Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Schultz' Earful: Paul McCartney

By: David Schultz

Timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Showtime debuted The Love We Make, Albert Maysles’ documentary about The Concert For New York, the superstar-filled show conceived and organized by Paul McCartney. Footage of the actual Madison Square Garden concert is in short supply, quick glimpses of the show giving context to the reactions to the release of emotion from a crowd filled with policemen, firefighters and assorted New Yorkers in desperate need of a catharsis. While not giving the performance short shrift, Maysles leaves much of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” one of the last with John Entwistle, in the editing room. A shame as Daltrey and Townshend hadn’t delivered the song with that sense of committed fervor or purpose in years. (See for yourself. This is the last time The Who played this song like it meant something . . . because on this night, it did).

Focusing the camera almost exclusively on the ex-Beatle for the entirety of the documentary, Maysles captured two absolutely extraordinary aspects of his life: his unremitting fame and his peers’ utmost respect, although not in a way that many would expect. The sheer burden of being Paul McCartney was not the intended focus of the film. However, it’s an inextricable part of his personality; unavoidable and practically transfixing. As McCartney walks the streets going about the business of promoting the show, he sits amidst an epicenter of gawking pedestrians and stunned bystanders. The camera crew following McCartney may have helped attract attention towards his presence but it’s abundantly clear that McCartney cannot perform the simplest of public tasks without being besieged by his legion of fans whose desires range from offering polite compliments and warm wishes to baffling interpersonal encroachments and impositions. An entire show could be crafted around watching people simply react to breathing the same air as Sir Paul.

On the flip side of this coin is the deference paid to McCartney by his fellow musicians who wouldn’t dream of telling the man who wrote “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday” that his latest idea is a pathetic one. For the MSG concert, McCartney has written “Freedom,” a schmaltzy, somewhat pandering tune that he has unfortunately mistaken for a modern day anthem. Over the course of the film, McCartney describes his vision for the close of the show, complete with an audience immediately embracing his song and pumping their fists in unison, to Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend and Billy Joel. Whether out of politeness, disinterest or sheer awe that one of the masters has such an ill-advised conception, they all become sycophantic yes-men, nodding approvingly, their true thoughts betrayed by their visage of disinterest.

The goal of any documentary should be to capture the truth if its subject. Maysles may have intended to gather footage memorializing the planning and execution of a concert staged with the noblest of intentions and, in a sense, he succeeded in his mission. The greater accomplishment though was offering an unfiltered look at the life-changing effect of world renown.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Schultz' Earful: Tom Morello (The Nightwatchman)

By: David Schultz

For the past month, New York City's Zuccotti Park has been home base for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Radiohead may not have come to play but Michael Franti and Jeff Mangum brought their acoustic guitars to lower Manhattan to entertain and inspire the throngs of protesters. Regardless of where you stand on the Occupy Wall Street movement, one question remained shockingly unanswered: where the hell has Tom Morello been? Morello finally showed up this past Thursday, taking to the streets in his Nightwatchman persona while bringing the rebel spirit of Woody Guthrie along for the ride.

To perform with amplification would require a permit. If you are wondering why the crowd is repeating everything Morello says, it's the impromptu sound system the protesters have been using for any type of performance.

The Return of Rinjo

by Rinjo Njori

This has been a great year for guitar driven from of our better half's sex. Wild Flag are near perfect, Las Kellies put Argentina on the Map, Les Butcherettes take on the dark side, and a host of other great bands that feature awesome chicks making skinny little boys with guitars look like amateurs!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Schultz' Earful: R.E.M. Calls It "Quits"

By: David Schultz

A couple weeks back, Michael Stipe announced the dissolution of R.E.M., proclaiming that “all things must end” and bringing a sense of closure to the storied career of the Athens, Georgia band that helped define alternative rock in the late Eighties and early Nineties. The band’s formal pronouncement accomplished something that R.E.M. had been unable to achieve in the past five or ten years: it inspired people to talk about them. Although their past two albums, Accelerate and Collapse Into Now sold relatively well, neither failed to captivate the collective imagination like Document or Automatic For The People; Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills’ decision to not tour behind their most recent release surely a contributing factor to its unremarkable reception.

If R.E.M.’s announcement felt anti-climactic, it’s because it was. It surely did seem as if R.E.M. had hung it up long ago or, at the very least, had stopped trying real hard. Since it didn’t seem that too many people were hanging on their next move, why announce a break-up? Why not just fade gently into the rock and roll night and leave your options open to do something in the future? The answer is very likely a cynical one: for the first time in years, critics, pundits, bloggers and fans returned their gaze towards R.E.M. and took stock of the band’s significant accomplishments as alt-rock godfathers and unlikely MTV superstars. Rather than taking up space in the limitless environs of the where-are-they-now warehouse, R.E.M. is now the subject of features in major magazines. Rather than devising ways to sell copies of their recently released Collapse Into Now, they have tilled the soil for an upcoming greatest hits release. Most significantly, there can’t be a reunion tour in 2017, if the band never broke up.

Far from an acceptance of the inevitable decline of any significant artist, R.E.M.’s latest announcement is just another savvy step in a career marked by shrewd and perceptive decisions.

The Enthusiasts: "Sinkin'/Risin'" b/w "Joanne"

By: Rinjo Njori

The Enthusiasts jump from English Power Pop into the Power Trio arena with their second single. While their first single might have been stylistically different they settle down nicely on their latest. "Sinkin'/ Risin'" blends the 60s psychedelic and 70s blues-metal leanings of Deep Purple and Ogden's Nut Flake-era The Small Faces. Joey F. blends the guitar sounds of Ritchie Blackmore on the big riffs while Dylan H. and Matt G. match him beat for beat. The shout style 70s metal chorus might sound out of place to some but blends nicely overall. "Joanne" takes their foot off the pedal and they rely and laid back guitars and minimal vocal melodies. The song builds towards something during the last minute and showcases Joey F.'s guitar work. The Enthusiasts are progressing musically from something less primitive and engaging but are willing to keep the songs fun.

*Note, you can find The Enthusiasts "In The City" now on the Garage Punk Hideout Comp: Noises from the Hideout: The Best of the Garage Punk Hideout Vol. 6, here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Schultz' Earful: I Want My MTV

By: David Schultz

On August 1, 1981, MTV launched its somewhat revolutionary network with the broadcast of The Buggles’ “Video Killed The Radio Star.” It’s grown trite to comment about the prophetic choice of the first video. Nonetheless, MTV was as much of a game changer for the music industry as the invention of the iPOD and the rise of digital media with the only difference being that record labels generally embraced, rather than fought, its development. On October 27, I Want My MTV, an oral history of the station compiled by former Blender music editors Rob Tannenbaum and Craig Marks, will hit bookstores and e-readers nationwide. The result of hundreds of interviews, the book will cover MTV’s history from its inception through 1992, the year it made its move into reality programming and aired the misleadingly named The Real World.

Chuck Klosterman interviewed Tannenbaum and Marks for a Grantland podcast. It is well worth checking out.

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Grace Potter Rocking The Gear circa 2006!