mardi, mars 27, 2007

More Rock News 03 2007

R.E.M.: A 25-year rockin' role

By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

Radio Free Europe, R.E.M.'s 1981 debut single, heralded the birth of alternative rock and one of its most reputable champions. It also started the 25-year countdown to an inevitable induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The band, which formed 27 years ago in Athens, Ga., heads the 2007 class. It includes Van Halen, Patti Smith, The Ronettes and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The ceremony airs live from the Waldorf-Astoria in New York at 8:30 p.m. ET Monday on VH1 Classic.

"We're notoriously bad at looking back," says singer Michael Stipe, 47. "It's nice when other people do it for you."

The night will be especially poignant for two reasons. First, drummer Bill Berry, who had a brain aneurysm in 1995 and quit in 1997 to become a farmer, will rejoin Stipe, Peter Buck and Mike Mills on stage. Second, they'll be inducted alongside a longtime idol.

"This band wouldn't exist without Patti Smith," he says. "To be here the same year is an incredible thrill. She's an immense talent and a rare voice."

The jangle guitar-pop and enigmatic lyrics of R.E.M., a rare breed in the postpunk era, expanded from a college-radio sensation in the early '80s to a chart staple a decade later.

"We grew up in the public very slowly, and we stubbornly refused to do things that might have escalated our rise," Stipe says. Today, that strategy would result in "an immense struggle."

"The industry that was music is no longer," he says. "People are struggling to wrap their heads around the seismic shift that occurred when technology took this great leap."

Youth culture embraced the digital revolution and its myriad music applications, Stipe says, while labels saw it as a threat.

"Peter Buck always mentions the horse buggy whip factory and the feeling around the lunch table the day the automobile was introduced. That's the music industry, which is ripe for an immense recession. People either have their heads in the sand or they're trying to hold on to what still works and apply it to a completely new landscape."

The industry slump has not stifled creativity, says Stipe, waxing rhapsodic over the "incredible energy and unbelievable talent" he witnessed at a recent concert by Arcade Fire and Athens band Producto.

R.E.M.'s talent and energy have yet to flag, judging by persistent critical support, but sales have been less steady. Commercial strength peaked with 1991's Out of Time (4.5 million copies sold to date). Monster, released in 1994, was the last studio disc to reach platinum status, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Sales eroded over subsequent releases: 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 994,000; 1998's Up, 664,000; 2001's Reveal, 415,000; and 2004's Around the Sun, 232,000.

Stipe doesn't blame the slip on a dysfunctional industry. Nor does he fault the band.

"Anyone around as long as us goes through peaks and valleys," he says. "Music used to occupy a huge part of people's daily lives, when there were three TV networks and a handful of cable stations, and you didn't have computers and Xbox and good DVDs."

For R.E.M., music remains paramount. The band is crafting a new album, and canonization in a rock museum isn't accelerating retirement plans.

"I've never put much thought into how much longer we might go," Stipe says. "I just hope we know before anyone else when it's time to stop."


Teenage Fanclub And Portastatic On Go-Betweens Tribute Album.

By: Staff

The Go-Betweens will be the subject of a tribute album featuring Teenage Fanclub, Portastatic, Trembling Blue Stars and members of The Church that's scheduled to come out later this year.

Although no official track list has been revealed for Love Goes On! A Tribute To Grant McLennan And The Go-Betweens, Long Beach, California label Rare Victory is putting songs for the compilation on its MySpace page at

The idea for the album was conceived in late November as a way to pay respect to the Australian band following the passing of Go-Betweens member Grant McLennan last May in Brisbane.

"There is no telling, really what to expect with tribute albums," the label wrote in late January. "These past weeks have been euphoric, as we at Rare Victory have seen the months of toil and efforts pay off in concrete terms, the artistry expanding in ways we could only anticipate."

Contributions started with a song from The Orchids, and The Clientele submitted "Orpheus Beach" a short time later. Glenn Bennie offered "Devil's Eye" from his GB3 side project, and Portastatic added "Bye Bye Pride." Other songs to be covered are "Haunted House" and "Apology Accepted." Additional performers on the album include The June Brides' Phil Wilson, The Saints' Ed Kuepper, The Bats and Brookville. Additional contributors are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

The Go-Betweens formed in 1978 and released their Send Me A Lullaby debut in 1981. The group, best known for their Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express and 16 Lovers Lane albums, originally disbanded in 1989. The group's core of McLennan and Robert Forster reunited in 2000 to release The Friends Of Rachel Worth. The band's last studio album was 2005's Oceans Apart. The Go-Betweens released a live CD/DVD package titled That Striped Sunlight Sound last year.

—Jason MacNeil


Aussie rockers are a howling success.

Hitting the right note … Brendan Picchio, Joel Stein and Juanita Stein from the Howling Bells at yesterday's nomination announcement.

Emily Dunn Entertainment Writer

Just 18 months ago Sydney band Howling Bells were in a London recording studio with Coldplay producer Ken Nelson, putting the finishing touches to their debut self-titled album.

The recording session came after almost nine months of waiting for Nelson to find the time to work with them.

"It was months of blood, sweat and tears. Everything we had went into this album," said lead singer Juanita Stein. "He had no idea that we had waited for so long, of the emotional frustration of it all."

The result not only wowed the British music press but made an impression back in Australia with the band nominated yesterday for the $25,000 Australian Music Prize, alongside musicians such as Augie March, Sarah Blasko and Bob Evans.

The prize, now in its second year, is awarded for the best album of last year and was established by music industry consultant Scott Murphy as an alternative to industry-dominated awards such as the ARIAs.

While the 2005 AMP shortlist included eight bands, this year Murphy decided to stretch it to nine. "We decided that all deserved to be part of the shortlist," Murphy said.

The 2005 AMP winners, the Drones, were also nominated for the 2006 prize yesterday for their second album, Gala Mill.

Gareth Liddiard, lead singer of the Drones, said winning the 2005 award not only helped them pay off debts and buy new gear, but also provided "about $40,000 in publicity".

"Our guitars broke the first gig we played after we won the award. We were still waiting for the cheque to clear," Liddiard said. "Everyone wanted us to throw a huge party but we had to pay the bills."

Glenn Richards from the Melbourne band Augie March, whose song One Crowded Hour came first in the Hottest 100 on radio station Triple J, said the award was important because it was judged by music peers. "When you make an album you want people to listen to it and buy it, everything else is a bonus," he said.

When the winner is announced on March 7, the Howling Bells will be back in Britain for a headlining tour, having finished an Australian tour supporting the Glaswegian band, Snow Patrol. "Because we spent so much time there we have more of a presence," Stein said. "But Australia is always our spiritual home."



Nasty, brutish and surprisingly resilient. The Stooges' second life.

It looks like something out of a fairy tale—the quaint, forest-sequestered cottage on the edge of Miami's colorful Little Haiti neighborhood, with a walkway so long and winding it'd confound Hansel and Gretel. But there's no dainty Disney princess waltzing around inside. You've stumbled upon the current lair of one of rockdom's grumpiest ogres, notorious Stooges leader Iggy Pop. There's no warm and fuzzy welcome mat at his door—in fact, you'd be well advised to get your trespassing ass off his private property. Now. "I don't do a gate, but there's this big hedge, which sets a certain tone—it's a hint," growls Iggy in his unmistakable Big Bad Wolf voice.

Iggy has a fable or two of his own to relate. As he tells it, only two brave souls have ever dared to breach the perimeter, one a yuppie real-estate shill, and the other "this young black man in a poorly fitting white dress shirt and slacks … [He] stopped in front of my drive, and then determinedly walked right up to my door and knocked. And I thought `Wellll… OK,' and said hello. He had a gigantic scar, must've been a knife scar, the length of his throat, so he'd been around. And he was selling magazines, door-to-door, as they used to back in the day.

"And I would never, ever give somebody like that the time of day," continues the artist born James Osterberg, who—at 59—has been around a bit himself. "But ya know what? My heart went out to him. He told me he was just out of prison and he was being rehabbed and he was doing this and could I help him out." In a moment of weakness, Iggy paid cash for a subscription to Art And Architecture, then watched his mailbox for the mag, month after month. "And I started to think `That sonofabitch!' But then it came, ya know? And I said `Yes!' And now I think of that guy every month when I get my Art And Architecture—it kinda restored my faith."

Faith that—judging by The Weirdness, Iggy's fanged, feral new slugfest with the original Stooges (guitarist Ron Asheton and his drumming brother Scott)—has been in unusually short supply.


This iconoclast should be content. In his rakish 38-year career, he presaged the punk movement with stellar Stooges albums like Fun House (1970) and Raw Power (1973); was rescued from heroin addiction by David Bowie, who presided over his two landmark '77 solo sets The Idiot and Lust For Life; and went on to become an in-demand character actor in films like Cry-Baby, Dead Man and the TV series The Adventures Of Pete & Pete. (His next gig? A voiceover as the revolutionary uncle in an animated adaptation of graphic novel Persepolis).

But Iggy still doesn't sound at ease on record. The Steve Albini-produced Weirdness reads like a study in antisocial misanthropy. The album's scruffy, squealing mix—thanks to the low-budget Shure mic Iggy chose over a pricey Neumann—puts his blunt vocals up front and in your face. "I should believe in human nature, but I don't," the singer snaps over stadium-huge drums in "You Can't Have Friends." And the deeper you descend into this ogre's den, the darker it gets. "I'm the kinda guy who don't pick up the phone," Iggy drawls in the stomping "Free & Freaky," which defends his curious habit of "walking all alone in a bathrobe in the park" (i.e., the woodsy expanse behind his cottage. He explains: "It's my own park and I'll do what the hell I want."). Over the handclap percussion and ragged Asheton riff of "Greedy Awful People," he sneers at conservative society and admits, "I can't live among my class." But he reserves his harshest barbs for the deceptively shout-a-long "My Idea Of Fun," which builds verses like "I hate mankind" into the walloping chorus of "My idea of fun / Is killing everyone."

Other Weirdness cuts may be less strident: "ATM" marvels at the royalties its composer continues to receive for such oft-covered classics as "Tonight," "China Girl," "Real Wild Child" and the enduring "Lust For Life"; "The End Of Christianity" celebrates his relationship with Nina, a woman he met at a Miami Beach pizza parlor a few years back. "I'm trying to think—No, I don't have anything positive on there, they're all negative, those lyrics," cackles Iggy, kicking off his boots and curling his wiry, muscular frame into a booth in the café of his Hollywood hotel. The magazine hawker aside, Iggy has judged today's self-centered civilization and found it wanting. "So the songs mean what they say, and nobody, I mean nobody, is nice."


Ron Asheton—who'd been punching the axeman clock in Destroy All Monsters and Dark Carnival before he was stunned by Iggy's call—sees it the same cynical way. "When I write a piece of music, I always have something in mind, some kinda theme, a certain feeling," he notes in a separate chat. "So I'm always wondering what Iggy's gonna come up with. But with this album, it was always right, always something where I'm going `Yes!' It's my same general feeling—I've been kicked around for ages in this business, and all my friends have four legs; my pet cats that I trust more than anything walking on two."

The Stooges reunion saga began in 2003, when Iggy phoned the Ashetons at the same Michigan number they've had for decades and recruited them for four tracks on Skull Ring, his last solo salvo. It clicked well enough for the lineup—with Mike Watt filling in on bass for the late Dave Alexander—to bow at that year's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California and steal the show in the process. With original saxophonist Steve Mackay on board, The Stooges mark II began piecemeal work on The Weirdness, hooking up for five-day writing/demo stints, Iggy recalls, "Once every three or four months for three years. Ron had a little amp as big as a toaster oven, I sang through something about the size of a microwave, Scotty played a toy kit, and I recorded the whole thing on a mini-disc. So when we went in the studio, the songs were all written, arranged, rehearsed and ready to go." Though, with one key exception: the Mackay-punctuated "Passing Cloud," which was improvised on the spot.

"It comes directly from my loving to look at the clouds in Miami," elaborates Iggy, who says he always feels two beautiful reactions when he comes off the road: "One of 'em is—as the plane starts coming down through those big, puffy Miami clouds—I just start grinning, because it's this diffuse and forgiving light, like cotton candy. And I like it. And then when I get near my cottage and see the 'hood, I just relax and smile. Everyone's walking a little slower and dressing a little brighter than in the other parts of the city."

Albini's ball-peen hammer mix captures The Stooges at their retro best, believes Asheton, who nervously shivered all the way to Coachella, only to walk off stage rejuvenated. "That raw and simple sound? That's basically exactly what we are anyway. We're not refined, we don't wanna be overproduced—that's just how we play, and Steve understood that."

As his 60th birthday approaches this April, Iggy confesses he's looking back and cracking a smirk. Two film scripts about his life—as yet unauthorized—are floating around, Penelope Spheeris' Stooge-centered Search And Destroy, and Nick Gomez's The Passenger with Elijah Wood possibly playing the ol' Iguana. Thoughts of legacy, he concludes, "might come more into play now that I finally got this record made, because somehow I felt this was unfinished business. But we got the band up and running again, and sorta like Ahab, I think I managed to get my whale."



Sebadoh: Happily United.

Cassette-lovin' trio reunites to avenge the 'fried shit'of the MySpace generation.

By Hannah Levin

Much like their slyly sarcastic peers in Pavement and Guided by Voices, Sebadoh made an underground name for themselves in the early '90s with their prolific output of genre-surfing, punk-minded material. Typically using minimalist, analog methods of recording, the trio attracted a devoted underground following. Though they initially delivered their work via the small but influential cult label Homestead Records, their work was especially fruitful between 1992 and 1994, while the band was signed to Sub Pop. It was during this period that the trio of Lou Barlow, Eric Gaffney, and Jason Loewenstein recorded what are arguably the two best records of their career, Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock and Bubble and Scrape.

As all too often happens after a band's creative high point, personal conflicts shattered the partnership originally forged by Gaffney and Barlow. Gaffney left in late '93, and though Barlow and Loewenstein went on to achieve more commercial success with the more accessible, pop-oriented sounds of records like Bakesale and Harmacy, it is the early work with Gaffney that retains significance with many fans. Thanks to contact initiated by working on a reissue of their 1991 release, Sebadoh III, they recently decided to re-form the band's original lineup and tour with a focus on that beloved older material. Despite scattered schedules and geographical locales, I managed to squeeze in interview time with all three members.

Seattle Weekly: A great deal of your early sound seemed to be built upon the willful dichotomy of placing Lou's softer side next to Eric's more caustic barrages. Was that a happy accident or a deliberate juxtaposition?

Eric Gaffney: The Freed Man, our first record and our next reissue [out on Domino Records in April], is largely acoustic-based, and shows my early songwriting to be the variety show it is—albeit on the softer side—with quieter songs mixed with electric, noise, and experimental sides. I can't pigeonhole my style or sound, and there was never any thought of presenting ourselves as the quiet one and the loud one.

Lou Barlow: I have always liked the idea of throwing all kinds of material together. "Cohesive" was a code word for "boring" to me. In 1981, the Meat Puppets released a 7-inch that had quiet, country-esque instrumentals next to the most insane thrash punk—and it made perfect sense to me as a 13-year-old. That, along with a love of the Beatles and the multiple songwriters/White Album vibe, was what we drew inspiration from. The point was to first make something that would be interesting to us and start the band as an evolving collective: no leader, no dominating style.

Since you're often held up as poster children for the so-called "lo-fi movement" of the early '90s, I'm wondering how your views on recording and production techniques have evolved over the years. Were inexpensive recording methods more of a default choice because of low budgets or a creative decision to make things sound more bare bones? If you had unlimited funds, do you think you would have made dramatically different records?

Barlow: There was no choice. Not only did we not have money to record in studios, but maintaining an organic sound true to what we wanted to hear (i.e., crickets, cars passing, tape distortion) was virtually impossible in a studio back then. Especially as a 20-year-old punk rocker with no knowledge of advanced technology and no social skills to explain yourself to the older, mostly intolerant rock 'n' rollers that ran studios. Having grown up listening to all mutations of punk and new wave (Sex Pistols to PiL, Swell Maps, Young Marble Giants, hardcore thrash), it was clear that there were no rules other than "be honest." And honesty is easiest when I am someplace I feel reasonably comfortable.

Gaffney: Hmmm. Both, I suppose. We had no money, but we had tape recorders and four-tracks and cassettes. When we could afford studio time, we did that, too. Sure, cassette quality and feel is appealing sometimes; so is reel-to-reel. If we had big money budgets early on, it wouldn't have been what it was. Spending a lot of money in a studio does not equate to a great record. The song, sound, tone, and performance are what counts.

You were so heavily involved with cassette recordings and methods of delivering your art that are now considered wildly primitive by MySpace standards. How do you feel about the impact of digital technology and culture on punk and indie rock?

Jason Loewenstein: I understand why cassettes seem "wildly primitive" in some senses. But I am immediately struck with the idea that MySpace is modern in its networking and distribution capabilities, but the sound of the music has taken profound steps backward in quality. You would have to really intentionally make something go terribly wrong on a cassette multitrack recording to make it sound as bad as the warbly, compressed, pinched, thin-sounding underwater crap sound of a sound file played through the MySpace file compression engine. MySpace is a needle-in-a-haystack kind of way to find new music, and then even if you do find something, it really sounds like fried shit.

Barlow: But the great thing about it is that we have been given the means to express ourselves. Technology is cheaper; the Web is mostly free. It's brought me full circle—I have a Web site that I have built and maintain. I do whatever I want with it, and it feels a whole lot like going down to the copy shop, cutting tape covers, and selling them in a shoebox at the record store in town.

What made you decide to reunite in your original form? What are some songs that fans can look forward to hearing live?

Loewenstein: I think this is just born out of the new communication between Lou and Eric and I that was necessary for us to get these reissued albums together. Any communication at all was enough for us to entertain the idea of getting back together and seeing what happened. We did that, and it feels right and sounds right. We are concentrating heavily on stuff from the earliest Sebadoh up until Eric's departure, though Lou and I are throwing in some stuff from later records. This is going to be a trip!