Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Megadeth - "Set The World Afire" from the CD So Far, So Good . . . So What!

Red flash clouds
Choking out the morning sky
They said it'd never come,
We knew it was a lie
All forms of life die now,
The humans all succumb
Time to kiss your ass goodbye,
The end has just begun

Distorted figures walk the street,
It's 1999
Weeds once underneath the feet
Have grown to vines
Bodies melted like a candle,
A land without a face
No time to change your fate,
No time left, it's too late

The aresenal of Megadeth can't be rid of they said
And if it comes, the living will envy the dead
Racing for power and all come in last
No winning, first stone cast

This falsehood wordly peace
Its treaties soon will cease
No one will be left to prove
That humans existed
Maybe soon the children
Will be born open fisted
We all live on one planet
And it will all go up in smoke

Too bad they couldn't see this lethal energy
And now the final scene, a global darkening

Dig deep the piles of rubble and ruin
Towering overhead both far and wide
There's unknown tools for World War III
Einstein said, 'We'll use rocks on the other side'
No survivors, set the world afire!

The best song from Megadeth's somewhat disappointing third one makes me wonder whether Dave Mustaine might not be kind of nostalgic for the bad old days when nuclear bombs meant flotillas of Soviet ICBMs coming in over the Pole and the impending global Doomsday, rather than just some deluded lonewolf assclown in a keffiyeh dumping a dirty bomb down a toilet at the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Not that I or even Mustaine would make light of the grave damage even a schmuck like Jose Padilla might be able to inflict, but let's face it: if you ply the heavy metal horror biz like Megadeth does, the old tyme Mutually Assured Destruction postapocalyptic thang was so much better as a go-to lyrical device on those days when you just weren't sure which version of armageddon you wanted to conjure in your newest metallic opus.

Heavy metal tunes invoking the horrors of the Aftermath are almost as old as metal itself--think "War Pigs"--but, like politically-charged punk rock, they appear to have gone out with the Reagan presidency and the Berlin Wall. And from a geopolitical standpoint, you can understand why.

Not that metal will ever be hurting for lyrical themes. The Judeo-Christian Hell with its tortured denizens ain't thematically tapped yet, and won't be anytime soon. But--even if you're a clever sonofabitch like Mustaine--archaic quotations from Milton and Dante are a little less easy to recast than ones from Einstein.

File under: Speedmetal

Thursday, October 14, 2010

John Lennon - "Meat City" from the LP Mind Games

John Lennon Mind Games album coverSo you might have noticed that the other day would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday.

Maybe you missed the news, if you didn't use a search engine on the 9th or you had smashed your clock radio with a sledgehammer by accident that morning, and then kicked in your WEGA for good measure. Oh, and if you live in New York, Hollywood, Reykjavik, or Liverpool, you would have had to have locked yourself in a soundproof closet for the duration of the day.

So, yeah, you probably heard, one way or the other.

Me myself I found myself savvy through my libero-techno-scifi-artsy-craftsy-civlib blog of choice, Boing Boing. Sort of a stripped down post, it was, that I'd stumbled across. Pescovitz had posted a drawing of Lennon linked to a place where you could buy a print of said drawing for a hundred and fifty bucks next to two words of text: "Imagine Peace."

Pretty poignant, is what I'm saying.

OK, no I'm not. I'm not saying that at all. But at least when I scanned the post I instantly knew the cheap sentiment that had been targeted.

So then, because I was under the weather, on the weekend no less, and feeling therefore a little grouchy, and also because I happen to believe it's true, I submitted my comment to the discussion of the man that had sprung up thereunder, which was in its entirety: "Overrated."

It was a sort of perverse thing to do, I know, posting such a cynical contribution to a thread that had been all Peaceburger and Genius before I arrived. Like I said, I was feeling sort of grumpy and--alright, guilty as charged--maybe wanted to spread it. I figured I'd be shouted down quickly, but since I had no intention of defending what I'd written--being headed for bed instead--no biggie.

So I verified my comment had posted and went to my sickbed.

I think it was Monday before I went back to Boing Boing again, and of course I couldn't help myself, I decided I should check out the post and see what the reaction to my provocative comment had been.

And a mod had deleted it. I saw the thing post, and there I was, same bat-time, same bat-channel, two days later, and it was as if I'd never even answered that Captcha challenge.

Now I was pissed. I hadn't been rude, I hadn't been antagonistic, yet here my comment had been deleted as if it were racist screed, as if it were obscenity.

Of course, it had been neither of these things. What my comment had been, now that I think of it, was sacrilegious. The Weekly World News convinced us long ago that Elvis had the whacko cultsters, but now I find it's been Lennon all the time.

Hair Peace, everyone!"Imagine" was a trifle, people, a barely pleasant ditty cloaked in vapid platitudes. "Give Peace a Chance" is at the least fun --you certainly feel as if you are in that Toronto hotel room with John and Yoko and Tom and Dick and everybody else, buzzed and smelling of incense--but it's not much more, a child's singalong, is this all that Lennon, on inspection, had?

No, of course not. He'd been in The Beatles of course, and I can't discount that too much, though that the Beatles were, are, have been, and must forever after be overrated is an unassailable truism. They were pretty fucking good, but no-one is that good, and if you disagree, consider for a moment the atrocity that is "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."

Or if a McCartney song seems incongrous, consider "Revolution # 9."

Anyway, my point, beyond the obvious one that the most popular band in the history of the planet can't help but be overrated, is that you can't judge the members by the band. It was all chemistry. It's impossible to say what influence Lennon had on "Yesterday," and impossible to say what influence McCartney had on "Across the Universe."

So if you believe as I do that you can't judge Lennon by The Beatles, what do you have left?

John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album coverWell, you have Plastic Ono Band, a stark masterpiece in which you hear the layers of Lennon's personality being peeled away until you've reached his raw inner core.

And that's certainly something. Don't take me wrong: in the masterpiece department, the score stands

Lennon In His Own Write 1
rastronomicals 0.

But some of the scores from those faves listened to here at La Historia are a bit higher. King Crimson has two, possibly three, masterpieces to their credit, and Pink Floyd certainly have that many. Eno made three, then realized he didn't even like making them. Neil Young's probably tossed off five.

And I don't see Neil Young's self-drawn mug on Google, or Bob Fripp's.

Plastic Ono Band is awesome, but make no mistake: Lennon never followed it up with anything remotely as good. In this respect, Lennon is as a solo artist more like Joseph Heller than William Faulkner, more like Night Ranger than Black Sabbath. He did good work, but not enough of it, and you don't get the feeling that his murder, as tragic and reasonless as it was, really deprived us of anything vital he needed to express, not if you're straight up about what Double Fantasy truly was.

John Lennon Double Fantasy album coverAnd yet somehow it is Lennon alone who has been selected for sanctification. Lennon was at core a rock star like any other, perhaps most like Lou Reed in that he played guitar in a great band that broke up and his best song is about heroin.

Or perhaps he's more like Ozzy, in that he found a kind of contentment in being marketed by his dominant wife.

A rock star like any other is what he was, prey to the same pecadilloes and fetishes and hedonisms as all the ones you read about in the tabloids. If you doubt that, you might read up on his lost weekend one day. Yet we find he's been canonized to the point where muttering "overrated" under your breath at a major website will get you censored.

Yikes. I guess if you've gotta get murdered, you might as well be made into a saint.

Anyway, another characteristic of Lennon's original solo work is its frequent failure to rock, witness "Imagine" and Double Fantasy again, if you'd like. Presented for you here--and to show I bear no ill will--is perhaps John's rockinest solo tune, the tape loops don't bother me at all.

File Under: (Just gotta give me some) Rock and roll

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Steve Miller Band - "Mercury Blues" from the LP Fly Like an Eagle

Went out to the ballpark last night and saw Stevie Guitar Miller.

It's not too odd these days for major league teams looking for a boost to their attendance to host concerts by those on the nostalgia circuit after Friday or Saturday night games. And the Marlins I guess are a little more active on this front than some of their competition, other than considering the makeup of the area, half the shows they sponsor are salsa acts.

But last night was for the Anglos, and longtime readers who know I'm a Steve Miller fan should only be slightly surprised that I took Schfrank and Cerveza up on the opportunity presented when they invited me to the game.

In one sense, of course, a Steve Miller concert might be among the events I'd be least expected to attend. While a time machine or some other method of delivery to the late '60's would be greeted enthusiastically, as it would allow me to witness the band's set at Monterey Pop, the last thing I'm about when it comes to music is the warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia. I'd rather be challenged with something new or at the least old and obscure than hear the number one hit yet again. So what if they played "All the Young Dudes" at my high school's prom?

I wasn't even fucking there.

Steve Miller Band Bingo! CD coverAnd yet, to me, Miller's formidable body of work prior to his mid-seventies' career peak makes him something of a titan--no-one from San Francisco was better, and no-one anywhere played a slow blues the way Miller could. And Miller might be a nostalgia act at this point, but he DOES have a new album out, and it IS good. It's called Bingo!, and it nods more in the directions of his late '60's work than his mid '70's stuff, being a collection of R & B and blues covers.

And while recognizing it unlikely that someone playing after a ballgame in Miami would stretch out and play their old and obscure psychedelic blues or their new and obscure R & B stuff in lieu of their massive radio hits remembered as tokens of their youth by the upper-middle class suburbanites who attend a ballgame in Miami in the first place, what clinched it for me is that I actually LIKE a lot of the radio hits.

Why, just the other week, I added "Take the Money and Run" to my iTunes after hearing it on the classic rock station during the three or four days when Jr. was dead but III had not yet arrived. Still love the way he rhymes "Texas" and "facts is" and "taxes." I was even telling Carlos the warehouse kid about how great those lines are . . . . though Schfrank would express a contrary opinion during the show.

So, fuck yeah, reservations be damned, let's go, Steve Miller, the Space Cowboy, the Gangster of Love, even though in all likelihood, he wouldn't actually be playing the songs which gave him those nicknames.

I got there early, and saw all the ballgame, and let me tell you this: Do not go to a ballgame in late September in which both teams have been eliminated, unless they've got some kind of a concert afterwards. The Marlins (long since eliminated from the playoffs) faced the Pirates (the worst team in baseball, v. 2010), and if it's possible to play a game in a more lethargic and less energetic manner, I don't wanna know about it. Marlins won 2 - 0 in perhaps the most boring game I have ever personally witnessed.

But hey! No worries! After a short fireworks show, it's Stevie Guitar Miller!

Let me say before proceeding that Miller looked good for a 67-year old man. Grey to be sure, but spry and still flexible in the fingers where it matters. His voice was more hit-and-miss, though, but what are you gonna do?

First song was "Jet Airliner"--no surprises there. But the second was "Mercury Blues" and that was a little surprising, especially in that Miller played it more in the country style of Alan Jackson's # 1 hit version than of the primo blues version he himself had released on Fly Like an Eagle. It also seemed to me that Miller was singing "Crazy about a Mercury Ford."

Weird, right? Turns out that right around when Jackson recorded the song and allowed Ford to use it to sell their pickup trucks in the early '90's Ford Motor Company actually bought the rights to the tune from the estate of KC Douglas or whomever. Now, no company anywhere no matter what rights they own can dictate the lyrics to a song performed live in concert, but--given that Miller conducted his own business transaction with Ford when he allowed the guitar intro to "Swingtown" to be played over commercials hawking the Ford Mustang in exchange for some Ford-built tractors--I have to wonder whether Miller has maybe cut another deal with Ford to sing the song that way in his appearances.

That's another one of the things about the nostalgia circuit, I guess: you can't ever pretend it's not about the money.

Miller would also go on to play a rather boring version of "Swingtown," though if Miller considered rewriting the lyrics to mention FoMoCo, he ultimately passed on the opportunity.

"Swingtown" was probably the least inspired tune Miller did, but later in the show came a song that he historically has failed to render properly. Back in the '80's, after "Abracadabra" had hit, Miller put out the Steve Miller Band Live! LP, and I remember being turned off to its eventual purchase by the video for "Living in the USA," which--recorded in Vegas or wherever in 1983--totally and absolutely failed to capture the groove it had on Miller's classic Sailor LP from 1968.

Twenty-five years later, with Sailor bandmates Boz Scaggs and Lonnie Turner and Tim Davis just as absent as they'd been in '83, it is kind of reassuring to me that Miller still can't get his old song right. And I won't hold it against him that he dedicated a song about the inauthenticity of a plastic land to our soldiers in Afghanistan, not given his audience for the evening, but I'm pretty sure he can't have meant that.

It might seem like this review is going in a certain direction, but let me nip that in the bud. If the "Mercury Blues" thing made "Swingtown" sound a little funny, or if the message on "Living in the USA" was a little garbled, that was it. Miller was never cheesy, always played and sang entusiastically, and rather smoked on the guitar. For me, the highlights of the show were when Miller took his solos. For example, I never much cared for "Abracadabra," but the version played Saturday night jammed. Miller's solo work was muscular throughout, and side deals or no, you can tell he loves playing the instrument.

And he played two songs from Bingo!, too, and got decent if not overwhelming responses, as well. I was glad to see that.

The show was hardly perfect, but regardless of the flaws, I had a damned good time. In saying goodnight, Miller asked to be invited back when the Marlins open their new stadium in 2012. I'll say this: if the team does invite him back, they can count on at least one fanny in their seats, even if it's a late season game without any playoff implications at all.

File under: Blues Rock, Concerts rastro went to

La Historia De La Musica Rock III

Took me about six weeks to switch my baseball card site out to one powered by an SQL database, and then write the badass search engine for it all. But it's done now and I'm happy, sorry if things have been slightly more fallow around here than is usual.

I managed to write the Florida Metal piece and the Vanilla Fudge appreciation and the 90 Day Men critique, but there's been some big news that I wasn't able to treat with properly 'cause I was so busy with the PHP and the MySQL, and it's that Jr.'s dead.

Been dead, these five or six weeks. He stopped holding a charge for much longer than my drive in to work, and I need better than that, so I dropped him in a glass of water, and I killt him.

My iPod is dead, long live my iPod. La Historia de la Musica Rock III arrived some short time after I euthanized Jr. and I think it sort of makes sense that III is a Gen 3, even if his generation was quickly superceded. You can check out the picture next door: he's got four gigs and he's shiny chrome, and best of all, he talks.

Actually, I think he's a she 'cause of the way the Voice Over sounds. But that's fine with me, and even the way she hilariously mispronounces some of the bandnames and some of the songs is rather endearing. I think I'll keep him.

I mean her.