New Bruce Springsteen Album: Quite Good!
New releases by Bruce Springsteen, Franz Ferdinand and Hoobastank are always something to consider–and this week we got ’em!
What say we consider using the Springsteen and Franz Ferdinand albums as things to listen to this week?
And maybe use the Hoobastank to, I dunno, patch the ceiling in case it’s raining or something?
For that matter, how about we use the Dean Martin as a potential present for members of the older generation–so they can remember their glory days as they begin their inevitable descent into silent, blissful slumber?
And finally, how about we use the rest of these albums as objects that can occupy our time so we can sit around doing nothing as life goes on all around us without our actual participation?
Hah! Just kidding! That’s what always happens whenever I use the word “Hoobastank”!
Bruce Springsteen: Working On A Dream (Columbia) It’s an old cliché that most rock critics tend to look favorably upon “The Boss” because he reminds them of former glories, personal or otherwise, but here’s the scoop: This is a very good album. His best since Tunnel Of Love, which came out in 1987. No kidding. I’ll tell you why, if you don’t mind a personal aside. Way back in 1978, when Springsteen was touring to promote Darkness On The Edge Of Town–my personal fave of his works–I met him backstage with a friend who worked for his label. Two things struck me: He mentioned that he’d put “Tell Me” by the Dirty Angels on the intermission tape playing before his set because he loved the song, and he told a guy standing next to me who was wearing a “Thank God For Girls” button that he liked Benny Mardones (who’d called his just-released new album that), too. I find this relevant because with all that’s come in Springsteen’s career since then, his basic roots as a hip rock ‘n’ roll guy with a great sense for pop melody and hooks have been overlooked for the serious “statements” he’s been compelled to make since then. Which is all well and good, but bottom line is that I’ve been less than thrilled with his conspicuous embracing of the Woody Guthrie legacy or the political significance of such tracks as “The Rising.” So while I haven’t thought about this aspect of Springsteen in years, I found myself noticing that weird musical references were popping up here and there–distinctly Byrdsian harmonies on “What Love Can Do,” topped off by dual-voiced instrumental ending riff very much in stylistic keeping with the Mike Hugg-era of Manfred Mann, which if you know what I mean you’ll instantly hear. Furthermore there are instrumental sweeps–and overall instrumentation–significantly more adventurous and pop-embracing than anything the man’s recorded in a few decades. And to top it off, right in the middle of the soccer-mom embracing “Queen Of The Supermarket”–this from the dude that used to write about Queens of Arkansas, no less–the man kills all chances for radio airplay with a proudly sung F-bomb, for which I congratulate him. In all I would say this is an inspired, major return to form for Springsteen and one of the best albums I’ve heard from a major pop artist in a couple of years. What happened?
The Bird And The Bee: Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future (Blue Note) Another great album by an artist not as well known as Springsteen, but similarly groovy. The second by The Bird And The Bee–the duo of singer Inara George and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin, who played a great set in our studio a few years back–this set is sophisticated lyrically, gorgeously melodic, and features a much-needed tribute to David Lee Roth called “Diamond Dave,” a song that should have been written years ago. The intelligence at work here never fails to impress, and the songs themselves–particularly “Witch”–are absolute standouts. They should be perceived as major artists…while outside, mysteriously, pigs fly!
Hoobastank: FOR(N)EVER (Island) Imagine a hard-rockin’ band that scores an unexpected radio smash with a ballad that launches a thousand prom dances, and spends the rest of their career trying to reclaim their hard-rockin’ credibility! Yep, those poor Goo Goo Dolls! Meanwhile, Hoobastank–it’s got to be a name thing–sit there similarly wondering whether they should rock out or sing earnest ballads that men won’t know but little girls will understand! And just as the CD booklet can be inserted into the CD case backwards or forwards–signifying two distinct moods of the ‘tank–so too does this music had two sides! Who will win? The wimps? The rockers? The people that put the CD back in its rack and go buy ice cream? Nope! The winner will be a guy named Larry, in Allentown, Pennsylvania–who’ll find a sack filled with hundred dollar bills in a Best Buy parking lot, leave without buying anything, and take a year off reading the complete works of John Lilly and J.G. Ballard! Money is funny that way!
Franz Ferdinand: Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (Domino/Epic) Though I’ve been a longtime fan of Franz Ferdinand and wish them the best, I suspect they will forever be living in the shadow of their incredible early single “Take Me Out”–and as a result, all of their work since then will inevitably be compared to it and judged inferior. Luckily, back home, their moms are extremely influential in their respective social circles and will eventually change the tide of public opinion! Do you think that bothers them?
Dean Martin: Amore (Capitol/EMI) As it closes in on Valentine’s Day, why not take the time to buy your loved one this fabulous collection of romantic tracks, bring home a bottle of champagne, and celebrate the fact that despite all the difficulties out there in the real world–the unemployment, the crime, the decreased housing values–you still have each other? If anything will then warm your heart, it’ll be the 15 tracks here–from “Just In Time” and “Let Me Love You Tonight” to the album’s namesake, “That’s Amore”! On the other hand, if you live alone and tend to focus on the various opportunities you’ve
missed in the course of leading your life, such as it is–skip the CD and buy two bottles!
Crooked X: Crooked X (EMI) They’re young, they claim AC/DC and Metallica as inspiration, and they find jokes about “John Doe and Exene Cervanka gone bad” difficult to understand! Until their parents shake their heads in disgust and wonder what their kids are getting into! Their music’s been in Rock Band , they’ve opened for Kiss in Sweden, and they were just the subject of an MTV special called Rock’N’ Roll Dream. Perhaps most interestingly, they’re from a town in Oklahoma called Coweta! I wish I was in that band!
Peter Cincotti: East Of Angel Town (Warner Bros) While we’re discussing crooner types, let’s not forget the brand new album by talented pianist-singer Peter Cincotti, whose skill at “combining old and new,” as his bio has it, has made him a chartbuster from the veritable get-go! Fans of the man are sure to fall deeply in love with this new effort, just as fans of the English language are sure to fall for his bio, should they happen to read it! Apparently he has “two successful albums under his belt”–which, frankly, must make sitting down difficult!
James Brown: The Singles, Volume Six: 1969-1970 (Hip-O Select) If ever a record should be in your collection, it’s this great collection of Brown tracks, including “Mother Popcorn,” “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I’ll Get It Myself),” the quite famous “Funky Drummer,” “Talking Loud And Sayin’ Nothin,” and –one of my personal favorite Brown tracks ever, due to its even-handed title–“Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn.” If you’re a multi-sensate, buy this and the Cincotti CD and put’ em both on shuffle play!
Brian Wilson: That Lucky Old Sun DVD (Capitol) Very happy to recommend this DVD of former Beach Boy Wilson performing his latest album live in the Capitol Records studios–not to mention the bonus Yahoo-produced footage–shot earlier this year. Excellently produced and filled with a rich array of bonus material, it’s a grand showing by one of pop music’s living legends, and pretty rich musically as well. Check it out or live at home, ashamed!
Leathermouth: Xo (Epitath) This side project of My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero seems destined for massive radio airplay, largely due to hit-in-the-making “I Am Going To Kill The President Of The United States Of America”! May I suggest you not look for it via any search engine?