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Posts Tagged ‘Morrissey’

Moz featuring somewhat creepy child that isn't his.

Moz featuring somewhat creepy child that isn't his.

It took me a couple (nearly three) months to buy it, but I did, frankly because I’m in love with Morrissey.  Prior to Years of Refusal‘s I heard “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” and was rather unimpressed.  I’ve been under the impression that Morrissey’s guitarist/musical director, Boz Boorer, has been rather booring (sic for a cheap pun).

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly am of the persuasion that Moz’s previous album was actually better than most music in general (to the credit of both Moz and Boz), but held up against, say, Viva Hate and Vaxhaull and I (to name two very solid albums), Ringleader of the Tormentors is not especially great.  Something about Ringleader didn’t quite grab me in the way that even You Are the Quarry did (and did well).  But I eventually got over my fears and bought it.  Here’s what I discovered:

First the bad news: Years of Refusal (like Ringleader before it) has not [yet] captured me heart like the Morrissey tunes I am in love with.  Something about this album feels slightly soulless and overproduced, at least musically.

This next bit can be interpreted either way: the lyrics of this album are very strong, very aggressive, and even combative/pissy.  I personally enjoy when Morrissey is pompus (though I can’t say quite the same for Bono).

Now the good news: I’d consider the album to be rather dynamic.  Morrissey considers this work his strongest, and I would somewhat agree with that as far as sheer vocal dynamics go.  Morrissey demonstrates on this album, perhaps better than any of his recent efforts, that he is an excellent vocalist; clear, pitch-perfect, and versatile.  The backing music is mediocre though (unfortunately, something I’ve come to expect from Boz), with several strong points, but leaves you begging for a Smiths reunion.  *Also, there are coyote howls in the middle of a song (maybe that will entice you to purchase and listen to find them).

If you’re a fan of Morrissey and you don’t think he’s abandoned everything he once stood for when he wrote You Are the Quarry, (we’ll ignore Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted), you might enjoy this album.

CAI contributors and readers, your thoughts on Years of Refusal?

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I love band biographies. My interest in a band generally starts with an album purchase, usually whatever album is recommended to me as the best starting place for that band. If I really dig the album, I’ll research a little further and buy one to two more albums. If my interest with the band is still not fully indulged, I go completest- buying up every album and single and ep I can find. A handful of bands stir up my affections past this point even still, until there is only one means of fan devotion left at my disposal: the band biography. I present here a list of 10 band biographies that I have read, with thoughts on each, roughly in order of most to least recommended.

1) Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad
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This one is actually a super biography covering 13 different bands in 13 chapters. Initially purchased to indulge my infatuation with Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and the Minute Men, it also served as a primer for bands that I later came to love such as the Meat Puppets and Fugazi, as well as providing some fascinating reading on bands that I don’t think I’ll ever learn to love such as the Butthole Surfers, Big Black, and Beat Happening. Although the book reads as 13 short biographies, it also holds together as a loosely cohesive story of underground music in the 1980s. The writing is not great, and at times is actually a bit painful, but the content is worth the suffering.

2) Last Gang in Town: The Story and Myth of the Clash by Marcus Gray

As implied in the title, this biography is mostly uninterested in perpetuating mythical estimations of the Clash’s awesomeness, and instead seeks to tell their actual story, independent of legend. It’s comprehensive and massive and thoroughly satisfying to the devoted Clash enthusiast.

3) The Smiths – The Complete Story by Mick Middles

This was probably the first band biography I read (we’re talking high school here), and as such served as an introduction for me to the band subculture- something I was to learn much more about in my near, rocking future. Unlike the aforementioned Clash biography, this one doesn’t mind fanning the flames of Smiths worship, or at least it did nothing to slow my accelerating adulation of all things Smiths at the time. I don’t know if I could stomach this now.

4) Unforgettable Fire : The Story of U2 by Eamon Dunphy

Essential reading for U2 fans, especially those like myself who consider the early years to be U2’s best and who might find themselves riveted by details of the Boy and October albums- details, in other words, that 95% of modern U2 fans would have no interest in.

5) U2: At the End of the World by Bill Flanagan

A de facto sequel to the aforementioned Unforgettable Fire, Bill Flanagan picks up where Eamon Dunphy left off, and delves into personal dynamics within the band that provide intriguing insight into the direction of post-Joshua Tree U2. This one was slightly less rewarding for me since my love for U2 wanes with the albums covered here, but Flanagan’s writing makes up the difference.

6) Behind the Scenes on the Pegasus Carousel with the Legendary Rock Group Love by Michael Stuart-Ware

Love’s story as told by it’s second drummer, Michael Stuart-Ware, will mostly only interest dedicated Love fans, but Love’s story does occasionally overlap with broader narratives, such as the story of drugs in music, the story of racial integration in rock, and the rise and fall of the Doors. But for those seeking the intimate details of Love’s story, like myself, this is the best and only (as far as I know) place to turn, which is sort of too bad. It’s not that the book is uninspired, just a little under whelming. For one, Stuart-Ware didn’t join the band until the second album, so question marks about the earliest days of the band remain. Plus, Stuart-Ware’s role as the drummer, and a replacement drummer at that, narrows his scope of Love’s story quite a bit- I would love to read the Love biography as written by Arthur Lee, or better yet Bryan MacLean (both of whom have died, so that’s not going to happen). Still, if you love Love, then this is a solid, if breezy read.

7) Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance by Johnny Rogan
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I don’t really remember this one that well, but I remember thinking it was probably a bit of an unnecessary expenditure of time on my part. I realized in reading this that my thirst for Smiths knowledge could in fact be satiated.

8) Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin Uncensored by Richard Cole

This book was written by Led Zep’s tour manager, and it was obvious to me from the start that he had a two-part agenda in writing the book: 1) make lots of money by exposing the most stomach-turning, depraved aspects of Zeppelin’s story and 2) get his own name included in Led Zeppelin’s story as much as possible. I read an interview with Jimmy Page some time after reading this book where he basically said that everything in the book is untrue. All the same, it kept me reading.

9) No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green by David Hazard, Melody Green

I don’t know if this one should count or not, because my decision to read this book was in no way born from a love of Kieth Green’s music (which is not to say that I hate his music, just that it does not inspire me to pursue further, as described in the first paragraph). I read this because someone told me it was inspiring and a great story, and he was basically right. I was surprised to find out though how musically relevant K.G. was in his time- at one point in the book, it described how a recently converted Bob Dylan was in the studio while K.G. was recording and said something to the effect of ‘yeah, that’s the sound I want to start going for.’ It’s humorous to think about, but it actually makes sense when you listen to Dylan’s music from that time.

10) Eight Miles High: Folk-Rock’s Flight from Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock by Richie Unterberger

I bought this book because I wanted to read a biography about the Byrds, and this was the closest thing I could find. Turns out, for every page about the Byrds, you’ve got to read 5 others about the Mamas and Papas or Jefferson Airplane or Buffalo Springfield. That wouldn’t be so bad (I like all of those bands to various degrees) but the aim of the book is way too academic and technical, focusing on the subtle distinctions of folk, country, folk-rock, country-rock, folk-country, etc. I lost interest less than half way through.

Other bands/artists that I would most like to read biographies on at the moment:
The Kinks
James Brown
Black Sabbath
Wire

What band biographies have you all read? Which do you recommend?

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What better place to wander than the real world?  I’ve decided to spend the next Weekly Wandering outside of cyberspace, in Los Angeles County.

People seem very polarized by Los Angeles.  Morrissey declares that “we look to Los Angeles for the language we use, London is dead.”  Ben Gibbard inquires, “Is this the city of angels or demons?”  I once told someone that I love Los Angeles and, visibly bothered, they asked, “Have you ever been anywhere else?”  That’s a bit harsh, and to readers who might be asking the same question, yes, I have been several other places.  It is a passion of mine to explore.  I have a keen sense of direction and memory for locations, and I am most fond of Los Angeles and its surrounding cities.  It’s true that I’ve spent more time in Los Angeles than any other city and there are various reasons outside of the objective value of Los Angeles that influence my passion for the city.  But I’m convinced that there are plenty of positive and negative things to go around in any metropolitan area.  I don’t particularly like the weather in Los Angeles (I’m more of a North Atlantic or Pacific Northwest type of man), but I am bewitched by the city and I feel called to serve in and explore Los Angeles for the rest of my life, so deal with it naysayers.  Maybe I’ll post something more in depth regarding Los Angeles and culture, but for now I offer locational wanderings to readers.

In light of my constant state of near-poverty, or at least my slight frugality, I am primarily going to include places that are free (aside from transportation), which is a truly great thing in both a thriving economy and a recession.  Maybe you’ve been to these places, maybe you’ve never heard of them, maybe you don’t live in Los Angeles County and you’re completely disinterested.  Either way, this place has a lot to offer residents and visitors alike.

This week I will mostly focus on some fun places within Griffith Park that I have explored over the past six years of being a licensed driver.

Griffith Park (4,210 acres) was a donation from Griffith J. Griffith (ridiculous name, ridiculous man) to the City of Los Angeles.  It offers a wide variety of activities, many of which are free:

  • The Mulholland Memorial Fountain – This beautiful fountain is located off of Los Feliz & Riverside.  The fountian (like Mulholland Drive) is named after William Mulholland was an Irish immigrant who worked as an prominent civil engineer and is responsible in part for the rapid growth of Los Angeles at the beginning of last century (thanks to several projects he undertook while working at/heading up the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power).  It’s easy to get to and is a nice place to enjoy hot tea (or coffee if you prefer), a walk, and/or a smoke.
  • Griffith Observatory – This place is a Los Angeles landmark and it showcases a beautiful building and a beautiful view of Hollywood/Los Angeles/South Bay/Palos Verdes/Long Beach/etc.  You might have seen it in a number of films including Rebel Without A Cause.  There are a number of interesting exhibits, a Tesla coil, several telescopes, and a free theater (now showing a short film about the observatory).  If you’re willing to spend a little money be sure to buy tickets to the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, currently presenting an enjoyable show, “Centered in the Universe” ($8 with a student ID and well worth it).
  • Bronson Caves – These manmade caves were originally built for transporting rock for a Union Rock Company quarry there, have been used in numerous films and are a fun little hike.  Just take Bronson (or Canyon Dr., which Bronson merges with) north of Hollywood Blvd. and then park where the road ends.  There is a service/fire road on the east side of the canyon, which is the beginning of the trail to the caves.  It is probably a ten or fifteen minute light hike.  Once you’re there you can also see a nice view of the “Hollywood” sign (which I would talk about hiking to, but it would be tresspassing and I would never do that…again…maybe…ever…).
  • Walk – Never underestimate the power of a nice walk.  I typically scoff at the prospect of walking (which is different than “hiking”).  Most of the time I’d rather ride a bicycle or run.  But when I do start to walk I find myself enjoying it greatly, especially with company.  It’s like watching “Home Improvement.”  I usually hate television, and “Home Improvement” never sounds especially attractive, but when I have watched an episode here or there I just can’t get enough of that Tim Allen.  Griffith Park offers a lot of beautiful scenery and much of that is enjoyed to a far greater degree while strolling.  The best places to wander on foot are located on the north side of the park, off of the 5 freeway at any of the “Griffith Park” exits (Los Feliz, Griffith Park, Zoo Drive).

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Greg has done an excellent job of raking in this year’s best (at least in his highly-informed opinion) albums.  That’s great stuff (I’m only speaking generally because I actually have a more negative review for Coldplay’s Viva La Vida), but how much of it will we be listening to in two years?  Because music is in-and-out so frequently I’ve composed what I consider the best albums of 2008, though none of them were released this year.  Lend me your ear eye.

If you or I were to look at a list of our favorite albums from two years ago it would probably be different than the list we would make today.  I’m suspecting a lot of the albums that I considered my favorite from two years ago have lost ground in my personal rating and that is not to say that the latest albums have replaced them.  What I’ve found is that through recycling the music I listen to I sit with an album longer and it really grows on me.  For instance, I first heard Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 in 2001.  Since then this album has been climbing its way up my list and I considered it my favorite album of 2005 (even better than Come on Feel the Illinoise!, the quintessential indie-folk hit that year).  If Greg’s picks were subjective, mine will likely be hyper-subjective.  This whole thing also has to do with the fact that the music I listen to usually gets to my ears one of three ways: by way of NPR/KCRW, by way of associated acts (i.e. I heard of Sufjan Stevens because he once played in Danielson, an earlier favorite of mine), or by way of a highly sophisticated (and elitist) filtration system consisting largely of Greg Stump.

With all of that said, I must also add that I have not purchased much new music from this year.  In fact, as I look at my computer the only albums I see in my iTunes library from 2008 are Ratatat’s LP3, Danielson’s Danielson Alive EP (free online), and Danielson’s Trying Hartz.  I’m not against new music, but I suppose that after sampling I wasn’t compelled to buy many new full albums this year.  That is not to say that I’ve not grown in my musical breadth: according to my “date added” information in my iTunes library I’ve added more than forty albums to my iTunes this year (and it’s not over), thus I’ve purchased more than forty albums this year (buying used music on Amazon is incredible).  So out of the albums that I’ve purchased this year here are my top ten.

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