Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tea Party - Correspondences

On November 19th 2011, I saw Tea Party for the seventh time.

It was also the seventh time my best friend Craig saw the Tea Party, we had seen the Tea Party together five times and once without the other each prior to the 19th. It was also the first time Tyson saw the Tea Party. But Craig and Tyson were not the only old friends I saw that night, Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood, and Jeff Burrows were there too.

Music is a like a friend. Rush said as much in “Spirit of Radio,” and it is true. When I Listen to music I loved when I was young and I have not heard in a long time it is just like visiting an old friend. In the case of Tea Party seeing them live again after all these years was something more than then just hearing them, and seeing them. It almost felt at times their eyes fell upon Craig and I and the look on their faces was one of recognition and familiarity. They had returned to see their long standing and loyal fans, they returned to see their old friends, they had returned to see us.

Obviously there is a level of personal sentiment in this above paragraph but I cannot deny that is exactly what it felt like, and I dare suggest there is some level of truth in the Tea Party reunion, it was not just the three men were back together again, they were with their fans again, they were with me again.

There two moments that I remember best from that night.

The first was when Jeff Martin, announced that The Tea Party was back for good, and he promised a new album to be released in 2012. So we all have that to look forward too.

The second was the moment they played “Correspondences.” I immediately thought of Jenn Carlson, and began to look around in the chance she might be there. She was the only person I knew who had seen Tea Party live more times than myself, and her favourite song was always “Correspondences.” I did not see her, but I knew somewhere, somehow she was happy. In that moment the stars shinning down on us had granted a special moment. The Tea Party were back and playing her favourite song, so surely happiness was in the air everywhere; surely she must be happy.

“Correspondences,” is another Tea Party song that if you ever bought “Edges of Twilight,” or listened to the band with any intensity, you know this song, and you know it well. But a casual listener runs the gambit of never hearing “Correspondences,” hence The Music In Review is here to lend you a hand.

After the last Music In Review I am left with very little original material to say. Everything I said about “Psychopomp” applies to “Correspondences.” Same band, same theme, same style, same message, same personal attachment. Still this is a song too strong and too powerful to go without mention. “Correspondences,” is one of those songs where every serious Tea Party needs to consider as their favourite; the brightest Tea Party relic somehow forgotten by radio disk jockeys, and somehow ignored by the producers, a long a lost jewel whose value is priceless.

At the end of the show, Jeff Martin asked if we would come see them again, to which I thought, “will you come back to see ‘us’ again?” I said as much to Craig and Tyson, and we enjoyed a short laugh, but it was true, by this point in time it feels so much more like Tea Party come to see Craig and me. They pay us a visit. We always welcome them to our home, Calgary, and we always will. They are our old friends visiting us, it just so happens they perform an awesome rock concert for us every time.

In summation; Tea Party are back, and I give a salute and thank you to my old dear friends Jeff Martin, Stuart Chatwood, and Jeff Burrows, your music has enriched my life in ways I could never repay.

Until next year, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tea Party - Psychopomp

“I’ll give you something more,
And you'll fade away.
One last kiss before,
You fade away.
Lives you once adored,
Will fade away.
Lies you can’t ignore,
You'll soon repay,
As you fade away”

When I was young, the first bands I fell in love with were Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, ACDC, Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne, The Who, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and Tea Party. Tea Party are the only band on that list that started their careers after my date of birth, and I believe that says something about me, a lot about the superiority of classic rock, and even more about Tea Party.

My first experiences where I felt really akin to a song writer was of course Led Zeppelin, but I always thought, personally, emotionally, and even spiritually I had something in common with Jeff Martin and the Tea Party, perhaps more so than any band ever. When I was young, everything I was thinking about, Tea Party was writing songs about. Every emotion that was surging in my heart Tea Party expressed with passion in their songs. Everything that defined me and pushed me to become the man I am now resonates within the lyrics and music of Tea Party. I always knew this, but I never really appreciated the true validity of it until I typed it in for this Music in Review.

“Gone” is the most powerful song about loneliness I have ever heard. “Great Big Lie,” is one of the best atheist songs ever. “Mantra” is one of the most intro and extroverted perspective songs I have ever enjoyed. “Requiem,” was written after Jeff Martin talked a girl out of suicide. “Release” is the best white ribbon song ever. I could do a Music in Review on every single one of these songs with a discussion about both the value of the song, and the value beyond the song. I have been lonely, I am an atheist, I do ponder things at length both within and without, I too have talked someone out of suicide (no, really), and for women, as a knight I will always fight to protect them. All these things about me were being expressed by Tea Party. Everything about me when I first heard Tea Party, connected with them, and with the passage of time this has only become more so. Whether Tea Party pushed me towards this, or I simply related to them on a level that borders true kinship, I cannot be certain, but one thing is, Tea Party are rock stars and poets of the highest calibre. Easily the most underrated band of all time.

There are many songs, where if you are a Tea Party fan you know but, if you were not directly into Tea Party you may never have heard them. This happens a lot to bands that accomplish the ability to consistently write multiple great tracks per album, a majority of them will never receive radio play or massive attention. This is hardly a complaint; this is like an author who has written so many good books, most people never get around to reading them all. Tea Party is a band that has written so many great songs most of them fly under the radar of popular appeal. This becomes double true for Tea Party since their popularity is really one of cult status. Here in Canada most people know who they are, but if I take a trip down south the majority of Americans would have no idea who they are, and that becomes even more so if I traveled the globe further. Except Australia, Tea Party was popular there.

“Psychopomp,” is a good example of a great song by the Tea Party ever fan knows but casual listeners do not. “Psychopomp,” is also a good song to illustrate my relationship with Tea Party when I was young. “Psychopomp,” was a poem written by Jeff Martin when he was in high school, and for me the Tea Party experience all began when I was in high school. Unlike anything I wrote in high school, Jeff Martin’s poem “Psychopomp,” is a fine collection of words, exposing lies of great sad terrible expectations. I think everyone begins to challenge the assumed perceptions of things put before them in their teenage years, most of us, especially as adults, write it off as a moment to defy authority without cause, but some of us, the non-ridiculous ones, which I like to believe is most of us, it is the beginning of seeing things our own way. We begin to find ourselves. When I was that age I began to see things for what they really were, I started to see through people and their words, and while I was a rook and a simpleton then compared to what I am now, the seeds of thought were planted in my mind, planted by me and sowed by everything I read, listened too, touched, loved and hated. My thoughts and drive were nurtured by Tea Party at that time. They are a part of me now in as much as art could be part of someone.

The fantastic thing about “Psychopomp” is that the words still hold true, after all this time the song is just as powerful as ever. Time has not made “Pyschopomp” or my own youthful disdains and distractions seem immature, Jeff Martin was right to write what he wrote, and I was right to think what I thought, and to feel what I felt. It is satisfying to say such things, but perhaps I am only romanticising a time when my true heart was forged and my identity shaped itself. It was an important time for me and it was a glorious time to be a Tea Party fan. A fond memory within a past that holds too few.

- Colin Kelly

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mumford and Sons - Little Lion Man

In the last music in review I mentioned how the strange and delightful Florence and the Machine won best new artist at the 2010 Grammys; I am not finished talking about that. I like Florence and the Machine, obviously, I just did a Music in Review on her and stated as much, but I do not feel she was the best new artist in 2010. No, that honour should have gone to Mumford and Sons.

I first heard of Mumford and Sons from my friend Oscar at work. Oscar is a very hard working and very respectful, all round great guy, so befriending him was easy and enjoyable. Like anyone foolish enough to befriend me he was dragged into a long conversation about music, which fortunately for both of us we enjoyed. Oscar as a lover of guitar, when prompted by me to recommend a song or two, he strongly recommended Mumford and Sons, since their guitar work was amazing. Indeed, it is. I was a few months ahead of the crowd discovering Mumford and Sons thanks to Oscar, and I always try to give a shout to my friends and colleagues whenever I can.

Mumford and Sons were formed in 2007 but since their first album debuted in 2009 they qualified as a new artist in 2010. Don’t ask me why the years don’t add up, I don’t know. Named after front man Marcus Mumford, this British rock band has come out strong in their debut album “Sign No More.” Like so many times in the past I am confronted with the problem of picking one song. It would be easy and appropriate if I just said “’Sign No More’ is a great album, go get it.” In fact that’s exactly what I am going to say;

“Sign No More” is a great album, go get it.

Since I am only going to link one song, it might as well be “Little Lion Man,” it may be their best. I love the guitar, I love the sound of acoustic stings; the tab of a pick on the pick guard, and the whimpers a guitar makes from fingers moving up and down the neck from fret to fret, pretty much everything about the guitar is perfect. One of the things I most dislike about modern music is that all these personal touches are lost, they give music character and personality, and it is always wonderful when new bands embrace the true art of music. I love the guitar in “Little Lion Man,” I love the Irish sound, (I’ve always had a soft spot for anything Irish, my name is Colin D’Arcy Kelly after all) even though Mumford and Sons are a British group I feel confident in saying there are Irish roots in them, if not in their blood then at least in their musical influences.

I found it truly charming that a band like Mumford and Sons exists in this day and age, few highly talented musicians attempt this kind of song writing anymore, and any fewer of them get any acclaim. Mumford and Sons being nominated by the Grammys was as much of a surprise to me as anything else, and this somewhat restores my faith in humanity that people have not completely forgone good music, or taste. In truth they should have won, of all the bands nominated Mumford and Sons was defiantly the most worthy of the title “best new artist,” but I do take comfort in knowing the second most worthy won in the end. The important thing is Justin Beiber did not win, how embarrassed would we be, as a species if ten years from now we look back and thought “oh god, we gave that kid an award as the ‘best’ of that year?” The answer is very embarrassed.

Mumford and Sons is an exciting new band, and they are exciting because in many regards they are a traditional Celtic folk band, I love all things Celtic, so this is nothing but good news to me, and I am sure you will agree it is good news and good times for everyone with Mumford and Sons around.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Friday, November 11, 2011

Flash and Substance

There is a mantra I often use to focus when I am writing, “less is more.”

I was reading John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” The book that inspired John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” and the one thing I had to conclude was that it was very badly written. It was a very imaginative story and great idea, but very poorly executed in delivery, not the story itself just the presentation. The entire book was driven by long winded dialogues that explained everything. There was rarely any scene dressing or narration, the book moved forward by conversation, the plot was established by conversation, and things were resolved while people talked to each other thoroughly explaining everything to one another. I do not wish to give a negative impression of “Who Goes There?” it was a very interesting read, and I do not wish to present the idea that John W. Campbell is a bad writer, thought he clearly is, I want to first and foremost declare he had the most important tool, creativity, and though he struggled to share his great ideas with a proper sense of coherency or eloquence, he did share with us a great story nonetheless.

I was able to identify all of Campbell’s mistakes with relative ease because when I look at a lot of my old writings I am guilty of the exact same thing. I never much cared for describing all the little details in the background of every setting or offering up every single character’s life story once introduced, so I often had the characters explain to each other, who they were, where they were, and why there were there. Writing dialogue came easily to me, writing long winded narration did not.

In time I learned that the opposite could be even more damaging to a book, after struggling through Robert Jordan’s first three books in his “Eye of the World,” series, I concluded it was better to allow ham fisted dialogue push a story forward rather than waste hundreds of pages wasting the reader’s time describing the most irrelevant details. Honestly does a writer really expect anyone to remember or care to remember every meal the main characters have ever eaten? For some reason Robert Jordan did.

Writing is easy, good writing is hard.

The same is true for good song writing.

There are some songs that are perfect, like Led Zeppelin - “Stairway to Heaven.” The other day my brother Devin and I were discussion the following lyrics;

“If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now,
It's just a spring clean for the May queen.
Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run,
There's still time to change the road you're on.
And it makes me wonder.”

Devin was surprised that one of his friends did not get the obvious pagan references to the May Queen. He was right to be surprised, even if you lack insight into Celtic culture, you should easily be able to piece together that the May Queen is a spirit or entity that brings forth, you know, spring. I was quick to add that, the hedgerow was a metaphor for the mind. This is less obvious.

“Stairway to Heaven” is a song about rebirth, heaven being the afterlife is just another form of rebirth. How will you enter the next life? What are people willing to do get there in good fortune? Do we try to buy happiness, if not in this life than perhaps in the next? It all ties together, but like anything human there is the human condition to consider. The song is a song of peace, and as Robert Plant once said, “this is a song about hope... I think.” You would think Plant would have deeper insights into his own song, but that is the beauty of Stairway, there is a room for interpretation even for the writer. The second life will come to you, like how spring comes every year, reawakening the beauty of the garden and the harvest, and the same is true for you. If there is a problem in the hedgerow, don’t be alarmed change in coming, is just another way of saying, if you are troubled in mind or spirit, don’t be alarmed change in coming.

Stairway to Heaven is a perfect song it is both descriptive and poetic.

Not every song needs to be lyrically perfect to be good or great. Metallic was never very poetic, but there have many great songs. “One,” a song many would consider to be Metallic’s best, is a very deep song, and not because of fancy word play, but rather the opposite, it is deep by digging deep into our fears with blunt statements.

“Landmine has taken my sight
Taken my speech
Taken my hearing
Taken my arms
Taken my legs
Taken my soul
Left me with life in hell”

Without any subtly, or hidden meaning, Metallica states something horrifying and sets it heavily into our hearts. By simply stating the terror Johnny is going through point blank Metallica accomplishes something much more touching then if they had tried to cover it up with elaborate poetry. Simplistic has served Metallica well, and they should be proud of themselves for having the wisdom to be so damned good at song writing.

All of a sudden this conversation is about flash and substance. Lyrically, “Stairway to Heaven,” has both, flash and substance, “One” has heavy substance with little flash, both are great songs, and there are countless other examples we could point to with vary degrees of flash and substance. The important thing to remember is that you can do without flash, but you cannot forgo substance. There are musicians and songs were the lyrics are all flash and no substance.

“Blinded by the silence of a thousand broken hearts.”

That sounds deep doesn’t it? But what does it mean, “blinded by the silence of a thousand broken hearts?” Let’s dissect this line, “blinded by silence” obviously this is not a literal expression, blinded by a lack of sound, that’s not possible, so there must be something so horrible in the silence that it made you not what to ever look upon whatever caused it; maybe? “Silence of a thousand broken hearts?” so I guess we are suppose to infer the that the silence stricken upon us from massive heart break will make us go blind? Is that really deep? Does that really make sense?

The answer is, no.

Green Day is a terrible band. I hate to waste energy focusing on insects like Green Day, but sometimes it is hatred that offers us the best examples of what to avoid and disdain in life. Green Day is an embarrassment to music; they have adopted the worst possible kind of song writing approach, the illusion of poetry.

If you listen to Green Day’s song “Minority,” in its entirety, you can see no connection from their message of desiring to be a “minority,” different or special, and the lyric about being blinded by silence induced from broken hearts. The line is dramatic, it calls for a greater meaning, but when analyzed it is meaningless, and under no given context relatable or even coherent. Green Day’s attempts at poetry are all flash and no substance. It is obvious to anyone who has bother to spare a thought that Green Day only put that line in the song because they thought it sounded “cool,” and like so many false representatives of intelligent before them they have only succeeded in further showcasing their stupidity.

This is the core point I wanted to making is this essay, that a simple lyric is often superior to a complex lyric, this is why Metallica saying something bluntly is so much more meaningful than Green Day saying something fancy.

I’ve listened to a lot of pop music this year, the indie rock scene this year hasn’t given me much to get excited about, and the progressive metal movement seems to be taking the year off, that has left me searching more frantically then previous years to find 2011’s best music. As a result I have listened to a lot of pop music, and there is so much to say about pop music, the corporate corruption, the popular themes of society, and the obvious sex trade influences (that’s an essay in itself), are all things I could ramble on about, but let us look at two popular pop songs from this year, one of them good and one of them bad.

I do not want to call Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts,” a bad song, because all the potential for a decent song is present, unfortunately Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts,” is a bad song. Decent singer, decent song concept, acceptable bass, nice piano, it could have worked, but there is one great short coming in “Jar of Hearts,” the lyrics. There are an infinite number of songs about women telling off their ex-boyfriends, and I am not complaining, it is a very human thing to want to express. But the lyrics in this song... did they hire an eight year old?

“You’re going to catch a cold, form the ice inside your soul.”

Is that supposed to be deep? That is the sort of poem a child writes when they want to impress their grade three English teacher.

“And who do you think you are?
Running around leaving scars.”

This is not even good English; it barely manages to make coherent sense.

Still the song is not completely hapless; there is at least one very powerful lyric;

“Don’t come back for me,
Don’t come back at all.”

This is a powerful lyric, it says a lot. There is conviction in Christina Perri’s voice when she sings this line, and unlike the rest of the chorus, this line actually sounds like something a human being would say. This line seems conversational, like she is actually telling off her ex-boyfriend at this point. You can literally imagine Ms. Perri saying this to someone and it meaning something emotional to both parties. It is by far the most ordinary and simplistic lyric in the entire song, and I am telling you right now that is not a coincidence.

Now for the good song, Adele – “Someone Like you.”

I like Adele and I am quite pleased to see her becoming popular since I do not believe she fits the mould of corporate machine pop star so we know she has earned her fame and success purely off merit of her talents, and what talent, what a voice. I could talk about Adele for an entire music in review, and in fact that is apt to happen sometime in 2012.

“Someone Like you” is similar to “Jar of Hearts,” insofar that it is a song being sang by a woman addressing her ex-boyfriend, however other than that the songs are complete opposites. Adele actually shares a beautiful message of acceptance and well wishing for her ex, and other differences include the primary point that Adele is a legitimate singer with a great song, where as Christina Perri... I’m not sure what her story is, and honestly, I don’t care.

The entire song “Someone Like you,” is very good, both in piano and vocals, but the best line in the entire song is this;

“Never mind.”

That’s it.

You might think that two words, very casual words at that, and cannot possibly be the best lyric for an entire song, especially one that is really good, as I keep claiming, but it is, now let me tell you why.

Every verse is a declaration of how Adele still loves her ex, and even though she still loves him and wants to be with him she can’t, yet she wishes him the very best with his new lover, and then; “never mind, I’ll find someone like you.” She stops her own self torture, and overzealous kindness with those two words “never mind.”

There are a lot of sad songs, and most of them have a silver lining if you look hard enough, some don’t, but all the best ones do. In Adele’s “Someone Like you,” the chorus is the silver lining, she states with strength that she does not need her ex, all she need do is find someone she can love as much as him. It’s beautiful.

Two words that is all it takes sometimes to make a song stand up and confront you with powerful conviction, if you try to flower up your lyrics you end up sounding like a fool who mutated their powerful emotions into a convoluted mess of poor poetry.

Keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Florence and the Machine - Dog Days Are Over

“Happiness, hit her like a train on a track, 
Coming towards her, stuck still no turning back,
She hid around corners and she hid under beds,
She killed it with kisses and from it she fled,
With every bubble she sank with a drink,
And washed it away down the kitchen sink.”

I never really appreciated the meaning of the song “Dog Days” until I typed up those lyrics. Running away from happiness is a rather poignant thread of thought in today’s society. Things have never been better and yet we just refuse to be happy. I know it a recession people, but let us be honest with ourselves things are better now than they have ever been, and things are always getting better. Anyway I’m getting off topic; Florence and the Machine are great.

Earlier this year I talked about the Grammys, and how it was satisfying that Arcade Fire won album of the year with “The Suburbs.” I always meant to revisit the Grammys for further discussion and I think it’s time to revisit this topic. For those who did not already know and for those did not guess Florence and the Machine won the best new artist.

Last year was a good year for music, I think I’ve said that a few times now, but it bears repeating, 2010 was a great year for music. More often than not, it is usually bands that are already established that catch my attention. Since I know to pay attention to bands I like, I know to look for their new music when it comes out. New bands often take time to warm up to me, and not just me, but everyone; did you know Kings of Leon have five studio albums now? Most of you probably didn’t. I sure didn’t. Catching a good new band is hard, so when I really like more than one new band in one year, it means something has gone right.

What is there to say about Florence and the Machine? They are good, but they are indicative of the times, as in they are the typical style of music that is popular right now, the only thing making them stand out, at least to me, is quality. Florence and the Machine are good modern music, capturing all the right elements of current pop music, add a touch of unique character that supplies plenty of charm and you have Florence and the Machine. As it stands now, Florence and the Machine have a few good songs and a decent pair of albums, but we should all know that a lot of bands start strong, run out of ideas, or run out of things to say, and either fall apart or stagnate. It always people who are interesting that manage to avoid stagnation. John Lennon had a lot to say, and he could have written good music forever. David Bowie is a very fascinating person and has successfully written great music for decades. I have always gotten the impression that Andrew Lloyd Webber was a really weird guy, and you see where I’m going with this.

There is something obviously interesting about Florence, if that is her real name (it is). She has allowed various other artist provide her voice with music, thus the machine part of the band name, at least I presume that’s where the “machine,” part comes from. When you have a strong vocalist, especially one that is as unhinged as Florence Welch, it is a good idea to leave open the possibility of mass experimentation. Allowing her voice to adopt different musical styles in the future may be the key to future success for her, or other words, variety is the key to success.

Still, far be it for me to suggest what creative advice any musician should follow, or try to predict what Florence Welch might do in the near future.

There have been many wailing, flailing, crazy singers in the past, and many of them women, but like any of the good intense crazy, flailing, wailing female vocalist before her, Florence Welch has managed to make herself stand out as different, or should I say strange.

Yes, strange, that is the best way of describing her, strange. I really like “Dog Days Are Over,” good song, powerful vocals, but to really drive the point home about Florence Welch I think a viewing of her 2011 video of “Dog Days Are Over,” is a good idea. The video is little more than Welch dressed in a variety of strange outfits singer her powerhouse vocals while flailing about like a crazy person, all the while various odd people perform in the all white background now and then. It would be a very simple video, if not for Welch’s presence, her mere presence demands a deep interest in the viewer. Seeing her flail and wail about like the strange person she is, is very captivating. Not since Kylie Minogue writhing around half naked on a blanket have I been so entertained by just watching a woman sing in front of the camera, though clearly Kylie captured my attention for different reasons. Florence Welch does not draw a listener in with sex appeal; no it defiantly is not that, she draws us in with her aura of the unusual, because she herself is unusual, one of music’s new prototypes. I do not know what to make of her, maybe she is in fact a crazy or eccentric person, or perhaps she has just the right amount of offbeat creativity to perfectly entertain us. Either way, we have a fantastic singer here and one that is fun to boot.

So that’s how I feel about that. Florence and the Machine are strange, and I like it.

Until later this month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Headstones - Cemetery

There are many songs where something horrible is being said with an upbeat mood. The Misfits made a career out of singing really enthusiastically about raping woman and killing babies. The Mountain Goats sing about terrible things but maintained a rather high sense of humour about the topic by going way over the top with everything. There are many examples of this. 

I never much cared for the Headstones. When I was growing and listening to the radio, I liked “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” but that was a cover, and once I heard the original by the Travelling Wilburys there was no going back. I really liked all the things “When Something Stands for Nothing” stood for (rock and roll, comic books, and bubble gum) but in honesty, it is not a great song, five or six out of ten, a C-grade song, good but not great. Still I held the Headstones in high regard, people always told me the rest of their stuff was great, but I never found the time or interest to explore the Headstones beyond “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” and “When Something Stand for Nothing.”

Years later, one day at work, one of my coworkers was playing an album, and I did not know what it was, and I was not enjoying it, at all. Eventually the song “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” came up and I knew who I was listening too. I was so disappointed. I had heard great things about the Headstones and frankly I was not impressed.

Later I expressed my disappointment with my best friend Craig Kemery, and he casually reaffirmed that “’Cemetery’ is cool.”

So I listened to Headstones – “Cemetery.” Well when you are right, you are right, and as things typically go, Craig was right. Cemetery is a good song. Maybe when I heard the Headstones’ album “Picture of Health” it was the wrong place and wrong time. Maybe I was in a bad mood because I was working myself ragged and was in no mood to listen to anything. Maybe I was just untrusting of my coworkers as many of them were idiots. Maybe a lot of different things could sway my thoughts to less than complimentary dispositions. I’m only human, after all.

“Cemetery” I feel is a good song for Halloween, it about one of the scariest themes of all, necrophilia. As I mentioned earlier bands like the Misfits sang many songs about terrible things but performed them with an upbeat rhythm and expression, which made the violence and darkness in the things they said seem comical. The Headstones accomplish something very similar in “Cemetery,” singing rather positively about his affinity for his girlfriend who is in fact dead.

“Went down to the cemetery, looking for love,
Got there and my baby was buried, I had to dig her up.”

It’s fun. Somehow Headstones made necrophilia fun. That is no small feat.

“Cemetery” is really about being in love with a zombie girl, which when taken literally is totally nuts, but when done with a sense of self aware silliness does make for a funny scenario and fun song.

This makes me think of the now long standing fad of people wanting to have sex with vampires. When you think about it, literally falling in love with a vampire is totally idiotic, because vampires are blood thirsty monsters who will kill you and have no qualms about it. Yet here we are, vampire love movies are more popular than ever, even though it completely misses the point of what a vampire is and when you think about it, it really misses the point of about what love is.

Are zombies next?

With the popularity of shows like “The Walking Dead,” and the surging popularity of zombie movies, it may only be a matter of time before the same idiots who think having sex with vampires is literally cool, might take to falling in love with zombies too, if so, that means Headstones were way ahead of their time writing a fun quirky song about undead love.

So in summary; vampires and zombies are cool, having sex with them is not, but dark humour about having sex with them is okay. “Cemetery” is a really good song, about being in love with zombie girl but it knows it’s silly and is therefore okay. I hope that clears things up.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Monday, October 3, 2011

Dead Man's Bones - Lose Your Soul

Ryan Gosling’s new movie “Drive,” is really good. I watched “Drive” the other day, and it was very well directed movie, great pacing, and great mood. I do not know how good a movie critic I would make, then again I am not sure how good of a music critic I am, but regardless I did not bring up “Drive,” because I intended to talk about the movie’s very positive reviews. No, I thought it would be a good segue to introduce Ryan Gosling’s band – Dead Man’s Bones.

A while ago my friend James Craig Carswell recommended the band to me. I went to one of his band’s shows, and despite being exhausted and unable to show my enthusiasm as much as I would have liked, I did enjoy myself. I remember how careful Carswell seemed to me when recommending music, like he was not sure how I would respond, yet he seemed confident that Dead Man’s Bones would be right up my alley.

It was a good recommendation Craig, thank you.

It is both interesting and irrelevant when a musician has a history in another profession, notably acting. Interesting because it gives context to the band’s existence and back story, also it gives credit to the person in question as it indicates they have multiple talents, also irrelevant, because it is.

Dead Man’s Bones consists of Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields. Before we went any further it only seems fair to mention Zach. I don’t know who he is, but I am sure he deserves just as much credit for Dead Man’s Bones as Ryan does.

So far Dead Man’s Bones has only had one album and two music videos from that album. The official music videos for “Pa-pa-Power” and “Dead Hearts” are long, very long. They are artistically made, perhaps overly so, and both are delightfully strange and creepy, but I enjoy simpler things, like a man drawing ghosts, still kudos to them for doing something different. I also really enjoy the songs “Pa-pa-Power,” and “Dead Hearts,” but my favourite song by Dead Man’s Bones has to be “Lose Your Soul.” Following what I just said, I really like the fan made video of “Lose Your Soul,” which is just a man drawing ghosts with pastels.

Maybe it is the video, or maybe it is just me, but “Lose Your Soul,” has a very haunting element to it, very “ghostly.” The echo in Ryan’s voice, the slide on the guitar notes, the children singing background, the theme about losing your soul, it all adds up to be a song fit for a horror movie, and I like that. I would not have expected this kind of music from Gosling, then again I would not have expected much of anything from him musically. This is a very appropriate song as well as video for Halloween, which may well be four weeks away, but still, I do try to be topical.

Dead Man’s Bones should be releasing their second album this year, and that should be something interesting to look into. You know I will be of course.

Until later this month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cloud Cult - Everybody here is a Cloud

“You’ve been spending your time,
Thinking about why you think so much.
If there were ever a time,
Now would be the time
To see your time here is limited.”

I like the Cloud Cult, they are a strange bunch. They have hypnotic songs that focus on very simple patterns of sound, and usually unusual sounds at that. They are somewhat similar to bands like The Polyphonic Spree or... well I cannot think of a second band they are similar too, which kind of emphasis their uniqueness.

I discovered the Cloud Cult while doing my job as a music critic, scouring the internet for songs I had not heard before. They were one of my pleasant surprises, and despite being extraordinarily weird, I have grown very fond of them.

Oh Internet what would we do without you. Well the music in review wouldn’t exist for starters.

The first song I ever heard by the Cloud Cult was “Everybody here is a Cloud,” which I can only assume is their flagship song. Even though I have grown very fond of other tracks of theirs, I think “Everybody Here is a Cloud,” is a good song to focus on, being a flagship song it helps sum up the band in one track.

“Everybody here is a Cloud” is a quirky song by a quirky band, but there is a certain level of depth to the track that I enjoy, especially the line quoted at the beginning of the review. If you fail to understand why a lyric about thinking too much, appeals to me than you have not known me very long and clearly have not read many of these reviews. Beyond that the song does convey something of a cult like message; slivers of philosophical thoughts are mixed in with a sense of union, and of course the cult if all about clouds. It works, it is weird, but it is good.

I am left with a limited amount of things to say about Cloud Cult. They are a strange entity and perhaps listing to “Everybody here is a Cloud,” will go far further to explain them than anything I can say. I wanted to share this band with all of you, because I have idea what to expect from them in the future and I feel it is important to get word out now in the event that things get either too weird or fall apart for The Cloud Cult. Furthermore I like sharing music with people that is off track from our usual expectations and despite the variety of peoples’ tastes that read The Music in Review, none of you might expect The Cloud Cult. That is what makes them so fun.

About half way through this review I realized I have created a “cloud” theme for this month’s pair of music in reviews. While this was not intentional it is pretty cool.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Maybeshewill - He Films the Clouds Part 2

“Now we’re apart,
Though not through choice,
Will we stay mute?
Or raise our voice?”

I’ve been paying particular close attention to the division of labour in music lately; case in point, Maybeshewill. Maybeshewill is a British group that Wikipedia describes as “programmed and sampled electronic elements alongside guitars, bass and drums,” which makes sense... but only to me after a runabout.

When I first heard Maybeshewill they sounded to me as a very electronic oriented rock band, but the more I listened to them, the more I loved the use of piano in some of their songs, most notably in, “He Films the Clouds Part 2.” Then I started thinking, “wow they are not electronic at all, they created all those crazy sounds using a piano and keyboard.” I was really impressed, but upon further study I learned that, the all the piano parts are pre-programmed, which is less impressive. Further disappointment was abounded when I watched a live performance of “He Films the Clouds Part 2,” and realized the woman’s vocals in the song are also pre-programmed, this was not as offensive as learning Louis XIV – “Finding out True Love is Blind,” female vocals are actually just the keyboarder’s singing with extreme distortion, not as disappointing but still lame.

No one in Maybeshewill must be very confident in their singing voices because the majority of their songs do not include vocals at all; they include sound clips from movies. I am not sure how they tiptoe around copyright infringement, but I do enjoy it. Seems like an innovative solution to lacking vocal content to me.

“He Films the Clouds Part 2,” is Maybeshewill’s best song, and I have thus chosen it as this month’s first music in review. I am certain if the band chose too they could bring in a pianist to mimic those sounds perfectly. I am not so fascists that, just because Maybeshewill’s music is made up of manufactured sounds more so than live performances, that I would discarded my positive opinion of them entirely. There is a place in this world for electronic manufactured music; it is just a different genre, one of many, and if treated with the same level of creative care like all music should be, the result will always be great music.

Something I always enjoyed is simple sounds coming together to make something much more. I mentioned it back in November 2010 with Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major, one sound begins, and another joins, than another, and so on. April’s music in review of Interpol – “Not Even Jail,” is another great example of songs like this, and Maybeshewill – “He Films the Clouds Part 2,” yet another. The difficulty in making music like this work is timing, hence the existence of a conductor in orchestras, and hence the use of pre-programming in many modern bands. Several bands now of days loop a basic drum beat and sometimes bass line when recording studio versions of their songs. They do this when no drummer or bass player is in main line up or song writing team. This also further emphasizes the importance of a rhythm section to any band that desires to play live.

I can appreciate that timing is a challenge for a song like “He Films the Clouds Part 2,” there is a high level of sophistication in what is needed, perhaps more so than three man can handle, which is why I believe it is such a good example of appropriate use of pre-programming in music. The greatest skill of all in music is song writing. Whatever a more technically talented bunch of musicians might say about someone like Maybeshewill using electronic assistance, it cannot be denied they have succeed in the most important criteria of all; they have created wonderful and unique music, and I think you will agree. I look forward to hearing what Maybeshewill does in the future.

Until later his month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't Let Other People Ruin It For You

There are many random music downloads and purchases I have committed myself to over the years. Many years ago I used to do it when I wanted to hear something new so I would search something vague like “classic rock,” and search until I found something I did not recognize. Now of days I am more systematic about my approach. Now of days I publish an amateur music critic blog. Now of days it is a job.

In an effort to be open minded, and current, I often browse other music critics’ sites and see what they have posted as the best songs of the year. It is always an interesting experience. Some sites post the top 40, as they appeared over the course of the year, so an abundance of pop songs are present there. Some sites are very hip-hop and dance oriented, and despite my best efforts I still struggle to appreciate hip-hop. Many sites are published by people like me who are trying to find hidden gems and share them with the world and most critics like that love the underground. Any song you have not heard of is awesome, this is their mantra.

This is good and bad.

It is good because it exposes me to a lot of music I would not have heard otherwise, and while it sometimes surprises me just how much mediocre (and ultimately boring) indie rock music is out there, I always find a few songs I really enjoy, and this opens the doors for finding more music in the future. This is now I discovered bands like Frightened Rabbit and Cloud Cult. Just the other day I heard the song “Shell Games,” and I was rather impressed, so when I looked up the artist and found it was Bright Eyes, I stopped for a second, and thought “wait isn’t he THE emo pussy,” not A emo pussy, THE emo pussy. Well... he won me over for this song.

It is also bad, not so much for me, but for the person publishing these kinds of articles. Perhaps it is not my place to judge, but it is very much in my nature to psychoanalyze everyone and everything, and when I see someone’s list of songs they love and it is all indie rock songs, I think to myself “this guy would also love bands like; Bloq Party, Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon, and Mumford and Son.” Alas you will rarely or never see bands like those on their lists and for one reason only those bands are all commercially successful.

There is a saying I have when talking about music, “don’t let other people ruin it for you.”

I love the Arcade Fire, I would probably go to war for them if it came to that, but when I start to ramble about them to some of my friends, they like to point out that, “they have a lot of fans who are hipster douche bags.” My friends are of course correct; Arcade Fire does have a lot of pretentious fans, but their reasons, good or bad, for liking Arcade Fire does not change the reasons I love them. Artsy pretentious douche bags are not going to ruin Arcade Fire for me.

I see this long standing trend for what it really is.

The conformist to the top 40 will always use the argument to defend the music they listen too by saying, “look at all the money they are making,” which is another way of saying, “they must be good, they are popular.” Flawed logic if there ever was any, the power of persuasion in the music industry has been refined to capture the maximum number of minds possible, or to quote my beloved Uriah Heep, “There is no strength in numbers, have no such misconceptions.”

However the anti-conformist-conformist of the top 40, whether they be punks, indie, or metal fans, often use the opposite argument “these guys are doing their own thing, they’re special.” This of course is just another way of saying, “no one knows about these guys so they are special to me.” This is a fair sentiment. I feel like I am partially responsible for the success of Avantasia in Canada (limited though it is) since I was the first person to parade for them in Calgary, and I am fairly certain I am the very first person to make such a big deal about them in this city, and because of this, it feels like Avanatasia is my band. But just because a band is unknown that does not mean they are good, sometimes bands remain in perpetual obscurity because they are not very good or interesting; in fact that is exactly the case most of the time. Having said that, there are lots of songs out there worth searching for, that’s what the anti-conformist-conformist are looking for. That’s why I started the music in review.

You may hate the top 40, but if a song stands out to you, and it crawls its way onto the charts are you going to disown it because of your hatred of the corrupt music industry?

You may hate hipsters and their ilk, but if you happen to agree with them on a certain band are you going to disown them just so you can continue to distance yourself from that social demographic?

If you disown music for any reason influenced by others you are being shallow and worse than that you are being dishonest to your own feelings. When a musician writes a song they hope to reach other people, make a connection with them, be it in the form of shared feelings or experiences, or simply to share the beauty or sorrow of sweet sweeping sounds that we call music. Are you willing to deny your heart the embrace of such a thing for something as useless as petty prejudice?

I don’t scour the top 40 as much as I used to, and that is only because I do not watch as much TV as I used to, and honestly I would watch MuchMusic a lot more if they played the countdown more often. Even when I hated nearly every song on the top 40 I would enjoy watching it, for no other reason than curiosity. I was curious what other people heard in these songs to make them love it so. I know often times it is the corporate machine playing tricks on people, but other times these songs must have struck emotions I have either for longed or forgotten, and this last point, this is where the real curiosity comes from, what are you feeling that I am missing? What emotions, what connections, do people form with these songs? Perhaps there is beauty here my ears are missing.

The same holds true for my browsing of other music critics, I want to hear what they say, and understand what they feel. But the primary motivation of some music critics is sometimes obscured, these critics want to be the first to discover a band, and be able to parade their findings to the world, and sometimes I know they are looking too hard. They accept things not because they are good but only because they not popular. It is a tricky tightrope to walk being an anti-conformist-conformist, hypocrisy waits around every corner. You hate the conformed but you yourself have conformed to the opposite, and now tragically you are no better. These are the people who assume everyone is going to agree with them for every song, because they see themselves are purveyors of true music, not remembering that there will always been a level of subjective feelings in anything we call art.

So what is the solution? The ripe old cliché “be yourself.”

Don’t care what the top 40 says, or what the hipsters say, find music you like and don’t let anyone ruin it for you. This is the biggest reason I won’t review music I do not like, I do not want to rain on anyone else’s parade, I only want to share with you the reasons I love, not the reasons I hate. If I tell you why I hate something you love, you may begin to hate the things I love in an involuntary human emotional reaction, and then we lose common ground, and we may begin to lose each other.

No one loves the Music in Review in its entirety, of course you don’t; you are not me. You do not feel everything I feel. You will never hear, or see, or feel, all the things I do, and I only hope you are open minded enough to at least see my perspective, and sometimes let yourself enjoy a song I recommend, and take the chance to hear, and feel the same things I do.

I hope for nothing more than that.

Keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Monday, August 22, 2011

David Bowie - Candidate (Demo Version)

After touring as Ziggy Stardust for a few years David Bowie took a good look in the mirror, red face with a yellow circle in the center of his forward and all, and thought “is this it? Am I going to be Ziggy Stardust for the rest of my life?”

Ziggy Stardust was a fun character to play, I am sure, but someone with Bowie’s creativity must have dreaded the idea of being confined to a single persona forever. Frankly as interesting as the character Ziggy Stardust is, the man David Bowie is far more interesting. So he broke up the band, much to the sadness of many fans at the time, but if they knew what a long and legendary career Bowie had in store they would have approved without question or concern. In the story arc of Ziggy Stardust, Ziggy broke up the band, so it only seemed fitting for Bowie to do the same.

Where do you go from Ziggy Stardust? Bowie had sang songs about dreams, aliens, rock stardom, bisexuality, cross dressing, death, the end of the earth, people forgetting how to make love, and immortality, Bowie had covered a lot of ground, so his follow up album “Diamond Dogs,” could not possible be as wild as his previous works right? I mean he must run out of outrageous ideas right? Wrong, so wrong.

David Bowie’s 1974 Album “Diamond Dogs,” has a very interesting back story, but first the basic story.

The basic story told to us in Diamond Dogs, is a crazy post-apocalyptic world (reoccurring theme) where dogs rule the world, and humans are being hunted for sport. Fortunately we got Halloween Jack to lead us to freedom and Rock N’ Roll. Now as insane as it sounds the story in Diamond Dogs is... arguably less wild than the story told to us in the Ziggy Stardust saga, however the creative process behind Diamond Dogs has to be one of the craziest I’ve ever heard.

Originally Bowie had the idea of doing a musical about George Orwell’s “1984.” For those of you who do not know Orwell passed away in 1950, but he was survived by his second wife Sonia Brownell. Sonia inherited the rights to all of Orwell’s works, and in 1954 she allowed the BBC to produce a movie of “1984,” and to put it simply it was ghastly. Sonia was very unhappy with the way the BBC had handled her late husband’s work, so when the bisexual, cross dressing, alien rock star told her he wanted to do a zany musical based on the same story her reaction was predictable, she brought her lawyers and a mindset ready for war to stop him.

Bowie had already written a collection of songs for the album that clearly revolved around the book “1984,” songs like, “1984,” “Dodo,” and “Candidate,” when Sonia emerged to stop him dead in his tracks, no pun intended. What was Bowie to do with all this hard work for the “1984”musical? Dogs ruling the world, of course!

Bowie himself has been quoted about how he had to take his ideas and take them into a radically different direction, but how it was also a very rewarding challenge, he looks back on the album with a lot of happiness in the way things worked out, as do I, I really love the album “Diamond Dogs,” it is one of my favourites of his.

Like previous Bowie albums the whole work is full of fantastic songs, but for this Music in Review, I want to focus on the demo version of “Candidate.” The studio version of “Candidate” is really part of a three song piece, where each song flows into the next as if they are meant to be one song, so the studio version of “Candidate” is really “Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing reprised,” so the demo version standing alone as a song is the first indication to all of you just how different it is.

To put it bluntly they are nothing alike, and it all stems back to Sonia Brownell not letting Bowie make a musical about 1984. The original song “Candidate,” is big brother/David Bowie selling himself as a great leader. It is a light song instrumentally, the piano takes the melody lead, while the subdued electric guitar fills the roll of harmony; the song has a soft touch but a memorable one. The lyrics really strike me because Bowie says a lot about himself; even though I very much get the impression he is trying to sing a song about big brother the future tyrant as a candidate trying to convince people to give him the power he possesses in 1984. However every lyric is more like David Bowie singer about himself as a political “Candidate.”

“I make it a thing, when I gazelle on stage, to believe in myself.” Appropriate for a flamboyant rock star to say.

“I’ll make you a deal, I’ll say I came from earth and my tongue is taped.” Ziggy Stardust, enough said.

“You don’t have to paint my contact black, now I’ve hustled in a pair of jeans.” David Bowie has bicoloured eyes; one of them is blue the other black. His black eye is a result of Bowie being stabbed in the eye with a compass by another child at school when he was very young, not everybody knows that. This last lyric to me really says something about Bowie. Despite the ridiculous personas he often played, or some of the outlandish themes for his music, behind all of it there was a very sincere man. Bowie did not so much play Ziggy Stardust, or Aladdin Sane, or Halloween Jack, he was all those people. Bowie was a very genuine person, he was an entertainer through and through, all those things he pretended to be, in some ways he really was those things, and his eyes, no trick there, those are his real eyes.

“Candidate (Demo Version)” never made it to album, and I can only suspect as to why a song so good would have been reduced to a bonus track. It may have something to do with the fact the song was written about Bowie assuming the role of big brother and after Ms. Brownell’s wrath Bowie could not included it, yet songs more obvious like “1984” made the final cut. I suspect Bowie felt it no longer fit the crazy new theme of dogs ruling the world, which is unfortunate, but I suppose makes sense.

The important thing is this gem of a song has not been lost to us.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

David Bowie - Time

“The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars,” was the album that turned David Bowie into a hugely popular international rock star. In 1972 the world was ready for a concept album about a bisexual alien who came down to earth to rock out and die. Ziggy Stardust will always be remembered among most music critics as Bowie’s best album, but his second best, at least in my opinion, was one that came right after.

Aladdin Sane came out in 1973 after Bowie had toured the world as Ziggy Stardust. The United States in particular had made quite an impression on Mr. Bowie since every song on the follow up album seemed to focus on cities he had visited during his U.S. tour, the most obvious one being “Panic in Detroit.” Aladdin Sane was very similar to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust insofar that Bowie continued to play his character of Ziggy Stardust in concerts. Furthermore the characters of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane were for the most part interchangeable personas, with the only outstanding key difference being that Ziggy Stardust was a rock star and it is suggested that Aladdin Sane is an actor. Either way both bisexual aliens are artistic performers and carrying on and develop much in the same manner. The important difference between the two albums is the changes in Mr. Bowie himself.

Ziggy Stardust was a raw album, full of emotion and very powerful as a result; that emotion was somewhat calmed in Aladdin Sane, however despite losing some sense of drama, Bowie had refined his song writer ability, the tracks on Aladdin Sane are more methodical, with their final cuts being crisper sounding than that of Ziggy Stardust’s songs. However this first difference is something of a subtle one since the two albums simply belong together, a concept album could easily be made by combining different collections of tracks from the two albums, and furthermore a very similar, if not identical concept would prevail every time given the very similar subject matter.

The true difference between the two albums is not seen by making a comparison of quality between the two albums it is seen within Bowie’s own reflection. David Bowie saw the world differently after the success of Ziggy Stardust in 1972. In 1972 when Bowie was writing songs for Ziggy Stardust he was mediocre popular British musician who had just become successful enough to stop being compared to one hit wonder Zager and Evans. He was on the outside looking in; the character he had created in Ziggy reflected that. Bowie felt like an alien trying to fit into the music industry, trying to fit into the world’s culture, dreaming about being a huge rock star. By 1973, while writing Aladdin Sane David Bowie had become that huge rock star, he was no longer on the outside, Ziggy Stardust was a household name, Mr. Bowie was now a rock star who knew what the world had to offer him. For better or worse there is a certain increase in level of maturity in Aladdin Sane.

The basic story about Aladdin Sane is that some very successful actor survives the apocalypse and as he wanders the sad remains of the world he first ponders selfishly “who will love Aladdin Sane?” And we follow his quest of trying to find some meaning left in the ruined world, only to watch what there is left slowly decay and die, yet he, this strange creature lingers on into immortality, and something too about becoming gender neutral but that never struck me as epic, or as important, or as interesting, as the quest towards immortality. The song that stands out to me the most on Aladdin Sane is “Time;” a song wrapped with subtle double and sometimes triple meanings.

The key lyric in “Time,” is “we should be on by now,” imply, we should be dead by now. However another reoccurring line is “take your time,” that simple line holds so many different meanings. “Take your time,” implying it’s your time to die, but also, don’t rush, take your time embracing death, but also “take your time,” was an expression at the time when passing the needle of heroin when it was someone else turn you would tell them to “take their time,” so the line is also a drug reference, and an appropriate one too since another line in the song goes “Time – Quaaludes and red wine, Demanding Billy Dolls, and other friends of mine.” Billy Dolls was a drummer and friend of David Bowie’s who overdosed on heroin, tying this theme of death back to a personal example for Mr. Bowie. I cannot think of many songs that carrying so much depth and hidden meaning within their lyrics than “Time.” In fact “Time” is the song I use as a status quo for deep lyrical content when talking to people, I bring it up all the time, and now, as is appropriate I have talked about it in The Music in Review.

Until later this month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mason Williams - Classical Gas

So I bought a guitar. It is about time right?

It was something I have always been meaning to do but never got around to it. All this time I have been responsible, what with school and work. The guitar was something that needed to happen, it was like a piece of my soul that was just out of reach this whole time, I was admiring music from a far but never being a part of it, never touching it with my hands, only my ears, and now… now everything is different.

Like anything and everything artistic in this world I hold contempt for those who think someone else can teach them to be creative, like for example, oh I don’t know, writing? Don’t get me wrong when it comes to basic use and technique anything artistic can be taught to you by another, but the creative side, that has to come from you, it is like expecting someone else to teach you how to have a identity of your own, it will never work.

So how does Colin Kelly approaching teaching himself the guitar, the same way Colin Kelly approaches every challenge in life, boldly; and by boldly I mean doing things the hard way. What song should I try to learn first? Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water? Forget that, that’s what everyone else does. I’m trying to learn Mason Williams – Classical Gas.

As you can imagine at after just over a month of practicing I am unable to do a great rendition of the classic guitar piece, but the fact I can play the song through its entirety must be a pretty good start.

I tried to show my brother Niall what I could play of Classic Gas, as well as I could anyway, and he could not identify it. This probably had something to do with my limited ability to play the instrument, but he was under the impression I was playing something, somewhat obscure, even after it was revealed to him that is was Classical Gas. Who doesn’t know the opening rift of Classical Gas? I suspect Niall was trying to suggest that my guitar playing was not a factor in him being unable to identify the song, but still I’m surprised someone as close to me as my brother would not have been able to identify Classical Gas in an instant, I guess I forget not everyone listens to the same song list on random as I do; and that’s why there’s the Music in Review.

If you ask someone who the greatest guitarist are in history the list usually contains, Jimmi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton, but it should probably contain great classical guitarist too like Mason Williams and... see even I cannot name another one. A good comparison would be to ask someone who the greatest song writers ever are, and the list usually contains the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul McCarthy, and Neil Young, they never think to mention Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig Van Beethoven, or Johan Sebastian Bach. Get what I’m saying? It would pain my heart to think great classical guitarist become forgotten from our casual musical minds.

Classic Gas is one of my favourite guitar songs, and if you somehow dodged this song your entire life and this is your first time hearing it, you’re welcome.

Unit next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rebel Meets Rebel - Cowboys Do More Dope

The Calgary Stampede is upon my doorstep so I might as well talk about some cowboy music. As a rock and roll guy my interest stems from that genre more so than any other, so the best gateway to go from rock to country is bands like The Drive by Truckers, who are basically a country/rock group. I have a lot of metal fans who read my music in review and frankly I have the perfect metal/country group to suggest to them, Rebel Meets Rebel.

Back in the golden age of working at Ceili’s Irish Pub my good friend Gary turned me onto some really good music, namely Black Label Society, but also Rebel Meets Rebel, so as thanks goes, thank you Gary Henderson, you always rocked.

Rebel Meets Rebels defined themselves as a crossover project of American heavy metal / outlaw country, and is a team up of metal guitarist Dimebag Darrell and outlaw country singer David Allan Coe, both rebels in their own right. Fans of Pantera will immediately enjoy the presence of Dimebag Darrell.

Seems to be that Darrell was always a big fan of David Allan Coe, and outlaw country music, which does explain the whole “cowboys from hell,” theme Pantera had going for them their entire career. Admittedly I was never a fan of Pantera, and I never knew who David Allan Coe was before I was introduced to Rebel Meets Rebel so it was quite the experience hearing them for the first time. It was made all the more interesting for me since it was the first time I truly appreciated Dimebag Darrell’s talent, might have been one of those metal mess moments I talked about last month’s Flaw review, I don’t know.

Furthermore it is always interesting to see styles clash. When it works it is a wonderful thing, a combination of two sounds typically thought to be very different coming together and proving that good music really knows no boundaries. Rebel Meets Rebel is good but also fun, it’s fun to hear a country legend sing about his gambling debts with a metal touch to it, and speaking of fun this month’s song is “Cowboys do more dope (than Rock and Rollers).” I grew up in a small town where I was one of the “Rock and Rollers,” but unlike other “Rock and Rollers,” I actually got along with many of the “Cowboys,” and I got to tell you, it’s was a tight race.

When I think of the Calgary Stampede I think not so much about the western culture of my fine city but more about the big party that consumes the downtown, you know, where I live. So a song about Cowboy’s partying like rock stars, seems very, very appropriate to me. As an added bonus the song is awesome.

Have fun at the Stampede folks, or don’t.

Until later this month keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ZI Kill - Calling

News flash, Japan rocks!

There is a certain level of fascism in the music industry in regards to language. When the Scorpions started getting their band together they wisely choose to sing in English knowing it would help sell records globally, and it appears the majority of European bands have followed that business plan since; Avantasia (Germany), HIM (Finland), Nightwish (Finland), and Power Symphony (Italy) are all past Music in Review examples. There are few exceptions, like Rammstein who mostly sing in German but even then they became popular in North America with English versions of songs like “Du Hast.” The point is, if you want to get attention in the global music market odds are you had better be singing in English.

I understand why the English language dominates the airwaves, especially here in North America, people like to sing along. The one thing you will notice with most (if not all) pop hits they are all easy to sing along too. What’s the most important money marking market in the world? America. What’s the most common language in the world? English, especially as a lingua franca. So it makes sense, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily fair to non-English speaking musicians, or fans that couldn’t care less about what language the song is in.

As you should have surmised by this point in this month’s music in review the song we are talking about is not in English, it’s in Japanese.

A long, long time ago, my big brother Sean and I were watching “Fatal Fury 2” the anime based on the fighting game, and at the very end when my hero and yours Terry Bogard throws off his hat and yells “okay!” as he is want to do, the end of the anime is signaled and the ending credits roll. In silence Sean and I sat through the entire ending credits, something which we never do, I mean who bothers to watch the ending credits? But we both sat there amused by the song being played. After the credits finished Sean and I turned to each other and just before I could say it to him he said it to me “that song really rocked out.”


We watched the ending credits a few more times to soak in the song, and yeah it was a full on, kick ass, rock song. We surmised by the English chorus that the song was called “Keep on Calling,” and later learned that it was actually just called “Calling.”

Interestingly “Calling,” was the first mp3 I ever downloaded. This was like 1995 or something so downloading music was new and very new to me. I remember downloading the mp3 and not having anything to play it on, my computer had no idea what an mp3 was. It was almost embarrassing at school when I asked my friend Steven La’Roche “what’s an mp3?” Steven always being the cynical sort told me rather insultingly what I needed to know to play the song, and thus my life of listening to music on the computer was born.

Later on I learned the song was by a band called ZI Kill, and after listening to other songs by them they are a pretty good rock band, but there is no question in my mind that “Calling,” is by far their best. Maybe it helps that I always think of Terry Bogard when I hear the song now. It was also interesting to me to learn that ZI Kill actually had a small following in the U.K., in fact their single “Calling” was recorded there.

I think it’s important to keep an open mind in regards to music, because you never know where a good song will strike your ears, like the ending of an anime, in fact this is not the first time you have heard me reference a song from an anime; Seatbelts – Blue was reviewed way back in November 2007, and I can assure you, it won’t be the last. I still haven’t talked about the interesting sub-genre of rock and roll in Japan known as “Super Robot Rock and Roll,” I don’t know if they actually call it that or not… but yeesh they have a lot of rock songs about giant robots in Japan. If this last sentence wasn’t enough to convince you Japan rocks, nothing will.

ZI Kill give them a chance, they are a good rock band.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flaw - Only the Strong Survive (Acoustic Version)

“It’s mine,
It’s pure,
And as decent as I can,
Make myself inside.
We all know,
Only the strong survive.”

At one point in time I was on a musical mission, I mean other than the one I’m currently still on known as the “Music in Review,” I was making an issue with one solid idea, that faster wasn’t always better.

For several years the friends I was staying in touch with musically were really into hardcore metal. I understood their love for such music, it was inherently rebellious, and in concept and in style it was bold and daring, but that didn’t mean it was good. I remember watching videos of various guitarists and being really upset with what I saw, they were playing amazingly fast and clearly had talented hands but the songs they were playing were a blur of uncomplimentary sounds. My more musically talented friends, and I have several since I have no talent, would be in awe with what such guitarist could physically do since they knew to appreciate the difficulty of it, but I was at an odd advantage, being an untalented ignoramus I saw the final product for what it really was, shit.

A lot of metal music, suffered from this for years. There was never a thought put forth to create a melody or rhythm and no matter how fast you can thrash a guitar if what you’re playing is an incomprehensible mess you are going to sound terrible.

I found the perfect song to illustrate this point, though the point may have been better made three or four years ago, I’d still like to make it. Flaw is a metal band that I do not know much about, but I do know one thing the music they make is, for the most part, an incomprehensible mess. Just another example among many who thought that they could create enough flash in their playing style to offset their lack of song writing ability, but Flaw did something that halfway proved me wrong. Flaw proved they could write a good song if they stopped being stupid.

Flaw – Only the Strong Survive, is not a very good song, in fact I would go so far to say it is a bad song. Nothing offensively terrible but definitely bad, that is until you hear the acoustic version. The acoustic version only has piano and acoustic guitar, no bass player demanding the lead guitarist’s attention, no drummer so stupid they forget they have a responsibility in the band, no metal mess, just a simple solid and very heart felt good song. They stopped trying to impress everyone with how dumb they can carry on and focused on the song itself and low and behold it made a world of difference.

Now this mission I was on was never a mission against metal music, I like a lot of metal music, it was a mission to save metal music, and while I doubt my influence made a great big deal of difference it seems with the central European movement towards symphonic metal change has come. But still any band that is all flash and no substance I can point to one song and say, “that’s what you’re doing wrong.” That song is Flaw – Only the Strong Survive.

Now to focus on the song itself for the last few paragraphs; it is a strong chilling song about death, and “we all know; only the strong survive.” Death has always has been a topic of great interest to me, and why not, it is the end of all things, the final chapter, the loss of someone forever, how is that not important and therefore interesting. It has become something that I now take for granted, but we all know, that only the strong survive, it is a major theme in everything I write, the strong surviving and the weak perishing, I believe it’s true and so does Charles Darwin. Even in our day and age of peace there will always be physical and emotional troubles that plague us, and the only way to survive them is to be strong. This is not a declaration of motivation, it is more of a mandate, it is a statement of fact, you must be strong, there is no recourse there are no other options. You must be strong.

Flaw managed to do a very good job of capturing this in “Only the Strong Survive,” it helps in the acoustic version you can actually make out what the singer is saying, instead of trying to sound metal cool, he pours his heart into the lyrics giving it a much more emotional and gripping tone. Being able to make out the words helps in a big way since the chorus is very solid and poetic, even though the verses are a little weak. It is a song that pulls you in, and by the end when the singing is over and the piano plays till the finish, every last note played seems to echo like the song is never going to let go of you.

Arguably Flaw got lucky with this song, but I’m pretty sure they just finally started using their talents intelligently.

“You will survive, I will survive, we will survive...”

Until later this month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Led Zeppelin - In The Light

This music in review was a long time coming. It’s my favourite song, of all time, ever since I was thirteen, and that’s a long time now. Led Zeppelin was my first love but they had at least one song I thought rivalled Stairway, and that song was “In the Light.”

Like a lot of songs that really got me through hard times there are both positive and negative emotions associated with them, and way back in September 2008 I reviewed Rush – “Working Man,” and I was unhappy with what I had done, I went off on some angry tangent and didn’t focus on what was really important, the music. It is probably my only regret thus far in the music in review. So I’m not going to make the mistake again.

Led Zeppelin – “In the Light,” is the first track on the second disc of the two disc album “Physical Graffiti,” an album that shares the honour of my favourite album of all time, tied with Pink Floyd – “The Wall.” Whenever asked the deserted island question those are the only two albums I ever say with confidence.

For the longest time I knew the opening sentence I would use to introduce “In the Light,” it went something like this; “there is something about “In the Light,” that I can’t explain, it means something more to me then words,” but that is bullshit. When someone says things like “it can’t be explained,” usually means the person explaining it is too stupid to explain things, or in my case it means I don’t think you’re smart understand what I’m saying, well I don’t think either is true, so here we go.

Robert Plant stated the three songs he felt were his best performances ever were “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” “All My Love,” and “In the Light.” Once Page and Jones had the instrumental written up for “In the Light,” Plant heard the song and within moments had the lyrics done, it just came out of him like these words were something he had been dying to sing his entire career.

“In the Light,” came to me at the perfect time, it was Zeppelin who I worshiped, I was young and just discovering them, and here was this almost lost gem that only die hard Zeppelin fans really seemed to talk about. It was songs like “Stairway to Heaven,” and “In the Light,” that defined what I considered to be brilliant song writing, it is more than a song, it’s a story, and any good story starts slow introducing to you the characters and setting, it lets you get comfortable, and then excitement increases, intelligently and methodically, and you experience a powerful serge of emotion from the tales of these characters, and it moves you in a way you didn’t think possible. “In the Light,” in one listen did this for me, my thirteen year old self was struck and the feelings associated with this song has never changed, only strengthened with time. As I grow older I start to appreciate what Robert Plant is saying in this song more and more, it’s like I always knew but as I live through the lyrics I understand all the more.

This is one of those songs you should give a listen to by yourself, and let yourself absorb every sound, and every word. The message of believing in yourself, but also there is a slight sense of spite, which very much agrees with me, like saying to a lover “hey, did you believe I could leave you?” yet still a romantic and touching song “As you would for me, I will share your load.” So sad yet so promising and optimistic, “When love is pain, it can devour you, but you are never alone, I would share your load.”

It says a lot to me, I stand strong and alone in life, and when I reflect on every past attempts of reaching out to a potentially lover, it’s always the same, for me, “I would share your load, baby let me.” I think you can see why this song only gains meaning for me with the passing of time. It’s the greatest song ever, I think so anyway.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly