(I intend for this to be the first piece in a series on which, for lack of a better term, I will refer to as middle-aged-man music and my love affair with it).
NPR is streaming Robbie Robert’s first solo album in 13 years, the rather gorgeous How to Become Clairvoyant. Robertson, the former songwriter/band leader/ego-maniacal tyrant/ evil super genius of The Band, has only released four solo albums in the thirty-five years since The Band broke up. His solo musical output is as my brother put it “hit or miss as fuck” – some of it is fantasticand some of it is, well, cheesy as shit. (And some of it manages to be both). How to Become Clairvoyant, featuring guest performances from Eric Clapton, Angela McCluskey, Tom Morello and Trent Reznor, belongs in the fantastic side of that equation.
Some background: Robbie’s Wikipedia page is skimpy on what makes him so awesome (and so diabolical) so I will give you a primer. When he was a teenager in Toronto, he started playing with Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson (all Canadian!) and Levon Helm, from Turkey Scratch, Arkansas. I still don’t know how an Ozarkian drummer genius ended up in Toronto in 1958, but thank Jesus he did – the five of them together created arguably the two most influential albums of the late-sixties Music from Big Pink and The Band; changed Eric Clapton’s life; inspired the Beatles later output; backed up Bob Dylan on his infamous first electric “Judas” tour, and made the best concert film of all time in 1976. No big deal.
I sent in an interview request to Ark Music Factory, the production group behind the incredibly catchy horrible, horrible Rebecca Black song, ‘Friday.’ They never got back to me. Apparently, they were too busy dealing with the hard-hitting questions from this sycophantactressplantmodel reporter.
Now, I’m a big Iggy fan, but good ol’ Peter Gzosky was asking honest questions and giving Iggy plenty of space to respond, and Iggy’s just being a penis to him. BUT! This is not a bad thing because he’s being the most hilarious penis you can imagine. And you can tell that Gzosky is having a blast.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it.
Another takeaway: Iggy Pop at one point didn’t look like an evil sorcerer. Iggy now:
Here he is performing Nightclubbing with Chrissy Hyndes, and Vannessa Paradis, and Johnny Depp on guitar:
I know that three posts about American Idol in three weeks already has Tom (our humble co-dictator-in-chief) terrified that this website is turning into a thoughtless pop culture way station, but I can’t resist posting this video of Casey Abrams rocking/screeching out to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” last night:
Sure, on a technical level, the vocals are less than flawless, and you can make all the jokes you want about Cobain rolling over in his over-sized guitar case right now (though keep in mind that part of that locomotion is due to Courtney Love rooting around to see if there’s any change left under his corpse), but c’mon: a Nirvana song on American Idol? I think it’s safe to say that this is one of — if not the — craziest performances in Idol finals’ history. And not because the performance itself is balls-to-the-wall batshit or anything like that (though it is a little), but because Abrams is so blatantly indifferent to his commercial appeal that he could literally do any interpretation of any song at any moment. He alone gives you a plausible excuse to watch Idol for the rest of the season.
On a side note: approximately 15 years ago when Tom and I were but lads, we got into a heated discussion involving various bands and how differentiated their “sound” was. On my side: the names of various bands I had read about over the years and not much else. On Tom’s side: the names of those same bands plus, you know, actual musical knowledge. The exchange was inspired by an MTV program purporting to name “The Top 100 Greatest Bands of All Time” (or something like that) — with Nirvana being the only band on the list from the modern era — and went a little something like this:
Me: I don’t get it. Why does everyone think Nirvana’s so great? They just sound like everyone else. How can you even tell them apart? Tom: What are you talking about? Me: You know. Like, if you heard them on the radio and didn’t already know it was Nirvana, you wouldn’t even know who it was. They all sound the same. Tom: Who sounds the same? Me: You know, like, freakin’ Nirvana, and Pearl Jam, and Sound Garden, and, uhh…[reaching now] the friggin’ Sex Pistols and Pink Floyd and Oasis. All those guys. They’re exactly the same. Tom: I don’t even know how to respond to you. Me: C’mon, you don’t think so? Tom: Let’s just play MarioKart.
UPDATED BY TOM: That performance was fucking terrible on every fucking level and I am fucking ashamed to have it fucking displayed fucking prominently on this fucking website. Fuck.
UPDATED BY BEN: But you have to grant J-Lo the point that Nirvana HAS to sound “pleasant.”
Another American Idol post? Yes, because after last night’s opening Top 13 performances, Brutish&Short is officially going on record* as predicting that Casey Abrams (not Jacob Lusk — sorry Ben) will be the next American Idol. He is basically this year’s Adam Lambert — not because he sings like Adam Lambert (that would James Durbin — also great, but not quite Casey great), but because the dude is literally incapable of a bad note, let alone a bad performance.
Forthwith, Casey’s rock’em sock’em rendition of Joe Cocker’s “A Little Help from My Friends”:
Bingo bango, your next American Idol!
Wait…what do you mean Adam Lambert came in second last year? Sunnuva–
*Editor’s note: Brutish&Short is not officially going on record about anything Idol related. This is Trevor’s idiocy and Trevor’s alone.
I haven’t heard or seen any of the other contestants, but if Jacob Lusk doesn’t win this season, I may actually experience a negative breach of my apathy. You’re on notice, America.
UPDATE: I should note that such a breach would not be unprecedented. Crystal Bowersox‘s loss last year was a scandal. Again, not that I pay attention to these things. Near total apathy over here. Really.