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Friday, Feb 27, 2015
Something I learned today: Black and white is always grey. And this week's Counterbalance takes a look at a 1984 turning point in punk. Turn on the news for the 219th most acclaimed album of all time.

Klinger: In 1984 I was this close. I had discovered R.E.M. and Elvis Costello, and I was aware enough to know that there was a whole world out there beyond my heartland classic rock. Theoretically, with one quick turn to the left, I could have immersed myself in this whole underground scene, typified in my mind by albums like the Replacements’ Let It Be and the album I’ve chosen for this week’s Counterbalance, Hüsker Dü s double-LP conceptual magnum opus Zen Arcade. That’s not without regret.


I can only imagine how differently I might have turned out if I had spent more time cracking the code of Zen Arcade instead of trying to figure out the Who’s Quadrophenia. There’s certainly enough going on with this album to have kept my adolescent brain occupied, and I’m pretty sure that if this had been the expression of my teen angst I might have gone into my adulthood with a much different outlook. As it stands, I’m left to ponder this massive monolith of an album from a decidedly more analytical point of view. There’s of course so much to take in, and much of it is buried under that low-fi wall of noise. Lyrics are buried, guitars are muddled, and yet the whole thing still feels to me like a portal into some place that I very much want to be. Is this making sense, Mendelsohn?


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Thursday, Feb 26, 2015
Album anniversaries of the music of Led Zeppelin and Slayer highlight this week in metal: one is a sprawling double album epic, the other a stepping stone for one of metal's most important bands.

The year 1985 might have been a slow one for the evolution of heavy metal compared to the watershed years of 1983 and 1984, but the genre was still growing at a rapid rate, and despite a thinner pool, there’s no shortage of classic albums from that year. This March is rather significant, because it was 30 years ago that month that Slayer’s highly, highly anticipated second album Hell Awaits came out, an album that saw the band cement its reputation as the most extreme band in American metal. It’s a record so many people in their 40s are very fond of, but although I fall directly into that demographic, I have always said, to the annoyance of some, that Hell Awaits is nowhere near as great as it’s made out to be.


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Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015
by Sloane Spencer
Ben Miller Band brings punk sensibility to homemade instrumentation. Don't let the washboard fool you: their live shows still outshine their records.

Ben Miller Band first caught my attention at a Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Oktoberfest event, where I had gone to see Bloodkin (previously featured on this podcast) perform and catch (the late) Bobby Keys play with them on a few songs. I was not previously familiar with the band, but their homemade washtub bass, stomp boxes, electric spoons, and other percussion kept me listening. I chatted with the band afterwards, and learned they had driven 20 hours to the show from Joplin, Missouri, where their hometown was still ravaged from the 2011 tornadoes.


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Friday, Feb 20, 2015
Anybody seen the 499th most acclaimed album of all time pass this way? I saw him playing chess with Death yesterday. His crusade was a search for God. A 1969 baroque-pop cult favorite is this week's Counterbalance.

Mendelsohn: Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll just scroll through the Great List, looking for names I don’t recognize. That’s why this week we will be talking about Scott Walker’s Scott 4. Sitting at numbr 499 on the Great List, Scott 4 is not exactly canonical but it was high enough on the list to make me wonder about the record. Top 500? Might as well check it out. Turns out I stumbled into one of the weirder music careers on record.


Scott Walker (real name Noel Scott Engel) got his start in the ‘60s with the band the Walker Brothers (composed of a couple of guys whose real last names weren’t Walker either). The Walker Brothers were huge in England, where their middle of the road sound went down like warm milk—a sort of antithesis to the Beatles’ effervescent reimagining of rock music. Scott then went solo, found even more success recording standards, before fizzling out toward the end of the decade. Interestingly, Scott 4—released in 1969—was a commercial flop. The album is comprised of material written entirely by Walker but was released under his real name. All subsequent re-releases have been rebranded with the Walker moniker. After a short and mildly successful reunion with the Walker Brothers in the ‘70s, Scott departed on a solo path that would see him become one of the world’s foremost avant-garde composers. These days he makes some weird, weird music, often accompanied by weird, weird videos. His signature baritone is still there, though, which is nice.


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Thursday, Feb 19, 2015
Both the underrated '80s drama River's Edge and the recently released Metalhead reflect on the importance of metal to the existential struggles of adolescence.

Back in late 1986 or early 1987, I happened upon an obscure new movie on TV that had all the warnings that would capture a 16 year-old boy’s attention: extreme violence, nudity, for adults only. Tell a boy that age that he can’t watch a movie, and you bet he’ll watch it. The movie on this late night was called River’s Edge, and as I’d quickly find out, not only was it nowhere near as titillating as the warnings implied, but it turned out to be a deeply serious portrait of young misfit metalheads in a scuzzy town, something I related to immediately.


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