In the mid-90’s, britpop turned grunge on its ear. Well, in England, anyway. The Oasis vs. Blur war was unfairly represented by the press as a battle between the lager-swilling good ole boys of the working class vs. the arsty and effete privileged lads. Well, it is true on some level that Oasis appeals to the lowest common denominator, while Blur requires a slightly more refined musical ear, but the fact remains that Damon Albarn could churn out sing-along anthems even the daftest bloke could appreciate. And he was at his absolute peak (after injesting Martin Amis’ glorious London Fields) in 1994 when Parklife turned London upside down. Two demos from that era have surfaced over at Dead Flowers: Anglophiles Anonymous, and they just happen to be that record’s two biggest hits, “Parklife” and “Girls & Boys.” Both are expectedly rough but reveal that the band had to do little to turn them into hits. Alex James’ bass work is particularly accentuated in the latter, heaping on the evidence that he’s one of the most underrated bassists of britpop and beyond.
Granted, the first time I ever heard the name Will Oldham was as an actor. My government/economics teacher at Georgetown High School was also one of the many assistant football coaches schlepping it out on the sidelines, and while he was busy drawing up plays that never actually worked for our woefully deficient AAA team, he would show us movies pertinent to the topics he had us copy out our textbooks Monday through Thursday. On the Friday morning before the big game with county rivals the Carverâ€™s Bay Bears, Coach Mahan walked across the hall to my motherâ€™s classroom – she and my dad both taught at GHS – to borrow her VHS copy of Matewan. So impressed, Iâ€™ve been following his career (Oldhamâ€™s, not Mahanâ€™s, that is) ever since.
Alan McGee postulates in the Guardian why Echo & the Bunnymen are ever the bridesmaids of rock. I think he nails it pretty well. After the orchestral majesty of Ocean Rain, the band simply dried up creatively. It really took three years to follow-up that masterpiece with an utterly deflated, self-titled throwaway? Even still, “Lips Like Sugar” was a hit, and the band was poised for the level of stardom lead-singer Ian McCulloch not only expected but felt he was owed. And with an ego Bono only dreamed of, McCulloch wasn’t afraid to let anyone know. But after drummer Pete DeFrietas died in 1989, it was simply never to be. And now, after years of tumult and line-up changes, the band is a shell of its glory days, putting out respectable, if somewhat benign, records to little fanfare.
Personally, I think all this syncing up Dark Side of the Moon with The Wizard of Oz stuff is utter nonsense, but asses of Dungeons and Dragons clowns with way too much spare time are into that sort of thing, so here’s another one for you: Supposedly, if you play two copies of Radiohead’s Kid A seventeen seconds apart it creates an entirely new listening experience. No shit. If I sync up Britney Spears’ “Toxic” with Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got to Do with It?”, I get a new experience, too. Doesn’t mean it’s a good one. And from the streams over at The Modern Age, this Radiohead theory seems pretty far-fetched, altough, some people think it kind of works.
Rilo Kiley makes no bones about its commercial aspirations on Under the Blacklight, its fourth record and major label debut for Warner Bros. Since 2004â€™s More Adventurous, lead singer Jenny Lewis has catapulted to quasi-stardom as the indie it girl, showing up on everything from Bright Eyes to Postal Service records. After years of indie rock and alt-country pretensions and the requisite networking cred by doing time on both Saddle Creek and Barsuk, Rilo Kiley sounds more than ready for the big time.
M.I.A. bursts out of the gate on her second album with both guns blazing. She’s not kidding around at all. Everything about Kala is confrontational. From the patronizing political self-righteousness to the relentless flurry of abrasive beats to the jagged rapping, Kala takes everything that was provoking about her exotic debut, Arular, and intensifies it to the extreme.
Over the years, Lorne Michaelsâ€™s little-show-that-could (always-be-funnier) has given us plenty of moments musicaux to talk about while the collection plates make their rounds the next morning at church. From The Replacementsâ€™ drunken, f-bomb laden rendition of â€œBastards of Young,â€ to Fearâ€™s Halloween free-for-all, to DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill lightinâ€™ up the ganja during â€œI Ainâ€™t Goinâ€™ Out Like That,â€ thereâ€™s never been a dearth of stoopid behavior to keep us entertained. (Hereâ€™s looking at you Father SinÃ©ad O’Connor.) But for every Ashlee Simpson meltdown gigue or Olivia Newton-John double indamnity, thereâ€™s been at least a few nuggets of sheer awesomeness. Live from New York, hereâ€™s one from December 14, 1979: