Sunday, February 3, 2013

Better than Dynasty or Hill Street Blues.

So you’re going to complain about Coachella?


Cause it totally sucks having a rad 3-day vacation with your best friends wherein everyone is having fun, eating your favorite food(trucks), dancing, smiling, bonding and sharing memories all to a carefully curated live-music soundtrack for your listening and viewing enjoyment.

Yeah, that’s terrible.

Let’s instead look at the top of each days’ bill and pass snap judgment without looking at the 10 bands a day you’d go see at the Echo or El Rey anyway.

Let’s talk about the bands that have already played there in the past, let’s complain about the band that we think in our infinite wisdom is reuniting solely for the money when really we’re just pissed it wasn’t The Smiths.

Let’s complain about ticket prices when we’re all getting comps anyway. Let’s complain about the hip-hop influence that’s pervading recent years while following A$AP on Twitter and watching the video for Thrift Store when no one is looking.

Let’s complain about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, never mind that they helped invent alternative music when you were 3 and your older sister who now likes Deap Valley was super into New Kids On The Block.  

Let’s post ironic fake lineups to hide the fact that you’re bummed your shitty band isn’t on the bill.

But it’s such a long drive, and the traffic, and no one has reception, and the rooms are booked, and you have to wait in line for a drink, and there’s no enough water, and there’s too much dance music, and.....YOU’RE AN ASSHOLE.

It’s fucking awesome. Get over it, get over yourself and HAVE FUN.

I will be there with my better half, as we go every year and have an incredible time, like an annual honeymoon, kissing under the stars, knowing every inch of the terrain from going year after year (Yes I went to the 1st one, very proud of that), dancing to bands from all across the country, laughing, sweating, catching up with friends, making plans to meet up at designated times then getting distracted by something awesome and meeting up by accident later anyway, being at the outdoor theater at Sunset, having flashbacks to playing there (twice, let me enjoy that, OK?), getting years confused when discussing past performances, buying the app, getting a tan, beating the crowd, knowing the shortcuts, having the special wristband, standing side stage, saying, “remember that year when….”, living the dream and living our lives instead of typing about it.

And to those who say, "easy for you to say, you get the good passes, you can use the golf carts, you don't get get bullied by security and rounded up like cattle and told where not to go", I say - 

"Exactly. I worked hard under-earning in middling bands and making good music for years to finally have a band be fortunate enough to achieve some kind of success and afford me the luxury of fading into obscurity with an artist wristband on my 39 year old wrist. And security doesn't discriminate, I have just as many problems in the Gen Pop area as I do in the shaded, beverage laden promised land. Having said that, I've gone with the worst passes and had the best time, so just suck it up and don't be a pussy. I'm old and need to be pampered, I don't like dust and hate being around other people, so I need a little more. Now can we continue?

You say the lineup sucks, I call bullshit on that and I'll take it one step further.....I think if you went you would have a blast, let your hair down, come home like Cameron after he wrecked his dad's car and just maybe your cold frozen heart would warm enough to realize that there's more to life than KindKreme and being against everything. 

Here’s what I’ll be watching, no irony, no bullshit, just a list of bands I’m curious to ecstatic to see. Color commentary is dead honest, not trying to be funny, but if it is, feel free to hire me for your writer's room.

Day 1 

* The Stone Roses

* Blur

* Lou Reed - (I know, but he’s Lou Reed, and I’ll be hanging out with him and you won’t, so suck it Sweet Jane)

* Grinderman - (People I trust love and apparently awesome, but I’ve yet to hear them, much like I’ve never seen the Deer Hunter or all of 2001 A Space Odyssey)


* Tegan And Sara - (I gave in)

* Band Of Horses - (I think)

* Beach House - (Do I like them?)

* Foals - (I remember a really good song).

* Tommy Trash - (I say I want to see this and dance with my wife but we’ll end up watching someone else who’s on at the same time so we can hang with that friend who we never get to see cause their friend is the tour manager/tech/singer)


* SPARKS!!!! - (Age appropriate rock which will erase the memory of Squeeze last year)

* Dam Funk - (He’s meant to be awesome, right?)

* Palma Violets


* The Neighbourhood!!

Day 2 

* Phoenix - (30 minutes ago I would have said, "ehh", but in keeping with the spirit of the above words I realized it will be a radical dance party and time to stop being a dick and enjoy the Rich French Strokes).

* New Order - (I’ve seen them be good ONCE, and I was about as far from sober as I’ve ever been and it was in a palace in England with the Chemical Brothers and Underworld, so that’s not an accurate gauge of how good they actually were, having said that Hooky isn’t in the band (as of now), but it’s New Order, so you pray Bernard sings in key while you dance and sing along. Meanwhile I’ll be dancing with one of my favorite people who happens to be a lovely woman as well as their agent. - And while we’re at it, it is not lost on me that my perspective is of one who is in the music industry and has been for 24 years, so sorry if I say agent a lot, or reference managers and friends in bands. It's my JOB. If I worked at Starbucks I'd tell you all about how people pretend to order coffee only dip out when no one is watching to nuke the bathroom, OK?)

* Benny Bennassi - (Like 10 other I’ll list and say I want to see but in the end I will end up missing for Kogi or waiting for a golf cart to meet up with someone who’s no longer there)



* Puscifer - (Friend of a friend, seems fun, never heard)


* Bat For Lashes

* Major Lazer - (Accept it, Diplo is a fucking genius)

* 2 Chainz - (White people love ignorant black music even more than they love Radiohead).

* Danny Brown

* Trash Talk 

* Pusha T - (Clipse is all-time, I ain’t new to this)

* Baauer - (White people and trap music, again…but this is where the good looking kids like AJ Anglais will be, so natch I want to lurk).

* Action Bronson


Day 3 

* RHCP - (Best live band in the world, not debatable, shut the fuck up, how about you learn to play your instrument like these guys, be on your own shit creatively for over 25 years without compromise all while making more money than god, THEN come back and talk shit you tempeh eating fan of bad music)

* Bad Seeds - (I’m gonna be honest, I saw them in the dusty field in one of the early, early ones, or an early Lolla – don’t know a lot of their music, but I like the vibe a lot)

* VAMPIRE WEEKEND - (Four words – GOSSIP GIRL SEASON ONE. Two more words – WHITE PEOPLE. One more word – Graceland. These dudes are awesome, and apart from seeing them be very condescending to a black security guard a previous year (basically just like the scene in Breakfast Club where Bender mocks Carl the janitor), they are fun and make you want to put a sweater around your neck, live off your father’s Amex, punch Carter Baizen and eat a macaroon)

*  Wu-Tang Clan - (why not?)

* Tame Impala

* La Roux - (Again, will probably miss for a Cool Haus ice cream sandwich I’ll put off until I can no longer stick to my no-sugar diet)

* Grimes

* Gaslight Anthem - (Same manager, good dudes, Bruce adjacent)

 * The Faint -  (Def subliminally influenced SWR, and I will rock the fuck out hard when they play their Nebraska-wave dance macabre madness)

* Dinosaur Jr. - (Almost lost my hearing in the pit at Lolla 92 (I think 92) watching these dudes. Now he has grey hair, what’s not to like?)

* Raider Klan -(Don’t know but sounds essential)

* Disclosure - (If you don’t know and you say you like dance music you are in a fraternity and drink beer inverted and have herpes)

* Father John Misty - (Same agent and he’s weird, right?)

* DIIV - (The future, even if it sounds like the past. Same manager. I know...I know)

* Little Green Cars - (Best of the Irish-invasion, with the exception of Hudson Taylor who should score a Graduate type movie that I should one day make)

* White Arrows - (Never heard, but Mickey is a nice enough kid, and I like it when local boys and friends of friends succeed).

So see you there, right?

Everybody's a critic, it's gettin' kinda hectic...

1996, maybe 5, but let's just say 96. 

Gianni and I are living on Arlington Road at the corner of Parkway in the heart of Camden. I won't say Camden Town, because that feels a bit '78, and besides, no one I knew actually called it that. This was the HEIGHT of Brit-Pop, and the newsstand beside the pub we lived above had the butcher boards bearing the news of the day, and on more than one occasion the headline was about Blur vs. Oasis. (I never chose sides, I was too obsessed with both to commit, and while What's The Story was worlds better than Parklife, I would have to say at the time it was the big O, though a year later when Graham Coxon caught wind of Pavement and Damon raided his CD collection, their self-titled LP blur was a a revelation and incredibly ironic, but not in a Beck sort of way, literally ironic - for just a year before the band who sang about milky tea, mods, country houses and epitomized all things Britannia were now mining Slanted And Enchanted and name-checking Spiral Stairs. Bug I digress.

Gianni was "dating" a girl. I couldn't tell you her name, what she looked like, her ethnicity or any one thing in particular about her, all I remember is that he was not in a good place and was busy in his room and had no time for her presence, so feeling dejected and bored she came to my room to say hello. I was busy myself, however my activities were of the recording variety and didn't involve aluminium foil. (Obnoxious spelling intentional). She knocks on my door and I push stop on my 8 track Tascam tape recorder, set down my headphones and reluctantly get up to see what she wants. She says hello, asks if she can come in. I say why not, hoping her stay is brief; after all, I'm currently in a relationship, so it's not like I have any business with his shunned girl other than listen to her complain about by best friend and bandmate for what I hope will be a minimum amount of time.

She tells me he's busy getting high and is ignoring her. I'm sure I nodded in acknowledgment and understanding while feigning interest in whatever she was saying, but the truth is I would have told her the bearded Italian from the valley was my gay lover if I thought she would leave me alone and let me record, but instead I listened. But being that she was British and not some rich girl from the valley (like the last one), she spoke in short terse sentences, nearly devoid of emotion, so the kvetching was mild and she mostly sat and looked around the sparsely furnished but very nice living quarters these two strange Americans inhabited. 

She had a Walkman, yes, a real life Walkman if you can believe, and mind you this was not only pre-"phone as media consumption device", but headphones were a curved piece of silver metal with grey-black foam over the ears, a far cry from painful white ear buds, and the only thing Dre was making at this point was music. I asked her what she was listening to and she said three words that looking back were sweeter than any three words a woman had ever said to me before; My Bloody Valentine. 

My interest was piqued, for all I knew of the band was the album covers I'd seen in the closet whenever I went to my record label and scavenged the bins for CD's to listen to or more likely, trade for the measly living expenses of a 20-something in the 90's. I remembered the CD art I'd seen beside The Flaming Lips, REM and Jane's, and I always remember digging the artwork and the font, but for some reason I thought it was going to be vaguely metal, so I'm pretty sure if I ever did grab it that the only time it was opened was when they checked to make sure it wasn't an empty case when I placed it on the counter at The Wherehouse. 

But this time I was interested, mainly because only weeks before, while doing press, a journalist in Paris told me that our band's live show reminded him of My Bloody Valentine, both in terms of sheer volume as well as the dizzying array of sounds coming from the samplers on stage and bass and guitar overtones. (Mind you there were zero musical similarities, but he was French and he made it sound convincing and cool, and yeah, we used samplers back then). So it was fresh on my mind when this sad looking cute girl sat on the edge of my bed with her bad posture (probably a contrivance to further this narrative, but it paints a more vivid picture) and her Walkman in her lap.

"Can I hear?", I queried? "Sure", as she handed me the Walkman, first rewinding it to the top. (I'm not entirely sure she did this, but I'm guessing she must have, as it was cued to the very top of the first song). 

I pushed play, and......
OK, wait.
I'm not going to do that thing.

I'm not going to do that thing where I tell you that the snare hit three times and my life changed.

I’m not going to do that thing where I tell you that the cacophony that followed was so powerful and all consuming that it was as if I'd mainlined Sgt. Pepper's, Pet Sounds and Houses Of The Holy all at once.

It would be pretentious to tell you that I actually saw and heard the music in terms of colour and this was as pink and hazy as the cover I would later come to know and love.

It would be so terribly predictable if I told you I’d found my new desert island disc and the most important record of my generation, an album that would make Nevermind look like The Bay City Rollers on bad black tar and rendered them as irrelevant as Candlebox (I know the chronology is off, relax).

But I did do that thing, and I am pretentious, and I am predictable, and more than anything else, I am hopelessly sentimental.

What I must tell you, simply because it is the truth is that it felt like falling in love for the first time, that my entire conception of what an album could sound like had changed and rather than kick myself for being 5 years late all I wanted to do was lie in bed forever and listen to this wonderful, wonderful cassette.

Now that the 33 1/3 intro, the post-Pitchfork obligatory Christ like exaltation has been handled, I can state the facts:

After those 4 snare hits the music started on a song I would later come to know was "Only Shallow". I got as far as the vocals (24 seconds in) and pushed stop. 

I took off the headphones and calmly said, "Can I be alone and listen to this, please?", to which she replied, "Sure", got up off the bed, walked to the door and exited.

I stood, walked to the door, shut it, lay back on the bed, put the headphones on, rewound the cassette, closed my eyes, and pushed play.

I don't remember if it was the type of Walkman that would automatically flip the tape (raise your hand if you remember auto-reverse), or whether I had to physically flip it. I assume the girl went back into Gianni's room and vied for his attention, but I can't be sure, all I know is that I listened to the album front to back twice before I reluctantly gave the Walkman back to her along with the cassette which had just cracked open my 23 year old mind.

I don't remember when I went out and bought it for myself, I feel like I walked up to Camden Lock to the nearby record store only to find out it was sold out, but I can't be sure, and even then, I have no idea when I actually purchased it for myself, but regardless of when I got my first copy, I can tell you with 100% honestly and certainty that it was one of the most beautiful, pure, and stunning musical moments of my life and remains so to this day.

I am well aware of the fact that some "important" albums suck, how some "must haves" are overrated, and some "modern classics" are over hyped, but this is not one of those albums. Sure there are those who keep their hard copy on hand like a copy of Helter Skelter on the coffee table: a cultural signifier more than indicator of one's true taste, like having an Unknown Pleasures shirt before they sold them at Urban or a RHCP sticker on your bumper in '92, but that's more to do with the listener than the music.

The music is timeless, both in terms of how fresh it still sounds as well as it's disorienting and swirly nature, swaying in and out of time, all tremolo bar wobble and reverse reverb wash. The music is also  wordless, as no one truly knows the lyrics, and if they say they do they're lying. (Which is also what makes it such a truly unique experience in the context of modern rock and roll music, in that it elicits such great emotion and we feel a connectedness to the DNA of the songs purely through melody and texture and the words are whispered signposts that merely point in a general direction rather than tell you a story. We make our own stories from the sounds. Pretty heady stuff for a rock band that started out making fuzzy punky indie-rock).

I can be as cynical as the next guy when listening to or talking about music, but when I just lay down in bed, laptop on my chest, Beats By Dre strapped to my ears, and I pushed play, I got a similar feeling as when sitting on the edge of my bed in Camden. 

Sure, this time it wasn't a revelation, it wasn't a "game changer" (definitely the most overused term in relation to any media....apologies), on the contrary, it was familiar, warm, comforting, and it brought a smile to my face like seeing an old friend who moved away long ago but came back looking just like you'd remembered.

So as we all listen to and digest this new My Bloody Valentine record, "M B V", which was just released tonight, the first TRUE My Bloody Valentine album since 1991, as we praise, judge, debate in 140 characters, tag friends in battles and compare to the previous LP’s with the dry wit of a generation of cynics raised on cat memes and single origin espresso, as we play armchair Greil Marcus and fancy ourselves the Lester Bangs of our very own IP address, I thought I would share with you not my OPINION, but my experience as outlined above.

So when I pushed play on my Macbook and listened to the first song, "She Found Now", I smiled to myself.

It was all there. 

I played the song till the end, and as the second song started I pushed pause and wrote this. 

Whatever follows in the remaining 8 1/2 songs doesn't matter; the friend was back in town and made us feel just like they did when last we saw them, and to quote Lou Reed, "And it was alright".