Any week featuring new album releases by Maroon 5, Linkin Park and R. Kelly simply has to be the best week ever!
Especially if those are your three favorite artists!
Sadly, however, a random sampling of young consumers this afternoon at the Santa Monica Promenade told a tale that some may find disturbing! Out of 76 random subjects, most of whom appeared to be between the ages of 15-25, not a single person expressed any interest whatsoever in purchasing these fabulous artists' new albums!
Among the comments offered during this highly scientific poll:
*"I hate music."
*"Leave me alone, buddy."
*"R. Kelly? (odd laughter)"
*"My brother says Lincoln Park is in Michigan, but I know it's in Illinois!"
*"I just bought Kraan's Wintrup. And you look like a douchebag."
*"Do you like this tattoo?"
*"My favorite band in the world is Maroon 5!"
The final commenter, it should be noted, smirked, held a cup of Starbucks coffee in his hand, and was reading a copy of Wired.
Between you and me, those people are geeks!
Maroon 5: Overexposed (A&M/Octone) Like their artistic forebears the MC5, five people from the Motor City, Maroon 5 are five human beings that, due to a random twist of fate--not to mention genetics--were born with an oddly purple skin pallor! Boy, would that be weird! Still, the dudes have not allowed God's random dice-toss to affect their skills as primo music-makers! This new album, the group's third studio set, takes its artistic cues from Funkadelic's classic The Electric Spanking Of War Babies but throws in a bit of the raw professionalism that has made network television show The Voice one of the finest entertainment experiences we have ever seen! Though artistic self-doubt occasionally surfaces--what would you think of a band that sings songs like "Sad," "Doin' Dirt," Wipe Your Eyes," and "Wasted Years"?--there's no denying: these guys are profoundly superior to Maroons 2, 3 and 4! If they were here right now, I'd offer them a French cruller!
Linkin Park: Living Things (Warner Bros.) Ever since the day I was forced to go to Warner Brothers Records and walk through a literal metal detector so that the hired security forces could be assured I had no recording device upon my person while being treated to an advance listen of one of their earlier albums, I knew this band was for me! They're so good! The latest set--which, it says here, "is informed by and built upon all previous Linkin Park albums"--unexpectedly takes its cue from the Electric Light Orchestra, whose original 1976 hit "Livin' Thing" was certainly a memorable pop smash, and goes those old dudes one better! An admittedly bizarre concept album, the set poses the question "Who do you think would like us more upon hearing this album? Inanimate objects or living things?" Though they perhaps have made too hasty a decision, if the album title is any indication, the album cover certainly stands as a fine warning about the danger of too much sun exposure! I like the last song best!
R. Kelly: Write Me Back (RCA) I'm not sure people give enough credit to the raw sensitivity R. Kelly has displayed during the course of his illustrious career--and here, for his 11th studio set, the award-winning singer/songwriter lays his emotions bare on the table for all to see! Unexpectedly focusing on a childhood incident in which the young Kelly penned a darkly confessional letter to the Easter Bunny--who'd brought him a wonderful basket filled with jellybeans and the like--and, despite his candor, would never receive a postal acknowledgment, Kelly relives his past trauma in near-stunning style. Highlights include "You Are My World," "Share My Love, " "Fool For You," and the at times heartbreaking "Believe That It's So," in which the singer boldly states that he has absolutely no qualms about ordering rabbit when at an exotic foreign restaurant! And the album cover? Well, at least his tie is straight!
The Offspring: Days Go By (Columbia) "We want to offer something new with every album," says Dexter Holland, frontman of the Offspring, according to their new bio! And so they have! The gang recently uncovered several crates filled with "troll dolls"--those cute, long-haired plastic toys that were quite the craze in the mid-'60s--and along with candy canes and smallish bars of Bonomo's Turkish Taffy--where the heck is their head at?--are offering them all to purchasers of this, their ninth studio album, produced by Bob Rock and a rip-roaring experience throughout! Lucky winners, who'll find a certificate in the CD and vinyl versions of this new set, will clearly have an advantage over fans who've merely settled for the MP3 versions of the album--dopes!--but that's the way it rolls for longtime punkers the Offspring! Incidentally, if you have parents, you too are offspring! I kind of like these guys!
Little Feat: Rooster Rag (Hot Tomato) They've been around forever, and if you're a real snob you'll say you lost interest in them after their second album--but if not, they're back, with their first studio album in nine years, playing exceptionally well, still including original keyboardist Bill Payne, and likely to appeal to the musicologists and jam-band fans among us. Fans of the Grateful Dead will be pleased to learn that Dead lyricist Robert Hunter had a hand in four of the tune here; even more interestingly, he wrote the lyrics for them! Sometimes at parties I like to tell snooty people that I am "only into Little Feat," mostly because I like having more space at the bar! I have a whole list of cool stuff to say!
Pink Floyd: Pink Floyd: The Story Of Wish You Were Here (Blu-Ray) (Eagle Vision) A thoroughly excellent documentary featuring up-to-date interviews with the surviving members of Pink Floyd (and an archive appearance by late keyboardist Richard Wright), this superb DVD tells the tale of the making of Pink Floyd's hugely successful Wish You Were Here in a compelling and intelligent manner. With behind the scenes stuff, a great spot by recording engineer Brian Humphries messing with the master tapes, an appearance via clip by former member Syd Barrett--the man for whom "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" was penned--it's a fine set that offers more than the usual retread-bio material now permeating the internet. Highly recommended.
The Flaming Lips: The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends (Warner Bros.) There's no denying that the Flaming Lips are one of America's most interesting bands: They're about as successful as they're ever going to be, they've been able to release just about anything--conceptual mess or otherwise--that they've wanted to release, and, not incidentally, they're quite good. This new set--a CD version of an album released for Record Store Day (a fine holiday equaled only by next week's Shoe Store Day)--is filled with collaborations with a diverse array of humans, including Yoko Ono, Ke$ha, Nick Cave, Elmer Fudd and Bon Iver, some of which were previously available via limited-edition singles that cost an arm and a leg but were completely worth it and could also be listened to! Sort of like this!
John Surman: Saltash Bells (ECM) One of the more adventurous figures in British jazz, saxophonist Surman has made a career of playing exceptionally well in contexts quite unique: It is the hallmark of his many solo albums, of which this is his first since 1994. Filled with drones, air, loops and his uncannily atmospheric playing, Saltash Bells is more sonically advanced than some of Surman's earlier solo works, equally as distinguished, and well worth your time.
The Miracles: Renaissance/Do It Baby (Motown/Hip-O Select) One of the highlights of digital culture has been the resurfacing of worthy material that most of us thought long gone. Hip-O Select has been especially praiseworthy in this regard, particularly when it comes to the Motown catalog--and here, with the first two post-Smokey Robinson album by the Miracles, they've done it again. The pair of early-'70s sets are surprisingly sturdy and non-fillerish, and with the production/participation of Motown's staff and the likes of Leon Ware, Marvin Gaye and Robinson himself, both sound like undersung Motown classics well worth a re-hearing. Great stuff.
Blues Traveler: Suzie Cracks The Whip (429) The return of Blues Traveler after all this time is in itself fascinating! Where have they been? Where did they go? How did they discipline themselves when they were bad? How can they tell us in a way that gets the point across but still seems wholesome at the same time? Details in next year's follow-up ...And We Obey! Are you listening, Spin Doctors?