Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Who - You Better You Bet

As we all know The Who are classic rock gods on par with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In the late sixties and throughout the seventies The Who produced their best music by both and in fact the bulk of their catalogue, but their later work should not be overlooked entirely.

I understand the negativity that followed The Who’s work past 1978’s “Who Are You,” surely it has everything to do with the death of drummer Keith Moon. Keith Moon is one of the greatest drummers of all time and arguably the very best. From 1978 to 1988 Kenney Jones would replace Keith Moon on drums, and in all respects Jones was a very good drummer, but he was not Keith Moon. Jones’ style was very different than Moons and not all fans could appreciate that, but also, he was not Daltrey, Townshend, and Entwistle’s friend, and while the band itself was excited to work with Jones at first, but eventually they would regard him with a level of indifference; The Who were never really the same and they could never replace Moon.

So happened; “Face Dances” (1981) and “It’s Hard” (1982).

These album were polarizing, positive reviews become controversial, negative reviews often leaned to heavily on nostalgic dreams of the past with Keith Moon. Even The Who are split on their opinion of their own later days work. Reviews of mediocrity for “Face Dances” were met with Daltrey stating that he was found on his work on it, and you know what I like it too. After all if nothing else, “Face Dances” gave us “You Better, You Bet,” and that song is wonderfully witty.

There are some noticeable changes from “Who Are You” to “Face Dances,” the rhythm section no longer has that wild animal like nature to it, but also the overall creative style is different, there is added level of funk, and we start seeing the transition of Townsend towards his future solo work and away from the classic rock of old Who. Still many things remained the same, after all three of the original members were still there, and one thing that always endeared The Who to me, and indeed everyone, was their sarcastic sense of humor and the joyful way they had of putting forth quick jabs at the world. In some ways a “love” song like “You Better, You Bet” captures The Who’s humours and fun side as well as some of their timeless classics that were written before with Moon; this song in particular has always stood out to me.

“You Better, You Bet” sort of sums itself up with the single first line of the chorus:

“When I say I love you, you say you better.”

What an exchange. This is a love song, surely it is, but it is also comedic, who would respond to being told they are loved in such a way? She responds with a demand and assumption to be loved. Someone with a sense and humor, that’s who, that’s the sort of person who talks like this.

The song “You Better You Bet” is so lively, a smooth mellow trip, of the best of feel good inspirations. It is songs like “You Better You Bet” that screw up the narrative that The Who were nothing without Keith Moon, not only is this a beloved song by Who fans, but it is also among their most recognizable and famous.

“You Better You Bet” has its place in the world or music largely as a fun joke, but there is something to the sarcasm and makes this punchy love rock song a lot more believable and therefore relatable. It is fantastically smart ass, but those of us who are smart asses, which is probably a high percentage of Who fans, this song can mean a lot more than more zealous love rock songs, or even just love songs. Romantic love is impressive, and perhaps awesome, but it is not real love, it is unobtainable, it is exaggeration and little more, it is fake love. Real love is being so comfortable with someone you can tease and challenge each other even when you are being serious, real love is staying together, sometimes real love is a fun joke. Fake romantic love will always dominate movies and music, but real love will always endear itself to us, and a song like “You Better You Bet” is a song about real love, which is one of many reasons it comes across as such a breath of fresh air; it is one of the greatest feel good songs ever.

Until next month keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Angels and Airwaves - Start The Machine

I never liked Blink 182. When Blink 182 was at their peak of popularity I was a teenager, and as a young man I enjoyed the sort of rock and roll that was balls our and badass, and a band about a bunch of “good looking” juvenile punks did not fit that mold. When I was a teenager Blink 182 seemed too immature to me, so as you can imagine now in my thirties their early work strikes me as particularly inane and childish. But I must give credit where it is do and I will concede that I really like their song “Always” which came out in 2004.

Another thing that has always prevented me from enjoying Blink 182’s music was Tom DeLonge’s singing voice, it was so nasally and whiny, but that awful singing voice was also a key component of Blink 182’s sound. We can hear DeLonge attempt to slowly shy away from that nasally style of singing in later songs like “Always,” but he never depart from it entirely, partially because that is what fans of Blink 182 were used too, and for some reason liked, but also unfortunately for DeLonge, he singing voice is naturally predisposed to singing like that.

Tom DeLonge.
I feel for DeLonge in many ways, I have suspected that he has wanted to escape the old image, theme and sound that initially made him famous with Blink 182, yet the appeal of money and fame, as well as his connection with his fellow band mates, likely drove him to remain with the same band producing a similar sound. We can hear DeLonge’s attempts at changing his style in the later years of Blink 182, his desire to leave the band entirely, and mostly we see this in his serious efforts with his own band Angels and Airwaves.

It is rather unfortunate that DeLonge will likely always be famous for his work with Blink 182 more so than with Angels and Airwaves; the style shift from Blink 182 to Angels and Airwaves is an improvement in every conceivable way. In so many ways comparing the two artistic efforts is like comparing the work of an adult to that of a child, the later works have a more refined sound, and have more mature subject matter and themes, but on top of all of that is DeLonge’s voice, finally, is free to sing as much like a grown man as he can. It comes as no surprise to me that DeLonge had left Blink 182 multiple times to pursue, this presumably more creatively awarding work, and in theory he has left Blink 182 for good.

In 2006 Angels and Airwaves released their first album “We Don’t Need To Whisper” and I am a big fan of this album. I have listened to many/most of Angels and Airwaves content and the only album that really stood out to me was this first effort, though admittedly I do owe the other albums another listen or two, I have just been too busy.

If you have read any of the other reviews on this blog you will have noticed I tend to strongly enjoy concept albums, especially when they tell some sort of fantastic tale, and “We Don’t Need To Whisper” is exactly that sort of rock album. I have always believed this album is about the end of civilization, and the survivors of this world slowly begin to uncover and understand the now unknown technology and machinery that lay strewn about after Armageddon. The opening song “Valkyrie Missiles” seems to suggest a military holocaust and all we can do is:

“Just one more time,
With you and I, I'll pull you close,
And then we'll say goodbye.”

And by the end we have a song titled “Start The Machine” which is a song I believe representing the rebirth and return to civilized humanity. It is this song that deserves our attention. However I suspect there is a double message to be taken away from this final and best song from the album. Not only is humankind rediscovering the awe of modern, now ancient, technology, but humankind is also rediscovering love and understanding. This is perhaps best seen in the closing lyrics:

“I see the stars, they’re in your eyes,
A playful kiss, can you tell I'm excited?
A fast escape in the nick of time,
If you lost your wish, can I help you find it?
I'm on my knee, just one to start,
A fresh new start, don't be undecided.

If love’s a word, that you say,
Then say it, I will listen.”

The use of the targeted word “start” relates back to the title. We start the machine, perhaps literally, but also these two lovers are starting an adventure of rediscovering hopes and dreams, and perhaps also truly starting their romance; after all the narrator is attempting to invoke the word “love” from the lips of his companion.

I really enjoy the closing lyric, “if love’s a word that you say, then say it, I will listen,” it is an interesting little proposal. He is not saying he will say it back. He is just saying he will listen. This could mean a lot of different things, but I tend to learn towards the romantic side of this and presume it is a serious contemplation with just a touch of reservation, as in this narrator is seriously considering falling in love with this unknown companion and simply requesting an added incentive, simply being loved back.

It is a charming song and album, and there is a fair amount of depth. It is a mature and curious conversation piece, effectively the opposite of the themes present in Blink 182’s work. I am not sure if I would recommend Angels and Airwaves to fans of Blink 182, it may be more of enjoyment for people like me who did not care for them, it is so different, and perhaps that is the best part of all, not the departure from a style I do not care for, but the ability of someone like DeLonge to create something so radically different than his previous work. Angels and Airwaves is a curve ball that completely changed my opinion of a musician I thought I would never like, and that is such a refreshing experience.

- King of Braves.


I just learned that “Start the Machine” is also the name of a documentary detailing the breakup of Blink 182 and the birth of Angels and Airwaves, I should probably watch that eventually.