The internal debate: quality of art vs. quality of composition vs. quality of innovation vs. quality of entertainment vs. quality of musicianship.
Also versus approximately eighteen other categories.
It’s interesting how we perceive music and judge which qualities are most important to us. For the average listener, one just throws on some tunes and makes a value judgment. For a critic, each factor must be weighed and factored as balanced as possible. What results might not necessarily be the critic’s personal taste, but an evaluation. The difference is between the casual listener who hates Bob Dylan because of his grating voice, while a critic may not like it either, one has to look at the entirety of the work and recognize its value.
I’ve strived to be an objective critic whenever possible. With that in mind, sometimes it’s painful for me to give something a low score when I actually really enjoy it. It’s obvious to most simply from the albums I choose to review that I’m more geared toward metal and all things dark and evil, with a preference for complex work.
This is why I want to talk for a moment about the new Tool album.
This disc should have been my bread and butter. Complex arrangements, check. Dark and evil, check. But even the non-critic in me stands up and says, “sure, but I already got all of the above with Aenima — and done much better than on 10,000 Days.
I absolutely can’t stand to hear artists become stagnant. Yeah, I love the first two Madonna albums as much as the next fangirl, but had she never stepped away from that initial look and persona, she would have never had the staying power that she’s had. Same for Michael Jackson, although he let eventually his personal life get in the way of his creativity. Aerosmith has done it, but needs another overhaul to regain their momentum. Bon Jovi finally figured this out after years of trying to recapture “Living On a Prayer” without any clue that the public didn’t want the same damned song eight years later.
And so, with Tool, it’s not even so much that I dislike 10,000 Days. Aside from its biggest downside — its droning monotony — it’s disappointing to have heard the things Maynard did on early Tool albums (the changes between Opiate, Undertow, and Aenima were enormous) and then have him release an album that shows absolutely no forward growth or change whatsoever. He’s capable of innovation but chooses not to go that direction. And so, it’s all I can predict that one more album like this and Tool will have a very difficult time coming back to the mainstream ever again, if ever at all.
But this doesn’t mean that Tool doesn’t have a high art factor. It’s that, coupled with the general mood and the musicianship involved that appeals to their audience. Those who are very art- and skill-inclined tend to latch onto things they find beautiful and never want to see it die; it’s a trend that explains a lot of prog-rock followings as well as those of avant-garde and experimentalists. And these people who prize those who they’ve found embody their aesthetic ideals will defend them to the death. It’s admirable, really, but loses focus of the reasons why they initially latched onto these musicians in the first place.
And so, piles upon piles of wonderful art soundscape is appreciated by those who are looking for an embodiment of more than just aural pleasure. When a critic points out its flaws when compared to the entirety of music history and quality, it’s typically going to fall short. It’s not a reason to become bitter or vicious; it’s simply a different comparison, comparing elaborate chocolate/nut/caramel apples to regular apples, as it were. Many times, all of that decor is draped over a flavorless ball, but some people could care less about the juicy center so long as the presentation looks flawless on their plate.
Alice In Musicland
From the AP:
LONDON – Police arrested rap star DMX after he refused to put on a seat belt and became abusive on a flight from New York to London, authorities said Monday.
The rapper, whose real name is Earl Simmons, received a caution and was released after his American Airlines flight landed at Heathrow Airport on Saturday, police said on condition of anonymity in line with departmental policy.
A caution means a person has accepted responsibility for the offense, and a record will be made.
The artist has had brushes with the authorities in the past.
He completed a 70-day sentence late last year at New York’s Rikers Island after pleading guilty to violating his parole following a 2004 incident in which he crashed his vehicle through an airport security gate.
You know, if it wasn’t for rappers, the music portions of entertainment sections would be such a snorefest.
DMX! You dipshit! I’m sorry, but the one thing in this entire country that anyone should know is DO NOT FUCK AROUND ON AN AIRPLANE. Never mind that he’s already served time for screwing with airports. There’s this wee little thing that happened in the United States about four and a half years ago, Earl. See, some other folks done fucked around on an airplane and flew them into some buildings. This tends to make airlines a smidgen paranoid about anyone acting in an unusual manner, so they don’t tolerate any of it just to be sure. Perhaps I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you weren’t aware of September 11, 2001, but others might not be so forgiving.
Although some people might just say that THE MAN is trying to keep you down by creating the entire 9/11 scenario for the sole purpose of dominating the country, but unless you’ve got a lot more at your disposal than just your big mouth, you probably can’t fight them alone. If this was your intent, I do applaud your efforts, but next time you should plan them a little better. Crying about your seat belt isn’t likely to overthrow the government.
(And thank you to DMX for the perfect segue to include a link to Loose Change. Seriously, if you have an hour and a half and some bandwidth to kill, watch it. It’s a bit over the top but definitely fascinating.)
More from the newswire:
LONDON – The longtime bass player for Bob Marley’s group The Wailers lost his lawsuit Monday seeking a share of the late reggae legend’s royalties.
Aston “Family Man” Barrett was seeking the equivalent of up to $115 million he claimed he was owed since Marley died in 1981 without making a will.
Justice Kim Lewison agreed with arguments by the Island-Universal record label and the Marley family that Barrett surrendered his rights to any further royalties from Wailer recordings in a 1994 settlement in exchange for $500,000.
Lewison made an order barring Barrett, 59, from taking any further action without the court’s permission. Barrett, who sued on behalf of himself and his late brother, Carlton, the band’s drummer, now faces a bill for legal costs estimated at nearly $3.8 million.
“We always felt that this would be the outcome and it was hard to listen to Aston Barrett reduce his friend Bob to someone who was more interested in playing football than making music,” the Marley family said in a statement issued after the judgment was announced.
The Barrett brothers recorded with Marley from 1969 until his death 12 years later. Aston Barrett co-wrote the song, “Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Roadblock),” and co-produced 11 albums with Marley.
Lewison said Aston Barrett had the “greatest difficulty” in answering questions about business dealings, and his testimony was not reliable.
“He was plainly close to Bob Marley himself, whom he trusted implicitly,” the judge said.
“At this remove of time, his recollection of events was hazy; and I also consider that, as often happens, he has reconstructed events in his mind according to how he would like them to have been.”
It’s only been said fourteen billion times in the history of music. Musicians are not businessmen, lawyers, financiers, or accountants. However, the majority of them in the beginning are pretty damned poor and can’t afford to consult experts such as these, or trust relatives/friends/siblings with credentials to do this job for them. Artists get fucked on a regular basis because of this, and it’s never going to change.
It’s sad that Family Man lost a lot of money which, to be pretty honest, he was likely entitled to. He signed away all of it for $500k. He probably didn’t even realize the scope of what he had done at the time. But you can’t argue ignorance in the eyes of the law.
What probably angers me the most about this whole ordeal is that it was a pretty open-and-shut case, yet some attorneys chose to represent Barrett anyway and bleed him so completely dry that he leaves his descendents absolutely nothing to show for his years as a musician. Any lawyer worth his salt would have advised him that this case was futile. Surely, this was not implicitly explained to the poor guy, he got his hopes up for nothing, and now he’s millions in debt. MILLIONS. Who wins? His lawyer!
Musicians, hear me now or apologize later for not paying attention: don’t sign dick without a reputable entertainment attorney’s advice. If you can’t afford it, then take out a loan. If you ever get to the point where fine print matters, your investment will pay for itself eight hundred times over.
This is one friggin’ huge blurb that I don’t feel like chopping down, from Reuters:
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Reclusive rocker W. Axl Rose was on his best behavior as the new-look Guns N’ Roses played its first concerts in more than three years over the weekend and dusted off a few songs from its long-delayed album.
His trademark shriek complemented by a trim goatee, the 44-year-old vocalist is the only holdout from the original lineup of the self-destructive band that ruled MTV and the pop charts in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
As Guns N’ Roses struggled to record its follow-up to the two “Use Your Illusion” albums from 1991, Rose took control of the band and either fired his bandmates or watched them leave in frustration. His efforts over the last decade to record the new album “Chinese Democracy” with a revolving cast of hired hands have become something of a music industry joke.
In his early days, Rose had a penchant for antagonizing pretty much everyone, but on Sunday he repeatedly thanked the sold-out 3,300-strong audience at the Hammerstein Ballroom for its support, and shook hands with fans.
Guns N’ Roses performed nine of the 12 songs from its 1987 debut album “Appetite for Destruction,”including “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Other crowd pleasers included “You Could Be Mine, “Live and Let Die,” and the ballads “November Rain” and “Patience.”
It was the second of four sold-out shows scheduled at Hammerstein. After Friday and Sunday, the band will play again Monday and Wednesday before a series of European festival appearances that will begin May 25 in Madrid and will include two dates opening for the Rolling Stones in Germany.
While the crowd came to hear the old hits, Guns N’ Roses also played several songs from “Chinese Democracy,” including “Madagascar” and “IRS.” Rose told a New York radio station last week that the album might come out this fall. During the show, he thanked the crowd for its patience.
“You can hold your breath a lot longer than David Blaine. I want to thank you for that,” he said, referring to the New York stuntman who last week failed in an attempt to break the world record for holding his breath underwater.
Rose is no longer the scrawny kid who ruled Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip in the 1980s, but he displayed a surprising amount of energy. He wore his braided long hair tied up in a pony tail, designer sunglasses, blue jeans and a leather shirt unbuttoned to reveal a crucifix hanging from a large necklace.
He dedicated the show both to his mother and to former Skid Row singer Sebastian Bach, whom he credited for finding a vocal coach and a throat doctor when Rose lost his voice after the Friday show. The two reunited after not talking to each other in 13 years.
“I was busy trying to save my life, he was busy trying to destroy his,” Rose said, before inviting Bach on stage to sing along on “My Michelle.”
Rose’s previous comeback fizzled in late 2002. After a triumphant performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden, he failed to show up for the following day’s show in Philadelphia. The crowd rioted and the promoters canceled the rest of the tour.
Despite rumors that Guns N’ Roses refugees, such as equally reclusive guitarist Izzy Stradlin, might appear at Hammerstein, none materialized. With one exception, the seven musicians backing Rose played with him in 2002.
They were keyboardist Dizzy Reed (who has been with Guns N’ Roses since the “Use Your Illusion” days), guitarist Robin Finck (formerly of Nine Inch Nails), drummer Brian “Brain” Mantia (formerly of Primus), guitarist Richard Fortus from the Psychedelic Furs, keyboard player Chris Pittman, and bassist Tommy Stinson from the Replacements.
The new addition was Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, an obscure New York City musician hired last week to replace enigmatic guitar wizard Buckethead. Occasionally, Bumblefoot played an unconventional guitar modeled to look like a hybrid between a bee and a foot, complete with retractable wings.
I’ve had a lot to say about Axl Rose; rather than repeat myself, let me just say that the world really is crossing its fingers and toes hoping that Axl doesn’t screw this up. Nobody was shocked when he flubbed the 2002 tour, and nobody will be shocked if he flubs this one, too. At this point, Axl should be aware that much of his audience is watching because they have Train Wreck Syndrome and it’s going to take quite a bit to dispel his notoriety. Yet, people want to see him prevail. Should this outing take a disastrous turn, this sentiment has potential to be obliterated.
When Reuters is sending an article to the wire that includes the statement “music industry joke,” you should be doubly conscious that the world expects you to fail. What’s so ridiculous is that Axl definitely has the ability to not fail, yet he keeps throwing himself down a tube slide of self-destruction. He has nobody else to blame. One way or another, he’s going to give the people what they want: a new album or a new joke.
Your Band Here
Is your band the next Guns ‘n’ Roses? It could be! And yes, I mean that both in brilliance factor and head-thunking-into-a-wall factor. But do you really think your friends are going to give you an objective viewpoint? That’s where I come in. Add me to your friends list on MySpace or shoot me an email and I’ll put you up for scrutiny.
For those wondering, “who gives a shit what some silly girl on the silly Internet thinks of my band?” I’ve heard extensive positive feedback from bands even when I’ve trashed them. I’ve also been told that my advice has matched that given to bands by major label A&R reps. So, love me or hate me, at least I’m not bullshitting you.
Here’s a few for this week! The theme is “different.”
Okay, so you’ve got a Doctor Who photo in place of an album cover, you’re prog, and you’re local: it’s almost like bribery. Watera describes themselves as progressive/experimental rock. Easiest comparison is Tool attacking Rush head-on. The musicianship to pull it off is there, too.
Positives: Check out the drum work on “Mended Seams.” Very, very nice. Some very interesting song structures in general, but mostly not so progged-up that it’s screwing itself in the ass. It’s unique — meaning, it doesn’t have that generic “prog rock” sound — without being inaccessible to non-muso types.
Negatives: Hell if I can really come up with any. Non self-fellating prog is hard to come by these days, as well as non-Dungeons & Dragons prog. Yeah, guys… time to start courting InsideOut and its ilk.
Eleven Dollar Life:
Based in Chicago, there’s a unique sound out of these Eleven Dollar Life cats. We’re all familiar with funk, but to seamlessly morph it into alternative rock? Being unique is a championed thing, and while they’re not so different from the current scene, they’ve got a schtick.
Positives: Quality musicianship is always huge when we’re talking about any sort of label prospect, and these guys are solid. As previously mentioned, they don’t have a cookie-cutter sound whatsoever but aren’t off the map with weirdness to say the least. So very, very refreshing.
Negatives: The songwriting isn’t quite all there. How anything with a funky riff gets boring I don’t understand, but “Wait” definitely has a tendency towards sleepytime. It’s one thing to be laid back, but it’s another to be comatose. A little enthusiasm never hurt anyone.
Memphis metal! There’s more of that around than the average stereotype-informed person would realize. For lack of a better classification, Sacrum is chaotic metal. Just crazy shit all over the place, half yelling/half growling vocals, total disregard for traditional song structure, and more attitude than most bands could ever convey without seeing them right in front of you.
Positives: Sacrum will not be accused of copying anyone anytime soon. Their influences listed are all over the map but I can pick out bits and pieces of nearly all of them. “The Haunting” is the most “normal” (and pleasant) of the songs they have posted, and that’s really pushing it, as there’s more bass in that damned thing than I have ever heard my subwoofer rattle at the low volume I’m using.
Negatives: Sacrum is one of those metal bands that you either love or despise. I can just imagine metal forums arguing back and forth whether they suck or rule. If they would put more effort into structure, they would have a better chance of winning over A&R. You can be crazy and chaotic without sounding like someone stuck a blender into your song. Dig?
Goodness, has this ever been vocal column. Not that I’ve ever been short an opinion or fifteen, but every day I think I sound a little more like a grumpy old man sitting in a rocker on his porch with a shotgun in his hand.
But I know I’m not the only one who has a bone to pick out there with some aspect of the music industry, some band, some fans, some trend. For those who have emailed me before, you know how much I welcome a healthy discussion about damn near anything music-related. Ramble at me as you please. One of these days I’ll gather up the best of my inbox and share with the entire world that I’m not the only crankypants in the audience.
Oh yeah, and my birthday is Thursday. Screw Amazon wish lists; emails chock full of music debate for my birthday would be super mega awesome. Not that I don’t like presents, don’t get me wrong. I’m just playing it a bit more low-key as I inch closer to 30. Gah.
Also, I like “Steady As She Goes” by the Raconteurs.
Also also, I am still bitter and irritated with Metallica for sucking and turning into a bunch of pussies. Nothing prompted this statement just now. It’s a general kind of anger. Oh if only there was a saint to stand by me when I get all riled up…
Alright. Enough out of me.
The flood hits me in the eye and wakes me,