Results for '80s
The Flaming Lips
This week's guests are two of the members of Oklahoma's Flaming Lips, co-founder Wayne Coyne and long-time member, multi instrumentalist and co-songwriter Steve Drozd. Wayne chimes in that their two other current band members, Michael Ivins and touring drummer Clifford, couldn‘t make it to the interview. Ivins was too preoccupied erecting the UFO for that night’s live gig in Chicago. Greg points out that Wayne at one time admitted he was part of a band that couldn‘t play, had a singer that couldn’t sing, and heralded from an unknown town. Yet, here they are 25 years later, still going strong. As someone who wrote a book about The Flaming Lips. Jim continues to be astounded by the extensiveness of their career. He feels it parallels the career of Pink Floyd who had at least four different incarnations over 30 or 40 years. The Lips' first era was their '80s psychedelic era with it's key album In a Priest Driven Ambulance from 1990. On this album, former Lips drummer Jonathan Donahue replaced Nathan Roberts and the band collaborated for the first time with producer Dave Fridmann. Fridmann, who would go on produce many other Lips‘ albums, brought a higher level of musicality and production to the Lips’ sound. In a Priest Driven Ambulance was also the album that introduced Steve Drozd to the Flaming Lips (he did not join the band until almost a decade into the band's career). Drozd loved the album's“loud psychedelic rock guitar”with "hokum balladry". Greg also adds that the record contained a non-ironic cover of Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World" amidst the cynical and cooler-than-thou indie rock community.
Even though the band started in 1983, it wasn't until 1992 that The Flaming Lips signed to a major label. The first album for Warner Brothers Records was Hit to Death in the Future Head. Wayne and the band saw this as an opportunity to make a record that's worth the“billion dollars”major labels can spend on albums. Greg feels that their new ambition really exceeded the ambition they had with their previous work. He feels it's clearly evident in 1993's Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. To Jim this album marks the moment when Wayne's songwriting started to rise from the background and move towards the caliber of the Lips' sonic density. Transmission from the Satellite Heart's, "She Don't Use Jelly" is such an example. Even though the song became their breakthrough“wiggy, novelty hit.”it was a "beautiful bubble gum song with a poignant lyric" wrapped inside an amazing musical production. Wayne and the band knew almost from the beginning that the song could be a hit. The song's hook was created from the lyrics which Wayne got from equating smearing chapstick on your lips to buttering your toast. Wayne's story dispels the rock critic myth that these lyrics were a code for sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Greg brings everyone back to the dense sound of Transmissions From the Satellite Heart. He wonders how Steven came upon the idea layering the heavy“Bonham-esque”drums underneath pop songs. Steven admits that the sound was inspired by Larry Mullen's drums on U2's War.
Greg wonders if the band's next transformation happened after guitarist Ronald Jones left the band in 1996. Wayne agrees that Ronald's leaving changed the band. Although, Steve adds that he himself was burnt out and heavily into drugs at the time. At this point the Lips re-tooled into the era of their parking lot experiments, boom box experiments and the 1997 release of the four-CD album Zaireeka — an album designed for the listener play all four CD's simultaneously on four different sound systems in the same room. Each project was an orchestration of random sounds, a symphony of noise. Wayne wanted to try something new and take a chance.
After the band went through their two year sonic experiment they released the album The Soft Bulletin in 1999, which Jim considers a pop masterpiece. Wayne thinks the signature song from that album is "Race For the Prize". The song is in reference to two scientists fighting to cure a disease. Also on the album is "Waitin' for a Superman," inspired by Wayne and his brother jogging around the lake to deal with their father's bout with cancer. These two songs are full of meaningful and heartstung lyrics. Jim pipes in that that Wayne wouldn‘t have been able to write lyrics like this earlier in the Lip’s career. Wayne chalks it up to the experience of life changing you, which changed him and the band for the better.
2002's Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is a continuation of the band's lyrical progression, especially with its song "Do You Realize??" Another key song is "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1." (You can hear their live performance here.)
The critical response to these last two albums was, as Jim puts it,“nothing short of ecstatic.”The latest album, 2006's At War With the Mystics hasn‘t seen the same response (including from our own Greg Kot.) Steve and Wayne kind of expected it. They’re just as happy to win a Grammy for a song titled, "The Wizard Turns On…The Giant Silver Flashlight And Puts On His Werewolf Moccasins."Go to episode 94
Mark Anthony Neal and Joan Morgan
Next Jim and Greg welcome Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of Black Popular Culture at Duke University and author of New Black Man: Rethinking Black Masculinity, and Joan Morgan, a writer and critic who recently left her post as Executive Editor of Essence Magazine. Joan and Mark have been debating the merits and demerits of hip hop since they grew up as friends and neighbors in "Boogie Down Bronx." And Joan was one of the first music critics to examine the dichotomy of hip hop fandom and feminism in her 1990 Village Voice review of Ice Cube's first classic album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. Greg asks Joan what she makes of misogyny in modern hip hop. She explains that it was always there, but the level of it has changed. That concept of women has consumed commercial rap music, so listeners don‘t hear a lot of balance in perspective and tone. She also explains that something like the Ice Cube album is actually easier to wrestle with because it’s a brilliant album. Joan and Mark explain that labels are as complicit as artists in perpetuating a certain level of misogyny since they are the ones actually limiting the range of what you hear in hip hop.
Greg wonders if perhaps the consumer has already begun to speak out. Last year's top hip hop act, T.I., sold 1.7 million copies of his album King. Those aren‘t paltry figures to be sure, but they are definitely much smaller than what we’ve seen from star rappers in years past. Mark sees less revenue and less investment in major-label hip hop as a good thing; it's an opportunity for fresher sounds to come into the marketplace. Jim likens the trend to the development of indie rock in the '80s. That market was also glutted with big name acts like Poison and Mötley Crüe, leaving music fans to seek out underground rock from bands like Hüsker Dü and The Minutemen. Perhaps next we'll enter into an era of indie hip hop.
When asked about the effectiveness of banning certain words in hip hop music, Joan first expresses disappointment in what came out of Simmons and the Hip Hop Summit Action Network's meetings. Without doubting Simmons‘ sincerity, she calls the resulting call to action anemic at best and disingenuous at worst. Mark also grates against people, especially members of the“old guard,”making proclamations about culture or language. This kind of criticism is compounded by the fact that critics of rap music often don’t understand aesthetics. Mark's specific example is the hit hip hop single "In Da Club." People that take issue with the shallow nature of 50 Cent's lyrics may be failing to hear what makes a song like that so popular — the production and the beats. Mark furthers that rulings against specific words don't take into consideration that some rappers can make really complex, compelling statements using racial or sexist epithets. Joan adds that you can also say some really sexist, racist and homophobic things without using any“bad words”at all.Go to episode 82
In preparation for this week's guest, Steve Wynn, Jim and Greg do a little primer on the Paisley Underground music scene that developed in California in the 1980s. Jim plays a song by one of the seminal bands of this scene, The 3 O'Clock, whose very psychedelic name was inspired by Tom Wolfe's assertion in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" that if one drops acid in the early evening, the high of the trip will occur at 3:00 a.m. The 3 O'Clock was helmed by Michael Quercio, a musician who started as a punk rocker. After discovering psychedelic rock, however, his sound, and his look, began to change. It was Cuercio's affinity for the music of the '60s, as well as the brightly colored paisley clothes, that gave this scene its name. While the name did not do the music justice, the influence of the Paisley Underground on contemporary bands like Oasis and The Secret Machines is undeniable.
It may surprise to listeners who are only familiar with "Walk Like an Egyptian," but The Bangles were also pioneers of the Paisley Underground. Their original sound, with its three- and four-part harmonies and sing-songy melodies, paralleled that of The Mamas and the Papas and The Byrds. Lead singer Susanna Hoffs continues to work in this genre; she and '90s indie pop star Matthew Sweet just released a 1960s covers album featuring songs by The Left Banke, The Beach Boys and The Who.
Greg points out that the Paisley Underground sound was not a homogenous one — in fact, what bonded these bands was a punk sensibility that welcomed other musical styles. Unlike many other punk bands at the time, these acts didn't see why they had to conform to a strict policy of three-minute, Ramones-style songs. And what's more punk rock than non-conformity? One band that went above and beyond its punk and psychedelic influences was The Long Ryders. They took more of a country approach and can be seen as pioneers of the alternative country scene that now houses bands like Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and The Bottle Rockets.
The Rain Parade is the next Paisley Underground band up for discussion. While the members of The Rain Parade never saw the major label success like their peers in The Bangles or The 3 O'Clock (who were signed to Prince's Paisley Park label), many went on to work on successful projects. David Robeck formed the band Mazzy Star, which had an alternative hit single with "Fade Into You" in 1993 and Matt Piucci went on to work with Crazy Horse. The remaining bandmates reincarnated themselves as Viva Saturn.
Greg plays a song featuring this week's guest, Steve Wynn. His band The Dream Syndicate was a group that both Jim and Greg became fans of in the early '80s. They emerged in LA as one of the pioneers of the Paisley Underground sound. Steve then released a number of solo records and has spent the last few years with his most recent band, The Miracle 3. Steve and his band members, Linda Pitmon, Dave DeCastro and Kirk Swan, joined Jim and Greg for an interview and performance at the Chicago Recording Company.
The Dream Syndicate never made it into the 1990s, but its innovative sound continued to influence artists. While other LA bands at the time, like Black Flag, Social Distortion and Bad Religion, were making post-punk and punk music with a really hard edge, The Dream Syndicate stuck to a swirlier, psychedelic pop sound. For this reason, Jim and Greg explain, no matter how many solo projects he embarks on, our guest will most likely always be remembered as the lead singer of The Dream Syndicate.
After playing a track from Days of Wine and Roses, which Greg calls one of the masterpieces of the Paisley Underground era, our host asks Steve about the chemistry between two guitarists. In this case, Steve's partner in guitar is Kirk Swan, who was in another innovative '80s indie pop band, Dumptruck, Steve responds that the basic formula of guitar, drums, and bass is simple, but never gets old. He points to bands like Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Television as examples.
Jim asks Steve about why he continues on in this business after so many years. As Steve jokes on his website, this new album is one of several“comebacks,”but music is not such an easy life to come back to. After being pegged the“new Springsteen,”Steve and the band had somewhat of a difficult time. He explains how that hurt the band (and indirectly how he hurt Jim one drunken night). Thankfully they both came out on the other side.Go to episode 21
One of rock's most influential and interesting figures is former 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson. After performing with the psychedelic band in the '60s and as a solo artist in the '80s, the singer's mental and physical health took a severe decline. But in the past couple of years, Roky's sights have improved, and Jim and Greg took this opportunity to celebrate his legacy. During this you'll hear their discussion with Keven McAlester, the director of the film biography You're Gonna Miss Me. McAlester spoke to Jim and Greg after a special screening of the film at Chicago's Music Box Theatre.
Jim and Greg highlight two of their favorite Roky Erickson tracks from different points in his career. The first is a 13th Floor Elevators song called "Reverberation Doubt," which Jim explains is an example of how psychedelic the band was. The song was not only influenced by psychedelic drugs, but it conveys the experience of using them. Jim discusses the term“synesthesia,”which refers the drugs' ability to allow you to actually see musical notes, and“Reverberation Doubt”has a similar effect. As he states, it gives you the "sense that the entire world is vibrating."
The second is a solo track from a later period in Roky's career. "Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)" was recorded after Roky came out of Rusk State Mental Hospital in Texas, and wasn't in very good shape. But, musically he was very productive, and became one of the American artists to really lay the groundwork for punk music. Roky's songwriting at this time was influenced greatly by horror movies, and the title of this song gives a sense of where his mental state was. Greg describes“Two-Headed Dog”as a brutal, but wonderfully hard-hitting song.
You'll also hear a montage of covers from the tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye:
- R.E.M., "I Walked with a Zombie"
- ZZ Top, "Reverberation"
- T-Bone Burnett, "Nothing in Return"
- Butthole Surfers, "Earthquake"
- Julian Cope, "I Have Always Been Here Before"
Even now, 31 years after the release of "Rapture," one is impressed by how cool a rapping Debbie Harry sounds. The Blondie lead singer was always ahead of the curve sonically, incorporating R&B, reggae, and, gasp, disco into her songs. During her visit to the show, Debbie talks to Jim and Greg about these varied influences, and what the scene was like in downtown New York in the '70s and '80s. We certainly have Blondie to thank for bringing a little dance back to the punk mix. And the up-tempo sounds continue on the band's latest release Panic of Girls.Go to episode 322
The Jesus Lizard
Jimand Gregare joined by the original members of The Jesus Lizard this week: singer David Yow, guitarist Duane Denison, bass player David William Sims, and drummer Mac McNeily. As Jim and Greg explain, The Jesus Lizard was one of the most influential bands to come out of the post-punk scene in the late '80s and early '90s. While they had a number of important recordings on the Touch and Go label, it's live that the band really stood out. They broke up in 1999, but now a decade later, they have re-formed for a number of shows including the recent Pitchfork Music Festival. Before that show they spoke with Jim and Greg and performed live in our studio.Go to episode 195
Another California native with a country spirit is singer/songwriter Jenny Lewis. The Rilo Kiley frontwoman joins Jim and Greg to talk about her latest solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat. Last year Rilo Kiley achieved some success with their second album More Adventurous, and even opened for Coldplay and played at Coachella. Therefore, the timing of this solo project seems to be curious. As Jenny explains, however, doing solo projects and side projects has always been apart of her band's experience. She previously worked with Ben Gibbard on The Postal Service, and Rilo Kiley bandmate Blake Sennett has another band called The Elected.
One of Jenny's motivations for this solo album was her desire to sing with women. She is joined on Rabbit Fur Coat and in our studio by The Watson Twins, Chandra and Leigh Watson. Jenny explains that she grew up singing with her mother and was inspired by albums like Gonna Take a Miracle by Laura Nyro and LaBelle.
It should be noted that Jenny didn‘t just grow up singing. She was also a fairly successful child actress and appeared in ’80s movies like Troop Beverly Hills and The Wizard. She explores some of that history on the album. She also addresses people who are skeptical of her authenticity — being that she was born in Las Vegas and bred in L.A. rather than Kentucky. But, as Jenny points out and as listeners learned in the previous segment, California and towns like Bakersfield have significant country roots. Oddly enough, Jenny is not the only member of Rilo Kiley to have that dreaded“child actor”label. Blake Sennett was a regular on shows like Boy Meets World and Salute Your Shorts.Go to episode 19
This week the dB's, one of power pop's great underexposed bands, stops by the Sound Opinions studio for an interview and live set. The group came together in 1978 as part of New York City's punk and new wave scene, and put out two classic, but minimally distributed albums before singer/guitarist Chris Stamey left the group. Two more low profile records followed before the group broke up in 1988. Now the original dB's lineup is back with a new album, Falling Off the Sky. Jim used to frequently go see this band live in their earliest days, and it's clear that they haven't lost a step in their few decades off. During their visit, the band rips through three songs from Falling Off the Sky, and Stamey and co-frontman Peter Holsapple talk with Jim and Greg about their early days in North Carolina, their label woes in the '80s, and their decision to reunite not for a paycheck, but just because they were itching to play again.Go to episode 375
Mike Heidorn of Uncle Tupelo
You can trace alternative country's roots to the 1960's when rock musicians such as Gram Parsons, The Byrds and the Flatlanders began dabbling with and reinvigorating country music. It was part of a wider investigation of American roots music in rock, a move toward more“authentic”styles. These rockers looked to country greats like Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard for inspiration — Bob Dylan famously collaborated with Cash on "Girl From the North Country." In the '70s and early '80s, a new generation of punk rockers started digging into traditional country for inspiration, including X, The Mekons, Rank & File, Jason and the Scorchers and the Long Ryders. Then third wave of alt country hit in the late '80s and early '90s, led by The Jayhawks out of Minneapolis and Uncle Tupelo, the trio of Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn, out of Belleville, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. Uncle Tupelo's debut album,“No Depression,”took its name from a Carter Family song, "No Depression in Heaven," and it's one of many the key albums in defining the alt-country movement of this era. We have this band to thank for groups like Farrar's Son Volt, Tweedy's Wilco, Ryan Adams' Whiskeytown, the Drive-By-Truckers and the Old 97's …and not to mention No Depression Magazine. Legacy Recordings recently reissued No Depression, complete with some never before released demo tracks from 1987 to 1989. And to talk about it, Jim and Greg are joined by Uncle Tupelo's founding drummer Mike Heidorn.Go to episode 442
After over three decades, R.E.M. announced it was breaking up a couple of weeks ago. So during this episode Jim and Greg look back at its career highlights and lowlights, and discuss its legacy in the years to come. R.E.M., along with U2, is unique among bands from the indie rock '80s. It not only achieved career longevity, but, for better or worse, skyrocketed to arena status. Jim and Greg also have a unique relationship with the Athens, GA musicians. Both remember covering the band as mere fanzine writers, maturing as critics the same time R.E.M. was as a band.
Greg talks in-depth about R.E.M.'s I.R.S. years with landmark albums like Murmur and Fables of the Reconstruction. His favorite track from this 1st era is "Pretty Persuasion" from Reckoning in 1983. Jim goes on to discuss its transition to a major label. Their Warner releases Green, Out of Time and Automatic for the People didn't let their loyal fans down. But, things fell off after that. Greg makes an argument for New Adventures in Hi-Fi from 1996, and both critics agree that drummer Bill Berry's departure marked a great loss in terms of sound and connection. But when it comes to R.E.M.'s legacy, they're sure new generations of listeners will focus on the good years, rather than the bad. And its model of building grassroots fans that transitioned with them from label to label, club to arena is one new indie bands would be wise to follow.Go to episode 306
U2 recently debuted a song from the forthcoming Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark musical. Reeve Carney, the actor playing Peter Parker, performed "Boy Falls from the Sky" on Good Morning America. And the Irish rockers played their own version in concert this week. Jim and Greg couldn't help wonder how a bunch of Dublin art-punks became stadium giants and now Broadway darlings.
Jim and Greg discuss U2's unique place in music history. With 12 albums, 22 Grammys and over 150 million records sold, very few rock bands from the '70s and '80s are at their level. And they are still selling out stadiums around the world. But they didn‘t begin on such a large scale. Jim and Greg trace U2’s journey to this blockbuster point and discuss the band's different artistic phases and career highs and lows. They agree that Achtung Baby is U2's masterpiece, and can't stomach some of the righteousness and bombast of records like The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree. But each has a unique favorite. Jim chooses to highlight "An Cat Dubh" from the 1980 album Boy, and Greg plays "Your Blue Room" from the 1995 Brian Eno-produced album Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1.Go to episode 254
During this episode Jim and Greg wrap up our series on Bob Dylan and bring it up to "Modern Times". How, you may ask, can they gloss over the '70s and '80s so cavalierly? Trust that it was difficult to narrow down Dylan's entire canon to three episodes. And it's important to note that Dylan is one of those rare artists who emerged in the '60s and was still making great, new music into his sixties. So that's why our hosts decided to bring it up to Act III: 1989-2006. Dylan was in amazing form live and released a string of impressive albums including Oh Mercy, Time Out of Mind and Modern Times. He collaborated with producer Daniel Lanois and also worked with Jim and Greg's guest this week, engineer Mark Howard. Howard gives us a sneak peek into what it's like to record with Dylan.
As always Jim and Greg like to round out these features by highlighting significant tracks. Greg chooses an unreleased version of "Mississippi," later put out on The Bootleg Series Vol. 8. A highly produced version appears on 2001's Love and Theft, but Greg prefers the more stripped down recording, calling the performance fascinating. And he notes that Dylan draws from older material for inspiration just like he did when he was starting out as a folkie.
Jim admits that he prefers Dylan live during these years. But "Ain't Talkin'" from Modern Times in 2006 is perfectly simple and spooky–just a fiddle, percussion and that signature voice. This is a song Dylan couldn't have given justice in his younger days.Go to episode 288
When Jim and Greg Were Wrong
Music fans tell Jim and Greg they are wrong all the time, but the critics are not too big to admit it themselves. This week they come clean with some of their critical errors. Here are Greg's self-confessed mistakes:Go to episode 139
Jim and Greg recently experienced the launch of U2's new arena tour. While neither believe that music is at its best in a stadium, Greg admits that the band has mastered the art of spectacle. Jim was happy to hear a number of songs from U2's latest album No Line on the Horizon, but wouldn't recommend anyone pay over $200 to see the show.
The concert got our hosts thinking about U2's place in music history. Very few rock bands from the '70s and '80s can still sell out stadiums around the world. But they didn‘t begin at such a large scale. Jim and Greg trace U2’s journey to this blockbuster point and discuss the band's different artistic phases and career highs and lows. They agree that Achtung Baby is U2's masterpiece, and can't stomach some of the righteousness and bombast of records like The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree. But each has a unique favorite. Jim chooses to highlight An Cat Dubh from the 1980 album Boy, and Greg plays "Your Blue Room" from the 1995 Brian Eno produced album Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1.Go to episode 199
Today Jim and Greg dive into "Shoegaze." In the late '80s and early '90s, this sound developed in the U.K. and was typified by lots of guitar, lots of atmosphere and lots of noise. But while the height of Shoegaze only lasted a few years, its influence looms large today. As Jim and Greg explain, the artists of this movement were students of rock history. They looked at the guitar as something more than a traditional blues instrument. Those hunks of wire and wood could act as a sound machine. You can trace a line from bands like The Velvet Underground and Dinosaur Jr. to key Shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Ride and Slowdive. And their desire to marry rock drive with otherworldly ambience is what carries the genre into the present moment. It's also important to note that while the term“shoegazer”began as derisive-musicians staring at their shoes are no fun to watch-seeing these acts live was really a special, albeit loud, experience.Go to episode 371
The Arctic Monkeys Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
One of the albums Jim and Greg review this week made so much news that they need to discuss it at the top of the show. The British band The Arctic Monkeys broke records this week when its debut album became the fastest selling in British chart history. While neither Jim nor Greg can fully comprehend this phenomenon, they both like the record. Jim gives the album a Buy It rating, but admits that The Arctic Monkeys are not nearly as amazing as the hype might have you believe. Greg likes lead singer Alex Turner's Streets-like approach to lyrics, but doesn't think the Arctic Monkeys are a great band yet. He gives Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not a Buy It too.
The Arctic Monkeys are not the first British band to face this kind of hype. There have been a number of UK bands who achieved rave reviews and huge success but were never able to break out across the pond. A look at lists compiled by British media outlets The Guardian and NME demonstrate this point. Bands like The Jam, The Stone Roses, The Libertines, Blur and The Smiths are up there with The Beatles and The Clash in the minds and hearts of British fans and critics, yet none of these groups achieved any major fame in the States. One theory given by Jim: Americans are discerning of imports ever since the first "British Invasion." Greg points out that there was a second British invasion in the '80s, and wonders if it is the very Britishness of some of these bands that prevent American fans from identifying. Or perhaps some tastes just don't translate.
Madonna Rebel Heart
In the early '80s, people questioned whether pop diva Madonna was just a girl of the moment or here to stay. While her music has been the soundtrack to our lives, her work in the 21st century has received mixed reviews. Plus in the Internet age, Madge experienced issues when she was forced to release her 13th studio album, Rebel Heart, early after tracks leaked online. Greg thinks that Madonna is at her best when she's being introspective, like on 1998's Ray of Light. The more experimental and honest tracks on the latest record outshine the dance pop numbers that are usually her specialty. He argues that Rebel Heart is half of a good album and gives it a Try It. In Jim's opinion, Greg is being kind to the Material Girl, and thinks "Holy Water" is probably Madonna's worst song ever. He perceives the confessional songs as inauthentic and her attempts at provocation as tawdry. He gives Rebel Heart a Trash It.
Jenny Lewis Rabbit Fur Coat
The review this week is of the solo album from rising indie pop star Jenny Lewis. Lewis is best known for her work with the bands Rilo Kiley and The Postal Service. (Oh, and true pop culture mavens might also remember a young Lewis from '80s movies like Troop Beverly Hills and The Wizard.) Rabbit Fur Coat is Lewis's first solo effort, and initially both Jim and Greg were skeptical. How can a born-and-bred Hollywood girl make beautiful alternative country pop? The answer stems from Lewis's voice, which Jim compares to that of Dusty Springfield, and the songs' complicated, self-aware lyrics. The album, released on Team Love Records (the boutique label run by Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst) gets a "Buy It" rating from both our critics.
The Killers Sam's Town
The final album up for review is Sam's Town by Las Vegas pop group The Killers. We at Sound Opinions H.Q. must admit that we were highly entertained by Jim and Greg's summation of their latest effort. To quote Jim:“I despise this album with a hatred that I rarely have felt for anyone or anything.”We hardly need to hear anymore, but we're happy to. Both he and Greg understand that The Killers have always been about ripping off '80s New Wave and pop music, but neither can comprehend why they are now throwing bombastic, monster ballads into the mix. Lead singer Brandon Flowers manages to combine the over-singing styles of both Robert Smith and Bruce Springsteen. Greg blames producers Alan Moulder and Flood for simply not knowing better (though the two are also responsible for My Bloody Valentine's almost-perfect record Loveless). Sam's Town is a huge Trash It from both critics.
HAIM Days Are Gone
L.A. sisters HAIM have been getting a lot of buzz leading up to their debut release Days Are Gone. Perhaps it's the hair? It certainly can't be because of their allegiance to '80s pop production values. Forget grit and grime, Greg can't find a speck of lint on these glossy songs. Jim hears yet another slick influence: Wilson Phillips. 'Nuff Said. Haim gets a Trash It.
French electronic band M83 began as a bedroom project in 2001, but its recordings have become increasingly elaborate and lush. Now based in Los Angeles, the band reached a commercial and critical peak with its 2011 album Hurry Up, We're Dreaming and has returned with its seventh album, Junk. While previous records were unified concept albums, Junk is frustratingly all over the map, according to Jim. In interviews, leader Anthony Gonzalez claims to have been inspired by 1970s and '80s sitcoms like Who's the Boss? and Punky Brewster. The result, Jim says, is a few brilliant dance-pop moments, but also plenty of dreck, earning it a Try It. Greg misses the emotional connection that M83 built on Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. He finds Junk in contrast to be cheesy and intentionally slight, with often chintzy-sounding orchestration. But Greg hears just enough worthwhile tracks to salvage Junk as a Try It.
The Cars Move Like This
This next review should take you back. '80s hit makers The Cars have a new album out called Move Like This. It's their first in nearly three decades. Jim describes the band as successful synthesists-they took avant garde ideas and paired them with tuneful pop sensibilities. It made arty sounds safe on classic rock radio. But he thinks a little of lead singer Ric Ocasek goes a long way. He misses the balance of bassist/vocalist Ben Orr who died in 2000. Jim also wishes they had pushed the sound to someplace new. Of Move Like This, he says Trash It. Greg never thought The Cars made great albums, just great singles. And there are a handful of uptempo winners here, so he says Burn It.
Whitney Houston I Look To You
She was the queen of pop in the '80s and '90s, but for the past few years she's mostly been a punchline. Now Whitney Houston is back with a new record called I Look To You. Clive Davis has spared no expense on this comeback effort-pulling in big names like Swizz Beats, Alicia Keys and Diane Warren. Greg wishes those big names brought something bigger to the table. With the exception of "Million Dollar Bill," the one track where Greg hears Whitney getting“frisky,”she's mostly straight-jacketed and robotic. Greg gives the album a Trash It. Jim actually likes that the production keeps things focused on her voice. And he finds that voice still powerful and full of emotion. He gives I Look to You a Buy It.
R.E.M. Collapse Into Now
It's hard to believe, but R.E.M. has put out its fifteenth album. The formerly indie quartet from Athens is now a major label trio, and many fans have been waiting for a“return to form.”Well, they get it with Collapse Into Now…sort of. As Jim and Greg explain, the record is full of nods to older R.E.M. material, but nothing as strong. Why not just sit back and listen to the albums from the '80s and '90s? They add that the loss of drummer Bill Berry keeps getting magnified as the years go by. Collapse Into Now gets a double Burn It.
Sade Soldier of Love
This week's review is another possible prescription. What couple wouldn't like a romantic dose of Sade? The Nigerian-British singer is back with her first album in a decade. Most people associate Sade with that smooth R&B sound of the 80s. Now she's created a smooth R&B sound for the 10s. As Jim and Greg discuss, Soldier of Love is not a radical departure. But Sade still sounds great, and has brought her complicated and compelling life stories into her music. It's a welcome return for both critics and a double Buy It.
New Pornographers fans know Dan Bejar from his collaborations with the band. But he saves his most adventurous music for his solo project Destroyer. Bejar is often all over the map with Destroyer releases, so Jim and Greg did not see his latest album coming. Kaputt has some '80s pop sheen and elements of smooth jazz – things Greg doesn't generally like. But upon further listen, Greg began to understand where Bejar was coming from. He especially picked up on the influence of Blue Nile. Greg loved the tension between the warm,“pastel”sound and the angst-ridden lyrics. He gives Kaputt a Buy It rating. Jim was also initially put off by the record. And upon further listen he was even more put off. He doesn‘t understand how after all these years, Bejar’s records could still be so mediocre and spotty. The obscurity is not worth the effort. Jim says Trash It.
While they may be experiencing a ticket sales slump, the Dixie Chicks continue to sell albums. This week, however, they were bumped from the top Billboard slot by pop-punk phenoms AFI. The band's seventh album, Decemberunderground, debuted at number one, cementing their status as more than cult-like. AFI, however, would not shy away from matters of the cult. Much of their appeal stems from their depressed, goth, sun-hating, eyeliner-loving image. Angst-ridden teenagers are obsessing over the group as they have done before with bands like The Cure. But this time around is different, Jim explains. To him, the band members are goth posers and represent the popular guy rather than the tragic poet. Greg adds that even their sound is mainstream. He likens the big, slick production values to that of Mutt Lange and his '80s hair bands. Therefore, both hosts give Decemberunderground a Trash It.
Lady Gaga Born This Way
There's a new hit pop album with Euro-pop dance beats and controversial lyrics designed to tweak the Catholic Church. Sound familiar? No, it's not Madonna, but Lady Gaga and her new album Born This Way. She might be the biggest star in the world right now, but she still has some surprises in her–including a fondness for '80s hair metal bombast. Jim was disappointed to hear Clarence Clemons on sax and Mutt Lange on production. He was further disappointed to hear the amount of over-singing. Jim wanted to love Born This Way, but it's a Trash It. Greg agrees that the record is totally overblown. It's like Gaga on steroids, and unfortunately, never lets up. A few standout tracks will work pounding in a stadium or club, but as an album, he'd just say Burn It.
Passion Pit Manners
The next album up for review is Manners, the debut from Boston-based Passion Pit. The electro-pop quintet is helmed by Michael Angelakos. It's his falsetto that dominates the album, in addition to the lush, swirling synths. In fact, the music is a little too lush and sugary for Mr. Kot, who wishes there were a few more moments of calm. He gives Manners a Try It rating. Jim was certain Greg would be all over this record. He hears the music as a successful, indie take on '80s disco and gives the album a Buy It.
Bob Mould Silver Age
Next Jim and Greg review the new solo album from an artist they affectionately call "Uncle Grumpy": Bob Mould. If you were a music-loving kid coming up in the alternative '80s, Jim says, Mould's band Hüsker Dü, was a revelation. The band imploded too early to cash in on the nineties alternative gravy train, so Mould founded another band, Sugar, in 1992. He also put out a prolific series of arty solo albums. Lately, Mould's moved away from music to pursue writing. He published an autobiography See a Little Light last year (and discussed it on Sound Opinions). He says writing about his life inspired him to make Silver Age, a record he's called dumb rock fun. Is that true? Jim says Uncle Grumpy's just putting the critics off the scent. Like Mould's book, this record is all about dark and light, highs and lows. It's also got a wicked sense of humor.“Star Machine,”he says, is one of the most vicious eviscerations of the corporate rock machine he's ever heard. Jim gives Silver Age a Buy It. Greg agrees. He says Mould can be a bit meticulous and fussy in his solo work, but here he's letting it fly. Plus, he's got Superchunk's Jon Wurster playing drums on his record. So how could it be bad?
Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression
The "godfather of punk" has released his 17th–and maybe final– album, Post Pop Depression. Jim and Greg are both huge Iggy Pop fans, but Jim thinks outside of a few moments of brilliance with tracks like Lust for Life, The Passenger, and Candy, his solo career is a disaster. Jim's opinion is that while Iggy's first three albums with The Stooges were perfect, the punk legend has never had much to say lyrically. Even Josh Homme's attempts to fire up the album don‘t work, and Jim’s got to call this record a Trash It. Greg couldn‘t disagree more. He’ll concede that Iggy's 80s output was less than stellar, but some of his solo records in the 90s and beyond have had great moments. Post Pop Depression is his best work since The Idiot and Lust for Life. Homme understands Iggy and provides a setting for him to do what he does best. Greg describes the lyrics as poetic and at different times dark, meditative, funny, and rageful. The record also shows off Iggy's underrated singing. Greg says Buy It. If this truly is Iggy's last album, what a way to go out.
Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick for this week is "Mink Dress" by Plasticland. The song is one of many psychedelic tracks found on Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the Second Psychedelic Era—1976-1996. This Rhino compilation is one of many Nuggets installments, the first being the two-vinyl set compiled by Lenny Kaye in 1972. While there are some gems on the most recent collection, it is pretty much a mess according to Jim, a huge fan of the psychedelic genre. "Mink Dress" is one of the standout tracks. Plasticland was started by Glen Rehse and John Frankovic in Milwaukee in the '80s. Despite their Midwestern roots, Rehse and Frankovic were drawn to the colorful '60s-era British Psychedelia. Their song follows in the tradition of "Arnold Layne" by the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and explores the songwriter's fascination with women's clothing—in this case, a mink dress.Go to episode 3
As a nod to Peaches‘ irreverent, gender-bending ways, Greg digs deep down in his music collection for this week’s Desert Island Jukebox pick. He chooses a track by '70s and '80s model/pop star/diva Grace Jones. Before Peaches, or even Madonna, shocked and awed people with their controversial lyrics and style, Grace Jones was crossing lines between genders and musical genres. She was beautiful, but also masculine. Her music was rock, but also disco. So, like David Bowie, Jones had audiences questioning the idea of identity. But it wasn't until she collaborated with Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and his Compass Point house band that she made music that could be taken seriously. Greg chooses to play her cover of Joy Division's song "She's Lost Control." In her version, Jones assumes the role of the woman on the verge of a losing her mind. And after listening to the song, you may find that this role wasn't such a stretch.Go to episode 34
This week, it's Jim's turn to bring a track he can't live without to play in the desert island jukebox. He selects the song "Can't Stand the Midwest" by Dow Jones & The Industrials. The Indiana band came up in the emerging punk scene in the late '70s and early '80s, however Jim didn‘t discover them until fairly recently when their music was reissued. While the band never found huge fame, their fast and dynamic songs could sustain Jim on a desert island for quite a while. He chose“Can’t Stand the Midwest”to highlight, because although Jim has called the Midwest home for a number of years now, it can sometimes make even him a little stir crazy.Go to episode 582
Greg celebrates the 20th anniversary of Meantime by Helmet during his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox. It's an album many people don‘t consider much anymore, but it’s one of his favorites from that era. While we often think about grunge and punk coming from the West Coast in the 1990's, Helmet reflects a sharper, harder-edged East Coast sound. And like many '80s and '90s acts, they too were swept away by big labels. But, with their major debut Meantime, they didn't compromise one iota. So Happy Anniversary Helmet fans! We offer you "Unsung."Go to episode 326
Thinking about Amy Winehouse, Jim is reminded of her roots. Clearly she was influenced by singers like Ronnie Spector in the '60s. But the link between that era and this one was British singer Mari Wilson. She revived retro and sported a beehive long before Amy. Partly jazz, partly pop and partly camp, Wilson had a string of hits in the U.K. in the '80s. Health problems have interfered with her success in recent years, but she did have a comeback album in 2005 called Dolled Up. Jim chooses a track from it called "Running On Sand" to add to the Desert Island Jukebox.Go to episode 297
Like much of the TV-watching public, Jim enjoyed binge-watching the Netflix horror series "Stranger Things." The show hearkens back to many pop cultural touchstones of the '70s and '80s – including in its music. Jim notes that the synth-based score takes inspiration from the soundtrack work of the German band Tangerine Dream, a key act in the psychedelic krautrock movement. Jim's favorite Tangerine Dream score is for the 1977 William Friedkin film Sorcerer. He says the soundtrack perfectly matches the movie's dark, tense jungle setting. So as a dual nod to Stranger Things and Tangerine Dream, Jim nominates "Betrayal," the main theme from Sorcerer, to the Desert Island Jukebox.Go to episode 561
Jim recently visited Minneapolis public radio station The Current, where he saw lying around the studio a new reissue of American Dream by Têtes Noires. French for“black heads,”Têtes Noires was an accurate descriptor for the six raven-haired women who made up the band. Jim recalls how they stuck out in the sea of Nordic blondes called Minnesota. Their music was a capella harmony bolstered with wheezing organ and hand claps, and their lyrics fell somewhere between comedy, performance art and "killer indie rock." To show what he means, Jim plays "True Love," which features the vocalist listing all of the rotten relationships she's had since grade school. Têtes Noires may not have survived past its '80s heyday, but its spirit lives on in the new remaster – and, thanks to Jim, on the Desert Island.Go to episode 444
The Australian band The Saints has been ushering in our Desert Island Jukebox segment for years. And this week, Greg wants to stay in that continent and add a song by The Go-Betweens. The band's series of albums in the '80s were wonderful, but never made a big commercial impact. They reformed in 2000 and had one of those rare successful second acts. And it's from that era that Greg culls his DIJ pick: "Here Comes a City" from 2005.Go to episode 406
Next up Drs. Kot and DeRogatis call another patient in from the waiting room. Rachel from Chicago, IL describes her musical symptoms as that of being stuck in a rut. She explains that she hasn't purchased any music in the past few years, and only listens to albums or mixes that her friends give her. Rachel is eager to improve her musical health though, and is willing to take her medicine — however bad it tastes. In order to steer Jim and Greg in the right direction, Rachel gives her medical/musical history . She counts U2 (during the Joshua Tree-era) and Tom Petty as two of her favorite artists, and explains that she really appreciates melody and lyrics in her music.
Dr. Jim gives the first prescription. He clues into Rachel's heartland rock leanings, but also wants to challenge her more. He decides to give the patient a dose of Wilco. Like '80s-era U2 and Tom Petty, Jeff Tweedy and the members of Wilco are strongly influenced by guitar-based American folk and rock. There is a strong emphasis on lyrics and on telling stories of the American condition. But like U2, who chose to work with avant-garde producer Brian Eno on The Joshua Tree, Wilco can also be very experimental. Jim finds this is especially true of their last album A Ghost is Born.
Dr. Greg is up next. He suspects that one of the things Rachel likes so much about her favorite music is how anthemic it is. Both Bono and Petty are strong frontmen that get a rise out of their audiences. He believes this is also the case with the music of Montreal band The Arcade Fire. In fact, U2 opened up their last tour with a performance of the song "Wake Up" off their debut album Funeral. Again, the Arcade Fire might be a little more stylized than what Rachel is used to, but Greg hopes she will appreciate their epic sound.
A week later, the patient returns. Rachel relays that she is feeling a bit better, but is not totally cured. She realized that some of the Wilco and Arcade Fire songs were actually already in her iTunes collection without her even knowing it. Rachel enjoyed both albums, but not completely from beginning to end. She liked the more anthemic songs on Funeral like "Rebellion (Lies)" and "Crown of Love," but found some of the tracks a little noisy. However nothing was as noisy as Wilco's 15-minute experimental jam "Less Than You Think." But, even Jim and Greg agree that it's OK to skip past that“test”to more traditional pop/rock compositions like "Theologians" and "The Late Greats." Rachel doesn‘t think she’s replaced her favorite standards, but looks forward to keeping up with these two bands and getting more new music like… The Shins (up next in the show).Go to episode 61
This week on the show, Jim and Greg share their recent experiences at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Our hosts joined over 10,000 other festival registrants to attend music industry panels, conduct interviews, and most importantly, see new bands. In the four days they were there, Jim and Greg heard a lot of music. They share some of the best with you.
First is The Dresden Dolls. Jim went to see the Boston group and fell in love with their blend of German cabaret performance style and '80s synth-pop melodies. You can hear a little bit of "Modern Moonlight" off their upcoming release, Yes Virginia.
Next up, Greg discusses one his finds: Art Brut. He enjoyed this British band's straightforward melodies, catchy choruses, and witty monologues so much that he saw them twice in Austin. This critic even scrawled“New Kings of Rock”in his notebook following one performance. Jim joined him to see the band at the Pitchfork/Windish party, where they shared a bill with RJD2, Spank Rock, and one of Greg's other discoveries, Swedish indie pop quintet Love is All. Art Brut, who just recently played a sold-out show at the Metro, entertained the entire staff so much that they were invited to appear on the show the week after the festival wrapped. Listen for that interview in the weeks to come.
In between running from show to show, Jim and Greg took a brief moment to sit down with The Beastie Boys. The hip-hop pioneers were down in Austin to promote their recent concert film, Awesome; I Fucking Shot That, and spoke to Jim and Greg about making the movie, sampling, copyright laws, and the longevity of their career.
Back to the rundown of our hosts‘ favorite Austin discoveries. Jim’s next pick, The Black Angels, actually hails from the Texas state capital. After reading Jim's book on psychedelic rock, members of the band contacted him and explained that they were right up his alley. They were right. Jim, who caught some of the dark, Velvet Underground-influenced music in the sterile environment of Austin Convention Center, was totally blown away. To describe the band, he quotes their website which begs the listener to "Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again." Whoa, man…
Greg loves coming to Austin to see bands that may not get to the States otherwise. One such band is Serena Maneesh. The Norwegian group is one of many contemporary bands compared to My Bloody Valentine. Often referred to as“shoegazers,”these musicians are often literally standing, staring at their shoes, while producing a heavy, overdriven, almost symphonic guitar sound. Serena Maneesh is certainly channeling this influence — however, as Greg explains, this band is also quite performative. Our host describes how the lead guitar player, theatrically dressed as a gypsy showman, was joined by an“Amazonian”bass player. Only during SXSW can you see this in Texas, notes Jim.
We next hear some audio of Jim recorded down in Austin. He is describing one of his favorite acts: Tim Fite. Some may remember Fite's previous incarnation in Little T and One Track Mic and their one hit, "Shaniqua." But after getting signed to Atlantic and touring with Outkast, Little T went nowhere. Now, Fite has reinvented himself as a 1920s southern preacher/rapper who combines an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound with irreverent lyrics and hip-hop. Gone Ain't Gone is forthcoming on Anti-/Epitaph, making Fite label mates with Neko Case and Blackalicious.
The Swedish band Love is All (mentioned above) is another of Greg's discoveries. This Swedish indie-pop group is one of many European bands who are rediscovering American music. This band is particularly influenced by musicians like James Chance and the Contortions and Lydia Lunch who fused both jazz and punk. Love is All became Greg's go-to CD while he was driving around the city of Austin.
Listeners can now hear what Jim and Greg really sound like at SXSW: definitely over-tired, and perhaps over-served. Our hosts caught up with Sound Opinions H.Q. immediately after going to see Rhys Chatham at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, an experience they described as slightly mind-blowing. The avant-garde guitarist has basically been living in exile in Paris for the past decade, but emerged in Austin with a newly-formed guitar army: eight guitarists including Doug McCombs of Eleventh Dream Day and Tortoise, Ernie Brooks of The Modern Lovers and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Jim reports that Chatham recently received a grant allowing him to realize his long-fantasized 100-member guitar ensemble.
One of the SXSW events Greg always tries to attend is Alejandro Escovedo's Sunday night show. This year Grady was one of the opening acts. Greg found their huge, overpowering sound on par with that of Chatham's guitar army. He also compares their sound to that of ZZ Top's early days. Listen for yourself as Greg plays a sample of their 2004 release Y.U. So Shady?
White Whale is Jim's final discovery. He caught the band at the Merge showcase, a label that usually delivers for this critic. He was again not disappointed. White Whale, whose members have been in a number of other indie rock bands including Butterglory, Three Higher Burning Fire and The Get Up Kids, impressed Jim with more than just its name. He found their sound to be a mix of Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and also reminiscent of Elephant Six bands like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. So far their music can only be heard on Myspace.com, but White Whale may turn out to be another SXSW success story.
Greg's final pick is a band called Katahdin's Edge. He caught the group after originally trying to see a Finnish band who couldn‘t make it into the country. He was blown away, and despite getting thousands of free CDs for his day job, Greg was compelled to put down his own money for a Katahdin’s Edge album. This trio from Providence is an example of how jazz and rock can fuse in a great way. Rather than take an academic approach to jazz, Katahdin's Edge had a rock and roll, party edge that Greg really appreciated.
Greg was also caught on tape before and after seeing the biggest hype of this year's festival: The Arctic Monkeys. This has been quite the year for the young British band. In January they broke records for first-week sales in the U.K. with their debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In addition, they‘ve been proclaimed by many in the press as the greatest band to emerge from the U.K. in years. That’s a lot for a new band to live up to, but Greg was pleased with what he saw. While the Arctic Monkeys may not be what their hype claims, the music was well-rehearsed, packed with rhythm, and downright“ferocious”according to our host. Plus, the lead singer already seems to have the rock and roll attitude down.
Soul Train host and creator Don Cornelius died tragically this week at age 75. Greg remembers the baritone-voiced Chicago native as not just a music pioneer, but a civil rights one. He broadened what we think of as“soul”and brought acts like Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie and Aretha Franklin to audiences of all races and ages. What American Bandstand was to pop culture in the '60s, Soul Train and Cornelius were to the '70s, '80s, and beyond. So to remember Don Cornelius, we play Barry White's 1975 orchestral performance of "You're My First, the Last, My Everything."Go to episode 323
First in the news Jim and Greg discuss the controversy over the censorship of political lyrics in a song by Pearl Jam during the AT&T Blue Room webcast of their recent Lollapalooza performance. While Pearl Jam criticized this kind of censorship on their website and posted both versions of the song, it appeared that the audio editing was a fluke. In the days following the festival, though, it was revealed that this was not the first time such censorship had occurred, sparking interest from advocates of Internet neutrality. Both Jim and Greg agree that webcasters have a public responsibility to broadcast what actually happens at events, and concert promoters have a responsibility to tell bands whether or not they're giving up their right to free speech. Both critics are anxious to see how things play out in the weeks leading up to the next big festival, Austin City Limits.
Another news story confirms our suspicion that music fans have better brains. Or at least more active brains. Researchers at Stanford Medical School recently released findings that show that music increases brain receptivity and reception. To find out about the study Jim and Greg speak with the paper's senior author, Dr. Vinod Menon, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and of neurosciences at Stanford. Dr. Menon explains that the greatest amount of activity occurred during moments of transition or pauses. While he used the tunes of 18th-century English composer William Boyce, it's interesting to think about how this research applies to rock music. Check out the MRI for yourself here.
In another miracle of science, (most of) the original members of '80s rock group Van Halen announced they are reuniting this fall for a series of concerts. The band's first lead singer, David Lee Roth, will perform with the band for the first time in 22 years. Fans expected this announcement a few months ago, only to be left disappointed by guitarist Eddie Van Halen's trip to rehab. But now the Sammy Hagar and Gary Cherone-haters will get their wish… sort of. Founding bassist Michael Anthony has been given the boot, and Eddie's son Wolfgang van Halen will replace him. Not only were the names Anthony and Hagar omitted from the group's press release, but Anthony's image had been airbrushed from a picture of the band's album cover on the website. As quick as history was revised, it was re-revised, though, and Anthony is back in the picture. Only literally of course.
Record label owner, broadcaster, journalist, pop impresario and nightclub founder Anthony Wilson died last week at the age of 57. Wilson is the man who put the Manchester music scene on the map, a scene that included Joy Division, New Order and The Happy Mondays. He ran Factory Records in the late 1970s and the Hacienda nightclub in the 1980s and early 1990s. Many listeners will remember Steve Coogan's portrayal of Wilson in the semi-fictional story of the Hacienda, 24 Hour Party People. But, Jim and Greg choose to remember Wilson through the music he influenced.Go to episode 90
Guitarist and Ohio Players frontman Leroy“Sugarfoot”Bonner died of undisclosed causes this week at the age of 69. The group's string of '70s albums for Westbound and Mercury Records, driven by Bonner's lead vocals and electrifying double-neck guitar work, stands as one of the most impressive runs in funk history. Their distinct sound found new life in the in the late '80s and '90s as countless hip hop artists sampled the group's work (a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of "Love Rollercoaster" on the soundtrack for Beavis and Butthead Do America didn't hurt either). Greg highlights "Skin Tight" as a prime example of Bonner's musical legacy.Go to episode 375
The RAND Corporation recently released the findings of their study on music lyrics and teen sexual behavior. According to the think tank, teens who regularly listened to music with“degrading”lyrics at the start of the study were more likely to start having sex over the next two years than teens who listened to music that was sexual, but not necessarily degrading. Of course, degrading is in the eye of the beholder, and Jim and Greg are a little bit suspicious of the RAND Corp.'s goals. They are reminded of previous attempts to thwart dangerous rock music, like those of the Parents' Music Resource Center in the '80s and people concerned with future Columbines in the '90s. So Jim, Greg and many experts caution against scapegoating one single thing when it comes to teens having sex. Plus, rock and roll has always been about sex, and after speaking with a number of teenagers in downtown Chicago, Sound Opinions is convinced that tastes have not really changed. Most of these young listeners seemed to be channeling Dick Clark: They just want a great beat they can dance to.Go to episode 37
The biopic film Straight Outta Compton debuted this past weekend to a monster box office earning over $56 million. The movie tells the story of the group N.W.A. and how they created the blue print for west coastand gangster rap in the '80s and early '90s. Jim recently saw the film and thought more about the biopic genre in general. He thought that this was a VH1-type film that largely glossed over many of the important truths of the band's history, including Dr. Dre's misogyny in both his lyrics and his actions. Greg agrees that the story of Dee Barnes, a female journalist covering N.W.A who was physically assaulted by Dre, was excluded from the film. Jim ultimately thinks the biopic doesn't work as journalism or biography, but instead acts as a missed opportunity to tell the whole truth of the story.
Two celebrated '70s producers passed away this week: Bob Johnston, longtime Bob Dylan producer, and Billy Sherrill, creator of the countrypolitan genre and producer of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. As an in-house producer for Columbia Records, Johnston produced some of Dylan's most notable albums, including Blonde on Blonde and Nashville Skyline. Johnston also served as the producer for Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison, which only came about after Johnston's persistent efforts. With a similar determination, Sherrill ignited the careers of country artists like Jones and Wynette with hit songs "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and "Stand By Your Man." However, Greg chooses to honor Sherrill by playing The Staple Singers' "Why Am I Treated So Bad," a track that he produced before entering the country music scene. Sherrill produced songs for early R&B artists when no other producer would, earning him tremendous respect.Go to episode 508