INVEST IN MUSIC: Or How To Properly Listen To "The Wall"

Standing on the Staples Center floor during Roger Waters‘ first of five sold-out Southern California performances of The Wall this month, I marveled at how much music has changed since I first became a fan.

To call myself anything short of obsessive as a teenager would be an understatement”but I wasn’t alone, that was how music made a lot of us feel. It wasn’t enough to know everything about the bands we loved, we also wanted to know everything about the bands they loved. We wanted to know why they wore the shirts they wore, and who inspired the lyrics they wrote.

When Anthrax covered a Joe Jackson song, I had to go out and buy the Joe Jackson album it was from. When Lars Ulrich talked about the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, I needed to know the bands he was championing. And when I discovered industrial music, I needed to also discover early innovators like Einstürzende Neubauten.

rogerwaters.com

It was my responsibility as a fan, and I took that responsibility seriously. I went to record stores to find new music, read magazines to learn about inspiration and influence and listened to the radio for news and information. The word fan is derived from the word fanatic for a reason”being a fan took effort, and our efforts were rewarded in kind.

Music wasn’t background noise then, it was the soundtrack to our lives. It meant something, because we needed it to mean something. Our favorite bands helped shape our identity, and that identity couldn’t be researched for free on the Internet, bought for .99 on iTunes and adorned for $19.99 at Hot Topic.

Today, there is no effort required.

The value of music has changed, and so has our perception of its value. Music is no longer marketed as central to our lives, it is now delivered as a backdrop to a game of Madden, an addendum to Twilight or as a novelty on YouTube.

Cynics cry that the music industry is a dinosaur, plodding the earth in its final days before a downloading-induced extinction. But those people are being lazy and short-sided. True fans don’t stop at just listening to music, they make that music a part of them”and despite everything we’re told to the contrary, music fans are still out there.

I look at artists like Amanda Palmer and I get excited about where music is heading. Not because I love her music, but because I see a woman who is passionate about her art, and equally as passionate about delivering that art to her fans. She realizes that music is about more than just a song, it’s about a connection, and she works tirelessly at engaging that connection.

In an ADD-inspired and Internet-driven culture where short attention spans are not only encouraged, they are also rewarded, that engagement means everything.

Music isn’t dead, it’s just fallen into a coma for the people who refuse to make the investment, whether it be the fan who’s looking for little more than the flavor of the day, or the artist who is looking for little more than a lifestyle or a paycheck.

Standing on the Staples Center floor as Roger Waters performed The Wall‘s epic finale, my relationship with that album changed. Not because I was hearing it for the first time, but because I was experiencing it for the first time. I was part of something bigger than iTunes, and I was in the midst of something that you don’t get from watching a performance on a computer screen or buying a t-shirt at the mall.

Nearly three decades ago, I invested in a double album by Pink Floyd. That album may not have made sense at the time, but it makes perfect sense today. It makes sense because I invested in more than just the product”I invested in my connection to the art.

It’s time that we”as fans and artists”rediscover the value of that connection.

by Paul Gargano

Paul Gargano has been a professional journalist for 20 years, in which time he has been syndicated by the Associated Press and Reuters, spent a decade as editor of Metal Edge magazine, and been featured on VH1, MTV and The Style Network. He lives in Los Angeles, where his company”Paul Gargano Media Dynamics (PGMD”provides marketing, management and writing and editing services to music industry clientele. Visit him online at www.paulgargano.com, and join him on Twitter via @PaulGargano.

Will Ozzy Win a GRAMMY? Ask Your VIP Ouija Board!

It’s probably an understatement to suggest that by all rights Ozzy Osbourne should be a dead man. A serious ATV accident almost snapped his neck. The plane that crashed and killed beloved guitarist Randy Rhoads smashed into the tour bus in which Ozzy was sleeping, flinging the rock icon out of a vehicle engulfed in flames and split in half from the impact. Then there’s that legendary appetite for dissipation, described thusly by the man himself in the introduction to his recently-published autobiography, I Am Ozzy: Over the past forty years I’ve been loaded on booze, coke, acid, Quaaludes, glue, cough mixture, heroin, Rohypnol, Klonopin, Vicodin and too many other heavy-duty substances to list in this footnote. On more than a few occasions I was on all of those at the same time.

There’s little doubt that Osbourne’s antics and misfortunes have given him at least glimpses of the other side; now fans are being invited to experience the same in a much safer manner with a custom edition of the talking board game (or parlor trick) known as a Ouija board. Safe and sober for the time being, Ozzy is concentrating on his music. Enjoying a career resurgence, the Prince of Darkness has just been rewarded with a GRAMMY nomination in the Best Hard Rock Performance category for Let Me Hear You Scream, the Number 1 hit single from his current album, Scream. Never one to pass up a good marketing opportunity and have a little fun at the same time, Ozzy is giving purchasers of a VIP ticket to remaining shows on his in-progress tour a collectible Ouija: The Ozzy Osbourne Edition game, with which users may or may not be able to converse with the spirit world.

For those not quite up on quasi-satanic home entertainment, the Ouija board supposedly allows the dead to communicate with the living by using the board’s planchette, or pointer, to spell out answers to your questions. The Ozzy Ouija board, done up in black and decorated with the Ozzy logo, is not available commercially but they’ll turn up from time to time on sites like eBay. You may want to get a hold of one, one way or the other; after all Ozzy’s luck will run out sooner or later. Then ask your Ouija board Is anyone there? and if the answer back spells out Shaaaarrron! you’ll know just exactly who you’re talking to.

Ozzy VIP ticket packages with Ouija board can be purchased at www.LiveNation.com. The tour ends February 22nd and for now only the spirits know if Ozzy will win an award on GRAMMY night, February 13th.

By Kevin Wierzbicki

Kevin Wierzbicki is a music and travel writer based in Arizona. His articles about music, travel and music-related travel have been published in the likes of USA Today, The Arizona Republic, Desert Living Magazine, Campus Circle in Los Angeles and Antimusic.com.

Ciara: Basic Instinct

Ciara‘s Basic Instinct is designed to take her sound back to the catchy Crunk n B of her ’04 debut Goodies. Fantasy Ride had dance experiments and hip-pop mixes but Instinct dares to travel more bass-heavy territory by definition. Ciara has likened the CD to the movie Basic Instinct and the manipulative lead character played by Sharon Stone. The video for the first single Ride with Ludacris caused a media ruckus with BET because of Ciara’s graphic sensuality. But the production team of Tricky Stewart and The Dream really did concoct a beat as baneful as Stone’s Catherine Tramell. And they do make the bass a governing force, but the addition of lasers inside Gimme Dat and the bright synthesizers surrounding Wants For Dinner moves the production away from the musical strengths of Goodies. Unsurprisingly, it is the ethos of Ride that divulges the true mission of the CD as A-list pop and R&B for the ladies who work as exotic dancers. It is impossible not to imagine silky gyrations and g-strings when Ciara coos over the slinky rhythmic arrangements.

Usher is the only other featured artist and he joins her on the cheery Turn It Up that lightens the mood with its party-starting ambition certain to make it a pop anthem. Sassy and sexy, the title track is a confident but vulnerable declaration about a renewed focus on her career after the emotions of a love affair distracted her from giving a full commitment to her work. As if to enforce the point about women dancing for a living Girls Get Your Money reminds female listeners not to date men without financial sustenance. Before detractors can accuse her of being shallow she completely surrenders to love in Speechless and offers gratitude worthy of an extra holiday to her mate. Instinct does not have the sparkle of Goodies but it does offer the sexiness and danceability that Ciara’s fans want and expect.

Track List:

  1. Basic Instinct (U Got Me)
  2. Ride (feat. Ludacris)
  3. Gimmie Dat
  4. Heavy Rotation
  5. Girls Get Your Money
  6. Yeah I Know
  7. Speechless
  8. You Can Get It
  9. Turn It Up (feat. Usher)
  10. Wants for Dinner
  11. I Run It
  12. Listen to My Song (Pre-Order Bonus)

By Tamara Harris

Tamara Harris is a music blogger who has published past work in Blues and Soul, Floss, Grip, AOL City and The Metro Times.

GRAMMY Nom Says The Beatles are History/iTunes Brings Them Up To Date

Fab, groovy, prophetic; the list of adjectives applied to the Beatles and their music could fill a thesaurus. But there’s one designation that you might not have seen coming; historic. Sure, everybody knows that even the most recent of Beatles songs is an oldie and that the late John Lennon would have turned seventy-years-old in 2010. Still it’s a little shocking to realize that last year’s all-encompassing, sixteen-disc The Beatles Stereo Box Set release from Apple/EMI is nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the ‘Best Historic Recording’ category. In a way, that puts lovely Rita, meter maid, on a par with Florence Nightingale. It makes a ride in a yellow submarine, perhaps to an octopus’s garden, the fantastic equal of tagging along with Hannibal as he crosses the Alps with his elephants. It seems that Lucy and her sky with diamonds are of similar import as Neil Armstrong and his bag of moon rocks. The GRAMMY folks have it right, of course. How else but historic could you describe this entity that’s been the biggest influence on music, if not pop culture as a whole, for the last half-century? The GRAMMY nomination comes in the same breath as the announcement that the Beatles catalog is finally available digitally through iTunes after a long hold-out; considering that this year is also the thirtieth anniversary of Lennon’s death there are a lot of historic moments converging right now, a situation that will no doubt bring overflowing bags of cash to a patient iTunes. The potential award-winning box set, by the way, contains remastered versions of all thirteen Beatles albums, the Past Masters collection and a DVD loaded with mini-documentaries for each album that feature rare footage, archival photos and candid studio chatter. As the set’s title indicates all the music here is in stereo, including for the first time on CD the Please Please Me, With the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night and Beatles for Sale albums, previously only available in pre-historic mono (an almost identical all-mono box set is also available for purists.) Paul McCartney penned some new notes about Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for the box and all the individual CDs come, rightfully so, in packages that replicate their original English releases”does iTunes have that? Owners of The Beatles Stereo Box Set will not only have a good chunk of the most-revered music ever made at hand and something to hand down to the kids; they’ll also have an unquestionable excuse for eccentric behavior. Get caught screaming along at the top of your lungs to Revolution or playing manic air guitar to Helter Skelter? No problem. You’re not acting crazy; you’re just brushing up on history.

By Kevin Wierzbicki

Kevin Wierzbicki is a music and travel writer based in Arizona. His articles about music, travel and music-related travel have been published in the likes of USA Today, The Arizona Republic, Desert Living Magazine, Campus Circle in Los Angeles and Antimusic.com.

Daft Punk Creates New "Legacy" with Tron Soundtrack

The mainstream media may have been all agog about the Kanye West and Taylor Swift record leaks last month, but for a smaller, slightly more day-glo festooned segment of the music-fan populace, one record’s drop is far more revelatory.

That album is Tron: Legacy”the much-hyped 3D Disney tentpole out Dec 17th. Normally, a soundtrack album wouldn’t garner much attention (outside of the Twilight series) but this one’s extra-special.  Not only is it the score to a very-long-awaited sequel (years since the original: 28) but it’s the first album in almost 6 years from the beloved French electro duo Daft Punk”who, in that interim, have gone from rave-music favorites to festival headliners due to the strength of their repetitive, dance-happy songs and their high-energy live show which has won them accolades on all sides of the music arena.

The response to this buzzy burst: mostly, a lackluster sigh. Instead of bouncy synth jams like One More Time, the closely-guarded songs are more like minor-key vignettes”mood-inducers that sound futuristic retro. That’s thanks to the gurgling, ready-to-explode keyboard sounds in the background”and the nearly 100-piece orchestra in the foreground, breaking out string swells and oboe glares among Bladerunner bleakness.

Longtime fans may claim heresy, but I hear something else: progress. Sure, Daft Punk made their name on robotic chillness like Around the World but this is something more: heart-beats with old soul. The orchestrations are classic”some may claim too much so”but in being so timeless they’re also unquestionably cinematic, bursting with drama in a way a dance floor cannot. On top of that, it gives them room to explore their live set. With rumors of a 2011 tour abound”and though the spaceman-helmeted, pyramid-topped light show extravaganza set 2006’s Coachella ablaze”the largess and command that a full orchestra could give them could be wholly, truly epic.

But what’s flummoxing the most is: what did people expect? This is the soundtrack to a movie, not an album proper. Unless you’re, say, Paul Simon working on The Graduate or Badly Drawn Boy scoring About a Boy, writing for a movie’s all about subtext, not overtness”a lesson likely never learned by Kanye West or Taylor Swift, but practiced”and preached”by two out-there Frenchies. Respect.

By Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller is the LA editor of Thrillist.com and has been writing about music professionally for over a decade for publications including the Los Angeles Times, Relix and Esquire.com.

OurStage Chats with Swedish Indie Pop Band The Radio Dept.

Swedish trio The Radio Dept. recently played the States with a double-lineup in NYC. The pop princes return in 2011 with a compilation project (twenty-eight tracks comprising fourteen A-Sides and fourteen B-sides) as well as a full US tour. But forget the facts, these Swedes are all about presenting a perspective.

Stockholm-based threesome The Radio Dept. were flown overseas last week to play two sold out shows in New York City, at The Knitting Factory on Tuesday and Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday. Poised to release their comprehensive compilation of singles Passive Aggressive: 2002-2010 in January, as well as embark on a proper US tour beginning in February, The Radio Dept. seems to be sitting pretty. The band released its latest full length album, Clinging to a Scheme, in April, and is receiving critical praise the globe-over. The first single off the album, Heaven’s on Fire, was the No. 1 most popular tune on the Hype Machine, making them the fifth most blogged about band in the world earlier this fall”this on top of past accomplishments, which include three albums, eleven EPs, five singles and features in both a Gucci ad as well as on the soundtrack for Sofia Coppola‘s Marie Antoinette.

Photo by Aylin Güngí¶r Dedeoglu

All of that said, the guys aren’t terribly keen on being in the spotlight. While they are humbled by the widespread recognition, they say having all eyes on them is unnerving. Explains lead singer and guitarist, Johan Duncanson, If you want to see extremely scared people on stage who really don’t want to be there, that’s a Radio Department show. RD’s main man harks back to an earlier experience, but the sentiment still stands; To me it’s about challenging myself because I’m really shy. It’s a weird thing for me to walk up on stage and play guitar and sing to a lot of people. It’s not natural. It’s weird. But I push myself to do it anyway. And sometimes I [still] get sacred.

Indeed, the threesome exuded a certain degree of distant nervousness in Brooklyn Tuesday night, but perhaps that was in part due to the entire system shutting down mid-show. Mics started squealing shrilly and the boys backed off, making way for the tech guys to glue the evening back together. In the end, the show went on, though not nearly long enough, given the impression I gathered from fans”and the early hour at which things seemed to wind down. This band’s been around since the mid-90s and the current lineup, which, in addition to Duncanson, includes Martin Larsson on second guitar and Daniel Tjí¤der on keyboards, is much revered. When they pass through, RD devotees crave a solid set. I’m afraid we didn’t get as much as we wanted. Be that as it may, many an audience member jammed out to the group’s dreamy pop songs, heads bobbing and feet shuffling the entire time.


Photo by Said Karlsson

On the topic of jamming, and almost assuredly in direct relation to their trepidation about being on stage , they made a point of confessing that they’re anything but a jam band. Well, that and a rock band. We used to call ourselves ˜anti-rock,’ they tell me. We don’t jam. We’re not that kind of band, really, Duncanson says. We hate jamming. Johan really hates jamming, laughs Larsson. Duncanson affirms, I hate jamming. I ask them why that is and Duncanson doesn’t hesitate to illustrate: When I was in my teens and going to parties, a couple people would take out acoustic guitars and start jamming. It kind of made me sick. So I promised myself never to do things like that. It’s just such a hippie thing to do. Posers.

You would think Duncanson was an arrogant guy, given his statements, but the man behind Dept.’s vocals is absolutely sweet, articulating things in a sincere manner with zero affectation. In fact, none of them put on airs. We’re not good musicians, really. We’re not that good of musicians. Like, technically. We’re not capable of doing any thing any day, just having concert. We need to train, Larsson shares, the quintessential antithesis of a “hippie poser.”  Tjí¤der chimes in about something he terms the rock and roll myth, purporting, You don’t have to be this self destructive, suffering artist. While he isn’t necessarily intending to equate that to “hippie posers who jam a lot,” it rounds out the ever-evolving portrait of The Radio Dept., combating their tendency toward the elusive. There [seemed to be] rules about bearded men playing sweaty, hairy music [that made it] more real than clean-shaven, young guys playing pop music. I’ve always thought there’s something really wrong there, Duncanson states in defense of their sound and on behalf of all anti-rock outfits.

In the end though, which is nowhere in sight for these Swedes, it all comes down to one vital detail: the music itself. The Radio Dept. can be invited to do a double-header halfway around the world without asking and sell out twin shows without trying. They can come across like deer in headlights whilst performing (not perpetually, but occasionally) and make a subtle but successful comeback post-equipment malfunction. They can despise the stage, hate to jam and rail against rock-and-roll. Deduction: they’re pretty unbelievable in my book. Three early-thirties savants, who possess more lyrical acuity and instrumental prowess in their pinky fingers than half the GRAMMY nominees, are real, raw, genuine artists. Forget expectations of the industry. These guys are around to defy them. But not in some attention-seeking, deliberately rebellious way. In the real way.  Duncanson says it best, summing up; We’ve never been into ˜making it’ or anything like that. We just wanna make music. Play on, sweet Swedes, play on.

By Nell Alk

Nell Alk is a culture and entertainment reporter based in New York. Her work has appeared in Paper Magazine, InterviewMagazine.com, Zink Magazine and BlackBookMag.com, among others. She also contributes to NBC’s Niteside blog