Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Teenage Wasteland

My buddy JMW over at ASWOBA posted a spirited clip of Pearl Jam rocking out on The Who's "Baba O'Riley." Which is fine. But why settle for sloppy seconds when you can have the genuine article?

Note Townshend's general goofiness throughout the song, as well as John Entwhistle's bass bad-assness. And Roger's hair. This is also, by the way, from the last show that Keith Moon played before his death.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Do People Really Still Read Books?

I guess they do. For proof, check out this great new site put together by my friend JMW and his New York-intellectual-type associates. It is called The Second Pass, and is dedicated to all things books. Some thoughtful analysis and critiques of books both new and old.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I Knew My Music Trivia Knowledge Would Come in Handy...

Last night my wife and I had a nice dinner at Fleming's Steakhouse. In her infinite wisdom, my wife had made the reservations because she saw that they were having their Vintage Rock & Roll Wine Dinner. It was a set menu paired with various wines, and the evening had a rock and roll theme. So just how rock and roll was it? Along with the appetizers and cocktails, each table had a generous pile of cocaine to enjoy. And then the strippers came out for their show...OK, just kidding, it wasn't that rock and roll. Basically, they sat us in their big party room and served us dishes such as Groovy Goat Cheese & Oven Dried Tomato Crostini, Killer Fillet Mignon, Smokin' Brownie Sundae, etc. The best tasting of the night was Rockin' Shrimp & Blue Cheese. Delicious. They had some speakers set up and played classic rock as we ate and the wine dude explained each course and discussed the wine.

The wines were a Mick Fleetwood Riesling and Doobie Red. So named because Mick Fleetwood (wildman drummer for Fleetwood Mac) also owns a respected wine vineyard in California and sells wines. The longtime manager of The Doobie Brothers, Bruce Cohn, also owns a vineyard and sells wines. Hence the Doobie Red.

ABOVE: Drummer Mick Fleetwood displays some vino from his Mick Fleetwood Private Cellar line of wines

The cool thing about last night, though, was that in between courses, the wine dude asked rock trivia questions to the patrons, and the winner of each question got a nice prize. Heh heh heh. My wife knew what she was doing. Like Michael Vick at a dogfight, she gave me a knowing nod and just set me loose. Let's just say that we probably paid for our expensive dinner in my winnings. There were 50-60 people in the room, and I was not very popular by the end of the night. In fact, some patrons asked that I not be called on any more to give others a chance. Among my winnings were a bottle of Mick Fleetwood Riesling (Question: which was the first band to become famous for destroying their instruments? Answer: The Who.) I also got an advance copy of The Mick Fleetwood Blues Band's upcoming release Blue Again, autographed by Mick himself (Question: what is Elton John's real name? Answer: Reginald Dwight.) I am convinced that I was robbed of some others, since they purposely started to call on other people even though my hand was up first.

There was only one that I missed. Question: who was the only rock star whom John Lennon wrote a fan letter to? I had no idea, but got my hand up first and they called on me again to the collective groans of the room. I figured Elvis was the obvious guess. Turns out, the answer was Buddy Holly. (Some chick from Lubbock got it.)

See how knowing lots of pointless trivia can pay off?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dez Reviews: U2, No Line on the Horizon, 2009

OK, let's get this out of the way. U2's latest is not War, The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby. But second tier U2? Absolutely. It can stand confidently alongside The Unforgettable Fire, Boy or Zooropa. It is also one that gets better with repeated listens.

The lead off single, "Get On Your Boots," is easily one of the worst songs in U2's repertoire. Fortunately, it stands out on this album like a sore thumb and does not represent its sound or mood at all. ("Stand-Up Comedy" is the other stinker here). Why on earth didn't they pick "Breathe" as the lead single? "Breathe" rocks as hard as anything they've released and is catchy as hell. Bono delivers machine gun fast lyrics that remind one of a great Bob Dylan diatribe (more in vocal delivery than lyrical greatness, but still, very cool.) The glorious "Magnificent" would have also been a fine single.

NLOTH is their most sonically interesting and experimental record since the Achtung Baby / Zooropa days, and it is not suprising that Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois produce most of the songs and are so involved that U2 has become essentially a six-man band at this point. The great, morphing "Fez-Being Born" is as experimental as U2 has been on their mainstream projects. Ignoring the crappy middle of "Get On Your Boots" and "Stand-Up Comedy," this is a very moody record, touching on emotions and sounds that they've largely avoided since the early 90's. Not that it sounds too much like it overtly, but I really find that this new record is most akin to the wonderful Unforgettable Fire in spirit.

The only weakness that is evident is in Bono's lyrics. But to be honest, U2's never been about Bono's lyrics to me anyway. I've never viewed him as a particularly strong lyricist. Some of these lyrics sound quite tossed off, though, as if he could hardly be bothered with taking a break from negotiating peace at the United Nations to drop by the studio to write. Too bad, because the sonic care that Edge, Mullen and Clayton put in is top-notch U2. Bono's silly lyrics almost ruin what is one of their catchiest songs and melodies in "I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight." The same complaint can't be made about his singing, though. While he can't reach those powerful high notes anymore, Bono's voice explores many colors, nuances and characters here. His best vocal outing in 15 years.

Funny enough, to these ears, they save the best for last. "White As Snow" is the prettiest song they've released since "Stay." It is also lyrically very interesting, but tellingly while the rest of the album's lyrics are credited to Bono, on "White As Snow" the lyrics are credited to 'U2, Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois.' I've already talked about the rocking "Breathe," and they close things with the brooding "Cedars of Lebanon," the most Unforgettable Fire-type song on the album.

My buddy JMW and I had a discussion last night about U2 and the state of rock and roll in general. U2 used to be more than a band, they were almost religion to many fans in their heyday. Post-Achtung Baby, they've come down to earth, album by album. Their previous How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was bad. But No Line on the Horizon, while not returning them to the peaks of yesteryear, at least lets them return to the mountain and makes them relevant as artists again. It is their most interesting and best record since the early 1990's.

**** out of *****