Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! Even the title of Devo's debut album shows that this band has a lot of strangeness to unpack. A New Wave quintet from Akron, Ohio, Devo dresses in industrial jumpsuits with goggles and plastic flowerpot helmets on their heads. Stay with me.
The band's main argument and name is based on the idea that human civilization has reached its peak and is actually devolving. I'll let you be the judge of that claim, but I still highly encourage you to check out this incredibly rocking, highly danceable album.
Rock music provocateur Lou Reed passed away this week at age 71. Best known for his work with the proto-punk band The Velvet Underground, Reed supplied tough, gritty lyrics while John Cale offered up a dissonant musical journey unlike any heard at the time. Reed and Cale went on to make some transcendent solo albums as well, but my favorite collaboration of theirs will always be Songs For Drella.
Punk: The Best of Punk Magazine follows the history of New York City's Bowery music scene with actual reprints of the homemade zine's existence from 1976 to 1980. What's captured on these black and white pages is an anti-movement—a reaction against the well-intentioned but ultimately toothless peace and love ethos of the late 60's.
New York was a dump, seemingly destined for ruin. Rock music was gasping for air, trying to find sustenance from the softly vacant likes of Toto, Bread, or Seals and Crofts.
John Holstom and Legs McNeil did not expect things to improve. But when they heard a new band called the Dictators, a change started to manifest. The Dictators wrote songs about hanging out at burger joints, drinking Coca-Cola for breakfast, and being "Teengenerates." It was stupid enough to also be absolutely brilliant, and it encapsulated Holstrom's and McNeil's lives like no other music they were hearing at the time.
Being dubbed "The Queen of Folk" is no small feat. Having Martin Luther King, Jr. give you that title is something else entirely. That is how strongly affecting the music of folk pioneer Odetta is.
The Tradition Masters is a collection of Odetta's most invigorating traditional songs. Born in Birmingham in 1930, Odetta Holmes helped to embody both the Civil Rights and the Folk Revival movements of the 1950's and 60's. One could say that she was in the right place at the right time, but that would fail to credit her heart-stopping talent as a musician and vocalist.
Baby's in Black drops you into a smoke-filled club in Hamburg. Despite the German locale, the band on stage is wailing in English about doing the "hippy hippy shake". Everyone's moving except for the bassist, who looks cooler than James Dean.
The band has been playing for hours, and they will continue for several hours more, as per their contract. They pop pills to stay awake for that long. The group is the Beatles. The year is 1960. The bassist is Stu Sutcliffe.
How Music Works offers many answers to a question that I had never even asked. Now that I've read it I wonder, "How could I have gone so long without this information?" Musician and writer David Byrne crafts such an enticing collection of essays, dropping factoids and anecdotes along the way, that I was equally informed and entertained.
More of a blend of personal experience and hypothesis than a hard-line course in objective facts, Byrne tackles nearly every conceivable aspect of the art form: venues throughout history; the creative process; collaboration; recording; and business.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Isn’t that how an article about derivative works is supposed to begin? We only ask because there are probably other articles out there on this topic that begin the same way. Whether or not we admit it to ourselves, 100% true originality in the case of media like books, film, music and games is practically unheard of. That’s not a bad thing; works that build on one another can be some of the richest experiences imaginable. On the other hand, some people are just lazy and rip-off other, greater works.
I am an addict...and my addiction is popular music. I adore it. Who doesn't? We all have our favorite songs, artists, genres. The right track at the right moment can hit us emotionally or physically, make us weep or dance. What I like almost as much as music are all of the details and stories that lead up to the making of some of my most cherished albums. That's where the 33 1/3 series comes in.
Started in 2003 by editor David Barker, 33 1/3 is a collection where each volume examines the allure of a particular album as well as the artist who recorded it. Named after the number of revolutions on an LP record, the series spans rock, hip-hop, folk, metal, pop, country, dance, punk, electronica, and world. There is something here for everyone.
Many of you may not know that the National Library Service has been keeping the full libraries of Guitar by Ear and Piano by Ear lessons available for its clients to check out. The most recent order of 117 titles will mean they have well over 900 “by ear” titles ready for loan to their patrons.
Most people know David Byrne as a musician, with the Talking Heads and as a solo artist. In his three-decade career, Byrne always managed to incorporate a diverse collection of international influences in his sound. In Bicycle Diaries, he has found an equally engaging role as a worldwide cultural critic. The book is much more than a travelogue though. It is a grand celebration of how people live, observed from the seat of a two-wheeler as it whisks through city streets worldwide. It is made up of meditations on art, politics, architecture, and so much more.
When biking through a city, one is more agile than a car, faster than a pedestrian, and taller than anything that isn't a Hum-Vee or on horseback. You see details that others can not, providing a wholly unique perspective of how this particular city works.