Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New York City is Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega's 2007 album, "Beauty & Crime" was dedicated to the memory of her brother, Tim Vega who lived on Ludlow Street." You can't help but feel the emotional impact and melancholy of this magical collection of songs. Produced for Bluenote Records, Vega's album comes as an unexpected surprise.

A devoted fan since god knows when, I kind of lost touch with Suzanne's work after the Mitchell Froome produced 1996 album "Nine Objects of Desire". I loved the song 'No Cheap Thrill', but more importantly, I loved the sound of the entire album and it's nod towards electronic experimentation.

In 1991 she returned with 'Songs in Red and Gray' which saw her move back to her acoustic guitar-based folk roots. The album was cool, but "Beauty & Crime" is so much better.

Somehow, 2007's "Beauty & Crime" seems to have struck something of a sentimental note with a lot of her devoted fans, including me.

On this album, Suzanne seems to be looking back into her past as she reminisces about her old friends and haunts, and her brother Tim. The opening track, 'Zephyr & I' seems to be an old friend of hers in the 1970s (and also a grafitti artist friend of her brother, Tim). The area was West End Avenue by the Hudson River. It's a simple track embellished by Vega's signature whispery vocals.

What's also cool about the 'Zepher & I' is that the opening riff is a direct steal from Lou Reed's "Vicious". The Reed riffs repeats several times before Vega digs into so doo-wop backing chorus. Suzanne's clever. but what's more, this is her New York Lou Reed album but from a very different perspective.

She follows this with the autobiographical 'Ludlow Street' where her brother Tim used to live. "This time," sings Suzanne, "when I go back to Ludlow Steet, I find each stoop and doorway's incomplete without you there." This is a far cry from the recent hype of irritating female singer/songwriters like Feist (I couldn't get past track two on Feist's new album - it's soooo irritating to listen to).

Which brings us to track three (my favourite song on the album) - 'New York Is A Woman'. Clocking in at 2 minutes and 54 seconds, for me, this song represents the mindset of the album.

Suzanne Vega's always been about New York City, and although she hooked a lot of people with the mindbending 'Luka' back in the eighties (about a kid being beaten up by her parents), the Big Apple becomes the ultimate metaphor for the woman you can't help but fall in love with. It's a one-sided affair of the mind. It's a teaze.

"New York city spread herslef before you, with her bangles and spangles and her stars. You were impressed with the city so undressed, you had to go out cruising all the bars."

Vega follows the song with the delightful 'Pornographer's Dream' - another gem of a song with some beautiful orchestration.

The album flows effortlessley with 'Frank & Ava', 'Edith Wharton's Figurines', 'Bound' and 'Unbound'. The album was recorded at Sear Sound, NYC, Jimmy Hogarth's Studio in London, and at Olympic Studios in London. The London Studio Orchestra contributed strings and horns, while the album includes guest appearances from Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo and singer KT Tunstall.

This is a passionate, if not understated, intitmate, beautiful collection of songs from one of America's greatest modern day folk singers. I'll be playing this for many more days and nights to come. Sounds particularly good when you play it in your car and is a great alternative to the rubbish that is currently being played on most radio stations.

The final track, 'Anniversary' is obviously about 911 and every family that survived the tragedy of the Twin Towers. It's a fitting way to end the album with the ultimate aftermath of New Yorkers trying to pick up the pieces. 'Beauty & Crime' is clearly the work of a genius singer/songwriter.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Contact Music gives thumbs up to Joe Jackson's 'Rain'

Contact published a glowing preview of Joe Jackson's highly anticipated album 'Rain'. Beware - the new album is being hailed as Joe's best album since 1982's "Night and Day".

Says Contact Music -

"Very much in keeping with the eclecticism of Jackson's wonderful three-decade spanning career, Rain is another genre-stretching effort from an artist who continues to extend the boundaries of his craft. Reflecting the title, the record is melancholic in places, but also boasts plenty of humor, swing, sophistication and barbed social commentary as well as some out and out rockers. The common thread running through the record is its simplicity; where Jackson's distinctive piano and voice, Maby's intricate and melodic bass and Houghton's tough and tender drums are all you hear."

"A rich yet stark production by Jackson and mixed by Paul Kolderie and Sean Slade, Rain boasts a broad, grand sound, open yet tightly wound and focused at the same time, that emphasizes Jackson's sterling songcraft -- a unique amalgam of pop, rock, jazz and classical ideas and lyrics with deep, sympathetic glimpses into the human spirit written by a man who is keenly sensitive, sharp and complex."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Raindrops keep falling on Joe Jackson

One of the best singer songwriters from the heyday of 1979, is back with a new studio album in January 08. The new album, "Rain" is Jackson's best album since 1982's milestone "Night and Day", which featured the infectious "Steppin' Out".

Joe Jackson, best known for his 1979 debut album "Look Sharp", which was recently voted as one of the "1000 Most Important Albums to Hear Before You Die" in the UK's Guardian newspaper, is set to release his first studio album in four years, "Rain". Back in the late seventies Jackson and the Police were the big selling artists on the now defunct A&M Records (home of The Carpenters).

I've been fortunate to have a listen to an advance copy of the new Rykodisc album. It's a welcome return to Joe's original stripped down no-nonsense sound of piano, vocals, drums and bass guitar.

If you thought the songs on 1979's "Look Sharp" were a fluke, think again, because Joe is the true master of singer/songwriting. What's more, for the album he brought in a little help from Graham Maby (bass) and Dave Houghton (drums) - the same musicians who played on his first three albums; "Look Sharp" (1979), "Im The Man" (1979) and "Beat Crazy" (1980).

Released by Rykodisc, standout tracks include the opening number the emotive opener "Invisible Man", the rockin' "Citizen Sane" and the stunning ballad "Wasted Time".

Joe's last studio album, "Volume 4", was released back in 2003, so getting this new platter has been a long time coming, but worth the wait. Joe is still looking sharp, and lyrically, he cuts through popular culture with a swiss army knife.

It will be wonderful to see Joe in concert at the London Sheperd's Bush Empire on Sunday 2nd March 2008. Hopefully, it won't be raining, but seeing that it rains practically every day in London, I'll try to remember to bring my umbrella.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Hey honey, I shrunk Ian Hunter

On Ian Hunter's latest studio album, the phenomenal 'Shrunken Heads', what you get is a collection of confession songs fueled by acoustic and electric guitars, piano and heartfelt sentiment. This is Hunter at his most outspoken. It's his take on Americana but done in his own style, and it's brilliant.

It's been light years since his days in Mott The Hoople, and even the distant thunder of one of his first solo albums - 'All American Alien Boy' featuring the classic ballad 'Irene Wilde' - it's a sequin footnote to the grassroots of 70's glam rock rock'n'roll history.

'Shrunken Heads' could possibly be Hunter's most convincing solo album to date. Always a Brit at heart, the new album is a golden snapshot of America, the good, the bad and the ugly (but predominantly the bad and the ugly).

"Nothin' matters any more," growls Hunter during the start of the title track. "The rich get richer, and the poor get sorer. This house is haunted and the streets are dead. We're all at the mercy of shrunken heads." The song is another disfunctional ballad from rock's greatest wordsmith. It's emotionally compelling, and it makes you start thinking about how fucked up living in the USA can be.

This is the kind of album where it's difficult to encapsulate into a short review, mainly because every song is fantastic. Ian Hunter doesn't know how to write a bad song. He delivers a rock'n'roll dirge anthem in the shape of 'How's Your House' - an insight into the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "Crept across the border, got a mobile home," sings Ian. "Hurricane Katrina sunk me like a stone yeah. Now I'm runnin' outta water, there's nothing left to eat. Kitchen's on the car 'n it's floating down the street."

Guilty pleasures creep in with 'Stretch', a bar room rock'n'roll throwback to Hunter's seminal 'Overnight Angels' album. The drums are pounding, the guitars could have been played by the late Mick Ronson, while the ragtime piano is classic Hoople. Then suddenly you get visions of his earlier Hoople classic, 'All The Young Dudes', and that's when you begin too realise that's it's a no-brainer. Ian Hunter is a genius.

He closes the album with a simple, poignant, piano and vocal ballad 'Read 'em 'n' Weep'. It's a typical relationship gone bad song, but it's sung from the heart. While a lot of today's new bands try their best to impress, the one key thing they all lack is the ability to write consistently compelling songs. Where will Brandon Flowers be 30 years from now?

Ian Hunter's been doing it for 35 years, and while other artists like the Stones ran out of steam in the mid 70's, Hunter continues to get better with age. 'Shrunken Heads' is a milestone.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I'm in love with the idea of Siouxsie Sioux

It's probably been a long time coming, but Siouxsie Sioux has finally swept the Banshees under the floorboards and she's checked the Creatures into her local vet. Siouxsie has gone solo. Surprisingly, her debut album, 'Mantary', is a joy to behold... well, almost.

Before the Banshees split up years ago, they released a cool song entitled 'Peek-A-Boo' which featured the catchy lyric, "Jeepers creepers, where'd you get those peepers?" The track was a departure from the Banshees signature distorted guitar sound. 'Peek-A-Boo' was a chopped up, beat-driven burlesque monster whose signature instrument was an accordian. The band seemed to be moving in a new direction, but sadly, their audience did not.

Similarly, on her new solo album, Mantaray, Siouxsie tends to put less focus on guitars. From track 3, Here Comes That Day, she delivers a song that is faintly reminiscent to Peek-A-Boo. But it's track 4, Loveless, that starts to give the album a life of its own. "It's a sick and twisted game. To and fro and back again." In comes the glorious tones of the glockenspiel that Siouxsie first experimented on the Creatures' debut album, Feast.

For an album that starts off with two cliche guitar songs, the predictable Into A Swan and the no-name pop rocker About To Happen, Siouxsie moves on from her Banshee roots in favour for something a bit more personal and experimental. If It Doesn't Kill You is a haunting ballad that sees our beloved Siouxsie steeped in a golden liquid vocal. It's gorgeous.

One Mile Below sees Siouxsie in Creatures territory with a Phil Spector wall of sound driven by a burundi rhythm track. Drone Zone shifts the album into a shuffling, jazzy swingbeat mode. It's eccentric, quirky and addictive to listen to. While Bjork tends to go for high drama, Siouxsie's more like a kitten with a whip.

Marvel at the pop perfection of They Follow You. It starts off with a marching drum beat and breaks into a colour musical arrangement that sounds both hopeful and momentous. It's Siouxsie's swansong. It's cool, Pan European, cinematic and sexy.

The album closes with the sparse piano track 'Heaven and Alchemy'. "I'm in love with the idea of you in rush reality," sings Siouxsie. And so she should be. The album's a wake up call and will hopefully kill off the old punk rockers who thought they were going to get Arabian Nights II.

With all the recent spate of reunions, not to mention the desperate return of the Sex Pistols, its nice to know that Siouxsie isn't reforming the Banshees. That chapter is over.

Shirley 'Garbage' Manson may have a hard time following this with her highly anticipated solo album, but for the moment, Siouxsie is still sitty pretty.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Prince - 21 Nights and it's like Viva Las Vegas!

Prince is currently winding up his 21-night concert engagement at the 02 centre in London. The pint sized 49-year old wonderboy is performing to 21,000 people a night. It's a remarkable achievement for an artist who really hasn't released a decent studio album since 1987's Sign O' The Times.

The O2 gigs follows a major publicity and promotional stunt where the Purple pied piper gave away his new album "Planet Earth" free with every copy of the Mail on Sunday newspaper. The upshot, one great pop rock song "Guitar" on an otherwise lacklustre studio album.

The 02 Concert was impressive but also showed a lot of significant flaws in Prince's onstage perception of what a solid concert should be like. Although he's a great showman and he put on a sold performance, the Prince symbol-shaped stage was way to big for him (and his ego). It was like watching Prince running around the symbol, performing to different parts of the audience in the arena, while the rest of the band was performing like hired hands.

To fill out the vast stage, Prince was flagged by four female backing vocalists and dancers, who were only there to justify some kind of eye candy. The girls kept leaving the stage (there were were lots of costume changes). The idea of performing the show in the round was an exciting one, but soon came apparent the stage was too big for Prince to fill.

I remember seeing Prince on the Sign O' The Times tour where he performed on a normal stage, and as part of a real band that had character. Perhaps Prince's recent residency in Las Vegas has rubbed off on his O2 shows. It was like watching a Prince-by-numbers concert. The only problem was, the dots were not connecting.

"What would you like to hear," Prince asked the audience, "new stuff or old stuff?" "I could play "Sign O The Times" or "Raspberry Beret". Instead, he launches into a sing-a-long version of "Kiss". Why was I constantly thinking about Tom Jones?

"I have so many hits," says Prince. We didn't have to be reminded. He performed "Cream", "You Got The Look (minus Sheena)", and started off the show with the explosive crowd-pleaser, "1999".

The show lagged halfway through, when Prince performed songs from his new album "Planet Earth". The standout track, the infectious "Guitar" failed to translate live in concert, while the recorded version on the new album remained superior. To make "Guitar" work live, Prince would have to 'share' the stage with a real rock and roll band, but sadly, he's working the stage while his 'backing band' are running through the motions at the other end of the stage.

Interestingly, for "Black Sweat", Prince takes to the funky bass guitar and comes up with an infectious groove that really drives things home. For me, it was one of the highlights. Great funky kick ass song. Loved it.

He ends the first hour with a blistering "Purple Rain" which kind of makes the concert worth it (an amazing song). His guitar playing was phenomenal.

Although he played 21 concerts at the 02, he never performed the same set each night. Instead of playing "Sign O' The Times", Prince performed "If I Was Your Girlfriend". Perhaps the idea of the 21 nights is to get the same fans buying tickets to multiple shows.

Did I forget to mention that everyone who bought a ticket to the shows received a free copy of the "Planet Earth" CD when they were give their ticket stubbs at the door? Did I also forget to mention that the merchandise stand featured Prince tamborines on sale for only £55.00, and that t-shirts were £25.00. The tour programme was similar to putting a downpayment on a mortgage. The only thing missing was Prince ice cream.

Two days after the concert, a friend of mine put on the Greatest Hits album. I couldn't help but thinking how brilliant the classic hits were when they were originally recorded all those years ago.

Whatever happened to Wendy and Lisa? Prince had chemistry with those gals. I could never understand why he broke up the original band and went on to form the dreaded New Power Generation. For me, his best albums will always be "Parade" and "Sign O The Times". Diamonds and Pearls was the begining of the end of peak Prince.

Today, Prince's live show is a victim of it's own success; making it, in many ways, the ultimate sign o' the times. Elvis may have left the building, but I think Prince has become too comfortable in Vegas. The London audiences probably don't know any better, and in their eyes, Prince can do no wrong. Thankfully, he didn't perform any songs from his 1990 movie "Graffiti Bridge".

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Metal Machine Music gets a classical contemporary makeover courtesy of Zeitkratzer

Just when you thought you'd never hear about Lou Reed's phenomenal noisefest album of feedback and distortion, along comes the news hat Metal Machine Music is back in the saddle with a transcribed classical contemporary chamber music ensemble score verging on the avant-garde and industrial rock.

The CD/DVD is a 2002 concert in Berlin that Reed performed with the 11-piece German chamber music ensemble Zeitkratzer. The album "Lou Reed Metal Machine Music performed by Zeitkratzer is released by Asphodel Records on September 4th. The results are frenzied, full-frontal; a relentless physically exhausting whirlwind of sound that leaves you gasping for air.

It's noise, but not as we know it.

You can't disco dance to it in a nightclub. Indie rockers will have a tough time trying to decide which shirt to wear. If you are a Sonic Youth fan, watch out, this one's for you.

Berlin-based avant-garde sax player, Ulrich Krieger, whose projects include collaborations with Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, is the brainchild behind the current rendition of Metal Machine Music. Krieger (no relation to Robbie Krieger of The Doors), transcribed Reed's 1975 MMM album and converted it into a classical contemporary piece of avant-garde chamber music, making is a surprisingly impressive and believable acoustic score.

The results are phenomenal and brings Reed full circle, around to his vintage roots with the Velvet Underground via the cello and viola backing. The similarities are evident, but somehow you can't help thinking that John Cale is missing from the fanfare.

Metal Machine Music is a moment in time, March 17th, 2002, to be precise. Don't dare miss it.

Further information about this extraordinary release can be found here -

Lou Reed's been a busy little bee throughout 2007. First he tours his Berlin album in Europe, then releases the meditation album Hudson River Wind Meditations, and now he brings us Metal Machine Music Live.

What's next, a kabuki version of Rock'n'Roll Heart?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lou Reed knocks 'em dead at the London Hammersmith Apollo

Lou Reed performed to a sold out London audience at London Hammersmith Apollo last night. Reed performed the entirety of his 1973 classic album 'Berlin' to a thunderous 10-minute standing ovation.

Highlights included the haunting "The Kids" featuring the London Children's Youth Choir on backing vocals, "The Bed" the song where the main character, Caroline, commits suicide, and the victorious and tearful "Sad Song" which ended the show. Hats off went to original Berlin album guitarist, Steve Hunter, who nailed it on every single song - the same cat who played guitar on Reed's live album "Rock'n'Roll Animal".

The Bob Ezrin produced album was given an imaginative new arrangement, augumented by a string section, horn section, a new backing vocalist calle Katy, and Reed's core rock band featuring bassist and backing vocalist Fernando Saunders, drummy Tony Thunder Smith and stand up bassist Rob Wasserman. Even Hal Willner, 'Berlin's musical director, walked out on stage to hug Reed for performing a fantastic show.

After the rapturous standing ovation, Reed and his 26-piece orchestra returned to the stage for stunning new-arranged live versions of "Sweet Jane", "Satellite of Love" and "Walk on the Wildside". It was Satellite of Love that triumphed with a refreshing news musical arrangement which showed off Fernando Saunder's falsetto vocal range, backing vocalist Katy's soulful vocals (look out Annie Lennox!) and some wild guitar playing by Reed and Hunter.

I'd been to the Apollo several times but never experienced this kind of electric audience reaction to a rock concert before. It was as if everyone had a lightening rod wedged up their ass and the power was turned on at 10. If you missed this show, you definitely missed out on a piece of rock history.

'Berlin' live is Lou Reed's swansong.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Lou Reed's 'Berlin' Comes Full Circle in Amsterdam

Lou Reed brought his "Berlin" concert to Amsterdam's Heineken Music Hall on Wednesday 20th June and virtually brought the 3,400 sold out capacity audience to their knees.

This was not just your ordinary rock'n'roll concert, but instead an emotionally absorbing multimedia event - part theatrical, but raw, beautiful and tragic. Reed performed his 1973 milestone album with a string secton, horn section, a childrens' choir and his core rock band which featured the original 'Berlin' album guitarist, Steve Hunter.

Lou performed the album in its entirety and along the way, introduced some new twists and turns on most of the songs. You could feel Lou's torment and his pain as he pushed the envelope with every nuance, lyric and guitar lick. Berlin was a personal release for him, and you could feel every note with a vengeance.

'Lady Day', 'How Do You Think It Feels', 'Caroline Says', 'The Kids', 'The Bed', 'Sad Song'.... song after song, the audience became dumbfounded by how amazing the delivery of the songs were. What started off as a tale of two lovers (Caroline and Jim), gradually turned into a one way ticket to hell, which ended in prostitution, drugs and suicide.

After final song 'Sad Son', Reed received a standing ovation. He returned five minutes later for an encore which included 'Sweet Jane' and orchestral enchanced arragements of 'Satellite of Love' and 'Walk on the Wild Side'. At the end of the concert Lou took bow and said "I Love You" to the audience.

"Berlin" - a snapshot moment in time, and probably the rock'n'roll moment of 2007. Make no mistake, this was history in the making.

Lou brings Berlin to Paris on June 23rd, then brings the show to Berlin on June 26th. The concert then moves on to the UK on Friday June 29th where Lou plays Manchester International Festival, and then two shows at London Hammersmith Apollo on Saturday June 30th and Sunday July 1st.

The following UK press page has further informaton about the current tour -

Monday, May 28, 2007

Liz Phair - She's Got You, Babe

What is it about Liz Phair that sounds so right?

The shortage of good new albums has forced me to dig out my old Liz Phair albums. Due too the fact that the Maroon 5 album is so vacuous (who really wants to listen to 12 songs of Adam Levine bitching about his split with his girlfriend), I remember hearing various intelligent pop songs on Phair's 2005 album 'Somebody's Miracle' that seemed to be about break-ups, but the songwriting was so much more personal and real. It had substance and wasn't devoid of any meaning. Every song on the album seemed important.

I've never figured out why Liz Phair has not been more successful as a female singer/songwriter and rock'n'roller. Her early albums were cool, but as she progressed, she became rockier but her lyrics were always snappy and direct. She's difficult to ignore.

It's also a statement on the current state of female rock musicians. It seems to be a man's world out there. What happened to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts? Were the Runaways a joke? Was Suzi Quatro just an illusion? Why is there no Heart reunion?

My point is that it's empowering to have really good female rock musicians doing their thing. Of course, you do get the commercial extreme of things that seem to be a bad dream (like the recent Avril Lavigne single 'Girlfriend'), but when you get a serious contender like Phair, who not only has the ability to write a pop savvy lyric with a political and social bent, you have to keep her at the top of the pile.

The major lablels would rather concentrate their humble efforts on plastic role models like Gwen Stefani, instead of nurturing real authentic talent. It's all style over content. Somebody shoot the stylist.

I not only commend Liz Phair for all the great albums she's released over the years, but like a fine wine, she continues to excel with every new album. Why am I looking back to her 2005 studio album for inspiration?

The difference between a lyricist like Liz Phair and a pop frontman like Adam Levine is like night an day. It's like Liz is Cher and Adam is Sonny Bono. The big difference is that Liz Phair definitely still has the 'I've Got You Babe' good seal of approval stamped across her forehead.

Check out the lyrics to the opening track, 'Leap of Innocence' on Phair's 'Somebody's Miracle' album (I rest my case) -

"I saw John. He looked so sad. I want you to know that I feel bad. For not making our dreams come true. We had so many dreams me and you. I want you to know. I love you. You're my favourite thing from the past. And all of those nights that we spent together. I never had such a blast. Anyone could tell. You were my instrument. He said "I understand you. You want to play me." Everything about us had an innocence. But everything around us was changing. It's hard to believe. So much happened so fast. Remember the way we'd always laugh. While thinking up things to do. We were kings of the world me and you. I wish it had stayed like that forever. But everyone was dropping off like flies. I had so many friends in rehab. A couple who practically died."

Check out this interview Liz did for the release of the 'Somebody's Miracle' album.

In the meantime, here's a blast from the past...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Maroon 5: Adam Levine Drops His Girlfriend (And Decides to Write An Album About It)

LA-based Maroon 5 (formerly known as Kara's Flowers), have released their highly anticipated follow up to their 2002 Platinum selling 'Songs About Jane' album featuring the radio staple hit 'This Love'. The new album is entitled 'It Won't Be Soon Before Long', and is released off the back of the infectious hit single 'Makes Me Wonder'.

Was the wait worth it?

The album is packed with mixed emotions (courtesy of singer/guitaristAdam Levine). Based on the personal reflections of the songs, it seems that Levine recently split up with his girlfriend. He's chosen the new Maroon 5 album as the place to rant his frustration about the break-up.

But why subject his listeners to this for an entire album?

What happend to the bluesy funk on 'Shiver' and the infectious, soulful mindset on 'Harder to Breathe'. What happened to the sexy strut the permeated the 'Songs About Jane' album?

What happened to Maroon 5?

'It Won't Be Soon Before Long' is the hotly tipped Maroon 5 album follow-up. It's about exciting as trip to Wal-Mart. The problem is, aside from the brilliant pop power of 'Makes Me Wonder', the rest of the songs on the album are more 'Plain Jane' than cutting edge. This album makes the Killers sound like Led Zeppelin.

Maroon 5 need to find Levine a girlfriend.

The album is already selling millions of copies in America. Adam and his slicker than now cohorts hammed it up on American Idol a few weeks ago, and as a result their single went back in to the No.1 spot in the singles chart. I mean, anything is possible. Look at Jordin Sparks!

I just can't help but notice that Adam doesn't look like he's having a good time. He looks bored out of his skull, kind of like he'd rather be doing something else.

'Makes Me Wonder' includes the lyric - "I don't believe in you anymore." You're left feeling sorry for Adam.

But not for long.

As the other songs on the album begin to unfold, the song titles seem as if they were written by a thirteen year old manic depressive - 'Little Of Your Time', 'Wake Up Call', 'Won't Go Home Without You', 'Nothing Lasts Forever', 'Not Falling Apart', 'Better That We Break'.

The new album lacks any kind of edge.

I am amazed because Maroon 5 could have produced a really good follow-up album, but instead they've come back with something to the equivalent of elevator mood music for rock'n'roll executives who are only interested in one-night stands; the same guys who are too worried about scratching the company car.

If Octone (the independent label that originally signed Maroon 5) is in bed with Universal Music for worldwide distribution, you just know the album has been market researched to the point where all the originality, blood, sweat and tears the band have put into this effort, was mass processed for Orange County bratpack rich girls who think Adam is a pin-up, while male teens aspire to be just like him.

The other thing about the album is that someone has told the band to come up with some songs with an "Every Breath You Take" bassline on 'Won't Go Home Without Y0u' and Andy Summers' signature Police guitar riff on 'Every Breath You Take' on 'Not Falling Apart'. The Police did it better.

It's not all bad.

Take'Goodnight Goodnight' - one of the memorable ballads. Nice opening guitair riff and some soothing vocals from Levine. Radio friendly and inoffensive. It's the kind of song they'd probably play during the end credits on a Kevin Costner movie. It's kind of retro, but at the same time, didn't Phil Collins record this kind of stuff back in the eighties?

As the album progresses, Adam comes up with some tunes that are familiar to vintage Prince circa 'Purple Rain' and 'Parade' albums. In particular 'Kiwi' sounds like it could be the bastard child of 1999 (without the bells and whistles).

The band saves some of their more compelling songs for last (track #11 'Better That We Break' and track #12 'Back At Your Door').

What is it with Universal slapping a 'Special Edition' sticker on the front of the CD jewell case?
Is it really so special that the album contains two bonus tracks. Maybe it's a marketing ploy to get people like me to make an impulse purchase for the extra tracks. What's ironic is that the two bonus tracks are two of the best songs on the album. What's it supposed to mean? That the other Maroon 5 tracks are not deemed 'bonus eligible' because they weren't an after thought?

The two bonus tracks in questions 'Until You're Over Me' (vintage Prince) and 'Infatuation' are what 'It Won't Be Soon Before Long' should have been all about. I am sure the band know that the big compromise on this album (via the safety-in-numbers bubblegum pop-rock sound) will fly. Is this album that defines what Maroon 5 are really all about?

No pun intended, but it kind of makes me wonder.

Adam Levine puts an altogether new spin on sleepwalking, particularly during the video for 'Makes Me Wonder' -

Adam Levine will continue to experience iffy relationships, he'll fall in love too easily, and suckers like you and I will continue to pay for the abuse with the hope that one fine day he'll write the pop masterpiece we all know is inside him.

Wake up Adam, it's not too late. Stop wondering about it. Just do it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Alan Vega Commits Suicide

"There was a time when you could dream. Now, now . . . it has become a crime to dream."

'Station Station' - Alan Vega's back singing his lungs out for a crowd of "dream losers". Everybody's favourite viet vet with the signature scarf on his head is back in top form with an industrial trip hop album that makes Ministry and the Revolting Cocks sound like Timberland on poppyseed sticks.

'Station' is a relentlessly painful, semi-tragic, angry album. Vega hasn't lost the conviction from his early days with the seminal Suicide. There is no Ric Ocasek on this latest offering. This ain't no 'Saturn Strip'.

Back in his brief Elektra days, Ocasek thought he could make Vega into a pop star, kind of like an antichrist version of Billy Idol. 'Saturn Strip' rocked but mainstream radio didn't get the joke. Vega's album bombed and Ocasek left the Cars.

Who was this Sal Mineo of rock? Suicide invented the lead singer, mystery keyboard player set against a loud drum machine. This dated back to the Mercer Arts Centre in NYC back in the mid seventies. The Dolls and Wayne County and the Electric Chairs were on the scene. Richard Hell was just a newborn toying around with his mother's safety pins. The Ramones probably had brush cuts and were still in Junior High.

Soft Cell and the Pet Shop Boys took Suicide's primitive two-man line up via drum machine and commercialised it for mass consumption. 'Frankie Teardrop' got raped and re-surfaced again in the eighties as 'West End Girls'. Everyone took their cue from Marty Rev and Alan Vega, but most would never admit it.

Take track three for example - 'Psychopatha'. Vega laments - "Moms and Dads, take your kids to deadland. It'll make you a man. B brain. Get a medal. That's it. Go to deadland. It'll make you a man."

The drum machine crunches in on a war-like stampede. The troops are coming in and we're all doomed. But life goes on in Sucide land. Vega convulses like Rasputin the Mad Monk. This classic Vega with traces of paranoia and disturbing realizations.

'Crime Street Cree'; a 6-minute tour-de-force which puts Vega back on the radar. This is Vega's swansong. "It's the street of no chances. It runs to infinity. This is as bad as it gets. I'm a dead marine. I'm way to young to die."

Vega lashes out with an explosive wall of disjointed atonal synth riffs sandwiched between a machine-like, pulsating beatbox rhythm. He sings of going through hell and coming back on the other side. It's a living nightmare and this song leaves you feeling Vega's anguish and desperation. This is rock'n'roll (but not as we know it).

"The traceman dies. It came from the sky, to die. Lookin' for a human. Why? Ask why?"

In 'Traceman', Vega unveils a distorted mix of vocal samples, female spoken word, jumbled beats in a haze of macabre rhythms. It's another last ditch attempt, a hypnotic plea for help. Stunning, classic Vega.

In 'Gun God Game', Vega delivers his triple G's in spectacular fashion. Orchestral backing vocals on a demented death defying loop and some of his best lyrics in years. . .

"How many time do you need to live out of control. Rip it into that twisted wind. The wave goodbyes, the heavy hearts. It's the takedowns, the breakdowns, the humiliations. Gun God Game. Yeah, the future's determined that you can never beat that game. So why try? Not believing. I can't believe it. Hey, how many times driving to the uncontrollable release of the events twisting all around you? It's there for cryin' out loud. Give it up says the ghost of nothings. Ripping through your heart forever. It's the endless attempts of bringing back what's not there."

Alan Vega is an undisputed genius. Nobody in music can touch him. "Station" is his milestone album. Hail New York City's finest.

Here's a gem from Vega's "Saturn Strip" album. The song's called "Wipeout Beat" - produced by Ric (The Cars) Ocasek.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Candie Payne: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang

New on the UK music scene comes Liverpudlian songstress Candie Payne. Her debut single on the Deltasonic label is entitled 'I Wish I Could Have Loved You More'. It's kind of like a throwback to mid sixties Avengers style sound track music, with an instrumental spaghetti western type of vibe.

Vocally, Candie comes across like a hybrid of Nancy Sinatra meets Julie London, with shades of Julie Driscoll thrown in. A touch of 'This Weel's on Fire' meets 'Man In A Suitcase' - it's a retro John Barry meets Monty Norman James Bond fast-forward, with monochromatic vocals. A distant nod to Dustry Springfield wrapped up elegant psychedelic black leather gloves.

Candie arrives at a time when the British music scene is stuck in limbo. Her competition is spiteful and hideous, from overrated Phl Spector drag queens like Amy Winehouse to superbrat monkey girl Lily Allen.

Candie drops in like a breath of fresh air. The single is sexy, intelligent and effortless and makes Winehouse and Allen seem as if they're battling it out in as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in a dire remake of 'What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?'

Some say it's grim up North. This is a good reason to prove otherwise.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

RUSH vs Iggy Pop: Let The Games Begin

Back in the early seventies, when Iggy and the Pop toured the Raw Power album, there was this rock trio called RUSH. One of the guys in the band, Geddy Lee, went to my Dad's school, Northview Heights (a few years before he went to the same school).

When he first started going to Northview he noticed a poster for a Friday night gig in the school cafeteria. The poster pictured these three rockers with shag hairuts dressed in what looked like skin-tight metalic Sweet outfits. At that time Rush were on their first album and they kind of sounded like a Canadian version of Led Zeppelin.

In those days my Dad and his friend's hated Led Zeppelin but really liked Iggy Pop and the New York Dolls. I reckon they were more into punk before it was really known as punk, although years later, my Dad met Iggy several times in NYC, Toronto and the UK.

Getting back to Rush performing a gig at their high school, well, it was a choice between my Dad seeing Rush in concert at his high school or seeing Iggy Pop at the Victory Burlesque Theatre on the corner of Spadina and Dundas Street (the place has now been converted into a Chinese bank).

My Dad and his friends said - "Who do Rush think they are? We give this band three years and they'll be gone."

Thirty-Three years later Rush have morphed into one of the biggest album rock bands on the planet.

Not only did they pick up a new drummer along the way (Neil Peart), but they've just released one of their best studio albums of their entire career ("Snakes & Arrows"). Gone are the shag haircuts and the tight sequin trousers and platform shoes.

Stranger things have been known to happen (

Jerry Casale of DEVO on David Bowie at the Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio, 1974

Today the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper published this fascinating Q&A with Jerry Casale of DEVO. The band will embark on a UK tour (their first visit to the UK in 15 years) at the Brighton Dome on June 18th 2007.

Jerry was recently interviewed from LA about his favourite all time gig. Bizarrely, it happened to be David Bowie's Diamond Dogs tour.

I saw the same show, but instead of catching Bowie's show in Cleveland, Ohio, I saw the show in Toronto. My impression of the gig was similar to Jerry's. I thought Bowie was the best thing in rock and was miles ahead of everyone else.

Here's what Jerry had to say to the Daily Telegraph newspaper today (May 17th 2007) -

"The gig was part of David Bowie's Diamond Dogs tour. I'd never seen anything as spectacular before. The tour was choreographed by Toni Basil, and the stage was designed by a New York theatre company. The result was hypnotic, weird and fantastic."

"At the start, an 8ft diamond descended to the floor of the stage. The front opened forward and Bowie jumped out wearing a Kabuki outfit, pulling dance moves reminiscent of Broadway."

"I lost count of the number of set changes and dance routines. It was seamless - an incredible fusion of rock music energy, theatrics and disturbing assexual innuendos."

"The show solidified right then and there what I wanted to do with Devo. We'd spent way too much time smoking pot talking about ideas and doing nothing about it. Here was someone who'd taken the time to do it for real."

Devo tour the UK next month, starting at the Brighton Dome on June18. For tickets call 0870 735 5000, or visit or visit

Interview by Tim Burrows

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Mr Hudson & the Library (hot band with the dumbest name of the year)

I saw this new band on Later With Jools Holland (BBC1) earlier this year. I taped one of Holland's TV shows back in December but didn't end up watching the show on my Sky+ until a few weeks ago (Sky+ is Britain's bastard relative to America's TIVO). The show wasn't outstanding, but one band did stand out from the rest of the hipper than now crowd. They called themselves Mr. Hudson and The Library.

The song that hit me was "Take Me Somewhere New". It's one of these immediate pop masterpieces. There's a Hunky Dory quality to it (which is no bad thing). But there's also nods to Cockney Rebel and Danny Wilson.

Sometimes when you hear a new band, they play one signature track and it just sticks. A few weeks later I almost forgot the name of the band, but somehow, their name was so wack - I just didn't forget it.

I knew "library" had something to do with it. It was the "Hudson" that escaped me. I then did a Google search and ended up on their official site -

The sound production their songs are crisp, punchy and direct. Vocals are cool. Kind of sounds like the Feeling, but it's more simplified and doesn't savage ELO in an obvious way.

The lead singer has definitely got a way with pop hooks. The Library have a clever use of piano and the acapella vocals are infectious. This is a band where less means more in the production department. The Killers could never make an album like this.

Their website streams several tracks including a live version of "Take Me Somewhere New". If John Peel were still alive, these guys would be a household name. I also love there white reggae track "Too Late".

This is probably the best debut album I've heard from a new band this year. The Library are the Burt Bacharach of rock. "Take us out tonight . . . in the backseat please. . . take us somewhere new."

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bjork Declares Independence with Volta

I read some reviews of Bjork's new album "Volta" in numerous national newspapers here in the UK. One review said something along the lines abou the fact that all the news songs sounded old Bjork who was at her avant-garde peak 10 years ago, or that she was trying to sound retro and that now she was outdated.

To appreciate Bjork you have to be in love with her passion for music. Problem is, we live in such a fast-moving download digital world, where informationi flows instantly, to the point where jadded rock critics (who get their CDs send to them for free), tend to lose attention to detail, and because they don't pay for the music, their criticisms aren't authentic.

"Volta" is a unique and special album from one of music's greatest minds. Nothing is obvious on this album, and Bjork doesn't turn into a cliche nor does she try to re-invent the past. Yeah, sure there are some nods to older songs via the signature style of her vocal delivery, hoever, I defy anyone to tell me there is anyone doing what Bjork is doing at the moment.

There are no pop singles on this album, and for good reason. On "Hope" Bjork asks the question "What's the lesser of two evils? If a suicide bomber made to look pregnant, manages to kill the the target or not?" The music is slow. Bjork plays clavichord and sine bass. Timbaland triggers pre-recorded percussion loops.

On "Innocence" the track kicks off with a hip-hop vocal grunt which is repeated as a percussive sample. The track is like homemade beats with a techno wack impact. Timbaland produced the track and provides keyboards and beats. It's wild and inspiring, and believe me, Gwen Stefani could never sing this track like Bjork does.

Stand out track is "Feel The Independence" where Bjork sings "Declare indpendence, don't let them do that to you. Start your own currency, make your own stamp, protect your language, make your own flag..."

Saturday, May 12, 2007

DEVO: Still eliminating the ninnies from the twits

DEVO, the famed Akron, Ohio rock band return to UK shores for the first time in 15 years.

The very idea of DEVO peforming a string of concert dates in the welfare states in intriguing. Just when Tony Blair was on his way out...

DEVO play Jarvis Cocker's Meltdown on June 19th at the Royal Festival Hall in London. They also plays dates in Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and a second London show on June 26th at Shepherds Bush Empire.

I recall a video they made for the single "Through Being Cool" which included the lyric "Separate the ninnies from the twits." The sentiment is quite apt today. I'm subjected to working with a lot of twits. It's nice DEVO wrote a song about it.

The "Through With Being Cool" promo is hilarious as it depicts American teenagers dressed up in DEVO gear jumping around in what looks like the backlot to Michael Jackson's Thriller video. There's even a breakdancing sequence towards the end. This is pre-Beastie Boys without the hip-hop element.

Kids with guns. Video stars. Young alien types (you know the kind).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Lou Reed: No Preconceptions, Only Meditation

The first thing that hits you when listening to Lou Reed's new meditation and relaxation album is the sheer hypnotic impact, simplicity and soothing nature of the audio soundscapes. It's a magical, uplifting and spiritual recording that connects more with your mind and then relaxes your body.

This ain't rock'n'roll. This ain't Metal Machine Music Part 2. This is "Hudson River Wind Meditations"; the new album from Lou Reed.

"I first composed this music for myself as an adjunct to meditation, Tai Chi and bodywork," says Lou on the liner notes of the CD, "and as music to play in the background of life - to replace the everyday cacophony with new and ordered sounds of an unpredictable nature."

The track listing says it all . . .

1. Move Your Heart (28:54)
2. Find Your Note (31:35)
3. Hudson River Wind (Blend the Ambiance) (1:50)
4. Wind Coda (5:23)

A practitioner of Yoga and Tai Chi , Reed brings his unique sensitivity and knowledge of a broad spectrum of music genres to provide a tranquil bed of soothing harmonics that opens the heart and eases the mind. The pieces on this hypnotic album will wash away tension and negative energy with sparse instrumentation and subtle waves of electronic sound.

Vision magazine recently published a fascinating interview with Reed, where he openly talks about the Wind Meditations album -

The album is released by the independent new age and well-being label 'Sounds True' ("Tools and teachings to spark your inner evolution").

Check out Lou's album on their official site -

Lou Reed’s fans have learned to expect the unexpected,but his latest work may still come as a surprise. After four decades in the rock spotlight,Lou Reed has turned his attention to the world of meditation music, inviting listeners on a relaxing journey to the hidden territory of his inner landscape. With Hudson River Wind Meditations, the iconic “art rocker” presents his first album created specifically for quiet contemplation.

After listening to "Move Your Heart" and halfway through "Find Your Note", I felt totally relaxed and calm. This is an essential record that relieves daily stress. What's more, it shows a different side to the Lou Reed we've grown to know and love.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lou Reed Does Berlin (with a 30-piece orchestra)

Lou Reed is coming to Europe in June with a 30-piece orchestra to peform his critically acclaimed 1973 album "Berlin". Reed performed the world premiere of Berlin last December at St. Anne's Warehouse in New York City. The reviews were amazing.

The publicity for the European tour of Berlin includes a funny if not sarcastic quote from the man himself - "One time, one time only; you can tell your kids you saw Berlin."

Typical Lou. He talks like he's a circus ringleader. Miss this at your peril and you'll never get a chance to see him peform the album again. Talk about mental anguish.

The new show will feature the New London Children's choir, a string section, a horn section and Lou's core rock band.

Berlin is on of those rare albums that tends to tap a nerve. It's atmospheric, sad and haunting. When the album was originally released in '73, the majority of rock critics slated it. It wasn't Transformer 2. But like Iggy and The Stooges "Raw Power" or the early Velvet Underground albums or the first New York Dolls album, the mainstream didn't get it. These albums didn't shift units. Record executives had nothing good to snort about (no pun intended).

I mean, on face value, and album about a housewife who turns to drugs and prostitution in Berlin, and then commits suicide, isn't exactly Norah Jones or Corrine Bailey Ray territory. I mean, Amy Winehouse might be the new shrunken head/big hair she devil, but that doesn't mean rock and roll records can't have a place outside of traditional music.

Berlin has it all - from Caroline Says, The Bed, The Kids, How Do You Think It Feels, Men of Good Fortune, Sad Song, Oh Jim. Can you just imagine what this concert is going to sound like with horns, strings and a choir. This could be Lou's swansong. History in the making.

Don't forget to bring junior along to the fesitivities.

Lou Reed, Berlin forever -

Monday, May 07, 2007

Grindhouse: I Want the Quentin Tarantino Action Figure

So, the word up in the UK is that there is a delay on the release on two full length feature Grindhouse movies written by Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez put together as a B movie double feature combo including fake movie trailers sandwiched in between. The films opened recently in the US and the takings at the box office were not great as expected.


The word on the street is that people couldn't hack the 3-hour plus running time of both films. On paper the concept is hilarious, but somehow it defied the law of gravity and failed to translate with the i-Pod generation who have as much patience as a digital donut.

IMDb said it best - "a double-bill of thrillers that recall both filmmakers' favorite exploitation films. "Grindhouse" (a downtown movie theater in disrepair since its glory days as a movie palace known for "grinding out" non-stop double-bill programs of B-movies) is presented as one full-length feature comprised of two individual films helmed separately by each director. Tarantino's film, "Death Proof," is a rip-roaring slasher flick where the killer pursues his victims with a car rather than a knife, while Rodriguez's film "Planet Terror" shows us a view of the world in the midst of a zombie outbreak. The films are joined together by clever faux trailers that recall the '50s exploitation drive-in classics."

Why didn't the the American movie going public didn't latch on to the double feature movie drive-in vibe of these two cinematic monsters?

I can't wait to see Rose McGowan as 'Cherry Darling' in Planet Terror. NECA Toys has even made a Quentin Tarantino action figure entitled "Rapist No #1". It's hilarious.

Meanwhile, the UK film distributor is having kittens over releasing the two films back to back. There's now talk that Mirrormax is re-editing both films to make them shorter, which, to me, defeats the whole purpose of presenting these films in their originial cut.

The American movie market is steeped in Disney-friendly test screenings. The investors don't want to gamble on their financial investments. This is why the majority of today's movies are predictable, cliche and boring. Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, audience goes home with nothing new. No wonder the film industry is in trouble!

More power to Rodriguez and Tarantino for sticking it to the traditional Hollywood star system. I guess what Mirrormax is trying to do is what they did on Kill Bill 1 and Kill Bill 2. Both Kill Bills were originally one 3-hour movie, but the studio realized that the US film audiences wouldn't be able to sit through 3 hours of gore and violence, so they split the film in two and released it in two stages. It seemed to have been critically and commercially successful.

The same cannot apply to Grindhouse because 'Death Proof' and 'Planet Terror' were made to be seen side by side. It saddens me that today's cinema goers have now conception of what it is like to go to the movies with your friends and watch two B movies back to back, eat a lot of popcorn and feel bug-eyed when you leave the cinema. It's a great movie going tradition which mean anything to today's moving going public.

Tarantino and Rodriguez are adventerous in their quest for originality and cool, but today's Pepsi generation is too steeped in Spiderman 3 and Fantastic Four Do Dallas. But don't let the big studios influence you in your judgement. 'Death Proof' and 'Planet Terror' are both works of art. If you dug 'Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill Kill', these films are for you.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spiderman 3 - Peter Parker Goes My Chemical Romance

Caught the new Spiderman 3 flick on Saturday. The film wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. The whole storyline with Kirsten Dunst being a theatrical singer was really bizarre. But even more baffling was how strange Peter Parker started behaving after he put on the black Spidey suit.

Next thing you know he looks like he's playing bass guitar for My Chemical Romance, sports an Emu haircut and eyeliner. He walks down the street to the Bee Gees' 'Staying Alive', looking at all the hot chicks.

I am sure Sam Raimi had something up his sleeve here, but what was a superhero franchise, started to turn into an episode straight out the OC.

There's no denying the visual effects were stunning, but you just couldn't help thinking what they are going to do next with Spiderman 4. There has to be another film to the series, because this one ended with a soppy love story element to it which was unsurprisingly corny and predictably American.

The romantic thread between Peter Parker and Mary Jane was very suspect. In Spidey 3, Peter studies at school with some hot blonde babe who looks a million times sexier than Kirsten, verging on hooker territory. I am sure Kirsten is a nice babe, but she tends to come across like a moody brat. You can't help but want to snap her out of her post-teen coma.

What was she doing snogging Green Goblin?

Sandman was a fascinating super villain. Venom was interesting but he didn't get enough screen time. I liked how Raimi brought back the Green Goblin and used this character as a counterpoint to Peter Parker's paranoia.

Spiderman 3 was a lot better than the recent Batman and Superman movies. I think if Raimi can get even more subversive on the next Spidey movie, we might even start seeing the real Peter Parker; former heroin addict and ex-porn star... but don't expect an action figure. Popcorn for everyone. But please, no more test screenings. Just make Spiderman real.