Much excitement as we return The Listening Room to it's standard Monday time slot. Much excitement as we welcome a first-time contributor to this week's installment. Much excitement because as I skim this week's entries, I see a lot of great music worth listening to and discussing.
These may not be the best songs ever, they may not even be our favorites, but they kept us entertained last week. You could do worse than to try a few of them out and see what they do for you.
DJRadiohead: "Milk It" from In Utero by Nirvana
“Milk It” uses nearly every element of the Nirvana playbook. The soft/loud dynamic is used. Sonically, producer Steve Albini's fingerprints seem to be all over this song. The detuned guitars have that very In Utero ambiance. Cobain's guitar doesn't exactly create a melody during the verse, nor does it serve the rhythm. Instead it plinks out nonsensical notes, bathed in the glorious Albini effect. In addition to loving the guitar sounds Cobain and Albini crafted together, Krist Novoselic's bass has the gorgeous boom and buoyancy to it.
I might be alone in this, but I find it brilliant that Kurt Cobain could toss out a line like “Look on the bright side of suicide” with a mix of fury, menace, and humor. Cobain tosses out a string of contradictory lines that sound like nonsense on the surface and a few biting or funny one liners.
You don't have to reinvent the wheel when you have a great formula and a great song. “Milk It” is not a lead song, it's a supporting one. It isn't the reason In Utero is a great album, but In Utero wouldn't be great without it.
Connie Phillips: "We Will Rock You" from Queen Greatest Hits by Queen
Last weekend I accompanied my daughter and other members of her Pony Club to this year's Quiz Rally – A knowledge based competition between all the clubs in the Great Lakes Region. Quiz Rally is much like any other academic competition, except it's a test of horse knowledge. As with most USPC events, part of the process is to teach the kids to work together and perform as a team while having a healthy competitive spirit.
As "our girls" stood outside one of the rooms, waiting for their next phase in the contest, they started the familiar rhythmic Stomp stomp clap! Stomp Stomp Clap! before breaking into the first verse of "We Will Rock You" proving to me it's a timeless and classic song of rivalry. However, like many songs that are associated with sporting events, the lyrics and rhythms are such they get stuck in your head and you find yourself still singing them a week later.
Sterfish: "Nothing Like This" from Ruff Draft by J. Dilla
The title of this song really describes it. Every time I listen to it, it amazes me just how unusual it is. Despite a rough, gritty sound filled with distortion, it is really a sweet love song. Dilla doesn't quite rap on this song and he doesn't quite sing either. The beat has Dilla's always excellent drums but features a trippy, warped beat that reveals itself to (possibly) be country in origin by the end.
It sounds like it shouldn't add up to a great song at all but in Dilla's hands, it does. Maybe that's why I like it so much. It defies a lot of conventions. It's sad that, as far as I know, Dilla never made another song quite like it.
Pico: "Korn Dutch" from Live In Tokyo by Lettuce
Nothing works better at getting a Friday afternoon attitude on a Monday morning than some James Brown inspired funk-jazz jams. And who better than to provide those jams than a supergroup consisting of Soulive's keyboard player and guitarist along with John Scofield's drummer from Uberjam, Adam Deitch? It's played live, which is how jam music is meant to be played. "Korn Dutch" contains just enough interesting chord changes to take the tune beyond the generic and offers plenty of solo space. Eric Krasno in particular rips on guitar. The JB-like horns add the cherry to the sundae.
Mark Saleski: "Bad Reputation" from Bad Reputation by Joan Jett
You might be shocked to learn that TheWife™ has a favorite television show: American Chopper. The only way this can be explained, since neither of us gives one hoot about motorcycles, is that she thinks one of the Teutels is hot… I do NOT want to know which one. Seriously.
Anyhoo, the show has been using "Bad Reputation" in a promo. I'd seen it a bunch of times and my weakness for old power pop/punk took hold.
Honestly, this song, in all of its Runaways/Ramones goodness, just can't be turned up too loud.
Mat Brewster: "Knockin' On Mine" by Paul Westerberg from 14 Songs
I got this album from the $3 bin from my favorite local record shop back in high school. It stayed in heavy rotation in my car for months, and started my long lived love affair with the Replacements. The record starts with a flash and a bang on this song, and I must admit I spent many years after owning it, trying not to be first to laugh, as to prove I, as Paul sings, "didn't get the joke."
It's been ages since I gave it a listen, but for whatever reason I pulled it off the shelf earlier this week, and it's been making me all nostalgic and happy ever since.
Glen Boyd: "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" from Wolfgang's Vault by Genesis.
So I guess I'm going to cheat and do this two weeks in a row, since I got away with it last week. The thing is that as long as Wolfgang's Vault keeps adding shows like this on a regular basis, I simply can't help myself. What we have here–again newly added to the Concert Vault just this week — is an ultra rare live performance of the complete Lamb Lies Down On Broadway rock opera from Peter Gabriel and Genesis.
Recorded at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA on 01/24/1975, this has long been considered to be the holy grail for fans of the prog-rock, pre Phil Collins era Genesis. Collins is still here of course, behind the drums where in my personal opinion is the place he really belongs in this particular group.
The recording here is absolutely incredible, and on songs like "Hairless Heart" and "The Lamia," the musical nuances — particularly those between keyboardist Tony banks and guitarist Steve Hackett — will simply make you melt in your seat. For those who can't afford the version on the pricey Genesis Archives 1967 – 1975 box-set, this truly is the Grail.
Michael Jones: "All These People" from Oh My Nola by Harry Connick, Jr.
For his latest musical offering, Harry Connick, Jr. went back to the studio and recorded two albums meant to pay tribute to his hometown, as well as to serve notice that all thoughts of New Orleans do not have to be sorrowful. Instead, he offers the ideals of hope, history, love, and understanding. Of course, as those of us from Louisiana are want to do, he added a lil' bit of Langiappe to his albums, by making sure they were just as equally filled with beautiful music as they were with beautiful intentions..
The song I've found myself listening to over and over, a stunner of a track entitled "All These People," comes off of the more lyrical of the two releases, Oh My Nola. Blessed with additional vocals from Gospel legend Kim Burrell, the song (one of only four Connick-penned originals on the album) is just this wonderful slow-burner of a musical elegy dealing with the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I just… well, let's just say that I just love everything about this song, all at the same time that I mourn the thing that inspired it.
As a side note, the companion album to Oh My Nola, the mainly instrumental Chanson du Vieux Carre, is an amazing album in its own right. If you have the chance and opportunity, buy both albums and sit back with your headphones and visit the music of Harry Connick's (and my own) heritage.