It is a new spring of a new year and I find myself separated from my family for just a little while longer. As horrible as it is, one very small benefit (that I would gladly trade away) is the ability to listen to music in my car as loud as I want whenever I want. Given that my car has a sun-roof and I have an hour’s worth of commute daily, I get to listen to a lot of music. Here is a choice sample of music that I am paying attention to right now (the picture is of bizzaro band Man-Man):
GREEN DAY: Only one of the biggest bands in America whose albums sky-rocket on the charts and rake in the cash. But what about their music? I am almost 40 and these guys were getting their start right about the time that I began to REALLY care about music so I have had an opportunity to see them throughout their entire career. When they started in 1987, they were a fun kind of ‘bubblegum’ punk that was precious and catchy and they rode that wave for a time before beginning to fade. But in 2004, they reinvented themselves in a huge way with ‘American Idiot’ and ‘21st Century Breakdown’. These two punk operas are two of the most lyrical and most important albums released in the past ten years. Not only are the musically awesome, the lyrics and sense of social consciousness that came out of both is something that 90 percent of the bands out there can only aspire too. If you have never listened to American Idiot all the way through, do so now. The song below is one of my favorites from 21st Century Breakdown.
PORTISHEAD: This obscure English band is a favorite of mine for late night drives on lonely roads after I heard them on internet radio one late night. They are great examples of the ‘Trip-Hop’ genre, an interesting mix of downbeat electronica, hip-hop and industrial music that seemed to have peaked in the 90s but still exists today in other forms. Shunning publicity and famous for very long interludes between albums, Portishead is still around and for that and making another album and for that, I am very grateful. The song below is a great example of their work, ‘Wandering Star’. Listen to it while night-driving.
VENGABOYS: Let me explain. In 1999, there was this Strip Club / Brothel outside Camp Casey in Tongduchon, South Korea. At this club, at 1900 (one hour after they opened), every dancer in the club (a combination of Korean, Filipino and Russian girls) came down a winding staircase and climbed onto the stage dressed in outlandish garb and danced in unison and sang along with this song. If you were pulled onto the stage and danced with them, you got a free drink. I saw this sight dozens of times both when on Courtesy Patrol and when out on the town with my fellow Soldiers. I do not condone the business that was going on there then and certainly don’t now, but I have this Vengaboys song and the sight of two dozen Strippers and two dozen Soldiers gyrating on stage forever etched in my memory.
LED ZEPPELIN: It absolutely boggles my imagination that there are generations of kids who do not know who Led Zeppelin was and what they accomplished. Sure, they know ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and they might be able to hum a few bars of ‘Kashimir’, ‘The Immigrant Song’ or even ‘Dyer Maker’ but they can’t tell you a thing about a band that is the second-largest selling Rock Band in history (only behind the Beatles). If I was king for a day, I would take any snot-nosed little punk that THINKs they know Rock and I would force them to listen to every LZ album (there are a lot of them) until they acknowledged that these guys did it better and earlier than just about everyone else. I realize that this is probably the first time that I have actually made the ‘You kids don’t know squat’ argument but I challenge you to go listen to Led Zeppelin IV and tell me that in this case, you don’t agree with me.
MAN MAN: These guys are just plain WEIRD…and that is a good thing. I listen to a lot of music and occasionally I fall into a funk because I think that everything is starting to sound the same. I have had my fill at various times of Punk, Rock, Hip-Hop, Trip-Hop, Lo-Fi, Celtic…eventually I start to lose my desire to listen to anything. And then I make a discovery like Man Man. I can’t really describe them as anything other than an exceedingly bizarre cabaret Rock/Hop band that occasionally throws in strange warped chords taken from a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. The first time I listened to their album ‘Six Demon Bag’, I had to listen to it again because I wasn’t exactly sure what I just heard. Months later, I am still trying to figure it out but I accept that this is the normal state of affairs with Man Man (who apparently has a hell of a live performance that borders on legendary) and they are the perfect antidote for the jaded music listener.