Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Life's A Riot With Spy Vs. Spy

Dear readers...
It's been too long... on many levels.  I hope this post finds you well.  Things couldn't be better in our corner of the universe.  Here we're still basking in the post-show afterglow of the mighty Riot Fest.  For the second straight year, we've been fortunate enough to be guests of Riot Mike at his Chicago version of the festival.  And this year, The 'Mats reformed... just for Riot Fest.  After kicking things off at Riot Fest Toronto just a few weeks prior, Paul Westerberg and the boys were ready to knock bodies around Humbolt Park on a rainy Sunday in Chicago.
Those of you familiar with The Ideological Cuddle know that Bob Mould is one of our favorites - he was in fine form with a mid-afternoon set, backed by Jason Narducy on bass and the unstoppable Jon Wurster on drums (too bad Superchunk couldn't make it to RFC - they tore it up at RF Denver the following weekend).  Tearing through songs from his Sugar days, his new classic Silver Age, and several from the mighty Husker Du, Mould was on fire through his 30 minute set.  After powering through "The Act We Act", "A Good Idea", and "Hoover Dam" (water-related songs back to back on a very rainy day? cheeky, Bob) from Copper Blue, Mould ripped out "Star Machine" and the epic "The Descent".  After "If I Can't Change Your Mind" (with sung arpeggios at the end), it was 4 of 5 Husker Du tunes to finish, closing with "Makes No Sense at All" from Flip Your Wig.  All those who braved the weather to catch his early set left happy.
Pixies (minus Kim Deal... not fully Pixies, but whatever) were really tight.  They played in the slot just before the 'Mats (so many took off from their stage to get a good spot to see Westerberg and Co.) and played 20 songs in their allotted 60 minute set.  I'm not really a fan of the new stuff (EP-1 left me kind of cold.  Not as cold as Pitchfork, whose review was kinda cruel) but the classics ROCKED.  "Bone Machine", "Hey", "Monkey Gone to Heaven", "Wave of Mutilation", "Isla de Encanta", "Tame"... face-meltingly great stuff.
I really don't know if my small thoughts about the 'Mats set can top what's been said already.  I think that Steve Hyden's article from grantland.com sums up everything that I'd want to say from both unbiased observer and super-fan perspectives.  Check his fantastic article out HERE.
(To digress, temporarily, Hyden might be the finest modern music writer out there today.  Follow him on Twitter at @Steven_Hyden - you won't be sorry).
So, for those of you who didn't have the distinct pleasure to be amongst 50,000 of your closest friends in Chicago a couple weekends back, I managed to track down some of the Replacements' songs from their Riot Fest Toronto set.  Sound quality isn't perfect, but it'll give you an idea of how great they sounded.

The Replacements at Riot Fest Toronto - August 25, 2013
"Color Me Impressed"
"Alex Chilton"

Until next time, it's great to be back... so until next time, don't miss Riot Fest next year... and listen...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lord, To Be 33 Forever

Greetings, faithful readers.  Tonight, we here at the Cuddle are feeling a little down, a little melancholy, yet we can see the silver lining in everything.  As I was rolling into work today, listening to a playlist on the trusty iPod, the sweet sounds of The Hold Steady came ringing through the speakers.  Now, there are myriad bands that beg to be played in the summertime (The Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead come to mind), but Craig Finn and his crew might be my favorite.  There's nothing better than wailing guitars and songs about the misguided follies of youth sung by a guy my age.  There's something reassuring about having musicians out there who can speak from experience and represent what it's like to be in your 30s, having made plenty of mistakes, trying to learn from them, and stopping short of telling others not to make the same ones.  Each Hold Steady album is great (we even chose Boys and Girls In America and Separation Sunday as co-best albums of the decade HERE) but tonight has me thinking about Separation Sunday a little more.
Through 11 tracks, Finn manages to be ridiculously verbose while spinning tales about getting wasted at camps along the Mississippi River, being at parties that are way too druggy, trying to buy drugs from Mackenzie Phillips, and finding redemption despite our foibles.  This is the record that introduces the terms "hoodrat" and "banging camp" into your vocabulary, takes you to Ybor City, City Center (in Minneapolis), and Penetration Park, and allows us to meet Holly, Gideon, and Charlemagne as characters in the Hold Steady universe (here's a tip - they don't do many redeeming things through the course of the record or the next couple, either).
It's Craig Finn's delivery that clinches this record, though.  He's a storyteller, first and foremost, not really a singer.  Those who don't worship the band often point to this as the reason why they can't get into their records, but allowing it to wash over you for a while will lead to the realization that he's truly a lyrical genius.  Check out all of the little details about the hoodrat friend that makes the narrator sick - including "tiny little text etched into her neck: it says 'Jesus lived and died for all your sins'" and the "damn right you'll rise again" tattoo on her lower back (guess why you'll rise again with this one...).  And despite describing why she makes him so reviled, he says, "your little hoodrat friend got me high, though" - so much for redemption.  The great thing about all of this drugging, dirty sex, poor choices, religious imagery, and searching for love in all the wrong places is that The Hold Steady never make judgements about any of it.  It's all just shit that happens - live with it and move on.  There's something that's very reassuring in that - with time and perspective, we can look back on our dirty pasts and make some sense of it all.  "How a Resurrection Really Feels" may be the penultimate song in the album's cycle (as far as the characters go - with Holly crashing into a church and pleading with the priest to allow her to preach her own private gospel to the congregation - her own personal resurrection), but for me, "Stevie Nix" is the song in which Finn pulls it all together.  He can't decide which he'd rather be - seventeen forever, or thirty-three forever.  In the end, it doesn't really matter - would you like to make mistakes over and over again, or have the time and perspective to look back on them fondly or otherwise?  This is where I am tonight, dear readers - stuck between stations on how I feel about where I am - pretty sure that 33 is fine with me, but oh, to be 17 again and make those glorious mistakes a few more times...

You can bet that Separation Sunday will be cued up for a while in the Cuddle Cruiser... enjoy these:
The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (2005):
"Cattle and the Creeping Things"
"Your Little Hoodrat Friend"
"Stevie Nix"
"How a Ressurection Really Feels"

Until next time, let the sounds of the Hold Steady sing you through summer... and listen...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wasted and Wounded, It Ain't What the Moon Did

I was trying to be more upbeat (and I think I succeeded for one post), but it's just so much fun being dour.  Today, I'm wallowing in Waits land again, thinking about all the things that I shouldn't, letting bar room balladeer Tom (not to be confused with later-period junkyard orchestra leader Tom) serenade me through my melancholy.  There is no better artist to wallow in self-pity to than Tom Waits.  From his drunken delivery to his (often) sappy piano style, it's legendary in its effectiveness in allowing the listener to wallow in his or her sorrows.  Each of his albums from Closing Time through Blue Valentine are classic, with Small Change being the clear best of the bunch, boasting "Tom Traubert's Blues", "The Piano Has Been Drinking", and "Bad Liver and A Broken Heart" amongst its track list.  Some can't get past Waits' voice, but let it wrap around you a few times and see how you feel. 
This should help to prove Waits' genius in the best way possible - watching him perform at the piano.  Be sure to focus on his fingers.  (By the way, I don't really have a good reason to feel melancholy and dour, but somehow, I end up here pretty frequently...).  Enjoy (and be ready to cry into your drink):

"Kentucky Avenue" - from Blue Valentine - Melancholy remembrances of childhood:

"Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" - from Small Change - not tough to figure out the theme of this one:

"On the Nickel" - from Heartattack and Vine - "a hobo's lullaby", as Waits often describes it, "On the Nickel" is devastatingly sad in its simplicity, bringing the plight of the homeless and down-trodden to the fore.  The lyrics "So what becomes of little boys who run away from home?/The world keeps getting bigger once you get out on your own" is a killer :

"Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets To The Wind In Copenhagen)" - from Small Change : this is the crown jewel of Waits' "grand weepers" - a sweeping tale of drunkenness, being lost in a foreign country, being confused, and wishing you were anywhere but where you are right now.  Well said, Tom -

That's probably all the Tom Waits melancholy that anyone can handle in one sitting, so I guess I'll call it quits for now. Until next time, remember that sadness is just another emotion to be embraced and loved just like happiness and joy. Just because it's not the easiest emotion doesn't mean it's not valid. Enjoy some Tom Waits, and listen...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Let This Be My Annual Reminder That We Can All Be Something Bigger

Well, faithful readers, it's Fourth of July weekend, and a long weekend at that.  Always a bonus when the Fourth falls on a Monday (and when you don't have to work any of the three days).  I've been told recently that my tastes in music are a little too serious and sad and dour.  Today I've decided to change that up a bit, with a patriotic mix celebrating everything that makes July 4th great.  And no invites to all of you British artists - just for today, The Cuddle is declaring its independence from the likes of Costello, Bragg, Hitchcock, and Bowie.  We're bleeding red, white, and blue (and not in the form of the Union Jack, either... although Billy Bragg's "Take Down the Union Jack" would be appropriate here, we're going to stick to our guns!)

The 2011 Ideological Cuddle Independence Day Setlist:

1. Pixies - "The Holiday Song" - from Come On Pilgrim - We don't have to work, so it must be a holiday (or we're unemployed).  Pixies start us off with some of their trademark noise.
2. The Hold Steady - "Constructive Summer" - from Stay Positive - It would be nice to have a constructive summer, but if that doesn't work out, we've always got booze and great friends (two things that we're lucky to have in spades here at The Cuddle).
3. Jeff Tweedy & Jay Bennett - "Summerteeth (Live)" - A beautiful acoustic take on one of the standout tracks from Wilco's album of the same name, taken from a terrific soundboard bootleg recorded in the summer of 1999.  Not quite sure what Summerteeth are, but they sound appropriate.
4. Josh Ritter - "Snow is Gone (Live)" - from The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, 2/15/07 - The snow better be gone by July 4th.  Josh Ritter's rousing, singable anthem from 2003's Hello Starling (whose title is taken from the song) gets you up and dancing - like the crowd at Asbury Hall on July 7th - where Ritter will be performing.  You know that we'll be there.
5. Queens of the Stone Age - "Feel Good Hit of the Summer (Live)" - from Amsterdam, 2002 - Well, once the party gets rolling, it might get out of hand, and Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri are the perfect dudes to set the (eight) ball rolling.  Basically a list of the band's favorite drugs with a smattering of awesome guitar, the song might not be a feel good hit for everyone.
6. Tom Waits - "Come on Up To The House" -  from Mule Variations - Such a nice welcome by our old friend, Tom.  If Waits were throwing a 4th party, I'd sure like to be there, but it would most certainly be a strange affair.  I've been listening to a lot of Waits lately, and it wasn't easy to find a tune that would fit this setlist and not be "a grand weeper" or "a grim reaper" as his songs have been categorized.
7. Ryan Adams - "Firecracker (Live)" - live from Vega, 11/20/02 - Gotta have fireworks for an Independence Day party.
8. Ryan Adams - "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High) (Live)" - from Austin City Limits, 2002 - And, inevitably, the kids are going to get out of hand and end up drunk, or high, or both.  This song encapsulates all of the folly of youth pretty perfectly.
9. Sonic Youth - "Teenage Riot" - from Daydream Nation - Once the kids are high and drunk, expect a riot.  Not to be confused with "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry (as someone so stupidly did recently... oops).  Sonic Youth represent all that is great about 80s underground rock (and I already posted Husker Du stuff a couple posts ago).  This track is legendary.
10. The Black Crowes - "She Gave Good Sunflower (Live)" - live from The Filmore West, 8/10/05 - I'll leave it to you guys to figure out what this song is about (it's the Black Crowes, take a wild guess).  Either way, an excellent summer anthem to keep the party going.  God bless The Black Crowes (and please come back for another reunion tour, we miss you already).
11. She & Him - "Bring It On Home To Me (Live)" - From KCRW, 2008 - Where there's partying, there's lovin'.  She & Him (Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward for the uninitiated) do the late, great Sam Cooke proud on their version of his 1962 classic.  Just a perfect, rolling, summer song.
12. Television - "Marquee Moon" - from Marquee Moon - The moon is out, we're waiting for fireworks, and the opening guitar line of this post-punk classic kicks in.  Angular, addictive, and insistent, "Marquee Moon" is the finest statement the band ever pronounced.  It's an American classic.
13. Talking Heads - "Heaven (Live)" - from The Starlight Ballroom, Los Angeles, 1979 - "Everyone is trying to get to the bar/and the name of the bar, the bar is called Heaven" - a beautiful couplet from the masters of art rock.  David Byrne and company have tons of amazing songs.  This one is clearly one of my favorites (especially the duet version between Byrne and Tina Weymouth from the Stop Making Sense concert film).
14. Sam Cooke - "A Change Is Gonna Come" - from Ain't That Good News - From the best soul singer ever, comes his most stirring anthem.  To remind us all that it takes great sacrifice to make great change, but we can all make it happen.  The song was the b-side to "Shake" and was released posthumously a short 10 days after Cooke was tragically shot under mysterious circumstances.  The song went on to be a civil rights anthem and was used in the Obama campaign as well.

I hope everyone has a wonderful 4th of July, surrounded by friends, family, and celebration.  Remember to take some great music with you, wherever you are picnicking or grilling... and listen.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blessed Visionary Cut Me With Your Sun

I can't quite figure out why I love Mastodon so much.  I'm not really into metal, never have been, but a friend turned me on to Leviathan soon after its release and convinced me that I would fall in love with it.  He was right.  I haven't missed an album since (although I have missed them live in concert - they've been to the area twice in the past few years).  2009's Crack the Skye was another step forward for the band, whose sound is ever-evolving and pushing the limits of the "metal label".  Sooner or later, we're going to have to create a category for the band itself (and maybe include Baronness as well, but I digress).  Today's release of a track from the Crack the Skye sessions as part of Adult Swim's Singles Program pushes the envelope even further, but not in terms of sound.  "Deathbound" is typical Mastodon - expertly played metal that's full of furious drumming and hooks a-plenty - but the video is far from typical.  Think "Muppets on a bad acid trip with lots of fratricide".  Look for the quasi-Doozer battle, it's epic.
The free track can be downloaded from Adult Swim here.  Below is the video and it will blow your mind.  You've been warned :

Mastodon is said to be hard at work on their next masterpiece.  After Leviathan took on Melville's Moby Dick, Blood Mountain tackled sci-fi, and Crack the Skye retold the tale of Rasputin, maybe their next record will be a tribute to The Muppet Show.  I would love to see them tear through "Rainbow Connection".
Until next time, try not to let the "Deathbound" video give you nightmares, check out the pure, unadulterated fury that is Mastodon, and listen...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

If I Can't Change Your Mind, Then No One Will

Well, my Ideological Friends, it has been quite the eventful weekend 'round these parts.  For once, we, the people of the Empire State, can stand up and applaud our elected officials.  Amazing as it sounds, they have done the right thing for the first time in a long time, and have passed the gay marriage bill in New York State.  It feels wonderful to think about all the good that this will spread to our neighbors who previously would have had to cross state lines to pledge their vows to their true loves.  I immediately thought of Jay & Scotty in Boston when I heard the news (and how their ceremony is coming soon), along with Brant & Steve here in sunny B-lo.  Welcome to the marriage club, com padres... enjoy the times to come.
It just so happens that, as our state pushes for equality for gay couples that I should be currently addicted to the music of an indie rock icon, who also happens to be out and proud.  As we all know, Bob Mould was the driving force behind seminal punk-hardcore legends, Husker Du.  His work with that group was hard-edged, squalidly produced (by design), and utterly breathtaking in its vigor and fire.  Zen Arcade and New Day Rising are unparallelled for their drive and determination, and for how many imitators they spawned.  Some say that Arcade's "The Biggest Lie" was Mould's lifestyle declaration, with many "in the know" understanding what his lyrics ("Biggest lie/Back to your day job/The Biggest lie/Back to your girlfriend" chief amongst them) were pointing toward.  The band smashed to pieces ("broke up" is just too kind for the wreckage left between Mould & Grant Hart at the end of the band's run) in the winter of 1987-1988, paving the way for Mould to go solo, which he did in splendid fashion with his debut, Workbook.  This record opened new avenue's for Mould's sound, showcasing his soul-bearing lyrics in a more acoustic framework, but not totally abandoning his love for loud, electric guitar mayhem.
In 1992, Mould released the debut record from his latest venture, Sugar.  Copper Blue struck the perfect chord to the masses who had fallen in love with Nirvana, the Pixies, and Soundgarden - bands that, in many ways, were imitators of Husker Du.  Copper Blue would go on to be the most commercially successful record of Mould's career and contains some of his best work - "If I Can't Change Your Mind", "A Good Idea" (a thinly-veiled Pixies mock), "Hoover Dam", and "Helpless" chief amongst them.  The EP Beaster, with a more harsh and punishing sound followed, along with 1994's File Under Easy Listening (which in no way was to be found on easy listening radio stations anywhere).  Each of these three records are streamlined, heartfelt, and (unlike much of what cluttered the airwaves in the early 1990s) not dated one bit.
After the dissolution of Sugar, Mould went back to recording solo records, broadening his horizons to include forays into electronic and even dance music.  The vein that remains in all of his work is his honest, soul-bearing lyrics which, while written from the viewpoint of a gay man, are universal for everyone in a relationship (and more often than not, one that is on the rocks).  Last week saw the release of Mould's autobiography, "See A Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody".  By all accounts, it's a tough but rewarding read, well written and meticulously thought-out, just like his music.  It's well worth your time.
A sampling of the man's works of genius:

Husker Du - "Hardly Getting Over It" - from 1986's Candy Apple Grey
Bob Mould - "See A Little Light" - from 1989's Workbook
Bob Mould - "Shoot Out The Lights (Live)" - from 1989's Workbook - An amazing performance of the Richard and Linda Thompson classic - with all of the "fire in the belly" that Thompson brought to the original
Sugar - "If I Can't Change Your Mind (solo version)" - from 1995's Besides
Sugar - "A Good Idea (Live)" - from a live bootleg - Cat's Cradle, 11/19/94

Until next time, think about how people like Senator Mark Grisanti changed his mind (for the better) and how songwriters like Bob Mould continue to smash convention and surprise audiences, 30 years down the road.  Seek out some Husker Du, or Sugar, or Bob Mould solo records... and listen...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Things You Do For Love Are Gonna Come Back One By One

I promised to be more prolific, and here it is, a second blog post this week.  Will wonders never cease.  Today, I'm kind of copping out, while sharing some excellent music with the collected masses. 
Archive.org has long been one of our favorite sites, as it houses a collection of over 90,000 live recordings by thousands of artists (all of whom have given their blessing on recording their shows).  In the Cuddle's recent search for everything Mountain Goats related, we stumbled upon a huge treasure trove of shows by John Darnielle's collective at the site.  Below, you'll find one of our favorites, a wonderful sounding show from December, 2009 recorded at Webster Hall in New York City.  The version of "Love Love Love" is absolutely devastating.  There's just something about Darnielle's lyrics about human interaction that is so pure and simple and bare.  The show gives a great overview of the Mountain Goats' career, but sadly, doesn't include any of the excellent songs from All Eternal's Deck.  The player is a little wonky, as it doesn't include the set list as you listen, but the entire set list, along with directions on how to download the show for your very own are found HERE.  Enjoy none-the-less:

Until next time, browse around on Archive.org, find some great new music, and listen...