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the only sound that's left after the ambulances go

Jack White’s at it Again March 14, 2009

Recently (just over a month ago, in fact), my faith in modern rock music was restored by Jack White, the lead singer and guitarist of two fantastic

Modern rock god Jack White, having a weird hair day.
Modern rock god Jack White, having a weird hair day.

 bands, The Raconteurs and The White Stripes.  This all started when I decided to listen to The Raconteurs’ latest album, “Consolers of the Lonely”, so I could write a review for my reviewing and publishing class.  To make a long story short, I really, really liked the album.  So much, in fact, that in the weeks that followed I was compelled to delve (with the help of YouTube) into the back catalogues of both The Raconteurs and White’s other (and more famous) band, The White Stripes.  I’ve been hooked on both bands ever since.  So of course I had to wonder, what could possibly better than Jack White, this awesome musician, being in two awesome bands?  Two days ago, that question was answered.  Jack White is now in three awesome bands.

 

White’s latest project is The Dead Weather, a band that, like The Raconteurs, might be called a “supergroup” — all the members have musical careers existing outside of the band.  The line-up consists of Alison Mosshart from The Kills (who, like The White Stripes, are a male-female indie rock duo, but have a grittier, dirtier sound) on lead vocals, Jack Lawrence (a.k.a “Little Jack”, a.k.a. “LJ”) from The Greenhornes, Blanche, and The Raconteurs on bass, Dean Fertita from Queens of the Stone Age (who’s also been an auxiliary member of The Raconteurs, providing some extra instrumentation onstage and on some of their album tracks) on guitar, and Jack White on drums and vocals.  Yes, that’s right:  Jack White, an artist renowned for his guitar-playing (#17 in “Rolling Stone” magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time” list.  Which is pretty impressive, although I don’t know if I agree with the decision to rank White above George Harrison, but that might be due to my own personal bias), is playing the drums this time around.  Which is yet another reason for me to be excited about this band:  I’m curious to hear White taking on an instrument he doesn’t typically play (although I’ve read that he started playing the drums even before he learned how to play the guitar).  And don’t even get me started on how excited I was to hear that White’s fellow-Raconteur-named-Jack, Little Jack Lawrence, was going to be in this new band.  Lawrence is my other favorite

The Dead Weather:  (from left) Alison Mosshart, Jack White, Jack Lawrence, and Dean Fertita

The Dead Weather: (from left) Alison Mosshart, Jack White, Jack Lawrence, and Dean Fertita

member of The Raconteurs, mostly because he manages to make geekiness look just so darn cool.

 

Unfortunately, we have to wait until June for an album from these guys, but they have just released a single called “Hang You From the Heavens” which at the moment can only be purchased on i-tunes, along with a “B-side” (do people still call it that, now that most singles are released on media other than vinyl, therefore not having a second side, if any side at all?), a cover of Gary Numan’s “Are Friends Electric?”  But if you’re an i-pod-resistant neophobe like me, fear not.  Both of their songs can be heard on their website (http://thedeadweather.com/), which is where I went to listen.  The website also has a really fun black-and-white video that plays on a continuous loop and serves sort of as a “music video” for both songs (or just goes on silently when neither song is playing).

“Hang You From the Heavens” starts with a loud, pulsing drumbeat that demands the listener’s attention, soon joined by a guitar so loud, so low, so distorted that it makes The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” sound like a bubblegum song.  Mosshart’s voice comes in sounding defiant, agressive, uncompromising, not willing to take anyone’s crap.  I’ve listened to the song now a couple of times, and I’m still not sure whether it’s her voice by itself or if she and White are singing in a very close harmony, because if I didn’t know that Mosshart sang the lead vocals, I would have assumed it was White singing.  The vocals on this song sound almost exactly like White’s own singing voice, only maybe a little higher.   So either Mosshart’s voice can sound an awful lot like White’s at times, or their voices are blended together so well that it sounds like one voice.  Either way, it’s a good vocal.  The lyrics convey a frustrating combination of intense love and intense hate, with lines like “I wanna grab you by the hair,/ And hang you up from the heavens.”  The song is altogether loud and agressive, but at a slow and lazy tempo atypical of the average angry hard rock song.  In my opinion, it’s a very promising first single.  As for “Are Friends Electric?”, I can’t really say how faithful it is to the original Gary Numan song, since I’ve never heard the original, but it is a very cool-sounding song with a retro-futuristic vibe to it.

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A Few Words on Bob Dylan March 12, 2009

Filed under: Bob Dylan,lists,Rants and Raves — yourbirdcansing88 @ 4:05 PM
Tags: , , , , ,
The "unwashed phenomenon" himself, in 1966.

The "unwashed phenomenon" himself, in 1966.

I think before I post anything else, I should say something about Bob Dylan.  Bob Dylan’s name will probably come up more frequently in my posts than anyone else’s, and there’s a very good reason for this.  Bob Dylan is, quite simply, the greatest singer/songwriter that popular music has ever known.  Yes, I know his voice is anything but conventionally beautiful.  I know he was never an extraordinary instrumentalist (although his backing bands over the years have consisted of quite a few).  I know his lyrics can be indecipherable, or just plain weird.  And yes, I’m well aware that he did that  Victoria’s Secret commercial.  But none of those things matter to me.  If anything, Dylan’s imperfection and lack of convention are what make him the one-of-a-kind artist that he is.

 

Dylan is an acquired taste for some, mostly because of his voice.  For those who’ve never heard Dylan sing, I can best describe his voice using any combination of the following adjectives:  “raspy”, “gravelly”, “rough”, “nasal”, even “whiny”.  I know many people who think Dylan is a lyrical genius, but prefer to hear other people cover his music because they can’t stand his voice.  For me, his voice was never a problem, because I started listening to him when I was about ten or eleven years old, back before I even knew or cared what a “good voice” was.  Furthermore, I find that Dylan’s voice complements his songs like no other voice could.  Especially in Dylan’s earlier songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”, in which he sang of suffering, his weathered-sounding voice could convince his listeners that he’d been through all that suffering, despite the reality that he was just a kid in his early twenties from a comfortable middle-class background.

 

Now before I get out of control singing the praises of Mr. Dylan, I should probably take the time now to post some recommendations to those who might want to get more acquainted with the man’s work.  Here are some Dylan songs (and a couple of albums) that I think are essential:

  • “Blowin’ in the Wind” (from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”) – a good song to begin with.  Not really one of his stronger songs, in my opinion, but it is his original “signature song”, it’s the song that first got young revolutionaries in America to notice him, it was probably the first song I ever heard by him, and its message is still somewhat relevant today, even though it was written in 1962.
  • “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”) – probably the first song to have that ambiguity that Dylan later became famous for.  This song, rife with ominous imagery and warnings about an impending “hard rain”, was thought to be about nuclear war, but Dylan has always denied this assumption.  It could be about any huge and catastrophic event that’s just beyond the horizon, but just what it could be is unknown.
  • “Talkin’ World War III Blues” (from “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”) – very few artists could pull off a song that’s this hilarious and this tragic all at the same time.  Dylan did a lot of “Talking Blues” songs during the first few years of his career, but this is probably the best.
  • “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (from “The Times They Are A-Changin'”) – perpetually relevant, as long as the world continues to change.
  • “Chimes of Freedom” (from “Another Side of Bob Dylan”) – a powerful song from Dylan’s “protest” period that calls for the freedom of “every hung-up person in the whole wide universe”.
  • “Mr. Tambourine Man” (from “Bringing it All Back Home”) – one of my three all-time favorite songs (tied with two other Dylan songs: “Visions of Johanna” and “Shelter from the Storm”).  The Byrds did a very melodic cover of it which I quite like, but lyrically there’s so much more going on in Dylan’s version.  Many think the song is about drugs (I blame The Byrds for this.  They had to omit every verse except the one about the “magic swirling ship”, didn’t they?), but I think it actually is literally about easing one’s emotional pain through music, and not drugs.  Maybe I’m wrong; maybe I’m naive.  I don’t care.
  • “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (from “Bringing it All Back Home”) – one of Dylan’s contemporaries, folksinger Arlo Guthrie (whose father, Woody Guthrie, had a profound influence on Dylan) called this “the first rap song”.  I’ll let you be the judge.  Rap song or not, I doubt that R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” would have even existed without this song’s influence.
  • “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” (from “Bringing it All Back Home”) – it’s a shame Dylan isn’t more well-known for his plethora of beautiful love songs.  This is one of the best.
  • “Like a Rolling Stone” (from “Highway 61 Revisited”) – one of Dylan’s other “signature songs”, this song is not just one of Bob Dylan’s best, but also one of the greatest rock songs from the 1960s, or possibly ever.  “Rolling Stone” magazine (I wonder where they got their name from?) even called this the #1 rock song ever.  It’s also allegedly the song that made Bruce Springsteen realize he wanted to be a musician.  I don’t know If I’d consider “Like a Rolling Stone” to be THE greatest rock song ever, but it’s a darn great song, and I think every music fan should hear it at least once in his or her life.
  • “Blonde on Blonde” (whole album) – one of Dylan’s finest albums.  It includes “Visions of Johanna”, which I consider to be, quite possibly, the greatest song ever.  This was my favorite Dylan album until I got “Blood on the Tracks”.  By the way, “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” (better known as “Everybody Must Get Stoned”) is not about drugs.  “Stoned” means “ostracized” in this song.  Although I’ve read that everyone in the studio was stoned when the song was recorded, so one could argue that “Everybody must get stoned” is a double-entendre.
  • “I Want You” (from “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits”) – unbearable longing never sounded so good.
  • “Lay Lady Lay” (from “Nashville Skyline”) – A beautiful seduction song, and a good song to start with if you’re not crazy about Dylan’s voice.  He was apparently getting voice lessons or something when “Nashville Skyline” was being recorded, so his voice sounds a lot smoother on this album than on any other (he started singing again in his regular voice by the next album).
  • “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (from the soundtrack to “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid”) – and you thought it was a Guns ‘n’ Roses song, didn’t you?
  • “Blood on the Tracks” (whole album) – truly Dylan’s masterpiece.  Many of the songs are wrought with sorrow, anger, and regret, since Dylan’s marriage was starting to unravel when he recorded this.  Yet, there’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go”, which, in spite of its title, is a relatively upbeat song.  And “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts” tells a story that’s just begging for a movie adaptation.
  • “One More Cup of Coffee” (from “Desire”) – just a cool sounding song.  I recently discovered a pretty awesome cover of this song performed by The White Stripes, which just goes to show you how much Dylan has stood the test of time.
  • “Love Sick” (from “Time Out of Mind”) – Dylan’s a different kind of love sick here:  he’s sick of love.  This song was used in the Victoria’s Secret commercial that marked about the 50th time that Dylan could have conceivably “sold out”.  But who cares?  This song has a hypnotic organ part, that’s good enough for me.
  • “Thunder on the Mountain” (from “Modern Times”) – from Dylan’s latest studio album (at the time this was written.  I hear he’s coming out with a new one soon).  One needs no further evidence than this song to know Dylan’s still got it.  So this song makes a reference to Alica Keys.  Dylan’s “I Shall Be Free” from the early 1960s made reference to Elizabeth Taylor, Brigitte Bardot, Sofia Loren, and Anita Eckberg.
 

Greetings.

Filed under: Uncategorized — yourbirdcansing88 @ 3:11 AM

Hey, everyone!  I just started this pop/rock blog for my reviewing and publishing class.  I’ve never had a blog or anything like it before, so all this is new and overwhelming for me, but I hope to soon master the art of blogging well enough to post some interesting stuff on here.  With this blog, I hope to further develop my music reviewing/commenting voice, and have a whole lot of fun doing it.  I also think this is a great opportunity to share my interest in music with others, and I hope to continue this blog long after I’m finished with my reviewing and publishing class.  My blog will include musings/commentaries on various artists, albums, and songs that I think are noteworthy, and other miscellaneous music-related things.  I can see a great deal of my posts taking the form of “top ten” lists, because I have an inclination towards those sorts of things.  I’m not sure yet what albums I might be reviewing for this blog, if any, because I’m not very up-to-date right now on new and upcoming releases (I hear Bob Dylan’s coming out with an album soon, though.  If this is true, then I’ll almost certainly review that one).  But I’ll start keeping my eyes (and ears) open for new stuff, so we’ll see how that goes.  But now, in the words of the immortal mock-rockumentary director Marti DiBergi (who looks suspiciously like Rob Reiner…hmm…), “enough of my yakkin’.  Let’s boogie!”

 

D. DeGennaro