Monthly Archives: October 2006

One Great Rock Song Can Slowly Wean You Off A Drug Habit

The Wall Street Sweep With Which You Leave Your Feet

“Bullet” by Mason Jennings

Mason Jennings spends a lot of musical time working his way in and out of relationships.

“Keepin It Real,” for instance, finds him in at the beginning, and he’s got nothing to complain about. To hear a grown man use the colloquialism “keepin it real” often and not ironically in a folk song fits my definition of a guilty pleasure. There’s nothing profound about the lyrics, “Oh yes, my oh my, the earth shakes when we walk by” and “Saturday, Sunday, All the rest are fun days,” but why should there be? “Keepin It Real” is fun, uncomplicated, and a little too easy—everything that’s great about new love.

But this is the guy who sang, “I believe when you fall in love, you should jump right in.” With a heart as unguarded as Jennings’, you know the guy is going to get hurt. Enter “Bullet,” the song on the other end of a relationship timeline.

Bullet is full of caustic wit, right from the jarring first line: “This is a bullet from a gun called What the f***?” The folkster is livid, but he doesn’t let on by his still-friendly demeanor and sunny (“like a nursery rhyme”) chord progression. And between wacky metaphors, he inserts the straightforward line, “I’ve never been as lonely as when I was with you.”

In the chorus, he plays with this idea of a “funny” break-up song: “Oh yes, this song is a joke / Funny like a house blowing up in smoke / Funny like a bomb between my teeth when we kiss / You pull out the pin with your own sweet lips.” Lyrics that clever, I don’t even want to hear her side of the story.

Jennings is a man who offers his heart a little too eagerly and takes it back just as quick. Luckily, he’s good when he’s down. Since Jennings doesn’t disclose any details, the listener is left with a catchy piece of catharsis upon which to project their own frustrations. And give me back my black t-shirt.

From the Archive…

Now available! Another full episode of “The Gather Round, Children Show,” featuring special guest, international traveler Heidi Laki.

Have a Listen: Episode #Heidi: Al Gore discussion, in-studio jams, tough stuff, mystery “Simon” caller.

Georgia’s always on my my my my my my my my mind…

Storytelling Revived: “The Moth” at UCLA Live’s Royce Hall

A feature article at Lastheplace about the storytelling event of the season. Or at least the week.

Sexy music and becksy music.

Seriously, I’m done now. The puns are out of my system for at least 80 years. Go see Beck Day 5, first of all, for the conclusion of my review.

I wasn’t lying when I promised some sexy music. Here’s the current draft (a work in progress) of the Gabe Durham remix of Thomas Bush’s neighborly hit, “I’d Like to Know.” David Loi would love this…

A beck of dust in your eye.

Remember Jacob Parnell? No, me neither, but it turns out that he’s still really funny. I have proof. Here’s his hit song, “The Books of the New Testament“. Thanks Matt.

In other news, check out my review of “The Information DVD” in Beck Day 4.

Upcoming this week: Beck Day 5, an article of “The Moth” performance at UCLA, and a remix of the new Thomas Bush song.

Take off your becktie and relax.

Nope, still not a good pun. Probably worse, in fact. Here’s DAY 2 and DAY 3 of the Beck review.

joewedding

I still owe Joe and Angie a wedding present.

Toss on your reading beckticles…

That’s more of an awkward pun than I realized. Still, I stand by it. Check out Day One: Beck progressive review over at Daytrotter.

Artsy Shot

austin

It’s good to know that if our folk duo Liz and Gabe But Mostly Liz doesn’t work out, Liz can always fall back on her photography. The Beck review begins at exactly sometime tonight. Synchronize your watches.

Dash away, dash away, dash away all!

America is fast approaching the 4-year anniversary of A Suite Love‘s release of their groundbreaking debut, Christmas Album. Controvesial for creating a Christmas-themed debut with some legitimately creepy tracks, the members of A Suite Love found themselves hounded by the media and parents demanding answers. Perhaps the most controversial of the tracks:

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Still, the album appears in CD players across the country each Christmas season. Goes to show, as yoga instructor/free spirit Jenna Staples once pointed out, “Nobody said religion wasn’t creepy.” Enjoy.

One Great Rock Song Can Change the Laundry From the Washer to the Dryer

Dropping Like Flies: The Fine Line between Provocation and Invocation
“Not the Same” by Ben Folds. From Ben Folds Live

Ben Folds likes to give music lessons.

When I saw him on his Rockin the Suburbs tour, he gave this intro to one of his songs: “This song is in D major. Now how many sharps is that?” To which the true musicologists in the room responded, “Two!”

But he hadn’t yet come up with his greatest lesson: the audience harmony. On his next tour, he ditched his band in favor of a stripped down solo approach, aptly titled “The Ben Folds and a Piano Tour”. Songs from this tour were eventually compiled into the album Ben Folds Live. Generally, solo musicians are much more interested in developing a rapport with their audiences because, unlike with bands, there’s no one on the stage to hang out with.

So, on the solo tour, Folds stopped to teach the audience to sing harmonies. Before the song “Army,” he divided the audience into halves and had them mimic the two distinct horn parts that appear on the original recording. And if audience members didn’t know the parts yet, Folds led them in a repeat-after-me round of “Ba-ba-baaaa! Ba-ba-ba-baaa!” before he began the song. When the time came, the audience delivered.

Then, before “Not the Same,” Folds divided the audience again into groups of three. At the appropriate time, he had them sing a harmony of “ah’s,” each group ascending at the chord change. Not only were the “ah’s” in tune (itself a remarkable feat), they were haunting. Spiritual, even.

It’s up for debate whether or not Folds could have known how good the live recording of “Not the Same” would sound. If you usually can’t trust an audience to clap in time, how could you trust them to manage a vocal harmony? But he picked the best track on Rockin the Suburbs for the experiment, with its bright piano, crashing drums, screaming bridge, and light piano outro.

How appropriate that the song about the man who comes down off an acid trip a born-again Christian is the song Folds has chosen to turn into a church experience. It’s a song that is more about Folds’ own suspicion of religion than about religion itself. In the chorus, he characterizes his witnessing a conversion as seeing people “drop like flies from the bright sunny skies,” evangelism as “knocking at your door with this look in their eyes, and faith as, “You get one good trip and you’re hanging on to it.” The metaphor of Religion as Drug is an oversimplification, but it can be pretty apt at times. He doesn’t have to elaborate what “this look in their eyes” means. We know. It’s the look of a Christian who sees you as a potential conversion rather than a person, an “It” rather than a “You.”

When Folds plays “Not the Same” nowadays, he lets the audience members choose which “ah” part to sing, based on his or her vocal range and preference. Everyone already knows the drill, and it sounds even better for our having practiced in the car on the way to the concert. For a moment each night, the crowd has transformed from Audience to Participant, and Ben from Musician to Conductor: everyone in the room has ascended.

At the end of the song, he signals for the audience to raise and lower their pitches in rapid succession. We play along, and he’s right—it’s funny. We sound like Tarzan. But I suspect it’s a joke bred in fear. Ben Folds can’t let a silly thing like audience chanting get too gorgeous, or God may suddenly show up, assuming he was invited.

*Somewhat inspired by Nick Hornby.

Reason to Believe We All Will Be Received

Paul Simon – Live at the Greek Theatre (10-4-06)

“It’s surreal,” I overheard a middle-aged woman saying as I left the Greek Theatre, “hearing a guy’s music your whole life, and then actually seeing him.” I could relate, but at 22, it’s a little different for me. I’ve been hearing Pearl Jam my whole life.

Paul Simon’s voice held up wonderfully. He hit every note he attempted, though he often was content to just speak his lyrics. Paul Simon is heroically uninhibited: whenever he isn’t playing guitar, he waves his hands around as if following, with his fingers, the notes as they float through the air.

Likewise, the backing vocals were strong and clear. Simon’s band is full of top-notch, versatile musicians. The same guys playing guitar, keys, and drums were ready to form a horn section whenever necessary.

The set was hit-friendly, and no one was complaining. Simon steered away from songs from recent albums You’re the One, Capeman, and Rhythm of the Saints, each of which have their die-hard fans but none of them have the mass appeal of “Loves Me Like A Rock,” “The Only Living Boy In New York,” “The Boxer,” “Graceland,” “Mrs. Robinson,” “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” “Slip Sliding Away,” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

He avoided making his brand new Surprise the focus of the concert, playing only four songs from the album. Yet those songs, which had some annoying production on the album, sounded great live. “How Can You Live In the Northeast” built up to a solid rock crescendo, “Outrageous” was funky, and “Wartime Prayers” worked live as a solo acoustic number.

At times, the show was just a party. “Me and Julio,” “You Can Call Me Al,” and “Cecilia” had everybody dancing in, and eventually out of, their seats. Even during the slower songs, the crowd was connected to the music—much trickier at a larger outdoor venue like the Greek.

It was a decidedly American concert, even when Simon and his band played Graceland songs. The “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” intro was a little barbershop and “The Boy in the Bubble” was transformed into a rock song.

He capped the show off with “Late in the Evening,” another gem, another party, another reminder of why the world remains interested in this whimsical, soft-spoken, often awkward little man.

Upcoming…

This week: “One Great Rock Song” and a new audio treat.

Next Week: A 5-day odyssey through Beck’s new album – That means a new post every day.

Discussion Topic: “Who’d win in a fight – You or the person who posted before you?”