Mike McCready

Over the Weekend (Oct. 5 Edition)

News, new music, and other fun stuff to help kickoff your week…

We linked to multiple articles about Radiohead’s Kid A on Friday, so naturally we have another piece related to the band today.  Diffuser has a slideshow attempting to come up with a suitable American version of Radiohead, and to their credit, they think outside the box of “a few dudes with guitars”, though we are sure their choices would cause some amount of debate.

Bloc Party is set to release a new album entitled Hymns next year, and today they released the first track from the record.  Since Four, the band has shuffled their lineup a bit, including adding Justin Harris of Menomena to the group, and the electronic-influenced “The Love Within” is our first glimpse at the result.

Run The Jewels released a new single this week, sharing the gritty track “Rubble Kings Theme (Dynamite)” from the documentary Rubble Kings.

The title for Best Example of Clickbait from last week was the announcement that scientists have determined Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as the most iconic song of all time.  Certainly there is more to the story, but feel free to argue among yourselves as to whether or not the result makes sense.

There are a couple of great interviews that we recommend for your perusal this week.  First, Alan Sparhawk of Low talks to The Quietus about the band’s career in a serious and insightful discussion, and then you can lighten things up with the always entertaining Jesse Hughes from Eagles of Death Metal, who opens up to Consequence of Sound about his various personal contradictions.

We linked to a couple of clips of this show a couple of weeks back, but now feel free to rock out to the full concert footage of the supergroup performance of The Stooges’s iconic album Raw Power, featuring Mark Arm, Mike McCready, Duff McKagan, and Barrett Martin performing on the rooftop of Pike Place Market.

Finally, we recommend you check out this Tiny Desk Concert from our newest favorite Greek musician, Lianne LaHavas, who possesses a gorgeous voice that should help brighten up your week.

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.

Over the Weekend (Aug. 24 Edition)

New music, news, and other fun stuff to help start your week…

Last night marked the end (?) of the beloved and bizarre animated series Aqua Teen Hunger Force, but before the show officially said goodbye, the folks at Adult Swim enlisted the help of a legendary artist who is a surprisingly devoted fan: Patti Smith.  Smith gave a brief interview to Pitchfork explaining both her love of the show and how she ended up recording the song for the series finale.

Over the weekend, a pretty goddamn awesome supergroup convened up in Seattle to pay tribute to the legendary punk album Raw Power from Iggy & The Stooges.  Mike McCready from Pearl Jam, Mark Arm from Mudhoney, Barrett Martin from Screaming Trees, and Duff McKagan from Guns ‘N Roses got together for the charity gig in support of radio station KEXP, and Stereogum has some of the footage from this memorable gig.

Foals are set to release their latest album, What Went Down, this Friday.  They have released several videos to help build anticipation for the new album already, and today the group released their latest with a “CCTV” version of the low-key “London Thunder”.

!!! announced dates for a tour this fall, and I highly recommend that you check your calendars to see if you are free the night they hit your town, because there are few things in life that are as fun as a !!! show.  The band also shared a goofy lyric video for new single “Freedom ’15”, off their upcoming album As If, which will be released on October 16.

For those of you looking for a fun way to kill some time, check out this piece which attempts to determine what recent songs have become timeless through an analysis of Spotify play counts.

Finally, enjoy killing some time with a couple of lists.  First, Willamette Week offers the 21 Best Songs About Portland, which does a fair job of covering the city’s unusual musical history.  Due to a technicality that the song must explicitly reference Rip City in some capacity, the best song about Portland was excluded, but otherwise it was a solid attempt.  And then for the giant time-waster, Pitchfork has decided to use this as a dead week to promote their list of the 200 Best Songs of the 80’s.

Embedded above is the best (and most accurate) song about Portland.  You have probably heard it before.

Over the Weekend (Apr. 13 Edition)

New videos, new music, and news to help tide you over as you wait for the NBA playoffs to begin…

For weeks, TV on the Radio has been teasing the release of their latest single off their brilliant album Seeds by posting photos with the hashtag “#herecomestrouble”, and last week finally shared the video for “Trouble”.  Much like the song, it has a somber tone, but there is a redemptive undercurrent that ultimately makes it uplifting.

Janelle Monáe surprised her fans this morning by releasing a new song and accompanying video, a fun romp entitled “Yoga” off an upcoming compilation EP called Wonderland Presents THE EEPHUS.  The video does indeed feature some “yoga”, though the focus is not necessarily on fitness or inner peace, but as a precursor to a wild party.

The biggest shock of the weekend was the announcement that Frank Ocean will soon be releasing the follow-up to his breakthrough album channel ORANGE in July.  His fellow compatriot in the Odd Future collective, Tyler, the Creator, also surprised fans with the sudden release of his new album Cherry Bomb, which is now available for streaming and will have a physical release with five different album covers on April 28th.

Another highly-anticipated release that is now available for streaming is the newest effort from Speedy Ortiz, with Foil Deer up on the NPR website.  We loved their debut album, Major Arcana, and had a lot of fun when they performed at Project Pabst, so we cannot wait to get our hands on the record when it is released next week.

We are also glad to hear that Local H is close to releasing another record, and the AV Club has an exclusive track from the upcoming Hey, Killer.  The band (with a slight lineup change) will soon be hitting the road, and we highly recommend you go see them play.

And finally, we have a couple of fun, useless lists to help you pass the time.  OC Weekly has a list of the 10 Most Underrated Guitarists in the History of Rock, and we have to say that we agree with several of their selections; there clearly was some thought involved, and the intent was not to troll readers.  And AV Club followed up their A-Z list of Animated Series with a rundown of the Best Rock Bands of the 00’s for each letter of the alphabet, and while not a bad list per se, it definitely fulfills the qualification of being “useless.”

A Defense of Live Music, Which Is Apparently Necessary

A few weeks ago, we linked to a piece from Talking Points Memo that featured the inflammatory headline “Face It, Live Music Kinda Sucks.”  As expected, the article does not improve from its initial comparison that “live music is the grownup birthday dinner of cultural events”, and it certainly does not fulfill its stated promise of providing an “airtight case” of that assertion.  Sometimes an essay can overcome its terrible arguments with some creative and compelling commentary, but there is absolutely nothing in the article that resembles anything that can be construed as entertaining.

Here is a breakdown of the author’s argument: 1). People don’t want to hear bands they don’t know; 2). Musicians can be boring/play for too long/other people suck; 3). Live music isn’t as good as studio recordings; 4). Good bands don’t get booked; 5). People suck and do bad things and somehow this is the result of live music.  This  last part didn’t get its own bullet-point, but was apparently tacked-on at the last minute to score some social commentary points, which is depressing in and of itself–you may have admirable aims in tackling issues of racism, sexism, and other forms of harassment, but if you use a lazy argument it just hurts your overall point, especially if it lacks relevance to the specific issue at hand.  It is completely unproductive, and results in turning off the potentially impressionable as only the converted hear the message.

Even if one ignores the extraneous social commentary, it is not as if the author’s primary arguments have any merit.  For the first point, there is the tautology that the author admits to in his own goddamn article that “nobody likes things they don’t like”, but there is no elaboration of this basic concept.  Sure, it can be annoying to hear crappy opening bands, but for the most part it is rare to hear genuinely awful bands, so maybe it is possible to endure a half-hour of light annoyance in order to hear your preferred choice.  Of course, as rare as it may be, there is always the possibility that you can find a new favorite band from an unknown opener; even if the success rate is rather low in this particular context, it is roughly equivalent to what you would find just scanning the radio.

The second and third points are even more ludicrous.  If you like a band so much that you are paying money to see them live, why would you complain that you may be forced to endure a three hour show?  Most fans appreciate hearing as much of a band’s catalog as possible.  Of course, the solution for someone who thinks that a concert is running too long is rather obvious: leave early.  The other argument has the appearance of some legitimacy, since it is true that there is often a fundamental tension in seeing a band live.  It is a struggle for musicians to satisfy the demand of sounding similar to the studio recordings with which their fans are familiar as well as making the live experience worthwhile by offering a unique experience, but seeing how a musician handles that clash of expectations is half the fun of a live show.  Some bands succeed, others do not, but that is how most things go in life.  However, the fact that the author cites Beck as an example of a musician’s failure to meet those conflicting expectations casts some doubt on his ability to discern as to what makes a good performance; over the years, Beck has done an excellent job of assembling various groups of musicians that do a fantastic job of recreating and reinterpreting his studio albums in a live setting, including during his recent Morning Phase tour.

The final point is just dumb, and is undercut by the author’s own admitted shittery.  Congratulations, you were able to book shows despite the fact that your band was terrible (and judging by the photo you submitted for this piece, I have no problem believing this to be the case).  In general, most venues care much more about their bottom line and simply will not book bands that fail to bring in an audience; half-assed sociological assessments do not usually enter into the picture.  Good work on earning a few hundred bucks here and there by putting on a terrible performance, Mr. Kennedy, but there is a clear reason why we in the public at large have never heard about your musical exploits.  Despite the fact that you didn’t give a fuck about your audience, it doesn’t mean that most bands follow your model.  I have seen Of Montreal perform a gig for dozens in a basement bar in rural New Hampshire and play a sell-out show for thousands in New York City, and they played with the same gusto and enthusiasm for both shows.  In other words, there’s a reason why they are the ones that still have a musical career.

Related to this discussion is the recent questions asked by some about the relevancy of live albums.  It is difficult to think of a less vital position to take, considering that if you do not believe in the endeavor of creating a live album for fans you can choose to simply not to buy the album–it is not as if the existence of these albums crowds out the market for other non-live albums.  But the answer is simple: fans find value in these recordings.  At their most basic level, live albums benefit from the extra energy that infuse the performances, from both the musicians themselves and the presence of the crowd; even if the listener is not physically present for the show, there is still some benefit in hearing a live recording because of this factor.

These albums also allow fans to hear exciting new variations of their favorite songs; the studio recordings do not have to be a “finished product”, and bands can tinker and deconstruct various elements and rebuild them into something new.  As an example, with each of their tours Eels emphasizes different parts of their sound and offer intriguing new takes on their songs, whether it be fuzzed-out rock on Electro-Shock Blues Show or delicate ballads on With Strings.  Live albums also offer fans the chance to hear amazing displays of musicianship and improvisation; there are those that are content with hearing one version of Pearl Jam’s “Black”, but there are thousands of others that enjoy hearing Mike McCready create different beautiful solos with each performance.  Plus, there’s always fun in hearing particularly memorable stage banter that a recording might capture, as many Pearl Jam bootleg devotees can attest.

The point is that live music is great any way you find it.  There is no need to be an ass and try to find reasons to hate it.

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 (Jan. 19 Edition)

Videos, news, and other fun music-related articles as you celebrate today’s holiday

In honor of today’s holiday, I hope you take some time to read Killer Mike’s excellent op-ed on how we should pay tribute to Dr. King’s true legacy.  Mike emphasizes the revolutionary ideals of Dr. King, and pushes us to do more than talk vaguely about his virtue but to take action.

Flying Lotus continues to deliver thought-provoking videos for his recent album, You’re Dead!,  with the latest being the dark and disturbing “Coronus, The Terminator”.  He writes in the comments, “For me, Coronus is one of the most important moments on You’re Dead! and holds ideas I’m planning to explore in my future work. I’m happy that the visual encapsulates the meaning of the record and this ambition[.]”

Modest Mouse also released their latest video this morning, with the fan site Interstate-8 providing the video for the track “Coyotes”.  The band had given a tease for the video this past weekend by posting a tweet of the video’s star, so at least those of us who were befuddled by the message now at least understand the meaning.

As a fan of Seattle bands (and the city in general) but not of their football team, it’s been a pretty difficult month.  First, I have to deal with Pearl Jam selling special “12th Man” t-shirts as well as Mike McCready raising a special 12th Man flag at the Space Needle, and then I have to see that Alice in Chains performed at halftime at the game on Sunday.  That said, it’s terrible for Fox not to have broadcast it, but kudos for the various fans who have been sharing footage from the show. (Update: The Seahawks are now sharing official footage of the performance.)

Most people know that bands often make ridiculous demands in their Tour Rider, but few make an actual game of it.  Enter the Foo Fighters, who included an activity book to help hammer home the important points and make sure that the various venues actually paid attention.

And finally, proof once again of the importance of music, with a recent study that shows that music training provides significant benefits to development in children’s brains.

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!

A Quick Letter to Trent Reznor

Tomorrow night, we here at Rust Is Just Right are heading up to the wastelands of southern Washington, which means our readers will soon see an end to the mentions of a tour we’ve been talking about since the beginning of this site.  That’s right, the mega-tour of 90’s powerhouse co-headliners Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails is making its way to the Portland area (without the initially-invited Death Grips, however).  Though we saw both of these acts on their own respective tours last year, we were suitably impressed with their comeback performances that it was a no-brainer to shell out the big bucks to see these guys once again, if only for the possibility of a few changes to the setlist.  To that end, we would like to formally request for Trent Reznor to dig deep and play some cuts from The Fragile at tomorrow’s show.

Nine Inch Nails became superstars with the critical and commercial success of 1994’s The Downward Spiral (the album whose twentieth anniversary is nominally the impetus for this tour), but it wasn’t until they released its follow-up The Fragile in 1999 that I climbed aboard the bandwagon.  I was too young to appreciate TDS when it came out–it was simply too dark and scary for a kid who was still in elementary school, and I remember just seeing glimpses of the “Closer” video gave me nightmares (it didn’t occur to me that there was an actual song behind the video that could be played on the radio until years later).  I had none of these issues when The Fragile came out, and even though it’s a behemoth of a double album, I enjoyed devouring and analyzing the music for hours on end.

The reputation of The Fragile has suffered a bit over the years due to comparisons to the ridiculous sales numbers of The Downward Spiral, and this analysis has cast a shadow onto the album’s artistic merits as a result, with many now concluding that it doesn’t measure up as a worthy successor.  I would argue that as great as TDS is, it is with The Fragile that Trent Reznor truly proved his genius and bona fides as a composer.  The album plays as an industrial rock symphony, with melodic ideas and figures that pop up in different variations throughout, giving a musical coherence to the work.  Individual instruments are recorded with precision, providing ample space when required but also allowed to bleed together to create new gorgeous tones like a shoegaze record.  Reznor also balances between natural and artificial tones with expert mixing both live and processed instrumentation.  It is obvious to the listener that every second was planned and recorded with care, and the result is an album that even at its most brutal and devastating sounds absolutely gorgeous.

It looks that the band is playing a few of the usual suspects from this album on this tour, but I hope that Trent flips the script a bit and pulls off a couple of surprises.  The crowd, which is full of diehards like me that grew up with The Fragile and listen to it on a regular basis, would go nuts if the band whipped out the epic instrumental “Just Like You Imagined” and lose their shit if they got to hear “Into the Void” once again.  But I’ll be honest, the one song that I desperately want to hear is the one embedded above, the song that convinced me of the brilliance of Nine Inch Nails, “We’re In This Together”.  I love the relentless drumbeat that drives the song, utilizing a trickier pattern than appears at first listen, I love the ever-evolving vocal melodies that emphasize and build on the emotions of the lyrics, but most of all, I love the fucking guitar in this song, especially one of the greatest noise-freakout solos I’ve ever heard.  I realize the difficulty of putting all the elements of this song together live (which is why it’s only been done a handful of times), but I’m telling you, the fans would go crazy if it actually happened, and we will forgive any and all mistakes just for the gesture.

But don’t substitute “Gave Up”.  That one is great.

And if the guys in Soundgarden are taking requests, please play “Tighter & Tighter”.  It’s not necessary that you have Mike McCready come help you out, but we definitely would love it if he decided to help out on this one.