What Would Hüsker Dü

Music Monday

The obscure and seemingly insignificant can influence millions. Never achieving fame or fortune, an inconspicuous St. Paul, Minnesota trio known as Hüsker Dü shaped music genres that would become known as alternative rock, grunge, power pop and post-hardcore. In the early 1980’s, when duran duran, Eurythmics, A Flock of Seagulls, Journey, Human League, Michael Jackson, Men At Work, and Def Leppard were topping the charts, Bob Mould (lead vocals, guitar), Greg Norton (bass), and Grant Hart (lead vocals, drums) were forging proto-punk throughout the Minneapolis area as Hüsker Dü.

What makes Hüsker Dü significant is that they evolved from a hardcore punk band to incorporate strong musical and vocal melodies into their breakneck punk thrash. An excellent example of this is”Pink Turns To Blue” from 1984’s double concept album Zen Arcade about a boy’s journey soloing the harshness of life. The Zen Arcade album itself was a groundbreaking feat, often considered the first punk opera.

Hüsker Dü serve as a musical evolutionary missing link between explosive punk and what is now considered power pop and college rock. 1985’s Flip Your Wig exemplifies Hüsker Dü’s continued melodic expansion. Soon after they were courted by Warner Bros Records which subsequently released Candy Apple Gray  and the double disc follow-up Warehouse, before the band’s demise in 1987.

Bob Mould went on to a fairly significant musical career forming Sugar and as a solo artist. Though not regarded by the average music listener Hüsker Dü’s legacy of influence is evident in every modern rock outfit from Green Day to Nirvana to Foo Fighters.

~End WWHD?~

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Little Mr. Got It Wrong

Music Monday

The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is an amazing place. i’ve lived here all my life: Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. There’s a distinct iconoclastic culture here that i’ve found nowhere else in my travels throughout the United States and various Latin American and European countries. The outdoor activities are numerous: In a little more than an hour i can ski some of the greatest snow-covered peaks this land has to offer; or head the other direction and ponder life while viewing amazing beach heads and coastlines; Great hiking; huge rivers; fantastic white-water; world-class sports teams; some of the best music from jazz to alt rock. Where else can one say they have an active volcano in their back yard?

When i recently stumbled across a rendering of a “typical” Seattle native, i took slight offense. The line drawing included in Christian Lander’s latest book, “Whiter Shades of Pale,” depicts what he believes is a stereotypical urban Seattle male. Christian is the man behind Stuff White People Like, a satirical and often funny observations of conventional and banal habits, desires, and social constructs of the melanin deficient. But this time he hit a slight nerve.

i know this is a caricature. i can forgive the hikers, café au lait cliché (i’m not a fan), and facial scruff. A sweater?! Obviously Mr. Lander doesn’t travel here much. i rarely see sweaters, especially with reindeer stitch. This is the PNW, it doesn’t get that cold. Wet? YES! Cold? Not so much. Besides, half the people are still wearing cargo shorts in November (Yep, we’re a different breed up here). Nonetheless, if you could argue rationally about this, i might let it go.

However… Spin Doctors?! Unforgivable! Does Lander realize, perhaps aside from Austin TX,  that the PNW is the coolest place on the planet for music? Is he aware  the Portland and Seattle areas once were or are home to such international artists as Bing Crosby, The Kingsmen, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Robert Cray, Jeff Lorber Fusion, Dave Friesen, Quarterflash, Nu Shooz, Dan Reed Network, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, M. Ward,  The Dandy Warhols, Everclear, The Shins, Elliot Smith, The Decemberists, Sleater-Kinney, Spoon, Steven Malkmus (Pavement), Johnny Marr (The Smiths; Modest Mouse; The Cribs), Gary Jarman (The Cribs), Willie Nelson (yep, long before he was famous), Courtney Love, Heatmiser, Hockey, Portugal.The Man, The Dimes, Blitzen Trapper, Pink Martini, Kutless, Storm Large, Helio Sequence, Frank Black (The Pixies), Larry Norman, Meredith Brooks, and Hoyt Axton?

Let’s get Seattle specific: The Posies, Peter Buck (REM), Soundgarden, The Postal Service, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Queensryche, Alice In Chains, The Ventures, Modest Mouse, Death Cab For Cutie, Dave Grohl (Nirvana; Foo Fighters), The Presidents of the United States of America, Jimi Hendrix, The Fleetwoods, Steve Miller, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Heart, Scott McCaughey (The Young Fresh Fellows; The Minus 5), Mudhoney, Mother Love Bone, The Melvins, Green River, The Wailers, Jerry Miller (Moby Grape), Bloodgood, Temple of the Dog, Owl City, Metal Church, Sanctuary, MxPx, Screaming Trees, Lucid, Candlebox, Foo Fighters, Bikini Kill, Sunny Day Real Estate, Beat Happening…

And Lander would muse that any self-respecting Seattle-ite would toque homage a New York based two-hit-wonder (“Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”) like The Spin Doctors?!

Anyone with me on this?

~End vindication~

Perrywinkle

i’ve been to some amazing concerts in my lifetime. i’ve seen some great rock ‘n’ roll musicians and even some living legends. Most of these shows involve three to five musicians playing their heart out, encouraging the audience to dance, sing and sweat along with them. However, young audiences are far more sophisticated now. There needs to be more showmanship to hold attention spans. Everything must be extravagant, even to the point of obscuring the music.

A few years back i took my kids to see Muse. i’ve been following Muse for over a decade. An amazing trio of musicians, i’m thrilled they are getting the notoriety they deserve. i love to watch musicians, taking note of their style, technical prowess and manner of execution. There, on stage, were three amazingly gifted musicians, each with their distinct personalities and musical abilities. Matt Bellamy is absolutely a guitar master that combines Hendrix fretboard theatrics, Morello’s feral tones, with Page’s passion all while crooning with a stellar tenor vibrato not unlike Freddie Mercury or Geddy Lee. Then there’s Dominic Howard who executes distinct rhythmic music with Neil Peart creativity and Phil Collins pop sensibility. The ever stalwart Chris Wolstenholme pounds out growling, yet often melodic bass lines like a silent, gentle sentinel trying not to have fun.

This trio mix metal, progressive, alternative, electronic, pop, and classical music into an array of audio sensuality.  i really couldn’t wait to see their fingers, hands, feet, and mouths deliver visually what i’d been experiencing with my ears for years. Undoubtedly the best concert i’ve ever seen, rather, i couldn’t see. Even though i was fairly close, i couldn’t see the band execute their musicianship because of all the blinding lights gleaming, flashing, and glaring off of the instruments if not directly aimed into our retinas.

But that’s the way it is these days. The kiddies gotta have their bling and more of it: enthusiasm with four extra helpings; the theatrics on a world stage; light to rival sol. The desire for theatrical music shows like Gaga’s is huge. The demand on the performers is great, too. With all that singing and dancing and jumping and costuming and set changing it’s no wonder Britney has to lip sync.

Say what you will about Katy Perry and her cheeky hubby, but this girl has much to compete with. Ever since stating, “I Kissed A Girl,” this pastor’s kid has grown up, out and sideways to become a pop icon in just a few short years. No wonder she has to do 15 costume changes on her current tour. In fact, just to keep up with Spears, Lady G, and Madonna, KP pulls off eight of those wardrobe changes while performing just one song, “Hot N Cold” (sorry guys, no wardrobe malfunction). If not intriguing. it’s exhausting to watch.

i’m all for art, theatrics, performance. But what happens to the music, the reason these artists are recognized in the first place, when all we see are exploding lights, bedazzling dancers, and more outfits in one performance than most people have in their closet?

~End headlights~

Do you think the glitter distracts from the talent, or are the theatrics part of the point?

Nearing the Finish Line

With the Indy 500 safely garaged for another year, the final 50 laps of the CCM 500 quickly approach. It’s really not a race… however, i’m curious for whom the checkered flag will wave. The CCM 500 is actually a blog i recently discovered. Having been involved in the Christian music industry over the years and as a lover of music in general, i have a vast collection of music (albums numbering in the thousands, all types [yet, nary a country one among them]). When i perused the CCM 500 i was amazed to find a truckload of music that, though obscure too many, packed my own music crypt, indelibly formatting much of my musical tastes and faith experience.

The caretaker of the CCM 550 and its counterpart Greatest Christian Albums is David Lowman. A So Cal native, David has a long career in the music industry that commenced in the ‘70s spanning roles in retail, PR, radio, journalism and as record company representative. Mr. Lowman is passionate about music, each entry is written knowledgeably and with important insights into the artist and content. i hope you enjoy the CCM 500, especially as it approaches the final 50 countdown.

~End promo~

Speaker Fruit

Anxiously awaiting a couple of new releases so i can put my proverbial thought pennies online, i thought i’d bide web time by piggy backing on last week’s Music Monday.

The Apples In Stereo

Playful Power Pop! That’s what i’ve termed the styled musings of The Apples In Stereo. The exuberant bliss of bright head-bobbing rhythms, founded in lo-fi guitars and propelled by bouncy sing-along melodies transform a grimace to a grin. i first discovered The Apples In Stereo in 1997 with “Seems So”(from their second release Tone Soul Evolution) that i received on an industry artist sampler. With inspiration primarily rooted in The Beach Boys, Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, and The Beatles “Revolver” through “The Beatles (White Album)” pop epoch, TAIS were formed in 1992. Robert Schneider (not to be confused with the actor/comedian Rob Schneider), primary songwriter/lyricist, singer and guitar player formed The Apples with friends he’d met in his relocation from Louisiana to Colorado.

Despite the fuzzed out grooves of “Tidal Waves,” on their full-length 1995 debut Fun Trick Noisemaker reflecting a pop-soaked version of Sonic Youth, The Apples In Stereo found it complicated to find a place on radio in the early and mid ‘90s. It was difficult to gain notoriety as Pacific Northwest grunge artists and their imitators wrestled air control to build their musical kingdoms. The happiest music that you’ve never heard sometimes brings to mind saccharine tunes of The Partridge Family or The Starland Vocal Band, throwing in the occasional horn arrangement and vocal harmonies that would make Jeff Lynne proud. See why that really doesn’t work with the grunge movement?.

Though not a huge commercial success, The Apples In Stereo’s songs have appeared sporadically in television advertisements (“Energy” from New Magnetic Wonder (2007), was used in a world -wide Pepsi campaign); and Schneider has written special songs such as “Signal In The Sky (Let’s Go!),” (Let’s Go! , 2001), the Will Vinton (remember those dancing California Raisins?) directed video for the Cartoon Network’s glorious Powerpuff Girls inspired music; or the hilarious “Stephen, Stephen” contributed to The Green Screen Challenge on an episode of The Colbert Report.

Nowhere is The Beatles’ influence more prevalent than on the “Strawberry Fields” homage “Strawberryfire,” from Her Wallpaper Reverie (1999). The Zombies inspired psychedelic pop of “Stream Running Over” and the danceable hand-clapper “The Bird That You Can’t See,” both from The Discovery Of A World Inside The Moone (2000), are always fun songs. Speaking of fun, i dare you to frown and keep your head from bobbing while listening to the somber titled “Same Old Drag.”

Also try picking these from their tree: “Please,” The Velocity of Sound (2002); “Skyway,” New Magnetic Wonder (2007); “Dance Floor,” Travellers In Space And Time (2010).

Let me know what you think.

~End pome~