Once again, long time between installments. All I can say is I have never been busier with family, work and school. But here are a few things that have caught my attention since our last visit -- and you shouldn’t be surprised that music is the constant that keeps me going in these long periods between posts.
Author/musician Ken Sharp has released the first two installments of a planned three-volume history of power pop music. I’ve finished the 520-page Volume 1, which covers the mid-1960s to 1974 and am a third through the beastly 772-page Volume 2, which covers the golden age of power pop, from the mid-1970s through mid-1980s. For afficionados of power pop, this is heaven. Rather than approaching his history with a unified narrative, Sharp instead has pieced together verbatim interviews with members of key bands, from the well-known (Beatles and Big Star) to the lesser-known (Emmitt Rhodes and The Flashcubes). It’s geeky, yes, but fans of this genre will eat it up (as I did with Sharp’s lengthy chapter on the little-documented The Babys).
Sharp is working with Not Lame Records patriarch Bruce Brodeen on this self-published project, and both the first two volumes were limited to pre-orders (said to be around 800 copies for each). Volume 3 has yet to be published, but if you’re interested, you’ll want to get your name on the pre-order list because with such small print runs, your chance of buying used copies, let alone cheap, are slim to none.
2. Jet Electro, “Tall Dark and Lonesome: The Story of Slim Grinder”
I’ve written previously about my love for Jet Electro's gorgeous power pop, and Mr. Electro himself, Craig Daniel, is back with his second release, a concept album with themes that Daniel says “include life, death, love, loss, sin, hope and, of course, murder!”
In telling the story of Slim Grinder, Daniel strays from the pure power pop of the first Jet Electro album and introduces more nuanced stories and topical sounds. In keeping with the wide-ranging themes, Daniel says, “Many songs come to me in dreams. I’ll have a dream and hear an amazing song, then I’ll get up, grab my guitar and record what I can remember, then go back to sleep and finish the song later. The songs ‘Gamble,’ ‘I’m Not Easy,’ ‘Rancho Preso’ and “The One That Got Away’ all came to me in dreams.”
3. U2 Innocence + Experience tour
I saw U2 for the first time May 30 at the Los Angeles Forum and was blown away by the inventive freshness and power of a band nearly four decades old. U2’s live shows are known for their memorable themes, and Innocence + Experience is no exception. Raw power, over-the-top stage and lighting, and great interplay with the audience.
Here’s the set list from the May 30 show and here’s a taste of the 2015 tour, from U2’s stop in San Jose earlier in May.
In preparation for the U2 show, I picked up this U2 primer from the bargain shelves at Barnes & Noble. Author Niall Stokes dives deep into the band’s psyche and spirituality, and turns up some interesting insights into the things that inspire a very complex group. I like but don’t love U2, so much of the book was wasted on me, but I recall two especially offbeat bits worth sharing:
Drummer Larry Mullen has final say on whether a song is good enough to be released!
U2’s lineup has been unchanged since the early days, with one memorable exception: Bassist Adam Clayton was so drunk that he was unable to play a 1993 concert in Australia; bass technician Stuart Morgan took his place. Clayton says he has been sober since.
4. The Replacements live
In another rexample of seeing old codgers before they die, I caught legendary punkers The Replacements perform a scorching 25-song set at the Hollywood Palladium (set list here). This is the third time I’ve seen The ‘Mats live (and second at The Palladium), and they can still bring the power and passion like never before (I still get shivers thinking about singing along to "Never Mind"). Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson are the lone originals left, but drummer Josh Freese should be welcome in any band.
5. Mexrrissey: Mexico Loves Morrissey
I had been aware of Mexico's love affair with Morrissey but didn't really know why until hearing this one-two punch from WNYC's Soundcheck. The first segment dives into the common ground Morrissey shares with Mexican folklore and tradition.
The second segment features the band Mexrrissey performing Morrissey and Smiths songs with Mexican song styles. That may sound like an odd mix but it’s actually a terrific mashup.
6. Rancid - Vocal Medley
In the spirit of re-envisioning a band's catalog comes this reworking of Rancid classics, acapella.
7. Public Service Broadcasting
This duo is mining a niche that’s right up my alley: mashing music and history. PSB digs up archival audio from major news events, and weaves them into memorable electronica.
If you want to dive deeper, here’s a Soundcheck episode in which PSB explain their art.