U2 Considered and Opinions on Neil Young & Black Mountain

Jim and Greg trace U2’s path from Dublin kids to stadium giants to Broadway darlings.

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Greg Kot attended the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit this week, so he begins the news by reporting back some interesting tidbits. First he heard Intellectual Property Czar Victoria Espinel’s presentation in which she outlined her 33-point strategy for dealing with internet piracy. She wants the private sector to do more to police illegal activity. But when questioned by Greg, she didn’t seem concerned about the fact that 95% of Americans are engaged in illegal internet activity. Greg wonders if we’re back to suing consumers.

Greg also hosted the keynote address featuring T. Bone Burnett. The iconoclastic producer, who is known for his work on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack and Robert Plant’s Raising Sand album, again stood apart from the crowd when he announced that he advises young musicians to stay away from the internet. While this may sound like a luddite talking, Greg explains that Burnett is wisely suggesting that musicians worry more about their art than their distribution. Once that’s figured out, everything else comes into place.

Next up are two chart curiosities. First, for over 50 years The Beatles have held the Billboard singles chart record for most appearances by a non-solo act. Now, they are dethroned by... Glee. The Fox cast recently paid homage to another chart-topper, Britney Spears, and those 5 covers, including Toxic sold over 400,000 downloads.

In the U.K. another hot young star is climbing the charts: Winston Churchill. The wartime Prime Minister ousted The KillersBrandon Flowers from the top five, and he’s now neck and neck with Phil Collins and KT Tunstall. Two of Churchill’s most famous speeches appear on the RAF’s Central Band’s new album Reach for the Skies, marking the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

U2’s Legacy

U2 recently debuted a song from the forthcoming Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark musical. Reeve Carney, the actor playing Peter Parker, performed Boy Falls from the Sky on Good Morning America. And the Irish rockers played their own version in concert this week. Jim and Greg couldn’t help wonder how a bunch of Dublin art-punks became stadium giants and now Broadway darlings.

Jim and Greg discuss U2’s unique place in music history. With 12 albums, 22 Grammys and over 150 million records sold, very few rock bands from the ‘70s and ‘80s are at their level. And they are still selling out stadiums around the world. But they didn’t begin on such a large scale. Jim and Greg trace U2’s journey to this blockbuster point and discuss the band’s different artistic phases and career highs and lows. They agree that Achtung Baby is U2’s masterpiece, and can’t stomach some of the righteousness and bombast of records like The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree. But each has a unique favorite. Jim chooses to highlight An Cat Dubh from the 1980 album Boy, and Greg plays Your Blue Room from the 1995 Brian Eno- produced album Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1.

Le Noise Neil Young

Le Noise

Another musician with impressive career longevity is Neil Young. At 64, he’s still trying to reinvent his sound, and with Le Noise he comes out with a folk-metal sound. This is a true solo effort, though he did get help from super- producer Daniel Lanois. It’s Young’s voice and guitar + Lanois’ effects, and Greg loves the result. While the lyrics are simple, they are really powerful and emotional. It’s one of his best, according to Greg, and deserves a Buy It rating. Jim admits that much of the lyrical content isn’t new, but it’s done beautifully. And the sound is beautiful. He commends Young’s courage and seconds that Buy It.

Wilderness Heart Black Mountain

Wilderness Heart (Bonus Track Version)

Vancouver quintet Black Mountain also has a new album out called Wilderness Heart. Don’t let the name make you think this is another folky, beard rock band. Black Mountain is straight up classic stoner rock ala Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, and they make no bones about it. Jim describes it as heavy, psychedelic, sultry, trippy-how could he not like it? Greg is happy to hear Black Mountain bringing their sound and influences forward. The songwriting is great, not to mention the mellotron. It’s a double Buy It.

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