Desert Island Music Poll: New Soundgarden Vs. New Smashing Pumpkins

Here at Music or Space Shuttle? we feel like we should be asking the tough, hard-hitting questions. This week we continue our series of polls where we force you, the thoughtful reader, to choose between two random artists. You may not always like either selection but you have to pick one.

It’s been getting pretty nostalgic around The MoSS? HQ lately. So with the reuniting of ’90s grunge band Soundgarden and yet another reformation of Billy Corgan’s Smashing Pumpkins, I thought this would be the perfect time for a poll. Which new version of an old band would people choose if forced to do so?

So why come back at all you ask? Both bands front men have recently come out with pretty strong ideas about the state of rock and music in general. To tell you the truth they both make a lot of sense. Unfortunately, they also come across as a bit full of themselves.  Billy Corgan has always liked the sound of his own voice but I was a surprised to see similar comments by Soundgardens’ Chris Cornell.

Just a few of Chris’ comments:

“The worst rock is made when everybody loves rock, like in the late Eighties. That’s the only time hard rock has been the biggest-selling genre of music — and it was mostly crap.”

“Contemporary pop music couldn’t be any worse than it is now. The one bright spot was Adele having the biggest-selling record of last year. They’re actually songs and she can really sing.”

“It’s the same thing now. You have a better chance of a very healthy and vital rock scene coming out today because there’s something to react against.”

“In terms of an overwhelming commercial acceptance, that hurts you. But in terms of longevity and having a lasting impact that’s legitimately culturally important, it helps you.”

Check out the new Soundgarden tune “Live to Rise” below.

Now a few of Billy’s’ comments:

“My point of having a problem with nostalgia acts for the artists that are from the Grunge generation is it basically subverts the original meaning of the Grunge generation’s music, which is rebellion. So basically, everybody in their 40′s are now all phoning in, let’s call it for what it is. And yeah maybe we’ll put out one new song on the greatest hits album but it’s not really getting back on the horse. We need those artists to step up and take on the social issues particularly that are going on right now. ”

“Rock and roll should be at the center of this culture and it’s not, it’s been marginalized because everyone’s afraid. Artists drive the narrative, they always have, that’s why governments are afraid of artists. Only rock and roll bands and radical artists, filmmakers/poets can change shit up from the outside in, because that’s the power of the word that’s the power of the song. ”

Check out “Inkless” from the new Smashing Pumpkins LP Oceania below.

Which new/old band will you choose? Will you live the rest of your life listening to Soundgarden’s new attempt at grunge glory?  Or would you choose The Smashing Pumpkins’ oddly similar yet totally different new line-up? At some point Billy’s going to run out of girl bassists right? Feel free to justify your choice in the comments section below. Also, feel free to check out this post from MoSS? scribe Chris about a simpler time when both of these bands were more relevant.

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Nada Surf: Hey Everyone! We Put Out A Record Too!

With all the buzz of new releases by indie rock heavy weights like Sleigh Bells, Lana Del Rey and Frankie Rose, one release was a bit overlooked. Nada Surf quietly put out a new album in late January called The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy.  If you paid attention to alternative music in the mid 90’s then you are probably familiar with their most famous song “Popular”. Refresh your memory below.

After “Popular” the band struggled for a few years and were on the verge of becoming another one hit wonder. They had a resurgence in the early 2000’s after the release of Let Go and built themselves a loyal fan base myself included. Since then they have released several very solid albums. In fact, one of my favorite records of the last 10 years is Nada Surf’s The Weight is a Gift. The song “The Blankest Year” from that record was my anthem of ’05. Give it a listen. It’s only 2 minutes long. You can squeeze it in.

Yesterday I realized the new album was out(I can’t believe it’s been out 4 weeks already. I’m slipping) and quickly downloaded it. The first listen was pretty much what I expected. They have had one of the most consistent sounds over the years. After subsequent listens I found myself really enjoying it.  It’s not going to knock Sleigh Bells or Frankie Rose from my “Top 10 Albums of 2012 So Far” list, but it is pretty damn good. The band made a conscious effort to have more guitars and drums for a louder in-your-face feel. I think it works.  Their last record Lucky suffered from too many slower songs in my opinion. I was disappointed to see that Pitchfork gave them a pretty bad review. They basically called the new record “Dad Rock”. Here’s the quote I disliked the most.

“At a moment when indie rock could probably use a little kick in the ass, Nada Surf seem to have the right instincts, just maybe not the spleen to pull them off. Harder and faster isn’t necessarily a young man’s game, but it isn’t really Nada Surf’s either.”

I think that maybe they are catching shit for being too consistent. So if you are bored during this cold February weekend, give Nada Surf’s The Stars are Indifferent to Astronomy a spin. Let me know if Pitchfork is right and I am turning into a Dad Rocker. Or if your are too busy to listen to the whole thing, you can check out their new single “Waiting for Something” below.


Surviving the New Music Wasteland 3: A New Hope

For a few glorious years in the mid 90’s, the music I liked was considered popular music. I had no trouble finding out about new bands because they were actually being played on the radio. It was a golden age, but as Ponyboy once said, “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. (Man, those Greasers sure knew their Frost poems).

Slowly things began to change. I didn’t notice at first but there were warning signs. Eventually in the late ’90s and early 2000s radio stations were only playing carbon copied pop stars and awful post grunge rock bands. So I turned off the radio and wandered aimlessly through a period I called “The New Music Wasteland”. Good new music was so hard to find that I just gave up.

I spent my time rediscovering music that I already loved or did my homework on bands that I had always wanted to listen to. This would usually send me into 3-4 month obsessive periods where I would listen only to one artist or band. That meant all works by the band, including all side projects and solo recordings. It was a grueling effort and people within earshot of me tended to get a bit irritated. (By month 2 of my obsession with The Clash, my wife answered their question of ”Should I Stay or Should I Go?” with a resounding “Get the hell out and take Big Audio Dynamite I and II with you”.)

Of course, this cycle can only go on for so long. I was deep into a Pixies overdose and about to cook up a gigantic Frank Black speedball when I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “There’s got to be a better way!” So I went cold turkey. There just had to be some decent new music out there and I would have to force myself to find it.

After a few days of Pixies detox, I went to my upstairs office PC. We’d had the computer for a year or more but it had mostly been used for email and checking porn scores…I mean sports porn…I mean…well, you know what I mean. So I sat down at the computer and brought up Windows Media Player. It instantly brought up the last thing I had listened to which just happened to be a Pixies/Frank Black/Breeders playlist. Not wanting to fall back into old habits I quickly deleted the playlist. Easy, Todd! One step at time.

Next I tried to find some completely innocuous music to play. Something entertaining but something that wouldn’t send me into another 3 month tailspin of research and investigation. That’s when I saw the Media Guide tab on the Windows player. I’d never noticed the tab before so I clicked on it. One of the options in the media guide was “Internet Radio”. Interesting. Radio on the Internet? How futuristic. There was a list of stations with any genre of music you could think of from Adult Contemporary to Urban/R&B and stuck in the middle was Indie Rock.

I clicked on one of the channels and was blown away. The artist and song title were listed on the screen. You didn’t have sit around and wait for a DJ to come on and recap the playlist. The first song I heard was by a band unknown to me at the time The Shins. The song was “Girl on the Wing”.

Needless to say I was hooked in right there. I spent the next few hours bouncing between radio stations and Napster (FYI, I only used Napster to preview music. I totally went out and bought the material later. Seriously, I’m not lying. What? OK, fine. SOMETIMES I just downloaded the music for free and didn’t go out and buy it. Sue me. Oh shit! No. Please don’t sue me)

I found plenty of other great songs like The Flaming Lips “Race for the Prize”. I was aware of The Flaming Lips mainly from their odd little song “She Don’t Use Jelly” from the early 90’s. Check out their bizarre appearance on 90210. They sing “She Don’t Use Jelly” at the world famous Beverly Hills hot spot The Peach Pit After Dark. Make sure you hang in until the 50 second mark so you can see Steve Sanders awkwardly rocking out. Cracks me up every time.

The Lips completely changed their musical direction with the album The Soft Bulletin featuring “Race for the Prize”  and I loved it.

The album I ran across that got the most air time afterwards was probably Ben Folds’ 1st solo album Rockin’ the Suburbs. Like the Flaming Lips I was familiar with his previous work. The Ben Folds 5 (The name gets extra cool points since there was only 3 of them) had a few records out in the 90’s but I was never a big fan. I kind of got burned out on their song “Brick”. The new solo record was different. It was one of those rare albums that I could just play the whole way through and never have to skip over any sucky songs. Rockin’ the Suburbs didn’t have a single stinker on it.

I liked it so much that I dragged my wife with me to Kansas City where we stood outside in the rain for hours to watch him perform. We came home with walking pneumonia and a sweet Rockin’ the Suburbs concert T-Shirt.

So I must give thanks to Bill Gates and technology in general for giving me new hope and showing me the path to escape  “The New Music Wasteland”.  Since then I’ve discovered many other new music sources and haven’t had any major Pixies or Clash related music relapses. That’s right. Clash free. I just got my 10 year chip. One day at a time.

Desert Island Music Poll: Van Halen Vs. Van Hagar

Here at Music or Space Shuttle? we feel like we should be asking the tough, hard-hitting questions. This week we continue our series of polls where we force you, the thoughtful reader, to choose between two random artists. You may not always like either selection but you have to pick one.

Van Halen recently released their 12th studio record A Different Kind of Truth. Feel free to reread Chris’ post from a few weeks ago regarding the new album.  Or just check out the video for their new song Tattoo below.

A Different Kind of Truth is their first album with David Lee Roth as lead singer since 1984 which was released, oddly enough, in 1984. I have always been amazed me that a band could have such great success with so many changes over the years. Sammy Hagar fronted the band through most of the 80’s and 90’s and to and to tell you the truth I am a lot more familiar with the Van Hagar version of Van Halen than the Roth version of the 70’s and early 80’s.

I am interested to know which version the masses would choose to listen to if forced to pick one. Will you live the rest of your life being “Hot for Teacher”(FYI, The woman who played the teacher in the video turned up in a few articles lately. She just turned 60 and still looks crazy hot)  or will you spend eternity loving your baby’s “Poundcake”? Please feel free to justify your choice in the comments section.

I have pretend girlfriends, and they are hot

sleigh bellsI’d like to apologize for omitting “Comeback Kid” by Sleigh Bells from the February 2012 Music or Space Shuttle? mix tape (which is still fucking awesome; listen to the whole 10-song extravaganza at bit.ly/AqO7Ou).

Here’s the thing: it was a calculated move. I didn’t want the song to dwarf the other nine inclusions on the mix tape; I wanted to devote an entire post to singing its praises…or more specifically, praising the video.

Alexis Krauss staring at me with her big-saucer eyes! Those shorts! Those jeans! (Even if they were stolen from Joe Elliott’s 1988 wardrobe!) The right amount of leg visible under that bathrobe! Those cheerleading moves! That spiky jacket! Alternating between her cool sunglasses and those sexy eyes! That longing look as the song reaches its conclusion! Did I mention those shorts?! That lucky deck chair!

Madeline Follin[Madeline Follin of Cults enters the room]

Madeline: What the heck is going on here?

Chris: Oh, hi, Madeline Follin, my rock ‘n’ roll girlfriend.

Madeline: Why is Alexis Krauss on your computer screen?

Chris: Um, I was just mentioning to the adoring Music or Space Shuttle? readership that I think this video is kinda sorta cool. I mean, it’s no “Abducted,” but it’s not bad—

Madeline: What’s so great about this video?

Chris: Derek Miller’s In Utero shirt is pretty cool. That mustard toss was pretty epic. His John Bender-esque fist pump at the end is pretty awesome.

Madeline (frowning): You’re dumping me, aren’t you?

Chris: Um, well, yes.

Madeline: Go outside.

Chris: [sigh] Great tune.

Madeline: No, get the fuck out of here.

Chris: Oh.

And so another rock ‘n’ roll relationship ends. Madeline Follin, who last summer stood just a couple feet away from me as she performed before a rapturous crowd in St. Louis, finds herself kicked to the curb in favor of another raven-haired vixen. Madeline’s got company; I’ve loved me some rock women over the years. Some have been mega-popular; some are girl-next-door types. For example…

Donna A (Brett Anderson)Donna A of the Donnas

When was this?: early 2000s

Initial appeal?: liked the Ramones-style songs in the beginning; liked her look around Get Skintight

Real encounters?: Well, sorta. When they played Gabe’s in Iowa City in 2002 or something like that, my buddy Sam and I were hanging out in back during the opener, having a brew, when Donna R (Sam’s obsession) and Donna F came by and started playing Trivia Whiz. Sam kept yelling out the answers, which may or may not have annoyed the two Donnas. So Sam did the chivalrous thing and gave them $2 worth of quarters; that way he could keep yelling out answers/flirting with Donna R with a clean conscience. At some point in this display of cerebral excellence, Donna A and Donna C came by. I went to say “hi” to Donna A and managed to get out “Durrr-ahhhh-hey!” It was magical.

How did it end?: Once the Donnas became less like the Ramones and more like butt-rock, I was done with Donna.

Janet WeissJanet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney/Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

When was this?: mid- to late 1990s

Initial appeal?: She reminded me of Maura Tierney (what? I liked NewsRadio…)

Real encounters?: None…I never saw Sleater-Kinney live, nor did I see Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks during her tenure as timekeeper. I did have some college classes with a girl who looked a lot like Janet Weiss and played the drums. She was kinda cool. (And of course I was petrified to have anything to do with her other than bum smokes from her after class now and again.)

How did it end?: That girl from Portlandia seemed jealous.

D'Arcy WretzkyD’Arcy Wretzky of the Smashing Pumpkins

When was this?: early- to mid-1990s

Initial appeal?: A blonde, too-cool-for-school girl who was a member of one of my greatest musical obsessions…yeah, this was a no-brainer.

Real encounters?: Not really. Saw them twice in 1994; got close to the stage the first time. I remember one of my friends throwing a hotel-sized bar of soap at D’Arcy. His intent was that she would catch it/pick it up and use it as a pick, but realized the millisecond after it left his hand that she might take it as a statement of insult regarding her body odor. (No, I haven’t had a real encounter, but wanted to share the soap story.)

How did it end?: The Pumpkins started to suck after (during?) Mellon Collie, and perhaps I foresaw this image.

Gloria EstefanGloria Estefan

When was this?: mid- to late 1980s

Initial appeal?: What, you haven’t seen the video for “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”?

Real encounters?: I was, like, 12—that would have been awkward. And I didn’t really want to have to meet the Miami Sound Machine.

How did it end?: As it turned out, the rhythm did not get me. (And I started listening to heavy metal, and, aside from an obligatory liking for Lita Ford and the ladies of Vixen, became asexual for a while.)

Madonna in the early daysMadonna

When was this?: mid 1980s

Initial appeal?: the song “Burning Up”; the videos for “Borderline” and “Lucky Star”

Real encounters?: Back then I think I saw many a teenage girl trying to look like her (and failing miserably). I also lived vicariously through that boy in the “Open Your Heart” video—does that count?

How did it end?: Who says it did? She still looks great.

If you have any quirky rock ‘n’ roll loves, tell me all about them in the comments. (Ladies, feel free to chime in, too. Perhaps you can ask my better half about her Jimi Westbrook thing.)

Memories of… “Boom! Shake the Room”

Few things can trigger a long lost memory like music. It can happen anywhere.  For me it usually happens in the car. The other day, I was driving to work and flipping channels on the satellite radio. I stopped on the Old School Hip Hop channel. They were playing a horrible song from the 90’s, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Boom! Shake The Room”.

I was immediately taken back to December 17th, 1997.  I was living in Ames, Iowa and was taking my wife (then girlfriend) Jess to her first Prince concert. We were pumped up for days leading up to the show.  To make things more exciting we heard a rumor that Prince was hosting an after party at a local bar. Being huge Prince fans we were beside ourselves that we may have an opportunity to see The Purple One up close and personal. We decided to play it by ear and hope the rumors were true.

The concert was awesome. We had decent seats and he played mostly hits (there are a lot) and didn’t play too many songs from the new record at the time Emancipation. I even bought this  super cool hockey jersey featuring the logo of Prince’s band The New Power Generation. By the 2nd encore we had pretty much given up on any sort of post show party and were both ready to head home. That’s when I spotted a guy handing out flyers  advertising an after concert party for some charity I don’t remember.  Prince was actually going to be there!  Now I know you’re asking yourself , “Where in Ames, Iowa was Prince going to host a party?”  Well Ames’ premier cowboy bar, Hunky Dory’s, of course. That’s right, Hunky Dory’s.

We hurried over to Hunky’s as fast as possible. Most of the trip I had my head out the side window because the windshield was frosted over from the December cold. When we got there the line wasn’t too long so we got in early enough to grab some booze and score a table near the roped off VIP section. Then we waited. And waited. And waited…

We amused ourselves by watching the people on the dance floor.  This was a cowboy bar remember so the DJ had a very limited hip hop or dance music collection. The crowd reaction to these random outdated dance songs was entertaining to say the least.

Finally, Prince arrived looking almost exactly like he did in this picture. Security took him immediately over to the VIP section which was about 20 feet from us. I couldn’t believe it.  Jess and I had been so excited about getting to the party that we didn’t really discuss what we would do when Prince actually showed up.  This is the point in the story where my wife and I disagree about the evening’s finer details. She claims that I hid behind a nearby popcorn machine upon Prince’s arrival because I was scared. My claim is that I didn’t want to be a Prince Fan Boy and rush up to stare at him like all the girls. From the best of my recollection this was our exchange:

Jess: Well? Are we going over?

A Star Struck Me: Uhhhh…

Jess: Really? Fuck you, I’m going over there.

A Deflated Me: Wuh?

So she went by herself. I watched her walk over (looking extra cute in MY newly purchased super sweet NPG hockey jersey) and somehow made her way to the front of the pack of adoring women. She was less than a foot away from my music idol. Prince ignored the hoard of other girls, looked right down at her and smiled. I was so proud. Prince thinks my girlfriend is hot!  My pride quickly turned to panic as I remembered Prince’s taste in women was exactly like mine.

Prince’s appetite for hot brunettes is well documented.  Apollonia, Vanity, Mayte, Sheila E and Carmen Electra have all been linked to the Purple One. The only aberration I’ve ever heard about was blonde bombshell Kim Basinger. They met during the filming of Tim Burton’s first Batman movie for which Prince provided the soundtrack. He pulled the cool musician move where you bring the hot movie starlet into the studio and let her make an album with you.  They recorded The Scandalous Sex Suite EP  together and she promptly moved  into his Paisley Park mansion/studio.

If you believe the Prince folklore, she stayed there as girlfriend/prisoner for a few months until she could take the weirdness no longer. She left in the dead of night leaving behind her dignity and her BMW.

Well, I wasn’t going to stand for that shit. My future bride would not be joining that long list of discarded brunettes. To quote The Joker from the previously mentioned Batman movie “Never rub another man’s rhubarb!”  I stood up about to take action when DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s song “Boom! Shake the Room” came over the sound system. A look of disgust washed over Prince’s face. Honestly, he looked like he had just stepped in dog shit. He quickly had a lackey take a stack of CDs to the DJ and ordered him to play music from that stack only. With his attention pulled away from Jess, Prince moved on to more pressing business. Like ignoring everyone in the bar.

So thank you DJ Jazzy Jeff. Thank you Will Smith.  Prince’s distaste for your awful song saved my future marriage.

Memories of … Snap! “The Power”

Few things can trigger a long-lost memory like music. It can happen anywhere. Standing in line for coffee you can hear some old song and instantly get transported back to another time and place. What is great about this experience is that there can be endless different reactions to same tune. A U2 song might remind you of a junior high school dance, but could remind your next door neighbor of the time he/she was carjacked. So, I thought that I would share a few stories and the songs that are linked to them.

First up: Snap!, “The Power”

That song reminds me of when I was a freshman in high school. I was in morning gym class turning lap after suicidal lap. My lush full head of brown hair was bouncing lazily back and forth as I ran. I caught sight of my reflection and it was as if my hair was waving to me. Calling out to me. Reassuring me. “I will always be with you, Todd”…I digress.

I looked up and saw the assistant principal enter the gym. Now at my school, the AP was “The Enforcer.” This meant that if he interrupted a class to get you, you were fucked. He briefly confers with the gym coach and then they both scan the gym until they find the poor sap in trouble. Me.

Normally, I wouldn’t freak out too bad, but the whole scenario reminded me of a scene in the C. Thomas Howell movie Tank.  Young C. Thomas’ school principal and gym coach drag him out of practice and take him to the locker room. A corrupt police officer then pulls a gigantic bag of weed out of his locker. He is immediately thrown into prison and horrible prisony things happen to him. That is until his father breaks him out with the help of a Sherman tank and a spunky prostitute with a heart of gold.

(How have I not seen this movie? —Chris)

So now you understand my distress when the gym coach motions for me to come toward them. I had no idea what I could possibly have done wrong. Thinking of nothing obvious, I ran through the top 3 transgressions that 15-year-olds get busted for.

  1. Fighting- Nope. I’m a lover, not a fighter.
  2. Unexplained Absence- Nope. My attendance record was beyond reproach.
  3. Possession of Tobacco Products- The gig is up! There was a fairly large assortment of smoking and chewing tobaccos in my locker at the start of business that morning.

I walked toward them planning what I would do during my certain 2-day suspension from school. Imagine my relief when instead of accusations of wrong doing I was greeted with a note. Apparently, I have a doctor’s appointment and my brother is in the front office waiting to take me.

This was odd considering that my older brother had recently moved out of the house. I rarely saw him, and he definitely wouldn’t be the one to pick me up for some forgotten appointment. I didn’t question it though and quickly hauled ass to the office. There he was, BS’ing with the school secretary. I don’t remember what was said between us before we left, but I do remember thinking that everyone in that office (including the AP) knew that this was no ordinary trip to the doctor. No, this was a jailbreak.

Much like Andy Dufresne escaping a lifetime of cruelty at Shawshank, I was elated to be free of a morning filled with calisthenics and calculus. We hopped into my brother’s gigantic and obnoxiously loud truck (he had recently bought some early ’70s red behemoth that was two steps down from a monster truck). As we pulled away from the school, he slipped a cassette into the tape deck. Snap!’s “The Power” blasted over the speakers. The cassette was a single with no B side so when the song was over it just flipped sides and played again and again.

With no real destination in mind, we drove around town wasting the day with Snap! as our soundtrack. He dropped me off at school just in time to hop on the bus and go home. All I heard in my head the whole way home was…

“I Got the Power!”

“It’s gettin’, it’s getting, it’s getting kinda hectic.”

“It’s gettin’, it’s getting, it’s getting kinda hectic.”

“It’s gettin’, it’s getting, it’s getting kinda hectic.”