David Bowie’s so called “Berlin Trilogy” (Low, “Heroes,” and Lodger) is some of my favorite pop music ever recorded. Many critics and fans debate whether the music found on the “Berlin Trilogy” is, in fact, pop. Find out why on this volume of the Under Review series. If you are unfamiliar, Under Review gets a group of critics and scholars to examine the creation and reception of classic rock albums, or in this case a trio of albums (or maybe seven albums if you count the album before the trio, a live album, and two collaborative albums with Iggy Pop). In this period of Bowie’s career his song structures went decidedly minimalist and electronic. His lyrics became more like haiku or cut-up verse than your typical chorus-laden rock song. To help him achieve these goals he enlisted ambient music pioneer Brian Eno and drew a lot inspiration of the avant-garde German “kraut rock” scene. But I’m giving too much away. You’ll have watch the movie to get the inside story.
How do you watch this movie? You download it from Overdrive. Did you know Overdrive had video content? Yeah, they do; e.g., entire first season of Masters of Horror! (Thank me later.) For now you can only watch on Windoze but libraries (and patrons) are always putting vendors in a headlock for more ways access content. How about a browser-based player that worked in any operating system: Windows, Mac, Linux, Amiga, you name it? Let’s push for that!
The library also has the Stage double album discussed in the movie. On that record the musicality of the electronic instrumentals is more apparent. You will find some interesting interpretations of Bowie’s well known hits too. And who’s that on guitar? Why it is N-ville’s own Adrian Belew.
If you wanted to learn more the kraut rock that played such a big role in the making the “Berlin Trilogy” you can check out this BBC 4 documentary:
And the library owns these albums (to name a few):
One of the most anticipated novels of the summer, Stone Arabia tells the tale of Denise Worth and her imaginary rock star brother Nik. Nik is real but his career is imaginary. A Henry Darger-esque documentation of his fantasy stardom and aesthetic swerve into self-indulgent wankery, including a slew of fictional rock critics’ opinions thereof, is his true art. Denise, a single mother and executive assistant to real life Hollywood royalty, is Nik’s best fan and arguably worst enabler. Denise’s daughter Ada seems to be gearing up for a larger-than-life career as an imaginary film maker. Denise’s mother is slowly succumbing to dementia. Denise has a hard time figuring out what is real. She is addicted to the news.
A meditation on media saturated 21st century identity construction isn’t exactly lacking in the world right now but Spiotta gives us enough minutia (both emotional and pop cultural) to lend Stone Arabia some heart. Maybe this material is a little close to home for me to judge it at a distance but I kept wanting something to happen: for someone to die, for someone to get famous, for a family secret to blow the top off things, etc. Spiotta opts for slow burn. You’ll be left looking in the mirror and person on the other side will be staring back hard. Though disappointment is integral to the performance, there are probably enough entertainment business administrative assistants and imaginary rock stars in this town for Stone Arabia to become a local hit.
Waksman demonstrates the formal give and take between metal and punk. He successfully illustrates that within the music itself there was always a dialogue between the two as opposed to the malignant verbal snowball fight took place within the media starting in the late 1970s. Not that said dialogue was always as hot and heavy as a teenage makeout session. In early chapters Waksman contrasts ideological strains by comparing artists: the Runaways vs. the Dictators; Iggy Pop vs. Alice Cooper. The word “grunge” appears nowhere on the book’s cover, yet Seattle’s finest is Waksman’s great synthesis.
Waksman’s own unsaid ideology is that even in rock, that most populist of mediums, there is an underground, critically fecund history that differs from the mainstream narrative. The underground hidden channel is where new forms are born and therefore the specimens that get canonized are made. Waksman knows that the critics that know best wrote in zines not magazines. Another emerging thesis: any label that released Black Flag’s My War, Minutemen’s Double Nickels On the Dime, and Husker Du’s Zen Arcade all in the same year has a claim to best rock label of the 1980s (or maybe any other decade for that matter). The label: SST Records. The year: 1984.
Ever since I can remember reading “rock journalism” three albums (as they were called) reigned on most respected journalists’ all time best type polls: Derek and the Dominoes’ Layla and other Assorted Love Songs, The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street and Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. I have come to completely agree with their collective wisdom in deeming these all time classics (I never understood their strange fascination with Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica though; I disagree on that one.) In any case, it is over forty years since the seminal, jazzy, reflective, literate, brooding, celebratory song cycle masterpiece known as Astral Weeks was released by Van Morrison. Can he still do these songs justice in a live format? The short answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Van’s rich Belfast voice inhabits these songs with passion as he stretches them out, drops in some scatting and new inflections and generally brings them alive for the lucky audience at the Hollywood Bowl. The recording is excellent with no crowd histrionics (I could have done without the voice from the stage calling out his name between the encore break but it’s a minor quibble.) and a rich balance of acoustic guitar, brushes, string bass that compliments Van’s inimitable voice. Hearing songs like Cyprus Avenue, Ballerina and Madame George played with such soulful, focused intensity and joy is wonderful to behold.
I’ve listened to this recording numerous times in a variety of settings and conditions and it always gives me satisfaction, which can’t be said for a lot of live recordings. Like the original recording – I just don’t get tired of it. Very well done indeed.
When I first heard the latest album from Jars of Clay, I kinda didn’t know what to think about it. It was a complete departure from their normal sound with all the electronic music and whatnot. I’ve been a Jars fan since high school and this album was disappointing in that it didn’t sound like them…at first. However, I kept the CD in my car and as it spun through I began to really listen to the songs. Eventually I found the Jars of Clay I love. If you only listen to two tracks, make sure you hear #9 (Boys) and #10 (Hero). The title track’s pretty good as well. The soul of the music was always in this album…it just took me a little longer to find it.
In the past, I’ve read quite a few books by musicians, about musicians, or about music in general and none of them have ever quite done what I wanted them to. I can’t really describe what I’m looking for, being a musician myself, but this one has come the closest of any of them. Here’s a brief sample of what I mean:
A piece of music’s conquest of you is not likely to occur the first time you hear it, though it is possible that the aptly named “hook” might barb your ear on it’s first pass. More commonly, the assailant is slightly familiar and has leveraged that familiarity to gain access to the crisscrossed wiring of your interior life. And then there is a possession, a mutual possession, for just as you take the song as part of you and your history, it is claiming dominion for itself, planting fluttering eighth notes in your heart.
So anyway, our main character, Julian, is a music aficionado who always seems to be listening to his iPod. He has 8,146 songs at his disposal – ready for any occasion. One night, he’s out walking in New York and happens upon a new band with an inspiring young Irish singer. The girl is magnetic and Julian is immediately drawn to her and her music. Most of the book tells the story of how their lives intersect – or you know – don’t.
Alanis Morissette’s best album will always be Jagged Little Pill. Most artists achieve this musical perfection on their 2nd or 3rd release. It must be extremely difficult to top one’s self, but she continues to write songs and put out new records. Morissette’s songwriting is at its best when she has a broken heart, and there are 2 stellar tracks on “Flavors of Entanglement” to prove it: “Not as We” and “Torch.” The rest of the tracks are OK, but often too wordy and hard to understand, as well as the production making her sound a bit too much like Evanescence. Still, Flavors is worth a couple repeats in your stereo. It will grow on you.
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