sâmbătă, 22 ianuarie 2011

a new one by ben harper

ben harper has a new disc, lifeline, due out in august. here's a sneak peek:

ben harper & the innocent criminals - in the colors

anyone's guess used to be a huge devotee of mr. harper, starting back when a school mate introduced me to 1995's fight for your mind and hitting fever pitch after jamie and i saw him open for pearl jam in 1998. (he's excellent live, by the bye, and i imagine there'll be a tour forthcoming behind the new album; some limited dates posted here.) the man has always written some fine, sad songs:

ben harper - walk away (acoustic)
ben harper - beloved one (acoustic)

this next one, a cover of a patty griffin song, comes from his performance at a ralph nader rally back in 2000 (such a long time ago; it's not the years, it's the mileage):

ben harper - mother mary (live)

and finally here's the title track, with a bit more soulspine than those lovely acoustic ballads above, from harper's 2006 album, the well-received both sides of the gun:

ben harper - both sides of the gun

my body is a cage :: arcade fire magique

carl and i went the arcade fire show, their last of this tour behind neon bible, at the greek theatre in berkeley last night. phenomenal show, possibly the best live musical performance anyone's guess has ever seen.

perhaps some of you are feeling a bit of arcade fire fatigue; after all, everyone - david bowie! - loves this band and hesitates not to spread the gospel. and anyone's guess can understand the need to come to a band on your own terms. that feeling of discovery.

but there's still be plenty to discover: the energy and enthusiasm and complete lack of pretense are winning; the sound gives away nothing to the studio versions and may in fact be richer, denser in person; the stage effects, including a life-size replica of win butler, the band leader, brought out specifically for "my body is a cage", and onto which video of his face during the performance was projected, are geeky cool but unobtrusive.

perhaps most importantly, it is simply exhilarating, moving & plain fun to stand in the dark with 1500 or so of your closest strangers singing, exclaiming "ooohhh ooohhhhhhh ohh" and "whooo hooo hoo ohhh oh" and all kinds of primal melodies. much of arcade fire's work, particularly on neon bible, seems concerned with the disconnect and terror of modern age: imminent bombs and wars and spiritual & moral bankruptcy, too much privacy and no privacy at all. their unfettered live shows are a way then, if only temporarily, to salve these fears, for band and audience both. a joyful, communal, near transformative experience, with band members swapping instruments, racing around the stage, climbing the stage rigging, using any and everything handy as percussive tool (the way a young child will happily bang on whatever's nearby), and exhorting the audience to participate. even if you hadn't liked the music beforehand, there's a purity to the experience of watching them play it live that, in the opinion of anyone's guess, is all too rare.

what i mean is, if you have the chance, go see them.

carl and i agreed that "my body is a cage", which kicked off the encore, may have been the highlight of the show last night. win is probably the band member most physically restrained on stage, of which the life-size replica, the metaphorical made literal, a fixed point amidst the dervish, was a touching reminder. and who hasn't, at some point, felt let down by their very physicality? or loved someone to whom you could never get quite close enough?

arcade fire - my body is a cage

a couple of my other favorites from last night:

arcade fire - no cars go
arcade fire - headlights like diamonds

and here's a taste of what the band is like live. the first song is from the morning becomes eclectic show on kcrw and the second from a show at first avenue in n.y.

arcade fire - intervention (live at kcrw)
arcade fire - wake up (live at first ave)

finally, go check out their take away show at blogotheque for a performance of "neon bible" in an elevator and a stunning, unplugged rendition of "wake up" in the aisles of the auditorium just before they took the stage.

la de da

pete townshend, of the who, himself a legendary guitarist, once credited the late, legendary link wray with inspiring him to play. if that were all he'd done we would owe mr. wray our gratitude. anyone's guess has only begun to explore the man's catalogue, starting with one of his later albums, 1971's link wray, off of which comes the track below, but from this admittedly small sample it appears safe to say townshend, in calling attention wray's music and career, did us all an equal service.

link wray - la de da

this track feels very much like a seventies rock jam. laid-back seventies rock meets the beatles or maybe joe cocker doing the beatles, what with link's grounded out voice (he was singing those days, i believe, with just one lung - which the doctors in the family have assured is both possible and quite difficult; tuberculosis blows) and those wonderful falsettos joining in on the chorus. whichever the more apt, it's a delicious mixture.

happy weekend gang. la de da.

the '90s in seattle

a late-night face-melting music trivia jamboree broke out last night and '90s rock decisively established itself as the crowd favorite. so now seems, as jamie wrote in yesterday's comments section, as good a time as any for anyone's guess to formally appreciate an early seminal moment in the development of its musical sensibilities.

seattle in the 1990s (an era a.g. refuses to label or further acknowledge as being labeled by others as grunge) has gotten its fair share of press. some might even say that particular moment in rock history is criminally overexposed. fair play. anyone's guess won't go into an analysis of the scene; what's important, then and now, is the music. which starts, for me anyway, with pearl jam. but hang on, let's back up a tick.

mother love bone - cloe/crown of thorns

this epic, highly recommended track comes off of the debut ep, shine, by mother love bone, one of the frontrunners of the seattle movement. band leader andy wood overdosed on heroin in 1990 and in his memory stone gossard and jeff ament, members of mother love bone and future catalysts of pearl jam, joined up with soundgarden to form one-off temple of the dog.

temple of the dog - hungerstrike

ten, the debut album by pearl jam, was the first compact disc anyone's guess bought. obsession followed quickly thereafter. the album holds up remarkably well, over fifteen years later, and is all but guaranteed a spot on a.g.'s eternal top five list.

pearl jam - sonic reducer (live in atlanta 1994)
pearl jam - garden (alternate arrangement)
pearl jam - state of love & trust

"sonic reducer" is one of jamie's favorites by pj and i can remember him staying up to record - and by record of course i mean dub onto cassette - that whole fabulous atlanta concert,* which was broadcast in entirety over the radio. those were the days, eh, when listening to broadcast radio could be considered an event and teenage boys would stay up into the wee of the night to hear their favorite band play live. hard to imagine such a moment happening today.

"state of love & trust" is off of the soundtrack to cameron crowe's serenade to 1990s seattle singles, which featured cameo roles from some of the pearl jam guys and chris cornell of soundgarden.

chris cornell - spoonman (live)
chris cornell - outshined (live)
chris cornell - burden in my hand (live)

& check out this song (an underappreciated and solid hit) by mad season, a side project of pearl jam guitarist mike mccready, a few members of screaming trees, and the late alice in chains frontman layne staley:

mad season - river of deceit
alice in chains - rooster (acoustic)

but hold on, you're saying, how can you have a post about seattle and the 90s and not even once mention nirvana? not terribly difficult for me, actually, though if you're going whine about it, here you go:

nirvana - smells like teen spirit (live in amsterdam 1991)

* copies of that atlanta show has been making the rounds on the trading circuit for years. if anyone's interested, leave a comment or email anyone's guess and we'll let pando do the heavy lifting for us.