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The B-52’s!

Music doesn’t always have to be serious. The B52’s are a great example! For years I only knew their biggest hit ‘Love Shack’ thanks to constant rotation on MTV back in the early 90s. Around 2008 I discovered more of their music after suddenly deciding to buy their greatest hits CD titled ‘Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation’.

Take for example the lyrics of the song ‘Strobe Light’…

Is that you baby? Yeah!

Got something to tell ya. Oh, what?

I wanna see ya tonight.

I want you to walk in the door.

I want you to lay on the floor.

Cause tonight’s the night.

We make love under a strobe light.

Underneath the strobe light.

Wanna make love to you under the strobe light.

Wanna make love to you under the strobe light.

Strobe light, wooooooah, strobe light, wooooooah, yeah!

Here’s the YouTube link:

Strobe Light

It is such a random, casual, quirky and crazy song and it nicely encapsulates what they’re about. So, contrary to what some people may think, rock music is not always about serious subjects and bone-crunching power chords or guitar solos! There’s a lot of fun stuff out there too.

Here’s another funny one of theirs called ‘Song for a Future Generation’:

Wanna be the ruler of the galaxy

Wanna be the king of the universe

Let’s meet and have a baby now!

Wanna be the empress of fashion

Wanna be the president of Moscow

Let’s meet and have a baby now!

 La! La! La! La! La!

La! La! La! La! La!

La! La! La! La! La!

La! La! La! La! La!

Song for a Future Generation

One song that I really like of theirs, which is not featured on the Time Capsule hits collection is ‘Revolution Earth’ from the 1993 album ‘Good Stuff’. Sure, it sounds more like a Kate Pierson solo recording but it is just so divine. She has a lovely voice!

Revolution Earth

More proof of her great voice can be found on R.E.M. songs like ‘Shiny Happy People’ and ‘Me In Honey’. I love it! This is my kind of music.

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Rebooting my blog with a salute to some very talented musicians

Well, it’s been quite some time since I wrote anything. So I figured that I should kick-start my blog again. And what better way to restart it than by talking about music?!

One of my all-time favourite bands split up. I’m of course talking about R.E.M. Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck (and Bill Berry until the mid 90’s) have been on my radar ever since Losing My Religion was broadcast on a pre-Grammy nomination show in 1992 on a local Indian TV channel. I know that the Grammys are lame nowadays but the truth is, that is how I found out about them.

After getting into their two early nineties’ masterpieces, Out Of Time and Automatic For The People, 1994’s Monster sealed my love for this band… which I realize sounds funny as heck considering that those albums, particularly Monster, were complete departures from their signature college rock/indie sound of the 80’s. But it doesn’t matter because I went back and discovered all of their older work as well. While I am not quite as bonkers about their 80’s work when compared to the 90’s (except for Lifes Rich Pageant and Document), I do love and enjoy listening to a significant chunk of their songs even from the first decade.

Though a part of me feels sad that there won’t be another R.E.M. album, it is not surprising that they decided to call it a day. They have experimented with a hugely varied palette of sounds over the years, despite maybe not coming close to the variety of say U2 or The Beatles. So I suppose they have nothing new to say anymore. It could also just be a decision to end on a high note with the cheerful and optimistic-sounding Collapse Into Now. I still have not listened to Around The Sun except for a few songs. And the one before that, 2001’s Reveal was generally pretty boring. But overall, what a great discography! They really don’t make bands like these anymore. They will be sorely missed!

I’ll end with a list of my favourite R.E.M. songs:

  1. Drive
  2. The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite
  3. Everybody Hurts
  4. Man On The Moon
  5. Nightswimming
  6. Find The River
  7. Welcome To The Occupation
  8. Disturbance At The Heron House
  9. King Of Birds
  10. Driver 8
  11. The Great Beyond
  12. Begin The Begin
  13. I Believe
  14. Swan Swan H
  15. What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?
  16. Bang And Blame
  17. Losing My Religion
  18. Half A World Away
  19. Walk Unafraid
  20. Daysleeper

Rock n’ Roll ain’t dead (just yet)!

Slash

It’s 2011, a time when mainstream Pop music, Hip Hop and R&B continue to rule the charts along with a small, non-threatening helping of polite rock music such as Coldplay to keep company. But it seems like old school hard rock or even guitar oriented classic rock is still not completely dead, despite gasping for breath underneath the weight of your Lady Gagas, Justin Biebers, Katy Perrys and Black Eyed Peas.

There has been a handful of rock albums in the recent past and they have not all been duds either. Neither do they come off as embarrassing attempts to reclaim some long lost glory. The most recent one is ‘Wasting Light’ by Foo Fighters. The Foo Fighters have of course been kind of a mainstream rock band throughout, winning Grammys, being played on MTV and so on… sorry MTV doesn’t play music, my bad. Anyway, you get the point. This latest album though, sounds like it was created to win back old fans. It is a pretty tight set of songs that rock as hard as anything on their first or second albums. Apparently, it was literally recorded in Dave Grohl’s garage as opposed to the band’s studio. As a result, the album sounds rawer than usual and rocks harder than most made-for-the-charts hit singles nowadays. Good for them! Personally, I liked most of the album, not all of it. But it is such a refreshing change to hear brutal hard rock and punk riffs in an era of inane lyrics and candy coated melodies.

Then there was Slash’s album last year… Who?… That’s right! Slash of Guns n’ Roses fame came back, believe it or not! After releasing only a couple of albums with his own band Snakepit over a period of 15 years or so, he came back in 2010 with a self titled album filled with guest singers galore! And it is a really nice effort, I must say. I have to admit something embarrassing here. I only even heard of this album recently, because I was Google-searching and wondering if the old curly haired, top hat wearing rock n’ roll stud was up to anything at all. The best thing about this album (titled ‘Slash’ with subtitle R&FN’R for obvious reasons) is that the guy has managed to bring vocalists as varied as Ozzy Osbourne, Chris Cornell and Lemmy to Fergie, Adam Levine and Kid Rock all under one roof; and the end result does not sound like a discordant mess at all. I never thought I would say this, to be honest, but Fergie actually sounds totally badass on this record! The same cannot be said for the weirdly un-manly voice of Maroon 5’s Adam Levine but it doesn’t matter. The whole package along with Slash’s guitar actually sounds halfway decent. Heck, this album definitely sounds more cohesive than Chinese Democracy by Guns… I mean, Axl and his huge posse.

Then, moving on to classic rock, we had R.E.M. earlier this year delivering a damn good and cheerful album in ‘Collapse Into Now’. It contained just about the best mix of old and new sounds that one can realistically expect from this geriatric band of nerdy college rockers at this point in their career. Roughly two years before that (God! Has it been that long already??), their more-mainstream musical brothers, U2 put out yet another album that sounded excellent on the first few listens but in hindsight showed that Bono & Co continue to straddle that fence between reliving former glories and staying relevant for today’s kids.

But I digress. Surely, somebody like Slash coming out with an album in 2010 is much more news-worthy than bands like U2 and R.E.M. which have more or less been on the radar over the last 15 years or so. Oh, and I forgot Metallica’s ‘Death Magnetic’ from 2008. Anyway, my overall point remains. Old school ‘rawk’ music is still alive and kicking and I couldn’t be happier. 😉

R.E.M. ‘Collapse Into Now’ – Familiar yet Fresh

R.E.M. Collapse Into Now (album cover)

The veteran rockers of R.E.M. are back with a new album and it sounds happy and full of life! This album is basically what 2008’s ‘Accelerate’ was trying to be. After ex-drummer Bill Berry’s departure in the mid 90’s, the band went into an extremely melancholic, almost lackadaisical mode with their next 3 albums. 1998’s ‘Up’ at least had excellent songwriting throughout despite the lack of energy but the next one, ‘Reveal’ sounded totally lost and direction-less. With ‘Accelerate’, they regained a lot of that lost energy but somehow it ended up sounding like they were trying too hard to rock again. Now with this new one, they have managed to arrange together the perfect mix of catchy rockers, slower atmospheric numbers and pretty mid-tempo ditties.

It all kicks off with a ringing rocker titled ‘Discoverer’ which is immediately reminiscent of something like ‘Finest Worksong’ off of ‘Document’. When I listened to the song-leak prior to album release, I was not that thrilled about it. But it has managed to grow on me over time. With track 2 ‘All The Best’ they come out all-guns-blazing and deliver a ridiculously catchy, fun song. The next one is a medium-paced, pretty little guitar track called ‘ÜBerlin’ which took me a few listens to really like. Musically, it sounds a bit like their song ‘Electrolite’ and lyrically it is Stipe at his most hopeful: “I will make it through the day and then the day becomes the night. I will make it through the night.” It also has a cool little musical bridge just before the last verse that I really love. Then we go on to a song called ‘Oh My Heart’ which despite its somewhat cliché lyrics, has a pleasant swinging rhythm to it. It answers the question asked by the song ‘Houston’ on the previous album, by stating “The storm didn’t kill me. The government changed.” Track 5 ‘It Happened Today’ is the one with Eddie Vedder on guest vocals. And for all the excitement it brought up in my mind just because I was going to hear Eddie’s awesome voice, I think the song kind of fell flat. The chorus is nice enough but there doesn’t seem to be much substance to the whole song and one can hardly even hear Eddie’s voice clearly except at the very end. ‘Every Day Is Yours To Win’, a mellow track with positive life affirming lyrics sounds a bit too much like their classic ‘Drive’ as it gets going. It ends up being a cheerful sing-along that is not remarkable but rather harmless in the middle of the album.

The second half kicks off with ‘Mine Smell Like Honey’ which has classic rocking R.E.M. written all over it. The song has a catchy chorus but is not my favourite here. The next one titled ‘Walk It Back’ sounds very different from anything they have written so far, a pleasant pop song to change the pace a little. Track 9 ‘Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter’ is great fun to listen to but is basically made up of nonsensical lines like “I feel like an alligator climbing up the escalator” and “I’m the world’s strongest island”. It features guest vocals by Peaches whose voice seems to have an uncanny resemblance to that of Kate Pierson, their well-known guest vocalist from years past. Track 10 ‘That Someone Is You’ is a quick rocker which I quite enjoy listening to. The lyric “That someone has pulled me up and out of cartoon quicksand” is amusing because Stipe has used “cartoon brick wall” before on the album ‘Up’. Anyway, recycling aside most of these songs are catchy and memorable. The next track ‘Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando And I’ is a pensive ballad that reminds me of songs off of ‘Green’ or even ‘Automatic For The People’. This is the kind of stuff that was missing on their previous album and gives this one a fuller feel. Final track ‘Blue’ features their other famous friend Patti Smith on guest vocals. As soon as the melancholic strumming guitar comes through the speakers, one is reminded instantly of ‘Country Feedback’. I mean, it is a pretty blatant lift from R.E.M.’s own material. Then as Stipe starts doing his talk-singing thing and Patti croons lazily over the tune, one cannot help but wonder if this is ‘E-bow The Letter’ Part 2. Just before the end, the tune stops abruptly and you hear the ringing guitar of first track ‘Discoverer’ again. They end the whole thing with a reprise of Discoverer which makes it nice to listen to this album in a repeat loop.

So in summary, except for a couple of average sounding numbers here and there, this album is for the most part amazingly fun to listen to. Stipe sounds joyous and full of life as he raps “This is my time and I am thrilled to be alive. Living. Blessed. I understand. Twentieth Century Collapse Into Now.” This is the most complete album they have made since ‘New Adventures…’ or ‘Up’ and it shows! They play to their strengths here by revisiting various sounds from their thirty year history and in the end it doesn’t really sound like a rehash. If this were their last album (which it could very well be, sadly), it would be an awesome high to go out on! All in all, a good album by a great band.

Rating: 4 / 5