Supergroup Showcase: Paul McCartney & Nirvana

There’s nothing about any of this that should work. Paul McCartney playing with the surviving members of Nirvana (including touring guitarist, and Foo Fighter Pat Smear) and playing a full on rock and roll song? My brain tells me that should not be a thing that works and rocks. Oh, Sir Paul’s also playing a cigar box guitar (or is it a ukelele, I really have no idea)? Oh heavens no. And yet, when I first saw them perform “Cut Me Some Slack,” I was blown away.

I heard about this collaboration first for the 12/12/12 concert, but didn’t actually watch the clip until today, after seeing them blaze through the rollicking track on Saturday Night Live. i was so unbelievably pumped up after hearing this performance not only because McCartney’s singles output lately has been…not the best, but also because this felt like a viable supergroup. I don’t expect them to tour or anything — though that would be pretty incredible — but there’s potential there for a really cool record. I say let’s make it happen!

Casting Internets

The awesome Jen Van Meter did me a solid and talked about her Five Favorite Avengers for

I’ve also been super busy writing about comics over CBR including this great interview I did with Joe Keatinge. If you dig the logo of me and the chimp at the top of the page, check out my pal Rickey Purdin’s other sketches for possible logos over on Rowdy Schoolyard.

I do not care about the Watchmen prequels, but I dug my pal Brett White’s take on it for CBR.

Wish I had thought of doing this Godzilla misconceptions list for Topless Robot.

I am very excited to listen to Jack White’s very first solo album. It’s called Blunderbuss and drops in April. Something to look forward to! (via Rolling Stone)Scott C did an Over The Top Showdown! Awesome!

Alan Lomax was a dude who went around the country recording folk, blues and country artists to create an aural history of American music. According to Rolling Stone, his archives are being digitized and will be streaming and sold as CDs, this is very cool news.

Dave Grohl and Dana Gould are working on a rock star based sitcom for FX? Considering how solid all the FX comedies are and how much I like the Foo Fighters and Gould, this should be an excellent show. (via THR)

Finally, if you’re interested in this sort of thing, I’m selling a never opened Garindan Long-Snoot minibus from Gentle Giant over on eBay. Happy bidding.

Music Musings: Nirvana

I was late to the Nirvana party, like morbidly late. I was 11 when Kurt Cobain died and not really into music yet. That would come a year or two later, so I missed out on most of the pop culture revolution that was Nirvana. I think I had an idea of the band and had maybe heard a few songs, but I did not realize that they had changed the face of popular music nor did I have any idea of the drama surrounding his death (I won’t call it a suicide because the documentary Kurt & Courtney raised way too many questions for me). Whatever you think of Nirvana you can’t argue against the fact that they drove a stake through 80 hair metal and even unseated the King of Pop from the number one spot. No matter how you look at it, that’s a huge deal. Like a lot of kids in my generation, the first Nirvana record I picked up was Nevermind. I picked it up at a used CD place in Toledo called CD Warehouse and was embarrassed because of the naked baby on the cover. I probably only paid a few bucks for it because much like Green Day’s Dookie, this record was everywhere. I remember my dad seeing that and joking around by saying “THIS is the kind of music you’re listening to now?”

I can’t pinpoint what my attraction to Nirvana stemmed from. I wasn’t a particularly angry or angsty kid, though my parents and friends might beg to differ. I also wasn’t a real punk rock kid. I was fine with some levels of conformity and didn’t have any real desire for anarchy though I liked drawing the symbol on my notebooks. I think I had a sense that I had missed out on something huge and I wanted to be a part of it even if it was too late to enjoy it in the moment. I also liked the hard hitting, head banging songs that also had some pretty amazing lyrics if you really took the time to translate them. I spent those early days, weeks and years of fandom picking up every legitimate Nirvana record I could find in the used section at my beloved Boogie Records. I don’t remember the exact order I purchased them in, but I soon had Bleach, Incesticide, In Utero, the amazing Unplugged disc and the live compilation From The Muddy Banks Of The Wishkah. I also stumbled upon a lengthy interview disc called The Bark, Not The Bite there and wound up trading for a few bootleg performances online. Years later I’d even pick up the greatest-hits-with-one-new-song Nirvana and the three-disc-with-a-DVD outtakes and live set With The Lights Out. Heck, last summer I even bought a quartet of VHS bootleg concert tapes at a flea market for a buck, one of which turned out to actually feature The Cure (bleh) and another which I’m watching right now and inspired me to write this post. I already mentioned watching Kurt & Courtney, but I also checked out Hype! because it featured Nirvana, I own Cobain’s Journals book and have checked out a ton of groups because they influenced Nirvnana (from Leadbelly to the Mudhoney) and I’m the proud owner of Bleach and one of the singles on vinyl. I even had a Nirvana T-shirt that I bought in Ireland and a patch on my longtme backpack. The only reason I don’t have more Nirvana stuff is because they only made a handful of albums. Needless to say, I dug Nirvana. I liked their sound and their attitude and I also liked the fact that they seemed like regular guys, like anyone could do this whole rock and roll thing. In high school, when I started playing bass and formed a band with my buddies, we instantly gravitated towards Nirvana songs. I know we did “Rape Me,” though weren’t allowed to play it at our high school’s battle of the bands and I think we did “Come As You Are” (or maybe I just learned that one on my own because it’s such a great bass line). I was pretty surprised to learn that a lot of the songs were simple power chords and sometimes just single notes played through a ton of distortion.

It’s easy to think of Nirvana songs as simple because they’re so distorted, they seemed like such normal guys and you can deeply feel the four-on-the-floor, three or four chord structure of most of their songs, but there’s also some real musicality there. Cobain was no slouch when it came to guitar solos, but he didn’t throw them around like the cock rock guitar gods he was seemingly railing against. Dave Grohl had a wild man savagery when it came to the drums and Krist Novoselic used some fairly complicated bass lines at times as I discovered when I started looking up tabs online as I learned to play. He wasn’t  just hitting a note four times then moving on to the next note, some of his lines walked like blues songs. Below the howling, metal-meets-punk growl of the music, there’s a real rhythm that gets overlooked sometimes.For what it’s worth, the album that sticks out as my favorite is Incesticide. I know it’s basically a compilation disc, but there’s just so much goodness on there. I particularly like “Molly’s Lips” and “Been A Son.” I had no idea that some of these songs were covers, but it didn’t really matter. They had a knack for taking songs and really making them their own. The songs I dig are poppier than you might expect from Nirvana which might sound strange, but I also love the intense lo-fi aspects of Bleach as well as the mournful melodies of Unplugged. I probably listen to Nevermind the least but every time I do, I’m reminded of how damn good they could sound, even if overly polished. And man, In Utero‘s fantastic. When you get into the live and compilation stuff, they get a little shakier for me and I’ve only listened to that interview CD once or twice, but there’s no way I’d ever get rid of any of that stuff. In fact, writing this post just makes me want to listen to With The Lights Out one disc after the other. Nirvana not only introduced me to a whole new kind of music (a few genres, actually), but also holds a really special place in my heart. No matter how many other bands I get really into, Nirvana will always be the first one that captured my attention and my imagination. I like to imagine myself sitting around on a porch at 80 listening to the soothing sounds of In Utero. Good thing the records are so loud, cause I might need that extra volume boost!

Music Musings: Foo Fighters

It’s funny, if you watch the below trailer for the recent Foo Fighters documentary called Back and Forth, Foo Fighters lead singer and guitar player Dave Grohl says something along the lines of there being  a lot of people who resented him for carrying on with the Foo Fighters when Nirvana ended. I was definitely one of those people. As a teenager, I couldn’t get past the idea that he should have just been the Nirvana drummer forever, as if all of his own dreams and aspirations would just disappear when Kurt Cobain did. So, initially, I wasn’t a fan and did my best to avoid the Foo Fighters as a band. I would occasionally see videos of theirs for songs like “Big Me” and “My Hero” among others, but didn’t think too much of them because they were so goofy. Even after my shortsightedness wore off, I had trouble getting past the goofiness and just moved on, leaving the Foo Fighters behind and moving on to other bands. I wish I hadn’t been so close-minded because, I missed out on really experiencing the evolution of a true rock and roll band.

Towards the end of high school and into college, Grohl showed up on my radar all over the place and my respect for him grew. Within a pretty short period of time I heard that he played drums in bands like Tenacious D, Queens of the Stone Age, Tony Iommi’s solo record which featured a series of different singers, a metal supergroup-ish project called Probot and a lot more. He was all over the place and for whatever reason those projects sparked my interest more than anything he did with the Foo Fighters. In fact, I love the Tenacious D record, couldn’t get into QOTSA’s Songs For The Deaf (though “No One Knows” is an excellent song all around) and also that Iommi record called, of course, Iommi though I have no idea what happened to that disc.

Then, in 2002 they released their fourth record One By One which included songs like “All My Life” and “Times Like These.” These songs absolutely captured my imagination and wouldn’t allow me to ignore the Foo Fighters any longer. Around the same time, the self-titled Nirvana record that served as a greatest hits disc came out. I have very distinct memories of being in the shower in college with the radio blaring and hearing “All My Life” and then the unreleased-until-then Nirvana track “You Know You’re Right” within moments of each other. Hearing the tracks so close to each other made me realize that Grohl was carrying on the legacy of Nirvana really well. Also, by then, I wasn’t so pigheaded, which also helped. I should have picked that record up, but to be honest, I was a poor college student and not really looking to spend what little money I had on something I didn’t know if I would like.

In 2005, they put out their double record In Your Honor and once again I was excited. This time, I had a better plan for getting into the band though. The extended family on my dad’s side does a Secret Santa every year now where the names of everyone who will be at the Christmas Eve celebration gets their name put in a hat along with a few things you might want under a certain dollar amount. That year I put something very simple: Any Foo Fighters CD(s). Since I didn’t have any of them, it’s not like I would have gotten a double and figured this would be a good way to start off. And it did. My grandpa got me and picked up In Your Honor and their second record The Colour And The Shape. I really enjoyed both records, though didn’t get into the mellower second disc from In Your Honor until recently.

There’s a very simple reason why I’m drawn to Foo Fighters now: they rock. That sounds pretty simple and not very descriptive, but they seem like one of the few 90s rock bands to still be around kicking ass and making relevant music. My other favorites from around that time include Nirvana (done), Red Hot Chili Peppers (currently lacking a guitar player, I believe and nowhere near as funky as they used to be) and Green Day who actually keeps making records I like, but that’s a different kind of music.

A few weeks back the missus and I caught the second half of the Back And Forth documentary on VH1. I had a strange feeling while watching it, as if I was watching a movie about some kids I went to school with, but didn’t really know who had made good. I knew the basics of the story, but not the details and felt a weird sense of pride for people I never really knew. I think a big part of that is how accessible Grohl seems. He might look like a crazy metal caveman, but he’s just as likely to write an ass kicking rocker as he is a mellow track that rivals some of my favorite more laid back artists. Then you watch the documentary and you see him getting up early to get his daughter cereal and it brings a human elements to everything. I was also really taken by the idea of the Fighters recording their latest record, Wasting Light, in Grohl’s garage. Mind you, it’s a garage packed with cool gear and producer Butch Vig (who did Nirvana’s Nevermind among others), but the family aspects of the proceedings appeal to my increased age and soon-to-be-a-dad mentality. I also liked that guitarist Pat Smear was brought back into the fold (he had been in Foo Fighters and Nirvana at different times) and also the inclusion of Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic on a track. It’s kind of like a tour down memory lane for grunge, but with a brand new tour guide taking a familiar but different route.

I recently purchased Wasting Light, but haven’t gotten all the way through it yet. I have loved what I heard and really like how the guys are playing with guitar lines and riffs and taking real advantage of Smear’s addition to the group. I will be keeping my eye out this flea market season for the Foo Fighters records I don’t have yet and also really want to see the first half of the doc because I’m most curious about the very early days of the band and what happened with the various personnel changes that I know almost nothing about. So, while I do regret not giving the band the time of day before the mid-2000s, I do find myself in the enviable position of having a good, but not overwhelming amount of material to track down as well as history to learn.

Supergroup Showcase: Them Crooked Vultures

THE PLAYERS: John Paul Jones on bass (Led Zeppelin), Dave Grohl on drums (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) and Josh Homme on guitar and lead vocals (Queens of the Stone Age, The Eagles Of Death Metal).
THE HISTORY: One of the more prolific musicians of his generation, Dave Grohl gets around. He recorded drums for Josh Homme’s band Queens Of The Stone Age’s record and also worked with John Paul Jones here and there. At some point he decided to get them together and Them Crooked Vultures was born. They recorded an album and are touring now with their sites set on a second record supposedly coming out later this year. (via their site)

One of my favorite sub genres of the supergroup idea is when the group consists of musicians from different eras (like Oysterhead). It’s interesting to see how the older and younger musicians interact and what kind of music comes out of that union. That’s the case with Them Crooked Vultures as Jones is significantly older than Grohl and Homme. It’s also interesting that two of the three members were in groups that changed the face of music. The world was different after Led Zeppelin came onto the scene and the same for Nirvana years later. Homme’s kind of the odd man out in my opinion, but he does a pretty good job of holding his own, even if some of his guitar licks do sound a little too reminiscent of previous QOTSA tracks at times (like on parts of “No One Loves Me & Neither Do I”).

Unlike many of the more recent supergroups, I actually didn’t know about Them Crooked Vultures until just before the disc came out as I had been laid off around that time and wasn’t paying much attention to the music coming out. I think that TCV’s first, self-titled record might have been the first thing I bought for myself aside from food after starting to get a pretty good freelance base going, so it’s got a special place in my heart. It also helps that the record kicks ass. The worry, of course, with a project like this is that the musicians will turn out to be great tastes that don’t taste great together (like Chickenfoot). Thankfully, these guys pull off a great sound, which shouldn’t be surprising considering the band consists of one of the greatest living bass players of all time (check out JPJ’s Zooma if you’d like to have your mind blown by what a bass can do) and Grohl who is one of the better drummers around. Even Homme who I’m far less familiar with (I bought that QOTSA record mentioned above and only liked the one single, the rest was kind of repetitive and boring), but he brings it with the vocals and guitar work.

The record is fun because it has a distinct sound with a solid rhythm section and Homme’s unique voice, but they weren’t afraid to move around within that framework and get experimental. “Gunman” sounds like a Rush song, doesn’t it? Really, the whole record is just amazing. With JPJ and Grohl locking down the rhythm (possibly the greatest living rhythm section around?) Homme gets to play with riffs and lines. The whole thing comes together better than a lot of records by established bands.

I hadn’t listened to the record for a while and put it on today and damn, it’s just great from front to back. Everyone’s in top form, the songs are amazing and there’s something really special about Grohl and Jones combining on backing vocals that adds a layer of sophistication and class to the proceedings that I can’t really explain (maybe it’s Jones’ hint of an accent). I wonder if Grohl reminds Jones of Bonzo at all.

What sets TCV apart in my mind is that they really feel like a band, not just a few dudes who got together and did a one-off. Maybe that’s because I know they’re still touring and want to make another record. They play like they’ve been together for 15 years which is impressive considering they just kind of put themselves together in a fairly short period of time. Frankly, if it was up to me, I’d make QOTSA and the Foo Fighters side projects and get as much Them Crooked Vultures music out of these guys as possible. I would love to see them in concert, maybe once they’re back in the states I can make that happen. It’s been way too long since I’ve been to a show.