Archive Page 2

21
Mar
12

Black Keys Boston Show Print – Dan McCarthy

If you have followed this blog in the past you are well aware of HiFi Centrals obsession with limited edition art created for rock bands.  Last year I ran a month long posting about “The Art of the Music Business” and highlighted several of my favorite prints and also the artists who have mastered and re-defined this medium.  Granted, rock art posters are nothing new we can thank the legendary Bill Graham for much of the popularity even today.

I’m a huge fan of The Black Keys and so is fellow blogger NYMike (read the prior post about his show review at Madision Square Garden).  One of my favorite artists is the guy out of Massachussetts named Dan McCarthy; my wife and I have several of his prints and he always seems to come up with fun and imaginitive designs consistently.  I happened to check out his website this morning and noticed that he created a print for a recent show (March 7th) at the TD Garden in Boston; apparently they were also on sale at the event as well.  Dan posted that he will have a limited amount available on his site later this month.

His prints usually sell around $40 and go quick, so check out www.danmccarthy.org to and see ifyou can snag yourself one when released.  Let us know if you get one too!

13
Mar
12

The Black Keys Live @ MSG

There comes a time when you know you’re seeing something special, in its prime. Like how America was captivated by the Home-Run chase of 1998, the Miracle on ice in the 1980 Winter Olympics, or the Beatles stepping off a plane in America to rabid fans…

that’s how Madison Square Garden felt last night. Everyone knows who they are, their blues attitude and their rock riffs. They are rock stars at their peak and they proved to the world’s most famous arena that this is where they belong. Loud and center stage. Both guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney know this fact. They came out and made no mistake, leading with Brothers’ “Howlin’ For You” instantly getting the crowd into a frenzy.

They continued with their supporting cast that helped make the new album El Camino, the fullest and most polished of their seven studio productions. But as they left the stage the Keys did something of an unexpected move when they went back to material from the early days of the band. They played the title track of their 2003 album Thickfreakness and “Girl is on my Mind” from their 2004 album Rubber Factory. Then into “Your Touch” from 2006′s Magic Potion and finally came back to their newest material.

They engaged the crowd, not in conversation or meaningless chit-chat, but spoke through claps and foot stomps, the universal language for anyone who adores rock and roll. They ended their set with a brilliant duo of “Tighten Up” and “Lonely Boy.”

After they left the stage and the lights fell dim, the crowd erupted to its loudest levels of the night. Begging for an encore and did we get it! In the dark two gigantic disco balls dropped from the ceiling and began spinning. The lights were turned back on and, no, it was no disco. Hearing them go through “Everlasting Light” with the entire arena awestruck at the genius of such a pun.

They ended their hour and a half show with “I Got Mine” and an illuminated sign:

The Black Keys

Rock. Stars.

The lights came back up, the crowd chanted and cheered for them, nobody rushed out Madison Square Garden, everyone lingered, buzzing about what might’ve been the greatest 90 minutes of music their ears have ever endured.

30
Jan
12

Marilyn Manson “Born Villain”

I’m not a Marilyn Manson hater. I believe that he… she?… came along at just the right time in American social strife. He was weird, he was the next evolution of shock-rock. Nobody understood where he was coming from with his songs and his look. He freaked the hell out of Republicans and he freaked the hell out of Democrats. He was an unknown quantity that was only labeled as one thing: a freak. He was the perfect scape goat for a tragedy he had nothing to do with and he has seemingly faded to his rightful place in the memory of Columbine.

But now he’s back with this new album and I have to say. I am not impressed. His earlier stuff was listenable. The albums Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals were iconic, from the songs to the album covers. Which riled everyone’s mother up. He disputed god, he hated religion, he hated the establishment, he was everything teens wanted to hear because let’s face it, as a teenage boy, you’re angry at everything.

He pandered to his crowd, shifting to a message of rebelliousness and how hard it is to be a teen. How people seem to look down on you for your age. How nobody stops to try to understand you and you feel like you’re living in a hell of eternally having to flip burgers.

We related to that as teenagers.

and latex, we all relate to latex

But he doesn’t have much of a crutch to stand on now. He didn’t take the quick and easy route (as did one, Skrillex) by switching his musical style to the fad of the generation.

I’m just not impressed by this. It’s all about self deprivation and abuse. It’s about things that a guy who’s sold well over 5 million albums in the United States alone has no right to be talking about. You wonder why nobody knows or cares what happened to Good Charlotte? Because 1) they were terrible and 2) their credibility went out the door when they became millionaires. That’s what tends to happen with these sorts of bands and male divas. They’re only sustainable for a couple of albums before their popularity and wealth spoil the message. They’re no longer in touch with the audience that received them so well.
I don’t mean to preach, but Manson should know that he’s not creating any new fans with the new album. He’s not even retaining old ones with it. Just take your show on the road and keep playing the life out of “Personal Jesus” and “Rock is Dead.”
You were a martyr for the late 90s. The shift that seemed to come too swift with that Colorado high school. You were the sign that the media has become too big and overbearing on our lives. That politicians were morons for blaming you. You were the only positive thing to come out of that whole story, stop trying to live up to it with titles like Born Villain and be just that. You’re too self aware and it bores me now.

2/5

10
Jan
12

New Van Halen Song is Van Failin’

Sometimes bands just can’t take a hint, or see the signs. Van Halen should have stopped trying years ago, after Sammy Hagar left. After that stinker of an album with the singer from Extreme, Gary whats-his-face, and then two failed reunions with original wailer David Lee Roth, perhaps the Van Halen brothers Eddie and Alex should have just quit music, or at least looked for new projects to do. Instead, lots of money has been squandered on now a third reunion with Roth, which will include a new album and a tour. The first single off the album has just been released, and as you might expect, it sucks. I mean, it’s just bad. The music is fine, but offers nothing new or interesting – it’s the recycled Van Halen sound from 30 years ago. The lyrics are so very stupid, and while Roth can still hit some higher notes, he seems rooted in the lower octaves – it would be wrong to hope his voice could still be that dynamic after so many years, but as I heard one person comment, “When did Huey Lewis become the singer for Van Halen?”

You can of course judge for yourself – the video is below. But even for die-hard VH fans who believe that the only REAL Van Halen is one with Roth, this has to be very disappointing. Enjoy.

Van Halen – Tattoo from Van Halen on Vimeo.

14
Dec
11

Chevelle “Hats Off to the Bull”

It’s been a long time since Chevelle has been a radio presence. Their second album Wonder What’s Next went platinum thanks to tracks like “The Red” “Send the Pain Below” and “Closure.”

But that was 2002. What have they done since then? Well, the next album, released in 2004, was This Type of Thinking (Could Do Us In) It another success thanks to singles like “The Clincher” “Get Some” and “Vitamin R (Leading Us Along)”

Since then they’ve started to wane in popularity despite another solid album with Vena Sera and songs “I Get It” and “Well Enough Alone.” The 2009 album Sci-Fi Crimes did well on the Billboard charts, but received relatively little radio play and didn’t strike the same notes that their previous three albums did. With last week’s release of Hats Off they’re back to what they do best:

being gritty, melodic, and harmonious. Their sound is tough to replicate because they don’t have the typical hard rock formula of the band cutting away for the verse vocals. They keep playing straight through and leave it up to front-man Pete Loeffler to sing over it. The short guitar strokes and driving, deep bass keep songs dark and powerful. The drums don’t do anything more than what they have to: deliver a beat for the rest of the band to brood to.

Overall, tracks like “Face to the Floor” and “The Meddler” bring back the nostalgia and attitude of the previous Chevelle records that put them on the map. But there are a couple tracks that I would call “experimental” for them. “Piñata” and “Prima Donna” are cool for their uniqueness in sound. Great changes of pacing with both.

“Piñata” sounds like they borrowed the intro from “Flight of the Bumblebee” and slows into the verse. They sound like they took inspiration from the now defunct band System of a Down for this song. With Loeffler’s vocals resembling that of Serj Tankian. Much harder on the guitar solos and I like it. It fades in and out of chaotic arpeggios and the smoothness of the drum and bass locked into just a repetitive and cool beat.

The very next song “Envy” has this exceedingly slow build. Very dark and quiet. It builds for a very long time before it hits the chorus where the band returns to the type of music we’re used to hearing from them. It’s still a smidgen slower than what they normally play. It’s built on a silence and the quietness of the guitar, but still comes at you with a menacing bass line. This may be my favorite song on the album, it’s kind of the anti-ballad, while still being a ballad.

Strangely, I think the album’s title track may be one of the least likeable on the album. It just doesn’t seem to fit. It sound like they tried to incorporate some Rage Against the Machine into their own sound and it misses the mark for me. There’s nothing remotely resembling anything that they’ve done before. No bonus points earned here. Though they fire right back with the song “Revenge” two tracks later. This may be the next single off the album. They use a distortion pedal on bass and some hard echo/reverb for the guitar. It adds an element they haven’t had before, and with today’s progressive push towards electro music, it’ll fit well on today’s airwaves.

“Prima Donna” is an acoustic song that really surprises with how well it works considering it’s a venture that Chevelle hasn’t toyed with before. It’s taken me a few listens to even accept this sort of idea from them. But, like the rest of the album, they make it work and it grows on you the more you listen to it.

The album then immediately picks back up with the closing song “Clones” that really has movie soundtrack written all over it… which is appropriate considering they wrote a song for the movie Underworld 4.

Overall, this album is a return to the likeness of their two most successful albums. I can see another single or two coming off this album and becoming remotely successful in today’s digital landscape. I hope it brings them back into the spotlight and they get to tour with some acts that will be worth Ticketmaster’s raping prices (a story for another day!)

 

4/5

13
Dec
11

Mike Gordon show review: 12/11/11, Albany NY

Mike tunes up at the Egg

Isn’t it great when things turn out even more awesome than you ever expected? This is exactly what happened at the Egg in Albany on Sunday night, as Mike Gordon (best known as being the bass player for Phish) and his band blew the doors off the place with three hours of incredibly diverse music, long, intense jamming, and just plain fun. The theater was about 75% full of Phish heads (it might have been more had the show been on a Friday or Saturday), and the small venue provided an intimate setting for the final show of the band’s brief fall tour.

Gordon and guitarist Scott Murawski, Brooklyn drummer Todd Isler, keyboard player Tom Cleary, and percussionist Craig Myers started things off with Horizon Line, which turned into a long jam segment that featured a lot of tempo changes, dueling solos between Murawski and Cleary, and most unexpectedly, moments of dark, progressive sounds that blew me away. From what I’ve heard of Gordon’s solo work, it’s fairly mellow with a slant toward country/bluegrass, jazz and rock. This show explored vast soundscapes of varying textures and themes – it was far more than I ever expected. The Phish song Only a Dream followed, and the band once again jammed out the middle section, taking the song to new heights and arrangements that made the studio version of the song seem even more insignificant. I’m Deranged, The Way it Goes, Just a Rose, Voices, and River Niger kept the first set rolling, with most of the songs continuing the jamming and overall magic; some of the jams did lose momentum and probably went on a little longer than necessary, but that was far from the norm. The band then did a great version of Marvin Gaye’s Baby Don’t You Do It, keeping the soul of the original in tact but giving it a more intense, country rock feel, with Cleary passionately hammering out the vocals. Then they segued back into Horizon Line to bookend the set, which clocked in at about 90 minutes.

Scott Murawski and Tom Isler

After a brief intermission, the crowd roared back to life with the opening notes of Funky Bitch, a Son Seals song that Phish has played hundreds of times. Gordon’s band’s version was fairly close to Phish’s version, but different just enough that it didn’t feel like we were watching a Phish cover band. The Phishiness continued with Gordon’s tune Sugar Shack (from Phish’s Joy album), with Murawski easily handling the guitar melodies and jamming it out a bit. Then they played a cover that I never could have predicted (although if I knew Mike Gordon’s solo history better I might not have been as surprised) – Hand in My Pocket by Alanis Morissette. I’ve never been a big fan of Alanis, but I’ve never really disliked her either, and Hand in My Pocket is actually one of her songs that I do enjoy. The band rocked the hell out of it, with Murawski belting out the vocals with great passion and intensity. Dig Further Down, Crumblin’ Bones, Skin It Back, and Hap Nappy continued the terrific set, with all band members firing on all cylinders as the jams kept going. Gordon announced that the final song was dedicated to a longtime friend in the audience, a song they played together in high school – the Who’s Don’t Get Fooled Again. It was a good version, a fun way to end the set.

The Dude of Life!!!

For die-hard Phish fans, the encore was by far the highlight of the night. An additional microphone was brought to the stage, leading everyone to assume a guest vocalist would be joining the band. It turned out to be none other than Steve Pollack, a.k.a the Dude of Life. Pollack has been collaborating with Phish from the very beginning, and on Sunday he graced us with his presence for a song he wrote with Phish, Suzy Greenberg – the crowd was bouncing off the ceiling.

The whole show was a wonderful surprise for me. I expected a more laid back, moody and offbeat show, much like Gordon’s solo albums. But the jams went to crazy places I never imagined, and Murawski, who many know from the band Max Creek, is in fact a guitar god. He would go from dark riffs to lightning-fast solos with the utmost precision and clarity; his grooves were so impressive and crucial to the overall sound of the band. He was a genuine joy to hear – I’ll have to check out Max Creek now. I’m looking forward to seeing Phish in the near future, but when Gordon brings his act to town again, you can bet I’ll be there too.

Mike Gordon at the Egg gets 4.5 out of 5 stars!

05
Dec
11

Transformers Music: The Rise of Skrillex and “Bro-Step” in EDM

The dynamics have severely shifted in electronic dance music as indicated by the popularity of Skrillex a.k.a Sonny Moore in 2011. The bespeckled former frontman of screamo outfit From First to Last, established a house hold name for himself within America’s dance scene this summer after playing numerous headlining sets at festivals across the country. His rise to success undoubtedly coincided with the awakening of America’s new dance music trend among youth: dubstep.

Go to YouTube and type in a top 40 song, in fact any popular song and you will find a plethora of dubstep remixes and most of them are AWFUL. But according to the “dubstep” experts out there, the “dubstep” made in America is an inaccurate interpretation of what it actually represents. The genre became heavily bastardized from its London origins since gaining traction in the states this year, like most electronic music. Now it’s commonly referred to as “brostep,” a subcategory of dubstep described by its frequent use of obscenely loud distorted bass wobbles and glitchy electro sounds that makes fans go buckwild. Many people claim this sub-genre sounds like a cacophony of lazer farts or transformers fornicating. Hilarious, but I kid you not. A lot of folks do not enjoy dance music that feels as though their ears are being raped by harsh frequencies. I was never a huge fan of hardcore, but I can tolerate the loud, fast and angry style of playing so much more than Mr. Moore’s music.

Skrillex has become a figurehead of “brostep” and especially appeals to the rave curious high school and college demographic. While he displays a lot of “Brostep” elements in his productions such as obnoxious formulaic drops and hard metallic bass, his music is also categorized as “Fidget House,” which incorporates a mix of dubstep, electro and house styles.

In “Rock N Roll (Will Take You to the Mountains)” it starts off as said fidget house: a generic electro house beat, repetitive vocals, claps, glitchy laser synths which leads to more choppy samples, a build up and then the anticipated “Rude boy bass” drop: robot burps, video game samples, elephant trumpet calls and other distorted noise. This combination of schizophrenic, stutter noise defines Skrillex’s “signature style,” something that not only grinds my gears but sounds like gears grinding.

Then there’s his breakout hit “Scary Monsters N Nice Sprites,” the song used in a Go Pro action camera commercial and apparently a modern DJ’s wet dream. Sigh. Countless producers have remixed it and I’ve even heard it play at bars. Now it’s nominated for a Grammy (which lose more and more credibility each year). Okay, I get the intro synth is SORT of catchy but again, more elephant bellows and goblin robot bass. I’ll admit his use of the famous speed stacking girl’s “OH MY GOSH” is pretty funny, but is it really necessary to use in multiple other songs? Good grief, Sonny Moore. Mix it up, kid.

Now let’s talk about the happy, uplifting message of “Kill Everybody.” No wonder Korn collaborated with Skrillex on their latest nu-metal-dubstep album. Metal and Dubstep have combined forces to make music exponentially worse than the two separate genres! The introduction begins with ramblings by the malicious Megatron over a standard dance beat. Throw more wobbles, processed engine noise and an annoying chipmunk repeating, “I Want to Kill Everybody.” Ugh. The title explains how this song makes me feel. But again, one somewhat redeeming synth part and that’s it. More noise, Decepticon confessions and predictable use of samples that frequent EVERY Skrillex song. Basically, certain parts sound like Megatron ate a bad taco.

The 3 aforementioned tracks are on Skrillex’s unfathomably popular and recently Grammy nominated Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, an EP produced entirely on his lap-top. It’s no wonder he’s often criticized as a “push play” performer. Yes, I unfortunately caught him very briefly at Camp Bisco this past summer and he does indeed, press play. Sure, he occasionally turns some knobs and adjusts some faders. But his classic “rock star” move? Triumphantly lifting his arms in the air to screaming, sweating frenzied bug eyed teens, all while chain smoking cigs. In fact, I wonder which thing Sonny would give up if he had to choose between cigs or his beloved use of the transformer rape and video game laser sound library.

After witnessing the mania of Skrillex’s set, my ear drums and I felt immediately violated from hearing the abrasive noise and bass overkill, never mind the teenage wasteland unfolding all around me. Hey, I’m all for a good time on the dance floor but when people are collapsing and convulsing around you, irresponsibility can only be tolerated for so long. Poor EMTS at Camp Bisco had their hands full this year. Anyways, I walked away knowing I was immune to the possibility of experiencing an epileptic seizure. The recent bass culture movement has become a new low (pun intended) at festivals; especially this year at Camp Bisco where I had to suffer through Borgore’s bro-tastic electro dubstep during an early evening main stage set that was 300 feet from my campsite. I just don’t…get the hype or gratification people feel from experiencing Skrillex or “brostep” productions, live or recorded. I must be getting old.

Speaking of inspiring performances, I don’t know which is more exciting to watch: Skrillex smoking cigs and raising his arms for every similar, predictable drop or house producer Steve Aoki running around, spitting and pouring champagne at the audience while his “music” magically plays in the background. I mean, I’m all about tomfoolery onstage, but are you actually mixing anything live at all? Obviously the audience doesn’t care because they’re too busy getting their faces melted with bass. Duh.

Worst of all, Skrillex collaborated with remaining members of the Doors for the “Re:Generation” music project which teams up modern producers and DJs with older, reputable musicians. The keyboard and guitar tracks sound synthetic and over-processed and of course, Skrillex adds his transformer effects and lazers. To me, it’s cheesy and brings nothing exciting or innovative to the table. It’s a 21st Century flop.

I don’t care how many people like him. The fact is my ears bleed and skin crawls when listening to Skrillex or “brostep.” Personally, I like music that’s pleasant to my ears and displays a range of high, mid and low end frequencies. One friend of mine summarized, “I listened to Skrillex once. Nearby electronic devices came alive and tried strangling me with their cords.” If the other songs haven’t convinced you of a truth to his experience, then listen to the drop in “First of the Year (Equinox)” and see if your electronics turn to the dark side…then call 911 NOW!

I guess to each his or her own, though it’s a shame we live in a world where most talented musicians and producers don’t get the credit or attention they deserve. I mean, have you seen 2011’s Grammy nominations? Oh wait, the Grammy’s have been a joke for years now. Anyways, as the bass culture wave expands and people continue to get their fix of filthy, grimy, dirty drops, maybe we’ll all be too distracted to notice actual evil robots taking over the airwaves so they can “kill everybody.”

Let’s hope they start by pushing Skrillex off a bridge. It’d be his best drop yet.




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