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by PC Muñoz

8 Mar 2010


This V-C-V was first published September 13, 2005 on pcmunoz.com

“Leader of the Band” - Dan Fogelberg
Written by Dan Fogelberg
From The Innocent Age (Sony, 1981)

I can tell you from experience that trying to write songs about family relationships can be tricky business. Even the finest of songwriters have to be careful not to fall prey to crass histrionics, sappy sentimentality, or plain ol’ cliché when dealing with the raw, complex emotions which characterize family dynamics. I personally find “father” songs by male songwriters and “mother” songs by female songwriters the most interesting, in general. Occasionally a song will surprise me, like Tupac’s “Dear Mama”, which at first seems like it might be a schmaltzy “mother-worshipping” song, but actually turns out to be a thoughtful reflection on the young Shakur’s youthful indiscretion, and his mother’s personal struggles (which he couldn’t understand as a child). I suppose I’m partial to songs with a little subtlety, like Bread’s “Everything I Own”, which seems to be about a lover, but of which writer David Gates has repeatedly said is about his father.

I didn’t understand “Leader of the Band” when it came out. I figured it was about Fogelberg’s school band teacher and I simply wasn’t attached enough to any of my school band teachers to relate. Besides, it was 1981, I was 14 years old, and I was not paying much attention to what was crackin’ on soft-rock radio (though now I find myself jonesing for some of that music). Nevertheless, the line

My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man…

was stuck in my head for years. I always had the feeling that I should investigate the song more, but didn’t bother to do so until the mid-‘90s. I picked up Fogelberg’s Greatest Hits on vinyl, dropped the needle on “Leader of the Band”, and cranked it.

by Crispin Kott

7 Mar 2010


When I found myself in the American Southeast for a few years after giving up on college, one of the ways of making myself feel as though I kind of belonged was to immerse myself in the music.

Even early on, Mark Linkous’ albums as Sparklehorse held far more pull for me than other Americana artists. His approach to music was innovative, to be sure, but also desperately and distinctly melancholy. Love songs, as love itself so often is, were immersed in confusion, loneliness and despair. Even the ostensibly happy ones.

I didn’t know Linkous, though I met him once and found him to be an absolutely lovely man. He signed a poster, “Best Witches, Mark Linkous.” And now, according to a Rolling Stone report, he’s committed suicide. Even those among us who didn’t know him except through his music, maybe we’re shocked and not at all surprised. That’s what Linkous was always best at, evoking emotions along a wide spectrum, giving us nothing and everything to hold on to.

Everyone who loves anyone has their favorite song or album. With Sparklehorse, there was a lot to love, from Linkous’ debut vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot through his Dark Night of the Soul collaboration with Danger Mouse, which just this week was finally given the green light by EMI after leaking last year. My personal favorite was Good Morning Spider, though I thought maybe today the pair of songs which opened It’s a Wonderful Life were the way to go. The title track is almost unbearably sad, especially if taken at face value with the news of Linkous’ suicide still shaking music fans at their core. The second, “Gold Day”, is as uplifting as any music I’ve ever heard. And that’s kind of how I’d like to remember Mark Linkous, lovely and lonely and capable of such incredible beauty it’s impossible to remember what life was like before his music touched you.

by AJ Ramirez

4 Mar 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.

by Crispin Kott

3 Mar 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.

by Chris Colgan

2 Mar 2010


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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