Monthly Archives: August 2009

LOOK AT LIFE / COCO HAMES

 

This is your brain on
compassion. Any questions? (PS – support your local animal shelter.)

 

By Coco Hames

 

Since I spend a
great deal of time out on the road, I am able to report with some accuracy the
general and nebulous state of the nation.  I see it in the daylight, the
nighttime, uptown, downtown, outskirts, above ground, underground, the denial,
fury and/or apathy in hoity toity wine bars and the denial, fury and/or apathy
of the griping dives.  And right now, what I can definitely say, is
something most people already know: it’s pretty rough out there.  Jobs are
really hard to come by and, if you’re fortunate enough to have one, your money
is tight tight tight.  The need to save (instead of spend) shows up in lots
of ways, and it doesn’t just affect us human people.  In the past six
months, I’ve seen an absolutely unprecedented amount of stray animals on the
roads, and I don’t just mean back alleys and city streets.  I mean packs
of emaciated, mangy dogs trotting aimlessly and insanely through the medians of
highways.  And I’m pretty sure we all know what the odds are for those
dogs.

 

My mom said she read
an article recently that the financial crunch is just so strong that, among
other things, people are having to get rid of their dogs.  And while I am
not in the mood to preach the “if you can’t afford/take care of a dog,
don’t effing get one” sermon, I am in the mood to remind you — if you are
so inclined — to visit your local shelter.

When I was in
college my roommate Kiki and I used to foster dogs from the local kill shelter
until we could find them a home.  We were the pain-in-the-ass bleeding
heart dog savers, and yes, we were very annoying.  Especially to our other
four roommates.  But I am glad for what we did, because when a dog has
been at a kill shelter for too long, they euthanize them.  That’s the way
it is.  And while no-kill shelters are a nice idea, the fact is many of
the dogs they get are sick, infirm, badly behaved and extremely unlikely to
find what we in the biz cloyingly call “a forever home”. 

Once, I made the mistake of visiting the Gainesville shelter without intent
(you need to have a plan or you WILL go home either extremely upset or with a
dog, and FYI the two states of mind are not mutually exclusive) and saw a
little crazy guy (he looked like part terrier/part-squirrel) and noticed his
euthanization date was the next day.  I didn’t really have a choice. 
So I took Jarvis home, and while he got along with my other dog, he was totally
crazy.  I won’t go into details.  He was just crazy.  But I
cared for him and he even moved with me to New York.  That pushed him over the
edge, all of the people and smells and sounds.  Jarvis was very unhappy
and I didn’t know what to do; I just knew I couldn’t take him back to a
shelter.

So I did some research and found petfinder.org.  If you are ever
in search of a furry friend, I recommend it highly.  It’s a free service
that helps list the available rescue animals in your area.  I wrote a
clear little bio of Jarvis and put up some pictures, and within a week, a nice
lady called me from Maryland
explaining her situation.  That their family dog had just passed away,
their children were grown, and it was just her, her husband and some horses on
a farm outside of DC.  We arranged for Jarvis to have a “visit”
for a weekend, and he was so happy.  I still get e-mails from this lady,
about every year, updating me on what a blessing Jarvis is and how happy they
all are together.  Sometimes she sends me pictures.  Sometimes he’s
wearing a sweater.

The point is, I had shown petfinder.org to a friend here in Nashville who is beginning
her search for a dog.  And I was looking at the available rescue dogs at
our local shelters, when I came across a picture.  And yes, I am a sucker,
okay?  Just put it out there, yes, Coco
is a sucker and a major sucker for matted, emaciated, forgotten bag-o’-bones
dogs, okay??  I drove down there and said, you, sad matted stray, you’re
coming with me.  She was all bones and butchered hair, what was left of
her hair was matted and she had a sinus infection.  I’m happy to report
that a week later, she’s all juiced up on her shots, the sinus infection is
nearly gone, and she is as sweet as can be.  She’s really funny, really
smart, and that is that.  Here’s a picture of Lenore.

But Coco, you say, I have allergies/spacial
issues/a really nice couch/a cat; I need a special kind of dog, I can’t just go
to a SHELTER.  To you I say, I am a major snob and have a purebred dog
because I had excuses too (lifelong major allergies, fo realz) but if you do
your research and know what you are looking for, you WILL find an animal in
your area that meets your needs.  I gots needs!  There are of course
a lot of things to consider, but if you make a checklist and give it time, you
will find a friend you can rescue from a sad fate or situation, while filling
your pet needs and enriching your life (BOTH of your lives) immensely. 
You can have your cake and eat it too, I promise.

That’s all.  Just a reminder.  If you like animals, and you figure
you might want one in your life, don’t forget your local kill shelter, or your
local fostering and adopting facilities.  Petfinder.org, y’all.

 

***

 

Blurt “co-co-editor”
Coco Hames fronts The Ettes – Hames on guitar, Jem Cohen on bass and Poni
Silver on drums – whose album
Look At Life Again Soon and EP, Danger Is, were released by Take Root. Their new Greg Cartwright-produced album Do
You Want Power hits stores Sept. 29, and
you bet we’re gonna have a big feature on the band in our next issue. Check out
the band’s MySpace page for music
and tour dates.

 

 

 

 

Dylan’s Xmas LP to Benefit Charity

 

 

 

Announces all
royalties will go to the Feeding America organization. That’s some
Santa Claus.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

As previously announced, Bob Dylan will release a brand new
album of holiday songs, Christmas In The Heart, on October 13 via his
longtime label Columbia Records.  All of the artist’s U.S. royalties from
sales of these recordings will be donated to Feeding America (http://feedingamerica.org),
guaranteeing that more than four million
meals
will be provided to more than 1.4 million people in need in this
country during this year’s holiday season.   Bob Dylan is also
donating all of his future U.S.
royalties from this album to Feeding America in perpetuity.

 

     Additionally, the artist is
partnering with two international charities to provide meals during the
holidays for millions in need in the United Kingdom and the developing
world, and will be donating all of his future international royalties from Christmas
In The Heart
to those organizations in perpetuity.  Details regarding
the international partnerships will be announced next week.

 

     “When we reached out to Bob Dylan
about becoming involved with our organization, we could never have anticipated
that he would so generously donate all royalties from his forthcoming album to
our cause,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America. “This
major initiative from such a world renowned artist and cultural icon will
directly benefit so many people and have a major impact on spreading awareness
of the epidemic of hunger in this country and around the world.”

 

     Bob Dylan commented, “It’s a
tragedy that more than 35 million people in this country alone — 12 million of
those children – often go to bed hungry and wake up each morning unsure of
where their next meal is coming from.  I join the good people of Feeding
America in the hope that our efforts can bring some food security to people in
need during this holiday season.”

 

     Christmas In The Heart will
be the 47th album from Bob Dylan, and follows his worldwide
chart-topping Together Through Life, released earlier this year. 
Songs performed by Dylan on this new album include, “Here Comes Santa Claus,”
“Winter Wonderland,” “Little Drummer Boy” and “Must Be Santa.”

 

 

A message from Feeding
America:

 

“Feeding America
provides low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even
thrive.  As the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief charity, our
network members supply food to more than 25 million Americans each year,
including 9 million children and 3 million seniors.  Serving the entire United States,
more than 200 member food banks supports 63,000 agencies that address hunger in
all of its forms.  For more information how you can fight hunger in your
community and across the country, visit www.feedingamerica.org .”

 

 

MUSIC JOURNALISM 101 / JOHNNY MNEMONIC

 

Death Of An Indie
Bible (or, Adventures with Option Magazine, Pt. 2)

 

By Johnny Mnemonic

 

In my last installment of Music Journalism 101 I outlined my
misadventures in the land of grunge and honey circa 1991 and how a proposed
story on Sub Pop lumberjacks Tad got deep-sixed, frustratingly, by Option. The magazine operated from 1985
to 1998, publishing 81 issues overall, and at its 1995 peak, according to
Wikipedia
, had amassed a circulation of 27,000. That’s not quite at Spin level, and not even in the same
universe as Rolling Stone, but still
damned respectable for what was known in its time as the indie underground’s
bible.

 

People tend to remember Option rather fondly, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was proud to write for it
even though the pay, if adjusted for inflation, probably wasn’t any better than
writing for online publications nowadays – which is to say, negligible. Those
of you reading this who also reviewed records for the magazine back in the day will
recall that reviewers, in lieu of actually payment, got to keep the albums and
cassettes sent to them by the editors. But the free music (plus free
subscription, of course) combined with the ego-buzz of seeing one’s byline in
print was enough when it was a magazine whose mission you believed in.

 

 

Respect from the music community aside, editorially speaking,
Option was pretty disorganized, and it
was hard to get a handle on what, if any, editorial “stance” the publication
took other than “if it’s independent, we cover it,” which meant one issue you’d
see, say, Patti Smith on the cover, an African world-beat artist the next and
an obscure British folk artist attempting to make a comeback the next. Cool, but
in the long run, not the smartest strategy to employ when trying to make
headway at the newsstand. Subscribers are one thing, and I suspect the magazine
had a fairly loyal subscription base that re-upped each year. But the habits of
newsstand browsers are different, and nowadays even the lowest-circulation
fanzine knows to put a known quantity or semi-familiar face on the cover (along
with names of main feature artists listed on the left-hand side of the cover,
not the right, due to the way magazines are displayed); otherwise you risk
nobody even picking the damned thing up in the first place, and you can’t build
a brand in a vacuum. Option, to its
credit, wised up about this considerably during its 13-year run, but I still
hear people make the occasional comment about it being “too eclectic for its
own good.”

 

As a writer, contending with Option could also be confusing, as one’s story pitches seemed to be
accepted or rejected on such a random basis that you imagined the editors
taping ideas to a giant roulette wheel, spinning it, and making assignments
based on where it stopped. Worse, it wasn’t unusual to get an assignment, turn
it in, and then wait for it to be published… and wait… and wait… or in the case
of the Tad piece, call up the editor only to be told, “Oh, we didn’t have room
to run it, and now it’s too old…”

 

Too, the head-in-sand quality I alluded to in the Tad story could
sometimes be perplexing. For all Option‘s
so-called championing of the music underground, Amerindie and otherwise, it
“overlooked” (or conveniently ignored) anything that didn’t quite measure up to
the editors’ rarified notions of what was hip. Ergo, the Seattle snub; grunge bands were kinda
ratty-looking, presumably blue collar or worse (we now know that grunge’s early
white-trash image was a marketing ruse foisted upon the public by Sub Pop), and
shudder! – borderline heavy metal,
therefore very uncool. Option played
favorites; for example, you’d always see some avant-garde Independent Project
Records band or shambling K Records artist being featured (one of this blog’s
comments, below after the Tad entry, makes a similar observation), but only
occasional lip service would be given to the skronk/noise groups of Amphetamine
Reptile, Treehouse and Touch & Go. (For some reason the gnarly, noisy, long-haired
outfits on the SST label were mainstays of Option-land, but hey,
SST was headquartered just down the road from the Option offices in L.A.)
Additionally, a pervasive politically correct streak, editorially speaking, was
impossible to miss; there’s nothing wrong with covering females and persons of
color, but that sort of lingering Great Society mindset sometimes trumped notions
of actual musical worthiness at Option.

 

This myopia-bred snobbery extended to the Option choice of cover subjects.
Certainly featuring the likes of Sonic Youth and the Meat Puppets early on was
admirable, and it wasn’t unusual to see (as noted) Patti Smith or Frank Zappa
staring out at you from the newsstand down at your local record store where Option was typically sold. (Good choices
from a circulation point of view, by the way.) As that Option Wikipedia page points out, however, the frequent dialogue among
staffers ran along lines of, “Is this artist too popular to be worthy of a cover?” (What do we do if Sonic Youth
leaves SST and goes to DGC?) Such navel gazing further resulted in an almost
formulaic rotation of non-rock cover subjects to ensure that Option was never perceived as
“mainstream” or, heaven forbid, “rockist” (more p.c. groupthink there). The comment above about being too eclectic aside, part of Option‘s appeal, certainly, was how it
wore its eclecticism on the sleeve, that between its covers nearly all genres
were considered equals (again, see the Wikipedia entry for more details). But to
many who discovered the magazine late during its tenure, it’s likely that it
did indeed have a somewhat schizophrenic reputation.

 

The fact that it often relied upon less-than-seasoned
writers to provide the bulk of its content didn’t help its case either. Nobody
who picked up Option was necessarily
expecting The New Yorker, but I
distinctly recall getting my copy in the mail from time to time, reading an
article, and wondering to myself, “Did anybody even fact-check this?” Plus, the
magazine had a tendency to favor certain “pet writers” of dubious talent beyond
that of extreme self-promotion. Without a doubt one of the most annoying music
journalists the ‘80s and ‘90s ever produced was Gina Arnold, whose solipsistic
wet kiss to alternative rock, 1993’s Route
666: On the Road to Nirvana
, remains a low literary point of the era; Arnold penned feature
after feature for Option despite all extant
evidence that her reporting skills were nil. Having edited publications in both
L.A. and NYC myself, I understand how thousands of writers are out there
clamoring for work, and how as a result one tends to rely on a small pool of
trusted freelancers, folks who turn in clean copy, and on time. But they also
have to write coherently and cogently, and they need to be mindful of the fact
that their readers aren’t interested in their personal diary scribblings (which
is how Arnold’s
pieces invariably came off).

 

 

Option began life
in ‘85 as an outgrowth of/successor to the late, great OP, which had enjoyed a healthy 26-issue run in the early ‘80s as
the first indie music bible prior to
founder/publisher John Foster imposing a built-in obsolescence rule. Two music
publications sprung up in its wake: Sound
Choice
, a kind of anarchist/collective-minded mag published by the extraordinarily
grumpy and no-business-sense-whatsoever David Ciaffardini; and Option, founded by Scott Becker
(publisher) and Richie Unterberger (editor). I’d subscribed to OP (among scores of music fanzines) and
faithfully sent in my money to Sound
Choice
and Option, too. It
wouldn’t be too long before I offered my services to Option, because while I’d already been reviewing records for Spin and Circus (for pay), I greatly liked the magazine’s DIY spirit, and
anyway, it was hard to place more than one review every few issues in the other
two because the competition among freelancers was so fierce. Option seemed to be a welcoming group of
peers.

 

That “DIY spirit” could be a double-edged sword, however.
Publisher Becker reportedly had an iron-clad rule that his magazine would not
accept pitch calls from record labels’ publicists. A pitch call is exactly
that: the p.r. agent rings up an editor in order to hype a client or follow up
on a record that had previously been mailed to the magazine. In order to
increase the chances of landing coverage in the magazine, sometimes the label
would also provide what’s known in the industry as “swag”: free teeshirts,
coffee mugs, shot glasses, promotional-only releases, and just plain bizarre
gee-gaws with vague thematic tie-ins to the artist or the record. (Swag is far
less abundant in 2009 as the labels have realized they’re just giving editors
and writers free eBay fodder.) I personally never saw Becker’s rule being
implemented during the times I visited the Option office, but I heard enough complaints from publicists who knew I wrote for Option and were begging me to pitch their artists to the
magazine that I have no doubt it existed in some form or another.

 

So you can add a measure of hubris to the aforementioned
snobbery when tallying up the Option score.
Virtually no magazine in the history of entertainment coverage ever enforced
such a strict mandate, for while a moderate separation between the editorial
and advertising departments is generally considered good for a publication’s
ethical health, we’re not exactly talking about someone ringing Option up and offering, payola-style, to
purchase the back cover ad space in exchange for a ten-page feature. In all
fairness to record labels, their viewpoint tends to be that they advertise in
music magazines where their products will get the most visibility, and there’s
an expectation that at least from time to time those products will be covered. They
don’t necessarily expect a positive review (some do, actually), but they still
want a fair shot at coverage. That’s just the way it works. Imagine someone
calling up Option: “Did you get our
check and the artwork for the Johnny Mnemonic Blues Band ad?” “Yes we did, and
thanks. It will run next issue.” “What are the chances of the Mnemonic album
getting reviewed?” “CLICK!

 

For a magazine in the early ‘90s to play the gatekeeper card
to the extreme that Option did, trying
to remake the rules in an industry where back-scratching and favor-rendering is
not only business as usual but, when done properly, an efficient and mutually
beneficial process, was ludicrously out of sync with reality. That, an
inability to see the music magazine milieu through the eyes of the
aforementioned newsstand browser (it’s no coincidence that Mojo came on the scene around this time and, with its regular
rotation of Beatles, Dylan, Neil Young, Stones, Springsteen, etc. for its
covers, was wildly successful due to its sheer predictability), and a series of
unfortunate business decisions (notably the launching, in 1995, of sister
publication UHF, a glossy
“alternative fashion” magazine that was a massive, money-sucking flop and
embarrassed everyone associated with it), all conspired to doom Option.

 

 

In mid-’98, we writers received a letter from Becker
indicating that Option was
temporarily suspending publication. At the time it was suggested that Option would eventually reincarnate
itself as some sort of combined digital-print entity, although Becker’s plans
were pretty vague, and nothing ever materialized. The July-August 2008 issue
was the final one.

 

In light of all the recent music magazine shutterings, the Option story probably isn’t that
unusual. It’s even likely that, as consumer habits change and markets shift,
most if not all magazines will enjoy a finite lifespan; only one in several
thousand ever has a shot of lasting long enough to be considered “an
institution” like Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair. But it did last for 13
lucky years, and a lot of folks, myself included, loved it dearly, which is why
being privy to Option‘s numerous
eventual missteps was so frustrating. In all my conversations back in the day
with the editors I don’t know if I ever leaned across the desk and asked, “Why
are you doing this? Have you considered this instead?” – mainly because it
wasn’t my place to do so. It was their magazine,
after all, and they were supposed to know what they were doing.

 

 By the way, I never
got a kill fee for the Tad story, dammit.

 

 

***

 

Johnny Mnemonic is the
pseudonym of a “highly-regarded” national writer with, he advises us, over two
decades’ experience working as a music critic, reporter and editor. We’ve never
met him face-to-face, and he further advises he will be delivering his blogs to
us via the “double blind drop-box method,” whatever that is, to ensure his
anonymity.

 

 

 

 

 

Everclear Is Back! (But why?)

 

Because they have a re-recorded/recyled
greatest hits set due soon that includes two new cuts.

 

By
Blurt Staff

 

429
Records (part of the Savoy Label Group, today announced the signing of
Portland-based alt-rock mainstays Everclear to the label. First up from the
marriage: In A Different Light, a
collection of newly interpreted recordings of some of their greatest hits. 

 

The
album also includes two new Art Alexakis-penned songs, “Here Comes the
Darkness” and “At the End of the Day.” The record drops Oct. 6 and will be
supported by a U.S.
tour that kicks off Oct. 5, dates tba. Also, fans can expect a collection of
all new songs in the spring of 2010 courtesy of 429 Records.  The band will embark on an extensive
spring/summer tour around its release. 

 

The
record is described as “a fresh and intimate take on multi-platinum selling
Everclear’s most popular songs.” To wit: 

 

Learning
How To Smile

Santa Monica

I
Will Buy You A New Life

Summerland

Everything
To Everyone

Wonderful

Here
Comes The Darkness

Father
Of Mine

Rock
Star

Fire
Maple Song

At
The End Of The Day

 

 

 

 

 

Krautrockers Kraftwerk w/Remasters Box

 

 

Also deploy intriguing marketing gimmick to get
you to buy the whole package. Sadly, no bonus tracks.

 

By Blurt Staff

 

Kraftwerk celebrate
the 35th anniversary of their landmark 1974 hit ‘Autobahn’ by releasing a
special collector’s CD boxset featuring remastered versions of eight albums on October 6th. It’s titled 12345678 The Catalogue.

 

They have upgraded
their Kling Klang masters with the latest studio technology and these eight recordings
– alliteratively billed as “streamlined synthetic symphonies standing outside
time, as fresh as tomorrow, transcendent and sublime” – remain across the board
classics.

 

12345678 The Catalogue will be released across the following
formats:

 

*CD Boxset
containing 8 x CDs in ‘mini-vinyl’ card wallet packaging, plus individual large
format booklets. (Due to licensing
restrictions in the U.S.,
only five of the eight albums will be released as separate CD editions: Autobahn, Radio-Activity, Trans Europe Express, The Man Machine and Tour
De France
(2003). As
a result, the only way for fans to own the entire catalogue on CD is to
purchase the Box Set.)

 

*5 x individual
CDs in special O-card slipcases featuring newly expanded artwork, including
many previously unseen images, all of which have been reproduced to the highest
technical standards

 

*5 x individual
heavyweight vinyl LPs with large format booklets

 

*Digital
downloads

 

The band has kindly provided descriptions of its
back catalogue for those of you who walked in late…

 

AUTOBAHN
(1974)

With its iconic
Emil Schult sleeve, Kraftwerk release their international breakthrough album.
The symphonic title track, an epic ode to the joys of motorway travel, wraps a
mesmerising motorik rhythm around a sampled collage of car horns, engine noise,
whirring tyres and radio crackle. In edited form, it becomes a revolutionary
hit single around the world.

 

Elsewhere, in
wordless industrial folk music, the band reveal both their light and dark sides
– ‘Mitternacht’ is all creeping midnight shadows, while ‘Morgenspaziergang’ is
fresh with morning dew and birdsong. Two versions of ‘Kometenmelodie’, one a
starkly gothic prowl, the other a sunny electro boogie, provide further
instrumental sound paintings. Pure and strong and bold, Kraftwerk compose
cinema for the ears. The pop world falls in love with them.

 

RADIO-ACTIVITY
(1975)

Kraftwerk embrace
the atomic age with mixed emotions. Surfing on sine waves, scanning the
stratosphere for stray radio signals, they plug themselves into a buzzing grid
of energy and communication. From the stately eco-angst anthem ‘Radioactivity’
to the synthetic Gregorian chants of ‘Radio Stars’ and the melancholy machine
processional of ‘Ohm Sweet Ohm’, a sombre but engrossing monumentalism
dominates. With heavily processed vocals in both German and English, Kraftwerk
go global with depth and majesty. If factories and power stations are the new
cathedrals, they write liturgies for a new industrial epoch.

 

TRANS EUROPE EXPRESS (1977)

Kraftwerk
celebrate Europe’s romantic past and
shimmering future with a glistening panorama of elegance and decadence, travel
and technology. The infinite vistas of ‘Europe Endless’ and ‘Endless Endless’
bookend the album, which includes the unsettling Kafka-esque fable ‘The Hall Of
Mirrors’ and the hilarious ‘Showroom Dummies’ – Kraftwerk’s elegantly ironic
reply to critiques of their deadpan manner. But it is the streamlined rhythmic
locomotive of ‘Trans Europe Express’ which dominates with
its doppler-effect melodic swerves and hypnotic, pneumatic, piston-pumping
rhythm. Along with its sister track, ‘Metal On Metal’ which New York DJ
Afrika Bambaataa would re-construct five years later for his own seminal
‘Planet Rock’, this milestone in avant-pop modernism later becomes a crucial influence
on the early pioneers of hip-hop & sampling, electro and industrial
music. Poetry in motion.

 

THE MAN
MACHINE (1978)

A bold new look,
sound and concept for Kraftwerk. Over supple processed rhythms which predate
the rise of European techno and trance, they address automation and alienation,
space travel and engineering, the seductive allure of urban landscapes and
the vacant glamour of celebrity. Clipped and funky, ‘The Robots’ adds another
dimension to Kraftwerk’s ultra-dry sense of humour. Behind its intoxicating
melodic pulse, ‘The Model’ is a highly prophetic satire on the beauty industry,
so ahead of its time that it only becomes a UK chart-topper by accident three
years later. And ‘Neon Lights’ is Kraftwerk’s most achingly romantic song to
date, a sci-fi lullaby for cities at twilight. Pure magic.

 

COMPUTER
WORLD (1981)

Kraftwerk beam
themselves into the future by writing about home computers, online dating and
globalised electronic surveillance years before these phenomena truly come into
being. A journey into the bright hopes and dark fears of the booming microchip
revolution, ‘Computer World’ is a serenely beautiful and almost seamless
collage of sensual melodies and liquid beatscapes. Tracks like ‘Numbers’ and
‘Pocket Calculator’, with their weightless bleeps and elastic beats, predict
the silky rhythms of Chicago house and inspire a generation of Detroit techno
artists. Kraftwerk’s fanfare for the silicon age still sounds ageless, timeless
and throbbing with invention.

 

TECHNO POP
(1986)

Kraftwerk return
from five years of silence to reclaim their throne as leaders of a machine-pop
revolution that they themselves began over a decade before. Their ‘Techno Pop’
album, first released under the name ‘Electric Café’ but now restored to its
originally intended title, provides a 360-degree overview of a multi-lingual,
multi-channel, musically diverse global village.

 

From the
block-rocking beats of ‘Boing Boom Tschack’ to the electronic funk and computer
animation of ‘Musique Non Stop’, Kraftwerk soar into the digital age. Their
first excursion into digital recording finds both beauty and unease in a
polyglot world of permanent media overload. Once again, Dusseldorf’s test pilots of the musical
future effortlessly break new ground.

 

THE MIX
(1991)

Kraftwerk’s first
fully digital album confirmed their clubland credentials and reworked 11 of
their best-loved tunes for a new generation. Painstakingly reconstructed and
sequenced in the band’s Kling Klang studio, new versions of tracks like
‘The Robots’, ‘Trans Europe Express’ and ‘Home Computer’ now feature more funky
rhythms and cleaned-up, liquid-crystal sounds. A stark warning about pollution
at Sellafield is added to the glistening overhaul of ‘Radioactivity’, sparking
a war of words with British Nuclear Fuels. But most of all, ‘The Mix’ is a
career-spanning collection of legendary electro anthems and a classy
acknowledgment of the two-way traffic between Kraftwerk and club culture.

 

TOUR DE FRANCE
(2003)

The year 2003
marked the centenary of the Tour de France, the conceptual starting line for
Kraftwerk’s first album for over a decade. Although it features an immaculate
new version of a 20-year-old former single, the exquisitely graceful ‘Tour de
France’, pop nostalgia is not on the menu. From the chunky cyber-funk of
‘Vitamin’ to the restless metallic shimmers of ‘Aéro Dynamik’,
this is emphatically the sound of 21st century techno visionaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FREE Love & Coffee from Aaron Berg

 

South Carolina songwriter offers full album of ace tracks
absolutely free.

 

By Fred Mills

 

Without a doubt, one of our favorite singer-songwriters to
come down the pike of late is Greenville, SC (by way of Brooklyn, NY) rocker
Aaron Berg. That we like him personally as a solid human being doesn’t hurt,
either. Over the past year or so he’s been handing out sundry digital servings
of his Love & Coffee Tapes
prior to that came his 2007 EP Songs For
Madame X
, billed to Aaron Berg & the Heavy Love – and to say that he’s
a gifted multiinstrumentalist and tunesmith would be an understatement akin to
saying that the late Ted Kennedy was a U.S. Senator.

 

He’s got a little Dylan in him, maybe a little Tom Waits  and Tom Petty too, with a deep, resonant voice
that’ll click with all the Leonard Cohen and Chuck Prophet fans out there –
ladies, were are talkin’ deep ‘n’ sexy – plus a lyrical outlook that probes the
grey edges of life while somehow reasons (as Springsteen or Hardin might put
it) to believe. He’s playing the blues, in essence, but they’re distinctly
postmodern blues.

 

So to convince you, the discerning-but-harried music
consuming public that he’s the real deal, Berg is offering the compiled L&CT into one big digital download,
gratis. (Yes, it is FREE of charge, but don’t be afraid to use the tip jar, if
you’re inclined to go by the Radiohead model of pay-what-you-like.) Here’s the
link:

 

Download ‘Love & Coffee Tapes’
FREE 14 Song Bootleg EP

 

According to Berg, “Love
& Coffee
is my collected bootlegs, demos, rap remixes, and live road
tapes. These songs were written in a thousand different places and recorded in
garden sheds and motel rooms, on coffee tables and live on stage.  These
are frozen accidents of sound drawn together as some kind of record.  Most
of these songs were either written or recorded while traveling to California and back. No
attempt was made to obscure the creaking chairs, ambient summer garden
crickets, open window rain above folk rap freestyle, hazy century old upright
pianos…who knows…”

 

He played most of the parts himself, with a few assists here
and there by Mike Bagwell, John Byce and Ira Rosoff.

 

Tracklisting:

 

1* The Wheel  (4:10)
2* Electric Mike’s Coffee Table Acid Demo No. 1  (5:49)
3* Madonna Of The Evening Rose  (6:25)
4* Fellowman Blues  (3:06)
5* Honey For You  (5:08)
6* Where The River Meets The Sea  (4:18)
7* The Darkness  (5:57)
8* Until I See Her Again (2:35)
9* House Of Light  (3:26)
10* Darkest Before The Dawn  (3:39)
11* Behind Closed Doors  (4:58)
12* The Blue Room  (4:57)
13* Chains  (3:47)
14* Freestyle demo of ‘Bluest of Blue’  (7:36)

 

Berg additionally plans to record a new album in Chicago this November for
Tight Ship Records, and you can keep track of him (sound samples, tour dates,
etc.) via his MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/theheavylove

 

Check him out, and tell him that BLURT sent ya. And have, er, “fun.”

 

 

 

FREE Love & Coffee from Aaron Berg

 

South Carolina songwriter offers full album of ace tracks
absolutely free.

 

By Fred Mills

 

Without a doubt, one of our favorite singer-songwriters to
come down the pike of late is Greenville, SC (by way of Brooklyn, NY) rocker
Aaron Berg. That we like him personally as a solid human being doesn’t hurt,
either. Over the past year or so he’s been handing out sundry digital servings
of his Love & Coffee Tapes
prior to that came his 2007 EP Songs For
Madame X
, billed to Aaron Berg & the Heavy Love – and to say that he’s
a gifted multiinstrumentalist and tunesmith would be an understatement akin to
saying that the late Ted Kennedy was a U.S. Senator.

 

He’s got a little Dylan in him, maybe a little Tom Waits  and Tom Petty too, with a deep, resonant voice
that’ll click with all the Leonard Cohen and Chuck Prophet fans out there –
ladies, were are talkin’ deep ‘n’ sexy – plus a lyrical outlook that probes the
grey edges of life while somehow reasons (as Springsteen or Hardin might put
it) to believe. He’s playing the blues, in essence, but they’re distinctly
postmodern blues.

 

So to convince you, the discerning-but-harried music
consuming public that he’s the real deal, Berg is offering the compiled L&CT into one big digital download,
gratis. (Yes, it is FREE of charge, but don’t be afraid to use the tip jar, if
you’re inclined to go by the Radiohead model of pay-what-you-like.) Here’s the
link:

 

Download ‘Love & Coffee Tapes’
FREE 14 Song Bootleg EP

 

According to Berg, “Love
& Coffee
is my collected bootlegs, demos, rap remixes, and live road
tapes. These songs were written in a thousand different places and recorded in
garden sheds and motel rooms, on coffee tables and live on stage.  These
are frozen accidents of sound drawn together as some kind of record.  Most
of these songs were either written or recorded while traveling to California and back. No
attempt was made to obscure the creaking chairs, ambient summer garden
crickets, open window rain above folk rap freestyle, hazy century old upright
pianos…who knows…”

 

He played most of the parts himself, with a few assists here
and there by Mike Bagwell, John Byce and Ira Rosoff.

 

Tracklisting:

 

1* The Wheel  (4:10)
2* Electric Mike’s Coffee Table Acid Demo No. 1  (5:49)
3* Madonna Of The Evening Rose  (6:25)
4* Fellowman Blues  (3:06)
5* Honey For You  (5:08)
6* Where The River Meets The Sea  (4:18)
7* The Darkness  (5:57)
8* Until I See Her Again (2:35)
9* House Of Light  (3:26)
10* Darkest Before The Dawn  (3:39)
11* Behind Closed Doors  (4:58)
12* The Blue Room  (4:57)
13* Chains  (3:47)
14* Freestyle demo of ‘Bluest of Blue’  (7:36)

 

Berg additionally plans to record a new album in Chicago this November for
Tight Ship Records, and you can keep track of him (sound samples, tour dates,
etc.) via his MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/theheavylove

 

Check him out, and tell him that BLURT sent ya. And have, er, “fun.”

 

 

 

Taking Woodstock: Exclusive Sneak Peek

 

[Ang Lee’s latest
film, Taking Woodstock,
hits theaters nationwide this week. Herein we offer you an advance opinion,
BLURT-style. See the official trailer, below. No spoiler alerts necessary,
however – everybody knows what went down at the 1969 rock festival anyway! –
Ed.]

 

BY JONAH FLICKER

 

Taking Woodstock, directed by Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Hulk, The Ice Storm), is disappointing on many levels.
Granted, I wasn’t even born until almost a decade after the famed three days of
peace, love, and music took place. But I never thought I missed anything; mud,
hippies, and jam bands are just not my cup of tea. Lee’s whimsical recreation
of the events leading up to the festival, however, would have me believe
otherwise. It might have worked, too, except for a storyline that feels trite
and piecemeal, and some sub-par acting jobs from the film’s principals.

 

 (Jonathan Groff, Demetri Martin)

 

Comedian Demetri Martin, known to many for his Trendspotting
segments on The Daily Show, plays the
lead, the semi-closeted, soft-spoken, go-getter Elliot. He has returned home to
his overbearing parents’ failing motel in the Catskills, when he discovers that
the planners of the Woodstock
festival are looking for a new venue. After meeting with the annoyingly laid
back Michael (Jonathan Groff), Elliot maneuvers the festival onto a neighbor’s
farm (the always amusing Eugene Levy), much to the town’s chagrin. From there,
the story details Elliot’s trials and travails and sexual awakening, all
against the backdrop of the planning and execution of Woodstock. The film doesn’t really focus on
the festival itself -director Lee never set out to make a concert film –
instead detailing the planning of the event and the personal lives of its key
players.

 

 (Eugene Levy, Demetri Martin)

 

There are some good performances peppered throughout the
film. Liev Schreiber plays a burly transvestite with a little bit of camp and a
lot of heart, and Elliot’s parents, Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman, tackle
their assimilated Jewish immigrant characters with vigor and zest. But the
missteps are glaring. Emile Hirsch has a hard time grasping the nuances of his
character, the recently-returned Vietnam vet, Billy, using wild eyes
as his main prop. But the worst offender, unfortunately, is Martin. His
monotone and cloying innocence blend very poorly with an attempt at acting and
emoting. His performance is certainly not the worst you will see this year, but
he has no business playing a lead role.

 

 (Kelli Gardner, Paul Dano, Demetri Martin)

 

Taking Woodstock may appeal more to those who experienced the festival firsthand and are pining
for a sentimental, nostalgic trip to the past. And that’s really what the film
is, a saccharine revisit to a lionized moment in history. Others, however, may
not be as impressed – I overheard a middle-aged woman leaving the screening
complaining that she wasn’t sure which was represented as more middlebrow,
Woodstock itself or being gay.

 

 

 

In Short: August 2009

You know the drill… taking our cue from Seth Godin with the idea that what unites us is more than music — basically, if we share the same taste in music, we likely share the same taste in other stuff, as seemingly useless as it occasionally may be. Hence, this month’s compendium:

Stuff That’s Kept Me from Losing My Mind This Summer

1. Harry Potter Hangover

harrypotter

Seriously. It happens to me every summer. Another book comes out so I have to read all of the previous books again just to remember what the hell is going on. Same deal with the films. So in advance of the Half-Blood Prince’s release, it was the usual deal: start reading around midnight, can’t put the damn thing down til roughly 4 AM = bags under the eyes daily.

I don’t know who that kid is but I like it.

2. Air Rifle

airrifle

Friggin cool. My parents pulled it out of the basement and it was love at first shot. That’s my dad (sporting silk boxers with silver dragons) getting in touch with his inner badass. Forgot to take one of me. I did good. Everyone should have one of these things. Yes, I’m still a Democrat []


A Triple-A radio programming veteran, Kate has served as Music Director of the Loft at XM, Midday Host at WYEP, Evening Host at both WNCS and WUIN, as well as Content Supervisor for Pump Audio. Currently, she’s the CEO of Outlandos Music, a new-music discovery service for grown-ups. Kate has been nationally recognized for her ardent presentation of music and her ability to champion talented, compelling artists.

 

Daniel Johnston to Release First New Album in Six Years

 

Apparently Johnston’s latest opus Is And Always Was is a departure from the lo-fi homemade recordings for which he’s most notorious for.  According  to Daniel, “Everyone needs to take their demos and go back to
the studio.”

And with the pairing of producer Jason Falkner, it appears that this album will be as far from lo-fi as you can get, considering Faulkner’s production credits include
Beck, Air, and Paul McCartney. Falkner says of Daniel Johnston. “It was
challenging to make our minds work together but I really found myself
immersed in his musical world. It’s a unique place to live, that’s for
sure!”

Johnston’s unique guitar/piano and vocal melodies are backed by Falkner on guitar, bass,
and keyboards with help from studio veteran Joey Waronker (REM, Beck, Smashing
Pumpkins) on drums. 

And now for this latest bit of Johnston news: you can now buy an iPhone game that features his art characters and music. Yip-eee!

Daniel Johnston is currently on a North American and European tour that will go through the end of the year.

Is And Always Was is scheduled for an October 6, 2009 release on Daniel’s own Eternal Yip
Eye Music imprint.

DANIEL JOHNSTON ON TOUR:

09/03/09 – Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
09/04/09 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos
09/05/09 – Vancouver, BC @ The Venue
09/07/09 – Calgary, AB @ Knox United Church
09/08/09 – Edmonton, AB @ Meyer Horowitz Theatre
10/02/09 – Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits Festival
10/13/09 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
10/14/09 – New York, NY @ Highline Ballroom
10/15/09 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
10/16/09 – Montreal, PQ @ UK Fed
10/17/09 – Toronto, ON @ Mod Club
10/22/09 – San Francisco, CA @ Regency Ballroom
10/23/09 – San Diego, CA @ Caines
10/24/09 – Los Angeles, CA @ Henry Fonda Theatre

Is And Always Was Track Listing:

Mind Movies
Fake Records Of Rock And Roll
Queenie The Doggie
High Horse
Without You
I Had Lost My Mind
Freedom
Tears
Is And Always Was
Lost In My Infinite Memory
Light Of Day