Call for Music Writers... Rock, Indie, Urban, Electronic, Americana, Metal, World and More

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Tuesday, Aug 9, 2011
I could list several dozen songs that would be greatly lessened, if not unthinkable, without their saxophonic embellishment; so could you. In the interest of time and clarity, let's take three and call it a day.

A writer whom I respect recently made an offhand observation that I’d like to challenge—not because his opinion isn’t valid but rather because it seems representative of a casual and, I’d argue, uninformed impression shared by entirely too many folks.


Let’s name names: in his otherwise thoroughly enjoyable deconstruction of the monster hit “Frankenstein” by everyone’s favorite albino, Edgar Winters, Chuck Klosterman shares his feelings about the saxophone solo. He doesn’t dig it. In fact, he doesn’t dig the saxophone in rock songs. More, he doesn’t particularly dig the saxophone, period. Klosterman states, “I guess I’m just anti-saxophone; I feel like there were better options available. Certain extraneous instruments add more to rock songs than others, most notably the cello and the bagpipes.”


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Sunday, Jun 26, 2011
PopMatters talks with music critic Simon Reynolds about his new book Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past, as well as the modern state of pop futurism, the changing nature of music criticism, and the post-punk historian's favorite '80s alt-rock bands.

Since the ‘80s, British-born/American-based writer Simon Reynolds has been showcasing his analytical, articulate, and occasionally quite humorous approach to music criticism in most any major publication one can name, ranging from Melody Maker and Spin to The New York Times and The Guardian.  He’s also a notable presence on the music section shelves of book stores due to his authorship of tomes including Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 and Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture, the former being the definitive and most engaging account of that genre/movement to be found.  His newest book is Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past (released in the UK on 2 June and due out in the US on 19 July), wherein he takes a broad-based yet more personal look at the 21st century’s increasing obsession with retro sounds and signifiers in lieu of the futurism and stylistic innovation that so motivated pop styles in previous decades.


In this interview, PopMatters and Reynolds not only chat about the origins of and questions posed by Retromania, but touch upon other subjects including the modern state of pop futurism, the changing nature of music criticism in the era of digiculture, and just what exactly one of the music press’ foremost proponents of post-punk and electronica thinks about alternative rock’s retro-adoring standard-bearers from the ‘80s.


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Friday, Jun 17, 2011
Paul McCartney's effortless musical mastery (with no suffering artist gimmick) robs him of the serious consideration he deserves. But like literature and film's greatest auteurs, he will eventually undergo the Hitchcock / Shakespeare transformation from popular entertainer to century-defining artist.

In the year 2300, alien inhabitants will revere Paul McCartney in the same way Mozart and Beethoven are today. Paul McCartney is an artist of the first rank. The notion that he is talented yet slight (particularly in regards to his solo years) simply doesn’t exist except through the lens of Rolling Stone‘s post-Beatles breakup John Lennon worship. McCartney’s effortless mastery (with no suffering artist gimmick) robs him of the serious consideration he deserves.


Paul McCartney just isn’t hip. This week’s reviews of McCartney and McCartney II by Pitchfork are steeped in irony. The site gives the album that molded the entire sound of Pitchfork-branded indie of the late ‘90s/early ‘00s a 7.9; while a record that eclipses the presently hyped synthpop-chillwave fare received a 7.2. McCartney doesn’t get much love from the Rolling Stone old boys club either. An album like Ram is far better than the likes of the usual “top 10 album” mainstays like OK Computer and London Calling. Furthermore, Ram is the only solo Beatles album that maintains the impeccable standard of the ‘65-‘69 Beatles albums, a run that was largely orchestrated by McCartney. Argue whether Lennon or McCartney wrote better songs during this period if you must, but make no mistake: McCartney was the visionary behind every Beatles album starting with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967.


Tagged as: paul mccartney
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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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Tuesday, Mar 15, 2011
In between stays at mental institutions for schizophrenia, Powell left behind a remarkable legacy. Sadly, he hasn’t received the same widespread admiration that his close friend Thelonious Monk secured. But to true fans of the jazz genre, Powell is revered.

Bud Powell was one of, if not the, greatest jazz pianists we’ve ever known. Most likely, you’ve never heard of him. The man they called ”the Charlie Parker of the piano” had his career damaged by many unfortunate events. The most disheartening were at the hands of the police. At age 20, a drunken Powell was brutally beaten by cops going far beyond the acceptable call of duty. Following the incident, Powell was institutionalized for several months.


Later in life, a marijuana bust was perhaps the last straw. According to his NPR’s Jazz Profiles: “In 1951, Powell was arrested with Thelonious Monk for drug possession. Charges against Bud were dropped, but he was sent to a psychiatric hospital for a year and a half. Finally, it all caught up to Powell and his life took a turn from which he would never fully recover”.


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