is WE DON’T CARE. The first pitch is at WE DON’T CARE. The Giants are the World Series champions.”
“Someone pull the emergency brake on that rainbow moonbeam choo-choo!”
No matter how you slice it, this unexpected bit of brilliant planning by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert was a highlight of yesterday’s Rally to Restore Sanity—or, as Obama called it, the “Rally Called Something Like Americans in Favor of a Return to Sanity or Something Like That.”
“Peace Train” vs. “Crazy Train,” with special guests at the end. So good.
The Giants are up two games in the 2010 World Series and oh my God I can’t even believe I am typing those words.
I don’t have a felt cap covered in Croix de Candlestick pins, and I barely remember hearing Hank Greenwald on the radio before he retired, but I am a lifetime fan and something I can proudly say is that every time the Giants have been in the World Series in my lifetime, I have been at the stadium. In 1989, we had tickets, and watched at Candlestick Park in Game 4 as the A’s finished off a sweep. (I forgave them.) In 2002, we didn’t have tickets but went anyway, just to be a part of the scene outside the stadium; it was one of the better games of that ill-fated series which I can hardly bring myself to think about. This time around, no tickets either, but Tony and I parked at Tommy’s Joynt, rode bikes via Van Ness, Market and Fourth to the ballpark, turned on our Walkmans to KNBR and, without spending one dime on tickets, WATCHED THE GAME THROUGH THE RIGHT-FIELD FENCE. I love San Francisco.
You already know how the game went, and you can probably imagine the scene out on the promenade during the bottom of the 8th when the Giants scored 7 runs on two outs. I just kept splaying my arms up against the fence in religious fervor and hooting at the top of my lungs. After the final out, MAYHEM. Everyone was hugging and high-fiving total strangers; I even high-fived a cop. The Texas players’ buses were parked on Third near the bridge, and the lights were on inside the buses so you could see the players pointing, laughing and taking pictures of fans crowded around the Juan Marichal statue, chanting loudly that Texas sucks.
What you can’t imagine is the bike ride back to Tommy’s, which took us past the MOMA and Union Square. The entire city was going nuts. Cars were parked diagonally with all the doors open, music playing, people dancing in the streets, everyone going wild. People inside their SUVs high-fived us as we rode in the bike lane. People hailing taxis high-fived us while talking on their phones. People from the skinniest alleys to the highest hotel windows leaned out into the street to shout their joy. How can you take that away from people? I say more fair-weather fans, please, if it means more happiness to go around.
I remain amused at my many friends who couldn’t care less about baseball, like Jared Powell at Black Saints Tattoo, who recently offered 20 percent off for customers if they’d only just shut the fuck up about baseball for the duration of their tattoo. And I remain inspired by my friends who are into it, including Ethan Jayne, who is the whole reason I started writing this post in the first place. Formerly of Santa Rosa and since wooed to PDX and the Portland Mercury, Ethan nicely and neatly covers every thought I myself coincidentally had about music and its place in Thursday night’s game over at End Hits with style and humor. Check it out, and cross your fingers for the rest of this series because God knows it hasn’t always been easy being a Giants fan, no matter how long you’ve rocked the orange and black.
After yesterday’s post on Solomon Burke, Eyedea and Ari Up, Chris points out what I should have remembered: Don’t forget that Marion Brown also died recently.
Not that I can say anything that his music didn’t already say on its own. I can, as these things go, remember when I first discovered him via his eponymous ESP album. Crossroads Records on Hawthorne, in Portland, Ore. The cover was black-and-white, no title. I was just getting back into jazz. It didn’t really stick out from most other ESP stuff I was finding at the time.
But Brown’s name popped up time and again. Most notably, on Coltrane’s beast Ascension and Archie Shepp’s Fire Music, two hallmarks of the avant-garde. You could take the boy out of Georgia, but you can’t take Georgia out of the boy, and his series of records inspired by his home state find his vision coming complete: Afternoon of a Georgia Faun is an actual avant-garde outing on the now-pulseless ECM, and Geechee Recollections on Impulse is gracefully biting.
The only other thing to say is that yes, I found out about his death from Superchunk’s Twitter feed. I still think it’s fantastic that the archetypal indie-rock band would record a track called “Song for Marion Brown,” because I am into people listening to all kinds of music no matter what style they happen to excel at playing. And anyway, the lines are blurring more and more each day. Robert Plant’s most recent album contains two songs by Low. Mavis Staples recorded her latest album in Wilco’s recording studio with Jeff Tweedy. And Big L, from once-budding hyphy group the Pack, is putting out experimental spoken-word records on the same label as the Sun City Girls and Yellow Swans. Genres don’t exist anymore.
Somehow this all ties into me buying tickets for and then deciding not to go see Best Coast tonight. I’ve blown hot on Crazy for You and been entertained by its hooks, but ultimately, I feel perplexed that the world’s so-called discerning music listeners are elevating something so stringently unoriginal. If I were a female songwriter, I would be especially frustrated, because Bethany Cosentino has now proven that lifting the Shirelles’ schtick, rhyming the same words over and over, sticking to the same themes of longing and loneliness and adding in a few references to cats and weed are all it takes to achieve stardom, apparently. I love me a good jingle, and Crazy for You is shameless fun, but if I’m going to get really hyped on something it better be more variegated. In that dept., Marion Brown: 1. Best Coast: 0.
Finally, Warpaint’s new album The Fool was released today. Listen to it here.
Noting the passing of a celebrity is like celebrating a pennant win in the bottom of the seventh; there will be two more, according to the self-fulfilling maxim. So when Solomon Burke died at the Amsterdam airport two weeks ago, I held my breath, hoping the next one would be more prepared to go. Someone like Eddie Fisher or Tony Curtis. I didn’t get my wish. Eyedea and Ari Up were gone within two weeks.
Most people online will see photos of Ari Up, née Arianna Forster, read a few lines and assume she was just another screamer in a punk band—especially if they see the cover photo for the Slits’ album, Cut, which shows Forster and her bandmates topless and covered in mud. But the Slits couldn’t have been further from the bedraggled screams of punk, or of X-Ray Spex, who they were often compared to. Juxtapose the roughshod reggae-disco of Cut against records by the Rapture and M.I.A. and it’s clear Forster was really, really ahead of her time.
Eyedea, from the Minneapolis hip-hop duo Eyedea & Abilities, was just 28 when he was found dead last week. I did the math, discovering he was still a teenager when his massive statement of purpose, First Born, was released. The triple-album is essentially Exhibit A in the case for the personal/political torch of punk being rekindled in indie hip-hop. Naturally compared to Atmosphere due to geography and pigment, Eyedea expressed a pensive examination of the world and the individual’s place therein with humor, cleverness and heart.
And then Solomon. I was among a few hundred people who once waited over an hour while Solomon Burke was stuck in San Francisco traffic. It was 2005, a free show at Amoeba, and his fans were adhering to the title of his recent record, Don’t Give Up On Me. Patience was rewarded when Burke was led to his red velvet throne and began singing—the huge store was silent while he commanded the afternoon. At one point, a front-row fan shouted a request for Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and in a lightning-fast move, Burke pointed in their direction and immediately went in: “I was boooooorn…”
If there’s any good to come of all this, it’s that you now have three masterpiece records to check out: The Slits’ Cut, Eyedea & Abilities’ First Born, and Solomon Burke’s Don’t Give Up On Me. It’s rainy season. Enjoy.
I’ve got a theory and the theory is this: No matter how early you try to arrive at the ballpark to catch the shuttle to Treasure Island, you will always get to the festival three seconds after the band you’d sell your left kidney to see takes the stage. Bridge traffic, shuttle lines and unexpected delays crop up every year. That’s a better scenario than missing your favorite band entirely, but it’s nonetheless sweat-inducing—even in the type of bone-chilling weather which this year finally decided, after three Treasure Island Music Festivals benevolently spared the San Francisco cold, to rear its oceanic head.
Yes, it was cold. And yes, two of the must-see acts of 2010, Die Antwoord and Superchunk, played at relatively early time slots, which surely was a strategic move on the festival organizers’ part, I imagine, to beef up the crowd in the early hours. Both acts could have more played a few slots up on the bill, and that’s not accounting for taste—just demand. Likewise, Deadmau5 probably should have headlined Saturday, because a gigantic sea of neon-clad pacifier-wearers with goosebumped bare midriffs bailed for the warmth of the shuttles before LCD Soundsystem.
For having been debunked as the Borat of all viral hip-hop jokes in 2010, Die Antwoord is insistently entertaining. Not too many rappers quote Cypress Hill and Ren & Stimpy in one breath while in the next, freestyling a couple lines about wiping his ass with a shirt someone threw on stage while actually wiping his ass with a shirt someone threw on stage. Juvenilia reigns, with stagediving, mooning the crowd and false appendages. Both Ninja and Yo-Landi really need to eat some food, but the fact that I still have their hooks in my head three days later tells you something about the success of their gimmick.
Nic Offer, singer of !!!, sings with his fly open! I am thrilled to finally see this band after too many missed opportunities. “You know where we played last night?” Offer offers. “Tokyo! That’s right! Friday night Tokyo, Saturday San Francisco. Three hours sleep, baby!” With LCD Soundsystem here too, the spirit of Jerry Fuchs lingers. Thanks for “Heart of Hearts” and “Must Be the Moon,” guys.
During Four Tet’s set, I finally have my brush with fame: The two guys handing out the “Thank You” stickers. Every fourth person I see has one stuck to their clothes, foreheads or breasts. Mid-dancing, they speak to me in body language which asks, “Hey man, do you want a ‘Thank You’ sticker too?” I respond with body language that says, “Yeah, here, lemme peel one off your roll there.” They both wag their fingers as if to say, “No way,” then one of them peels off a sticker and slaps it on my sweatshirt himself. They continue dancing. There is a man in a full-body green suit crowdsurfing. The sun is setting. Four Tet is a little less pastichey and more fluid than when I saw him last, four years ago, after Everything Ecstatic. This is not all that bad.
Somewhere in there between Kruder & Dorfmeister and Deadmau5, the news comes in: The Giants had beaten the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLCS. This fact is incredible to the point that stray fans shout things like “Cody Motherfucking Ross!” and random strangers jump up and high-five. Entire portions of the crowd chant “Let’s Go Giants!” The timing is good. I find a Fountaingrove Round Barn T-shirt on a hipster vintage rack in one of the clothing booths. Back near the port-a-potties I watch a gate-crasher hop the fence and sprint into anonymity. My best friend gets engaged. Okay, okay, that actually happened the night before. But still. Love is in the air.
“Deadmau5 Suck5,” my newly-engaged friend texts, but it’s not true. Deadmau5 is just there, the neo-house flavor of the year with an overboard, impressive light show owing buckets to Daft Punk. This happened two years ago, and it was called Justice. Where is Justice now? Replaced, it seems, by a DJ who hates DJs in a mouse helmet who lifts Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game.” I’m not on the right drugs, but for 45 minutes, Treasure Island is a solid, teeming, unified mass.
Watching Miike Snow is a nice change of pace from the phenomenon of Deadmau5. They’re shrouded in blue lights and a constant billow of fake fog (when, honestly, real San Francisco Bay fog could very nearly fill the role just fine). They’re from Sweden. This fact is helpful for copy editors when cursing their name, but doesn’t solve the whole puzzle. I suspect Miike Snow likes it that way. “Animal” sounds perfect in the dark.
To answer your question, yes, LCD Soundsystem does open their set with “Dance Yrself Clean”! Along with “Drunk Girls,” “I Can Change,” “You Wanted a Hit” and “Home,” This is Happening is well-represented. “All My Friends” is the hands-down jam. “Yeah.” Admirably, every sound on their recordings is replicated by one live instrument or another, and James Murphy can absolutely sing those falsettos live. Honestly, they could play all night, but when 10:50pm rolls around it’s time to pull the plug. “We don’t make the rules,” explains Murphy. “We’re not the cops.”
Superchunk rules Sunday. I resist the phrase “showin’ ‘em how it’s done,” but in Superchunk’s case it truly applies. No band at the festival is as punchy and energetic, but punchy and energetic are only tips of the equation: Vitally, Superchunk actually plays as if their music is important. Almost every other band playing today glosses over with that same lame rock-guy detachment that ruined the 1970s. In fact, with the rain, everything seems downright gloomy on Sunday after Supserchunk. They have every right to rest on their laurels, but instead they flail, pounce and thrash through such a damn fine set. Starting with “Kicked In”? BOLD. “Water Wings,” “Throwing Things,” “Detroit has a Skyline,” “Hyper Enough,” “Precision Auto,” it’s all in there.
It’s sad that Zooey Deschanel reminds me of Taylor Swift, but the facts are that like Swift, she’s cute and she doesn’t always sing on key. No one cared when Kurt Cobain didn’t sing on key, but Deschanel is going for an altogether different, which is to say retro, thing. She & Him’s 50s girl-group-by-way-of-Patsy-Cline schtick, female backup singers and all, relies on polish and technique, neither of which Deschanel has in spades. If it weren’t for the indie cred of M. Ward, who once made wonderfully strong, eloquent records before hopping on this confusing side project, I doubt many people would take the band seriously.
Monotonix: Bringing the DIY basement show to music festivals since 2008.
Two temper tantrums into Broken Social Scene’s set, a friend compares Kevin Drew to Axl Rose and chuckles; said friend loves Axl Rose and all his shortcomings. But I can’t digest it, not since seeing Drew and the rest of the band in much better, triumphant, E-Street-Band-like spirits just a year ago. It’s not just the weather, which is gloomy enough. Brendan Canning violently throws his guitar to the ground. Drew makes a pissy comment about how when you play as many shows as he does, you get accustomed to the sound being perfect. Wrapped in leather and shades and heroin-like detachment, he drops his own guitar mid-song to wander around the stage, invading other people’s instruments. They play “Almost Crimes” and “Anthem for a 17-Year-Old Girl” from You Forgot It in People; “7/4” and “Ibi Dreams of Pavement” from S/T; and the rest is from their new record, but they’re not feeling it, and neither is the crowd. Just an off day, I hope. The cold wind and cold vibes take their toll, and we head out.
More photos below – All photos by Elizabeth Seward. (more…)
This just makes the most sense in the world: Tom Waits is releasing a 78 RPM single next month.
The purveyor of all things arcane last year collaborated with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to record his own take on “Tootie Ma Was a Big Fine Thing” and “Corrine Died on the Battlefield,” both old New Orleans songs that exemplify early examples of Mardi Gras Indian chants. Originally released on a benefit comp to help, um, preserve Preservation Hall, they’re getting pressed on the fastest-spinning slab of vinyl money can buy.
How much money? 50 bucks, sucker. But hey! It benefits Preservation Hall! I can speak from personal experience (i.e. poking my head in the window on a road trip) that Preservation Hall is culturally important. And if you’re a hoarding record collector like me and have way too many weird 78s in your garage but no way to play them, for just $200 you’ll get the record—and a portable 78 RPM record player to play it with!
The record goes on sale Nov. 19 at the Hall itself and Nov. 20 at this here site. They’re only making 500 of ‘em, and I imagine they’ll be snagged up quick, so don’t delay. I mean, jeez, it’s a 78! It’s an idea so novel, it’s amazing John Fahey didn’t think of it first. (Oh wait! He did.)
In related news, I have to tip my hat to Black Swan for releasing his album, In 8 Movements, on goddamn Reel-To-Reel Tape. I told my friend Dan and he joked that someone putting their music out on wax cylinder was next, and lo, just days later, IT HAPPENED. Take that, cassettes!
Also, the Waits/Corbijn book looks like a monster. 200 portraits plus 50 pages of Waits’ images and words. Check it out. And if you hadn’t heard, Waits is now officially nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“When my Dad lost the farm to public auction and he went into real estate, he couldn’t believe what he discovered. It was all just numbers. Just numbers. People worrying about their property values going up and down. I’ll tell you, we got a little farm in Canada now, and the best day of our lives was when we started thinking about it not as a piece of real estate but as a home. That’s what matters. A place to go home to. A place to eat dinner with your family. We stopped mowing the lawn that day, and the neighbors got mad at us. I said, ‘What’re you mad about? We’re lowering your taxes!’ They don’t understand. That farm, some days it’s worth a million dollars, some days it’s worth $250,000—I don’t care. It’s our home, that’s what it’s worth to me. I can guarantee you right now that I’m the wealthiest man in this room. Of all the people in this room, no one’s wealthier than me. Do you know why? Because I have enough. I have enough. And once you have enough, no one else can have more enough than you.”
RVIVR – S/T: Ah, this record completely shreds. Purchased from Matt outside Thee Parkside in S.F. while he was changing his strings, sitting cross-legged on the oil-stained asphalt. I couldn’t stay to see the show, unfortunately, but brought the record into Tommy’s Joynt on the way home and read the lyrics over a BBQ sandwich. I’ve played this album ten times since. Anyone with a soft spot for unapologetic, passionate shit plus blazing guitar solos and a dash of Fuel’s Take Effect EP should get on board. I mourn the fact that the record covers are recycled, unsold jackets from Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live LPs, but other than that everything about this record is killer.
Conlon Nancarrow – Studies for Player Piano: I got down with this after interviewing Jason Moran, who included one of this unique composer’s works on his latest album, Ten. Nancarrow had a curious working method. In the days of player pianos, someone would usually play the piano while the paper roll “recorded” the performance via holes punched in the paper. Nancarrow would just cut holes in the paper himself, manually, by hand, creating dense, fast pieces that would be impossible for a human to play. Think of it as a papyrus remix method. This collection, a good one, boasts on its cover “A tour de force of musical imagination – unbelievable sounds!” and it’s not lying.
Converge – Jane Doe: In 2001 I was mostly comparing every hardcore band to Econochrist or Born Against, and in all honesty I still do. I feel the margin for hardcore is slim in most people’s music-listening experiences, and whatever you’re exposed to in that slim timeframe is the measuring stick by which you measure all other hardcore being made. This album by Converge was a wonderfully glaring exception. I heard it just once nearly ten years ago right after it came out, but in that one listening, I realized that hardcore could in fact be taken to new places. Few hardcore records have had the same effect on me since. Deathwish reissued it on vinyl earlier this year, and when I put it on—yep, same amazing record, hasn’t aged one bit. Thanks!
Archie Shepp – The Magic of Ju-Ju: I talked to Fred Eaglesmith recently and he joked that critics have called every record he’s made a departure from his previous work. I didn’t want to tell him I thought that was a somewhat incorrect assessment since he was kind of joking anyway, but that’s what I think of when I think of Archie Shepp. The guy has some downright R&B albums, some straight jazz albums, some real avant-garde stuff but it’s always tinged with Shepp’s personality. I was lucky to meet him once, on my birthday. He smelled like weed. The title track of this record is a wonderful, 19-minute marathon of out-there drone.
Samothrace – Life’s Trade: Watching Neurosis transform from a hardcore band to a creepy, slow, glacial, hypnotic metal band is an experience I am glad I can claim in life. Most people now only know and/or enjoy the music they made post-’93 but their first three albums are undeniable works of art and I’ll defend them to the death. Live back then, they were revelatory. After the drum-circle jam on Enemy of the Sun I was off the train and only in the last five years have I been able to enjoy records like Times of Grace. Anyway, when I first heard Leviathan by Mastodon I was confused as to why it sounded exactly like Neurosis and then I realized that Neurosis actually influenced every single band in this genre that they basically single-handedly created. This record sounds like Neurosis with some subtle blues riffs thrown in.
Rusko – O.M.G.: So as far as I can tell, dubstep is defined by basically just this one certain bass sound. That’s nice for stoned people in England but I say we demand more idiosyncratic qualities before we christen a new genre. Then again England seems all too ready to christen, shower and elevate their own with ridiculous platitudes on the cover of NME every single month. “Hottest Band in the World!” becomes a country’s music scene that cried wolf, although I did actually like Alphabeat. Rusko seems like one of the dubstep scene’s hobos, hopping trains into different genres; his production on ///Y/ was incredible while this LP is so-so.
Louis Moreau Gottschalk – Works for Piano: Seriously one of the greatest piano composers of all time, Gottschalk was revered in his day but no one seems to talk about him much now. Lots of praise gets heaped on the usual American composers like Copland and Gershwin who combined jazz and folk forms into their pieces but Gottschalk was born in New Orleans in 1829 and was bringing Creole rhythms to Europe in the middle of that century, which would seem to override Gershwin’s status as a pioneer at least in that regard. There is so much flavor and romance in these pieces it’s nuts.
The Roots – Illadelph Halflife: I love it when you give an album another chance and it shows you some new side of itself because your ears are tuned a little differently with age, but this is still such a strangely weak album in the Roots’ discography. Strange because it’s from back when this band was hitting hard, sandwiched between Do You Want More? and Things Fall Apart which are both total masterpieces. But sometimes a band makes an album that’s just simply there, against the odds. Usually I keep returning to said albums, hoping to find some gold. I listened to this again today, and like the girl in Fame, I felt . . . nothing.
Chris Connor – Sings Lullabys of Birdland: I saw Lee Konitz play and conduct a jazz clinic last week in the Green Center at SSU. There’s been millions of dollars sunk into the Green Center which has been the subject of much controversy, debate and scorn, but I must say, the hall looks impressive. Konitz unpacked his horn, played a few notes, and looked around the large building. “Too much echo,” he grumbled. “You gotta fix this room.” This, of course, produced knowing laughter from the crowd, because here’s a guy who’s played with everyone and I mean everyone in the jazz world, and he’s saying this multimillion dollar room is substandard. Soon I realized that Konitz can just be kind of a grouch, though. He chewed out a photographer on three separate occasions and told her to fuck off, he got into an argument with a girl who remarked that she didn’t like Bach, he refused to introduce the players in his band, he called someone out for yawning, it was weird. He eventually lightened up, but mostly I just kept my eyes on the ground hoping he wouldn’t call on me or interpret something about my demeanor as an insult to his presence. Just when it couldn’t get any stranger, a girl with whom Konitz had an awkward exchange about race accidentally tripped and completely fell on her face on the way out of the room. So anyway, Lee Konitz played a plastic reed on an alto with a rag stuffed in the bell, and one of the songs he played was “What’s New,” which I first heard on Sinatra’s Only the Lonely album. Mel Martin was there, and it turns out Martin was one of Konitz’s students at one point. He reminisced that Konitz once told him that to play saxophone well, one should listen to Frank Sinatra. That struck me as interesting because whenever I think of Mel Martin, besides those Listen LPs you see everywhere, I think of how Mel played just one solitary beautiful chorus of “Goodbye” by Gordon Jenkins to end Mel Graves’ memorial tribute last year. “Goodbye” is also on Only the Lonely, and I immediately pictured Lee Konitz and Mel Martin in another time and place smoking weed and listening to that Frank Sinatra record and playing along with it, not knowing that years down the line it would come back to them in the form of memorial tributes and jazz clinics conducted in the middle of the day at a college campus. The long and short of it is that I love Chris Connor, but though her version of “Goodbye” on this album is very nice, it’s never going to compare to Frank Sinatra’s, or Mel Martin’s for that matter, and I’m sorry to say unkind things about Lee Konitz but you could ask anyone who was there and they’d say it was weird too.