Musical String Theory: Richard Thompson in Millennium Park (With Further Downtown Sounds)

The Downtown Sound series on Monday evenings in Millennium Park gives lovers of rock music the chance to hear some of the newest and most innovative sounds, with an old-school veteran or two thrown in for good measure. I have already been privileged to be there for when She & Him and Iron & Wine played outstanding shows, but this past week saw me experience what may have been the best performance to take place there in five years of concert going: Richard Thompson.

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Caroline (and Jane)

I had to write something about Lou Reed this week. Had to. He not only makes a bit of a cameo in my new book, as I spend an instant musing on how my six year-old self sang along with his father and the radio to “Walk on the Wild Side,” merrily intoning the phrase “giving head” without knowing what that meant. But also, as a wealth of articles and tributes has confirmed, Lou Reed was special. He was someone people cared about perhaps more than society expected.

And this goes beyond the four-piece band who hung out with Warhol and briefly featured a sexy German model with the flattest voice on the planet. If the Velvet Underground no longer seem as strange and daring as they once did, and there are plenty of moments I still find them strange and daring, it’s because everything they recorded was studied and absorbed by rock, pop, even, I would argue, metal and rap. They took the traditional forms of rock music and injected avant-garde experiments which still sounded accessible, mixed in unflinching, coldly real lyrics that read with all the poetry of Dylan, and refused to do anything normal. Even their most conventional songs had tricks in the tails: “Femme Fatale” has a melody worthy of a 70s California soft-rock song, but Nico’s intonation makes it terrifying. “Rock and Roll” mixes its heart-on-sleeve pop feel with guitar sounds I’ve never heard before or since and that piano which comes out of nowhere. And then we have “European Son,” “Sister Ray,” “The Murder Mystery,” “I’m Sticking With You…”

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Bryan Ferry’s Whistle: An Observation on an Aspect of Millennial Culture

You do not have to click on the links to fully appreciate this post. But it may help.


Last weekend, after much awaiting with bated breath by we at the Addison Recorder, Baz Luhrmann’s film version (version being the key word) of The Great Gatsby opened in cinemas. This piece is not about The Great Gatsby as a movie, especially since none of us have seen it, although I will return to the subject before the end. It is about the soundtrack to a degree, for while the soundtrack is on the surface as misguided as the film, there is one thing the music gets right.  For a few minutes, the film’s score gives way to a singer whose suave, languid, sophisticated persona was made for Fitzgerald, and who has in all likelihood inspired many of his fellow Gatsby contributors, including Florence + the Machine, Lana Del Rey, and even the tuxedo-clad master of ceremonies Jay-Z, with his theatrical, high-art musical stylings—Bryan Ferry.

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THE GRUDGE REPORT: Searching for the Pinball Wizard


In an effort to predispose myself towards a somewhat more consistent writing schedule, you may now look forward to my bi-monthly feature, a new column that will be taking a quick, dirty look at a landmark album or movie from the past on a rotating basis. This will be a somewhat more curtailed look than the in-depth analysis that myself and my colleagues at the Recorder have become known for over the past two months, but it will hopefully provide a quick listener’s (or viewer’s) guide to approaching the works of past masters. Owing to a lack of creativity and an overwhelming need to be a smart-ass on my part, this column will be henceforth entitled “The Grudge Report”.

For the record, this is not indicative of any sort of professional criticism on my part. The deep analysis you might expect, having already found it in many other articles within our magazine, will not be here. Nor, however, will this be a simple diatribe or a love totem on my part on the behalf of past masters. It’s best to think of this as simply a Buyer’s Guide to Classic Media, a Purchase or Pass if you will. Those looking for deeper analysis on my part may simply post below and let your feelings be heard.

You may enjoy.

Tommy – The Who (1969)

Ah, Tommy.

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