not bad for returning after a two-week hiatus, eh? Here they are!
"Dirty Side Down" by Widespread Panic: Unlike the Lynyrd Skynyrd-ish "North", the title track from Widespread Panic's latest album shows a more earthy, roots-y feel to it. It almost has a Grateful Dead-ish sound to it, albeit the more folk-y side of their material. Frankly, I'm surprised adult alt. radio stations DIDN'T pick up on this one first since it has such a folk-rock-y, almost hippie-ish vibe to it, but I guess the band wanted "North" to be released as a "hit" first, since it has a more catchy, radio-friendly sound. Fans of The Grateful Dead and The Black Crowes (also reviewed this week) should enjoy this song very much!
"London Calling" by Bruce Springsteen: Before I review this one, let me just point out that it's pretty amazing how much classic rock material has been dominating adult alt. radio lately! This week there's five (Springsteen, The Black Crowes, John Mellencamp, R.E.M., and the classic rock-ish Widespread Panic). Anyway, on with the review. For most of the 2000's, The Boss put out material that I personally thought he could've done better with. A lot of seemed like contemporary folk-rock-ish material a la Dave Matthews Band, Train, Counting Crows, etc. Not that there's anything wrong with those bands (except for everything Train released AFTER their debut), but it just doesn't seem to fit Springsteen's free-spirited brand of rock and roll he's become known for. Thankfully, the hard-rockin' "Radio Nowhere" was released in Fall 2007 and revitalized his youthful energy. The Boss's cover of The Clash's classic hit from 1979 attempts to recapture that same youthful energy he had about 3 years ago with "Radio Nowhere", complete with a guitar solo that seems to rival the original! However, the original version of "London Calling" is just untouchable in my opinion. The Clash already made that one into a solid gold rocker! Though Springsteen's attempt at the song is certainly not bad, I much prefer the original!
"My Morning Song" by The Black Crowes: Unfortunately, the version of this song that's hitting adult alt. radio stations, from the Crowes' all-acoustic album, "Croweology", is something that I haven't found anywhwere yet. However, I can still review the original version in the meantime. Though it's an old song (1992), I still want to review it since I haven't heard it before. From what I can tell, it has very much of a Led Zeppelin-y sound, filtered via Southern rock. It borrows quite heavily from Zeppelin's "Traveling Riverside Blues" (which itself borrows from Zeppelin's own "The Lemon Song", both musically and lyrically). The Crowes were unlike any band from the '90s in that they were SO influenced by classic rock, that most "alternative" rock stations wouldn't touch their music (despite the fact that similar sounding bands, such as Spin Doctors, received heavy airplay on such stations at the time they debuted). Likewise, "Hard to Handle" and "She Talks to Angels" are some of the few songs of the '90s that classic rock stations WILL touch. With "My Morning Song"'s pure rock-and-roll flavor, it will be quite interesting to hear what the newly released acoustic version will sound like - I'll keep you guys posted and re-review this song once I finally hear that version!
"My Own Sinking Ship" by Good Old War: If I had to name any indie band as "snuggly", "cute", or "warm and fuzzy", it'd be Good Old War, despite their name! Every song of theirs just makes me want to reach out and hug somebody, and this is no exception, despite the subject matter (probably about a crumbling relationship, from what I can tell). Much of GOW's material seems like an update on that of Simon and Garfunkel's, though "My Own Sinking Ship" also adds in a vaguely harmonica-ish instrument that S & G (I don't think) ever had in their songs. If you like your indie music folk-rock-y and precious, this one's for you!
"No Better Than This" by John Mellencamp: Like Springsteen (see "London Calling", also reviewed for this week), Mellencamp was another classic rocker who had his ups and downs for the material he made in the 2000's. Towards the end of the decade, Mellencamp found his inner-rock-star amidst the disillusioned folkie he seemed to be for most of the decade with a song called "My Sweet Love". The song had a feel to it that resembled '50s rockers like Buddy Holly and Bo Diddley (the same schtick fellow classic rocker Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders seemed to be using right around the same time!) "No Better Than This" almost sounds like a "sequel" to "My Sweet Love". It seems to use the same beat and even same guitar distortion to "My Sweet Love". Of course he's not the only rocker to rip off his own material (a famous case of this is John Fogerty, whose "The Old Man Down the Road" sounded almost exactly like his Creedence Clearwater hit, "Run Through the Jungle"). As far as clones of rock songs done by the exact same artist go, this one's pretty cool!
"Ready to Start" by Arcade Fire: Compared to their release earlier this year, "The Suburbs", I was a bit disappointed with this one, so I wanted to hold off on reviewing this one when I first heard about it, but by now it's hit enough adult alt. stations that I felt like I should give it another try. Where "The Suburbs" was bright, jaunty folk-rock at its finest, "Ready to Start" sounds a bit more depressing (though still upbeat), almost like The Cure trying to cover '70s rockers Golden Earring's "Radar Love". "Ready to Start" takes the beat of the latter and mixes it with the world weary, heavy burden-ish vibe of the former. A bit of an uneven mix if you ask me, but I suppose that the catchiness of the song has been what's won over adult alt. radio stations. I MUCH prefer "The Suburbs", but as far as Arcade Fire songs go, this one's not bad. I guess it just reminds me a little too much of the post-punk-ish material they did on their debut, as opposed to the more orchestral, but fun flavor they went for on "Neon Bible".
"The Ghost Inside" by Broken Bells: It's interesting to see the order in which the songs from Broken Bells' album have been chosen to make their mark on adult alt. radio stations. The first song, "The High Road", which has been around almost since the beginning of 2010, was the perfect mix for a band whose alumni are members of indie-folk-rockers The Shins and electro-pop-rockers Gnarls Barkley, as it was equal parts indie-folk-rock and electronic pop music. The second song, "Vaporize", was clearly a James Mercer (Shins) song as far as I could tell with its jaunty, Beatlesque vibe. Now, the third single off Broken Bells' album, "The Ghost Inside", is making its way onto the adult alt. airwaves. This one sounds more like a song Cee-Lo (Gnarls Barkley) probably wrote/composed. The sing-song-y melody of the other two songs is still present, yet "The Ghost Inside" is MUCH more of an electro-pop song than a contemporary folk-rock song. At times, it almost seems like a new-wave-y update of Foreigner's '80s sax-driven rocker, "Urgent" (though only by the notes that are being used in the song, as there is no sax in "The Ghost Inside"). I don't think that "The Ghost Inside" is as good as the other two songs off Broken Bells' album, but who knows, over time I'll probably grow to like it, just like I have with most of the songs I've blogged about.
"Throw Those Trolls Away" by R.E.M.: This is actually an old R.E.M. song (and kinda sounds like one) from the band's 1985 album, "Fables of the Reconstruction", which featured such classic R.E.M. songs as "Can't Get There From Here" and "Driver 8". However, they decided to wait until this year to release it. My question is, why?!? It has that great vintage R.E.M. sound that meets at the intersection of The Byrds, The Beatles, and The Velvet Underground. Perhaps what makes "Throw Those Trolls Away" unique, besides its retro sound in a new decade, is that it seems like it reflects one of the few times that R.E.M. are comfortable just goofing around (there's even a part in the middle where Michael Stipe says, "Turn the guitar up, will ya?") Amidst the typical folk-rock and light psychedelic influences R.E.M. had in the '80s, there's also a bit of Chuck Berry influence in "Trolls" in the way that the A and D chords are being played around with. Pre-fame R.E.M. material is often the best from the band in my opinion, and thankfully we've got yet another example of this now!