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Show 152: The Return of the Rock Doctors, Reviews of John Legend and Parts & Labor
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1 A year after they started their “pay-what-you-want” experiment for In Rainbows, Radiohead has finally revealed the results. It was a complete success. The album sold 3 million copies at various prices, as well as 100,000 box sets at $81. And, the band gets to reap nearly all the profits since they don’t have to divvy it up with a record company or middle man. Jim and Greg wonder why they waited so long to give numbers, especially since Trent Reznor was quick to reveal his success with a similar sales plan. But they are encouraged by Radiohead’s success, and hope other bands will follow suit.
2 Another band experiencing a financial windfall is U2, but their new deal lacks the same punk spirit. The Irish rockers have linked up with corporate concert giant Live Nation for a 12-year deal that includes touring, merchandising and their web site. U2 will receive an estimated $19 million, but in Live Nation stock rather than cold hard cash. Jim now thinks concertgoers can now hold Bono and his bandmates responsible for any anti-consumer practices on Live Nations’ part.
3 Just when you think the music industry has embraced the digital revolution, you find out about another attempt to get consumers to purchase files. The latest web store is Lala.com. It is being supported by all the major labels, and many of the indies as well, and offers music to fans for only 10 cents. But, there’s a catch. Lala only leases you those web songs to play online. You can’t download or burn tracks unless you pay an additional 79 or 89 cents. Jim and Greg think a 10 cent price tag is terrific, but aren’t sure consumers will find the leasing structure that appealing. They hope that the music industry will introduce a happy medium where consumers can purchase songs at a low price and actually own them.
4 In one of the worst public relations moments of the year, Ringo Starr told his fans that after October 20th, he would no longer be accepting any fan mail or signing any autographs. What was his reason? It’s not to be more “green,” as one might suspect. It’s simply that the former Beatle is just too darn busy. Jim and Greg can’t wrap their head around what’s filling up all his time. But, in the meantime, they have offered to accept any of Ringo’s fan mail.
5 Levi Stubbs, lead singer of The Four Tops, passed away last week at the age of 72. As Greg explains, he’s one of the great voices of the Motown generation, but never tried to overshadow the group. Despite that effort, it’s hard not to notice Stubb’s tremendous voice and emotional singing style. You can hear this in one of the classic pop songs of all time, “Bernadette."
6 Even the healthiest music listener depends on recommendations from family and friends. But for more severe cases, Sound Opinions recommends people make an appointment with the Rock Doctors. When Brendan from Los Angeles contacted Sound Opinions H.Q. and described his symptoms, we immediately took him in to see the doctors and get a diagnosis. Brendan suffers from an ailment common among people of his generation: 90s-itis. Brendan loves music but hasn’t moved forward since 1995. That was the high point of his music listening, and you can still find Weezer’s Blue Album and Nirvana’s Nevermind in his CD player. He loves the balance of noisy rock and melody in those albums. And, since he can no longer turn on an Alt-rock radio station to hear a similar sound, he asks the Rock Doctors, “What sounds like ‘90s alternative in 2008?”
7a Greg’s answer to this question is The Secret Machines. The group harkens back to that hard, but melodic sound. The group uses elements from that era like strong guitars and drums, and adds space rock. A fan of Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, and even The Beatles and Led Zeppelin, should love Ten Silver Drops by The Secret Machines.
7b Jim’s prescription for 90s-itis is Wolf Parade. The Canadian indie rockers have a lot of energy and aggression that Brendan should appreciate. There’s a nod to classic rock, but the band is not living in the past. He gives Brendan a dose of At Mount Zoomer by Wolf Parade and invites him back for a follow-up appointment in a week.
7c When Brendan returns he reports that he is slowly recovering. He enjoyed both prescriptions, but thinks he needs to give them more time. Brendan found both records slightly more mellow than he expected, but liked that they weren’t “screaming.” Brendan now has two albums in his collection that were recorded in the 21st century, and that’s all the Doctors could ask for.
8 The first album up for review this week is Evolver by R&B artist John Legend. Legend first emerged on the scene after touring with Kanye West and has since released two successful albums. On this third one Greg thinks the title may be overly optimistic. “Evolver” implies growth, but Greg hears more of the same, and even less so. This is Legend’s most commercial sounding record, and if Greg were going to assign it a color it would be beige. Jim agrees about the blandness of this album. He essentially “hates” the boring, mid-tempo sound and feels betrayed by Legend, an artist who at one point had so much promise. Evolver gets a Trash It from Jim and a Burn it from Greg.
8 Parts and Labor also has a new album out called Receivers. The band, who visited the show as a trio, is now a quartet. And, as Jim and Greg explain, “Evolver” is a more apt title for their album. For Jim it’s as if their sound went from black and white to Technicolor. He calls the record “amazingly tuneful,” and says they are now up in the realm of great noise-rock bands like Pere Ubu. Greg thinks the lineup change is responsible for the expanding sound. The drumming is less chaotic and more trancelike. And the melodies are amazing. Greg calls Parts and Labor one of the best bands working today, and their album gets two Buy Its.
9 Sound Opinions listeners know that one of Jim’s favorite bands of all time is Wire. The punk heroes just wrapped up their tour in support of their most recent album Object 47. Jim was there at the Metro in Chicago to witness the show, and marveled at how much the band fights against nostalgia, especially compared to other bands from the punk era. Wire is all about moving forward, but Jim still likes to look back now and again. He uses this week’s turn at the Desert Island Jukebox to throw in the classic Wire track “The 15th.”
Songs Featured in Show #152
Radiohead, “Reckoner,” In Rainbows, 2007
U2, “Silver and Gold,” Rattle and Hum, 1988
The Flaming Lips, “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head,” Fight Test, 2003
Ringo Starr, “No No Song,” Goodnight Vienna, 1974
Four Tops, “Baby I Need Your Loving,” Four Tops, 1964
The Four Tops, “Reach Out (I’ll Be There),” Reach Out, 1967
The Four Tops, “Bernadette,” Reach Out, 1967
Department of Eagles, “In Ear Park,” In Ear Park, 2008
The Who, "Doctor, Doctor," Magic Bus, 1968
Weezer, "Buddy Holly," Weezer (Blue Album), 1994
Don Henley, "Land of the Living," Building the Perfect Beast, 1984
Wolf Parade, "Language City," At Mount Zoomer, 2008
Secret Machines, "Daddy's in the Doldrums," Ten Silver Drops, 2006
Secret Machines, "Alone, Jealous and Stoned," Ten Silver Drops, 2006
Wolf Parade, "Call it a Ritual," At Mount Zoomer, 2008
John Legend, "Green Light," Evolver, 2008
John Legend, "It's Over," Evolver, 2008
Parts & Labor, "Nowhere's Nigh," Receivers, 2008
Parts and Labor, "Satellites," Receivers, 2008
Wire, "The 15th," 154, 1979
Ne-Yo, "Miss Independent," Year of the Gentleman, 2008
Abba, “Ring Ring,” Ring Ring, 1973
Lil Wayne, "A Milli," Tha Carter III, 2008
Vampire Weekend, “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,” Vampire Weekend, 2008
AC/DC, “Spoilin For a Fight,” Black Ice, 2008
Bob Dylan, “Everything is Broken,” The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs - Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006, 2008