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Posts Tagged ‘Daft Punk’

Ignored 147: Modern Rock 4.0

In Graphic on July 4, 2017 at 12:17 am

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Ignored 92: Recounting Pitchfork

In Graphic on June 15, 2016 at 2:56 am

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Ignored 70: Chicago (the band)

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2015 at 3:30 am

Me and my pal Adam take a deep dive into Chicago (the band) but not Chicago (the city). We also take a run at Sha Na Na, the Woodstock 1994 PPV broadcast, David Foster, Loose Joints and more.

Adam: “Feeling Stronger Everyday” by Chicago is an awesome song and a current “ear worm”!

Cam: Such a stark transition for that band. The gangly jazz rock to total Top 40 CHFI power ballads sung by a wuss who I bet was actually pretty tough.

A: Listening to Chicago’s Greatest Hits, I am again reflecting on just how different this music is from what I first learned to be Chicago. I wonder what the change was due to? Clearly, there’s a producer’s hand in the way that 1980s music sounds: “Hard Habit to Break”, “Hard to Say I’m Sorry|, etc.” It’s a cleaner, sanitized 1980s sound, I guess: synths and piano, big drums. Cetera’s voice sounds like it’s gone through a mixing panel in some way. The early stuff sounds like people singing into imperfect microphones. This is like Toto’s “Africa”. Going to look up the answers to my questions…

[pause]

A: Least surprising answer ever: David Foster was the producer to relegate the horn section and crank out the power ballads.Oh course it is now that I listen to it.

A: So let’s say you’re in Chicago, and it seems like your time has past. You’ve been dropped by Columbia and then, this new Canadian producer comes along. You put out this song, your biggest seller of all-time, vastly outselling anything to that point with a sound so different from the band’s sound. This power ballad tripe is the thing you’ll be known for forever, leaving little kids perplexed by who the hell the Chicago guys on the Greatest Hits album were. with that in mind, this song rocks…

C: Chicago had a totally fucked career arch. Admittedly, I don’t know a ton about the band but a great example of a 1960s/early 1970s outfit being totally modified to appeal to the two most lucrative demos of the 1980s: (1) aging baby boomers. (2) little kids. In other words, you and I plus our parents. Their 1980s songs aren’t necessarily bad but are really a weird microcosms of sounds made to not alienate anybody: the fake atmospherics of 10cc, the big ringing choruses of a Def Leppard or Twisted Sister, the inoffensive vocals of a Christopher Cross. All half baked with platitudes as not to spook any listeners since, y’know,, “Saturday in the Park” was a bit too edgy in a ’72 callback. Who the (eff) knows just WHAT the members of Chicago were doing in the park when it felt like it was the goddam 4th of July?!?

C: Is it fair to suggest Lighthouse were the Chicago of Canada???

C: Another theory: If Peter Cetera sung “November Rain” instead of Axl, could that have been an early 1990s Chicago track rather than a Guns N’ Roses track? Think about it. Stylistically and production-wise, “November Rain” and “You’re the Inspiration” aren’t that different.

C: Know the track “Stay the Night”?

C: This sounds like 1980s Chicago trying hard to sound like early 1970s Chicago but they’ve just been totally castrated by the era. A very hollow, half-baked song.
“Street Player”, on the other hand, is awesome! A total “makes sense” disco crossover. This totally works and doesn’t sound forced at all. This isn’t the Stones’ “Miss You” at all. Chicago meant it and they did it. Simple.

C: Personally, I think there’s a ton of disco that is wildly underrated artistically speaking. I’m largely just blowing smoke since I don’t know a ton about the era but a song like Loose Joints’ “Is It All Over My Face?” is just great. I think the Nile Rodgers/Daft Punk tune from a couple of years ago made people revisit a lot of these old dance floor hits, which is cool. It’s glue for a lot of semi-weird stuff that hit the Top 40 and/or got notice pre- and post-. Yes, Chicago included but also Talking Heads, some Blondie, a very specific Stones period, Bowie (at times), New Order (if you think about it), early techno, beat-heavy NYC rap from 1982, 1983, 1984, Public Image Ltd, music from video games, etc. For sphere of influence, overall, I’d like to hear people talk less about Kraftwerk and more about disco.

C: This is another favourite of mine in the same “convo”: “Love is the Message”. This was a pretty massive hit but still a bit of a WTF for the Top 40. Just an absolutely fantastic tune and so expressive for an instrumental. The awesome horn-filled chorus. Speaks volumes with zero words.

A: That [“Stay the Night”] song and video are irredeemable.  Awful.

A: I had no idea “Street Player” was that song!  The bomb!  Amazing.  Disco Chicago!

A: I like disco. At least some of it.  It’s funk sped up, mixed with classical arrangements. “Get Lucky” was a perfect song. I love that tune! Last year, we welcomed a new guy on-site at work by playing “Get Lucky” as many times as we could before he said something. We got to 12 plays in a row before he said something.

A: Have I told you how much I like the War on Drugs album?

C: Yeah, I know we’ve talked about it a bit. There’s some mid-period Dire Straits and Petty in there, right?

A: I signed up for Apple Must over the holiday.  Actually listening to the album, not just under the pressure. Yes. Love Over Gold-era straits! I’ve figured out that I’m a bit of a hypocrite or at least inconsistent about derivative music. The Sheepdogs?  Rip-off artists.  But when it’s done in the same spirit of the music, it’s more palatable. The Black Crowes are amongst my favorites and are so Zeppelin. On … Money Maker, it’s unmistakable. And yet, it bothers me when it’s lazy.

C: That’s a great topic!! What do you think of Roxy Music? I love their weird 1972-1975 intro (but not in a snobby “Oh, they were more interested in the Brian Eno days” type fashion). I quite like their easy listening “More than This”/”Avalon” era stuff too. Bryan Ferry is the coolest.

A: I loved “More Than This and “Avalon”. “Take a Chance with Me”, too. Ferry did a great Dylan cover album.  There’s a GREAT “Positively 4th Street” on there.

A: Have I also told you how much I hate the term dad Rock?  Fuck that. How dismissive is that. We called it classic rock. We were reverential. They’re dismissive.

C: Ever seen [Roxy Music’s] cover of “Like a Hurricane”? Strangely effective. Repurposed with hand drums, synth, sax and back-up singers.

A: OK, getting back to Chicago. According to the radio ads, Chicago has sold more than 100 million album. And I was talking to my mom (who loves Chicago and introduced us to it as kids) about the change in Chicago’s sound. She says “you know what, I’ve never noticed the difference before.”  What???

C: Oh mom!

A: She also prefers bubble gum Beatles to serious artist Beatles. She was there at the time. Didn’t like their turn as much as we love it now.

C: Did you see some dude from Sha Na Na died recently? That was a weird band. Kind of the Village People crossed with The Stooges? Very strange they were one of the last bands to play at Woodstock. They represent something I’m very interested in in music: the point when revivalists emerge, people start celebrating the past. Sha Na Na: playing Woodstock and playing 1950s “classics”, sorta tongue in cheek but not really. We weren’t alive to verify but can only imagine they were a total WTF for the long hairs at the time. Stoned hippies, I assume, didn’t want to hear what was happening “down at the Hop”.

A: Bowser? And when they played “At the Hop” at Woodstock, they were dressed as 50s greasers and everything!

C: It’s like they were trying to kill the 1960s by bringing back the 1950s. I feel like I need to watch Woodstock again. Saw it as a little kid (didn’t make sense), maybe again in early 20s (liked some of it but just seemed old) and maybe 7-8 years ago when I was exclusively listening to Kinks, Zombies, Van Morrison, Animals, surf, Pet Sounds, etc. Seems like w/o that movie, the entire trajectory of 1960s music would’ve been remembered differently. Gimme Shelter put the dark spin on things but Woodstock had just about everything. The freaky stuff, mud, drugs, violence (the Who pushing Abbie Hoffman around, etc). It will never stop being mythologized. In a class w/ Kurt Cobain, 2pac and Biggie, the “assassination” of John Lennon.. shit that transcends music in the culture.

C: Curious… do you remember the PPV airing of Woodstock 1994? At 16, that seemed really important culturally. A moment. In retrospect, it wasn’t really. Later, got the double cassette from the BMG Record Club.

C: Aside: I listened to the Marc Maron podcast with Richard Thompson recently. RT went silent when Maron asked about Knopfler. I get It’s been suggested a lot over the years that Thompson copped Mark’s style. Even though RT greatly pre-dated him. Quite strange. A good listen if you can carve out the time. Not super familiar with Thompson but seems like somebody I’d dig if I gave it a chance.

A: I was at camp for Woodstock 1994 and I remember seeing stuff about it in the paper. Love Woodstock. Got the four disc box set when it was released. Price Club CDs. Best deals around for good stuff.

Ignored 52: Too festive

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2015 at 12:57 am

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Ignored 38: Same songs, new price

In Uncategorized on July 17, 2014 at 4:15 pm

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UK shoegaze outfit Slowdive play Toronto this fall. They last played our city 20 years ago and tickets this time around have increased in price by 168 per cent ($11 in 1994, $29.50 in 2014).

That’s perfectly fine and expected. Because in pure economic terms, nostalgia comes at a high price.

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Whether your vice is music, sports memorabilia, out-of-print literature or visiting Europe (or whatever “the old country” means to you), people will pay a significant premium to purchase something NOW that makes them feel a tinge of something from THEN.

Still, some jerks music fans like to get all uppity when a band like Slowdive reunites and their ticket prices skyrocket. The thing is, when you think of it in terms of simple supply and demand, why wouldn’t these prices spike?!? In 1994, the audience for Slowdive was mop-haired guys and girls who didn’t talk much plus assorted wannabe Anglophiles. In 2014, the audience is two additional decades worth of that type of music fan…. plus the entire original audience itself (except for those who died or moved to Courtice in the years since).

Demand goes up. Supply stays, more or less, the same. Do the math!

For more information and to learn more theories, go here. It’s a great place.

Getting back to Slowdive, a lot of notable bands have reunited in the last decade. However, even when compared to many of their contemporaries, returning after a 20 year absence is pretty rare. It begs the question: does staying away longer help pad your bottom line in terms of ticket prices?

(pause)

To help answer this question, I took a cross section of 18 of these notable bands who have returned to Toronto in the last decade after some sort of hiatus. I compared ticket prices for the “farewell” and “hello again” gigs and in an attempt to keep this apples-to-apples, I only included headline shows. This latter piece gets kinda dicey when we speak in terms of demand (i.e. the Constantines’ headline “reunion” show in Toronto this fall will technically be the third time they’ve played in the city since reuniting) but more on that later…

Also, none of the prices reflect services charges, venue fees or anything of that nature. Because people tend to hate taking about services charges, venue fees or anything of that nature.

Here is a list of the 18 bands in question, sorted by the year they returned to Toronto and also showing their last Toronto show before they disappeared for a while:

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Now, the first graph below shows who had the longest gap between Toronto headline shows. The second graph shows who had the largest spike in ticket prices, expressed in terms of price percentage increase.

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If there was a decent correlation between length of absence and increase in ticket price, these graphs should look somewhat similar shape-wise.

They don’t. At all.

Therefore, based on this (admittedly small) sample size, there is no real correlation between how long you’ve been away and how much you can jack up your prices.

Since the length of the hiatus, in and of itself, isn’t significant in boosting ticket prices across the board, here are a few less scientific factors that are:

Taste: I mean, this is 90 per cent of the equation with any art, right? A few of these bands (especially My Bloody Valentine, the Pixies and Neutral Milk Hotel) became almost mythical during the 2000s due to the proliferations of blogs and YouTube and MP3s. Thus, when they started popping up on the touring circuit again, their fan bases has swollen to kind of insane proportions. Well, maybe not INSANE since MBV was originally booked to play the Ricoh Coliseum in 2008 (which would’ve been “whack”) before being downsized to the Kool Haus. But still. NOTE: the Ricoh Coliseum website is still erroneously listing the concert. They so crazy!

Venue: When Jesse Keeler posted this note on a Death From Above 1979 forum back in 2006 in order to napalm his band, it meant that the duo’s last headline show in Toronto was a series of insanely loud gigs at the cozy Horseshoe Tavern the summer prior. Based on their popularity at the time, it easily could’ve been a room 5x as big. But in the end, it was happenstance. Either way, $15 for a DFA1979 gig in 2005 was a “bargoon“.

Non-Headline Gigs: The Constantines played their first 2014 reunion show in nearby Guelph, rocked at Broken Social Scene’s Field Trip festival shortly thereafter and will be opening for the Arcade Fire at the Molson Amphitheatre around Labour Day. Their first “proper” Toronto headline show isn’t until October but given their “around-ness” prior, did THAT affect ticket price for their Danforth Music Hall gig? Who cares… it’s just good to have ’em back!

Opening Acts: I’ve always had a soft spot for the macho riffing and self-aware posturing of Urge Overkill. However, their 1995 “bye bye” gig at The Phoenix also featured the Toronto debut (I think) of the equally-awesome Guided by Voices and the pre-Sweet Homewrecker hijinks of Thrush Hermit. A stacked triple bill and considering GBV were getting a ton of buzz at that time, I bet much of the audience were paying to see Robert Pollard and friends stumble around. Unfortunately, Bob got beat up.

Willingness to Tour… Ever: Most people just assumed that Jeff Mangum would never tour Neutral Milk Hotel so the fact that their ticket prices dominate the second graph is a bit of an outlier. Even by 1998 standards, $7 for any show is massively low. Also worth noting: fact Mangum did a pair of solo acoustic sets in Toronto in 2011, which may have eased demand a touch.

A few other comments:

– Everybody kinda rags on the Pixies for their never-ending reunion tour and the fact that it took them a decade to release anything new (and that was only after they gave Kim Deal the boot). However, considering how unlikely that reunion was (see “the fax story”) you think they could’ve charged more than $35 for their first Toronto show back in 2004. In many ways, they ushered in the initial wave of reunions fuelled by 1990s nostalgia (and cash… lots of it). If they had decided to suck it in 2008 instead of the hinterlands of 2004, I betcha tickets would’ve easily run $60 or more. Even at the brutal Arrow Hall, which mercifully is no longer with us as a concert venue.

– The Jesus and Mary Chain were a good band. Not amazing but solid enough. But seriously, $60+ for their 2012 show? Unlikely My Bloody Valentine, Neutral Milk Hotel or Daft Punk, the Jesus and Mary Chain had played Toronto plenty in the past so it’s not like their originally fan base didn’t have ample opportunity to see ’em in the first time around. Heck, they brought along Curve, Spiritualized and (uh) Pure to play the (friggin’) SkyDome in 1992, which is was kind of a WTF at the time and is now a massive WTF in hindsight. That concert was $12.45 BTW. Good deal!!

– Speculative: if Morrissey decides to drop the seal hunt thing and play in Canada again, would tickets START at more than $100 a piece? I think so.

– My picks for the next wave of bands that we MIGHT see playing shows again within the next five years: Oasis, the Deadly Snakes (this show notwithstanding), Galaxie 500, Gene (would we care?!?), the Kinks (would they care?!?), Eric’s Trip (again), Siouxsie and the Banshees (again), Catherine Wheel (are they even broken up?!?), Local Rabbits, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Supergrass, the White Stripes