Gotta love it when modern bands bring their hard rockin’ blues to the table without pretensions. So let’s take a closer look at Damn Jackals (even the name rocks!)
Blues-rock still resonates, as Norway’s Captain Kill demonstrates on this visceral EP.
We featured rock ‘n’ roll singer-songwriter Anna Rose five years ago in a PoPTV feature and here she is again with a feisty new single and music video.
Rock ‘n’ roll might not have the same commercial or cultural impact it used to have but we promise to keep the flag flying.
Here are streams of new music you should be listening to that expresses the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. Enjoy!
Based in sunny Los Angeles, California, Rival Sons formed in 2008, the quartet of Scott Holiday (guitar), Robin Everhart (bass), Mike Miley (drums), and Jay Buchanan (vocals) captures that massively huge, guitar-driven classic rock sound, with rock-solid drumming and a riff-oriented approach to songwriting backing up Buchanan’s soaring vocals.
The late Arthur Lee and Love (the band Lee led & fronted) remains one of the most under-rated bands from the 60s/70s. Well, at least compared to their peers. Already well-documented is the fact that the likes of Jim Morrison (The Doors), Jimi Hendrix and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) were massive fans of this ground-breaking iconoclastic band. Certainly, the backward gazing bands of the 90s British indie scene owed a thing or two to Love.
One of the most freewheeling eclectic 60s bands, Love (which also included guitarist-songwriter Bryan Maclean, lead guitarist Johnny Echols, bassist Ken Forssi & drummer Michael Stuart) were never constrained by genres or styles and dabbled in folk, baroque pop, psychedelia, acid rock and even proto-punk (check out “7 and 7 Is” is below).
Not only that but the band can lay claim to producing one of the bona fide rock masterpieces of all time – the magnificent Love Changes.
However, due to drug problems and internal disagreements, the band’s commercial success dissipated in the late 60s, with Lee fronting a new set of musicians, but this incarnation of Love never garnered the widespread acceptance or acclaim of the original group.
Reel to Real was Love’s final official album and until now, has never been issued on CD! By the recording and release of this album, Love was essentially Lee with an assortment of session musicians but despite its marginalisation in rock history, deserves serious re-examination.
Not least for its daring coverage of a multitude of styles, despite its primary focus being on soul, R&B and blues-rock, one could imagine the young Prince, Lenny Kravitz or Terence Trent D’Arby listening to Reel to Real and copping one or two musical ideas.
Whilst modern pop fans would probably find themselves grooving to soulful gems like “Time is Like a River” and “Stop the Music”, alternative rockers might take a shine to off-beat numbers like “Singing Cowboy” and “You Said You Would”, which sound like Hendrix channeling Buck Owens! And that last song – “Everybody’s Gotta Live” – is the Lennonesque anthem Noel Gallagher wished he was smart enough to rip off!
The new reissue has rather illuminating outtakes which on occasion outshine the original tracks with their spontaneity and raw energy. There’s also a sloppy studio rehearsal of that classic Forever Changes outtake “Wonder People” for all your Love completists out there.
A hidden treasure re-discovered. Essential!
Will we ever see a band like Nirvana again? It’s hard to believe that the Nevermind album – which changed the face of the music industry in the early 90s – is now 24 years old! And since the decline of rock ‘n’ roll music in the late 90s, no other rock band has come remotely close to replicating the impact of Nirvana. Yes, we have had successful rock bands since viz. Nickelback, The Strokes, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay et al BUT relatively speaking, these have been minor successes when compared to the seismic pop culture impact of Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Beyonce and the like. Artistically as well, most of these aforementioned bands have failed to deliver.
Curiously enough, the last time critics declared the demise of rock ‘n’ roll was in the late 80s, when Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston ruled the roost, but as the wheel turned rock bands like R.E.M., Nirvana and the Seattle grunge scene ascended to the top of the charts. Well, it’s almost 25 years now and there appears to be no sign of rock ‘n’ roll ever returning to those levels of influence in the mainstream pop industry.
Still, that does not mean that good rock ‘n’ roll music (whether in the guise of pop-rock, indie pop, hard rock, electro-pop, blues rock, garage or punk) wasn’t being made in the last 15 odd years, it’s just that the environment of the music industry has been altered so drastically that it is virtually impossible for what happened in the early 90s to occur once again. The decline in record sales, the rise of singing contests (American Idol, X-Factor etc) and the ubiquity of Youtube, has meant that the major labels have had to hedge their bets and cynically control the musical output and fan appreciation thereof.
This has resulted in the most basic pop formulas viz. hip-hop/R&B accounting for the lion’s share of the chart action. These are 3 of the top 5 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 right now.
The one main thing connecting all three singles is a highly designed discipline to present the melody/rhythms as simplistically and repetitively as possible so that the hooks are very easy to remember. A deliberate lack of musical sophistication that dumbs down to the lowest common denominator creating an audience that is not able to appreciate anything that does not sound like what it hears on a non-stop basis on the radio. The perfect marketing tactic.
In fact, guitar rock is totally absent for the Top 20, with the nearest example being Maroon 5, and even though the music video for “Sugar” shows the band with guitars, it does not sound like there are any guitars on the song itself! In fact, it adheres greatly to the hip-hop/R&B formula with Adam Levine’s vocals heavily auto-tuned. Talk about soul-less! Going down the rest of the chart will depress any fan of rock ‘n’ roll with the genre’s utter lack of representation.
So, are the rumours true? Is rock ‘n’ roll dead? Well, not at the grass roots level of course, as both in the USA and the UK, there continues to be scores of bands who create great rock ‘n’ roll music, it’s just that even with the oft assumed ability of the internet to connect bands and fans, it’s the major labels leveraging on radio stations, streaming services and Youtube (again!) who will have the attention of mainstream music fans.
There’s the rub. If the major labels feel that the new rock ‘n’ roll have the fan base to make them sit up and notice, then they might feel the need to throw money that way. The question is — will the youth of today ever get tired of the formulaic pop stars being paraded before them? Will they ever hunger for something different enough to alter their listening habits? The signs have not been encouraging. The irony is that whilst the internet is always being trumpeted as the champion of free and alternative choices, the harsh reality is that the internet is still ultimately the tool of our corporate masters to dictate what food we should eat, what clothes we should wear and of course, what music we should listen to.
However, for those of us who are able to think critically for ourselves, the internet provides a means of escaping these corporate shackles and we can only do this by supporting the bands that do not conform to the grand masterplan of our overlords. Then, these bands might have the opportunity and liberty to create the kind of music we desire and love. So, is rock ‘n’ roll in a crisis? Not if rock ‘n’ roll fans continue to support the right bands and be evangelistic about the music they love.
Yes, PoP visitors, the ball is in YOUR court…
In the meantime, check out the Power of Pop playlist at Spotify highlighting 30-odd British guitar rock bands you should be supporting! Please FOLLOW!
… still there’s more …
There’s much to admire on this new EP from Micah Olsan & the Many. According to his bio, “Micah has been an active performer in the Midwest music scene for the last seven years. His diverse songwriting takes folky storytelling, interlocking guitar parts, and passionate, soaring vocals and places them smoothly on top of a funky, jazz and world-infused rhythm section. Micah’s writing draws on influences from Paul Simon to Radiohead and the Talking Heads.”
Certainly, tracks like “Trouble” and “All Around” will appeal to the punters who love trawling blues-rock pubs with the songs’ authentic roots demeanor. One to consider. Check it out at Bandcamp.
Best known for being the guitarist in Southern rockers The Black Crowes, Rich Robinson has truly come into his own on this excellent album of high quality country-folk-blues-rock! It’s probably a cliche to say this but one cannot but be impressed by the honesty and authentic passion expressed on this 12-track album. There’s so much genuine affection for the source material that The Ceaseless Spirit is a brilliant distillation of the late 60s attitude towards organic rock ‘n’ roll as represented by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Band, The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
From the moment that the familiar descending chord pattern emerges with the opening “I Know You”, 60s rock buffs have no doubt that they are in for a thrilling ride. Each subsequent track maintains this feel brilliantly with Robinson’s vocals standing up very well. The Ceaseless Sight is one of those rock albums that challenges the idea that the album as a concept is now meaningless and irrelevant. Old school to the max and loving it! Highly recommended!!
By now you should be aware of Power of Pop‘s quest to find the courageous bands out there who buck the current post-punk revival trend and mine the coolness of 60s/70s classic rock n’ roll. Talk about risk-taking! So add Dead Boots to the list. With influences identified as Cheap Trick, White Stripes, The Rolling Stones, Beatles, The Who and the Velvet Underground, it’s not too difficult to appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that the band – Tony Perry (Guitar), Adrian Perry (Vocals, Bass), Ben Tileston (Drums, Vocals) and Lou Jannetty (Guitar, Vocals) – have poured into its debut LP, Veronica.
Songs like the psychedelic “Violent Vows”, the rollicking “Wrecking Ball” and raucous “On the Rocks” truly hit the spot for true-blue rock n’ roll lovers. There are numerous delights here to be savored by fans of 60s pop- rock – “I See You Coming” has a lovely Californian vibe whilst “One of Me” has a dirty bluesy approach that Black Keys fans will dig.
Check out the power-poppin’ “Saturdays” below.
Believe me, it ain’t gonna be Fall Out Boy who’s gonna save rock n’ roll but Deap Vally will certainly have a much better shot at doing just that! Glorious blues-rock filtered through modern precedents like the White Stripes/Black Keys format, this femme duo has been shaking things up and is a band to look out for! Check out new video for “Lies” below.
Stunning classic blues-rock vibe on this great new song, “Behold a Pale Horse” from Anna Rose. The track is off the upcoming new album of the same name. The video was directed by Jennifer Tzar and was filmed in Snowdonia, Wales in April of 2012. Rose felt vey connected to the unique mix of ruins, epic natural landscapes, and strong sense of history in Snowdonia. Fits the song perfectly methinks.
SOME GIRLS Live in Texas ’78 (Eagle Vision)
The self-styled ‘Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World’ seemed to rejuvenate and reinvent itself in 1978 with the release of Some Girls, an album that incorporated elements of disco, punk and new wave into the Stones’ tried and trusted brand of blues-rock.
This DVD covers that special era in rock history – perhaps the Stones’ last great incandescent moment of glory before descending into self-parody since. The main attraction is concert footage from a memorable gig in Texas, where Mick Jagger and company pulled out all the stops to demonstrate that even in their 30s the band was still a potent force.
Aside from the new material (Eg. Miss You, When The Whip Comes Down, Beast of Burden. Far Away Eyes, Shattered and Imagination), the Stones also delivered their ‘greatest hits’ with the usual aplomb – Honky Tonk Women, Tumbling Dice, Happy, Brown Sugar & Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
Bonus features include contemporaneous clips from Saturday Night Live, 20/20 and a 2011 interview with Jagger. For classic rock fans everywhere.
Also worth picking up – the latest reissue of Some Girls which includes an unmatched collections of outtakes that no Stones fans would want to miss.
TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS Mojo (Reprise)
Why is Tom Petty such a cool cat? Because first and foremost, Tom Petty is a fan. Listening to his considerably impressive oeuvre, it is clear that he has assimilated all his favourite bands/artists (Dylan, the Beatles, the Byrds, the Kinks, Hendrix, the Stones, the Band) and concocted his very own psychedelic-folk-rock-country-blues style.
Mojo is Petty’s 12th album with the Heartbreakers and the first since 2002’s controversial The Last DJ. With Petty turning 60 (!) in October this year, Mojo sounds like the work of an assured master, assisted by the best sidesmen around viz. Mike Campbell (guitars) and Benmont Tench (keyboards).
The 15 tracks on Mojo hearken back to the heady late 60s, even as bands/artists began to throw off the fanciful effects of LSD and returned to the roots of American rock music. Thus, electrified blues-rock is the prominent direction here in songs like Jefferson Jericho Blues, Running Man’s Bible, I Should Have Known It, Takin’ My Time and Lover’s Touch.
However, Petty’s vaunted classic rock eclecticism is still very much evident in tracks like the psych-jazz workouts of First Flash of Freedom, Dylan-Young folk-rocking Trip to Pirates Cove, the sweet rock ‘n’ roll jivin’ Candy, the country-folk American beauty of No Reason To Cry, the rasta vibe of Don’t Pull Me Over and the wonderfully epic Beatlesque Ksoul-blues closer Good Enough.
Call me an old fart if you like (but never boring!) but this gloriously retro-delic album represents all that is precious about our rock music. Long may you run, Tom.