Japandroids & Reviews of Green Day and The xx

Canadian garage rockers Japandroids join Jim and Greg onstage for a special taping of Sound Opinions Live at Chicago’s Lincoln Hall.

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This week American and European  regulators gave their official blessing to the merger of Universal Music Group and EMI. The big four major labels are now down to three. So what could go wrong with one company controlling more than forty percent of the music market? According to Greg, a lot. Take a streaming service like Spotify: for Spotify to launch, the company had to obtain licensing deals for its music from the majors. With so much of the world's music now in UMG's hands, Greg predicts it's going to be a lot tougher for tomorrow's Spotifys and Pandoras to get into business. He sums it up: big tech and big labels 1, the little guy, 0.

Are you one of the three remaining people on earth who haven't seen Psy's "Gangnam Style" video? Better get hip fast. The South Korean rapper just broke the Guinness Book of World Records' entry for most YouTube likes (2.2 million). Back in June Sound Opinions prophesied that K-pop - Korean pop music - was poised to make a big splash in the States. But even Jim admits he never thought the genre's breakout star would be a rotund rapper singing about a posh Seoul neighborhood.


This summer three hundred fans joined Jim and Greg for a sold-out live taping of Sound Opinions at Chicago's Lincoln Hall. The night's special guests? Canadian  garage rock duo Japandroids. Drummer  David Prowse and guitarist  Brian King were in a feisty mood, taking Jim to task for his characterization of their music as "wonderfully ugly." "Is that a back-handed compliment?" Brian wanted to know. The two also performed tracks from their sophomore album, Celebration Rock (a Buy It for both Jim and Greg). Dave and Brian met as students in Victoria, British Columbia. (If you're thinking of visiting, Brian recommends the Wax Museum's "Chamber of Horrors.") They launched Japandroids in 2006 and tried to make a go of it in the Vancouver music scene, already home to bands like Chet and Atlas Strategic. Despite the fact there's only two of them, Japandroids make quite a roar, and they quickly made a name for themselves as an exhilarating live act. But they found frustratingly few venues to play in Vancouver. By the time Japandroids released their debut, Post-Nothing, in 2009, Dave tells Greg they thought it would be their farewell. That didn't happen. Internet fate intervened, Post-Nothing blew up, and Brian and David embarked on a year and a half of touring. As its title suggests, Celebration Rock is really a party record. But Greg detects a note of melancholy amidst the boozing. Brian's response: "If this is the last record we're ever going to do, let's make sure it's the best record we're ever going to do."

!Uno! Green Day


As a band Green Day is so firmly rooted in the adolescent mindset, it's easy to forget how much history they have. As Jim points out, Green Day predates the nineties alternative era. They started out as an East Bay band riffing on the Ramones and playing VFW halls. Today they have a musical, American Idiot, and nine studio albums to their name. The ninth, !Uno! is just out. Billed as a "back to basics" record, Greg says !Uno! really samples from several of Green Day's eras - from the teenage sneer of Dookie, to the "Time of Your Life" balladry of Nimrod. What's missing on !Uno!, he says, is the ambition of the band's later records, American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown. For Greg, Green Day's harkening back to its teenage self (particularly in its foul language on this record) feels like a step backward. He gives !Uno! a Trash It. Jim agrees !Uno! is a big disappointment. The only thing that saves it from the garbage heap is the great Dookie-era production of Rob Cavallo. Jim gives !Uno! a Try It.

Coexist The xx


Jim and Greg close out this week's show with a review of the sophomore album by The xx. This trio of London art students enjoyed a rapid rise after the release of their self-titled debut. Not only did The xx win  Britain’s Mercury Prize for the best record of 2009, they performed on Sound Opinions! The hype for their follow-up has been intense. Coexist debuted at No. 1 in the UK and No. 5 in the U.S. Jim says if you liked the first record, chances are you'll like this one too. The band has talked in interviews about stripping back its already minimal sound, and Jim agrees. This is a spare, intimate bedroom recording. He gives The xx an A+ for sonic mood, but admits he didn't find the tunes to be as memorable this go-round. He says Try It. Greg disagrees. He thinks the interaction between Sim and Romy Croft's vocals are the heart of this record, giving it a surprisingly soulful feel. The tunes are there, he says, for those who listen hard. He gives Coexist a Buy It.

Dear Listeners,

For more than 15 years, Sound Opinions was a production of WBEZ, Chicago's public radio station. Now that the show is independent, we're inviting you to join the band and lend a hand! We need your support more than ever because now we have to do all the behind-the-scenes work that WBEZ handled before (like buying insurance and paying for podcast hosting, ugh). Plus, we have some exciting ideas we'd like to try now that there's no one to tell us no!