Thursday, April 28, 2011

Albums I Dig...Light Me Up

OK so you know that feeling when you find a great band that isn't really in the limelight yet?  Well I totally have that feeling, and that is thanks to The Pretty Reckless' debut "Light Me Up".  THIS IS A KILLER ROCK N ROLL RECORD.  What is even more amazing is the powerhouse of a voice that leads the band, Taylor Momsen.  It is amazing because the first thing I ever saw her in was the live action remake of How The Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey.  Now she is a full fledged rock n roll bad ass writing and singing the hell out of her creations, and mixing in heavy guitars, schizophrenic drums and a surprising melodic bass.  She says that her biggest influence are The Beatles...well that had me hook line and sinker.  I always respect anyone who can see the major influence and importance that The Beatles had on modern music, and will continue to have forever.

So I have to admit that I was a little skeptical at the thought of an actress fronting a rock band, and releasing an album...I mean how many times have we heard about that?  But the biggest difference is that voice, and that determination.  Taylor isn't using her fame like some of those other "starlets" did.  This isn't Taylor Momsen AND The Pretty Reckless...hell the front cover isn't even the band!  This is the real deal folks, and I can't stress enough how much of a great rock album this is.

It starts with the bluesy crunch and the drag of a cigarette that is My Medicine.  The production of this album also amplifies how important each instrument is in the mix.  The album goes in Since You're Gone, which almost has a Rage Against The Machine groove, and it is clear by the first chorus that this is an album that I need to see live.  The album then takes a turn with the intro of the single Make Me Wanna Die, which almost sounds like a Strawberry Fields Forever influence...but it immediately turns back into a Pretty Reckless number with a riff that any heavy metal band would be jealous of.  What this song does well is it plays the dynamics better then probably any other song on the album, and Taylor's voice sounds so amazing, a real roller coaster.  Throughout the song you can't really tell where she is going to go, and that is part of the fun.

The next track Light Me Up slows things down a little bit musically, but the lyrics don't take a break (Does what I'm wearing seem to shock you...Well that's okay...Cos what I'm thinking about you is not okay.).  The song then has a cool spiral staircase of a melody before the chorus, that is a pure pop rock explosion.  This is a defiant song for Taylor, she smokes, she doesn't care what you think, and she's going to wear whatever she not fuck with this chick.  Zombie is the next track, and this might have been the song that convinced me to go ahead and buy this album.  This is a song that should make every other band nervous...this song is pun intended.  For a song called Zombie, it is so damn smooth.  Every little choice the band makes, a little echo here, a repeated scream there, breaths life into this zombie.  Maybe my favorite track on the album.

The next track Just Tonight is another single, and upon hearing it you can tell why.  This is probably the most pop rock sounding song up until this point in the album.  In no way does that make this song "soft", like I've already said a couple times what makes this band for real is Taylor's voice.  This song really showcases it to its full potential.  But if for some reason the last track thought that maybe that was the direction the rest of the album was going, the opening riff of Miss Nothing will end that theory quick. I kind of see Miss Nothing as an extension of Since You're Gone...Taylor is letting you know what she thinks of everything, and isn't someone to be taken lightly.  This song again proves that this singer has an amazing capability to write a GREAT hook for a song.

OK.  I've said it before about Slipknot, but this next song is the kind of song that you turn up real loud and let the neighbors get nervous.  Goin' Down is easily the hardest rocking song on an already hard rocking album.  The subject matter is grim and intense, and the riffage and melody is as in your face and brutal as anything any rock band has released in the past year.  LOOK OUT.  The razor sharp spiral of a confession is definitely a stand out of the album...

I didn’t wanna do it, Father
But I caught him with another woman in the bed I made him
And so I put him in a grave
And now there’s no one left around to get me off
When I want it's a drag

The next day on the television they identified him
By the circumcision that I made him and now I’m on the run
But wait, why did I have to go and kill him
When he was the best I ever had

This band kicks so much ass, I really can't say it enough.

So the band does what any good band would do after a rocker like Goin' Down...slow things down on the next track.  For me one of the first things I listen for in a band is their use of dynamics, and they could have easily tried to match Goin' Down, but that would have been boring, and uninspired, instead they hit you with the ballad that is Nothing Left To Lose.  Again, the lyrics are somewhat grim, but with a hint of optimism.  They are just as strong with a ballad as they are with a hard rocking number.  And again, Taylor's voice is everywhere on this song, love it.

You is the track I was waiting for when I was listening to this album for the first time.  Let's hear the band totally stripped down, vocals, guitar, strings...that is the type of stuff I live for.  And surprise surprise, Taylor hits it out of the park.  This song could easily be a hit single for them, and the fact that they have a song like this AND Make Me Wanna truly special and a recipe for success.  This band has a beating heart, just as much as a beating fist.

BUT they aren't done yet...the last track Factory Girl starts with a kick drum letting you know it's still there and a the rest of the band soon follows.


The album starts just as strong as it begins.  The song itself sounds like something out of the 80's Aerosmith vault, and that is a damn good thing.  The song gets stronger and stronger as it goes on, and must be a real mother fucker live.

So if you haven't stopped reading this review halfway through to go and buy the album then I guess I didn't do my job, because you really should have bought the album is that good, and it is just another album proving that GREAT music is out there if you look.  I'm pretty psyched about The Pretty Reckless.

Monday, April 25, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge...

This is the full completed list of my 30 Day Song Challenge that I did on facebook, it was actually pretty fun...

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 01 - Your Favorite Song
Jungleland-Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
Easy...hands down my favorite song of all time. There is no better storyteller. I've been listening to Springsteen since I was 3 years old, there isn't much more I've known longer then his music. Now youtube doesn't have the album version available, but that's ok The Boss was meant to be heard LIVE.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 02 - Your Least Favorite Song
There is so much crap to choose from...I was never a fan of "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" but kind of felt bad ripping on it because it's the only song Brett wrote that has somewhat of a melody, but then I read that the rose was supposed to represent "the vagina" and the thorns "the vaginal teeth"...haha fuck you Brett...terrible song. No link. Poison blows.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 03 - A Song That Makes You Happy
Wouldn't It Be Nice-The Beach Boys
This is one of the most beautifully innocent songs ever written. I was going to write this long explanation for why this song makes me happy, but seriously if this song doesn't make you happy, you're an idiot. Also my explanation was way over the 420 allowed.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 04 - A Song That Makes You Sad
Beautiful Boy-John Lennon
John Lennon was ready to start fresh, rekindle a friendship with his best friend, and see his boy grown into a man. The song itself is beautiful, but I can't listen to it without the thought of the events that happened after the song was released creeping into my head. The line "I can hardly wait, to see you come of age." is always a punch to the gut.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 05 - A Song That Reminds You of Someone
Street of Dreams-Guns N' Roses
This song will forever remind me of myself and two drunk fuckos at Mac n Bobs trying like hell to remember the lyrics to this song (OHH they know who they are). Me and drunko numero uno trying to drunkinly sing the lyrics, while drunko numero dos searched her phone for the lyrics we couldn't remember (which were almost all of them). GEEETAR

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 06 - A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere
All These Things That I've Done-The Killers
This song reminds me of one of the rooms I had at VFMC. I'd just sit there when nothing was going on and listen to this song on repeat and zone out. It's crazy to think how much I've learned to love this band, meet crazy cool people and eventually meet Brandon years later, all because of that room at VF and this song...

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 07 - A Song That Reminds You of a Certain Event
She Loves You-The Beatles
THIS IS THE SONG THAT STARTED IT ALL. I remember walking down the stairs and humming this melody as a little kid and thinking "Uh oh, here we go". The biggest event in my life as a music lover. The first Beatles song I ever heard and I haven't stopped listening since.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 08 - A Song That You Know All The Words To
Bohemian Rhapsody-Queen
Try me. Probably my favorite guitar solo of all time too, but that's for another list all together. This is the greatest song ever written. The song is such an achievement in writing, technical ability, and creativity I almost can't take it. Everybody better know the words to this masterpiece.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 09 - A Song You Can Dance To
Goodbye Horses-Q. Lazzarus
I actually really like this song...and that's all I got to say about that.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 10 - A Song That Makes You Fall Asleep
Goodnight-The Beatles
Im going to change the wording a little bit here...this is a song that I like to fall asleep too. Beautiful string arrangement, melody and singing from Ringo (probably his best performance). This proves John could write beautiful melodies when he wanted to. The perfect closer to one of their greatest albums.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 11 - A Song From Your Favorite Band 

While The Beatles were busy rewriting the rules of modern pop music in 1966, Paul McCartney decided to just step aside for a moment and write this song (in the bathroom of a hotel).  It wasn't revolutionary, it didn't create a new sound, it wasn't even a hit was a simple ballad that runs for only 2:02.  But in that 2 minutes he tells the entire story of a doomed relationship (knowingly or unknowingly his own) from start to finish, and crafts a story that will strike a chord with anyone listening.  There is no question about it, this is my favorite song (aside from Jungleland obviously), by my favorite band, off my favorite album of theirs.  While Rubber Soul was Lennon's statement to the world that he was a serious songwriter, Revolver was McCartney's.  And "For No One" was every bit a statement as "Eleanor Rigby".

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 12 - A Song From a Band You Hate
Name a Green Day song.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 13 - A Song That Is a Guilty Pleasure
Anyone who knows me, knows I'm shameless when it comes to the music I listen too...that being said it's a good thing the intro of this song is repeated in the chorus...because some of this song is almost unbearable. But I love crazy harmonies and I love the female this wins.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 14 - A Song That No One Would Expect You To Love

This is tough because I basically tell everyone the kind of music I love. Any-fuckin-way I love Regina Spektor, she is a crazy super talented musician. It combines 2 things I love and am a total sucker for when it comes to music...string arrangements and the female voice...done.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 15 - A Song That Describes You
I need this tattooed on me..."Everybody seems to think I'm lazy...I don't mind I think they're crazy."

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 16 - A Song That You Used To Love But Now Hate
I wouldn't say I really hate this song, but MCR has progressed as a band so much since that first album. This however was a song I liked at the time, but it didn't age well. The stuff they are putting out now destroys this song and that first album. If you are going to sound the same your whole career, what's the point? Hindsight is 20/20.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 17 - A Song That You Hear Often On The Radio
I'm pretty sure this is the only song that plays on the radio. I've got to give her credit, I thought she was going to be a one hit wonder. This is a pretty solid pop song, and I dig her lower register of a voice. So what I'm saying is...I don't turn off the radio when this song comes on.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 18 - A Song That You Wish You Heard On The Radio
Imagine people turning on their radio and this knocking them in the face?! Death is without a doubt my favorite death metal band, as well as one of the greatest BANDS period. This song is so technically precise, blazingly fast, and bombastic in its heaviness it's dizzying. THIS IS WHAT METAL SHOULD SOUND LIKE. RIP Chuck Schuldiner.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 19 - A Song From Your Favorite Album
Born to Run will forever be the soundtrack to my life. The Boss is one of the greatest performers this world has ever seen, and the stories he tells with his lyrics are nothing short of genius. This show showcases everything The Boss has to offer, vocals, lyrics, and guitar chops. This song carries my favorite verse from any song ever written...

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 20 - A Song That You Listen To When You're Angry
Duh. Slipknot is anger in audio form, pure and simple. This song is nothing but pure anger, hatred and aggression camouflaged in double bass, screams and thunderous guitars. By the end of this song you forgot why you were so pissed in the first place and instead have a huge grin on your face from the sheer madness of this song.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 21 - A Song That You Listen To When You're Happy
My musical idol.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 22 - A Song That You Listen To When You're Sad
I really don't feel like explaining or typing this one out...beautiful song, but really sad. This version will give you goosebumps.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 23 - A Song That You Want To Play At Your Wedding
Hahaha ok I'll do this one...nobody hold their breath.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 24 - A Song That You Want To Play At Your Funeral
Alright so who knows about the wedding one, not important. BUT...we all know this will eventually happen, and when it does I really do want this song to play because I think it's pretty damn perfect.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 25 - A Song That Makes You Laugh
Um I think it's more the person...completely sober person reciting the lyrics of this song over the phone at 1 am perfectly that makes this song hilarious. Geeeetar.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 26 - A Song That You Can Play On An Instrument
I've learned many songs, but forgot most, this is one that stuck. Maybe it's because it is a simple song, when you play it YOU are the band...all you need is a voice, a guitar and a foot to tap along too. Now this version I linked isn't the album version, but a cool "live" version of a still "Beatle Paul" messing around. Genius musician.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 27 - A Song That You Wish You Could Play

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 28 - A Song That Makes You Feel Guilty
This is a song that should still make the entire country feel guilty. It is a song about a man who gave his country everything and his country turned it's back on him, disgusting. The scream the Boss rips at the end of the song basically says it all. The Boss ain't no hero, the guy he's singing about is.

30 Day Song Challenge: Day 29 - A Song From Your Childhood
I've been listening to this song for 22 years. As a kid I of course had no idea what he was talking about for the most part, but as I got older it's amazing how much all of the Boss' songs mean to me and start to unravel and make sense. You've got to live life to appreciate these song, and this is as rock 'n' roll as it gets folks.

‎30 Day Song Challenge: Day 30 - Your Favorite Song At This Time Last Year
My favorite song of the 21st Century. This song is so ahead of every other song I've heard this century it's almost unfair. Such a beautiful song. People who say music is dead aren't looking hard enough. Take a chance, go buy an album for a change. Music is still alive and VERY well.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Movies I Dig...The Natural

The Natural is why I love baseball.

It really is as simple as that.  That is almost enough for me to hit the "publish post" button.  This movie is everything that is great about movies, sports, and what it means to have dreams and live is also one of the most magical movies I've ever seen.

What makes The Natural great to me is the determination of its central character Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford's best performance in my opinion, and a damn fine swing as well).  A man who has natural talent, but is warned by his father that that in itself isn't enough to get through life, because if you do "you'll fail".  It is that talent that attracts the Chicago Cubs to send for him, as well as a beautiful stranger cloaked in black.  She represents one of the many themes running deep into the movie.  She also represents the sudden and quick end to the promising Hobbs young career.  Black equals evil, bad luck, and everything that is wrong with what comes with fame.  Whenever Roy is around it, he suffers in one way or the other.  But every cloud has a silver lining and that is Glenn Close as Roy's love interest.  She represents the good and the passion of what is in Roy's heart, and what his talent thrives on.

One of my favorite scenes involves just those two themes of good and evil.  Roy falls into a terrible slump and everyone seems to see the problem except Roy (Kim Basinger).  It takes an "angel" of sorts to end this slump.  In the scene Roy has been struggling at the plate all game, until something and someone catches his eye during a break in the at bat.  He isn't quite clear what it is, but we as the audience realize it's his true love saving him from his slump.  Just like us, she doesn't want to see him fail.

The pitch.


Roy sends the ball flying through the air so quickly, so far, and so high that it shatters the outfield clock.  What helps this scene bring a lump to my throat more then anything is the swelling of the music.  The elation of the crowd that their hero has returned.

Now I can't go without mentioning what I consider the greatest ending to a sports movie for sure, and possibly of all time.  It is goosebump central people.  Roy's past catches up to him, and is asked to throw the game should he play (if he does, he could die as result of the bullet wound he received 16 years earlier).

Of course Roy suits up.  And...hits away.

The build up to that final at bat is the dream of every kid who ever played baseball.  The opportunity to win the big game and in grand fashion.  Everything about the scene is magical.  The music is fantastic.  Again it takes another symbol of good in the crowd to resurrect Roy and give him his power to cement himself as the greatest their was to ever play the game...his son.  The symbol of his father, "The Wonderboy" bat forged out of a tree that was struck by lightning near where his father died which had helped to carry him along so far finally splits during Roy's last at bat.

"Go pick me out a winner Bobby."

The son who had been watched over by the father, is now the father himself.  Roy is now surrounded by good.  And ready for the pitch.



The moment the ball hits the bat and begins its ascent into immortality the music parallels it.  And right with the ball shatters the lights, the music explodes with as much power as the lights themselves.  The look in Pop's eyes (their coach) as the sparks fall toward the stadium is the realization that Roy kept his promise, he'd win him his pennant.  And as Roy rounds the bases his dreams are finally realized...he was the best there ever was.

"God I love baseball."--Roy Hobbs

Now the book deserves its own blog another day... ode to DETROIT ROCK CITY

After the their first three studio albums, KISS was in serious trouble, but they shouldn't have been.  They had a catalog of rock songs that any rock band would have killed for, and a live show that might have been only second to Queen's in the seventies.  So why were they in trouble of being dropped by their label and forever being known only as a "failed gimmick"?
They couldn't translate that live show to an album.  Well that was were the obvious answer came.  RECORD A LIVE ALBUM.  Fuck it...A DOUBLE LIVE ALBUM...they are KISS after all, bigger is better.  Now I'll go into detail another time on what made that album (1975's gigantic live album ALIVE!) the saving grace of KISS.  But what I'm interested in right now (as well as listening to) is...


The first studio album after the giant that was ALIVE! was an important one.  It was the first studio album up to that point that captured the power of KISS.  As well as easily being their most ambitious album of their entire 1970's Katalog (yea I went's KISS.).  While their first three albums ranged from brilliant rock n roll (1973's self-titled KISS), a poorly produced mess (1974's Hotter Than Hell), and finally to what some call ( their masterpiece, but unfortunately paper thin (1975's Dressed To Kill).  None of them could capture that explosiveness that ALIVE! eventually did. Problem was they couldn't release live albums for the rest of their career could they?  I'm talking to you DMB...

The pressure was now on to release a studio album that could finally capture the pure rock n roll that KISS was now know finally the world over for.  How do you go about doing that?  You hire Bob Ezrin to produce it.  You know the guy who eventually produced Pink Floyd's The Wall...yea that guy.  Now even though he would go on to produce the BANE of KISS fan's existence 1981's Music from "The Elder".  The brilliance that he helped to create with Destroyer he would eventually almost destroy (with the help of KISS, it wasn't all his fault) with that album...anyway...

So KISS has their producer...check.  Now you hire a choir, add an orchestra, some effects, wailing children and a reversed drum beat and you have the ingredients for what you probably never thought would be on a KISS album if you were a fan in 1976...


The stage was set.

So now what I'm going to do is pick the song that proved better then any other song on the album how KISS finally captured their power in the studio.

The album starts with a series of sound effects having us believe we are listening to the nightly news, washing dishes, and getting into a car on our way to a KISS concert (if this isn't the greatest opener to a rock album I don't know what is).  The news broadcast informs us that there was a car accident where a "...Michigan youth" was thrown from his car and killed after driving on the wrong side of the road..."the driver of the truck was uninjured".  We then enter the car, rev the engine and what comes on over the radio??  ROCK AND ROLL ALL NITE and LET ME GO ROCK 'N' ROLL off of the album ALIVE!...fucking brilliant KISS, I love it.  As we speed into the night on the way to the concert, the soundtrack to the rest of our (very short) lives begins...

For me this is easily the best song on the album, as well as one of the best songs they've ever written.  Now if you think I'm talking about the version on most Greatest Hits Compilations, you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself and go out and listen to the original album version.  The song starts with that slow fade klassic KISS riff that turns into the two greatest power chords in the history of rock, and cement the fact that KISS had finally captured their power...just in those two chords...and the first line hasn't even been sung yet.  Now if you think I'm over exaggerating, put this song on in your car when you're driving and turn it up as loud as possible and tell me you don't fell a shiver run down your spine and a smile creep across your face.

This song features some of the finest guitar work KISS has ever done, and they've had some great guitarist though the years put on the paint.  Little screams of harmonized madness flutter in and out in between the gigantic Paul Stanley vocals, bombastic rhythm guitars, screeching tires, and distinctive Gene Simmons bass line.  Peter Criss pounds the drums with surprising authority, enough to make you forget the horrid excuse they used for drums on 1975's Hotter Than Hell (although I always loved the way the late GREAT Eric Carr played the drums, on this song in particular, probably the greatest live version of DRC there is).  

Paul Stanley sings as the Detroit native, anxiously driving to the concert...full of cigarette ash and Jack Daniels.  He weaves in and out of traffic, driving 95 mph ("but still moving much to slow"), "feeling alive" he cranks the radio as his song fills the car...

Everybody's gonna to move their feet
Everybody's gonna to leave their seat

You gotta lose your mind in Detroit Rock City"

Enter the KISS solo to top all KISS solos.  Is it he most flashy?  Hell it isn't even the most flashy on the album, but it evokes what KISS is all about, rocking and rolling.  Paul and Ace (who is one of the greatest guitarists to emerge from the seventies) create and harmonize a melodic masterpiece, weaving in around each other like the car the narrator of the song is so carelessly driving on his way to the concert.

Then the clock strikes 12...and this rock and roll fairy tale ends.
"There's a truck ahead, lights staring at my eyes
Oh my God, no time to turn..."

But before the end...Paul Stanley utters the single most bad ass but much more tragic KISS lyric of all time...
"I got to laugh 'cause I know I'm going to die, why?"

The song has a controlled chaos that teeters on destruction until it finally loses control and crashes, killing the narrator, us and cleverly and brilliantly transforming into the next song King of the Night Time World.  

This my friends IS the greatest rock n roll song of all time.  And although sometimes missed because of it's use in sports arenas and parties around the world, it's also one of KISS' grimmest songs...the song was actually written about a real life KISS fan who on his way to a concert was killed in a head on about the ultimate tribute.  

RIP unknown KISS fan.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I love Joan Jett...and rock n roll.

I have the upmost respect for anyone who is ahead of their time, and someone who pushes the envelope and changes whatever the blueprints are for their respective career.  One of those people very high on my list is Joan Jett.

What Joan Jett did in the 1970s for rock n roll and more importantly women in rock n roll is still not entirely given the credit it deserves.  It is crazy to think that it wasn't until the mid-70's that the world saw its FIRST all girl rock n roll band.  That was in no small part thanks to Joan Jett, who at 14 taught herself how to play guitar and never looked back.  She spent the rest of that decade creating riffs and rock songs that are truly just as rock n roll as any other rock band put out in those 10 years.  Seriously check out this live performance.  But the great thing about Joan Jett is that when her band fell apart, and she was left on her own, she chose that time to really shine.
The Runaways
It would take a lot of work but Joan Jett would turn herself into one of the biggest stars of the 80s with classic such as the immortal I Love Rock N Roll, Crimson and Clover, Bad Reputation, Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah), and I Hate Myself For Loving name a few.  Joan is a fighter and it took the rejection of 23 record labels for her to decided to start one herself.  That's right a newly 20 something Joan created her own record label, and created her own legend from then on.  She wasn't and still isn't taking shit from anyone.

I hope that Joan realizes that she's inspired more then just women to pick up the guitar (which is important enough), but that she has inspired EVERYONE to fight for what they want in life.  She recently said on Oprah that she has learned to "push back the push back", and that brilliantly sums up the fight Joan Jett has fought for her 35 plus years in the music industry.  A truly self made rocker who will forever be linked to rock n roll.

Here is a recent performance proving Joan hasn't lost a step...Joan Jett on Oprah 4/14