A Live Music History: All The Bands I’ve Seen

A Live Music History

Just for fun. And to brag — here’s a list of all the significant bands I have ever seen. (Except that I can’t possibly remember it all and refuse to include all the shitty house-show bands I’ve seen.) Most of the shows were in San Francisco since I grew up just 90 minutes north of the city. High school (hard to believe, right?) was the busiest “show-going” time in my life. We were seeing major shows at least once a month, sometimes three or four in the span of a few weeks. Those were the golden days and most of the reason why I’m looking to move somewhere urban after I complete my term with Americorps.

When I remember the best moments of my life a lot of times it’s flashbacks to live shows. I’ve been brought to near tears too many times to count, most recently while attending a Radiohead show alone in Berlin back in 2008 when it started to rain on everyone just as the band began their closing song, “Street Spirit”. It was way too much to handle, the song itself, the fact that I was there completely alone except that there were 15,000 other people there too, and that my time in Berlin was coming to a close and I was preparing to leave a whole bunch of new friends who I had spent every minute of every day with for the last 4 months. Actually, I wasn’t crying — I swear it was just rain getting in my eyes.

Here’s to live music, alphabetically:

Against Me! (2x) / AIDS Wolf (2x) / Air /  The Album Leaf / Animal Collective / Arcade Fire / Arctic Monkeys / BARR / Battles / Be Brave Bold Robot / Beck / Bjork / The Black Keys / Black Mountain / Black Rebel Motorcycle Club / Blob Dylan / Bloc Party / Cake / Casiotone for the Painfully Alone / Cat Power / Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (2x) / The Cure / Daft Punk / The Dead Science (2x) / Deerhoof / The Decemberists / Depeche Mode / The Dodos (2x) / Does It Offend You, Yeah? / The Dresden Dolls / Eagles of Death Metal / Earlimart / Editors / Explosions in the Sky (2x) / The Faint / Foo Fighters / Franz Ferdinand (3x) / The Fratellis / Frog Eyes (2x) / Future of the Left / Girl Talk (3x) / Gnarls Barkely / The Go! Team / Grandaddy / Grizzly Bear / Handsome Furs / Holy Fuck / Interpol (4x) / Islands / Jason Webley (4x) / Jel / Jemina Pearl / The Jesus and Mary Chain / Julian Casablancas / Justice / Kings of Leon / LCD Soundsystem / Le Tigre / Liars / Madonna / Massive Attack / Mastodon / Matmos / Matt & Kim (2x) / The Melvins / Menomena / Metric (2x) / Mindless Self Indulgence / Modeselektor / Mogwai / Mount Eerie (2x) / MSTRKRFT / Mum / Muse (2x) / Nine Inch Nails / The Notwist / Of Montreal / Peaches / Pissed Jeans / Pixies (2x) / Placebo / Port O’Brien (2x) / Prefuse 73 / Radiohead (4x) / Rage Against the Machine / The Rapture (3x) / Ratatat / Red Hot Chili Peppers / Robyn / The Roots / Scissors for Lefty / Shellac of North America / Sholi (7x) / Sigur Ros (3x) / A Silver  Mt. Zion / Sleater-Kinney / Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (2x) / Slint / Smashing Pumpkins / Spoon / Stephen Malkmus / The Strokes (3x) / Subtle / Sunset Rubdown (3x) / Super Furry Animals / Tapes ‘N Tapes / Ted Leo & The Pharmacists / Tenacious D / Thom Yorke / Tool / Travis / TV on the Radio (3x) / The Walkmen / Why? (4x) / Wolf Parade (3x) / Wolfmother / The Wrens / Xiu Xiu (4x) / Yeah Yeah Yeahs / Yo La Tengo / to be continued for the next 60 years…

Sometime in the future: A list of the best and worst shows and actual real descriptions of the concerts. Imagine that!


Filed under Fred | Unnecessary, live music

Top 25 Songs of 2009: 11-14

14) “Cloud of Evil,” Blackout Beach. Carey Mercer is lost between genres. The praise for ‘avant-garde’ reinterpretation of pop music this year, 2009, has been universal. Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective continue to bask in the post-coital glow of descriptors like “innovation” and “difficulty” and “weird genius”. Fuck that. Mercer is twice as interesting, innovative and difficult as either of those two artists. He’s also twice as good — but difficult to classify. 2008’s Tears of the Valedictorian was a frenetic epic of an album that found catharsis in its song structure — most often by dropping all other instruments mid-song except Mercer’s terrific howls and a quick, pounding drumbeat. These emotional wails (“Bushels”, “Caravan Breakers”) were always precursors to an instrumental climax, formed by a wall of swirling, distorted guitars, pounding drums, and staccato keyboards. “Cloud of Evil” is the inverse, in terms of form, as the climax never comes but rather builds for three and a half minutes without repose. Instead of live drums, the background is electronic beats and heavily delayed guitars. The tension here is altered. Instead of when will the climax come (re: Tears), the question becomes: will it come at all?

The answer is, of course, yes and no. And that’s exactly what makes “Cloud of Evil” ‘avant-garde’ in a way AC or DP could never be. Their resolutions are merely disguised behind polyrhythm, guitar effects, and complicated harmonies. Mercer, that wild magician of a musician, takes the tension of the verse awaiting the chorus and makes it his song. So that when Mercer reaches “Cloud of Evil”s crescendo while crying “decelerate, decelerate,” we now know exactly what he means.

13) “Jake Leg,” Baroness. Like their competitors, namely the far-superior Mastodon, Baroness are helping heavy metal return to clear, clean, unprocessed vocals. It’s a turn, in our opinion, for the better. Screaming, like everything else, is best in moderation. It’s sort of unfortunate that we can now understand the lyrics, what with the over-the-top fantasy gibberish these bands favor (“Crawl past the soft / Spiraled sinewy teeth / ‘Soiled dove!’ steal the fruit of it’s jaws”).

Ignoring the lyrics, which if taken in the right mood are still a lot of fun, “Jake Leg” is a bruising four-minute metal anthem, with a terrific verse-chorus-verse-chorus sing along. The vocals are multi-tracked relentlessly, giving them a brute force unreachable by a single voice. Although we had to miss Baroness’ recent show in SF, we wouldn’t be surprised if the mosh pit also included a raging side-pocket of lustful metal fans hoisting their fists in the air and yelling the words at the top of their lungs. Such is the nature of the best metal these days — so catchy that even Metallica would be jealous. More on that later. [YouTube]

12) “Americon,” Slayer. Not a band comfortable with explicitly political songs, Slayer has stepped out of their comfort metal zone with “Americon”. Although the message feels six years or so off the mark (“it’s all about the motherfucking oil / regardless of the flag upon each soil”), formally speaking the song still rips. Double bass, guitar solos, shrieking vocals. Shit the drums are good. But come on, it’s Slayer. While the USA rips off other countries to become Americon, Slayer is so damn consistent they’re practically robotic. Hello, Slayertron. [YouTube]

11) “Lust for Life,” Girls. A gay little ditty with a title stolen from Iggy Pop (whose actual song was stolen by Jet), the steady bright guitar, harmonica, and clean bass runs underneath make this one of those ‘summer songs’ bloggers have been obsessing over this past year. Despite all the hype, this is the only song that still seems listenable. From the cheesy but memorable lyrics (“I wish I had a sun tan / I wish I had a beach house / I wish I had a pizza and a bottle of wine”) to the short and sweet structure — this song is the best soundtrack 2009 had to offer for those moment when everything just seems so damn crazy. For a song about insanity, it sure feels good to relax with some Girls.

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Top 25 Songs of 2009: 15

15) “Aisle 13,” Built to Spill. Before the veteran indie rockers released 2009’s There Is No Enemy, this writer appreciated Built to Spill from a safe distance: singles only, please. “Car” was a big hit freshman year of college and for obvious reasons. Lead singer Dough Martsch sounds like a candid sophomore; he’s got advice for you but also a lot of questions. In “Car” reality is, as cliché as it sounds, almost always like a dream (“I wanna see the movies of my dreams”). The whole song pivots between a desire to have the world explained (“I wanna see it when you find out what comets, stars, and moons are all about”) and the deep seeded fear that these things about life are mysterious for a reason (“You’ll get the chance to take the world apart and figure out how it works / Don’t let me know what you find out”). It’s the stoned philosophical babble of a freshman “on a cloudy breezy desert afternoon.”

As for the instrumentation, the song relies an unusual amount on the cello to carry it forward. We don’t like to argue that strings or cellos actually sound like nostalgia or earnest emotion or anything along those lines. That’s just silly. But, seriously, in “Cars” the cellos aren’t adding just low frequencies — they are what pushes the song past its loud drums and screeching guitars (the traditional instruments of overwhelming teenage emotion; see: music, punk) and into an arena peculiar for guitar-rock bands of the 90s. Perhaps that is the right word for this whole song, its themes, its instrumentation, Martsch’s singing, the cellos — everything is, just, well, peculiar. And catchy too, we might add.

What’s strange too is that 15 years later and BtS finally release another song that catches my ear. Get this: it’s about the same shit as “Car”. The chorus’ second couplet is the exact sentiment the band captured all the way back in 1994: “No one knows cuz no one wants to / know what’s in their minds.” A decade and a half after “Car” and the band is still grappling with the same issues — dreams, the mind, reality — but this time it’s not mystery hiding away, it’s human nature denying us answers. No one wants to know.

Note that this kind of skepticism about mankind fits nicely with caricatures of bitter old men, which BtS could be. Lucky for you, they just aren’t. An older Martsch (maybe wiser, too?) still sings like his senses are overwhelmed, the high tone in his voice and the cadence retaining the bemused style of 1994. And Martsch keeps observing, in a way: “Every day / something strange / I can’t explain / happens to me / often I am called by name to clean up Aisle 13.” The mess, we imagine, is the result of flabbergasted adolescents stumbling up and down the aisles, knocking milk off the shelves. This time BtS assume the role of reassuring father figure, “don’t be all / so all afraid / everyone / has weird dreams.”

Sure, the message isn’t mind-blowing — but it doesn’t have to be. The band knew something all along: that milk, it was built to spill. Don’t worry about cleaning up, 15 years later and BtS still have you covered.

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Where The Wild Things Are

Hello, WTWTA(film) is vastly different from the book. From what i recall of the book, a small boy named max, basically passes out and has a wild rumpus time with these monsters. The movie follows a similar plot but dwells into the loneliness of Max and his emotastic life. In the movie Max is your normal delinquent, a small child to a single mother whos pappy never loved him.  The first 15 minutes of the movie dive into this, basically all the reasons why Max acts out and all the mind numbing emotions of a small lonely child. Which to me is awesome, cause lil ole max in the movie reminded me of my own childhood. Chasing animals, imaginary friends, huge tantrums and picking fights. Spike Jonez uses this as a initial vector for Max’s adventure. After seeing his mom getting close to some stranger a scene that closely reminds me of American History X, except without the jew hating cursing, Max throws a huge shit and runs away  and appears into this new WORLD, where the monsters dwell. This new world can be seen as Max’s dream world, as Spike very blatantly shows maxs creations in real life in the Wild things world. After meeting all these new Monsters it becomes clear, that each monsters embodies a different trait of Max. Carol the angry beast, can be seen as Max own angry disposition for the world, when he is unhappy he starts wrecking shit. Alexander is max’s loneliness, out of the beast he is always ignored and made fun of, just like how Max is. Douglas a sensible beast, who embraces the wildness but understands that its all fake. These juxtapositions are rather obvious and boring, cause they dont lead anywhere. The Initial rumpus is hilarious and fun, but after 20 minutes of this shit its  unveiled that these creatures have tons of drama in there clan and arent just dumb beast but emotional destructive versions of max but in giant monster form. It just becomes a shitty sitcom of the drama amongst these beast, which is the least bit entertaining.  What is entertaining is the art direction and cinematography, costumes and structures are the shit  this movie, but that doesnt make up for the lack of story. Cause Max realizes that the Wild Thing’s lives are too complicated, so he just runs back home. So in the end hes just a small coward who keeps running from his problems, granted that he is a small child with a vivid imagination, it still doesnt make up for him running away from his own imaginary world.

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Top 25 Songs of 2009: 16-20

20) “Boombox (ft. Julian Casablancas),” The Lonely Island. Mr. Casablancas, who all but disappeared after 2006’s First Impressions Of Earth, returned with a new sense of humor in 2009, even if it is hard to decipher whether Julian brought the earnest, hilarious delivery to “Boombox” or if TLI pushed him to it. Structurally, the song moves through 4 different scenes — first, a posh country club then a corporate boardroom then Wall Street and finally a convalescent home. TLI push these “old white people” to “let loose”; before we know it, they’re on the floor fucking. It’s a tribute to the power of music (“the music washed away all the hate”), but not really — despite it’s posturing, “Boombox,” is a comedy episode set to music. Unlike so many other attempts, this musical comedy works — as a fucking great song, no less. [YouTube]

19) “False Jesii Part 2,” Pissed Jeans. Clocking in at two and a half minutes, this is Pissed Jeans reappropriating the 21st century pop song for Pennsylvanian garage rock. Even the anguished screams of the chorus’ yeahagyeahagyeahag are catchy enough for the most sludge-adverse listeners. That said, the verse is uncanny in its dialogue, simultaneously celebrating laziness and disavowing it (“I could put on a tight black shirt / but I don’t bother / I could tell a joke and make the whole room laugh / but I don’t bother”). When I saw the band live in Berlin back in 2008, they took the stage at 1 a.m. Nevertheless, lead singer Matt Korvette tore around the room shirtless, hanging off exposed piping, twisting his nipples and grimacing, sweaty and red-faced. Their stage-presence was apathetic to the audience, avoiding eye contact and speaking only to themselves. They could’ve talked to us, but they didn’t bother. Fortunately, in 2009, there’s one thing they did bother to do — they wrote the catchiest song of their career. [YouTube]

18) “Watching The Planets (feat. Karen O),” The Flaming Lips. After making this list and listening through it, I have a confession: this song is too high. “Two Weeks” and “Watching the Planets” are do for an old switcheroo. That aside, what about the song itself? Well, it’s a return to what the Lips did on Zaireeka, that crazy 4 CD ultra-stereophonic experiment released in 1997 with a 0.0 review from Pitchfork. These “planets” Wayne refers to must be a long way off because we’ve got a fair bit of noise in the transmission: the drums, which play anchor to the songs sprawling psychedelia sailboat, reverberate with splashes of fuzz; the vocals, well, they’re fuzzy too. All of Embryonic is a sort of mini-essay on 2009: the lo-fi, the NSFW music video, the only passable singing, the guest spots by MGMT and Karen O (see: Kid Kudi, Beck’s Record Club, N.A.S.A., Where The Wild Things Are, Yeah Yeah Yeahs obv.) and somewhere here Embryonic becomes so much a result of late 2008’s aural preferences that it instead becomes the sound of 2009 itself. [YouTube]

17) “Mature Fantasy,” Drummer. Not too much to stay about this one, just a few notes: #1) thank you, Drummer, for being straightforward. No curve balls here. No spirit-quest for originality with this band, only good old rock played by a band full of drummers rocking out on instruments besides the drums[1]. Ah, fuck. That’s unique isn’t it — the whole band-of-drummers thing? Yeah, it is. You know what else is unique? Numerical lists with no #2. [YouTube]

16) “Only If You Run,” Julian Plenti. Can Mr. Plenti, err, I mean Paul Banks ever not sound like Interpol? The voice is still inseparable from the band — this solo project could be an Interpol LP, and this song a track therein. The guitar tone is straight off Our Love To Admire, the drums are still drums, there’s a few keyboards here and there but nothing to signify that J. Plenti is anything more than diet Interpol. Still, even without that mustached troublemaker of a bassist, Banks is on his game here — the slow-motion punch of the bassline and his signature nasal voice pleading with the listener to take heed (“you will make it / only if you run”) come together seamlessly. He makes a strong case for himself. But we’ll take your advice Mr. Plenti only if you take ours: record another Interpol album soon, but make it better. It’s that easy. [YouTube]

[1] Except for one lucky drummer who gets to actually play percussion. I wonder if they drew straws (or drumsticks)?

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Top 25 Songs of 2009: 21-25

25) “Two Weeks,” Grizzly Bear. Working since 2004 as something like indie rock choirboys, Grizzly Bear have with them now a song to make even Brian Wilson smile. Despite Veckatimest’s shortcomings (a tendency to bore), “Two Weeks” is tight, compact, and the best that GB has to offer. The stoned, peaceful cadence for the verse is in perfect counterbalance to the lofty, head-in-the-sky falsetto on the chorus. Throw in some staccato keyboards — a little distorted, not too clean (read: a pinch of lo-fi; even indie deities are not quite timeless) — and four-minutes later Grizzly Bear high-step their way from choirboys to altar-men, triumphantly carrying the song’s melodies to the front of the cathedral, already dripping with nostalgia, ready to be sacrificed to our fragmented memory of the 60s. Amen. [YouTube]

24) “Percussion Gun,” White Rabbits. Take the In Rainbows opener “15 Step,” and distill it from Thom Yorke’s New Years Resolution to stay focused (“How come I end up where I went wrong? / Won’t take my eyes off the ball again”), down to a plan for dealing with ex-lovers. Take the form too and extract the essence again. Make Greenwood’s delicate picking into aggressive guitar strokes, add some pounding, lower-end piano, replace too r.head’s helter-skelter beat with some toms that your drummer beats the shit out of. It might not be pretty, per se, but it’s still better than being Coldplay. [YouTube]

23) “All That We Can See,” Sholi. Davis, Calif. has never sounded so good. Or so dreamy. Keep chanting one-syllable words, Sholi, and we’ll keep listening. Dance for hours? We just might do that too. [YouTube]

22) “Crack a Bottle (feat. Dr. Dre & 50 Cent),” Eminem. Despite the most atrocious rap ever recorded by a platinum artist (ahem, we’ll just say he is two quarters short of a dollar), Eminem and Dr. Dre drop a rap song whose beat swings to and fro so hard listeners will literally smash their Olde E’s. The broken glass, you can’t blame them; it’s not intentional. It’s more like an earthquake shaking people back and forth. Result: fans smashing beers on the wall as they stumble down Dre’s hospital hall. Did I just rhyme? My bad, 50 Cent. I didn’t mean to show you up like that. [YouTube]

21) “Ecstasy,” jj. Okay, jj. We get it: Pulling the infectious sample from Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” was a brilliant maneuver. How you took Wayne’s radio ready hit and transformed it into a languid little ode to clubbing/drugs/raves. Yes, yes, we’re both ecstatic about it. I know, right? His song uses a children’s candy to talk about sex — oh you think he’s implying something about teenage girls, perhaps? Interesting. Interesting too that raves might be the last place where 28 year-old Target managers can find 16 year-old girls in lingerie to make-out with. What’s that you said? Ecstasy is the enabler, the new lollipop? Brilliant, just brilliant. Have I told you how much I love you? No, seriously. I love you so much, jj. So much. You’re the absolute best person I have ever met in my entire life. Don’t ever leave me. This isn’t the drugs talking. This is fucking real. Now hug me. Guess what drug I’m on? [YouTube]

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Christmas Contra(band)

12 Books for Music Fans

[We here at Fredfu have snubbed Christmas for long enough. Now that Saint Nick is only a distant memory, we’ll happily indulge in some post-xmas commodity shopping.]

Top 12 Books about Music (that we know of)

I am, first and foremost, a music fan, willing to take that title as far as it will go: through work and play and pain. Everyone listens to music, but not everyone enjoys it the same way — too often we let our apartments and townhouses (homes are so 2007) lapse into a forgettable and shameful silence.

Silence is the sound of boredom: meditation, reading, thinking, yoga, sleeping, boring.

There is only one condition in which silence is desirable — when reading a book-about-music. Don’t forget, however, that interruptions are welcome. Every song mentioned in each and every book will be listened to. Loud.

Forget your mind, listen to music — but read these books before, after, or while you do.

Best Music Writing 2009 — Edited by Greil Marcus and Daphne Carr

Contents summarized: the best writing about music in 2008 (I know, I know the name says 2009 but god save print media, the slow bastards) as far as Mr. Marcus and Mrs. Carr are concerned. Something to note — my former professor at UC Davis, Joshua Clover, is included. Mr. Clover mentions in his new book the admiration and respect he has for Mr. Marcus. Also, they know each other. Let us examine the respective book covers:

Curious isn’t it? The yellow design scheme, the two color 20/09 matching almost exactly the color division of 19/89. Interesting too, that both Mr. Marcus and Mr. Clover’s names are boxed by yellow — and the “jo” of joshua, the two letters placed outside the box, well, they’re yellow too.

Is this the two acclaimed music journalists’ idea of an inside(thebox) joke? They both live in Berkeley, Calif. Check too, although it’s hard to read, the approving review on BMW 2009’s cover — it’s from the Boston Phoenix newspaper. Where did Mr. Clover go to college? Boston. Where does his piece in BMW focus on? — Route 128, outside of Boston.

Someone, maybe it was William R. Hearst or B. Gates — not really sure either way — who once said something about journalism. Something about the color yellow and writing and the news media and starting wars with the Spanish countryside.

We suspect Marcus & Clover are up to something more than just promoting each other’s books. We don’t know what it is. But we’re pretty sure we like it.

Moving on.

[The rest of the blurbs, except my ramblings on Clover’s book, natch, are pulled from Amazon.com and other internet sources — you know, plagiarism with quote signs]

1989: bob dylan didn’t have this to sing about by Joshua Clover

After reading half the book, I can recommend it whole-heartedly. I expect the second bit to multiply my enjoyment two-fold. In a nutshell, and Clover fights hard against any kind of nut shelling (as one might expect, the process sounds unpleasant), the book does something like this: 1989 is the year the wall fell and with it the idea of communism as a world system, democracy/capitalism turned hegemonic. A singular image of the world rose out of the Wall’s rubble. Concurrently, grunge appeared, hip-hop turned from attacking the system to violence and excess in and of themselves, rave attracted thousands of revelers in the UK, and somehow, somewhere these musics formed a structure of feeling that interacted with, was a part of, and formed because of this ‘flattening of history’ due to the success of western democratic-capitalism. Or something like that. I’m haven’t read part two yet.

33 1/3: Doolittle by Ben Sisario

“The Pixies have had a career unlike any other in alternative rock, disappearing as a not-quite-next-big-thing only to become gods in absentia. Doolittle is the embodiment of their abrasive, exuberant, enigmatic pop. While traveling Oregon with Charles Thompson, chatting about Surrealism and llamas, and interviewing other members of the Pixies, Ben Sisario reveals the inner workings of this knotty masterpiece.”

33 1/3: Let’s Talk About Love by Carl Wilson

Non-fans regard Celine Dion as ersatz and plastic, yet to those who love her, no one could be more real, with her impoverished childhood, her (creepy) manager-husband’s struggle with cancer, her knack for howling out raw emotion. There’s nothing cool about Celine Dion, and nothing clever. That’s part of her appeal as an object of love or hatred with most critics and committed music fans taking pleasure (or at least geeky solace) in their lofty contempt. This book documents Carl Wilson’s brave and unprecedented year-long quest to find his inner Celine Dion fan, and explores how we define ourselves in the light of what we call good and bad, what we love and what we hate.”

33 1/3: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Kim Cooper

“Of all the recordings to emerge from the Athens-via-Denver collective called Elephant 6, Neutral Milk Hotel’s second album is the one that has worked its way under the most skins. Magnet magazine named it the best album of the 1990s, and Creative Loafing recently devoted a cover story to one fan’s quest to understand why band leader Jeff Mangum dropped out of sight soon after Aeroplane’s release. The record sells steadily to an audience that finds it through word of mouth.

Weird, beautiful, absorbing, difficult, In The Aeroplane Over the Sea is a surrealist text loosely based on the life, suffering and reincarnation of Anne Frank, with guest appearances from a pair of Siamese twins menaced by the cold and carnivores, a two-headed boy bobbing in a jar, anthropomorphic vegetables and a variety of immature erotic horrors. Mangum sings his dreamlike narratives with a dreamer’s intensity, his creaky, off key voice occasionally breaking as he struggles to complete each dense couplet.

The music is like nothing else in the 90s indie underground: a psychedelic brass band, its members self-taught, forging polychromatic washes of mood and tribute. The songs stick to one narrow key, the images repeat and circle back, and to listen is to be absorbed into a singular, heart-rending vision.”

The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross

“In this sweeping and dramatic narrative, Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, weaves together the histories of the twentieth century and its music, from Vienna before the First World War to Paris in the twenties; from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia to downtown New York in the sixties and seventies up to the present. Taking readers into the labyrinth of modern style, Ross draws revelatory connections between the century’s most influential composers and the wider culture. The Rest Is Noise is an astonishing history of the twentieth century as told through its music.”

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs

“Until his death in 1982 at age 34, Bangs wrote freewheeling rock ‘n’ roll pieces for Creem, Rolling Stone, the Village Voice and London’s NME (New Musical Express. As a rock critic, he was adept at distinguishing the commercially packaged product from the real thing. Written in a conversational, wisecracking, erotically charged style, his impudent reviews and essays explore the connections between rock and the body politic, the way rock stars cow their audiences and how the pursuit of success and artistic vision destroys or makes rock performers as human beings. This collection (which includes no Rolling Stone pieces) covers “fake moneybags revolutionary” Mick Jagger, John Lennon (“I can’t mourn him”), David Bowie “in Afro-Anglican drag,” Iggy Pop, the Troggs, Lou Reed, Van Morrison, Chicago, the Clash, many more.”

Mystery Train by Greil Marcus

“Catch a train to the heart of rock ‘n’ roll with this essential study of the quintessential American art form. First published in 1975, Greil Marcus’s Mystery Train remains a benchmark study of rock ‘n’ roll and a classic in the field of music criticism. Focusing on six key artists—Robert Johnson, Harmonica Frank, Randy Newman, the Band, Sly Stone, and Elvis Presley—Marcus explores the evolution and impact of rock ‘n’ roll and its unique place in American culture. This fifth edition of Mystery Train includes an updated and rewritten Notes and Discographies section, exploring the evolution and continuing impact of the recordings featured in the book.”

Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads by Greil Marcus

“Like a Rolling Stone is the definitive biography of the greatest pop single ever made. Recorded in Columbia’s Studio A in New York on 16 June 1965, “Like A Rolling Stone” was instantly of its time-and so strong it has escaped time altogether. Greil Marcus recreates the brilliantly competitive pop world of 1965, and the energy, the anger, the thrill and the horror that Bob Dylan turned into a revolutionary six-minute single. Forty years later the song remains the signal accomplishment of modern music. It drew to itself disparate traditions of American music and speech; it redrew the map of the country itself; it left behind a world that was not the same. The whole adventure is here.”

Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus

“Greil Marcus’s absorbing new study…dips in and out of the history of the Great Refusal, all the way from the medieval Lollards and Brethren of the Free Spirit to the Dadaists, the French Situationists, the Children of the May 1968 uprising in France and British punk rockers. Lipstick Traces, however, is no sedate academic record of libertarian revolt but a bold blending of anecdote, personal confession and cultural analysis, cutting backward and forward from Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols to the Surrealists, from Alexander Trocchi of the 1950’s avant-garde group know as Lettrist International to George Grosz, from the Anabaptists in the 16th century to Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Danny the Red of the French student rebellion…[Marcus’s] book is impressively adept at bringing alive some of the dramatic moments of the history it charts…A coruscatingly original piece of work, vibrant with the energy of the bizarre happenings it maps out.”

The Old, Weird America by Greil Marcus

“The year’s best work of criticism, hands down . . . Marcus draws bold freehand loops around Dylan’s music, loops so wide and loose that they take in not just the breadth of American folk music, but huge chunks of American history as well. This is the best kind of history book, one that acknowledges that mythology is sometimes the truest kind of fact.” –Stephanie Zachareck, Newsday

Perfecting Sound Forever by Greg Milner

“Milner tells the story of recorded music with novelistic verve, ferocious attention to detail, and a soulful ambivalence about our quest for sonic perfection. He shows how great recordings come about not through advances in technology but through a love of the art, and that same love is the motor of his prose.” —Alex Ross, author of The Rest is Noise


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