Saturday, February 25, 2012


I was stoked to see Macy Gray included on VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Music countdown. How many artists of either sex, of any genre, are as unique as her? One note in, and you know who's singing. How many other artists can you say that about?

On one hand, her first hit "I Try" could have come from the pre-rock and roll pop era. On the other, she collaborates with hip-hop artists like The Black Eyed Peas, Mos Def and OutKast. (I'd love to see her on the Rock The Bells tour). And she can roll with the rock crowd: she's jammed with Tom Morello and Velvet Revolver and I once saw her open for Bowie.

I though VH1 might forget her: she made such a huge splash when her debut album, On How Life Is, came out in 1999, and has never really matched the commercial performance of that LP. And I think it's her best album, but she's done some great stuff since then.  But if you're just checking her out, I'd definitely recommend On How Life Is, and from there, pick up The Very Best Of Macy Gray. It has an underrated track that is one of her best ever: a song she did with Fatboy Slim, "Demons."  Actually, check out that song no matter what, it's amazing and you'll thank me.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


There's lots of great artists on VH1's 100 Greatest Women countdown, and many of them were in great bands.  But how many of them were in two great bands? Just Kim Deal.

She was the bass player in The Pixies.  If you're a true music fan, you know that they are one of the greatest bands ever. And even though she wasn't their lead singer (that would be Black Francis), she sang what was probably their best song, "Gigantic." If you haven't heard it, check it out. But her bass playing was bouncy and made the songs much more fun than they would have been without her.  The Pixies are a band who absolutely deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

During breaks from The Pixies, she started her own band, The Breeders, where she took the singer/songwriter role. Their debut album, Pod, was great. After The Pixies broke up, The Breeders put out Last Splash, which featured the huge hit "Cannonball," but the entire LP was great. There was a weird dichotomy with Kim, because she looked so normal, but musically, she was so weird, but in a really welcoming way.  It was fun to listen to her music, and you usually felt like she was having a great time.

I know she went through a lot of issues through the late '90s and early '00s, but now with the Pixies reunited (for touring, not recording, it seems) and The Breeders back in business, it seems like she's back for the long haul.  I don't know if she has any Last Splashes left in her, but it's always interesting to check out what she's up to.   If you want to check her music out (and you should) try The Pixies' Surfer Rosa and Dolittle, and The Breeders' Pod, the Safari EP and Last Splash. They are so easy to like, it's surprising in a way that they weren't all hit albums.


I was kinda bummed not to be included in the segment on VH1's 100 Greatest Women countdown about Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. She's an incredible musician and a great presence.  I've seen a number of SY shows. On a great night, they are pretty powerful, and they usually have great nights. I always felt like Kim was the band's leader, I don't know why.  She sang some of their coolest songs (like "Kool Thing" and "100%") and had the most charisma.

Although I'm sometimes critical of the indie rock scene that Sonic Youth are icons of, I think that SY is one of the best bands of the past 30 years (and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ought to recognize that, and soon). They've certainly been one of the most influential.  It's kind of a bummer that the band is most likely splitting up, but they ended on a high note: their last two albums, 2006's Rather Ripped and 2009's The Eternal were really great. But for me, their best LPs are 1986's EVOL (which features the great "Expressway To Yr. Skull"), 1990's Goo, 1992's Dirty, 1994's Experimental Jet set, Trash and No Star. But my favorite two are 1988's Daydream Nation and and 1995's Washing Machine. I don't know what I'd recommend as far as a starting point, they're so uncommercial and it's hard to "get" them at first. But once you do, it's worth it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


One artist who Larry Flick and I never ever ever EVER agree on is PJ Harvey. She is one of my favorite artists ever, I was glad to see her in VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Music special tonight.  She'd be in my top 20 for sure.

Just watching the montage of images of her was pretty cool. She doesn't really remind me of any other artist, but if I had to pick one, it would be Bowie. Someone on the show said this, but every PJ Harvey album has a concept (and I always felt the same was true for Bowie).  As with Bowie, she has a look for each album. And not a look that a stylist is coming up with. I never feel like a "fashion expert" tells Bowie what to wear.  And I doubt any such "expert" would survive telling Polly what outfits she should be rockin'. Certain albums feature her playing certain instruments.  Some albums are guitar albums. One was a harp album. Sometimes, she's only singing. It's almost like she inhabits a different character every time, and each character has a different take on life, a different style, a different talent. She has a vision for every single thing that she does. You never get the sense that she's putting out an album because it's been two years since her last one.  When I think of artists who should get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the next few years, she's on the shortlist.

She's put out so many classic albums.  Her first two, 1992's Dry and 1993's Rid Of Me, are raw as hell, and they're as heavy as Slayer. Then she completely changed things up on her third LP, 1995's To Bring You My Love, produced by Flood. I've never heard anything like that album before or since.

In 2000, she put out Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, which I love (although she's kind of said that she doesn't like that one). It's a cleaner, almost arena ready sound (and in fact, the songs sounded great when she performed them at Madison Square Garden opening for U2). But she never repeated that either. Then, last year's Let England Shake was one of her most challenging and rewarding LPs. It topped critics polls (in the U.K., not as much here in the U.S.) and was my ninth favorite album of 2011.


It was a huge honor to be asked to be a commentator for VH1's 100 Greatest Women in Music. The list seems to be taken from VH1's lifetime - so no Aretha, Billie, Loretta, etc.

But still, there's a lot of great artists included, and I was really glad to see that Meg White of The White Stripes on the list. She was the perfect drummer for that duo, no one else would have worked, no one else could have made it work. She was so amazing.

Unlike her former bandmate Jack White, she doesn't seem to have the itch to make music all the time.  I wonder if she'll ever be in another band.

Personally, I just hope The White Stripes get back together at some point.  It's hard to imagine Meg in any other band (prove me wrong, Meg).  It would be a shame if she actually retired from music.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I wanted the Foo Fighters' Wasting Light (my second favorite LP of 2011) to win Album of the Year at the Grammys. I'm not mad that Adele won for 21, but wow, Wasting Light was great.

It reunited Dave Grohl with Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, Nevermind producer Butch Vig recorded it with them in Dave's garage, and it saw Pat Smear rejoin the band (and there's a great guest appearance by another punk legend, Bob Mould).

I saw some noise on Twitter that the Foo Fighters are the band that always get attention from TV shows.  It's like they are the token rock band for award shows.  And I've read interviews with Dave Grohl where he kind of says that.  I'd agree that some of their albums may get a bit of a "pass," because people buy into Dave so much. They love his story, and by all accounts, he's a really cool guy despite all the band's success.  They have cred, but they're not snobs. Dave can show up at a punk club one night, and then jam with Paul McCartney at the White House.  People love that.

But in 2011, no other band had a rock record with mainstream appeal that worked from start to finish. Great singles, cool videos, but start to finish the LP works.  It's not just my opinion: I think they played every song on the album at their concerts.  How many bands with that many hits, with that many albums, can play all their new songs in concert and have it go over.  And by the way, their concerts are all in arenas.

I remember seeing one of the Foo Fighters' first shows - opening for Mike Watt before the first LP was out. I don't think it was even common knowledge that it was Dave Grohl's band. They were great, but they were a club band. Years later, I saw them at Giants Stadium opening for The Rolling Stones. They seemed  a bit "fish out of water," but they played with a lot of heart and soul. A few years later, I saw them open/co-headline with The Red Hot Chili Peppers and it clicked. Grohl had opened for them years earlier with Nirvana. I think seeing the Chilis handle playing large venues helped it kick in for him. Today they are one of the mightiest arena bands in the land, and I mean that as a 100% compliment.

I was so glad to see them win a ton of Grammys last night, and of course their main performance rocked (the dance music thing felt a bit forced: I'd like to see them do something with Deadmau5 without the other artists that were included in that).  And seeing Dave jamming with Paul McCartney, Joe Walsh and Bruce Springsteen at the end of the night was amazing. But tonight, he could be at a Bad Brains show. That's what's so great about him.


I've listened to Adele's 21 twice in the last two days, before and after The Grammys.  What a triumphant night for her. She deserved every bit of it.

I voted for her a number of times. I wanted Foo Fighters to win Album of The Year for Wasting Light, but I can't be made that Adele won.  Even Dave Grohl has talked about what a great album 21 is.

Of course, with the amount of attention she's gotten and the success she's enjoyed, there are people "hating on her" (in the parlance of the times). I've written about this before. But I'll say it again. Whenever I hear her sing, I believe every word. She doesn't pretend to be anything she isn't.  I don't care if she writes songs or not - but it turns out she co-wrote all of the songs on 21, except for the cover of The Cure's "Lovesong" (which was a very cool arrangement).

I was wondering how good she would sound, and if she was ready to perform after her surgery.  I mean, even if she wasn't ready, there would have been a huge amount of temptation to get her singing a bit early to capitalize on the opportunity to perform at The Grammys, given her six nominations and the fact that her record was the best selling of the year. Well, she was ready, and she proved it.  Now I'm looking forward to whatever she does next.  Obviously I'm not alone there!


I was trying to think of what I wanted to say about the sad death of Whitney Houston. Scott Ian of Anthrax had a tweet that just about summed it up. "I will remember Whitney Houston for her incredible talent. Her personal life was none of mine or anyone else's business." I wish people knew less about her life. All this media speculation on her is a bit ugly. Let her rest. Respect her children. Talk about the immense impact she had as a singer.

I can't act like I was a big fan when she was coming up in the '80s. It wasn't my thing. What changed my mind? "My Love Is Your Love." Written and produced by Wyclef Jean, something about it just moved me. If I was a singer, I'd cover it. But of course, how can you compare to that voice?

Anyone who was listening to music in the '90s couldn't escape The Bodyguard soundtrack and of course, her version of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You." At the time I wasn't into it, but after "My Love Is Your Love," I heard it again and was stunned. I don't know why I wasn't "hearing" it in the first place, but live and learn.

I was glad that at tonight's Grammys, they didn't do some sort of all-star tribute where everyone tries to outdo each other. Jennifer Hudson did an incredible job at what had to have been an extremely difficult performance (and one that she had about 24 hours to prepare for). She may not have been Whitney, but I think she hit all the right notes, and did it with lots of emotion.  Jennifer Hudson had been through a lot, and she knows pain, and it seems like she's gotten through it. I just wish Whitney could have done the same. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I like M.I.A. a lot - her Maya LP was one of my favorites of 2010. And I don't hold up the Super Bowl as an event that should set any kind of moral standards, even if it *is* the most watched TV show of the year. But I do think that if the NFL is going to get Madonna to perform, and if she's going to have M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj with her, they should be ready for something that isn't rated G.  Straight up.

That said, if M.I.A. wanted to make some sort of statement, she should have done it.  The middle finger didn't really have much of a point, as far as I could tell.  If she had a statement to make, I wouldn't have had a problem with that, even if it was "off-message" as far as the NFL was concerned.

Madonna's new song, "Give Me All Your Lovin'" isn't that great (I wanted to like it, the idea of Madonna, Minaj and M.I.A. on one track is a cool one), and this brought a lot of attention to it that it wouldn't otherwise have gotten (and maybe that was the point).

All that said, Madonna looked great, and I like M.I.A.'s new song, "Bad Girls." I look forward to her next record, which is coming out later this year.