It's about time the whole band-as-gang thing comes back in vogue. That's what was cool -- maybe all that was cool -- about the progenitors of bro-pop, the Monkees. Sure, Michael, Micky, Peter and Davy were focus-grouped and contractually obliged to play with each other (insert requisite "But so were the Sex Pistols!"), but with the help of some windowpane acid and an assist from Jack Nicholson's ragtag producer friends at BBS Productions, they nailed the whole aesthetic of a crew that's cool, close-knit and prone to wilding the hell out with each other. But here's the catch with things like this: You can watch from a distance, but you'll never, ever be part of it.
Here's an old saw (with teeth recently sharpened by David Byrne in the book 'How Music Works'): genres adapt, evolve and develop their sonic characteristics according to the environment in which the music is heard and the equipment needed to amplify the sound.
Consider the difference between, say, listening to dubstep on a laptop and experiencing dubstep at a proper rave. At the latter, the venue is equipped with gnarly speakers pushing massive loads of air at the crowd, pummeling people's bodies with vibrations and making the act of listening not just a passive, auditory experience but a palpable, whole-body, sonic group grope. Everyone's being touched/caressed/pounded by the same rhythms, frequencies and quakes simultaneously. (It's not too hard to see where John Lithgow was coming from in 'Footloose,' is it?)
With movies like 'Kick-Ass,' 'Super' and the Don Dada of all superhero revisions, 'Watchmen,' still clogging up the bottoms of the nation's Netflix queues, no one's in any rush for another superheroes-are-people-too movie like 'Alter Egos.'
No matter what you think of his music -- really, it's not everyone's cup of PCP tea -- Ariel Pink deserves credit for being an observant listener. What else could explain the precision of his uncannily awkward, badly-tracked-Betamax vibes? His is the sound of a hyperactive mind -- one clogged with garbage media, overheard basic-cable jingles and half-remembered earworms. He's one
The first minute of 'Don't Say a Word,' the opening track of 'Halcyon,' is a bit jarring, with Ellie Goulding and producer Jim Eliot alluding to the last ten years of great British music with one wink after another.
The track begins with delay-pedal-treated vocal samples, a la Jonny Greenwood rocking the transistor radio in 'The National Anthem.' Then Goulding spends a few measures laying down some dubby, aughts-era Kate Bush vocal ambience before dropping the first line ("Well, if you never…") with nearly the exact same five-syllable melody Adele used to open 'Rolling In the Deep' ("There's a fire…").
Those winks? As the album goes on, it's kind of hard to tell if they're winks or nervous eye twitches.
So, if bands were dogs -- for real, bear with us for a second -- Matt and Kim would be a Westie, without a doubt. Your typical West Highland White Terrier is a rapaciously affectionate blur of yips and licks and little doggie hops and boundless energy, for better or worse. You're going to have a hard time finding a Westie that's not absolutely precious. They're wide-eyed, smiley little balls of fuzz and love.
But holy cow, when you're not in the mood to be on the receiving end of that kind of overpowering doggie elation, Westies can be the worst things ever.
Don't get it twisted: Ralph Waldo Emerson was one of America's greatest rock stars. Emerson's finest moment -- his 1837 speech to the Phi Beta Kappa society -- was also his most defiantly rock 'n' roll. Here, the brazen and brainy Emerson called for a collective American intellect -- "The American Scholar" as we know it now -- to replace the staid British standard. It was the 19th century equivalent of Bob Dylan's electric Royal Albert Hall concert encore.
(You know: "Judas!" "Play it f-----' loud!")
Muse are always going to be an ersatz Queen, but that doesn't mean that they can't also be one of the most preposterously entertaining bands around, hyper-accelerating their enormous musical Id into warp speed and, album after album, creating some of the most bombastic, bodacious rock 'n' roll audacity you'll hear anywhere, anytime.
On 'The 2nd Law,' there are points that are so brazen -- so engorged and cosmically operatic -- that the only proper response is to somehow throw your fist in the air while doubled over in disbelief that a band this side of Dream Theater has the swinging meteoroids to record something so pompous.
Say what you will about the band -- surely, they're used to the smack flinging by now -- but if Mumford and Sons look a bit smug on the cover of their latest, they've earned it, by gum.
The softie-core London quartet dragged their delicate little hearts around the globe for years in support of their debut album, 'Sigh No More.' They hustled on the road and gigged with a hyper-Protestant work ethic at just about every thankless mid-sized venue in every interstate flyover town, eventually breaking into the big time the hard way, casting 'Sigh' in platinum six times over and famously backing Bob (that Bob) during last year's Grammys.