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Friday, October 12, 2012

Kind Of A Drag

Today is kind of a slow news day. And so, today, you get¦ rock stars in drag: the superlatives.

Most natural: Bowie

Most disturbing: Queen

Most frequent: Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones

Best homage: Blur (as Blondie)

Most dudes: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

Best pout: Ozzy Osbourne

Most confusing to high school jocks in 1994: Kurt Cobain

Most committed: New York Dolls

Best looking: Bono

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Is fun. Having Fun Yet?

First things first”while the official spelling of the band’s name is fun., with a lowercase “f” and a period at the end, the New York trio can not be held entirely accountable for the highly stylized nature of their moniker. According to multi-instrumentalist Andrew Dost, it was a decision born of pragmatism, not petulance. “We thought of the name ‘Ice Cream,’ but we all hated it,” he says of the name’s origin. “However, we liked what it made us think of, which was ‘fun.’ The period was added after another band called ‘fun’ asked us to distinguish ourselves from them in some way.”

But their name isn’t the only thing that might lead to misconceptions about fun.”there’s also their label, Fueled By Ramen, which is best known for bringing the world an avalanche of emo, with a roster encompassing Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, Paramore, Yellowcard, et al. But aside from a predilection for wearing their hearts on their sleeves, fun. possesses few of the musical traits one commonly associates with the emosphere. In fact, the group seems to stand apart from most of the pack when it comes to the current crop of high-profile indie-pop acts in general. (more…)

Riffs, Rants & Rumors: Rock Doc Roundup

What do true rock & roll obsessive do in the extremely unlikely event that they get tired of listening to their favorite albums? Watch documentaries about them, of course! And even though 2012 is still young, the must-see DVDs for rock geeks are already starting to pile up, so before the stack starts to grow too unwieldy, let’s skim the top by taking a look at a few of the most memorable new rock-doc releases on video. Each of our flicks of choice for this week takes a different approach to framing music history, but they all manage to offer fresh insights and fascinating glimpses into some classic works.

Taking the straight-up band-biography approach, Days of Our Lives aims to be the definitive documentary on Queen, and succeeds through careful attention to the details of the band’s story, in-depth interviews with the primary parties and a wealth of fascinating footage. It was originally created as a two-part documentary for the BBC, aired in 2011 to commemorate Queen’s fortieth anniversary, and the DVD and Blu-Ray versions add extra material to sweeten the deal even further. We get a long view of Queen’s climb, digging into the details of guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor‘s pre-Queen band, Smile, and chronicling Zanzibar-born art student Farrokh Bulsara’s evolution into flamboyant frontman Freddie Mercury. We get a worm’s-eye view of the group’s ascent to superstardom, via candid conversations with May and Taylor, as the story moves through each era of the band’s development, from the hard-edged art rock of the early albums to the unabashed eclecticism and commercial breakthrough of A Night at the Opera, to the incorporation of dance-music influences in the early ’80s with The Game and Hot Space. The most emotional moments, of course, come towards the end, as we watch Mercury slowly succumb to AIDS and hear the intimate recollection of his friends and bandmates about the final chapter in the singer’s life. Among the extras on the DVD, a wealth of British TV performances will be particularly tasty treats for hardcore Queen aficionados.

Mr. Mojo Risin': The Story of L.A. Woman takes on the legacy of a band just as iconic as Queen, but instead of trying to document The Doors‘ entire career it takes a tight focus on the final album by the original lineup (history has kindly forgotten the two albums the surviving members made without Jim Morrison in the early ’70s). Like the Queen documentary, this too was made to mark a fortieth anniversary”that of the  aforementioned album, L.A. Woman. Stories of notorious rock & roll enfant terrible Morrison’s antics are legend, but while this documentary doesn’t shy away from the singer’s talent for troublemaking, it only incorporates that aspect of the story as it pertains to the topic at hand”the music itself. Following 1969’s Soft Parade album, which was considered by many to be overreaching and overproduced, L.A. Woman brought the group back to basics”playing together in a room, with the blues as a musical foundation and Morrison’s evocative lyrics taking things further out. Today “Riders on the Storm” and the title track are ingrained in the collective consciousness as classic-rock radio staples, but in 1971, these dark, dreamy pieces combined the urban and the ethereal in an unprecedented way. For those who are intimately familiar with the album, it’s especially intriguing to hear, for instance, keyboardist Ray Manzarek reveal that his solo on “Hyacinth House” quotes a classical piece, and explain how “Riders” evolved from jamming on classic cowboy song “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” But for anyone with even a passing interest in the band, Mr. Mojo Risin’ helps illuminate exactly what made them special.

Of course, The Doors weren’t the only Southern Californians pushing the musical envelope in the early ’70s. From Straight to Bizarre stands apart from the Queen and Doors docs in that it shines a light on a little-heralded corner of rock history, but the story nevertheless involves some legendary figures, including Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper and Captain Beefheart. At the end of the ’60s, Zappa was bedeviled by label conflicts to the degree that he decided to start his own imprints, Straight and Bizarre. The latter would mainly release Zappa’s own work, while Straight would feature recordings by other artists. Bizarre boasted some of Zappa’s finest albums with and without The Mothers, including Hot Rats, Chunga’s Revenge and Just Another Band From L.A., but the focus of this film is in fact the dazzling array of artists and albums on Straight. Zappa’s intention was to provide an outlet for left-field music that might otherwise have gone unheard, and the Straight discography ultimately included such eccentric masterpieces as Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica and Lick My Decals Off, Baby and Tim Buckley’s Blue Afternoon and highly experimental Starsailor, as well as the first two”arguably freakiest”albums by Alice Cooper. You simply can’t half-ass a documentary about this kind of thing, and Straight to Bizarre goes all the way in, interviewing many of the principals and taking a comprehensive look at everything Zappa’s labels accomplished in the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s the sort of thing that gives music geekery a good name.

So whether you want to delve deeper into one of rock’s most revered albums, chart the development of an iconic band or peer into into an intriguing, esoteric corner of the musical universe, there’s a new DVD”or Blu-Ray if you’re so inclined”that will do the job for you. And by the time you read this, it’s likely that at least twice as many more new music flicks will be floating around out there for your edification, so we may have to reconvene for another roundup somewhere down the line.

Adam Lambert To Perform With Queen

After much speculation and Twitter chatter, it can now officially be confirmed that Adam Lambert will be performing with Queen at the U.K. Sonisphere festival this upcoming summer. The performance is a one-off at Knebworth park, the setting for Queen’s final performance with the late Freddie Mercury.

A tweet from Lambert yesterday afternoon confirmed the rumor: “As many suspected, I can finally confirm: I have been invited by Queen to sing one very special concert! Sonisphere at Knebworth July 7th!”

Lambert made a name for himself on American Idol with his Bohemeian Rhapsody audition, and subsequent performance with Queen later in the season. He also gave a well received performance at the MTV Europe Music Awards in 2011. Lambert, like Freddie, is known for his over-the-top performance tactics and immense vocal range. Good luck, Adam, you’ve got big shoes to fill!

Check out some videos of Adam and Queen after the break.

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Sound And Vision: 10 Things to Look Forward to in 2012 (Featuring Soundgarden, the Stone Roses and Freddie Mercury — Alive Again!)

A US Presidential election, Summer Olympics mania (London’s calling”again!), Rihanna’s film debut (in Battleship, out May 18) and the possible end of the world. Those are a few of the things I won’t be looking forward to in the coming year. Fortunately, music will offer enough thrills to distract us from all that we’d rather forget. Here’s what’s topping my 2012 anticipation list:

1. Madonna makes fiftysomething fabulous all over again. Although I’m curious to hear what Madonna does with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. on the final cut of “Gimme All Your Luvin'” when the single is released the last week of January, that’s not the main reason I’m excited about her upcoming twelfth studio album (due in late March), her first since turning fifty in 2008.  “Masterpiece,” a new song featured in the Madonna-directed W.E. (which goes into wide release on February 3, two days before her Super Bowl XLVI performance) and her reunion with her Ray of Light producer William Orbit, is an achingly beautiful ballad that recalls the best of ’90s Madonna while gently proving that she can still create pop magic all on her own.

2. Madonna vs. Elton John vs. Mary J. Blige vs. Chris Cornell vs. Glenn Close (!) at the Golden Globes. Too bad the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has disqualified Madonna’s “Masterpiece” from competition at the February 27 Oscars. Why? Because it’s the second song featured during the closing credits, and eligible songs must either be in the body of the film, or the tune that plays when the credits start to roll. Oscar’s loss. The January 15 Golden Globes showdown featuring five monsters of pop, rock and soul and acting will be just as star-studded”and as tough to call”as George Clooney vs. Brad Pitt vs. Leonardo DiCaprio vs. Ryan Gosling in Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.

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Sound And Vision: Strange Bedfellows — The Best of Music's Unlikely Collaborations

“I get high with a little help from my friends,” Ringo Starr sang on the Beatles‘ 1967 classic. These days, so do many of music’s top stars. Two’s company, and so is three and sometimes four. The more the merrier, the higher and higher they get.

On the charts, that is.

In the Top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 for the week ending December 10, seventeen songs were collaborations between separate recording entities. Four of them featured Drake, and three apiece featured Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who both appeared on tracks with Drake and with each other. But will.i.am featuring Jennifer Lopez and Mick Jagger”and debuting at No. 36 with “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever),” which the threesome performed on the November 20 American Music Awards”was probably the one that nobody saw coming.

Old-school Rolling Stones fans must be cringing at the idea of Jagger going anywhere near Lopez and will.i.am so soon after Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera went to No. 1 by invoking his hallowed name on “Moves Like Jagger.” But for a sixty-something legend like him, hit records”even if in name only, a la Duck Sauce‘s GRAMMY-nominated “Barbra Streisand”are a near-impossible dream unless they’re in tandem with other, often younger, stars.

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MTV O Awards Shed Light On YouTube's Most Amusing Music

Last Monday, as we celebrated Halloween, MTV gave out their second annual O Awards. MTV’s newest and definitely most unique awards show aired on a couple of different Web sites, as opposed to TV. This aspect of the show was fitting, as the MTV O Awards are all about our favorite Internet fads, celebrities and technology. Most of the categories still have to do with music, but they’re based on how we view and consume this music due to new technology, the internet and social networking sites like Twitter. Celebrities even performed and presented nominees via live feeds from various locations. It was a great way to embrace all of the positive effects that technology has on music. Here are some of our favorite parts and winners from the night!

Everyone loves a good cover song. But when YouTube popped up and gave anyone the ability to post renditions of songs by their favorite artists, there were bound to be ten horrible versions for every good one. Luckily, there are some gems that are so great, they make us forget about rest. Marc Martel won the Best Fan Cover Award when he won us over with his rendition of Queen‘s “Somebody To Love” for the band’s own competition. As soon as he starts to sing the first line, you know it’s going to be incredible. While no one can compare to Freddie Mercury, the resemblance in Marc’s voice is undeniable and the award was definitely deserved.