Sunday, January 31, 2010

Writer’s Jukebox – Lion Kings, Orwell, and Record Stores

When was the last time you purchased music from a record store?  When was the last time that record store wasn’t a chain store like Tower Virgin Megastore FYE?  When was the last time it wasn’t from Wal-Mart or Target? 

I’m not sure, honestly.  I think it may have been Edgar Meyer’s Uncommon Ritual, which I only bought because I was on a huge bass/cello kick at the time (still am, in fact) and couldn’t wait for the thing to come from Amazon. 

This week, Chris bemoans his options for real-life album purchases, specifically on his quest to obtain new surf rock.  Pankin’s dreaming up Disney-inspired rock operas.  And Boivin delves deep into David Bowie’s concept-album period.

I don’t have a clever message to get you past the jump.  Just read on, will you?

PankinKing of Pride Rock N’ Roll

Who doesn't like a good trip down nostalgia lane? That's why I've recently gotten into the music from Disney's The Lion King. "Circle of Life" (the one from the actual film, not the pop-synth version) came up on my shuffle recently, and since then I've been obsessed with wanting to make a rock arrangement of the song. (How sweet would it sound to play that funny little flute solo with Slash-style lead guitar? And what if lead vocals were by Eddie Vedder rather than Carmen Twillie?) I must admit that because of my sorely lacking music theory, I still haven't been able to figure out some of the chords at the end.

I've also been checking out the live local music scene, and by "checking out" I mean returning to hear my old favorites. Paul Chesne's sound can best be described as countrified rock/soul taken straight-up with a beer on the side. He and his band have a tremendous live chemistry, which I can't translate for you over the internet, but he does have two albums and an EP out that you can download for name-your-price on his website,

Other than that, it's just been the usual, such as working my way through some of Rush's newer and more under-appreciated stuff, and grooving out to John Bonham's 20-minute live drum solos.


BoivinBowie on the Beach

I've been down in sunny Naples, Florida for the past five days visiting my grandmother. This is what happens when you let your elderly relations know that you have a more than passing interest in musical theater and art history, they fly you to the other end of the country to see shows and go to lectures on the nude figure in art. Ugh, FML.

Needless to say, I've been putting a lot of time in on the beach, working on my tan (and since I got the skin from my Irish side, doing my damndest to avoid sunburns), reading books, and listening to my iPod. Of course, these can all be combined into a simultaneous activity by sunning myself on the beach, reading Nineteen Eighty-Four, and listening to David Bowie's Diamond Dogs.

Dogs is of course Bowie's concept album based on George Orwell's dystopian masterpiece (which I'm reading for the first time- I know, right?). More accurately, it's half a Nineteen Eighty-Four concept album and half a concept album about the glam rock apocalypse. The album's first half (or "side" as our ancestors termed it in the turbulent period of man's ascendancy) fits the latter description, opening with Bowie's alter ego Halloween Jack's battlecry "This ain't rock 'n' roll, this is genocide!" and shaping up to something more akin to George Miller than George Orwell. This is all of course because Side One is something of a coda to Bowie's glam rock era, a swan song to the days of Ziggy Stardust. Side Two is straight up Nineteen Eighty-Four with titles like "We Are The Dead", "1984", "Big Brother", and "Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family", all references to Orwell. I've really been enjoying the hell out of the book, and any album that has "Rebel Rebel" on it is fine by me as well.

Side Two's opener, "Rock 'N' Roll With Me" is one of my, if not my favorite Bowie song of all time. When Bowie eventually kicks the bucket (which will probably never happen), this is the track they should play at his funeral.

Chris – Trying to be Hip, Thwarted at Every Turn

Vampire Weekend aside, I didn't listen to anything last week. And I'm whiny and bitter about it. 

I was going to pick up a new surf-inspired album I had heard about - Astro Coast by Surfer Blood. From what I understand, it seems right up my alley. I have a soft spot for surf rock, and since the band is from Florida it would give me the added satisfaction of supporting the local team. Additionally, this would be the first group I've talked about for Writers' Jukebox that is less than ten years old. For once, I would be hip.

But when I drove to Tallahassee's sole record store on Monday, I was greeted with a sad sight. Clearance banners were draped across the windows, the walls were stripped bare, and most of the merchandise was boxed up. The store was closing. While most of the remaining records were 50% off, I can't say I want to pay even half-price for A Very Vince Gill Christmas or other leftovers of similar quality.

So there's not really a good option to buy music in Tallahassee anymore. Wal-Mart and Best Buy both have marginal music sections, but their CDs are targeted toward 13 year olds (Ke$ha) or 65 year olds (Barry Manilow) with nothing for anybody in between. I spent the rest of my week thoroughly annoying my friends by bitching about the decline of independent businesses in America at every opportunity.

On Saturday, I finally caved and went for the online purchase. Astro Coast is for sale for five bucks on And even though this is half the price I would have paid for it in a store, it seems less fulfilling to procure it this way. But I suppose I'm at the point where I'll take what I can get.

The album is dead. Long live the album.