Tag Archives: noise rock

Love At First Listen

smashing pumpkins

Happy Monday, kids, and welcome to a new column that we hope to post on a regular basis, entitled ‘Love At First Listen’.

There are some songs that grow on you. The first time you hear them you may not be completely blown away, but upon further listening you end up appreciating the nuances that, with any song, reveal themselves over time (an example of this for me is U2’s ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’). With others there may be an initial strong attraction, deepening gradually into love (most of my favorite songs fall into this category). Then there is the type of song that you fall for, head over heels, the moment that you first hear it. Love at first listen.

Probably the first time this ever happened to me was the fall of 1993. My friend Chris lent me his copy of The Smashing Pumpkins’ new record Siamese Dream (released in July of that year, but we were living in Singapore at the time and everything came out there a bit later). I remember, vividly, lying on my bedroom floor and pressing play. I liked the first two tracks, but as soon as song #3 started, after literally the very first bar, I thought to myself “This is it. I am in love”. And I was right. As the song progressed, it just kept getting better and better, and I listened along dreamily, stars in my eyes. I was a total goner. I must have played that song 20 more times that day, and had it on repeat over the following months.

The fact that Billy Corgan wrote the song about a day in which he was having suicidal thoughts, with lyrics of depression and self-mutilation, did nothing to diminish my ardor – in fact, being sixteen at the time and suffering myself from the requisite dose of depressive thoughts that go along with being a teenager (though no self-mutilation or suicidal ideation, thankfully), it made me feel less alone to know that there were other people experiencing similar emotions.

As is the case with any true love, my romance with this song continues to this day. It is still as relevant to me ‘Today’ as it was the first time I heard it.

How about you? What song did you fall for the first time you heard it?

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The Beauty of One Line Songs

pixies

evan dando

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. This might be true, I don’t know. Since I am a writer – rather than, say, a photographer or a painter – I am obviously biased to disagree with this statement. I love words. I am fascinated by them. I studied them in school, and I think about them all the time. Words communicate so much, and, when employed skillfully, are truly breathtaking in their range and ability to convey meaning and expression.

And yet, they can sometimes fall short. So much of what happens in our lives isn’t even expressed in words, from the millions of thoughts we have each day to the extensive forms of non-verbal communication that we use to interact with one another. Often when I sit down to try and write something, I am overwhelmed and stymied by the sheer impossibility of conveying exactly what I want to say, as I see it in my head. Most of the time I feel like I am taking a stab in the dark, and if I manage to capture even some part of what I was striving for, I feel lucky. Obviously some of that can be chalked up to my skill level, rather than a lack on the part of the words themselves, but there are intrinsic limitations to language. How can one ever truly express what it feels like to experience the emotions of joy, grief, despair, or hope? Or describe the experience of falling in love, without sounding like a hopeless sap? Or talk about how a particular song at a particular moment can make you feel like everything is perfect, and why that is. Translating feelings into words is in some ways a loser’s game – you’ll never really be able to do it. But we keep trying – because it’s a challenge, and because it’s fun, and because ultimately we want to connect to something larger than ourselves.

As great as words are, though, sometimes brevity is amazing. Today, I would like to talk about a rarity in music – the One Line Song. There are only two that I can think of off the top of my head, and I appreciate both of them for what they manage to convey with only a limited use of words.

The first is the Pixies’ Stormy Weather. Here is the song:

One line, my friends. “It is time for stormy weather”. That’s it, that’s all. As with a lot of Pixies’ music, sound and feel are given more emphasis here than lyrics, but this is concise even for them. He wields the line in such varied ways, though, that it feels like he’s saying something different with each iteration. I think this is a perfect example of how sometimes tone matters way more than the actual words being used. They’re communicating different moods without changing what’s being said.

Song #2 is Evan Dando’s In the Grass All Wine Colored:

Again, only one line: “I’m in the grass all wine colored”. No further description provided, and yet you can totally see it, can’t you? Do you need any more words than these in order to picture the scene in your head? No, you do not.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. But sometimes one line is worth a thousand pictures.

Are there any other One Line Songs out there? Let me know if you know of any!


Pearl Jam Rocks the ACC on Ten’s 20th Anniversary Tour

pearl jam

Plaid shirt? Check.

Hate on for Ticketmaster? Check.

Yup, ready to see Pearl Jam.

It’s been 20 years since Ten was released and I was feeling a bit nostalgic, but I didn’t want the show to be a nostalgia trip. I just wanted to Rock Out in the here and now.

It was hard, though, not going back to the 90’s — angst, aggression and apathy. The whole concert for me was a mix of feeling very connected to that 90’s stuff (I am a Gen X’er) and very removed from it (I’m 43). It was easy feeling the rage in ‘Jeremy’ and ‘Corduroy,’ screaming along with everyone else. Damn it feels good to scream amongst thousands. And then they played ‘State of Love and Trust,’ which used to take me instantly to a violent and angry place, but I was now somehow removed from Vedder’s screaming and pleading and had difficulty connecting with his energy. Like I said I’m 43 — I only have so much angst and aggression…or maybe that just says a lot about me because the band had no lack of it. They were near the start of their tour in Toronto and they were fired up — Eddie was always close to his bottles of red wine.

Stone Gossard’s family was in the house and during an extended ‘Even Flow’ jam Gossard filled his solo with reckless aggression and emotion. It felt like he was pushing the guitar further than it could go — but it still went there. I kept thinking that if his guitar just split apart after the solo I wouldn’t be surprised, maybe even a little relieved. It was a great ride and the crowd responded with amped-up enthusiasm.

Eddie dedicated ‘Wishlist’ to Doug Gilmour and I thought to myself “nice one Dougie”. I smiled as I thought of Dougie rocking out to Pearl Jam and how fucking amazing he was in the ‘93 playoffs and how good it felt to believe in the Leafs.

Eddie talked about how NYC stood for Neil Young Country and the crowd went nuts — like I said, it’s so good to scream with thousands of people — especially in praise of Neil.

And that was the night for me: sometimes screaming, sometimes feeling far away from the 90’s and the way I felt then, and sometimes thinking about hockey. I will give the concert a 7, and the band a Ten.


“Ask not what your song can do for you – ask what you can do for your song”

Have you ever had a moment when you’re listing to a song and you wonder “what’s he saying? I can barely hear him,” and then you think “who cares, I love it”. If you have had this experience, you’ve probably been listening to an inside singer.

You’ll never catch one of these guys complaining to the studio engineer or sound guy that they can’t hear themselves in the mix. They lack the LSD (Lead Singer Disease) gene that initiates that sort of behavior.

Inside singing requires lots of mumbling, whispering, and sighing, and most importantly a desire to be a part of the song, but not the main part.

Inside singers serve the song, sometimes cresting above the music – but never for long – and then retreating back into the mix, finding their safe place amongst the din of guitars and rhythm section.

Seeing inside singers live can be problematic. Your first thought may be “I can’t hear him”. It’s confusing, as we are conditioned to pay attention the singer in a band. So now what do you do? You become disoriented…who do you watch? Solution: watch them all, or better yet close your eyes – that’s when inside singing starts to make sense.

Here are some classic inside singers…listen closely…

Michael Stipe

Michael Stipe

First and foremost is the king of mumbling, Mr. Indecipherable himself, Michael Stipe. The title of R.E.M.’s first album is “Murmur” and that is exactly what Stipe did throughout the record. You can catch word here or there, but for the most part his voice is hidden by chiming guitars or, more often, by his own intention. When you are able to discern a word or a verse it is satisfying, like finding a pearl in murky waters. It’s this very device that makes R.E.M.’s early albums so engaging — you feel his words without understanding them. Interestingly, though, on the band’s highest charting albums (Document, Green, Out Of Time and Automatic for the People) Stipe’s voice is way out front, articulate and audible.

Recommended listening: Murmur, Reckoning, Life’s Rich Pageant (R.E.M.)

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Happy Birthday Doolittle!

doolittle

Aw, you guys! Our little Doolittle is all grown up! It was released 22 years ago today, on April 18th, 1989. Thinfinn and I just so happened to see the band play the album in its entirety tonight at Massey Hall and let me tell you, it has aged beautifully. As Kim pointed out during the show, at 22 Doolittle could be in college by now! Perhaps it’s lounging around in its dorm room right now, listening to itself on college radio. I certainly hope so!

Our review of the Pixies show to follow soon… For now, Happy Birthday old friend!


My Head Was Feeling Scared But My Heart Was Feeling Free

 

BOOK REVIEW FOR: Fool The World: The Oral History Of A Band Called Pixies

Authors: Josh Frank & Caryn Ganz

fool the world

What’s the Story, Morning Glory: the history of late ’80s/early ’90s weird-rock outfit PIXIES

Who Are You: just a group of polite, hard-working kids from Boston

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy: I don’t really wanna make out with any of you, but I am in love with your music

Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About: inter-band tension, UFO’s

Paperback Writer: spoken word

add it up: the book’s an enjoyable read, the music is out of this world

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