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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Similar to how Barry Lenser set out to profile every song by the Beatles in a series of Sound Affects posts last year, I’ve decided to do the same for the solo work of Paul McCartney. In this installment, we take a look at “The Lovely Linda” the first track off McCartney’s first solo album, McCartney.


Though McCartney was a No.1 hit album that went double platinum in the US, it is still mostly remembered for the controversy behind it. Released the same month as Let It Be, it spelled the end of the Beatles. To this day, certain fans blame McCartney for the group’s break-up, and comments by his former bandmates about the quality of his early solo work didn’t help matters much.


However, “The Lovely Linda” fits in with the album’s overall low-key, do-it-yourself approach. Recorded as a way to quickly test out his new Studer 4-track tape recorder that he had installed in his home, it is arguably McCartney’s first ever solo recording. I say “recording” because I’m not really sure if it can be considered as an entire song or not. It’s only 43 seconds long and is comprised of 30 words, if you count the la’s. In fact, McCartney himself once referred to it as “a trailer to the full song which will be recorded in the future”. However, Webster’s dictionary defines a song as either a “short poem set to music” or “the act or practice of singing”. Whether it is or isn’t really a whole song doesn’t really matter, though, because it is so pleasant and has a certain charm to it. You can’t help but be touched by the story behind its meaning. Like much of the album that it appears on, it is a delightful ode to Linda McCartney, Paul’s wife and future Wings bandmate. As a matter of fact, it has been said that you can hear her footsteps walking through the room in the background.


Next time, we’ll look at “That Would Be Something”, another song inspired by Linda.



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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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Tuesday, Feb 16, 2010
We wanted a follow up to How I Do and now we have it. Res shares the stories behind some of the highlights on Black.Girls.Rock!

“When is your next album coming out?” Ever since How I Do (2001) introduced Res to music audiences craving a progressive blend of rock, pop, and soul, the Philly-based rocker has regularly fielded that question. Finally, she has a definite answer: “Now.” Black.Girls.Rock! is the album that was intended to follow How I Do, but it got tangled in Geffen Records’ executive turnstile. Amidst many current projects, including Idle Warship (her group with Talib Kweli and Graph Nobel) and a solo mixtape, Res is offering the previously unreleased Black.Girls.Rock! as a free download on her website www.the1res.com. She recently shared her thoughts about five of the album’s numerous highlights with PopMatters. (Note: watch for an extended interview with Res on PopMatters later this winter.)


“On My Way”
The opening song on Black.Girls.Rock! that, for many listeners, is a “Res anthem.”
“Every artist has a song that represents them. I think this song represents what Res is to people, what people think Res is. I wrote most of it. I didn’t have to compromise for it. It was written by me and this girl Jill Cunniff from Luscious Jackson. For me, I felt like it was a great album opener because it bridged the gap between How I Do and this album.”


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Friday, Feb 12, 2010

Some people might think that linking the inherently profound nature of Meshell Ndegeocello’s music to her sexuality is profane, but I think the link is damn near sacred. Only a handful of pop stars sing about anything other than sex not love, money not real power, and heartache to lament over relationships where neither partner initially respected themselves, let alone the other. Screen stars mimic the same, as violence, female subordination, and vilification of the poor permeate so much of our pop imagery. We can still easily count the number of female leading roles in Hollywood, and the absence of women from the corporate leadership behind our multi-billion dollar music and film industries attests to its antiquation.


Granted, the world is not as two-dimensional as straight/gay or black/white, so initially these sweeping generalizations might insult. For example, consider the number of queer people co-opted into reproducing the straight hegemony, and for this the fashion industry is exemplar. See all the fags creating stick-figure clothes and ho-heel shoes for real-world women?  Can you say eating disorder and diminished self-confidence?


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Thursday, Feb 11, 2010

Musically, “In the End” is dead simple.  That’s because it’s played so fast.  Green Day holds to the theory that the faster one plays, the simpler the arrangement has to be so the song doesn’t become a blurry mess amidst all that distortion.  Played in a rollicking standard-issue punk rhythm, Billie Joe Armstrong’s guitar sticks to two chords (A5 and G5 power chords) for the verses.  Even the typically dynamic breakdown section has Armstrong plucking out as few notes as possible on his instrument.  Not surprisingly, Armstrong’s vocals are the focus of attention in this brief burst of a song, issued in a staccato delivery that constantly arches upwards melodically.  The most exciting part of the song is definitely the elongated “Sooooooo” Armstrong belts out to bridge his way from the chorus back to the verse, enhanced by the music dropping out behind him for a measure.


“In the End” is a resentful screed against a girl who’s chosen to go with the guy that’s “all brawn and no brains”, instead of the speaker.  Inquiring, “How long will he last / Before he’s a creep in the past / And you’re alone once again?”, he pointedly asks if that’s really what she wants. Having figured out what he perceives to be her true colors, Armstrong references the best song on Dookie when he sings “I hope I won’t be there / In the end when you come around”. 


As catharsis, “In the End” does the job (in fact, it’s a great song to put on when faced with rejection and you aren’t partial to more morose musical tastes), but it doesn’t possess the depth a track like “When I Come Around” does.  Rare for a song on Dookie, it’s one-sided with no self-effacing reflection or critical introspection.  Sure, it’s common to feel wronged when the object of one’s affection chooses someone else, but it’s not as captivating as the times when Armstrong delves into his angst to confront his own flaws.  Still, it’s a testament to Armstrong’s knack for memorable phrases that he’s able to conjure up an image of why he detests his rival merely with the lines “Someone to look good with / And light your cigarette”.


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