Author Archives: bradbirzer

Rock is NOT Dead

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 7.28.05 PMI must admit, I’m so utterly frustrated by all of the “Rock is dead” doomsayers over the past week that I’d like to wretch (or, retch–you know, either way).  Really big time.

Here’s the latest complaint–from the London Telegraph of all things (isn’t this supposed to be one of the respectable papers, or am I confusing it with the Daily Mail?)–to follow laments from CLASSIC ROCK mag earlier this year, a member of KISS who seems to resent much of life, and every single human who has decided to hate U2: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/the-filter/11089923/The-decline-and-fall-of-rock-and-roll.html

[A quick side note.  You have Apple and you don't like U2?  Easy--hit the image of the album and drag it to your trash.  Your Mac will then ask you if you would like to delete or hide.  Deleting it actually deletes it.  No offensive U2 ever need show up in your library again, and you will have accomplished this is far less time than it took for the album to download to your computer.  In fact, it will take you less time to delete the album forever from your personal space than it will for you to write a comment on the web or even an article for a respectable English newspaper about how much you dislike U2, Bono, Apple, Catholics, Apple pies, Irishmen, or whatever your current dislike is.]

I have no idea if I’m using this term correctly, as I’m not English.  But, my first thought is: what a wanker that Telegraph writer must be.  Did I use the term correctly?  What say you, Mr. Andrew Woods?  Here in the British colony of the United States, we’d just call you a prig.

Of course corporations try to conform us.  They give us lots of good stuff, but they also make the world a lot less interesting. They want us as consumers, and consumers are much easier to manipulate when only the same tepid and pallid mush is being served.  Is the Telegraph suddenly a not-for-profit paper?

The next time a corporation tries to sell you something, just walk away.  It’s really not that hard.  Turn away from the offensive thing and move in the other direction.

Growing up in Kansas, I knew next to nothing about NME.  What I did know: NME looked like a bunch of quasi-trash porn that wealthy children in Kansas City might purchase out of boredom.  I didn’t pay attention to it or to Rolling Stone.  When Rush came out with a new album, I bought it.  When Tears for Fears came out with a new album, I bought it.  When Kate Bush came out with a new album, I bought it.  When Talk Talk came out with a new album, I often bought two copies, one as backup.  I didn’t look to NME or Rolling Stone or whatever rag was available at the time telling me what to think and wear and write and read.  I worked very, very hard for my music collection.  Sure, I made a few missteps, such as once purchasing a Howard Jones album.  But, I also collected a lot of great music, much of which I treasure to this very day.

What many music journalists, record labels, and professional wankers have yet to figure out is that the market for art is now as decentralized as humanly possible.  The internet gives us as much space to be excellent as it does to be mediocre.

Some of the music being made right–including and especially the vast majority of music we have the privilege of reviewing at progarchy–is some of the best rock music ever made.  Here and now.  Not merely there and yesterday.  Here and now.  Right here, right now.  Rock is so far from being dead that I can barely keep up with so many enticing, interesting, and dramatic releases.

The author of the Telegraph piece can’t see beyond the very corporations he so hates and, thus, he becomes a conformist in his own cry against conformity.  Face it, Mr. Andrew Telegraph, you are the establishment.  And, from what I can tell, you always have been–especially when you read magazines such as NME, then or now.

One last thought.  I really don’t care if U2 recorded forty-five minutes of The Edge working in his back garden.  Any group of artists who can write and record October have earned a position of respect in the world.  I, for one, will give them the benefit of the doubt, and presume good (and, yes, profit-seeking) motives on the parts of Mr. Bono and Mr. Cook.

On Mr. Andrew Woods?  The jury is still out.

[P.S.  I'm glad Mr. Woods mentioned his daughter.  My thirteen-year old daughter can name every member of Rush, Big Big Train, and The Tangent, and she knows almost every lyric written by FROST*.  Care to compete?]

Evil Scarecrow’s new album, Galactic Hunt

Evil Scarecrow

Galactic Hunt

Independent

13 October 2014

evil scarecrow‘GALACTIC HUNT’

Release date: October 13th

The finest heavy metal band ever to write a song about a robot… probably.

http://youtu.be/zrweu0GRJnE

Following on from their EPIC performance at Bloodstock Festival to upwards of 12,000 people at 11am, Evil Scarecrow are now gearing up for the release of their long awaited 3rd album (the first recorded with their current line-up) ‘GALACTIC HUNT’ with the legendary producer Russ Russell (Dimmu Borgir, Napalm Death, The Wildhearts, Exploited, Evile, Sikth, Oaf etc) at the helm.

As ever the album will include influences from across the metal genre melded together with the inimitable Evil Scarecrow humour and just a smattering of some rather more imitable dance moves!

Galactic Hunt was produced and mixed by Russ Russell at Parlour Studios, Kettering, UK

Mastered by Dexter Russell in the garden.

The album can be pre-ordered here:

http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/evilscarecrowgalactichunt

It can also be pre-ordered from Amazon here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Galactic-Hunt-Evil-Scarecrow/dp/B00NFSCCZK

Dr Rabid Hell has some “words of wisdom” on the making of the album and their 7 foot robot, Whitaker 5:

“We worked with some incredible people to bring this album together; a world class producer in Russ Russell, a guest accordion player and very special guest Hugo Myatt. You might remember him as Treguard from the classic cult TV show Knightmare. We thought it’d be great to get him to do some voiceover for our track that pays homage to the show. Famous for playing Treguard in the cult, classic tv show Knightmare, we thought it would be great to get him to voice over for our track which pays homage to show. He also added some extra layers to some other tracks, most notably Space Dementia! He was a total legend, and his missus was bloody lovely too! Space dementia is sounding super War-of-the-Worlds-epic because of his contribution”

“With Brother Pain being a time traveller and a bit of a kleptomaniac we occasionally find some gems in his massive horde of collected trinkets. We’ve had Whitaker 5 for a while, knocking about in our giant gothic sky castle in Norway. He was getting cranky just wandering around bringing us the occasional packet of Space Raiders and cartons of his special moon juice, so we thought if we wrote a song featuring him [Space Dementia] we could probably just pretend he was prop and let him on stage to bust his moves. It gets him out in the open for a bit of a dance, keeps his mind off world domination for a while. The earth owes us big time really. The sheer power of our music must have saved humanity a thousand times over. You’re welcome by the way!”

You can check out their stunning Bloodstock performance & utterly bonkers crowd here:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x23eujf_evil-scarecrow-robototron-live-at-bloodstock-2014_music?start=22

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x23euf7_evil-scarecrow-space-dementia-live-at-bloodstock-2014_music

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x23euhq_evil-scarecrow-crabulon-live-at-bloodstock-2014_music

Upcoming live shows:

Saturday 20th September – WRONGSTOCK, The Underworld, London

Saturday 11th October – The Portland Arms, Cambridge

Wednesday 12th November – The Waterfront, Norwich – Supporting Diamond Head

Thursday 20th November – Warehouse 23, Wakefield – Supporting Diamond Head

Saturday 13th December – The Underworld, London – With Lawnmower Deth

Saturday 3rd January – Yardbirds, Grimsby

Saturday 14th March – Hammerfest, Wales

Previous releases:

‘Sixty Six Minutes Past Six’  Album

‘Helldog’  EP

‘Crowcifiction’  Album

Videos – Robototron, Blacken The Everything

http://www.evilscarecrow.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/Evil.Scarecrow

https://twitter.com/EvilScarecrowUK

Evil Scarecrow are:

Dr Rabid Hell, vocals

Brother Dimitri Pain, guitars

Kraven Morrdeth, guitars

Princess Luxury, keyboards

Ringmaster Monty Blitzfist, drums

Thanks to our friends at BJF Media, especially Judith Fisher.

Cherry Tree Farm, New Road, Coleshill, Bucks.  HP7 0LE

Rush to Release R40 10-DVD Collector’s Set

Originally posted on rush vault:

R-40 Thanks to a head’s up from RushIsABand we learn that Rush is putting out a 10-DVD box set called Rush R40 to celebrate the band’s 40-year anniversary. It releases November 11 and you can pre-order it now on Amazon.

The 10-disc version retails for $87.49. It also comes in a 6-disc Blu-ray version, which retails for $97.99.

From the product description:

“2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Rush s eponymous debut album. This deluxe collector s box set brings together live performances by Rush from each decade of their career. It includes Rush in Rio, R30, Snakes & Arrows Live, Time Machine 2011: Live in Cleveland, and Clockwork Angels Tour, plus a spectacular bonus disc of previously unseen and unreleased live material stretching from 1974 to 2013. The bonus disc features over two hours of unreleased footage including their masterpiece 2112 in its entirety, the…

View original 391 more words

Mordred, “The Baroness”

 

Mordred
Mordred release free download of first new single in over 20 years as a Thank You to fans
Independent
MORDRED 

 

New single: THE BARONESS

Following on from their triumphant and hugely welcome return to these shores, Mordred have released a free download of their first new single for over 20 years, THE BARONESS, as a thank you to everyone who came along and supported them throughout their killer recent tour. This single can be streamed and downloaded from their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/MordredBand?v=app_178091127385

As fierce and funky, brash and brilliant as ever, this is taste of what’s to come from this wickedly inventive band of San Franciscan musicians, and I for one can’t wait to hear more. 20 years gone and sounding as fresh as they did first time round, quite simply awesome!

“..this is a massive performance…highlights, though, are the raptastic Esse Quam Videri and a stunning cover of Thin Lizzy’s Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed. But the whole occasion is simply a joy. The atmosphere, the musicianship, the song choice… it all works. And Mordred’s combination of metal, funk and hip-hop sounds convincingly contemporary
Malcolm Dome, Metal Hammer

“Mordred’s return to Belfast after two decades is nothing less than triumphant….No band has ever really managed to better what Mordred did, and with the prospect of a new release this could hopefully be the beginning of a renaissance for the band. All in all, a faultless gig”
MetalIreland.com

“Back in ’91 I heralded Mordred’s legendary Marquee show as the greatest night of my life, but….I can safely say I was wrong because some 23 years later I’m finding myself saying it again. Without a shadow of a doubt, Mordred will always be the coolest band to grace stage, vinyl, cassette, disc and ears.
Metal Forces.

Also included are a couple of their old tracks – Everyday’s A Holiday and Falling Away – for you to give a listen to, more new music coming soon!

RochaNews Continued: Burnt Belief

 

BURNT BELIEF RETURNS WITH “ETYMOLOGY” THIS FALL ON ALCHEMY RECORDS

Instrumental collaboration between U.K. bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree) and U.S. guitarist Jon Durant out October 21

 

COHASSET, MA – World-renowned bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree, Metallic Taste of Blood, Ex-Wise Heads) and guitarist/composer Jon Durant have once again teamed up under the moniker Burnt Belief for the release of a new album of progressive ethno-ambient fusion instrumentals titled EtymologyEtymology will be released on October 21, 2014 via Alchemy Records, and will be available at Burning Shed, Amazon, CD Baby, iTunes, jondurant.com and other digital outlets.

 

An Etymology teaser video can be seen on YouTube at:http://youtu.be/aa0yLjSHr3Q.

 

Pre-order Etymology at: http://jondurant-com.myshopify.com/collections/frontpage/products/burnt-belief-etymology and:http://www.amazon.com/Etymology-Burnt-Belief/dp/B00NAZX8BA/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1410294068&sr=1-1&keywords=burnt+belief.

 

“We feel like we’ve progressed within our shared approach, including some new harmonic, rhythmic and melodic elements,” commented Jon Durant.

 

“Much of our compositional approach remains consistent from the first Burnt Belief record,” he added. “For instance, a number of the pieces began as ambient cloud guitar atmospheres, which Colin would then explore and find rhythmic grooves to play over or with the clouds. Then, I would maybe re-arrange, construct melodic ideas, and send back to Colin for further input from him. In this way, the pieces evolve, sometimes very far from their original state.”

 

The compositions which unfold across Etymology‘s 70 minutes showcase the duo’s fruitful symbiosis and clear developmental path across their shared musical landscape. Assimilating diverse elements ranging from polyrhythms, deep ECM styled atmospherics and even angular nu-jazz abstraction, the result is an immersive, multi-layered and engrossing documentation of a remarkably sympathetic musical connection.
Etymology is further enhanced by sensitive, deep electric violin performances from highly regarded classical musician Steve Bingham, also known for his evocative work with U.K. art-rock band No-Man.

The album’s title is a metaphor for the pair’s working methodology, in which compositions evolve from an initial germ of an idea into a fully realized piece. The resulting work is often very different from its original concept yet still maintains the initial elements at its core.

1. Chromatique

2. Dissemble

3. Précis

4. Hraunfossar

5. Convergence

6. Rivulet

7. White Keys

8. Not Indifferent

9. Hover

10. Chimera

11. Squall

Edwin and Durant first teamed up for Durant’s 2011 album Dance of the Shadow Planets, a wholly live in the studio documentation of their nascent musical chemistry centered around Durant’s atmospheric compositions and featuring also the talents of violinist Caryn Lin and multi-percussionist Jerry Leake.

The follow-up to Dance of the Shadow Planets, 2012’s eponymously titled Burnt Belief, was distance recorded, but a fully collaborative compositional affair with Edwin taking equal responsibility for the writing process. Having confidently cemented their working methods and musical connection with the well-receivedBurnt Belief, the duo undertook some live dates in the U.K. and Ukraine with Kiev-based female vocal duo Astarta (as Astarta/Edwin), a project Colin has been working on for some time, but presently on ice due to the current instability in the country.
Energized by working together in a live environment again in late 2013, Edwin and Durant reconvened to create the present album, Etymology. Whilst still retaining the strong sonic identity laid down on Burnt BeliefEtymology represents a considerable expansion and natural evolution of their sound, not least because of the additional input of three marvelous drummers (Vinny Sabatino, Dean McCormick and Jose Duque) to complement and reinforce the programmed electronic rhythms.

 

“Colin and I both felt that after two records utilizing hand drums exclusively, it was time to change it up and go with a live drum kit to augment Colin’s rhythm programming. It ended up giving the pieces a much harder edge to them, and this in turn allowed me to push my guitars a little more over the top.”
Follow Burnt Belief on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/BurntBelief and Twitter at: @BurntBelief3 for more information on Etymology.
 

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Burnt Belief online… 

www.facebook.com/burntbelief

www.twitter.com/BurntBelief3

www.alchemyrecords.com

www.colinedwin.blogspot.com

www.jondurant.com

 

 

About Jon Durant…

 

Guitarist Jon Durant brings a unique sense of texture and melody to his instrument. His distinctive “cloud guitar” soundscapes and engaging lead work have graced numerous CD recordings and film soundtracks. As executive producer of Alchemy Records, he produces recordings for internationally acclaimed artists in his small Massachusetts studio. Along with longtime collaborators Tony Levin (bassist with King Crimson and Peter Gabriel), percussionist Vinny Sabatino, pianist Michael Whalen, and guitar/synth master Randy Roos, Jon has recorded with electric violinist Caryn Lin, percussionist Jerry Leake, singer/songwriter Porter Smith, soul singer Ray Greene (Tower of Power) and many others.Etymology is Jon’s third recording with Colin Edwin.

 

About Colin Edwin…

 

Colin Edwin is best known as a founder member and bass player of the internationally successful progressive rock band Porcupine Tree. In addition, he has a long running collaboration as Ex-Wise Heads with avant multi-instrumentalist Geoff Leigh (Henry Cow/Hatfield and the North) with six albums blending ethnic, world music, improvisation and ambient and experimental influences. Colin is also a member of Metallic Taste of Blood, a genre-defying group whose intense and cinematic music draws from dub, metal, progressive, free jazz and ambient music. In 2013 Colin recorded the critically acclaimed bass duo album Twinscapes with Italian bassist Lorenzo Feliciati.

RochaNews: Nordic Giants

 

KSCOPE ANNOUNCES SIGNING OF MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST DUO NORDIC GIANTS

Debut album coming early 2015

ENGLAND – Kscope is thrilled to announce the signing of multi-instrumentalist duo Nordic Giants. Ahead of the debut album coming in early 2015, Kscope will be release Nordic Giants’ 2014 self-released EPs ‘Build Seas’ and ‘Dismantle Suns’ together on one LP and CD this fall.

 

A teaser video for the new signing can be seen on YouTube at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjhOGU-KdwM.

 

Nordic Giants spent the last couple of years bringing its bespoke formula of claustrophobic post-rock cinematic sound to audiences across the U.K. They have recently toured with Public Service Broadcasting, God Is An Astronaut and 65daysofstatic, this Summer playing festivals including 2000 Trees, Kendal Calling and Y-Not as well as their own headline shows. They have performed in churches, disused Victorian music halls and converted seaside bandstands to enhance the audience experience of their atmospheric soundscapes.

 

Seeing Nordic Giants has been described as akin to a religious experience. Multi-screen visuals, powerful strobes and exquisitely timed accompaniment create a whole that appears far greater than the sum of its parts. Each performance is accompanied by award-winning short films which coupled with haunting piano, bowed guitar, climactic drums and array of guest vocalists gives the audience a mind-blowing and visceral experience that goes beyond the normal descriptors.

 

Kscope was formed in 2008 providing a home for an evolving and adventurous style of music without boundaries. Nordic Giants join a roster that includes North Atlantic Oscillation, Engineers, Steven Wilson, Ulver, Anathema & The Pineapple Thief.

Stay tuned for more information on Nordic Giants.

 

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Nordic Giants online…www.nordicgiants.co.uk

www.facebook.com/nordicgiants

www.kscopemusic.com/nordicgiants

A New Fractal Mirror is Just Around the Corner

Well, they’ve yet to capture the imagination of Tim Cook and the PowersThatBeiTunes, but they have our attention.  And, we’re absolutely thrilled.  A second Fractal Mirror is just about here.  Amen, amen, amen.

But, I’ll let the guys of FM speak for themselves:

***

We are very proud to be able to announce that we have started taking pre-orders on our Bandcamp site for our second album Garden of Ghosts . The release of the album is scheduled for November 2014. The album contains 11 tracks and includes a 12 page booklet with artwork from Brian Watson and all the lyrics. The album has been co produced by Brett Kull (Echolyn) and Fractal Mirror. Brett Kull also mixed the album. Larry Fast mastered the album. People who pre-order the album receive an immediate download of the albums opening track “House of Wishes”. During the pre-order period the price of the album will be EUR 10,00 (ex shipping).
Brett Kull also plays guitars and background vocals on all the tracks of the album and there are also guest appearances by other members of Echolyn, Jacque Varsalona, Don Fast, Larry Fast and The Stephanus Choir.
Art by the incredible Brian Watson.

Art by the incredible Brian Watson.

Here is the link to our 4 minute album teaser: http://youtu.be/oF4W0PI_-dA?list=UUycTI_5GA2Vlf-vIg1mgMKA
Here is the link to our bandcamp page for Garden of Ghosts: www.fractalmirror.bandcamp.com
We sincerely hope you are willing to share this news with your readers and help us spread the word about the album!
Thanks for your support!
Fractal Mirror
Ed, Frank, Leo
***
progarchy’s take and prophecy: order early and order often.  Surely, this will be a top ten album of the year.

Floyd Fashion!

One of my great Facebook friends and a sometime former student (I’m probably claiming too much here.  She was a participant in a summer conference at which I taught!), Ashley Rae, posted this wonderful picture of herself this morning.  Talk about great advertisement for Dark Side of the Moon!

Anyway, a huge thanks to the lovely Ashley for permission to repost here.

Ashley Rae and Pink Floyd.  A lovely match, indeed.

Ashley Rae and Pink Floyd. A lovely match, indeed.

Ranking Tears for Fears

Orzabal-tomcats_screaming_outsideTen years ago this Sunday, Tears for Fears released its last full album, Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. As I realized this this week, it hit me hard that it has been this long since the band’s last album. A decade. Of course, that album appeared nine years after the previous one, Raoul and the Kings of Spain. Still, in between the two albums came Orzabal’s truly brilliant solo album, Tomcats Screaming Outside. Thus, the gap seemed less severe.

This is not to suggest that TFF has fallen off the radar of popular culture completely since 2004. Far from it.

ready boys and girls

Released last spring, but only on vinyl.

In fact, they’ve been quite active in a variety of ways. In addition to some infrequent touring, TFF released a three-song EP of covers, Ready Boys and Girls? (only on vinyl and with a gloriously psychedelic cover) last spring and is, according to the news available, hard at work on a new album, a rather dark one it seems.

Rolling Stone covered quite a bit of TFF news almost a year ago. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/tears-for-fears-arcade-fire-cover-kick-started-new-recording-20130822.

Roland has also just this year released his first novel, Sex, Drugs, and Opera. I’ve yet to read it, but I most certainly will as soon as time allows. Reviews of it have been strong, most reviewers noting with some surprise that this is Roland’s first novel. The guy is obviously immensely talented.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been interested in TFF since I first heard “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” This was the first single to make its way to the U.S. and to the Great Plains of central Kansas. It was the second single, “Shout,” that convinced me to (made me?!?!) fall in love with the band. I immediately purchased Songs from the Big Chair as well as The Hurting. I’ve detailed my thoughts about Songs from the Big Chair elsewhere on progarchy. Suffice it state here, I consider it—along with Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys and XTC’s Skylarking—as the three best and greatest examples of progressive pop. http://progarchy.com/2013/03/27/about-as-good-as-pop-gets-songs-from-the-big-chair-1985/

If pushed, I might also throw in some of World Party’s songs (but not the albums).

As far as I know, I own a copy of every single song TFF has made with the exception of the vinyl releases mentioned above. I’ve even bought multiple copies of certain albums (such as Songs from the Big Chair and Raoul) just to get the b-sides included with each new release. So, it would be fair to state that I’m a rather huge fan and have been for decades.

***

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of Everybody Loves a Happy Ending and in anticipation of a full album, I’ve decided to rank all TFF albums.  So, here they are:

songs big chairSongs from the Big Chair (1985). As I’ve tried to argue elsewhere, this is a perfect progressive pop album, beautifully conceived and constructed. No stand out tracks as they’re all stand out. Not a flaw on this album.  10/10

The best TFF album since Elemental, 2004's EVERYBODY LOVES A HAPPY ENDING.

Everybody Loves a Happy Ending (2004). Not at the level of Songs from the Big Chair, but pretty close. The album suffers from two problems. First, it’s not nearly as cohesive as Songs. Second, it has a few weak tracks. Still, the album as a whole is so good that it makes the weak tracks even better. The best tracks: Call Me Mellow, Who Killed Tangerine?, Quiet Ones, The Devil, Killing With Kindness, and Lady Bird. 8/10

elemental-4e3c6aeb6d16fElemental (1993). Again, a nearly perfect album. If I had to label it, I’d call it prog electronica. As the title suggests, the atmospherics on this album are just stunning, as are the lyrics. Stand out tracks—all of them, really. Not a dud on the album. But, I most like: “Elemental,” “Cold,” “Mr. Pessimist,” “Fish Out of Water,” “Gas Giants,” “Power,” and “Brian Wilson Said.” Everybody Loves a Happy Ending ranks higher, in my opinion, only because its best songs are better than the best songs on Elemental. But, barely. 8/10

Tears-For-Fears-The-HurtingThe Hurting (1982). Artistically, this is a brilliant album. It is almost pure art rock. Yet, it’s so claustrophobic, it’s hard for me to listen to too often. Still, who couldn’t recognize its genius? 7/10

Tears_for_Fears-Saturnine_Martial_&_Lunatic
Saturnine Martial and Lunatic
. When it comes to b-sides, TFF writes the best. Indeed, the b-sides of TFF not only rival their main album singles, they usually better the very best of other bands. Only Talk Talk, U2, and The Cure rival TFF when it comes to b-sides. Saturnine contains 18 songs from the studio sessions of the first four albums. Even the most experimental, “The Big Chair,” “The Marauders,” and “Empire Building” are interesting. Again, not a failure here. Everything is either brilliant or fascinating (usually both). The weakest song is “New Star,” a pop rocker. But, in context, it’s pretty good. 7/10

Tears+For+Fears+-+Raoul+And+The+Kings+Of+Spain+-+CD+ALBUM-476930Raoul and the King of Spain (1995). There’s much to love about this album. Indeed, the first five songs are some of the best songs I’ve ever heard. They can best be described as earnest. Here we have the complete Roland—he gives his every thing on these five songs. The remainder of the album is good, but it begins to feel overproduced, beginning with track six. And, unfortunately, that album that started so amazingly simply fizzles out. “Falling Down,” track two, might very well be the single best song Roland has written, and this is saying a lot. 5/10

seeds of loveThe Seeds of Love (1989). This is, by far, TFF’s least successful album, in my opinion. Successful, that is, measured artistically.   Overall, the album is way too bombastic in tone and over-produced. Every time I listen to it, I feel as though the band is screaming at me. Two songs I do enjoy: “Standing on the Corner of the Third World” and, especially, “The Year of the Knife.” Otherwise, I just don’t get this album or why it was so financially successful. 2/10

U2 and Apple: An Editorial of Gratitude

Joshua Tree era U2.  Young, angry Irishman in the New World.

Joshua Tree era U2. Young, angry Irishman in the New World.

As is more than well known, U2’s latest album showed up in every single person’s iTunes library, wanted or not. A cursory google search reveals how angry this gratuity made a whole lot of folks out in the world. The complaints run as follows: if rock is free, it’s not rock; pulling out guys in their fifties to celebrate the latest piece of technology is just tacky; the music is terrible., etc., etc., etc.

My reaction to these reactions is so strong, my head (and maybe my soul) really really really want to explode. Really.

Admittedly, I’ve not kept up with U2 as well as I once did.

For what it’s worth, I was rather obsessed with them from 1982 to 1987. My love of U2 never came close to equaling my love of Rush, Talk Talk, Yes, or even Thomas Dolby at the same time, but I still knew about everything there was to know about the four guys from Ireland.

To this day (September 12, 2014), I think October and The Joshua Tree are two of the greatest rock albums ever made, “New Year’s Day” a contender for the greatest rock song ever written, and “Under a Blood Red Sky” second only “Exit Stage Left” as the greatest live album of all time.

I still can’t listen either to October or The Joshua Tree (the latter especially) without becoming emotional. The first time I listened to The Joshua Tree, I cried and cried. Perhaps not very manly, but certainly very human. Bono’s voice and lyrics spoke to my lifelong desire for social justice.

As strange or paradoxical as it is seems to me now, I can state with some certainty that while Neil Peart’s lyrics taught me to love myself, Bono’s lyrics taught me to love that which is not myself.

I thought Rattle and Hum a great rockumentary, and I continued to defend—sometimes vehemently—U2’s music post “Rattle and Hum.” I couldn’t do that now. While I think post-Rattle and Hum U2 is very, very good, it’s not excellent. U2 enjoyed a streak of genius from Boy to The Joshua Tree. After 1987, though, it did great things but not brilliant ones. The song with Johnny Cash on Zooropa and Fez from No Line on the Horizon still show that old brilliance, but the glimpses of genius have become rarer as U2 has aged.

I’m sure there are reasons for this, though I’m not sure I could identify them easily. I do think that U2’s social justice made much more sense in the Cold War than it does in the post Cold War period. By this, I don’t mean that Social Justice is less important than it was in the 1980s. It’s ALWAYS important. It’s just that the social justice U2 espoused was anti-Cold War, a focus on problems that did not fit into the Cold War scheme of things. With the Cold War over, U2’s position seems less full, somehow watered down. In hindsight, I think their positions were necessarily anti-Cold War as opposed to a-Cold War. The troubles of early 1980’s Ireland or South Africa just don’t hold the kind of gravitas they once did.

apple

Tim Cook and three members of U2, September 9, 2014.

This is all a very long way of saying to U2 and to Apple, thank you. When I look back at my 1980s, Steve Jobs stands next to Bono as heroes. Both spoke for excellence in the human condition. I have no problems with the two being connected, in my memory or in the actual present. Do the guys of U2 looks like they’re in their fifties. Three of the four do. The Edge still looks young. But, hey, who cares? Age is utterly and completely relative. Do I at 47 act like I did at 22? Thank God, NO! Wouldn’t it be much worse if U2 spent their money on plastic surgery rather than advocating aid for the poor in Africa?

And, I really, really like the new album. Is it The Joshua Tree. No. Is it even Actung, Baby? No. Is it good? Yes. Bono’s voice still sounds excellent, the lyrics are quite strong, and, perhaps most importantly, the music is completely earnest. No gimmicks, no fads, no tricks—just four older guys making music.

Thank you, Tim Cook. Thank you, four guys from Ireland.

 

[P.S.  This is my 500th post at progarchy.  Tempus fugit.]

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