Geeks & Beats

Being a long-time Alan Cross fan I(Darren) followed him to his newest podcast a few years ago with Michael Hainsworth called Geeks & Beats. It is such a great mix or tech, music, and well… nerd stuff. Both guys are great and I like the relaxed vibe and subjects they cover. I shared this with fellow SC member Scott Coates and he became a big fan listening from his home in South-East Asia too. We can’t recommend these guys and this show enough.
They do this for the love of their crafts so you should probably help them out and donate to the podcast. After all, it is “The World’s Most Popular Podcast™”.
Here is everything you need to know about them and to get listening.
Geeks & Beats website:
Geeks & Beats twitter:
Geeks & Beats facebook:
Alan Cross is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.
Michael Hainsworth is seen by 3.2 million Canadians each night as the country’s most-watched financial news and technology reporter on CTV Television and Business News Network. When he’s not busy making telemagic for Canada’s largest private broadcaster, you can find him on Twitter and Facebook or taking down a rogue nation with nothing more than his wits, a pack of Beemans chewing gum, and his iPhone.

Review of Jane's Addiction: Ritual de lo Habitual

Please read our selection of Jane’s Addiction: Ritual de lo Habitual before reading our reviews below..
I (Darren) can definitely say that this album had an impact when it came out and even now 25 years later. We all had four different opinions of this album. In general we all saw some great positives but then there were varying opinions about the rest of their album. However, they were all strong opinions. Like they say, any publicity is good publicity. This applies to Jane’s Addiction and RDLH as many love it but others think they are just way too high for their own good and the music meandering. I’ll let the reader review our individual reviews but here is our overview.
What was cool about Jane’s Addiction: Ritual de lo Habitual:

  • The big hits Been Caught Stealing and Stop! are classics for a reason and liked by all of us.
  • Perry Farrell’s voice defined a new vocal style and was very unique in that time and still now
  • A few of us really enjoyed the crazy ride that the entirety of the album brought and appreciated the highs, lows and nuances of the music.
  • The album brought back fond memories to all of us older guys (cough cough – not Alain)

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • The music can be considered overly and unnecessarily complex, unconventional and weird.
  • That this album was potentially the by-product of heroin use.
  • That appreciating this album can take some time to grow on you. (Maybe that’s a positive point.)

We have also implemented a rating scale that you will see below in the reviews. All ratings are out of 5.
Reviews Average:
Overall opinion: 4
Would w recommend?: 3
Influenced our tastes: 4
Worth the hype? 4
Sound quality: 4.5
Read our full individual reviews below. We hope that you all enjoy such a great band.
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

Greg-JorgensenGreg’s Review

Just as I expected, dusting off Ritual de lo Habitual after at least ten years had a powerfully nostalgic effect on me. As soon as Cindy Lair’s Spanish narration popped on, I was sitting in Tim’s basement, wearing Levi’s red tab jeans and a silk button-front shirt (tucked in, naturally), trying to understand it again. It might be a bit difficult to write objectively about this album, because it’s tied so closely to such a powerfully formative era of my life. But I shall try.

I’m happy to report that the ignorant kid confused by the appeal of Jane’s Addiction has been replaced with a (slightly) less ignorant adult who can see what they were getting at. Where before I heard Perry Farrell’s screeching voice, now I hear a powerful, raspy wail that’s playing a perfect counterweight to the expert musicianship from Navaro, Perkins and Avery. Where before I heard a band that was meandering and unfocussed, I now hear a band that’s slowly stroking the listener off with each song until BAM! it explodes in a burst of energy and focus. 

Stop is a suitable opening for an album that came out in the 90’s, surely one of the most bizarre and singular decades in terms of fashion, music, and technology. Fads weren’t just local adoptions of new trends, they were fast-moving energy waves that transformed entire swaths of the population, from skinny jean-wearing hair band fans at the beginning, to flannel-wearing grunge fans in the middle, to baggy jean-wearing hip hop wannabes by the end. 

I really enjoyed the rest of the album, save for No One’s Leaving, which was just okay. Ain’t No Right is a good example of a song that starts soft and then pops like a coiled spring. Obvious is a nice departure, I guess you could call it Janes’ version of a slow song. Been Caught Stealing was their standout hit from this album, and it’s pretty good – an easy, rocking rhythm that would have been perfect for any 90’s radio station wanting to be a bit ‘edgy’ with songs from an unconventional band. Three Days is an exceptionally cool song for my delicate ears – starting slowly and then progressing with an almost unnoticeable pickup in…well…noise. By the end of the song you’re rocking hard and can’t really remember how you got there. Subtle and powerful.

Classic Girl is an interesting one for me – I really love the lyrics, but I feel that songs like these and Jane’s Addiction should just agree to disagree. Maybe it was because back in the day I wanted to tell one particular crush how I felt about her; this song was the perfect message in the wrong wrapping, and playing this for my ‘classic girl’ as a romantic gesture would have not gotten me the result I wanted. Not that I got it anyway.

When I first posted the album to SC, I sent Tim a message and showed him my writeup. He loved it, and wrote back: “How could that be possible? They were the greatest band I’ve ever experienced. Their first album Nothing’s Shocking changed my life and being the impressionable teenager that I was, they really shaped my imagination and attitude.” Thankfully, I have a few decades of experience that I didn’t have then, and can appreciate RDLH on a much different level. After only 25 years, I can see where he was coming from. 

My personal opinion: 4
Would I recommend?: 3
Influenced my tastes: 4.5
Worth the hype? 4
Sound quality: 4.5

Scott’s Review
I thought I knew Jane’s Addiction better than it turns out I do. I was sure I’d listened to Ritual de lo Habitual in full many times before, but that was an assumption, and outside of its two well-known singles, Stop! and Been Caught Stealing, I discovered I hadn’t consumed the entire album before. A great opportunity was presented with Greg’s pick!
I was surprised by the album after getting past opening track Stop!, as it turned and twisted into a bit of an odd, sometimes complex, often meandering volume that’s relegated me not entirely sure what to think. I remembered the time period of its release and Greg’s recollection of hearing it from a cool guy named Tim when he was younger, which mirrors my experience. Lindsey was that guy at my school and he loved it too. I’d heard it in his car in bits and pieces but was unable to digest it properly in my high school years.
Years later I’m still not sure it completely resonates, but does serve as a great time capsule of the time period and foreshadows what many bands emulated after. It’s full of angst, sexual ambiguity, sometimes-bizarre lyrics and rhythms, and has required many listenings before writing this. Overly and unnecessarily complex is where I stand with Ritual de lo Habitual.
Some tracks immediately stand out for their catchy licks, while others leave me slightly puzzled, as though the band was overstepping their capabilities in an attempt to make their mark on the musical world. When they stick to rocking, as they do so well on Stop! and Been Caught Stealing, it’s bliss. Other tracks go here and there, leaving me unsure whether to tap my foot or throw on a flannel shirt and be angry with the world.
Jane’s Addiction are now legends and many of their later works resonate more with me, and I completely respective Ritual de lo Habitual for laying the tracks for later bands, but overall it’s a bit too messy at times, which will likely leave me revisiting the two singles on playlists rather than the entire album.
My personal opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 3
Influenced my tastes: 3.5
Worth the hype? 3.5
Sound quality: 4.5
Darren Scott
Darren’s Review
I was quite excited when Greg picked Jane’s Addiction, Ritual de lo Habitual as I was very familiar with that album. Ok, so it isn’t exactly pushing me out of my comfort zone and I have owned this album since it came out but I will admit it had been quite some time since I had listened to the entire album.
My first memories of this album were from when I was bartending in a live music rock nightclub and one of our DJs started playing Been Caught Stealing. That song was – and still is – awesome. I soon after picked up the CD and partied many-a-time to this album.
To me, more than anything, I was drawn to the sound of Perry Farrell’s unique vocal sound. As this was the era of grunge many of the vocals sounded more raspy like Kurt Cobain or more deep and brooding like Eddie Vedder. Jane’s Addiction seemed to break away from the surrounding Seattle grunge sound (which I love nonetheless) and create a new LA sound to dethrone the Hair Metal bands with peers like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
As a complete album it does still stand the test of time for me, as I am old enough to remember the context it started in as well as appreciate it today. I like the ride the album took me on. Today we so often forget that music is part of albums, and those albums were planned by the artist(s) to be listened to in the order they meant you to hear it. I think Jane’s Addiction did an amazing job on this album and this will always be in my playlist. I can’t recommend this album enough. Definitely in my top 20 of all time.
My personal opinion: 4.5
Would I recommend?: 5
Influenced my tastes: 4.0
Worth the hype? 4.5
Sound quality: 4.5
alain-dupuisAlain’s Review

I never paid Jane’s Addiction any mind beyond the radio-friendly singles that charted, so when Greg suggested this album, I didn’t know quite what to expect. I only knew it was very likely gonna be weird, man.
Wouldn’t you know it, I was right. These guys were probably on an alarming amount of heroin while making the album. (In the band’s biography, Dave Navarro actually mentions that he barely recalled the recording process due to his addiction.) But, hey – I maintain that the Beatles wouldn’t have been nearly as awesome if they hadn’t discovered drugs, so I’m not going to hold anything against Jane’s Addiction. Though, I must really stress: This is a weird album!
Stylistically, 1990’s Ritual de lo Habitual sounds like it’s stuck somewhere between prog-rock, and some kind of proto-grunge. A few of the tracks sprawl seven or eight minutes in length and feature unconventional instruments, and unconventional time signatures. The song Of Course is a good example of this, and proves a stark contrast to the radio-friendly, short, catchy singles Stop! and Been Caught Stealing. The guitars are awesome, as one would expect from Navarro. Perry Farrel’s vocals are a bit shrill, which took me some time to warm up to. The song I kept returning to was No One’s leaving. It had just the right balance of catchy and strange for me. Definitely my favourite track on the album.
So, did I like Ritual? I think so, but frankly I don’t know for sure yet. I’ve listened to it about a dozen times, and it’s still kind of growing on me. I think this might be one of those albums that requires repeat visits in order to fully appreciate it. I’ll say this though: I’m going to explore the other albums in their discography, because if nothing else, my curiosity has been piqued.
My personal opinion: 3.5
Would I recommend?: 4
Influenced my tastes? –
Worth the hype?3.5
Sound quality: 4

The Beta Band: The Three E.P.'s

So I might sound like a sucker for what Hollywood dictates I should like, but dang it if I didn’t see a clip from the movie High Fidelity the other day that totally got me.
Check it out here:

I hadn’t seen this movie in years but one of my favorite music bloggers, Alan Cross, posted that clip and I was indeed grooving to The Beta Band, and like John Cusack’s character Rob Gordon predicted I did want to buy the Three E.P.’s album.
I didn’t know anything about this band so at this point I feel that Wikipedia description is good.

beta_Band_smallThe Three EPs is a compilation of The Beta Band‘s first three releases, consisting of the EPs Champion Versions,The Patty Patty Sound and Los Amigos del Beta Bandidos. The cover art includes the main image from each of the EPs.
“Dry the Rain” was prominently featured in a scene from the 2000 film High Fidelity.
In 2000 Q magazine placed The Three EPs at number 74 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.[4]Pitchfork placed the album at number 23 in its Top 100 Albums of the 1990s.[5]

I know I am somewhat breaking our rule of no compilations but I figure this is ok as it is just making a full album out of three short EPs.
I look forward to getting to know this band and this album. Besides, how bad could a Scottish alt-pop-rock-atmospheric-krautrock-hip hop be?
Wikipedia entry for The Three E.P.’s
Wikipedia entry for The Beta Band
Purchase it on iTunes
Darren Scott
Read our review posted on April 1st here.

Review of Kraftwerk: Autobahn

Please read our selection of Kraftwerk: Autobahn before reading our reviews below.
So far after 3 reviews we haven’t had too many disagreements and our views on Kraftwerk were again all fairly similar. The great thing about this group is that no matter what we pick we are dedicated to listening as objectively as possible and to give our best opinions. I’m sure that will change when I(Darren) hate something but for now we are all good. This is the last pick we will review this method as we are working on a better rating system. Ok, on with the review.
What was cool about Autobahn and Kraftwerk:

  • We all respected the creativity and innovation in their music and that leaders break the mould
  • We are amazed at the amount of artists we now listen to that credit Kraftwerk as a key influencer.
  • It spawned Mike Myers Dieter character on Saturday Night Live. Touch my monkey!
  • Umm….  that was about it.

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • The music. Sorry, but that was very true. None of us got it. Too unstructured and weird for us.
  • Didn’t seem to stand the test of time. That kind of sound effects and synth sounds dated.
  • Their singing. Lol.

We aren’t sure who to recommend this music to but I can say if you like Krautrock and hard-core electronic music you might like it. Thanks for the influence and your creativity Kraftwerk.
Read our full individual reviews below. We hope that you all enjoy such a great band.
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

smcoates-About-Picture-200x300Scott’s Review
Kraftwerk is a band I’d heard of many times over the years, often as a giggling-aside by rock artists, but I’d heard them referenced enough that I figured they must carry some weight in certain musical circles.
Despite enjoying many genres of music and often digging to find their musical roots, I’d never headed down the Kraftwerk road, or autobahn should I say. Over the last decade-plus I’ve gotten into some electronic-centric bands like the Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and The Crystal Method among others, but never understood how they make such music. I’ve wondered where such groups (or guys in a room with a couple computers and a keyboard) get their inspirations and now I partially know the answer I suspect.
Autobahn is bizarre and it’s not an album I see myself listening to again. It just doesn’t fit any situation, mood, or occasion that I usually play music for. That said, I’ve listened to it six times and enjoyed the experience, albeit on a multitude of levels. Some of the singing just plain cracked me up; at times sounding like a bunch of first-year college kids, semi-terrified around a recording device and not sure what to do. Each time I heard their voices I found myself grinning with a little laugh. Then comes a recorder (or flute?) on one track that made me think of the theme song to a children’s show I used to watch as a kid, The Friendly Giant. Bizarre but innovative, blazing new trails, and obviously completely cutting edge for the time, (or today for that matter) but just too out-there for me to completely grasp and enjoy on a regular listening basis.
The above said I completely respect the recording, band and what these guys did. Way back in 1974 when this came out, synthesizers and electronic instruments were virtually unheard of. Their use of the then revolutionary Moog Synthesizer was a foray into unknown territory and they had the balls to do it. Pioneers don’t always produce the best initial product, but they set the course for others to do so.
As I was listening to a Beastie Boys album recently, one of my favorite bands, I couldn’t help thinking they must have been influenced in part by Kraftwerk, or by other bands that were in some shape or form. It’s pretty easy to see (and hear) how Kraftwerk and Autobahn pushed music down a brand new road and they deserve a certain amount of respect and credit for that.
Darren Scott
Darren’s Review
I have to say that my first knowledge of Kraftwerk was in the mid-80s. I liked Depeche Mode’s Just can’t get enough. I heard that Kraftwerk were their influencers on Good Rockin’ Tonight, a Canadian video music show. Shortly after that I’d watch Saturday Night Live and loved Mike Myers Dieter character who often referenced Kraftwerk. From that point I always associated Kraftwerk with weird people to be honest. Ha ha ha.
In the decades that followed, being a music geek, I would hear of the influence they had but I never really gave their music a chance. I really went into this month’s choice with an open mind to try to give such influencers the respect they deserved.
I did realize almost instantly that this type of music will struggle to stand the test of time. I found the electronic sounds kind of cheesy and dated. It reminded me of 80s horror movie soundtracks. Ok ok… I said I’d give them a chance. Putting myself back in that time I do realize how weird it was to hear music with almost no traditional instruments. I imagine there were many people that were blown away by how unique these sounds were as it opened up a whole new music genre. I respect that, I really do. I also respect what they did.
For me though, it’s just a bit too weird and unstructured. To this day I still am not a fan of most slow tempo music and I love a great beat. Kraftwerk just pushed that too far for me. Thanks for your creativity, ingenuity and the great artists and technology you influenced. If you like off-kilter music I would assume you are already a fan. If you haven’t listened to them yet and aren’t sure, I’m gonna guess you may not love them.
alain-dupuisAlain’s Review

About 5 years ago, I listened to Autobahn at the recommendation of Alan Cross. He spoke highly of Kraftwerk in his book, The History of Alternative Rock, and it piqued my curiosity. To think that this eclectic group of German guys used primitive and unusual electronic instruments to create such groundbreaking stuff and influenced loads of different genres for decades?! Cool. Very cool.
So I gave it a listen, and frankly, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it then, and I’m sad to say, I don’t really like it now.
I know. I chose this album to review, and it feels wrong of me to admit that it’s not my cup of tea, but at least I can honestly say I didn’t pick it out of personal bias. This album is supposed to embody a milestone of music history, a place where technology and sound intercept on a path that we’re still travelling on today. That was the basis for my choice.
The entire Autobahn album is basically one long audio-skeuomorphism that is meant to evoke the sensation of going for a drive down the Autobahn, and while I’ve never been on that road myself, there are certainly some parts evocative of highway travel. While your traditional pop-song structure is absent, there are times when the music is  catchy. There are also, unfortunately, many times where I felt like I was listening to nothing but white noise. I’m sure this was intended by Kraftwerk, but lets be honest… If I wanted to listen to the sound of traffic, I’d turn the radio off.
Greg-JorgensenGreg’s Review
My whole life I’ve kind of grouped Kraftwerk under the vague banner of “80’s Euro/German Pop” along with Falco, the Scorpions, Nena, and even Hasselhoff. Just kind of background noise that I’ve never been sufficiently motivated to explore in any detail. Listening through Autobahn, I can’t say I’m any closer to being motivated.
It’s clear that Kraftwerk played a big role in influencing the sound of future bands; bands which displayed a much tighter, mature sound that moved in a more focused and linear direction. As I listened, the two names that kept popping into my head were Daft Punk’s score for Tron: Legacy and Tangerine Dream’s score for Legend. (The last one is especially interesting, seeing as how Tangerine Dream were formed in 1967 and probably influenced Kraftwerk, although TG’s score for Legend was released eleven years after Autobahn, in 1985…so who influenced who?). But, influence does not equal greatness.
I’d also be remiss to forget to mention the other thing that popped into my head – Ross’ long-dormant music career in Friends.
Much like Ross’ compositions, I generally found Autobahn nothing more than a mash of random sounds, buzzes, whizzes, bells, bangs and noise, with no direction or focus. It’s supposed to represent driving on the Autobahn, which I’ve never done. Maybe I’d understand more after a trip to Germany, but I just don’t get it.

Review of Pixies: Doolittle

Please view our selection of Pixes: Doolittle here before reading our reviews below..
I think the best part of this artist and album review is how uncannily our reviews were alike. At this point, Scott, Alain and Greg send the reviews to me (Darren) and I compile and write the summary. I always write my review before I read any of my peers reviews as to not be influenced by them. I think I need to get one of the other guys to start compiling and writing these reviews as I am clearly the weakest writer, lol (Is that cool to write ‘lol’ like that at 45?). At any rate, back to the summary.
What was cool about Doolittle and the Pixies:

  • All of us with the exception of Greg mentioned we were influenced by the fact that The Pixies were one of Kurt Cobain from Nirvana’s influences.
  • We all really liked The Pixies and all gravitated towards some songs that we each loved. Funny enough, our favourite songs were all different, which is saying a lot in itself.
  • We really felt that the quiet-and-soft-then-loud-and-hard approach was a new and innovative concept that is apparent in many new alternative rock artists and influenced many bands you hear now.
  • The bass player and original member Kim Deal was a big deal. We mentioned how we loved her bass line as well as her vocals that contrasted Francis Black’s. It amazed me personally how she entered the band by being the only person to show up to the auditions but she didn’t know how to play bass, nor did she have one. You have to respect that. She learned over the 18 month period before they really started to play clubs.

What we didn’t find so cool :

  • As many great songs as we liked, we all felt that there were some songs that were “really out there”(Darren’s words) that we couldn’t connect to. Funny enough, as mentioned, we all had different songs that pushed our limits.
  • The band politics cut their career short. Kim Deal was replaced by some other Kim and The Pixies continue to tour but it seems more like a money grab than an attempt to produce great new music.
  • We were all shocked that the Pixies were not more popular in their time and unheard of until bands like Nirvana started referencing them as influencers.

We have all agreed that we would highly recommend buying and listening to The Pixies. We feel that everyone would take something away from this experience and appreciate the songs and the influence this moderately successful band had on current music. Well played Pixies… well played…
Read our full individual reviews below. We hope that you all enjoy such a great band.
Don’t agree with us? Have a comment or suggestions? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

smcoates-About-Picture-200x300Scott’s Review
Having read a fair bit about this album before listening to it, as it was my pick, I’m wondering what impact that information had upon my impression of it? A lot I reckon. While listening to my very first Pixies’ album, Doolittle, I couldn’t help but think of the many comments I read online: everything from it being one of the best rock albums ever to how it shaped Nirvana’s sound on Nevermind. These comments definitely ticked away in my head as I consumed Doolittle’s 15 interesting tracks and tried to make sense of it all.
The album is a rich one that I’ve listened to in full about 10 times so far and am still not entirely sure what to make of it. There are obvious hit singles like Here Comes Your Man, then some downright confusing ones like Mr. Grieves, but the album challenges throughout. This was no doubt very new territory being explored back in 1989; two years before Nevermind came out and Grunge rock took the world by storm. And that’s where Doolittle impresses – it clearly informed so many bands’ music to come in the following decade. I Bleed sounds very much like Weezer’s Beverly Hills or vice versa, and I could hear a little bit of other bands in almost every track. There’s clearly a reason this album has become such a classic in rock circles.
I’ll continue to dig through Doolittle, listen to the lyrics (something I’m very bad for not doing) and will check out some of their other works. My interest is peaked and while I was hoping to completely love this album, the fact that I’m still not entirely sure demonstrates its depth and complexity. I may be a Pixies fan in the making.
Darren Scott
Darren’s Review
Ok, so I was already a Pixies fan and had their Wave of Mutilation – Best of Pixies greatest hits album and Surfa Rosa album. However, I had not really listened to Doolittle nor had I really given them the proper playtime in my play lists rotation. Would listening to this album and learning about this group make me want to get more Pixies, the same or less?
I was first exposed to the Pixies in the early 90s when I heard an interview with Kurt Cobain and Dave Grohl from Nirvana talking about how they based the song Smells Like Team Spirit on the style of the Pixies of playing slow and soft and then playing fast and loud. Kurt thought the song was so much like a Pixies song that he actually didn’t want in on the Nevermind album. Kurt Cobain then went on to rave about how much he loved the Pixies and their impact on music.
I listened to some of their stuff back then and thought it was ok, but perhaps a little too alternative for younger Darren at that time. About 8 years ago my music addiction escalated and I rediscovered the Pixies and I bought their Wave of Mutilation – Best of Pixies album. I bought Surfa Rosa after that and I do enjoy them but never felt compelled to really buy more.
After listening to Doolittle multiple times this month I can say that I am a bigger fan although there are still songs that I find uncomfortable. I guess I just didn’t have that much teen angst back in the day. Lol. The one thing that really stood out was the bass playing of Kim Deal. For the first time I really noticed the beauty of the simplicity of her bass playing. So many other bass players would try to embellish their role, especially as the band progressed, but Kim seemed to be able to stay in her groove and really drive the rhythm. I caught myself bobbing to her bass line more than the drumbeat, and I loved it. They also were playing a different style of music and alternative rock than anybody was playing then. I’m not the biggest fan of many of the new alt-rock artists as I find their music too slow and depressing, however you can’t deny that many have been influenced by the Pixies.
I’m happy to say that I would highly recommend listening to the Pixies for any fan of rock and alternative music. Buy Surfer Rosa and Doolittle, get yourself a little fuzzy and sit back and listen to a great amazing band that will push you to places that you’ll enjoy and perhaps even find a bit disturbing. A great pick Scott.
alain-dupuisAlain’s Review

As a kid, I was a huge Nirvana fan and found myself captivated by their enigmatic front-man, Kurt Cobain. I wanted to be just like him. I wanted to learn about the bands he liked. I wanted to know what influenced him. This was where I got my first exposure to the Pixies. I read that Kurt was heavily influenced by the Pixie’s use of dynamic range, and it was never more apparent than in Nirvana’s megahit Smells Like Teen Spirit. Kurt outright admitted to incorporating the Pixies’ unique quiet-and-soft-then-loud-and-hard approach to song structure. Despite such praise from the almighty Cobain, I didn’t give them much thought. I liked a few Pixies songs, but they were just too underground for my narrow-minded music sensibilities at the time, and the only kids I knew who liked them were proto-hipster douchebags.
When Scott suggested Doolittle for review, I was excited. I needed an excuse to objectively listen to the Pixies free from my preconceptions. Here are my thoughts on the album:

  • Most of the songs on Doolittle are really short. In fact, the entire album’s run-time is less than 40 minutes. There are only 2 tracks that exceed three minutes. If I saved up my allowance money for a Pixies album as a kid, I think I would have been pretty disappointed.
  • The songs tend to hold up pretty well today despite being nearly 3 decades old. They somehow combine surfer-rock, low-fi grunge, and pop music sensibilities nicely. None of the songs on the album sound particularly like the one before it, which I count as a plus.
  • I really dig the dual vocals between Francis Black and Kim Deal. The male/female vocal dynamics really play well with the loud-quiet-loud thing the Pixies are known for. I wonder if they influenced the band Mother Mother, who also employ dual-gender vocals to great effect.

I actually enjoyed Doolittle more than I expected to. I find myself regretful of disregarding them in my teenage years. My least favourite song on the album is Silver, and my favourite song is Gouge Away.
Greg-JorgensenGreg’s Review
The first time I knowingly heard The Pixies was during the final, perfect scene of Fight Club, when Where is My Mind played over scenes of exploding skyscrapers. That being said, I still didn’t know much about them, so was pumped to get into Doolittle.
I really loved this album. Well, parts of it I loved and parts of it were less memorable, but overall I think it’s a really tight listen. In my bio I say that I usually like the most mainstream selections of any type of music and this is no exception. By far my favorite tracks were the radio-friendly Here Comes Your Man and Gouge Away. I thought the rest of the songs were all good, but structurally seemed less cohesive – reminded me of many of the bands that came out in the mid-90’s that were defined by off-kilter singing and slightly wonky chords and choruses, ie the Gin Blossoms, Dishwalla, Better than Ezra, etc. But better than those one-hit wonders, of course. On top of that, I caught stretches that could easily have been a B-side from early albums by Nirvana, Weezer, and even Anthrax.
I read up a bit on Wikipedia, and was shocked to read the the album featured “references to surrealism, Biblical violence, torture and death”. Maybe I’m not listening close enough, but that stuff went right over my head. I also appreciated the few times where the band tried something really different – Mr. Grieves and Silver. Reminded me of the first time I heard Hot Dog by Zeppelin – as tight as their ‘regular’ stuff but a weird, fun departure.
The songs I liked most, mentioned above, are much more ‘poppy’ than the others. That, along with something I read saying that Doolittle strays from the Pixies’ regular more raw sound, make me wonder if I actually like The Pixies, or just like Doolittle. But I’ll happily dig into their full catalogue to find out.

Do Most Bands Make Money?

1-eVxsxHG8dQhAVTwMs_3sKwPomplamoose just finished a 28-day tour. We played 24 shows in 23 cities around the United States. It was awesome: Nataly crowd surfed for the first time ever, we sold just under $100,000 in tickets, and we got to rock out with people we love for a full month. We sold 1129 tickets in San Francisco at the Fillmore. I’ll remember that night for the rest of my life.
One question that our fans repeatedly asked us was “what does it feel like to have ‘made it’ as a band?” Though it’s a fair question to ask of a band with a hundred million views on YouTube, the thought of Pomplamoose having “made it” is, to me, ridiculous.
Before I write another sentence, it’s important to note that Nataly and I feel so fortunate to be making music for a living. Having the opportunity to play music as a career is a dream come true. But the phrase “made it” does not properly describe Pomplamoose. Pomplamoose is “making it.” And every day, we bust our asses to continue “making it,” but we most certainly have not “made it.”

Read the full article here, it will amaze you.

Review of Fela Kuti's Zombie

Though you can read of full reviews below, here is a summary of the what the Sonic Collective thought of Fela Kuti’s Zombie album.
You can read the original post here about this pick: Fela Kuti’s Zombie
What we liked:

  • The hypnotizing rhythms that created the Afrobeat style
  • Really nice, easy-listening music that you can relax to or have playing in the background at a cool dinner party
  • How Fela combined American Jazz, Blues, Funk/Soul and gave it an African twist. Very creative and that influenced many.

What we didn’t like :

  • We felt it would be more upbeat and moving but it was more subtle
  • It didn’t quite inspire any of us to say, “Holy shit! This is awesome. I have to get more of his stuff!”
  • Seemed like an artist you’d want to have seen live in the 70s. It didn’t translate across the recorded version.

I (Darren) am speaking for the group here but I’d say our overall recommendation is:
Buy Zombie if you already like Jazz and funky atmospheric music and want something for a dinner party.
As this was our first review, I enjoyed the process and look forward to the next album.
Don’t agree with us or have a comment or suggestion? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment or contact us.

Our Full Reviews

darren-scottDarren’s Review
As I chose this album I was, of course, really hoping to like it. I had heard a few sections of songs before the pick but had never listened to a full album. I listened to it several times throughout the month and tried to just experience it. A few things struck me right away:
• There were very little vocals
• The songs were at least 10 minutes long and there were only 4 of them
• The drum beat (Afrobeat) that I had heard of did really stand out
• It wasn’t quite Jazz, Blues or Funk but had elements of all of them. I couldn’t help but think that Fela had to be influenced by James Brown.
I am a Jazz fan though I don’t listen to it as much as I had in my Jazz phase in the early-mid 90s so I was used to and enjoyed the flow and changing tone and tempo of the music. That being said, this is very much something I’d refer as background music to me. This would be great played in the background of a dinner party, on a date, or perhaps while you are working away on your computer and not really concentrating on the music.
What I did really like is that Fela took what he liked from several styles of music and made it his, I can see why that would attract musicians to push themselves and experiment across genres. What I was disappointed with was that I really thought this would be more upbeat and something you’d want to really move too but I thought the Zombie album just didn’t push me there. I do think this was the type of artist you want to have seen live.
All in all, I did like the album and would recommend it to those that like Jazz with a twist. I would say that I was expecting a bit more but I will try to listen to more of his music over time. I’ll hear you at my next dinner party Fela, but probably not regularly in my playlist.
alain-dupuisAlain’s Review

Prior to joining the Sonic Collective, I had never heard of Fela Kuti, nor had I been exposed to his music (at least not in a way I was cognizant of). Admittedly not something I would naturally gravitate to, it took a bit of repeated listening before I grew to appreciate Zombie for what it is: a bombastic, funky, percussive and soulful journey into another time and place. On my third run through the album, I decided to pour myself a scotch, clear my mind, and just listen. It didn’t take long for the music to start making sense to me. It isn’t cathartic in any appreciable way for me, and there aren’t any particularly catchy vocal hooks that make me want to sing along. Instead, it’s easy listening at it’s finest. Like elevator music, only a thousand times more interesting. It’s the kind of music I’d like to imagine Don Draper would have listened to, presumably while enjoying a cigar or the company of his secretary. And man, she would have thought he was cool for listening to Fela Kuti.
The minimal vocals, winding bass line, and a too-smooth lead saxophone juxtapose fantastically against staccato percussion, and the occasional crescendos from the supporting brass section. While it’s still not something I think I’d be grooving out to on the regular, I can’t help but find myself drawn to Zombie from both a place of curiosity, and the desire to just relax and unwind.
Incidentally, my favourite track from the album is Mister Follow Follow, and it’s definitely worth a listen.

Greg-JorgensenGreg’s Review
When I first pressed ‘play’ I wasn’t looking forward to this album. I’ve never really liked this type of music – there was a lot of what seemed like ‘free-flow’ jazz/blues/funk playing; no real direction, random notes, discombobulation. The argument I always hear for this type of music (and forgive me if I’m pigeonholing it) is that the important thing aren’t the notes that are being played, but the ones that are NOT being played. I’ve always called bullshit on that. That’s like me saying I’m a famous author because of the books I haven’t written.
I started in and was surprised by how much I dug it, despite one nagging consistency throughout: just when I was really getting into the groove of the song, some element would pop up that just kind of took me out of the moment. In Zombie it was the organs that kick in at about the 9:15 mark, which sounded like an audience member was invited on stage to jam. I didn’t like Mister Follow Follow overall though, sounded like something you’d hear in the background of a cheesy cop show from the 1970’s (as a fun test I put on Sabotage by the Beastie Boys and muted it, playing this song instead. The tone wasn’t right, but the fashions and hairstyles sure were). Yeah, I know, this album was released in ’76, but still…weak sauce. I liked Observation is No Crime, but again, the women screeching “Tell me, tell me” was a bit grating. Mistake was a nice finish, especially when you read that it was performed at the Berlin Jazz Festival, after which his band left Fela Kuti because they said he was going to use the proceeds from the show to fund his bid for the Nigerian presidency.
However, the cool thing about it was that upon the second listen, I found myself getting right back into the groove, humming along to the melodies in my head as they came up and nodding along with the beat, really enjoying it.
This is one of those that’s a great snapshot of a specific time – the politics, the culture, and the fear of what art can do and the emotions it can stir. I knew nothing about this guy or the situation that surrounded him before, but this is one element of music that often gets overlooked – as a window in a time and place in history that would otherwise go unrecognized.
smcoates-About-Picture-200x300Scott’s Review
I really wanted to like this album. I was first introduced to the groovy music of Femi Kuti at a bar in Phnom Penh, Cambodia years ago, but had never listened to his father Fela. Like Darren, I also saw him in Beware of Mr. Baker and was intrigued to finally check Fela out. I put Zombie on enthusiastically and was underwhelmed, feeling like I’d been listening to the same beat for 45 minutes. A number of subsequent listens made me appreciate some of the rhythms and gain an appreciation for the impact Fela’s had on other artists, but Zombie just didn’t pull me in as I’d hoped. With a distinct lack of lyrics, the songs felt as though they were intended to be seen in concert, rather than simply heard. The repetitive beats at times droned on with me imagining wildly clad musicians stroking their instruments and grinding it out on stage. I’ll likely try another Fela Kuti album with hopes of falling for his music, but Zombie left me feeling a bit like one.

The Dawn of Def Jam via Rolling Stone

In 1984, Def Jam Records, the label that defined hip-hop’s commercial and artistic potential, was born in a very unlikely location: a tiny New York University dorm room. Founder Rick Rubin — now a record-industry legend who’s shepherded the careers of everyone from Jay Z to the Red Hot Chili Peppers — hadn’t returned to that Greenwich Village double-occupancy room in three decades. But for Rolling Stone Films’ premiere documentary, Rick Was Here, he ventured back to Weinstein Hall, room 712, to remember how it all began. “I can’t believe it’s 30 years,” he says. “It’s really trippy.”

RelatedRick Rubin

Rick Rubin on a Lifetime of Meditation and Music

In the film presented by MaggieVision Productions and director Josh Swade, Rubin recalls the energy of Eighties New York, the attempt to make records that sounded like the raw performances he heard in clubs and the wild parties he threw in the dorm room listed as the label address on the first Def Jam 12-inch, T La Rock and Jazzy Jay’s explosive, drum machine-driven “It’s Yours.” The Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz remembers how he plucked a demo out of a pile in the room and told Rubin, “Man, this is really good, Rick. You gotta check it out.” (The tape belonged to a teenage MC named LL Cool J.)

Once he teamed with burgeoning mogul Russell Simmons, the Def Jam age — and hip-hop as an unavoidable market force — officially began. Rubin started DJ-ing for the Beasties and spent two years working with them on their legendary debut album, Licensed to Ill. “Nothing that happened was intentional,” he tells us. “Everything was trying to make something cool to play for our friends that they would like.”

In Rick Was Here — which arrives as Def Jam is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a new box set and special concert tonight at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center — Simmons, LL Cool J, Rubin’s college roommate Adam Dubin, former Def Jam president Lyor Cohen and more tell the story of how it all became possible. “Make it yours,” Rubin says. “That’s the thing that can change the world.”

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Fela Kuti: Zombie

Fela Kuti’s Zombie Album. 
Who you ask? Actually, I’m not totally sure yet either. But what I do know, is that he influenced not only many musicians across the world but also created a musical style called Afrobeat.
Around May of 2013 I read a great book by Talking Heads founder David Byrne called How Music Works. In that book David talks about the influence that Fela Kuti had on him and his music.

Fela Kuti“…I knew that he was a phenomenon, a unique phenomenon, in that the music he was bringing together, it sounded like it, and it truly was, he had lived in the United States for a while, he was influenced by the Black Power movement in the late ’60s, by the different strands of American music at that time, whether it was Miles Davis or Coltrane, James Brown, etc. And you could hear all that, you hear him put it together with African grooves and create something completely new out of it. But it’s obviously informed by, he’s bringing a lot of what was happening on this continent back to Africa. Just amazing! The lyrics and everything, having something to say that wasn’t just party music, that made it pretty incredible too.”
– David Byrne on Fela Kuti, 1999

I thought I should look in to Fela at that time but it got lost in the chaos of my mind and I neglected to follow up on my instincts. Fast forward to July of 2014 and I am watching a crazy documentary in an L.A. hotel room while in town for work. Beware of Mr. Baker follows the strange and drug-fueled career of Ginger Baker who was the amazing drummer behind Eric Clapton’s Cream(Check out Disraeli Gears if you haven’t already), Blind Faith and – you guessed it – he also played with Fela Kuti.
OK, how have I never heard of this guy before and then I randomly am exposed to him through David Byrne and Ginger Baker? This is what I love about music; you are always chasing the white rabbit. The influences and discovery of great music never ends.
In July I did watch a few videos and listen to tidbits of his songs, but I felt I really needed to rediscover this artist and have had it on top of my mind. It didn’t take long to discover that he has a long queue of current music icons and influencers. Here is one article alone that has praise from the likes of Brian Eno, Talib Kweli, George Clinton, Common and Paul McCartney to just name a few.
If Paul McCartney is in, I have to be in.

So I have chosen what appears to be his most influential album called Zombie. Released in 1977(I was just watching Star Wars, lol), Zombie brings his political views to the forefront, which you will see eventually leads to his death. This is an amazing story and an amazing musician that continues to influence modern rock, rap, hip hop, jazz, latin and so much more. I can’t wait to learn more about him and this afrobeat music. Let the listening and discovery begin.
Album link:
About Fela:
Zombie Album Details:
Other Links:
Red Hot + Fela
I hope everyone enjoys this first pick.
Darren Scott
Click here to read our reviews of Zombie.