Sunday, July 31, 2011

Song Of The Week: 7/31/11

Song: "When The Levee Breaks"

Artist: A Perfect Circle

Album: "Emotive"

Year: 2004

"When The Levee Breaks" is an old Delta blues song written by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie back in the 1920's. The song achieved most of it's fame when in 1971, Led Zeppelin recorded the song on their landmark album "Led Zeppelin IV". The song was written about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. This caused many of the residents along the Mississippi River to uproot their families to safety as their homes were destroyed by the flood waters. Most of these residents were poor black families. The song was very popular in African American blues music, especially in the south for obvious reasons. A Perfect Circle covered this song on their 2004 album, "Emotive". As they did with most of the cover songs which appeared on this album, they really gave the song a total makeover from the original to give it that distinct APC feel. A Perfect Circle formed in 1999 as a side project for Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan and Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdel. Howerdel was working on some demos that really caught Keenan's ear and he wanted to provide vocals to. Their first album, 2000's "Mer de Noms", would be the highest ever debut for a rock band on the Billboard charts. Where Keenan's main band Tool was much heavier and more on the metal side in their sound, A Perfect Circle was more focused on haunting melodies and more complex song arrangements. From 1999 to 2004, APC released three studio albums as well as a DVD and toured relentlessly in support of these albums. From 2004 to 2008, APC went on a bit of a hiatus as Howerdel would form Ashes Divide and Keenan would work with Tool as well as his other side project, Puscifer. In 2008, rumblings began coming out of the APC camp regarding working together on new material again. Keenan and Howerdel confirmed this, however they said a whole album was probably not going to happen and that they would probably release singles here and there via the internet. Currently, the band has worked on some songs and are currently doing a North American tour that will last from the summer of 2011 into the fall. A headlining spot at the 2011 Lollapalooza in Chicago is also a part of this tour.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Song Of The Week: 7/24/11

Song: "I Caught Fire"

Artist: The Used

Album: "In Love And Death"

Year: 2004

After reading the lyrics to "I Caught Fire" it kind of reminded me of that old 80's song, "I'll Stop The World And Melt With You". It's definitely that type of love song where it doesn't matter what's going on in the outside world or what scars you both have while being away from each other. The minute they are both together, all of that goes away and they are just lost in each other. Time stops, wounds heal and everything revolves around them and their love for each other. The Used have been quite the busy band since forming back in 2001. In a ten year span, the band has released four studio albums, a live/rarities compilation, a live cd/dvd, a b-sides ep as well as other exclusive releases through iTunes. In between all of those music releases, The Used have been relentless tourers. The only thing that slowed them down on the road was lead singer Bert McCracken having to have surgery on his vocal chords. Their style could be considered many things, screamo, post-hardcore or pop-punk. McCracken has been known to scream so violently live that it causes him to vomit on occasion. That's possibly what led to him having some problems with his vocal chords. I'd say they're peers with bands such as My Chemical Romance and Silverstein. Success for The Used didn't quite go all the way over the top as it did for MCR, however. They still headline tours and what not, but they have not been praised throughout the industry for having released their definitive album as of yet. Myself, I'm quite partial to their 2002 self-titled debut album. Their's a raw feel to that album and an intensity that I don't feel the band has matched yet on their subsequent releases. With their follow-ups, it seemed that they gravitated more towards the poppier side of writing. The songs started lacking the bite of tracks such as "A Box Full Of Sharp Objects" or "Maybe Memories". Currently, The Used are hard at work on finishing up what will be their fifth studio album. The record is slated for release sometime in the fall of 2011.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Song Of The Week: 7/17/11

Song: "Improv (That Far)"

Artist: Pearl Jam

Album: "Portland, Oregon; November 2, 2000"

Year: 2000

Since the very beginning of Pearl Jam being a band, their concerts have often included some impromptu jam sessions. Some of these appear to be off the cuff jams where, clearly, the band is making the song up as they go. Others, like "That Far", seem as though the band had been working on song before they introduced it to the audience. "That Far" is not the official title of this particular improv, but it has been given this name through various Pearl Jam fansites across the web. The song itself appears to be about coming home after a long time away, possibly from being on tour. The vocalist is happy to be back home and to see the person that he has missed welcoming him with open arms. "That Far" was recorded live on November 2, 2000 in Portland, OR. This show would be part of the Official Bootleg releases that Pearl Jam embarked on in 2000. This was an unprecedented move by any rock band at the time. Pearl Jam would release 72 bootlegs from their entire 2000 tour, a move that led the band to set a record for having the most albums on the Billboard charts at one time. For years, fans of Pearl jam would spend forty to fifty dollars on bootlegs to try to recapture what was and still is the strength of the band, their live performances. In an effort to lessen the cost for the fans, as well as give them a product that was far superior quality than most of the bootlegs that were out there, the band began releasing the bootlegs themselves. As for future tours, the band tweeked their bootlegs a little bit, selling them through their official website digitally. This made more sense for the band financially rather than releasing 70 plus cd's to record stores. I believe you can still buy hard copy cd's of shows through For twenty years, Pearl Jam has always been a band that looks out for it's fans, whether that's fighting Ticketmaster to lower ticket costs, playing two and a half to three hour concerts or releasing affordable, high quality bootleg recordings. As of 2011, Pearl Jam is working on new material for another studio album along with looking forward to their 20th anniversary festival, PJ20, which is a two day event in Alpine Valley, WI. Director Cameron Crowe is also finishing up a documentary of the band which should be out in the fall. Pearl Jam will also be hitting the road in Canada as well as Central and South America, shows which should provide even more rare covers songs and improvs for the impassioned Pearl Jam fan!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Song Of The Week: 7/10/11

Song: "Can't Keep"

Artist: Pearl Jam

Album: "Live At Benaroyal Hall"

Year: 2004

To me, "Can't Keep" is a song that is about having lived a full life and not being afraid to die. It seems as if it's coming from the perspective of someone who is clearly dying but is very much at peace with the process. You also get the sense that he believes his spirit will live on once his body dies with the one of the last lines of the song, "I will live forever, you can't keep me here". I definitely get a sense of going from the physical world to the spiritual world in this song. The original version of "Can't Keep" was on Pearl Jam's 2002 album "Riot Act". For the song of the week, I chose the version that was on the live recording at Benaroyal Hall. This show was an acoustic set that was recorded on October 22, 2003. "Can't Keep" was just lead singer Eddie Vedder accompanied by his ukulele. Perhaps this is what got the wheels turning for Eddie's 2011 solo album, "Ukulele Songs". Pearl Jam formed out of the ashes of Seattle band Mother Love Bone in 1990. With the release of their debut album "Ten", Pearl Jam was thrust in the spotlight of the grunge movement. This was a pivotal time in rock and roll. The 80's were really a down period for rock music and it very much needed a shot in the arm. Pearl Jam, along with Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains was that shot. Much like the British Invasion of the 60's and the punk uprising of the 70's, the alternative/grunge explosion of the 90's helped rock and roll right itself again. Some twenty years, nine studio albums, dvd's, live compilations and a massive bootleg collection later, there's no denying Pearl Jam's steady influence on the music world. Much like the members of Pearl Jam grew up revering such artists as Neil Young, The Who and The Ramones, now there are a slew of bands who hail Pearl Jam as their major influence. Pearl Jam is a band that achieved the highest of highs, got through the lowest of lows and managed to come out of it a much more solid band and very much a tighter group. Where back in the day, Eddie Vedder really controlled the musical direction of the band, now each member contributes equally. To this day their live shows are still the band's bread and butter. Some artists can't recapture what they do in the studio in a live setting. Pearl Jam is a band that transcends what the do in the studio live. They will forever stand out for their passion for music, their longevity and their influence as a band. Currently, Pearl Jam is working on a new album that they would probably like to have completed before the end of the year. They are celebrating their 20th year anniversary with a two day festival in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin on Labor Day weekend, a small tour of Canada and are also having director Cameron Crowe make a movie/documentary of the band's history entitled PJ20. There's no slowing down for the well oiled machine that is Pearl Jam!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Song Of The Week: 7/3/11

Song: "Evil Town"

Artist: The Vines

Album: "Winning Days"

Year: 2004

According to The Vines' lead vocalist, Craig Nicholls, "Evil Town" isn't necessarily about one person or one place in particular, but it could be anyone or any place where you just get bad vibes from. The Vines formed as a band in their native Australia back in 1999. At the very beginnings of the band, they were very much a garage band at heart. They drew several comparisons to Nirvana with their debut album, 2002's "Highly Evolved". With their stripped down sound and Nicholls' screaming vocals at times, I can see why there was a little similarity between them and Nirvana. They also had elements in their music that harkened back to 1960's psychadelic rock as well. This style got them lumped in with the many bands that started to hit in the early 2000's. Bands such as The Hives and The Strokes and The White Stripes to a certain extent. These bands were perhaps a breath of fresh air because their music was so stripped down and it was really like a back to basics kind of rock and roll. Though The Vines' first album was a great success for them, not only in Australia but in England and the United States, success also brought a lot of pressure on the band. Many publications hyped them up as the next Nirvana, a label that many bands would fail to live up to and The Vines were no different. "Winning Days", the band's second album, failed to live up to the success of their first and cracks in the band's armor were beginning to surface at this time. Soon the band had to deal with some departing band members, being dropped by their record label and the on again, off again depleting mental state of Craig Nicholls, which made things very hard on the band because Nicholls is the main creative force behind the band. The band had to cancel several tours do to Nicholls treatment of the fans. It got so bad that they would not allow Nicholls to do any interviews do to his mental state and what he would say. Eventually the band would get back on the road when Nicholls was more stable to handle it. They also continues to release album throughout the rest of the 2000's. While their popularity in the United States waned, in Australia they still appear and sometimes even headline some big shows and festivals. Currenty, The Vines just finished up their fifth studio album entitled "Future Primitive". It was released in June of 2011 in Australia but no date has yet been announced for it's release in the U.S.