Colin Meloy & Reviews of Cat Power and Test Icicles

This week on Sound Opinions Jim and Greg get a visit from Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy. He talks with them about his solo tour and his love of Fairport Convention. Our hosts also review the new album from Cat Power, and Greg pops a quarter into the Desert Island Jukebox.

Colin Meloy
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Pop Stars vs. God

A big news story this week involves the ever-controversial Kanye West. The February issue of Rolling Stone features West on the cover posing as Jesus Christ wearing a crown of thorns. This is not the first time the rapper has been public about his conflicted relationship with Jesus, nor is it the first time a musician has pushed hot buttons with religion. Jim and Greg explore this issue and pick the top five instances when a rock star made religious waves.

  • John Lennon makes the statement: "The Beatles are more popular than Jesus." While this was more a statement about the absurd level of fame the Beatles had attained, feathers were ruffled nonetheless.
  • Madonna kisses an African-American Jesus figure and includes images of cross burning and the stigmata in her video for "Like a Prayer." As a result, Pepsi dropped Madonna as a spokesperson.
  • In a misinterpreted move, Sinéad O’Connor rips up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live.
  • XTC releases "Dear God," causing a controversy by aggressively questioning the existence of God.
  • Marilyn Manson tells a Spin reporter, "Hopefully I'll be the person who puts an end to Christianity." This comment propelled Tipper Gore's organization, the Parents Music Resource Center, to start a campaign against the self-proclaimed Anti-Christ.

Music News

In the news this week is the announcement of an end to one of music's biggest beefs, other than those between critics. New York rapper Nas signed with Def Jam Records, which is now being run by Nas' former rival Jay-Z. After years of trading spars over their skills, their love lives, and even their looks in such songs as "The Takeover" and "Ether," Nas and Jay-Z will soon be trading profits. Nas will release four Def Jam albums on his imprint, Jonas Experience. As rappers like Ice Cube, Eminem and 50 Cent know, however, the tradition of "playing the dozens" in hip hop is far from coming to a close.

One of the sources of conflict between Nas and Jay-Z is that both were trying to fill the shoes of the biggest voice in New York hip hop at the time: Notorious B.I.G. Rapper Christopher Wallace emerged from Brooklyn to become one of the greatest emcees of all time, proving the validity of the east coast hip hop scene. He is best known for his 1994 hit album Ready to Die, but also for his role in the escalating war between east coasters and west coasters like Tupac Shakur and Suge Knight. When Biggie was murdered in 1997, it became clear to the public that this war was having more than just an impact on music. Despite the high profile nature of the case, the L.A.P.D. has yet to make any legitimate headway. Because of this, the city was recently ordered to pay 1.1 million dollars to Wallace's family. Big ups to Brooklyn indeed.

Colin Meloy

Next up on the show is an interview with Decemberists lead singer Colin Meloy. Colin came through town on his solo tour and seemed to be enjoying a break from the major label bureaucracy that is now involved in launching a Decemberists tour.

After performing "Tristan and Isolde," a song he wrote with his first band, Tarkio, Colin discusses his literary roots. While he does put heavy emphasis on narrative in his music, this songwriter hesitates to call himself a storyteller. He cannot hesitate to call himself an author, however -- Colin wrote about The Replacements' Let It Be for the '33 1/3' series, describing the impact that that album made on him as a budding musician.

The next song is "Barbara Allen," a tune originally performed by Shirley Collins, a British folk revivalist who has been a big inspiration to Colin. He explains that fans can look forward to hearing more Collins on the next Decemberists record. These same fans can also look forward to Jim's bodhrán jam session with the band.

The Greatest Cat Power

The Greatest

Both albums reviewed this week are independent label releases. The first is by Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power. A much-hyped indie darling for some time now, Cat Power just released her fourth full length album, The Greatest, on the Matador label. Our critics ponder whether it was appropriately named. According to Jim--not at all. Frankly, he hates it. He has never been a Cat Power fan, however, and doesn't understand the appeal of Marshall's albums nor her onstage antics. Greg agrees that The Greatest is not, in fact, the greatest. But he does not think it's a "Trash It" album. He believes it's worth listening to for the fantastic Memphis Rhythm Band's appearance alone. Steve Potts, Flick Hodges and Teenie Hodges, who worked with Al Green, provide a wonderful backing for Marshall's sultry voice. The result is a "Burn It" for Greg.

For Screening Purposes Only Test Icicles

album art

For Screening Purposes Only by Test Icicles is the next album up for review. This UK trio joined the Domino family along with successful acts like Franz Ferdinand, Clinic, Sons and Daughters and the most recent hype, The Arctic Monkeys. Many of these acts are considered the "New Wave of New Wave" -- yet Test Icicles seem to be derivative of a slightly later period. For Greg, it's too much of a good thing. For Jim, though, it's too much of everything. For Screening Purposes Only gets a "Burn It" from Greg and a "Trash It" from Jim.


Greg gets to pop a quarter into the Desert Island Jukebox this week, and his choice is Sandy Denny's cover of "I’ll Keep it With Mine" by fellow folk rocker Bob Dylan. Greg explains that Denny is best known for her appearance on the Lord of the Rings-inspired Led Zeppelin track "The Battle of Evermore." That's a shame, according to Greg. In addition to her work British folk-pop outfit Fairport Convention, Denny composed and performed many great solo songs, including this week's DIJ.

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