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Tuesday, May 10, 2011
When all the elements on Ride's first album are at play in perfect alignment, Nowhere becomes a magical record, one that you can see deserving of its reputation as one of the best the shoegaze genre has to offer

This week sees the British DVD release of Upside Down, a documentary tackling the history of seminal UK indie label Creation Records, which was extant from 1983 until 1999.  Primarily dedicated to propagating 1960s-influenced alternative rock of all sorts and permutations, Creation was a collision of rockist traditionalism, hyperbolic bravado, and influential innovation, responsible for bringing the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Oasis, and Super Furry Animals to the world at large.


Of all Creation’s myriad releases, it’s Ride’s 1990 debut Nowhere that I adore the most.  Yes, Oasis’ first two albums are more tuneful, and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is a visionary work by an uncompromising musical auteur, but it’s Nowhere that touches me like no other record in the Creation back catalog. Long held as the second-best band in the shoegaze genre (after My Bloody Valentine) and the second-best band from Oxford, England (after Radiohead), Ride has never really gotten its proper due.  As such, I held hope that the 20th anniversary deluxe reissue of its first album this year (yes, the record actually came out 21 years ago—don’t ask) would go a ways towards drawing attention and accolades to the dreamy melodic charms of the disbanded foursome’s music.


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Thursday, Mar 31, 2011
Has there been anything else remotely akin to the waste of potential, time, and opportunity that we’ve had the last two decades with Eddie Van Halen?

Sammy Hagar seldom disappoints. When I heard he was tapped to replace ass-clown extraordinaire David Lee Roth in 1985, I anticipated uninspiring results. I was correct (your mileage may vary). And when I saw there were “tell-all” excerpts from his new book in the latest Rolling Stone, I figured there would be some avert-your-eyes ugliness. I was correct.


Look: it’s obvious that Hagar is a good businessman. The dude has made tens of millions from his own brand of tequila. Who knows how much coin he has pocketed from the Van Hagar albums and the recent tours? His book will sell plenty of copies and who can hassle that? The question could be begged: why would a very wealthy dude take the time to write a book detailing the degeneracy of his former bandmate? To make money, obviously. Of course, he also has a tale to tell, particularly as he may want to set the record straight regarding his involvement in the band (and the on-again/off-again status of the various redux reunions). It is a poorly-kept secret that Eddie Van Halen is difficult to get along with, and who could blame Hagar for wanting to put his imprint on the permanent record?


(Breaking news, real-time edit: he is now claiming he was abducted by aliens! And here I was, just praising his business acumen. Holy “let me learn from Charlie Sheen and up the ante to move more product”, Batman!)


The parts of the book that focus on pre-and-post Van Halen life will probably appeal only to the most ardent Hagar fans (are there ardent Hagar fans? Anyone whose life has been missing the inside scoop of the Montrose years or an elaboration on why he can’t drive 55?). And yet, whatever its literary merits, it may ultimately become a useful historical document. Since the semi-reclusive Eddie Van Halen is less than likely to ever write an autobiography, this may be the closest eye-witness account we’ll ever get from someone who lived through it—not necessarily the good but definitely the bad and most definitely the ugly, of which more shortly. Not necessarily the studio antics that produced OU812 or F.U.C.K., but rather some explanation (or evidence) for why exactly Eddie Van Halen went from being one of the best guitarists of his generation to the punch-drunk burnout he’s become.


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Thursday, Mar 24, 2011
The Yardbirds required only two years and change to create songs that changed music.

Keith Relf.


Who? Exactly.


Quite possibly the best vocalist you’ve never heard of, you still have heard him if you are passingly familiar with rock music. Trust me. He was the voice of the Yardbirds.


Who?


Come on. You know, that semi-influential band that gave birth to the holy trinity of English guitarists. In order: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. Any questions?


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Thursday, Mar 10, 2011
In 1979 David Byrne, Brian Eno, and Talking Heads obsessed with grace on the claustrophobic pop indulgences of Fear of Music.

In his book Orthodoxy, author G.K. Chesterton explains the inevitable travails of “The Maniac”. He describes the problem of the madman that believes the whole world is involved in conspiracy against him, and that in order to live in that world, an individual has to shrink their perceptions down to an ever-tightening pattern of logical reasoning that eventually they cannot break out of. Thus we are left with a spiraling prison of logic, whereby we are left trapped, unable to escape.


On Talking Heads’ third album, Fear of Music, the band traces a similar journey as described by Chesterton.  Released in 1979 on the heels of its first two records and its first charting single, Fear of Music careens with conviction into a suffocating and paranoid masterpiece.  From the opening Hugo Ball-inspired chants of “I Zimbra” (featuring King Crimson’s resident guitar maestro Robert Fripp) to the closing anxiety-ridden sound-scapes of “Drugs”, the album plods into ominous and dark arenas similar to those once traveled by David Bowie on the album Low. The cover says it all: a bleak and black metallic floor laden only with quasi-industrial and pre-PC green lettering.


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Tuesday, Mar 1, 2011
1991 was the year My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless became the underground standard bearer for independent rock.

It’s hard to believe that 1991 was 20 years ago. In the wake of that anniversary, many have been harkening back to reflect on the top records of that year: U2’s Achtung Baby, Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Metallica’s (self-titled) “Black Album” just to name a few. Yet as grunge and the new wave of punk slowly emerged, an entirely different sound was inching over the horizon. Just three years from the brilliant Isn’t Anything, My Bloody Valentine (named after a Canadian horror film), had produced its masterwork, Loveless, a record of such sheer grandiosity and nuanced ingenuity, that it would become the reigning influence of independent rock, as well the expected candidate for every rock critic’s record collection, for years to come. It would also be the last musical statement from the band to date.


Bandleader Kevin Shields invested innumerable hours of studio time trying to create new and unprecedented sounds with this record, at times emerging from all-day sessions with absolutely nothing on tape. The process also found Shields barring any employees with Creation Records from access to the sessions. It was this kind of secluded and extensive work ethic that ended up nearly bankrupting the record label. However, it also ended up providing one of the most profound musical statements to emerge out of that year.


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