Positive Music Place

Posts Tagged ‘media’

Escape artists

Posted by dlockeretz on May 19, 2015

Note: this is a simulblog, appearing both on “D-Theory” and “Positive Music Place.”

When one of my friends posted her concerns that the internet would spoil the finale of “Mad Men” before she had a chance to watch it, I reassured her in my typically smart-ass manner: “Already saw it. Vader is Luke’s father.”

My knowledge of “Mad Men” consists of having watched about 10 minutes of it and listening to people praise it. The show has helped me see that just because something is popular, that doesn’t make it bad. I get the show’s appeal: timeless themes of pride undone by a tragic flaw set against a glamorous ’60s backdrop is a winning combination. I’ve realized that the problem is not Don Draper; it’s another “D”. My tastes in TV are escapist (see D-Theory posts #44 and #84 for more info). Thus, if I don’t want to be judged for favoring lighter entertainment when it comes to the tube, I shouldn’t judge those who prefer Adele to Mahler.

A few days ago I was listening to a popular country song that was the requested first dance at a wedding where I was performing with the 40-Oz. Band. Overhearing it, my wife gave me a look that needed no explanation. All I could do was tell her, “Not everyone wants to be challenged on their wedding day.” Similarly, not everyone wants to be challenged after a long day at the office.

Like all creative professionals, us musicians put so much work and heart into what we do that when someone doesn’t notice, it’s a hard pill to swallow. We shake our heads when people download Nicki Minaj tracks by the millions while our heart-felt oeuvre, honed by the light of a midnight lamp, is met with indifference at Open Mic night.

Yet we ignore, too: whether it’s by eating fast food instead of going to the farmer’s market; by reading “Twilight” instead of Shakespeare or by watching “The League” and “Shipping Wars” instead of “Mad Man.” That doesn’t make us bad people; everyone needs convenience and escapes now and then. Most dieticians agree that you can’t expect yourself to eat perfectly 24/7. Play for the people who want the challenge, don’t let the ones who don’t bring you down and step outside your own comfort zone now and then. You may pleasantly surprise a writer, chef, candle maker or photographer who assumed you were just looking for an escape.

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Steely Dan at Coachella – crazy enough to work?

Posted by dlockeretz on January 10, 2015

There are three likely responses to Steely Dan’s announced appearance at this year’s Coachella festival: “Wow!” “Why?” or “Who?” In this post, we will focus on the second.

I’ll admit it’s hard for me to be objective about Steely Dan, my favorite musical act of all time. I do know this: not everyone shares my love of them. I wish I could play the “That’s OK, it’s just over your heads/you have to be a musician to appreciate them” card but many musician friends of mine whose opinions I respect were either never fans or have found that “The Dan” has run their course. I’ll admit too that most of their recent output, including lead singer/keyboardist Donald Fagen’s post-“Nightfly” solo records, has the feel of going to dinner with your ex and holding out hope that the fire is still alive but, despite a few shared laughs and good memories, ultimately being disappointed.

That said, I will now try to unravel the million dollar question: what the hell is Steely Dan doing playing Coachella? Is it anything but a recipe for disaster?

Maybe, just maybe. It’s a longshot, like an ailing Kirk Gibson coming to bat against flame-throwing Dennis Eckersley with Game 1 of the 1988 World Series on the line (Christ, I need to stop dating myself) or Mercury records producer Charlie Fach insisting that the Bachman Turner Overdrive record a song they’d written as a joke, entitled “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” (that’s more like it.)

What can make this dark horse a contender?

The healing power of irony will be a factor. Hipsters and millenials love to be ironic and so does Steely Dan; they’ve been called Brooklyn’s first hipster band. Many bands have songs about someone catching their partner in bed with someone else, but only Steely Dan’s “Everything You Did” features a protagonist who asks is girlfriend to do the same things to him that he saw her doing to his rival. As Fagen said in 1993, “I’m into my post-irony phase, which includes irony as well.” Who knows; perhaps while savoring the irony that they are listening to the same music their parents and perhaps grandparents grew up on, young Coachella attendees may find their voice in a band with so many obscure references that an online dictionary has been established to sort them all out.

There are non-ironic reasons why this might work too. An LA Weekly article claims, “Your favorite rock/pop/electronic/hip-hop act? Likely influenced by the Dan.” De La Soul sampled “Peg” and MF Doom sampled “Black Cow” and they probably weren’t being ironic.

Lastly, at the risk of sounding reactionary, is classic rock entirely dead? There was enough outrage at Kanye West’s fans not recognizing this Paul McCartney character with whom he recently collaborated to make me feel that yes, humanity still has hope. It took seven Super Bowl half-time shows of classic rock artists such as Springsteen and West’s protege Paul McCartney in the years following the Janet Jackson incident before  we grew tired of it and got the Black Eyed Peas instead; even then not everyone thought that the event was better for it. With the right packaging, everything old becomes new again. Ten years ago, “Guitar Hero” got kids listening to the Allman Brothers. Who knows, maybe Steely Dan’s appearance at Coachella will have hipsters putting down their artisan Old Fashioneds and doing shots of Cuervo Gold.

As for the haters? While acknowledging that the following argument can be used against me vis-a-vis my opinion of Coldplay, I put forth the notion that to attract haters, a band has to be at least somewhat known. After all, the writers of “Knocked Up” could have chosen any band when they had Seth Rogen say, “That’s because Steely Dan gargles my balls.”

Sometimes on the day after too many beers and pizza, I’ll be getting dressed and look the pants I’m about to put on and feel as if I’m diving into a tiny pool from a high board. I have to admit that I feel a similar vibe about Steely Dan at Coachella. That said, I’m cautiously optimistic; if the main argument against Steely Dan’s appearance is the band’s irrelevancy, you could say that they have nothing to lose. We’ll know in three months. For now, I leave you with the words of the good folks at Funny or Die: “They’ve had way more sex than you’ll ever have.”

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

CD Review: Felsen, “I Don’t Know How To Talk Anymore”

Posted by dlockeretz on August 9, 2013

You have to like a band that starts out a song with the line, “Does anybody have some extra air miles?”

Every band in the world is going to save rock music, just ask them.  Felsen, however, may actually have a chance.  The Bay Area band’s fourth album, “I Don’t Know How To Talk Anymore”, is scheduled for release in September and as they have on their prior recordings, Felsen breaks the rules without calling attention to the fact that they’re doing it.  They’re not out to stick it to The Man per se; rather, they want to inspire The Man change his ways.

The Man could be the idea that rock’n’roll is dead, or perhaps the changes in the world, the music business and societal tastes that have made many people think that rock’n’roll is dead.  Felsen has positioned themselves as the underdog, trying to break the musical world out of its slump.  They achieve this by making a record that, based on the laws of music as we accept them, should not exist.  There are songs that have both modern and classic influences (“Better Thoughts” is presented both in a Radiohead-type ambient pop arrangement and as a chamber rock ballad); tracks with hooks (if you don’t like getting songs stuck in your head, you might want to skip “Tokyo Electric”) but also have multi-layered sonic textures and unpredictable chord progressions that stand up to repeated plays; witty, original takes on subjects that seem to have already run their course such as pill addiction, technology-enabled antisocial behavior and internet scams involving banks in Sierra Leone.

Will Felsen succeed in their quest to save rock’n’roll?  Hopefully; in the span of a few short years they have already recorded four albums and toured nationally.  It won’t be an easy road for them; it’s not an easy road for any band.  They’re putting one foot in front of the other, paying their dues just as the Beatles and Stones (sidebar: “Gimme Shelter for the Devil” cleverly combines themes from those two classics in a Jayhawks-style country rock ballad) did before them.  They are a band that deserves your support.  Give them a listen; keep an eye out for them at a club near you.  And if you have any to spare, see if you can throw some extra air miles their way.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »