Friday, July 30, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Gonzo on the air, 7/25

Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band-Diddy Wah Diddy
The Books-I Am Who I Am
LCD Soundsystem-Drunk Girls
Lightspeed Champion-Faculty of Fears
Los Campesinos-In Media Res
Men at Work-It's a Mistake
Elvis Costello and the Attractions-High Fidelity
Twin Sister-The Other Side of Your Face
Band of Horses-Factory
Beck-Lost Cause
Nancy Sinatra-Summer Wine
The Flaming Lips-Race for the Prize
The Morning Benders-Big Echo
Neon Indian-Deadbeat Summer
Phantogram-Running from the Cops
Sleigh Bells-Infinity Guitars
MIA-Born Free
Cornelius-Count Five or Six
MGMT-Electric Feel (Justice mix)
Steel Pulse-Can't Stand It
Black Uhuru-Solidarity
Burning Spear-Marcus Garvey
Pato Banton-Bubbling Hot
Major Lazer-Good Enough (Cash Flow Dub)
Bob Marley and the Wailers-Time Will Tell

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Carpenters' first TV apperance

From this 1968 appearance (appears to be a talent show of sorts), I can't help but think that the Carpenters would have made a bang-up r&b combo.

[Complete, but lower quality]:

[Higher quality, but incomplete]:

Robyn on Letterman: "Dancing on My Own"

As I confessed to Marc Morrison yesterday, Body Talk pt. 1 has quickly grown on me. Part 2 is slated for September, and here is the woman herself doing "Dancing on My Own" on Letterman:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tonight on First Impressions:

New music from Crowded House and M.I.A. are under review this week on First Impressions. As always, Marc Morrison and I will have music news, tomorrow's releases and more. Tune in from 8-9pm EDT on 90.1FM in Indiana, PA, everywhere else.

Chairwoman of the Board

Kylie's take on this soul classic. The video looks like 100 other videos from the early '90s.

Gonzo on the air, 7/18

Iggy Pop-Fun Time
The Dead Weather-Hustle and Cuss
The Capstan Shifts-Class War Tease
Dum Dum Girls-Jail La La
The Vaselines-Son of a Gun
Sonic Youth-Kissability
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti-Round and Round
The Dirty Projectors-Flourescent Half Dome
Local Natives-Warning Sign
Broken Social Scene-Chase Scene
Cut Copy-Where I'm Going
Camera Obscura-French Navy
Murder Mystery-Change My Mind
The Cure-The Walk
Gary Numan/Tubeway Army-Me! I Disconnect from You
Ladytron-Flicking Your Switch
Crystal Castles-Celestica
Kano-Don't Try to Stop Me
The Roots-How I Got Over
Roger-So Ruff, So Tough
Smokey Robinson-Baby That's Bakatcha
Sly and the Family Stone-Somebody's Watching You
Chairmen of the Board-Give Me Just a Little More Time

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Review: Prince's 20Ten

Another year, another Prince album. Just as we were starting to wonder if the Purple One was going to be releasing anything this year came the announcement of a new disc. As you may be aware, Prince is not releasing the album to iTunes or any other legitimate download service. And to date, there is not an official US release. The talk around the campfire is that former label and long-time foe Warner Bros. will distribute the album in the US, but there has been no official release date announced at this point.

Prince has however begun to release the album in Europe by slipping the disc into a number of print publications. Because the Internet is dead, obviously. Predictably, the album leaked online within hours of discs getting into the hands of fans overseas.

I have to admit, I wasn't all that amped for this album. Usually (to a fault, even), I get pretty psyched for new Prince discs. Maybe there just wasn't enough time between the announcement and release for anticipation to build. Maybe I was just a little nervous about how the new disc would sound. Maybe it was a little bit of both.

Pressing "play," I entered the album with low expectations. Those expectations were met, and perhaps even exceeded - but just barely.

As I've said many times, I don't expect Prince to do anything particularly new or innovative at this point in his career. The well is dry. The most that we can expect is competent and pleasurable albums, a la 2004's Musicology or last year's Lotusflow3r/MPLSound. Occasionally, we'll get a flash of brilliance (2006's "Black Sweat," for example). But the fact of the matter is that Prince is well past his creative peak. I think that's to be expected. For us to expect another groundbreaking album from the man is expecting too much.

So what's the score on 20Ten? It's been hyped as a return to Prince's sparse, synth-driven funk of the 1999 era. However, you can't just fire up the Linn LM-1 and call it "classic Prince." If this self-referential retro style is what Prince was going for here, he achieved it more effectively with MPLSound.

Some tracks do pull it off, however. The start-stop progression of "Sticky Like Glue" may be the most successful example. It actually reminds me of a specific Prince song, though I'm having trouble placing it. "Wonderful Ass," perhaps (though it is nowhere near as funky nor interesting as "Wonderful Ass"). Prince's faux-rap bridge is a little cringe-worthy though. "Lavaux" is another that somewhat successfully appropriates the aesthetic qualities of Prince's most successful 1980s material. It pales in comparison of course, largely due to the fact that the lyrics leave much to be desired.

Another track that's been getting some attention is "Future Soul Song." If the totally uncreative title didn't give it away, this is Prince in his baby-makin' mode, and it has rarely sounded more contrived. The chorus just seems forced: "This is a future soul song." It also reminds me of Planet Earth's "Future Baby Mama," which I'm not a fan of at all. The album's other ballads, "Walking in the Sand" and "Sea of Everything" are equally uninspired. Maybe part of the problem is that this is such well trodden territory for Prince. Some of the greatest R&B ballads of all time came from his pen - "Purple Rain," "The Beautiful Ones," "Nothing Compares 2 U," "Adore," "When 2 R In Love," "Do Me Baby," et. al. Perhaps he's exhausted the idiom, and the best that he can do are these sound-alikes that never quite get us to where we want to go (the bedroom?).

The album's official closer, "Everybody Loves Me" sounds like a joke. Maybe it is. It's so incredibly juvenile that I would give it a pass were it written for Happy Feet 2. It's jumpy pop groove is also not a far cry from 2009's "No More Candy for U," which closed out MPLSound.

Notice that I referred to "Everybody Loves Me" as the album's official closer. There is a hidden track (#77). I'm reminded of 1998's New Power Soul. Like that album, Prince has once again buried the disc's most interesting piece. "Laydown" is a dark, mid-tempo groove laden with synth flourishes and a female vocal brings to mind the sample in Jay-Z's "Lucifer." Despite the facepalm inducing lyric in which Prince refers to himself as "the Purple Yoda," it's a solid groove that has Prince putting his spin on contemporary sounds (it sounds very much in the vein of a number of club/hip hop tracks from recent years). This would probably be the cut that I would cherry pick from 20Ten.

In sum, the album isn't doing anything that Prince (or others) haven't already done. The bulk of the songs are good enough, but after a handful of listens, nothing on the disc is particularly compelling lyrically, musically or emotionally. One of the reasons it took me so long to write my review is that after giving it a spin on Saturday, I wasn't compelled to give it another listen. Not because it's bad, but because it's chock full of mediocrity. This is only underscored by the fact that 2010 is the best year for music in recent history. I was much more interested in repeatedly listening to new offerings from The Roots and M.I.A. than Jamie Starr.

For much of his career, Prince was releasing an album a year. The exceptions are 1983 (whilst Prince was occupied with the Purple Rain album and film), 1997, 2005 and 2008. Indeed, some years saw multiple releases. I can't help but wonder if Prince continues this annual release schedule to maintain his status as a prolific artist. I think Prince would do well to cut back to say biannual releases in the hopes that this would lead to higher quality product. With a lot of Prince's work in the last decade (and even a bit beyond that) I sometimes think that you can cull one great album from two that he released. I stand by my claim that last year's double disc would have made one great album. Same goes for 2004's Musicology and 2006's 3121 (though I enjoy both). Planet Earth remains a lost cause.

But the fact of the matter is that I don't direct Prince's business decisions, nor those guiding his career. I'll continue to buy his product, and catch him live when I have the chance. In the end, 20Ten is not a bad album, just one that as a unit, is thoroughly underwhelming.

On a standard grading scale, I'd give it a light C that teeters on the brink of a C-.

Monday, July 12, 2010

No really, I'M the one sending out an SOS here.

Hey, let's drain all of the energy from a song and make it totally uninteresting.

Tonight on First Impressions:

Under the microscope this week: new music from Denmark's Quadron and Philly's The Roots. And of course music news, what's hitting shelves tomorrow, etc. etc.

Join Marc Morrison and I tonight at 8pm EDT on 90.1FM in Indiana, PA or check our stream at

Gonzo on the air, 7/12

MGMT-It's Working
The Replacements-Left of the Dial
The Mynabirds-Let the Record Go
She & Him-Thieves
The Beach Boys-Don't Worry Baby
Sam Cooke-A Change is Gonna Come
Ra Ra Riot-Can You Tell
Spoon-Got Nuffin
Love is All-False Pretense
Lykke Li-Little Bit
The Gorillaz-Melancholy Hill
The Black Keys-Black Mud
Alice Cooper-Be My Lover
The Ramones-We're a Happy Family
The Hot Rats-Damaged Goods
The Raveonettes-Gone Forever
Kylie Minogue-Closer
Scissor Sisters-Whole New Way
The Bird and the Bee-Private Eyes
Power Station-Some Like it Hot
Santogold-Guns of Brooklyn
Robyn-Dance Hall Queen
The Police-Hungry for You
Red Hot Chili Peppers-The Brothers Cup
Jamie Lidell-I Wanna Be Your Telephone
Chester French-C'mon (Alan Wilkis remix)
Kid Sister-Life on TV

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 22 - A song that you listen to when you’re sad

I'm really beginning to loathe this absurd meme. But I've gotten myself into this hole, and feel I must complete it, lest I become less of a man.

What, pray tell, is the difference between "A song that you listen to when you're sad" and "A song that makes you sad?"

Fucking internet.

Whatevs. Here's a song.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's hard out there for a Prince (fan)

If you know me, you know that Prince is one of my biggest musical heroes. I love the little guy, but oftentimes he just says or does ridiculous shit (especially true of the last decade). The latest hubbub making the rounds on the web is no exception, unfortunately.

In an interview with the UK's Daily Mirror, the Purple One had this to say:

"The internet's completely over. I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won't pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can't get it.

"The internet's like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good.

"They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you."

Yeah, tota.....hey, wait a minute. Something about that doesn't sound right. Let's see, MTV isn't hip, ok, numbers are bad, maybe, wait, what's this about the Internet being dead?

As a friend and colleague on the other side of this debate tweeted, "As a communications scholar, you should know that media forms, no matter how dominant they may seem, don’t last forever." And of course, I totally agree. At best, media evolve and merge into other forms. At worst, they die out completely.

For example, look at print newspapers. It's an industry that's been on its deathbed for the better part of a decade, a death expedited by the economic recession of 2008-present. Thousands of jobs cut, plummeting ad rates, many papers going online only or shutting down the presses completely. So here we have a perfect example of a medium that with the access and increasing portability of the Internet, has become simply outmoded.

Back to the matter at hand. The Prince of 2010 shuns web distribution of music because the Internet is "over" and "unhip." Pray tell, if you aren't distributing music digitally in 2010 (even via legal routes), where do you turn? Newspapers. I wish I were joking.

Repeating an experiment from 2007, Prince is slipping copies of his new disc 20Ten in a slew of UK-based print publications: Courier International in France, the Mirror and Daily Record in the UK, Het Nieuwblad in Belgium, and the German edition of Rolling Stone.

The irony is enough to choke upon.

Many of my geeky friends and I have been commenting on how amazing 2010 has been for music thus far. What has also been striking this year is artists' growing embrace of making their music available for free. Most often, this comes in the form of streaming. Spoon, LCD Soundsystem, Big Boi, Dead Weather, MIA, The Roots, Ratatat, Sleigh Bells - these are just a few of the artists who have made their music available free of charge online in the last 6 months, be it on their own websites, MySpace, NPR's First Listen, or some other venue. Then of course, you have artists such as Twin Sister (one of my 2010 picks) who put their latest EP up for free download (at 320kbps) ahead of its official release. Note also that personally, I've purchased all of these titles, save Big Boi, Ratatat and The Roots (and they're all great - I just haven't gotten around to them yet).

And let's not forget Radiohead's "pay what you want" experiment with 2007's In Rainbows (a model adopted by some indie folks including Girl Talk and Saul Williams). The "pay what you want" model yielded 1.2 million downloads of the Radiohead disc, averaging $8 per download (read: $9.6 million). The eventual physical release sold 166,602 in the US and UK alone (let's conservatively estimate $1,666,020 [$10/disc, of which the band sees $1-2) plus 100,000 copies of the $80 "discbox" edition ($8 million). The Internet didn't seem so 'dead' for In Rainbows. But that was a whopping three years ago. Web use and relevance really has taken a nosedive in that time period. Psych.

This makes Prince's recent statements even more perplexing. Does the rest of the music world have it wrong? Of course not. I'd venture to say it's proving rather successful, though this is pure conjecture (although it's worth pointing out that Sleigh Bells' Pittsburgh show sold out - I doubt that such bands could generate nearly the amount of buzz for themselves in the pre-web era).

The real fact of the matter is that Prince has never been able to make the Internet work in a way that is mutually satisfying to him and his fan base. I'll go polemic and say that every online venture he's embarked upon has been an utter failure. Here's a brief rundown:
This site sprung up around the time of Emancipation (1996-7). Horribly designed with no real content to speak of other than occasional diatribes that were characteristically cryptic. I also remember Prince was playing Vegas in 1999 or so, and was going to stream the whole show live, for free. Holy shit! All Prince fans ended up seeing on the web that night was an animated Windows Media Player logo. Buffering. The site closed shortly thereafter.

Crystal Ball
During's reign, Prince released his Crystal Ball set, a 5-disc compilation of unreleased tracks and new music. Curiously, the release is now hailed as significant (as in this WSJ article from April), being one of the first major albums bypassing traditional record industry distribution and sales methods. That's not really how it played out, of course. The album was also available via Prince's now-defunct mail order service, 1-800-New-Funk. Anyhow, here was the deal - pay $65, get this exclusive 3cd set, plus 2 new cds, plus a t-shirt. It was also going to come in this innovative spherical package that somehow managed to hold the cds.

I went for it, obviously. The album was originally announced in the booklet to Emancipation in the fall of 1996. Prince also promoted it during his 1997 concert tour. Countless production and shipping delays got it to us in the spring of 1998. Even better, it was no longer an "exclusive" set. A 4-cd version hit shelves at Best Buy, Target and other major retailers weeks before fans who pre-ordered the set got theirs (more cheaply too - and with proper packaging). So really $65 got you the album later, at greater cost, plus an album of shitty new age music by Prince and a t-shirt that only seemed to come in XL. And that crazy crystal ball packaging idea ended up looking more like a puck. Prince's service also couldn't keep their records straight, levying multiple charges on a number of customers. I was one of those customers. However, they credited more orders than I purchased, so I actually profited on the deal. Sucka.

NPG Music Club
During and following his dispute with Warner Bros., Prince boasted that he envisioned a world where he could deal directly with fans, delivering music to their doorsteps, or their computers. Better yet, he raved about how much material from the Vault he could put out in such a venue. Enter NPGMC - the NPG Music Club. I believe this started in February of 2001 (I recall getting a cryptic Valentine's Day email leading up to the launch). Initially, there was a monthly membership fee of I around $100. This gave you access to content updated on a monthly basis that included live material, exclusive new music, unreleased music from the vault, videos, chats, web radio shows. You also got first dibs on concert tickets (a perk that I enjoyed thanks to a friend with a membership). It started strong. Then updates came with less frequency and volume. In light of this, in 2006 or so the fee was reduced to somewhere around $25 for a lifetime membership. This is when I figured "what the hell" and signed up. Guess what website went dark four months later?

Social Networking
Prince briefly engaged in social networking, but in a very short period of time, his MySpace and Facebook pages disappeared.
With the 2006 release of his 3121 album, Prince launched a new website bearing the album's name. Content and membership perks were to come. They didn't. The site went dark.

2009 saw the release of Prince's Lotusflow3r. Prince promoted the new album ahead of release via, featuring a snippet of the new record. The site closed within a month. In its wake was, another membership-based site. For just $77, members got a year's subscription, which included the new albums ($9.99 at Target, by the way), and regularly updated exclusive content. One problem - there was but a mere trickle of content made available to members over the course of the year. Dissatisfied fans grew even more furious when they were charged $77 for an automatic renewal in early 2010. The site went dark this past spring.


After the first few flops, many Prince fans (myself included) took the line that hey, the Internet is new - we haven't figured out exactly how to harness it. At least Prince was experimenting, right? Bucking the system? Sticking it to old man Warner?

Fair enough, but nearly 15 years later, he still hasn't made it work for him while so many others (indie and major) have. And this most often comes at fans' expense.

Speaking of which, there is one way in which Prince has mastered the web: as a means to seek and sue his fans. This all began in 1997 when Prince's legal representation began sending cease and desist letters to maintainers of Prince fansites. Infractions included posting lyrics (in whole or in part) to compositions by Prince, posting Prince's likeness (which technically are property of the photographer/publishing agency in question), and using the symbol. Yes, the symbol that Prince insisted he be addressed by, the symbol that he sent out to the press so that they could avoid referring to him as Prince.
There may have been some legitimate takedowns too (posting of music, etc.), but the fact of the matter was that Prince was going after the very folks who still found him relevant.

Then there was his more recent tirade, going after eBay, Pirate Bay and YouTube. You may recall this headscratching story from a few years back:

The woman sued Prince and UMG in response - and I believe she won (though I can't seem to find any coverage of the verdict). Coming full circle, there was also a brouhaha when Prince's cover of Radiohead's "Creep" (performed at Coachella in 2008) began making the rounds on YouTube. Prince ordered the videos be taken down, despite the fact that he has no stake in the rights of the composition or its performance. Radiohead admirably prodded him to cease the takedowns. It was a groovy cover, though.

In short, it seems to me that Prince's dismissive stance toward the Internet is a product of his inability to use it effectively. Despite all his talk of "freeing the music" and "interactivity" in the 1990s, Prince 's constant blunders on the web have led him to shift blame from his own poor business and marketing decisions to the medium itself. I can't make much sense of it beyond that. While giving albums away free in newspapers is fine, that actually costs him more upfront than digital distribution. If it's piracy he's worried about, newsflash: not creating a digital version isn't going to prevent piracy. France's Courier International will be the first to hit stands with the disc this Thursday. Let's see how many torrents there are of 20Ten by evening.

Maybe it's all a ruse, like when Prince changed his name to the symbol in 1993 for "spiritual purposes," then admitted in 2004 that it was an attempt to get out of his contract with Warner Bros. (who by the way, Prince met with recently - ostensibly to distribute 20Ten in the US). Maybe this is pulling the proverbial wool over our eyes and he'll unleash an efficient and effective digital wonderland as 20Ten begins to hit shelves/doorsteps. Maybe. But I've learned full well by now that when it comes to Prince, you don't hold your breath.

Monday, July 5, 2010

This Week on First Impressions -

New music from Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti and the Scissor Sisters. Tune in at 8pm Monday (EDT) to hear Marc Morrison and I discuss these new discs, play a few tracks etc. etc. 90.1FM in Indiana, PA everywhere else.