Rock

A three-day music festival like Outside Lands is hectic and exhausting no matter how you approach it. So, I try to pare down the wish list, not rush from stage to stage to see every single band I’m interested in, and let the festival vibe take care of whatever other decisions need to be made. Recapping the experience without running over the itinerary isn’t much easier. But paying attention to what isn’t on stage is a start. (More…)

Rooms are very useful. Especially if you’re not into being outside. Sometimes a room is like a bowl, in which flour, eggs and sugar become a tasty cake. The room I have in mind is located in Landau in der Pfalz, a small town in the southern Rhineland Palatinate, best known for its wine and climate as the Tuscany of Germany. (More…)

This is a piece I recently rediscovered while transferring audio from old DAT tapes. It first developed as a guitar practice exercise in 1988. I was rehearsing non-standard time signatures, while listening to 4/4 rock beats. What evolved was a little figure in 7/8 that sounded similar to a tune by one of my favorite groups, Massacre (Fred Frith, Bill Laswell, Fred Maher.) This riff may have developed while trying to learn how to play Massacre’s Killing Time. What emerged from this exercise was a Massacre pastiche. (More…)

As I was finishing a Hawaiian plate lunch with my daughter and her mother in Encinitas, they announced that they were going to do some “girl” shopping on the main drag. I said I’d come along. But then I was overcome by a familiar urge. (More…)

Punk bands never die. They just turn into H&M t-shirts. Or, in the case of the field recording below, supermarket sound system fixtures in southern European immigrant neighborhoods. If Joe Strummer were still alive, he’d delight in the specificity of the product placement. (More…)

Fifty years into his career, Bob Dylan is still making waves. Sometimes, just by showing up. Such is the case with his upcoming concert in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv, on June 20th. Cultural boycott, anyone? As always, Dylan is doing what he wants to, regardless of public opinion. (More…)

“Lippy Kids”, the strongest track on Elbow’s latest album Build a Rocket Boys!, takes a while to build up momentum and even longer to ease to a close. Over the sparest possible piano figure, a single note played over and over, simultaneously insistent and muted, a series of tasteful accents is gradually added and then subtracted. Only the carefully spaced intrusion of Guy Garvey’s evocative voice imparts the weight of a full-fledged song. Even then, the music sounds like it’s about to evaporate, making the six-minute running time something of a miracle. (More…)

“In My Time”, one of the sunnier numbers on Kurt Vile’s new album Smoke Ring For My Halo, begins with a curious couplet: “In my day I was young and crazy/Sure I didn’t know shit, but now I’m lazy.” While such introspection made sense for musicians who had been through the madness of the late 1960s and were keen to follow Voltaire’s advice and tend their own garden to recuperate, it sounds strange coming from someone like Vile. (More…)

While it’s possible to listen to Violet Cries without thinking about history, the forcefulness with which Esben and the Witch invoke musical forebears makes the exercise a little perverse. Not to mention that, unlike many artists who are assigned to the mental bin labeled “Goth,” the band doesn’t shy away from the burden of association. Asked in an interview to discuss the term’s abuse, they declared “that Gothic should be revered in its greatest forms” suggesting that, while this sensibility “lends itself to a sense of the dramatic and the ostentatious,” it need not be an object of derision. (More…)