Capsule reviews of what I’ve listened to since the last installment follow the jump. Albums are reviewed in descending order on my Personal Proggyness Perception (PPP) scale, scored from 0 to 10.
“Where’s the iconic bands that initially came out with the sounds that you love? I’ve never seen a band that impressed me that looks like they’re going to be the next Judas Priest or Iron Maiden.” “ — Says Exodus Vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza
“there seems to be no Led Zeppelin for the current generation of music fans” — Forbes
But, we need note that there was no Iron Maiden until there was one. In other words, emergence of The Beatles or a Black Sabbath or an Iron Maiden is sort of non-cyclical. We may assume otherwise, but history itself is non-cyclic. What’s generally cyclic is human behavior. Especially our propensity to repeat mistakes, or ask instinctive questions. Even outside of rock and roll, same questions might arise. For example, who is the Antoine Lavoisier or Adam Smith or Charles Darwin of the last century! But the answer is the same.
We definitely don’t have giant arena filling heavy metal bands anymore, but the question is do we even want to go back to that time? Dialing back a vibrant musical evolution of 40 years seems inane. Back then we just had heavy metal, now it has mutated into hundreds of sub-genres. Instead of arena filling giants, we have an ecosystem and an extended research worthy genealogy. So, do we go back to stadium filling old school purists or just sit back and appreciate a hybrid fragmented mosaic — of Tribulation, Meshuggah and The Dillinger Escape Plan! We definitely cannot have both.
Analogous to Charles Darwin or Karl Marx — Black Sabbath and The Rolling Stones were also originators of powerful ideas. Those ideas were transformative and spawned whole new schools of thought. They were giants because they were at the beginnings — of something captivating and novel. In other words, we simply cannot expect arena filling giants from an aging refined genre, for that we simply might have to look elsewhere.
MC50 at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, Michigan, September 22, 2018.
Brothers and sisters, I wanna see a sea of hands out there … I want everybody to kick up some noise, I wanna hear some revolution … Brothers and sisters, the time has come for each and every one of you to decide whether you are going to be the problem or you are going to be the solution! You must choose, brothers, you must choose. It takes five seconds, five seconds of decision, five seconds to realize your purpose here on the planet. It takes five seconds to realize that its time to move, it’s time to get down with it. Brothers, it’s time to testify. And I want to know – are you ready to testify? Are you ready!! I give you a testimonial. THE MC5!!
As Brother J.C. Crawford’s ghostly, prerecorded invocation echoed in our ears, Wayne Kramer welcomed his audience (including me, my older brother, and my friends from high school and college) with a giant grin, a wicked riff from his Stars and Stripes Stratocaster, and the unmistakable, hyped-up grind of “Ramblin Rose.” Surfing a bone-shaking wave of sound, Kramer joyously belted out a raucous vocal, reeling off exhilarating solo licks on the Strat between verses. Almost 50 years after Detroit’s original punks recorded their live debut album Kick Out the Jams, the evening already promised to live up to the MC5’s formidable legend.
“Kick Out the Jams” itself quickly followed, with Zen Guerrilla’s Marcus Durant taking over on vocals, channeling MC5 singer Rob Tyner’s throaty, soulful delivery, stoking us up to dance and shout along. On this and “Come Together”, Kramer locked in with Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil for a meaty twin guitar punch a la Fred “Sonic” Smith; meanwhile, Faith No More bassist Billy Gould and Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty laid down deep irresistible grooves, vibrating human bodies and rattling the concrete floor. This was hard rock honed to a keen point — recklessly idealistic, the barbaric yawp of youth refined by decades of hard knocks, dearly bought wisdom, revived dedication to craft and killer instinct. Plus the obvious determination to give the crowd a good time.
From the movie Airheads:
Chazz: Who’d win in a wresting match? Lemmy or God?
Chris: … God?
Rex: Wrong, ********. Trick question. Lemmy *IS* God.
Was at this technical death metal show yesterday, headlined by Obscura, Beyond Creation and Archspire. In short, the most tortuously intricate sounds on the planet, playing back to back at one venue. A sonic feast. But, before tech death, thrash metal, and even before first wave of black metal, there was Motörhead.
When blues based psychedelic and space rock collided with punk riffs, it sparked an uncontrollable causal chain. So dissonant that it consumed the whole planet. Motörhead is probably what they might have termed as extreme metal in the 70s — combining that elegance of Jimi Hendrix with some distracting discordance. Rooted in blues, but playing the riffs loud enough to keep the dainties at a safe distance — essentially crafting that first clear cross-over from proto-punk to metal. In other words, Lemmy accomplished that seemingly impossible task – fusion of polar opposites – of molten lava with freezing ice – of harsh punk sensibilities with elegance of electric blues.
What new music, live albums, and reissues (deluxe and otherwise) are heading our way between now and Black Friday? Check out the exhaustive (and possibly exhausting) sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with a few other personal priorities — below. Pre-order links are for CDs or combo packages; vinyl editions are frequently available from the same website.
- September 21:
- Marillion, Happiness is Cologne and Popular Music. Limited edition live reissues from Racket Records and earMusic. Pre-order at Amazon or other online retailers.
- Nosound, Allow Yourself. Pre-order from Burning Shed.
- September 28:
- October 5:
- October 12:
- October 19:
- Greta Van Fleet, Anthem of the Peaceful Army. The first full-length album from Frankenmuth, Michigan’s young Zepheads. Pre-order at GvF’s webstore.
- iamthemorning, Ocean Sounds. Live in the studio; audio/video bundle. Pre-order at Burning Shed.
- In Continuum, Acceleration Theory. With Dave Kerzner and an all-star line-up. Pre-order bundles from Bandcamp. Pre-order deadline for special bundles: September 30.
- Frank Sinatra, Only the Lonely: 60th Anniversary Edition. Yes, really. The greatest concept album of the pre-rock era, with Sinatra and arranger Nelson Riddle at their most gorgeous and devastating. “Make it one for my baby … and one more for the road.” More info at Super Deluxe Edition.
- October 26:
- November 2:
- November 9:
- November 16:
- Marillion, Brave Live and Live in Glasgow. Limited edition live reissues from Racket Records and earMusic. Pre-order at Amazon or other online retailers.
- The Tangent, Proxy. Pre-order special bundles from The Tangent webstore.
- November 23:
- The Beatles, White Album 50th Anniversary Edition?
- Big Big Train, Merchants of Light Blu-Ray
- King Crimson, The ReConstruKction of Light (40th Anniversary reissue) and Heaven and Earth (Crimson ProjeKcts box set)
— Rick Krueger
It’s been a busy week at the mailbox and on the doorstep. With a clear day off, I decided to listen to all the new music I’ve received since Monday. Capsule reviews follow the jump; albums are reviewed in their descending order on my freshly made up Personal Proggyness Perception (PPP) scale, scored from 0 to 10.
Lake Street Dive at Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater, Grand Rapids, Michigan, August 30, 2018.
Boston-founded, Brooklyn-based pop’n’soul band Lake Street Dive has swiftly become a quintessential Meijer Gardens act — debuting in 2015, returning every year since, regularly selling out shows even though their ticket prices have doubled in just four years. (The quintessential Meijer Gardens act? Undoubtedly Lyle Lovett, who’s appeared during 13 of the Amphitheater’s 16 seasons.)
In that time span vocalist Rachael Price, guitarist/trumpeter Mike “McDuck” Olson, stand-up bassist Bridget Kearney and drummer Mike Calabrese have seasoned their initial Motown-meets-Beatles stylings with funk and disco flavors, signed with quirky Warner Music imprint Nonesuch, added keyboardist Akie Bermiss as a full member, and scored a top 10 album, 2018’s Free Yourself Up. With 2,000 fans spanning the generations in attendance, this show was set to be a celebration — by both players and audience — of the band coming into its own.
From my point of view, they delivered; the night felt like the most fun of the three Lake Street Dive shows I’ve heard. The simple choice of having Calabrese’s drum kit face the audience (instead of toward stage right) seemed to open a more direct connection between the group and the crowd. And with four albums to choose from, the setlist felt like it flowed better, with more variety in the moods and grooves, consistent forward motion, and a gathering momentum.
Throughout the night, Bermiss’ pads, rhythms and synth licks gave Olson leave to be looser on guitar and play more solo trumpet, and Calabrese’s drumming was splashier and more extroverted. Playing to their respective strengths, Kearney held down the bottom end with solidity and style, while Price cooed, cajoled, tempted and triumphed, delivering alternately sassy and lovelorn reports from the front lines of 21st-century romance. Multi-part harmonies were spot on throughout the night, with Bermiss contributing a winning lead vocal on a typically oddball cover, Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One.” Other eccentric ideas like a triptych of songs about the same loser (“Bobby Tanqueray/Spectacular Failure/Doesn’t Even Matter Now”) and the microsuite “Seventeen” came off without a hitch, too. By the encore, as Price soared on the driving “Dude” then simmered through the lounge jazz take on the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” that brought Lake Street Dive to prominence, I was convinced — this had been a great evening. And the audience response seemed to bear that out.
Except for one thing: my friend from college — who’d first brought Lake Street Dive to my attention, who consistently raves about their abilities, who’s attended all their Meijer Gardens shows with me, whose musical opinions I deeply respect — wasn’t convinced. And he had fair points to make. For one thing, the live sound was substantially louder and boomier than on previous visits — I realized that, on the uptempo tunes, I’d been compensating by listening through the low end fuzz and haze to hear the harmony vocals or Kearney’s detailed bass work. In addition, the thicker, chunkier sound of the Dive’s quintet formation just didn’t work for him; while acknowledging Bermiss’ ability and musicianship, he strongly prefers the open space and freer interplay of the original quartet. And both of us agree that the band’s writing could use a shot in the arm — all the onstage energy pumped life into the new tunes, but on disc both the Nonesuch albums (Side Pony and Free Yourself Up) run out of steam before they run out of songs.
So while I enjoyed the evening, this show also served another purpose — illustrating that “in matters of taste, there can be no dispute” — de gustibus non est disputandum, for any Latin majors. Both of us had strong opinions of the show — and the cool thing was that we could talk through them without feeling like we had to convince the other to abandon his point of view. Probably good for me to remember the next time one of those classic online prog-rock discussions (“Was Genesis any good after Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett left? Did Trevor Rabin ruin Yes? Was Signals where Rush jumped the shark?”*) break out.
And, since “in matters of taste, there can be no dispute,” I do think that both my friend and I would encourage you to check out Lake Street Dive —- on record and live — for yourself. You can also check out another local review of the show, with an extensive photo gallery, here. The setlist:
- Baby, Don’t Leave Me Alone with My Thoughts
- You Are Free
- I Don’t Care About You
- Red Light Kisses
- Bobby Tanqueray
- Spectacular Failure
- Doesn’t Even Matter Now
- Hello? Goodbye!
- Hang On
- I Can Change
- You’re Still the One
- Call Off Your Dogs
- Shame, Shame, Shame
- Musta Been Something
- Bad Self Portraits
- Good Kisser
- You Go Down Smooth
- I Want You Back
— Rick Krueger
*- For the record, my answers are: yes; no; and absolutely not.