Posts Tagged ‘Kendrick Lamar’
I talk to my high school pal Adam about Blue Rodeo, Neil Young dying (again), Oasis (a few times), everything and nothing.
Cam: Morbid question: of any active living musician, who will you be the most upset for when they die?
Adam: Funny you ask, as I was commenting to a buddy that Van Morrison feels like the guy to go now that Joe Cocker is gone. That’ll be sad. I love Van and fell in love to Astral Weeks. Paul, without question. Dylan, Simon, Bobby and Phil. Springsteen will outlive us all. It’s hard to imagine the legends of rock passing. It’s interesting for us to have grown up during the baby boomers 40s. We saw their second acts and revered their first. The 1960s, the British Invasion, the Summer of Love and then 1972. All these things were within the same recent memory as August and Everything After (or Nevermind) is to us now. So rock had always been around. George dying devastated me. So did Jerry dying.
C: Astral Weeks is fantastic. Consistently one of my Top 10 faves. Yeah, Van is pretty enigmatic, at least in terms of his public persona. Which he barely has if he’s not touring. Neil Young dying is going to be brutal. That seems like it could be very personal to Canadians in our demo: an artist that we loved, our parents loved, a Canadian, somebody who was equally at home jamming with Booker T and the MGs, the Band or Sonic Youth. A total legend: both “Neil Young: the performer” and “Neil Young: the concept”. It’s crazy Jerry was only 53 when he died. Considering McCartney, Brian Wilson, etc. are now in their 70s.
C: Ya, I wouldn’t mind seeing Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown and I guess Modest Mouse but nothing grabs me. it’s a very contemporary line-up so I kinda give them credit for not copping out and having AC/DC headline, a la Coachella. i think we discussed it before… i find these massive outdoor concerts are more akin to “camping” than “music event”…. the bands seem almost secondary to the experience. Do you like Blue Rodeo?
A: “Lost Together” was our wedding song, and I saw them at the big Simon & Garfunkel l show at the SkyDome back in…94? Also saw them once at the Gardens, I think. 5 Days in June was a tremendous album to hit for us at that age. It was everywhere at camp, and “5 Days in May” had a fantastic video that felt a lot like “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”. That is my favorite Toronto 1990s thing ever, my favorite BNL song, one of the greatest covers of all-time, and a video about youthful love. Holding hands and running away from the camera in black and white still makes me feel 18. “Diamond Mine” is also a great song too. They hit such a creative peak back then that they got to coast on being Blue Rodeo after that. Everything sounds the same, but I’ve got no gripe with them, just not any interest for anything past their greatest hits, which I like a lot. Sometimes, I love it.
C: Ya, from 1988-1993, they were in a rare place: massively popular/stadium worthy but making music that was pretty innovative and seemed very contemporary even though in other ways, it was very old. At that time, comparisons to the Band seemed farfetched but maybe not that far off? Again, it’s crazy that a song like “5 Days in May” was something that little kids listened to and enjoyed and watched the video for on MuchMusic. For anybody who loved them in that 1988-1993, they still seem like superstars even if they’ve been on commercial autopilot for the last 20 years (assumedly… I haven’t really been paying attention although I saw them at the Amphitheatre 2-3 times during that stretch). It seems they could’ve been marketed differently and been a positioned in the Wilco/Son Volt/Whiskeytown ilk or gone ina slightly different direction and been in the Widespread Panic/String Cheese conversation? Instead, they were kind of just a notch below the Tragically Hip commercially.
A: Heard some stuff off their last album that was good. Or was that Cuddy? Have been rewatching The Last Waltz on the topic of the Band. Wondered about best or biggest bands with multiple singers. Ricky, Richard, Levon. How cool it is when the song goes to the guy who sings it best?
C: I guess the Beatles introduced the “multiple singers” model? Hate to say… I automatically think of the Eagles and afro-era Don Henley behind the kit. In more recent times, I think Sloan really nailed this model. Maybe part of the reason they’re now a quarter century in. Another band where I haven’t paid attention to the last 4-5 albums but I have little doubt of their continued quality.
A: I thought about it with the Eagles too as I was reading the Simmons eagles history recap in the Grantland quarterly. Obviously the Beatles. I met the bass player from Sloan, the one I recognize, and asked him about the baseline on “Money City Maniacs” being the same chord trough the entire verse until the chorus. Like “Tomorrow Never Knows”! He was appreciative. We were with our kids at Centreville on the island.
C: Good call. I still get a bit starstruck when I see musicians in public. It’s very humanizing. Some recent sightings: Damian from Fucked Up with his kids at the ROM, Ron Sexsmith walking down College, Stephen from Lowest on the Low on the subway a bunch of times. The thing that I find funny about the Eagles in retrospect: they were essentially devoid of any humour or fun. That was a VERY serious band.
A: Very serious band. I liked the Eagles. At least their greatest hits. Just learned “Hotel California” on the ukulele. So much fun to play and sing/scat the dueling guitar solo.
C: I like the Eagles too. I think the “seriousness” was a 1970s thing. It’s when whoever decided that rock music wasn’t just for kids anymore. It was OK for 45 year-olds to listen to the Eagles, James Taylor et all. These were seriously artists who (apparently) had something to say. I like the Carly Simon song “Anticipation”. Here’s a good question: who are the most tense bands of all-times? Artists where the acrimony on-stage was really obvious. I’d say (at times) the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac and the Pixies all belonged in the top three. I feel like I’ve seen some Van Morrison performance where he seems like he’d rather be anywhere else than on-stage.
A: Carly was great. And the cover of that album? Man. That is a good question. Knee jerk answers. In no particular order: the Beatles in that picture with Yoko there. The Beatles in that scene filming Let It Be when George says (do your best George), “Tell me what you want me to play and I’ll play it”. Oasis. The Eagles. The Wonders, from that Tom Hanks movie.
C: Oasis. Yes, good one! I think the Kinks used to brawl on-stage too. So there’s that…. I could be imagining it but I feel like the last 3-4 years, there’s been a certain demo that is yearning for Oasis and they truly are cementing themselves as one of the most beloved bands of the last 25 years. I think people took them for granted a bit. I was in Scotland last summer and this really hit home when I saw a rowdy bunch of 20-somethings collectively slurring their way through a karaoke version of “Wonderwall”. I don’t think it’s even that great a song but it somehow has infiltrated multiple generations. People LOVE it. Although maybe just in that setting, since it does lend itself well to karaoke (not many lyrics, fairly short, everybody has heard it 10,000 times).
A: I think “Wonderwall” is one of the greatest pop songs of all-time. Certainly of the decade. I had this experience last summer when I was five weeks into working seven days a week and I was burning out. I was walking, exhausted through a Loblaws in the west end. “Wonderwall” comes on. I start singing to myself. It gets to the chorus and after singing, “You gonna be the one that saves me”. I burst into tears and say aloud, “That’s not a good sign”. The point I turn to as a mild breakdown last summer. I love that song. “1979” came out at the same time. Great song, too. The sound on the Morning Glory album is bollocks. What would Liam say? I also love watching Noel sing “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. Perfect song for his voice. At the time, I thought some of their stuff was totally and completely derivative of the Beatles (see “All Around the World”, “… Anger” opening chords, every Beatles reference etc). Noel just gave an interview that Alan Cross linked to. I still do Oasis binges through seven songs. I was way too into the Dead’s Mars Hotel (and DMB) at the time to be into Oasis.
C: “1979” is indeed great and a really strange, unique single. Nothing really like it and certainly very dissimilar to anything in the Pumpkins discography. It’s probably hard to quantify but why do you like “Wonderwall” so much? What is the broad appeal? I think it’s totally fine but a bit boring and the vocals are slightly nasally, even by Oasis standards. I do like “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. Just the huge production values and drama of it. Very out of step with 1995 or whenever that came out. I always admired Oasis’ ambition, even when the quality of songs didn’t really match up. Plus Noel is probably Top 3 best musician interviews ever. I could listen to that guy talk for hours. Zero filter when he’s in the right mood.
A: I like the chords. I like the guitar intro. I kinda like it nasally on that one. I love the way the drums come in after “back beat the word is on the street”. I love the baseline. I love the stings beefing up the baseline in the chorus. love the chorus. Maybe the right time of my life at 18. Probably feels like a Beatles song. A piece of magic. It’s also one of those songs perfect to sing alone to. Words you’ll just know by heart. Oh, also I love “Live Forever”. Learned how to play it on the uke. Great fun.
C: Yup, fucking love that song too! Never acknowledged your BNL “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” comment but seriously, that might be my favourite cover version of all-time. As a 14-year old kid growing up on the Toronto city limits, that video perfectly captured the banality, boredom and humour of suburban Toronto perfectly. Such a tasteful, pitch-perfect performance for a band that was really young and unestablished at the time. I think too many people write them off as a joke band but at their finest, there was a lot to like with BNL. I really like the song “Jane” as well from their “difficult” second album.
A: I remember hearing million dollars in the big A&A on Yonge Street with Marc and us laughing about the real green dress that’s cruel. The era of that tape. Good call on why the video is so pitch perfect. The apartment looks just like my late grandmothers at York Mills and Leslie, but wasn’t. And the power lines reminded me of the ones down by Finch. Which they were just in Scarborough. It definitely captured suburban Toronto. Though their neighborhood was postwar bungalows. I saw Paige in withrow once.
C: His coke bust is still likely in my Top 5 pieces of most shocking pieces of “music news” that I’ve ever heard. I don’t really know anything about those guys personally but that ordeal no doubt blindsided a lot of casual fans. In summary, drugs are horrible. It is telling that while Nirvana and Pearl Jam were blowing up stateside, Canada’s hottest new “modern rock” bands were the Barenaked Ladies and the Crash Test Dummies. The Odds were really solid as well. Supposedly there was a piece on CNN around that time that suggested that Canadian was in the midst of a “silly rock” revolution during that era, throwing names like Corky and the Juice Pigs and (for some reason) the Rheostatics into the mix.I could totally be imagining that last part but I think I read that somewhere.
A: Interesting. And that (Steven Page’s) life blew up and the band broke up. That still doesn’t register for me.
C: I love the song “Try” by Blue Rodeo so much. Such an incredibly self-assured song from a debut album. Not an easy feat to pull off.
A: Oh man. Yes.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum) isn’t much.
I get the gist of what it’s trying to accomplish in creating a singular source (and tourist destination) dedicated to the immensity of popular music. In a (non-obvious) sense, I applaud their efforts in making artistic recognition more athletic recognition-ish.
I love music. I love sports. Let’s squish them together. In Cleveland.
However, on paper, populating a Hall of Fame of musicians makes no sense since artistic appreciation is 100 per cent subjective. Any effort to quantify “everything” is ultimately going to offend in the court of personal preference, not to mention realms such as gender, creed, sexual preference and age.
The physical Hall of Fame opened in 1995 and the concept seemed massively antiquated even at that time. Once Internet became the Internet, YouTube views and Twitter followers and iTunes sales became the new (and more legit) signifiers of “making it” rather than enshrinement and/or the chance to rub elbows with Jann Wenner and friends .
However, maybe that last paragraph doesn’t speak to an apples-to-apples comparison. “Greatest” (in a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum) sense) shouldn’t be a measure of pure volume.
… and to clarify, that’s volume in the $$$/eyeballs sense and not in the “hey, Dinosaur Jr are f**kin’ loud” sense.
If we’re talking pure metrics, WWW-based signifiers would be more akin to:
– Albums sales
– Number of Billboard Top 10 singles
– Concert tickets sold
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum) aspires to be the latter.
It never will be.
In short, does anybody really care who gets elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (& Museum)? With the possible exception of Rush (who’s fan base anecdotally has a disproportionate amount of math nerds and Nate Silver-types), there have been few fan bases who visibly gave a (damn) as to whether their favourite artist(s) was/were elected or not.
For modern superstars like Kanye West or the Arcade Fire, is anybody anywhere wondering how their latest album or tour will contribute to their respective Hall of Fame resumes? Of course, not. The Hall will continue to induct acts who are quantitatively great (ABBA, The Eagles) and acts who are qualitatively great (Laura Nyro, Randy Newman).
… strangely, this whole Rock & Rock Hall of Fame (& Museum) spew isn’t even the point of this post. It’s moreso a set-up to assess a pair of other “greatness” measures and determine if they’re still relevant in the present.
Most artists who appear on Saturday Night Live have hit some level of critical mass. There have been a few outliers over the years but in general, it’s a pretty static measure of popularity (greatness?).
Janelle Monáe, HAIM, Alabama Shakes and Kendrick Lamar are some of the artists who made the leap in 2013. On paper, appearing on a TV show that is almost four decades old seems a hugely antiquated measure of anything. However, the shareability of these performance via YouTube (and GIFs) gives an SNL appearance a cultural resonance that goes way beyond the original airtime.
What about the cover of Rolling Stone? In general, nobody buys magazines anymore and Rolling Stone is almost a decade older than SNL. However, back in the day, a Rolling Stone cover was typically a guaranteed measure of both qualitative and quantitative greatness.
Circa now, the only time a magazine cover tends to get noticed is when controversy or nudity is involved. Boston (the city, not the band) freaked last year when Rolling Stone put civic bomber Jahar Tsarnaev on its cover, he looking very much like Syd Barrett in the process. Boston’s mayor got mad, a ton of people wrote about the controversy. Etc. Etc.
A hypocrisy ensued because on the one hand, we are conditioned to believe that nobody cares about magazines any more (statistics and this Twitter feed support this). And yet on the other, we are supposed to feign outrage when a player from within this (supposedly dead) medium does something irksome.
Parallel: the public outcry in Toronto over the sale of Honest Ed’s. Arguments rooted in neighbourhood preservation and community are completely valid. But the store itself? Kinda brutal and no doubt teeming the kind of sweatshop-supplied “goodies” that’d make Walmart seem righteous in comparison.
Anyway, the point is that magazines might be dead and/or dying but in the right context, a magazine cover story can still have a broad impact.
So what is the real value of a Rolling Stone cover in 2014?
I think the value is largely rooted in intent. Back in the day, a lot of Rolling Stone cover stories sought to lift the curtain on our heroes. Popular themes: substance abuse, the rigors of the road, grappling with fame, relationships, troubled childhoods, more drugs, more drinks, depression, drugs, rehab, a few more drinks, stronger drugs and death.
The writing had a lot of gravity (not in a bad way). The word “fuck” was typically left in (in a good way). Sometimes the articles were great and insightful. Other times, they were beyond pointless.
A 2003 Rolling Stone cover story on the Strokes is a good example of the latter. Tough assignment for journalist (and The Game purveyor) Neil Strauss, trying to get anything quotable from a band bred to look and sound bored. The full feature can be found here but more interesting is the play-by-play from Strauss’ notepad. Dude gave it the ol’ “college try” but this was an obvious “blood out of stone” scenario. Strauss should be commended for not hurling his pad towards Julian Casablancas’ face.
Again, the value of this brand of puff-y modern journalism is the intent, not the content.
In the present, lifting the curtain is a technique that publicists have reclaimed from journalists and bloggers. Wanna give your fan’s a peek at something? Put a snapshot on Instagram. Release a live recording on your website. Have your bassist tweet something wacky or offensive. Call TMZ.
The content is technical authentic but also completely fabricated. It’s so real, it’s fake.
On the flipside, subjecting oneself to a Rolling Stone cover feature is now (somehow) a post-modern means of letting go. By speaking to this under-read magazine, an artist is making this statement…
Hello. I am temporarily put my image in the hands of this writer. The resulting article will be largely irrelevant unless I say something provocative, stupid or racist. In short, the content doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this interview is an act of trust and I am comfortable with exposing myself in this manner. I hope this makes me look real. Because I am either real or want to be seen as real. Ideally.
This isn’t new. Trust has always been the subtext of any interview. What’s different is with so many more controlled options available to market oneself in the present day, there really is no need to pursue publicity in something as disgustingly antiquated as a (wretch… puke) magazine. Unless you’re consciously trying to make a statement about relinquishing control in a “I have nothing to hide” fashion.
The willingness is a statement. Everything else isn’t much.