Battle of the Bands Tournament: Round 2 – Indie Rock & Post-Punk Region

Pregame: We are now down to a field of 32 bands in this Second Round of the “tune-ament”. Starting with this round most of the matchups will come down to counting great songs, especially as the field wittles down to the Elite Eight on down to the Final Four and the championship match.  By the by, I’m not sure what I was thinking in my geeked out little mind when I started this little project for the fun of it, but let the games continue.

The Match: #1-Modest Mouse (9) VS #9-Pretty Girls Make Graves (4)
Modest Mouse sample song: “Ocean Breathes Salty”
Pretty Girls Make Graves sample song: “Sad Girls Por Vida”
The Winner: Modest Mouse

Postgame: As a die-hard fan of both these bands, I’m sad to see Pretty Girls Make Graves bow out so early, but at least they’re losing against an indie rock juggernaut. At any rate, PGMG’s growth from post-punk upstarts to indie rock darlings was as sudden as it was transient considering the band called it quits after less than seven years (pretty much the norm rather than the exception for bands of their ilk).  The frenetic frenzy of their jagged guitars and anthem-laden songs on their first three releases, The New Romance, Good Health and the self-titled EP had a huge impact on me in 2003 when I decided to start playing electric guitar again after a long hiatus that included me playing bass for much of that time. Then with Elan Vital, their swan song album, they traded the dual guitar attack (due to a regrettable lineup change) in favor of keyboard instruments like the accordion, melodic, etc.  Essential listening includes “The Grandmother Wolf”, “Teeth Collector”, “A Certain Cemetery”, “Speakers Push the Air”, “Head South”, and “The Nocturnal House” and “The Number”. There’s not one song on any of those albums that I could honestly say I don’t like. And Modest Mouse marches on…

The Match: #2-Fugazi (8) VS #10-Jawbox (3)
Fugazi sample song: “Public Witness Program”
Jawbox sample song: “Reel”
The Winner: Fugazi

Postgame: Just like the match above this one features two of my absolute favorite bands. And like Pretty Girls Make Graves above, Round 2 is entirely too early for Fugazi to be defeating their buddies, neighbors and label-mates in Jawbox. But considering that Fugazi existed for six or seven more years than them puts Jawbox at a decided disadvantage with only 4 proper albums (plus 1 great compilation of loose ends and rarities). Still, this early exit does not diminish them or the greatness of their music. From their absolutely perfect albums Novelty, For Your Own Special Sweetheart (!!!) and Jawbox, we were given great songs such as “Dreamless”, “Spiral Down”, “Tongues”, “Static”, “68”, “Savory”, “U-Trau”, “Reel”, “Mirrorful”, and “Iodine”.  Like  Fugazi, Pretty Girls Make Graves and Q And Not U, Jawbox was a major influence on my post-punk/noise rock project Faulty Schematics.  Sad to see them bow out of the tourney so early.

The Match: #3-Sonic Youth (7) VS #6-Sunny Day Real Estate (4)
Sonic Youth sample song: “Unmade Bed” (Live on Conan)
 
Sunny Day Real Estate sample song: “Days Were Golden” (set to “The Outsiders”)
The Winner: Sonic Youth

Postgame: This win is purely about numbers. Sunny Day Real Estate is the sentimenal favorite and a song-to-song matchup would definitely earn them the win on emotional resonance alone. But with only four albums total, they’re just a little short on songs against Sonic Youth. Their first two albums were strong, but when they broke up (prematurely) they went out at the top of their game with (arguably) their best two albums: The Rising Tide and How It Feels to Be Something On, which blessed my ears with beautiful songs like “Faces In Disguise”, “Guitar and Video Games”, “Tearing in my Heart”, “Every Shining Time You Arrive”, “Pillars”, and “Fool in the Photograph”. Yes, like many indie rock bands, SDRE were gone too soon and are sorely missed.

The Match: #4-Karate (7) VS #5-Sleater Kinney (5)
Karate sample song: “Original Spies”
Sleater-Kinney sample song: “Entertain”
The Winner: Karate

Postgame: A good battle that Sleater-Kinney ultimately loses. And like their opponent, they’re no longer a band anymore. Both bands gone too soon, yet oddly they had about the same amount of output, both with their unique brands of indie rock. S-K have three stellar albums: Dig Me Out, The Hot Rock, and All Hands on the Bad One, and another four that are pretty good. Excellent songs include: “Night Light”, “Combat Rock”, “Ironclad”, “Was It a Lie?”, “Start Together” and “Turn It On” as well as the title tracks to those three albums. Their secret weapon was the trading off of contrasting vocals between Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein…and of course the drumming of Janet Weiss. A very important band, for sure.

Nary an upset in this region, at least numerically (not that I expected there to be). All four top seeds will move on to the Sweet 16. Next up is the Second Round for the Gen. Rock & Alt-Rock Region.

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Interview: The Legendary Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead

Over at Metal Insider.net, Motörhead bassist/vocalist Lemmy Kilmister was asked for his opinion on the state of the music industry today. I found his answer to be frank and accurate.

Excerpt:

METAL INSIDER: What are your thoughts on the music industry these days?

LEMMY: Well, the music industry these days is dying, isn’t it? They have no idea what fucking happened to them. They don’t know what hit them. They couldn’t work with the internet, so they tried to prosecute it, which is really fucking dumb. And it seems that they keep fucking up. Every turn they make is the wrong turn. Soon they’re going to be out of business in ten years. And it’s all because of the internet.

METAL INSIDER: Do you think it was was easier for up and coming bands to promote themselves back when Motörhead first started out, or is it easier now?

LEMMY: It’s the same. It’s always been the same. There’s always people robbing bands. Agents rob you. Managers rob you a lot of the time. We’ve got a good one now, but we’ve had a lot of bad ones. The fucking promoters rob you. They tell you that “it hasn’t sold out,” and you can see that it is. But what are you going to say? They’ve got all their guys with them, and there’s only five of you.

The rest of the interview is a great read just because Lenny is one cool motherfucker.

It’s amazing that Motörhead has been around over 35 years.

Battle of the Bands Tournament: Round 1 – Hard Rock & Metal Region (Part 2)

The Match: #5-Iron Maiden (4) VS #12-Tesla (2)
Iron Maiden sample song: “Moonchild”
Tesla sample song: “Song & Emotion”
The Winner: Iron Maiden

Postgame: Tesla’s first album Mechanical Resonance was an excellent debut with the songs “Modern Day Cowboy”, “Ez Come, Ez Go”, “Comin’ Atcha Live” and so many more. The second album, The Great Radio Controversy provided greats songs like “Love Song” and “Hang Tough”. But Iron Maiden are quite a bit more legendary than that. This outcome is an obvious one.

The Match: #6-Faith No More (4) VS #11-Poison (2)
Faith No More sample song: “Digging the Grave”
Poison sample song: “Nothin’ But a Good Time”
The Winner: Faith No More

Postgame: Yeah, I know, not even fair. But Poison had a few jams and their debut album Look What the Cat Dragged In was a fine debut for a band of their ilk. Sophomore album Open Up and Say…Ahh! had improved songwriting but lacked the magic of its predecessor. Jams include: “Cry Tough”, “I Won’t Forget You”, “I Want Action”, “Talk Dirty to Me”, “Fallen Angel” and “Every Rose Has Its Thorm” — Pretty much the singles.  A singles band will always lose to an album band, especially when that album band is just infinitely better.

The Match: #7-Def Leppard (3) VS #10-Queensryche (2)
Def Leppard sample song: “Foolin'”
Queensryche sample song: “I Don’t Believe In Love”
The Winner: Queensryche

Postgame: This is a major upset in a lot of ways, and I had to actually count the great songs to be sure of it. Def Leppard are a sentimental favorite because they were one of the first bands I saw on MTV as an impressionable youth in late 1983. That year they had just released the smash stellar hit album Pyromania, which yielded great songs like “Rock of Ages”, “Photograph”, “Too Late for Love” and “Comin’ Under Fire” among others. Then they go on a small hiatus, which built up anticipation for their fourth album, Hysteria. That album gave us “Women”, “Animal”, “Love Bites”, the epidemic “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and the title track — all hit singles, of course. But they fall just a few songs short to Queensryche. It was really close. But no cigar.

The Match: #8-Dokken (3) VS #9-Bon Jovi (3)
Dokken sample song: “Heaven Sent”
Bon Jovi sample song: “Wanted Dead or Alive”
The Winner: Dokken

Postgame: Of all the top seeds here, Dokken is the great underacheiver. More on them later. Bon Jovi’s 3 great albums include 7800 Degress Fahrenheit, Slippery When Wet, and New Jersey. Great songs include: “Livin’ On a Prayer”, “Runaway”, “Silent Night”, “Ill Be There for You”, “Bad Medicine”, “Living In Sin” and “You Give Love a Bad Name”.

And that ends the first round of this region. All tops seeds moving on to the second round, except #7 which was defeated by #10.

Finally, the first round of this Battle of the Bands Tournament is over and we’re down to 32 bands with a few upsets. Round 2 will begin later in the week (likely Thursday).

Battle of the Bands Tournament: Round 1 – Hard Rock & Metal Region (Part 1)

Pregame: In contrast to the Indie Rock/Post-Punk Region from Saturday, this region mostly features bands I got into as a unsuspecting, highly impressionable pre-teen and early teenager. So there will be a lot of sentimental favorites here (though aren’t they all?), similar to the Extreme Metal region considering the breadth of the history spent with these bands.

The Match: #1-Ratt (6) VS #16-Leatherwolf (1)
Ratt sample song: “Nobody Rides for Free”
Leatherwolf sample song: “Thunder”
The Winner: Ratt

 
Postgame: After their two hard-fought victories in the preliminary play-in rounds to slide into the big dance, not much more needs to be said about Leatherwolf, nor the likely outcome of this matchup. One album, no matter how great it is cannot defeat 6 albums.  This is just a formality. Game over, dude. Thanks for playing.

The Match: #2-Alice in Chains (6) VS #15-Tool (2)

Alice in Chains sample song: “A Looking In View”
Tool sample song: “Schism”
The Winner: Alice In Chains

Postgame: Progressive metal band Tool features some of the best musicians in the entire genre. Vocalist Maynard James Keenan is unmatched as an enigmatic, melodic front man, the rhythm section of Carey and Chancellor is simply sick, and the guitarist Adam Jones (also their art/video director) is an immense force all by himself. I only gave them 2 album-wins: Undertow, and the masterpiece, Lateralus — which fans would say is a crime, but those are the two with enough songs to impressed over the years. Great songs include “Parabola”, “The Grudge”, “Sober”, “The Patient”. I honestly have not spent enough time with the two other key albums, Aenima and 10,000 Days, but two great songs that stand out from those are singles “Stinkfist” & “Vicarious”. However, against Alice in chains, there’s simply no contest anyways. Much more to come from AiC.

The Match: #3-Motley Crue (5) VS #14-Skid Row (2)
Motley Crue sample song: “Wild Side”
Skid Row sample song: “Monkey Business”
 
The Winner: Motley Crue
 
Postgame: Skid Row got a late start, so their second and best album, the awesome Slave to the Grind actually came out in 1991, went platinum and earned them a #1 spot atop the charts. I don’t think any other 80s “hair band” had that much success past the 80s decade (unless you want to lump Guns n’ Roses in with that “hair” crowd, which isn’t really a stretch). Including Skid Row’s self-titled debut, they no doubt have great songs like “18 and Life”, “Youth Gone Wild”, “I Remember You”, “Quicksand Jesus” and “Wasted Time”. However, Motley Crue is one of the grandfather bands of this genre, whereas Skid Row, really, was a nice flash in the pan that came a little late to the party just before the cops (grunge) showed up to take them all off the streets.
The Match: #4-The Mars Volta (5) VS #13-Guns n’ Rose (2)
The Mars Volta sample song: “The Widow”
Guns n’ Rose sample song: “Civil War”
The Winner: The Mars Volta

Postgame: Like a lot of bands in this tournament, Guns n’ Roses also has that ONE masterpiece of an album that, if all things were equal they were being judge on one album, G n’ R would slay much of the competion. Appetite for Destruction is just that good and it was a hell of a gamechanger in 1987. But that’s not what this competition is about. After the entirety of Appetite –12 songs that include “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Nightrain”, “Mr. Brownstone”, “My Michelle” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” — things get pretty spotty from there. Sparse gems on later albums include: “Patience”, “Don’t Cry”, “November Rain” and the sample song above (all balads). The Mars Volta, a progressive hard rock group with five consecutive great albums put out in a seven year span simply eats up a less consistent opponent.

No upsets here. On to Part 2. There’s gotta be at least one upset , right?

Battle of the Bands Tournament: Round 1 – Indie Rock & Post-Punk Region (Part 2)

Pregame: As stated in Part 1, this region has a lot of bands that became my favorites during my adult years. I believe there will be at least one upset in this region.

The Match: #5-Sleater Kinney (5) VS #12-Blonde Redhead (3)
Sleater-Kinney sample song: “Jumpers” (live)
Blonde Redhead sample song: “Hated Because of Great Qualities”
The Winner: Sleater-Kinney

Postgame: Like the band Unwound (in Part 1), Blonde Redhead started out in the 90s as a more abrasive punk-influenced New York band (heavily influenced by Manhattan neighbors Sonic Youth, also in Part 1). Then they matured into a more diverse, yet less defined musical makeup, creating a sound and indentity all their own. They dropped the standard guitar/drums/bass set up to include different instrumentation. Each album since 2000’s Melody of Certain Damged Lemons has seen them take a departure from the previous. Albums Misery is a Butterfly and 23 are a faves as well. Great songs include: “A Cure”, “Loved Despite of Great Faults”, “Equus”, “Elephant Woman”, “23” and “S.W.”. Their cross-country opposition in this tourney is Sleater-Kinney from Washington, who wins by a few points. More on them later.

 

The Match: #6-Sunny Day Real Estate (4) VS #11-Versus (3)
 
Sunny Day Real Estate sample song: “Killed By An Angel”
 
Versus sample song: “Raining”
 
The Winner: Sunny Day Real Estate

 
Postgame: A close matchup, but Versus loses this one to yet another Pacific Northwest band in Sunny Day Real Estate. Like many indie rock bands, both of these bands are currently defunct (or, like Sleater-Kinney & Fugazi: on “indefinite hiatus”). Versus had great songs like: “I Love the WB”, “Fredrick’s of Hollywood”, “Said Too Much”, “Mermaid Legs” and “Underground”. Their swansong album, Hurrah, was pretty much perfect. Two Cents Plus Tax and the Afterglow EP were also really good. Versus go down gracefully in their defeat.
 
 

The Match: #7-Built To Spill (4) VS #10-Jawbox (3)
Built To Spill sample song: “Carry the Zero”
Jawbox sample song: “Savory”
 
The Winner: Jawbox

 
Postgame: And we have our first upset in the tournament, a #10 seed over a #7 seed. Built To Spill, despite having more album-wins, falls short on a great songs count by a few points. Naturally, BTS goes down fighting with two perfect albums in Perfect from Now On and Keep It Like a Secret. And while There’s Nothing Wrong with Love and Ancient Melodies of the Future aren’t too shabby either, they’re not enough to stand up to the sucker punch Jawbox delivers. Still going today, their better songs are in past like “Broken Chairs”, “Stop the Show”, “Center of the Universe”, “You Were Right”, and “I Would Hurt a Fly”.
 
 

The Match: #8-The Mercury Program (4) VS #9-Pretty Girls Make Graves (4)
 
The Mercury Program sample song: “Sultans of El Sur”
 
Pretty Girls Make Graves sample song: “All Medicated Geniuses”
 
The Winner: Pretty Girls Make Graves

 
Postgame: And so we have our second upset of the tourney, on the same day no less. The Mercury Program was one of the major influences on my last band Motosota, which like them was a predominantly instrumental post-rock outfit. They have 3 great LPs in From the Vapor of Gasoline, A Data Learn the Language, and Chez Viking, and 1 great EP All the Suits Began to Fall Off, that yield the songs “The Secret to Quiet”, “Egypt”, “Marianas”, and “The Sea Is In Here”. A split EP with Maserati also yielded three good songs. Although almost evenly matched with them, they fall to Pretty Girls Make Graves, a sentimental favorite and major influence on a solo project of mine.
 
 
And so Round 1 of the Indie Rock & Post-Punk Rock Region is complete, with two upsets. Seeds 1-6 plus 9 & 10 moving on to next week’s Second Round.
 
Next up: The First Round of the Hard Rock & Metal Region tomorrow. I predict a couple more low seed over high seed upsets…

Battle of the Bands Tournament: Round 1 – Indie Rock & Post-Punk Region (Part 1)

Pregame: This region has a lot of bands that became my favorites during my adult life (well, starting around 18-19). Many of them provided the soundtrack for that crucial transition from youth to adult, helping give perspective during those awkward, difficult years of learning just what the hell being adult even means. There are some serious matchups in the middle portion of this region. I do predict at least one upset.

The Match: #1-Modest Mouse (9) VS #16-Unwound (2)

Modest Mouse sample song: “The Whale Song”
Unwound sample song: “Terminus”
 
The Winner: Modest Mouse

 
Postgame: A Pacific Northwest battle, Oregon VS Washington. Unwound, from Portland, OR, was an abrasive post-punk indie rock band for most of their active years. But their swansong double album, the magnum opus called Leaves Turn Inside You, saw them smoothing out the roughness for a slightly more accessible sound, also adorned with mild progressive elements. That’s when I discovered them, which was on that last album. The double set boasts some serious jams, like “Radio Gra”, “December”, “Look a Ghost”, “Off This Century” and the Pink Floyd-ish epic “Below the Salt”. Naturally, they fall to a #1 seed muscled up with 9 albums. No contest.
 
 

The Match: #2-Fugazi (8) VS #15-Nirvana (2)
 
Fugazi sample song: “Long Distance Runner”
 
Nirvana sample song: “Heart-Shaped Box”
 
The Winner: Fugazi

 
Postgame: The short-lived Nirvana got credit for officially ushering in a new movement in popular music two decades ago with the game-changing teen angst anthem “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. They were the voice of a (my) generation, but ended short in early 1994. Who knows how the rest of the 90s would have turned out. But while they had their 15 minutes and change in the spotlight, they delivered two great albums, Nevermind and In Utero, and great songs like “In Bloom”, “Come As You Are”, “Lithium”, “Rape Me” and the two aforementioned. I imagine the band (including the late Kurt Cobain) would be honored to know they’re losing to Fugazi. In fact, I bet they would repectfully insist on the defeat.

The Match: #3-Sonic Youth (7) VS #14-Q And Not U (3)
Sonic Youth sample song: “100%”

Q And Not U sample song: “X-Polynation”

The Winner: Sonic Youth

Postgame: Q And Not U was one of the great post-punk bands to emerge from the fertile, historic Washington D.C. underground (home of a couple of other bands in this region, like Fugazi and Jawbox). Sadly they came an went in a flash, like so many underground bands do. In their short time they showed great diversity over their 3 great albums: No Kill, No Beep Beep, Different Damage, and Power.  Most awesome songs include “And the Washington Monument (Blinks) Goodnight”, “Hooray for Humans”, “Air Conditions”, “Recreation Myth”, “Beautiful Beats”, and “Wonderful People”. But as great as they were, they’re up against the legendary post-punk/no-wave band Sonic Youth, still going strong today. ‘Nuff said.

The Match: #4-Karate (7) VS #13-Cursive (3)
Karate sample song: “What Is Sleep”
Cursive sample song: “The Night I Lost the Will to Fight”
 
The Winner: Karate

 
Postgame: Early on Cursive sounded like they came out of the D.C. scene with a sound that was distinctly influenced by the D.C. post-punk scene. But eventually they moved away from those early trappings to a more diverse sound (which all the good D.C. bands did anyway). Their album Cursive Domestica is a masterpiece, and the followup EP Burst and Bloom is succinct and solid. Jams include “The Martyr”, “The Lament of Pretty Baby”, “Tall Tales, Telltales”, and “Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me?”.
 
Surprise, surprise. No upsets in the first round again. But perhaps one lurks in Part 2 of this region? We’ll see later today.