Category Archives: Maniacal Mondays
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.
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.
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.
That's because today's Maniacal Mondays track is from Jamiroquai's 2001 bass heavy whirlwind album A Funk Odyssey.
Now, I should take a moment to confess to something: until Jamiroquai released the above mentioned album I really hadn't paid that much attention to them. In fact, they kinda bugged me. When they hit the bigs with 1996's Virtual Insanity I instantly ramped up my personal dislike filter on the group, especially since the accompanying video for the song was put into heavy rotation on MTV and MuchMusic for what seemed like two years. What can I say? I guess I just didn't appreciate frontman Jay Kay's big hat wardrobe at the time. The entire Jamiroquai package was just a little too smooth and silky for my liking.
A Funk Odyssey opened my eyes again to the Jamiroquai world, and I liked what I saw (and heard). I guess time does heal all wounds, since it's an album I return to frequently when I'm in the need of some white boy funk.
Speaking of which, here's my favourite track from the album, Main Vein. Just remember to stretch a bit before you bust a move in the middle of the office.
I'm referring to the bass guitar, but I won't pass judgement on those of you whose minds went elsewhere after that statement.
After pondering for a moment (Monday mornings the best I can muster is a ponder-I lack full thought processing abilities until at least dinner), I decided what I needed to hear was a little Juan Nelson working his magic with Ben Harper and the rest of Ben's backing band for many years, The Innocent Criminals.
The song is Brown Eyed Blues, originally released on the Diamonds On the Inside album from 2003. This particular performance of the tune is taken from the DVD Live at the Hollywood Bowl, which featured Ben and the band on tour in support of Diamonds. If you're a Harper or Juan Nelson fan, this is a must own concert film.
Speaking of Juan, the big man unleashes controlled fury on this track. Very, very tasty. In fact, it's so good if I had the choice of eating Juan's bass line or waffles, I would probably take the bass line. And I really, really, love waffles.
Photo courtesy of allysonokeefe.com
If you're situated outside of a select few Canadian provinces, you probably don't know that today is officially Family Day, a holiday created so that families can spend some quality time together while avoiding the usual droll Monday routine of having to go to school or work. In honour of the day, we decided to have a look at families involved in making music together. The question was: which ones? There's a lot out there, but narrowing them down to the select two being featured involved a heaping helping of bias and absolutely no science.
A few of the family bands we had to sort through:
The Beach Boys-bad dressers, most are dead, fronted by a dick. Nope.
Van Halen-now that Eddie's kid has joined them, it's almost too much Van Halen for one band.
Kings of Leon-I know these guys are popular and the critics love them, but I just don't like 'em.
The Osmonds-no. Just….no.
Stone Temple Pilots-we don't want to add fuel to an already raging fire within the ranks of STP by pointing out one brother is tall, dark, and what many consider handsome and the other looks like he got his face smashed in with a brick. Repeatedly.
The Stooges-they scare me.
Tin Machine-who? And why? Soupy Sales what? Google them. Not included here because many feel it's a big fat blemish on Bowie's career.
AC/DC-If my brothers insisted on dressing up in private school uniforms anytime they were appearing in front of 50 000 people, I'd have them committed.
Obviously, that list barely scratches the surface. If you've got a favourite family band, feel free to comment below and let everyone know about them. Or for that matter, if there's one out there you can't stand, please, vent your reason(s) why.
Now, our selections.
The Kinks-Ray and Dave Davies have been on the verge of killing one another since the 60s. Along the way they wrote some great songs, plus a few duds. Doesn't change the fact they lead the charge during the British invasion, and Ray Davies is short-listed on a lot of 'Best Of' lists for modern songwriters.
Radiohead-along with Jonny and Colin Greenwood, Radiohead is a band known for doing the exact opposite of what is supposed to make a band successful (according to the Big Label playbook) and still be hugely popular. They've just released a new album, King of Limbs, available for digital download. Even though everyday Thom Yorke is looking more and more like SCTV's Jackie Rogers Jr. and we're pretty sure their drummer is an accountant, these boys continue to make some pretty cool music.
The Kinks, Lola
Radiohead, Paranoid Android
Some of you may already know that I come from Stratford, Ontario. It's a great little town that has made its name with a pretty cool theatre scene, and from April to November every year the town is alive with visitors from around the world here to see how we get our Shakespeare on. As the popularity of this blog has grown I get asked more and more why I don't feature more homegrown, Stratford talent. As a certain young Stratford performer named Bieber continues his rise to the top of the charts, here's what I get asked most:
"You know, you should write about how good Justin is. People want to hear about that."
Or, as I was recently emailed by a young Bieberhead from the States,
"Why don't you write about Justin and thank him for making Stratford a place people want to visit?"
Here's the thing…while I appreciate the talent Justin possesses and I'm sure him name dropping Stratford every now and again on the tube helps bring some attention to the town, Stratford has an artist that puts Justin to shame as far as sales, credentials, and respect amongst the ranks of musicians around the world goes.
Stratford folk already know I'm talking about Loreena McKennitt, who since the early 80s has called Stratford home. She's released nine studio albums, four live albums, plus a 'Best Of'. All to the tune of over 14 million units sold worldwide. She has been an amazing supporter of the Stratford arts community, and runs her entire operation out of offices based in town. And while I'm sure Usher may be a little intimidated by her fondness for the harp and funky Celtic vibe, she's managed to tour the world many times over to packed houses wherever she lands. Justin may have the world's attention right now, but he still has a thing or six to learn from an artist like Loreena, who I get the feeling really does care about the music first and popularity second. Actually, popularity might rank third or fourth.
So for something a little different for the Maniacal Monday spot, here's Loreena McKennitt performing The Mummers' Dance from her 1997 album The Book of Secrets.
It's a shame more people haven't heard of The The on North American shores. Sure, they've had some success overseas (a smattering of singles and albums in the Top 10), but for the most part they've never found the popularity they deserve (in my humble opinion). They've always had the support of college radio in Canada and the U.S., but for whatever reason the second those smarty-pants kids graduate they forget all about poor old The The.
For the most part, The The is the guise of singer/songwriter Matt Johnson. Over the years there have been 'official' permanent line-ups (including the late eighties/early nineties when former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and ex-Julian Cope bass player James Eller were recruited for the recording of the Mind Bomb and Dusk albums), but for the most The The is Matt Johnson and whatever session players he recruits.
I personally started to get into The The around '92-'93, around the release of Dusk. Around that time my older brother and I had tickets to see Depeche Mode at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, and The The were the opening act. It is one of the only concerts I've been to where the venue was packed for the opening band, and when The The kicked off its set with the Dusk track Dogs of Lust the place went completely ballistic. The crowd was on its feet for the full 45 minute set, plus an encore. Very cool.
Here's The The from around that same time period, with Uncertain Smile from 1983 album Soul Mining.
Looking back at their nearly 30 year long career, it's amazing the Red Hot Chili Peppers are still standing. Original members Anthony Kiedis (vocals and upper body flexing) and Flea (bass and general mayhem) have held down the fort while a rotating cast of players have come and gone around them. While drummer Chad Smith has earned his keep as the band's sole time keeper since the late 80s it's arguably on again, off again guitarist John Frusciante who has added more to the group's signature sound than any other member since he first joined the band for the 1989 release Mother's Milk. Frusciante hopped onboard after the death of original Chili's guitarist Hillel Slovak from a heroin overdose, an addiction Frusciante himself has struggled with over the years.
After the release of the hugely successful Rick Rubin produced Blood Sugar Sex Magik in 1991 the Peppers were tossed full-on into the mainstream spotlight, a position Frusciante despised. At the height of the album's success he announced he was leaving the band, completely overwhelmed by the level of fame the Chili's had found and his growing dependence on various narcotics. In quick succession replacement guitarists Arik Marshall and Jess Tobias came and went before the band settled on Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction as a permanent member. With Navarro came a drastic change in the Chili's sound, influenced by Navarro's heavier style of playing. Where Frusciante was a much more subtle player with occasional flourishes of melodic noise, Navarro had a far more generic sound which wasn't always cohesive with the Chili's overall vibe. Topping it off was Navarro's disdain for 'jamming' during the group's songwriting sessions, and once the band finished touring behind 1995's One Hot Minute Navarro, along with his LA metal influenced douche-baggery, was fired.
Cue the return of Frusciante for 1999's Californication, 2002's By The Way, and 2006's Stadium Arcadium. By far the Frusciante Peppers are the line-up I prefer, but unfortunately all good things must come to end as once again Frusciante quit the band in 2008. Currently the Red Hot Chili Peppers are in the studio with guitarist Josh Klinghoffer with a planned album release for early 2011, and Frusciante continues to work on his own solo projects.
From the By The Way album, here's Can't Stop, live from 2006.
Canadian readers of MVTW know all about The Tragically Hip. For the last twenty plus years they’ve been ‘Canada’s band’-members of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, a spot on the Canadian Walk of Fame, plus a dozen or so Junos (the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy, only with a few more ‘ehs’ in the acceptance speeches). They sell out every show, with good reason-The Hip have been considered to be one of the best live bands to come out of Canada since the dawn of time. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but not by much. Even with all the adoration from Canadian music lovers, the band has had limited success on the other side of the border in the States. Sure, they have pockets of fans spread across the country, but they’ve never managed to break the American market, even with high profile gigs on Saturday Night Life and Woodstock ’99.
The Tragically Hip are still going strong today, with the rare claim of having the same line-up as when they released their first album in 1987. The Maniacal Monday featured performance of the song ‘Grace, Too’ is from a 2009 concert in Abbotsford, British Columbia.
Unlike many of their 80s counterparts, Manchester’s James found their stride (and most of their mainstream success) in the 90s, after years of being the darlings of the underground UK music scene. It wasn’t until 1992’s Seven and the Brian Eno produced Laid in 1993 that James found a wider audience both at home and on North American soil, with a good portion of their popularity in the States gained through the support of college radio. Like many bands James have had their ups and downs-daliances with lifestyle sects (the band’s terminology-others might use the word ‘cult’), onstage fist fights, and several line-up changes due to personality conflicts and that old standby demon, drug abuse. James called it quits with the departure of singer Tim Booth in 2001, but reformed in 2007 for more recording and touring with the ‘classic’ configuration behind their biggest Stateside success, Laid. Since then the band has released one full length album (Hey Ma) plus two EPs (The Night Before and The Morning After), and have been touring the UK, the States, Canada, and Mexico.
From the 1992 album Seven, enjoy ‘Born of Frustration’, live in 2001. Picked not only because it’s a good tune, but because we’re impressed the band could even play it (albeit with the odd flubbed trumpet squawk). Check YouTube if you want to see some serious train wreck action of the band attempting this one when it was originally released…