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Thursday, May 26, 2011
There's another theme to the well-received new album from the chart-topping Chicago punk band besides cutthroat riffs and raucous drums: the end of the world.

Graduating in the same class as mainstream punk rock acts Green Day, Anti-Flag, the Offspring, and others, Chicago, Illinois-based band Rise Against crafts songs born of an ennui that long ago boiled over into rage. And there’s plenty to rage about, of course. Economic hardship, domestic and international imbroglios, and a rash of other injustices—plenty evidence for a gloomy forecast on the future. Add to this mix the prophecies of oddballs like Harold Campbell, the California man who caused a worldwide fervor when he predicted the Rapture would literally occur on May 21, 2011. These problems, and the anxiety they cause, infest Rise Against’s latest album, Endgame (2011)—a hymnbook of laments from a frustrated generation.


For the past ten years, Rise Against has conducted a series of Platinum- and Gold-certified seances where it channeled the collective consciousness of the self-proclaimed “orphans of the American dream”, those who grew up in the shadows of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, children who came of age in a era where people tweet about a tsunami’s rampage one minute and Justin Bieber the next. Obsessed with the search for truth, the band’s lyrics personify the anger beneath modern malaise, and document what happens when the inability to discern right from wrong collides with the desire to do so. What results, perhaps not surprisingly, is music rife with religious terminology.


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Thursday, May 19, 2011
With the release of Deerhoof vs Evil, Deerhoof continues on its merry way, making music that is gloriously idiosyncratic and accessible. Guitarist John Dieterich talks about the new album, his musical frustrations, and a love for Brazilian music.

It’s almost de facto that a new Deerhoof album will show a willingness to experiment with form while always preserving a sound that is quintessentially its own.  This is in addition to being ridiculously good. This trait has continued on the group’s new album Deerhoof vs Evil, a texturally denser yet no less visceral album than those that have come before. I spoke to guitarist (or should that be frustrated drummer?) John Dieterich about the album and current state of the group, finding out the band’s opinion of the new record as well as some of the surprise influences that led to the album’s sound.


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I see you’ve just started your US tour [Deerhoof is touring the US from January 27th to February 26th with a European tour following in March].  How did the first dates go?


It depends on who you ask in the band. It was a little nerve-racking. I felt really comfortable playing the new material but we’re still focusing on the surface aspects of the songs. You can play the notes but it’s just too new, but it was exhilarating and extremely fun to play these new songs to people for the first time. We played all but one song from the new album.


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Tuesday, Apr 12, 2011
Among all the fervent eulogizing of the late LCD Soundsystem, a backlash has kicked up some funereal dirt. So, where to lay the band to rest -- with the hippest of the hip, or the bright-but-empty space with most of the other Madison Square Garden clientele?

What else to say about the early demise of LCD Soundsystem? The blogosphere already let the digital tears roll with eulogies ranging from the fantastically extensive to the cut-and-dry to, yes, remarks from the naysayers. For those who couldn’t make either the week-long victory lap at Terminal 5 or the final blow out at Madison Square Garden on April 2, setlists and reviews and videos abound. The show at MSG was as explosive and far-reaching as promised, a sea of black and white (and occasional spots of color from those who either didn’t get the memo or were too embarrassed to indulge in some fan-boy dress code respect) and palpable energy, even when James Murphy scrounged deeply into his pockets to pull out b-sides rarely or never heard live (“Freak Out/Starry Eyes”, anyone?).


But LCD Soundsystem was always tremendous live, so none of that should be any surprise. What is actually astonishing—not surprising, but really something to stand back and look at without the sense of irony that surrounds so much of our dialogue about indie music—is how this outpouring of love for the band reveals just how much LCD Soundsystem came to mean to so many people over a relatively short amount of time. It’s no real mystery how James Murphy pulled it off: he’s a damn good songwriter and a seemingly tireless workhorse, to boot. Still, how many bands in 2011 could call it quits and hear such an immense gasp of real sadness from every corner of the globe? We’re talking genuine emotion on the Internet, folks—and on a massive scale. Chew on that one for a second.


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Wednesday, Mar 30, 2011
The King of Limbs, while on the surface slighter than some of Radiohead's previous efforts, is still a vital, relevant addition to the group’s canon because of -- not despite -- its understated quality.

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.


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Tuesday, Mar 22, 2011
The only female member of the Dears takes a moment pre-tour to discuss the history of the band, its new material, and motherhood.

Natalia Yanchak is not just some woman in a band. She joined the Dears back in their beginning stages as the keyboard player, but also as an organizer and visionary. Her vocals add a sweetness to the strong, warm baritone of frontman Murray Lightburn along with a raison d’être for the romantic yearnings that are a hallmark of so many of their songs. They are now married with a young daughter, and the band is as strong as ever. The new release, Degeneration Street, was performed start to finish in a few live gigs last fall, and the group onstage looked like it was having a blast. Before heading out on tour again, Yanchak chatted over the phone from her home in Montreal to update PopMatters.


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When exactly did you join the band and tell me about those early days with the Dears?


I joined the band officially in 1997 or 1998. I had met Murray [Lightburn] at a bar—I was DJing at a local haunt in Montreal, the infamous Biftek, which [is] overrun by students now although it was back then also. That’s what they call a steak in French, biftek, but it’s not a restaurant so I don’t know why it’s called that. Murray had come in and he sat at the bar and for some reason he just poured his heart out to me. It wasn’t like it was love at first sight, I was kind of like “Oh, poor guy”. We had some mutual friends who introduced me to the Dears and to Murray so I went to see them play a show at this hole-in-wall kind of place called the Barfly. They were looking for a keyboard player but after I saw them I was totally skeptical. I was like, “It’s going to be terrible.” But it was amazing—I thought it was great.


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