The Venus 3

Robyn Hitchcock, Peter Buck, and Scott McCaughey

Jim and Greg welcome an all-star lineup this week. Robyn Hitchcock and special guests Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey of REM and the Venus 3 come by the studio to talk music and play some tunes. Then Jim and Greg will get your“sound opinions”on the best albums of 2006.

Subscribe via iTunesDownload This Episode

Music News

The Nielsen SoundScan numbers for 2006 are in this week, and some members of the music industry would have you believe the sky was falling. This is because total album sales in the U.S. fell 4.9% since last year. But, the fact that is getting buried is that overall music sales still rose to 1.19 billion units in the year. It's hard to think of that as any kind of slump. The reason music is thriving is actually digital music distribution. Digital music sales rose 65% to almost 582 units. Jim and Greg speak with an expert, Chris Muratore from Nielsen Music to make sense of all the numbers. He admits that despite what the record labels would have you believe, digital music could be the best thing that has happened to the music industry in years. Billboard senior analyst Geoff Mayfield echoes this sentiment, and explains that the industry is having to shift its business model. One thing we can all agree on though - music sales may be up, but the quality of the big sellers (High School Musical, Rascal Flatts, Daniel Powter) has plummeted way down.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also made news this week. This year's inductees include The Ronettes, Patti Smith, Van Halen, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and R.E.M. (listen to Jim and Greg's discussion with the band's guitarist and co-founder Peter Buck in the next segment). While many of those musicians are deserving of honors, Jim and Greg are dubious of the ceremonies themselves. They're more about tuning in to see who will or will not attend and who will and will not reunite than they are about music's great history. Van Halen is not the most important rock act, but fans are anxious to see which front man will show up and play — David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar (or Gary Cherone)? Our hosts wish that bands like Chic, whose music has provide the basis for tons of other songs like "Rapper's Delight," "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life," had been inducted. Jim adds The Stooges and Kraftwerk also deserve a Hall of Fame nod.

interview

Robyn Hitchcock, Peter Buck, and Scott McCaughey

Robyn Hitchcock, the man who Jim and Greg call a cross between Bob Dylan and Syd Barrett, visits the show this week. He is joined by his Venus 3 band mates, Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey, whose day jobs as members of R.E.M. aren‘t too shabby. All of the band members share a deep love of music, and a history of finding inspiration in record stores. Peter and Scott explain that this is how they initially became familiar with Robyn’s music. Greg remarks that they're all just a buncha rock geeks — our kind of guys!

Robyn and the Venus 3 have a new album out entitled Olé! Tarantula. According to Jim, it's a return to an earlier Hitchcock sound full of jangly melodies and multiple harmonies. And of course, you can count on the singer/songwriter for inventive lyrics. Sound Opinions H.Q. won't attempt to summarize his explanation of the concept behind Olé! Tarantula and the album's artwork, but offers this and this as reference points. You can hear the band perform this song, as well as "Adventure Rocket Ship," Syd Barrett's "Dominoes", and the bonus track, "N.Y. Doll" written about deceased New York Dolls member Arthur Kane.

Jim and Greg don‘t neglect to ask Peter Buck about his other gig. The R.E.M. guitarist and songwriter explains that he has written a lot of material and hopes to get together with some of the other band members soon to work on songs for their next album. Ideally he’d like to avoid spending“a lifetime.”An example of the band's more immediate work is the song "Final Straw." Buck wrote that piece of music while they were working on Automatic for the People, but he continued it to use it as a guitar warm-up. Lead singer Michael Stipe was struck by the tune and inspired by in the Middle East, and within a day it was recorded and put on the web.

list

Best of 2006: Listeners' Picks

Jim and Greg sounded off on the best albums of 2006 a few weeks ago, and this week it is the listeners' turn. Sound Opinions H.Q. received many calls and emails telling us what Jim and Greg got wrong, what Jim and Greg got right, and what some other great albums were. During this show we hear from just a few of you.

  • John from West Virginia called in to take Jim to task on his choice of Neil Young's Living With War as one of the best albums of the year. He found it to be just terrible and one of the worst albums of the year. But he didn't disagree with everything, stating that he also really enjoyed Lily Allen.
  • Carl emailed his“Top 40”of the year: a very extensive list with great descriptions of each album. His number 1 album was by The Decemberists, but Greg asks Carl to explain why he chose Night Ripper by Girl Talk as another one of his favorites. He says it's“perfect for the no-attention span generation,”and adds that it“kicks ass.”We couldn't agree more.
  • Matt also wrote in with his five favorite albums. On that list were many alt-country bands like The Drams, the Drive-by-Truckers and Glossary. He and Jim also agree that The Raconteurs had one of the best albums of the year. Matt explains that one of the reasons Broken Boy Soldiers is so successful is that it is so concise: 10 songs all averaging three minutes. The short attention span of a listener is something Matt and Jim both agree is still an important consideration in the post-vinyl era.

Thanks to everyone who gave us his or her "Sound Opinion"!

Featured Songs

  1. Buddy Tabor,“Mr. Basketball Shoes,”Blinding Flash of Light, 2006
  2. Gentle Giant,“Playing the Game,”The Power and the Glory, 2004
  3. Sean Paul,“Temperature,”Trinity, 2006
  4. R.E.M.,“Sitting Still,”Murmur, 1983
  5. Chic,“Good Times,”Risque, 1979
  6. Kraftwerk,“Trans-Europe Express,”Trans-Europe Express, 1977
  7. Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians,“Balloon Man,”Globe of Frogs, 1988
  8. Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3,“Ol‘e Tarantula,”Ol’e Tarantula, 2006
  9. Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3,“N.Y. Doll,”Ol'e Tarantula, 2006
  10. Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3,“Dominoes,”Barrett, 1970 Live in Studio
  11. Syd Barrett,“Dominoes,”Barrett, 1970
  12. Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3,“Museum of Sex,”Ol'e Tarantula, 2006 Live in Studio
  13. R.E.M.“Final Straw,”remhq.com, 2006
  14. Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3,“Adventure Rocket Ship,”Ol'e Tarantula, 2006 Live in Studio
  15. Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3,“Belltown Ramble,”Ol'e Tarantula, 2006
  16. The Raconteurs,“Intimate Secretary,”Broken Boy Soldiers, 2006
  17. Lily Allen,“Smile,”Alright Still, 2006
  18. Neil Young,“Let's Impeach the President,”Living With War, 2006
  19. Dave Matthews Band,“Tripping Billies,”Crash, 1996
  20. Girl Talk,“Bounce That,”Night Ripper, 2006
  21. Man Man,“Push the Eagles Stomach,”Six Demon Bag, 2006

Footnotes

soundscan.com Nielsen SoundScan remhq.com REM history-of-rock.com The Ronettes wikipedia.org Rappers Delight wikipedia.org Another One Bites the Dust wikipedia.org Last Night a DJ Saved My Life wikipedia.org Peter Buck wikipedia.org Scott McCaughey metacritic.com Ole! Tarantula punk77.co.uk New York Dolls imdb.com Arthur Kane wikipedia.org Michael Stipe thedrams.com The Drams drivebytruckers.com Drive-By Truckers myspace.com Glossary theraconteurs.com Raconteurs jimdero.com Jim's review of Broken Boy Soldiers