The Effigies & Opinions on Common

Jim and Greg have the groundbreaking Chicago punk band The Effigies live in the studio. Then they’ll review the new album from rapper Common, and Greg will add a track to the Desert Island Jukebox.

The Effigies
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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 BeatlesDay in the Life. Check out Greg’s entire recap here.

The Effigies

This week Jim and Greg have one of their favorite Chicago punk groups, The Effigies, performing live in the studio. It’s been nearly 21 years since the pioneering post-hardcore act has released any new material, but on April 12 the band released Reside, a reunion record that Jim and Greg love, much like that of their Boston post-punk contemporaries, Mission of Burma. They explain that the band does not miss a step from where the band left off in 1986. You can hear the songs band members John Kezdy, Robert McNaighton, Paul Zamost and Steve Economou performed on the show, plus bonus tracks here.

Lead singer John Kezdy recalls the band’s difficulties being one of the pioneers of punk rock in the Midwest. Unlike their east and west coast peers, they didn’t have an established punk scene to join or legendary venues like CBGB or Maxwell’s to perform in. Now, rather than touring throughout the year, the older members of the Effigies have important day jobs. In fact, Kedzy is an Illinois state prosecutor, a job that he explains is the easiest moral option.

Finding Forever Common

Finding Forever

Chicago rapper Common has a new album out this week called Finding Forever. This is the former Sound Opinions guest’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2005 release Be. Jim explains that this is a big year for Common. In addition to having a successful hat company, he’ll appear in a number of movies this year. But, it’s music that is Common’s priority, and Jim hopes that hip hop fans won’t dismiss this effort as another conscious record from a backpack rapper. Common was schooled in traditional lyric writing, and he really demonstrates the power of words in these songs. On the Buy It, Try It, Trash It scale, Jim gives Finding Forever a Buy It. Greg also thinks this is a great record, but admits that it will pales in comparison to the groundbreaking Be. But, as Greg explains, more of a good thing is still a good thing. Common and Kanye West have continued their special collaboration which results in an old-fashioned, beginning-to-end album—something that is rare in contemporary hip hop. He also gives the new Common a Buy It.

Greg

Greg chooses a Desert Island Jukebox track this week. Taking inspiration from The Effigies’ visit, he picked a song from the Chicago punk scene of the 1980s. Naked Raygun was one of the bands that really got national attention, partly because of their intense live set, and partly because of their emotionally charged songs. Greg chooses one such song, Home of the Brave, to take with him to the deserted island. In the song, the band plays three terse verses about the outrage they experienced during the Reagan administration. The song asks the listener to think about what it really means to be the home of the brave, and both Jim and Greg are amazed at how appropriate the song’s lyrics still are today.

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