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Posts Tagged ‘Kraftwerk’

Ignored 108: The Concert Hall was pretty cool

In Graphic on September 3, 2016 at 11:04 pm

ignored108

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 24: Random retweets pt.1

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Ignored24

Is the culture ready for a George Clinton relapse?

If we’re not, maybe we should be since he’ll be turning 73 this July and… well… y’know…. mortality, etc.

Lollapalooza 1994 was a backhanded intro to the freaky Mr. C for parts of middle America and he’s kind of been doing his thing/”thang” ever since. This thing/”thang” largely consists of touring non-stop and getting namechecked. Although I do suspect he might be one of those artists that is discussed way more than he’s actually listened to. Others in this category may include Kraftwerk, (pick through this), Jandek and Danny Brown.

Aside: I once read somebody describing the Tragically Hip as “a mildly interesting bar band with an eccentric for a lead singer”. A bit weird that the exact same description could easily be applied to Parliament/Funkadelic.

.. or R.E.M..

Anyway, one tool that could help fuel this potential (time sensitive) relapse is Clinton’s surprisingly-robust Twitter feed and his ability to rebound a solid retweet. Much like “society” in a broader sense, social media is seen as a young person’s game. However, you’d never know it by taking a look at how older/elderly artists like Clinton are spreading knowledge and general weirdness by the channel. His retweet tendencies skew more towards the latter.

This post was alternatively going to be about solid Twitter feeds of Little Feat and/or Night Ranger, other acts than aren’t exactly “spring chickens”. Different sounds. Same difference.

Here are five recent @george_clinton retweets with 140 characters of analysis following each one.

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gc1

@george_clinton starred as a character called Dance Crazy in this (apparently un)forgettable feature. It’s still real to @SHAQ!!!

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gc2

@george_clinton would come out a spaceship on-stage so I guess that is his kinship with this tweet? Or he’s just fishing for a free phone.

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gc3

@george_clinton has remarkably never played Coachella. And yet… #NiceGesture

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gc5

#Value

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gc4

#NoClueWhyHeCaresAboutThis

Ignored 22: Revelations 2013

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2013 at 1:54 am

Ignored22

A selections of revelations revealed vis-à-vis CompletelyIgnored.com in 2013. Enjoy!

1. A person’s understanding (and by understanding, I don’t mean appreciation) of music is going to be predicated on whether they “lived through it”. (#ignored1).

2. The segment of the world population that TRULY “experienced” Kraftwerk is very small. (#ignored1)

3. If they were positioned differently, the Replacements could have had Bon Jovi’s career. (#ignored2)

4. The five-minute feud between Wale and the Toronto Raptors’ play-by-play team wasn’t anything. (#ignored3)

5. The iPod has morphed all “guilty pleasures” into simply “pleasures”.  (#ignored4)

6. The MuchDance CD series is the Nuggets of (underrated) Top 40 Europop. (#ignored4)

7. Coachella Festival speculation is the fantasy baseball of music fandom. (#ignored7)

8. The Columbia Record and Tape Club preyed upon the lazy and dim-witted. (#ignored8)

9. I listened to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s Psychocandy in a speeding motorboat. (#ignored8)

10. Being vague and/or absent is a good technique for bands to use to become more beloved. (#ignored9)

11. Adult moshing levels are a strong means of measuring the room energy of a live music performance. (#ignored10)

12. The Wikipedia definition of “headbanging” is amazing. (#ignored10)

13. SIANspheric were superior to 90 per cent of the original shoegaze bands. (#ignored12)

14. The Breeders would be remembered completely differently if they used different album art and weren’t signed to 4AD. (#ignored12)

15. The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love” and R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People” were both good-to-great songs. (#ignored13)

16. Big Sean’s “Control” is not a diss track, (#ignored14)

17. People create fake LinkedIn profiles for their (assumedly) favourite musicians. (#ignored15)

18. Mating 1980s modern rock with 1990s Canadian beer advertising was a thing. (#ignored17)

19. Lou Reed spent his life conflicted between being Lou Reed and “Lou Reed”. (#ignored18)

20. “They’re awesome live!!” can be either a help or a hindrance in music marketing circles. (#ignored19)

21. Hipsters wrongly assume that R. Kelly is self-aware. (#ignored20)

22. Limblifter deserve a career achievement in the “random lip ring” category. (#ignored21)

Ignored 18: Lou Reed is dead

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Ignored18

Lou Reed has been dead for five days.

This is the first thing I’ve written about it/him aside from a pair of text messages and a pair of message board comments. In short, I’ll try not to make this about me. However, I feel the need to repent since I took a bit of a dig at him mere hours before the news came down.

Sorry Lou. I still mean it but that’s not to say I wasn’t a fan.

Back story: I was chatting music with a friend over coffee last Saturday, playing the “overrated/underrated/properly rated” game. After doing a customary 10 minutes on Kraftwerk (for more details, click here), I turned my attention to Lou Reed. I don’t recall the exact context but I suggested that I didn’t think Reed belonged in the same category of songwriters as Neil Young, Leonard Cohen and Van Morrison. It’s a bit of a sloppy grouping that could be best defined as “talented and prolific songwriters who have had long careers, written tons of awesome songs and tons of other songs that are probably more ‘interesting’ than ‘good’ in the traditional sense”.

I like Lou Reed. Sincerely. Maybe even really like. However, I always got the sense that Lou Reed spent parts of his career conflicted between playing a version of “Lou Reed” as demanded by fans and critics (I think “David Bowie”, “Iggy Pop” and “Tom Waits” were, at times, similarly vexed) and just going out, playing the music and not focusing on the judgements or reactions.

In my estimation, Young, Cohen and Morrison were arguably better keeping things linear for what it’s worth… which isn’t much.

Reed’s 1989 full-length New York seemed like an album, in retrospect, crafted specifically to reintroduce listeners to the critics’ “Lou Reed” after a decade of curiosities and WTF moments (case in point: “The Original Wrapper”). Even without listening to the album, the aesthetics alone beared this out. It was called simply New York. The album cover showed 2x Reeds (one smoking a cigarette and one about to kick your ass) against a wall covered with graffiti(!!!) while being flanked by street toughs(!!!) This “surly street poet” version of the REAL Lou Reed was the favourite of most listeners and New York may well have recalibrated his career and his image into eternity. I don’t think tough “Lou Reed” was REAL Lou Reed but it was the preferred version for many if nothing else.

As a result, in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s, Reed seemed more at ease with everything. Some of his work was well received. Some of it wasn’t. The Velvet Underground briefly reunited. He played at David Bowie’s 50th birthday party. He did an album with Metallica that I’m still convinced 95 per cent of people slammed without actually listening to it.

And in general, critics gave him every benefit of the doubt. And rightfully so.

Reed would never admit it but I do think he had some heavy populist leanings and struggled with this partial desire to be a traditional rock star and celebrity. The best examples of this want may be his 1973 single “Sally Can’t Dance” (essentially the “Shiny Happy People” of Reed’s discography) and perhaps 1984’s New Sensations, an album that leading music magazine Wikipedia describes as “upbeat and fun”. Also, the effort features some weak album art.

This art-versus-art? conflict helped define Reed’s career and part of his strength was that he could normally play both sides while being beloved by most or all. Reed could swing in and out of being completely accessible and entirely dense. He was conflicted. His listeners were conflicted. But on the whole, it was always unpredictable and at times, really amazing.

So yeah, not a dig, ghost Lou.

Here are five video memories I have of Lou Reed, all of which helped shape my impression of the fella.

1. Cowboy Junkies sing “Sweet Jane”

I’m sensing I wasn’t the only suburban GTA kid who was first exposed to Reed’s music via this stellar cover. The Cowboy Junkies came crawling out of the gate and kinda owned 1988 and parts of 1989 with this stillborn take on the Velvet Underground classic. Reed himself paid homage and the Junkies ruled MuchMusic, which is incredible given un-kid-friendly this effort is. A different time, clearly. The next few years saw added Reed exposure for mainstream youth via reworkings of “Walk on the Wild Side” by A Tribe Called Quest and (uh) Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.

2. Lou Reed sings “Dirty Blvd.”

OK, THIS was my first real exposure to tough “Lou Reed” proper as I recall “Dirty Blvd.” being in semi-heavy rotation on MuchMusic when I was 11. Initially, I thought this was Bruce Cockburn (the video was dark, it was hard to tell) and then later, I thought it was Robbie Robertson. It was very confusing. Also, this video is notable as it was shot at the peak of Reed’s worst hair phase.

3. Lou Reed sings “Vicious” (live)

It was either the solid PBS American Masters documentary or some other time capsule that showed footage of Reed during his brief early 1970s “blonde bombshell” period. Clearly influenced by the antics of his dear, dear friends Iggy Pop and David Bowie, Reed tried his hand at dancing and taking an edge of his best-known solo and group material. I dunno. I saw footage of this years ago when I was still getting a grip on his career arch and remember being really confused (and a bit uncomfortable). There was little resemblance to the stoic force who led the Velvets and to my earlier point, this is footage of a man trying something. I’m not sure what… but it’s something.

4. Chicken suit

This track from 2000’s Ecstasty is great and the video shows some rare moments of Lou levity caught on film. He ends up getting plucked a few time, perhaps symbolizing how the record industry effectively plucked his artestry? Yeah, probably not.

5. Gorillaz headline Glastonbury 2010

Reed joining the Gorillaz on-stage at Glastonbury 2010 is probably more notable for the fact it happened at all rather than for the fact it was amazing (which it wasn’t really).  Reed looks tired and the song (“Some Kind of Nature”) is pretty forgettable. That being said, it’s Reed playing alongside members of Blur and the Clash for thousands of people so it’s significant purely as an “whoa” moment. Also, it is notable for the noisy distortion that opens the track and the chance to see Reed as a gorilla, which is fairly cool.