Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Pantheon 1: Punk revival bands

After this post on Less than Jake set off a wide-ranging discussion on the merits and ranks of various bands, it seems like a new series is needed. So here's the Pantheon: the great bands of the '90s. It's been long enough to get some critical perspective. As always, discuss and argue below:

First up, the great punk revival of 1994 and beyond:

Green Day - uncontested champions. If Dookie's not enough, consider their triumphant return to form with American Idiot. They've collaborated with U2, covered John Lennon (with Yoko's blessing), had countless hits, and sold millions of albums while influencing every Warped Tour band that came after. Plus, I still really like "Redundant."

The Offspring - forever the Rolling Stones to Green Day's Beatles, they'll never have the same critical success even as they approach the same level of commercial success. Get extra points for Dexter Holland's tight braids back in the day, his impossible-to-imitate voice, and his Ph.D. in microbiology.

Blink-182 - Had less of an impact in the '90s than the above bands, though "Dammit" was a good single and Enema of the State did come out in '99. And now they're back.

Bad Religion - one of our posters was adamant about including this band here. I loved Recipe for Hate and Stranger than Fiction, and you have to give them props for founding Epitaph Records, which was responsible for Offspring, Rancid, etc. But I only tolerated The Gray Race, and their material after that has been fairly weak. It seems obvious that the band needed Brett Gurewitz, who ditched in '95 and came back in '02. Still, last time I was in LA, I heard them on the radio four or five times and they can still play large venues on the West Coast whenever they want.

Rancid - ...And Out Come the Wolves was a masterpiece, but our posters are right, they really didn't do that much either before or after that (I'm not counting Operation Ivy).
Man, "Ruby Soho" is a great song, though:

Face to Face... MxPx... NOFX ... Rocket from the Crypt (a lot more popular than you would think in the UK, to this day)... Pennywise (never quite got over the hump)... Social Distortion


FenixTX... Unwritten Law... (who knew they had an album on Epic in '96?)... Sprung Monkey... No Use for a Name (love their punk cover of "Fairytale of New York")...

New supergroup: Tinted Windows

This spring brings a new supergroup: the Tinted Windows, consisting of ex-Smashing Pumpkin James Iha, Fountain of Wayne Adam Schlesinger, Taylor Hanson, and Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos.

They're playing select dates this spring, including a SXSW showcase in Austin March 20 and a show in Hanson's hometown of Tulsa. The AV Club reports that they'll also be on the Late Show with David Letterman April 20, and their debut album comes out April 21.

Based on the pedigree of all concerned, this is probably going to be some hardcore power-pop, which will be a different direction for Iha, who left Smashing Pumpkins, then joined A Perfect Circle. Oh, and don't forget his '70s singer-songwriter solo album (which I really didn't like).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Breaking... McNabb leaves Better than Ezra

Geez, I leave the site alone for a couple of weeks because it seemed like nothing was going on in the world of '90s music, and look what I missed.

You may remember this blog's semi-breathless (and soap-operatic) reporting of goings-on in the Better than Ezra camp. At the time, speculation was that bass player Tom Drummond was unhappy. Well, Tom's back in the fold, but drummer Travis McNabb is leaving to play with multiplatinum country superstars Sugarland full time. Here's the statement from BTE's website:


Fans and friends, we want to let you know that after 12 great years with Better Than Ezra, Travis McNabb is moving on to pursue other opportunities in music. You probably are aware that Travis has been touring with Sugarland for the past year and a half. We will miss Travis dearly and wish him nothing but success and happiness in the years to come. He will remain a close friend of the band and will continue to serve on the board of the band’s charity – The Better Than Ezra Foundation. Travis’ last show with the band will be this Sunday in Metairie.

That said, it is with great excitement that we welcome Michael Jerome to the band. We've been friends with Michael for awhile and have been a fan of his drumming. Michael has toured with the likes of Richard Thompson, John Cale, and New Orleans' own, Pleasure Club. He brings with him a great musical sensibility and an explosive live show.
In May Better Than Ezra will release our seventh studio album, Paper Empire. We are thrilled with how it sounds and can't wait for you to hear it. Looking forward to touring with new music, new gags and of course, new dance moves! Thanks so much for all your support over the years…many more to come!

See you on the road in '09!
Kevin and Tom

McNabb joined the band in time to record their second major-label album, 1996's Friction, Baby (ongoing legal disputes with original drummer Cary Bonnecaze have prevented the re-release of the band's cassette-only debut album, Surprise, which now goes for princely sums on eBay). For a great example of his prowess, watch him in this live clip of "Desperately Wanting":

(I always liked that maracas trick... sorry about the terrible sound quality).

Drummond, McNabb, and Kevin Griffin will cross paths again when Better than Ezra and Sugarland both perform at the New Orleans Jazz Fest later this spring. BTE's new album Paper Empire comes out May 12 on MRI Records, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Both McNabb and Jerome play on the album, and the first single "Absolutely Still" should hit radio (probably AAA and Adult Top 40) in March.

Interestingly enough, according to this post on BTE's messageboard, Jerome briefly played drums for the Toadies, and was also in Pop Poppins and Course of Empire, two fairly-minor Dallas acts in the '90s.

* Thanks to readers Chris and Siyabonga for the tips!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More on that new Green Day album

The new Green Day album 21st Century Breakdown will be out in May. The album art has already been released (look to your right), Butch Vig is producing, and if you go here, you can hear a small snippet of one of the songs.
This is Green Day's first release since a 2005 live album, and only their second album proper this decade (they did put out that live album, a greatest-hits compilation, and a B-sides album). The last time they were on the radio was 2007's "Working Class Hero," off a John Lennon tribute album.
Rolling Stone has heard six of the songs, and says they continue in the same vein as 2004's American Idiot: politically-minded punk with a rock opera twist.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cover of the Day

Belly does Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?"

This was off a mid-90s tribute album that I think I owned at one point, although my copy may have been a dubbed cassette that a friend gave me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

This week in reunions... BLINK-182

* Earlier this week, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker claimed to be both doing solo albums, but then they appeared on stage at the Grammys just now with Tom and announced that they're back. A visit to reveals that a summer 2009 tour is in the works.*

* Stone Temple Pilots are once again dormant, while Scott Weiland supports his solo album and clothing line.

**And speaking of the Grammys, how awesome was Dave Grohl drumming with Paul McCartney?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cover of the day

Click here to hear a jazz version of Nirvana's "Lithium" by the Bad Plus. The melody line's been slowed down in parts, for a jarring effect.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Green Day in the studio

Not sure how this slipped by me, but Green Day are currently recording a new album with Nirvana / Smashing Pumpkins producer (and Garbage drummer) Butch Vig.
Here's a clip of them in the studio in October:

This week in reunions...

With only a trickle of reunion news over the holidays, this week's post is more like this month in reunions, but whatever.

* The biggest news of the month (for this site) is that Tonic are getting back together for a national tour and a new album sometime this year.

* Rage Against the Machine, on the other hand, have been back together for nearly two years, but don't expect to ever hear a reunion album, Tom Morello says.

* Lance Bass thinks an 'n Sync reunion might happen. My wife and all her high school friends are pumped.

* Blur are back together, playing Glastonbury, and maybe playing Coachella in the US.

* Hey, remember Dexter Freebish? They're back together and working on a greatest hits. Did they have hits?

* The Phish reunion tour kicks off in June. Dates here.

* And last but not least, Tommy Lee says he's getting his homies together for another Methods of Mayhem album. Awesome? Here's 1999's "Get Naked" (NSFW lyrically and visually):