Posts Tagged ‘soundgarden’

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Chicago Music Festival Report

April 14, 2010

In 2008, I went to a single day of the Pitchfork Music Festival and all three days of Lollapalooza. In 2009, I did the opposite and went to all three days of Pitchfork and a single day of Lollapalooza. This Summer I’m happy to say I’ll be able to do all three days of both. I have my lovely grandmother who bought me Lollapalooza tickets a a surprise.

A dramatic reenactment of our phone conversation:

“Grandma! Those tickets must have been awfully expensive!”

“Oh, don’t worry, I’ve been saving up quarters.”

Anyway, I thought I’d give my two cents on both festivals’ lineups.

Lollapalooza has ace headliners this year, and they’ve got the goods to call on legions of rock ‘n roll fans throughout the country.

The more mainstream leaning headliners are very strong. Soundgarden is this year’s alt-rock headliner, and the festival’s older devotees and 90’s rock fans will jump to see one of the band’s first reunion shows. Green Day, though they have lost some indie fans since their glory days, have more than enough star power to fill a stadium, and they will probably change the face of the crowd this year. But the real game changer this year, on a brilliant booking move by Perry Ferrell is the pop juggernaut Lady Gaga, who will sell thousands upon thousands of tickets for Lollapalooza. She’ll attract pop fans, preteens and hipsters alike. It stands that not many, if any other festivals have the means or the balls to pull this kind of headliner.

The indie rockers will be drinking tears of joy this year based on the presence of The Arcade Fire alone, who are due for a tour and a new album. They have been out of the live circuit for a while, but they are more than strong enough of a band to make the headliner slot. The Strokes are also a dazzling attraction. Like the Arcade Fire, they’ve also been out of commission for a long time and they’ll enjoy widespread excitement and ticket sales in response to their headlining spot. But the year’s left field headliner is Phoenix, who due in large part to their 2009 album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” have skyrocketed to the top of the indie food chain, and this slot will be great for Lollapalooza as well as Phoenix, who will consequently get a huge crowd and massive cred regardless of who they go up against in the lineup.

There’s more than enough other shit to keep just about everyone shelling out cash for at least a one day ticket:  Jimmy Cliff and Devo for the older crowd, Slightly Stoopid for the hippies, The Black Keys for the blues fans, AFI for the emos (they’re still around?), Erykah Badu for R&B and funk fans, and Social Distortion and Gogol Bordello for the punks. Perhaps more importantly, there is a large selection of big indie names on the lineup: The New Pornographers, Spoon, The National, Hot Chip, The Dirty Projectors, Yeasayer, The xx, Stars, Matt & Kim and, my favorite, The Walkmen.

Lollapalooza may have a lot of great acts, but Chicago’s biggest indie festival The Pitchfork Music Festival is comparable if not greater in terms of amount of sheer talent.

As with previous years, there is a whole slew of artists at the Pitchfork Festival that you won’t be able to see in too many other places this summer. From the start, Pavement was the festival’s big seller, probably being the major reason that three day passes sold out within the week they were available. The band have reunited for a tour in support of their compilation album “Quarantine the Past,” and we all couldn’t be happier to have the chance to see them live. The other two headliners, Modest Mouse and LCD Soundsystem, are also sought after bookings this Summer, and they sealed the deal.

But there is much more to rabble about beyond the headliners. Wolf Parade, Liars, Broken Social Scene and St. Vincent are also strong sellers. Other stuff you’ll hear me making noise about: Sleigh Bells, Alla, Kurt Vile and The Tallest Man on Earth.

The festival’s hip hop lineup this year is as strong as it has ever been, featuring the likes of Raekwon, Big Boi and El-P. You’ll see me in the crowd for all three.

There are some other very special acts that you probably won’t be able to see in many other places this Summer, particularly Robyn, Panda Bear, Dam-Funk, Major Lazer, and Lightning Bolt.

In terms of the past year’s up and coming Beach Pop scene, Pitchfork has nearly half of the major bands covered: Beach House, Delorean, Real Estate, jj, Girls, Neon Indian, Surfer Blood, Best Coast and Washed Out will all make appearances, plus the likes of Local Natives, Free Energy, and The Smith Westerns, who are though not exactly beach pop are closely related in style and popularity.

Lollapalooza will always have the capacity to bring together acts that will sell hundreds of thousands of tickets, and still have a strong selection of indie bands on tap. Though smaller and more geared towards a specific crowd, The Pitchfork Festival’s lineup this year has finally matched Lollapalooza’s in terms of sheer talent and diversity. We’ve got two great major music festivals lined up for the Summer, and I’m excited for both.

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Audioslave – Audioslave

July 6, 2006

In 2002, a supergroup called Audioslave surfaced with former members of Rage Against The Machine and former Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. People were not quite sure what to make of the strange combo at the time. Considering over half the band was born under hip-hop and rap influence as well as classic rock, it would just seem like a bad idea to mix the burly thrash instrumentation with a grunge hero like Cornell. However, despite what critics may have said at the time of this albums release, it is a great record, and it is well worth the time of a fan of either Rage Against The Machine or Soundgarden. What is really special about the music here is that something completely different is born of two already familliar concepts. Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk have experience pumping out rock solid riffs and beats, and Chris Cornell already knows how to write melodic tunes while still screaming his lungs out. And there are examples of both of these qualities all over the place in the music, but at the same time, all of the members strive to make a new sound while still keeping their roots, and what do you know, it works.

The album opens up with probably the most popular track, the loud and powerful wall of fire Cochise. The first thing you will notice here is that the former Rage members haven’t changed much. You could easily hear Zack de la Rocha jump in with a killer rhyme right now, but he doesn’t, and instead we are treated to the voice of Chris Cornell. His voice isn’t quite what it used to be, which is most likely due to his smoking it out. Yes, at the moment he is no longer smoking, but when he was in his prime jumping around the stage, screaming at the top of his lungs, and drinking like a fish, he surely knocked back quite a few cigarettes a day. And he suffers for that now, but it’s a crime to say that his voice isn’t good. Because it still is, but he has said himself that he can’t quite get as excited on stage as he used to. But that’s cool, because as long as he can still throw out great lines and actually mix them with the rap-rock type riffs, like he does with “take it out on me,” no one is complaining.

Show Me How To Live is also a winner, and is another song you would likely crank out at midnight at a gas station, just because it mixes the attitude of thrash and hard rock very well with the principles of alternative and flat out pop. And actually, Gasoline works pretty well too. Putting the echo back on Cornells voice was a very good idea, and that kind of vast rugged feeling will come back again, rest assured. But Cornells vocals actually saved this tune, and if they didn’t, it would be another droll riff that has already been heard hundreds of times before. It’s just to common to go unattended. This exact same situation comes about on What You Are, but this time, the guitar and bass parts are much more mellow. But Brad Wilk will always be there on drums to stop you from falling asleep. That was never even an issue. It’s great that we do have Brad on drums, because he is very experienced in his field and still has the goods to break out a great rock beat.

And then instead of appealing more to the hard rock side of the band, more attension is paid to Cornells masterful hands of creation and a classic pop song is created, Like A Stone. This is exactly the kind of song you would expect to have been released in the nineties while Soundgarden was still a reality, and it holds just about as much power and emotion as the bands smash hit Black Hole Sun did. The pace keeps up very well, and Tim’s funky bass complements it well. And the spacey guitar is the epitomy of loneliness and perseverence. And of course, Chris Cornell makes it a knockout hit with his absolutely brilliant lyrics. Folks, it just doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to Rock. This is the kind of song the record needed, and it’s a relief that Cornell still has the songwriting ability to write songs like this.

And then it bounces back with Set It Off, another hard rocker in the vein of Cochise. And once again, a compromise is made and Cornell leans a little more towards the interests of the rest of the band and yells out some more rugged lyrics. It’s a great song, much better than the likes of gasoline and What You Are, and perhaps even Cochise. But it doesn’t prepare the listener for the next song, Shadow On The Sun. The listener might ask themself, can Tom Morello even do that? Like, put his guitar in the back and push the bass to the front like he does in the verses? Well he does, and it works great. And of course the chorus is still what you got from the earlier tracks, but this is where Chris Cornells psychedelic and melodic influences come in more to form a very nocturnal tune.

I Am The Highway is actually another keeper, and is another very quiet tune, a lot like Like A Stone. And this time, Tom Morello plays a pivitol role without being too loud. His lunar guitar playing is fantastic, when it is accoustic or not. The song just really flows, and it is something that none of the members of the band have really gotten to do before. Needless to say, Rage would never have done something like this, and Soundgarden could probably write something like this, but not play it without being more metallic and tough. So fans of both bands can be very proud of this new ground that is covered.

But I’ll be honest, the band makes a few flubs on the album, Exploder being one of them. The twist of Tom Morellos guitar should be good, but it just isn’t exciting or new enough to justify it being on here. It’s the same riff formula you are already used to, so it isn’t that essential. Like Hypnotize is. This is another priceless track, Driven forward by a rumbling bassline and tight dance beat. Of course we have a layer of Tom Morellos feedback to complement it all. And Chris Cornell gets his voice down very very low and lays on some very cool effects later. Or I should say, Rick Rubin lays down the effects, because he produced the album. Good decision to let him do that, by the way, because he’s a winning producer anyway. Then the guitars sort of do this short little shreds for a little while. Actually, his guitars are even more in the background than anywhere else in the album, save a few cool effects later on in the song. Of course the guitar is very key, but there is no riff so much as there is a set of chords that can be played over in different ways. I have no idea how they got the inspiration for this song, but I’m very curious.

Bring Em Back Alive kind of sucks too. When over half of the band comes from a background where throwing out riffs works extremely well, then why change? Well, the rap overtone works much better on this kind of song. It’s mediocre, and even if I like this album a lot, I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t have weak moments like this. Light My Way kind of does the same thing, and it is still kind of gimmicky because it also throws out the riff and trys to live off of it every minute or so, but it’s actually not too bad of a song. Very funky, very mystical, very nomadic. The entire album gives me the image of some kind of traveler wandering through all sorts of environments in different seasons, continents, and time periods. Like, one second, the traveler is in Egypt or Mongolia or something, and the next second they are in the Dominican Republic or Kenya or something, or some random grassy plain on a sunny day. And highways too, in urban America. That seems to be a reoccuring theme in this record. Theres a lot of talk of Highways and roads and freeways and stuff. As you can see, I sort of have these images for any given song or album from any band. I like the system. Anyway, in this song they even use a clever cell-phone jingle later on, so it keeps it’s individuality in some way pretty well.

Like I said before, each band member of Audioslave comes from an environment where they are used to pushing out in front. So the problem would of course arise where everyone is trying to push forward alone as opposed to letting eachother take turns. But Getaway Car is the perfect indication that the problem can be dealt with eventually. It’s just a generally pleasent little tune. There is no progressive shredding. The most the guitar gets is a pleasant little lonely guitar solo later on. It’s a great song, and should have been the ending tune instead of The Last Remaining Light, and while that song is kind of interesting, it isn’t anywhere even remotely close to comparable to Getaway Car.

Audioslave did not end up being a one shot deal like many superbands end up being. Early last year, Out of Exile was released and sort of showed the exact opposite viewpoint that this album showed in the form of a more bright, optimistic, and diverse set. In my opinion, it isn’t better, but it lets me look at the superior album as if it should be named “In Exile.” The band still isn’t finished either, and the follow up titled Revelations should be released on September 5th. I’m suprised that they could crank out an album at that pace, but hey, it sounds very interesting. I already think I have an image ready for this album too. A big city, with lots of fights, explosions, feelings, and political unrest. One thing that Audioslave has prooved through both of their albums to date is that even if all of the band membrs spend years cranking out tunes, they haven’t finished yet. And with this much room to grow, I’m expecting Revelations to be much better than this, which is a very tough feat.

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Soundgarden – A-Sides

June 15, 2006

As Sub-Pop founder Jonathan Poneman says in the liner notes of Soundgardens greatest hits collection “A-Sides,” it is a little ridiculous to even attempt to make such a collection. In 1997 when this collection was released, the band just got done with an extremely varied career spanning about ten years, and the disk does summarize this time fairly well, considering that a balance does need to be made. In the earlier reaches of Soundgardens musical library, most of the tracks, even the more accessible ones, are hard rocking trance inducing grunge. They were the first grunge band to get onto a major label anyway, but even so, it’s hard to pick out the better tracks from the era when all of their material could be favorites by different people. And it is also hard to pick out the best material from Badmotorfinger and Superunknown, when it could be argued that all of the songs were hits and worthy of making it onto the disc. But without the nitpicking, this is a pretty good collection, demonstrating a lot of the greatest moments from one of modern rocks greatest bands.

The first order of business for a Greatest Hits collection of Soundgarden would be to sift through the bands older releases and find the material with the best hooks, most radio play, and most accessible nature. Once again, this timeframe still shows Soundgarden as a more underground band, concentrating on the hypnotic riffing and sludgey sound that founded grunge. But even then, I can’t really understand why Nothing To Say was included here. It’s a good song, yes, but from the early EPs of the band, it’s not the strongest track, and as far as I know, it didn’t get the most radio play. Its a slow moving track that sort of opens up the more and more you listen to it. Of course we have Flower from Ultramega OK, which is a smarter choice than it’s predecessor, mostly because it shows that the band still had a lot of room to develop and branch out into more psychedelic type songs. The beat here is marchable, and the guitar part is a combination of classic alternative rock and an almost eastern swirl from riff-master and guitar god Kim Thayil.

Then we move on to the development stages of the band, where the albums get a little less consistant, but the stronger tracks only keep getting better. Loud Love is a keeper, deffinitely, and it actually sort of plays like Nothing To Say in some ways, in that it is a very rugged tune. As far as the sound goes, you can tell that the band is at least thinking about taking some of the echo off of frontman Chris Cornells voice, and almost wants to push it out in the front just a tad more, but it just isn’t quite ready yet. Which actually makes this an essential track, because it is still a really kick ass song anyway, and it really does capture that transitional sound. Next is the fan favorite and sort of breakthrough hit Hands All Over. It broods with the psychedelic openness of Flower and also the hard rocking sound of Loud Love, and it actually puts the two worlds together really well. It also has the laser precision of some of the bands later material, and just like Loud Love, captures the band in a fantastic album of change, actually talking about something serious in todays world. This is just a great example of how the grunge movement strived to be sort of like the new counterculture, but this time wouldn’t let themselves be pushed around. Get On The Snake is also another really good one, but probably could have been sacrificed for Full on Kevin’s Mom.

And then of course we have some tunes from Badmotorfinger, the album that really put the band on the map in 1991, along with Pearl Jam and Nirvana. But the tracks are put in reverse order, which is kind of strange, but is deffinitely okay, because Jesus Christ Pose is the real ass kicker to complement the sound of the earlier stuff. But with this song, everything is just better than the earlier stuff. The production is ten times better on Badmotorfinger than it was on Ultramega OK and Louder Than Love, and it doesn’t get much more clearer that grunge is angry than in this song. Outshined is another essential, because of the sheer skill involved in making that hook and complementing it with an optimistic bassline and an outwardly happy beat. And of course there is Rusty Cage, with it’s progressive shredding, but that track was always an essential anyway, so there was no arguement that it would be included here. Unfortunately, a fourth track is not presented from Badmotorfinger.

Like one is on Superunknown. The album is almost obviously the bands best album, and considering almost every song on it was a radio hit to some degree, it’s really hard to pick out the absolute best. But the ones that made it were the vastly popular Spoonman, the trudging groove of The Day I Tried To Live, the beautiful Black Hole Sun, and the sad Fell On Black Days. The selections from this album are a little strange, I’ll admit. All four of these songs are great, but the debatable ones are The Day I Tried To Live and Fell On Black Days. Fell On Black Days is the more acceptable of the two, but the fact that My Wave and Head Down aren’t here is kind of disheartening. Actually, one could make a pretty big case for Superunknown and Limo Wreck too. But once again, almost everything on Superunknown is essential.

And finally we have stuff from Down on the Upside, the bands last album. Listening to this album lets the listener know that Soundgarden is really changing again, but still hasn’t ran out of good ideas. Pretty Noose is a great song to include here, and actually so is the raging throwback to days of old Ty Cobb. And of course we have Burden In My Hand, an absolutely fantastic song. But I just never understood Blow Up the Outside World. It just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. In my opinion, this one could have been dumped for a better song on Badmotorfinger, maybe Mind Riot. But hey, it seems to be a crowd favorite, so even if I don’t get it, someone does. But Badmotorfinger is just a better album than Down on the Upside, and should have gotten more coverage. Simple as that.

And then the album ends with Bleed Together, a great unreleased song that will probably act as the incentive for fans to buy this collection, unless they don’t have Nothing To Say which comes from one of the bands earlier and rarer EPs. Anyway, there are a few problems with this disk, but they can be pretty easily overlooked. Don’t get me wrong, everything on here is good. But once again, it’s really hard to outline the bands entire career. And with that, A-Sides does a very good job. But please, if you were interested enough in the band in the first place, don’t stop here. If you are a casual fan, you are going to really want this for an accurate summary of the bands earlier and later stuff, but you will also really want Badmotorfinger and Superunknown, because there are only one or two bad songs total on both albums put together. This is a very good collection, for what it is.