It’s been two weeks since the death of Chris Cornell and still I’m not settled over getting my thoughts about it out. When John Lennon died, I was too young to grasp the…not importance, because I somehow knew it was a big deal that my favorite band ever (as a child and until now) was truly done, but the pain of those congregating outside the Dakota where the ex-Beatle lived and died was something I wasn’t mature enough to comprehend. I saw the tears in everyone’s eyes, but couldn’t join them in mourning.
Kurt Cobain was next, who retroactively got labeled the spokesman – and “John Lennon” – for my generation, but like the Dallas Cowboys being tagged “America’s Team,” that wasn’t something which everyone agreed. I know I didn’t. Few people remember, in fact, that Nirvana’s then fresh release In Utero was polarizing at the time, and the band’s popularity was waning while Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins were blowing up. Jump ahead past to the not-so-shocking deaths of Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley in 2002 and Scott Weiland in 2015, while also realizing Bowie had been sick and Prince was on another level of stardom, Chris Cornell hit differently. Harder. Like, this was my John Lennon if there had to be a simple, tied-in-a-bow descriptive.
Soundgarden, however, had been around longer than any of those acts, were signed to a major label before them, and bridged the gap between 70s and 90s hard rock for both incoming grunge fans and leftover lovers of cock-rock. Cornell was a shirtless, lion-maned rock God without coming across as cheesy, and the guys could drop metal riffs and Beatles-esque melodies with equal effortlessness. Lyrically, Cornell’s words resonated not just because of their authenticity, but because anyone who ever went through the doldrums could identify with them. Nothing was bright and sunny; hell, the most popular song of theirs is titled “Black Hole Sun.”
I’ve long been into by New Order, mainly because they have two things I find attractive in a band; they make engrossing music which happens to span and combine wildly different genres (at the time of their release), and they have a fascinating backstory.
The incredibly abbreviated history is: Three guys who were in a Manchester, UK band and poised to break in a major way had their singer die by suicide on the eve of their inaugural tour of North America. Left to their own devices, they decide to forge ahead under a new moniker with the guitarist ultimately taking on vocals, enlisting the drummer’s then-girlfriend for additional guitar parts as well as keyboards and then go on to single-handedly create a new form of music by melding aspects of rock, punk and electronic.
You’ve no doubt seen the glut of end-of-year lists in recent weeks, and here’s one more for to check out. Over at Vanyaland, we all threw our favorites of the year into a massive mixing bowl, drew them out one by one and voted on them and this is what we ended up with, whittling it down to the final 25.
A couple of mine made it into the Top 25, no small feat as there are some damn solid choices on there. My favorite – reaching number six overall – was from Lizzo, a single titled “Good As Hell,” and here’s the video, along with what I had to say about it:
“Blooming hip-hop artist Lizzo became a sensation in her hometown of Minneapolis in 2013 with the release of her solo debut Lizzobangers, which caught the attention of fellow Minnesotan Prince, who asked her enlisted her to guest on the funky rump shaker “Boy Trouble” from 2014’s Plectrumelectrum. And while there’s no doubt working with the late Purple One had to be a career highlight thus far, it’s the undeniably catchy “Good As Hell” from this year’s major-label debut EP Coconut Oil — and slotted prominently on the soundtrack to Barbershop: The Next Cut — that has everyone talking. Co-written and produced by Ricky Reed, it’s a song about post-relationship failure and female empowerment as much as it is an ode to friendship. “Boss up and change your life/You can have it all, no sacrifice/I know he did you wrong, we can make it right/So go and let it all hang out tonight,” goes one of the verses, which Lizzo delivers with an effortlessly smooth and confident flow. “Good As Hell” might be referencing moving on, but as her show at Brighton Music Hall earlier this month that brought the house down showed, it’s sure to be a launching pad for Lizzo to move up.”
It was a bit of a surprising choice to some, but you can’t choose what songs grab you – they just do. Trust me, there was plenty of expected fare in my orbit this year as well. I was all over songs by Sleaford Mods, the Cult, Seratones, the Kills, Deftones and Daughter; there was certainly no shortage of good stuff to spin. Here’s to a just as sonically bountiful 2017…cheers!
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is one of the more divisive institutions out there. Many are critical of its nominating committee, the artists who have been unfairly left out as the years have gone on, and, the opposite, acts getting in who don’t deserve to be there.
This year is no different, and with the announcement of who will be getting into the Hall as part of the Class of 2017 coming any day now, arguments will be loud over who got screwed over and who got the nod but shouldn’t be in the conversation in the first place.
I’ve done a series of piece on why certain acts should be in for Ultimate Classic Rock and Diffuser. Here are the links to five reasons each of the following nominees should be inducted:
I can say with all certainty that some of the best times I’ve had was when the Philadelphia Film Festival was at it’s peak in the early-aughts. A week of trying to see as many films as humanly possible along with a handful of friends doing the same was a blast. 2002 through 2005 were the most memorable, for a variety of reasons.
It was like working another job; you get up in the morning, pack the essentials for the day and head to see the first film, usually around 11am. Three of the theaters are within a four block radius of one another in the Society Hill section of the city. A lucky day would be when that’s where all your films for the day were set. The challenge is when something is in West Philly or Center City and you’ve got to make like a bandit to get across town.
Since my first year of college, I’ve had this weird love affair with the band Local H. It’s rooted in the fact that they were the first band I ever interviewed in person, on a tour bus, for an assigned story to discuss their breakthrough effort As Good As Dead. The high of sitting with drummer Joe Daniels for an unlimited amount of time, basically until running out of questions, I can still feel to this day.
I’m self-aware enough to know the primary reason I developed a soft spot for the duo out of Zion, IL was because of that initial encounter. It was a legit bummer when Daniels split in 1999, and singer/guitarist/bass pick-up artist Scott Lucas continued on with another guy behind the kit. Coincidentally or not, that’s when the popularity of Local H began to fade, save for a strong contingent of diehard fans. It also had to do very much with the shift in the music industry that was suddenly less artist-driven, more singles-centric and almost zero room for talent development.