Tag Archives: alternative

Zen and The End

Born in 1960 and growing up in New York (state), Robert Arthur Mould moved to Saint Paul and studies at Macalester College. This was where he met Grant Hart and Greg Norton.

They started rehearsing in Norton’s basement and soon formed “Hüsker Dü”, from here he is known as Bob Mould.

The first Hüsker Dü album, “Everything Falls Apart” was released in early 1983, the style was Hardcore Punk, and the original album was just over 19 minutes, with 12 tracks often under the 1 minute mark.

What came next was at the time a revolution, with Zen Arcade from july 1984 Hüsker Dü, on a double concept album, an unthinkable concept in punk, they created a pot of every imaginable ingredient from acoustic instruments, pop, jazz, psychedelia, noise and even Hare Krishna’s chanting (see this post), but not forgetting to add a lot of solid hardcore to the mix, the result was no less than explosive.

Hüsker Dü blew through the boundaries of hardcore punk, with a groundbreaking underground album that would become legendary in the formation of what would become the scene now known as Alternative.

Over the final four albums Hüsker Dü did before they disbanded in late 1987, they further evolved away from the fast noisy hardcore punk and towards a slower and more melodic rock. The last two albums was released after they signed with major label Warner Bros.

There are several explanations and no clear answer to why the bands broke up, but there was tension and rivalry between Bob Mould and Grant Hart and had been for years, Hüsker Dü’s young manager David Savoy committed suicide, and Grant Hart had a heroine problem.

After Hüsker Dü, Bob Mould moved to a farm in Pine City Minnesota, a small isolated location with a population of about 3000 people, where he would start writing his first solo album.

Workbook was released in 1989, the album was featuring bassist Tony Maimone original member of Pere Ubu, cellist Jane Scarpantoni, and drummer Anton Fier, all other instruments played by Mould.

Now everything hardcore was moved to the background if not completely gone and the sound is similar to what you would expect from bands like R.E.M.

The album was not selling well and neither was the next solo album from Mould,  he was soon released from his contract with Virgin Records

Mould was still recording demo tracks and he formed a new band Suger, with songwriter, singer, guitarist, and bass guitarist David Barbe and drummer Malcolm Travis in 1992, and soon releases the debut Copper Blue

Somewhat ironic this late effort would be the most successful album from one of the forefathers of Alternative American rock, now in the midst of “Grunge” becoming commercially successful; he would now reap the seed he had sown almost 10 years earlier.

The album was included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, should I smile or cry knowing that Zen Arcade was not ?. Anyway Copper Blue is a fine album, no doubt about that.

Sugar made an EP and another album before Mould broke the band up in spring 1996.

After this last band effort Mould has worked as a solo artist, releasing 10 albums between 1996 and 2016. His latest album Patch the Sky the last of a trilogy with 2012’s Silver Age 2012 and Beauty & Ruin 2014.

The final remark goes to Mould about “”The End of Things”:

“What happens if it does fall apart, so to speak? What if everything collapses?” And I also like the idea that people walk around and say, “Oh, it’s the Internet of things.” This whole new protocol — smartphones and stuff like that. And I thought, “How about the end of things?”

Bold, Bald, Beauty – Sinéad O’Connor – The Lion and the Cobra

Hidden 80′s Gems – Part 8 1988

Again one of those vinyl albums I bought, simply because I could not resist the cover.
Sinead_Lion_Cobra_Original

With a look completely unseen at the time, with a voice intense, and full of honest emotion, Sinéad O’Connor evolved what a female singer could do, when she released her debut “The Lion and the Cobra” back in 1988. After disagreements with producer Mick Glossop, O’Connor was allowed to produce the album and writing most of the material herself, it became very much her creation, unusual for a debut at the time.

Rolling Stone wrote: “With The Lion and the Cobra, Sinéad O’Connor joins the ranks of Kate Bush, Laurie Anderson and Jane Siberry — all women who are shattering the boundaries of pop music.”

The album range from very low melancholic songs, to fast speed radio friendly songs, mixed in a straight uncomplicated and rather raw way, especially compared to the hugely commercial successor, “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” with the major international hit “Nothing Compares 2 U” , one of the bestselling albums in 1990. While “I do not want…” sold a massiv amount of albums, in retrospective, I think The Lion and the Tiger, is a lot more interesting today, due to its cleaner more unpolished sound.

In 1989 O’Connor was guest vocalist on The The’s “Mind Bomb”, singing the duet “Kingdom of Rain”, again showing just how brilliant a vocalist she is.

Sinéad O’Connor was and is a hugely talented vocalist, and she have got some very clear opinions, but she is also a very controversial person, admittedly fighting with manic depression, something that could explain why she often have been making comments to the press, that she would later have to take back.

 

 

Ataxia

Ataxia, was an American band, only active in a short period in the beginning of 2004, Josh Klinghoffer, present guitarist from Red Hot Chili Peppers, was the drummer. John Frusciante at the time guitarist in Red Hot Chili Peppers , did the guitar duties and Joe Lally, from hardcore band Fugazi, did the Bass.

Ataxia plays experimental rock, far from Red Hot’s funky style, this is basic, basement, raw, and very direct Rock, much more grunge and stoner rock expression, that we get from Red Hot. Not much studio either, sound just like you would expect if you was invited into a live jam session. Frusciante constantly fires his often distorted guitar, a constant bass line keeps pounding, some nice drumming to back it all up, and vocals sometimes aggressively screaming, sometimes almost just talking, sometimes twisted, sometimes clean.

This may well be seem as another Frusciante based jam session, both albums by Ataxia was recorded at the same time, and within only a few weeks. But the music was created between the three people involved, so it is fair that it was credited as a band effort, not a solo album.

The Dragon, The Hird, The Bittersweet Love Song

Yukimi Eleanora Nagano, was born and raised in Sweden, to a Japanese farther and a Swedish-American mother. Since 1996 she have been vocalist in Little Dragons, a band she formed with high school friends, playing downbeat Trip hop, and electronic Pop.
From: Little Dragon – Little Dragon (2007)

On Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach, Yukimi co-wrote and Little Dragon was featured as guest performers on two tracks. Little Dragon was the opening act for Europe and Australia on Gorillaz 2010 tour, and guest performing live on those two tracks.
From : Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (2010)

Yukimi wrote the lyrics and delivered vocals on Swedish house artist Hirds instrumental Keep Your Hird, re-released with vocals as “Keep Your Kimi”, as well as on other tracks from Hird’s “Moving On” album.
From: Hird ‎– Moving On (2004)

Yukimi was also performing vocals on two Koop albums. Koop is a Swedish Jazz, Acid Jazz, Trip-hop duo. There clean and unique sound is recognised as highly innovative in electronic Jazz, delivering a retro Jazz music, in a modern package.
From: Koop – Koop Islands (2006)

Koop’s albums features several guest vocalists, another interesting performance on Kopp’s 2006 album, Koop Island, was Norwegian singer/songwriter and guitarist Ane Brun.
From: Koop – Koop Islands (2006)

Ane Brun have been based in Stockholm, Sweden since 2001, recording seven solo albums. Her style is often Folk inspired, very stripped, focus is on the song and the vocals, often very emotional, reflecting on themes of love, with a mature bittersweet insight.
From: Ane Brun – Rarities (2013)

The song was written for the Film “A Thousand Times Goodnight” that won the Special Grand Prix of the jury at the Montreal Film Festival.

Hidden 80′s Gems – Part 6 1986

The The : Infected
My friend got “Infected”, I think shortly after it was released back in 1986. At this point The The, was a Matt Johnson solo project, supported by friends and session musicians.


This boy was angry, not that fake Sex Pistols kind of angry, we are talking totally pissed off by the world, no matter if he was talking about love or politics, he was not sweet about it, something that made him perfect for my 80’s, where everyone else seemed a bit, well nice and boring. He did not seem to aim only for MTV fame, he seemed to have a message. Something as rare as a 80’s protest songs.


Infected strength lays in its contrast, at first glance it’s a powerful but relatively radio friendly 80’s Rock, with a good solid beat and some great melodies, but when the frontman starts screaming: “I can’t see for the tear gas, & the dollar signs in my eyes.” Into your ears, it creates a different energy. Energy in line with the one you would get from the much harder 90’s bands, same aggression, very different music.


By 1988 The The frontman had recruited The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, and created a great live band.
Despite the fact that the attitude was tough, the music was accessible and their mid to late 80’s albums did do well in UK and New Zealand, and fairly well in other countries. The The haven’t played live since 2002, but Matt Johnson have made some film soundtrack. In 2011 “This Is The Day” was covered by Manic Street Preachers.

The The was and is one of my favourite 80’s bands, managed to see them live in 2000 while they was still active, they were fantastic, a concert to never forget

Vernon (Part 2)

If you havent already, read part one first.
Vernon spend 3 months in his father’s cottage in Wisconsin from November 2006, to find himself, after the break with his girlfriend, and his band at the time DeYarmond Edison, where he recorded the tracks that would lead to his major success, using a technic of extreme amounts of overdubbing, he founded the project Bon Iver in his solitude. Adding only drums, trumpet, trombone and additional vocals later, Bon Iver was born with the debut “For Emma, Forever Ago” first released in 2007.
Bon Iver, From : For Emma, Forever Ago, 2007

PELE members form Collection of Colonies of Bees in 1998, with the intension to explore traditional folk/bluegrass instrumentation, and combine it with modern processing and technology, but over the years transformed and played many forms of electronic and acoustic rock. Music that spawn the interest of Vernon and let to the collaboration, continued to this day.
From Collection of Colonies of Bees, Birds ,2008

Vernon himself started out by forming DeYarmond Edison in 2002, playing Folk Rock/Americana with some local success, making two albums self-released albums in 2004 and 2005.
From Deyarmond Edison, Silent Signs, 2006

On another side note, Vernon took part in the recording of Anaïs Mitchell’s folk opera Hadestown, the Opera is a remake of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Vernon plays the leading male character Orpheus, Anaïs Mitchell plays Eurydice.
Anaïs Mitchell, From Hadestown, 2010

The B-side of Bon Iver’s grammy nominated single “Holocene” was a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Come Talk to Me”, to return the favour of Peter Gabriel recording a cover of “Flume” from “For Emma…”,for his Scratch My Back album.
Bon Iver, B-side from Holocene single.

Vernon (Part 1)

Most people know Bon Iver’s self-titled album from 2011, to the point where it would make little sense to make a post about it now. So that is not the point here, but there is more to the story than that.
From Volcano Choir : Repave 2013

Latest “Volcano Choir” and their Repave album, released September last year. “Volcano Choir” is a collaboration between Justin Vernon, later frontman of Bon Iver and members of Collection of Colonies of Bees, starting back in 2005. Colonies of Bees itself a sideproject of “Pele” members, Chris Rosenau and Jon Mueller, “Pele” disbanded in 2004, but “Colonies of Bees” was continued.
From Volcano Choir : Repave 2013

To fully understand the music of Volcano Choir, it is also interesting to listen to the other related music, besides that of Bon Iver, so what was PELE about, they have been described as a post rock band, and even a bit atypical post rock, due to the fact that they flirted with Jazz elements.
From Pele : Teaching the History of Teaching Geography (1998)

Where Bon Iver, is basicly a one man project, Volcano Choir is a Band effort, albums are slowly formed of the creative process between the members, and it has taken years to create each of the two existing albums. The First album “Unmap” was released in 2009 after 4 years of collaboration, and another 4 years went by, before the release of “Repave”.
From Volcano Choir : Unmap 2009

To Be Continued

The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion

“dredg”’s The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion, is a 2009 Rock album; it holds a collection of melodic rock songs, delivered with skill, partly powerful, partly smooth and emotional, alternative art rock at its best.

The Album is a patchwork woven from 18 tracks, some of them transitional pieces creating the effect of “concept album”, you can’t get the full effect of the intension, without listening from start to finish.

Conceptually, the album was based on Salman Rushdie: “Imagine no heaven” an open letter to “the six billionth person” born in 1999, Rushdie expectedly warns about religion, and how the world would be a better place without it: “As the song says, It’s easy if you try.”

“dredg” was formed in the late 1990’s in a small Californian town between San Jose and Santa Cruz, the members of dredg grew up together, listening to Metal, Progressive Rock and Jazz. They Released their first EP in 1997, their first full length album in 1999, most of their recordings are concept albums.

The Call – Blood Red (America)

The 80’s incarnation of the phenomena mainstream Rock, never had the big impact on me, not a big fan of Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, and that sort of thing, but some rock bands, did some very good albums, one of my favorite 80’s band was “The Call”, from Santa Cruz, California and particularly their 1986 album “Reconciled”.

Blood Red (America)

Im not sure if I should call them Mainstream, New Wave, or Alternative, it is somewhere in between.
It is plain and simple, basic rock music, very intense and emotional, and kicking my sorry ass to pieces. Can’t believe they never got that big international breakthrough they deserve.

Everywhere I Go

Legendary guitarist Robbie Robertson of The Band appeared on “The Morning””, Jim Kerr and Peter Gabriel backing vocals on “Everywhere I Go” . Michael returned the favor by singing on Gabriels’ LP So, as well as Simple Minds’ album Once Upon A Time.

The Morning

The Call disbanded in 2000, front man Michael Been died in 2010, after a heart attack.

Happy New Year ! – playlist. Track 4 and 5

Now I don’t want anyone to pop any trips or anything, but I have to say it was a great year for 60’s inspired psychedelic rock, hippie pop, acid rock or what you may want to call it. In January Foxygen released the colorful “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic”, In February Unknown Mortal Orchestra released the brilliant “II”. Both excellent examples of the new psychedelic music, coming from young bands.