Friday, March 30, 2007
Being the habitual lame-o that I am, I failed to make the the show. Here's a taste of what I missed:
(hat tip for the clip: Good Nonsense)
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
However, Starbucks president Ken Lombard, disagrees. Citing the potential music buying audience nestled within Starbucks 4400 stores and 44 million weekly customers, Mr. Lombard was quoted in the 3/22/07 issue of The Chicago Tribune as stating that potential audience "could provide a transformational oppurtunity to the music industry, that would change how the music consumer would discover and acquire their music.
On the second point, inasmuch as those seem to be the target audiences for Jason Mraz records, how much more harm can be done? And as for the first point, fear not. Your choices will not wilt like my NCAA pool hopes.
It’s a matter of economics. Think about the maximum growth that Starbucks could realistically experience over the next twenty years. Now multiply it by ten. Even at that size, Starbucks wouldn’t have the market power to materially limit choices. Sure, they can limit your access to certain recordings inside their store – just as a Ford dealer can refuse to sell you a BMW – but the vast number of ways to discover music (terrestrial radio, satellite, file sharing, etc.) combined with the ease of purchasing it elsewhere (iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Wal-Mart to name but a few) means that they’ll have miniscule power to affect what you buy.
And speaking of Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest music retailer and the one company that could conceivably wield some insidious power, consider this: In 1996, it limited its customers’ choices by refusing to stock Sheryl Crow’s self-titled album. Nonetheless, the record sold four million copies at a time before consumers had radically empowering purchasing options like iTunes and Amazon. People who are going to limit themselves to buying discs available at Starbucks probably weren’t going to buy much music anyway.
The explosion of consumer choice over the past ten years is only going to grow as technology destroys barriers to entry in the market. Lily Allen may be the first myspace superstar, but she certainly won’t be the last, and bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah are designing the template for DIY on a large scale. And I guarantee that the next few years will bring new and better ways of delivering music that we haven’t even imagined yet.
Over the next decade, here’s what you’ll notice about Starbucks’ impact on your ability to get the music you want: Nothing.
With that, I promise never again to think about Starbucks’ impact on the recording industry. I had hoped never to give it this much thought in the first place.
And can you believe he called me “disingenuous?” That super-cool CD burn I planned to make for him tomorrow? Well let’s just say I might put it off until the weekend. That’ll show him.
If (when?) Starbucks becomes a more dominant musical tastemaker as its retail power continues to grow, consumers’ choices will wilt faster than Michael’s chances of winning the NCAA pool. Their extremely limited music selection coupled with their rabbit-like ability to birth outlets on every other corner will give them access to 87% of the coffee drinkers in the free world. Soccer moms and yuppies-in-training coming in for a $5.00 half-caf, re-caf, mocha latte grande will be subjected to the latest McCartney “product” on an I’ll-bet-my-life-on-it-it’s-in-the-contract guarantee of airplay in every Starbucks outlet. And they’ll buy it. And that’s a shame… unless he makes a good record. And if he does that, I’ll eat cheese.
There’s also this larger sense that Macca’s only doing it for the money. Of course he is. The man is cash-strapped. Reports indicate that Sir Paul is poised to give his formerly beloved Heather $56 million in their divorce settlement, leaving him with roughly fifty-six-million-less-than-infinity dollars. It’s either this deal or play two nights at Giants Stadium and two at Wembley. Let’s see you play four stadium shows when you’re sixty-four.
Seriously, though, couldn’t this be a good thing? Trip’s point (and one I’ve heard stated elsewhere) reflects an unease with cultural homogenization and the cruel edge of mass markets, but this isn’t a choice between big and small commerce. It’s not like Paul was going to sign with Yep Roc (though that would be cool) or Kill Rock Stars. It was either this or sign with Sony or Capitol. And what have they done for you lately? The majors have shown a remarkable incapacity to adapt to unstoppable changes like file-sharing (thanks for hiding that anti-security software on the My Morning Jacket disc, RCA!), a short-sighted resistance to developing artists, and an utter impotency in marketing acts over fifty. Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Paul Simon and Elton John (the closest things McCartney has to peers) each released new albums last year, but did you hear them anywhere on commercial radio? Why does John Mellencamp’s new single serve as the soundtrack to a truck commercial? Because you can’t hear it anywhere else.
So enter Starbucks, a company that seems to care about its product, and which has a keen sense of how to sell it. They’re undoubtedly thrilled to have Paul on their roster, and I’ll bet he’s excited that they’re thrilled. Will that translate into a creative shot in the arm? I don’t know, but I’m quite certain it won’t hurt.
The bigger issue, though, is the effect that a powerful new entrant to the market could have on the industry overall. The majors seem to be out of ideas about how to grow sales and please fans. Maybe what they need is a potent competitor with fresh, innovative thoughts. Maybe they can learn something in the process and tweak their antiquated business models. Mabye, if forced, they can stop giving us what they want, and start giving us what we want.
Maybe what they need is a big jolt of espresso.
Monday, March 26, 2007
It’s a genius business deal, and if we’ve learned anything about either corporation (Starbucks or Paul McCartney,Inc), we’ve learned that both are incredibly savvy about understanding their product, their business model and their target audience. I don’t knock either of them for the deal… it seems to make great financial sense. McCartney gets guaranteed in-store play of another sure to be mediocre, lifeless cd (quick… name 2 songs off any McCartney record in the last 30 years – yeah, I couldn’t do it either). Starbucks execs get to walk around slapping each other on the back saying “Can you believe we signed a Beatle?” And the kicker is… this new record will be his best seller in years, ‘cause people willing to spend $5.00 for a cup of coffee will have no problem shelling out $18.00 for something with McCartney’s name on it. They’ll listen to it once, and then never again. And if Starbucks somehow negotiated the rights to any of McCartney’s “good” albums (read: before 1980… and yeah I know Flaming Pie was supposedly great – but you didn’t buy it, did you?), then this deal could be a financial windfall for both corporations.
It’s just that I like my music to be made by rock groups or hungry singer-songwriters that haven’t devolved into multi-national merchants of pop pap… and I know it’s my hang-up. The Starbucks brand was responsible for Antigone Rising, a totally unremarkable yet earnest and polite cd from an all-female group that probably gave the coffee company tastemakers visions of Sheryl Crow or Indigo Girls-like success. Their incredibly non-noteworthy cd, “From The Ground Up”, sold an astounding 70,000 in Starbucks alone. And while no one could ever convince me that Ray Charles was anything less than a genius, his Genius Loves Company was MOR schlock, yet his biggest seller in decades (at one point, Starbucks had sold 775,000 of the 3 million copies sold). And that’s the power of Starbucks… bringing schlock to the caffeinated masses.
So bravo to Paul McCartney… he’s made a great financial decision. But Starbucks as musical tastemakers – here are some reasons I say nyet:
1. This quote from Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment, discussing how far the chain will go into music without diluting its coffee heritage - “The customer won’t go into the store and feel like they’ve walked into a music store”. Is it possible that the reason the music industry is struggling (especially bricks and mortar stores) is that people would rather buy their music in an overpriced coffee shop than an enlightened music store. Boo.
2. Isn’t it a shame that Starbucks customers will only hear and therefore only buy: watered down Ray Charles, classic rock repackages, acoustic Alanis Morisette, boreass smooth jazz or jazz lite, Coldplay (which is now a whole form of music), Dave Matthews, Amos Lee and other bland soft rock peddlers?
3. They reneged on a deal to carry Springsteen’s Devils and Dust because of the off-color “Reno”. The reason they gave was “scheduling difficulties”. That’s their prerogative – but what a bunch of cowards – I’d had a lot of respect for them if they just said it’s joyless, tuneless borefest.
4. People are lazy and stupid… Starbucks is charging list price ($17.98 or so) and people are paying it. For the love of god, go anywhere else and PAY LESS!
5. Record companies are whores... all of them. Starbucks typically pays $9.00 for Coldplay’s $17.98 X and Y disc and then sells the cd for $17.98. Your local indie store is paying their distributor about $12.00 and selling the cd for $14.99 or $15.99. I know all about economies of scale and quantity discounts, but this is just plain wrong. Look… if you’re downloading music, by all means, click away. But if you still buy cds and there’s a local indie store anywhere near you, please buy the new Norah Jones there instead of Starbucks. It’ll make you feel good.
7. The homogenization of America… if you have options, why not patronize local businesses instead of Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and Starbucks. Do you really like paying $5.00 for a cup of coffee?
The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites came out last year while I wasn't paying attention. So much music, so little time.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
I don't know my interrogator personally (even his identity is shrouded in secrecy, in an 0h-so-very-Mexican-wrestling sort of way), but we each contribute to Mizzou Sanity, which chronicles the adventures and misadventures of the star-crossed athletics programs of our alma mater, the University of Missouri.
If the exchange proves anything, it's that people who enjoy the Dave Matthews Band (him) can live harmoniously with people who do not (me). And if groups of people with such deeply held differences can get along, I think there's hope for all of us.
Friday, March 23, 2007
If anyone happens to have an audio file of this cover, please let me know.
OK… so I’ve figured it out.
The Hold Steady + 22 oz. lagers + buds + Lancaster + Friday off = Perfect Buzz.
I know many drinks have been written and many words have been spilled around these parts in praise of The Hold Steady, but I saw ‘em for the fourth time in 8 months last night, and I’m here to tell you… they ain’t getting any worse.
Where to begin…standard opener “Stuck Between Stations” got hearts pounding, beers spraying and the floor heaving. Shit-eating grins abound… is this the greatest band in America? It might be… tonight there is no doubt. You’ve got Craig Finn’s idiosyncratic stage spasms (I especially like the mouthing of just sung lines) and lead beer spraying, Franz Nicolay’s way-up-there but just off-enough-to-be-right harmonies (not to mention best moustache in rock and roll), the always benevolent bassist Galen Polivka (last night he freely distributed beers and cigarettes to some of the more exuberant and younger fans), ace mechanic and rock steady drummer Bobby Drake (love the Drake!) and super secret ingredient Tad Kubler, whose arsenal of classic rock riffs (and I hear Brain May, Tom Scholz, Jimmy Page, Mick Ronson and Mick Ralphs all in there) never seem tired and come at you with blazing force… not to mention his little “My Sharona” quote (Finn pipes up “Don’t encourage him”) and the sweetest onstage rip-chord in recent memory.
Set rarities included non-album tracks “You Gotta Dance With Who You Came to the Dance With” and “Modesto Is Not That Sweet, “Sweet Payne” from Almost Killed Me and the recent, rarely played “Citrus”. Add these to usual set highlights like “Massive Nights”, “First Night” “Hoodrat Friend”, “Hornets! Hornets! and “Party Pit”, plus 22 oz. lagers (excuse me… but why doesn’t every bar serve these?), a great rock club in the middle of Pennsyltucky, the impending glow of sleeping in and a fistful of buddies that believe… and you’ve got the perfect buzz.
It’s almost as if band and audience can’t believe their good fortune. The all-out stage invasion during the latter moments of show closer “Killer Parties” solidifies The Hold Steady mantra – they are us, we are them. “We’re The Hold Steady”.
We eagerly await details, pal. For my part, I was catching Disney on Ice at Kemper Arena in Kansas City (and following NCAA scores via BlackBerry). I can't be positive, but I'm guessing that the show I saw rocked less.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I think when Feeney played “Wendy” for me in his cd store I knew it was something special. And it was. Jesse Malin’s first cd, The Fine Art of Self Destruction, had just been released overseas in late 2002. I must have played that cd 50 times in the first 3 months of 2003. I tend to get obsessive about my favorite music - there isn’t a month that goes by where I fail to give Heat Treatment or Late For The Sky a spin. Heck, I haven’t made a full week in the last 6 months without drifting off into the musical crack that is Boys And Girls in America or Dog Problems.
Now it’s Glitter in the Gutter’s turn. Jesse Malin’s new cd will hit stores this Tuesday (3/20) and if you love rock and roll with equal parts Springsteen fervor, Croce melodies and Ramones attitude, you need to hear Glitter in The Gutter. The big early buzz is that Ryan Adams, Josh Homme and Bruce Springsteen made guest appearances on the record. That’s fine but would mean nothing without great songs… and Malin’s got a bundle of them.
Add in scattered highlights from his first two records (“Wendy”, “Almost Grown”, “Brooklyn”, “Basement Home”, “Hotel Columbia”) plus superb covers “Everybody’s Talkin’” and celebratory show-closer “Surrender”, and you’ve got a pee-break free set. (Note: All rock bands should be forced to end their shows with a Cheap Trick cover. It’s just good common sense.)
Friday, March 16, 2007
Because everyone loves a list, the good folks at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have produced one of their own, The Definitive 200 Rock and Roll Albums. While there’s plenty of orthodoxy here (Sgt. Pepper’s, as mandated by the Omnibus Rock Album List Normalization Act of 1986, takes the top spot), some of the choices are, um, peculiar. Here are some of my favorite entries:
13. Santana, Supernatural
Likewise, I had this one at number 13, but on my list of the 15 best albums I bought in September 1999.
21. Shania Twain, Come on Over
33. Dixie Chicks, Wide Open Spaces
Apparently, these are the two finest country albums of all time. Now they tell me. And I’ve wasted so much time listening to Waylon’s Honky Tonk Heroes.
34. Miles Davis, Kind of Blue
Even Natalie Maines is a little embarrassed by this.
48. Dave Matthews Band, Crash
49. Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers
I have so much to say, so much to say, so much to say about this pairing, but this is a family forum.
71. The Eagles, Hell Freezes Over
Look, they put the punch line right in the title!
74. Phil Collins, No Jacket Required
Apparently, no judgment required, either.
96. Creed, Human Clay
97. The Clash, London Calling
If there’s anything good about Joe Strummer’s death, it’s that he didn’t live to learn that he’s nearly as good as Scott Stapp.
98. Celine Dion, Falling Into You
But I’m sure he’d be relieved to know that he’s a tad better than Celine.
107. Kenny G, Breathless
108. NWA, Straight Outta Compton
109. Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
110. The Beatles, Rubber Soul
111. Radiohead, OK Computer
Breathless? I’m speechless.
154. Will Smith, Big Willie Style
155. Prince, Sign O’ the Times
156. Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
157. Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. If there’s one song that speaks to the current state of the human condition any more than “Sign of the Times,” “Bring the Noise” or “Idiot Wind,” it’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.”
173. Soundtrack, Forrest Gump
174. Al Green, Call Me
175. Curtis Mayfield, Superfly
Three titans of soul music. James Brown, for the record, doesn’t appear on the list
(Hat tip: Good Nonsense).
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Well, sort of. And it wasn’t Patti Smith.
(Forgive me if you’ve heard this one before).
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame held its annual induction ceremony last night, and Ms. Smith, R.E.M. and others joined the pantheon, as did Van Halen, the heavyweight champs of big badass American rawk. I didn’t catch the event live on TV, but I did check the official blog today. It seems that no one actually named Van Halen bothered to appear (for the record, Eddie is currently in rehab), nor did former (and, apparently, future) front man David Lee Roth. However, the band’s most notable ousted members – bassist Michael Anthony and singer mach two Sammy Hagar – showed to pick up the hardware, thank the fans, and lay a little live rock and roll on the masses.
In the press room, when asked about the rumored forthcoming VH tour featuring Roth, the ever gracious Sammy said "If there's anything Van Halen should do for the fans, it's a reunion with Dave." That prompted the official bloggers to declare “Hagar continues to be the most humble man ever inducted into the Rock Hall.”
Years ago, in another life, I was practicing law at a very fine firm in Kansas City, when I learned that the partner two doors down from me had been retained by the Red Rocker. It seems that Sammy had gotten crossways with a local guy who was writing his authorized biography. On the day of a hearing in the matter, I showed up early at the office and was greeted with a strange request: Sammy is here and he’s not really dressed appropriately for court. Would you mind trading clothes with him?
Would I mind? How could I refuse? How better to spice up a day of legal research at a mid-sized, mid-American law firm than to don the threads of the man who penned “There’s Only One Way to Rock”?
So I went and introduced myself to Mr. Hagar and led him back to my office, where we closed the door, made some small talk, and stripped to the waist. He was genuine, affable and a little embarrassed, but he didn’t complain even as he slid into a shirt too small in the neck and too long in the sleeves. I helped him tie a necktie, and then, despite almost certainly feeling a little ridiculous, he gladly posed for pictures, the results of which clearly demonstrated which of us the rock star was and which was not.
With the start of a tour just days away, Sammy headed straight from the courthouse to the airport in my clothes, but a few days later, a box arrived with soiled white business shirt, Sammy’s sharpied autograph sprucing up the otherwise unremarkable tail. A couple of weeks later, at the artist’s invitation, a group of us sat about eight rows back, center stage, as Sammy and the Waboritas blasted through town, churning out a set of tequila-soaked hits.
So here’s to the newest hall of famer. Sammy might not have Eddie Van Halen’s genius or Diamond Dave’s blinding charisma, but he had the decency and sobriety to show up to thank the masses who made them all very rich men.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Last night I went to the Anti-Flag concert at the TLA. For those of you not familiar with Anti-Flag, think a little Black Flag, a little Rancid and whole bunch of Generation X and Buzzcocks, but without the songwriting chops. They spew three minutes doses of hardcore power pop bile. Not only are they Anti-Flag, they are anti-Bush, anti-nationalism, anti-war, anti-consumerism (plenty of concession sales though) and anti-everyone that doesn’t agree with them.
But they were also a whole lot of fun – stage frenzy, gang vocals , crowd-surfing mohawked bassist , actual hooks plus a shit-eating grinner of a drummer who looked liked a beefier Billy Zoom. But most importantly, they’ve got a fanatic base of fist-pumping, pit-moshing, testosterone-raging teenage boys (not to mention the black-clad, overly mascara-ed punk rock girls).
I took two of those teenage boys to the show (pictured above) and I’d take them another 100 times to stand in the geezer section (in front the bar where a few tables are set up) and watch how real rock rollers prove it all night. For offering me a window into my 15 year old soul, Teenage Kicks salutes T-Dawg and Jules.
They were doing the quarterly beg-a-thon and showing the Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus, and I first happened to catch a little chat between John Lennon and “Michael” Jagger, obviously pie-eyed. Interesting enough, but what really caught my eye was Marianne Faithfull’s version of “Something Better”. It’s not really a great song (kinda hippy-dippy in a flowery-powery way) but her appearance is mesmerizing. She remains stock still in a floor length evening gown and looks so out of place as to be out of time... and those eyelashes! But my god was she gorgeous, possibly the most elegant pop star ever? And her sweet, scratchy voice (which deepened later into a craggy, earthy moan) sounds angelic and sexy, which is what we all want, right?
So I put it to you dear readers (both of you), has there ever been a sexier, more perfect female pop star than Marianne Faithfull?
Check out this clip of “As Tears Go By” and dream.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Trip is at home sick and I really want to cheer him up with some cool videos, but when I try to embed them here, youtube tells me I can't because we switched to the new Blogger (gotta love the technological advances). I've snooped around the web and have found that this is a common problem. Anyone know a way around it?
For now, we'll just link to the vids the old-fashioned way. See here, here and here.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Friday, March 02, 2007
Trip panders to the Parrot Heads in an effort to gain allies in his argument that "Maybe I'm Amazed" is a stonier classic than "Every Breath You Take."
Don't be fooled, Buffett fans, it's a Mitt Romney maneuver. He's speaking your language, but he doesn't hold your beliefs (see entry 116).
When I think stone classic, I think:
“Street Fighting Man”. “Satisfaction”. “Tumbling Dice”. OR
“One”. “I Will Follow”. “Pride (In The Name of Love”. OR
“Born to Run”. “Rosalita”. “Thunder Road”. OR
“Won’t Get Fooled Again”. “My Generation”. “Baba O’Riley.” OR
“Hey Jude”. “All My Loving”. “Maybe I’m Amazed”. OR
“Margaritaville”. “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. “Son of A Son of A Sailor”.
These are the types of songs that, to me, would scream “stone classic” status thus inspiring thousands to troop merrily to giant stadiums and grassy fields to glimpse their teenage idols bring back the memories one more time. Not “Roxanne”.
The whole world knows that I have great affection for my writing partner, but Trip’s deep personal antipathy toward the artist formerly known as Gordon Sumner has, I fear, colored his perception of reality.
In the post below, he issues a challenge: “Name one Police song that is a stone classic. You can’t do it.”
Now, I can’t dunk a basketball, speak Russian or make it through an episode of Two and a Half Men, but I can do this one in my sleep.
For starters, “Every Breath You Take.” It’s not just a classic, it’s a standard, one of the most well-known and enduring songs of the second half of the Twentieth Century. Is there really any debate about this?
Then there’s “Message in a Bottle,” the perfect distillation of the Police’s broader vision into a pop song, where Stewart Copeland’s polyrhythmic virtuosity marries with Andy Summers’s trademark colorations to underpin one of Sting’s best melodies. And what about “So Lonely”? “Can’t Stand Losing You”? “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”?
And dare I say “Roxanne”? I can hear the snarkers howling, but there was a time when this song absolutely leaped off the radio. I think the revisionist derision aimed at this tune has more to do with what it has come to represent through Sting’s subsequent lounge-lizard reinterpretations than with the original recording, which, to my ears, remains flawless.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to plunk down three figures to watch a show through binoculars (Trip’s thirteen-for-the-price-of-one proposition is genius). I don’t go for nostalgia or remote musical experiences (and that includes the Stones, my fave band ever). But there are some arresting songs in the catalog of the only band I know that is simultaneously overrated and underrated.
Thursday, March 01, 2007
I’m not sure why the Police’s reunion tour has got me so wound up. Is it because Sting rivals Don Henley at the top of my list of all time despised rock stars? Is it because I never really thought they were that great? I mean, name one Police song that is a stone classic. You can’t do it. Several good songs… no stone classics. Is it because a good seat costs in excess of $225? I think I’m getting warm. Is it because the only time I saw The Police the ticket was free? It’s true – you could look it up – at the Walnut Street Theater – a WIOQ free concert promotion in April 1979. Is it because I’ll never, ever understand why rock fans settle for being half a block away from any performer and calling that a concert? Let’s put it this way… if you’ve spent more than $20 for a concert ticket and you need binoculars (or one of those giant screen TVs) to tell if your favorite rock star is smiling, you got ripped off jack.
So as a public service to those thinking about plunking down your hard earned cash for the Citizen’s Bank Police event, I am here to provide you a list of alternate ways of spending your $225:
A. You could attend the following thirteen shows:
1. Badly Drawn Boy – TLA (3/3) – $21.50
2. The Thermals – First Unitarian Church (3/6) – $10
3. The Shins – Electric Factory (3/13) - $27
4. Jesse Malin – Tin Angel (3/15) - $16
5. Hoodoo Gurus – World Café Live (3/21) - $18
6. The Hold Steady – Chameleon Club (3/22) - $10
7. Broken West – Khyber (3/25) - $8
8. Ted Leo – TLA (3/28) - $14
9. Alejandro Escovedo – Tin Angel (3/30) - $25
10. TV on the Radio – Troc (4/20) - $16
11. Fountains of Wayne – Troc (4/26) - $14
12. Peter, Bjorn & John – TLA (5/3) - $16
13. The Arcade Fire – Tower (5/5) - $31
B. Buy a 40 GB IPOD.
C. Subscribe to MOJO for 2 years.
D. Get 15-20 cds (even more if you get lucky browsing the used bins) at Main Street Music in Manayunk. Call Pat at 215-487-7732… they've got everything.
E. 11 lap dances… or so I’m told.
F. Buy A LOT of beer.
G. Buy my writing partner a plane ticket to Philly... or send me to Kansas City.
Please remember…CAVEAT EMPTOR. Do you really want to spend two hours watching someone that might be Sting? You won’t be able to tell.