Friday, August 29, 2014

Video Of The Week: The Pack A.D.

I started the week with The Pack A.D., so I might as well end it the same way...

Rocket isn't my favourite song off their Do Not Engage record, but I must admit that starting the day with a post-apocalyptic video set in a desert felt pretty great, particularly after a chilly night where I left my windows open. So kudos, director Jimi Cuell, for instilling warmth in my day through a Mad Max-versus-Girl Power clip that inexplicably takes an animated and colourful turn at the end.

And good on everyone involved to dress the girls like everybody else, and not have them be showing (more) skin just because they have a different chromosome.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Alice In Chains, Monster Truck & The Pack A.D. @ Metropolis, August 24, 2014

It was a fine evening of rock last night at Metropolis.

It started with The Pack A.D., who were in fine form. Drummer Maya Miller knows exactly when to simplify things à la Meg White and when to pound an off-beat à la Keith Moon, and as the backing vocalist and master of ceremony, always adequately takes the between-the-songs spotlight off of Becky Black, who uses the 10 seconds she needs to gather up the energy to burst out another garage rock gem. As the first of three bands on the bill, we expected 20 minutes of hard rock from them; instead, we were pleased to get double that.

Next up was Monster Truck, who have been in town and in our province often since winning the Best New Artist Juno in 2013, most recently a couple of weeks ago at an outdoors festival - I forget whether it's Osheaga or Heavy MTL, which both take place at the same venue and are organized by the same people. If Lynyrd Skynyrd had a child with AC/DC, the music it would produce would be pretty much what Monster Truck provides; get that child a godfather like Mark Slaughter or Chris Cornell for the range of vocals, and you're dead-on.

By itself, their songs are ok. It's riff-based Southern Rock with lots of ''girl'', ''baby'', ''love'', and maybe some ''driving'' in the lyrics; the type of stuff that's fine as background music while listening to a rock station on a road trip, but maybe not something I'd buy in CD or MP3 format. However, these guys can play, and their live sets have an energy I've rarely seen anywhere else before. They are confident, in control of their instruments, and most of all, happy. All four of them sport smiles that could end a forest fire and impregnate all the birds and squirrels. They're more fun to watch than a barrel full of monkeys on acid (*please don't give acid to monkeys). I might eventually be tempted to buy a DVD of theirs.

But the main event managed to remind everyone in the room whose show it really was. Alice In Chains, despite the death of two founding members (vocalist and part-time guitarist Layne Staley, and bassist Mike Starr) are as good as they ever were. If anything, they now have the consistency to give high-quality shows night in and night out, which may not have been the case when at least two of its members were heroin addicts.

Jerry Cantrell remains a pitch-perfect guitarist (though I don't agree with those who consider him a guitar god/virtuoso), and Sean Kinney is also one of the most reliable drummers to come out of the 1990s Seattle scene, so that went according to plan; Mike Inez - who also played with Ozzy Osbourne, Slash's Snakepit and Black Label Society - might be an improvement over Starr for the sheer fact that he's enjoying every second of it (huge smiles, interacting with the crowd, throwing picks - think of Suicidal Tendencies / Metallica bass player Robert Trujillo); and William DuVall is a heck of a frontman.

He can hit Staley's notes, but he's also energetic, doing rock-star poses and moves like a cross between Beck and Scott Weiland - but with a much larger vocal range: there's some Corey Glover (Living Coloür) deepness and richness in there, there's that sardonic Axl Rose voice from Mr. Brownstone at times, but the Staley-meets-Freddie Mercury thing really hits you. And he can play guitar well - he took a few solos during the evening, and when he felt he may not have hit a note right, he didn't play it. He stayed within his means and rocked the fuck out.
Photo: Éric Robillard
Here's the setlist, and album each song was from:

1. Dirt (Dirt, 1992)
2. Them Bones (Dirt)
3. Dam That River (Dirt)
4. Hollow (The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, 2013)
5. Again (Alice In Chains, 1995)
6. Check My Brain (Black Gives Way To Blue, 2009)
7. Your Decision (Black Gives Way To Blue)
8. Man In the Box (Facelift, 1990)
9. Grind (Alice In Chains)
10. Nutshell (Jar Of Flies, 1994)
11. Phantom Limb (The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here)
12. We Die Young (Facelift)
13. Stone (The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here)
14. Sludge Factory (Alice In Chains)
(encore break)
15.  Cold Gin (Kiss cover) tease
16. Got Me Wrong (Sap, 1992)
17.Would? (Singles soundtrack, 1992; Dirt)
18. Rooster (Dirt)

In addition to the quality of the show, I'd be remiss to not point out that three feet to my right was the largest and most violent mosh pit I've seen since 1996. Kudos to no one getting killed. Keep it classy, kids.

Alice In Chains: 8/10
Monster Truck: 7/10
The Pack A.D.: 8/10

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Top 10 Songs This Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. JOAN OF ARC, Arcade Fire (2013)
9. STOP!, Jane's Addiction (1990)
8. WALK ON THE WILD SIDE (Lou Reed cover), Joseph Arthur (2014)
7. SMOOTH SAILING, Queens Of The Stone Age (2014)
6. CONTROL ME, Kandle (2014)
5. SWEATPANTS, Childish Gambino (feat. Problem) (2014)
4. RED LIGHT, Eddie Murphy (feat. Snoop Lion) (2013)
3. RIGHT TIME, Nikki Lane (2014)
2. ALL THE RAGE BACK HOME, Interpol (2014)
1. LAZARETTO, Jack White (2014)

Video Of The Week: EMF

Sure, I prefer their darker stuff, the more ''80s-alternative'' sound found in songs like Lies, but I've been feeling down enough lately that a good pick-me-up was warranted.

Three reunions later and just 10 of 23 years off in band history which is like most bands who don't take hiatuses, EMF are still at it, usually performing on the summer festival circuit in Europe.This is their most-known and ''popiest'' hit, Unbelievable, but all three of their records kick ass.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Top 10s This Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. THE DISTRICT SLEEPS ALONE TONIGHT, The Postal Service (2003)
9. LOVE BITES, Def Leppard (1987)
8. WALK ON THE WILD SIDE (Lou Reed cover), Joseph Arthur (2014)
7. NOT UP TO ME, Kandle (2014)
6. ALL THE RAGE BACK HOME, Interpol (2014)
5. LAZARETTO, Jack White (2014)
4. SWEATPANTS, Childish Gambino (feat. Problem) (2014)
3. RIGHT TIME, Nikki Lane (2014)
2. SMOOTH SAILING, Queens Of The Stone Age (2014)
1. RED LIGHT, Eddie Murphy (feat. Snoop Lion) (2013)

Top 10 Robin Williams Films:

10. MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON, Paul Mazursky (1984)  
9. DEATH TO SMOOCHY, Danny De Vito (2002)
AWAKENINGS, Penny Marshall (1990)
ONE HOUR PHOTO, Mark Romanek (2002)
6. DEAD POETS SOCIETY, Peter Weir (1989)
GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, Barry Levinson (1987)
, Vincent Ward (1999)
2. INSOMNIA, Christopher Nolan (2002)
1. THE FISHER KING, Terry Gilliam (1991)

Top 10 Robin Williams Performances In Film:

10. HOOK, Steven Spielberg (1991)  
DEATH TO SMOOCHY, Danny De Vito (2002)
MRS. DOUBTFIRE, Chris Columbus (1993)
GOOD WILL HUNTING, Gus Van Sant (1997)
INSOMNIA, Christopher Nolan (2002)
ONE HOUR PHOTO, Mark Romanek (2002)
PATCH ADAMS, Tom Shadyac (1998)
THE FINAL CUT, Omar Naim (2004)
DEAD POETS SOCIETY, Peter Weir (1989)
1. THE BIRDCAGE, Mike Nichols (1996)

Video Of The Week: The Postal Service

It's been more than a decade since their debut and lone album came out, and it remains among the top-10 independent releases of the past 30 years, probably in the top-5. Funny how a side project from Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard and Dntel's Jimmy Tamborello with help from Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis turned into the biggest hype-making machine since Nirvana...

And yet, when I get out of my circle of musician friends and the vinyl buyers, I still encounter people my age, in my city, that have never heard of The Postal Service. And while their electronics-induced soft folk-rock may not be as fresh as when it came out in 2003, songs like Such Great Heights, We Will Become Silhouettes and, of course, The District Sleeps Alone Tonight still pack a hell of a punch.

The video for The District (...), directed by Cobra Kai, was nominated for many awards, including ''Best Video Made For Under $10K''. To me, it's by far the best track on the record; the music is just a notch above the other ones, but the lyrics ring so true, which happens when they are: Gibbons was chronicling his girlfriend leaving him in Seattle and moving to Washington, D.C. (known locally as ''The District'', since it belongs to no state).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Suicide

Many things have been said about suicide in the past couple of days, what with the death of Robin Williams and the fact that he was so beloved and touched and inspired so many people.

But the smartest thing came from my friend Yan, blogger (and songwriter) extraordinaire, and I will quote most all of it because just one part would not be enough:
A famous person committed suicide so of course tumblr and the rest of the internet is going to be filled with patronizing BS about suicide for the next several days.
I mean no disrespect to Robin Williams or to the people paying tribute to him, but please please please for the love of god spare me your saccharine messages about how suicide is never the answer.
This is a very unpopular opinion but I believe that sometimes suicide is the answer and I wish people would respect that choice. Yes, I know there’s mental illness involved and suicidal people are not always thinking clearly, but I can’t stand the way well-meaning people speak condescendingly to people who are suicidal.
Why can’t we just let people go with dignity? Why not accept the fact that sometimes people reach a point where the pain is so great that it completely obliterate all other consideration and there is only one way out? Yes it sucks for those who are left behind. I know because I’ve been left behind a few times. But don’t you think people who are suicidal already know that? That they will be missed? They’re not stupid babies. They are aware of the pain they are going to cause and they probably already feel a tremendous amount of guilt over it. But when your own pain reaches a certain point, that doesn’t matter anymore.
I don’t want to upset people and I’m certainly not advocating suicide, but stop treating people like babies.
I share that opinion. Deeply.

I find it very selfish for people to ''oppose'' suicide, and the same goes for hastags like #endsuicide. Like Yan said, apart from hurting loved ones - who likely will feel pain at other moments in their lives as well - where is the harm in taking your own life? Aren't there enough humans on earth for whatever purposes you had in mind? And what if this particular human felt they had done what they needed to, or all that they could have, or that every single one of their efforts led to no change for the best for anyone/anything? The species can afford one less, all the better if it's someone who doesn't feel like giving Life another try rather than, say, kids who are collateral damage in a shitty war no one will benefit from.

I say #keepsuicidealive. I'm pro choice. All the time.

That being said, R.I.P. Mr. Williams. I re-watched Death To Smoochy tonight, because it's one of his most under-rated films, and part of when he - as an actor - turned to darker roles rather than all-serious or all-comedy. Maybe I'll watch One Hour Photo tomorrow. And try not to kill myself on Thursday.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

This Week's Top 10s

Top 10 Songs:

10. WALK ON THE WILD SIDE (Lou Reed cover), Joseph Arthur (2014)
9. SHARP, Red Mass (2014)
8. NOT UP TO ME, Kandle (2014)
7. LAZARETTO, Jack White (2014)
6. ALL THE RAGE BACK HOME, Interpol (2014)
5. MORNING, Beck (2014)
4. SWEATPANTS, Childish Gambino (feat. Problem) (2014)
3. RIGHT TIME, Nikki Lane (2014)
2. SMOOTH SAILING, Queens Of The Stone Age (2014)
1. RED LIGHT, Eddie Murphy (feat. Snoop Lion) (2013)

Top 10 Beck Albums:

6. MODERN GUILT (2008)
GUERO (2008)
2. ODELAY (1996)
1. MUTATIONS (1998)

Video Of The Week: Beck

I don't know where Beck is at in his music career - closer to the end, or somewhere in the middle. But this black-and-white video by Sophie Muller, featuring his son Cosmo and referencing a lot of his past songs and videos (all the way back to Loser), is definitely a look behind. Whether it's to gather inspiration to move forward, or move ahead in a new direction, or simply move on remains to be seen, but I'll say this: his latest record, Morning Phase, is pretty good, but I don't think it comes close to his other slow records Mutations and Sea Change:

The songwriting is still good, but it's no longer new, and it doesn't surpass songs of his past in melody or ability to make a deep impression; it's more textured, though, so there's that.

And his live performances are inconsistent at best. Some shows barely last over an hour; half of them would fit onto a single CD, while the other half get Jack White for three songs during the encore...

What's frustrating about Beck is he could probably spit genius out every time, he just chooses not too. That, or his judgement is impaired.