Results for Sonic Youth

interviews

Yoko Ono

This week Jim and Greg welcome music legend Yoko Ono. While many know her simply as John Lennon's widow, Yoko is also an accomplished artist in her own right. Since coming into the spotlight, Yoko has often been reviled her for her radical views and radical music (and for "breaking up the greatest pop group in the world"), but she recently found a new role as a heroine in the indie rock underground. A new generation of musicians who didn't grow up with the same kind of reverence for The Beatles have claimed Yoko as their own. This was especially evident at the Pitchfork Music Festival, where she headlined Saturday's show. Yoko not only played to an audience of thousands people — young and old — but she invited Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Cat Power's Chan Marshall on stage with her to perform.

Recently Yoko has been busy working on some new albums. The first is Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur, which features two discs of artists covering songs by John Lennon. She's also released a couple of disc of her own work. Yes, I'm a Witch is a collection of remixes of Yoko's songs by artists such as Peaches, Le Tigre and The Flaming Lips. This was followed by Open Your Box, a collection of dance remixes. The title is a testament to the artist's strong will. It stems from her song "I'm a Witch," which she was reluctant to officially release when she penned it years ago. She explains to Jim and Greg that it wasn‘t as acceptable at the time to come out with such strong lyrics. But, it’s much easier in 2007 to proclaim yourself a bitch.

John and Yoko both influenced each other's music greatly. Greg explains that Yoko's collaboration with her husband brought out the“beast”in him as a guitar player But, Greg wanted to know what Yoko first thought of John's“simple”pop songs considering how avant-garde her compositions were. Yoko explains that she actually found that approach quite refreshing. He helped her to understand how beautiful even the most simple, fun songs can be.

It would be unfair to categorize Yoko strictly as avant-garde. In addition to influencing John's undoubtedly mainstream music, she's also influenced contemporary bands like Cibo Matto and Deerhoof. Jim and Greg talk to the artist about hearing elements of the song "Why" in The B52s' pop hit "Rock Lobster." Yoko explains that she never looked at this as any kind of vindication, but that John actually found great joy in hearing "Rock Lobster" for the first time.

Go to episode 86

Butch Vig

This week Jim and Greg speak with Butch Vig. The Wisconsin-based producer has worked on some of the most notable records in the past two decades including Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins, Dirty by Sonic Youth and Nevermind by Nirvana. In addition, he's a founding member and drummer for the band Garbage.

Go to episode 120

The Feelies

Sound Opinions doesn't take field trips very often, but when presented with the opportunity to talk to the recently reunited Feelies, AND see the band take the stage for the first time in 17 years, AND do it on their home turf at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ, we really couldn‘t pass it up. If you haven’t heard of the Feelies, you've certainly heard their influence. The Strokes, R.E.M. and Sonic Youth all count themselves as fans, as does director Jonathan Demme who featured the band in Something Wild. Jim, who also hails from Hoboken, points to The Feelies and Maxwell's as pivotal in shaping his love of music.

Greg and Jim spoke with the band about their decision to reunite just shortly before they performed in front of their friends, family and a group of listeners from WFUV. You can hear some live songs from that night here, including the title track from their debut album Crazy Rhythms and a cover of Wire's "Outdoor Miner."

Go to episode 138

Butch Vig

vig Next you'll hear Jim and Greg's 2008 conversation with producer Butch Vig. He has worked on some of the most notable records of the past two decades including Siamese Dream by the Smashing Pumpkins, Dirty by Sonic Youth and Nevermind by Nirvana. In addition, he's a founding member and drummer for the band Garbage. His most recent production effort is the new album by the Foo Fighters, which Jim and Greg review later in the show. Butch talks to our hosts about some of his more memorable recording sessions. He quickly learned that a producer is as much a therapist as anything else. And he confirms the idea that geniuses are not always the easiest people. Luckily the end results make it all worth it.

Go to episode 281

Michael Rother

Our guest this week might not be a familiar name to most. But, Michael Rother is one of the most innovative figures in rock. Along with Klaus Dinger, he formed Neu! and created three hugely influential albums in the 1970's. They were part of a great wave of German art rock of that period and continue to be name checked by everyone from Wilco to Sonic Youth to U2. Rother talks to Jim and Greg about his solo work and his time with Neu!. The band's back catalog is now available in a limited edition box set, and Rother is touring the country with a new band under the name Hallogallo 2010.

Go to episode 253
specials

Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz

Charles Mingus If you've had trouble getting into jazz, you are not alone – even Jim and Greg took a while to figure it out. Jazz is an iconic product of the African-American experience, but there are a variety of barriers of entry that rock listeners often have to overcome. To begin with, jazz has existed for twice as long as rock, meaning that there's an intimidating ocean of music to navigate. That's why we've enlisted the help of jazz writer and curator John Corbett to create the Rock Fan's Guide to Jazz. John refutes the notion that jazz is“fuddy-duddy”music from a bygone era. Instead, it's an exhilarating, joyful genre that continues to develop today.

There are many potential entry points to jazz that share certain sensibilities with rock music. The hard bop stylings of Sonny Rollins, for example, have a sense of forward propulsion familiar to rock fans. Even though some listeners think of swing as polite, genteel music, John can cite examples of Duke Ellington recordings that have the verve of any good rock guitar solo. Rock and jazz intersect in a very real sense in the jazz-fusion records of Miles Davis in the late 1960s. And bands from The Velvet Underground to Sonic Youth have drawn inspiration from the boundary-pushing free jazz of Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler. But jazz is really best appreciated live, so fortunately there are many exciting young jazz artists performing today who exhibit a punk rock sensibility.

Go to episode 491
classic album dissections
The Velvet Underground & Nico (45th Anniversary Edition)The Velvet Underground & Nico available on iTunes

The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico

According to Jim and Greg, few albums are worthier of the Classic Album Dissection treatment than The Velvet Underground's 1967 debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico. Songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed teamed with avant-garde violist/bassist John Cale in the mid-'60s to form the core of the band, joined by guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker. The sonic assault of their live performances caught the attention of Andy Warhol. Warhol provided the funding for their debut album in 1966 and created the iconic banana cover art. He also insisted on featuring German chanteuse Nico on several tracks.

The Velvet Underground & Nico was released in March 1967 against a backdrop of psychedelia, the Summer of Love, and Sgt. Pepper's Loney Hearts Club Band. Its noisy, stark depictions of junkies and sadomasochism in New York City didn‘t fit well with that San Francisco feeling, and the album didn’t sell. But over the past half century, its reputation has grown to the point that, as Jim and Greg argue, it's become the most influential album in rock history. Each track has launched an entire genre, from the goth rock of "Venus in Furs" to the noise rock of "European Son" to the proto-shoegaze in "Heroin." It's hard to imagine bands like Sonic Youth, the Ramones, or Radiohead existing without The Velvet Underground & Nico. On the album's 50th anniversary, Jim and Greg tell the history of the band, give a detailed examination of each of the album's songs, and share their thoughts on its legacy.

Go to episode 597
reviews
Rather RippedRather Ripped available on iTunes

Sonic Youth Rather Ripped

The second album up for review this week is from noise-rock vets Sonic Youth. Rather Ripped is the 15th studio album by the New York City quartet, who have been playing together for 25 years and up. Producer and multi-instrumentalist Jim O'Rourke joined the band briefly, but on Rather Ripped, Sonic Youth is back to four. The stripped-down lineup translates to the record's sound. The band is known for huge, noisy guitar sounds courtesy of guitar composers Glen Branca and Rhys Chatham, but this effort is a cleaner, more melodic album than fans may be accustomed to — and according to Jim, critics are falling over themselves praising it. Jim can‘t jump on that bandwagon, however. He doesn’t think that Sonic Youth has made a consistently good album from beginning to end since 1990's Goo. He still considers Sonic Youth a great band, but can only give Rather Ripped a Burn It. Greg, on the other hand, believes Jim is being too harsh. He agrees that it is not a great record, but still a good one. There are very few bands that have been able to sustain themselves as credible artists for this long. Greg really appreciates the songwriting, especially that of Kim Gordon (wife of fellow Sonic Youther Thurston Moore). For its dreamy atmosphere and momentum-fueled drumming and guitars, Greg gives Rather Ripped a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 29
The EternalThe Eternal available on iTunes

Sonic Youth The Eternal

Rock veterans Sonic Youth have released their 16th studio album, The Eternal. With a lineup shuffle and label change, they have returned to form according to Jim and Greg. Neither critic hears anything groundbreaking or new, but the urban surf grooves are back in a big way. Jim hasn't enjoyed anything the band has done in 17 years, but finally hears some truly great songs. The Eternal gets a Double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 184
dijs

Jim

“Death Valley €™69€”Teenage Jesus,Sonic Youth

Until recently, Sonic Youth'€™s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore were one of the most visible families in rock. For his DIJ, Jim commemorates the group'€™s best track (in his humble opinion). "Death Valley €™69€" from 1985's Bad Moon Rising is also about a family€: the Manson Family. Written by Moore and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks'€™ Lydia Lunch, the track captures the insanity of Manson'€™s cult with some pretty insane hooks.

Go to episode 394

Jim

“Ah Pook the Destroyer/Brion Gysin's All Purpose Bedtime Story”John Cale

Jim needs a palette cleanser after that last review, so he plays an example of a case where someone from the literary world went over to the rock world, and it worked. William S. Burroughs collaborated with a number of musicians toward the end of his life. And on Dead City Radio, the beat writer read his work while accompanied by music from the likes of Sonic Youth, Donald Fagan, Chris Stein, and best of all according to Jim, John Cale. On "Ah Pook the Destroyer/Brion Gysin's All Purpose Bedtime Story," Burroughs read while Cale played, and the two were a perfect match. Jim takes that track with him this week to the desert island. For more, check out the Sound Opinions interview with John Cale.

Go to episode 255
lists

Musical Costumes for Halloween

Sometimes, even musicians feel like“dressing up”and becoming an entirely different artist – if only for one album. To get into the spirit of Halloween, Jim and Greg share some of their favorite examples of musical costumes – artists who musically transform under fake personas.

Go to episode 622

Desert Island Jukebox Highlights

As the hosts of the show, Jim and Greg are always given the tough challenge of picking just one song they can‘t live without to drop into the Desert Island Jukebox. But, over time, they’ve also asked some of their favorite musical guests to make this difficult decision. It's interesting to hear what music these artists want to be stranded with. Here are just some of the selections:

  • Thom Yorke of Radiohead - "The Old Man's Back Again" by Scott Walker
  • Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead - "Kool Thing" by Sonic Youth
  • Robyn Hitchcock - Revolver by The Beatles (in his mind)
  • Scott McCaughey - "Walking in the Rain" by The Ronettes
  • Peter Buck - "Daddy Rollin' in Their Arms" by Dion
  • Lupe Fiasco - "The Highwayman" by The Highwaymen
  • Julian Casablancas of The Strokes - "Moonlight Sonata" by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Jon Brion - "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain & Tenille
  • Rhymefest - "All I Do," by Stevie Wonder
  • Jason Lytle of Grandaddy - "Roscoe" by Midlake
Go to episode 67

The Best of 2009… So Far

Lists are just too much fun to do them only once a year. Here are Jim and Greg's mid-year best album lists.

Greg

  • St. Vincent, Actor
  • Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
  • Amadou & Mariam, Welcome to Mali
  • The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love
  • Maxwell, BLACKsummers'night
  • Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • Mastodon, Crack the Skye
  • Dan Deacon, Bromst
  • Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz

Jim

  • Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavilion
  • Neko Case, Middle Cyclone
  • The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love
  • Lily Allen, It's Not Me, It's You
  • Morrissey, Years of Refusal
  • Franz Ferdinand, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
  • PJ Harvey and John Parish, A Woman a Man Walked By
  • Moby, Wait for Me
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz
  • Passion Pit, Manners
  • Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
  • Metric, Fantasies
  • K'Naan, Troubadour
  • Cursive, Mama, I'm Swollen
  • Bob Dylan, Together Through Life
  • Leonard Cohen, Live in London
  • St. Vincent, Actor
  • The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
  • Mastodon, Crack the Skye
  • Sonic Youth, The Eternal
  • U2, No Line on the Horizon
  • Wilco, Wilco
  • The Handsome Family, Honey Moon
  • Art Brut, Art Brut vs. Satan
  • Peaches, I Feel Cream
  • Screaming Females, Power Move
  • Dan Deacon, Bromst

A message from Jim: The following, LISTED IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER, is my tally of albums mid-year in 2009 that have all warranted 3.5 stars or more on the Chicago Sun-Times‘ 4-star ratings scale (making them all very enthusiastic“buy its”on the“Sound Opinions”scale). I will mention that these are in no particular order (sorry, but that’s reserved for the year-end list), that this list is not all-inclusive (I will no doubt catch up with quite a few discs released earlier in the year by the time I tally the year-end list) and, also, because this always confuses people, THESE ARE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. Yet. But they're all really, really, really good albums.

Go to episode 190

Scary Songs

It's everyone's favorite time of year: Halloween! This is one of our most requested shows, so Jim and Greg are back with another installment of Scary Songs for the season. Here are their 2011 picks:

Go to episode 309

Desert Island Jukebox

All year long Jim and Greg hog the Desert Island Jukebox and play you songs they can't live without. In this episode, they flip the script and hand over the jukebox quarters to some of their musical guests. Slayer, LCD Soundsystem, Wild Flag and more took on the age-old rock question "What record would you take with you if stranded on a desert island?":

  • Troy“Trombone Shorty”Andrews - Louis Armstrong, "On the Sunny Side of the Street"
  • Alexei Perry of Handsome Furs - Doctor Alimantado, Best Dressed Chicken in Town
  • Dan Boeckner of Handsome Furs - Sonic Youth, Sister
  • Sam Beam of Iron and Wine - Harry Nilsson, Nilsson Schmilsson
  • Naomi Yang and Damon Krukowski of Damon & Naomi - Fairport Convention, Liege and Lief
  • Lily Allen - Squeeze, "Up the Junction"
  • Kerry King of Slayer - Ozzy Osbourne, Blizzard of Ozz
  • Dave Lombardo of Slayer - Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
  • Rebecca Cole of Wild Flag - Bill Withers, Just As I Am
  • Janet Weiss of Wild Flag - The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St.
  • James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem - Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure
Go to episode 317

First Love Songs

Being such romantics, our hosts love to do Valentine's Day shows. However, sometimes the themes are less -than romantic-Unconventional Love or Love Stinks. But this year is all about the sweet, innocent and sometimes terrifying feelings of First Love. Here are their tracks:

Go to episode 324
features

SXSW '06

This week on the show, Jim and Greg share their recent experiences at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Our hosts joined over 10,000 other festival registrants to attend music industry panels, conduct interviews, and most importantly, see new bands. In the four days they were there, Jim and Greg heard a lot of music. They share some of the best with you.

  • First is The Dresden Dolls. Jim went to see the Boston group and fell in love with their blend of German cabaret performance style and '80s synth-pop melodies. You can hear a little bit of "Modern Moonlight" off their upcoming release, Yes Virginia.

  • Next up, Greg discusses one his finds: Art Brut. He enjoyed this British band's straightforward melodies, catchy choruses, and witty monologues so much that he saw them twice in Austin. This critic even scrawled“New Kings of Rock”in his notebook following one performance. Jim joined him to see the band at the Pitchfork/Windish party, where they shared a bill with RJD2, Spank Rock, and one of Greg's other discoveries, Swedish indie pop quintet Love is All. Art Brut, who just recently played a sold-out show at the Metro, entertained the entire staff so much that they were invited to appear on the show the week after the festival wrapped. Listen for that interview in the weeks to come.

Beastie Boys at SXSW 2006

  • In between running from show to show, Jim and Greg took a brief moment to sit down with The Beastie Boys. The hip-hop pioneers were down in Austin to promote their recent concert film, Awesome; I Fucking Shot That, and spoke to Jim and Greg about making the movie, sampling, copyright laws, and the longevity of their career.

  • Back to the rundown of our hosts‘ favorite Austin discoveries. Jim’s next pick, The Black Angels, actually hails from the Texas state capital. After reading Jim's book on psychedelic rock, members of the band contacted him and explained that they were right up his alley. They were right. Jim, who caught some of the dark, Velvet Underground-influenced music in the sterile environment of Austin Convention Center, was totally blown away. To describe the band, he quotes their website which begs the listener to "Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again." Whoa, man…

  • Greg loves coming to Austin to see bands that may not get to the States otherwise. One such band is Serena Maneesh. The Norwegian group is one of many contemporary bands compared to My Bloody Valentine. Often referred to as“shoegazers,”these musicians are often literally standing, staring at their shoes, while producing a heavy, overdriven, almost symphonic guitar sound. Serena Maneesh is certainly channeling this influence — however, as Greg explains, this band is also quite performative. Our host describes how the lead guitar player, theatrically dressed as a gypsy showman, was joined by an“Amazonian”bass player. Only during SXSW can you see this in Texas, notes Jim.

Tim Fite at SXSW 2006

  • We next hear some audio of Jim recorded down in Austin. He is describing one of his favorite acts: Tim Fite. Some may remember Fite's previous incarnation in Little T and One Track Mic and their one hit, "Shaniqua." But after getting signed to Atlantic and touring with Outkast, Little T went nowhere. Now, Fite has reinvented himself as a 1920s southern preacher/rapper who combines an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound with irreverent lyrics and hip-hop. Gone Ain't Gone is forthcoming on Anti-/Epitaph, making Fite label mates with Neko Case and Blackalicious.

  • The Swedish band Love is All (mentioned above) is another of Greg's discoveries. This Swedish indie-pop group is one of many European bands who are rediscovering American music. This band is particularly influenced by musicians like James Chance and the Contortions and Lydia Lunch who fused both jazz and punk. Love is All became Greg's go-to CD while he was driving around the city of Austin.

  • Listeners can now hear what Jim and Greg really sound like at SXSW: definitely over-tired, and perhaps over-served. Our hosts caught up with Sound Opinions H.Q. immediately after going to see Rhys Chatham at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, an experience they described as slightly mind-blowing. The avant-garde guitarist has basically been living in exile in Paris for the past decade, but emerged in Austin with a newly-formed guitar army: eight guitarists including Doug McCombs of Eleventh Dream Day and Tortoise, Ernie Brooks of The Modern Lovers and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Jim reports that Chatham recently received a grant allowing him to realize his long-fantasized 100-member guitar ensemble.

  • One of the SXSW events Greg always tries to attend is Alejandro Escovedo's Sunday night show. This year Grady was one of the opening acts. Greg found their huge, overpowering sound on par with that of Chatham's guitar army. He also compares their sound to that of ZZ Top's early days. Listen for yourself as Greg plays a sample of their 2004 release Y.U. So Shady?

  • White Whale is Jim's final discovery. He caught the band at the Merge showcase, a label that usually delivers for this critic. He was again not disappointed. White Whale, whose members have been in a number of other indie rock bands including Butterglory, Three Higher Burning Fire and The Get Up Kids, impressed Jim with more than just its name. He found their sound to be a mix of Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and also reminiscent of Elephant Six bands like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. So far their music can only be heard on Myspace.com, but White Whale may turn out to be another SXSW success story.

  • Greg's final pick is a band called Katahdin's Edge. He caught the group after originally trying to see a Finnish band who couldn‘t make it into the country. He was blown away, and despite getting thousands of free CDs for his day job, Greg was compelled to put down his own money for a Katahdin’s Edge album. This trio from Providence is an example of how jazz and rock can fuse in a great way. Rather than take an academic approach to jazz, Katahdin's Edge had a rock and roll, party edge that Greg really appreciated.

  • Greg was also caught on tape before and after seeing the biggest hype of this year's festival: The Arctic Monkeys. This has been quite the year for the young British band. In January they broke records for first-week sales in the U.K. with their debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In addition, they‘ve been proclaimed by many in the press as the greatest band to emerge from the U.K. in years. That’s a lot for a new band to live up to, but Greg was pleased with what he saw. While the Arctic Monkeys may not be what their hype claims, the music was well-rehearsed, packed with rhythm, and downright“ferocious”according to our host. Plus, the lead singer already seems to have the rock and roll attitude down.

Go to episode 18

Music of the Beat Generation

If you read On the Road in high school, you know a thing or two about the Beat movement's influence on literature. This week, Text and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll author Simon Warner wants to get you thinking about the Beat influence on rock. Forget the stereotypical bongos; Warner says Beat fathers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac were most inspired by Harlem's avant-garde jazz invention, Bebop. Warner makes the case that the Beats influenced a whole generation of rock lyricists - Bob Dylan and John Lennon among them - to embrace a more surrealist, personal, and politically engaged approach to lyric-writing. Think of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," he says, as Beat poetry with a, well, beat. But while Ginsberg and Kerouac struck a chord with the hippie generation, it was Beat colleague William S. Burroughs who served as guru to the later musical avant-garde. 1970's punks Jim Carroll and Patti Smith, and alternative era stars like Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth, all made pilgrimages to Burroughs' NYC bunker-apartment to pay their respects to“Old Bull Lee.”Burroughs'“cut up”writing technique may still inspire wordsmiths from Bowie to Thom Yorke, but Jim thinks it's Kerouac whose legacy may ultimately be the most lasting. It's that writer's spirit of adventure, Jim says, that continues to motivate every indie band still "on the road."

Go to episode 398
news

Music News

Jim and Greg talk about some surprising numbers Nielsen SoundScan recently released. According to the sales trackers, 40% of the albums old in 2006 were catalog sales. While there were a number of successful new releases from acts like Mary J. Blige, The Dixie Chicks and High School Musical, it seems that music fans still have a lot of nostalgia for the hair metal era of the 1980s. AC/DC's 1980 album Back in Black sold 444,000 copies last year, a figure that would make a contemporary CD a success. Also faring well was Metallica's 1991 self-titled album, Guns 'N Roses' Appetite for Destruction and Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits collection. The New Jersey band is also having success with their new release Lost Highway, though this is one figure Jim really can't wrap his head around.

Next the hosts discuss their recent experiences at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. The three day festival organized by the Chicago-based Internet music magazine pitchforkmedia.com and indie music promoter Mike Reed was attended by 48,000 people in Chicago's Union Park. In fact, both Jim and Greg worry that the concert is getting too big for its britches, and the park. There were a number of highlights including performances by Yoko Ono, Mastodon and Clipse and full-album performances from Sonic Youth, Slint and GZA. But, one of the problems with a festival that celebrates the underground is that eventually things move above ground. Even Third Stage acts like electronic artist Dan Deacon demanded a huge crowd. In addition a number of artists from previous Pitchfork Festivals are appearing at this year's Lollapalooza. One thing this proves is how big the Pitchfork tastemakers are now. More than MTV play or radio play, it's coverage on indie sites like pitchforkmedia.com that thrust an artist into the spotlight.

Go to episode 86

Music News

For the third year in a row the Lollapalooza Music Festival took over Chicago's Grant Park for a weekend. Jim and Greg were both there to report on how the festivities went down, and both critics agree the highlight was, by far, Iggy Pop and the Stooges. The punk rocker's high-energy performance toed that line between good fun and danger, something Jim wishes there was more of in rock and roll. Something Jim also wished there was more of at the festival was less of a“shopping mall”environment. He asked Lollapalooza impresario Perry Farrell about the need for such extensive VIP sections and the effect that things like the“radius clause”have on struggling bands and struggling clubs. Greg actually thought the festival was run quite well and treated fans with respect; there was plenty of food, water and bathrooms — something he can‘t say about all other festivals. This critic’s major beef with Lollapalooza is mostly aesthetic. He would like to see fewer stages, fewer filler bands, and more emphasis on thoughtful bookings. We'll just have to wait until Lollapalooza 2008 to see if they take this free advice.

The news takes a slightly darker turn next, with two stories involving Adolf Hitler and Hitler memorabilia. The first concerns the pop purveyor of all things dark: Marilyn Manson. The goth-glam rocker is being sued for $20 million by his former keyboardist, known to fans as Madonna Wayne Gacy. He claims that Manson spent band profits on personal items, including coat hangers used by Adolf Hitler, a handbag owned by Eva Braun, and the full skeleton of a four-year old Chinese girl. Manson says the claims are ridiculous, adding, "I would never spend my money on a Chinese girl skeleton… That would be crossing the line. It's a Chinese boy, for the record.‘’

Another surprising news item: Around 100 records apparently belonging to Adolf Hitler have been discovered in a former Soviet intelligence officer's attic. The collection reveals that while Hitler was publicly heralding“racially pure”German music, his musical taste included some artists forbidden in the Third Reich. Some of the findings were not shocking: Wagner, Beethoven and Anton Bruckner. But, the dictator also appears to have owned works by Jewish and Russian performers like Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninov and Artur Schnabel.

To quote Elton John's own song, "The Bitch is Back." The singer/songwriter has popped up in the news again, this time expressing his beef with…the Internet, of all things. In a piece in British tabloid The Sun, John contends that the web has destroyed music, and explains, "I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole Internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span." Sir Elton adds that he's doing his part by shutting out iPods and cellphones, and, we can only guess, communication with the world. Apparently this musician hasn't had the same experience with music on the internet as fellow Brits Lily Allen or Pete Townshend.

Just a week after Jim lauded his new album Cake or Death, psychedelic cowboy Lee Hazlewood died of cancer at the age of 78. The musician is best known for writing and producing hits for others, including "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" for Nancy Sinatra. But, Jim and Greg discuss how he developed a cult following in later years, and became legendary for his innovation and independence. This earned him the adoration of a new generation of rock musicians that includes Nick Cave and Sonic Youth. Jim and Greg pay tribute to Hazlewood by playing his song, "Some Velvet Morning."

Go to episode 89

Music News

First up in the news Jim and Greg discuss Joni Mitchell's decision to team up with Starbucks. Her first album in almost 10 years will be released on the coffee chain's Hear Music label. Jim and Greg imagine that the singer/songwriter must have been impressed with the success of Paul McCartney's recent Starbucks-released album Memory Almost Full, especially considering her notorious distaste of the music industry. One group they are surprised to hear has joined the coffee family is Sonic Youth. The alt-rockers will release a compilation on Hear Music next year.

Jim and Greg update some stories they've discussed on current shows. The first concerns pop star Kelly Clarkson. When her album My December was released a few weeks ago, our hosts talked about Clarkson's high-profile feud with BMG chairman Clive Davis. The singer appeared to be taking a tough-girl stance and defended her artistic integrity, but now she's trying to lay it all to rest. Check out her retraction.

Another topic Jim and Greg covered on the show is the scrutiny hip hop lyrics have been facing post-Imus. A recent victim is Chicago rapper Twista. McDonalds decided to pull the speed rapper from its Live Trek tour because of his“controversial lyrics.”Twista's response is that he's been making the same kind of rhymes for years, but no one cared until Don Imus said something negative about black women. He also added that he usually cleans up lyrics for kid-friendly performances.

While the gossip pages are filled with celebrities who aren't forced to pay for their crimes, singer Ron Isley is no such lucky star. He is slated to begin his five-year prison sentence for tax evasion next week, but Def Jam is hoping that Isley fans can convince the government otherwise. They sent out a petition imploring people to“call, fax or email the White House immediately to help the 64-year old cancer sufferer.”If you'd like to join in the effort you can call the President at (202) 456-1414, email him at president@whitehouse.gov, or contact the Congressional Black Caucus.

Last week Eric Clapton held the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Bridgeview, IL, and Greg was there to see the action. He recounts how historic it was to see Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton play together 38 years after Blind Faith disbanded. Greg's other highlights were witnessing B.B. King give what might be his final performance and hearing Jeff Beck do a beautiful rendition of The Beatles' "Day in the Life." Check out Greg's entire recap here.

Go to episode 88

Music News

First up in the news is the report that both the House and Senate have reauthorized the Higher Education Act with new provisions that essentially make colleges akin to cops. The bill requires universities to implement tougher traffic filtering technologies in order to deter p2p filesharing. Jim and Greg think any attempts to deter filesharing will be as effective as attempts to curb cheating, binge-drinking and plagiarizing.

Jim and Greg recently spoke with Big Champagne's Eric Garland about artists benefiting from filesharing and album-leaking. Labels have now caught on, but they don't want you to know it. When a track from the forthcoming Buckcherry album was leaked on the internet, the band and its label were quick to complain. But, according to a Wall Street Journal article, they were the source of the leak. It's an old PR stunt for the hip hop world, but now mainstream, albeit“boneheaded”acts like Buckcherry have caught on. Get ready for more faux file-leaking sob stories.

In other music news, music retailing giant iTunes may be getting some competition soon. Amazon launched a digital music service less than a year ago and has yet to make a dent in that market. Now the website has teamed up with MySpace to offer music fans a way to sample and then purchase individual songs and albums. The tracks will be DRM-free, and users won't have to launch a separate application to purchase music. Jim is quickly running to add the Amazon CEO as his MySpace friend.

There's never enough Abba on Sound Opinions, so we were excited when the Swedish pop quartet appeared in the headlines. The band's greatest hits album Gold recently went to #1 in the U.K., breaking the record for the oldest band to ever hit the top of the charts. The reason for the resurgence is the release of the movie Mamma Mia, but hopefully the legacy of the band will not be tarnished by the film.

Frequent chart-topper Chris Brown is also making news this week. His hit single "Forever" has made it to the Top 10 , but little did fans know it was written as a Wrigley gum jingle. For a long time artists have lent their music to advertising companies, but as far as Jim and Greg can tell, this is the first time a song was developed initially as an ad campaign. Is it just a chicken/egg argument? Or does the commercial intention matter to a song's integrity? Let us know what you think.

The final discussion in the news is about the proliferation of '90s nostalgia in the music industry these days. Alternative-era artists like Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair and Sonic Youth are all drawing from their former glory days and cashing in. Jim believes such nostalgia is anathema to the alternative philosophy, and doesn't think touring behind one singular album is much better than a greatest hits concert. Greg is surprised that Jim is surprised, citing the Sex Pistols' 1996 tour as the day he gave up on any notion of rock-era integrity.

Go to episode 141

Music News

First up Jim and Greg do an update on a story discussed a few weeks ago. Despite pleas from a broad spectrum of internet radio broadcasters including National Public Radio and Yahoo, as well as some small scale mom and pop stations, the Copyright Royalty Board threw out requests to reconsider a ruling that hiked the royalties they must pay to record companies and artists. In addition, the judges declined to postpone a May 15 deadline by which the new royalties will have to be collected. While there is still one more chance to open the case with the court of appeals, it's likely that many webcasters are going to be put out of business by these new rulings. One thing that is for certain is that rulings like these and those to come down the line are certain to change the entire landscape of digital broadcasting.

Next up Jim and Greg talk to Doug Brod, Editor-in-Chief of Spin Magazine, about the upcoming season of“destination festivals.”While previously music fans would be treated to traveling music festivals like Lollapalooza coming to their neck of the woods, now there are large-scale, multi-day outdoor concerts dotted in different areas across the country. Often, these festivals have to compete for your attention by getting the biggest coup. This year it's the Rage Against the Machine reunion at Coachella, the Pearl Jam and Daft Punk performances at Lollapalooza, and a Police reunion at Bonnaroo.

Jim and Greg ask Doug to choose his favorite out of the many destination festivals this summer, and he goes with Coachella because of the line-up and the location. Greg agrees that the Coachella Valley is a spectacular place to experience a rock show, but he also urges music fans to travel two hours outside of Seattle, Washington to attend the Sasquatch Festival in the Gorge Amphitheater. It's another meeting of spectacular natural surroundings and an impressive bill of bands. Jim thinks that people will get the most bang for their buck at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, which features a number of indie bands, plus groups like Sonic Youth performing entire albums for a very reasonable price. But, being the sand and sun hater that he is, Jim won‘t pick his favorite summer festival. He’s actually ready for the entire phenomenon to die out and for rock to return to smoky clubs where it belongs.

Jim and Greg talk to Chicago Tribune Television Critic Maureen Ryan about the recent "Sanjaya phenomenon" on American Idol. Our hosts have long avoided talking about this popular TV show because, frankly, it has little to do with music. But, they were intrigued by the curious forces at work to keep the apparently talentless contestant Sanjaya Malakar on the show, and wanted to turn to Mo Ryan to find out why he became so popular, and why he couldn‘t survive. The only sense these critics can make out of Sanjaya’s reign is that for one brief moment the pop forces (pre-teens who love Sanjaya's androgynous, harmless sex appeal) and the punk forces (Vote for the Worst.com, Howard Stern, etc.) came together with one common goal: to save Sanjaya (and possibly take down the show). The convergence of these two sets was a rare occurence in popular culture, and it seems they weren‘t strong enough to prevent Sanjaya’s elimination. American Idol proved itself to be a more powerful“death star”than anyone expected.

For more information on music festivals, check out the footnotes below.

Go to episode 73

Music News

The Magic Shop, a recording studio in SoHo in New York, will be closing its doors soon after 28 years. The studio was a favorite of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Arcade Fire, Sonic Youth, and more. Jim and Greg have noticed a number of high profile recording studios that have closed in the past decade. To examine what's driving this trend, they speak with Larry Crane, owner of Jackpot! Recording Studio in Portland and founder/editor of Tape Op Magazine. Crane argues that the commonly told story that digital recording is killing the industry is a misdirection – home recording has really been around for more than half a century, after all. Issues like gentrification and real estate are playing just as big of a role. While changes are indeed happening acrossthe industry, Crane is optimistic that there's still a place for recording studios of all sizes in the future.

Go to episode 536

Music News

Jim and Greg kick off the show by celebrating the life of another great artist: saxophonist and free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, dead at the age of 85. While critics sometimes loosely toss around phrases about musicians changing music, in this case, it is an undisputed truth. Coleman forever set jazz on an entirely new path, with an influence spreading into the world of rock, as well. Artists like Patti Smith, The Velvet Underground, and Sonic Youth all stood in the shadow of Coleman's innovations. He developed a musical philosophy he called "harmolodics," which set aside the traditional approach of adhering to chord changes and instead created intricately layered melodies that favored each instrument equally. Though sometimes dismissed as dissonant noise, Greg contends that Coleman had one of the greatest ears for melody in music. As an example of Ornette's unique approach to ensemble playing, Greg plays "Jump Street" from Ornette Coleman's 1979 album Of Human Feelings.

Go to episode 499