For most of us, Lou Reed’s songs exist in a world we’ll never know or participate in. Most of the situations he finds himself in, I’m not sure I’d ever actually want to be involved in. But damn, if he didn’t make it all seem cool.
Reed gave a voice for those who lived on the brink of society. That’s probably one of the reasons why so many musicians and artists loved him and the Velvet Underground. If you were an outcast – or misunderstood – you wanted to be with him. But Reed wasn’t asking listeners to come join him in some sort of musical paradise (which is something that Bowie would do). If you were considered a freak, you were a character in one of his songs.
The best Reed songs dealt with topics that no one else dared to write about in rock at the time: weird tales of sex and an open-ness of drug-use. Even today, few artists dabble in the back alleys of the city the way that Reed did. He found beauty in the people and things others of his era didn’t. His New York was as gritty as it was pretty. That’s why the Velvets were just as noisy as they were melodic. A song like “All Tomorrow’s Parties” contains both. Underneath Nico’s haunting vocals is Reed’s scratching guitar that rips the myth of the 60’s from its foundation.
Unlike a lot of his contemporaries, Reed never sold out. He never took the easy way out. I You don’t listen to the Velvet Underground or Lou Reed because it’s easy. You listen to them because Reed’s world will almost always sound more exciting than yours.
With a lot of my other musical heroes, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to hang out with them even for a minute. But no so with Lou Reed. I’ve always wanted to be a character in one of his songs.
And I guarantee I’m not the only one. That’s when songs truly become immortal.
About a year ago, I got a chance to interview Zachary Meyer from the terrific Dust Engineers. The group has returned with an eerie new song “Pb (Lead)” which will be included on their debut full-length next year. The song conjures up sounds of the desert with its dark guitar strumming and haunting vocals by Sarah M. It’s the type of spooky song that wouldn’t have fitted perfectly against the back-drop of Breaking Bad.
Check out “Pb (Lead)” below:
In a way, “D.S.M.R.” could be considered Prince’s manifesto for the first decade of his career. It contains 3 of his favorite topics in the title alone – dance, music and sex. The romance occasionally pops up, but it didn’t preoccupy him the way the others did. The way he snarls the word “romance” in a sexy drawl during the call and response section tells you that he think it’s just a stage you have to take to get to the good stuff.
It’s interesting to hear the sexual lyrics of “D.M.S.R.”(“work your body like a whore”, “girl it ain’t no sin to strip right down to your underwear”) though the lens of 2013 and post Miley-twerk. This is especially true when you consider the fact that it was 1999 that kickstarted the parental advisory sticker on albums.
But more than anything else, “D.M.S.R.” is perhaps the best example of the Minneapolis Sound which Prince pioneered. It’s as funky as anything George Clinton laid down with synthesizers everywhere, and clean guitar tones.
“D.S.M.R.” might not be an undisputed classic like “1999” or “Little Red Corvette” but it’s hard not to shout “Dance! Music! Sex! Romance!” when Prince commands you to.
If you haven’t heard of Sharkmuffin, take some moments out of your date right now and check out the group’s sophomore EP 1097. You’ll be glad you did. The Brooklyn trio isn’t afraid to get dirty with noisy riffs and gritty vocals.
With 1097 Shark Muffin are already carving out their own niche. 1097 is full of dangers and wild abandon. “Foul Play” opens with a distorted Chuck Berry-style riff before turning into a punk thrash with melodic guitar leads. “Ten Ten” ends with about two minutes of feedback which seems to suggest that Shark Muffin are laying down a threat to other bands.
Stream 1097 here.
Reggie Williams’ The The All Of Us EP is likely to ease the hearts of John Mayer fans who adore his acoustic-pop early days and scuff at his ventures down the grooves of After the Goldrush. It’s no coincidence that Williams named EP, The All of US EP. Togetherness is everywhere throughout the set. Williams wants his listeners to open their hearts and their minds, to love and be loved. If the sincerity grates on you, just listen to Williams’ soulful crooning. Even the most cynical of minds could get behind a voice like that.
The All of Us EP will be released on December 2nd. For more info on Williams, visit his Facebook page.
There are certain songs that are forever attached to specific memories. Whenever I hear Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom”, I’m always transported back to middle school. Whenever I hear the song’s signature guitar line, I can almost smell the stale seats of my school-bus. I was in 7th grade when this song came was popular, and almost every kid on the bus knew this song and loved to sing “Do you wanna die?” at the top of their lungs.
We all thought The Toades were fucking awesome and they would be destined to become the next Pearl Jam, or something. The kid next to me used to sometimes air-drum to the song when it came on the bus radio.
When I first got iTunes a few years ago, I decided to download “Possum Kingdom” for purely nostalgic reasons. (Before Spotify, Itunes was the only way to do this. A lot of my first purchases from the Itunes store are actually kind of embarrassing for this reason.) As I listened to it, I was kind of struck by how good the song actually was. It’s got a great hook, and a memorable guitar line. The “Do you wanna die?” section made not be as good or rewarding as I remember it, but it still works within the context of the song. Most importantly, “Possum Kingdom” doesn’t sound like Nirvana-lite. And in 1994, that’s saying something.
If you like drinking and watching videos on Youtube (and who doesn’t?) then the latest video from The Racoon Wedding is for you. As the bouncy, down-home song plays in the background, each of the band members take a turn swigging from a very big bottle. Hilarity ensues. With its mixture of Music From Big Pink-era Band and early Counting Crows, “All I Need” is definitely a song to check out.
“All I Need” can be found on the group’s latest album Dead on the Side of the Road.
For more information, check out the band’s website.
There are bands that sound different, and then there are bands that are totally in their own world regardless of what else is going on around them. The Bushwick Hotel’s latest single “Take Care of My Girl” is a trippy mix of R&B, art-punk and jazz. Clearly the band knows no musical boundaries as saxophones solo mesh against distorted vocals and jazzy rhythms. If I could ever picture Bruce Springsteen playing “The E-Street Shuffle” with The Velvet Underground as his backing band, then you might come close to the sound of “Take Care of My Girl”.
The Bushwick Hotel’s new album Graffiti of the Young Man’s Mind will be released 11/19.
With their energetic harmonies and jerky rhythms, Poor Remy has easily set themselves apart from other neo-folk acts. The group seems set on creating an identity for themselves rather than trying to make music that is en vogue. If the Beach Boys and the Violent Femmes had produced a kid, it would almost certainly be Poor Remy. The band are riding the folk wave, but they could also by steering the genre’s ship in a new direction as they go.
Dance-rock/synth pop has become the trend for indie-rock. But remember when The Killers released Hot Fuss it sounded totally out of left-field? Metropolis America has captured the feeling of The Killers circa 2004 with “A Stolen Heart in a Stolen Car”. It’s got a killer groove and melody with plenty of heart on its sleeve. The video perfectly captures the feeling of the song.