If you’re in your teens or 20s and scoff at all the shameless nostalgia by Generation X and the Baby Boomers, just you wait—it’ll get you soon enough. Nostalgia’s a powerful and irresistible thing. If you’re a music writer in your 40s continually sifting through new music whose quality can often be described as questionable at best, all it takes is an announcement of a deluxe reissue of an album from your adolescence to get that old excitement back. I’ll just come out and state that tired old line: “They don’t make music like they used to”, and you can bet you’ll be spouting the same line once you hit middle age, too.
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Lee Gallagher inhales the Bay area of California, making it part of who he is musically. After a few years in the area, Gallagher appreciates its history and vibe even more than when he was a Midwestern kid seeking something other than cornfields. He is not jaded about his roots, though, rather, he takes the indie roots rock foundation and filters it through his newer psychedelic surroundings. With two recent albums that deserve a listen, Gallagher shares his appreciation for his new home region and musicians.
The seminal country outfit Cracker has always been a band apart. At the height of its success in the mid ‘90s, Cracker was a major label darling whose first release sold 200,000 units. This may not seem like much in age when outsiders regularly saturate the digital airwaves, but it was a pretty significant accomplishment back in the days of record company totalitarianism. Although lumped into the homogenous “alternative” genre, Cracker’s backstory never really fit the same mold as its peers like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, or the Smashing Pumpkins. Typified by heavy, driving rhythms and soaring metal leads, that lot preferred the same post-ironic fashion and the lyrical subject of a sensitive punker’s high-school diary.
But Cracker? Well Cracker was always closer to snake-skins than Doc Martens or Chuck T’s. And while the blanket lead on radio favorite “Low” owed something to the hook driven strategy initiated by the Pixie’s “Where is My Mind?” and perfected by Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, Cracker’s lyrical content is significantly more airy. Whether meta-critical of the industry in their popular hit “Teen Angst”, or the early 90’s lifestyle consciousness on “Get Off This”, or the eight minute epic “Euro Trash Girl”, Cracker possesses the hip and humorous verbal acrobatics of groups like the Dandy Warhols or T-Rex.
Mendelsohn: For your consideration, Klinger, I present to you Daft Punk, the Parisian duo of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, who pretend to be robots in order to create funky, beat-driven snippets of reimagined 1970s disco funk and 1980s synth pop. On the docket this week is their 2001 career-making album Discovery. Daft Punk has three albums lodged in the 200s of the Great List. Discovery sits at #202, 1997’s Homework is #241, and 2013’s Random Access Memory is #261.
Normally I would have made you listen to Homework, because that is my favorite Daft Punk album, but I’m trying to be a little more open-minded about music and for many years I looked down upon Discovery as Daft Punk’s apparent cash grab since it helped transform them from darlings of the underground to world-wide superstars. In that vein, I owe my friend Josh a heart-felt apology. I repeatedly told him that Discovery was a terrible record and not worth the listen, especially considering that Homework was by far the superior record. If you are out there Josh, I am sorry. You were right, Discovery is the better album. Although the professional football team you root for is still terrible and I will never feel sorry about holding that over your head.
In late 2014, Machine Head was all set to launch a big North American tour alongside Finnish heavy hitters Children of Bodom and rising Dutch band Epica to coincide with the release of the highly anticipated new album, Bloodstone & Diamonds. It had all the makings of a successful tour; after all, Children of Bodom easily sell out venues on their own, so to have them opening would only make the demand for tickets even higher. But less than three weeks before the tour was set to begin, Machine Head pulled the plug on the entire thing, apparently because the new album wasn’t even finished yet. That rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, especially those in the Bodom and Epica camps, who had gone through a tremendous amount of preparation and paperwork to bring the European bands to North America. Bodom frontman Alexi Laiho took to Facebook to express his displeasure, Machine Head’s Robb Flynn responded, and things got very ugly very quickly.
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