Sunday, September 25, 2011

Daily Listenings 09/25/2011

It's early a.m Sunday morning, the kids and Nancy are asleep, and I am psyched!

First, heading off tonight with Nancy and two great friends to catch The Hollywood Bowl's final rock extravaganza of the summer, featuring two acts I've never caught before...Chicago's Smith Westerns and the England's Arctic Monkeys...and three I can't wait to see again...Warpaint, Panda Bear, and TV On The Radio. 

Well, actually, if Panda's as lame as Animal Collective was at this year's Coachella, I can definitely wait to see him again, but what the hell, it's a great overall bill...why complain. 

And contrary to my normal operating speed, I'll try to have a full review up before end of day tomorrow.

Second, I'm psyched because I finally loaded the last 2010 release I plan on reviewing into my car rotation. 

Nothing but 2011s from here on out, though will definitely not overextend myself as much as I did in 2010. 

Mix collection's only going to be eight CDs this year max. 

I'd apologize, but I think most of you have been waiting years for me to trim it down to a smaller, more manageable size.

Got in first serious listens on several 2011's this week.  Duran Duran's latest, the aforementioned Smith Western's Dye It Blonde, Kurt Vile's hazy Smoke Ring For My Halo (definitely the class of this group), and a few older classics, most notably The Streets' fantastic grime rap debut Original Pirate Material, but the band that was most on my mind, not surprisingly, was R.E.M., who finally called it quits this week after a thirty-one year career.

As the years go on, I fear R.E.M. is one of those truly great bands, like the Kinks, that history will tend to forget alongside the other giants of their era.

Like the Kinks, their greatest strength was their stunning consistency, but also like the Kinks, and unlike bands such as The Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones, U2, or Bruce Springsteen...they never produced that one towering monstrosity...the Sgt. Peppers, The Exile, The Joshua Tree, the Who's Next, the Born To Run...that will ensure they are forever a part of future rock 'n' roll conversations.

But with efforts like Murmur, Life's Rich Pageant, and Automatic For The People they came damn close, and in their heyday, from their inception until Bill Berry's on-stage aneurysm in 1995, they were the most reliable crafters of the "never skip a track" front-to-back listen popular music had out there. 

Even their slight missteps, which for some odd reason always seemed to come on their third release in a sequence (Fables, Green, Monster) held more great tracks than a lot of today's bands generate throughout their careers.

For me, coming of age in the eighties, they are a band deeply intertwined with vivid personal memories...the soundtrack to numerous road trips, bar outings, romantic hookups, and 4 am hang-outs with my best college friends.

They were a band everyone seemed to love, and yet, on each album, you knew there would be that B-side gem no one else talked about that felt like it had been crafted just for you...Sitting Still, Letter Never Sent, Life And How To Live It, Hyena, The Wrong Child, Near Wild Heaven, New Test Leper...I can't think of another band in rock history that produced such a vast collection of unforgettable "smaller" songs.

My guess is history will probably judge Murmur, which basically launched the college/alternative rock genre, the harder-rocking, de-mumbled Document, or the incredibly intimate Automatic For The People as their crowning achievement, but for me it's always been Pageant...with its fabulous Begin The Begin/Superman bookends, and the finest vocal blend Michael Stipe and Mike Mills ever achieved on record, I feel it's the album that best personifies the band's very special chemistry.

It's sad to see them go, though given their more recent, post-Berry output, it was clearly time. 

I just hope they haven't ruled out a headlining original line-up Coachella reunion a few years down the road.

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