Supergroup Showcase: The Class of ’99

THE PLAYERS: Layne Staley on vocals (Alice In Chains), Tom Morello on guitar (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), Stephen Perkins on drums (Jane’s Addiction), Martin LeNoble on bass (Porno For Pyros) and Matt Serletic on keyboards (producer).
THE STORY: The band members, a veritable who’s who of 90s rock gods, came together to record Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall Part 1” and “Part 2” for the soundtrack to Robert Rodriguez’s late 90s horror flick The Faculty. Far as I can tell, they only recorded these two songs and were never seen or heard from again as a unit.

While it would take a little over 10 years for me to actually see The Faculty, a movie I wound up really liking (like pretty much every Robert Rodriguez movie I see), I do have very distinct memories from the late 90s of The Class of ’99’s cover of a Pink Floyd tune. I hated it. See, at the time, I had just started getting into Pink Floyd and I was fairly close-minded purist which meant that only Pink Floyd songs by Pink Floyd were acceptable. My buddy Chad was instrumental in getting me further into the band than just the usual Dark Side Of The Moon/The Wall phases that most teenagers interested in classic rock and roll go through (though the live version of The Wall is still one of my favorite records of all time). But that doesn’t mean I don’t remember the video with most of the band footage projected in various places throughout the The Wall movie-inspired high school.

Looking back, I really like their version of the song. It’s very 90s and really worked with the movie, but most of all, I’m filled with a wish that this spectacular assemblage of musicians could have done something more before Staley passed away in 2002, which makes them similar to The Dirty Mac in my mind. It’s kind of interesting that many of the band members would go on to be members of other supergroups. Morello would be in both Audioslave and Street Sweeper Social Club among other projects, Perkins has been in Jane’s Addiction and Porno For Pyros with lots and lots of appearances on other records as has LeNoble. Even Staley was in Mad Season. All of these guys have crazy chops and it would be fun to see them get together again or, better yet, how cool would it be if there happened to be unheard studio tapes of the guys jamming on other songs or having fun in the studio (assuming they were even in the studio all at the same time)? Anyone know any more info about the recording of the tracks? The Wiki page is pretty sparse.

Supergroup Showcase: Street Sweeper Social Club

For the purposes of Supergroup Showcase the term supergroup means a band or group of musicians made up of two or more artists from previously successful bands, but not a super huge bands like Led Zeppelin.

THE PLAYERS: Tom Morello on guitar and bass (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), Boots Riley on vocals (The Coup) and Stanton Moore on drums (Galactic, tons of other projects)
HISTORY: While Morello was touring as The Nightwatchman he’d play some Coup songs and Riley would come up and sing along with him. They decided to start a band, got Moore in on drums, recorded an album and toured with Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails. (via Wiki)

As anyone who read my list of albums from 2009 that I dug knows, I really liked the Street Sweeper Social Club’s record. I honestly can’t say that I’ve heard of Riley or The Coup, which doesn’t mean much as I’ve just recently been slowly working my way through the deep history of hip hop, but I really dig his rhymes on this record and of course, Morello’s no slouch when it comes to fitting his awesomely experimental and head-bobbing riffs in with a hip hop vibe.

That video doesn’t have the best vocal quality, but I think it captures the vocal and music intensity of the band pretty well. Most of the songs have a political bent to them, with a particular focus on the common person (like a street sweeper per se) rising up and taking more control of his life and the world around him. But, I don’t want to give the impression that this is only a political group. Yes, that’s a huge part of their message, but this record is also packed with songs that you can easily dance to. Put this on at your next party and you’re set for the whole length of play. Unless it’s a tea party filled with old people. They might not dig it then. Here’s a video of SSSC and Trent Reznor performing MC5’s “Kick Out The Jams,” it’s awesome and I’m not even much of a NIN fan (but I totally dig the MC5).

Pretty rad, no? I’m a fan. In fact, unlike a lot of records I’ve picked up over the last few years, I’ve listened to the SSSC’s record all the way through several times without skipping ANY sings. That’s really uncommon with me. I’ll often get through the first 5 or 6 songs, get bored and switch to something else, but I always listen to this record from front to back. That’s a better track record than even the one Rage Against The Machine record I have (Evil Empire). So, as I’ve implied, this is a fantastic synthesis of Riley’s hip hop lyricism, Morello’s always amazing guitar work and Moore’s drum beats that takes so many great tastes and creates an equally good taste with the outcome of that mixture. I hope they continue to put out records.

My Favorite Albums Of 2009

I usually don’t go in for these end of the year/decade top ten lists. Mostly because I rarely agree with them and also because I have such a crappy memory that I can’t remember what all I’ve read or seen or watched in a year, so it would involve a lot more research than I want to put in. However, it’s pretty easy with records because I’ve got everything in my iPod and can easily look at what came out in 2009. Or at least, that was the theory, apparently a good deal of records still don’t have the year published, which is annoying. I also found a lot of the records I thought came out in 2009 actually came out in 2008, SO this is my a list of my favorite records that I bought in 2009, with some 2008 ones thrown in. They’re in no particular order, so here we go.

I first heard Cage The Elephant on the Opie and Anthony Show before the dumb New York station dropped them and switched to a pop format. I think I went out and picked up the record that day and it’s been in heavy rotation ever since. This record is just a plain old, great rock and roll record that doesn’t let up from beginning to end. I like the two guitar attack and the gyrating jerkiness of the entire thing. It’s rare that I buy a record that can keep me pumped up for throughout it’s entirety, yet CTE sure does that. “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” may have been the big breakout song, but I like “In One Ear” even better and here it is in video form.

Jay-Z’s latest record held kind of a special place in my heart. See, it came out right before I got let go from Wizard in September. I was really looking forward to it, as I mentioned back in August, and it turned into this kind of Holy Grail for me because I didn’t want to spend any extra money until I had a new job or at least some steady freelance coming in. Well, finally, a few weeks ago, I deemed myself succesful enough to pick this bad boy up and it’s pretty great. I must admit that I haven’t taken the time to really absorb the whole thing because I just got it and don’t listen to as much music as I used to, but the singles alone make this record with the purchase. My favorite track is still “D.O.A.”

I first heard K’Naan in those mini-videos that MTV does between the end of a show before a commercial and the actual commercial. I heard enough snipets to know I’d be into this hip hop record from this Somalian artist. Aside from sporting some jams that are impossible to keep still during, I was also excited to hear some rhymes from a guy who came from a whole different way of life. I know he moved out of Somalia and to Canada when he was pretty young, but hearing him rap about fending off armed thugs and real life pirates put a lot of American posturing into context. Even when he slows things down, I still found myeslf engaged thanks to his insightful lyrics and smooth delivery. You can do a lot worse than picking this record up for your collection. I like every song on the record, but if I had one to add to a mix tape it would have to be the song he did with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine called “Bang Bang.”

The Street Sweeper Social Club’s record is another one that puts things in a whole different perspective with its mix of hip hop and rap. What else would you expect from the pairing of Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello and MC Boots Riley (who I honestly hadn’t heard of before). By combining Riley’s highly politically and incindieary lyrics with Morello’s funk-infused rock licks, you get a record that demands to be heard and really listened to. It’s like the Street Sweeper Social Club record is the soundtrack to a revolution that hasn’t really picked up too much steam yet. But don’t be too scared off if you’re not a fan of politically charged lyrics, I think there’s enough on TSSSC for any fan of really well crafted hip hop and rock to enjoy. Just check out this song called “100 Little Curses” for a taste. Just a warning, the lyrics are definitely NSFW.

I’m sure I discovered Estelle when the rest of the world did with the release of her song “American Boy” which featured the now-even-more-notorious Kanye West. It was a pretty hot song that seemed to dominate the airwaves both on the radio and video channels (back when there still were TV airwaves!). I really dug the song and figured I’d give the album a shot and really liked it. It’s more of a modern soul record really than anything else. Yes there’s plenty of hip hop influences on there, but you’ve also got plenty of Motown sneaking through too that makes this a pretty fun record to listen through. It definitely slows down in the middle, which I’m not a huge fan of, but there’s plenty of goodness on there, especially this first track “Just A Touch (Just A Touch)” which apparently features Will.I.Am.

My gigantic crush on Katy Perry’s retro style aside, I’m still a really big fan of this record. Yes, it’s pop radio stuff, but it’s really good, sexy pop radio stuff. To be honest, I’m not really sure when I bought this record. I feel like it was 2009, but it came out in 2008 as did the first big single “I Kissed A Boy.” Ah well, screw it. I think I bought the record after “Hot N Cold” came out (which also appeared as a single in 2008) and was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked listening to it. The record covers a surprising amount of ground from a tomboy turning into a woman to flirtations with lesbianism. Perry at least co-wrote every song on the record and I think she’s got a solid sense of songwriting. It’s too bad Lady Gaga swept in with her weird fashion sense, otherwise Perry’s style would have caught on better. Ah well, here’s the video of her and her band(!) playing “One Of The Boys” live.

Imelda May’s Love Tattoo is another record that came out in 2008 that I didn’t come across until 2009. Heck, I had never even heard of her before until I walked into the Best Buy on 5th Ave. in NYC, saw that it was like $7 and decided to give it a shot based on her retro hotness (are you noticing a partern?). Anyway, this may be my favorite find of the year as Love Tattoo gave me something I’ve been looking for and not finding for a while: a female vocalist with a swing/rockabilly sound who doesn’t get overly soft for most of the record. I had high hopes for Duffy after hearing her first single, but that was all super-sad mellow stuff. I also picked up and loved Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings’ 100 Days, 100 Nights, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. And I liked Estelle and Katy Perry’s records, but, again, it wasn’t what I had in my mind. Love Tattoo absolutely was. It does get a little soft at times, but May never loses her disctint attitude. She also writes the kind of songs that any man would love to have written about them like this one, called “Big Bad Handsome Man.”

This one’s definitely the saddest entry of the bunch because not only did the drumming/DJ duo of Travis Barker and DJ AM, survive a tragic plane crash in 2008, but DJ AM passed away in August. Well, after the accident Barker and AM got together to play Coachella this year and released the set as a mixtape on their website And it really is a thing of genius, even more impressive when you realize it was done live. See, the deal is that AM would spin and mix at the DJ tables while Barker drummed along and added beats. I had listened to their first mix tape, called Fix Your Face and was really excited when this one went up. Unfortuantely, DJ AM passed away only a few months later. If you like what you see in the video below from Coachella then head over to the site and download both mixtapes. RIP DJ AM!