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Monday, February 21, 2005
New Roman Times
Thusfar at Freeway Jam, we've looked at a lot of music from the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's. With the exception of a few tunes that came up in genre playlists, we have yet to devote an entire playlist to the 00's, which I pronounce the oh!s.
Compared to the 90's at this point, early into the 5th year of the decade, the 00's seem relatively mysterious. There has been no enormous genre breakthrough like with grunge (Kurt Cobain was already dead by 1995). There have been no spate of universally accepted bands, transcending generations like Nirvana, Peal Jam, and those guys. Rock music, as an artform, gives the impression of deep hibernation if not death; never has its market share of the music consuming population been so small, never have its innovative bands existed so far on the margins of mainstream entertainment.
What has been going on since 2001? There have been the teen pop idols and the American Idols. There've been very conventional sounding bands like Creed and Coldplay; dull and uninspiring. We've seen electronica make further inroads with rock audiences in the form of Beth Orton, 4 hero, and Air. We've seen some very creative music in very small niches; from prog-rock revival to space rock and dream pop. But what's the trend? Where are we going?
How soon is now?
I doubt we'll be able to answer these tonight. But since I missed a day on Saturday, and since you helped me out with my artists query, I'll throw in an extra playlist tonight.
All titles dated 2001-2005 on their date tags were used to generate a random playlist, a pool of 1519 titles. The first ten songs randomly selected from this pool by Media Center are profiled, Jam Tags (1-5 stars) follow:
I give you the oh!s:
1. Bob Dylan: Lonesome Day Blues ***
This opens like a good barroom blues, and then Dylan comes in with his tortured voice. Dylan never had what you'd call a good voice; that was part of his charm. Whatever he had is shredded and ruined now; it hurts my throat to listen to him. I realize that's unfair, but it does explain why I've failed to connect with the very well received Love and Theft. The lyrics, from what I could make out, are pure Dylan; full of bite and crackpot humor. I know he's a legend, and I love him too. But I won't be playing this one much, I fear.
2. Guided By Voices: Run Wild ****
The lo-fi band Guided By Voices has been releasing work since 1986. Once a cross between post-punk and jangle-pop, with a hint of prog-rock and British Invasion tossed in, they've since become a little heavier sounding, now that they record for bigger record labels. Run Wild has guitar in spades and a fine vocal from Robert Pollard. What it lacks is the homespun lo-fi charm the band once had when they were younger and more whimsical. Pollard announced the band's breakup last year.
3. Camper Van Beethoven: I Am Talking To This Flower ****
Easily the most welcome reunion of an 80's band, and fans like me are hoping it becomes permanent. Not only is it of a quality equal to their late 80's heyday, it is easily the most ambitious album these California slackers have attempted. They've lost some of their sense of humor, but they've perfected their chops; I Am Talking To This Flower is full of oddball harmonies, offbeat instrumental textures (here, augmented by paranoid sounding synths), plenty of guitar crunch and busy drumming. Lyrically complex, it builds to a tremendous crescendo.
4. 3 Doors Down: Here Without You ***
The hardworking Kansas group 3 Doors Down hit big with Kryptonite in 2000. This is from their sophomore album, and struck a chord as an anthem of sorts for persons with family deployed overseas. I mention where this band is from, because this opens with a gentle acoustic guitar and vocal that recalls Kansas' "Dust In The WInd" Then, we get some pretty syrupy production, with sweet strings and very emotive vocal. If it reminds you of a loved one; go for it. It's pretty bland, though.
5. Evanescence: Heart Shaped Box (live) ***
Acoustic cover of the Nirvana tune, featuring a strong vocal from Amy Lee and good guitar Ben Moody. This recording doesn't give you much sense of the band, which is a goth-inspired alt-metal band. But it is a worthwhile track for collectors of Nirvana covers, and Lee's enunciation is good enough for me to finally understand the seriously disturbed lyrics here. This Arkansas band originally had their product sold in Christian markets; when the band used some profanity during an interview, the Christian outlets dropped them.
6. Leann Rimes: Life Goes On **
Country-flavored adult contemporary. Rimes was a 14-year old prodigy when she burst onto the scene in 1996. Pushing 20 here, she has ditched most of her country roots in favor of a middle of the road approach. The result is blandness through and through; even her much balleyhooed voice slipped by so anonymously, I had no idea who I was listening to. The cover is a giveaway; the title suggests an edge, and her designer dress and expensive-looking suite take that edge right back again.
7. Natacha Atlas: I Put A Spell On You **
Belgian-born Atlas first appeared with world-beat dance band Transglobal Underground, who provide her with the beats here. She certainly does very strange things to this old chestnut; arabesque belly dancing music, a reference of the oft-borrowed Indonesian Monkey Chant; plenty of drums n bass. Her vocals are quite something, though; you'll have to buy the accent, and accept her weird "la-la-la's". If you don't like Bjork, you probably won't like Atlas. Me, I'll give her another try. But I think I'm done with this track, which reminds me of karaoke night in Shinjuku at the old folks' home.
8. Sonic Youth: Stones ****
Good old reliable Sonic Youth; passing their 20th anniversary they still come up with credible post-rock alternative noisefests. This one is sung by Thurston Moore, and is full of his strange tuning and features a full, noisy jam. Actually one of the lesser tunes from the very good Sonic Nurse, it probably won't win any converts. Some of the other stuff from the album, their 18th, might.
9. Arcade Fire: Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) ****
This band has been hyped a lot lately, so my ears perked up when they came on the autoplay. This is almost like David Bowie's "Heroes"; a tale about lovers separated (and meeting in a tunnel). It has very Bowie-esque vocals, and a humming background full of distorted guitar, tinkling piano, synth haze, and an increasingly propulsive beat, as singer Win Butler works himself up just like Bowie did, but without falling over the edge. So for something that feels derivitive, it also satisfies. I'd have to hear more from Arcade Fire to tell if they're deserving of their hype. But this song makes the grade.
10. Secret Machines: The Road Leads Where It's Led *****
Secret Machines pretty much gets my vote for best band to issue a debut album in 2004 (they put out an EP in 2002). Best described as either dream pop or neo-progressive, Secret Machines plunder most of rock history to patch together their sound. This track is propulsive, with a kicking drum, a breathy vocal that leads us into a good harmonic bridge. The surrounding atmospherics rely largely on synthesizer and power chords, but has a spareness that recalls German rock bands like Can to a degree. Even oldtimer rock fans might get into this one.
Hmmm. Not the most satisfying playlist ever, aside from a couple of nuggets. Maybe it was just the luck of the draw; we'll just have to try again another day.
Not to beat a dead horse, but I listen to alot of Drive-By Truckers. Sort of a southern type sound, but still these guys are great lyricists in the vein of Dylan. Chekc them out and come visit.
Thanks for dropping by, guys. Always glad to hear any thoughts on music, and share ideas.
I've not heard Drive-By Truckers; I'd kind of like to find some good southern bands to get into; I've gotten a little out of date there.
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