Jan 252012

It’s become commonplace for film and television critics to offset a key piece of plot twist information in a review with a SPOILER ALERT! warning. Imagine, if you can, a world in which more than a few thousand rock nerds like us really cared about the twists and turns of a song, those parts people like us find unexpected and exhilarating, like the—SPOILER ALERT!—buzz-heightening typewriter/Phil Manzanera guitar solo that pops up out of the blue in Brian Eno‘s “China My China” or the—SPOILER ALERT!—gravitas-deepening appearance of The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, in Lou Reed‘s “Street Hassle.”

If rock critics found it helpful to add a SPOILER ALERT! to their review of records, what records might call for such a disclaimer?


Who Dat?

 Posted by
Jan 132012

Who dat?

Recently, I stumbled across a bit of promo fluff for an upcoming album by a musical entity I’m sure you’d all recognize. Your job is to guess who it describes. Your secondary task is to assess the teeth-grinding idiocy/insightful brilliance of the blurb in question. Here’s the blurb:

mixing pop art punch with soulful communication, jazzy explorations into psychedelia and dub with razor-sharp melodies, abstract soundscapes with clear-eyed forest-folk.

I look forward to your responses.


Jul 282011

Super-busy day ahead, but in a little side discussion I’m having with Townsman Oats in this week’s All-Star Jam regarding a new book by and interview with Simon Reynolds, he takes the following shot, which is too good not to bring to The Main Stage:

One key point from Noel Murray’s rebuttal: Reynolds may regard Jack White as some sort of analog purist poseur, but the majority of earthlings who rock out to “Seven Nation Army” don’t consider it a throwback. It’s considered a key rock song of the ’00s. No one hears that song and thinks back to 1971, except maybe some sticks in the mud who may comment on a rock blog;)

To my ears, putting aside the issue of the nonexistent bass, White Stripes couldn’t have been a more fan-friendly throwback unless he’d been backed by the Delaware Destroyers. Does Oats and the “majority of earthlings” who constitute His Generation actually hear the music of White Stripes as “visionary?” Where do you fall on the issue of Jack White: Throwback or Visionary?

I look forward to your comments—and members of the Bad Attitude Club can check their bad attitude at the door!

Jul 222011

Few movies have ever bugged me as much as Dances With Wolves. I actually took the plunge and spent what felt like 6 hours in a movie theater watching that thing when it came out. I was never a Kevin Costner “hater.” I was never his biggest fan either, but I gave the man his due for No Way Out and Bull Durham. Beside miserably squirming through most of Field of Dreams, I had no ax to grind with the guy at that time in his career. For whatever reservations (no pun intended) I might have had, the story seemed like it might appeal to the broad side of me that loves Little Big Man. My wife and I decided to give it a shot on the big screen.

Man, did that movie blow! And its universal acclaim over the coming months with critics and Motion Picture Academy voters really drove us nuts. It was hard to ever like Costner again, and I disliked that movie so much that it helped me feel the pain “people of color” in America and probably worldwide have felt as Hollywood movie after Hollywood movie presents the plight of their people through the eyes of a Saintly, Heroic White Person. (And what was with Mary McDonnell doing in that movie with workout tape–era Jane Fonda‘s hairdo?)

Most recently The Blind Side was the Hollywood film to bolster this notion. Note, in the linked review, that despite the fact that the story contained probably a good deal of truth that most likely Costner’s crime again me and Native Americans has sensitized critics to new levels. You say you didn’t see The Blind Side or Dangerous Minds or Freedom Writers? I didn’t either, but although I liked Mississippi Burning, I felt a little uncomfortable by the strong presence of Saintly, Heroic White People. There are a lot of other movies that play out this way, and despite the fact that I like my share of them, I am always a little embarrassed for what I imagine moviegoesrs of minority groups may be feeling. I console myself with the fact that I’m a big fan of Ice Cube‘s Barbershop movies and that amazing, little indie movie made by and about a group of Native American friends in contemporary society, Smoke Signals.

Unlike the Hollywood movie industry, however, African Americans have played a strong leading role in music since nearly the beginning of the recording age. Any American of any race born in the 19th century forward has little excuse not to know and love at least some music by African American artists. So why have I come across so many intelligent, educated, music-loving white people who rave about Dusty Springfield‘s 1969 album, Dusty in Memphis, as if it’s a watermark in soul music?

Check out this typical rock press take on the album. Despite the fact that the writer makes it clear that Dusty wasn’t all that happy with the record or being in Memphis, singing in the same vocal booth in which true Memphis greats sweat and slobbered and playing with arguably one of the music industry’s greatest backing bands, he and a legion of modern-day fans of the album clutch onto the myth.

Far from rescuing Springfield’s career, Dusty in Memphis froze it in time, and she would not have another Top 40 hit for more than two decades. But for this album’s army of fans, who’ve picked it up in second-hand stores or in a variety of re-released formats, Dusty in Memphis is not only a popcultural milestone but a timeless emotional reference point.

I have no desire to argue the merits of the album itself. I think it’s merely OK. If I’d bought it in a used bin for 50 cents when I was an idealistic kid I would have held onto it and gotten some mild enjoyment out of it, but beside “Son of a Preacher Man,” which for my money is on par with a similar, fun, semi-corny country-soul tale like Bobbi Gentry‘s “Ode to Billie Joe” or R.B. Greaves‘ “Take a Letter Maria,” I guess I lack the pop sensibility and emotional capacity to identify either the milestone or the reference point this writer notes.

The album’s OK. Dusty Springfield was OK. Her first hit, “I Only Want to Be With You,” is outstanding! Sadly, as I learned as a completely misguided, horny teenage boy, the assumed “super-cute” musical equivalent of a young Julie Christie behind “I Only Want to Be With You,” as I bet many American boys and young men wished all cute-sounding Daughters of the British Invasion would look at that time, was nothing special. She was not even as mildly cute Petula Clark, for instance. Nice bouffant, I guess, but that’s not what I was hoping to find. Bummer. Oh, if only the English had done like the French and matched their Swingin’ Sixties cutiepies up in a recording studio with dirty, old pervs. I’d buy some half-assed Julie Christie single. But that was and is neither here nor there. Continue reading »


RIP Jane Scott

 Posted by
Jul 052011

Every Rock nerd in Cleveland (let’s make that northeast Ohio) knows who Jane Scott was. Jane was the Rock Music critic for The Plain Dealer. She was at the first shows in Cleveland by The Beatles and The Stones and I swear she was at every show that ever mattered here in Cleveland, or at the major US festivals. I saw her all the time, and she was always fun to talk to at a show. The trick was to catch her between acts or right before showtime, when she wasn’t talking to the bands and the music hadn’t started. She wore white go go boots a lot of times, and she was the oldest person in the room by the time my concert attending part of life came along.  She was 92.

She wrote in a very enthusiastic style, and she tried to find out why people liked every band. She was no Rock Snob, and I really don’t remember her ever writing a really negative review. She used really funny words, like “kicky” and she would never be confused with some Rock Critic that thinks they are enlightening us to some heretofore unknown truth. Jane was writing about having fun, and her weekly column, The Happening, outlived almost every underground weekly entertainment magazine by decades. The Cleveland music scene was made better by Jane’s 50 or so years of going to concerts, and performers big and small, as well as fans, are all going to miss her.

Jan 292011

Sounds of the Hall in roughly 33 1/3 minutes!

In tonight’s edition of Saturday Night Shut-In, Mr. Moderator calls on The Power & Glory of Rock to remind him that it’s all right. Along the way he predicts that 2011 will be The Year of the Female-Fronted Band. Finally, a recently pardoned listener emerges from lord knows where to confirm that the show’s request line has finally been repaired.

[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/RTH-Saturday-Night-Shut-In-13.mp3|titles=RTH Saturday Night Shut-In, episode 13]

[Note: The Rock Town Hall feed will enable you to easily download Saturday Night Shut-In episodes to your digital music player. In fact, you can even set your iTunes to search for an automatic download of each week’s podcast.]


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