Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I will have to revisit Rattle and Hum, based on Stuart's comments and Marc's continued promotion of its merits. I bought the album (okay, cassette...but it was the 80s and I did have high speed dubbing on my pitiful little home stereo) when it came out and I was 17 years old so perhaps, some 21 years on, and with different sensibilities, I may enjoy it a lot more now. Unfortunately, I no longer possess any equipment that can play cassettes. But I digress.

I'm really buying your GOTT (Go Over The Top) over JTS (Jump the Shark) thesis Marc. And I'm wondering if GOTT the key to a band's longevity? Is this just a fancy new phrase that equals plain old risk-taking?

Regardless, you're probably right in that, if U2 had simply re-released a Joshua-Tree-like followup in either 1988 or 1991, they would likely have been resigned to the dustbin of the 1980s or the casinos of the 21st century. I would argue that it was the second of the three albums you've identified--Achtung Baby--that was the represented the biggest shift and perhaps the most conscious shift towards both a different sound and a self-referential attitude to their role as a band and their place in the pop culture pantheon.

Released on November 19, 1991 (though the first single came out at least a month earlier), some two months after the seminal, arguably era-defining album by a certain band from Seattle, Achtung Baby was represented a big stylistic and musical shift for the band. While listening to previous records conjured up images of The Edge standing in a grassy field outside Dublin, wailing on his guitar and looking stoically in the distance, this album seemed to channel more of a futuristic urban dystopia, albeit with some brighter moments ("One", is far more hopeful than "The Fly"); in other words, a completely different atmosphere, albeit very different from the grunge sensibility that would soon envelop the pop scene. Perhaps it was the production. Or the newfound embrace of electronic elements. Regardless, this was a definite shift and very successful one for the band.

Agree, too, that most of their stuff from the past 10 years isn't very interesting. I liked "Vertigo" but everything else has generated little more than a yawn. Still, props given for a band that, 21 years plus on, doesn't evoke groans a la Jagger, Richards et al.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I must admit I have come around to liking Rattle & Hum , much more then I used to , ( Thanks to Marc 's persistence) I view it as a much more satisfying mid carreer regrouping , then say John Lennons Rock and Roll...I cant argue with the quality that came immediately after this for U2 as marc points out. Also, the idea of having studio and live tracks, is one I actually like, as it freshens the concept...The Last Waltz is another of the few examples of this, and both work.
Finally though I tend to be more an albums man, then a singles man, I have to admit to being completely captivated by this single from Goldfrapp which was a source of great comfort during my dark days battling those 2 months of headaches...album is not bad too, but this is the standout track.
I had no idea that "jumping the shark" had become such an acknowledged expression. Imagine my surprise to find that there are actually 18 ways to jump the shark!

Brian, i find it interesting that you refer to U2's shift as jumping the shark. I may agree with you that perhaps it was a legitimate shark jump but i rather see it as an insightful self awareness. No one can argue U2's phenomenal popular success, least alone the members of the band. I think that the three albums that followed Jtree were brilliant for their post modern acknowledgement of what the art /pop of U2 had become. The stadium show had become huge and rivalled those of the great dinosaur groups. Rattle and Hum, Achtung Baby and Zooropa played upon the absurdity of the fame that the band had achieved. The band redefined themselves with each album and, although they were much of the time over the top, (perhaps even over the shark), the music had to grow to the crescendo that the live act had become. Had the band not gone over the top, i would submit that the band might well have faded to the status of also ran, as so many 80's bands did! ...now, appearing at Casino Rama ...(fill in the blank)!

I think this refers back to recurring a conversation: what will we ALL be listening to in common in the future that is being produced now, or has been in the last decade? Could it be that U2 is the last Mega pop/rock group with any artistic merit that will achieve such success in our lifetime? (and i'm not suggesting that you sods are all listening to U2)

I think that U2 became an also ran after Zooropa. I'm glad they went over the top first! Their recent releases bore the hell out of me. ...funny for a band whose music i still listen to on a regular basis and never tire of.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hey Marc, great to have you back in the fold, and to hear a dissenting voice on the live recording issue. And I agree with some of what you've said. Certainly when you and I were growing up in the seventies/early eighties, the live album was an absolute in the repertoire...often a substitute for a third release as new-ish bands went through rehab after two years of coke-fueled touring. Maybe I'm generalizing a bit there. I don't share your love of Rattle and Hum ( I would almost say that's when U2 jumped the shark), though I do like a couple of the songs

Thanks for all of your thoughts on cool recent releases. Ahem. Adding to the huge list we're building together, I would mention the new Lou Barlow is really nice if not essential, and the Most Serene Republic's is really good.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

You know it's been too long since your last post when you can't remember your sign-in password!

I think that the live album is an essential part of pop/rock. It's not for every artist, granted, but nor is live performance if you ask me. I agree that the live album has largely been supplanted by YouTube and illicit shared recording and would also agree that artists these days don't stick around for long enough or aren't strong enough to develop significant oeuvres which might warrant a live retrospective of a career.

I do think that the live recordings, whether they be in an album or not, are indispensable in understanding some of the great artists. Think of the significance of Woodstock or Monetary and the importance of the live recording to our understanding of the times. Where would we be without the oodles of live Hendrix tracks? I guess it could be argued that Hendrix was actually a jazz musician and that for the sake of the argument we have to leave him out. ...such a short life and so few got to hear his magic live ...you gonna take that away from the rest of us?

I think most would agree that the capturing of many of these moments is essential in recording the spirit of a time and if it ends up in the Library of Congress where some scholar is gonna dig it up in 50 years ...well that don't cut it with me, you gotta lay down the lacquer.

The live recording or album affords an artist another medium to relate an idea. There is a strong tradition of cover tunes on live albums ...significant renditions of standards, similar to the jazz tradition, that would not otherwise make it to a larger audience. The medium allows for that expression without getting all pretentious and getting into the studio and, these days, spending a week getting the track down so it is just right. Sometimes the quick and dirty does the trick.

I can say that i don't spend a lot of time listening to live albums, but, one that gets a lot of circulation is Rattle n' Hum. Now, granted, it's not entirely a live album. It contains original material, but what it does so remarkably is convey the sense of being on the road. The endless shows and a sort of solitude, the exhilaration, the discovery, the stress, the inspiration, the energy. I know a lot of people right off the album but they got it all wrong. They are shallow individuals!

Fascinating how we really know some artists by their live work, Jackson Browne, Cheap Trick and Peter Frampton to name a few that were previously mentioned.

Artist such as Nirvana have let us see another side of them when they perform an album like Unplugged. ...that's cool. Cockburn, Lou Reed, Neil Young all have live music that i feel has added to our understanding of the artist. The list goes on but everyone knows i'm not good with lists.

I have to admit that i don't listen to my copy of Springsteen's 75-85 very often, but i'm glad that i will be able to drop the needle on it 30 years from now and remember MY summer of love.

Might i go so far out on a limb as to say that the quality of live music has declined? I'm not sure i believe it myself, but, are musicians really all that competent with their instruments and their song writing skills these days? Why are they spending a half year in the studio to produce an album that it might have taken a day or a week to produce in the good old days? ...and the old classics endure while many of us might agree, there is much less that endures in this day and age. I don't wanna come off sounding like an old fart, but, are pop musicians these days relying too much on production and engineering?

...i listen to a band like the Arcade Fire (been around long enough to reflect on) and i would say not, i still love the music, i loved the show i saw at the Danforth Music Hall, i heard a podcast of a live show from New York, it was exciting, do i need to hear it again? No.

So ...the live recording of Paranoid Android by Brad Mehldau on Live from Tokyo ...i love it, but that's Jazz for ya!
Hey boys, sorry I missed out on the live recordings discussion, though I think you covered off most of my thoughts. If anything I thought the convo could have been directed towards other genre live recordings - jazz of course springs to mind, where live recordings are generally better thought of. And the question would be, why is that? Some of my most joyous, cathartic moments have been at live rock shows, generally small clubs. And yet by and large the recordings can't translate the experience. And while I adore jazz in all of its forms and formats, something about studio jazz is less different than live jazz. ie live jazz works better as a record. Think of Bill Evans live at the Village Vanguard (or Coltrane, or Rollins etc). Jazz is generally less adorned of course, so the studio is less important, but wouldn't that be true as well of rock and roll, punk, where the studio can potentially ruin the energy and spontaneity?

On another subject - any recent pop/rock discoveries? emusic or otherwise. I'm very fond of a record by The Leisure Society, really gorgeous chamber pop with a vocal emphasis. To my ear quite unique sounding within the (perhaps) over-developed genre.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Yeah, I've never understood the point of live dvds. Think Paul Rudd's character captures my feelings in his comments about Michael McDonald playing all day in "40 Year Old Virgin":

Thursday, October 01, 2009

To your point about Jagger singing "Start Me Up", I completely agree. If a band records a live album that is essentially a greatest hits package played identically to the studio renditions, I have no interest in it. What I really like are songs whose live recordings exceed their original studio versions. For example, the version of "Rhiannon" on Fleetwood Mac live or the version of "Astronomy" on Some Enchanted Evening are both much better than the originals. In other cases, a song can be completely reinterpreted with great effect - such as Springsteen's take of Jungleland on his live box set. Finally, I enjoy it when artists show their personalities with entertaining banter between songs as Tom Waits does in "Big Time". But I think its true that live albums are no longer as relevant as they once were. I guess they've been supplanted by concert DVDs to some extent. But for some reason I have no real interest in collecting those. I like to watch them once, but don't feel compelled to watch them repeatedly, unlike the live albums that I wore out in my youth.