Saturday, 30 March 2019

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2019

A bunch of people got inducted into the Hall of Fame last night, including one of this blog's favourite bands, Radiohead. I don't personally care all that much about the RRHOF or awards show at all for that matter, but I love hearing musicians talk about the other bands and sounds that inspired them. Trent Reznor's induction speech for The Cure is a great example of just that. Read more below (original article link here):
"I grew up in a small town — small town USA. Mercer, Pennsylvania, to be precise, where there was nothing to look at but cornfields. It was a primitive time long before the miracle of the internet arrived to devalue our wonderful art form. Even pre-MTV. There was nothing to listen to on the radio. Nothing to do but dream and escape. 
When I left home it was time for the big city. In my case, the big city of Cleveland. It was the mid-Eighties, and just being able to tune into college radio made my head explode with limitless possibilities. This was my baptism into the world of alternative and underground music. And one of the most important aspects of being swept away by this tidal wave of new music was getting to hear the Cure for the first time. 
Immediately this band struck a chord. The first album I heard was The Head on the Door. I hadn’t heard anything like it before. I felt a lot of the darkness that I felt in my head coming back at me through the speakers, and it blew my mind. It was like this music was written just for me. I struggled my whole life feeling that I don’t fit in or belong anywhere — kind of like right now. Hearing this, suddenly I felt connected, no longer quite so alone. 
That’s one of the things I find so unique and special about the power of music. It wasn’t just the sound, the words, the presentation, all of it was anchored by the most exquisite of instruments, Robert Smith’s voice. That voice had such range of emotion — from rage, and sorrow and despair to beauty, frailty and joy. It might sound na├»ve, but until I heard The Head on the Door, I didn’t realize that it’s possible to have such difficult and profound ideas in the context of accessible songs that might even get played on the radio, challenging norms on the inside. I listened to that record until I wore the grooves clean off the vinyl, then I worked my way backwards. There was a rich and important back catalog waiting for me. 
The group that would go on to form the Cure formed in 1976 in the suburban English backwater of Crawley, a small town that the members also dreamt of escaping from. They were energized by the explosion of punk that was happening miles up the road in London and the heavy psychedelic rock from America which they grew up loving. After a few lineup changes and the creation of some timeless post-punk and New Wave, the band entered 1980 as one of the groups who would come to define the music, the attitude, the look of the decade to come. 
… Just as everyone else was getting ready to jump on the new sound that the Cure helped usher into the world, they were already moving to new pastures. Robert Smith was keen to show the world he could do so much more than monochromatic. He recorded a series of songs that became huge hits across the globe and are rightly still seen as classics today. … The 13 albums they recorded over their 40 year career stand as a testament to their undiminished power and artistic imagination. 
Despite making challenging music that deals with the biggest themes, their impact has been gigantic. They’ve sold the best part of who gives a shit how many million records and been an essential touchstone in the genres of post-punk, New Wave, goth, alternative, shoegaze and post-rock. They’ve been in and out of fashion so many times in the last four decades that they ended up transcending fashion itself. Though they might be a hip name to drop in 2019, this wasn’t always the case. Their dedication to pushing sonic and artistic boundaries while making music for the ages wasn’t always rewarded with glowing reviews in the press. But they never failed to attract a passionate, intelligent and loyal fanbase who always knew the truth: The Cure are one of the most unique, most brilliant, most heartbreakingly excellent rock bands the world has ever known. 
… Quite understandably, most musicians tend to differ from their carefully cultivated personas to one degree or another. As far as I can tell, Robert Smith is that rarest of things: A 100 percent authentically Robert Smith kind of person who lives a 100 percent authentically Robert Smith kind of life. He used that to create a completely self-contained world. It’s a sound, it’s a look, it’s a vibe, it’s an aesthetic that the fans get to visit and immerse themselves in whenever they like. It’s a custom world for anyone who has ever dreamed of escape. 
I should make a full disclosure at this point. I think it’s only right for me to admit that I’ve been, let’s say, ambivalent about the existence of certain award ceremonies. I’ve perhaps been in the habit of questioning their motivations with a certain degree of cynicism. In fact, I remember distinctly saying to myself, among other things, how can I even take this awards ceremony seriously if they’ll open their doors to X, Y and Z and not acknowledge the Cure? Not so long ago I get a phone call I wasn’t expecting, and, well, here we are. Let’s just say I’ve never been as happy to eat my words as I was tonight."

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Late Review, 1994 Edition: March

It wasn't until 1992 and the 'Broken' EP that I discovered Nine Inch Nails. At a time in which I was beginning my own journey into individuality, questioning the very nature of all of existence and my place within it as only a teenager can, I stumbled upon a collection of songs that were unabashedly angry, fully suggesting that perhaps all of it was bullshit - society, religion, established structures, all of it was suspect and all of it was pulverized with a ferocity that I had never before experienced. Thus, two years later when the band's masterwork 'The Downward Spiral' was released, I wasn't just willing to listen, I was willing to immerse and succumb...

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

March Album Review: Karen O & Danger Mouse, 'Lux Prima'

One half producer-extraordinaire, the other half vocal enigma, Lux Prima is the brainchild of Danger Mouse and Karen O, both of whom have built themselves a reputation centred around a specific approach, sound, and image. The pairing then was always going to be one that drew interest. Unfortunately, beyond that interest as to what the duo might achieve together, there is not much else to hold the attention...

Friday, 8 March 2019

March Album Review: Foals, 'Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1'

Foals, like their Oxfordshire brethren Radiohead, are not just unafraid of reinvention but actively and consistently embrace it. They are fiercely unapologetic about their desire to make music inspired by their passions and have again made an album that is as relevant to the times within which it was recorded as it is authentically their own. 

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

March Album Review: Hozier, 'Wasteland Baby!'

You don't start an album with a protest song that name-drops a who's-who of legendary musicians and features the vocals of Mavis Staples by accident. No, "Nina Cried Power" is as much a fiery protest anthem (complete with gospel accompaniment) as it is a signal of intent from Wicklow-born vocal powerhouse Hozier in terms of both the direction of his sophomore release and its intended audience. 

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Late Review, 1994 Edition: January & February

Hello faithful readers!  I’ve missed you! 

I’m sorry for my long absence from the blog but I can see that Br and Raine have done well to keep it running while I was gone.  The truth is that I’ve been struggling to make time to listen to new music, let alone write about it.  It’s not that I don’t have the time for it.  I just don’t make the time for it.  I keep finding myself turning away from it and curling up under my old blanket of nostalgia.  I love old rock, old grunge and old alternative.  I like new music, and I even love some new music, but old music is my safe-zone right now.  It’s what my family listens to at home and in the car, and what my son and I crank up to “daddy loud” when mom’s not home. 
With that in mind, I want to write about one of my favourite years, 1994.  Br and I already came to the consensus that it was best year of the 90’s for music and maybe for film as well.  The goal here is to pop in every month or so and recap some of the releases that have or are about to turn 25 years old.