Chris Cornell

Catching Up On The Week (Sept. 25 Edition)

Some #longreads as you enjoy the cool autumn weather…

This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the release of Wolf Parade’s Apologies to the Queen Mary, and considering we named this site after a lyric from the album, we think this is a rather significant milestone.  Even after hundreds and hundreds of spins, the album still captivates our attention and remains one of our favorites.  We may write our own appreciation in the future, but for now, feel free to read Stereogum’s appreciation of this classic album.

Fans of grunge will be glad to see that they have plenty to read this weekend.  First, Chris Cornell has an extensive interview with The Stranger, and second, Alternative Nation has drummer Barrett Martin’s liner notes for the reissue of Sweet Oblivion from the Screaming Trees, one of the best and most underrated albums of the 90’s.

Finally, Pitchfork takes a look at the effect that Kanye West’s left turn with 808s & Heartbreak had on contemporary hip-hop.

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Catching Up On The Week (Sept. 18 Edition)

A large number of #longreads for your weekend reading pleasure…

Alternative Nation recently talked to Mike McCready of Pearl Jam for an extensive interview that touched on a variety of subjects, including his work in Mad Season, his songwriting approach, and what the future holds for his main gig.  As always, McCready comes off as one of the nicest guys you will find in rock.

Fellow Seattle legend and sometimes-collaborator Chris Cornell was interviewed by the AV Club for their Set List feature, wherein they took a retrospective look at his varied career so far, offering insight into the Soundgarden reunion among other topics.

Elsewhere on the AV Club, Everclear’s Sparkle and Fade was analyzed for the site’s Permanent Records feature, providing some nice perspective on an underappreciated classic.

DIY talked to Foals as they prepared for the release of What Went Down, with the band discussing their recording philosophy and attitude towards writing new material.

Bradford Cox of Deerhunter opened up for a rather bizarre interview on Grantland.

Finally, we are not sure when this article was originally published, but we just came across this look back to the recording of …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead’s classic Source Tags & Codes in Magnet, where the band discusses the making of the album as well as its effect on the rest of their career.

Covered: “Come Together”

Covered is a feature where we examine the merits of various cover songs, debating whether or not they capture the spirit and intent of the original, if the cover adds anything new, and whether or not it perhaps surpasses the original.  If we fail on those counts, at the very least we may expose you to different versions of great songs you hadn’t heard before.

Growing up, I hardly listened to The Beatles, which puts me firmly in the minority of most people.  I grew up in an immigrant household with a mother that preferred the Rolling Stones and Bob Seger and a father who didn’t listen to popular music at all, so I missed out on that omnipresent background of Beatles records that make up the soundtrack of most childhoods.  My Beatles education came much later, but it was tainted by years of reading the endless stream of praise for how the band revolutionized music and were “The Greatest Band of All-Time,” which only set me up for disappointment when I went ahead and listened to all their classic albums.  So while I can appreciate on an academic level how the Beatles influenced rock music for decades, I personally never much of a connection with their music; I can understand how the vast majority of music that I do love was influenced by The Beatles and in many cases was a copy of a copy of a copy of their work, but that does not mean I have to enjoy the original.

Given this background, it is perhaps not a surprise that the first time that I heard “Come Together” was not when it kicked off Abbey Road, but when I heard the chorus used in a commercial.  I thought, “Hey, this is nice!  I wonder how the rest of this song goes,” though I never followed up on that desire.  So when I first heard the song in its entirety years later with the memories of its anthemic chorus still stuck in my head, I had anticipated “Come Together” to be more of an uplifting rocker, and was not prepared for the groovy verses or its low-key, bluesy feel.  However, once I adjusted my expectations, I could then appreciate Paul’s nifty and inventive bassline as well as Ringo’s perfectly-placed drumrolls.  Lennon’s lines about “toejam football” and “walrus gumboot” are all nonsense, but at least they stick in your head in a not-unpleasant manner, though I feel like the art of the non sequitur wasn’t perfected until Beck hit the scene.  It’s a groovy song, and I can see why people dig it, but it just ain’t my speed.

“Now this is more like it,” he says, knowing full well that this may destroy all of his credibility.

The Soundgarden cover has always been my favorite of all the various versions of the song because it fulfilled my simple desire of the “uplifting rocker” that I had initially expected: it’s loud and heavy and sounds like a goddamn dinosaur is stomping all over your stereo.  When analyzed with present-day ears, their cover sounds like a grunge-by-numbers take on the song, with its thundering drums, heavily-distorted guitars, and (perhaps overly-)emotive vocals. But at the time when the song was released (back in 1990 the pre-Badmotorfinger days for the Loudest Love EP/”Hands All Over” single), it was a much more innovative and imaginative approach.  Even if you’re unconvinced by that assessment, there is no denying that Kim Thayil’s guitar really wails on that fantastic McCartney riff and Chris Cornell  sings the hell out of those nonsensical lyrics, with everything working in perfect harmony for that memorable chorus.  Academically, it may not be genius, but it rocks.

For years I had been longing to have this cover on disc, but those particular releases were incredibly hard to find, even for a crate-digger like myself.  So when Soundgarden finally released their rarities collection Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path with a specific disc devoted to covers, I was beyond excited to finally having a copy of “Come Together”.  However, the initial price of the compilation was extremely high–it was quite a bit more expensive than the similar odds and sods Wilco collection Alpha Mike Foxtrot, even though the latter had a whole extra disc.  I eventually got my hands on a copy (after waiting a couple of months for the price to drop a bit and using up a gift certificate), and even on a disc filled with excellent covers somehow “Come Together” still holds up as Soundgarden’s best (though their version of “Big Bottom” comes close to topping it).

And now that I have a copy, I’m free to rock to this version and pretty much ignore the original, because I’m a total heretic [raises up a double-fisted rock-hands salute].

Over the Weekend (Feb. 2 Edition)

Videos, news, and other fun stuff as you recover from the worst playcall of all-time…

The coffee in Seattle probably tastes extra bitter today after yesterday’s Super Bowl loss, but the weekend wasn’t a total bummer for them since Friday night saw the “reunion” of supergroup Mad Season for a special event.  Blabbermouth has videos of the show which featured original members Mike McCready and Barrett Martin joining the Seattle Symphony to perform a trio of the group’s songs.  The evening also featured guest appearances from other Seattle grunge superstars like Chris Cornell, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Matt Cameron, as well as native Seattleite Duff McKagan.  As an added bonus, the stars also performed a couple of songs from the classic Temple of the Dog tribute album.

Back on the other coast, there was an epic Jack White concert that included a special appearance from Q-Tip, as well as openers Run The Jewels performing with Zach de la Rocha on the fantastic “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)”.  Consequence of Sound has videos of both performances because in all likelihood, you weren’t there.  Elsewhere in the city at a fall smaller venue, Hamilton Leithauser was performing, and with guitarist Paul Maroon debuted a few new songs that may be released in the future.  Considering how much we loved his solo debut, our excitement level is pretty high.

That said, you still had the chance to watch some excellent live performances from your couch this weekend, but if you missed out, we got you covered.  D’Angelo made his Saturday Night Live debut with songs from his new album Black Messiah, and The Black Keys went through a quick set on Austin City Limits featuring mostly recent material.  Stereogum has the links to the appropriate videos.

We also have a couple of new music videos this week.  First, Deerhoof released the video for “Black Pitch” from La Isla Bonita, and it revolves around singer Satomi Matsuzak enjoying the coastal scenery despite the cold temperature outside.

Then we have Run The Jewels’s second appearance in today’s linkfest, since they just put out a video for “Lie, Cheat, Steal”.

If you’re in the mood for lists which prominently feature the Pixies, we have a couple for you.  First, there’s PASTE ranking the 80 Best Albums of the 80’s, and then there’s Consequence of Sound looking at the Top 10 4AD albums for that record label’s thirty-fifth anniversary.

Have some fun thinking about the fact that Rick Rubin is now doing annotations for Genius, and then hurrying over to see what the guru has to say about the great songs that he worked on (and his thoughts on songs he did not).

Finally, spend the day listening to albums from the one holiday-appropriate band that there is for February 2.  We’ll help get you started.

Over the Weekend (Dec. 15 Edition)

Some fun links as you laugh at all the Best Of lists that were ruined by a surprise album release last night…

Once again, we’ve got links to a veritable bevy of lists this week for your perusal.  Pitchfork released their 100 Best Tracks list, with several RIJR favorites well-represented throughout the countdown (including multiple slots for Spoon, The War On Drugs, and Run The Jewels).  Then there’s The FADER’s 116 Best Tracks list and CMJ’s 65 Best Songs list for your oddly-numbered reviews, as well as Drowned in Sound’s 50 Favourite Albums of 2014 to help fill out the rest of your day.

As for the surprise album mentioned in the intro, D’Angelo stunned the music world last night when the long-awaited followup to Voodoo was released last night, and the early response has been an endless series of raves for Black Messiah.  It’s available on iTunes and Spotify, and a few hours ago all the tracks were uploaded to YouTube on D’Angelo’s Vevo channel.

There will be a Mad Season reunion of sorts, as Chris Cornell and Duff McKagan fill in for the deceased members of the grunge supergroup for a special performance on January 30th in Seattle.  Mike McCready and Barrett Martin will be reprising their original roles and will have the Seattle Symphony providing support on multiple songs.

And finally, just in time for the 35th anniversary of the Greatest Album of All-Time, Joe Strummer received the rare and prestigious honor of having a new species of snail named after him.  After reading up on the snail, spend some time figuring out what the best five songs on London Calling are.  The fun part is you can make an argument for just about any five tracks on the album!

Over the Weekend (Oct. 27 Edition)

News and new videos that have nothing to do with Halloween…

It’s always worth checking out the music videos that OK Go produces, and today’s release of “I Won’t Let You Down” is no exception.  Check out the band as they construct an elaborate routine with the help of a few (hundred) friends.

This weekend was the annual Bridge School Benefit, and I’m sure additional videos will be trickling out over the next few days, but so far there have been two featuring Pearl Jam that are definitely worth viewing.  First, there’s the band hanging out with “Uncle Neil” as they perform “Throw Your Hatred Down”, a track from the Pearl Jam-backed Neil Young album Mirror Ball.

Then there was the Temple of the Dog “reunion” as Chris Cornell joined in to sing “Hunger Strike”:

Speaking of Chris Cornell, his regular gig Soundgarden today released a brand new song, “Storm”, which you can stream here.  It’s got a nice, dark groove driven by Ben Shepherd’s bass, and might be deemed a spookier cousin to “Superunknown”.  It will appear on the band’s upcoming rarities compilation, Echo of Miles: Scattered Tracks Across the Path, whose tracklist can be viewed here.  The three disc set is scheduled to be released on November 24.

Wayne Coyne talks to NPR about the upcoming With A Little Help From My Fwends, the Sgt. Pepper cover album that The Flaming Lips recorded with several of their colleagues, ranging from J Mascis and Maynard James Keenan to Dr. Dog and My Morning Jacket to Tegan & Sara and Miley Cyrus.

My Morning Jacket also announced today a charity single cover of Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land Is Your Land”, which is now available on iTunes.

Finally, Wilco is set to perform three songs this evening on The Tonight Show (though not all of them will probably be broadcast), featuring tracks from their upcoming rarities compilation.  In addition, Herbie Hancock will be sitting in with The Roots, so tonight might be the time to try to stomach Jimmy Fallon.

Feats of Strength: Soundgarden

Soundgarden released several deluxe reissues of their classic album Superunknown today, and along with their recent rollicking performance of the album in full, it seems like now is the perfect time to spotlight the band for our Feats of Strength examination.  When discussing the brilliance of Soundgarden, it is absolutely required that one mentions the sheer musical talent of each person in the group, and how each contributed significantly to the group’s unique sound.  From Chris Cornell’s dynamic and immense vocal range, to Kim Thayil’s distinctive and exhilarating leads, to Ben Shepherd’s dark and groovy basslines, and to Matt Cameron’s complex patterns and fills, each member represents some of the finest talent to ever pick up an instrument.  For the young musicians out there, any one of those guys would serve as a fine role model for your playing.

The point of that glowing introduction was to illustrate that it would be pretty easy to point to just about any song in Soundgarden’s deep catalog and use it to show off a particular strength of the group.  Oh, you want an idea of Chris Cornell’s range?  Check out that ending to “Slaves and Bulldozers”.  You’re doubting Kim Thayil’s ability to shred?  I have no idea how you managed this, but somehow you’ve apparently ignored rock radio over the last twenty years completely, and so have completely avoided “Spoonman” or “Black Hole Sun”.  However, those examples are the kinds of displays of technical prowess that should be obvious to anyone with ears; you don’t need someone like me to point them out.  Instead, I’ve chosen to highlight something much simpler and easy to overlook over the first few listens.

As I mentioned before, Matt Cameron is known for some complex drum patterns, such as the one used for “The Day I Tried to Live”; part of that was unintentional, and the result of fitting odd riffs to a workable drum beat.  However, the one used for “Limo Wreck” [embedded above] is one of the most basic drum beats in music: the waltz.  Step-two-three, step-two-three; boom-chk-chk, boom-chk-chk.  The genius is not in the selection of the pattern itself, but its use as support for the lyrics.  The waltz pattern, with its echoes of stuffy and old high society, provides the perfect ironic backdrop to lyrics that celebrate the imminent demise of the gaudy and materialistic upper classes.

It took several listens over the years before I noticed this pattern; the waltz is not clearly telegraphed, as is often the case (either in title or in the opening drumbeat).  But now it’s often the first thing I think of when I listen to this song, and it provides an indelible image in my mind of a snooty ballroom dance, with each participant oblivious to the crumbling of society around them.  And while the band has claimed before that they often don’t think of time signatures when writing a piece, I can’t imagine that this subtle touch was spontaneous, but instead planned to perfection.

Over the Weekend (May 27 Edition)

We took the day off yesterday in recognition of Memorial Day.  This is how we at RIJR celebrated, with Gary Clark Jr.’s superb rendition of the National Anthem from this year’s NBA All-Star Game.

The Atlantic had a nice piece where they asked musicians their thoughts on what the most influential song in history was.  Personally, I felt that Walter Martin, formerly of The Walkmen, gave the best answer.

Speaking of The Walkmen, Hamilton Leithauser’s solo debut Black Hours is available for streaming on the NPR website; they also have a stream of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Only Run up as well.  Next week sees some other highly anticipated new albums, including Sunbathing Animal from Parquet Courts and Glass Boys from Fucked Up.  Pitchfork has the streams for both.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: it’s always worth seeing Eels live.  You never know what kind of set you get, from a somber strings-enriched performance to a retro-variety hour show, or having Steve Perry from Journey randomly showing up and performing live for the first time in nearly two decades.

Chris Cornell gave a quick interview to Rolling Stone talking about looking back to the days of Superunknown.  The best part of the interview was the discussion about his interactions with Artis the Spoonman, giving new insight into their relationship.

Finally, I think that I need to inform our audience that a banjo cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood” exists.  And it’s not bad.