RAVE'S FAVES (on the air since January 1)
The Fratellis ("Flathead," "Chelsea Dagger"), Of Montreal (various), Nine Inch Nails, Lily Allen (various), Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire (various), Peter Bjorn And John, The View, LCD Soundsystem, The Shins.
The Fratellis (see below) have been one of the dominant bands in England over the last 8 months, and the placement of "Flathead" in Apple's latest iPod commercial has resulted in that song being the #1 selling single over the last couple of weeks in the U.S. That is amazing for an unknown band that is only receiving limited airplay at this point. I expect that their radio situation will soon change significantly. Along with The Fratellis, Of Montreal and Lily Allen have come up with a fine albums.NIN has "nailed" it again and I hear the entire album is another winner.Arcade Fire are somewhat lower key with fewer hooks this time out, but the album is very consistent and is growing on me in a big way. LCD's new album has a more focused direction, where his last one covered multi-genres in an effective way.
England's The View visited L.A. in early January and played at Spaceland. They're huge in England at the moment. While I liked their energy, they're still very rough live at this point. U.K. hits "Wasted Little DJ's" and "Same Jeans" stood out as the two strongest songs... I was able to hit Melbourne's Big Day Out as part of an Australian vacation in January. Upon asking exiting fans which bands they liked the best, Tool and Muse came up most often. Having seen and appreciated Tool in the past, I had other priorities and would have to say that the best shows for me were Muse, Hot Chip and The Violent Femmes. Muse did what they always do live and the word "bombastic" applies whether people love them or hate them. Hot Chip are extremely musical and play a sparkling version of their dance rock. There isn't much happening visually, but those in attendance loved what they heard. I have been waiting to see The Femmes since the Eighties and they were wonderful despite sound problems. Hearing thousands of people singing "Blister in the Sun" was a surreal experience.The Killers put on their usual solid set, but were also beset with audio difficulties and actually sounded better from behind the stage. Mike Skinner (The Streets) showed that he is a formidable front man backed by a powerful rock band.Crystal Method did a great job of ending the evening with almost everyone in motion. The event's big surprise was Sydney's The Presets. Since SXSW 2006, they've zoomed from average bar band status to being major festival artists that had enough drive to thrill thousands of fans. They had a recent hit in Australia as well. Jet's set was heartbreaking. These guys played as well as they could in front of their hometown crowd, yet they got very little reaction. The Cester brothers have been through so much with the passing of their father as well as the disappointing sales of the "Shine On" album. I would imagine the guys were really devastated after that show. As we couldn't arrive until 6:00, we missed people like Lily Allen and Kasabian. I was told that Peaches was actually the artist that got the most press afterwards, and I've long wanted to see her. Sight lines and sound quality were often very poor, so it's great news that the festival will move next year. The U.K.'s Camera Obscura played a sold-out show at L.A.'s El Rey. They're 6-strong, very competent, friendly, a bit humorous, but extremely low key. There were a few moments when I thought they might lose the crowd but most of their fans seemed to leave happy.
CHANGING TOO QUICKLY!
I'm all for bands having integrity, remaining fresh and allowing their sounds to evolve. But what's up with so many indie bands who do pretty well the first time out, then seem to abandon the very traits that got people into them in the first place?Bloc Party released my favorite album of 2005, yet they've become less frenetic and summarily de-emphasized one of the best rhythm sections in music.Kaiser Chiefs' "Ruby" single is huge in Europe where the band are major stars, but it's not doing all that great in America. There is no bite and it sounds to me like a million formula tunes that have preceded it. The new album rocks, but sounds quite predictable overall.Jet dispensed with their harder rock hooks and paid a major price. I could go on and on. Is it peer pressure that causes bands to overplay the "unique" card? As a former A&R guy, I think I would be pulling my hair out if I were handling some of these artists. I see both sides and was rarely interested in "corporate" artists, but there is a happy medium. The market is difficult enough as it is, and if bands want continued support from struggling labels, they need to find an appealing way to compromise. There's room on albums for all kinds of creativity as long as there are several accessible, interesting songs that can be worked for airplay.
THE FAB FRATELLIS
I discovered this band (see Faves above) last year at SXSW when I hit the Island Records party to see Nine Black Alps. Even most of the Brits in the crowd were then unfamiliar with the band and I started telling people that they were my surprise discovery of the conference. In my SXSW recap, I wrote "Another Brit band, The Fratellis, were a fresh discovery for me. I only caught their last four songs, but lots of people were feeling that they'd uncovered a nugget." I'm told by an Apple friend that the response to their iPod commercial is far greater than normal. With Interscope about to work the "Flathead" single in America and with their upcoming tour keep an eye on their rising star.
Kudos to the Dixie Chicks for their near-sweep of the major GRAMMY Awards! Check out their "Shut Up and Sing" film even if you're only a bit of a fan to appreciate how a band dealt with adversity while maintaining their integrity. Rage Against The Machine was paid $2 million to headline Coachella this year. I understand that the band rejected a $1 million offer last year. Chris Cornell leaving Audioslave is great news to me because those guys are meant to be intense! Check out my latest "Go Deep" shows if you haven't had a chance lately. With all of the great music out there, reaction has been better than ever... There will be a Raves Rave's 28.2 because I will be posting another recap following this year's SXSW marathon. There will also be blogs from Austin on my MySpace page... Meanwhile, I would love any input from you, and make sure you put "RAVES" in the subject line to ensure a response from me. Have a good March until I'm back... Till then...