Archive for July, 2011


Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell

The year was 1997, and the folks at Sony decided to do something nice. They offered to let Iggy Pop oversee the remixing of Raw Power (1973), the gloriously messy, (then) final album by Iggy and his partners in volume, The Stooges. Big mistake. Big, beautiful, glorious, ridiculous mistake. Iggy decided he was going to abandon the somewhat ‘arty’ mix done by friend and champion David Bowie for the album’s original release, and instead give Raw Power a sound to live up to its title. It did. Best summary: Everything Distorted, All The Time. Iggy called it a ‘very violent mix’. Understatement. This mix slaughters its listeners, skins them and eats their brains in order to gain their intelligence. In 2010 they re-released the album once more, this time reverting to the original Bowie mix. I have not heard this latest release, and frankly, I don’t care to. I have heard the definitive Raw Power, and it is big, loud, messy, ugly and stupid to the point of genius. I was tempted to go for one of the comparatively cerebral cuts from the album, but that would be taking the easy way out. You haven’t really heard this album until you begin to fear for your speakers.

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There’s a few reasons I posted this tune, but first and foremost; it’s really really good. Seriously, listen to it and tell me you do not like it. Fantastically harmonic, groovy and certainly soulful; it’s no surprise it crossed over to pop audiences when released in 1966. No, the real surprise is that jazz musicians still liked it. Unlike the cringing and face-palming following any rendition of “Birdland” and “Chameleon”, nobody is particularly bothered with how smooth Mercy, Mercy, Mercy is. It’s a piece that’s simply the sign of a remarkable composer, of a beautiful, undying tune.

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Why Rock Sucks In 2011

Well, here we are. It’s 2011, and rock music sucks. You can raise up your hands and protest, you can wail and gnash your teeth, you can hold up a chart, but that won’t change a thing. Rock music is over the hill, it’s played out. It sucks. That’s not to say it’s dead; there’s some brain activity, it breathes, it still moves a little – but it’s not much of an existence. It has lain there, steadily weakening, for some twenty years now, waiting for the next big thing to appear out of nowhere and shine brightly and briefly before being swallowed, regurgitated and discarded. No dice. Yeah, rock has changed in these last two decades, but it hasn’t moved forward; like nearly every other creative field nowadays, it has merely ‘survived’ by feeding on itself. The two main developments in popular rock music to occur in the last decade – the aborted retro-rock ‘revival’ and the return of electro-rock or dance-rock or whatever you want to call it – achieved their limited success entirely through repeating what had already been done decades before, just updated with better recording technology and lyrics about how nowadays we’re all, like, cynical and jaded, or whatever. You know, cause of the internet and stuff. Rock music has stopped rocking. It has retired. It has given up on changing the culture, and is content merely to shuffle around the house, maybe catch a nap, and wait for the kids to call. Rock needs to make like Lazarus or get out of the way.

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What A Little Focus Can Do

“Focus” was an unfortunate casualty in the war of consumerism; our materialistic society leaving a hole subsequently filled by an onslaught of self-help books that turned “success” and “personal achievement” into religions and rendering once decent words like “focus” devoid of useful meaning. It’s evident in some of jazz’s worst but reoccurring stereotypes; the cocky prodigy who never practices and the angsty kid with potential whose own self-doubt ensures he never makes it far; neither with the slightest hint of focus. Both of them a shame when considering the enormous effort it takes to become good at any form of sophisticated music. Ironic too when compared to the hordes of barely musically literate rock musicians, whose half-baked ideas, when given a little push, turn into something much grander; one can just see the transition of Pink Floyd’s Meddle into Dark Side of the Moon as the great example.

Which is what came to mind when at a typically semi-filled Thursday night at 505, the unquestionable venue of choice for yuppies, hipsters and seasoned musicians alike, seeing the reasonably-acclaimed Mace Francis Orchestra, the 14-man youth big band whose efforts and ethos have been likened to other modern big bands such as Thad Jones, Maria Schneider and Bill Holman. Lofty territory for an awfully boyish ensemble (literally; maintaining the traditional absence of non-singer female roles), but to their credit the MFO certainly lacks not courage.

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