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ACÏŸDC's Malcolm Young Reportedly Suffers Stroke, Band May Retire

acdcRumors have been circulating that rock legends ACÏŸDC may be retiring after an incredible 40-year career due to the deteriorating health of guitarist, singer, and songwriter Malcolm Young. At first it was reported that Young, whose brother Angus is the lead guitarist and more public face of the band, was stricken with terminal cancer, but word is now that he actually suffered a stroke, which has left a blod clot in his brain. Note that this is all unconfirmed. The effects of a stroke can vary wildly from patient to patient and Young could certainly have a near-full recovery, but even in that case, it seems unlikely that he would continue the rigorous schedule of a touring rock band. A press conference is expected tomorrow.

What can be said about ACÏŸDC? They have been the world’s premier hard rock band for my entire life. Just when I was ready to write them off, I happened to catch them a couple of years ago and was absolutely blown away by their performance. They survived the death of their iconic lead singer, Bon Scott, only to come back with the landmark Back In Black record, continuing their career with a string of hits and an incredibly loyal fan base that renewed itself each year. We wish them the best. (h/t The Orstrahyun)

One of the best Malcolm vocals:

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Exclusive Q and A: Free Energy Talk Irony, Romance, Rebellion

Philly-based indie rock outfit Free Energy have been bringing classic rock riffs back since the mid 2000s, when three-fifths of their members were part of Minnesota hometown heroes Hockey Night. With Love Sign, the band’s follow-up to their 2010 release Stuck on Nothing, Free Energy is channeling a whole new decade to expand on their ’70s sound. We talked to lead singer Paul Sprangers about the ’80s influences on the new album, his affinity for certain recurring phrases in his lyrics, and what makes the idea of rebellion so appealing.

OS:  How did the band approach writing the new material compared to Stuck on Nothing?

Paul Sprangers: Scott and I demoed songs together, like the last record, but this time we were able to bring the songs to the band, work on arrangements, then re-demo, sometimes repeating and refining the process many times. Then the songs would undergo more arranging with John Agnello so we were able to spend more time refining the songs and letting them ferment. We also had a clearer vision of the production aesthetic going in, partly because of our experience working with James, and also because we had been listening to so much mid-80s music in the last 5 years. INXS, Def Leppard, Peter Gabriel, AC/DC, The Bangles, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Ocean. John Agnello worked on the first Outfield record, and a Cyndi Lauper record, so those were two huge sonic reference points. (more…)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Exclusive Q and A: The Hives Build a Solid Comeback

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsFans can be forgiven if they thought the Swedish garage rockers The Hives had faded away. In truth, the band’s five-year absence was spent making their 5th studio album Lex Hives that was just released in the U.S. and immediately caught the ears of critics throughout the world including those at Rolling Stone magazine. The album’s first single Go Right Ahead, is full of bold riffs, blunt hooks, [and] snappy beats wrote a critic for the Stone reflecting the general critical consensus of the entire album.

But the recorded music is only part of the story for the Swedish band. Always known as a take-no-prisoners unit, the group left critics and fans breathless with their high-energy shows at the recent Coachella festival. No small feat when you consider Coachella held the exact sameevent ”down to the same set lists from the same bands at the same times” “ on two consecutive weekends. [Pelle] Almqvist is still one of rock’s most engaging front men”bringing to mind a young Mick Jagger with the way he struts around the stage with his hands on his hips before suddenly leaping in the air with a scissor kick, wrote a critic for the Los Angeles Times after the festival.

Just before The Hives kicked off the band’s U.S. tour with a sold-out show in Washington, D.C. on June 19, the high-flying front man Almqvist took time to talk to OurStage about Coachella, Lex Hives, and more.

OS: We heard you killed both weekends at Coachella. How was it for you?

PA: Coachella was fun. It was unorthodox to say the least. I’m really glad Coachella booked us when we didn’t have a record done. We knew that if you put us in front of a crowd, it would work. It was great.

OS: Did you have any concerns about replicating your show?

PA: No, it wasn’t weird for us. My feeling was sort of, Isn’t it weird for fans going into the second weekend if they know about the Tupac hologram? If you know it will be there, isn’t that weird?” To me, that would have been kind of a bummer but hey, it went well. It was pretty great both weekends.

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Jet Bows Out

Australian rock and rollers Jet, who broke big internationally in 2003, have called it a day.

Comprised of brothers Nic (vocals/guitar) and Chris Cester (drums), along with lead guitarist Cameron Muncey and bassist Mark Wilson, Jet came up through the Melbourne music scene, influenced by both British Invasion classic rock and Australian indie rock stalwarts like You Am I. In the wake of the garage rock revival, which saw bands like The Hives, The Datsuns, and fellow Aussies The Vines rise to prominence, Jet signed with Elektra Records, which released Get Born in 2003. That album spawned the smash single Are You Gonna Be My Girl, a song that synthesized the band’s major influences like The Stooges and AC/DC.

That the band wore their influences on their sleeve diminished their standing with some critics, but Jet continued to find success, having built a large and enthusiastic fan base. While they did not again reach the heights of Are You Gonna Be My Girl, they released Shine On (Atlantic) in 2006 and Shaka Rock (EMI) in 2009. The former album went platinum in Australia and Gold in the UK, while their final record went gold in Australia.

On their website, the band posted a simple farewell to fans:

After many successful years of writing, recording and touring we wish to announce our discontinuation as a group. From the many pubs, theatres, stadiums and festivals all across the world it was the fans that made our amazing story possible and we wish to thank them all. Thank you, and goodnight.

The EditoriaList: 12 Bands That Continued On After Losing A Key Member

Bands are hard to keep together. People fight, quit, rejoin, remember, quit again, die and so forth. Sometimes that band member is so integral to the music that it’s pointless to go on”some bands realize this and pack it in. But often, the remaining members don’t want to give it up. Here is the good, the bad and the ‘meh’ of some big, post-departure acts.

 

THE GOOD:

The Rolling Stones

Thank you, Jeebus, that The Stones kept it going after the 1969 departure and subsequent death of band founder Brian Jones (but couldn’t they have stopped after 1981’s Tattoo You, oh mighty Jeebus?). Jones’ contributions to the band are not to be discounted, but by the time he left, he had been marginalized”for better or worse”by the Jagger-Richards power team (and by most accounts, by manager Andrew Loog Oldham, not to mention by booze and drugs). The Stones went on to produce some of their greatest work.

 

Pink Floyd

While some people swear by Syd Barrett-era Floyd, the mental unraveling and eventual canning of the former frontman heralded one of rock’s greatest and most unlikely metamorphoses. With Roger Waters taking the pole position (and with able assistance from Barrett’s replacement, David Gilmour), the band slowly shed their psych-pop identity in favor of spaced-out stadium rock.

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Musical Chairs

We recently caught wind of vocalist Joey Belladonna talking about his concerns over being a permanent fixture in Anthrax during his third tour of duty with the band. As unfortunate (and probably well-founded) as Belladonna’s concerns are, we won’t be focusing on his particular case today. His statement got us thinking on how commonplace lineup changes really are; we’re interested in how bands, especially those considered seminal in their genres, are able to maintain their sound and fanbase throughout the years with completely different members. After some research and many generalizations, we have made this list of what can happen to a band when new members are recruited.

Nirvana

Stroke of Luck Bands: AC/DC, Nirvana, Pantera

AC/DC was a band that had an established position within their scene, but would Back In Black have been so immensely successful if Bon Scott had still been on vocal duties? Would Nevermind be the grunge postersong if it weren’t for Dave Grohl‘s performance on the skins? Would the Cowboys From Hell have exploded onto the metal scene without Phil Anselmo‘s growling screams and falsetto? Probably not.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Living With Lineup Changes

With Shia LeBouf, explosions, robots and more explosions, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is guaranteed to be a huge summer blockbuster. But even though we’re pumped for the latest installment in the Transformers franchise”and believe us, we are”we’re almost more intrigued by the soundtrack, which features the first single from Paramore since Josh and Zac Farro left the group in December.

For those who have forgotten (or never cared in the first place), the Farro brothers quit Paramore amid a swirl of controversy at the end of 2010, calling the band a sham, and frontwoman Hayley Williams a manufactured product of a major label. (You can read their full statement on Josh’s blog.) It might seem tough to recover from the kind of bad publicity the Farros saddled the band with, but their new single “Monster” sounds just as raw and Paramore-esque as any of their material when the brothers were still members, and Williams just told BBC Radio 1 that they plan to release a new album in early 2012.

Of course, Paramore are far from the first band to make a triumphant return after a rocky lineup change. Remember a little album called Back in Black? AC/DC made what is to this day the second highest-selling album of all time, and they did it after the untimely death of frontman Bon Scott. Can you even imagine a world without Hells Bells or You Shook Me All Night Long? Scott may have appeared on six AC/DC releases before Back in Black, but his replacement Brian Johnson helped create what is arguably the most iconic record from the Australian rockers. And they’re not the only classic band that’s had to survive personnel messes” Guns and Roses have had an almost constantly rotating lineup since 1985, and Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd have had more than 20 different lineups since 1964. Courtney Love is no stranger to change; since 1989 she’s remained the only consistent staple of Hole while drummers and bassists have come and gone. Even longtime lead guitarist Eric Erlandson, who was with the group for their first 10 years, declined to be a part of their 2009 reunion and actually tried to keep Love from using the Hole name.

Sometimes bands can do more than just survive a lineup change, using a bit of new blood to actually improve. Take Sid Vicious”the infamous bassist’s name is synonymous with the Sex Pistols despite the fact that he wasn’t even one of the original members of the band. Of course, there are times when a change in the lineup can bring… well, let’s just say “mixed results.” Frontman Michael Hutchence of the Australian rock group INXS died in 1997, and in 2005 his band embarked on a search for a new lead singer on the TV show Rock Star: INXS. But despite the program’s popularity both of the albums recorded with new singer J.D. Fortune earned reviews that were mediocre at best, and many INXS fans thought the show dishonored Hutchence’s memory. (Two Australian radio hosts called the program “broadband urination on Michael Hutchence’s grave.” Ouch.)

And then there are the occasions when a member’s loss is just too great for the group to overcome. Led Zepellin decided to disband in 1980 following the death of legendary drummer John Bonham, despite a surge of  rumors that the rockers were replacing him. In a statement, the group said, “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend, and the deep sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.” Nirvana made the same decision after Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994. While former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl has proven to be an outstanding vocalist for the Foo Fighters, replacing a singer who has been hailed as the voice of a generation would have been a tall order.

But it seems like more and more often, bands will lose a member or two and decide to forge ahead. Florida-based punks Against Me! are selling out shows along their current summer tour, even though their lineup looks nothing like the one that started putting out cassette demos in ’97. Several longtime members of Taking Back Sunday have parted ways with the band over the years, yet their self-titled album”out June 28”is one of the most highly anticipated rock releases of the year. In fact, bands like U2, Radiohead or Green Day that have had a consistent lineup through their career are the exception rather than the rule these days. But judging from the work some of these bands have done after weathering massive lineup changes, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Sound And Vision: Can R.E.M. Rock The Charts Again With "Collapse Into Now"?

If you read the title, and you’re still with me, maybe there’s hope. R.E.M.’s publicity machine might be working. Twenty years ago, for a brief window in the early ’90s before grunge took over, the band owned the title of the biggest American rock band on the planet.
And then there were three. Drummer Bill Berry departed after the 1995 Monster tour, leaving R.E.M. a trio, and diminishing returns kicked in with the next several albums. When Around the Sun came out in 2004, not only were reviews somewhere south of tepid (even the band has gone on the record as hating it), but it became the first R.E.M. studio album not to go gold, failing to enter the Top 10 or produce any chart singles. The Monster-wannabe Accelerate did better in 2008 (it debuted at No. 2), but like it’s predecessor, it failed to cross the 500,000 sales mark.
If at first and second you don’t succeed… On March 7, R.E.M. will try to avoid a strike-out with their 15th studio album, Collapse into Now.

These are hard times for the monsters of ’80s and ’90s rock. U2’s last album didn’t do anywhere near the band’s usual business. Bon Jovi continues to sell respectfully, but theywere just snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Kurt Cobain is still dead, Oasis is history and Radiohead doesn’t care if you get its music or not. The ’80s and ’90s rock bands with the most commercial potential either disbanded and reunited (like Pixies and The Cars, whose first album in twenty-four years, Move Like This, comes out on May 10), took extended hiatuses (AC/DC, Metallica) or have a lead singer who took Simon Cowell’s spot on American Idol (lucky Aerosmith).
R.E.M.’s going to have to get back on track the hard way, by releasing great music that thrills old fans while winning over new ones. Bassist Mike Mills has said that Collapse into Now is the band’s best work since Out of Time, the 1991 album that remains the band’s best seller and also spawned R.E.M.’s biggest hit, the Top 5 “Losing My Religion.” Although there’ll be no tour to support the new album, the band has been promoting it as if they actually believe what Mills says.
The publicity blitz began last fall”where else?”on the Internet, as R.E.M. made the album cut “Dicoverer,” which is as great as anything from the band’s golden years, available for download on its Web site. Over the next few weeks, lyric videos for various tracks began popping up on the band’s YouTube channel as did a Collapse into Now trailer, featuring snippets of R.E.M. performing key cuts. You can even “R.E.M.ix” the track “It Happened Today” online. And just in case everyone had forgotten that these guys were once multi-platinum superstars, the Coldplay of their day, “Losing My Religion” popped up in an episode of Glee.
But can three fifty-somethings competing with popular rockers half their age recapture past glory? Even their big-name collaborators on Collapse into Now”Eddie Vedder, Patti Smith”are talented relics from a bygone era. The tracks they’ve previewed so far have been a mixed bunch (fast, slow, brilliant, so-so), and thus far the first single, “Mine Smell Like Honey,” hasn’t been seen anywhere near Billboard’s Hot 100.
It’s going to take more than a grassroots multi-media campaign and a few bonus cuts to make Collapse into Now fly off iTunes’ virtual shelves. The band will need unanimously spectacular reviews to compete with spring arrivals from Britney Spears, Foo Fighters and Snoop Dogg. And even then, that might not be enough. If all else fails, R.E.M.’s best bet will be to get up out of those rocking chairs and hit the road. Maybe there’s still an open headlining slot on Lollapalooza 2011 with Enimen, Muse and Foo Fighters.
With fewer artists selling platinum, record sales are becoming increasingly irrelevant anyway”especially for icons of pop and rock like Madonna, U2 and, yes, R.E.M, whose fans won’t click on their YouTube links with the fervor of Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga disciples, and who don’t rule the singles scene the way whippersnappers like Katy Perry and Rihanna do. For them, releasing new music should be more a labor of love, a way to avoid becoming a strictly nostalgia act, than a means to multi-platinum. If R.E.M. wants its glory back, if the band is to avoid collapsing into now, then the show”featuring something old, something new, and of course, “Losing My Religion””must go on.
[Editor’s Note: You can now stream R.E.M.’s Collapse Into Now on NPR.org prior to the Marth 8th release. NME also reported on Wednesday that the band has tapped a group of filmmakers including James Franco, of all people, to create music videos for each and every song on the album in an attempt to redefine “the idea of an album in 2011, beyond a music fan’s idea of an album 20 years ago.”]