A few quick links you may have missed this week and worthy of your time this weekend
I am of the generation that grew up in the wake of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea—not in the era from when the album was first released, but in the ensuing years where it became totem of alternative/indie rock culture. Like many, I became obsessed with the album and the story of Jeff Mangum, the reclusive genius who became the J.D. Salinger of rock. I was ecstatic when Jeff Mangum returned to the stage, and witnessed two amazing performances in Portland and Eugene (I remarked at the time that only Jeff Mangum could get a Portland crowd to scream “I love you, Jesus Christ!”). But even there was something that was missing from those performances, and that was the rickety junkyard orchestra quality of the album itself, provided by a full backing band. “Holland, 1945” will always be one of the greatest songs ever written, regardless of how it’s performed, but it loses something without those horns and that fuzz bass and those barely-restrained chaotic drums. So even though I had the good fortune to see those previous two performances, I still jumped at the opportunity to see Neutral Milk Hotel as a whole for the reunion tour.
There are those that express some reservations to this. Steven Hyden of Grantland wrote about his reaction to the return of Mangum and Neutral Milk Hotel, and he took a much more pessimistic stance. I do agree to some extent the cult-like devotion of some fans is a turn-off (while I have listened to the album over a hundred times, I haven’t memorized the entire lyric sheet as it seems most audiences have), but I wouldn’t go so far as to say as a result that I like the album “less”. And personally I think it’s unfair to call out any band for their possible motivations for reuniting, even if it’s to say that you don’t care that their intentions may be less than noble. I can see points being made about post-boomer generations now realizing how much fun it can be to indulge in nostalgia, this overlooks the fact that there were younger generations who never got a chance to experience things firsthand, so why piss on their opportunity to do so? I didn’t get a chance to see Dinosaur Jr. the first time around, but I’m sure as shit enjoying their late-period renaissance; Pavement was before my time, but seeing their reunion in Central Park was one of the greatest live performances I’ve ever seen.
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Continuing our previous coverage of the 20th anniversary of Dookie, Consequence of Sound asked various writers and musicians about their memories of the album. What struck me is how many were my age at the time (around 9 years old), and led me to wonder whether any bands that are currently popular with 9 year olds will have any critical respect twenty years later. I’m going to say probably not.
Here’s an interesting article that details how useless it can be to talk about a musician’s social media presence. The number of followers and likes are generally useless figures, and discussion of those immaterial numbers take away from any discussion of the music itself. However, there’s a twist in this story of how exactly an artist gained all those Twitter followers.
One of my favorite weekends of the year is NBA All-Star Weekend, and this year will be especially great because I’ll be cheering for two Blazers. Kudos to LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, the latter of whom will be the first player to participate in five events during the weekend. What does this news have to do with music? Just the fact that they’ve got an outstanding musical lineup for the weekend, with Kendrick Lamar performing before the Dunk Contest, Pharrell in the pre-game ceremony, and Janelle Monáe performing with Trombone Shorty, Dr. John, and Earth, Wind & Fire at half-time. That’s probably the best lineup that I remember for the event, if only for the fact that Phillip Phillips is not involved.
And finally, as the Winter Olympics begin, enjoy this video of a Russian Police Choir performing “Get Lucky” as a part of the Opening Ceremonies. I didn’t see much of the festivities, but I’m pretty sure this has to be one of the top highlights.