Tuesday, 23 April 2013

10 Great Songs By Supergroups

Ahhh the Supergroup. It's a musical All-Star Game. High profile, already established musicians getting together to form one mega band. Like five hall of fame guitarists combining their powers to become on rock and roll Voltron. I'll try to cover as many genres here as I can. 10 Super Songs By Supergroups

1. Cream - "SWLABR"

Often recognized as one of the very first Supergroups formed Cream came together in 1966. Featuring Eric Clapton who had already found fame with The Yardbirds, Jack Bruce (Manfred Mann) and Ginger Baker on drums who first approached Clapton about forming the new band. Clapton was for the idea as long as Bruce be included as well. This caused tension in the group as Baker and Bruce never got along and Cream would only last a couple years. Their impact on the rock and roll landscape is legendary and are often cited as one of the UK's most influential bands.

2. The Transplants - "One Seventeen"

Once Travis Barker left The Aquabats to take over drumming duties in Blink 182, the trio from California exploded into the spotlight. Everyone wanted a piece of Barker...which is fine, because it seems like thats all the guy does is play drums....extremely well I might add. The Transplants were initally Rancid's Tim Armstrong and his roadie pal "Skinhead Rob", when they decided they needed a drummer to flesh out the group of course Barker's name was top of their list. Barker would always play drums for Boxcar Racer, +44 and was even featured on a P. Diddy album.

3. The Highwaymen - "Highwayman"

For Country music's contribution to the supergroup arena we get The Highwaymen. Consisting of Woody Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings it is perhaps the most star studded lineup of this list....ok maybe second. They spanned ten years and released three albums, impressive considering the colossal solo careers each of the four members maintained over that time span as well.

4. The Firm - "Firm Biz"

The Firm was the name of two separate supergroups believe or not. One in the 80's featuring the likes of Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers. The second being the hip-hop trio of NAS, AZ & Foxy Brown who released just one album in 1997. The group was the brainchild of NAS and Dr. Dre among others and was highly hyped and eagerly anticipated. After the album dropped however, expectations weren't met and the album did poorly. The Firm disbanded shortly after. This song also has a bonus member for the supergroup as Dawn Robinson from En Vogue sings the chorus.

5. The Traveling Wilburys - "Handle Me With Care"

Easily the best known supergroup and likely the one with the most star power, The Traveling Wilburys were George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan.  The band was created by Harrison and their first album feature songs written entirely by the all-star line up. Though they all adopted different names for the record it was painfully obvious who was behind the Wilburys. Orbison passed away in 1988, shortly after the album's release, but that didn't stop the remaining 4 to record their second album Volume 3 in 1990. The intentional misnumbering was Harrison's idea...that whacky Beatle.

6. Them Crooked Vultures - "New Fang"

Dave Grohl is a supergroup unto himself...any group he starts or joins get immediate Supergroup status. This one he formed with Josh Homme of Queens Of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal, and John Paul Jones who is best known as being the bassist for a little group called Led Zeppelin. Them Crooked Vultures has perhaps the coolest band names in history. The name and lineup combined with the fact that you can hear the instruments actually being played not produced made their 2009 debut album easily one of the decade's most exciting.

7. Magnetic Man - "Perfect Stranger"

Yup I actually included a dubstep song...or house...or techno....whatever this is considered it's worth a mention. Skream, Benga and Artwork 3 DJs who originally met in the 90's but this collaboration didn't materialize until 2010. "Perfect Stranger" features English singer Katy B on lead vocals. This is another one of those one off projects...at least for now.

8. Oysterhead - "Mr Oysterhead"

Initially intended to be a band for one performance only Oysterhead was a group assembled by Les Claypool (Primus) for the New Orleans Jazz Festival in 2000. He asked Phish's Trey Anastasio to join him and together they recruited Stewart Copeland of The Police. While rehearsing for the show the trio came up with hours of original music and eventually released The Grand Pecking Order in 2001. I'm not sure there is enough weed in the world to prepare us for a permanent Oysterhead incarnation, though the band did reunite at Bonnaroo in 2006.

9. Broken Social Scene - "Lover's Spit"

Even Canada can through it's hat into the ring of the Supergroup showdown. Though Broken Social Scene formed in 1999 it's been a revolving door of the Canadian music scene's who's who since it's conception. Over the years members have included Kevin Drew, Feist, Emily Haines (Metric), Bill Priddle (Treblecharger), Evan Cranley (Stars) and other members of such groups as By Divine Right, The Weakerthans and The Hidden Cameras.

10. Mad Season - "River Of Deceit"

Not just a legend among the Seattle grunge scene that brought this mega power together, but Mad Season has since become one of the greatest "what if?" groups of recent history. Featuring Alice in Chains vocalist Layne Staley, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike Mcready, Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin and The Walkabouts bassist John Saunders the fact that they only came out with one album was a shame. Drug problems and schedule conflicts kept Mad Season on the shelf and the deaths of Saunders and Staley sadly put talks of a true reunion to rest. "River Of Deceit" has become their best known song.

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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

10 Great Vulgar Songs

Shit it!!! Ever have one of those days? The kind of day when you just want to unleash the unholiest, dirtiest, ear-piercing profanity your young innocent mind can come up with? Well it seems like some musicians have had those days too. Of course I could have filled this lift with gangsta rap, but where's the fun or spice in that? 10 Great Vulgar Songs!

1. "Radio" - Alkaline Trio

Hidden under a sweet arpeggio melody Alkaine Trio's "Radio" offers up a few sure fire (if not drastic) ways to get out of a relationship without simply just breaking up with them. The eponymous radio is invited to bathe with the song's target...plugged in and ready to fall. Chicago's Alkaine Trio is famous for songs with grim, yet witty topics and "Radio" is no exception.

2. "Faget" - Korn

No, that's not a typo it's how the song appears on the album and no the song is not homophobic nor is it an attack on anyone's choice of lifestyle. High School wasn't easy for Korn's Jonathan Davis, not that it's a breeze in general, but if you have musical talent and a troubled High School tenure it's almost a license to print money. Because he was into gothic art, New Wave music and wore clothes that were opposite of trendy Davis was a target of the popular kids and guess which nickname was their favourite for him? Songs like these were the main reason Korn was so identifiable with the youth of the 90's. It gave them something to latch on to when they felt like outsiders, gave them somewhere to belong. They could channel the frustration into something healthy and positive like music and the arts. Get inspired to create their own, instead of going down the other road....that usually leads to tragic ends.

3. "Whorehoppin' (Shit Goddamn)" - Eagles Of Death Metal

Eagles Of Death Metal are the second of 3 Josh Homme projects. I like his groups because they guitars sound like they're actually being played by humans. Sometimes a mistake will be left on a track or the humming bass will make the cymbals rattle. That's how music should be. "Shit Goddamn" not only became my favourite song by the group, but found it's way into my blue language catalog for some time.

4. "Arsehole" - Snuff

This song uses such curses as "Arsehole" and "Wanker" so i'll give you one guess as to where Snuff hail from.
They've been rolling out the punk anthems since 1986 and show no signs of slowing down. As evidenced on this song, they also dabble in the Ska side of things by including a brass section to their music.

5. "People = Shit" - Slipknot

There was no better conceivable way for Slipknot to kick off their 2001 album Iowa than with "People = Shit". It just kicks your ass up around your ears form the get go and though it seems vocalist #8 curses at a .63 swears per second rate, it's not overly gratuitous. Slipknot is a great band to put on when you're in a shit mood, and if that mood was caused by some bastard-ass, now you know which song to go to.

6. "California On My Mind" - Wild Light

When you're trying to make music that's radio accessible including a "fuck" or "shit" or "fingerblast" in the lyrics is the kiss of death. That's why I was pleasantly surprised when a poppy, catchy track like "California On My Mind" didn't get released as a radio friendly version. However, it might be why Wild Light aren't more popular...oh well! Stick to your fucks boys!

7. "Nugget" - Cake

I knew this song as "Shut The Fuck Up" for the longest time...like I mentioned earlier perhaps that title wouldn't be the most in-store friendliest. Cake are another of those bands that is tough to define. They own such a unique sound, but can't be easily slid in one genre or another. Perhaps thats the secret to their longevity.

8. "Bad Habit" - The Offspring

I have a funny memory of this song. Must have been grade 7 or 8....art class. Everybody is busy drawing or painting or whatever and one kid asks the teacher if he could insert a cassette tape into the ghetto blaster. The teacher agrees as long as the language is on the level. The tape is Smash by The Offspring...now the kid was no dummy, he kept it low and the general classroom hubbub made deciphering the lyrics difficult. Just as that key moment in "Bad Habit" approaches (you know the one) the class goes silent and the look on the teacher's face i'll never forget as through the speakers comes youstupiddumbshitgodDAMNMOTHERFUCKER!!!!!!

9. "Fuck You (Very Much)" - Lily Allen

It's not just the guys with potty mouths. Britain's Lily Allen has always had a spark and walked to the beat of her own brisket. "Fuck You" has become an anthem for gay and lesbian rights, aimed at those who oppose same-sex marriage and other LGBT issues without any real cause. The song comes off Allen's last album in 2009 It's Not Me, It's You. Nothing has been heard from he since.

10. "So What" - The Anti-Nowhere League/Metallica

In 1982 a punk band called The Anti-Nowhere League were stomping, cursing and spitting their way across the London punk scene. Dressed and acting like maniacs they were poking fun at the over the top punk movement that had seemingly become an imitation of itself at the time. Mainstream media (and the London police) took notice of the band when they released a song called "So What" filled with obscenities of both violent and sexual nature. The authorities confiscated almost 100,000 copies of the song and destroyed them due to the Obscene Publications Act and forbade the record company to press any more singles. Flash forward to 1990 when Metallica heard a bootlegged version of the song they decided to release their own version....with all the original delights still in tact. Ending on a bang here folks. Go fuck yourselves!

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Sunday, 14 April 2013

10 Songs By Artists Who Went Solo

Ever be hanging out with a group a friends and get an urge to do or say something that you know wouldn't go over well with the selected company? Then when you get home and you're on your own it feels completely natural to act on those urges. Not that you prefer being alone over hanging with a group, but there is a difference. That's how I feel some musicians must be in a band. They get an urge or inkling to write a certain type of song but know it won't work with the group, so they go rogue. Here are 10 Songs by artists who stepped out on their own.

1. John Frusciante - "A Firm Kick"

Frusciante replace Hillel Slovak as the guitar player for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1988 and performed on some of their more famous albums. In 1992 he left the group due to an intense addiction to marijuana and heroin. He entered a deep depression and was afraid he would never play music again. Eventually John got clean and rejoined the group in time for 1999's Californication, but his new addiction was writing and recording music. John Frusciante maintained a respectable library of solo albums including 2004's Inside Of Emptiness where "A Firm Kick" can be found.

2. City and Colour - "Comin' Home"

City and Colour is the stage name of Canada's Dallas Green. Also known for his guitar and vocal duties of the hardcore group Alexisonfire Green's first solo album was released in 2005. Maybe because of the drastic differences in the style and tone of the 2 groups City and Colour was able to coexist with Alexisonfire and for a while many casual listeners didn't even make the connection.

3. Mick Jagger - "God Gave Me Everything"

Jagger's actually gone on his own 4 separate times with the first being in 1985 and the last being in 2001. Sometimes when a band member breaks off from the group and does their own thing the result a completely new and fresh sound. A song that fits into a different genre or niche and sometimes, such as Mick's case, it sounds almost identical to what they were doing before. "God Gave Me Everything", a great song don't get me wrong, could fit seamlessly into a best of weekend of Rolling Stone songs.

Interesting....the video appears to be unavailable in Canada from Youtube....no worries...here's the Vimeo link...fascists


4. Rob Thomas - "This Is How A Heart Breaks"

Matchbox Twenty's front man Rob Thomas took a hiatus in 2005 to explore his creative side when he released the solo album ...Something To Be. Though the sound was not torn out of the pages of Matchbox's tomes the album was met with a lukewarm reception. His 2009 solo album Cradlesong seemed to be  a more critical success, but by then the mass audiences had forgotten all about Mr. Thomas. Too bad.

5. Dee Dee King - "Funky Man"

Remember how I said when some musicians branch off their final product ends up sounding just like the band they came from. That is not the case here. Dee Dee King probably better recognized as Dee Dee Ramone from the legendary punk group The Ramones left the group in 1989 to embark on an ill advised solo career as a rap artist. You read that right. I don't think I need to tell you had catastrophic of a failure this ended up being and though he begged to get back with the Ramones it would not happen until 1996 when they played their final show ever.

6. Puscifer - "The Humbling River"

I know I mentioned this one before, it's worth including here because of how synonymous Maynard James Keenan is with Tool. Puscifer is his musical alias under which to experiment and release songs that wouldn't fit under Tool's umbrella...or A Perfect Circle for that matter.

7. Cass Elliot - "Make Your Own Kind Of Music"

The Mamas & The Papas were one of the biggest groups in the US in the late 60's. It's undeniable that Cass Elliot's voice was a driving force of their success, however many felt that she didn't fit in with the group's image because of her weight. After quitting the group she had an equally successful solo career and her talent is obvious on songs like "Make Your Own Kind Of Music". Sadly her journey to the top was cut short in 1974 when she died of a heart attack and not choking on a sandwich.

8. Alan Frew - "Healing Hands"

1993 was a year of turmoil in Canada. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney steps down and his successor Kim Campbell becomes this country's first female Prime Minister only to be defeated later that year. by Jean Chretien. Amidst all this chaos iconic Canadian rock group Glass Tiger calls it quits. It's a wonder we survived. All was not lost however as the following year Alan Frew, Glass Tiger's singer would release a solo album with the inspirational title Hold On as if to reassure us Canadians that the light at the end of the tunnel was within reach.  The album was, however a far cry from "Don't Forget Me" in fact the lead off single "Healing Hands" featured many trends from the early 90's such as racial themes, spoken lyrics and Frew even steps into the Hip Hop arena with a rap during the breakdown. Timeless...indeed.

9. Tom Gabel - "Anna Is A Stool Pigeon"

I had no idea that Against Me!'s Tom Gabel had released a solo album until I saw in the record store on sale for $9. Bargain. Gabel, to me, always seemed to be the type of guy that was constantly playing music so it was no surprise to me that he released an album on his own between Against Me! CDs. In fact at it's earliest incarnation Against Me! was merely Tom and a guitar, he would add the band later. Heart Burns features some songs that could have easily been included on New Wave or White Crosses but it stands well on it's own and with only 7 tracks, he didn't over do it.

10. Tricky - "Black Steel"

Going to end the list on a little bit of an obscure note. Tricky (Adrian Thaws) got his feet wet in the British electronica scene with the group Massive Attack but left shortly after having visions of a more focused career. Maxinquaye was his debut album and "Black Steel" is the song's shining diamond in a sky of stars. He has since released over a dozen solo studio albums, had hands in producing dozens more and has collaborated with a wide variety of artists from Nelly Furtado to Garbage to Mos Def and the list goes on.

Thanks as always

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Thursday, 11 April 2013

10 Great Songs You Haven't Heard

OK...i know the subject is pretentious. It isn't meant to be I assure you. I'm positive many of you have heard the songs on this list and maybe one of you even introduced me to it. All I mean is these songs are shamefully not popular and are likely to remain that way. Isn't it great to discover a song on your own though? Digging around in some old record store and pick an artist that intrigues you only to be amazed when you throw the album on? These are the types of songs that aren't shoved in your face everywhere. They aren't popping up on somebody's Facebook every other day. They aren't being used in commercials and hitting #1 on the charts. These are great songs you haven't heard....until now

1. "Degausser" - Brand New

From Brand New's absolutely brilliant album The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me this song just lures you in within the first few seconds of it. Playfully adding layer after layer of tantalizing sounds as the song reaches it's peak. Brand New have been building a modest fan base over the years, but have stayed out of the major spotlights. Early on the only thing people were talking about involving the band was their "feud" with Taking Back Sunday.

2. "Careful" - Guster

I keep this one in my holster all the time. Anytime I feel like making a new Guster fan I simply put on "Careful". Works like a charm. Perhaps one of the catchiest chorus' in modern music it's a wonder this song hasn't been written twenty times before. Guster may not have the largest audience but their fans are rabid. Crossing vast distances to attend a tiny acoustic show or wearing a ratty old band shirt at a concert in hopes of being spotted by the band and get a chance to make a live request. Guster is happy to make each show worth the effort.

3. "Sang Real" - Dredg

Maybe you've heard of Dredg from their song "Bug Eyes" as it's been used in several movies. "Sang Real" however is an enchanting piece. Coming from the colossal concept album Catch Without Arms it's dreamy feel makes you want to listen to it again after it ends, just to be sure that you heard what you thought you did.

4. "Down To Rest" - O'Death

O'Death lived and breathed the folk rock scene long before it took off in 2010. Hailing from Brooklyn O'Death have enjoyed a solid following in the US and Europe by doing things the old fashioned way. Touring like mad and promoting the crap out of your EPs. "Down To Rest" comes off their first record with a recording company 2007's Head Home.

5. "From Now On" - Dikta

Dikta are an indie rock band from Iceland...i'm not even going to attempt to type out the band member's names here. Don't think my keyboard could handle the characters...
I first heard this song on a flight to Iceland and it haunted my trip...I needed to find the song and more about the band that made it. Though their first release Andartak is strictly in Icelandic subsequent releases have included English lyrics, perhaps as an attempt to reach a more global audience.

6. "Fine Tuned" - The Statues

The Statues were a group from Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. I say "were" because i'm not sure if they still perform under that name or at all. I first saw them when they opened for Cuff The Duke in 2003 and was so impressed I not only bought a CD but a shirt as well. Hopefully by mentioning them here someone will browse on in and give me some more information about their whereabouts these days.

video here

7. "Question Everything" - 8 Stops 7

The peculiarly named 8 Stops 7 were one of those bands that kind of got forgotten with the whole swicth from the 90's to the year 2000. It seemed they were gaining momentum, but just kind of vanished as the centuries turned over. "Question Everything" is a killer track though...in the days before Google i struggled trying to find what this song was. Heard it playing in the background of a pub and only caught a few key lyrics...in fact...I forget how I hunted it down. Perhaps it found me....GOLLY!

8. "Surprise, Surprise" - Brett Dennen

Maybe the only reason you haven't heard this one is because it's still quite new. Hasn't really had a chance to take off yet. Well, a few years old I guess the album Loverboy was released in 2011. Enh, benefit of the doubt. Brett Dennen has been making solid music since 2004 he's been recognized by critics and columnists as an artist to watch and has toured with the likes of Jason Mraz and Pete Murray. Check him out

9. "Alone With The Sea" - Hurt

Something about a song about the ocean that just instantly gives it an epic feel. Hurt formed in 2000 and have six studio albums to their name. Vol. I & Vol. II are twin albums that feature with similar themes such as fear, loss, sorrow and abandonment. Vol. II where 'Alone With The Sea' can be found is the slower, more pensive of the two. This song almost demands a second listen.

10. "Strawberryfire" - Apples In Stereo

The Apples In Stereo are another Indie Rock back known for their dabbling in psychedelic sounds and experimental albums. "Strawberryfire" has a Beatlesesque feel to it, not only for it's name's similarity to "Strawberry Fields Forever" but the tone and pacing make it an homage to that era and style. It was immediately nostalgic.

Now you HAVE heard them!!

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