Why A Band Break May Be Exactly What You Need

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New York City” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by anieto2k

Hey there – don’t panic! We’re not suggesting your band breaks up; nope, not in the slightest. A break of the good kind (AKA, a getaway), could be exactly what you need to get those creative juices flowing. Whether you’re guys, gals, or both, some time away can really help reset any kind of writer’s block, bring groups closer together, and help you work better at doing what you love best. You guessed it, that’s performing and songwriting! If you’re in the States, the good news is that you don’t have to go far. What with band practice and time off for recording, we already KNOW you’ve used your vacation days, so grab a cheap flight, and head for a weekend in one of the following awesome cities. Read the rest of this entry »

  

Seen Your Video: Starsmith, “Give Me a Break”

Four words: Daft Punk does disco, as in ’70s disco. Some might think ’70s disco is redundant, since that’s when disco was big, but the hip club kiddies know that there bands making disco music today. Hell, what’s Hercules and Love Affair if they’re not a disco band? (Answer: they’re totally a disco band.) Love the stop-motion photography. It reminds us of that video for Hilly Michaels’ “Calling All Girls,” and we can’t help but be happy whenever that song comes to mind.

  

Seen Your Video: OK Go, “End Love”

Sweet Jesus. OK Go has done it again.

What I love about “End Love” is that the stop motion photography reminds me of Zbigniew Rybczyński’s groundbreaking videos in the early ’80s, particularly the Art of Noise’s “Close (To the Edit)” and Lou Reed’s “Original Wrapper.” Only, of course, OK Go takes the concept into outer space by turning the clip into an all-nighter and, in the end, a giant group production. Along with a few very curious geese.

Tim is clearly the best dancer of the bunch here, but that’s almost become an in-joke of sorts. If Dan and Andy suddenly learned how to be as fluid as Tim, it wouldn’t look right. The occasional inclusion of super slo-mo shots was a nice touch too, but nothing touches that human cyclone at song’s end. And now that they have gained control of the album and released it on their own label, we don’t have to worry about any of that ‘no embedding’ nonsense. Get comfy. You’re going to need to watch this one a couple times to catch everything.

  

OK Go: Of the Blue Colour of the Sky


RIYL: Prince, MGMT, Death Cab for Cutie

They are only releasing their third album, but OK Go has rather shrewdly defined themselves as a multimedia phenomenon rather than a rock band. It’s a genius move, really, because suddenly the standard benchmarks for judging a band’s success are thrown out the window. Did the last album go gold? Who cares? The video they made of themselves dancing on treadmills has racked up over 49 million plays on YouTube. They are, in short, the kind of band that record labels used to kill to have on their roster; their devoted fan base would guarantee that all of the band’s albums would sell reasonably well, and as an added bonus, they allowed their bean-counting overlords to tell people that they believe in the creative process above all else. (Pssst. They don’t.)

©Jeremy & Claire Weiss Photography/Day19.

You get the sense that the band is more than aware of their rather fortunate place in the pop universe, because they just used that freedom to create their most adventurous, and consistent, album to date. Of the Blue Colour of the Sky bears little resemblance to the over-caffeinated power pop that once served as the band’s calling card, trading the muscular grooves of their 2005 album Oh No for something, well, groovier. Prince’s influence is all over the place, from the Parade-ish “WTF?” (complete with a 5/4 time signature and rip-roaring solo) to the slammin’ “White Knuckles,” which is one of the best “1999” covers ever. (Likewise “End Love,” which is this album’s “I Would Die 4 U.”) Singer Damian Kulash gives the falsetto an extensive workout here, which is fitting with the lyrical content; he’s clearly had his heart broken – “Needing/Getting” is the Jilted Lover song of the year – so the falsetto gives good voice to his pain.

If they’re smart, OK Go will consider adding producer Dave Fridmann as an unofficial fifth member, because his influence here cannot be underestimated. The drum tracks sound like the stuff of Steve Lillywhite’s wet dreams circa 1983, and the guitars are crystal-clear. He clearly encouraged the band to think big, because these songs bob and weave in ways the band had never dared to try before; “Needing/Getting” and “Skyscraper” both feature lengthy outros, and the overall sound is positively massive compared to the stripped down Oh No. If there’s a catch, it’s the album’s final third; there is nothing particularly wrong with the songs, but emotional fatigue begins to creep in. And then, in the final moments of closing track “In the Glass,” they clean the slate with one hellacious tribute to “I Want You/She’s So Heavy,” a slow-building, climbing/falling chord sequence that will give Chris and Ben from Death Cab fits. If only Fridmann hadn’t recorded the drums so hot at the end; the music is so pretty, but when turned above a whisper, the drums sound like an avalanche. Pity, since Fridmann had done such a good job avoiding that pitfall up until then.

Of the Blue Colour of the Sky may not bring many new fans to the OK Go camp – outside of a few Prince devotees – but we’re guessing that doesn’t really concern the band much, and that is exactly how it should be; the second a band starts worrying about what other people think of them, they’re done. At this rate, it wouldn’t surprise us to see OK Go turn into the pop equivalent of Wilco. God knows, the world could use more of those. (Capitol 2010)

OK Go MySpace page
Click to buy Of the Blue Colour of the Sky from Amazon

  

Book Review: The Light in Darkness by Lawrence Kirsch

bruce and band

For many die-hard Bruce Springsteen fans, the 1978 tour ranks as his best. It was Springsteen at the height of his powers, when his live shows truly became the stuff of legend. The tour lasted only seven months, and he wasn’t playing arenas yet so he wasn’t yet drawing the huge crowds that would see him in the 1980’s, but the tour lived on in the numerous bootlegs created during these incredible shows.

So, when I heard of a new book about the tour, I had to check it out. The Light in Darkness by Lawrence Kirsch is an excellent tribute to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and the memorable tour from 1978. Bruce would release Darkness on the Edge of Town during the tour, which broke a three-year drought caused by Springsteen’s legal battles with his previous manager following the success of Born to Run.

The first thing you notice is the photography. Kirsch compiled an impressive collection of photos from that time period, many of which came from fans and had never been previously published. But the stories are equally rich, as writers, fans, DJs and others who saw the tour or participated in various ways share their experiences.

Bruce piano

Growing up in Cleveland, I was introduced to Springsteen through WMMS, the legendary AOR station that featured Kid Leo as the afternoon drive DJ. Kid Leo became Springsteen’s most enthusiastic supporter outside of Springsteen Jersey/Philly base. I didn’t get to see my first Springsteen show until 1980, but I was introduced to the 1978 tour when WMMS would replay the incredible free concert Bruce gave at the Agora in Cleveland that was broadcast on WMMS. Like everyone else I taped it and memorized the entire show. Kid Leo game the memorable introduction to Bruce and the band that everyone can hear on the recording: “I have the duty and the pleasure of welcoming, ladies and gentlemen, the main event. Round for round, pound for pound, there ain’t no finer band around – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band!” Bruce then tore into Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and then “Badlands” to kick off the epic performance. Through the years you hear the evolution of Springsteen’s live versions of his signature songs, but the raw intensity he displayed on this tour has always stuck with me as Bruce at his very best.

In The Light in Darkness, Kirsch includes four stories about this memorable performance, two from die-hard fans, one from John Gorman who helped produce the show’s broadcast and one from WMMS DJ Denny Sanders. I learned that Bob Segar was quoted as saying “This was the greatest rock and roll show I ever heard,” and that Max Weinberg called it “The best show the E Street Band ever did.”

The book is a celebration of rock history. If you’re a Springsteen fan, it’s something you’ll have to add to your collection. You’ll want to break out the old bootlegs and rock out to the Boss all over again. If you’re a rock and roll junkie who’s never been a big Springsteen fan, this book might be the introduction you need to one of the best live artists in rock history.

inside front cover

  

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