CFP: The Legacy of Radiohead's 'The Bends' 20 Years On [Deadlines: 4 Feb / 19 Feb]

 
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Wednesday, Dec 3, 2014
These ten selections, some more obscure than others, are chosen to represent the songs where the British power trio was most focused, most locked-in, and most original.

In honor of Jack Bruce’s recent passing, and as a companion piece to my tribute to the late bassist, here’s my take on the ten best Cream songs. This list is offered with one caveat: it’s mostly going to avoid the ones everyone knows, so we’ll assume it’s more or less a given that the cream of Cream’s crop necessarily includes “Strange Brew”, “Tales of Brave Ulysses”, “Crossroads” and especially “Sunshine of Your Love”.


These ten selections, some more obscure than others, are chosen to represent the songs where Cream was most focused, most locked-in, and most original. As such, many of the trio’s blues covers or blues-influenced homages (whether more paint-by-numbers like “Spoonful” and “Rolling and Tumbling” or more inspired like “Born Under a Bad Sign”) don’t rise all the way to the top. When Bruce, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker were properly locked-in, they not only used the blues as a successful point of departure, but they carved out a unique—and oft-imitated but seldom matched—blend of psychedelia and proto-prog (the frenzied “Deserted Cities of the Heart” is a scorching hand grenade of a song, planting a signpost of where rock had come and where it was headed): they took the British Invasion’s obsession with blues masters as far as it could (should) go, using their power trio pyrotechnics to blend a distinct English sensibility (“Wrapping Paper”, “Mother’s Lament”) with a more American rock ‘n’ roll aggression, which itself was a triumph of traditional music combining blues and folk, along with a more experimental edge influenced by jazz and the avant-garde (“SWLABR”, “Those Were the Days”).


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Tuesday, Dec 2, 2014
As the final listed track on Broken, “Gave Up” is well-placed to serve as an encapsulation of the brief EP’s themes.

“Gave Up” is the final listed track on Broken, and in that position it’s well-placed to serve as an encapsulation of the brief EP’s themes. Though the record’s guitar-rock aggression can be empowering to listeners, Broken is really about the loss of control, and the frustration and self-reflection (How did I get to this point? Is it my fault? Do I deserve this?) that can flourish in such circumstances. Trent Reznor’s well-publicized struggles with his label at the time, TVT, are his obvious muses, yet his frustrations are never etched out in detail or specifics. Instead, Reznor opts for bruised proclamations that are succinct and memorable enough to enable them to be applied with universality.


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Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
In honor of the band with the most U.F.O.s and robots, here are the ten best Flaming Lips songs based on all things science fiction.

Wayne Coyne and Co. recently released their version of the Beatles’ epic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but titled their version With a Little Help from My Fwends. “Fwends“ are what the Flaming Lips call the pals that bring their musical talents to records like 2012’s The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends. The collaboration included a diverse mix of musicians, including Kesha, Nick Cave, and Yoko Ono. On this album, the line up features acts like Moby, Foxygen, My Morning Jacket, Jay Mascus, and, surprisingly, Miley Cyrus. The even bigger surprise is that Cyrus’s duet with Coyne on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds“ is what keeps the album from being a total free-form freak-out.


This is not to say the parade of eccentricity that is the Flaming Lips isn’t brilliant. It’s just that when that eccentricity is kept within the confines of the band, it’s a lot more dazzling. There are few bands that would attempt to pull off a project like covering an entire Beatles classic, but then again this isn’t the first time the Lips have attempted such a feet. In 2009, they covered Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon with the assistance of Henry Rollins, Peaches, and Stardeath and White Dwarfs. The result was an offbeat rendition of the original, replete with singing saws, coughing, panting, and howling.


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Monday, Nov 24, 2014
"Happiness in Slavery" is a standout from Nine Inch Nails' early output not for its confrontational nature, but as a showcase for Trent Reznor's acumen as a musician and a producer.

“Slave screams!” As with “Last”, the fifth (officially listed) track on Broken goes straight for the jugular. A dense cacophony of earth-shuddering rhythms, scything guitar and keyboards, and savage screams, “Happiness in Slavery” is tied with “Wish” for the title of the EP’s standout song, and is probably its most recognizable.


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Friday, Nov 21, 2014
When I'm a-walkin' I strut my stuff and I'm so strung out. I'm high as a kite and I just might stop to check out the 304th most acclaimed album of all time. A 1983 acoustopunk bellwether is this week's Counterbalance.

Mendelsohn: I couldn’t tell you when I got a copy of the Violent Femmes’ self-titled debut. I don’t even know where I bought it or why (it probably had something to do with “Blister in the Sun”). I don’t even recall listening to this album all that much. But going back to it for this week’s edition of Counterbalance, I realized that I had done an adequate job of internalizing the record. And then I had something of an epiphany as it dawned on me that the Violent Femmes may have very quietly been one of the most important rock bands of the 1980s, if not the past quarter century. Not so much for the band’s surprisingly varied catalog of material but for their legacy and the idea that a three-piece acoustic punk band is a viable vehicle for rock music. They are one rock band in a long line of rock bands who celebrated the simplicity of pop music from the fringes, attacking convention with a mix of humor and violence.


What’s your take, Klinger? Is the Violent Femmes’ debut worthy of its No. 304 ranking on the Great List?


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