Category Archives: Music
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Happy 2012, y’all.
Yes, I realize it’s a few days after the fact, but knowing the readers of That’s Funky Awesome like I do I understand it’s never too late to wish someone a Happy New Year, especially when the people in question are still nursing hangovers from the week before.
I don’t know about you, but the start of the New Year had me making a handful of resolutions as per usual, all of which should be tossed by the wayside before the start of February. Except, of course, my resolution to meet more people from Australia. That one is off to a flying start, and I’m very happy to tell you why.
Starting this January 8th you’ll be able to hear yours truly make a complete ass of himself on a slightly different media platform, that of the Funny Aftertaste podcast. For those of you unfamiliar with podcasts, they’re just like a blog, except you don’t have to worry about spelling as much. I’ll be joining the Funny Aftertaste team, Brock Murley (@thebrockmurley on Twitter), and Brent Riley (@brile27 on Twitter) for a weekly 30 minute (or so) discussion on all things pop culture and news worthy-to us, anyways. We might even throw in a little bonus music if you’re lucky. One of the cool things about the Funny Aftertaste podcast is the fact that it will involve hosts who are recording the show on the opposite end of the planet from one another; me in my little nook in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, and Brock and Brent over in Melbourne, Australia. And not to be a complete suck up here, but since it was made public last week that I would be hitching my caboose onto the Funny Aftertaste train the outpouring of support from the ‘Tasters’ (the army of podcast fans who rally their troops on Twitter) has been fantastic. It’s been an absolute pleasure meeting and Tweeting so many new people because of this opportunity, quite a few of whom call Australia home.
So, in honour of my Australian comrades, today’s post will feature a few bands from Down Under that I love. Before we get to that, though, here’s a couple links where you’ll be able to listen to and download the Funny Aftertaste podcast. There are already 27 episodes available, so knock yourself out!
On iTunes, go here.
Or go to the Funny Aftertaste website.
You can also follow @FunnyAftertaste on Twitter for more ramblings, updates, and interactions of the social variety.
UPDATE: The latest Funny Aftertaste podcast has hit the airwaves. Go here to have a listen.
Now, some of the bands and artists from Australia that I have in my personal music collection. First off, INXS-before the band went off the rails trying to find a singer to replace someone who is, as time has proven, pretty much impossible to replace. Read more about that here. Here’s Bitter Tears, live.
Next up, Hunters & Collectors. I always thought this band’s mix of pop and punk with a horn section thrown in for good measure deserved a bigger audience. Here’s The Slab, live.
Now for a band that I saw live in Toronto a couple of years back (minus Paul Hester, of course), Crowded House. Here’s a great live clip of the band doing three acoustic songs, including one from the previously mentioned Hunters & Collectors.
And finally, another band I saw in Toronto, just this past summer. Although he was born in the States, John Butler is an adopted son of Australia (where he moved to as a child), and now lives there with his wife and family.
Sssshhhhhh….can you hear that? It’s the sound of a million Rush fanatics furiously pounding out seething emails to the Board of Whoevers at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for once again failing to place their Canadian idols amongst the music industry’s elite artists in the Hall’s home in Cleveland, Ohio. Along with the tears of Geddy-Heads the world over comes a new batch of inductees to dissect and debate, which is the purpose of todays post. Sorry Rush lovers-maybe next year?
Today’s post will feature the artists and bands inducted into this year’s ‘Performer’ class. Of course, all opinions on said artists and bands are mine, which means you can expect a little bit of bias and probably a touch of ignorance, which is also fitting since it’s those same faults that are often lobbed at the Hall of Fame over its induction process. You see, the Hall of Fame inductees are decided on by 500 Hall appointed voters-industry types, critics, and historians. The general consensus is these voters (who, for the most part, have their identities hidden from the general public) are casting their votes based on personal musical preference, rather than the cold hard facts (such as album sales, concert revenues, and how often an act is mentioned in thank you speeches at the Grammys). It’s for this reason alone that bands like Rush still haven’t found their way to the Hall, since many of the same critics and music writers who bash Rush and all their Lord of the Rings influenced prog-rockness are also casting the votes for the Hall. Whoops.
G N’ Fuckin’ R, baby. I’m assuming that the Hall’s voting in of the band was meant for the classic Guns line-up (the one responsible for the albums Appetite for Destruction (1987), G N’ R Lies (1988), and Use Your Illusion I & II (1991): Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler. Guns N’ Roses brought hard rock back to the mainstream, and along with it endless tales of drugs, booze, and overall debauchery that had been missing from the world of popular music for a while. By the time 1993’s The Spaghetti Incident finally surfaced, Guns N’ Roses as a band were pretty much finished, with all but singer Axl Rose either quitting or being fired (depending on who’s telling the story). Over the years Axl has been working with a variety of different musicians under the Guns N’ Roses name, and even managed to release a new album of material three years ago (Chinese Democracy, anyone?). The big question is: which G N’ R line-up will be at the Induction ceremony next April? Considering the public battle that has gone on between guitarist Slash and Rose over the years, chances are slim it will be the original. Does the Hall of Fame allow cover bands to perform at these things?
Do They Deserve To Be Inducted?
As much as G N’R have kinda bugged me over the years, I have to admit they should be in the Hall. They’ve sold a massive amount of albums (somewhere in the 100 million plus range), and at the height of their popularity were the biggest band in the world. Axl Rose may be an egomaniacal douche, but he and the rest of his LA based scallywags definitely made a lasting impression on the world of music, even if they were responsible for a generation of kids thinking it was cool to rock bandanas with their formal wear.
Paradise City, from 1988
The Chili Peppers did okay for a band of white kids who managed to mash together a tasty blend of pop and funk without ever having too much of the dreaded cheese factor diluting the mix. Again, I suspect that the Hall had a certain Pepper’s line-up in mind when it came to their inclusion in this year’s inductees: Anthony Keidis, Flea, Chad Smith, and John Frusciante-even though the Peppers have had their fair share of personnel changes over the years. Although not an original Pepper, Smith has been helming the drum throne for some time now. The Chili Peppers have had a barrage of guitarists from day one, although it’s been Frusciante whose been the go-to guy (and what many consider the heart and soul of the band) on some of their biggest successes, such as 1991’s Blood Sugar Sex Magik and 1999’s Californication. I suspect that you’ll see a return to the Stadium Arcadium touring line-up when the Chili Peppers are inducted in April, with current guitarist Josh Klinghoffer sharing the stage with Frusciante, Keidis and Flea. The big question is whether one-time guitarist Dave Navarro will crash the party. I hope to god the answer is no.
Do They Deserve To Be Inducted?
Yes. The Chili Peppers may have made a career out of having a singer who couldn’t sing, but like most great bands they somehow managed to turn potential weaknesses into strengths. Add into that a ground breaking bassist in Flea, and you have a band that wore their musical influences on their sleeves with pride (when they bothered wearing shirts). Along the way they’ve collected seven Grammys and sold 70 million albums.
Can’t Stop, from 2003
Donovan Leitch is probably best known for songs like Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow (both released in 1966) and his role in the rise of the psychedelic counter-culture that swept across England in the late 1960s. Donovan started off his career as an English Bob Dylan, acoustic guitar in hand and harmonica always at the ready. Although his contemporaries (the biggest of which was the Beatles) generally went on to greater fame and fortune, Donovan is often credited as being ‘the first’, heavily influencing a generation of artists that went on to form the creative mecca that became the Summer of Love in 1969. Since the late sixties Donovan has made sporadic public appearances, and rarely finds himself in the studio. He’ll be at the Induction ceremony, though.
Does He Deserve To Be Inducted?
Personally, I could take or leave Donovan. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a child of the sixties, or maybe because Sunshine Superman annoys the hell out of me, but Donovan has always just been a foot note for me. He’s also an artist who I feel their lesser known catalog is far superior to the songs they’re more widely known for, but I’m on the fence as to whether that warrants inclusion in the Hall.
Colors, from 1966
Nyro is a singer/songwriter whose work, of all the inductees this year, I am least familiar with. In fact, I can honestly say her songs and the artists who have covered them are so far outside my comfort zone I can’t really say either way whether she deserves to be in the Hall. Here’s what I can tell you: Three Dog Night, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Peter, Paul and Mary have all had hits with Nyro-penned songs. Oh, and some gal named Babs Streisand. Nyro passed away in 1997 from cancer.
Does She Deserve To Be Inducted?
As I said above, Nyro’s style is not really my bag. I’ve listened to her songs, both as she does them and by other artists, and I’m still not quite sold on them-yet. It could also be a case of me automatically dismissing anyone whose had anything to do with Streisand.
He’s a Runner, from 1970
The Small Faces were born in the mid-sixties and quickly turned their mod influenced music and fashion into chart topping success, rivalling other British acts of the time like The Who and the Rolling Stones. After original singer Steve Marriott left the band in 1969, the Faces were (re)born when Rod Stewart signed on to fill the vocal duties, and future Rolling Stones sideman Ron Wood stepped in on guitar. The band lasted another five years, until Stewart discovered that skin tight pants and disco were where the chicks could be found. As mentioned earlier, Wood went on to join the Stones, and drummer Kenney Jones filled the drum seat in The Who for two albums after the passing of Keith Moon in 1978. Rod Stewart, of course, made a name for himself by having totally crazy hair, playing soccer, and shagging anything with a vagina and a pulse.
Do They Deserve To Be Inducted?
No. The Small Faces were a great band, and even with Stewart in the fold as the Faces the group continued to be more than competent, but as far as be included in the Hall I’d have to say ‘pass’.
All or Nothing, from 1966
If you would have told me way back when that the band responsible for (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)! would one day be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I would have kicked you right in the shins. Yet here we are, ten albums and literally dozens of awards later, honouring the Beastie Boys. I have to give the three lads from Brooklyn credit-they’ve done pretty good for themselves. Michael Diamond aka Mike D, Adam Horovitz aka Ad-Rock and Adam Yauch aka MCA managed to fuse punk rock ethos with the whole urban street thang, and along the way help launch the careers of Rick Rubin and Doctor Dre, both of whom had stints behind the turntables with the group in the mid-80s.
Do They Deserve To Be Inducted?
Of all the artists in this year’s Hall of Fame class, I’d say the Beastie Boys are most worthy of inclusion. Not just because they wrote (and continue to write) cool songs, but because they are a band that broke new ground, tore down fences, and helped to build a new genre of music around their sound. Rap was happening, rock was happening, but no one was really fusing the two worlds like the Beastie Boys did back in the 80s. Once Paul’s Boutique hit in 1989, the Beastie Boys cemented their role as pack leaders, and always seemed to be a foot ahead of the competition.
Root Down, from 2004
For a full list of inductees, visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website.
For younger readers of That’s Funky Awesome this may not mean much. You have probably heard his songs (both his solo material and with his early career musical partner in crime, Art Garfunkel), even though you may not know it’s him singing them. Some of you might actually be saying, “Paul Simon is only 70?” For those of us that fall into the ‘boomer’ age category, this milestone may carry a little more weight.
Then again, it might not. Not to sit on the fence here, but I understand if you’re one of the many people out there who appreciate Paul Simon but really only listen to him if he happens to come on the radio or if one of his tunes ends up in a Genius playlist on your laptop. Coming to popular music when he did as a folkie with a bad moustache, Simon has always been a bit of an outsider. He was never really considered cool by the hipsters, either during his years with Garfunkel or when he went solo in 1970. He was, as some might say, a bit of a tight ass scholarly type with a double major in perfectionism, two traits which usually don’t go hand in hand with the oft-romaticized life of a pop star (from any generation). Even when Simon started to loosen up a bit towards the end of the ’70s and dressed up as a giant turkey on Saturday Night Live, you still got the feeling he always knew exactly what he was doing and how things were going to end.
I’ve always watched Simon fairly closely, even when he was venturing off into areas of musical self-discovery that didn’t always interest me personally. I remember as a kid being fascinated with the backstory involved in the recording of The Sound of Silence (more on that here), and by the time Graceland dropped in 1986 (when I was 13) I was a huge fan. In fact, Graceland still ranks as one of my favourite albums of all time. My enthusiasm followed Simon when he released Rhythm of the Saints in 1990, and maybe it was the distance between albums or the songs themselves, but by the time he got around to 1997’s The Capeman I had almost forgotten about Paul Simon. Turns out he’s a pretty easy guy to get re-acquainted with.
Here’s a couple of my personal favourites from the Simon songbook.
I Am a Rock
The Boy in the Bubble
The Obvious Child
Late In the Evening
Speak & Spell, the debut album from electronic music pioneers Depeche Mode was released thirty years ago today, marking the start of what has turned out to be a surprisingly long and fruitful musical legacy.
I say surprisingly because at the time of Speak & Spell‘s release, Depeche Mode were one of dozens of bands pouring out of the U.K. with synthesizers in hand attempting to conquer the world with catchy, radio and club friendly singles. The fact that the band not only made it out of the Regan years with a handful of hit songs but found even greater success in the era of grunge thanks to albums like 1990’s Violator and 1993’s Songs of Faith and Devotion is a testament to their rabidly loyal following, both in America and England.
For the casual music listener, Speak & Spell as an album is simply a side note in the history of one track in particular, the now synth-pop classic Just Can’t Get Enough. Written by the soon-to-be-departing Martin Gore, the song charted respectably when it was released as the third single from Speak & Spell, but to this day is an unofficial anthem of the 80s electronic music boon. For me, Just Can’t Get Enough was always ‘there’ in my own little musical world at the time, but my most vivd sonic memories come from the song Tora! Tora! Tora!, which my oldest brother had a fondness for including on mix tapes he would make for me. Much later on, that same brother and myself would have the opportunity to see Depeche Mode in concert following the release of Songs of Faith and Devotion. Let me tell you this-for a bunch of guys standing behind keyboards, Depeche Mode can whip a big crowd into a frenzy pretty darn quick.
Considering their start as a band that had a track entitled Big Muff on their debut album as well as a fondness for wearing bondage gear and painted on leather pants in promo shots and live appearances, Depeche Mode have done alright for themselves. They’ve cracked the 100 million albums sold plateau, still manage to make albums, and put on a great live show, to boot. They may not have always been the ‘cool’ band throughout their career, but Speak & Spell now ranks as one of those albums whose influence can be heard across generations of music makers.
From Speak & Spell here’s Tora! Tora! Tora! live from a 1982 television appearance with Vince Clarke replacement Alan Wilder on keyboards (what else?).