Posts Tagged ‘Alternative Music’

For years I have tried to become a fan of Radiohead but with the exception of their 1993 hit “Creep”, the critically-acclaimed band just had never struck a chord with me. So the first time I heard “True Love Waits“ come on Sirius XM, I almost immediately turned it off. Luckily, I gave the song, which has been performed live since 1995 but only recently appeared on a Radiohead studio release, a chance. I find the stripped-down closing track from their A MOON SHAPED POOL (2016) record absolutely mesmerizing.

An interesting side note: due to musical similarities between Radiohead’s “Creep” and “The Air That I Breath”, a song written by English songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood and recorded by The Hollies In 1971, Hammond and Hazlewood are now credited as co-writers of “Creep.” The longer rock-n-roll goes on and with only so many chord progressions to go around, everything eventually sounds like something else.

True Love Waits – Radiohead (A Moon Shaped Pool) from Finn Callan on Vimeo.

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One of my favorite cover-songs ever. The English post-punk/alternative/goth band Siouxsie And The Banshees released their cover of this classic Beatles song as a UK single in 1983. “Dear Prudence” became their biggest hit in the UK reaching #3 on the charts. The song was included on their 1984 U.S. release HYAENA. Not much needs to be said about such a popular song that was a masterpiece the first time around – except Siouxsie’s vocals, and the instrumentation of the endless melodies in this version are incredible.

Did you know Robert Smith, singer/songwriter and guitarist for The Cure, was a member of The Banshees during this time?

I first heard about The Hold Steady when they were a recommended listen by a music website – you know ‘if you like this band, then you might like this band’. I was listening to some solo Paul Westerberg song and the site thought I would like this Brooklyn, NY band. While music-wise I hear no comparison whatsoever to Westerberg or The Replacements, I am definitely glad to have checked them out because I found a great band whose songwriting and musicianship continues to get stronger and stronger.

The single ‘Hurricane J’, along with ‘Our Whole Lives’, from their 2010 release HEAVEN IS WHENEVER first grabbed my attention, but overall the CD release was a little hit or miss for my tastes as far as strength of the songs. Regardless, I decided to check out their new release TEETH DREAMS which came out in March. Any hesitancy I had regarding the band being hit or miss completely vanished with the first listen. TEETH DREAMS is strong from start to finish and filled with catchy guitar melodies and riffs, crisp drum-playing, and the full, warm and clean production mix makes it one of the most enjoyable recordings I have heard in quite some time. But what really defines the band though is the intriguing lyrical story-telling by singer Craig Finn. Initially, I could not quite put my finger on who his slightly nasally voice reminded me of, but a cross between Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen and Randy Newman is my answer. The beauty is Finn is a complete original with his literary lyrics and vocal phasing. I had a hard time narrowing down which song to highlight from this CD, because 4 or 5 songs from TEETH DREAMS really could make The List, but finally decided on ‘Wait a While’ which captures the bands’ sound and style at its best. Plus the fact the song has been a continual repeat play in my car. Hope you enjoy!

Former leader of the alt-country band Whiskeytown, Ryan Adams ventured out into a solo career back in 2000. ‘Burning Photographs’ is a cool tune from his 2003 release ROCK N ROLL. What truly makes this simple rock song compete is the guitar effect/delay that creates a rhythmic echo continuously throughout the song. Former Hole and Smashing Pumpkins bassist, Melissa Auf der Maur, provides backing vocals which are a perfect, subtle harmony to Adams’ voice. The vocal phasing is also a highlight with standout lines “If I had a car I’d drive, straight into the window of a bank I owed money to” and “I used to be sad now I’m just bored with you”. I’m not sure of the real meaning behind those lines or even the whole song, but who cares, great songwriting makes it sound catchy and interesting any how. Everyone can relate in their own way.

Moth’s 2002 release PROVISIONS, FICTION AND GEAR was one of my favorite CD’s that year. Moth is another ‘head-scratcher’ band for me as to why they were not more commercially successful. I summerize the music industry as “many are called, but few are chosen” and I have always been more a fan of the ‘called’ then the ‘chosen’. There is no doubt singer/guitarist and main Moth songwriter Brad Stenz benefited from having producer Sean Beavan at the controls for Moth’s third release. Beavan has worked with many artists over the years including Guns-N-Roses, Marilyn Manson, and Nine Inch Nails. I happen to remember him as bassist for the Cleveland-based band, Nation on One, back in the 80’s, which had one great release NIGHT VISION (1986). Suprisingly, and maybe coincidentally, I can hear similarities between these two bands in how the vocal tracks where recorded.

Moth lost its bass player and drummer prior to recording. Tommy Stinson (The Replacements, Soul Asylum, Guns-N-Roses) and Josh Freese, who has played on what seems like 900 records over the last 15-20 years, joined in as a result of their association with Beavan. Their incredible musicianship provides a rock solid foundation and really enhance the songs to a level that I doubt would have gone without these veteran players.

‘Plastics Campaign’ is one of the strongest tracks with its unique rhythm and intensity as Stenz sings of a clear distaste for the entire practice of cosmetic surgery. I love the bass line and vocal phrasing throughout the song. Freese’s frantic and amazingly precise drums fills all over the end of the song display why he will never be out of work. Stenz has a great voice for alternative rock and hopefully he will be heard from again. Other standout Moth tunes include ‘Sleepy’ and ‘Last Night’s Dream’.