Clap Your Hands Say Yeah & Reviews of Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen

Indie rock phenoms Clap Your Hands Say Yeah visit the show for a live performance and interview. Jim and Greg also take a look at Neil Young’s recent protest effort, and review the latest releases from rock veterans Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
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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.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Jim and Greg sit down with the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. This East Coast quintet was one of the success stories of 2005. They paid for, produced, and released their self-titled debut album on the ‘net without the help of a record label. Now they’ve sold over 100,000 albums and are selling out shows across the country. Professor Lawrence Lessig, cyberlaw expert and esteemed Sound Opinions guest, cites the band as an example of how people can use the Internet to propel music. A community formed around the band—one that was still willing to pay for their music despite the fact that it was available for free. As Jim points out, this completely contradicts what the RIAA and music industry execs would have you believe.

The lead singer of Clap Your Hands, Alec Ounsworth, is often compared to Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, and this goes beyond just vocal quality. Alec mentions his love of Another Green World by groundbreaking non-musician Brian Eno (or Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno as his parents know him). You can hear a lot of the New Wave sound and Eno’s philosophy in the band’s music, like on the spartan, rhythmic New York sound of Sombre Reptiles.

The band, which got its name after the members saw Clap Your Hands Say Yeah scrawled on a Brooklyn wall, play several songs from their debut album. Jim sees keyboardist Robbie Guertin’s parents sitting in the Chicago Public Radio control room and reminisces about when his own mom used to come to see him play at less-than-refined venues like CBGB’s. He adds that Joey Ramone’s mom also used to carpool him and the rest of the band to their gigs. It seems parental support is crucial to punk rock success.

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions Bruce Springsteen

We Shall Overcome (The Seeger Sessions) American Land Edition

Sound Opinions listeners know they can always count on a heated conversation when it comes to The Boss. Bruce Springsteen came out with a new album this week (the 18th of his career), We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. This time around, the singer pays tribute to folk artist Pete Seeger, and Jim and Greg completely disagree on whether or not it is worth your time. Greg became a Springsteen fan early on, but has been disappointed in his rock hero in recent years. However, he asserts that We Shall Overcome is Springsteen’s best album since Nebraska. He appreciates the more down-to-earth production style and political messages of the songs. He gives it a Buy It rating. Jim, on the other hand, states that this record literally makes him sick to his stomach. He has never been a Springsteen fan, but has occasionally given a favorable review to albums like Devils in Dust. He finds this Seeger tribute musically and lyrically conservative, and basically just completely pathetic. He does not want to hear Springsteen do folk songs ( Froggie Went a Courtin’, anyone and wishes that Springsteen followed in the path of Billy Bragg and Wilco, who paid homage to another folk hero, Woody Guthrie. Unlike that album, this one gets a Trash It from Mr. DeRogatis.

Pearl Jam 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.

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