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by AJ Ramirez

19 Sep 2012


No matter what anyone else says, or where my personal musical evolution leads me or which directions this band embarks upon, I will always be a Green Day fan. Ever since the junior high-aged me first saw a tape-recorded airing of the “Hitchin’ a Ride” video on MTV back in 1997, I knew this band was for me. Even now, after I have grown up and devoured so many records in so many styles and flavors, and as I accept that Green Day has turned out material I have on more than one occasion found less than palatable (21st Century Breakdown, anyone?), I still consider Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool to be solid instrumentalists, hook-savvy songwriters, and hilarious personalities. The group’s first four albums for Reprise soundtracked my adolescence, and in my adulthood I find the brash, adrenalized music and Armstrong’s cheeky (and vastly underrated) lyrics still resonate with me. For those reasons, the California pop punk trio will forever be my second-favorite group.

Sniff all you want at my fannish rhapsodizing, but before you immediately post “What good Green Day songs?” or question the trio’s punk credentials in the comments section without a second thought, I would hope you would at least read some of what I’m about to write. Beyond punk’s holy trinity of the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and the Clash, Green Day is probably the most influential group the genre has ever witnessed, and certainly is its most well-known and best-selling act. For purists and detractors, that was (and remains) Green Day’s cardinal sin. As punk’s horizons became more limited and its dogma ever more rigid during the DIY 1980s, it was possible to view being on a major label and having your songs heard on commercial radio as a (supposed) affront to what the genre and movement stood for. To this day, no matter how much one points out that first-wave punk actively sought out major label muscle, or how many respected scene veterans hold a decent opinion of the band (Jello Biafra is a fan, for chrissakes), or how its working-class-bred members thoroughly paid their dues by touring the United States in junky vans and sleeping on floors as self-sufficient, barely-educated teenagers, or—most basically—how fantastic the music made by Armstrong, Dirnt, and Cool is, there’s bound to be someone murmuring about how the group is lightweight, inauthentic, “not punk”.

by Joseph Fisher

12 Sep 2012


By now, it’s commonly accepted that the term shoegaze isn’t the most beloved genre description that NME ever invented. However, quibbles with the term aside, it is difficult to ignore the giant steps that the scene has made in the 20-odd years since My Bloody Valentine’s Isn’t Anything dropped. Indeed, shoegaze has left footprints all over contemporary pop music—from the mainstream to the aspirational to the progressive.

Looking back, it’s easy to see why this is the case. Shoegaze’s trademark sound—rippling sheets of guitar noise—is endlessly pliable, easily molded into sonic textures smooth and abrasive alike. Yet, what is often overlooked is how innovative the rhythm sections of many shoegaze bands were. Since the genre stood squarely at the crossroads of Madchester baggy and jangle pop, many shoegazers infused their Byrdsian chiming with the reverberations of dance music. In many ways, alternative/indie rock’s beat connection started here.

by Zach Schonfeld

5 Sep 2012


The Republicans need your help. It’s the music. See, they love rock ‘n’ roll—almost as much as the bands loathe them.

It’s not a new phenomenon. In 1984, President Reagan’s reelection team famously mistook Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” for a patriotic, fist-pumping banger. Springsteen was less than impressed. “The President was mentioning my name the other day, and I kinda got to wondering what his favorite album musta been,” the Boss quipped. “I don’t think he’s been listening to [Nebraska].” Twenty-eight years later, at last week’s Republican National Convention, Governor Chris Christie, a diehard fan, referenced the singer during his speech. Never mind that Springsteen has refused to back Christie or appear at his 2010 inauguration.

by Brice Ezell

29 Aug 2012


Note: This piece flows from a conversation I participated in with my fellow PopMatters writers and editors. I thank Timothy Gabriele, AJ Ramirez, Alan Ranta, John Grassi, Chris Conaton, Zach Schonfeld, David Bloom, and Sarah Zupko for their help. I also thank AJ for his idea to have me write this piece.

As an avid fan of making lists, I participated in Pitchfork’s “The People’s List” experiment, the results of which were released last week. If any of you have read past lists I’ve written for PopMatters, you’ll know my choices tend to be the opposite of what people expect, and what ended up becoming my top 85 albums from 1996-2011, the current length of Pitchfork’s existence, reflects my penchant for bizarre picks. You won’t find many lists that include critically reviled albums like Oasis’ Heathen Chemistry amongst modern classics like LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver. While awaiting the results of the poll, I really didn’t think much about the list. I knew Radiohead and Animal Collective would likely dominate, since the participants would almost universally be Pitchfork readers influenced by the e-zine’s opinions. But upon I seeing people share their lists and thoughts about the list overall via Twitter and Facebook, some criticisms began to arise that were definitely worth considering.

by Crispin Kott

22 Aug 2012


Calling the new Blur box set (named Blur 21, honoring the 21 years since their first official release) a treasure trove is, if not a bit hyperbolic, certainly not inaccurate. If, like many of my fellow music nerds, you’ve all but abandoned the compact disc in favor of the tried and true vinyl option, there’s a version of the box set just right for you. While including all seven of the band’s studio albums in thick vinyl cut from oak trees (probably), the collection is lacking many of the bonuses which made the CD version too tempting to resist.

Each of Blur’s albums—from 1991’s Leisure to 2003’s Think Tank—is given the double-disc treatment in the CD set, with most of the associated b-sides and non-album singles chronologically placed, allowing the listener to effectively trace the development of one of England’s greatest bands, one which transcended its assigned genre (Britpop) to become something greater, even while celebrating its own inherent Englishness. The CD box set also includes a handsome hardbound book featuring recording information and what one hopes is merely an abridged version of a much longer and more comprehensive oral history. There are three DVD’s included as well, rounding out the promo clips for anyone who already has Blur: The Best Of, and featuring a live performance from the “Singles Night” tour in 1999, a brief run through of 13-era songs from earlier that year and Showtime, a 1994 performance at Alexandra Palace previously only available on VHS. For completists, there’s also a one-sided vinyl single recorded in 1989 when the band was still called Seymour.

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