It's great to be back!
I just spent two weeks away from our luxurious Santa Monica offices, toiling in the wilds of such cities as Miami--where I was forced to write my previous blog, in, horrifyingly, a Starbucks that closed at 11 pm--and Austin, Texas, where the celebrated South By Southwest festival drew countless thousands of sweaty humans and even more sweaty corporate sponsors!
Worst of all: When I came home yesterday...it was raining!
The final indignity? I'd forgotten to set the clock ahead an hour when I returned, since Daylight Savings Time arrived during my trip--and thus returned to work, after a two-week absence, an hour late! Luckily, no one noticed, as I planned!
Come to think of it, no one noticed when I left at the end of the day, either!
Just for kicks, I ended the night alone in my home office, drinking and staring at the ceiling and listening to records no one has ever heard--and if they did, they probably wouldn't like them, either!
So I Googled myself for a few hours, made a couple of obscene phone calls, then decided I would soon write the best blog ever!
You just wait!
The Strokes: Angles (RCA) The Strokes made big noise at SXSW, in case you haven't heard, by playing for thousands upon thousands of riotous humans in an Austin public park and getting paid for it! Cool! Their new album is great! It sounds just like the Strokes! Dedicated to "those unsung heroes who designed all those 'New Wave' covers for EMI-America Records during the early '80s," Angles is at times obtuse, sometimes oblique, but more often than not, completely right! In many ways like the all time pop classic This Left Feels Right by avant-garde ironists Bon Jovi, Angles takes pop convention, turns it on its ear, then spends a considerable amount of time explaining how pop convention itself could actually have an ear, since it's an abstract concept employed by rock critics looking for ways to sound profound! Later it would drive by a record store offering 50 percent off all used CDs and DVDs! Shivering, it noticed that several fingers of its right hand were numb! It didn't realize its dashboard clock was off by an hour!
Chris Brown: F.A.M.E. (Jive) With an album cover destined to strike fear in the hearts of all pre-teens, here comes Chris Brown, ready to reclaim his position as Potential King Of All R&B Until That Unfortunate Incident! This new set--featuring guests Justin Bieber, Lil Wayne, Ludacris and Other Clowns--may do the trick, as only a handful of pop classics have ever devoted themselves to the fascinatingly specific notion that Fatsos Always Make Eggs! Talk about a hole in the marketplace! Filled with potential commercial smashes like "Wet The Bed," "No BS," and the startlingly literate "Yeah 3x," F.A.M.E. is simply the most striking album I've ever heard! Or at least seen the cover of! I will buy three and still want more!
Jennifer Hudson: I Remember Me (Arista) I think all of us were waiting for singer Jennifer Hudson to hit one out of the park, and with the stunning autobiographical I Remember Me, she may have just done that! Hudson, a former American Idol finalist mysteriously stricken with amnesia some years ago, here recounts the soul-enriching story of her sudden spontaneous recovery after a lengthy stroll down New York's Park Avenue; her jarring realization that she was in fact the reincarnated spirit of famed New York Yankee Babe Ruth, shocking though it may be, allows for a narrative flow that finally takes us to a deserted baseball diamond in Yonkers where, tears in her eyes, she picks up a bat, hits a worn and tattered baseball far into left field, and proclaims, "Damn, I should make an album about this!" Breaking her heel outside a local 99 Cents store on her way home only adds to the melodrama! A classic!
Duran Duran: All You Need Is Now (S-Curve) Boldly taking the Beatles to task for proclaiming all you need is love when in fact they probably should have said now is just the latest example of Duran Duran's career-long sense of daring; other examples include their choice of eyeliner during the mid-'80s and their much-bootlegged "lost" classic "The Men Don't Know, And Neither Do The Little Girls, But We Like That Last Part"! Produced by Mark Ronson, and therefore now indescribably hip, the album and the band seem to be deliberately aiming to recapture their original sound, which I'd probably do if I were them, too--so what say we just drop all pretense, proclaim them the best band ever, and spend the rest of the night ripping albums by Antonio Carlos Jobim? I've got a case of Diet Coke in the refrigerator!
Tommy Shaw: The Great Divide (Pazzo Music) I once considered my career highpoint to be captioning a particularly fetching photo of Styx's Tommy Shaw ripping off a guitar solo while looking appreciatively at a fellow bandmate: "By cracky, you the greatest!" Had I only known then that in 2011, our Mr. Shaw would be proudly pointing to his Montgomery, Alabama roots and recording an actual bluegrass album, I would probably have said, "Huh--that figures!" and bragged about it to that checkout girl who made fun of me for buying TV dinners at Krogers! Oh well, better this than a rock opera about the part in Dennis DeYoung's hair! A masterpiece!
Edwyn Collins: Losing Sleep (Downtown) Just to break things up a little, what say we discuss an actual good record once in a while? Finally seeing American release is this fabulous 2010 disc by Orange Juice founder Collins, whose recovery from a 2005 cerebral hemorrhage has been little short of miraculous, and whose performance here--with guest spots from members of Franz Ferdinand, the Smiths, the Cribs and more--is heartwarmingly good, inspired, and, as the cliche indeed has it, life-affirming! Managed to catch performances by him both in Austin and in Germany last year, and I couldn't be happier that he's now up, around, and making music this good. Make a point of hearing this.
Agnostic Front: My Life My Way (Nuclear Blast) I'm not one for enthusing about corporate marketing campaigns, but I've got to hand it to the humans at EMI, who have proclaimed that "March Is Metal Month," and as such, through their many distributed labels, are releasing fab new albums by bands like Tesseract, Belphegor, Turisas, Havok, the Haunted, a bunch of other artists whose logos are indecipherable but that's part of their charm, and this latest set by the long-lived Agnostic Front! The lovable hardcore sound of the guys is still loud and clear, aided by Erik Rutan, whose past work with Madball, Goatwhore and Cannibal Corpse is clearly a resume-brightener by definition! I've come to the conclusion that this stuff is ultimately a sort of "folk music" that will fascinate collectors in the latter half of this century! We may be talking about beer can collectors, but hey, at least someone might still be around!
Various Artists: Concert For George (Blu-ray DVD) (Rhino) Finally here is the Blu-ray edition of the memorable concert honoring the music of late Beatle George Harrison; among the distinguished guests: Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Ravi Shankar and Ringo Starr. The two-disc set features both the complete concert and the theatrical version, is loaded with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, and is a classy, moving tribute very much worthy of this deluxe presentation. All proceeds benefit George Harrison's Material World Foundation, details of which can be found here.
Bobby V: Fly On the Wall (Capitol) An excellent singer with a respectable sales history, Mr. V--formerly Bobby Valentino--returns here with a solid fourth album which features guests like 50 Cent, Twista, Plies, Lloyd Banks and, oddly, includes 18 tracks directly addressed to a fly perched on the wall of the studio in which this set was recorded! Frankly, if I were the fly, and I saw this guy looking at me and singing "Grab Somebody," "Hummin" and "L.O.V.E.," I'd be more nervous than flattered!
Soundgarden: Live on I-5 (A&M/Interscope) While it may be common knowledge that the economy is ailing, less well known is that midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco sits a small shack offering bushels of strawberries, corn, squash, and--if you're polite and ask nicely--a live performance by its sales crew, Seattle's once-famous Soundgarden! As a band member told me while bagging up blueberries, "No one ever got our name!"