Cultureguru's Weblog

Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy


Lowest of the Low live at Maxwell’s

I went to see Lowest of the Low in concert again on January 20. That ties  them with The Who, Bob Geldof, U2, and Sting as the artists I’ve seen live most often: three times each.

If I keep going back to see Lowest of the Low, it’s partly that it’s so easy to do: All the shows I’ve seen have been at small-ish venues in my hometown. But it’s also that, 26 years after their first album’s release, the music still holds up.

Now, the challenge of finding someone to join me at a Lowest of the Low concert is that most people have never heard of them. (The challenge of finding someone to join me at a concert by a more famous artist is that most people won’t like them enough to want to pay the ticket prices. So concert company is always a challenge.) But, I didn’t give Jean much choice in the matter, and then he suggested I invite Tim and Jess, and they were willing to give it a go.

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Writer’s playlist

Return Post—The Bangles

Writing the lines as they come to me
Scratching them out almost immediately
Don’t know what it’s done to me

When I Write My Master’s Thesis—John K. Samson

It’s all gonna change
When I write my master’s thesis

Paperback Writer—The Beatles

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?

Every Day I Write the Book—Elvis Costello

Chapter One: We didn’t really get along.
Chapter Two: I think I fell in love with you.
You said you’d stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three
But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four
Five and Six.
And I’m giving you a longing look
Every day, every day, every day I write the book

Suzanne Vega—Book and a Cover

What’s that they told you
About a book and a cover?

Jools and Jim—Pete Townshend

Typewriter tappers
You’re all just crappers
You listen to love with your intellect

Wrote My Way Out—Nas, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dave East, Aloe Blacc

Sister tapped my brains, said, pssh, you’ll get ’em right back
Oversensitive, defenseless, I made sense of it, I pencil in
The lengths to which I’d go to learn my strengths and knock ’em senseless
These sentences are endless, so what if they leave me friendless?

We Used to Wait—Arcade Fire

I  used to write
I used to write letters
I used to sign my name
I used to sleep at night
Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain

Please Read the Letter—Robert Plant and Allison Krause

Please read the letter, I
Wrote it in my sleep
With help and consultation from
The angels of the deep

The Letter—The Box Tops

Well, she wrote me a letter
Said she couldn’t live without me no more

Letter from Bilbao—Lowest of the Low

I am writing you this letter
In desperation, I’m afraid

All She Wrote—Ray Davies

All she wrote was a goodbye letter
“It’s over for us, to tell you the truth
I’ve met this person in a disco
He’s really special, reminds me of you”

Word Crimes—Weird Al Yankovic

Like I could care less
That means you do care
At least a little


She wrote out a story about her life
I think it included something about me
I’m not sure of that but I’m sure of one thing

Her spelling’s atrocious

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Sonos your kitchen

Although the best music setup in the house is the surround sound system in the TV room, the room in which I listen to music most often is the kitchen. I do so while cooking, while cleaning, and even occasionally while eating.


The music setup in the kitchen was as follows: an audio receiver, a CD player, and iPod dock / headphone jack (for my tablet) connected to two small speakers. All wired; no remote control access. Sound quality was OK, and I was sufficiently accustomed to docking my iPod (classic; no bluetooth, no wifi) or connecting my tablet via headphone jack that it didn’t seem especially inconvenient.

But the whole system was at the back at the kitchen, and I mostly worked at the front. Apart from the fact that it was a bit annoying to have to stop cooking and walk over to change the volume or song selection, I often just couldn’t hear the music properly once the fans and frying got going.

A first-world problem for sure. Nevertheless, for Christmas I requested some way to get my music playing closer to where I was cooking.

Much research ensued, and wireless seemed the way to go. But wireless meant somehow still playing my iTunes library despite my not owning any “modern” iDevices. And that certainly suggested Sonos as one option.

What is Sonos?

Sonos TV commercial

Essentially, Sonos is a family of wireless speakers and components that are all controlled by an app that runs on Android, iOs, and Windows. The key marketing features are:

  1. Easy setup. “It just works.”
  2. Access to “all the music in the world”: your owned music, streamed music, online radio—all available through one interface, combined in whatever way you choose.
  3. Full-house control; that is, ability to play different (or the exact same) queues of music in any room in the house that has a Sonos-connected speaker.

The main downside? Price. But, we figured that we could start with just one speaker—the new Play 5—for the kitchen. Then if we liked the Sonos app, expand from there.

The setup

The Sonos Play:5 just sat around in its box for about 2 weeks before we got the courage to try to set it up. (Yes, I opened my Christmas present early. Not like it was a surprise.)

And it started out well. Getting the Play 5 onto our wifi network was simple. Downloading the app on tablet and PCs—no problem. Linking in my Google Play, SoundCloud, LastFM, Spotify accounts (note that you need a paid account)—also a breeze.

The problem was the iTunes playlist, because I had a somewhat non-standard setup: music files on a NAS (network attached storage), iTunes music library (playlist data) on PC.

To get the thing working, Sonos needed two connection points: one to the music directory on the NAS, another to then PC iTunes library location. Retrospectively, that seems obvious, and in fact it wasn’t hard to do.


But figuring out that’s all we had to do required a lot of experimentation, caused a few tears, and took the better part of an afternoon. (And yes, I did read the documentation!)

Using Sonos: The things I fretted about vs. the reality

Ahead of time, I was a little concerned (and obviously only in between bigger worries about climate change and world peace and such) about the following regarding use of this system.

Fret: Would I have to start my PC, and maybe even iTunes, just to play my music in the kitchen?

Reality: No, not with my music setup. Sonos copies in the iTunes playlist data, so neither iTunes nor the PC have to be running. It’s just the NAS that has to be on for the music files to be accessible. And the NAS  was already programmed to start when we got home from work and to be on all day on weekends. (It’s handy to be married to a handy husband.)

Fret: How can my Android tablet possibly control my iTunes playlist on a NAS it doesn’t even know about?

Reality: If you’re using Sonos, that “just works”. (The non-Sonos’ed can try the Retune app. Pretty cool! But iTunes does have to be running for that one.)

Fret: Would I still be able to use the Musixmatch lyrics app? (Because I kind of love that app.)

Reality: Yes. While Musicxmatch isn’t fully integrated into the Sonos app, it does work quite well in “Listening” mode.

Spotify Lyrics display

The rather esoteric lyrics to Queen’s “Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke”

Fret: Can I continue playing a music list where I last left off? (This matters to me. Don’t judge.)

Reality: Sonos absolutely, by default, picks up where you left off.

Fret: Will it play our local CBC radio station? Can you program it to start and stop automatically at a certain time? (Otherwise, we won’t be able to expand Sonos to our bedroom. CBC is our alarm clock.)

Reality: Yes, local CBC radio is one of the ba-jillion radio stations included. And yes, Sonos has timer functionality.

Fret: When you change your iTunes playlists, how much of a pain is it to get the update into Sonos?

Reality: Haven’t actually done that yet, but appears to be a single-click process you can perform on PC or tablet (allowing time for it to re-scan the files).

Fret: Does it keep track of play counts and dates?

Reality: No, it does not. This is the one disappointing item.

In iTunes I created “smart” playlists with criteria such as “High-rated songs I haven’t played in the last six months” and “Songs I’ve played fewer than two times each”. And I use those playlists a lot to avoid “I’m sick of this song!” syndrome.

But Sonos has nothing like that built in. However, it does integrate with, which does keep track of what I’ve played, on both iTunes / iPod and Sonos. And research indicates there might be some geeky, scripty ways to make use of that data. I will be looking into that more later.

Sonos playlist data for the week, courtesy (I’m sure you’re all shocked about Top artist.)

Features I didn’t even realize I wanted, but turns out I do

10kindsoflonely_art-500x500This one seems dumb, but I’m a bit obsessive about album art, and I loved seeing some of that blown up in size on my 12.2 inch tablet when I’d previously only viewed it as a thumbnail.

More significantly, the much more dynamic (compared with iPod) song queue is fun! For example, I can:

  • Start with an iTunes playlist and add songs from Spotify or Soundcloud (or whatever)
  • Combine various playlists into one queue
  • See what songs are coming up, and edit the list if I want—without affecting the original playlists
  • Decide I want to, say, switch to a podcast now, listen to that, then automatically return to my same spot in the music queue
  • Save my current queue as a Sonos playlist for later reuse

But it’s a speaker. How does it sound?

Kids, this speaker sounds so good, I’d like to marry it and have its babies. 🙂


Top 10 Canadian albums (with some extras)

CBC recently put out a list of the 100 greatest Canadian albums, which was then discussed on CBC Radio Kitchener. “I don’t anyone can argue with Neil Young’s Harvest being number 1”, said the host. Well…

Look, I own Harvest, I like Harvest. I’m not going to deny that it’s a great collection of songs. It’s certainly your go-to for great Canadian albums, as befitting its also being number 1 in the 2007 book The Top 100 Canadian Albums.

It’s just that I can think of a number of other Canadian albums I enjoy listening to more than Harvest. Such as…

Shakespeare my Butt cover1. Lowest of the Low – Shakespeare My Butt (1993)

(CBC unranked; book #84)

I’ve expounded on my love of this band and album before, but… I can’t see anyone not loving this album, unless they don’t like the genre of rock music itself. The songs are catchy and instantly likeable. On repeated listening, you realize they’re smart, too. And warm. And funny. The album is 20 years old, and the music doesn’t seem dated at all. It contains a hefty 17 songs—and there isn’t a single stinker among them.

Jagged Little Pill cover2. Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill (1995)

(CBC #12, book #6)

This was something at the time, wasn’t it? So much fun to play loud and sing along to. Angrily. To me it still holds up, even if she didn’t know what “ironic” meant. It’s melodic grunge. It’s more than just angry—you also have forgiveness, and learning, and being head over feet in love. I’ve enjoyed Alanis’ subsequent albums, mostly (not so much the India one, and haven’t bothered with the motherhood one), but this one still seems her best.

Tradarnac cover3. Swing – Tradarnac (2008)

(CBC unranked, book n/a)

I discovered these guys on Canada Day at an electrifying performance in Gatineau, and I continue to love this album. They sing in very rapid franglais (French with a healthy dose of English: “Allo, CB buddy! J’tired de m’voir promener sur le highway” and such) over a mix of French folk, rap, and pop that results in music so lively you can’t help but dance to it. Even while sitting or driving. It sounds happy, but has a dark undercurrent in the lyrics, if you can understand them. To me, that just makes it better.

The Suburbs cover4. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (2010)

(CBC #22; book n/a)

I am going to complain the CBC list now: No way that their Funeral album is better than this one. No way. Funeral is fine, but it is right that The Suburbs is the one that earned them the Juno, the Grammy, and the Polaris prize. It’s sort of great that someone made a deep, thematic, almost classical-sounding album—about the suburbs. I took to it really quickly and continue to peel away its layers, this album.

Everybody's Got a Story cover5. Amanda Marshall – Everybody’s Got a Story (2001)

(CBC unranked, book unranked)

I felt this album was unjustly overlooked when it came out, then nearly forgot to list it here myself… But it wouldn’t be denied, in the end. I just love listening to this. As befitting the title, most of the songs tell a story—of waking up with a stranger and a snake tatoo; of life as a blond mixed-race person (“a double-agent on my mama’s side”); of being a taxi driver with a PhD; and so on. The music is fun—more dancey, less bluesy than earlier album, but still showcasing her fantastic and powerful voice. I don’t know why it hasn’t’ gotten more love.

Cover of The Wonderful World of...6. Pursuit of Happiness – The Wonderful World of… (1997)

(CBC unranked ; book unranked (but Love Junk is at #84))

I believe I own every album this band has released, and I pretty much like them all. This one is far from their best known; I don’t think it contains any hit songs. But I list this one because it’s the most album-y of them all: its 15 songs all lead one into the other as though the whole thing were one big rock opera, or something. (Note the little Tommy homage between tracks 4 and 5.)

Now, it doesn’t actually have a continuing storyline, but more of a continuing theme (which is really the theme of every Pursuit of Happiness album) of the joy, frustration, and sheer messiness of love, sex, and relationships. Yet for all that, the songs also stand alone quite nicely. No mean feat. This is a small piece of pop art.

When I Was a Boy cover7. Jane Siberry – When I Was a Boy (1993)

(CBC unranked, book unranked)

I had to list Jane, but it was really a toss-up between this and her first, No Borders Here. I finally went with this more mature work. The opening track “Temple” sets the different tone: “You call that hard? You call that rough? Well, it’s not, rough enough.” Who would have expected that from the quirky singer of “Mimi on the Beach” (although the part of the song where she encourages Mimi to stand up on her surfboard, causing her to drown… Was maybe a clue.) Jane is a bit of an odd duck, but she can certainly put a tune together, and in this album she really seems to be more deeply expressing her soul.

Gordon cover8. Barenaked Ladies – Gordon (1992)

(CBC #25, book #27)

Yeah, they’re funny, but they’re also insanely talented, seemingly effortlessly putting together incredibly catchy pop. And the serious (and still tuneful) ballads like “Wrapped your arms around me” (“I put my hands around your neck)”, “The Flag”, and “Blame it on me” show that it’s not all fun and games, all the time, with this band.

Fumbling toward Ecstasy cover

9. Sarah McLaclachlan – Fumbling Toward Ecstasy (2003)

(CBC #20, book #25)

Sarah’s music sneaks up on me, randomly selected by my iPod, making me suddenly realize that I like it better than anything that was played before it. They’re mostly ballads; strong emotions expressed in a more subtle way—no screaming guitars, or any screaming, period. I guess it’s that haunting voice, or… I don’t know what. It’s not what I usually go for, but this is album is beautiful.

Don't Smoke in Bed10. Holly Cole Trio – Don’t Smoke in Bed (1993)

(CBC unranked, book unranked)

And, I’m not the big jazz girl, usually, but man, I’ve played this album a lot. Holly takes these lovely standards and performs in this slightly twisted, dark way that makes them way more interesting.

The extras…

Songs from the Road coverTop Live: Leonard Cohen – Songs from the Road (2010)

For a very long time I considered Leonard Cohen someone whose songs I loved—as long as someone else was singing them: Jennifer Warnes, KD Lang, Jeff Buckley… Then he started touring with this amazing band. And I began to love his own take on his great songs. This particular collection is his own selection of the best version of each song he did on this tour.

Highly recommended!

Gord's Gold coverTop Compilation: Gordon Lightfoot – Gord’s Gold (1987)

My Dad is a big fan, so I grew up with these songs. As a teenager, of course, I wasn’t going to admit to liking them, but now I can! While I can’t really see buying his individual albums, this “greatest hits” collection is fantastic: “If You Could Read My Mind”, “Sundown”, “Early Morning Rain”, “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”…

The only other thing you might want is Gord’s Gold 2 (for “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, “Alberta Bound”, “Ghosts of Cape Horn”…).

From Here on Out coverTop Classical: KW Symphony – From Here Out (2011)

No dead composers here: This CD features classical compositions by Nico Muhly, Richard Reed Perry (of Arcade Fire), and Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead). It’s not always comfortable listening, but it’s never boring, either.


We paid $48 to watch someone do Pattycake

Last night, May 7, Lowest of the Low played Massey Hall the first time, the capper on their tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of “quite possibly the best Canadian debut album ever”, Shakespeare My Butt. I was not there. But I did see their sold-out show at the Starlight Club in Waterloo, on April 21.

The show itself, I have no complaints about. The opening act were Mick Thomas and Squeezebox Wally, an Australian duo so taken with Shakespeare My Butt  that they would play the entire album at their shows. They even made one of the songs—“Rosy and Grey”—a hit there. So there was much more collaboration between opening act and headliner than you normally get, with Lowest members joining in on Mick’s set, and Mick contributing to the Lowest set.

Lowest of the Low played the entirety of Shakespeare My Butt, in order, then came back to do various songs from their other two albums, including “Black Monday” and “The Last Recidivist”. It was fun being in a room full of people who also knew all the words to all the songs. And it was nice to hear, from singer and main songwriter Ron Hawkins, that both “Subversives” and the afore-mentioned “Black Monday” were as honest and beautiful as they were because each was inspired by women he really loved. (He explained it in a less mushy way, but that’s what it came down to.) Performances of both those songs, I found particularly powerful.

But the room? With the low ceiling and all, the music was painfully loud. I had to do the extremely cool “Kleenex in the ears thing” to survive. And with the full house, it was hot and crowded. Plus, way too many tall dudes. I had to keep moving around, trying to get a spot where I actually see the band, and not just the back of someone’s head. The crowd was very well-behaved—no smoke of any kind, and surprisingly little beer spilled. But still. I’d say I’m too old for this kind of show, but I didn’t really like them when I was younger, either.

So kind of glad I didn’t drag any friends with me to this, as I feel I would have just had to apologize. Instead, I suggest, just check out Lowest of the Low on record. That way you’ll thank me later. Maybe start with these ones:

  • “4 O’Clock Stop”, Shakespeare My Butt, the insanely catchy opening number. Lyrics may not cohere as a whole, but they sure feel right as they hurtle along.
  • “Black Monday”, Hallucigenia, as the singer regrets the effects of his depressive nature on the “sad and beautiful” Kate. “The way I am has never been too good for us.”
  • “Rosy & Grey”, Shakespeare My Butt, the most Canadian love song ever, where even “the smell of snow warms me today”.
  • “Gamble”, Hallucigenia, which sounds like it’s exactly about Buffy and Spike, Season 6, even though it was written before then.
  • “Henry Needs a New Pair of Shoes”, Shakespeare My Butt, a deceptively upbeat little ditty that, on closer listening, reveals the social conscience of the band, along with their sense of humour.

And now for something completely different….

A couple years ago I wrote about attending the Open Ears festival, and the organizers noticed. So the notified me about this year’s festival, “celebrating the art of listening”. It took place at a busy time for us, but we did manage to attend one concert: Toca Loca, on April 30.

Where Lowest gave me some unpleasant flashbacks to concerts of my youth, this was like nothing I’d ever seen or heard before. The opening number was “Temazcal”, a piece for maracas and tape. So recorded sounds were played, then a live percussionist joined in on maracas. That was followed by “AK-47”, a piano solo based on the assault rifle. It was both virtuosic, and pretty noisy.

Then there was “Pattycake”. Two performers sat facing each other clapping out the familiar childhood rhythm, but at increasingly dizzying speeds, and with some variation in the original words. It was riveting, as mistakes would be—if not disastrous—at least potentially quite painful. “Repetition is good. It builds trust. Soon you come to know what’s expected.”

In the next two pieces, all three members played along to pieces composed for them, one a fusion of New Wave, Synth-Punk, and No Wave (I don’t know what that means, either), the other a love song as expressed by an industrial machine.

And finally, the “Halo Ballet”. In this one, five gamers manipulated the Halo participants into a kind of dance pattern, instead of the usual trying to kill each other. They would shoot patterns into the sky, or be stacked on one other and twirl, or leap around in synchronicity. We watched all that projected on video. Meanwhile, of course, the band was supplying the soundtrack.

Afterward, Jean commented on how we had paid $48 to watch people do Pattycake. “Did you dislike the music?” “No, can’t say I disliked it.” “Were you bored?” “Absolutely wasn’t bored.”

Me either. $48 well spent. And looking forward to the next Open Ears, where I can hopefully experience more of the aurally novel.

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Old music in shiny new packages

I had some quiet days off after Christmas, during which I had the time to enjoy my newly acquired music. Though the “new” should perhaps be put in quotes…

Lowest of the Low – Shakespeare My Butt Deluxe Edition

First of all, I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since this was first released. I guess I can’t continue to refer to Lowest as one of the “new” bands that I like.

The core of this reissue is a remastering of the original CD.  But though I played it through my best available sound system, I couldn’t actually tell if it the sound quality was noticeably improved. I suspect that’s because I couldn’t help singing along with every track at the top of my lungs. (Yes, I was home alone at the time. Cats didn’t seem to mind.)

What remains apparent, though, is that this is a damn good album. Nearly 65 minutes long, with no bad songs. It’s an irresistible mix of super-catchy tunes and really intelligent lyrics. So you like the album on first listen, and don’t hate yourself for it later on repeat listens.

Below is an audio-only video of “Rosy and Grey” from Shakespeare My Butt—it appears they never made proper videos for these tunes…

The reissue also includes a DVD, where the same visuals come with two soundtrack options: Interviews and Soundtrack. On Interviews, you get various band interviews that were all news to me, because for a band I like so much, I actually knew nothing about them. Like, the band members’ names, or anything. Now, I’m better informed, and they do come across as thoughtful and decent guys. On the Soundtrack portion, you get these alternate versions of the Shakespeare songs on variety of instruments, including a kazoo! It’s pretty cool, actually, and I’ll probably replay that version more.

And finally, you get liner notes, mainly by Dave Bookman of 102.1 The Edge (so it really strikes me that in the interview segment, the band says they can’t get their newer stuff played on The Edge anymore, because they’re not on the corporate playlist) and British novelist John Donoghue, for whom this album inspired a novel of the same name.

Ray Davies: See My Friends

While this CD does consist of all new recordings, it is of older songs, redone as duets between composer Ray Davies and various artists: Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Jackson Browne, Lucinda Williams, and so on. A lot of long-time Kinks fans hate this thing, some complaining so vociferously about it that I was almost afraid to play it.

But now I think they’re just being grumpy and close-minded. True, not everything is great here: Bon Jovi doesn’t exactly improve on the original “Celluloid Heroes”, and while I’m all for women tackling songs originally interpreted by men, Paloma’s version of “Lola” just comes across as weird.

But other things work really well. There’s just a rightness to Metallica, one of the best metal bands ever, interpreting the song widely credited as the original metal song, “You Really Got Me”. And Amy McDonald made a great choice in covering “Dead End Street”, a 1965 song that unfortunately sounds like it’s describing today’s conditions. The interaction between her and Ray is also quite charming.

I also enjoyed the creative mashing of certain songs: “Days” with “This Time Tomorrow” by Ray with Mumford & Sons, and “All Day and All of the Night” with “Destroyer” by Ray with Billy Corgan. The slightly less-known songs “Long Way from Home” and “This Is Where I Belong” are nicely interpreted by Lucinda Williams and Black Francis. And if Jackson Brown doesn’t really improve on the Kinks original “Waterloo Sunset”—who could?—at least he doesn’t wreck it.

The Who – Live at Leeds Deluxe 40th Anniversary Edition

This one was my Boxing Day gift from me to me, as put it on sale from $79 to $49 Christmas Day. UPS delivered it to me on December 29. (I see it’s now back to $79, plus you have to wait 3-4 weeks for it.)

I’ve read a lot of reviews of this that basically boiled down to:

  1. Damn! I’m tired of buying this same album over and over!
  2. Wasn’t the original six-track album perfect in itself? Why keep adding stuff?

To point 1., I sympathize, but I’m not really in that boat. OK, I did buy Leeds once before, but only once, and that was as an iTunes download. I’d since been kind of regretting that, since iTunes downloads don’t have quite the full audio quality of a CD. Plus, I’d been feeling that this was one case where having the LP would be fun too, if I could find one with all the original inserts and such.

So, this package, a mondo thing that includes the original LP, a hardcover book with all the originals inserts (and other stuff), the deluxe CDs, plus another two CDs  of the previously unreleased Hull concert, and even a 45 of Summertime Blues / Heaven and Hell, was perfect for me.

And point 2—why keep adding stuff?—I thought was just stupid. I mean, if The Who had sucked that night except for the original six songs, then you might have a point, but they didn’t. The whole concert was amazing. So why wouldn’t you want it all? If you’re that nostalgic for the six songs, create a playlist of just those ones.

Nevertheless, the LP is the first thing I played when I got the set. Apparently it preserves the original cracks and ticks that were excised from the digital version, but I can’t say I found them that noticeable. And it’s good, of course, but man, is it ever short. I will say that it is impressive that the original made such an impact, despite its brevity.

And the other add-ons? Well the book is a nice collection of Leeds-related information, some of which I’d read before, some I hadn’t. Along with reproduction of album inserts, it has some great photos, and a play-by-play of each song on deluxe CD.

I’ve listened to the Hull concert a couple times. Though they did an admirable job of restoring the sound to this (in particular, bass was missing from the first six tracks and had to be Frankenstein-ed in from Leeds), there’s no doubt that Leeds sounds better overall. Hull also has a lot less of the between-song patter you get on Leeds, and I miss that, since Townshend and Moon are hilarious. But it is a great one for admiring Moon’s druming, as that’s really forward in the mix. It’s also interesting how two concerts, with identical song line-ups, two nights apart, can nevertheless have quite a few differences in interpretation. This was not a band that just went through the motions. Therefore, to me, it’s worth having both (even though I also have Isle of Wight, and Tanglewood, and some of Woodstock, all of from this same period).

I do find it slightly annoying that we get both concerts not in the original order, for the purpose of keeping all of Tommy on one CD. But that’s easy enough to rectify manually.

So, the only thing missing from this package? Video. Herewith I gave you the only footage released from the concert so far, from a Japanese release of Leeds, apparently. (This was pulled down from YouTube a while ago, but seems to be back.)

Striking to me how tiny the stage was. This was one of the biggest bands in the world at that time, and they were playing at a university hall. That doesn’t happen anymore, and that’s partly why we no longer get live albums as good as Live at Leeds.

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Anger Management

So I decided to gather an iPod playlist of “angry” songs. (Never you mind why—let’s just say strong emotions can make for great songs, and leave it at that.) But as I’ve noted before, I have a pretty substantial list of songs to sort, and there’s no easy way to pick out which ones qualify as “angry”.

Of course, some are obvious—the “you done me wrong” songs. The classic Alanis “You Oughta Know” (I’m here to remind you of the mess you left when you went away), Marianne Faithfull’s incendiary “Why D’Ya Do It?” (Why d’ya do it she screamed, why d’ya do what you did. You drove my ego to a really bad skid.), Bob Geldof’s “One for You”, a parting shot at his ex-wife (You don’t even need to take your clothes off anymore. You’re a bit too old for that stuff, anyway.), and John Lennon’s outraged “Gimme Some Truth” (I’m sick and tired of hearing things from uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites. All I want is some truth).

But really, that could be a rather short and possibly somewhat depressing playlist. Could at least expand it to that interesting category of songs about people whose behavior is frustrating, though they haven’t actually done anything to you. Billy Joel, of all people, is kind of a master at these—raging at the apathetic slacker in “Captain Jack” (You’re 21 and still your mother makes your bed. And that’s too long!), the show-off in “Big Shot” (When you wake up in the morning with your head on fire and your eyes too bloody to see, go on and cry in your coffee but don’t come bitching to me). Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” (also covered brilliantly by Marianne Faithfull) is another fascinating example, as the anger really seems more directed at the working class for not realizing they are oppressed, and not that at those oppressing. Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV. And you think you’re so clever and classless and free. But you’re still fucking peasants, as far as I can see.

Which brings us to songs featuring productive anger, the “we can change the world” kind of anger, of which Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” would be the lead example, if only I owned that song. But I do have Queen’s “Fight from Inside”, Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, Lowest of the Low’s “Eating the Rich” (It’s an evolutionary chow-down), U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday”—and maybe The Clash’s “London Calling” qualifies here? (And I’m not sure how to sub-categorize Tori Amos’ “Waitress”: I want to kill this waitress. She’s worked here for years. It would be a kindness.)

Course you have to be careful about songs that sound angry, but aren’t really. Everything Billy Idol does sounds kind of angry, but I think he’s mostly going for horny. Except in “White Wedding”—”White Wedding” really is angry. And all punk and grunge sounds kind of angry, but “Blister is the Sun” and “I Wanna Be Sedated”, for example, are really just about teenage restlessness, not anger. “Lust for Life” is a happy song, no matter Iggy sounding a bit pissed off. And “Smells Like Teen Spirit”? I’m not convinced that “angry” is what it’s expressing. (He feels stupid and contagious. Here we are now. Entertain us.)

On the other hand, true anger can hide inside music that sounds kind of sweet and poppy. For example, Elvis Costello’s “I Want You” and Liz Phair’s “The Divorce Song” sound sort of sad and sweet, but there’s angry tension throughout. And ever really listen to the lyrics of Barenaked Ladies’ “Alcohol”, “One Week”, or “The Apartment”? Sure it all sounds poppy and bouncy and fun, but the singer is pissed off. He likes alcohol more than you. It will still be three days til he says he’s sorry. Why did you change the locks?

For some artists, tracing the anger pattern in their music is a biographical lesson. Beatles music has very little anger in it; just a bit peeps out in a few John Lennon tracks like “Run for Your Life”, “I’m So Tired”, and “Come Together” (though that last one, again, is probably more horny). But post-Beatles John Lennon? Holy, easier to par out the few songs that aren’t angry. Until the last album, which—other than “I’m Losing You”—shows he’s found some peace.

Bob Geldof’s first album with the Boomtown Rats is highly pissed off, then becomes less so with subsequent albums, as the band’s success grows. His first three post-Rats, post-Live Aid albums reveal a man fairly satisfied, even happy. The last? A man whose wife has left him for another man. A man enraged. A man who has just put out the best album of his career (Sex, Age and Death).

I know the only feeling you have is rage
And I know that I’d feel the same as you, but
I think you’d better take a good look around you ’cause
You’re so pissed you can’t even find your drink

Sometimes it’s wise
To know which way the gun is pointing
Before you yell, “I see the whites of their eyes.”
Sometimes you’ll find your senses all disjointed by
The lines and wires of salesmen, cheats and liars

— Salesmen, Cheats and Liars by Lowest of the Low

Rage wisely.