Results for 1990

interviews

Protomartyr

In the 1990's, the musical attitude of Detroit was reshaped by artists like Eminem and Jack White. But now the Motor City's mood has changed even more, and the minimalist post-punk sounds of Protomartyr are at the fore. The four-piece made a big impact on Greg back at this year's SXSW in Austin, TX with an almost contradictory mix of urgency and restraint, courtesy of guitarist Greg Ahee's stripped down playing and vocalist Joe Casey's sometimes callous, sometimes cool vocals. The band is rounded out by bassist Scott Davidson and drummer Alex Leonard and Greg welcomes them into the studio for a conversation and performance of songs off their sophomore album, Under Color of Official Right. In addition to their connection to literary icon Elmore Leonard, the band also tells Greg about how they went from a somewhat nonchalant beginnings, to constructing a tightly arranged and thoroughly purposeful album guided by the philosophy of doing more with less.

Go to episode 470

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

Lawrence Lessig

Next up Jim and Greg play a bit of The Grey Album, a mashup of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album made by DJ Danger Mouse. This was an album that received a lot of critical praise and attention. It even topped both Jim and Greg's year-end lists. It is a completely modern work that could not have been made without recent digital technologies. The rub here is that it could not be purchased anywhere, and many people who heard it don't even own a hard copy. This is because, according to current copyright law, what DJ Danger Mouse did was completely illegal. To discuss how laws like this are stifling art and how music in the digital age has changed in other ways, Jim and Greg welcome the definitive expert on this issue: Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig, a faculty member of Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society, has authored three books on cyber law and free culture, tried cases before the Supreme Court and founded Creative Commons, an organization trying to expand the range of creative work legally available to share.

While copyright laws have existed for over 200 years, music was not protected for a long time. Early in the 20th century protections for musicians and songwriters were put in place; however these laws did not necessarily hinder creativity. Once a song was recorded, anyone had the right to record it. This encouraged artists and was fundamental to the growth of the music industry, so much so that even the RIAA defended this right. The 21st century version of this kind of conversation between artists is sampling, but under current law, Professor Lessig explains, sampling is considered piracy. Therefore, creative expression and evolution are not fostered the way they were in the last century.

To demonstrate this point, Jim and Greg discuss the evolution of one song in the 20th century. Whether it was called“To the Pines,”"In the Pines," or even“Where Did You Sleep Last Night,”musicians like Leadbelly and Nirvana would quote and reference each other, essentially engaging in a dialogue and helping to inspire one another. This kind of songwriting and recording is the definition of a musical community and has been around since music itself. The sad truth is that such a community can't legally exist today. Listen to the songs that may have been lost had this been the case before the digital age:

  • Bill Monroe - "In the Pines," recorded between 1936-1941
  • Leadbelly - "In the Pines," 1947
  • Bascom Lamar Lunsford - "To the Pines, To the Pines," 1949
  • Joan Baez - "In the Pines," recorded between 1960 - 1963
  • The Grateful Dead - "In the Mines," 1966
  • Nirvana - "Where did you Sleep Last Night," 1994
  • Rancho Deluxe - "In The Pines," 2005
  • Smog - "In The Pines," 2005

Other versions include:

  • Clifford Jordan - "Black Girl," These Are My Roots, 1965
  • Mark Lanegan - "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," The Winding Sheet, 1990
  • Dolly Parton - "In the Pines," Heartsong, 1994
  • Louvin Brothers -“In the Pines,”Tragic Songs of Life, 1956
  • Youth Gone Mad feat. Dee Dee Ramone - "In the Pines," Youth Gone Mad, 2002

Digital copyright laws affect the consumer as well. In fact, Professor Lessig suggests that“creator”might be a more appropriate name. In the last century, music fans would buy music or make mixtapes, but current technology allows the listener to be a part of the creative process. The law currently treats these creative consumers, many of whom are kids, as thieves. Our guest does not condone illegal behavior, but strives to change existing laws rather than prosecute people who are hardly criminals.

In addition to changing laws, Professor Lessig recommends that record companies use the Web rather than fight it. If he ran a label he would encourage people to participate in the creative process and remix an artist's work. He would also allow and encourage artists to release their music on the internet. A small number of bands including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wilco have been able to do this with really positive results. Finally, if he ran a label, he would not bite the hand that feeds him and back away from the harmful DRM technologies that labels are bundling into their content.

Go to episode 134
specials

Country Music

Frequently on the show Jim and Greg like to take on a single music genre-often one that needs a little more TLC. And perhaps no genre is more maligned, especially in the rock world, than Country Music. We‘ve all joked about the lyrical clich’es-women, booze, death and dogs. And we all know that there's a lot of bad, over-produced arena country dominating today's scene. But, this week's guest thinks country has gotten a bad rap. Chrissie Dickinson began her career as a punk rocker, but in the 1990's she had a country epiphany. Eventually she went on to edit The Journal of Country Music. She admits that “hat acts” like Garth Brooks have not been great for the Nashville sound, but doesn‘t think that artists should get dismissed merely because they’ve gone pop. Even Patsy Cline was pop-country, or “countrypolitan.” Chrissie hopes that rock fans will be willing to add mainstream Nashville artists like Alan Jackson and Vince Gill to their “country cred” collection of Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn.

Go to episode 241
reviews
Long Road Out of EdenLong Road Out of Eden available on iTunes

Eagles Long Road Out of Eden

So consumers are excited about Long Road Out of Eden, but how do Jim and Greg feel? Greg explains that with the exception of mentions of“cell phones”and“SUV's,”this album could just as easily have been made in 1980 as 2007. Don Henley and Glenn Frey are still up to their old tricks, mixing country and rock with a hint of sentimentality. In fact, while their country-rock fusion sound was radical in the 1970s, it's the norm in Nashville today. Greg hears nothing on this record that needs hearing, and recommends fans of the band check out their 1990 greatest hits album. Jim completely agrees; he doesn't want to hear Don Henley preaching about the sorry state of the world, particularly when the band agreed to sell its soul to Wal-Mart. But, more egregious than the terrible lyrics is the sleepy sound. The Eagles managed to be both irritating and boring, so they get a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 102
Researching the Blues (Bonus Track Version)Researching the Blues available on iTunes

Redd Kross Researching the Blues

Jim and Greg review Researching the Blues, the new record from California rock veterans Redd Kross. Adopted as the“little brothers”of L.A.'s hardcore punk scene when they first formed in 1980, Redd Kross always tended more Beach Boys than Black Flag in sound. Their 1990 record Third Eye was a harbinger of later alt-era successes (Nevermind for one), but the band itself never achieved Nirvana-level success and went on hiatus in 1997. Researching the Blues, the band's first new record in 15 years, reunites the“classic lineup”of Jeff McDonald, Steve McDonald, Robert Hecker, and Roy McDonald. Both Jim and Greg agree they're glad to have these boys back. Redd Kross have cut all the fat, Greg says. They get in, give you a great guitar solo and some killer harmonies, and then get out. Past records have been rife with seventies pop-culture references. Greg thinks Redd Kross are taking themselves a bit more seriously this time around, though Jim points out there are still enough kitschy references to Dracula and Frankenstein to keep things light. Researching the Blues gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 350
Rather RippedRather Ripped available on iTunes

Sonic Youth Rather Ripped

The second album up for review this week is from noise-rock vets Sonic Youth. Rather Ripped is the 15th studio album by the New York City quartet, who have been playing together for 25 years and up. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Jim O'Rourke joined the band briefly, but on Rather Ripped, Sonic Youth is back to four. The stripped-down lineup translates to the record's sound. The band is known for huge, noisy guitar sounds courtesy of guitar composers Glen Branca and Rhys Chatham, but this effort is a cleaner, more melodic album than fans may be accustomed to — and according to Jim, critics are falling over themselves praising it. Jim can‘t jump on that bandwagon, however. He doesn’t think that Sonic Youth has made a consistently good album from beginning to end since 1990's Goo. He still considers Sonic Youth a great band, but can only give Rather Ripped a Burn It. Greg, on the other hand, believes Jim is being too harsh. He agrees that it is not a great record, but still a good one. There are very few bands that have been able to sustain themselves as credible artists for this long. Greg really appreciates the songwriting, especially that of Kim Gordon (wife of fellow Sonic Youther Thurston Moore). For its dreamy atmosphere and momentum-fueled drumming and guitars, Greg gives Rather Ripped a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 29
dijs

Jim

“Rubber Lover”Deee-Lite,Deee-Lite

Ever since Bootsy Collins visited the Sound Opinions studio in 2012, Jim has been thinking of dance band Deee-Lite and its hit 1990 single, "Groove Is In The Heart" which features Bootsy on bass guitar and guest vocals. Many consider Deee-Lite to be a one-hit wonder, but Jim is a big fan of all the band's albums, particularly their second, Infinity Within, which took a turn away from the first album's neo-hippy tone towards the political with songs about voter registration, environmental stewardship, and the judicial system. One track, "Rubber Lover" features the return of Bootsy Collins, and delights Jim with its safe sex message atop Chicago house mixed with New York rave sound.

Go to episode 458
lists

Anti-Love Songs

With the ghost of St. Valentine looming over us all, this week's show is dedicated to those music fans for whom "Love Stinks." Jim and Greg discuss their favorite anti-love songs and hear some listeners' picks. Here are some songs to get you out of the mood for Valentine's Day.

Go to episode 11
news

Music News

Slayer is undoubtedly one of the most important metal acts ever. Heck, in any genre. And one of its founders, Jeff Hanneman, died recently at age 49. As Greg explains, this guy really brought the riffs. He and fellow guitarist Kerry King were like race car drivers, both playing lead guitar and then zooming out ahead. It was especially amazing to witness this live. Unfortunately Jeff didn't join his bandmates for a visit to our studios a few years ago. But we remember him through Slayer's music. Check out "War Ensemble" from 1990's Seasons in the Abyss.

Say you're Hollywood heavyweight Harvey Weinstein. Who do you turn to in order to bring Led Zeppelin back together for a Hurricane Sandy benefit? Why former President Bill Clinton of course! He's brokered many a deal-both foreign and congressional. So why not a rock and roll deal? Well, turns out the Golden God was not so easily moved by Clinton's charms.

Go to episode 389