Show 357: Sound Opinions Live with Japandroids, Green Day & The xx Reviews
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1 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.
2 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.
3 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.”
4 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 Burn It.
5 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 Burn 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.
Songs Featured in Show #357
Sex Pistols, “EMI,” Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Virgin, 1977
PSY, “Gangnam Style,” Universal, 2012
The Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built,” Celebration Rock, Polyvinyl Record Co., 2012
Age of Electric, “Ugly,” Gods Teeth Ethel, 1993
Atlas Strategic, “Smooth Nights,” That’s Familiar!, Self-released, 2002
Japandroids, “Evil’s Sway” (Live on SO), Celebration Rock, Polyvinyl Record Co., 2012
Japandroids, “For the Love of Ivy,” Celebration Rock, Polyvinyl Record Co., 2012
Japandroids, “The House That Heaven Built,” Celebration Rock, Polyvinyl Record Co., 2012
Japandroids, “Rockers East Vancouver,” Post-Nothing, Polyvinyl Record Co., 2009
Japandroids, “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” Celebration Rock, Polyvinyl Record Co., 2012
Japandroids, “Fire’s Highway” (Live on SO), Celebration Rock, Polyvinyl Record Co., 2012
Japandroids, “Continuous Thunder,” Celebration Rock, Polyvinyl Record Co., 2012
The Replacements, “Can’t Hardly Wait,” Pleased to Meet Me, Sire, 1987
Japandroids, “Younger Us” (Live on SO), Celebration Rock, Polyvinyl Record Co., 2012
Japandroids, “Adrenaline Nightshift,” Celebration Rock, Polyvinyl Record Co., 2012
Green Day, “Oh Love,” ¡Uno!, Reprise, 2012
Green Day, “Kill the DJ,”¡Uno!, Reprise, 2012
The xx, “Angels,” Coexist, Young Turks, 2012
The xx, “Chained,” Coexist, Young Turks, 2012
Flying Lotus, “Putty Boy Strut,” Until the Quiet Comes, Warp, 2012
Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz, “The Telephone Song,” Getz au Go Go, Verve, 1965
El-P, "Request Denied," Cancer 4 Cure, Fat Possum, 2012
Thee Oh Sees, “Flood’s New Light,” Putrifiers II, In the Red, 2012