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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Me, Myself and I - Music, The Stones and Bruce Part 01

Let's have an introduction



and I

Me: What excites you about music today?

Myself: That's a tough question because the older I get the less I find myself listening to newer bands and maybe just newer music by older established artists who I've enjoyed down through the years.

I: Same here. Probably the "newest" artists (new to me at least) that I've been listening to in the past three or four years are people like Frank Turner, The Gaslight Anthem, Fleet Foxes, The Hold Steady, Imelda May, The Unthanks, Ed Sheeran and Mandi Perkins/Of Verona. What about you? What kind of established artists do you listen to who are still making good music today?

Me: Ian McNabb's latest album, 'Little Episodes' is brilliant. I was quite taken with Dion's excellent 'Tank Full of Blues', Springsteen's 'Wrecking Ball' is still growing on me with each listen. Love the Dropkick Murphy's album 'Going Out in Style', that Celtic Punk sound still sounds so good. Probably one of my favourite albums of the year so far has been SinΓ©ad O'Connor's 'How About I Be Me (and You Be You)?' 

I surprised myself as well by really liking 'Old Ideas' by Leonard Cohen. When I was younger I could never have imagined myself listening to his music at all as it always had a touch of the miserable attached to it. I fear that I missed out because the guy is in his 70's and he has made a mesmerizing album of beautiful music and his voice is as smooth as butter.

Myself: There's so many of these artists who are still producing great music because the music is in their blood, it's like the beat of their heart, people complain sometimes about these "older" artists hanging around churning out music but we always have to remember that many of these artists have paid their dues, they've played the dive bars, had terrible sales of their albums, have been dumped by their labels and have known tragedy and heartbreak and yet they are still up for it. Too many people today think that the contract and all the glamour that goes with it should be handed to them on a silver platter. I  lay the blame for that on the over abundance of music talent shows on the TV.

I: The issue with those shows is that there is actually a very small percentage of people on them who actually do have talent and have put the work in, done the songwriting, plays an instrument. But then there are the rest of them who just want to be famous for the sake of being famous and it doesn't matter what kind of garbage the record company releases, they'll do all the gimmicky things to plug it and somehow it ends up a hit. 

All the while the music that is actually really good that's out there rarely gets a mention. I had a look at the latest Top 40 Singles and you know what? Most of the people in it I couldn't care less about, their music is disposable, here today, gone tomorrow, of no worth and value. 

I honestly can't see a song like Starships by Nicki Minaj making an impact on my life or making me think about the world that I live in and how I might in some small way change it. All those years ago Morrissey, love him or hate him, was right when he sang about the "the music they constantly play says nothing to me about my life."

The music that matters has substance to it, it says something, means something and speaks into my life. I guess that's why I find myself going back to the older stuff, and the more established artists.

That's why Springsteen is still on my radar. He's been up and at 'em for heading on 40 years and he's still got something to say, he still writing relevant music that speaks into the chaos of the global financial crisis and the fear that people have in their own lives, and in the midst of these songs he brings a hope that things can be brighter. He's unafraid to call them to account. This is where Bruce differs from someone like, say The Rolling Stones. No doubt next year they will wheel themselves out for a 50th anniversary tour and make millions doing it but they haven't made a decent album in decades. 

I have no doubt about the musical abilities of the band because Keith, Ronnie and Charlie are brilliant musicians, but I can almost forsee what that tour is going to be like each night. It will be a two hour set of their hits from down through the years and the songs in the set that will have be biggest impact will be those they were putting out at the tail end of the 1960's and into the early 1970's. Songs like 'Gimmie Shelter', 'Street Fighting Man', and 'You Can't Always Get What You Want', haven't lost their charm at all but weighed up against what they were putting out in the 1980's right up to the 2005 album 'A Bigger Bang' they are in a league of their own because most of the stuff that followed 'Exile' is not up to much at all. And people will go out and spend £100+ to see them when they'd be better off just cranking up the 1975 Compilation 'Rolled Gold' in the confines of their living room! I've got a bootleg of the Glasgow show from 2006 and that was the tour for 'A Bigger Bang' album and they were only doing two tracks off it. To me that's scandalous! And the show sounds so pedestrian!

Myself: And Bruce? His show is anything but pedestrian! The man is crowd surfing, climbing balconies, getting among the fans, slaying the crowd with a 23-24 song set each night that is featuring a lot of the new album and of course some of the old standards as well, and a few surprises hear and there. He's 62 years old and the way he's running about you'd still think he was in his late 30's! He's a craftsman, he knows how to put together a show and each song is carefully fitted together to get across the message. Opening night of the tour 9 songs were from the new album!

Me: Incredible, five of the first ten songs were new songs! The last show in Philadelphia I love it how he's able to drop a crowd pleaser like 'Badlands' from the setlist and replace it with 'Night' from the 'Born to Run' album and not miss a beat, then in the encore throw a 14 minute version of 'Kitty's Back' into the mix and still do a five song encore and come out shining.

Well, that'll it do it for the first conversational installment of what |I hope will become something regular here at Soundtrack4Life.
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