Austin City Limits Music Festival – October 8-10, 2010, Austin, TX

The 2010 Austin City Limits Music Festival continued to make the three-day event’s case as one of the best festivals on the planet. It went off with nary a hitch, and in fact, this year’s edition may have had the festival’s best weather yet. There was no dust, no rain to turn Zilker Park into a giant mud pit (like last year) and the high temperature never reached 90. The sunny afternoons were still plenty hot, but the evenings were downright balmy. Some local fans bitched about the overall lineup when it was first announced, but there truly was something for everyone in the festival’s ever-eclectic lineup. The festival once again sold out well in advance, and again proved to be one of the best weekends of the year for any serious music fan.

The tasty local cuisine available at ACL is topped only by New Orleans’ Jazzfest (although unfortunately neither fest seems willing to bring in local beer), and the football tent returned to enable sports fans to get a fix in between music sets. There were only a handful of occasions where the crowd scene proved overly massive and hard to navigate. Overall, it was three days of near-utopian rock ‘n’ roll bliss. If the word “groovy” is overused in this review, it’s only because there were indeed so many such moments. The biggest problem was choosing between competing bands in a series of mind-bending conflicts: Silversun Pickups vs Broken Bells, Monsters of Folk vs LCD Soundsystem, Phish vs The Strokes, The Flaming Lips vs Band of Horses, and the terrible three-way Friday night dilemma of Sonic Youth vs Robert Randolph & the Family Band vs Ryan Bingham & the Dead Horses. Cloning technology can’t arrive soon enough.

Friday, October 8

Those Darlins, Austin Ventures Stage
This upbeat Tennessee quartet featured a relatively unique mix of country punk and garage rock to create a fun vibe. Singer/guitarist Jessi Darlin’s gritty voice recalled Courtney Love at times in its ragged splendor, but with more of a country flavor. “Red Light Love” saw the band at its best on a fuzzy, melodic rocker about the combination of good love and good music.

Blues Traveler, AMD Stage
It seemed like a flashback to the mid-’90s when Blues Traveler drew a huge crowd to the festival’s second largest stage to really get ACL going. It’s been great to see the band able to persevere through the tragic death of original bassist Bobby Sheehan and the health problems of singer/harmonica ace John Popper, who is now fit and sounding great as ever. Underrated guitarist Chan Kinchla always keeps things groovy on his PRS guitar and his brother Tad fits right in on bass. A cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” was a surprise crowd pleaser, followed shortly thereafter with the band’s 1994 hit “Run-Around.” But the clear peak of the set – and one of the top highlights of the entire weekend – occurred when the band welcomed 15-year-old violinist Ruby Jane to sit in on “Mulling It Over.” Jane, who would play her own set on Sunday morning, proved to be a dynamic prodigy. She immediately accented the hard rocking tune in tasteful fashion, before teaming with Popper for a superb violin-harmonica duel that won the weekend’s first huge cheer.

The Black Keys, AMD Stage
The Akron, Ohio-based blues rock duo hit the stage at 4 pm in front of a massive crowd that made it tough for anyone arriving late to get close enough to enjoy. There were so many people camped out in their lawn chairs that the entire area became quite difficult to navigate. The Black Keys are clearly surging in popularity – they played to about 10,000 fans at the 2008 Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco, but this crowd was at least three times as large. I finally gave up and decided I’d rather check out the next band on the intimate BMI stage.

ACL Black Keys


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The Flaming Lips: Dark Side of the Moon


RIYL: Les Claypool’s cover album of Animals, charity compilations, not Pink Floyd

The decision for the Flaming Lips to cover, in its entirety, Pink Floyd’s classic Dark Side of the Moon has certainly been met with a lot of hostility by people who consider the original to be a sacred artifact of a bygone era that should be treated with an almost religious reverence. Those people have decided to hate this album without ever hearing it, and that’s a shame, because if they did take the time to listen to it, they would have plenty of reasons to hate it on its own merits.

Okay, that’s a little harsh; this bizarre little experiment isn’t horrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly not good, and is, as the purists love pointing out, entirely unnecessary. Most of the time the Lips (and on occasion Stardeath And the White Dwarf, who are credited as the sole performers on two tracks and as a back-up band on four others) just don’t seem to be trying. Their big creative decision seems to be on “Money,” when they sing through vocoders. The rest of the the time they just aren’t doing enough to make it really stand out from the original. “Time” gets some looping cough effects for some reason, and “On the Run” is transformed into a bass-heavy acid Jazz jam. The rest is pretty much just Dark Side with added wacky effects and cranked-up bass. It’s not weird or exciting – it’s just boring, not to mention lazy and predictable. Is anyone surprised by the fact that the Flaming Lips happen to be huge Floyd fans? I mean…duh. If the Flaming Lips really want to create a WTF moment, they should leave classics like Dark Side alone and take on something truly unexpected, maybe REO Speedwagon’s High Infidelity or Genesis’ Invisible Touch. Wayne Coyne singing “Land of Confusion,” now that would be a track worth hearing. (Warner Bros. 2010)

Flaming Lips MySpace page

  

21st Century Breakdown: Jim Washington’s Best Albums of the 2000s

As I compiled my list of the best music of the decade (a much, much longer list than you see here) one inescapable conclusion reared its shaggy head: the last 10 years pretty much belonged to Jack White.

How many other artists produced five stellar albums in the aughts, not to mention a couple of killer side projects and (that old rock critic standby) incendiary live shows?

No one, that’s who.

So, the best album of the decade really came down to which White Stripes album did you like more, White Blood Cells or Elephant.

Thankfully there’s no wrong answer. I first became enamored of “Fell in Love With a Girl,” totally fell for “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground,” became quite close to “We Are Going to Be Friends” and spent a lot of time in “Hotel Yorba” and “Little Room.”

On the other hand, Elephant had “Seven Nation Army.”

“Seven Nation Army,” motherfuckers. How could a song released in 2003 sound like it invented the bass line? Not just that bass line, but the whole concept of bass lines.

So as we recap our favorites of the decade, rock lives on into the new century in various forms, from low down and dirty to high and arty to pulsating and poppy, while what was once the cutting-edge hip-hop has devolved into auto-tuned disco synth. No doubt something new will emerge in the next decade to take our minds off it.

1. The White Stripes: White Blood Cells (or Elephant)
2. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
3. Outkast: Stankonia (or Speakerboxx/The Love Below)
4. Green Day: American Idiot
5. The New Pornographers: Electric Version (or maybe Mass Romantic)
6. The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
7. LCD SoundsystemL Sounds of Silver
8. TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain
9. Jay-Z: The Blueprint
10. The Strokes: Is This It?

Just a few of the runner-ups:

Queens of the Stone Age: Songs for the Deaf, Rated R
Belle & Sebastian: Dear Catastrophe Waitress
Drive By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera, Dirty South
Sufjan Stevens: Come On Feel the Illinoise
Arcade Fire: Funeral
Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand
Decemberists: Picaresque, Crane Wife
Radiohead: In Rainbows
Ben Folds: Rockin’ the Suburbs
Missy Elliott: Miss E…So Addictive
The Roots: Phrenology

  

The Lunatic Is On The Grass: Rollins Does Floyd with the Lips

Given that the Flaming Lips just released a new album (Embryonic) a few months ago, you’d think they’d either be taking it easy or, at best, prepping to tour behind that album. Leave it to them, however, to take a left turn and do something different….like, say, release another new album.

Well, sort of, anyway.

Prepare yourself for the Lips’ take on Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, which was made available today as an iTunes exclusive. It’s a strange little release (like you’d expect anything less), with some tracks credited to the Lips, some listed as collaborations with Norman, Oklahoma’s pride and joy, Stardeath and White Dwarfs, and a couple credited solely to those guys without the Lips. What’s arguably most interesting about the album, however, is that it also features vocal contributions from Peaches and Henry Rollins.

Rollins? Really…?!?

Yes, really…and I know this because I checked in with him to ask him about it. My questions were simple and so were his answers, but at least it’s straight from the horse’s mouth:

How did you come to team up with the Flaming Lips for this project?

They asked me.

What’s your Pink Floyd background?

Not a fan.

What was your favorite track on the record to tackle?

The general laughing, it was difficult to make it feel real.

If pressed, are there any other albums you’d be interesting in revisiting like that? Not necessarily classic rock, of course…

No. I don’t think about things like that. Seems like too much work when you could be moving forward on something new. You could say that about the Lips, but they have a new album out, so it’s not like they’re sleeping on the job.

True enough, Mr. Rollins. True enough.

  

Flaming Lips will take on Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”

Wayne

How great is that picture? That must have been so fun.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Flaming Lips have already recorded a new album hot on the heels of Embryonic, which was released on Tuesday of this week. For whatever reason, they’ve decided to recreate Pink Flyod’s 1973 classic Dark Side of the Moon.

The band will release a track-by-track interpretation of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in the near future, which it recorded with Stardeath and the White Dwarfs, a band that features Coyne’s nephew Dennis.

Henry Rollins and Peaches make guest appearances on the album, Coyne told the crowd during a pre-concert question-and-answer session. A Flaming Lips spokesman says the album will likely be an iTunes-only release, at least initially.

It will certainly be a more comfortable — at least familiar release — than the sonic experimentations of “Embryonic.” But the Flaming Lips’ fan base is one that’s always ready for a challenge, at least that’s what Coyne is betting on.

“I think our audience would forgive us for going out in the further regions of whatever we could think of,” Coyne says. “But I don’t think we’d be worthy of being forgiven if we didn’t do that. They’re giving us the freedom, the encouragement, the money and the time to say, ‘Go somewhere where no other band could go, and come back and tell us what it was like.’”

We’re all familiar with tribute albums and one-off covers, but I don’t think a popular band has ever recorded and released a legendary band’s masterpiece. When Beck and his buddies get together and do something similar, the results are more silly than anything. If the Flaming Lips were just goofing around, they shouldn’t charge for the thing. Maybe this is some sort of artistic conquest, I don’t know. But why this album and not one with less merit? Dark Side of the Moon doesn’t need an updated version.

  

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