The Obligatory “Grunge is Dead” Post

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Every three weeks or so, some blogger or journalist randomly muses (15 years after the fact) that grunge is dead, as though they are the first to develop this theory. But while the Eddie Vedder quote at the start of the latest grunge memorial is just as stale (it’s from 1994), it’s more open for debate and thus more interesting. Why do you think certain bands–Vedder names Talking Heads and Nirvana among others–become so quickly drained when other bands like the Rolling Stones go on forever? All groups go through conflict; what’s the magic formula that makes or breaks a unit?

The Badfinger Saga

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Outside of the Beatles themselves, Badfinger was the most popular act on Apple Records, with power pop anthems like “Day After Day,” the immortal “Without You” (later covered by Nilsson and Mariah Carey) and the insanely catchy “No Matter What” still getting airplay nearly 40 years after they were recorded. Alas, the story was not so pleasant behind the scenes, and lone surviving member Joey Molland recounts the highs and lows in a recent in-depth interview with Music Radar. Their entire Apple output was reissued with new bonus tracks last month and is well worth seeking out if you’re a Beatles fan (and who isn’t?).

Feature Review – Melissa Auf der Maur

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

The Vancouver Sun recently ran a feature on former Hole/Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, who is currently on tour promoting her second solo album/short film/graphic novel, “Out of Our Minds.” At the core of the feature is an interview with Auf der Maur, but writer Mike Devlin also covers the struggles she went through in trying to get her multimedia project off the ground.

Auf der Maur is the only person interviewed for the article. It is not specified whether the conversation took place in person or over the phone, but she was at her New York home for it. There does not appear to be much, if any, outside research; the text either paraphrases portions of the interview or supplies basic information one could easily glean from Auf der Maur’s official website.

I would like to have seen Devlin dive into less familiar territory–there have been a number of Auf der Maur features this year in conjunction with “Out of Our Minds” but few of them offer anything unique. I appreciate that the Hole and Smashing Pumpkins material is kept to a minimum since it’s been done to death elsewhere, but there is still some ground that hasn’t been adequately covered. What exactly inspired this project? What were the years of uncertainty like, unattached to a label while trying to bring an admittedly difficult concept to fruition? I want to know more about the project itself rather than the world around it.

The introduction reminds readers what Auf der Maur’s claim to fame is before giving a basic tease to invoke curiosity. It’s followed by two quote paragraphs where the singer openly comments on herself and her artistry. The next paragraph mentions the album’s recent release, showing why this feature is relevant. That leads to a paragraph about the challenging aspect of the project, transitioning to two more quotes, the latter about her past musical experiences. The next paragraph takes that quote to show how those adventures led to “Out of Our Minds” and further explains what the project is about.

After that, Devlin rapidly covers the many changes in Auf der Maur’s life since the project’s conception, from moving multiple times to leaving her record label. Much like the intro, this takes an unexpected twist to show how all of this was “best thing that could have happened” to Auf der Maur, explaining how via a quote. Finally, Devlin inserts the obligatory Hole and Smashing Pumpkins references but rather than the typical “This is why she did not take part in either band’s recent reunion” commentary, he allows her to discuss her future plans regarding this part of her history, not the history itself.

Listen to “The Key,” a standout track from “Out of Our Minds”:

The Beatles’ Best

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Although no respectable music collection is complete without the Beatles’ entire discography, tomorrow marks the reissue of two compilations that, taken together, provide a suitable slice of their catalog for casual fans. “1962-1966” and “1967-1970” serve as a beefier alternative to the “1” collection, including some of the band’s best album cuts and B-sides.

If you still haven’t gotten your Beatles fix, check out the recently reissued John Lennon solo catalog, along with the upcoming George Harrison/Ravi Shankar box set, the remastered Apple Records catalog and a deluxe release of Paul McCartney and Wings’ classic “Band on the Run.”

Website Response –

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

As part of the dying breed of listeners who still avidly desire owning their music on a physical disc and will repurchase albums multiple times to collect bonus tracks and expanded liner notes (today I picked up my fourth copy of John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy” to secure a “stripped down” remix), is a daily stop for me. The site is dedicated to remasters and reissues of classic and not-so-classic albums, with both news and historical content.

The bulk of the posts are written by Mike Duquette, whose passion for music is evident in each one. When a new reissue is announced, he intensively researches era-appropriate bonus tracks (e.g., B-sides, remixes, soundtrack contributions) to create the ideal package for fans. Alas, his lists often go above and beyond what the actual CD winds up containing.

The site perhaps could benefit from having more contributors. Duquette handles almost everything except posts about Broadway musical soundtracks, and while he clearly appreciates music from all genres and eras, he does tend to gravitate towards film scores and 80s music. Some additional perspectives might be useful to read.

Three articles worth checking out:

  • “Ben Folds Five” Reissue Theory. Sometimes Duquette doesn’t even need an announcement to pore over discographies. In the recurring “Reissue Theory” feature, he looks at albums not currently scheduled for re-release and proposes worthy tracklists should that change. This one looks at the debut album from Ben Folds Five and adds a live disc and bonus tracks to the mix.
  • Back Tracks: Paul McCartney. Another recurring feature is “Back Tracks,” which looks at an artist’s entire catalog and helpfully examines its state on CD/digital platforms. With a solo career spanning four decades and dozens of non-album tracks in that time, Paul McCartney fans would be well-advised to check it out.
  • Order in the Court. Sometimes Duquette posts discussion topics to get readers’ takes on various reissue-related things. This one centers around whether it matters if compilations are arranged chronologically.

If I were to write for the site, three articles I’d love to tackle:

  • A Reissue Theory for the Sundays’ discography. My second favorite band after the Beatles, the Sundays released just three albums in the 90s, but each has at least one uncollected B-side. I could dig through concert setlists and radio sessions to find even more bonus material. If you aren’t familiar with the Sundays, check out audio perfection in the form of “Here’s Where the Story Ends”:
  • A debate on how much is too much when it comes to reissues. Some fans want absolutely everything, but is anyone really going to listen to 11 remixes of one song from a Talking Heads side project? I’m curious to see, if push comes to shove, what people really expect from reissues. Should they focus on presenting the original album in the best way possible, or should they be mere dumpsters for any archive material from the era?
  • On the same token, an article celebrating superb reissues that should serve as blueprints. Rhino did a great job with “The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees” earlier this year, providing both the mono and stereo versions and over 30 bonus tracks in one terrifically packaged box. And last year’s Beatles remasters are as good as it gets.

Let the Black Rain Fall

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The wait for new Soundgarden material is over…sort of. To promote an upcoming compilation, “Telephantasm,” the band has released the 1992 outtake, “Black Rain.” Listen to the monster riff and check out the first Soungarden video in 14 years below.