Results for '90s
When digital music piracy began dominating headlines in the '90s and early 2000s, many understood the issue to be a phenomenon perpretrated by a horde of anonymous hackers. But in his new book How Music Got Free, author Stephen Witt has traced a large part of the story back to a single individual with a name. Dell Glover, an employee at a North Carolina CD manufacturing plant, smuggled out hundreds of major recordings and helped leak them online before their official release date. So while the record industry was aggressively prosecuting college students and other members of their own consumer base, one of their own employees was in fact responsible for the bulk of their piracy issues. Stephen Witt joins Jim and Greg to discuss Glover's accomplishments, the ethics of file sharing, and the music industry's inept response.Go to episode 507
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
By the late '90s, Tortoise became the leading band of not only the Chicago scene, but the global post-rock movement. The all-instrumental band was founded by Doug McCombs and John Herndon as a bass and drums duo in the late '80s, inspired by Jamaican rhythm-section-for-hire Sly and Robbie. Eventually the band came to include John McEntire, Dan Bitney, and jazz guitarist Jeff Parker. Tortoise received massive critical acclaim for the 1996 album Millions Now Living Will Never Die and 1998's TNT. On the latest record The Catastrophist, the band experiments with the strangest innovation of all: vocals. Tortoise joins Jim and Greg for a conversation and live performance.Go to episode 557
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
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
Jim and Greg often like to invite a noteworthy record producer to come on the show to share some behind-the-scenes insights. This week they talk to Stephen Street. Stephen worked with The Smiths on three of their landmark albums during the 1980s. Then in the '90s, he recorded with Blur on five of their releases. He also produced the hugely successful debut by The Cranberries. Today he continues to work with top British bands like Babyshambles and The Klaxons. Stephen shares with Jim and Greg some of the backstory of making tracks like "Meat is Murder" and "Girls and Boys." He also expresses huge admiration for both Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon of Blur. Stephen thinks a Blur reunion is not far off-much more likely than a Smiths one.Go to episode 243
Our guest this week is the alternative grunge band out of Nashville, Bully. The group is fronted by Minnesota native Alicia Bognanno, with drummer Stewart Copeland (no, not the drummer of The Police,) bass player Reece Lazarus and guitarist Clayton Parker. In 2013, the band signed with Columbia on their Startime International label and in June of this year, released their debut full-length album, Feels Like.
Jim first saw Bully perform at SXSW this year in Austin and was blown away by their sonic power and emotional lyrics. A few weeks ago, Bully came into the studio and while unfortunately Greg couldn't be there, Jim had a great time talking to the members about their past professions, '90s nostalgia and their unique sound.Go to episode 510
El-P, aka Jaime Meline, joins Jim and Greg in the Sound Opinions studio this week. Take a look at any of the underground hip-hop that came out of New York in late '90s, and chances are you'll find El-P somewhere in the background. As a rapper, producer, and head of the indie record label Definitive Jux, El-P has left an indelible mark on New York hip-hop. And he's not slowing up anytime soon. This year, El-P produced Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music and his own solo album, Cancer 4 Cure. El-P grew up in Brooklyn during hip-hop's golden age in the eighties. By 1993 he'd founded his own group, Company Flow. He tells Jim and Greg how creating the track "Last Good Sleep," for their sophomore album, Funcrusher Plus, transformed his approach to songwriting. The more specific and personal the story, El says, the more universal. Today, even El-P's“political”songs are more about internal struggles than external ones. In fact the title for his record, Cancer 4 Cure, is inspired by the idea that our bodies are constantly fighting off an illness latent inside us. Not to suggest that Cancer 4 Cure is a downer. There's hope, Jaime says, - though“not unbattered hope”- that the characters in his songs will come through.Go to episode 356
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
Turn that song down…turn the static up! It's time to look back at Riot Grrrl. This feminist punk movement emerged in the early '90s in the Northwest with a confrontational sound and message. Riot Grrrl didn't last long, but its legacy lives on through spin-off bands, as well as the concept of a revolutionary rock chick that has been usurped by everyone from the Spice Girls to Avril Lavigne. To hear more about the history of Riot Grrrl, Jim and Greg talk to Sara Marcus, author of Girls to the Front*. Sara also shares her quintessential Riot Grrrl recordings:
- Bikini Kill, The C.D. Version of the First Two Records
- Bikini Kill, New Radio 7"
- Bratmobile, Pottymouth
- Heavens to Betsy, These Monsters Are Real 7"
- Huggy Bear, Taking the Rough with the Smooch
As Sara Marcus explains, the term“Riot Grrrl”often gets thrown around when it comes to any loud lady singer. But the movement is much more specific in terms of time and place. As critics, Jim and Greg have to admit that the music produced by Riot Grrrl bands has not held up as well as the message. But the next generation is a different story. So to wrap-up they play songs by two bands that trace their lineage back to Riot Grrrl.
Greg chooses "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" by Sleater-Kinney. Sleater-Kinney was founded by Corin Tucker, of the Riot Grrrl band Heavens to Betsy and Carrie Brownstein of the queercore band Excuse 17. Jim goes with "Hot Topic," by Le Tigre, the next project from Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna.Go to episode 285
Let's get ready to riot! This week, Jim and Greg celebrate the 25th anniversary of the underground feminist punk movement, Riot Grrrl. It all began in the early '90s in Washington, D.C. and the Pacific Northwest when women united in outrage by speaking out on issues like domestic abuse, reproductive rights, sexual harassment and rape. They conveyed their messages through loud, confrontational punk music, a genre that was notoriously male-dominated.
Jim and Greg revisit an interview from 2011 with Sara Marcus, author of Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution. Sara shares the history of the movement as well as her quintessential Riot Grrrl recordings:
- Bikini Kill, The C.D. Version of the First Two Records
- Bikini Kill, New Radio 7"
- Bratmobile, Pottymouth
- Heavens to Betsy, These Monsters Are Real 7"
- Huggy Bear, Taking the Rough with the Smooch
Though the initial Riot Grrrl movement came and went quickly, it produced a legion of musicians who continue to produce powerful music. To cap off the show, Greg and Jim play songs by two bands rooted in the Riot Grrrl movement. Greg chooses I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Sleater-Kinney. Sleater-Kinney was founded by Corin Tucker, of the Riot Grrrl band Heavens to Betsy and Carrie Brownstein of the queercore band Excuse 17. Jim goes with Hot Topic by Le Tigre, Kathleen Hanna's second band after Bikini Kill.Go to episode 547
The Breeders Mountain Battles
Sister act The Breeders also have a new album out called Mountain Battles. While Kim and Kelley Deal had enormous success in the '90s alt-rock era with Last Splash and the single "Cannonball," they've only released one album this decade. So is Mountain Battles worth the wait? Unfortunately Jim and Greg would say no. While pop tracks like "It's the Love" hearken back to the willfully amateurish, hook-filled songs of Last Splash, Greg was disappointed with the remainder of the record. He suspects Kim Deal may have lost her hook-writing ability. Jim never really understood the appeal of The Breeders, and this album was particularly difficult for him to listen to. There were long stretches with no beat, no melody, and worst of all, no spark. Both critics give Mountain Battles a Trash It.
This week's show begins with a discussion of the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince. The enigmatic musician made news this week when his new album 3121 debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard charts. Hard to believe, but this was Prince's first number-one debut. He has since been dethroned by Atlanta rapper T.I., but it was certainly an impressive comeback for this revolutionary pop icon. Before giving reviews of the album, Jim and Greg discuss other late-career comebacks. In the '90s the Grateful Dead found a new audience with their only Top 40 song, "Touch of Grey." Santana is another artist whose first couple of albums went platinum, but did not find further success until 1999's Supernatural. That album, which paired the guitarist with contemporary pop artists like Rob Thomas, Wyclef Jean and Everlast, sold 15 million copies. Clive Davis tried this same approach with Prince on the album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, but the results were not as, um, fantastic. Other late career successes include Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and most recently, Mariah Carey. So is 3121 an artistic comeback as well as a commercial one? For Jim, it is not the achievement that Prince's earlier albums were, but still merits a Buy It rating. Greg is not so kind. There are a handful of tracks that are worth sampling, but this critic only suggests you Burn It.
Noel Gallagher High Flying Birds
Oasis made a big splash in the '90s with hits like "Champagne Supernova" and "Wonderwall," and while Liam Gallagher was the voice, it was his brother Noel who crafted the songs (remarkably, they shared controversy equally). So when Jim and Greg heard that he was releasing his first solo effort, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, they expected big things. No such luck, says Greg. This is merely another 2nd rate Oasis record. Gallagher's voice is more vulnerable and melancholic than his brother's and would've been well-served by an intimate production style. Instead what we get is overblown bombast with choirs and horns, according to Jim. Both hosts say Trash It.
Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool
If there's one band from the '90s alt-rock explosion that's retained its relevance, it's Radiohead. While it's been five years since their last release, Greg argues that the quality hasn't suffered on their new album A Moon Shaped Pool. Multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood seems to have integrated everything he's learned about scoring films into the album. The musical arrangements lift vocalist Thom Yorke to new heights as he contemplates everything from breakups to the environment. Greg got lost inside the record and its ideas of transformation. It took Jim a bit longer to dig what was inside. He laments the under-use of drummer Phil Selway, and the lack of a real fist-pumping save-the-planet anthem. But Jim knows to review what you get, not what you want – and he hears a complex and beautiful chamber pop record reminiscent of Nick Drake. That earns A Moon Shaped Pool an enthusiastic double-Buy It.
Audioslave, the best-selling rock act of the decade, released its third album this week. The band is composed of remnants of successful '90s bands: Lead singer Chris Cornell, formerly of Soundgarden, is joined by Rage Against the Machine's Tim Commerford, Brad Wilk, and super-guitarist/activist Tom Morello. Jim and Greg are both big fans of Morello as a person and a musician, but they can't find much redeeming about Audioslave. At least on this album, Revelations, there appears to be an effort to politicize the music's content. However, it still lacks substance, and the music itself is formulaic. Both hosts give Revelations a Trash It. In fact, Jim says if he had four copies, he‘d trash all of them. Greg adds that there’s only one revelation here—"that this band is really bad."
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.
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan Ballad of the Broken Seas
After listening to some of Lanegan and Campbell's predecessors, Jim and Greg discuss their modern take on the“Beauty and the Beast”formula. Many people know Lanegan from his days with the Screaming Trees in the '90s. Campbell recently left Belle and Sebastian, a band Jim and Greg reviewed last week, and her first move was asking Lanegan to join her for a duet album. While in many of the songs above, the Beast seems to be preying on the poor innocent female, it is Isobel Campbell who is controlling most of the content on the record. Her voice is a sweet counterpart to Lanegan's low, masculine rumble, but she was the songwriter and the producer. Both Jim and Greg give her efforts a "Buy It" rating.
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.
PJ Harvey Let England Shake
Next up, Jim and Greg review the new album by PJ Harvey called Let England Shake. The British singer, who came out in the '90s with a series of critically acclaimed albums, never repeats herself. And on this record she uses autoharp and finds inspiration in war. But sometimes change doesn't do you good. Jim wishes Polly Jean Harvey sounded like herself. He can't stand her little girl singing voice and the pretentious sound. He gives Let England Shake a big Trash It rating. Greg is not as let down, but admits the album is a disappointment. He misses her first person perspective and says the music is not at all well-defined. Some parts are just plain annoying, but a few tracks stand up. So Greg says Burn It.
Christina Aguilera Bionic
Another big summer release is Christina Aguilera's Bionic. This is the pop diva's first record since becoming a mother, but neither Jim nor Greg hear any additional maturity. Greg believes she's the most impressive voice to come out of the teen pop era of the late '90s, but this record is a totally juvenile pop product. It's robotic and gimmicky, and he gives it a Trash It. Jim doesn‘t understand why an interesting wife, mother and singer would want to portray herself as a juvenile sex robot, but that’s what Christina does. He seconds the Trash It.
The Besnard Lakes The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night
Jim and Greg next turn to the third release from Canadian indie rockers The Besnard Lakes called The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night. Jim describes the album as a mix between nature-inspired“beard”rock and early '90s shoegazer. This is the duo's most epic effort yet, and Jim recommends it as something you can lose yourself in. Greg wonders if they need a new rating category:“Wow.”He'd add orchestral pop and progressive rock to the list of influences. Greg describes the record as an amazing achievement and an example of great collaboration between the husband and wife team. The Besnard Lakes get a double Buy It.
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.
Pearl Jam Pearl Jam
After taking a number of years off, alternative rock giants Pearl Jam are now back with a self-titled release. Since their heyday in the early '90s, Pearl Jam has gone through a number of highs and lows. Yet they remain the only band from that alternative era to continue to be able to sell out rock arenas. On this album, they are trying to remain relevant with political songs like "World Wide Suicide," but Jim and Greg feel they only half-succeed. The first half of the record rocks, our hosts agree, but the second half is more sleepy and probably not worth your time. In addition, lead singer Eddie Vedder's lyrics are really hard to understand — but is that necessarily a bad thing? Pearl Jam is a Burn It for both critics.
The Handsome Family Wilderness
Jim and Greg continue the family theme with a review of Wilderness, the 10th studio album from husband-and-wife duo The Handsome Family. Formed in Chicago in the '90s, Brett and Rennie Sparks' Handsome Family has often been lumped in with alternative country. But Greg contends that the band's macabre lyrics and pre-rock influences have always set it apart. Jim says Wilderness proves that more than ten albums into its career, The Handsome Family still represents the "old weird America" better than any group in rock. Who else sings about General Custer and malicious octopi? He says Buy it. Greg agrees; With lyrics that run the gamut from sci-fi to magical realism, and music that draws equally from Stephen Foster and chamber pop, Wilderness sounds completely unique. Double Buy it.
Bob Dylan Shadows in the Night
One of Bob Dylan's strengths is his ability to reinvent himself, especially in the '90s when he became his own producer under the pseudonym Jack Frost. Now in his seventies, he consistently takes his touring band into the studio every few years, giving his career a new surge of energy. So it's with that goal that he gives us Shadows in the Night, which is built around songs recorded by Frank Sinatra. Jim recognizes that while Dylan and Sinatra are two of the most important voices in the last half-century, they don't go well together. Dylan is great when he sings songs that suit him (folk, country) but it just doesn't work here; he gives it a Trash It. Greg believes that the production of this album and the choices Dylan made saved the record. He said if you care for Bob Dylan at all you should take a listen, giving it a Try It.
Lydia Loveless Indestructible Machine
At just 23, Lydia Loveless already has three albums worth of romantic troubles, documented with amazing emotion. The latest, Somewhere Else, might be the best yet, according to Jim and Greg. Greg enjoys the way she arranges the songs in a slightly melancholic country style. He was blown away by her last release, Indestructible Machine in 2012 (especially the songs she performed in our studio). But this album is a step above. Greg says Buy It. Jim hears Loveless going all over the pop spectrum, name dropping Tommy Tutone and pulling out a great cover of a song by the underrated '90s artist, Kirsty MacColl. And throughout it all she maintains her own identity. He seconds the Buy It.
While reviewing Weezer, Jim was reminded of another alternative era band, Tuscadero. Like Weezer, they debuted in 1994 with a similarly named record called The Pink Album. And like Weezer they wrote songs about adolescence, nostalgia and pop culture. But unlike Weezer, their move to a major label didn't bring them great success and longevity. Jim considers Tuscadero one of the many lost heros and heroines from alternative '90s, and he wants to add their track "Leather Idol" to the Desert Island Jukebox.Go to episode 207
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
While on a recent nostalgia trip through late 90's, early 2000's hip-hop, Greg spent some time on the West Coast, which at that time was experiencing an underground hip-hop renaissance led up by the likes of DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Jurassic 5. Greg especially loves L.A.'s Jurassic 5, as it was the antithesis to the better-known, yet simplistic, gangster rap coming out of the city. Throughout the group's four album run, its four MCs and one DJ (sometimes two) exercised a consistently complex musicality and often employed narrative lyrics that were at their most effective on a track like, "Thin Line." This thoughtful song about the pitfalls of a man-woman friendship turning into something more comes off the group's third album, Power in Numbers, and is Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick of the week.Go to episode 469
Recently Jim re-watched David Lynch's '90s supernatural TV show Twin Peaks. The program uniquely incorporated music to complement its twisted murder-mystery storyline. Singer-songwriter Julee Cruise frequently offered her vocals to the show's soundtrack and collaborated with producer Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti on her debut album Floating into the Night. The single "Falling," featuring Lynch's haunting lyrics and Badalamenti's dark composition, was used as the theme song for Twin Peaks throughout its run and remains one of Jim's favorite tracks.Go to episode 499
What better way to end a show about the music of Canada than bringing a track by a Canadian band to the desert island? This week, Jim chose the song "Hyper Faster" by the stoner metal band Sheavy. Sheavey was a band that came out of Newfoundland in the early '90s. They are recognized most for blending hard rock in the tradition of '70s bands like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, with '90s flavored psychedelia. While the group sort of lost their way when their leader Ren Squires left in 2004, this 2000 song is peak Sheavy and a perfectly Canadian choice to bring to the desert island.Go to episode 572
This week, Jim wanted to honor the late Prince Be of P.M. Dawn by taking a track of his to the Desert Island. Jim notes that like himself, Prince Be was a misfit music fan who grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey. He had a rough upbringing but went on to make four superb albums as P.M. Dawn along with his brother, DJ Minutemix. After the '90s, Prince Be virtually disappeared, sporadically releasing new music on the internet. Jim feels that he traversed a new path with the Afrofuturism/psychedelic rap he created, and inspired the sort of work being done today by artists like Chance the Rapper and Janelle Monáe. Jim chose the song "Downtown Venus" from the 1995 album Jesus Wept, a track that exemplifies his genre-melding abilities and skills as a singer. Prince Be died on June 17 at the age of 46 from complications from kidney disease.Go to episode 552
Recently Jim's better half was watching VH1 promos of the new TLC biopic. It got him thinking about better R&B and hip hop groups from the '90s like Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue. The two came together in 1993 for "Whatta Man." To Jim, this is a girl group sound at its best—with En Vogue's“perfect”choruses and Salt-N-Pepa's witty verses over a sample of Linda Lyndell's original 1968 hit Jim wants this funky tribute to“a God-sent original, the man of my dreams”on his Desert Island Jukebox.Go to episode 416
With a main course of Ramones and a side of Tom Petty, Jim has had his fill of boomer classic rock for this episode. So, for dessert, he offers up Macy Gray as a Desert Island Jukebox selection. And he'd encourage any eye-rollers to remember how great her debut album was in 1999. Most memorable of all from On How Life Is, is "I Try," one of the best songs of the '90s. Here's hoping her forthcoming release in harkens back to these good 'ol days.Go to episode 453
First up in the news is the report that both the House and Senate have reauthorized the Higher Education Act with new provisions that essentially make colleges akin to cops. The bill requires universities to implement tougher traffic filtering technologies in order to deter p2p filesharing. Jim and Greg think any attempts to deter filesharing will be as effective as attempts to curb cheating, binge-drinking and plagiarizing.
Jim and Greg recently spoke with Big Champagne's Eric Garland about artists benefiting from filesharing and album-leaking. Labels have now caught on, but they don't want you to know it. When a track from the forthcoming Buckcherry album was leaked on the internet, the band and its label were quick to complain. But, according to a Wall Street Journal article, they were the source of the leak. It's an old PR stunt for the hip hop world, but now mainstream, albeit“boneheaded”acts like Buckcherry have caught on. Get ready for more faux file-leaking sob stories.
In other music news, music retailing giant iTunes may be getting some competition soon. Amazon launched a digital music service less than a year ago and has yet to make a dent in that market. Now the website has teamed up with MySpace to offer music fans a way to sample and then purchase individual songs and albums. The tracks will be DRM-free, and users won't have to launch a separate application to purchase music. Jim is quickly running to add the Amazon CEO as his MySpace friend.
There's never enough Abba on Sound Opinions, so we were excited when the Swedish pop quartet appeared in the headlines. The band's greatest hits album Gold recently went to #1 in the U.K., breaking the record for the oldest band to ever hit the top of the charts. The reason for the resurgence is the release of the movie Mamma Mia, but hopefully the legacy of the band will not be tarnished by the film.
Frequent chart-topper Chris Brown is also making news this week. His hit single "Forever" has made it to the Top 10 , but little did fans know it was written as a Wrigley gum jingle. For a long time artists have lent their music to advertising companies, but as far as Jim and Greg can tell, this is the first time a song was developed initially as an ad campaign. Is it just a chicken/egg argument? Or does the commercial intention matter to a song's integrity? Let us know what you think.
The final discussion in the news is about the proliferation of '90s nostalgia in the music industry these days. Alternative-era artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair and Sonic Youth are all drawing from their former glory days and cashing in. Jim believes such nostalgia is anathema to the alternative philosophy, and doesn't think touring behind one singular album is much better than a greatest hits concert. Greg is surprised that Jim is surprised, citing the Sex Pistols' 1996 tour as the day he gave up on any notion of rock-era integrity.Go to episode 141
Last week Jim and Greg rated Drake's new album Take Care. This week he's at #1on the Billboard chart with 631,000 copies sold in the first week. Greg notes that Drake has had luck achieving commercial success by initially giving his music away to build a fan base. The same model worked for last week's #1 artist Mac Miller. Using mixtapes and social media to build an audience, Miller became the first indie artist to debut at the top of the charts since 1995.
Speaking of the charts, Billboard has decided to change the rules. Earlier this year Lady Gaga jumped to #1, thanks in large part to some deep discounting from retailer Amazon. They sold her album Born This Way for $0.99, and helped Gaga reach the million sold mark. But according to Billboard, that's cheating, and they‘ve now instituted a mandatory price point of $3.49 in order for an album to be counted on the chart. Jim thinks this is telling about how dramatically the idea of“Number one”has changed in the last decade. In the mid and late ’90s, top-selling artists sold upwards of 7 million albums. Today that's down to 3 million, and that number will continue to plummet. So why then is Billboard making it even harder to recognize success? In an era when artists are giving away their music for free or close to free, Jim suggests we need to change the definition of success.Go to episode 313
At the beginning of the show Jim and Greg give an update on a news story they've been following–one of the biggest in contemporary music history. Last week they reported the planned merger between Live Nation and Ticketmaster. This week the heads of those companies spoke at a hearings before our nation's legislators. At the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, CEOs Irving Azoff and Michael Rapino were greeted with skepticism, even sarcasm, as they tried to defend their plan and its effects on consumers. Jim and Greg have a very different feeling after this hearing than they did during the Ticketmaster investigation in the mid-'90s. This time, they think the law might come down on the side of the consumer.
In other sad industry news, New York City landmark Manny's Musical Instruments will close down in May. The store, which was purchased by Sam Ash in 1999, has served such customers as Benny Goodman and Kurt Cobain over the years. Even our own Jim DeRogatis used to visit the store and“music row”in his youth.Go to episode 170
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
Adele continues down her path of superstardom by scoring the biggest recording deal in the history of music. After three albums on the British indie label XL, Adele has signed a deal with Sony for around $132 million. She will be on the conglomerate's subsidiary label, Columbia, alongside artists like Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan and John Mayer. In the mid '90s and early 2000s, musicians like Prince, R.E.M. and U2 were signing massive recording deals. However in 2016, substantial contracts are much harder to come by due to the large decrease in album sales. Adele seems to be the exception to the rule, which is reflected in her new, record-breaking contract.Go to episode 548
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
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
Cassette tapes aren‘t just for boutique indie labels anymore. At least that’s what IBM is betting. The company has developed a tiny cassette tape that can store up to 35 terabytes of data, and it's touting it as the“new”green technology. Unlike server farms, researchers point out, tape at rest consumes zero energy. Need more proof the cassette's not dead? Greg suggests taking a gander at the rare Radiohead cassettes currently up on eBay.
Well, it's official: '90s nostalgia has arrived. CBS just announced the development of new sitcom, Smells Like Teen Spirit. The show follows a young entrepreneur as he tries to launch an internet startup with help from his“1990's indie rock parents.”Which got us thinking - what other alt-era hits could be re-purposed as TV pilots? Coming to a station near you, the hilarious rom com Black Hole Sun? Or the detective show Losing My Religion?Go to episode 364
Since the mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina earlier this summer, debate over the use of the Confederate flag in American popular culture has become even more heated. The flag has been featured in rock lyrics and performances for decades, most notably by the Texas heavy metal band Pantera in the '90s and also in performances by Tom Petty, Blake Shelton, and Zach Wild. Musicians such as Kid Rock and Patterson Hood of the Drive By Truckers have joined the debate surrounding the flag, with Rock dismissing the issue and Hood criticizing the flag's continued presence in modern music and culture.
Apple Music, the new music streaming service from Apple, launched on June 30th, making it yet another competitor in the global streaming market. In order to attract new users, Apple has offered a three month free trial to any iOS user interested in testing out the service for no cost before committing $10 a month for a subscription. While early reviews of the service have been mixed, two general complaints about Apple's latest innovation have emerged, including criticisms of its somewhat jumbled presentation and its lack of the social networking features that have made Spotify such an attractive streaming option. Jim thinks we'll have to wait and see how many trial users decide to commit to the paid subscription to really get a sense of how Apple Music stacks up against its many fierce competitors.Go to episode 503