Pop Songs With a Great Big Bottom End

After watching highlights of the Grammys this week, I found myself going back to one performance in particular, and trust me, I tried not to just for the fact I’m not really a fan of the artist in question.

In fact, to say I hate Bruno Mars might be a bit heavy handed on my part, but nothing he’s done has really left me with any sort of lasting impression other than ‘well, that was an annoying three minutes’.

However, it was Mars’ performance of his tune Runaway Baby at the Grammys that left me with a new respect for the guy and his backing musicians. And the engine that was helping propel the band was all bottom end, baby. Take the bass out of Runaway Baby and you’re left with a pretty generic pop song. Add the bass and wham-o! A Bruno Mars song I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve listened to all the way through.

So, today’s post features pop songs with some truly awesome ground shaking grooving from the bass side of the stage. I’ve gone with tracks from more recent memory, so please-no emails complaining that Come Together isn’t listed.

To start off, here’s Bruno from the Grammys.

Next up, remember Spacehog? You will once you here this tune. Note the guitarist flubbing the intro. Whoops. The track is In the Meantime.

Although not huge here in North America, Jamiroquai have had a pretty good run overseas. I’m a casual fan at best, but I love this song. Main Vein.

I couldn’t have a bass post without mentioning Cake somewhere. So this is me, mentioning Cake. Somewhere. It’s The Distance.

And finally, my personal favourite of the entire lot: Blur’s Girls and Boys. Meeeooooowww.

Hampstead Fundraiser Announced For The Families of Victims in Ontario Road Accident

That’s Funky Awesome is fortunate that readers from around the world have made this site a frequent stop to help quell their music and entertainment jonesin’. And although today’s post may not directly affect you, for everyone living in my small corner of the globe, Stratford, Ontario, the deaths of eleven people last week at a sleepy rural corner about ten minutes outside of town as the result of a two vehicle accident has been devastating.

The crash claimed the lives of ten migrant workers travelling in an extended passenger van after a long shift at a nearby chicken farm. Some of the victims had been on the job for only one day. It also killed a London, Ontario man, Christopher Fulton, who was on his way home to celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife of eleven years.

Today the Hampstead Fundraiser was announced, which will raise money for the families of the victims involved. It will be happening on February 25th in Stratford at the Masonic Hall, starting at 9:30 PM. Not only will it showcase live music from a variety of artists like Whoa Miss Mojo!, Plum Loco (featuring former Janis Joplin guitarist John Till) and Brittlestar frontman Stewart Reynolds, you can rest assured you’ll put your dancing shoes to good use when Myagi hits the stage for a DJed set. There will be food, booze (at what will no doubt be a well stocked cash bar), everything you could want to make for an unforgettable Saturday night. All for only $25. Pop into Down the Street Bar & Restaurant or Sputnik for tickets.

If you can’t make it out that night but would still like to donate money to the families, you’ll find more information on organizations that have set up additional collections here. Scroll down to the bottom of the article for the details.

Also, if you’re able to volunteer your time for the evening, any help is greatly appreciated. You can contact organizers Susan Dunfield (owner of Down the Street Bar & Restaurant) by email at downthestreet30@sympatico.ca or by phone at 519-273-5886 or Stewart Reynolds at mail@brittlestar.com. I’m donating my time for the evening…will you?

You can also head to the Down the Street website for more info and updates on the evening.

UPDATES: There is now also a Facebook page for the Hampstead Fundraiser. Click here to check it out.

The full lineup for the night’s entertainment has been confirmed!

Emm Gryner

Pam Gerrand

Stewart Reynolds of Brittlestar

LG Breton

Antony John

Whoa Miss Mojo!

BW Pawley & Plum Loco

Andrew ‘Myagi’ Mavor

DJ Wigs

Here’s a little Brittlestar for you now. The track is Shining Star. You’ll see him with acoustic guitar in hand on the 25th. See you there!

Let Belgium’s Starkeeper Wash Away Any Lingering Madonna Halftime Nightmares

If you’re reading this, you’re one of the survivors.

Of what, you may ask?

Ah, lucky wanker. You’ve blocked it out of your memory, haven’t you?

Before I proceed, please, sit down. Those horrific images that chase you at night when you close your eyes, the shrill screams of thousands of tormented souls begging to be put out of their misery, and perhaps worst of all…the smell. God, the smell.

You, my friend, watched Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime ‘spectacular’, and like many people you’ve blocked the whole debacle from your mind. Subconsciously though, you’re still seeing Madge shuffle awkwardly around the world’s most expensive portable nursing home, trying desperately to look like she can keep up with the hundreds of extras doing circles around her while she pretends to sing and clings to the last whisp of relevance she has in today’s world of music.

The good news for you and everyone else suffering from Madonna-itis is there’s a simple remedy in the form of Starkeeper, a Belgium group fronted by Ivy Smits and Pieter Van Dessel that’s found a musical sweet spot with their carefully crafted and addictively melodic pop offerings. If I was forced to sum Starkeeper up in a nutshell, I’d say they manage to mesh equal parts Peter Gabriel with Canada’s Jets Overhead. Like Mr. Gabriel, they seem very much in tune with the concept of creating interesting visuals to go along with their sonic creations, as demonstrated with the video for their first single, Elle.

The bad news? Currently Starkeeper only have a couple of tracks available to download at iTunes, but they tell me more are in the works and on their way for 2012. In the meantime, check out the video for Elle below, along with Jets Overhead and I Should Be Born (just in case you’re too lazy to click the link provided above).

Buy Elle and its flip side, Brace Yourself, over at iTunes.
Like Starkeeper on Facebook.
Follow @starkeepermusic on Twitter.

If Lana Del Rey Were Interesting, She’d Be Oh Land On a Bad Day

Pardon my French ladies and gentleman, but fuck Lana Del Rey.

I’ve been following the story of Del Rey with equal parts fascination and skepticism since she landed on my radar last year. At the time, she was still known by some folk as Lizzy Grant, with two albums of laid back folk pop to her name. The few tracks I’ve heard off these early recordings I didn’t find offensive it any way, nor did they leave me begging for more. They were just…average. However, after an image makeover and the retirement of the Lizzy Grant moniker in favour of the far more glamourous Lana Del Rey nom de plume, Lizzy, errr…Lana is the name on everyone’s lips these days. For many people it’s because of her less than stellar performance on Saturday Night Live a couple weeks back, which showcased Del Rey at her sleep inducing worst and had many a knicker twisted in rage.

My advice to those of you who are already tired of the (over) hype of Del Rey and are disappointed at what might have been is to have a looksy at Oh Land (aka Nanna Øland Fabricius), a Danish singer-songstress who I promise won’t leave you with that numb feeling you might be afflicted with after a Lana performance. Fabricius’ first U.S. release (Oh Land) back in March was followed by some high profile gigs on Letterman and Kimmel, so there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with her work. Also,  her video for Sun of a Gun has about a billion views on YouTube, so there’s that, too. And while her image might be that of a budding pop music queen (she recently toured with Katy Perry, but don’t hold that against her), she at least presents herself in an interesting way when it comes to live performances. It’s a little more substance over style. And that statement is directed right at Ms. Del Rey.

Here’s Rainbow, live.

Maniacal Mondays: Pearl Jam Performs Alive

The start of the 1990s found music listeners and music lovers constantly being asked one thing:

Nirvana or Pearl Jam?

As the grunge movement gained momentum in the late 80s, little did the world outside of Seattle know what would be hitting them square in the nads in the coming years.  It would be an unabashed embrace of American rock and roll-loud, raucous, and completely balls to the wall. Of the countless bands that rose to prominence under the grunge flag that quickly found a home atop many a flagpole during this time period, two always seemed to be the centre of attention for the ‘sides’ that seemed to form out of nowhere:

Nirvana and Peral Jam.

Even though both of these groups found massive success in the early 90s, and both came out of the clubs of Seattle, during their initial foray into the big leagues it was hard to find a true fan of both bands. It always seemed you loved one, hated the other. Thought Kurt Cobain was King Slacker who wrote awesome songs even though you could never quite tell what the hell he was singing? Then Eddie Vedder was a whiny surfer from San Diego with a mother complex. Vedder was your introspective lyrical hero? Then Cobain was a one hit wonder who no doubt would fade into oblivion sooner rather than later.

Ah, kids.

Of course, we all know how the stories of both Nirvana and Pearl Jam have unfolded over the years. And even though one of the biggest knocks against Pearl Jam was that they were ‘corporate’ rock since their label, Epic, was a subsidiary of Sony BMG, they’ve done a pretty good job of playing the game by their own rules, thank you very much. Refusing to release singles, not filming videos, avoiding awards shows, brawling with Ticketmaster-all the things a record label loves. While I haven’t always been onboard the Pearl Jam train (they lost me for a bit in the late 90s), I do give them credit for what appears to be a career that, once it comes to a close, they’ll be able to look back on and not feel like they made a living short changing anyone. Which, I suspect, might be a little more difficult down the road for many of today’s current batch of pop stars.

From their debut album 10, here’s Alive.

New Music Fridays: Edgar Breau

If you’re a fan of Canada’s Simply Saucer, you’re going to be a very happy camper with today’s New Music Fridays post.

Now, if you’re asking yourself, “Simply Saucer? Huh?” I won’t go into all the nitty gritty details of this fascinating tale of a band that has influenced so many music-types around the globe yet still remains largely unknown to the general public. I suggest you head over and check out this great article at Perfect Sound Forever that does a far better job than I ever could explaining the history and significance of Simply Saucer.

For now, though, feast your ears on the newest offering from Saucer frontman Edgar Breau, Patches of Blue. This brand new collection of songs is a bit of a departure from the Simply Saucer sound, with a heavy emphasis on tunes built from the acoustic guitar on up. Truth be known, I’ve had the title track from Patches of Blue on a loop in my house all day today, and I still can’t get enough of it. You can stream the album at Breau’s website, although I suggest you just cut to the chase and buy it on iTunes.

Here’s the video for the title track, Patches of Blue.

It’s Too Bad There’s No Good Songs For Friday the Thirteenth. Oh, Wait…

It’s been a busy week here at That’s Funky Awesome. Sunday saw my debut alongside Brock and Brent on the Funny Aftertaste podcast (which also featured a track from Fake Your Own Death), posts celebrating the birthdays of a couple of elder statesmen of rock, David Bowie and Jimmy Page, plus a behemoth of a feature on Van Halen, which when I was writing it I had no idea it would take off like it did around the net. Turns out a lot of you felt much the same way I did about the the Vans and their newest single, with the exception of one concerned Eddie-fanatic who took the time to write me a highly entertaining email, the jist of which can be summed up by this individual calling me a ‘pompous shithead’. Is it wrong that I kind of agree with him?

Today also saw my latest batch of reviews hit the ink over at AlanCross.ca. This week I’ve featured Buxton, Scott Matthew, Woodpigeon, and The Darcys. If you’ve got a few extra minutes, stop over and check it out. There’s a reason these bands are being written about…

Of course, being that today is Friday the thirteenth, the obvious choice of song to showcase is Superstition from the album Talking Book by the great Stevie Wonder. I know-it’s a highly original idea. I hunted around quite a bit trying to dig up an interesting cover of the song, and with the very odd exception came up grasping at straws. Turns out there are A LOT of covers of Superstition out there. Like, thousands. And as it turns out, most of them are, how should I put this…scary? After hunting high and low, I kept going back to a performance clip that’s nearly as old as I am, by the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan (backed of course by the equally great Double Trouble). In fact, it’s the Stevie Ray blues/rock updating of the tune that you’re probably hearing being attempted by 98% of bar bands that give this song the college try. Remember one thing: the drunker you are, the better they sound. You’re welcome.

Dear Van Halen: Fuck Off

Why does it seem that bad music always manages to find its way to the top of the pile?

Normally I wouldn’t pay that much attention to Van Halen’s upcoming album, A Different Kind of Truth, set to be released next month. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Van Halen, although as a teen I did briefly dabble in the dark art of Halenism-rockin’ out while Running With the Devil bled ears in the background. When word got out a few years back that Van Halen was trying to glue itself together again with frontman David Lee Roth back in the lead singer saddle, I don’t know that the news even registered with me. Frankly, I could’ve cared less, I guess.

Now, however, Van Halen is back-sort of. Bassist Michael Anthony was cast aside an album ago in favour of Eddie Van Halen’s son Wolfgang, who is a competent bassman. The glaring hole left by Anthony is on the vocal side of things, and his backing vocals, often times one of the only interesting aspects of a lot of Van Halen songs (for me, anyway), are gone. What we have now is Roth looking eerily like he’s modelling for AC/DC singer Brian Johnson’s Springtime Collection for Men, and Eddie still making that same cocky grin into the camera he’s been doing for the past thirty years. You know the one…cue up any Van Halen video (doesn’t matter who’s singing)-shot of Eddie’s fingers on the strings of his guitar, shot of Eddie looking bored, shot of Eddie tapping the fretboard, shot of Eddie looking pleased with himself, and so on and so on. It looks like Van Halen are following their hit making recipe book to the letter on their new track, Tattoo, a completely forgettable hard rock ditty that pales in comparison to what most folk would consider ‘classic’ Van Halen.

But here’s my point: Van Halen (or as I call them now, Nickelback South) are a one trick pony. I could care less about those that might argue that Van Halen are a great party band, or that Panama is awesome to listen to while you’re cruising the beach. The fact of the matter is Van Halen have basically been rehashing the same sound and formula for thirty years, and I’m sick of it. It’s boring, tired, and now more than a little annoying. There are a dozen better, lesser known bands out there that would kill to get the kind of publicity Van Halen are probably taking for granted right now, and that’s what really gets my goat in this situation. If nothing else, hopefully these groups will look at Van Halen as an example of what you never, ever want to become as a band.

Maniacal Mondays: Foo Fighters with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones

Yesterday at That’s Funky Awesome we celebrated the 65th birthday of one David Bowie. Today, it’s that whipper snapper Jimmy Page who has reached the ripe age of 68, which is barely even a drop in the bucket-at least in hobbit years. The two time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is still showing the kids how it’s done, albeit in a slightly more refined and dignified manner compared to his more debaucherous tenure with some band called Led Zeppelin.

Today’s Maniacal Mondays post also acts as a bit of a ‘two birds, one stone’ edition, since not only is it covering the birthday of Page, it also shines the light on a great live performance featuring Page along with his former bandmate in Zeppelin, bassist John Paul Jones, as they rock out with their, ahhh, schlongs out with the Foo Fighters. And even though front Foo-man Dave Grohl does a fine job botching the lyrics throughout this blistering version of Zeppelin’s Ramble On, it’s still a pretty good way to wipe out any lingering nightmares you might still be having after hearing Train’s take on the song way back when.

So, happy birthday, Jimmy. I’m assuming that since you’re rumoured to have sold your soul to the devil back in the 70s that we can look forward to at least another 60 years of rock and roll from you. I for one can’t wait.

I’ll Have What He’s Having: David Bowie Turns 65

The worst kept secret on the net right now is that David Bowie, the once uber-androgynous Starman and rock/pop/art rock/kraut pop icon has officially hit retirement age.

The problem most Bowie fans online seem to be having with the situation is not that the Thin White Duke is 65, it’s that it appears as though Bowie himself took an early retirement almost ten years ago, at least as far as recording goes. Bowie hasn’t released an album since 2003’s Reality, and hasn’t been onstage since 2006. In a world where Mick Jagger is still prancing around, pouty lips and all, with the truly awful Super Heavy, something about this just doesn’t seem right.

Perhaps Bowie, always the deep thinker, has realized that pop music is a young person’s world, and because of this is graciously stepping aside so that other artists can step up to the plate and take a swing or six. Perhaps Bowie is still concerned about his health after having heart problems back in 2004 that included having a blocked artery surgically corrected.

Or maybe Bowie just doesn’t have much to say right now, at least as far as music goes. Let’s face it-Bowie could toss an album out there in a completely half-assed manner and his fans would gobble it up, if only for the fact that it may indeed be the last album their hero unleashes on the public. Something tells me he won’t though, and the reason is simple:

He doesn’t have to.

Bowie as an artist has always been a master of harnessing the power of hype-the promotional aspect of music making that can breathe life into a song even when you’re not listening to it. He was one of the first artists to not only sacrifice a live chicken in the church of hype, he captained the hype Bullet train into the stratosphere.

So, David Bowie is 65. Stop banging on his door and demanding he entertain you. I think he’s earned a little quiet time, hasn’t he?

Here’s Golden Years, live from the Serious Moonlight Tour, 1983.