Sunday, March 30, 2008

More reunions: Deep Blue Something, Nerf Herder

This reunion stuff is getting a little out of hand. Just on the heels of words that Deep Blue Something (of 1995's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" fame) reunited for a short tour last month comes word that Nerf Herder is back together with their complete circa-1997 lineup. I actually saw Nerf Herder with Reel Big Fish back in the day; that was a hell of a show.

The original lineup of Nerf Herder will release IV on April 29 through Oglio Records. You can hear some of the new stuff on their myspace page.

Here's "Van Halen."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Can REM still be relevant?

R.E.M.'s first album was released in 1983. They achieved mainstream widespread success in the early '90s with a string of quadruple-platinum albums: Out of Time, Automatic for the People, and Monster. The last decade has not been kind to the band, with drummer Bill Berry quitting, Peter Buck all but quitting (according to recent interviews), and three straight albums that sank deeper and deeper into keyboard-filled mush.

But now they're back; lead single "Supernatural Superserious" is their first to chart on Billboard's Modern Rock tracks since 2001's "Imitation of Life."

Their 14th studio album, Accelerate, comes out April 1, and has been very positively reviewed (listen for yourself at But the fact remains, this is a band with 25 years of recorded output. So I thought it might be instructive to see what other great bands were doing 25 years on:

The Beatles (debut 1963) - In 1988, they were broken up. John Lennon was dead, Ringo Starr's career was in the past tense, and Paul McCartney released a greatest hits package that charted poorly. But George Harrison had four hit singles (including a Beatles pastiche, "When we was fab," off a Top 10 album, Cloud Nine (which turned out to be his last big hit).

The Rolling Stones (debut 1964) - In 1989, they put out Steel Wheels, a Top 3 hit in the US and their big comeback album after sitting out a good chunk of the '80s due to infighting between Mick and Keef. The album produced 5 hits, and the band embarked on a monster world tour.

Aerosmith (debut 1973) - In 1998, they released A Little South of Sanity, a #12-charting live album, and wrapped up their world tour for 1997's Nine Lives, which had a couple of hits and debuted at #1. My favorite was "Hole in My Soul":

KISS (debut 1974) - In 1999, they were in the midst of their big "makeup's back on!" reunion tour and had just put out a reunion album, Psycho Circus, which marks their last original work.

Elton John (debut 1969) - In 1994, he had the big Lion King song, which hit #4 on the charts.

Simon and Garfunkel (debut 1964) - In 1989, Paul Simon was in-between Graceland and the Rhythm of the Saints, his Afropop period. Art Garfunkel had just put out Lefty, a pretty big flop.

U2 (debut 1980) - In 2005, U2 were touring behind How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, their second-straight "back to basics" album. It was a big worldwide hit.

The Who (debut 1965) - In 1990, the Who released a live album recorded on their reunion tour in 1989 (they'd done a farewell tour in 1982). It was not well-received.

Pink Floyd (debut 1967) - In 1992, the band was in between A Momentary Lapse of Reason and the Division Bell, the two post-Roger Waters albums which were quite successful but not quite as beloved as the band's earlier work.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (debut 1976) - In 2001, the band was quiet. But in 2002, they put out The Last DJ, which was critically-panned and produced only one charting single.

Neil Young (debut 1966, with Buffalo Springfield) - In 1991, Young was on the Ragged Glory/Smell the Horse tour in support of 1990's Ragged Glory, a reunion album with Crazy Horse. The tour produced a live album.

Bruce Springsteen (debut 1973) - In 1998, Springsteen released a four-disc box set of rare material, Tracks, then reunited the E Street Band for the first time in 10 years for a two-year reunion tour.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash (debut 1969) - In 1994, CSN released After the Storm, their final album for Atlantic Records. It charted at #98, causing the band to be dropped from their record contract.

So what can we take from all this? First off, very few bands make it to their silver anniversary of recorded output (yes, I'm ignoring 1981's "Radio Free Europe" single and 1982's Chronic Town EP for the sake of hyperbole). Second, for most of these acts, 25 years on marked either a comeback or a fizzling out. Kiss, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen all returned to old glories with former bandmembers. The Stones stopped fighting. The Who (what was left of them) got back together to tour, etc. etc. This seems to be what REM is going for right now, the "return-to-form" album. From what I've heard so far, they've succeeded.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Creepy alert: Blind Melon's new singer has a Shannon Hoon tattoo.

Not sure what I think of this.

Original article here.

It's a little like that Mark Wahlberg movie "Rock Star," isn't it?

Blind Melon's new album For My Friends is out April 22 on Adrenaline Records.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bands covering KISS: 'Nuff said.

This week's post on Everclear's covers album (featuring their contribution to the 1999 KISS-themed film Detroit Rock City) got me to thinking: KISS rules. The '90s ruled. So you know what rules extra, extra-hard? '90s bands covering KISS songs. And there are a lot of these covers. Realize that the bands coming up in the early to mid-90s were little kids when KISS were action figure / comic book / rock stars. For most '90s acts, KISS was the first band they were ever into. Enjoy the videos.
Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "Detroit Rock City."

The Donnas, "Strutter."

Garth Brooks (with KISS), "Hard Luck Woman," live on the Tonight Show, summer 1994 (listen to those harmonies!)

My personal favorite, the Gin Blossoms (with KISS), "Christine Sixteen," live on David Letterman, 1994:

Toad the Wet Sprocket, "Rock and Roll All Night,":

Most of these are from 1994's "Kiss My Ass" tribute album.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Archie covers Pulp

This guy has done a mash-up of Archie Comics with Pulp's 1995 (UK) hit "Common People." I love this song, and I love this band, but they were way, way too English to ever make it in the States like Oasis and Blur did (and Blur only got big over here when they decided to dumb it down with "Song 2.").
Imagining Archie and Jarvis Cocker hanging out makes me laugh.

Here's the original:

Friday, March 14, 2008

R.E.M. live from Austin

Several NPR stations simulcast R.E.M.'s appearance at Stubbs BBQ in Austin as part of South by Southwest Wednesday night. You can listen to a stream of the performance here. They play almost all of Accelerate (out April 1), and the stuff sounds good, rocking, like a real return to form. All the early reviews comparing the new stuff to the vintage 1986/87 sound of the band (think "The One I Love," "Begin the Begin," or "These Days") are pretty dead on. It appears that keyboardist Ken Stringfellow (formerly of the Posies) is not touring with the band this go-round, meaning most of those goopy songs from Reveal and Around the Sun either can't be performed or will have to be radically reworked.

R.E.M. also taped an episode of Austin City Limits, scheduled to air in May. They tour the US with Modest Mouse and the National in May and June.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New(ish) Everclear coming in April

Left out of Spin's recent article on 2008 albums to watch for was Everclear's forthcoming The Vegas Years, out April 15. Inexplicably, it's on Capitol, which dropped the band sometime around 2004.
This does explain why Everclear played so many covers when I saw them last fall: the Vegas Years is gonna be a covers album.

The album's probably on Capitol because most of the tracks were previously-recorded. It's going to include a live version of "Brown-Eyed Girl," (the overproduced studio version was on 2001's Songs from an American Movie, vol. 1), and "Boys are Back in Town," from 1999's Detroit Rock City soundtrack.

There are also a couple of Saturday morning cartoon covers: "Land of the Lost," and "Speed Racer." Sponge did the Speed Racer theme for 1995's Saturday Morning Cartoon Greatest Hits... maybe these two were rejects from that album?

Complete tracklisting, according to the band's website:

1. Rich Girl (new recording, originally by Hall & Oates)
2. Our Lips are Sealed (Go-Go's, most recently done by Hilary Duff)
3. The Boys are Back in Town
4. Bad Connection (originally by Yaz)
5. Kicks (new recording; originally by Paul Revere and the Raiders)
6. Pocahontas (originally by Neil Young)
7. Night Train to Memphis (originally by Little Jimmy Dickens; also done by Jerry Lee Lewis)
8. This Land is Your Land (originally by Woody Guthrie; Everclear version first appeared on Wake Up Everybody in 2004)
9. American Girl (originally appeared on a 1994 Tom Petty tribute album, as well as 1996's "Heroin Girl" single)
10. Brown Eyed Girl (live)
11. Southern Girls (originally by Cheap Trick; this version first appeared on the Japanese version of So Much for the Afterglow, then the 2001 single for "Wonderful")
12. Land of the Lost
13. Speed Racer (appeared on the same two albums as Southern Girls)
14. Live Intro
15. 867-5309 (Jenny) (live) (originally by Tommy Tutone)

Here's the video for "Boys are Back in Town":

Saturday, March 8, 2008

In brief: Seven Mary Three, Filter

* Filter's new album is going to be called Anthems for the Damned, and comes out in May. You can listen to the first single, "Soldiers of Misfortune," here.

* Seven Mary Three have a new album, Day & Nightdriving, which came out last month. Check out an interview with them here.

* Early word is that Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails will be headlining Lollapalooza this August in Chicago. Don't expect Thom Yorke to come and sing "Wish" with NiN the way he did "E-Bow the Letter" with REM at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in '97.

* Cool piece over at I am Fuel, You Are Friends about the effort to restore the mural featured on the cover of Elliott Smith's album Figure 8.

*And in the biggest shocker of the year so far, Dave Matthews Band will be touring this summer. (gasp!)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Better than Ezra on a (semi-permanent) break?

Coming on the heels of the quiet announcement that their fan club has shut down and drummer Travis McNabb's recent touring with Sugarland, someone on the Better than Ezra messageboard found a pretty good source that indicates lead singer Kevin Griffin is making a solo album.

What this means for Better than Ezra, one of my top 3 favorite bands of all time, is unclear. They've never been the type to release information via their website, so the only thing that can be gleaned there is that they've only played New Orleans dates in the last few months. It's known that Griffin moved out of New Orleans post-Katrina, while the other two guys in the band stayed. The last two record labels they were on (Beyond Records for 2001's Closer and V2 for 2005's Before the Robots) both went bankrupt, which has to be a demoralizing experience. And Griffin has built up a lucrative second career as a songwriter for hire, working with Howie Day, Graham Colton, Meat Loaf, and Blondie, among others. If he is working on a solo album, there's no indication (other than in the comments section) on his MySpace page.

Here's hoping that Griffin pulls a Matchbox 20, does his solo thing, and then triumphantly returns back to his old band.
Here's "Live Again," off of 1998's criminally-underrated How Does Your Garden Grow? It's a perfect example of just how great this band is live (trust me, I've seen them somewhere between seven and nine times).