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by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

1 Apr 2011


Klinger: All right, Mendelsohn. I was 13 when this album exploded into our culture, and for a young teenager in the early ’80s, Thriller was quite literally everywhere. It became so ubiquitous—and so tied with the tweens that were fast becoming his primary audience—that I couldn’t help but resist it with every fiber of my being. This seemed to be a record custom made for the Silver Spoons and Facts of Life set. It wasn’t the rock that I was just starting to fall in love with, so on top of all that I just couldn’t process its sound—Eddie Van Halen notwithstanding.

But as much as Michael Jackson’s astonishing fall in the ’90s made it impossible to assess Thriller’s impact, his posthumous beatification has made it just as impossible to be realistic about this album. So there’s never really been a good time to talk about Thriller, but in the interest of Counterbalance, we have no choice.

Mendelsohn: Oh my. I have to say this and then I will move on. This guy was a complete freak and to this day, I am still amazed that there are people out there who can be brought to tears by the mere mention of his name. Do you remember when we were at the local watering hole, quenching our thirst on the day Jackson died? That was a spectacle. And then the bartender gave everybody free shots, but they weren’t good shots, they were weird and fruity and left a strange taste in my mouth. Completely befitting the man we were drinking in remembrance of.

by Evan Sawdey

1 Apr 2011


30 Seconds to Mars has literally pulled off the impossible: its has transcended the dreaded status of being known as “an actor band”.

While the band was initially seen as nothing more than an alt-rock outlet for Requiem for a Dream actor Jared Leto, the group slowly began to amass fans, initially on the strength of its 2006 single “The Kill” (from its sophomore album A Beautiful lie), and very much solidifying its mainstream acceptance with 2009’s “Kings and Queens” (a song which bares a very heavy U2 influence), the accompanying music video for which was nominated for Video of the Year at the following year’s MTV VMAs.  Now, the band is capping off a successful year of touring behind This Is War by being one of the headliners at this year’s Bamboozle Festival, going on from April 29th—May 1st in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Before that takes place, however, 30 Seconds to Mars’ guitarist Tomo Milicevic sat down to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions via e-mail (Milicevic, born in Serajevo, has been playing with the band since A Beautiful Lie).  Here, he reveals Leto’s advice about push-ups, forgets to answer a few questions, and lets us know that one his hidden talents is astral projection . . .

by Sean Murphy

31 Mar 2011


Sammy Hagar seldom disappoints. When I heard he was tapped to replace ass-clown extraordinaire David Lee Roth in 1985, I anticipated uninspiring results. I was correct (your mileage may vary). And when I saw there were “tell-all” excerpts from his new book in the latest Rolling Stone, I figured there would be some avert-your-eyes ugliness. I was correct.

Look: it’s obvious that Hagar is a good businessman. The dude has made tens of millions from his own brand of tequila. Who knows how much coin he has pocketed from the Van Hagar albums and the recent tours? His book will sell plenty of copies and who can hassle that? The question could be begged: why would a very wealthy dude take the time to write a book detailing the degeneracy of his former bandmate? To make money, obviously. Of course, he also has a tale to tell, particularly as he may want to set the record straight regarding his involvement in the band (and the on-again/off-again status of the various redux reunions). It is a poorly-kept secret that Eddie Van Halen is difficult to get along with, and who could blame Hagar for wanting to put his imprint on the permanent record?

(Breaking news, real-time edit: he is now claiming he was abducted by aliens! And here I was, just praising his business acumen. Holy “let me learn from Charlie Sheen and up the ante to move more product”, Batman!)

The parts of the book that focus on pre-and-post Van Halen life will probably appeal only to the most ardent Hagar fans (are there ardent Hagar fans? Anyone whose life has been missing the inside scoop of the Montrose years or an elaboration on why he can’t drive 55?). And yet, whatever its literary merits, it may ultimately become a useful historical document. Since the semi-reclusive Eddie Van Halen is less than likely to ever write an autobiography, this may be the closest eye-witness account we’ll ever get from someone who lived through it—not necessarily the good but definitely the bad and most definitely the ugly, of which more shortly. Not necessarily the studio antics that produced OU812 or F.U.C.K., but rather some explanation (or evidence) for why exactly Eddie Van Halen went from being one of the best guitarists of his generation to the punch-drunk burnout he’s become.

by Jacob Adams

30 Mar 2011


The experience of slipping into the grooves of a Radiohead record is uniquely sublime. Those who willingly surrender to the band’s strange, surreal beauty rarely find themselves unsatisfied. Thom Yorke and company have not only expressed the alleged alienation of a generation of young people in a technocratic era, but have managed to walk the thin tightrope straddling mainstream and independent musical cultures. The success of the single “Creep” (1992) and the later LP OK Computer (1997) transformed the Oxfordshire group from an underground secret into a college radio sensation. With Kid A (2000), the band’s music finally caught up with the severity of its message. Some fans were shocked when Radiohead replaced gentle piano progressions, crunchy lead lines, and acoustic drum patterns with laptop generated grooves, sinister synth sounds, and avant-garde jazz horn sections.

Since the release of OK Computer and Kid A near the turn of the century, Radiohead has vacillated between the guitar-driven classicism of the former and the electronic experimentalism of the latter. Amnesiac (2001) continued the experimental spirit of Kid A, but sacrificed the strong, soaring melodies of the former record for less accessible, abstract grooves. Hail to the Thief (2003) took a hybrid approach, combining the electric rhythms of the band’s more experimental work with more traditional rock songwriting techniques and instrumentation. With In Rainbows (2007), the band succeeded in making its most accessible work to date, a collection of energetic rock anthems and sublime ballads, all tied together with the most emotionally direct lyrics in the band’s body of work.

Prior to Radiohead’s digital release of The King of Limbs several weeks ago, the question on every fan’s mind was, “What kind of Radiohead record will this be?”  Would it represent the apotheosis of alternative rock like OK Computer?  Would it challenge purists as much as Kid A? Or, would it be a clear-headed, emotionally naked masterpiece like In Rainbows?  Given the album’s more traditional CD/vinyl release on March 28, these questions are worth revisiting. The simple answer, it seems, is “no”. The King of Limbs is none of the above, yet simultaneously all of the above.

by Evan Sawdey

29 Mar 2011


Ben + Vesper are unlike most married couples that you meet.

First off, this New Jersey duo are in their own two-piece band that is simply called, well, Ben + Vesper.  Sure, they make music together—and often sing in perfect harmony—but few couples could have amassed as diverse a musical background as they have, as their indie-pop songs tend to shift between styles often on the drop of a dime, incorporating backwoods banjo-picking, oboe-fueled interludes, or full-on girl-group backing vocals all without breaking a sweat.  These elements are never forced: they happen naturally, and although these deviations are often unexpected, they are surprising in the best way possible.

No wonder the band is signed to the eclectic folk label Sounds Familyre, worked with likes of Sufjan Stevens, and as of this past January, released its second full-length album, Honors.  Taking a break from touring, the band sat down to answer PopMatters’ famed 20 Questions, with Ben revealing that Xanadu made him cry, that Vesper was a midwife apprentice at one point, and how one of the members is currently working on “a robot that gives you quarters when you’re sad” . . .

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