The Monkees & Reviews of Andrew Bird and Kid Cudi

Jim and Greg revisit their discussion of the history and legacy of the Revolutionary Made-for-TV Band, The Monkees with writer Eric Lefcowitz. Monkees teen idol Davy Jones died recently at age 66.

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At the top of the show Jim and Greg remember the work of Oscar-winning songwriter Robert Sherman. A glance at his list of tunes is a reminder that the film business just doesn’t value music like it used to. (Think about the paltry two Oscar nominations for Best Original Song this year). After penning some pop hits in the 1950’s, Sherman and his brother wrote iconic songs for Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in addition to It’s a Small World. But it’s his work for The Jungle Book and Louis Prima’s I Wan’na Be Like You, that really brings it all back for Jim.

While Apple’s announcements about the 3rd generation of the iPad are making big news this week, Jim and Greg turn to their advancements on the music side. Apple’s iTunes store is slowly making available higher fidelity files mastered for better sound. The company has made new techniques available to producers and engineers to achieve this high quality sound, so it will be interesting to see if artists take advantage of it. And it’s heartening to know that in the Convenience Vs. Quality debate, we haven’t forgotten about the music.

The Monkees

Hey, hey it’s The Monkees! Jim and Greg go ape on this episode with Eric Lefcowitz, author of Monkee Business: The Revolutionary Made For TV Band. Monkees teen icon Davy Jones died last week at age 66, and so Jim and Greg return to this 2011 conversation. The three men talk about the band’s history as a group manufactured to tap into Beatlemania. TV producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider brought bandmates Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones together, and their music was supervised by record producer Don Kirshner. This was the original pop model, giving way to N’Sync, Justin Bieber and Glee. But eventually, as often happens, The Monkees began to itch for independence. They went on to write and produce more of their own music and make the trippy cult classic Head. And of course, there were a number of reunion efforts in later decades. But, for many their legacy remains those wacky TV moments and classic pop songs.

Break It Yourself Andrew Bird

Break It Yourself

Andrew Bird is back with his 7th studio album called Break It Yourself. The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist recorded the album in his barn in western Illinois, and Greg’s favorite track is Near Death Experience Experience, which tells the story of people on a plane about to crash. It has a tango groove, emotional intensity and quirkiness. He can’t say the same about the rest of the record, unfortunately. Greg respects Bird, but finds these tunes demonstrate great musicianship, but not great songwriting. So, he says Burn It. Jim also appreciates how he isn’t a cookie cutter conformist, but you have to get past a lot of hurdles to like Bird’s music, including whistling, violin and a love for $20 words. While much of that has been pared back, he still isn’t drawn into these songs and says Trash It.

WZRD WZRD

WZRD

Kid Cudi made a name for himself first as a protégé of Kanye West, then as an innovator of a unique emo-rap sound with Man on the Moon Parts One and Two. And now he’s picked up a guitar. With WZRD, his project with Dot da Genius, he is fusing elements of hip-hop and rock, and to great effect according to Jim. He admires his cockiness (covering Where Did You Sleep Last Night?) and his sense of experimentation, especially when compared to unsuccessful fusion efforts like Lil Wayne’s Rebirth. Jim tells you to Buy It. Greg only needs to describe WZRD in two words: Amateur Hour. If he didn’t know Cudi was behind this album, he’d instruct these kids to go back to the drawing board, learn to play guitar and learn to sing. Sorry folks, this one’s a Trash It.

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