Results for alternative
Eleventh Dream Day
Jim and Greg harken back to the alternative era this week as they sit down with Eleventh Dream Day. The band formed in 1983 and got its start as part of the Chicago underground scene alongside peers Hüsker Dü in St. Paul and Nirvana in Seattle. Greg remembers watching Eleventh Dream Day perform at that time, and knew they were destined for big things. But, while albums like Prairie School Freakout garnered high critical praise and caught the attention of Atlantic Records, they were never able to achieve major commercial success. As Jim notes, however, they are having the last laugh with their impressive longevity, especially considering founding members Rick Rizzo and Janet Beveridge Bean got married, had a child and got divorced, all while maintaining the group. In January Eleventh Dream Day released its eleventh studio album Works for Tomorrow, and they show no signs of slowing, as is clear in this ferocious live performance in the Sound Opinions studio.Go to episode 540
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
Throughout his storied career, songwriter and guitarist Bob Mould seems to be driven by the mystical power of the number 3. He's best known for his work with a couple of power trios: the pioneering Minneapolis punk band Hüsker Dü and the successful alternative era band Sugar. He's now formed trio #3 along with bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk, The Mountain Goats, Scharpling & Wurster). Together they've recorded three (of course) albums, most recently the double-Buy It earning Patch the Sky. This week, Bob Mould joins Jim and Greg for the third time in the show's history, this time with Narducy and Wurster in tow. They give a blistering live performance and discusses the vitality of guitar music, finding salvation through rock, and Bob's polarizing turn toward electronica.Go to episode 552
Bob Mehr on The Replacements
The mythology of The Replacements can overshadow the actual music – from their infamously volatile live shows, to their wild drinking, to Paul Westerberg's legendary songwriting genius, and to their commerial ailures. But author Bob Mehr reveals a more complicated story of the Minneapolis band in his new book Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements. As he explains to Jim and Greg, Bob traces much of The Mats' personality to their troubled upbringings, particularly that of guitarist Bob Stinson. Though the band's records from the early '80s were influenced by hardcore punk, Westerberg always had a latent sensitive side that fully emerged on the 1984 masterpiece (and Classic Album Dissection recipient) Let It Be. The Replacements signed to a major label for the 1985 album Tim, but Bob describes a combination of self-destruction and bad timing that ultimately kept the band off the charts. The Replacements broke up in 1991, but its influence was soon heard all over the alternative rock explosion. The enormous crowds at the band's recent reunion shows are testament to the enormous impact the music has had on generations of fans, even if that big hit song always eluded them.Go to episode 567
Jim and Greg are joined by Trent Reznor this week. The Nine Inch Nails frontman is one of the most innovative and inventive musicians out there. He not only created his own“sonic palette,”but his ideas about business are equally unique. In 2007 he released Year Zero, a multimedia experience that was more than just an album. He followed that up with a slew of free and almost-free web releases. He shares with Jim and Greg his frank thoughts about how the record industry is digging its own grave. He explains that this current Nine Inch Nails tour will be his last, and shares what he thinks about the career choices of his former alternative peer Chris Cornell.Go to episode 186
Victims of the Music Business
This week Jim and Greg stick it to the man, or more specifically — record companies. They discuss the phenomenon of major labels pulling the plug on established artists. The most recent victim is Nellie McKay, whose album Pretty Little Head was denied release by Sony Music. McKay wanted to release one version, Sony wanted to release another, and after the“pretty little”singer told her label to take it or leave it, they left it. Of course, upon hearing the advance copy, our hosts can't necessarily blame them.
Whether you enjoy the music or not, McKay's situation does pose an interesting question of how much creative control an artist has while under major label contract. As Jim states:“As long as there have been major labels, there have been executives deciding that they know better than the artist.”What are some of the other lost albums that fell prey to the big bad record company? Jim and Greg list off some of their favorites, including:
The Butthole Surfers
During the early '90s when "alternative" music was achieving commercial success, The Butthole Surfers were signed to Capitol. When the alternative fad waned, their label no longer appreciated the band's weird aesthetic and refused to release their album After The Astronaut. The Buttholes sued Capitol and demanded early release from their contract. The record, however, remained under Capitol ownership. Fans needn't fret though; most of the material was re-recorded and released by Hollywood Records.
The hometown favorite's album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was delayed release by its label because it was more conceptual than it was pop. Conceptual, of course, is hard to sell, so Reprise Records asked Jeff Tweedy and his bandmates to go back into the studio and find a hit. Wilco decided to stand by its album, and bid farewell to Reprise. Normally it would take a lot of time and money to recover tapes made under a label's contract, but in this case, Reprise let Wilco take their music, rather than face a public relations nightmare. The album was eventually released in 2002 by a different Warner Music subsidiary and ended up being the biggest selling of their career. The story played out very nicely in life, in film, and most importantly, in print.
This singer's label woes were perhaps the most highly publicized of the bunch, but according to our experts, the often difficult artist needs to take some of the blame. Apple decided to work with producer Jon Brion for a third time, but felt she needed more time on this effort. Epic Records, not pleased with what they‘d been hearing all along, told Apple that they’d need to approve a track at a time. Or at least that's what she thought she heard. In a dramatic move, Apple stopped recording, leaving the album unfinished. Neither Epic nor Apple wanted to release the music, however some of the songs leaked, and the response was so overwhelming that Apple was inspired to start working again. This time, she joined up with producers Mike Elizondo and Brian Kehew, and Extraordinary Machine can be heard in not one, but two forms.Go to episode 117
Touch and Go Records
This week Jim and Greg wanted to take a look at one of the music industry's most important independent labels: Touch and Go Records. Touch and Go recently turned 25 and celebrated with a three-day bash at Chicago's Hideout Block Party. Over the course of the show, you‘ll hear why Jim and Greg wanted to focus on this modest Chicago label. You’ll also hear from the founder himself, Corey Rusk, and a number of the label's artists, including Scott McCloud from Girls Against Boys, Janet Weiss from Quasi (and formerly Sleater-Kinney), Ted Leo, David Yow from Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard and recording engineer and musician Steve Albini of Big Black and Shellac fame.
Touch and Go's founder Corey Rusk is known not just as a tastemaker with an incredible ear for talent, but also as one of the most honest businessmen in the biz. This is what separates Touch and Go from other labels, major and independent alike. Rusk's business model, which doesn't shy away from the Internet and which relies merely on trust and a handshake, has kept it going for 25 years, helping it to outlive its peers. Labels like Twin/Tone in Minneapolis, which launched The Replacements, SST in California which launched Black Flag and Hüsker Dü, and I.R.S. in which launched R.E.M. and The Go Go's, all emerged in the early '80s after punk's mainstream explosion and before alternative's reign. However, Touch and Go is the only one of the bunch not only to stay in business, but to do so successfully and independently.
The best way to understand the label's significance is to sample some of the music. You'll hear these songs in our short-but-sweet montage of Touch and Go music:
- Killdozer, "Hi There"
- Girls Against Boys, "Kill the Sexplayer"
- The Dirty Three, "Doris"
- Jesus Lizard, "Mouth Breather"
- TV on the Radio, "Dreams"
- Butthole Surfers, "Fast"
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Art Star"
- Calexico, "Cruel"
Touch and Go has put out a lot of music over the past quarter century, but Jim and Greg both manage to pick their single favorite T&G tracks. Greg goes first and chooses "Stage 2000" by Seam. Touch and Go is often thought of as the place to go to for loud, hard-edged punk music, and that is certainly true. However, their roster is actually quite diverse, and there are a number of bands like Seam, who are making beautiful, soft, melodic music.“Stage 2000”is on Greg's favorite Seam album, The Problem With Me. That album was recorded with Chicago producer Brad Wood, best known for producing Liz Phair's classic Exile in Guyville.
Jim's Touch and Go pick is "Kerosene" by Big Black off their 1985 album Atomizer. Though Atomizer was initially released by Homestead Records, Big Black moved to Touch and Go a year later, and the label reissued the band's entire catalog. So we'll let Jim slide on this one — especially since no one has been as closely associated with Touch and Go as Big Black founder Steve Albini. Albini came to Chicago to study journalism at Northwestern, and Jim can hear this sensibility in his lyrics. Songs like "Kerosene" are essentially sensationalistic tabloid stories backed with thrashing noise-rock.Go to episode 43
The Smashing Pumpkins Zeitgeist
After formerly announcing their reunion in May, The Smashing Pumpkins have finally started touring and have produced an album to be released next week. Zeitgeist is the band's first record since they ended their alternative reign in 2000, but this time only half of the original members are back. Pumpkins' impresario Billy Corgan is joined by long-time collaborator Jimmy Chamberlin, as well as two other musicians standing in for James Iha and D'Arcy Wretzky. In true Corgan fashion, the band is already making news. In a marketing scheme that perhaps doesn‘t fit their alternative sensibilities, they’ve struck a deal with three major music retailers. Target, Best Buy and iTunes are all getting a different bonus track along with the regular version of the album. That means that fans purchasing Zeitgeist at an independent music store will only get the LP sans bonus tracks. This has angered some, but Jim and Greg actually don‘t think this plan is so egregious. In the past Corgan has offered his album for free on the internet and has given many free concerts. And in an age where it’s difficult to get people to actually purchase CDs in stores at all, who can blame a band for adding incentives. The real question is whether or not Zeitgeist is worth purchasing at all. Jim explains how we're in an era of alternative nostalgia, and Corgan certainly seems interested in reclaiming the good ol' days of the 1990s when the Pumpkins were on top and were making music that sounded like nothing else. The problem is that now this music sounds like almost everything else. With angsty rock bands like My Chemical Romance and AFI on the scene, the Pumpkins aren't really offering anything unique. Both Jim and Greg find this reunion recording to be merely an imitation of a great Smashing Pumpkins album, and wish that the music lived up to its title. They give Zeitgeist two Burn Its.
The xx I See You
When The xx were guests on the shows in 2010, Jim & Greg had no idea the British trio's blend of modern soul with minimalist '80s alternative sounds would prove so influential. Greg says that the band has subtly expanded its sound on its third album I See You, but hasnn‘t taken any big musical leaps. Because he feels the group hasn’t quite got there yet, Greg gives the album a Try It. Jim, however, loves the contrast between the album's celebratory sounds and its hints of darkness under the surface. Jim says The xx have grown and are pointing toward something exciting, proving they're a career band. For him, I See You is a Buy It.
Lucinda Williams Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone
Lucinda Williams has never been known as a prolific alternative country singer-songwriter. At 61-years old, she's always taken her time crafting her albums, and her latest in three years, Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, is no exception. However, Williams surprises Jim and Greg with her newest, having not just one, but two discs full of over 100 minutes of new material. Greg thinks she should have pared the track listing down a bit, but overall, he enjoys the album's loose vibe and shaggy instrumentation. The sprawling album is worth getting lost in in order to unearth the best of William's sincere, passionate - and sometimes seething - songwriting. Greg says Buy It. Jim seconds Greg's rating, saying if you can warm up to William's slurred vocals and the album's decidedly un-cheery tone, you‘ll be rewarded with an intimate look through the life and times of one of music’s great pioneers.
Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid
On the other end of the rock spectrum is Janelle Monáe. The alternative R&B singer's debut album is called The ArchAndroid. It's a dense science fiction concept record that incorporates hip hop, soul, funk, rock and big bandsounds. Jim hears the most ambition from an R&B singer in a long time. He loves Monáe's universe and gives The ArchAndroid a Buy It. Greg goes even further, calling this record the best he's heard this year. Spend time with it and you will love it. The ArchAndroid gets a double Buy It.
The Flaming Lips
Next up is a review of the new Flaming Lips album At War With the Mystics. The Oklahoma band has been around for almost 25 years, and this is their 12th album. The Lips' first big breakthrough came in 1993 with Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. That album was lauded by Jim and Greg at the time, and the single "She Don't Use Jelly" was one of the big alternative hits of the year. Then, in 1999, the band released The Soft Bulletin, which became a huge critical success, and in 2002, the band finally got some commercial recognition with their first Gold album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. After listening to one of the new songs, "Pompeii am Gotterdammerung" (which gives multi-instrumentalist and musical wizard Steven Drozd his first stab at vocals), Greg gives his review of the album. Jim refrains from offering his review because he feels he is too close to the work. Mr. DeRogatis just released his 5th book, Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips, and the journalist in him can‘t give a rating of the record. However, listeners can certainly surmise his opinions after listening to our hosts’ discussion. Greg admits off the bat that he is not blown away. He feels like the band tried to out-gimmick itself, providing the song "Yeah Yeah Yeah" as an example. Greg admits that the songs translate better live, and Jim predicts that come this summer, when the Flaming Lips perform at Lollapalooza, Greg will have to eat his Burn It. We'll just have to wait and see.
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
Jim is more excited about this next segment. He thinks there are a number of bands from the alternative era that don't get their due, including Zuzu's Petals. Lead singer Laurie Lindeen recently wrote a book about her life on the road called Petal Pusher: A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story. Jim recommends it, but mostly likes to remember the band through its music. That's why their track "Cinderella's Daydream" gets added to the Desert Island Jukebox this week.Go to episode 146
Even the healthiest music listener depends on recommendations from family and friends. But for more severe cases, Sound Opinions recommends people make an appointment with the Rock Doctors. When Brendan from Los Angeles contacted Sound Opinions H.Q. and described his symptoms, we immediately took him in to see the doctors and get a diagnosis. Brendan suffers from an ailment common among people of his generation: 90s-itis. Brendan loves music but hasn't moved forward since 1995. That was the high point of his music listening, and you can still find Weezer's Blue Album and Nirvana's Nevermind in his CD player. He loves the balance of noisy rock and melody in those albums. And, since he can no longer turn on an alt-rock radio station to hear a similar sound, he asks the Rock Doctors, "What sounds like '90s alternative in 2008?"
Greg's answer to this question is The Secret Machines. The group harkens back to that hard, but melodic sound. The group uses elements from that era like strong guitars and drums, and adds space rock. A fan of Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, and even The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, should love "Ten Silver Drops" by The Secret Machines.
Jim's prescription for 90s-itis is Wolf Parade. The Canadian indie rockers have a lot of energy and aggression that Brendan should appreciate. There's a nod to classic rock, but the band is not living in the past. He gives Brendan a dose of "At Mount Zoomer" by Wolf Parade and invites him back for a follow-up appointment in a week.
When Brendan returns he reports that he is slowly recovering. He enjoyed both prescriptions, but thinks he needs to give them more time. Brendan found both records slightly more mellow than he expected, but liked that they weren‘t“screaming.”Brendan now has two albums in his collection that were recorded in the 21st century, and that’s all the Doctors could ask for.Go to episode 152
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
The first story in the news this week involves that age-old practice of“pay-for-play,”or payola, in the music industry. In recent years, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has been investigating major record labels like Sony and Warner who engaged in this practice. But now, the FCC has joined the battle against this unethical behavior by launching an investigation of the four major radio corporations: Clear Channel Communications, CBS Radio, Citadel Broadcasting and Entercom Communications. The FCC's enforcement unit is looking into accusations that broadcasters illegally accepted cash or other compensation in exchange for airplay of specific songs without telling listeners. As per usual, the federal government is late to the game — but this investigation is admittance of a problem. And as we all know, that's the first step.
Also making news recently are some major acts from the early 1990s. It seems that people are already nostalgic for the music of the alternative era, and many of the surviving bands are cashing in on it. Alice in Chains announced tour dates for this summer, despite the fact that their original lead singer, Layne Staley, died of a drug overdose in 2002. Like the members of Queen and The Doors, the surviving Alice in Chains bandmates don't seem fazed by this loss, and will continue with the addition of Guns 'N Roses bassist Duff McKagan and Comes With the Fall vocalist William DuVall. Former Jane's Addiction members Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins will also tour this summer under the name Panic Channel, though their lead singer has not passed on. Rather, he's now the impresario of what may prove this summer's big moneymaker: Lollapalooza.
In the typical fashion, Neil Young is stirring up some controversy. The prolific rocker finished recording music for an upcoming album mere days ago and will have it in stores within a couple of weeks. Young is just coming off his last release, Prairie Wind (featured in Jonathan Demme's recent concert film), but on Living With War, he will shift gears completely. According to Greg, this release is a completely political, guerilla-style protest album. Young wrote and recorded songs like "Let's Impeach the President," in just one day in response to the current administration and its failed war in Iraq. Jim points out that Young works well in this situation. Less than two weeks after the Kent State shootings in 1970, Young was inspired to write "Ohio," and it was on the radio within a week. Almost 40 years later, the classic rock icon shows no sign of slowing down — neither his writing, nor his politics.
Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins are also in the headlines again. Nirvana widow Courtney Love sold 25% of her share of the band's publishing rights to Larry Mestel, a former executive at Virgin Music. She reportedly received over 50 million dollars for this settlement. That should help alleviate Love's financial woes, though not necessarily the woes of Nirvana fans who worry that Cobain's legacy will be boiled down to Teen Spirit ads. Smashing Pumpkins fans are also a bit curious about the fate of that band. Lead singer (and Love ex) Billy Corgan has stated that the Chicago group will reunite, but no one is quite sure in what incarnation. That really just leaves Pearl Jam, who you'll hear about later in the show.Go to episode 22
First up in the news, Pepsi is launching a music label in China. This is a strange, but perhaps smart move considering the large, untapped market there. The soda company will produce a "Battle of the Bands" television show to find artists to record. In addition, those artists will be featured in Pepsi ads.
Two sad news items follow. First is the death of Mink DeVille frontman Willy DeVille. DeVille was one of the key artists from the CBGB punk scene. But, he distinguished himself from the Blondies and Ramones with his unique sound. He was more a child of the Brill Building music of the '60s, and actually introduced Jim and Greg to a lot of those influences. To honor DeVille they play his Jack Nitzsche-produced track "Spanish Stroll."
Another recent death is that of director, writer and producer John Hughes. While Hughes isn't necessarily a music figure, Jim and Greg know that he was a huge fan. His musical choices in films like "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles" influenced what young people heard, and for many teens it was their first exposure to "alternative" music. In honor of Hughes, Jim and Greg play the original version of "Pretty in Pink," by the Psychedelic Furs.Go to episode 194