Few people suspected that rock 'n' roll--a music form that was born in the early '50s and seemed to have a potentially unlimited lifespan--would actually one day peak and never again be as good as it was!
Still, that seems to be precisely the case!
For it is this week when Eddie Vedder--lead vocalist with famous Seattle-based rockers Pearl Jam--has singlehandedly made an album that will likely never be topped by any rock 'n' roll record ever to come!
A man! A voice! A ukulele!
And while it does seem a tad beholden to famous rapper Jay-Z--I mean, these days, what doesn't?--it still shows a streak of indisputable originality that is bound to be talked about for decades to come!
May 31, 2011: The week everyone stopped buying albums and enjoyed tasty ice cream sodas in their place!
Eddie Vedder: Ukulele Songs (Monkey Wrench) From its wrenching opening track, an energetic rendition of Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through The Tulips," to its heart-rending, mildly hallucinogenic closer, Don Ho's "Tiny Bubbles," Eddie Vedder's unexpected new solo album shows an artist at the peak of his powers! And that's just the cover photo! The Pearl Jam singer's unexpected instrumental dexterity--swinging from Bach and Handel here, Stomu Yamash'ta and Iannis Xenakis there--combined with his ultra-sophisticated taste for unexpected covers, including the themes from TV's Mr. Ed and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, make this an album of a lifetime! Ironically, the life in question belongs to Eldred Meek, a young Vermont boy who, in the early 1700's, fell into a well blindfolded and tragically perished! Even more ironic: He was deaf! Not like the rest of us! I can't wait for this guy's cookbook!
Death Cab For Cutie: Codes And Keys (Atlantic) While they've always seemed a bit overly bright, Death Cab For Cutie return here with an album that, frankly, might take a true genius to appreciate! Apparently taking its cue from the album cover photo, opening track "Home Is A Fire" features a repetitive busy signal as its music base over which various members select either X's or O's for an unexpected game of tic-tac-toe! Weird! Next, the title track blares a police or ambulance siren while a repetitive beeping signal spells out "I am really into McHale's Navy" in Morse code! Huh? Finally, closing track "Stay Young, Go Dancing" features the voice of Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum, TV's celebrated Mr. Green Jeans, mumbling inanities such as "I got the damn keys to the Treasure House right here, Fat Boy" and "It's just a frickin' puppet, man--what are you on?" I think it may be their best album ever!
My Morning Jacket: Circuital (ATO) The sixth studio album by music's marvelous My Morning Jacket simply couldn't be better: Great songs, fine musicianship, challenging themes, a complete disregard for all that is commercial--and, wouldn't you just know it?--all that much more commercial because of it! "I hate the phrase 'going back to our roots,'" says the band's Jim Jones about this new set--tastefully side-stepping the group's controversial decision to do nothing but eat sweet potatoes and yams for the duration of this album's making! Luckily, the greatness of the end product--and, I mean, this is a fine album--render such points as their rationale for featuring the eye of Blinky The Traffic Light on the new album cover entirely moot! Still, it is odd!
Kate Bush: Director's Cut (Fish People/EMI) England's fascinating Kate Bush--an icon whose influence pervades all of contemporary music as we know it--well, except for a few Toby Keith records--returns here with a reworking of material she's released on her earlier The Sensual World and The Red Shoes albums, and it sounds great! Featuring completely new vocals and drums but retaining some of the original musical backing--and, one suspects, an inescapable fascination with Edward Lear's "The Dong With The Luminous Nose"--Bush has never sounded stronger, better, more convincing, or like a woman who's filthy rich and can do whatever the heck she wants just because she's Kate Bush! Sort of like Eddie Vedder, but she left the ukulele in her wine cellar! I'm completely into this!
Dave Matthews Band: Live At Wrigley Field (Bama Rags/RCA) If you like the Dave Matthews band, you're going to love this new 2-CD set, which features the band running through hits old and new in a venue that only a select few artists have ever played! Otherwise, Wrigley Field houses the Chicago Cubs, a baseball team of some repute! As the album cover hints, the band has been accused by the entire city of Chicago of selling out, and on the evidence of much of the between-song patter here--in which Matthews and company are solicited by several large corporations and defense interests to accept large sums of money for public sponsorship, the CEOs of McDonald's and Wendy's "battle it out" for Matthews' approval and signature, etc.--it is puzzling! I'd prefer to assume the shows themselves were sold out and leave it at that! Guess I'm dumb!
Seapony: Go With Me (Hardly Art) In a cruel twist offering up an actual good album, Seattle's Seapony here may seem to be following up on the latest musical fad---heavily echoed female vocals over an excessively reverbed guitar and prominent drum mix--but to me seem to be playing music directly in the tradition of the Marine Girls, the Gist, maybe even the Young Marble Giants, which in 2011 means they are actually hip as heck! I like them very much! I suggest buying this album, playing it for all your friends, saying, 'Yeah, I've always been into stuff like this, man," and then pretending you don't care what anyone else thinks at all! You're your own person, and no one is the boss of you!
Primal Scream: Screamadelica Live (Blu-Ray DVD) (Eagle) Anyone who's been paying attention to wacky Brit bands know that years ago Primal Scream started out sounding like a lot of those Byrdsy early Creation-era bands then suddenly shifted into a sort of magnificently psychedelic mode with their 1991 album Screamadelica! Well, here they are years after the fact, out touring the world performing that same album in its entirety, and as this fab DVD illustrates, it remains quite a good listen! Jam-packed with extras, oodles of charisma, and arguments that were it at all possible for contemporary society to travel in time back to 1991 and make "other" decisions, it would probably be wise, Screamadelica Live is entirely worthy of your purchase! Buy it, play it, and tell "haters" you thought it was a Funkadelic album! Don't forget to make quotation marks with your fingers!
The Vaccines: What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? (Columbia) Many are calling this Brit band the "band to watch" in 2011, especially if you have a lot of money in your wallet and they're walking behind you! Loud, lo-fi, energetic, charismatic and three more adjectives used to simply make a point, the band are quite good, not terribly trendy--in a good way--and likely to make a deep impression on people of a certain age and social sphere! I like them and, more importantly, like their album title even more! And even if I did ever rotate the album cover 90 degrees for kicks, I wouldn't feel guilty about it!
David Byrne: Ride, Rise, Roar (A Live Concert Film) (Blu-Ray DVD) (Eagle) A well done, impressive concert film documenting former Talking Head Byrne's 2008/2009 tour, this concert DVD is one of very few I've seen that--from the intelligence and pacing of its construction--would appear to be preferable to actually witnessing the concert firsthand! Especially since when I was watching it, I got two phone calls and would've felt odd yelling up onstage to David Byrne to hold it for a minute so I could answer my phone! It's usually not a problem at smaller gigs, but jeez, I really hate to make a scene! Great DVD!
Flogging Molly: Speed Of Darkness (SideOneDummy) Best known as a "Celtic punk ensemble"--but heck, we all love basketball--Flogging Molly have already noted that this "wasn't the album we set out to write. It became the album we had to write." Yeah, and maybe if they'd been nicer to Molly, she wouldn't be standing over them all with two black eyes and a submachine gun in her hands!