Results for punk

interviews

Steve Wynn

In preparation for this week's guest, Steve Wynn, Jim and Greg do a little primer on the Paisley Underground music scene that developed in California in the 1980s. Jim plays a song by one of the seminal bands of this scene, The 3 O'Clock, whose very psychedelic name was inspired by Tom Wolfe's assertion in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" that if one drops acid in the early evening, the high of the trip will occur at 3:00 a.m. The 3 O'Clock was helmed by Michael Quercio, a musician who started as a punk rocker. After discovering psychedelic rock, however, his sound, and his look, began to change. It was Cuercio's affinity for the music of the '60s, as well as the brightly colored paisley clothes, that gave this scene its name. While the name did not do the music justice, the influence of the Paisley Underground on contemporary bands like Oasis and The Secret Machines is undeniable.

It may surprise to listeners who are only familiar with "Walk Like an Egyptian," but The Bangles were also pioneers of the Paisley Underground. Their original sound, with its three- and four-part harmonies and sing-songy melodies, paralleled that of The Mamas and the Papas and The Byrds. Lead singer Susanna Hoffs continues to work in this genre; she and '90s indie pop star Matthew Sweet just released a 1960s covers album featuring songs by The Left Banke, The Beach Boys and The Who.

Greg points out that the Paisley Underground sound was not a homogenous one — in fact, what bonded these bands was a punk sensibility that welcomed other musical styles. Unlike many other punk bands at the time, these acts didn't see why they had to conform to a strict policy of three-minute, Ramones-style songs. And what's more punk rock than non-conformity? One band that went above and beyond its punk and psychedelic influences was The Long Ryders. They took more of a country approach and can be seen as pioneers of the alternative country scene that now houses bands like Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and The Bottle Rockets.

The Rain Parade is the next Paisley Underground band up for discussion. While the members of The Rain Parade never saw the major label success like their peers in The Bangles or The 3 O'Clock (who were signed to Prince's Paisley Park label), many went on to work on successful projects. David Robeck formed the band Mazzy Star, which had an alternative hit single with "Fade Into You" in 1993 and Matt Piucci went on to work with Crazy Horse. The remaining bandmates reincarnated themselves as Viva Saturn.

Greg plays a song featuring this week's guest, Steve Wynn. His band The Dream Syndicate was a group that both Jim and Greg became fans of in the early '80s. They emerged in LA as one of the pioneers of the Paisley Underground sound. Steve then released a number of solo records and has spent the last few years with his most recent band, The Miracle 3. Steve and his band members, Linda Pitmon, Dave DeCastro and Kirk Swan, joined Jim and Greg for an interview and performance at the Chicago Recording Company.

The Dream Syndicate never made it into the 1990s, but its innovative sound continued to influence artists. While other LA bands at the time, like Black Flag, Social Distortion and Bad Religion, were making post-punk and punk music with a really hard edge, The Dream Syndicate stuck to a swirlier, psychedelic pop sound. For this reason, Jim and Greg explain, no matter how many solo projects he embarks on, our guest will most likely always be remembered as the lead singer of The Dream Syndicate.

After playing a track from Days of Wine and Roses, which Greg calls one of the masterpieces of the Paisley Underground era, our host asks Steve about the chemistry between two guitarists. In this case, Steve's partner in guitar is Kirk Swan, who was in another innovative '80s indie pop band, Dumptruck, Steve responds that the basic formula of guitar, drums, and bass is simple, but never gets old. He points to bands like Neil Young and Crazy Horse and Television as examples.

Jim asks Steve about why he continues on in this business after so many years. As Steve jokes on his website, this new album is one of several“comebacks,”but music is not such an easy life to come back to. After being pegged the“new Springsteen,”Steve and the band had somewhat of a difficult time. He explains how that hurt the band (and indirectly how he hurt Jim one drunken night). Thankfully they both came out on the other side.

Go to episode 21

Alex Cox

Repo Man Filmmaker Alex Cox joins Jim and Greg this week for a lively conversation about his punk rock-infused movies like Repo Man, Sid and Nancy, and Walker. Though originally from Liverpool, Cox first encountered punk rock through the Los Angeles scene of bands like Fear, Suicidal Tendencies, and Black Flag. When he made his debut film Repo Man in 1984, he enlisted all his favorite bands for the soundtrack. The movie was initially a flop, but the popularity of that legendary soundtrack album eventually turned it into a cult classic. Cox followed up that with another definitive punk film – Sid and Nancy, a biopic of the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.

Sid and Nancy was the beginning of a long collaboration between Cox and Joe Strummer of The Clash. Strummer appeared in and composed for the spaghetti western homage Straight to Hell and the controversial 1987 film Walker. Alex Cox speaks with Jim and Greg about working with Strummer, enlisting both Iggy Pop and Michael Nesmith of The Monkees to make Repo Man, and the difficulties of making political films in Hollywood.

Go to episode 632

The Effigies

This week Jim and Greg have one of their favorite Chicago punk groups, The Effigies, performing live in the studio. It's been nearly 21 years since the pioneering post-hardcore act has released any new material, but on April 12 the band released Reside, a reunion record that Jim and Greg love, much like that of their Boston post-punk contemporaries, Mission of Burma. They explain that the band does not miss a step from where the band left off in 1986. You can hear the songs band members John Kezdy, Robert McNaighton, Paul Zamost and Steve Economou performed on the show, plus bonus tracks here.

Lead singer John Kezdy recalls the band's difficulties being one of the pioneers of punk rock in the Midwest. Unlike their east and west coast peers, they didn‘t have an established punk scene to join or legendary venues like CBGB or Maxwell’s to perform in. Now, rather than touring throughout the year, the older members of the Effigies have important day jobs. In fact, Kedzy is an Illinois state prosecutor, a job that he explains is the "easiest moral option."

Go to episode 88

Keven McAlester

One of rock's most influential and interesting figures is former 13th Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson. After performing with the psychedelic band in the '60s and as a solo artist in the '80s, the singer's mental and physical health took a severe decline. But in the past couple of years, Roky's sights have improved, and Jim and Greg took this opportunity to celebrate his legacy. During this you'll hear their discussion with Keven McAlester, the director of the film biography You're Gonna Miss Me. McAlester spoke to Jim and Greg after a special screening of the film at Chicago's Music Box Theatre.

Jim and Greg highlight two of their favorite Roky Erickson tracks from different points in his career. The first is a 13th Floor Elevators song called "Reverberation Doubt," which Jim explains is an example of how psychedelic the band was. The song was not only influenced by psychedelic drugs, but it conveys the experience of using them. Jim discusses the term“synesthesia,”which refers the drugs' ability to allow you to actually see musical notes, and“Reverberation Doubt”has a similar effect. As he states, it gives you the "sense that the entire world is vibrating."

The second is a solo track from a later period in Roky's career. "Red Temple Prayer (Two-Headed Dog)" was recorded after Roky came out of Rusk State Mental Hospital in Texas, and wasn't in very good shape. But, musically he was very productive, and became one of the American artists to really lay the groundwork for punk music. Roky's songwriting at this time was influenced greatly by horror movies, and the title of this song gives a sense of where his mental state was. Greg describes“Two-Headed Dog”as a brutal, but wonderfully hard-hitting song.

You'll also hear a montage of covers from the tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye:

  • R.E.M., "I Walked with a Zombie"
  • ZZ Top, "Reverberation"
  • T-Bone Burnett, "Nothing in Return"
  • Butthole Surfers, "Earthquake"
  • Julian Cope, "I Have Always Been Here Before"
Go to episode 91

Los Lobos

Recently, Jim and Greg were joined by an audience of Sound Opinions and Los Lobos fans for a special recording at City Winery Chicago. Louie Perez, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Conrad Lozano and Steve Berlin showed everyone what it means to have 4 decades of chops and unity under their belts. Since forming in high school in East L.A., Los Lobos has always pushed the boundaries of whatever genre they explored: rock, punk, Mexican folk, R&B, jazz, psychedelia. Most of that is a far cry from their huge 1987 hit "La Bamba." But, perhaps that cover got fans like Elmo in the door. Now the group has a new album called Gates of Gold, its first release in 5 years.

Go to episode 533

Penelope Spheeris

Wayne's World Penelope Spheeris is best known for directing Wayne's World, the 1992 movie about two suburban headbangers producing a cable public access show in the basement. With an iconic soundtrack and some well cast cameos (Meat Loaf and Alice Cooper), the movie has endured. Jim and Greg talk with Penelope about Wayne's World's enduring appeal 25 years after it was released, the true story behind the famous "Bohemian Rhapsody" headbanging scene, and more. Plus, they'll discuss her life, from growing up in a travelling carnival to her directorial debut with the documentary The Decline of Western Civilization about the Los Angeles punk scene in the early 1980s

Go to episode 609

The Gotobeds

After playing for years in the Pittsburgh punk band Kim Phuc, guitarist and vocalist Eli Kasan formed The Gotobeds along with guitarst Tom Payne, bassist Gavin Jensen, and drummer Cary Belback. The band quickly gained a following for its mix of funny, yet sophisticated, lyrics and post-punk artiness (Jim gleefully points out that they named themselves after the drummer for Wire). Their debut album Poor People are Revolting was released in 2014, followed by their Red Hot Chili Peppers-riffing Sub Pop release Blood // Sugar // Secs // Traffic in 2016. Both albums made it into Jim's top ten lists for their respective years. The Gotobeds join Jim and Greg for a live performance and a discussion about commercialism in indie rock, the Pittsburgh scene, and not taking yourself too seriously.

Go to episode 586

The db's

This week the dB's, one of power pop's great underexposed bands, stops by the Sound Opinions studio for an interview and live set. The group came together in 1978 as part of New York City's punk and new wave scene, and put out two classic, but minimally distributed albums before singer/guitarist Chris Stamey left the group. Two more low profile records followed before the group broke up in 1988. Now the original dB's lineup is back with a new album, Falling Off the Sky. Jim used to frequently go see this band live in their earliest days, and it's clear that they haven't lost a step in their few decades off. During their visit, the band rips through three songs from Falling Off the Sky, and Stamey and co-frontman Peter Holsapple talk with Jim and Greg about their early days in North Carolina, their label woes in the '80s, and their decision to reunite not for a paycheck, but just because they were itching to play again.

Go to episode 375

Mission of Burma

Mission of Burma This week's guests are the men of Mission of Burma: Roger Miller, Clint Conley, Peter Prescott, and Bob Weston. The post-punk pioneers were in Chicago to perform at the Pitchfork Music Festival, so they stopped by Sound Opinions for a discussion and performance. Jim and Greg explain that Mission of Burma is a rare example of a band able to break up, reunite and continue making music as good as (if not better than) they did before. Burma's first incarnation was in the early 1980s — they recorded one album in 1982 before they had to disband due to Roger's debilitating tinnitus, but their influence is undeniable. The band returned twenty years later to tour and record OnOffOn, and have recently released The Obliterati, which both Jim and Greg say may make their Best of 2006 lists.

Mission of Burma is known for combining pop melodies with quite a lot of noise. These characteristics often get the band thrown in the same pot as bands like Gang of Four and Wire, but listeners shouldn‘t confuse these post-punkers. One of Burma’s distinctive features is their use of tape loops. During their first go-around, Martin Swope would record the band's sound and manipulate it live with a reel-to-reel tape machine. Now Shellac's Bob Weston has the job, and you can hear the effects on "Max Ernst," which they perform live on the show. Another famous looper is Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, though he works digitally.

Another Burma trademark is the songwriting. All three regular members, Roger, Clint and Peter, pen very smart, rather literate lyrics. An example of this is another song they perform live, "Donna Sumeria." While it was Roger's attempt at a love song, it's also a witty pun on Donna Summer and the ancient Middle Eastern civilization. Greg cites it as an example of Burma's punk sensibility. Their music doesn't have rules and can even have disco elements.

Go to episode 38

Mike Watt

By the early 1980's, punk had become less about sticking it to the man, and more about conforming to a set of rules. Then came the Minutemen with Double Nickels on the Dime, the 1984 album that threw out the punk rulebook. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Double Nickels, Jim and Greg revisit their 2011 conversation with Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, who founded the San Pedro hardcore group alongside drummer George Hurley and larger-than-life lead singer and guitarist D. Boon. The Minutemen weren't afraid to experiment with their sound, incorporating jazz and funk, as well as "Econo"—a lo-fi, DIY attitude that would later inspire indie rock. Ever the motor-mouth philosopher, Watt waxes poetic about jamming econo, the true meaning of "Double Nickels on the Dime," and his idea of a "Hot Topic."

Go to episode 433

Screaming Females

If ever a band was perfectly named, it's the Screaming Females. Ok, true, there's only one screaming female in the New Jersey punk trio, but Marissa Paternoster has quite the set of pipes. And, as Jim and Greg point out, she can shred too. She credits people like Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins for influencing her guitar style. But when it comes to the band's ethos, that's pure DIY punk. Drummer Jarrett Dougherty explains that self-releasing albums was difficult at first, but they approached it with professional aims, unlike many of their New Brunswickpeers who were satisfied with nothing more than releasing internet demos. Now the Screaming Females are on their 5th release called Ugly. Check out their performance live on Sound Opinions.

Go to episode 340

Mike Watt

doublenicklesonthedime By the early 1980's, punk had become less about sticking it to the man, and more about conforming to a set of rules. Then came The Minutemen with Double Nickels on the Dime, the 1984 album that threw out the punk rulebook. This week Jim and Greg are joined by Minutemen bassist Mike Watt, who founded the San Pedro hardcore group alongside drummer George Hurley and larger-than-life lead singer and guitarist D. Boon. The Minutemen weren't afraid to experiment with their sound, incorporating jazz and funk, as well as "Econo"—a lo-fi, DIY attitude that would later inspire indie rock. Ever the motor-mouth philosopher, Watt waxes poetic about jamming econo, the true meaning of“Double Nickels on the Dime,”and his idea of a "Hot Topic."

Go to episode 287

Ron Asheton of The Stooges

A couple of weeks ago Jim and Greg talked about the punk pioneers The Ramones. This week it's time to look at the other pillar of punk: The Stooges. In the late '60s and early '70s the band released three major albums, and then disintegrated into drugs and power struggles. Now, almost 35 years later, three of the four original members reunited to record a new album, The Weirdness. Jim and Greg invite guitarist Ron Asheton to talk about the band's history and how they came back together.

Lead singer Iggy Pop (James Osterberg), guitarist Ron Asheton, drummer Scott Asheton and bassist Dave Alexander formed The Stooges in Ann Arbor, MI in 1967. They were signed to Elektra Records a year later after opening for“big brother band”the MC5. There they had their first self-titled album produced by John Cale of The Velvet Underground. Jim and Greg talk to Ron Asheton about the band's first time in the studio (and their first in-studio strike), and learn about how they developed their signature, primitive sound. They point to the propulsive Bo Diddley-inspired rhythms of songs like "1969."

The Stooges went on to record Fun House, which reflected their love of James Brown and John Coltrane, and then things started to fall apart. Iggy went on to form a relationship with David Bowie (and with heroin), and got the band signed to Columbia Records. Ron Asheton was bounced down to bassist, however. He explains that their subsequent release, Raw Power, is a good album, but not indicative of their true sound.

Go to episode 66

Andy Summers of The Police

This week Jim and Greg sit down with Andy Summers, former guitarist for 1980s supergroup The Police. Andy was in town promoting his latest tome, "One Train Later." It's a memoir — a good one according to Jim and Greg — about his years before and during the Police era. Andy is honest and frank in the book, and it comes across in the interview. Our hosts start things off by asking Andy about the origins of the band and The Police's distinctive sound. Andy was largely influenced by jazz growing up and firmly established himself as a professional musician well before he helped form The Police. He had a brief stint with the jazz fusion/progressive rock band Soft Machine and did session work during the 1970s for artists like Neil Sedaka and Joan Armatrading. His Police band mate, drummer Stewart Copeland also came from a musically trained background. Jim points the irony in having two highly trained musicians emerge out of the British punk scene — a scene that demanded unpolished musicians and hated solos. Andy considers The Police to have been fake punk band.

Although Jim did not get to catch The Police at their first US gig at CBGB's, he did see the band shortly after at New York's The Bottom Line. The young self-proclaimed“drum geek”strategically sat behind Stewart Copeland's drum kit. He discovered The Police's disdain for each other, noting the“nasty, nasty”words Stewart had written in magic marker on his drum skins cursing the other band members. Jim asked Andy what it was like to work in such acrimonious conditions, especially with the rising megastar Sting. Summers says nothing negative about his experience and feels the fights helped fuel the creativity of the band. Greg reiterates that although several people over the years mistake The Police as Sting's band, Andy and Stewart really shaped the sound. Andy concurs, detailing how songs like "Walking on the Moon" and "When the World is Running Down" involved all three members of the band.

As the interview nears a close, Jim asks the question that burns in the brain of many a Police fan: Will The Police reunite? Andy is up for reuniting and is in contact with the other two members (he had dinner with them this year) but he won‘t sit around waiting for the phone to ring. He’s busy with his own career, producing solo albums, and working as a photographer and bandleader. The closest the Police came to a reunion was in 2003 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. A reunion still sounds possible — let's hope this former Sting fan doesn't squelch such a possibility.

Go to episode 53

Bob Mould

Throughout his storied career, songwriter and guitarist Bob Mould seems to be driven by the mystical power of the number 3. He's best known for his work with a couple of power trios: the pioneering Minneapolis punk band Hüsker Dü and the successful alternative era band Sugar. He's now formed trio #3 along with bassist Jason Narducy and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk, The Mountain Goats, Scharpling & Wurster). Together they've recorded three (of course) albums, most recently the double-Buy It earning Patch the Sky. This week, Bob Mould joins Jim and Greg for the third time in the show's history, this time with Narducy and Wurster in tow. They give a blistering live performance and discusses the vitality of guitar music, finding salvation through rock, and Bob's polarizing turn toward electronica.

Go to episode 552

The Mekons

To put it simply, The Mekons are a bit of an enigma. The 40-year-old band hails from the English punk scene, with contemporaries including The Sex Pistols and The Clash. However since 1977, The Mekons have been writing their own unique narrative. The group worshipped American roots music from artists like Hank Williams, and blended their raucous live performance style with sounds of punk, country, folk and more. The Mekons have always had a revolving line-up, and three members joined Jim and Greg for a chat and live performance: Jon Langford, Tom Greenhalgh and Lu Edmonds. They talk about their long career, a short stint on a major label and the unusual methods used to record their latest album, Existentalism.

Go to episode 578

Pere Ubu

Pere Ubu live It is rare that true pioneers grace the Sound Opinions studio, but this week Jim and Greg are joined by punk progenitors Pere Ubu. Many credit the famous (and often infamous) Cleveland band for being on the ground floor of the punk movement, but band leader David Thomas doesn‘t really buy into that label. In pure Thomas form, the singer/songwriter grouses about punk’s corporate co-opting, and prefers to think of himself as a folk singer. Whatever you want to call it, Sound Opinions thinks it rocks. Check out their performances of songs "Babylonian Warehouses" and "Caroleen," off their new album Why I Hate Women.

The title of Pere Ubu's new album, Why I Hate Women, is certainly a conversation starter. But, as discussed, these views don‘t represent those of David Thomas or Pere Ubu. Like many of Thomas’ songs, the tracks on this album are written from the perspective of a character, in this case inspired by the fictional writings of pulp novelist Jim Thompson. Thomas explains that most songs are just stories, defying the notion that 20-year-old rock stars have any true angst.

Go to episode 51

Billy Bragg

Roots, Radicals and Rockers In the 1950s, a surprising, short-lived musical craze swept across the UK: skiffle, a raw version of African-American blues and folk performed by white British youth. Folk-punk singer-songwriter Billy Bragg has written about skiffle in his new book Roots, Radicals and Rockers. This week, he sits down with producer Evan Chung to make the case for skiffle as the origin of English guitar pop and the first sign of the DIY sensibility of punk.

Skiffle emerged out of the trad jazz scene – an early New Orleans jazz revivalist movement in the UK. In the middle of their sets, the trad jazz musicians would put down their horns and pick up acoustic guitars, washboards, and upright basses to play the songs of Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, and others. Skiffle hit the top of the pop charts in both the UK and the US when Lonnie Donegan released his version of Leadbelly's "Rock Island Line." Bragg argues that this was a revolutionary moment that taught British youth that anyone could play the guitar – and led to skyrocketing guitar sales. As a result, members of The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, David Bowie, and even ABBA got their start in DIY skiffle groups. According to Bragg, if you want to understand everything that came after in the UK – from the British Invasion to the English folk revival to R&B to punk – you have to look at the impact that skiffle had on the emerging British teenage culture.

Go to episode 613

Top Albums of 2005

The“Best Records”list: It's“a sacred thing”in pop music fandom, says Jim, requiring a discerning ear and laser-like focus. Thankfully, our hosts are here to help. After sifting through hundreds of records, and countless days spent listening (perhaps to the discontent of their wives), they‘ve managed to pick out their absolute favorites. Here’s what Jim and Greg say they'll still be listening to in 2006.

Go to episode 2

Titus Andronicus

The members of Titus Andronicus named their band after a Shakespeare play, their first album after a Seinfeld reference, and the latest called The Monitor was influenced by the Civil War. Needless to say this isn't your average punk band. During their visit to Sound Opinions, lead singer Patrick Stickles talks to Jim and Greg about his book smart lyrics and New Jersey roots. They also perform live.

Go to episode 284

Alejandro Escovedo

Veteran roots rocker Alejandro Escovedo has dabbled in everything from punk to folk to country, and it shows on his new album Real Animal. He stops by the Sound Opinions studio to talk with Jim and Greg about his long solo career and how after 30 years he's finally getting more mainstream recognition. But, while he hasn't always been a household name, Escovedo has always had famous fans, including The Boss himself. You can hear "Always a Friend" the song he recently performed with Bruce Springsteen, as well as all his live tracks here.

Go to episode 156

Lydia Loveless

Country and punk might seem like strange musical bedfellows, but don't tell that to Lydia Loveless. On her new record Indestructible Machine, the rising alt-country star sings country songs about small town life, drinking too much, and cheating partners with a punk rock snarl. She performs a few of those tracks live in the studio this week. Lydia's embrace of country and punk has a lot to do with her upbringing. She grew up in Coshocton, a small town in rural Ohio where her dad booked country bands. By the time she was thirteen she was playing new wave music in Columbus bars with her sisters. Lydia chafed at her parochial surroundings as a teen, and that angst continues to inform her songwriting. If nothing else, Coshocton provided Lydia with ample material. Just take a listen to her performance of "Steve Earle," a tune about her hometown stalker.

Go to episode 348

Against Me!

The punk band Against Me! formed in Gainesville, FL in 1997 by then lead singer Thomas Gabel and guitarist James Bowman. The band took the aesthetics and ideals of punk rock and filtered them through the lens of classic rock, indie rock and folk to create a sound all their own. Against Me! landed a major label deal with Sire Records but then things began to change. They were dropped by Sire, the band began to break apart and Thomas Gabel began a gender transition to Laura Jane Grace. Laura Jane has documented her transition in the band's 2014 critically lauded album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. She and the group sat down with Jim and Greg late last year to discuss the evolution of her personal and musical life. The band also played songs from their 2014 record, to which Jim and Greg both gave a Buy It rating.

Go to episode 493

The Both

Ted Leo and Aimee Mann seem like an unlikely pairing: he's punk, she's folk, but as The Both, the duo make beautiful music together. And inspiration for forming this“mutual admiration society”came from some strange places including Twitter and a shared love of comedy and Thin Lizzy. And the project seems to have been liberating for both musicians—freeing them up from their typecast constraints of“political rocker”or“singer-songwriter.”Ted and Aimee perform songs from The Both's self-titled debut, including a celebration of "Milwaukee" and its utterly bizarre "Bronze Fonz."

Go to episode 463

Benjamin Booker

Benjamin Booker has caused a stir in the indie rock world by melding the blues, punk and soul with a signature rasp. Fresh off the heels of his national television debut on Late Night with David Letterman, Booker visits the studio to perform songs from his first major label release on ATO records. He also tells Jim and Greg about transitioning from being a barista at Starbucks to touring with Jack White all in one year. He can also count influential label head Geoff Travis of Rough Trade Records as a fan. Despite all this, Booker's parents are still not quite sold on this whole music thing.

Go to episode 457

Mike Heidorn of Uncle Tupelo

You can trace alternative country's roots to the 1960's when rock musicians such as Gram Parsons, The Byrds and the Flatlanders began dabbling with and reinvigorating country music. It was part of a wider investigation of American roots music in rock, a move toward more“authentic”styles. These rockers looked to country greats like Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard for inspiration — Bob Dylan famously collaborated with Cash on "Girl From the North Country." In the '70s and early '80s, a new generation of punk rockers started digging into traditional country for inspiration, including X, The Mekons, Rank & File, Jason and the Scorchers and the Long Ryders. Then third wave of alt country hit in the late '80s and early '90s, led by The Jayhawks out of Minneapolis and Uncle Tupelo, the trio of Jay Farrar, Jeff Tweedy and Mike Heidorn, out of Belleville, Illinois, just outside St. Louis. Uncle Tupelo's debut album,“No Depression,”took its name from a Carter Family song, "No Depression in Heaven," and it's one of many the key albums in defining the alt-country movement of this era. We have this band to thank for groups like Farrar's Son Volt, Tweedy's Wilco, Ryan Adams' Whiskeytown, the Drive-By-Truckers and the Old 97's …and not to mention No Depression Magazine. Legacy Recordings recently reissued No Depression, complete with some never before released demo tracks from 1987 to 1989. And to talk about it, Jim and Greg are joined by Uncle Tupelo's founding drummer Mike Heidorn.

Go to episode 442

Jimmy Cliff

Singer-songwriter Jimmy Cliff walked away with his second "Best Reggae Album" Grammy last week. Rebirth is Cliff's 30th reggae record in a career that spans the history of the genre. Talking to Jim and Greg, he traces the evolution of reggae from party music celebrating Jamaican independence, to a more introspective music about roots, spirituality, and identity. While he may not be as famous as countryman Bob Marley, Cliff was instrumental in breaking reggae in the U.S. As the starring actor and songwriter for the cult film The Harder They Come, he introduced Americans to Rastafarian culture, dancehall music, and his own hits "You Can Get It If You Really Want" and "The Harder They Come." Cliff might be a reggae founding father, but he's no purist. He talks approvingly of punk's adoption of reggae sounds and even returns the compliment: Rebirth features a cover of The Clash's "Guns of Brixton," a song originally inspired by The Harder They Come.

Go to episode 377

OFF!

We at Sound Opinions thought it wise to send a noise alert to our colleagues the day OFF! visited the studio. This punk supergroup doesn't hold back, delivering minute long bursts of tightly structured punk anger. OFF! is the project of four veterans of the LA punk and hard rock scenes. They are Keith Morris of Black Flag and Circle Jerks fame, Dimitri Coats of Burning Brides, Steve McDonald, and Mario Rubalcaba of Rocket From the Crypt. Since getting together in 2009, the foursome has released two full-lengths: First Four EPs and this year's official debut, OFF! Their sound harkens back to the heyday of LA hardcore, the genre Morris helped develop in the late seventies with Black Flag. But the band firmly rejects the hardcore label. Steve explains how the term came to be associated with violence and the boneheaded, testosterone-addled teens“who were the reason I got into punk in the first place.”So what does the band prefer to be called?“We're a rock n' roll band”says Morris. "Just crank it up."

Go to episode 354

Anthony Bourdain

Many people know Anthony Bourdain from his many books, his TV show "No Reservations," and his successful restaurant Les Halles. But, you may not know that he's a die-hard rock and roll fan. In 2007 Bourdain chronicled his punk past in the Spin essay“Eat to the Beat,”and when he was in town on a book tour, Jim and Greg invited him into the studio to talk turkey (and rock).

Anthony, or Tony as he likes to be called, explained to Jim and Greg that there are a lot of connections between members of the food world and the music world, the first of which is simply the hours. Both subcultures are nocturnal pleasure-seekers who often frequent the same greasy spoons and the same dive bars. But on a more cerebral level, music geeks and foodies are both obsessed, both opinionated, and both hate Billy Joel. Tony explains that when he's serving up grub to guests he prefers the tunes of Edith Piaf, Serge Gainsbourg, and even Connie Francis.

During this episode we also hear from other music-loving chefs from around the country including:

  • Wesley Genovart of Degustation in New York
  • Doug Sohn of Hot Doug's in Chicago
  • Brenda Langton of Spoon River and Café Brenda in Minneapolis
  • Craig Serbousek of Crow and Bette in Seattle
  • Graham Elliot Bowles of Avenues in Chicago
Go to episode 187

Bob Mould

Huskerdu Like most breakups, band breakups can be agonizing and traumatic, but also opportunities for self-reflection and reinvention. This week Jim and Greg talk to Hüsker Dü songwriter and guitarist Bob Mould about the breakup of his band - on the cusp of what many believed would be their mainstream breakthrough - and his subsequent reinvention as a solo artist. It's a period Mould talks about in his new memoir, See a Little Light, though he rarely discusses it in person. Aside from being one of the most rousing live rock n' roll acts around, Minnesota's Hüsker Dü was amazingly prolific. With Mould on guitar, Grant Hart on drums, and Greg Norton on bass, the band took punk velocity and pop craft to superhuman levels on a series of significant releases between 1984 and 1986: Zen Arcade, New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig, and Candy Apple Grey. But as Mould recalls, after the band's move to a major label, personal relationships, competition, and addiction proved to be toxic. The crisis came after a disastrous 1987 performance in Columbia, Missouri, when Hart's drug use brought the show to a halt. It was the period, Mould emphasizes, at the end of a very long sentence. The band broke up shortly thereafter. Bob also discusses his retreat to rural Minnesota, where he began experimenting with new instruments and alternate tunings. In 1989, he would re-emerge as a solo artist with another great album, Workbook.

Want more Mould? Listen to Jim and Greg's 2008 interview with Bob here.

Go to episode 295
specials

1977 - The Year Punk Broke

In the second and final installment of our series 1977: The Year Punk Broke, Jim and Greg explore the punk movement stateside with music writer Ira Robbins. Ira founded the music magazine Trouser Press in 1974. As a music journalist in New York, he was a fixture of the CBGBs scene, regularly "taking [his] life in his hands" to go to second avenue and hear bands like the Ramones, the Dictators, the Dead Boys, and Television play divey clubs. Whereas punk enjoyed a rapid rise in the U.K. in 1977, Ira describes the New York scene as more of a slow simmer. Fans gradually migrated from clubs like Max's Kansas City, where glam acts like The New York Dolls ruled, to clubs like CBGBs where a younger, rawer set of performers was defining the punk look and sound. Though the Ramones, with their simple song structures and leather jackets became emblematic of New York punk, Ira remembers a diverse scene. The Dead Boys, Television, and The Talking Heads may not have sounded the same, but in economically-depressed 70s-era New York, they shared an attitude that "life sucked, it's probably not going to get better, but so what."

Jim and Greg each choose a favorite track from the New York scene. Greg goes with the Talking Heads' "Don't Worry About the Government" from the band's self-titled debut. More than any other band, the Talking Heads epitomized New York punk's diversity. Their first gig may have been opening for the Ramones, but Greg contends the band's sound was more dance than punk. Still, Byrne's narrator in this song - a stressed, neurotic government bureaucrat - taps into the anxiety of the punk era. Jims goes with the ultimate American punk anthem, Richard Hell's "Blank Generation." The story goes that U.K. punk impresario Malcolm McLaren saw Hell perform the song in the U.S., then returned home and advised The Sex Pistols to write something "just like it, but your own."

Go to episode 351

1977 - The Year Punk Broke

This week, Jim and Greg kick off a two-part series about one seminal year in rock history, 1977: The Year Punk Broke. In this episode, they tackle the punk explosion in the U.K. with help from music writer Jon Savage. (Many consider Savage's England's Dreaming to be the definitive book on this period.) So what made punk explode in 1977? Jon chalks it up to a whole lot of rubbish pop music - songs like ABBA's“Fernando”and Elton John's“Don't Go Breaking My Heart”- that were marketed to kids but failed to address concerns about unemployment, consumerism, and of course, parents and other authority figures. More immediately, there was The Ramones playing their first London gig, and inspiring bands from The Buzzcocks to The Sex Pistols to The Damned. The Sex Pistols were the first to make a splash with their controversial single"God Save the Queen," banned across the British media. That Never Mind the Bullocks, Here's the Sex Pistols was still able to chart, Jon says, demonstrated the muscle of a nascent, independent youth media organized around fanzines and record shops like Rough Trade and Beggar's Banquet. For those who think all U.K. punk sounded the same, Jon points out some key differences. While The Sex Pistols“really had a dark heart,”The Clash had the social consciousness of a sixties band. Manchester's The Buzzcocks were into psychedelia. Regardless of any one band's take on the genre however, punk's message was the same. In Jon's words: "Pop music doesn't have to be something that oppresses you. It can actually liberate you."

Jim and Greg close out 1977 Part One by playing two favorite songs from this year. Greg goes out with The Adverts' "One Chord Wonder." Not only did The Adverts have the best names in punk - T.V. Advert, Gaye Advert, Howard Pickup, and Laurie Driver - they epitomized the genre's“no skill required”ethos. Jim goes with the Wire track "Ex-Lion Tamer" from one of his favorite records of all time, Pink Flag. This quartet of art students not only embodied the punk sound in 1977, they were also looking forward to the possibilities of post-punk.

Go to episode 350

Joy Division

In 1977 Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris formed the band Joy Division in Manchester, England. Now 30 years later, the music and the legend are as important as ever. Acclaimed video director and rock photographer Anton Corbijn just released his Joy Division feature film, Control. In addition, a number of albums and compilations are being reissued and a documentary is in the works. Jim and Greg took this opportunity to delve into the band's music and story.

So, why all the interest in a British band that lasted only three years and never even toured the States? Jim explains that Joy Division left a lasting musical influence that you can hear in dance-punk fusion bands like Interpol and LCD Soundsystem, as well as mainstream rock acts like The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins and U2. Also, because front man Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980, just one month prior to the release of "Love Will Tear Us Apart," the band's most successful single, the idea of Curtis and the band became almost as important as the music itself. The band was adopted by Goth youths and Curtis became romanticized as a tortured genius. Unfortunately while that propelled the band's name, it overshadowed what they were really about according to Jim and Greg.

The mythology surrounding Curtis‘ death isn’t the only thing that misrepresents Joy Division. Greg explains that the band's studio albums only showcase one side of the group's music. Producer Martin Hannett crafted the sound to enhance the band's dark, twisted image. On 1978's Unknown Pleasures and 1980's Closer, the songs were sparse and claustrophobic. But, as you can hear in live tracks like "Transmission," Joy Division was an aggressive, energetic band in concert. Their singles also present a more upbeat, dance-oriented sound. To get a full perspective on Joy Division, Greg recommends checking out the Closer reissue, as well as Substance, a collection of singles.

Go to episode 101

Wax Trax!

People in Chicago of a certain age fondly remember strolling down Lincoln Avenue into Wax Trax! Records. It was the epicenter of cutting edge culture in the 1980s. But even if you weren‘t there to sample goods from the record store and label, you’re familiar with its influence. Owners Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher created a world headquarters for artists who bridged disco, house, electronic, punk, and industrial music. Acts like Ministry, Front 242, RevCo, Underworld, KMFDM, and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult went on to sell millions of records internationally. Nash died in 1995 and Flesher in 2010. A year later, Wax Trax friends and family celebrated its 33 1/3 anniversary at Metro in Chicago. Two key players in that scene were Chris Connelly and Paul Barker. They share their memories of Wax Trax with Jim and Greg.

Go to episode 293

Touch and Go Records

This week Jim and Greg wanted to take a look at one of the music industry's most important independent labels: Touch and Go Records. Touch and Go recently turned 25 and celebrated with a three-day bash at Chicago's Hideout Block Party. Over the course of the show, you‘ll hear why Jim and Greg wanted to focus on this modest Chicago label. You’ll also hear from the founder himself, Corey Rusk, and a number of the label's artists, including Scott McCloud from Girls Against Boys, Janet Weiss from Quasi (and formerly Sleater-Kinney), Ted Leo, David Yow from Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard and recording engineer and musician Steve Albini of Big Black and Shellac fame.

Touch and Go's founder Corey Rusk is known not just as a tastemaker with an incredible ear for talent, but also as one of the most honest businessmen in the biz. This is what separates Touch and Go from other labels, major and independent alike. Rusk's business model, which doesn't shy away from the Internet and which relies merely on trust and a handshake, has kept it going for 25 years, helping it to outlive its peers. Labels like Twin/Tone in Minneapolis, which launched The Replacements, SST in California which launched Black Flag and Hüsker Dü, and I.R.S. in which launched R.E.M. and The Go Go's, all emerged in the early '80s after punk's mainstream explosion and before alternative's reign. However, Touch and Go is the only one of the bunch not only to stay in business, but to do so successfully and independently.

The best way to understand the label's significance is to sample some of the music. You'll hear these songs in our short-but-sweet montage of Touch and Go music:

  1. Killdozer, "Hi There"
  2. Girls Against Boys, "Kill the Sexplayer"
  3. The Dirty Three, "Doris"
  4. Jesus Lizard, "Mouth Breather"
  5. TV on the Radio, "Dreams"
  6. Butthole Surfers, "Fast"
  7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Art Star"
  8. Calexico, "Cruel"

Touch and Go has put out a lot of music over the past quarter century, but Jim and Greg both manage to pick their single favorite T&G tracks. Greg goes first and chooses "Stage 2000" by Seam. Touch and Go is often thought of as the place to go to for loud, hard-edged punk music, and that is certainly true. However, their roster is actually quite diverse, and there are a number of bands like Seam, who are making beautiful, soft, melodic music.“Stage 2000”is on Greg's favorite Seam album, The Problem With Me. That album was recorded with Chicago producer Brad Wood, best known for producing Liz Phair's classic Exile in Guyville.

Jim's Touch and Go pick is "Kerosene" by Big Black off their 1985 album Atomizer. Though Atomizer was initially released by Homestead Records, Big Black moved to Touch and Go a year later, and the label reissued the band's entire catalog. So we'll let Jim slide on this one — especially since no one has been as closely associated with Touch and Go as Big Black founder Steve Albini. Albini came to Chicago to study journalism at Northwestern, and Jim can hear this sensibility in his lyrics. Songs like "Kerosene" are essentially sensationalistic tabloid stories backed with thrashing noise-rock.

Go to episode 43

SOOPie Awards

As 2006 comes to end, Jim and Greg take a look back at the year in music — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and give out their annual“Soopie Awards.” Here are this year's winners:

  • The 14:59 Award: Kevin Federline. The dancer turned husband turned wannabe rapper started off this year with a new single, "Popozao," and a new hope for a better, bill-free, life. Now K-Fed is a soon-to-be twice-divorced father of four who was dumped via text message and booed by fans on the same night. The clock is ticking…

  • The Most Clichéd Criminal Act Award: Snoop Dogg. Rapper Snoop Dogg was arrested a number of times this year, but the final criminal act really took the cake. He was stopped after an appearance on The Tonight Show with what must be the gangsta rap starter kit — pot, cocaine and a weapon — soon to be available at a Wal-Mart near you.

  • The Award for Rock Aging Gracefully: The Sex Pistols. Upon receiving an invitation to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Sex Pistols responded thusly. Sound Opinions H.Q. is glad the punk spirit is still alive somewhere.

  • The Award for Rock Aging Poorly: CBGB's. One place the punk spirit isn't alive is Las Vegas. Yet that's exactly where the original Lower East Side punk headquarters is relocating. We just hope Patti Smith doesn't join Celine for an extended residency.

  • The Best New Sheriff in Town Award: Eliot Spitzer. 2006 was a big year for the Attorney General. Mr. Spitzer not only won the office of Governor of the State of New York, but he also brought down some of the giants in the music industry who continued the practice of payola. He received his largest settlement from Universal Music (which checked off all major record labels) and is now moving on to radio.

  • The“Hootie”the F** Are You? Award*: three-way tie between Rascal Flatts, The Fray & KT Tunstall. No one seems to know who you are, but your names continue to appear on the charts. Jim and Greg can only blame this on the Hootie effect.

  • The Politics Paying Too Big a Price Award: Dixie Chicks. After telling a British audience that she's ashamed the President is a fellow Texas native, Natalie Maines and her fellow Dixie Chicks have been boycotted by country radio stations and have been forced to cancel many tour dates. Jim and Greg wonder whatever happened to free speech?

  • The Politics Not Paying Enough of a Price Award: Barbra Streisand. Maybe we'll rethink that free speech thing… On her recent tour, the always liberal Barbra Streisand decided to incorporate political satire and sketches into her performance. After paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for tickets, many audience members wished Babs would just stick to singing. Jim and Greg agree.

  • Award for Best Rock Couple. Nominees: Paul McCartney and Heather Mills; Kim and Marshall Mathers; Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson. The Winner: Jay-Z and Nas. They've been“beefing”for years, and made their careers dissing one another. But now pure friendship (aka Def Jam and profit-sharing) have brought them together. Thank God those two kids worked it out!

From all of us at Sound Opinions, Happy New Year!

Go to episode 57

1977 - The Year Punk Broke

This week, Jim and Greg kick off a two-part series about one seminal year in rock history, 1977: The Year Punk Broke. In this episode, they tackle the punk explosion in the U.K. with help from music writer Jon Savage. (Many consider Savage's England's Dreaming to be the definitive book on this period.) So what made punk explode in 1977? Terrible pop songs, the entrance of The Ramones and the rise of groups like the Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols.

Jim and Greg close out 1977 Part One by playing two favorite songs from that year. Greg goes out with The Adverts' "One Chord Wonder." Jim goes with the Wire track "Ex-Lion Tamer" from one of his favorite records of all time, Pink Flag.

Go to episode 606

Remembering Alan Vega

Alan Vega This week Jim and Greg pay tribute to Alan Vega, former singer for electronic protopunk band Suicide. Jim discusses the importance of Suicide in transforming the conception of the synthesizer from suitable for use solely in melodic or dance music into an abrasive instrument. Suicide's music often warranted extreme hate from crowds of listeners, and their aggressive electronic music helped pave the way for punk music. Suicide was widely influential and beloved by many artists –even Bruce Springsteen has been covering the band's music. Vega passed away on July 16 at the age of 78.

Go to episode 557

Ask the Critics

To kick off the first show of the new year, Jim and Greg answer some of your questions.

Mark from Chicago and John from Lexington, SC want to know how Jim and Greg choose reviews and how they listen to those albums? Jim explains that we first narrow down a list of albums that are either interesting or making news. Then it comes down to what would make a good mix for the show. So if the feature segment is all about soul, we might like to get a little punk at the end. Greg answers part two, and explains that he tries to listen to an album as many times as possible and, most importantly, in as many different scenarios as possible. He hears music very differently whether he is driving down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago or doing dishes at home.

This leads to question #2. Nathan in Chicago is looking for suggestions on how to heighten the digital music experience. Can we do better than just headphones in an iPod? Jim and Greg admit they are not always seeking the most hi-fi experience, so they turn to Bob Gendron, copy editor for Music Direct and contributor to the Chicago Tribune. Bob recommends Nathan get a pair of Grado SR-60i headphones. Priced at $79, they give nice bang for the buck. But if Nathan is a high roller who wants his mind blown, Bob refers him to the Audeze LCD-3.

Chris from Corvallis, OR emailed interact@soundopinions.org for recommendations on songs to learn to play on ukulele. All the uke players around Sound Opinions H.Q. say that Paul McCartney is a great place to start; the simple pop melodies are perfect for the four-stringed instrument. Greg adds a vote for Weezer. YouTube is filled with ukulele love. Check out the footnotes below for some more of our favorites:

Got a question for the critics? Call 888.859.1800 or email interact@soundopinions.org.

Go to episode 371
classic album dissections
Rocket to Russia

The Ramones & the Sex Pistols God Save the Queen

Jim and Greg have mastered the art of the album dissection. This week they try their hand at Rocket to Russia by The Ramones. This was the punk originators' third album, released in April of 1977. Jim and Greg picked this album because of how revolutionary it was at the time. This was the era of Yes, James Taylor and KC and the Sunshine Band. Now that radio playlists are full of songs by bands like Fall Out Boy and Green Day, it's easy to forget a time before punk music. But, until four high schoolers from Forest Hills, NY merged their love of Brill-Building pop and British invasion rock with a big dose of speed and attitude, the sound as we know it didn't exist.

Joey Ramone, born Jeffrey Hyman, sang vocals, Johnny Ramone, born John Cummings, played guitar, Dee Dee Ramone, born Douglas Colvin, played bass and Tommy Ramone, born Tom Erdelyi, played drums. The four began to record Rocket to Russia after recently releasing two other albums and touring the US and Europe. Today, Tommy Ramone is the only living member of that original group. Tommy co-produced Rocket to Russia and wrote many of the songs, and Jim and Greg invited him on to talk about making the album.

It was a treat to get a first-hand account of recording Rocket to Russia from Tommy Ramone. He revealed a number of interesting facts, some of which surprised even our hosts. Here are some of the noteworthy points:

  • Johnny is known for being a speed demon. Tommy credits this with his desire to be a baseball player and his love of the fastball.
  • Joey is the band's original drummer, and Tommy acted as their manager. Tommy took over on drums in order to keep up with Johnny's pace. He had never played drums before, and sometimes outpaced the studio's click track.
  • Seymour Stein was the label executive behind the band. Despite the fact that their sound wasn't popular, he believed in The Ramones enough to boost their recording budget up to a whopping $25,000.
  • The Ramones heard God Save the Queen by the Sex Pistols during the recording of this album. Despite not having nearly the same amount of money to work with, Tommy explains that there was definitely a sense of competition. The feeling wa — they ripped us off, and now we want to sound better.
  • The Ramones were famous for being anti-guitar solo. But, there is one on the track "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow." Tommy reveals that this was actually him playing guitar, and assures Jim and Greg that Johnny wasn't miffed by the choice. Tommy was inspired by the guitar solo in "Tell Me" by the Rolling Stones.
  • A number of the songs on Rocket to Russia begin with Dee Dee counting off. The band encouraged their bassist to do this, despite the fact that those counts had nothing to do with the actual speed of the song.
  • Tommy struggles to name his favorite tune on the album, but includes "Rockaway Beach" as one of the best. Jim and Greg agree that the sunny, pop track is a great one, made even better by the fact that the actual Rockaway Beach was not a very sunny place. Juxtapose the sound of the song with the idea of trash in the sand and a syringe in your foot.

Jim and Greg also struggle to pick just one song to highlight from Rocket to Russia. Each one is great, and only clocks out at around two minutes. But, Greg was inspired by something Tommy said during their interview. He explained that the Ramones were ahead of their time, and were perhaps too dark and too subversive for mainstream culture. The song that best exemplifies this is "We're a Happy Family." While Happy Days showed one kind of family life, The Ramones wanted to show another, more realistic one. The Ramones were fans of Todd Browning's film Freaks, and celebrated the idea of being different and freaky in this song.

Jim's song choice also celebrates that freak spirit. "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker," only has a few words, but it's a definitely an anthem. The term punk previously had a negative connotation. In this song, the Ramones reclaim the word and give a big finger to anyone who judges them (or Sheena). Musically, the song is also quintessentially rock and roll, quintessentially American, quintessentially Ramones. Jim explains that if he had to choose one track to shoot into outer space and represent what rock music is, he'd choose "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker."

Go to episode 64
Horses (Legacy Edition)Horses available on iTunes

Patti Smith Horses

"Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." With that opening salvo on her debut album Horses, Patti Smith instantly established herself as a leading voice of the New York punk scene. Horses was released in December 1975, just over 40 years ago, so in honor of that milestone, Jim and Greg give it the Classic Album Dissection treatment. At that point, Smith had been kicking around New York City as a poet and a music writer, performing readings of her work while backed by Lenny Kaye on guitar and Richard Sohl on piano. These shows earned her enough buzz to get a contract with Arista Records and head into Electric Lady Studios to record Horses, with Velvet Underground co-founder John Cale behind the board as producer.

Right from her androgynous appearance in Robert Mapplethorpe's cover photo, Patti Smith defied all categorization on Horses. Jim and Greg cite the album as a great work of self-mythologizing, with Smith cultivating a magnetic public persona. The record veers from accessible yet lyrically disturbing songs like "Redondo Beach" and "Kimberly," to epic multi-part suites like "Birdland" and "Land." With Horses, Smith changed the rules for what a rock star could be and remains an influence generations later.

Go to episode 531
Rocket to Russiaundefined available on iTunes

Rocket to Russia

In 1976, The Ramones blasted onto the budding punk scene with their self-titled first LP and blew critics away with their blistering speed and old-school simplicity. However, it wasn't until the next year, after a monumental European tour and the release of their third album, Rocket to Russia, that the group's characteristic break-neck punk sound flooded the airwaves and the took the rock world by storm. Now, nearly 40 years after Rocket to Russia blew a hole in thepunk rock atmosphere, we mourn the death of Ramones' founder, drummer, producer, and guiding light Tommy Ramone. In honor of the legend's passing, Jim and Greg strap in for a Classic Album Dissection of The Ramones' 1977 speed machine and revisit a 2007 conversation with Tommy. Jim and Greg, curious about the magic behind masters of punk, ask Tommy about the day-to-day during the recording process and the band's cross-pond rivalry with British punk group the Sex Pistols. Tommy tells all, including the story of the band's suburban origins and the secret behind Dee Dee's famous, though not-so-useful count-offs.

To stake their flag in the dissection's conclusion, Jim and Greg each choose their favorite song from Rocket to Russia. Jim plays "Sheena is a Punk Rocker", calling it the“perfect rock song”and reminiscing about his young days listening to The Ramones. Greg settles on the song "We're a Happy Family" as a representation of the Ramones knack for writing catchy social commentary. The song satirizes the idea of perfect suburban family life represented so often by TV programs at the time, a poignant topic for the suburban-boy Ramones from Queens, New York.

Go to episode 453
The Belle AlbumThe Belle Album available on iTunes

Al Green The Belle Album

Al Green is known for archetypal soul hits like "Love & Happiness," "Let's Stay Together," and "I'm So Tired of Being Alone." But, while Al's songs are known around the world, the man himself is a bit of an enigma. To get a better sense of who Al Green is, Jim and Greg sat down with Jimmy McDonough, author of a new biography called Soul Survivor.

They also unpack a lesser known album from Al Green's catalogue: The Belle Album. The album, released in 1977, came out at a crucial period in Green's life. He had just left a lucrative career in soul music for the ministry. The album was his first gospel album, one that blended funk, disco, and according to Jim, even elements of punk. It was also Al's first dip into self-producing an album. His previous work had been produced by the legendary Willie Mitchell at Hi Records in Memphis. The album with its rough, almost garage-gospel sound is an outlier among Green's earlier works. The Belle Album means a lot to both Jim and Greg. Greg calls it "a transitional album that was also a masterpiece."

Go to episode 625
Rust Never SleepsRust Never Sleeps available on iTunes

Neil Young Rust Never Sleeps

For our 300th episode, Jim and Greg wanted to do a Classic Album Dissection of one of their favorite records of all time: Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young. The 1979 release was mostly recorded live during Young's 1978 tour, save some overdubs. As Jim and Greg discuss, it was in large part a response to the emerging punk music. How does a classic rocker from the '60s grow and evolve? This is how. As Young sings in "My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)," "It's better to burn out, than to fade away."

That song bookends the album, with the middle tracks broken into an acoustic section and an electric one. Jim remarks how brave it was for Young to come out with nothing but an acoustic guitar. He particularly loves the song "Pocahontas," which makes reference to the Native American icon in addition to the Hollywood icon Marlon Brando. Greg chooses to highlight the hard-stomping electric "Powderfinger," which attempts to reconcile America's complicated identity.

Go to episode 300
Let It Be (Expanded Edition)Let It Be available on iTunes

The Replacements Let It Be

This week's feature is a Classic Album Dissection of The Replacements' 1984 release Let It Be. Unlike previously dissected albums like Revolver and Songs in the Key of Life, Let It Be wasn‘t a major critical or commercial success. But, Jim and Greg believe it’s one of the greatest albums ever made. It was the fourth album from the Minneapolis band, which was comprised of four“scruffy”members: Paul Westerberg, Bob Stinson, Tommy Stinson and Chris Mars. As Jim and Greg explain, this album put the band on the map and helped to define what we know today as“indie music.”To learn more about the making of Let It Be and why it's so special, Jim and Greg talk with longtime Minneapolis music journalist Jim Walsh who has written an oral history of the band called "The Replacements: All Over But the Shouting."

Jim, Greg and Jim Walsh discuss what a radical change Let It Be was for The Replacements. While their previous albums were dominated by noisy, silly tracks, this recording sprinkled those trademark Replacements songs ("Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out," "Gary's Got a Boner") with more mature, heartfelt songs penned by Paul Westerberg. An example of this is the track "Unsatisfied," which Jim and Greg both believe is the highlight of Let It Be. Greg describes the song as“emotional bloodletting,”and an indication of how much Westerberg had grown as a songwriter. He also points out how inventive the instrumentation, which includes 12-string and lap steel guitar, was for the band and punk music in general. Jim calls "Unsatisfied" the "Satisfaction" of the post-punk generation. The song asks a question everyone can relate to:“Is this all there is in life?”But, as Jim notes, there was more in store for The Replacements after the release of Let It Be. It cemented them as an important band in rock history, and even though Westerberg and the band didn't go on to achieve similar greatness, Let It Be will go down as one of the great albums in the rock canon.

Go to episode 97
genre dissections

Riotgrrrl

Turn that song down…turn the static up! It's time to look back at Riot Grrrl. This feminist punk movement emerged in the early '90s in the Northwest with a confrontational sound and message. Riot Grrrl didn't last long, but its legacy lives on through spin-off bands, as well as the concept of a revolutionary rock chick that has been usurped by everyone from the Spice Girls to Avril Lavigne. To hear more about the history of Riot Grrrl, Jim and Greg talk to Sara Marcus, author of Girls to the Front*. Sara also shares her quintessential Riot Grrrl recordings:

  • Bikini Kill, The C.D. Version of the First Two Records
  • Bikini Kill, New Radio 7"
  • Bratmobile, Pottymouth
  • Heavens to Betsy, These Monsters Are Real 7"
  • Huggy Bear, Taking the Rough with the Smooch

As Sara Marcus explains, the term“Riot Grrrl”often gets thrown around when it comes to any loud lady singer. But the movement is much more specific in terms of time and place. As critics, Jim and Greg have to admit that the music produced by Riot Grrrl bands has not held up as well as the message. But the next generation is a different story. So to wrap-up they play songs by two bands that trace their lineage back to Riot Grrrl.

Greg chooses "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" by Sleater-Kinney. Sleater-Kinney was founded by Corin Tucker, of the Riot Grrrl band Heavens to Betsy and Carrie Brownstein of the queercore band Excuse 17. Jim goes with "Hot Topic," by Le Tigre, the next project from Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna.

Go to episode 285

Riot Grrrl

Let's get ready to riot! This week, Jim and Greg celebrate the 25th anniversary of the underground feminist punk movement, Riot Grrrl. It all began in the early '90s in Washington, D.C. and the Pacific Northwest when women united in outrage by speaking out on issues like domestic abuse, reproductive rights, sexual harassment and rape. They conveyed their messages through loud, confrontational punk music, a genre that was notoriously male-dominated.

Jim and Greg revisit an interview from 2011 with Sara Marcus, author of Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution. Sara shares the history of the movement as well as her quintessential Riot Grrrl recordings:

  • Bikini Kill, The C.D. Version of the First Two Records
  • Bikini Kill, New Radio 7"
  • Bratmobile, Pottymouth
  • Heavens to Betsy, These Monsters Are Real 7"
  • Huggy Bear, Taking the Rough with the Smooch

Though the initial Riot Grrrl movement came and went quickly, it produced a legion of musicians who continue to produce powerful music. To cap off the show, Greg and Jim play songs by two bands rooted in the Riot Grrrl movement. Greg chooses I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Sleater-Kinney. Sleater-Kinney was founded by Corin Tucker, of the Riot Grrrl band Heavens to Betsy and Carrie Brownstein of the queercore band Excuse 17. Jim goes with Hot Topic by Le Tigre, Kathleen Hanna's second band after Bikini Kill.

Go to episode 547
reviews
On the Jungle FloorOn the Jungle Floor available on iTunes

Van Hunt On the Jungle Floor

R&B/soul singer Van Hunt also has a new album out. His 2004 self-titled debut album was very well-received — listeners could hear the funk influences of bands like Sly Stone and Curtis Mayfield, as well as the more romantic, slow jams of singers like Marvin Gaye or D'Angelo. (And with a pimp for a father and a nurturing caregiver as a mother, Greg muses, Van Hunt's own family parallels his musical influences'.) On On the Jungle Floor, Van Hunt stretches himself more. He makes the surprising choice to cover "No Sense of Crime," a punk classic by The Stooges. And, fans will hear the influence of yet another R&B/funk idol: Prince. However, both Jim and Greg assert that with this release, the grasshopper has surpassed the master, and rate On the Jungle Floor higher than Prince's new album 3121. It's a Buy It for both critics.

JimGreg
Go to episode 21
Born to RunBorn to Run: 30th Anniversary Edition available on iTunes

Bruce Springsteen Born to Run: 30th Anniversary Edition

To Jim's dismay, Greg brought in the 30th anniversary re-issue of Born to Run, which he calls, "iconic". This 1975 record by Bruce Springsteen, was simultaneously on the cover of Time and Newsweek, and went on to sell over eight million copies. Jim notes that this record came out as the same time of many of the bands in the NY punk scene, and has Springsteen looking back on life, while rockers like The Ramones were looking forward. Jim says, to much of our horror, that Meatloaf was a better artist. That's right… Meatloaf. Greg admits that in his later years, Springsteen was a choreographed artist, but when this album came out, he was still experimental and learning his craft. Greg thinks the l part of this set, or as he calls it,“the manna,”is the DVD of the live Springsteen performance. Greg rates the Born to Run: 30th Anniversary Edition box as a "Buy It," and Jim surprisingly rates it a "Trash It."

JimGreg
Go to episode 3
Brick

Talking Heads Brick

Talking Heads, a band that came out of the New York punk scene in the 1970s, present their music in this one-stop-shop set. Brick contains all of the Talking Heads recordings re-mastered in 5.1 Digital Surround Sound by the band's keyboardist, Jerry Harrison. Jim is impressed with the comprehensiveness of this set, but admits that he doesn't even own a surround sound system. Greg was also hoping for more outtakes and rarities, explaining that the set's introduction, written by hipster author Dave Eggers, does not make it worth the $150 price.

JimGreg
Go to episode 3
POST-Post- available on iTunes

Jeff Rosenstock Post-

Punk rocker Jeff Rosenstock has been making music for about two decades, but according to Greg, Post- is his“best record yet.”Built around two epic, proggy, Yes-like jams ("USA" and "Let Them Win,") Greg notes there's an anthemic quality to the music, with lyrics that reflect the challenges that many of us face. Greg adds that he loves the fact that the album doesn't rely on just“that caffeinated energy that has always been a part of his shows.”Jim says Jeff has the energy of the prolific garage rocker Ty Segall and some of the earnestness of James Alex of Beach Slang. However, Jim adds that Jeff could have used a producer that edited him a bit more (a critique he believes also applies to Segall). Ultimately, both Jim and Greg give the record a Double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 633
...For the Whole World to SeeFor The Whole World To See available on iTunes

Death For The Whole World To See

The final review this week is a reissue from Detroit punk band Death. …For The Whole World To See took thirty years to see the light of day, but now Chicago label Drag City has resurrected the album, and Jim and Greg are thrilled. It was groundbreaking for three African Americans from Detroit to play punk and garage rock instead of soul and R&B. Listening to this album Jim can easily picture the group on a bill with Iggy and The Stooges and the MC5. Greg admits the music is somewhat primitive, but finds it aggressive and packed with ambition. …For the Whole World to See gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 202
Infinity On High (Deluxe Edition)Infinity on High available on iTunes

Fall Out Boy Infinity on High

Next up Jim and Greg review Fall Out Boy's fourth album, Infinity on High. The pop punk quartet from the Chicago suburbs sold 3 million copies of its last album, and 15-year-old girls everywhere have been anxiously awaiting the follow-up. Teenagers aren‘t the only Fall Out Boy fans out there. The band’s boss, Def Jam head Jay-Z, has also been championing them and arranged a larger-than-life debut. Jim also counts himself as a fan. He thinks Fall Out Boy is a smart, fun, exuberant band full of the punk spirit of bands like The Ramones. He admits that the lyrics are nothing profound, but gives the album a Buy It for its huge attitude and timeless pop songs. Greg admires how Fall Out Boy conducts itself as a band and thinks lead singer Patrick Stump has an impressive voice. However, he doesn't think they do a good enough job of differentiating themselves from other pop punk bands like the All-American Rejects and Sum 41. He wishes they did more with new producers like Babyface. This critic finds Infinity on High a little too generic and can only give the album a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 63
Excellent Italian GreyhoundExcellent Italian Greyhound available on iTunes

Shellac Excellent Italian Greyhound

Up next is another band that knows how to make its fans wait. Chicago-based indie punk group Shellac has a new album called Excellent Italian Greyhound, and it's only been a mere seven years since the last one. Guitarist and singer Steve Albini is best known as the utilitarian recordist who has captured the sounds of everyone from Nirvana to the garage band next door. He's joined by drummer Todd Trainer and bassist Bob Weston for a sound that is as real as you're ever going to hear in a recorded work. There are no fancy tricks here, just a minimalist approach. And with what Greg describes as a“tongue placed very firmly in cheek,”the band makes powerful punk music with a sense of humor. However both Greg and Jim admit that not all of the tracks are winners, and therefore Excellent Italian Greyhound gets two Try Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even ThisOne Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This available on iTunes

New York Dolls One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This

After disbanding over 30 years ago, glam punk legends the New York Dolls are back with a new album, One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This. Though the band's first incarnation existed for only a few years, its influence is undeniable. As Jim and Greg explain, without the Dolls, we wouldn't have the Sex Pistols. Heck, we may not even have had Morrissey, who got the Dolls together in 2004 for London's Meltown Festival. The sole surviving Dolls, David Johansen (aka "Buster Poindexter") and Sylvain Sylvain, came together for this album. Upon hearing of this latest effort, Jim and Greg were both excited and fearful. Now, after hearing it, they can say that their worries were not in vain. Jim loves the old Dolls, and can't understand how the band that made One Day It Will Please Us can even call themselves the New York Dolls. For Jim, it's a Trash It. Greg is a little more forgiving. He thinks that the 2006 Dolls come off like a pretty good cover band, and can't completely bash them. He gives the album a Burn It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 35
Nothing Feels NaturalNothing Feels Natural available on iTunes

Priests Nothing Feels Natural

Washington, DC quartet Priests prove that punk is alive and well in the Nation's Capital. The band has been on a healthy clip since 2011 releasing music and touring but Nothing Feels Natural is the band's debut full-length album release. Greg says it is an ambitious“critique of nothing less than America”full of sarcastic views on politics and capitalism. Those heavy ideas are bouyed by a“fantastic rhytm section”that keeps Greg "spinning around an imaginary dance floor". Jim hears a strong post-punk influence hailing to the early 1980s but thinks this is an album that can“only be made by someone of the current generation”tackling technology and feelings of isolation. It is an enthusiastic doube Buy It!

JimGreg
Go to episode 585
PopularPopular available on iTunes

Van Hunt Popular

Soul-rocker Van Hunt's album Popular, originally slated for release back in 2008, is finally seeing the light of day. According to Greg, the record is“totally contemporary, and totally of the moment… still.” The album, a stylistic diversion from Van Hunt's previous efforts (Van Hunt [2006] and On the Jungle Floor [2007]), was shelved by Blue Note Records after promotional copies had been distributed to critics. Jim and Greg received copies of the album back then and gave the album an "enthusiastic double Buy It" – despite listeners not being able to purchase the music at the time. Now that Blue Note has given the record a proper release, Jim and Greg revisited the record. Greg calls it a Freudian, avant-garde take on Prince's Dirty Mind. He adds that the record has an“adventurous”blend of sonic elements like the mix of punk with falsetto soul vocals in "Turn My TV On." Jim says the record was ahead of its time in 2008 and still sounds absolutely fresh and current beside "other genre-bending maestros of R&B like Frank Ocean and Kendrick Lamar." Both Greg and Jim give Popular another double Buy It (and this time you can actually buy it).

JimGreg
Go to episode 614
Underneath the Rainbow (Bonus Track Version)Underneath the Rainbow available on iTunes

Black Lips Underneath the Rainbow

The incendiary live shows and southern punk sound of Black Lips have been hallmarks of the band for over a decade. With their latest album, Underneath the Rainbow, the Atlanta, GA rockers take a turn for the mature. Patrick Carney of The Black Keys and Thomas Brenneck of The Dap-Kings were recruited to take turns producing, and Jim notices the difference. The sound is cleaner than previous Black Lips outings, but still retains the same killer garage rock melodies. Underneath the Rainbow wins a heartfelt Buy It from Jim. Greg thinks cleaning up is the last thing the band needs to do. They're at their best when they are raw, loud and are not playing nice. Greg hears the compromises Underneath the Rainbow, and says Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 435
The Most Lamentable TragedyThe Most Lamentable Tragedy available on iTunes

Titus Andronicus The Most Lamentable Tragedy

The New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus recently released their fourth album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy. The thematic nature of the record is about lead singer Patrick Stickles‘ battle with manic depression. It’s a rock opera, complete with five different acts, a silent intermission track and even a couple of covers. For Greg, every note oozes with importance and passion. He thinks the album as a whole is definitely overwhelming and opulent but ultimately a distinctive piece of work. He gives it a Buy It. Jim agrees and says that the music can overtake the listener, but one doesn't have to follow the somewhat complicated story to enjoy it. He thinks Titus Andronicus does a good job mixing a Celtic lilt with traditional punk sound and even thinks the album is on par with Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade and Fucked Up's David Comes to Life. The Most Lamentable Tragedy receives a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 509
I'm With YouI'm With You available on iTunes

Red Hot Chili Peppers I'm With You

Once fresh faces in the frat punk world, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are a heritage act at this point. Their 10th album I'm With You is one of many collaborations with superproducer Rick Rubin. And it's the first with new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer. Lead singer Anthony Kiedis considers this a reboot, but Greg's having a hard time buying their new identity as a stadium ballad band. He misses the guitar virtuosity of John Frusciante, who quit in 2009. Flea remains an all-star bass player, but he can‘t save I’m With You. Greg says Trash It. Jim agrees with that sentiment, pointing to the lousy, mush-mouthed lyrics of Kiedis as his primary hurdle. This is not a sensitive band, and he would welcome a return to funk rock. Until then…Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 301
The River In Reverse (Digital Version)The River in Reverse available on iTunes

Elvis Costello The River in Reverse

Elvis Costello, the singer/songwriter who has taken on New Wave, punk, ska, country and pop, is tackling R&B on his latest release, The River in Reverse. The album is a collaboration between Costello and Allen Toussaint, the multi-talented New Orleans musician. Toussaint is responsible for hits like "Working in a Coal Mine," "I Like It Like That," and "Lady Marmalade," and has worked with The Band, Paul Simon and The Meters. The two collaborated after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, but neither Jim nor Greg think Costello's voice is up to the task of handling Toussaint's songs. Costello is a name that can garner attention for Toussaint, and Greg knows that his heart is in the right place, but it is only a Burn It record for both critics.

JimGreg
Go to episode 27
The Boxing MirrorThe Boxing Mirror available on iTunes

Alejandro Escovedo The Boxing Mirror

Eno's occasional partner in crime, John Cale, also makes an appearance in this week's show, having produced the latest release from Alejandro Escovedo. The Boxing Mirror is the ninth album from the musician, who can only be described as part-punk, part-country and part-rock. Escovedo grew up admiring the Velvet Underground, and Jim and Greg agree that the match between him and Cale is one made in heaven. Jim has never been a major fan of Escovedo's singer/songwriter style, but he thinks this is his best solo effort, perhaps due to Escovedo's newly found lust for life. He survived a life-threatening outbreak of Hepatitis C a couple years ago, and the music demonstrates that he is indeed very happy to be alive. Greg agrees and compares Escovedo's renewal to that experienced by Neil Young. Both albums give The Boxing Mirror a Buy It and urge fans try to see Escovedo, along with musicians like Susan Voelz, perform live.

JimGreg
Go to episode 23
BackspacerBackspacer available on iTunes

Pearl Jam Backspacer

Jim and Greg kick off their record review roundup with Backspacer, the ninth album from Pearl Jam. The band is back with producer Brendan O'Brien, but the mood has certainly changed. They are sounding a lot more optimistic, and, as Greg explains, more energized. They kick up the fast-paced punk more on this album, but still have a couple of noteworthy ballads. Greg gives Backspacer a Buy It. Jim wishes he heard something new from the Seattle rockers. He agrees that the slower songs are great, but feels he's heard the rest of the album before. He gives Pearl Jam a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 200
Vampire WeekendVampire Weekend available on iTunes

Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend

Next up is the self-titled debut from quartet Vampire Weekend. The indie rockers have been getting a lot of buzz for months now after releasing an EP. Now, with the release of their new album, they're being referred to as the next big indie stars. But, both Jim and Greg disagree with the hype — Greg feels it's unfair, and Jim feels it's completely unwarranted. Jim hates this album and finds it to be pretentious both musically and lyrically. He explains that the Paul Simon-esque African rhythms feel contrived, and the mentions of Louis Vuitton, Benetton and Oxford Commas are more prep than they are punk, earning Vampire Weekend a Trash It. Greg disagrees and says the music has clean guitars, rhythms and a sense of humor. It's a perfectly pleasant pop record — a Burn It that's a victim of hype.

JimGreg
Go to episode 114
LuluLulu available on iTunes

Lou Reed & Metallica Lulu

In the list of rock collaborations we never thought we'd witness, Lou Reed and Metallica are right at the top. A pioneer of punk has joined forces with pioneers of thrash metal for Lulu, an album inspired by the writing of German expressionist playwright Frank Wedekind. Yep it's as strange as it sounds, though Jim reminds us that Reed has gone metal in the past, and well. But here, he is just talking his way through the vocals. And Metallica isn‘t doing him any favors. Jim compares their virtuosity to the kind you’ll hear at Guitar Center. To Greg the album is so dashed off and improvised, its sound like raw demos with no actual songs to be discerned. And he's especially critical of singer James Hetfield's backing vocals. Greg calls Lulu one big raised middle digit to fans; Metallica and Lou Reed get a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 311
AnastasisAnastasis available on iTunes

Dead Can Dance Anastasis

Next Jim and Greg review Anastasis, the first new record in sixteen years from longtime 4AD band Dead Can Dance. This duo began thirty years ago in Australia. Guitarist Brendan Perry got his start in punk circles, but turned in a more experimental direction after meeting vocalist Lisa Gerrard. Greg says in the eighties, no one sounded quite like Dead Can Dance. The band melded the ancient sounds of Gregorian chant and renaissance music with au courant ambient pop. Since splitting up in 1997, Gerard and Perry have pursued solo careers (Gerard composed the music for Gladiator), but recent brushfires in Australia brought the two together long enough to produce a new album, Anastasis. Are the dead still dancing in 2012? Jim says not nearly enough. He finds Perry's serious, intoned lyrics laughable and Gerrard's compositions plodding and overdramatic. He says Trash It. Greg admits to being a Dead Can Dance diehard back in the day, but even he admits the band's slow tempos on this album aren‘t doing them any favors. Not only are Perry’s lyrics annoying, he says, but they don‘t seem to have anything to do with Gerrard’s beautiful, atmospheric vocals. He gives Anastasis a Burn It on the strength of Gerrard's voice, but calls Anastasis second-rate work.

JimGreg
Go to episode 353
Burn Something BeautifulBurn Something Beautiful available on iTunes

Alejandro Escovedo Burn Something Beautiful

Overcoming Hepatits C and narrowly escaping a brush with a hurricane was the backdrop for the new record, Burn Something Beautiful, from Texas-based musician Alejandro Escovedo. With a decades-spanning career starting in punk bands in the 1970s, the 65-year old guitarist is no stranger to the stage (or Sound Opinions). Gregsays this“feedback drenched”album is the audio catharsis of Escovedo's recent struggles. He played this summer's Pitchfork festival and Greg said it sounded like a“19-year old kid with something to prove.”Jim says it can be easy giving an aging artists a pass based on a long-storied career, but Burn Something Beautiful stands on its own.“Vital, vibrant and essential”are all words Jim uses to describe this double Buy It record.

JimGreg
Go to episode 572
Light Up Gold / Tally All the Things That You BrokeLight Up Gold available on iTunes

Parquet Courts Light Up Gold

Who knew Denton, TX was a rock capital? There's Midlake and Neon Indian. Sly Stone was born there! And now we have Parquet Courts. With its 2nd release Light Up Gold, the garage quartet has relocated to Brooklyn and is getting much wider attention. The album is a perfect combination of expert pop craftsmanship and slacker-punk attitude. Jim and Greg grinned through this review, so Parquet Courts gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 374
Post Pop DepressionPost Pop Depression available on iTunes

Iggy Pop Post Pop Depression

The "godfather of punk" has released his 17th–and maybe final– album, Post Pop Depression. Jim and Greg are both huge Iggy Pop fans, but Jim thinks outside of a few moments of brilliance with tracks like Lust for Life, The Passenger, and Candy, his solo career is a disaster. Jim's opinion is that while Iggy's first three albums with The Stooges were perfect, the punk legend has never had much to say lyrically. Even Josh Homme's attempts to fire up the album don‘t work, and Jim’s got to call this record a Trash It. Greg couldn‘t disagree more. He’ll concede that Iggy's 80s output was less than stellar, but some of his solo records in the 90s and beyond have had great moments. Post Pop Depression is his best work since The Idiot and Lust for Life. Homme understands Iggy and provides a setting for him to do what he does best. Greg describes the lyrics as poetic and at different times dark, meditative, funny, and rageful. The record also shows off Iggy's underrated singing. Greg says Buy It. If this truly is Iggy's last album, what a way to go out.

JimGreg
Go to episode 538
WitnessWitness available on iTunes

Benjamin Booker Witness

Greg notes that Benjamin Booker's sound was initially inspired by the question of what would it sound like "if Otis Redding strapped on an electric guitar and played in a punk band?" The resulting debut album, released in 2014, got the attention of fellow artists like Jack White. Witness is Benjamin Booker's second album, which finds him“inspired by the Black Matter Movement, and by America's changing attitudes in the era of Trump”according to Jim. Witness experiments with punk rock, glam rock, and rhythm and blues. Jim loves“the fire in his guitar”and "the vocals", and for Jim, the album is a buy it. Greg says that the album is“terse”and“direct”that "broaden[s] his scope both musically and lyrically". For Greg, the record is a buy it, as well.

JimGreg
Go to episode 602
NaturalNatural available on iTunes

The Mekons Natural

The final album up for review is less high-profile, but no less worth your time according to Jim and Greg. Leeds-born, Chicago-based band The Mekons have a new album out called Natural. Pioneers and survivors of England's punk era, the Mekons have been making music together for thirty years now, and for this effort they gathered in the English countryside to record. You can hear this“natural”approach in the live sound of the record. This also accounts for the album's accessibility despite many of the songs' dark themes. Greg calls Natural one of the band's bleakest albums, but also one of the prettiest. Jim agrees that the record is gorgeous, and not off-putting. If you are new to the Mekons, this is as good a place to start as any. Both critics give Natural a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 93
dijs

Jim

“(Say No To) Saturday's Girl”Human Switchboard

The new year has inspired Jim's pick for this week's Desert Island Jukebox. Jim celebrated many a New Year's Eve at the bar Maxwell's in Hoboken. Recently, he was thinking about the December 31st evening he spent watching the group Human Switchboard perform. Human Switchboard was a band out of the Cleveland, Ohio scene that blended elements of rock, funk and punk to create their own unique sound. Once they moved to New York City in the '80s, they played clubs in and around the city back when people used to dance to New Wave music. Jim chose the track "(Say No To) Saturday's Girl" and it has him grooving in the new year.

Go to episode 632

Jim

“"Open Your Eyes"”The Lords of the New Church

This week we looked at the music, past and present, of Russia. Jim thought about one band that curiously made a splash there: The Lords of the New Church. The band was somewhat of a supergroup, with punk pioneers Stiv Bators of The Dead Boys, Brian James of The Damned, Dave Tregunna of Sham 69 and Nick Turner of The Barracudas, all coming together to play, what Jim readily admits, a 1980's sound that mixed punk with goth. While he didn't love most of their output, he really loved the first single that penetrated the Iron Curtain: "Open Your Eyes".

Go to episode 429

Jim

“Chinese Rocks”The Heartbreakers,The Heartbreakers,The Heartbreakers

Jim noted that 20 years ago on April 23, 1991, Johnny Thunders died. The former New York Doll sadly became as famous for his bad heroin habit as he was for his music. So, Jim uses his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox to remember the music. He plays a song about addiction, "Chinese Rocks," which was written by fellow punk legends Dee Dee Ramone and Richard Hell, and performed by Thunders and his band The Heartbreakers in 1977.

Go to episode 282

Greg

“Home of the Brave”Naked Raygun

Greg chooses a Desert Island Jukebox track this week. Taking inspiration from The Effigies' visit, he picked a song from the Chicago punk scene of the 1980s. Naked Raygun was one of the bands that really got national attention, partly because of their intense live set, and partly because of their emotionally charged songs. Greg chooses one such song, "Home of the Brave," to take with him to the deserted island. In the song, the band plays three terse verses about the outrage they experienced during the Reagan administration. The song asks the listener to think about what it really means to be the“home of the brave,”and both Jim and Greg are amazed at how appropriate the song's lyrics still are today.

Go to episode 88

Greg

“Nowhere Again”Secret Machines

Music fans experienced another loss over the holidays: Benjamin Curtis, one of the founding members of Secret Machines died at age 35 after a battle with cancer. He, brother Brandon and cousin Josh Garza, visited the show in 2006, and Greg fondly remembers their distinctive sound. While contemporaries like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes were steeped in a New York punk and New Wave sound, Secret Machines had a more experimental and psychedelic edge. And when people lament the lack of great modern rock bands, Greg refers them to this one. So to remember Ben Curtis and Secret Machines, Greg adds "Nowhere Again" from the band's 2004 debut Now Here is Nowhere to the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 424

Jim

“I Won't Give Up”The Erasers

For Jim and Greg, it's February in Chicago, and they couldn‘t think of a place they’d rather get away to than a warm desert island. This week it's Jim's turn, and he wants to take us back to the burgeoning New York punk scene in the 1970s. Specifically, he wants to focus on Ork Records, a small independent label that served many underground punk bands. One such group that's a bit of a deep cut is the Susan Springfield-led band, The Erasers. Jim really digs this quartet, even though they only released one single and were never heard from again! However, the song "I Won't Give Up" is the perfect example of a great punk track that was ahead of its time.

Go to episode 533

Greg

“The Red and the Black”Blue Öyster Cult

During his conversation with Jim and Greg, Mike Watt reveals some of Minutemen's more surprising influences. One that didn't come up, but has been cited in the past, is Blue Öyster Cult. But, as Greg explains, the more you think about it, the more that affinity makes sense. This hard rock arena band was actually masterminded by producer (and former rock critic) Sandy Pearlman. And some of the bands lyricists were Patti Smith and critic Richard Meltzer. So you have the heft of literary words with the speed and intensity of punk rock. You can hear that combination in a song Watt continues to perform to this day: "The Red and the Black" by Blue Öyster Cult.

Go to episode 433

Greg

“New Rose”The Damned

Talking to Nick Lowe got Greg thinking about all things seventies - in particular, Lowe's work as a producer during that decade. Few people realize Lowe worked with The Damned, the first UK punk band to put themselves on the map (take that Sex Pistols!). Where another producer might have been tempted to clean up the band's sound, Lowe kept The Damned as dirty and gritty on record as they were live. And nowhere do you hear that better, Greg insists, than on the band's first single, 1976's "New Rose." Rat Scabies's drums sound huge, and Brian James's guitar is so distorted it sounds defective. This, Greg says, is what punk sounds like to this day, and Lowe was onto the trend before anyone else.

Go to episode 329

Jim

“Frenchette”The New York Dolls

In order to remove the bad taste left by the New York Dolls' recent showing, Jim decides to return to a happier time with this week's Desert Island Jukebox pick. Even after the Dolls broke up, lead singer David Johansen never failed to deliver — especially live, as Jim found out after attending a 1982 show (illegally). The then-underage critic was mesmerized by Johansen's energetic performance of songs like this week's DIJ track, "Frenchette." While most of the Dolls' songs were short, classic punk tunes,“Frenchette”clocks in at over five minutes and is more in tune with the stadium anthems of the era. The song is a witty play on the notion of something being not quite what it should: not love, but lovette; not leather, but leatherette; not French, but Frenchette. The song was written by Johansen and fellow Doll Sylvain Sylvain. This proves that the two men were capable of doing great work post-Dolls, prompting Jim to wonder why they can't create the same magic today. Both Jim and Greg put out an open invitation for the Dolls to come get some medicine from the rock doctors.

Go to episode 35

Jim

“Acknowledge”Screeching Weasel

This week, it's by Chicago punk band Screeching Weasel. For Jim, Screeching Weasel is key to understanding the current pop/punk explosion of bands like Blink 182, Sum 41 and fellow Chicagoans Fall Out Boy. In addition, this band has one of the best-documented histories in rock. A few years ago Ben œWeasel Foster put out a highly autobiographical novel that alludes to his time in the band. Recently, his Weasel partner John Jughead Pierson released his fictional response, Weasels in a Box. Despite their great influence on rock, many people have not heard of the band. One of the reasons for this, Jim notes, is that Foster suffered from agoraphobia, preventing the band from touring much. They were highly prolific, however, and recorded almost an album a year for 13 years. "Acknowledge" was released on Screeching Weasel'™s last album before disbanding. In the song, both Weasels sing about agoraphobia and substance abuse, but without losing their punk rock sense of humor or catchy, Ramones-style three-chord structure. It'™s this combination, says Jim, that makes Screeching Weasel one of the best bands Chicago has ever produced.

Go to episode 8

Greg

“Personality Crisis”New York Dolls

Jim and Greg sail away to the Desert Island Jukebox, and it's Greg's turn to choose a song. He wants to return to the high point of the New York Dolls. They're still making music today, but it's nothing Jim and Greg want to remember. Greg goes back to 1973's "Personality Crisis," which showcases what was so amazing about the Dolls: Johnny Thunder's guitar, Syl Sylvain's pop smarts, and David Johansen's charisma. People called the group "glam," but Greg credits them as the 1st punk band, giving way to the Sex Pistols.

Go to episode 293

Jim

“Rustbelt”Voice of Addiction

For his latest Desert Island Jukebox pick, Jim makes a case for punk rockers Voice of Addiction. Formed in Chicago in 2004, Voice of Addiction centers political and social commentary in their high-energy music. The group came back on Jim's radar as the focus of a new feature-length documentary about the band, Punk Band. Jim selects their track Rustbelt off 2017's The Lost Art of Empathy as an essential blue-collar anthem.

Go to episode 667

Jim

“I'm the Toughest Girl Alive”Candye Kane

It has become a sad cliché at this point that 2016 has been a terrible year for losses in the music world. This week, Jim pays tribute to Candye Kane – an artist less famous than Prince or Bowie, but every bit as exceptional. She came out of the Los Angeles punk scene, but wore many hats throughout her life: feminist, porn star, bisexual, fat activist – and big, bold, and brash blues singer. Over dozens of albums, she showcased her power, raunchiness, humor and an unforgettable voice. Kane died on May 6 from pancreatic cancer at age 54. In her honor, Jim nominates her 2000 anthem "I'm the Toughest Girl Alive" for the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 550

Jim

“Credit in the Straight World”Young Marble Giants

It's Jim's turn to pop a quarter in the Desert Island Jukebox. Mr. Kot is pleasantly surprised as Jim reveals his choice: "Credit in the Straight World" by Young Marble Giants from their 1980 album Colossal Youth. Elements from this late 1970s post-punk band are heard in orchestral pop bands such as Belle and Sebastian. Even Courtney Love's Hole covered this song on their 1994 release Live Through This. Young Marble Giants consisted of female vocalist Alison Statton and brothers Philip and Stuart Moxham. They went against the English punk grain at the time by choosing to be quiet and minimalist. The band reunited this past May at England's Hay Festival for the first time in 27 years.

Go to episode 94

Greg

“It's O.K.”Dead Moon

2017 has been a challenging year for many people, and Greg's pick for the desert island jukebox gave him some solace from the recent turbulence. Inspired by a cover he saw performed by Ted Leo, Greg chose "It's O.K." by the Portland punk band Dead Moon. Led by a husband and wife duo, Dead Moon was extremely DIY - doing almost all of their own recording and surrounding duties. Recently, Fred Cole (the husband in the duo) passed away. Greg wanted to play this song as a tribute to him, and to encourage others that even though "we‘ve all seen better days…it’s okay, yeah we love you anyway."

Go to episode 630

Jim

“She's Like Heroin To Me”The Gun Club

For Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick this week, he chooses She's Like Heroin To Me by The Gun Club. Jeffrey Lee Pierce and the other founders of this band played music that did not fit into any genre labels but which might be described as "psychobilly cowpunk post-punk tribal-psychobilly-blues." Jim reminisces about the very innovative period of indie rock and punk in the '80s when The Gun Club came about, and points out how important this particular track is in understanding '80s music and expressing popular punk themes like obsession, addiction, and sex.

Go to episode 558

Jim

“Everybody's Happy Nowadays”The Buzzcocks

Jim's Desert Island Jukebox pick is an act of punk rebellion. One of his favorite singles, "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" by The Buzzcocks, has been co-opted by AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) for their recent ad campaign. AARP has been trying hard to attract younger people, but they seem to have missed the point of the song. It's an ironic statement on how crummy life can be, rather than a celebration of getting older and retiring. In an effort to reclaim this great track, Jim steals it away to his deserted island.

Go to episode 65

Jim

“I'm So Bored with the USA”The Clash

Jim's miniature society held their annual show recently, bringing together fellow tiny soldier geeks from all over the world. Jim's international friends often expressed bewilderment on how long we Americans drag out this grueling election process. Even the most patriotic Americans, regardless of politics, seem ready for the campaign to end. So Jim nominates a song for the Desert Island Jukebox that reflects that malaise: "I'm So Bored with the USA" from the 1977 debut from The Clash. It began as a Mick Jones-penned anti-love song called "I'm So Bored with You", but Joe Strummer misheard the lyrics and rewrote them to be more topical. The result is another classic melodic anthem from the punk pioneers.

Go to episode 570

Jim

“Can't Stand the Midwest”Dow Jones & The Industrials

This week, it's Jim's turn to bring a track he can't live without to play in the desert island jukebox. He selects the song "Can't Stand the Midwest" by Dow Jones & The Industrials. The Indiana band came up in the emerging punk scene in the late '70s and early '80s, however Jim didn‘t discover them until fairly recently when their music was reissued. While the band never found huge fame, their fast and dynamic songs could sustain Jim on a desert island for quite a while. He chose“Can’t Stand the Midwest”to highlight, because although Jim has called the Midwest home for a number of years now, it can sometimes make even him a little stir crazy.

Go to episode 582

Jim

“Orphans”Teenage Jesus and the Jerks

Jim gets a little edgy when summer begins and things get hot. So this week, he nominates one of the nastiest songs in the history of rock to the Desert Island Jukebox: "Orphans" by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. Fronted by the great Lydia Lunch, the band was part of the "no wave" movement that tossed out the chords and melodicism of earlier punk rockers in favor of pure noise. Teenage Jesus was one of the bands featured in the definitive no wave compilation, 1978's No New York, produced by Brian Eno.“Orphans”features only three lines of lyrics, furious guitar playing, and pounding drums. For Jim, it's the antithesis of a summer song.

Go to episode 603

Greg

“Lipstick Vogue”Elvis Costello

Greg has been enjoying Elvis Costello's new memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink. While he finds Costello's career as a whole to be hit-or-miss, he's reminded of how great the first four or five albums were – in particular, 1978's This Year's Model. Costello was often lumped into punk and New Wave, but his band The Attractions had more musical chops than most bands in those movements. Their instrumental virtuosity really came out performing Costello's claustrophobic songs about anger, frustration, and guilt. "Lipstick Vogue" features an incredible drum part by Pete Thomas that, according to Greg, is a highlight of Costello's entire career. That warrants its inclusion into the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 516

Greg

“Mala Vida”Mano Negra

With France in the air this episode, Greg thinks back to one of his favorite French rock acts: Mano Negra. Co-founded by musician Manu Chao, the band deftly combined rock, reggae, afropop, punk and ska. Their track "Mala Vida," from their 1989 release Puta's Fever truly gives new meaning to the term“world music,”and it's a song Greg wants to groove to on the desert island.

Go to episode 235

Greg

“Unsung”Helmet

Greg celebrates the 20th anniversary of Meantime by Helmet during his turn at the Desert Island Jukebox. It's an album many people don‘t consider much anymore, but it’s one of his favorites from that era. While we often think about grunge and punk coming from the West Coast in the 1990's, Helmet reflects a sharper, harder-edged East Coast sound. And like many '80s and '90s acts, they too were swept away by big labels. But, with their major debut Meantime, they didn't compromise one iota. So Happy Anniversary Helmet fans! We offer you "Unsung."

Go to episode 326

Jim

“Ghosts of American Astronauts”The Mekons

It's Jim's turn to add a song he can't live without to the Desert Island Jukebox. To honor the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, he chooses "Ghosts of American Astronauts" by The Mekons. Jim was initially daunted by the Chicago punk/alt-country band. They've been going for three decades, so where do you start? So Good It Hurts was the doorway for him, and he discovered how smart, political and also seductive they can be on songs like "Ghosts of American Astronauts."

Go to episode 191

Greg

“Final Solution”Pere Ubu

The Breeders' home state of Ohio inspired Greg's Desert Island Jukebox song choice this week. One of his favorite bands to emerge from the“fly-over territory”is Pere Ubu. Greg describes their unique sound as avant garageart rock combined with garage rock. But, the band created their own scene and didn't care what categories they did or did not belong to. In fact, even though they set a template for punk and post punk music, front man David Thomas denies the band has any relationship to punk. According to Greg, the best example of their sound is in the song "Final Solution," this week's DIJ addition. When the band was on Sound Opinions they also performed“Final Solution”live. You can listen to that performance and their entire interview here.

Go to episode 124

Greg

“Where Is My Mind?”The Pixies

Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick this week was inspired by the odd, but successful, pairing of Gnarls Barkley members Cee-Lo Green and DJ Danger Mouse. He believes that the tension between opposites can often make for great rock music, even if it doesn't lead to longevity. An example of this good tension can be heard in the music of The Pixies. Black Francis'“serial killer vocals”mixed with Kim Deal's beautiful harmonies created a sound that was both punk and pop. And one of Greg's fondest concert memories is of the band reuniting in 2004 to perform "Where Is My Mind?" That's why he decided to take the original version with him to the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 122

Greg

“Teenage Head”The Flamin' Groovies

All this Grateful Dead news has Greg thinking of San Francisco in the 1960s. And in the era of peace and love, The Flamin' Groovies were wildly out of step. In the midst of psychedelia, the group drew on '50s rockabilly and garage rock. The band has also often been called a progenitor of punk. The Flamin' Groovies even had a song about sniffing glue years before The Ramones did. The title track "Teenage Head," from their third album, channels teenage angst into three minutes. The song cites how they are the children of“atom bombs and rotten air and Vietnams.”Greg notes that in a predominately "hippy" music scene, the Flamin' Groovies were doing something completely unique both lyrically and sonically.

Go to episode 497

Greg

“Pouring It All Out”Graham Parker

Jim and Greg continue to inspire one another. Last week Jim chose a track by Australian punk band The Saints (inspired by Greg's Australian pick the week before). Now this week Greg wanted to continue highlighting an artist who, like The Saints, kept soul music alive. British“Pub Rocker”Graham Parker emerged out of a very white, male scene in the 1970's. But he also incorporated the Stax and Motown sounds he grew up loving. Greg adds Pouring It All Out to the Desert Island Jukebox. And you know who else loves Graham Parker? Judd Apatow and Adam Carolla, to name a few. Pub Rock fans should also check out our interview with Nick Lowe.

Go to episode 408

Jim

“Starship”MC5

There's no better desert island track for the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz than "Starship" by MC5.“Starship”comes from the band's debut album Kick Out the Jams and showcases its musical influences. The perfect merger between the two genres, the godfathers of punk took a poem by jazz icon Sun Ra and turned it into a song. This eight minute long track exemplifies a wild free jazz experience where the band is leaving the earth and the stage. For Jim and many others, MC5 was a gateway for rock fans to jazz. Do you have a question, comment or suggestion? Contact us here.

Go to episode 491

Jim

“10,000 Lovers”Ida Maria

While recently scouring the Bermuda Triangle for long-lost artists, Jim rediscovered Norway's Ida Maria who specializes in energetic punk rock blended with new wave melodies. The song "10,000 Lovers" from Maria's second album Katla is a little less punk, but still a lot of fun and reminded Jim why Maria's debut album Fortress Round My Heart in 2009 was his favorite of that year. 10,000 Lovers features Maria's first use of her native Norwegian on a song, and while Jim doesn‘t understand any of it, there’s no mistaking Maria's shout-out to Frank Sinatra at the end.

Go to episode 437

Greg

“Viet Nam War Blues”Oblivians

Memphis garage rockers Oblivians recently released their first record in fifteen years, Desperation. Greg's had it on heavy rotation along with the group's post-punk-inspired back catalogue. With two guitars, two chords, and a stripped down drum kit, Greg says Oblivians married punk's“last moment on earth intensity”with Memphis's rock ‘n’ roll tradition. He chooses "Viet Nam War Blues" off the band's 1995 debut album Soul Food for his Desert Island Jukebox pick. It's a Lightnin' Hopkins cover about a mother whose son goes off to war. Whereas Hopkins brings a jazzy, poetic sensibility to the track, Greg says Oblivians bring rage.

Go to episode 397

Jim

“See No Evil”Television

Jim's Desert Island Jukebox selection is inspired by another recent loss. Musical engineer Andy Johns passed away at age 61. As Jim explains, Johns was witness to the recording of some of rock's great masterpieces, from The Stones' Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street, to Led Zeppelin's Led Zeppelin II. But for his pick, Jim goes to a personal favorite: the debut album by New York punk rockers Television. "See No Evil" still gets heads bobbing in Chicago clubs, and Jim credits Johns with the track's intimate drum sound.

Go to episode 385

Jim

Glenn Branca passed away on May 13th at the age of 69. Jim's desert island jukebox pick highlights Glenn's contribution to the nascent noise, and no-wave scene in New York in the early 1980s, an exciting time when there were "no lines between what was going to blow up as hip-hop, what was going to blow up as graffiti art and experimental noise, but also [there were no lines between] pop music and rock and roll and the remnants of punk." Artists and break dancers alike were winding up in the same place. Against that backdrop, Glenn released The Ascension in 1981, which combined "avant-classical composition, multi-harmonics and dissonance" with a "lot of feedback". Jim remembers that watching the Glenn Branca Ensemble at CBGB was like "top of your head sheared off, brain spilling on the floor". For his pick, Jim chose Lesson # 2 from Glenn's album The Ascension, "which is really where [Glenn's career] begins".

Go to episode 661
lists

Halloween Picks 2006

During the final segment of the show, our Halloween-loving hosts play their picks for scariest rock songs.

Greg

Greg's first choice is "Dead Souls" by Joy Division. This band didn't necessarily look scary, but they definitely have a dark history. Lead singer Ian Curtis suffered from epilepsy and would often have seizures onstage. He committed suicide in 1980, cementing the band's tortured image.

Greg's second song is Johnny Cash's cover of "The Mercy Seat" by Nick Cave. Cave is often associated with the Goth movement, but Cash is not someone you usually think of on a spooky Halloween night. This song fits perfectly into Cash's repertoire. It tells the story of a death row inmate on the last night of his life. Benmont Tensch's backing music in particular lends a haunting feel.

Jim

Jim wanted to illustrate Goth's influence on other genres with his first pick. The group Bloodrock is composed of your average hard-rock“buffoons,”according to Jim, but Jim can't think of anything more gothic than the subject of their song "D.O.A." It tells the tale of a car crash victim on his way to the other side (and it sounds like the bad side).

Jim's final track is by Susan Janet Dallion, otherwise known as Siouxsie Sioux. Siouxsie emerged out of the Bromley punk scene to join the Banshees and form her own distinctive sound. Her look and her sound solidified the singer as female Goth icon. The Beatles' song "Dear Prudence" isn‘t particularly scary, but Siouxie’s menacing vocals give it an ominous tone. In this rendition, Jim imagines that Prudence's fate is not unlike that of most horror film heroines.

Go to episode 47

Funeral Songs

The complete top five funeral songs, according to the Register:

  • James Blunt, "Goodbye My Lover"
  • Robbie Williams, "Angels"
  • Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley, "I've Had the Time of My Life"
  • Bette Midler, "Wind Beneath My Wings"
  • "Pie Jesu"

We asked our Sound Opinions listeners this same, morbid question. Here are some of the“swan songs”you told us about via email or message board:

  • Santo and Johnny, "Sleepwalk"
  • The Buzzcocks, "Everybody's Happy Nowadays"
  • Curtis Mayfield, "Freddie's Dead"
  • Jeff Buckley, "Corpus Christi Texas"
  • R.E.M., "Try Not to Breathe"
  • Jeff Buckley, "Satisfied Mind"
  • Tom Waits, "Come On Up To The House"
  • Peter Gabriel, "I Grieve"
  • Joy Division, "In a Lonely Place"
  • The Beach Boys, "God Only Knows"
  • Alice Cooper, "I Love the Dead"
  • Talking Heads, "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)"
  • Billy Bragg and Wilco, "Remember the Mountain Bed"

Greg

Jim and Greg were forced to think about their final day as well. Greg goes first (since Jim predicts he actually will). He decides he wants Sound Opinions guest John Cale's cover of "Hallelujah" to be played at his funeral. He calls it the 20th century version of "Amazing Grace". Although Cale's version strays from Leonard Cohen's original, Greg thinks the message remains intact: "I made a lot of mistakes, but it was all worthwhile."

Jim

Jim predicts that even at his funeral he won't be able to resist one last chance to be sarcastic. He chooses an irreverent version of Frank Sinatra's classic "My Way." Jim shares Hoboken roots with“Ol' Blue Eyes,”but he feels he shares a lot more with Sex Pistols member Sid Vicious. So all of you Sound Opinions listeners who plan to come out to mourn on that fateful day will get to enjoy this punk cover.

Go to episode 47

Valentine's Day Live

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Sound Opinions decided to have an intimate celebration — just Jim, Greg…and a couple hundred of their closest friends. They invited listeners to join them in a live taping at the Chicago Cultural Center. They were also joined by alt-country troubadour Robbie Fulks and his wife Donna. Robbie and Donna agreed to act as the Paul Shaffer of the show and perform the hosts‘ favorite love, lust and anti-love songs. They also treated the audience to some of Robbie’s own songs.

There are so many different types of love songs in rock and roll, that Jim and Greg had to divide their picks into 3 different categories:“Love Stinks,”"Endless Love," and“Carnal Love.”These hit all the notes of heartbreak, romance and lust that run through rock music. Jim and Greg picked out some of their favorite love songs and asked Robbie and Donna to perform them. Here are the selections featured on the show:

Love Stinks

  • Jim: Rolling Stones, "Dead Flowers"
  • Greg: Richard and Linda Thompson, "Walking a on Wire"

Endless Love

  • Jim: Mudhoney, "If I Think"
  • Greg: Smokey Robinson, "You Really Got a Hold On Me"

Carnal Love

  • Jim: The Troggs, "I Want You"
  • Greg: Amazing Rhythm Aces, "Third Rate Romance"

The audience also got a chance to get in on the action. Here are some of their favorite love songs:

  • Sebadoh, "Not a Friend"
  • Extreme, "More Than Words"
  • Neutral Milk Hotel, "In The Aero Plane Over The Sea"

Sound Opinions H.Q. also dug up some trivia on two famous rock couples. Biographer Michael Streissguth, who wrote Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison: The Making of a Masterpiece, believes that Johnny Cash and June Carter-Cash's“song”would have to be "Meet Me in Heaven." While "Ring of Fire" encapsulated their relationship early on,“Meet Me in Heaven,”is a song the couple loved to perform together later in their life. The lyrics really expressed how Johnny felt about growing old with June.

Also, Charles Cross, who wrote Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain, told us that Kurt and Courtney Love's song was an odd one. "Seasons in the Sun," by Terry Jacks was a favorite of the punk-loving couple. This was the first song Kurt Cobain ever purchased on a 45, and he appreciated its origins. The song was based on a French story by Jacques Brel called "The Dying Man." He wrote it for the Beach Boys, but that band thought it was a little too dark for them to record. Sounds perfect for Kurt and Courtney.

Go to episode 63

Diss Tracks

When two musicians have beef, it's only natural for their feud to carry over into their art. From rap to southern rock to new wave to punk, here are a few of Jim and Greg's favorite diss tracks.

Go to episode 670
rock doctors

David & Family

The Rock Doctors' patient this week is David from Minneapolis. David's“ailment”is that he has a tough time finding music that both he and his kids will enjoy. As the father of four boys between the ages of three months and 10 years, that's quite a challenge. So far he's had luck with The Decemberists, Earth, Wind and Fire and Sugar — basically anything with great pop vocals and harmonies, as well as a good beat for dancing. And of course, some of his sons have fallen under the spell of tween pop star Kelly Clarkson.

Greg's prescription is New Magnetic Wonder, the latest album from Apples in Stereo. The Robert Schneider-fronted band that emerged out of the Elephant 6 collective offers a perfect mix of sunny, exuberant vocals and sophisticated arrangements. Plus, as Greg explains, Schneider is just a big overgrown kid (something that listeners who heard his interview on Sound Opinions can attest to).

Jim prescribes a dose of Smash Mouth. A couple of years ago the California garage popsters, who Jim thinks of as the male equivalent of No Doubt, released a greatest hits album called All Star Smash Hits. Jim explains that, as a fan of garage rock, David will appreciate their edgy aesthetic and punk covers. In addition, his kids are certain to enjoy the more bubble gum aspects of Smash Mouth's music and covers of songs like "I'm a Believer" (which they might already know from the Shrek 2 soundtrack).

A week later David returns to the doctors to report on his health status. He relays to Greg that he and all his sons really enjoyed the Apples in Stereo. He describes the band's music as fun and upbeat, as well as weird and experimental. David's wife was another story, but these doctors only agreed to please five patients… six might be pushing it.

Smash Mouth was something the whole family could agree on, especially for road trips and casual listening. The six year old described it as "a lot like rock and roll." But, David and his boys found the Apples in Stereo to be“meatier”and more interesting. Perhaps we've got four young rock critics in the making!

Go to episode 76

Mag & Patrick

Jim and Greg know that not everyone can spend all their waking hours studying and discovering music. So as The Rock Doctors, they can help listeners ailing in the music department. This week's patients are Mag and Patrick, a young couple from Brooklyn. This is Jim and Greg's first stab at couple's therapy, and their task is to find music both Mag and Patrick can enjoy. Mag favors classic rock, while Patrick is a huge fan of Dave Matthews Band and Green Day.

Jim is interested in finding a Green Day equivalent that Mag can stomach. He recommends Texas punk band The Marked Men. Greg's prescription, Blitzen Trapper, has bluesy classic rock elements that Mag loves, as well as the strong lyrics Patrick appreciates.

Both patients diligently take their course of pills and report back a week later. Both Mag and Patrick absolutely loved the Blitzen Trapper. Mag was less high on The Marked Men, but says she‘d be willing to listen again as long as it was with Patrick. It sounds like the healing has begun, and that’s all the Doctors can ask for.

Go to episode 172
features

SXSW '06

This week on the show, Jim and Greg share their recent experiences at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Our hosts joined over 10,000 other festival registrants to attend music industry panels, conduct interviews, and most importantly, see new bands. In the four days they were there, Jim and Greg heard a lot of music. They share some of the best with you.

  • First is The Dresden Dolls. Jim went to see the Boston group and fell in love with their blend of German cabaret performance style and '80s synth-pop melodies. You can hear a little bit of "Modern Moonlight" off their upcoming release, Yes Virginia.

  • Next up, Greg discusses one his finds: Art Brut. He enjoyed this British band's straightforward melodies, catchy choruses, and witty monologues so much that he saw them twice in Austin. This critic even scrawled“New Kings of Rock”in his notebook following one performance. Jim joined him to see the band at the Pitchfork/Windish party, where they shared a bill with RJD2, Spank Rock, and one of Greg's other discoveries, Swedish indie pop quintet Love is All. Art Brut, who just recently played a sold-out show at the Metro, entertained the entire staff so much that they were invited to appear on the show the week after the festival wrapped. Listen for that interview in the weeks to come.

Beastie Boys at SXSW 2006

  • In between running from show to show, Jim and Greg took a brief moment to sit down with The Beastie Boys. The hip-hop pioneers were down in Austin to promote their recent concert film, Awesome; I Fucking Shot That, and spoke to Jim and Greg about making the movie, sampling, copyright laws, and the longevity of their career.

  • Back to the rundown of our hosts‘ favorite Austin discoveries. Jim’s next pick, The Black Angels, actually hails from the Texas state capital. After reading Jim's book on psychedelic rock, members of the band contacted him and explained that they were right up his alley. They were right. Jim, who caught some of the dark, Velvet Underground-influenced music in the sterile environment of Austin Convention Center, was totally blown away. To describe the band, he quotes their website which begs the listener to "Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again." Whoa, man…

  • Greg loves coming to Austin to see bands that may not get to the States otherwise. One such band is Serena Maneesh. The Norwegian group is one of many contemporary bands compared to My Bloody Valentine. Often referred to as“shoegazers,”these musicians are often literally standing, staring at their shoes, while producing a heavy, overdriven, almost symphonic guitar sound. Serena Maneesh is certainly channeling this influence — however, as Greg explains, this band is also quite performative. Our host describes how the lead guitar player, theatrically dressed as a gypsy showman, was joined by an“Amazonian”bass player. Only during SXSW can you see this in Texas, notes Jim.

Tim Fite at SXSW 2006

  • We next hear some audio of Jim recorded down in Austin. He is describing one of his favorite acts: Tim Fite. Some may remember Fite's previous incarnation in Little T and One Track Mic and their one hit, "Shaniqua." But after getting signed to Atlantic and touring with Outkast, Little T went nowhere. Now, Fite has reinvented himself as a 1920s southern preacher/rapper who combines an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound with irreverent lyrics and hip-hop. Gone Ain't Gone is forthcoming on Anti-/Epitaph, making Fite label mates with Neko Case and Blackalicious.

  • The Swedish band Love is All (mentioned above) is another of Greg's discoveries. This Swedish indie-pop group is one of many European bands who are rediscovering American music. This band is particularly influenced by musicians like James Chance and the Contortions and Lydia Lunch who fused both jazz and punk. Love is All became Greg's go-to CD while he was driving around the city of Austin.

  • Listeners can now hear what Jim and Greg really sound like at SXSW: definitely over-tired, and perhaps over-served. Our hosts caught up with Sound Opinions H.Q. immediately after going to see Rhys Chatham at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, an experience they described as slightly mind-blowing. The avant-garde guitarist has basically been living in exile in Paris for the past decade, but emerged in Austin with a newly-formed guitar army: eight guitarists including Doug McCombs of Eleventh Dream Day and Tortoise, Ernie Brooks of The Modern Lovers and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Jim reports that Chatham recently received a grant allowing him to realize his long-fantasized 100-member guitar ensemble.

  • One of the SXSW events Greg always tries to attend is Alejandro Escovedo's Sunday night show. This year Grady was one of the opening acts. Greg found their huge, overpowering sound on par with that of Chatham's guitar army. He also compares their sound to that of ZZ Top's early days. Listen for yourself as Greg plays a sample of their 2004 release Y.U. So Shady?

  • White Whale is Jim's final discovery. He caught the band at the Merge showcase, a label that usually delivers for this critic. He was again not disappointed. White Whale, whose members have been in a number of other indie rock bands including Butterglory, Three Higher Burning Fire and The Get Up Kids, impressed Jim with more than just its name. He found their sound to be a mix of Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and also reminiscent of Elephant Six bands like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. So far their music can only be heard on Myspace.com, but White Whale may turn out to be another SXSW success story.

  • Greg's final pick is a band called Katahdin's Edge. He caught the group after originally trying to see a Finnish band who couldn‘t make it into the country. He was blown away, and despite getting thousands of free CDs for his day job, Greg was compelled to put down his own money for a Katahdin’s Edge album. This trio from Providence is an example of how jazz and rock can fuse in a great way. Rather than take an academic approach to jazz, Katahdin's Edge had a rock and roll, party edge that Greg really appreciated.

  • Greg was also caught on tape before and after seeing the biggest hype of this year's festival: The Arctic Monkeys. This has been quite the year for the young British band. In January they broke records for first-week sales in the U.K. with their debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In addition, they‘ve been proclaimed by many in the press as the greatest band to emerge from the U.K. in years. That’s a lot for a new band to live up to, but Greg was pleased with what he saw. While the Arctic Monkeys may not be what their hype claims, the music was well-rehearsed, packed with rhythm, and downright“ferocious”according to our host. Plus, the lead singer already seems to have the rock and roll attitude down.

Go to episode 18

Sound Opinions Live!

We frequently welcome musicians to our studios, but we can't always air every performance. This week, Jim and Greg play some of their favorite exclusive in-studio performances, like a memorable one from New Orleans R&B legend Allen Toussaint recorded back in 2014. They also share some never before heard performances from artists like afrobeat collective Antibalas, art rock/punk group Girlpool, gospel/hip hop artist Sir The Baptist and more.

Go to episode 658

Music of the Beat Generation

If you read On the Road in high school, you know a thing or two about the Beat movement's influence on literature. This week, Text and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll author Simon Warner wants to get you thinking about the Beat influence on rock. Forget the stereotypical bongos; Warner says Beat fathers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac were most inspired by Harlem's avant-garde jazz invention, Bebop. Warner makes the case that the Beats influenced a whole generation of rock lyricists - Bob Dylan and John Lennon among them - to embrace a more surrealist, personal, and politically engaged approach to lyric-writing. Think of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," he says, as Beat poetry with a, well, beat. But while Ginsberg and Kerouac struck a chord with the hippie generation, it was Beat colleague William S. Burroughs who served as guru to the later musical avant-garde. 1970's punks Jim Carroll and Patti Smith, and alternative era stars like Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth, all made pilgrimages to Burroughs' NYC bunker-apartment to pay their respects to“Old Bull Lee.”Burroughs'“cut up”writing technique may still inspire wordsmiths from Bowie to Thom Yorke, but Jim thinks it's Kerouac whose legacy may ultimately be the most lasting. It's that writer's spirit of adventure, Jim says, that continues to motivate every indie band still "on the road."

Go to episode 398

Hooked On Sonics: Rise Against

Rise Against "It sounded like punk…liberated from the idea of what punk should or shouldn't sound like. And it was…powerful" is how Rise Against's singer and guitarist Tim McIlrath describes "Waiting Room" by Fugazi, the song that got him Hooked on Sonics. McIlrath talks about how Fugazi“shifted the direction of his life,” got him making music and what he sees as his role to the next generation of hardcore kids just discovering an underground music scene.

Go to episode 626
news

Music News

They truly are the champions: Queen's Greatest Hits album just became the first record in history to sell more than 6 million copies in the United Kingdom. That's about one album for every ten Britons—or, as Jim puts it, a whole lot of Freddie Mercury's overbite.

In more chart news from across the pond, the U.K.'s top-selling album this week is So Long, See You Tomorrow, the latest from Bombay Bicycle Club. Which had Jim and Greg wondering… who, exactly, is Bombay Bicycle Club? Apparently it's an indie rock outfit known for sampling Bollywood show tunes, with the nephew of the late British songstress Kirsty MacColl on guitar. The Brits must have a thing for the initials BBC.

Meanwhile back in the States, rock fans have been celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. And for memorabilia dealers, that's meant big business. A chunk of the Sullivan Show set signed by the Fab Four is going for a million bucks, while a signed U.K. version of A Hard Day's Night is expected to take in $60,000. There's also a signed copy of With the Beatles floating around somewhere. If you're the owner, consider paying a visit to Antiques Roadshow—you're in for at least $45,000.

Funnyman Fred Armisen of Portlandia and Saturday Night Live fame will soon return to late-night TV, this time as a musician. When fellow SNL alum Seth Myers takes over Late Night later this month, Armisen will“curate”his music and lead the in-house 8G Band, Myers announced by tweet this week. Sound Opinions saw this coming in 2012, when Fred (a former Chicago punk rocker who played in the band Trenchmouth, as well as Blue Man Group) told Jim and Greg how he's always admired bands on TV. Live the dream, Fred.

Go to episode 429

Music News

The first news story this week involves a deal made between the band Korn and the concert promoters formally known as Clear Channel-Live Nation. Korn, its label, and Live Nation, which runs about 70% of venues across the country, have agreed to share profits from record and ticket sales. This kind of synergy helps sell the Korn brand and maintain the idea of music acts as corporations. And, as Greg points out, deals like this could really revolutionize the music industry. Korn is not the first group to operate this way, however. British pop sensation Robbie Williams struck such a deal in 2002. Fellow Brits Radiohead, on the other hand, have chosen to go a completely different route. By not working with corporate promoters at all, they avoid the corporate concert machine entirely. As Radiohead fans in Chicago know, though, this is not an easy task.

Next up in the news is the bankruptcy announcement made by the largest chain of music stores, Musicland. While our hosts now prefer to support independent music stores, Jim (who was once a Musicland employee of sorts) remembers buying his first record, an album by King Crimson, at a similar chain store. For Jim and Greg, and many music fans who grew up shopping for music at the mall, the fall of Musicland is really the end of an era — or the death of a dinosaur.

Also making headlines this week is the always-controversial rapper Eminem. He and ex-wife Kimberly Mathers remarried. Like Sid and Nancy, and Kurt and Courtney before them, Marshall and Kim have a love story for the ages. Kim, both muse and mother, has managed to overlook some of the less kind words Eminem has said about her. Therefore, the romantics on the Sound Opinions staff wishes to congratulate those crazy kids. Mazel Tov, Em and Kim!

The Rolling Stones also make an appearance in the news. The latest all-stars to perform in the Superbowl Halftime Show, the Stones can hope to appeal to all generations of viewers. The Superbowl, however, seems a bit concerned. Despite the fact that the average age of a Stone is 65, halftime show producers initially tried to ban people over the age of 45 from coming up on stage to dance. The ban has since been removed, but sports fans shouldn't expect to see the Ashlee Simpson crowd getting down to "Start Me Up."

Finally, Jim and Greg remember soul great Wilson Pickett, who died Thursday. The singer, often called“Wicked Pickett,”was known for his wicked sound and behavior. Pickett, who grew up on a sharecropping farm in Alabama, fled to the north to make music. He later returned to the south to record some of his most famous songs, including "Mustang Sally," "In the Midnight Hour" and "Land of a 1000 Dances," which was embraced by punk rockers like Patti Smith. Pickett did covers as well. Listen to his version of "Hey Jude," which never ended up on a regular studio release, but can be heard on Pickett compilations.

Go to episode 8

Music News

While this year's Fourth of July has already come and gone, the spirit of independence is still alive and kicking for indie record labels like Domino, Ninja Tune, and Sub Pop. They, and more than 700 others small labels from across the globe, recently signed the Fair Digital Deals Declaration, a manifesto of sorts that seeks to standardize the way artists and music companies deal with digital music sales. Among the five main points the signatories swear to abide are clearer explanations to artist about what their cut of digital sales will be, as well as a commitment to supporting artists who oppose their music being used without permission. Jim and Greg certainly support the intent of the quasi-policy, but they wonder what effect it will ultimately have, as there's no clear way to enforce it.

Speaking of the independent spirit, Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot isn't done raging against the Kremlin. Its two most outspoken members are now suing the Russian government in the European Court of Human Rights for the violation of their rights during their original Russian court proceedings, and for the treatment they received during the nearly two years they spent in prison following the group's“sacrilegious”protest/performance inside a Moscow cathedral in 2012. Beyond financial reparations, the members' lawsuit also wants to set the precedent that freedom of expression cannot be stifled in Russia, even though at the time of their sentencing, the majority of Russians supported punishing the women. Jim and Greg wish them the best fighting the good fight.

Check out our World Tour visit to Russia.

Go to episode 453

Music News

First up Jim and Greg talk about Matchbox Twenty. That's right, Matchbox Twenty. But it isn't the adult contemporary gods‘ music our hosts are interested in; it’s their new album release strategy. Rob Thomas and company are releasing 11 versions of their new album Exile on Mainstream including a USB bracelet, iTunes bundle, VH1 stream, and a good old-fashioned CD. It is certainly out-of-the-box thinking for the band's label, but it remains to be seen how fans will respond.

Another novel approach to music marketing is the fusion of rock and…video games. Guitar Hero III recently hit the stores, and in just seven days it made over $100 million. The game is selling for much more than a standard CD, but as Jim and Greg explain, those numbers are higher than most bands can boast. In 2006, the video game industry made 12.5 billion dollars, while the music industry was down to 12 billion and sinking. This fact hasn't gone unnoticed by labels, and now many bands are using games like Guitar Hero to promote themselves. This version contains tracks by the Beastie Boys, Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins, and The Sex Pistols even re-recorded their anti-capitalist punk anthem "Anarchy in the U.K." just for the game. Call them out-of-touch, but Jim and Greg wonder why rock fans aren't just picking up a real guitar?

The Eagles also had a successful week. Their new album, the first in studio effort in 28 years, hit the #1 spot on the Billboard Chart. This was due to a change in chart policies. Previously Nielsen SoundScan didn't include sales figures from individual retailers. But, now that artists are striking exclusive deals with outlets like Target, Starbucks, and in this case, Wal-Mart, the band was able to beat out Britney and score the year's second-best selling album.

Go to episode 102

Music News

Sound Opinions is sad to report the death of Stooges drummer Scott Asheton at age 64. This punk pioneer took the rhythms of Bo Diddley and the Velvet Underground's Moe Tucker and piled on the aggression, carving out the sound that would soon define punk, Jim explains. Listening to him pummel the drums on early Stooges albums, it's no surprise that Asheton (whose family couldn't afford a proper trap set) first learned to play by banging hammers on oil cans. Along with his brother Ron on guitar, Scott was described as the gasoline that Iggy's match set aflame. Jim and Greg honor the drummer by playing "1969" from the Stooges‘ debut album, a punk inferno that Asheton’s brutal rhythms kept burning bright.

It's the double feature that everybody was waiting for… in 1994. Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden are teaming up for a summer tour, just in time for the 20th anniversaries of NIN's Downward Spiral and Soundgarden's Superunknown. Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell says he's always been a NIN fan, and that he'd love to jam with the band onstage—but Trent Reznor might not be so enthused. Back in 2009, Reznor took Cornell to task on Sound Opinions, calling his Timbaland-produced solo album an“impressively bad”sell-out. Maybe NIN will bring on a more suitable collaborator for its next tour.

The 2014 SXSW Music Conference, normally a festive event, which brings tens of thousands of people to Austin every year, will unfortunately be remembered as a tragic one. A horrific car crash early Thursday morning resulted in the death of three people and the injury of many more. Also making headlines was Lady Gaga. The pop diva not only performed at a contoversial event for a snack food company, she gave the keynote address. According to Gaga, without sponsors, there wouldn‘t be music events; labels can’t afford it. A surprising assertion from a woman who later touted her music industry rebellion.

Go to episode 434

Music News

Taylor to Kanye: Nanny nanny boo boo. The country pop singer has reason to gloat this week. First week sales for Taylor Swift's album Speak Now hit a million in only its first week. Only 16 albums have achieved this feat since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991. And, Jim and Greg add, this is especially significant in an age when digital music is king.

Also in the news is the death of Ari Up, one of the founders of the influential female punk band The Slits. Born Ariana Forster, the singer had a long battle with cancer, and her death was announced by her stepfather, and fellow punk icon, John Lydon. Forster was just 14 years old when she put together the band that would later merge dub reggae with punk. Jim and Greg play The Slits' "Typical Girls" to honor a girl that was anything but.

Go to episode 258

Music News

Wherever there's youth culture and protest, there's rock and roll. So it's not surprising that heavy metal is at the top of many playlists in Bahrain right now. According to Evolver.fm, the mood of that country is“triumphant”and“warlike”if the music's any indication. Lastmood.fm uses Last.fm's audioscrobbler to monitor people's listening habits and gauge the vibe in almost real time. The most popular song in one hour was "The Ivory Gate of Dreams" by Fates Warning. But, activists and musicians from the region are also popular. A Bahraini activist, Esra'a Al Shafei, started mideastunes.com which highlights everything from Jordanian punk to Palestinian trance.

Fast Company has named its top ten most innovative companies in music, and a the top of the list is Pandora. It's remarkable, considering that Pandora was nearly put out of business by royalty debates a couple of years ago. Now it's valued at $55.2 million and has gone public. The streaming site has also inked a deal with GM. Last year's #1 Spotify didn‘t even make the cut, but it’s been reportedly valued at $1 billion — despite the fact that the digital music service has yet to launch stateside.

Go to episode 274

Music News

First up Jim and Greg do an update on a story discussed a few weeks ago. Despite pleas from a broad spectrum of internet radio broadcasters including National Public Radio and Yahoo, as well as some small scale mom and pop stations, the Copyright Royalty Board threw out requests to reconsider a ruling that hiked the royalties they must pay to record companies and artists. In addition, the judges declined to postpone a May 15 deadline by which the new royalties will have to be collected. While there is still one more chance to open the case with the court of appeals, it's likely that many webcasters are going to be put out of business by these new rulings. One thing that is for certain is that rulings like these and those to come down the line are certain to change the entire landscape of digital broadcasting.

Next up Jim and Greg talk to Doug Brod, Editor-in-Chief of Spin Magazine, about the upcoming season of“destination festivals.”While previously music fans would be treated to traveling music festivals like Lollapalooza coming to their neck of the woods, now there are large-scale, multi-day outdoor concerts dotted in different areas across the country. Often, these festivals have to compete for your attention by getting the biggest coup. This year it's the Rage Against the Machine reunion at Coachella, the Pearl Jam and Daft Punk performances at Lollapalooza, and a Police reunion at Bonnaroo.

Jim and Greg ask Doug to choose his favorite out of the many destination festivals this summer, and he goes with Coachella because of the line-up and the location. Greg agrees that the Coachella Valley is a spectacular place to experience a rock show, but he also urges music fans to travel two hours outside of Seattle, Washington to attend the Sasquatch Festival in the Gorge Amphitheater. It's another meeting of spectacular natural surroundings and an impressive bill of bands. Jim thinks that people will get the most bang for their buck at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, which features a number of indie bands, plus groups like Sonic Youth performing entire albums for a very reasonable price. But, being the sand and sun hater that he is, Jim won‘t pick his favorite summer festival. He’s actually ready for the entire phenomenon to die out and for rock to return to smoky clubs where it belongs.

Jim and Greg talk to Chicago Tribune Television Critic Maureen Ryan about the recent "Sanjaya phenomenon" on American Idol. Our hosts have long avoided talking about this popular TV show because, frankly, it has little to do with music. But, they were intrigued by the curious forces at work to keep the apparently talentless contestant Sanjaya Malakar on the show, and wanted to turn to Mo Ryan to find out why he became so popular, and why he couldn‘t survive. The only sense these critics can make out of Sanjaya’s reign is that for one brief moment the pop forces (pre-teens who love Sanjaya's androgynous, harmless sex appeal) and the punk forces (Vote for the Worst.com, Howard Stern, etc.) came together with one common goal: to save Sanjaya (and possibly take down the show). The convergence of these two sets was a rare occurence in popular culture, and it seems they weren‘t strong enough to prevent Sanjaya’s elimination. American Idol proved itself to be a more powerful“death star”than anyone expected.

For more information on music festivals, check out the footnotes below.

Go to episode 73

Music News

Jim and Greg start by discussing news that Alan Ellis, the administrator of the popular UK bit-torrent site Oink.cd was acquitted of charges of conspiring to defraud copyright owners. Usually Jim and Greg are reporting victory for the music industry, so they were surprised to see this verdict. But, the key was that Ellis could not be linked to any conspiracy; he merely provided the ability to search for content. A judge or jury is not likely to be as lenient to the actual downloaders, like Trent Reznor. During its operation Oink facilitated the trading of 21 million music files.

Music fans were hit with lots of sad news last week. First, there was the death of Memphis punk rocker Jay Reatard at the age of 29. Then, there was the death of Wax Trax Records founder Dannie Flesher at the age of 58. And finally, there was the death of soul singer Teddy Pendergrass at the age of 59. Pendergrass first got attention as the drummer, then singer in Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. In fact, many people may not know that it was Pendergrass, not Melvin, who sang one of their biggest hits, "If You Don't Know Me By Now." Pendergrass continued to work with Philadelphia team Gamble and Huff and to become the king of the“slow jam.”But, to remember Pendergrass, Jim and Greg decide to play "You Can't Hide From Yourself," an up-tempo track that shows his diversity as a performer.

Go to episode 217

Music News

First up in the news, Pepsi is launching a music label in China. This is a strange, but perhaps smart move considering the large, untapped market there. The soda company will produce a "Battle of the Bands" television show to find artists to record. In addition, those artists will be featured in Pepsi ads.

Two sad news items follow. First is the death of Mink DeVille frontman Willy DeVille. DeVille was one of the key artists from the CBGB punk scene. But, he distinguished himself from the Blondies and Ramones with his unique sound. He was more a child of the Brill Building music of the '60s, and actually introduced Jim and Greg to a lot of those influences. To honor DeVille they play his Jack Nitzsche-produced track "Spanish Stroll."

John HughesAnother recent death is that of director, writer and producer John Hughes. While Hughes isn't necessarily a music figure, Jim and Greg know that he was a huge fan. His musical choices in films like "The Breakfast Club" and "Sixteen Candles" influenced what young people heard, and for many teens it was their first exposure to "alternative" music. In honor of Hughes, Jim and Greg play the original version of "Pretty in Pink," by the Psychedelic Furs.

Go to episode 194

Music News

Last week Jim and Greg discussed the death of pop icon Michael Jackson. But the news surrounding Jackson's death has not stopped. Neither has his impact on the music industry. Just this week Billboard announced that 9 out of 10 slots on the Top Pop Catalog Albums chart are Jackson titles. But, while his estate continues to make money, concert promoter AEG stands to lose millions. They will be refunding fans that purchased tickets to Jackson's fifty London shows — $85 million worth of tickets to be exact.

In other sad music news, Sky Saxon, leader of the garage rock band The Seeds, also passed away last week. The news of his death was largely overshadowed by Michael Jackson coverage, so Jim and Greg wanted to pay tribute to Saxon during this episode. He was not a great musician, but had a tremendous attitude and a great impact on punk music. They play "Pushin' Too Hard" in his honor.

Go to episode 188

Music News

It's only February and already we've got one of the biggest news stories of the year. Live Nation and Ticketmaster, the two most powerful entities in the concert business, have announced a merger. Now one company will control most of the concert venues, ticket sales, and even the artists appearing at those shows. Jim and Greg explain how this will affect the consumer. On the upside, the new company, Live Nation Entertainment, will do away with irritating service fees and inconvenient internet cluster sales. But, for the most part, this won't be a positive merger for music fans. The new“dynamic pricing”model will leave many ticket-buyers victim to auction mark-ups. In addition, independent promoters will have even less luck launching shows.

In other music news, Muzak has filed for bankruptcy. The company that brought easy-listening into elevators and supermarkets across America has been hit hard like so many in this economy. Guess this means we won't be hearing a sax version of“Lollipop”anytime soon.

While many thought he was immortal, Lux Interior, lead singer of The Cramps, died last week at the age of 60. Along with his wife, guitarist Poison Ivy Rorschach, Lux Interior helped to create the punk sound we know today. As Jim and Greg discuss, their chaotic live shows were especially memorable. Many music fans are disappointed to know they will never experience another Cramps live show, so they'll have to turn to the next best thing-recordings like their 1980 album Songs the Lord Taught Us.

Go to episode 168

Music News

2008 has come to a close, and the numbers are in. According to Nielsen SoundScan's end-of-year report, Taylor Swift was the top-selling artist of 2008. Lil Wayne and Coldplay also had good years, but overall album sales were down a whopping 14%. It's not all bad news for the music industry, however. While physical sales for complete albums continue to plummet, music sales overall are up; more than 1 billion digital tracks were sold. And, profits from concert sales are up 8%. This figure is the result of fewer tickets being sold for more money, and Jim and Greg wonder if consumers will be able to keep up with rising ticket prices in this failing economy.

It looks like digital music sales will only continue to increase. Steve Jobs of Apple has made it even easier for music fans to purchase and download music from the iTunes store by removing all Digital Rights Management software from its files. But, accessibility comes at a price—$1.29 to be exact. Amazon and other online stores have been selling DRM-free files for almost a year, but iTunes was the last to hold out with the labels' demands. So if both Apple and the music industry are winners, where does that leave the consumer?

Pioneering punk guitarist Ron Asheton of the Stooges died this week at the age of 60. While he died at young age, Asheton lived long enough to experience a Stooges reunion and revived fan interest. He is best remembered through his music, in albums like Fun House. And you can listen to Asheton's 2006 interview with Jim and Greg during this Sound Opinions episode.

Go to episode 163

Music News

Move over Elvis, there's a new king in town and that king…is a cowboy. Garth Brooks once again surpassed Elvis Presley as the best-selling solo artist of all time in the U.S., selling 135 million units. Brooks is thoroughly beating his competition, as the number two country artist on the list is George Strait at only 69 million units. While Garth reigns supreme in the solo category, The Beatles are the best-selling music act with 178 million units.

In other news, Universal Music Group filed a lawsuit against two companies that distribute mixtapes to individuals in prisons claiming licensing infringement. The defendants argued that their efforts were to prevent contraband within prisons, however it looks like they could be spending more time fighting the law than their consumers.

The punk band Stereofire Empire found a missing painting in the New Orleans House of Blues that was worth $250,000. One member of the group was an art collector and recognized the stolen item. While they returned it (ala the Scooby Doo gang), the culprit is still at large. rodrigue

Go to episode 477

Music News

Rock ‘n’ Roll suffered a great loss last week after the death of punk rocker and standard bearer Tommy Ramone. Tommy, born Erdélyi Tamás, wore many different hats as founder, drummer, producer, and last surviving original member of The Ramones. He and his bandmates leave behind a tremendous influence, one which can be traced to the Sex Pistols, The Clash, and countless others. Greg says of the Ramones‘ musical clout,“If you listened to them, they changed your life,”and that Tommy was truly“the brains of the operation.”A guiding force for the group throughout the years, his break-neck drumming and seasoned hand in the production booth were fundamental in molding the band’s history-making style. He was 65.

Go to episode 451

Music News

First in the news, Jim and Greg discuss a story emerging out of the next decade. They talk to Wired writer Eliot Van Buskirk about his recent piece on the "Copyright Time Bomb." As Eliot explains to Jim and Greg, the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 poses a new threat to the major label system. Songs copyrighted after 1978 can be terminated by the author in 2013 (1979 in 2014, etc.) That means that if a musician sold his or her work to a label after 1978, they can choose to take it back and manage it independently in the next decade. Many labels rely on back cataloge revenue, so this will be a big hit to them. In addition, it may be another reason an artist chooses to go it independently and without a label.

Jim and Greg couldn't welcome 2010 without looking at the decade past. The 2000s brought us N'Sync and the boy band explosion, but they also ushered in great change in terms of business and technology. As Jim and Greg discuss, advances in digital music were at the heart of all the decade's major news-from lawsuits (Metallica vs. Napster, RIAA vs. consumers) to innovation in sound, marketing and distribution (Wilco, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails). And while the Aughts were a time of industry revolution, there wasn't necessarily a revolutionary sound. Jim thinks people may have been too shocked by technology to create something comparable to a punk, disco or grunge movement. But he and Greg are hopeful that something great is just waiting to come out of a basement near you.

Go to episode 214
world tours

Mexico

Fresh from stops in Japan andSweden, the Sound Opinions World Tour continues south of the border. Public radio's "The Latin Alternative" co-host Josh Norek is our guide to Mexico's music scene. As Vice President of the Latin alternative music label Nacional Records, Norek's had a chance to work with many of Mexico's pioneering rock acts, from Saul Hernandez's Jaguares, to pop-rock arena act Mana. He's seen the audience for Mexican music in the U.S. grow (as second and third generation Mexican-Americans get in touch with their musical roots), and he's seen it get more experimental. Norek argues that Mexico's musical renaissance really kicked into gear with Café Tacvba in the nineties. Tacvba fused genres like ska, metal, and punk with traditional Mexican regional music. Cafe Tacvba sounded Mexican and were proud of it. More recently, DJ outfits like Nortec Collective and Mexican Institute of Sound have adapted the same approach to techno, merging beats and norte~no samples, for example. Norek says Mexico's music scene continues to develop in spite of formidable challenges; drug-related violence has forced artists in cities like Monterrey, Guadalajara, and Tijuana to relocate to Mexico City and L.A.

Jim and Greg round out their Mexican tour stop with a call-in to Sesiones TV host and music journalist Alejandro Franco in Mexico City. Their mission? To find out what Mexican music fans are listening to right now. Franco says that while rockers Zoe are topping the charts, it's Carla Morrisson and Juan Cirerol who are packing Mexico City's hipster clubs. And check out our Mexico playlist on Spotify.

Here are the Mexican artists featured in this episode

  • Café Tacvba
  • Jaguares
  • Maldita Vecindad
  • Mana
  • Nortec Collective
  • El Gran Silencio
  • Control Machete
  • Kinky
  • Mexican Institute of Sound
  • Zoe
  • Carla Morrison
  • Juan Cirerol
Go to episode 396