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Thursday, Mar 4, 2010

On Monday, Eric Avery announced his second departure from Los Angeles alt-rock icons Jane’s Addiction on his Twitter account, a development that was confirmed the following day by band members Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro (via their own Twitter accounts, no less). According to news wire reports, rumors are already swirling that Avery will be replaced by once-and-forever Guns ‘N Roses bassist Duff McKagen. Jane’s Addiction has long been defined by its volatile inter-band relationships (hell, you can argue that’s what gives its music its spark), but this latest turn of events highlights how the group has squandered its cultural legacy over the years.


While other legendary alternative rock bands ranging from the Replacements to Pearl Jam have at times been criticized for being more musically conservative, from a career standpoint Jane’s Addiction has been the most staunchly rockist of them all, with its slew of ego battles, drug addictions, reality television shows, tell-all autobiographies, and in particular its countless cycles of breakups and reunions.  Adding to the list of rock star tropes, the group’s last record, Strays (2003), was produced by Bob Ezrin, a man who built his career working on albums by such classic rock warhorses as Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Pink Floyd.  Although Jane’s is rightly regarded as having been a pivotal force in the development of alternative rock (a legacy supported by its role in breaking down barriers for the genre in commercial radio as well as in founding the Lollapalooza festival in the early 1990s), incident after incident of rote rock star news items makes it hard not to think of the group these days as Mötley Crüe with less spandex and more tattoos.


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Wednesday, Mar 3, 2010

I hate labels.


I’m not one of those elitist music nerds who believes music shouldn’t be diluted into genres, because I’ve actually found that to be helpful. No, I hate labels because I’m absolutely terrible at figuring them out. Otherwise, I actually kind of love labels.


Witness, for example, a genre called post-punk. If the name is meant to be taken at face value, it’s reasonable to assume it’s the music that followed in the demise of the mid-‘70s punk movement. But there has to be more to it than that, obviously, because there was an awful lot of music released after 1978, and I’m almost positive “Reunited” by Peaches & Herb is something altogether different than Gang of Four’s “Natural’s Not in It”, which is one of the identified genre’s most identifiable tracks.


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Tuesday, Mar 2, 2010
With their rhythm guitarist and last founding member departing the band, what can fans expect from one of the Gothenburg scene's innovators on their next album?

Jesper Strömblad, guitarist of In Flames


It’s been almost two weeks since this story first broke, but for those who haven’t heard yet, Jesper Strömblad has officially quit In Flames. Strömblad, the last founding member of the band’s lineup, announced that he was leaving the band on February 12th, to “defeat his demons once and for all.”


This news comes as a shock to maybe four people in the metal community. For those keeping track, Strömblad missed over half of the band’s touring cycle last year to spend time in rehab for alcohol abuse. His problems with addiction have plagued the band on and off for over three years now, and fans have gotten more used to seeing Niclas Engelin, Strömblad’s replacement on several tours, than seeing Strömblad himself.


Nevertheless, it is a shame to see Strömblad leave the band. He was a huge part of the band’s creative force throughout their career, and he was one of the musicians that helped pioneer the Gothenburg sound before it became popular worldwide. In Flames weathered the difficulties of their early career because of his desire to succeed with their music. Jesper Strömblad will be missed in the metal scene, and I hope he is able to conquer his addictions and return to a normal life in time.


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Monday, Mar 1, 2010
Artist/producer PC Muñoz mines for gems and grills the greats.

An earlier version of this V-C-V first appeared on pcmunoz.com on March 28, 2006.


“Satisfaction (I Can’t Get Me No)” - Devo
Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards
From Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo (Warner Bros., 1978)


“Woman Coming” - James Blood Ulmer
Written by James Blood Ulmer
From Tales of Captain Black (Artists House, 1979)


I’ve got two names for you: Alan Myers and Denardo Coleman. These are the names of the drummers on these two songs, and to me, they are the undeniable connection between song one, a Stones cover by art-pop freakboys Devo, and song two, a surreal chunk of progressive jazz-funk by blues-futurist James Blood Ulmer.


Devo’s cover of “Satisfaction” (produced by Brian Eno) is still distinctive and fresh, 31 years later. In my opinion, Jagger’s always been an underrated lyricist. Critics often dismiss his words because of his relative lack of street cred (the London School of Economics and all that), and many listeners are likely not looking for depth from his over-the-top, strutting persona. A closer look reveals that the lyric captures an existential restlessness in the face of mass-media messages, something which is just as applicable in today’s information-saturated world as it was back in the heady ‘60s. As a reminder, dig these excerpts from the verses, which most of us know by heart, anyway:


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Sunday, Feb 28, 2010

Green Day has a knack for kicking off records in a riveting fashion, but the band often has a problem wrapping them up as strongly.  For album closers, the trio typically opts for an unremarkable rocker (“Walking Contradiction”, “Prosthetic Head”) or a decent understated number that lacks the punch and passion of preceding tracks (“Macy’s Day Parade”, “Whatshername”).  And the less said about the ghastly AOR sheen of “See the Light” from last year’s 21st Century Breakdown, the better.  Consequently, “F.O.D.”—the final listed track on Dookie—stands as the band’s best official album closer by virtue of the process of elimination more than for being a great tune.


Green Day aims to conclude its third full-length record in climactic fashion, building from understated verses and choruses (featuring only Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice and an acoustic guitar) to an anthemic crash of amplifiers and drum rolls as Armstrong profanely explains the meaning behind the song’s acronym title.  It doesn’t quite work, though.  The main reason is because the acoustic preamble is meant to set listeners up for the sudden sucker punch of the full band onslaught, but it’s severely undermined by the fact that Armstrong plays his acoustic guitar exactly as he would an electric—strumming power chords aggressively with a precise rhythmic thrust (it must be noted though that this does provide listeners with a glimpse of Armstrong’s rhythm guitar prowess shorn of amplifier distortion).  Really, the only major difference in tone between the two parts of the song is that one half is noisier than the other.



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