Monthly Archives: February 2013

Singer Songwriter Pauline Pisano to Perform at Intersections Art Festival in DC Tomorrow (February 23rd)

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New Yorker singer songwriter Pauline Pisano will perform tomorrow night (February 23rd) at the Intersections Art Festival in Washington, DC.  Pisano will be adding her vocals with the dance troupe DancEthos who specialize in “imaginative movement…with live music.”

Information and tickets for event can be found on DancEthos web-site.

Pisano also fronts the band I, Revere who recently released the song “Old Gemini” which recalls the sound and bombast of early 2000’s Evanescence.

For more info on I Revere check out their Facebook page.

 

New Music: “Make It Rain” – Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds

 

Remember when gospel and funk were virtually interchangeable and Sly and the Family Stone was the sickest band on the planet?  Me neither, but Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Bird’s “Make it Rain” is almost as good as the real thing with loud horns, tight rhythm section and bouncy beat. “Make it Rain” is the type of song you’ll want to keep you warm during these cold winter nights, but won’t be tired of come summer time.

New Music: “Song For Motion” – Lowlakes

 

If you’re into My Morning Jacket’s quieter moments, then you might want to check out “Song For Motion” from Australia’s Lowlakes.  Over a gentle piano and sparse guitar, frontman Tom Snowdon recalls MMJ frontman Jim James croon and range.  “Song for Motion” doesn’t really live up to its title; it takes a while to get caught up in its hypnotic and airy atmosphere.  If you want a new song to listen to late at night, this is it.

 

Song of the Week: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – Nirvana

 

I have a love/hate relationship with Nirvana and specifically “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  Sometimes I think it’s one of the best songs ever recorded, other times I think it’s one of the most over-rated songs.  Usually, I tend to lean towards the latter.  I like the song, but it is not better than Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” as Rolling Stone declared in its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time a few years back.

Still, there is something about “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that attracts me to the song and not out-right hate it, the same way I do say, something like Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that nostalgia wasn’t a huge part of it.  Despite my own grumblings about its place in rock culture, I have quite a history with the song.

I first heard the song in the fall of 1991. My older brother had just returned home from college for winter break and was playing the song in his room.  Its fast and aggressive and sound was totally new to me. Like most people, it was the song’s  catchy hook that caught my attention.  I couldn’t understand a fucking word that Kurt Cobain said except “hello, hello, hello”, but afterwards I was humming the song for days.  Ozzy Osbourne once described the song’s sound as “The Beatles on fucking steroids”.   I might not have understood that concept upon my first listen, but even at the age of 10, its catchiness got me too.

For whatever reason, my brother didn’t copy a cassette of Nevermind for me. Did I ask him?  Or did he forget? Maybe he thought I was too young to listen it. I honestly have no memory of any conversation about it. But I couldn’t get the song or the hook out of my head. It stuck with me, and I wanted more.  I wasn’t really allowed to listen to the radio, so waiting hours to hear one song wasn’t an option. A few weeks later, I asked my other brother (who was in high school at the time) if he had a copy. He was too busy listening to the real Beatles and Bob Dylan to care about current musical trends. He quickly dismissed me with a reply about how “Nirvana sucked” and how “anyone could play guitar like Kurt Cobain.”

For the time being, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” remained elusive – it became a kind of Rosebud of my pre-teen life.  It was the song that got away, whose sound and melody haunted me.

Every once in a while, the song would creep back to my life in various ways.  I would hear it a friends house, or on the school-bus during field-trips.  Every time I heard it, I desperately tried to drawn out the surrounding sounds so I could hear every note.  I didn’t know what guitar distortion was, but that riff got me every time.

A few years later at a friend’s birthday party, I had my first “full” listen to the song.  I borrowed my friend’s discman and put on “Nevermind”.  I must have listened to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” about 6 times in a row, totally ignoring everything else that was going on around me.  It sounded just as glorious as I remembered. Every drum-beat by Dave Grohl was like an explosion in my adolescent mind.  And this time, I could actually understand some of the lyrics.  My friends must have thought I was crazy for listening to a song for what seemed an eternity, but I didn’t care.

Throughout middle school and high-school, I never grew tired of the song’s allure.  But by the time I got to college, I became bored with Nirvana and “Teen Spirit” as well.  Actually, come to think of it, the very thought of them made me sick. I was starting to listen to the Pixies and the Velvet Underground, and in comparison, Nirvana’s “punk” vibe seemed polished and too refined.  At the height of this phase, I wrote a poem for my poetry class entitled “An Ode to Kurt”.  It wasn’t really an ode at all, but rather a big “fuck you” in poetic form.   Throughout the poem, I essentially called Cobain a poser and questioned his anti-establishment ethics.  If he hated success so much, why did he create music that so catchy that was destined to get stuck in the heads of millions?

Currently, I view “Teen Spirit” like this: 1.) it’s not as good as everyone makes it out to be 2.) it’s better than I gave it credit for in my college years and a pretty good song after all, and 3.) It’s not better than “What’d I Say”.

Song of the Week: “Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes

 

In terms of actual songwriting, “Seven Nation Army” is a very strange song.  There’s no chorus. It’s famous “bass-line” is actually a guitar.  And the whole song is just a variation one on single riff.

But it’s a riff that gets stuck in your head, and is very easy to hum or mimic, which might explain why it’s such a popular song to be played at sporting events.  The song has been used for chants for many years in European Soccer games.  In recent years, Baltimore Ravens fans have picked it up as their “unofficial anthem”.  I went to one game a few years ago and was amazed at people’s reaction to it.  The whole stadium erupted into a song/chant of “Ooooo, oooo,oooooo,ooooo-ooooooooooh!” as the song blared in the background.  A girl behind me shouted, “Finally!” like a major play had just happened.

It’s hard to believe that “Seven Nation Army” and Elephant will turn 10 in just a few months.  Upon its release, I became obsessed with the record and that song in particular. Compared to what was out at the time, The White Stripe were exciting and bizarre. And of course, they flat-out rocked. Elephant was one of the few CDs I bought with me on a study abroad program to Italy that year.  On the weekends, as a group we took trips to Rome, Florence and Venice. As everyone else on the bus passed out and nursed their hang-overs, I stared out at the window looking at the country-side with “Seven Nation Army” blasting through my head-phones.

On that trip I met one of my closest friends.  Throughout this past football season, she would send me text updates on the Ravens when I wasn’t able to watch the games.  Most of the time the texts were filled with updates on the score or major plays.  Occasionally, they were angry.  When Joe Flacco’s pass was intercepted by the Denver Broncos in December resulting in a touch-down, I got one that simply read, “We fucking suck.”

Of course the Ravens don’t suck.  And neither does Joe Flacco.  But to anyone who has followed the team throughout the season, you know it’s been an up-hill battle: Ray Lewis’ tricep injury, the death of Torrey Smiths’ brother early in the season, the death of founder Art Modell, critics who wrote Flacco off, the firing of Cam Cameron in December.

For much of the season, I became preoccupied with Notre Dame’s winning streak.  (They are my favorite team after-all.)  The further Notre Dame went and won in October and November, the more the Ravens seemed to slide. But then something happened: the Ray Lewis effect. When the famed line-backer announced his retirement in the beginning of January, the Ravens seemed invigorated and whole again.

As the dreams of a Notre Dame Championship win blew away and faded into the background, and the Ravens charged their way through the play-offs I grew more nervous.  If there was ever a season where the team needed a Super Bowl win, this was it. After the win agains the Broncos and Ray Lewis babbled his way through an obscure Bible verse (“no weapon forged against us”), I immediately thought of the opening lines of “Seven Nation Army”:

I’m gonna fight’em off.                                                                                                                       A Seven Nation Army couldn’t hold me back.

Truer words couldn’t be spoken about the team. Thanks guys for the memories and season, and thanks Jack for letting us adopt your song as our own.

 

 

Album of the Week: “Throwing Copper” – Live

 

Live’s Throwing Copper defines much of my early adolescence.  Kids in the 70’s had Led Zeppelin. The generation before me had Nirvana as their guiding light.  Me?  I had to settle down for the watered-down version of Nirvana in a band called Live.

I didn’t know that at the time though. To my early teenage ears, Live were the defining band of my generation. They could rock as hard as as Nirvana, and they had a tinge of spirituality that recalled 1980’s U2. Ed Kowalcyzk could scream like Kurt Cobain, but his voice didn’t shred apart when he wailed.  Ed K. could hold those notes, man.  “I Alone” and “Lightning Crashes” were radio staples on my school bus. Almost knew the words to both songs.  Not only was Live the band, but they were “local” heroes and icons since they came from York, Pennsylvania.

I had a cassette tape of Throwing Copper that I would listen to daily on my walkman on the bus.  Even though I knew the track-list by heart, I carefully wrote out the track names in blue-ink on the tape’s label. Somehow, seeing my own writing of the songs made the album seem like it was mine.  And man, how I coveted that album.

Throwing Copper contained a lot of firsts for me. The squeals at the end of “I Alone” exposed me to feedback, and it blew my mind.  A guitar can actually sound like that?  It also introduced me to the 90’s cliche that was the “secret track”.  Wow!  There’s a track after the final song?  Awesome!   And, some 30 years after The Beatles recorded “Tomorrow Never Knows”, I found out about the Tibetan Book of the Dead through the not-so-subtly titled “T.B.D”.  What do these lyrics mean?  They sound really important!

The “importance” of Kowalcyzk’s lyrics was the subject of many conversations I had with my friends and my siblings.  Was “Top” about a Nazi resistance leader?  Was “Waitress” trying to tell us that we should tip more to waiters and waitresses?  Was “White, Discussion” predicting an upcoming apocalypse or was it a metaphor?  And “Shit Towne?”  That had to be high social commentary, and not an attack on York itself.

I became so enamored with Live that I spent my allowance money on the overly expensive singles from Sam Goody just because they contained live versions of the album’s tracks.  It was my first foray into the attitude of “music snobbery”.  When the kids on the bus  claimed to be huge Live fans, I could trump them because I had these “rare” songs.

I spent a good two years listening to Throwing Copper on repeat.  When they released their follow-up Secret Samadhi in 1997, I really wanted to love it.  But it didn’t grab me the same way.  On Throwing Copper the band sounded ready to take over the world.  With Secret Samadhi they sounded tired and worn out.  Once again, Live had introduced another first for me: that a band could disappoint you.  I’ve experienced this many times since, but with Live it was heartbreaking.

Eventually as I became older, I moved on from Live. Other than researching for this post, I haven’t listened to Throwing Copper in its entirety  in at least a decade. It’s too tied too my youth and as such I’m not even sure I could listen to ironically.  Though I do admit to occasionally doing that for “Pillar of Davidson” because the lyrics are truly awful.

On a final note, there’s another Throwing Copper taught me years after I stopped listening to it: I wouldn’t spend my adult-life listening to watered down grunge.