Sunday, November 8, 2009

Writer’s Jukebox – Editorial Summit Edition

jukebox_samlet This past weekend saw a convergence of personalities so epic it could only be described as Bigger Than Jesus.  Rob and I embarked on an eight-hour (Rob did it in seven) car ride to visit our beloved Andrew, listening to classic rock, hard rock, and a bunch of Ryan Adams along the way.

Upon arrival in Ohio, the weekend became an 48-hour Beatles Rock Band binge session.  Given how many times we attempted to five-star “Dig a Pony,” I’m surprised none of us included it in our write-ups.  Just know that that song is ten times better than you think it is.

Hit the jump to find out what we’ve been listening to when not singing “Pick a moondog” or “Do a roadhog.”

Rob – Floored by The Kills

If ever you need a soundtrack for your 2 a.m. coke-fueled breakup, consider “Last Day of Magic” by The Kills. The chugging two-chord riff howls at you from the end of a tunnel, and front lady Allison Mosshart croons and growls: “Last day of magic, and where were you?”

Mosshart is part pixie and all tempest. Just watch the video for “Magic” in which she squares off with guitaurist Jamie Hince. She circles him, snaps and shoves, sharpening the already razor edge to her vocals. For his part, Hince looks like a cross between Lou Reed and Robert Downey Jr., constantly on the rebound from a hangover. There’s enough crunch and anarchy in his guitar to make punk devotees happy, but ample hooks and melodies for the casual listener.

Midnight Boom is their latest and most poppiest album, laying Hince’s guitar over canned beats and dabbling in electronica (“U R a Fever,” somewhat cheesily, samples bits from a dial tone”). Go back a step further to No Wow, a punkier, scuzzier and more substantive album than Boom. But to really know what The Kills are all about, check out their live act. The sexual tension between Mosshart and Hince is so intense it verges on violence – realized with teeth-clenchingly great results in “Last Day of Magic.”

Craig – Can’t Resist The Resistance

In the weeks since my last Jukebox entry, my iPod’s been reduced to playing nothing but NPR podcasts and Muse’s The Resistance.  It’s a fascinating, bombastic album that alternates between artful, melodious nods to Queen and riff-heavy politically-charged mayhem.  As a whole, it paints a picture of an oppressive regime and its requisite resistance movement of the 1984/Children of Men variety.  Is it a coincidence these are all British creations?  I think not.

After the rallying cry that is “Uprising,” the title track “Resistance” shrinks the focus down to a more personal level.  What happens to love in a time of war?, it asks.  Out of options, Matthew Bellamy cries over thundering guitars, “Love is our resistance.”  I appreciate this off-center take on the classic political uprising scenario.  It’s humanizing, and the album format allows for such variety.

Further channeling Orwell’s dystopian influence is “United States of Eurasia.”  This song is all over the place.  During a recent car ride with Robert L. Kunzig III (see above), I played this track for him and the absurd theatricality made him laugh so hard he nearly drove us off a bridge.  I, for one, thoroughly enjoy just how far over the top it goes.  Each verse ends with a two-bar flourish that sounds like it was ripped right out of “We Are The Champions,” which then kicks off a weighty piano/strings/drum passage that would be perfect for a Soviet propaganda film.  Oh yeah, it then ends with a segment titled “Collateral Damage” – a rendition of Chopin’s Nocturne Opus 9 No. 2 plays amidst sounds of children laughing and jets streak across the sky. 

Subtlety may not be one of Muse’s strengths, but I’m liking them all the same.

Andrew – Cover Songs and the BBC

By necessity, I’m listening to a ton of The Beatles, but I won’t write about that twice. Instead, allow me to present you with the latest out-of-genre cover song that I’ve discovered – Jenny Owen Youngs doing Nelly’s “Hot in Herre.” Out-of-genre cover songs are among my favorite things in this world – of course you’ve seen Alanis Morisette’s “My Humps” or That One Guy’s acoustic version of “Hey Ya.”  I love this shit. “Hot in Herre” has the added benefit of featuring a girl who is pretty easy on the eyes.

I’ve also had the Pixies on again. If you’ve never tried the Pixies, Surfer Rosa and Doolittle are the definitive albums, but I also recommend Pixies at the BBC, which in spite of having a picture of balls on the cover is pretty good for listening. It’s got a raw, ass-kicking sound, and the versions of “Dead” and “There Goes My Gun” on this album (in my opinion) far outdo the album versions of the same songs.

Some of the (relative) hits are here, but the other reason I like this album is that it goes into a lot of the band’s less-heard material. Stuff like “Wave of Mutilation” and “Hey” is here, but also featured are relative obscurities like Doolittle-era B-side “Manta Ray” and Trompe Le Monde standout “Letter to Memphis.” Pixies at the BBC isn’t going to change your mind about this band if you already have opinions about them, but if you like them this album is definitely a recommended listen.