music, politics

This land must change or land must burn

The Australian election results are fascinating on so many levels — a vote in favor of the Kyoto Protocol, a rare defeat (unofficial) of a prime minister in his home district and another electoral repudiation of a Bush/Iraq War ally. Yes, they’re taking their 550 troops and getting out, if the new guy lives up to his campaign promises.

This being a mostly music/media blog, our primary interest is the current Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment, Heritage and the Arts. He has indeed been re-elected.

You guessed it … he’s Peter Garrett, former lead singer of Midnight Oil, currently awaiting likely nomination to the equivalent of a U.S. Cabinet post.

Let’s see someone from Rage Against the Machine do that.

(Title source: Warakurna)

comedy, music, videos

Song du semaine: Police, "Synchronicity II"

“I would like all of you to come out and support my new band, Scrantonicity II. We are in no way associated with Scrantonicity.”

Synchronicity II was much more than a convenient pop-culture reference for Kevin’s band on The Office. It was the Police’s hardest-rocking song, a distinct departure from their playful punk and righteous reggae. Andy Summers cranked up the squealing guitar, Sting’s bass brooded like Roger Waters (the man, not his bass), Stewart Copeland went for full power, and Sting’s lyrics unleashed the inner demons of a family bring crushed by an unfulfilling life.

It’s brilliant. And everyone loves the video, which seems to be set in a post-apocalyptic trash heap:

Sting’s way with words is on full display here. The narrative — a simultaneous telling of suburban frustration and a monster rising from a dark Scottish lake — is compelling in its own right. But Sting makes it better with impeccable word choice. Mother chants her litany of boredom and frustration. They’re packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes. The factory belches filth into the sky.

Surely there’s a grammatical term for using a verb as a metaphor as he does with the factory belching. Sting uses that technique beautifully in The Wild Wild Sea: “The grey sky, she angered to black.” This is why I finally realized, somewhere around my senior year of college, that I’d never be anything but a hack songwriter by comparison, thereby sparing the world some awful late-80s whiny alternative bullshit about 20something angst.

(Sting does use two references to suicide. I’m not nit-picking. I’m just looking for an excuse to reference a great Robert Wuhl bit on making Born to Run the state anthem of New Jersey. He notes the double references to suicide and builds up to the great line of any state anthem, “We gotta get out while we’re young!”)

Brilliant stuff, brilliantly delivered by a sneering Sting while Copeland and Summers thrive outside their punk-reggae comfort zone.

personal, sports

Season’s end

Rough count of the past year: 45 stories, 39 of them about MLS. Quite an increase from 25 over the two preceding years (not counting Olympic Athlete of the Week, which was a quick roundup that has since been folded into the blog).

It’s not as if I won’t know what to do with myself now that it’s over. I’ve got plenty of projects lined up for the next few months. Some of them could be affected by the present uncertainty, some won’t.

There’s something melancholy about the end of a season, particularly if you’re one of the last people to leave the stadium. It wasn’t like the end of the Salt Lake Olympics, where the crews taking down the media center were so efficient that I was scared to step away from my “desk” (table) for even a minute, lest it be stripped like a car parked in a bad neighborhood. In this case, we all settled for listening to the revved-up leaf blowers that clean the stadium. RFK’s main soccer pressbox, unlike the boxes in newer NFL stadia, is not enclosed.

For almost eight months, I’ve been in a routine. Call Monday. Interviews Tuesday. Write Tuesday night and Wednesday. Gauge reaction Thursday. Watch Thursday night game. Then on Saturday, with the kids in bed, flip around to see more games and think of a story for next week.

So now it’s over. I’m relatively pleased with the tens of thousands of words I wrote. I’m going to miss my Tuesday conversations with Landon Donovan or Fernando Clavijo or whoever was willing to chat for the weekly story, though I have roughly 17-18 hours of archived conversations in case I want to hear that awful voice I have while I’m formulating questions. There’s no guarantee it’ll happen again next year.

But on the bright side, I’m looking forward to a leisurely lunch tomorrow.

Wonder if there’s a European game on …


Skill or sentimentality?

No time to live-blog VH1 Classic this morning — deadline looming for Friday’s MLS Cup preview, and there’s some serious shit going down career-wise (more on that when appropriate) — but something caught my eyes and ears while working in front of the TV …

AC/DC’s original drummer was a guy named Phil Rudd. He’s beloved by the fans and surely by the band.

But he was fired in 1983, a couple of years after vocalist Bon Scott died. The band went through a couple of drummers that only nerds like me would recognize.

One of those guys is Chris Slade, whom I recognized from the short-lived Page-Rodgers supergroup The Firm. He’s an old pro — hard-hitting but technically sound. It’s easy to spot him in a crowd — he’s a big, bald guy like Peter Garrett.

AC/DC called him in for The Razor’s Edge, which you’d have to say in retrospect was sort of a last hurrah in terms of getting any songs — in this case, Thunderstruck — into the public consciousness. Slade’s booming drums didn’t hurt.

A couple of years later, the band reconciled and reunited with Rudd. In the link to Slade’s name above, the Wikipedians attribute this to Angus Young: “Chris was probably the best musician in the band. We hate to lose him, but getting Phil back is worth asking him to leave.”

Maybe so, particularly if you’ve hit the stage at which you don’t really need to push any musical barriers. At their age, they’ve earned the right to tour with their best buddies. The hard-core fans will still show up and pay top dollar, and perhaps they’d rather see the old guys.

It’s only natural. At some point, nostalgia takes over. That’s why some of us are happy to see the original members of Berlin on Bands Reunited even though the session pros Terri Nunn recruits for her tours are surely more technically proficient than a bunch of guys dragging their keyboards from the attic.

What brought on this rant? I saw AC/DC, with Slade, playing Highway to Hell. And it was roughly 3,232,798 times better than it ever was with Rudd. Slade’s subtle but powerful fills give the song an energy you’re not going to hear on the studio version. He’s not playing with cold precision. He’s skillfully revving up the song.

So it’s a pity in a way that the band let him go. But AC/DC fans are surely happy to see Rudd. And Slade hasn’t been hurting for work.


To take the impossible quiz

UPDATE: Yeah, P, the link would help, wouldn’t it? Thanks!

I got a 30 out of 58 on Rolling Stone‘s “Almost-Impossible Rock & Roll Quiz.” But even that was lucky. This quiz must have been the inspiration for the Queens of the Stone Age ditty No One Knows.

I won’t reveal the answers, but I’ll tell you how I did, question-by-question:

1. X – should’ve known
2. X – no idea
3. Semi-educated guess
4. X – no idea
5. Knew it
6. X – should’ve known
7. Lucky guess (all four parts)
8. Educated guess
9. X – maybe should’ve known
10. X – 50-50
11. X – no idea
12. X – no idea
13. Knew it
14. X – whatever
15. Knew it
16. Knew it
17. X – really?
18. Knew it
19. Knew it
20. X – only knew one part
21. X – 50-50
22. X – wild guess
23. Semi-educated guess
24. X – no idea
25. 50-50
26. Semi-educated guess
27. X – are you kidding me?
28. Knew it — it’s Yes, after all
29. Knew it. Really
30. Educated guess.
31. Educated guess
32. X – no idea
33. Knew it
34. Knew it. Pretty sure, anyway.
35. Educated guess
36. Process of elimination
37. Knew it
38. Knew it
39. X – been a while
40. X – been a while
41. Knew it
42. Knew it. That’s Simpsons trivia, not rock trivia
43. Knew it
44. Knew it
45. Knew it
46. X – no idea
47. X – no idea
48. X – no frigging clue
49. X – no idea
50. X – just couldn’t run through the whole bloody thing
51. Knew it
52. X – oh well
53. X – no idea
54. Knew it
55. X – brain fart
56. X – who?
57. X – 50-50 guess
58. Knew it. Duh.