Saturday, October 13, 2012

Band Profile: Songs of Water

I had  the pleasure of interviewing this AMAZING folk/experimental/orchestra/world band from North Carolina lovingly titled Songs of Water.  They have a beautiful album called The Sea Has Spoken available on Bandcamp and iTunes NOW. They are currently working on the follow up...

My band profile was for Broken Records Magazine. CHECK IT OUT! 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Working Through the Foo Fighters Hiatus

Dave Grohl New York City Beacon Theater Skin and Bones Tour
This is the closest I've ever been to Dave Grohl. Will I be able to get closer
if he tours solo during the hiatus? A movie release? Something? Please? 

People keep asking me about the Foo Fighters hiatus, treating the issue with kid gloves, as if it were a breakup, “Ryan…are you ok!?”

When Dave Grohl paraded through a nine-song set at Central Park as part of the Global Citizen Festival and said, “We don't have any shows after this. This is where we play as many songs as we can in a short period of time, because, honestly, I don't know when we're gonna do it again" I had a feeling of celebration in mind. It’s been a hell of a ride. They came through with arguably their best album in Wasting Light (I mean, their best is TCATS, but one can contend WL and it’s not ridiculous) and slaughtered the world with a rip-roaring tour. One town down and ON TO THE NEXT!? The most notable thing about the tour, is their setlists were 3.5 hours!? That’s insane considering the energy level they play at. I think it was clear between the two times that I saw the Foo, this rigorous schedule took a toll on the band. It’s part of the business and I’m so happy to see the Foo play such a marathon set, but, seriously, these guys deserve a break. 

That’s no joke, man.

When you look at the Foo Fighters history, as well as other bands, a hiatus at this stage of their career is common. It’s not like they need the money. After the first or second album, they probably would keep going just to keep themselves in the black. Most bands do. Keep grinding. Get yourselves out there. In their 18th year, these guys are doing it for pride, legacy, love of the game, and sure, everyone loves to add more to the total. Family men and all.

I’m happy for the hiatus, because I believe it’s going to lead to better material in the future. I don’t think you’ll hear another Foo Fighters cut until Fall 2015. Anything before that would seem rushed to me. I’m sure they have B-Sides and all kinds of shit sitting around, but if history serves the band correctly, they will have made some kind of mindset adjustment and their tone and sonic fortitude will have shifted to reflect the new times of the band. This is one of my favorite qualities of the band.

Given their age, I don’t think they are going to rock any HARDER. I think Wasting Light and the subsequent 3.5 hour tours of screaming “White Limo” will take a little of that hard rocking edge off the band. I think you’ll see an album that borders more along the lines of E.P.S.& G. Perhaps dwindle themselves back into the acoustic beauty of the second half of IYH. The Foo Fighters pretty much have four eras as far as age.

Aging of the Foo Fighters by Era:

1) Young – Dave screams all the fucking time and lets his hair fly. Songs are written to bounce the fuck out of the audience.  

2) Learning to Jam – The band ages, matures, and starts learning how to rock their songs out. Sometimes, Dave has short hair and hipster facial hair. This is actually my favorite era of the band. They were finding themselves.

3) Statesmen (Statues) – Elder statesmen of rock. Pretty much the biggest band out there, as far as rock music is concerned. They are the standard. Their shows are huge. They headline festivals. They write songs about having children. Dave starts to save his voice a bit on screamers (well, he kind of makes all songs screamable live) and wear only black at shows. Less banter, burping, cussing and more music, bigger jams.

4) Classic Rock – This last era of the Foo Fighters is the first time that I realized Dave Grohl is going to get old. I think it’s going to be even more of a problem moving forward. They’ve reached that upper echelon of being old, but still able to rock like kids. I don’t know how much longer that will hold. Gray hair on the way? Perhaps, he has to use Just For Men to keep that shag so black. The beard is fuller and there is just the slight development of jowls on the face. Tours go in 3-week increments to give time for the family. Album recorded at home for the same purpose (there were other good reasons, it was actually genius, but the song remains the same, they’z be settling down). 3.5 hour setlist, much like seeing a Rush show. Sit back, “we’re going to play a lot of songs!”

So, what now? Is there any REASON. TO. LIVE. Yesssssssss…..

Fun with Side Projects:

Dave – In a letter to the fans, he referred to his Sound City documentary as POSSIBLY the “biggest, most important project he’s ever worked on.” I love that man and his superlatives. That fact about him, is probably why he is what he is to me. The greatest. The BEST, THE BEST, THE BEST….anyway, I digress. The project is billed as, “a film (by Dave Grohl) about the truth, the craft and the integrity of Rock ‘n Roll.”

Is there anyone better to do that than Dave Grohl? That’s an exciting project! Then of course, he’ll drum for some big names, it’ll seem random and awesome and we’ll all get really pumped. I would imagine for kicks he’ll do something with Josh Homme. A Them Crooked Vultures second wave would be fucking amazing! Perhaps more work with Trent Reznor? I still don’t rule out that he’ll drum for Led Zeppelin! I don’t care how many people say Bonham’s son will play drums…it’s going to happen.

Taylor – I want a Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders tour. It’s always a treat to see Taylor Hawkins drum up-close-and-personal in a small NYC venue. I would love a third album, but, the second one was almost TOO GOOD. I’m kind of fearful of another album, but I think you get that guys’ jazzy self on the kit, with his sensibility and drive, and you’re going to have something. If he continues to keep things on the rise, polish his product and develop his ability to write a song…HOLY SHIT! The Coattail Riders are a force to be reckoned with.

Nate – Sunny Day Real Estate. I missed the last tour. Guys…if you tour again…or even just in NYC…I will be there. I want this, bad!

Chris “Shifty” Shiflett – Jackson United is Chris Shiftlett’s primo side project. Cali pop-punk with some grit. He was in No Use for a Name and Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies. He’s a seasoned vet and everything he does has a certain melodic quality to it. He also plays solo gigs (with the & Dead Peasants moniker). This is something to look into.

Pat Smear – Who the hell knows what Pat Smear will do? Something tells me he doesn’t need music in his life and will pursue something like egalitarian studies. Perhaps, he will research finding ways to make guitars sound thrashier with less effort. 

A New Album?

If I were a betting man (and I am…) I would put the over/under for a new album October 2016. They love the fall release and that would be about 4 years after Wasting Light, which is about on their pattern. Time between albums for the Foo looks like this: 2, 2, 3, 2, 3, 4. It’s safe to say this will be their biggest break, albeit, not their first hiatus. I think they will take a real break from being a band, before coming together and taking forever to record and decide what to do with a new album.

Well, would you know it? I have some sage advice.

Things I want in a new Foo album…
  • Oh God, how many times can I call for MORE BLENDED VOCALS!? The best example of what I’m talking about was the psychedelic fusion vocally on “Rope” when Taylor’s classic rock howl and Dave’s wounded growl were soldered together so beautifully. Yes, more of that please!
  • I love Grohl, but, I like the diversity of letting Taylor and Chris sing. Chris sang on a Foo Fighters cover of “Danny Says” by the Ramones and Taylor has taken lead vocals a couple of times. Most notably, I’d love to have a song like “Cold Day in the Sun” make a run as a Foo Fighters song. I think it’s a good shift in pace. A little bit country, A little bit rock ‘n roll!
  • Another tempo changing album. One of my favorite dynamics is how the Foo’s like to take the pace up and down in their songs. Wasting Light was pretty straight forward, but the two Gil Norton produced albums really swayed back and forth with a diverse variety of tunes. Take TCATS for instance in which you have a bunch of screamers, a couple ballads, an intro, a epic closer, a square dance number, a couple of hits, a cult classic/hit/staple song for the band forever and ever, etc, etc. Songs like “Hey Johnny Park!” blend scream vocals with clean poppy vocals in the same song. I have yet to hear them use that theory in a song since, therefore, I have to get my fix from Polar Bear Club who do it all the time.
  • How about an epic closer. Sure, “Walk” is about as good as it gets as far as taking the rising action to a screaming crescendo of fist pumping glory. I’m looking for something that is at LEAST 10-15 minutes long. Not necessarily all about the “time” per se, but they had this theory with “Comeback” and “Long Way Home” and “Exhausted.” With “Walk” it was there, but it was also kind of like a single. I want a closing number that take the hinges off the barn doors.
  •  Speaking of Rush…how about a song or two that’s really just flexing drum muscles. The drum fill on “Everlong” remains one of my favorite drum licks all-time. I think One By One has some stand out drum lines, and everything is always top-notch, but, if you put my two favorite drummers in ONE band…I want it to be THE BEST! Show me something just fucking insane. Seriously, just get silly out there. For the fuck of it. Put drum fills for the sake of having drum fills. WHY. SO. SERIOUS. In an interview I once heard Dave say that Taylor has motioned for louder drums and he shot the idea down saying the Foo Fighters have always been about loud guitars and big hooks.
  •  Yup. I want piano too. I wouldn’t mind a 17 track album all over the map. That’s the stuff Zerfas dreams are made of.
  •  If you’re going to play piano…why not bring Norah Jones back. That’s the stuff Zerfas WET dreams are made of.
  •  But seriously, “Home” and “Statues” turned out pretty good. The Red Hot Chili Peppers recently cut an album with some intriguing piano numbers. It’d be a fun change of pace.
  •  I think Dave’s voice has went through the gauntlet. I know when I listen to the first album, I think to myself, I miss the soothing rock voice, like best displayed on “Floaty.” Can he still sing like that? I think it was a voice that was just a little shy. It’s kind of endearing. I guess this could be like asking Billy Joel to sing “River of Dreams” with the high falsetto bridge, perfectly, live, at his age.
  •  Folk elements? John Paul Jones played “Mandolin” on IYH. I think there was a B-Side where he played mellotron, but was nixed, because Grohl didn’t like how it turned out. Also, you take a song like “Ballad for the Beaconsfield Miners” and think they could do some neat, folky stuff.   
I know this has asked for a lot of things. High expectations are the best form of praise. We can celebrate the hiatus with hope for the future. I think the Foo Fighters are far from done, but it’s certainly the “end of an era” in a way. I look forward to the next era and view this Wasting Light time period as a resurgence.

I would like to close this celebration of hard-work and exceeding of expectations in the exact way that Dave Grohl ended his letter to the fans and every show I’ve ever attended, watched, downloaded, bootlegged, etc, etc.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Music Review: Fall Classic, Nerves

I wrote a song by song review for TSE about a Chicago band, Fall Classic, who put out a ridiculously awesome album, titled Nerves. It's a great soundtrack for pumpkin spice lattes and autumn flings. Grab a glass of cab, start the fire and pick this sucker up on Bandcamp!

My review is HERE.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Trouble with the Eastwood?

When I heard Clint Eastwood was coming out of retirement (he said Gran Torino would be his last film as an actor) my feelings were mixed. I figured he, like MJ, had the perfect close to his (acting) career with Gran Torino. It certainly wasn’t his best all-around movie, but it definitely scooped into a barrel of quotables and kicked some gritty neck-scrunching ass. Everything you’ve come to know and love Eastwood for. One last ride into the sunset, albeit a much older, retiree sunset.

Then, I saw my all-time favorite actress, Amy Adams, was on the bill. My thought was, Million Dollar Baby II, one last run at the Oscar. Why not? The academy certainly makes picks to reward a career over the present, for respect and it’s own “Hall of Fame” aspirations. I thought Adams would be a ray of sunshine to what is typically and literally a dark brand of cinematography. Adams certainly can shine in shadow lighting too, right?

It and many other feelings alllllllll came crashing down when he made that “Eastwood and Chair” (link: Bill Hader SNL edition) speech at the Republican National Convention. What a train wreck. It reminded me of how I would turn my face away from the TV the first time I watched the British Office. Squirming. Squinting. Covering my eyes, I got through what seemed like a half hour of the worst improv I’ve ever seen. That brought my dreams of Eastwood glory to a screeching, whistle-laden speech impediment halt. There would be no Oscar. Is everything I know and love about my favorite movie maker a sham? Perhaps, he’s just a senile old man off his gourd? Or, I’ve hitched my movie wagon to an incandescent asshole, you know, the opposite of the kind of admirable asshole he plays in his movies that I love so fondly. 

I soon learned the real reason he came out of retirement was to help his long time director assistant and production partner, Robert Lorenz, who was directing his first film. That seemed noble to me. I like that. Use the name and pass the torch onto others. It was the first time since the 90’s In the Line of Fire that Clint relinquished overall movie command. They were able to rope in quite a surrounding cast, with Adams, who without a doubt was the star of this movie, and JT, who added impressive comedic flair, along with John Goodman, who once again, is in EVERY movie. Good for Goodman.

The real question I have about it all: Was it worth it? I believe, because of the retarded speech, Clint was actually in need to come through on screen to not tarnish his movie legacy.

I didn’t like J.Edgar at all. It was like a boring Oliver Stone spoof. 2009’s Invictus was similarly disappointing with a seemingly great premise and all-world cast with Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as a studly rugby player.

The 2006 duo-perspectives of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima left me slightly ying-yang dizzy. I felt Flags of our Fathers was flat, while Letters from Iwo Jima left me stunned with its sheer awesomeness.  I’m not sure how Eastwood pulled off a picture in Japanese and why that perspective had so much more punch and enthrallment, but it did and the duo perspectives ordeal ended up being successful in the face of a probable plateau.    

2010’s Hereafter and 2008’s Changeling were good movies, but nothing to get overly excited or brag about.  

Needless to say, after Gran Torino, I think coming out and making a bad movie would teeter the end of his career to a downward spiral that would possibly affect the legacy. So, that’s added pressure for Trouble with the Curve. Grantland already predicated this concept, basically promenading over Eastwood’s career as if he were the Limp Bizkit of filmmaking. They can go-ahead and profile the “rise and fall” OF MY ASS!!!!

There was one great take in the piece I agreed with though, “He rolled movies off studio lots like cars off Ford factory floors: speedily, under budget, without a ton of flash or hassle or pauses for fits of artiste-style pique. Actors and executives spoke with awe about how quickly and painlessly it all happened. And then it was onto the next one.”

I guess I’ve always enjoyed that about Eastwood though. His steady hand guides you through darkness, violence and all-around malfeasance like a floating, rocking hammock. I like a warm glass of milk when Sean Penn’s daughter is killed. Despite the awards and overall recognition, the highs and lows of his movies are typically pretty tame and/or consistent. You know what you’re going to get. That’s why J.Edgar and “Eastwood and Chair” were very troubling to me. He was handed Leo and a topic that should have been more engulfing. It wasn’t. He was handed a spotlight to make something I’m typically not that interested in, more exciting. He didn’t. He made me question my taste in pictures and heroes. He let me down.

Does Trouble with the Curve deserve all this pressure cooker legacy propaganda? Certainly not. Why can’t movies be fun anymore? You go, take a load off, get some terrible-for-you-food and forget about life. Good, bad, indifferent—just be entertained. There’s nothing like it, cue projecting reel sound.

Eastwood’s comeback was pretty parallel to Micheal Jordan’s with the Wizards. He proved in Trouble with the Curve that even at an age when you don’t belong “in the biz” the moves are still there beyond what others are capable of in their prime. He probably shouldn’t have made the movie and certainly should have declined to speak at the RNC, but, there is still something there for those like myself, that miss zipping by Model T’s on the roads. Even if you’re like me and weren’t alive when they were on the roads, you’ve read about them, your parents and grandparents told you stories trumpeting their omniscient prowess. They are ancient archeological antiques that now rule museums. When you see one, alive and well, you just have to gawk, and remember the day when they ruled the world.

Despite all that, I don’t think Trouble with the Curve has NOTHING to offer. The chemistry between JT and Amy Adams was electric, though mostly spoiled by the previews (stop doing that previews!!!). Timberlake is really proving that he can carry his own in a movie. He was funny, light and reflected the classic Amy Adams shine right back to her. It was tennis, not Adams hitting the ball against a wall, although, I’d certainly watch that—especially if she had a ponytail and sweats. Adams always seems like a real person to me. Perhaps, it’s because I have a friend that looks/acts/has the same first name as her. I just always see something real from something as basic as having a crooked smile, remembering her first movie moment (that I remember) as a girl with braces, to being remarkably cute in a non-movie star way. I think we all know an Amy Adams in our life, which seems plain, oozes cuteness, yet is an ordinary part of your day, but is extraordinary once she exits your lens.

The baseball scouts and players are comically clich├ęd Moneyball b-sides and poorly executed at that, much like the astonishing poor surrounding acting in Gran Torino. The “Grumpier Old Men III” lines are cringingly bad, like “Feng Schmei” and “I’m not a pole dancer.” He can take scripts that should have been in the shredder, he has to know they should have been in the shredder, deliver them in a way that says, “this is a lame line, but I can make it work,” and, somehow, it’s still warm and enjoyable. In that way, Eastwood’s late career is like the comedic delivery of David Letterman. Taking nothing, and pounding into something. A magical blacksmith who majestically rides into town to view the sunset with the common people—true Kings wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Clint Eastwood is the champion of being a bad ass. He’s so cocky he can do it as YOUR grandfather. Bob Dylan and Neil Young continue to make albums. 60 is the new 40. 80 is the new 50. Billy Joel never sang about how “only the good get old,” but, if he did, you’d have to respect the math and courage of it all.

In my favorite all-time Clint scene, he asks a bunch of guys to apologize to his mule. Then, he kills them all when they scoff at the idea. To ask the inverse of Eastwood, to apologize for becoming old and irrelevant, is just as crass.

Legends don’t need the money. They want the relationship. Somewhere someone is wearing a Michael Jordan Wizards jersey, reading and scoping a Model T in a museum after playing four hours of Megaman II on Nintendo. 

I wish someone would hand that guy the keys…that baby still runs.