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Wednesday, Jan 13, 2010

Billy Squier was a worldwide megastar until the day he decided it was a good idea to show the world that uber-macho guitar gods could… dance around in a pink tank top and white satin sheets in a video directed by choreographer Kenny Ortega. Ortega of course went on to make such iconic paeans to testosterone as the High School Musical franchise and Miley Cyrus’s Best of Both Worlds concert film, but Squier could not have known that this would be his legacy, considering he’d only been known for Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical” video and Xanadu choreography at that point. Wait… what? OK, so Squier already knew full well what he was getting into by hitching his wagon to Ortega’s star.


Which, in my book, makes him a revolutionary! I mean, this video lays it on thick. He starts out waking up in the nude, shaking on a jaunty pair of pegged white drawstring pants and Flashdance-approved white muscle shirt featuring his quintessentially ‘80s Emotions in Motion color blocked logo (despite the fact that the song is from the album Signs of Life). And when that drum (machine?) kicks in, Billy goes to TOWN with the dancing. He’s finger-popping, he’s high-kicking, he’s floor-slithering—hell, he even throws in a stripper-shimmy down a fire-engine red poll. This is not the listless swaying or ham-shouldered jerkiness of your average rock frontman—Squier is so full-bore Bob Fosse in this performance that one half expects a sequined top hat to emerge from behind his perm.


Tagged as: billy squier
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Tuesday, Jan 12, 2010

In the Green Day episode of the VH1 documentary series Behind the Music, Mike Dirnt commented, “We’ve never been entirely embraced by the punk rock community because we do sing love songs.”  The radio-only single “She” is doubtless an affront to such punk hardliners. Written by Billie Joe Armstrong for an ex-girlfriend, “She” is all about wistful pining for that special someone, aided and abetted by poppy chorus harmonies. But it’s also one of the punkiest tracks on Dookie, faster and more bracing than most anything else on the record. Like first-wave punks the Buzzcocks, Green Day demonstrates with “She” that sometimes the best way to convey romantic yearning and anticipation is through punk’s short/loud/fast credo, and that’s something close-minded practitioners of the genre should never forget.


I’ve always considered “She” to be a perfect companion to “Basket Case”, the preceding cut on Dookie. I always listen to them as a pair. The band seems to hold a similar inclination, as it often performs the tracks back-to-back in concert. In a way, “She” ups the ante of “Basket Case”, offering something similar but approaching it with more speed, power, and simplicity. “She” takes its cues from “Basket Case” early on, opening with a sparse rhythmic backdrop (highlighted by Dirnt’s pulsing three note bassline) that allows Billie Joe Armstrong to take center stage as a lyricist. Sounding almost as if he’s mere inches away from the listener, Armstrong tenderly paints the scenario of a girl unsatisfied with the predetermined life she’s trapped in. With a “sullen riot penetrating through her mind”, this girl is “waiting for a sign” (i.e. him) that will impel her to break through her silent suffering “with a brick of self-control”.


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Monday, Jan 11, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

“On a good day
In the morning light
All the wreckage
Is out of sight
And I know it’s gonna be all right….
And I’ll get some sleep tonight”

—Jude Johnstone, “On a Good Day”


“On a Good Day”, the title track to Jude Johnstone’s 2005 gentle gem of an album, is a quietly powerful little tune. It’s the kind of song that gets you happily moving and swaying… just before it breaks your heart. In that way, the song is an apt embodiment of this particular songwriter’s impressively rich gifts, which include a knack for lovely and singable melodies, a deeply felt and touchingly expressed melancholic bent, and a unique, earnest and heartfelt vocal delivery.


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Friday, Jan 8, 2010

PopMatters has unveiled its list of the Top 60 Albums of 2009. And as testament to the diversity of taste here at PM, I found exactly ZERO of my choices on that list. No overlap whatsoever. With apologies to Animal Collective, from where I’m standing, that is one butt-naked emperor. So, be it ever so humble, here is my personal Top Ten for the year.


10 Julian Casablancas, Phrazes for the Young
Those who know me have heard the story a dozen times apiece. When the Strokes still played clubs right after Is This It? came out, I stood in the front row at the Casbah and got biffed in the bean by Julian Casablancas’ microphone stand, producing an impressive golf-ball sized knot. He was deep in his training-wheels-alcoholic phase where he fancied himself quite the Johnny Thunders Jr. Between the head injury and the revelation of hearing “Barely Legal” for the first time, I fell in love on the spot with what became one of my five favorite bands of the decade. Phrazes for the Young is the first time since Room on Fire that I felt a tingle in that phantom spot on my forehead.


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Wednesday, Jan 6, 2010
What did Bruce Sudano say to President Obama in Oslo? What wine goes well with rigatoni? The Nashville-based singer-songwriter tells PopMatters in this edition of 20 Questions.

Bruce Sudano is jet-lagged. He just returned from the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. Only two days earlier, he was shaking President Obama’s hand and now he’s enduring the seasonal frenzy of holiday shoppers at the mall. All this followed an intense month of travel where the Nashville-based singer-songwriter jetted between Los Angeles and New York. He savored each bite of the pasta dinner he ate last night in the comforts of his own kitchen with a glass of Chianti. After such a whirlwind itinerary, home never tasted so good.


Even before departing for Oslo, Sudano was celebrating an already memorable year. 2009 marked the release of his third solo album, Life and the Romantic, released on his own Purple Heart imprint. The writer of hits by Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Robert Palmer, Jermaine Jackson, and Donna Summer emerged this year with a new set of songs that found the former member of Alive ‘n Kickin’ and Brooklyn Dreams in a contemplative space, mapping his observations about the details of everyday life over a variety of soundscapes. “Beyond Forever”, “Love Is Sacrifice”, and “A Glass of Red and the Sunset” folded a shade of jazz into the tunesmith’s repertoire while “It’s Her Wedding Day” helped Sudano earn two nominations (AC Artist and AC Song of the Year) for the 2009 New Music Weekly Awards. It’s a good time to be Bruce Sudano, as the artist ruminates on what he wore to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, what he said to President Obama, and the special place that both his wife and Bob Dylan occupy in this latest edition of 20 Questions.


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