And The Hits Just Keep On Comin': March 2008

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

A Music Journal Collective Effort

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Real Emotional Trash

If I could write music the way Stephen Malkmus does,
in his raw, original and multi-faceted form, I would.
The problem is I don’t have the musical abyss of a mind
that he does…and I wasn’t a History major in school.
For many, the first time they heard a Pavement or
Stephen Malkmus track was most likely a traumatic
experience. I can vividly recall the first time I heard
the song ‘Cut Your Hair’ by Pavement from the Crooked
Rain, Crooked Rain album. I wincingly thought the song
was weird and was annoyed by Stephen’s songwriting
style and chaotic, ad-lib vocalizing. Unfortunately for
me, ‘Cut Your Hair’ sounded nothing like the rest of
the album, or any other Pavement song and was, in
fact, their closest brush with the mainstream. Oddly
enough, something changed in my heart along the
way and today I celebrate Stephen Malkmus’ entire
catalogue, both with and without Pavement.

In the truest sense of the term, Stephen Malkmus is a
freestyle musician who transcends borders, categories,
boundaries and demographics in order to convey the
weirdness and simplicity of his art. His newest release
‘Real Emotional Trash’ is no exception to that rule. As
Stephen’s fourth major solo release since the demolition
of Pavement (with his band The Jicks), the album
conveys the tensions and oddities that Stephen holds
dear within his own strange and fragmented world.
‘Dragonfly Pie’ opens with an attitudinal guitar riff that
sounds like it could be the main lick of an early Mudhoney
song, coming out of a blown amp. The lyrical theme
overrides the musical burn as Malkmus echoes the
deep realization of the refrain over and over:
‘Can’t be what you want to be /
Gotta be what your oughtta be’.

‘Cold Son’ is the first single off the album and nicely
displays Malkmus’ simple poppy side and penchant
for wordplay. The album title track ‘Real Emotional
Trash’ is an incredible 10 minute powerhouse of
augmented lyricism that focuses on Stephen’s salt
of the earth people adoration (‘Point me in the direction
of your real emotional trash’). The song features
everything from SM’s signature clean electric picking
to Piano to 70’s organ tones and changes tempo
three or four times.

Make no mistake – Stephen Malkmus is a
de-constructionist. This can be clearly viewed on
the well-crafted track ‘We Can’t Help You’ that
actually pokes fun at the ridiculousness of the
post-modern ideal:
‘There’s no common goal / There’s no moral action
There’s no modern age in which to run away
There’s no grace and love / without no projection
There’s no sky above for you to cry into
We can’t help you.’

It’s obvious that I’m a little biased here but being a
listener and a fan of SM for over 13 years, it’s
understandable to me that the common palate does
not jibe well with his musical and lyrical flavour. In
fact, his song-writing is often so slob-rocky and choppy
that it can sound amateur-ish when compared to the
sleek, shrink-wrapped musical markets of today.
Fortunately, SM has it where it counts and doesn’t
really care about his lack of radio play. He has an
adoring listener base that spans across many
generations and musical demographics. He has been
pegged (although Stephen himself denies it) as
possibly the pioneer of the ‘indie’ movement. He is
so well respected and known within the music industry,
in fact, that his voice can be currently heard as Cate
Blanchett’s singing voice in the new Todd Haynes film
about Bob Dylan entitled ‘I’m Not There’.

For an original musical ride and nice intro to the work
of Stephen Malkmus, I would suggest you pick up
‘Real Emotional Trash’ (and the ITunes version comes
with a bonus track) and then work your way backwards,
deep into the catacombs of his collection.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Foo Fighters
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

It feels like I have been to this place before. The place
I speak of is one of distrust, malcontent and utter irritability
with the status of modern music review. I base this
hypothesis out of many modern reviews I’ve read but there
is one in particular I’d like to run up the flagpole. Before I
get to that, though, I will not (as a friend and colleague once
told me) let the review in question get any glory – I will
let them hang. I’m warning you now that this review will
be much longer than my usual writing but I feel that there
is much to be said on this subject.

In October of 2007, The Foo Fighters released their

newest offering entitled ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience and
Grace’. Before I get into the dough of that bread, however,
I feel it is necessary to briefly touch on the history and
saga of Dave Grohl. Being a fan of the Foos since their
pre-1995 humble beginnings (when Dave Grohl made
a demo tape to attract other musicians that ended up
being released as the Foos first self-titled album), I was
actually never a massive follower of Nirvana. I liked
them and I dug the raw feel of ‘In Utero’ but I was
never a huge believer. Since the haze of those Seattle
days, Dave has arguably been the most successful musician
that has moved from being a drummer to a front man
(with possibly the exception of Phil Collins. Okay, I’m

Apparently, there are over a thousand people who

check out BWC on a daily basis. It’s awesome to think
that there is a readership out there that is devoted
to dissecting truth with a Jesus-based worldview.
Unfortunately, so many people who know no better
look to major magazines and releases to find the critical
truth – Rolling Stone, SPIN, Pitchfork, etc. If you are
a reader of the BWC or just a first time checker-outer,
I hope you get the sense that BWC folks write from the
heart within this publication. I hope that it’s understood
that when I write the phrase ‘ESPG is a solidly
constructed album and one of the Foos more diverse
works’, I write that from the heart and I am not getting
paid to type that. It just needed to be said.

On ESPG, Dave, Taylor, Chris and Nate take a varied

approach to songwriting. Though Dave is in the lead (as
per usual), you get the sense that the band is taking a
deeper philosophical breath as they rock hyper-ish at
times but kick back mellow-ish at others. ‘The Pretenders’
is nowhere near one of the best songs on this album and
honestly, I have no idea why Dave and the boys released
this as their first single. There are some amazing tracks
on this disc that gave me shivers the first time I heard
them and still do to this day. ‘Long Road To Ruin’ is a
great rock-pop anthem that speaks of the long road
ahead that we will all, most likely, make mistakes upon
while we drive on it (the video for this song is actually
pretty humourous and par for the course with Grohl’s
comedic persona). ‘Come Alive’ is one of the best songs
I’ve heard in years and though it gets a little edgy and
loud for modern trends (that mostly feature bands with
a token female singer and xylophone), there is hardly
a soul who can not relate to watching a friend or loved
one dwindle on the tip of his or her true potential.

‘Cheer Up Boys (Your Make Up Is Running)’ is probably

my favourite song out of the whole disc. It features
everything the Foos do well – the harder guitar and
drum edge but with a poppy, light tone that any listener
could bob their head along with. The idea behind the
song really speaks for itself – in an age where so many
musicians thrive on an image of being sad, gothic and
cosmetically downtrodden, Dave is speaking to the evils
of teenage influence that focus too much on the downside
of life:
‘Stop Using My Confusion
There’s a world out there
Don’t you deny me’

The ill album review I referenced earlier is one that

surfaced directly after the release of ESPG in SPIN
Magazine. In this disgrace of a review (and really…I’m
being generous with that wording), the writer goes on
to sloppily compare a few new songs on the album with
older Foo hits from previous releases: “"The Pretenders"
is "Stacked Actors," even down to the lyrics decrying
phonies; and if you've heard "My Hero," you've got a
good idea what "Statues" sounds like.” Wow. The
comparison of those tracks is so far off kilter that’s it’s
almost as if this reviewer was listening to an entirely
different album. Though there are some lyrical
similarities between ‘Stacked Actors’ and ‘The Pretenders’,
the former is much more of a snapshot of the bleach-blonde
industry posers whereas ‘The Pretenders’ is about staying
power amidst one hit wonders. The songs, however, are
quite different from a sonic standpoint. As far as the
comparison of ‘My Hero’ and ‘Statues’…I’m somewhat
shoulder-shrugged. ‘My Hero’ is a song that begins with
a throbbing drum track and moves into a powerful blast
of bass and guitar-throttle. ‘Statues’ is a mellow ballad
that Dave croons upon while playing piano. I’m actually
being serious – I’m not making this up. Have a listen for

Finally, the reviewer actually makes a reference to Dave

Grohl’s career thus far as being ‘fantastically average’. I
might take that statement a little more seriously if I
believed the writer even had one decent listen-through
to the album in question.

The Foo Fighters don’t write the best songs ever made
and they would be the first ones to admit that. Amidst the
smoke and mirrors of the musical marketplace, though,
Dave Grohl has some depth and although it’s usually
only hinted at, it is still there. Unfortunately, since the
monster of Nirvana has been painted and pedestalized in
such an unfair and uneven light, Dave has had to live
with the burden of trying please old Nirvana fans and
critics from day one. As the Nirvana bassist Krist
Novoselic once said ‘Dave has had to find his way out
of the jungle of Nirvana with a machete…but I think he
has done pretty well.’

It would be ideal to find out more about the personal

lives of musicians and here on BWC, there is often a
moral undertone amidst all of the post-modern ramblings.
I don’t know if Dave Grohl knows God – maybe he does
in a way I’ll never understand or maybe he has chosen
another road. Though major magazines wouldn’t see
this as ‘good copy’ and usually don’t care, I care.

After years of listening to Dave’s music, what I can surmise

is that he is someone on a valid search - he tries to stay
out of the tabloids and believes in the value of people. In
fact, the one green marker that the SPIN review actually
got shallowly correct was the rating of ‘The Ballad of the
Beaconsfield Miners’ as a beautiful ‘bluegrass instrumental
that is an oasis’ of sorts. What the mediocre reviewer failed
to engage, however, is the story behind that song which
can be read about here. It basically speaks of Dave Grohl
helping two men who were stuck in the Beaconsfield Mine
Collapse, sending them mp3 players filled with Foo
Fighters music and other tunes, offering them free tickets
to a show and to meet up personally with them, and the
creation of that very song while Dave jammed later that
night and promised the one miner who came that ‘it would
be a song on their new record’. The new record would, in fact,
be one entitled ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace’. (But you
know – pretty boring, average story. No need to mention
that in a major magazine.)

free site statistics