Pop Culture Junkie
If you're like me, you've always been addicted to pop culture; specifically books, television, movies, and, of course, music. I've been listening to music avidly for a long time- so long, in fact, that my earliest memory of purchasing an album was when my father took me to a store at 84th and Broadway (long gone) to pick up the Beatles' Abbey Road,which had been released that week (for those of you keeping track, that would be October 1969). I was five. I don't think I've stopped since, listening to AM radio on the beach in the early 70's, FM radio in the late '70's and the glory that is Sirius right now (if you dont have it, get it -it's phenomenal). Here's what's on my jukebox right now:
Guns n' Roses - Chinese Democracy leaks
I'll never forget the first time I heard Axl Rose sing the opening scream to Welcome to the Jungle: every hair on the back of my neck stood up on end, and gooseflesh sprouted on my arms. This guy was the real deal. Now, apparently, he's back, ready to unleash a new version of GnR on the unsuspecting masses, and the results are pretty damn good. Three tracks- Better, I.R.S and There Was A Time- were leaked on the Internet last week, causing quite a commotion amongst hardcore fans and the hoi polloi alike. My favorite is There Was A Time- it sounds like an outtake from Use Your Illusion II, with great vocals, an excellent guitar solo, and a creepy piano tape loop to kick things off. Rose's vocals are a little far back in the mix, making some of the lyrics indecipherable (it also makes you want to listen to it over and over again, like an Egyptologist cracking the Rosetta Stone). Better begins with Rose singing in a high pitch falsetto, then crunches satisfyingly in a Nine Inch Nails-esque style for 2:06, until the song unexpectedly fades out, proving to be an incomplete version . I.R.S, the weakest track, but still better than most music being released today, has a nice ascending chorus and an in-your-face vocal that harkens back to The Garden of Eden off UYI. All in all, it makes me very excited for the long delayed album. Curiously, people have begun to bash Rose mercilessly over these tracks. I've thought about it for a while, and I think the negative response is due to three things: a) Axl disbanded one of the best loved bands ever, and fans have made him out to be the Yoko; b) Rose has allowed his music to grow and change with the times while certain hardcore fans want Appetite for Destruction II, and they punish him when they don't get it, and c) Rose has committed the twin unpardonable sins of getting older(and a little heftier) and making fans wait a friggin' decade for new music. Pay no attention to the red-headed madman behind the curtain- listen to the tracks, and judge for yourself.
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
I thought this would be another hype-driven band like the Vines that was somewhat overrated and had a good song or two, but I have been pleasantly surprised by these British wunderkind.Wry lyrics, clever song titles (Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong, But... is my favorite one), and a dancable yet riff-heavy vibe makes this record compulsively listenable, kind of like the Clash filtered thru a Specials-meets-Madness lens. 13 tracks and 40 minutes of good times. You can check out their website here.
K.T. Tunstall - "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree"
Saw her perform this on the Today show, and was struck by her obvious talent and poise. Could be a one hit wonder, or a Scottish Melissa Etheridge, impossible to tell at this point. Try listening to this song and not walking around all day going "woo hoo!"
Massive Attack -Teardrop
Pouring rain. Ominous piano chords. Rumbling bass. So begins this Liz Fraser penned masterpiece, a tune so powerful the first time I heard it, I stopped what I was doing and stared at the computer in wild wonder. You could make a strong case for this song as the best song of the 90's, it's that good.
Peter Tosh- "Stepping Razor" and "Legalize It"
Personally, I'm a little burnt out on Bob Marley. Don't get me wrong, I love the man, but after playing him to death, I may have to lay off his music for a year or so in order to make it fresh again. Not so these songs by the tougher, cooler Wailer (Bunny Livingston being the third, of course). One listen to either tune, and suddenly I'm a tall, lean Jamaican loping thru Trenchtown, staring down rival gang members, dreads flying thru the sunshine, while I puff away on a spliff the size of a Blimpie sandwich, and wave at me breddren who shout out "Hey Rasta!" Then the song ends, and I'm a preppie white guy with a semi-functioning Ipod and a roll of Sweettarts. Sigh.