Hero or Villain?

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Jul 092020

Following assorted links I came to this interview with Chris Frantz, who has an autobiography coming out later this month:


Very interesting with, unsurprisingly, much to say about David Byrne and his refusal to reunite Talking Heads. And there are lots of great video clips – from 20 minutes of the three-piece Talking Heads at CBGBs in 1975 through to their only “reunion” for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame up to Byrne’s American Utopia on Broadway. I’ll let you decide which ones to watch rather than embed something here.

Are artists like Byrne or Robbie Robertson or Paul Weller (to name two more that come to mind quickly) heroes or villains? Sticking with Byrne, he owes his success to Talking Heads; he surely wouldn’t have a hit Broadway show without that on his CV. Does he owe it to Frantz, Tina Weymouth, and Jerry Harrison to reunite for the type of tour Frantz mentions in the interview for a “treasure trove” of money? Should he at some point have “taken one for the team that used to be”? Or is he to be admired for walking away from a successful band to pursue his other artistic ambitions and not looking back? (As a side point, I wonder if Byrne wishes he had taken that treasure trove given the shut down of Broadway; maybe his Utopia is gone for good.)

May 142020

The recent mention of a Talking Heads reunion song and Jerry Harrison being the only band member beside David Byrne to appear in the video, got me wondering it was time to FINALLY revisit Harrison’s 1981 debut solo album, The Red and The Black.

Before stores had to close and we had to stay safely tucked away in our homes, I’d spent a few months eyeing a used copy of that album in my favorite local record store. I first heard The Red and The Black in the basement frat room of one of my most influential college friends, an upperclassman who had both the most kick-ass stereo and the tightest purple buds I’d ever seen. To this day, I’ve only experienced one better stereo system. It’s been ages since I’ve smoked pot, but I doubt not even attendees at the weed convention featuring Jefferson Starship have enjoyed better buds.

Nov 052013

I had an unfortunate experience on Monday morning. I’m sure it was exacerbated by driving to work in heavy traffic, and thanks to Daylight Savings, right into the sun. I was tired, I was cranky. And I made the mistake of listening to The Lumineers. A colleague lent it to me, and stupid me, trying to be open-minded about new music these days, decided to give it a listen.

I made it through about two thirds of the album before switching it off. I had to put on the Mamas and the Papas to get the bad sound out of my ears (tangent: “Shooting Star” is such a goofy and weird track that it always puts me in a good mood).

But back to The Lumineers. This band is the epitome of many things I am hating about a current trend in popular music. What is that plinky-plonky sound? Oh, it’s the arrangement of multiple acoustic instruments. What is that echo? Perhaps it’s to make us think that that wash tub bass is being played and recorded in a barn. What is that horrible whining sound? Yessirree folks, it’s the nasally, earnest voice of the lead singer.

And then I looked at a video:

You don’t want to hear their cover of “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).”

Monday evening, Mr. Royale listened to my rant and came up with an interesting analogy: The Lumineers are like Haircut One Hundred. Instead of artfully-draped sweaters, we have suspenders. No more classic haircuts; we’ve moved on to facial scruff. Created for style; substance is of limited value. The recipe has been changed up, but the intent is the same.

But my question to you is How did we get here? Why is faux folk played on acoustic instruments by bands most likely from an urban hub so popular now? Is this Retro Retromania? Don’t tell me that Fleet Foxes started it. Say what you like about their beards, but those bad boys can sing. Was the start of this evil trend Arcade Fire, the band that tried to temper their bombast by telling everyone that at least the recording was made in an old church? I really liked that first album of theirs, but I’m guessing that if I listened to it now, I might feel differently. Help me, and please explain what happened.

And you can not tell me the answer is menopause.

Nov 022012

How many positive things can you cite in this photograph? (Click photo for original source of photograph.)

Sometimes I stumble across a photograph of a musician that somehow suggests many things “right” about the state of the featured musician or musicians. This is one such photo. How often do we get to see David Byrne with his guard down? How often to we get to see his studious side, as he carefully tunes his cool 12-string Gibson guitar, rather than the outcome of his studies? The world needs more photos of David Byrne like this—and for the love of god, not another one of his solo albums!

Reports on either of his books are welcome. Has anyone read them yet?

Nov 302011

“Guess I’m a lone rhinoceros no more,” says Adrian.

The same goes for you!

If you’ve already got Back Office privileges and can initiate threads, by all means use your privileges! If you’d like to acquire such privileges, let us know. If you’ve got a comment that needs to be made, what are you waiting for? If you’re just dropping in and find yourself feeling the need to scat, don’t hesitate to register and post your thoughts. The world of intelligent rock discussion benefits from your participation. If nothing else, your own Mr. Moderator gets a day off from himself. It’s a good thing for you as well as me!

Aug 102011

Listening to XTC (again). Mummer. It’s a really really good album.

I bought most of XTC’s catalogue when I worked at a local independent record store. Someone must have unloaded their collection and I got them used really cheap. My thought at the time was, “Hey, here is a band I’ve only heard good things about, so I should check them out.” Of course my OCD tendencies do not allow to buy one or two CDs, so I spent about 50 to 60 bucks and bought the whole batch. Looking at their discography, it’s most of their proper albums and all the major ones.

I listened to them then and have given them a spin a few times since. XTC is one of those bands that has just never made an emotional connection with me. I remember enjoying English Settlement, but by the end of it, I couldn’t tell you a damn thing on it. I know Skylarking is supposed to be a masterpiece. The early records have a punkish frantic quality that make for interesting listens. I know the hits and like those songs fine enough.

I know hardcore XTC fans will tell you that they were several bands: a punk group, a new wave band, a pop band. I’m sure they fit somewhere in the vein of Talking Heads and The Cars. I know Andy Partridge is good writer and their records feature some strong production.

So, I am listening to Mummer right now (at work) and thinking, Why I don’t love this band like everybody else in the world does? I am thinking that this a very very good album. And I’ll probably listen to more, hoping they’ll finally stick. Maybe I’ll finally connect with these records and feel compelled to listen to them more than once every 5 years or so.

So, what am I to do? Your help is appreciated…


Apr 182011

Let’s try another 1-2 Punch, shall we? Top 10 lists are too much; Top 5 lists invite too many opportunities for throwing in a hipster, obscuro choice to distinguish oneself from the raging masses. What I’d like to know is what TWO (2) songs you would choose from an artist’s catalog to say as much about that artist that you believe represents said artist’s core as possible? In other words, if you could only use TWO (2) songs from an artist’s catalog to explain all that said artist is about to a Venusian, what TWO (2) songs would you pick to represent said artist’s place in rock ‘n roll?

I’ll pose two artists and you—love ’em or leave ’em—give me each artist’s representative 1-2 Punch. Dig? Here goes!

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