Along with Spinal Tap, Tenacious D (Kyle Gass / Jack Black) pretty much closed the book on metal parody. For Kyle Gass, the next step in the skewering evolution was ‘70s era Southern rock, and the result is the mulleted, wigged, and moonshine-fueled Trainwreck. Formed in 2002 and fronted by Gass (aka Klip Calhoun) and frequent Tenacious D conspirator JR Reed (you might remember him as Lee from the Tenacious D HBO series, immortalized in the Tenacious D song “Lee”), Trainwreck is a loving celebration of bros, leather pants, and machismo. The key to the gimmick is that musically, it works. Loaded with heavy, catchy riffs and sing-a-long anthems, Trainwreck’s debut album The Wreckoning pairs perfectly with a 12 pack of Keystone Light, Kodiak dip, and maybe some bad speed. After a successful run through the Midwest in March, Trainwreck is currently on their second tour of the year, and I sat down for a chat with Kyle Gass before Trainwreck’s gig in Chicago.
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Despite being a cult band with little commercial impact even to this day, Joy Division has turned out to be a seminal act that has influenced a huge swath of musicians. The perfect demonstration of this point: if you are unfamiliar with the sound of Joy Division, look no further than the hordes of brooding, baritone-voiced post-punk revivalists that have sprung up in the last decade to rectify that. The music press has had a field day plastering these groups with the dreaded “rip-off” tag, whether the accusations are merited or not. Given the negative tone these comparisons are often couched in, it’s unsurprising that the modern bands most often likened to the Joy Division, Interpol and Editors, often spend their interviews refuting assertions that they are heavily influenced by the British quartet. That’s certainly their prerogative, but it does result in odd comments like Editors bassist Russell Leetch saying he doesn’t understand the comparison because Joy Division didn’t sell a lot of records.
Even if one takes the neo-post-punkers at their word, there are still plenty of musicians to be found over the last three decades who will enthusiastically cite Joy Division as an inspiration and influence. Among the most notable: Bloc Party, the Cure, Galaxie 500, Jane’s Addiction, John Frusciante, Moby, Pet Shop Boys, Radiohead, the Smashing Pumpkins, and U2. Few of these avowed disciples are outright stylistically comparable to Joy Division, but in varying quantities they have culled inspiration from Joy Division’s body of work, particularly its melodic basslines, its fractured guitar sounds, and late singer Ian Curtis’ world-weary existential lyrics.
It’s now been 30 years since the British post-punk quartet Joy Division released its final (and best-known) single on the Manchester, England-based indie label Factory Records. Hitting record store shelves as a 7” vinyl release not long before the band’s singer Ian Curtis took his own life on May 18, 1980, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” became a totemic record in the aftermath of that tragedy, widely taken as the last will and testament of a riveting yet tormented frontman. It’s without a doubt the short-lived group’s signature song, and even to this day when the band’s name is mentioned, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” has a 99.99% likelihood of being the first tune to come to mind.
Despite a legend the song cultivated almost immediately, (the original June 1980 Melody Maker review of the single described it as “Evocative, interesting… a powerfully original piece of music”), “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is not Joy Division’s best or most ambitious composition. Lacking the propulsive drive of “Transmission”, the dread anxiety of “She’s Lost Control”, and the sepulchral majesty of “Atmosphere”, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is thin and subdued, almost undeserving of its acclaim. Rendered coldly distant by Martin Hannett’s trademark production, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook restrict themselves to repeating their personalized variations of the main melody riff on keyboard and bass, respectively, while Ian Curtis delivers half-hearted stabs of guitar throughout. Aside from Stephen Morris’ ever-frenetic drum rhythms, the band sounds sapped of strength on the final recording, as if it has succumbed to solemnly accepting its fated demise.
There is an excellent feature on American treasure (and no I don’t use that word lightly) Sonny Rollins in April 17th’s Boston Globe.
The man is going to celebrate his 80th birthday this year (in September) and is still active, creative, engaged.
There are certain artists who are so incomparable, as artists, as human beings, as role models, that enough good things cannot possibly be said. There are not many in this category, but if anyone is, Rollins must be included. Ceaselessly humble, relentlessly ambitious and seldom (if ever) satisfied with his performances, Rollins is the rarest of birds: the enlightened being who figured out early on how to live life in full, on his own terms, and has never strayed from that almost monastic path.
A few money quotes from the article:
Miike Snow are the International Men of Mystery of the electro-pop scene. Whether disguising their faces behind ghostly white masks or hiding behind their Jackolope logo, there is something coolly enigmatic about them. Swedish producers Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg were famous behind the scenes, crafting pop hits for Madonna and Britney Spears (the duo won a Grammy for their work on Spears’ Toxic) before recruiting American musician Andrew Wyatt to form Miike Snow. Their 2009 eponymous debut is a smooth hybrid of throwback soul, ‘80s synth, and electro anthems, with just the right amount of sex appeal and songwriting chops to attract the ladies and discerning hipsters alike. Finally getting to meet the men behind the masks, I sat down with Miike Snow before their sold-out, April 5th appearance at Chicago’s Metro Theater.