Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Curious Case of Chad Kroeger….

-PART 1-

First, let me preface this by stating that it is meant neither as an indictment or an endorsement of Nickelback or any other band.  It is merely an observation; a true story about the state of popular rock n’ roll music.

Like many other once pure institutions (I am using the word pure very loosely here)  in the world, rock n’ roll and the music industry in general has been ransacked by money and power hungry executives who are more interested in mass production and dollar signs than quality and purity of music.  This is not a speculation or a conspiracy theory, this is a fact.  I am not writing in an attempt to prove this because I am busy and I don’t have time to write a novel.  I am writing because I am curious…

The other day while sitting at school and listening to people talking (a favorite pastime of mine), I happened upon two people who were discussing music and more specifically the band “Nickelback”.  Let me tell you, the reviews as far as these two were concerned, were not good.  But the fact is, this is not a new theme.  I have heard people time and again discussing their disgust or at the very least dislike of Nickelback.  And if it isn’t Nickelback, it’s the Foo Fighters, and if not them then Linkin Park.  It always throws me for a loop because these bands, especially Nickelback are at the height of their popularity; they sell millions of records, sell out concerts all over the continent, and are on the radio every 3.5 seconds (I counted).  Now what I am curious about is how this is possible if most people don’t like them and discredit their music.

The natural conclusion is that people lie.  There are obviously a lot of people out there that won’t fess up to being big fans of the music, ostensibly because they know its garbage.

Now, I am not the biggest Nickelback fan, but I also don’t walk around hating them either, I am mutually indifferent to them.  And for that reason I am not here to discuss whether they suck or not.

I believe Nickelback and all the bands like them are a symptom of a much larger problem.  The problem is the one I already stated; corporations are running rock n’ roll.  Nowadays, when a band signs on to a label, they might as well be selling their souls to the devil.  Save for a few powerhouses that have been around forever, most bands are controlled by their label.  And it would take an extremely naïve person to think that this control doesn’t pore over into the creative process.  If a band doesn’t perform the way the label wants them to, the label simply drops them and replaces them with someone who will (and the bands know this).  This is especially an issue for younger bands who are just starting out.  The older more established bands (like your Nickelback’s and Foo Fighters) have already been bought and sold with the riches that come with being the biggest band in the world.  They probably do have enough clout to take a stand and make more honest, artistic music but in doing so they would be rocking a boat which is carrying all their riches while most likely ostracizing many of their “fans”.

At the end of the day, the labels and production companies have a good idea of what the people want and the bands are good at giving the labels what they want, music that people will buy.

For the moment I am never minding the ways in which the labels and music industry decides what the people want; which includes computing every facet of a song so it has the perfect balance of repetitiveness (to be memorable) and difference (so it isn’t boring).  Then there is the length, apparently somebody, somewhere, long ago decided that three minutes and thirty seconds was the perfect length for a song.  How exactly can a real artist work under these conditions?  Imagine if Pavarotti was only allowed to sing an opera that was a half hour long and no longer, no shorter; or if DaVinci was only able to paint with the colors blue and orange.  I am not saying that every song, every album has to be Sgt. Peppers or The Wall; there is a place in the world for bands who just want to sing pop songs that are easy to listen to.  But, when the bands who sing the easy to listen to pop songs are cast to the forefront of a genre and hailed as the best we have to offer, well I have a pretty huge fuckin problem with that.  The fact is that there are good bands out there who are making art, who won’t sell out and put out garbage for a few bucks, who most people have never heard of because we’re too busy bobbin our heads to pussy boy Nickelback and the slew of minion-ite bands that sound exactly like they do.

Now that I got that out of my system I will carry on with my point.  We need to demand more from musicians than just this watered down, sterile music which is disgracing the airwaves 24 hours a day.  I have this theory about the popular musicians, a theory which is probably not shared by many.  I believe that bands like the Foo Fighters and Linkin Park and even Nickelback are capable of putting out better, more artistic music.  I listen to the stuff they have now with the distortion pedals cranked way up, and the repetitive, catchy hooks and I know they are capable of writing songs. The reason these bands put out this type of music is because it’s what the labels want, and the reason the labels want it is because it’s what they can sell to the people.

Now, when I say that rock n’ roll was once a pure institution, I do in fact believe it.  And I do believe that even in the face of the obvious impurities of rock, including; drug use and drug overdoses, groupies and sex, and even the money and luxuries that came with it.  But the fact is, early rock n’ roll musicians engaged in this behavior but they never let it dilute their music.  Rock n’ roll was originally used as a tool to stick it to the man, now it’s just another tool for the man to get our money.

Now, let me finally say that there is a solution to the problem.  In an ideal world the record companies would fix the problem by endorsing and recoding talent that was more creative and artistic but that would probably cost them some money.  The artists like Nickelback and the Foo Fighters could decide to change their ways and make better music; but as already stated, they know they’ll be replaced in short order with someone else who will do what they are doing now,  so there really is no incentive for them.  The solution is that we, the consumer, need to stop swallowing the pill that has been given to us in the form of subpar music.  Stop buying records and songs just because they have been shoved down throat on the radio; stop listening to radio stations that only play the aforementioned music; and stop patronizing concerts of these bands.  Like any other supply and demand business, if the demand for the shitty music goes down, then the supply will go away pretty quick.  And if the demand for quality music goes up, you can be guaranteed there will be a plethora of good bands ready to be listened to.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I plan to delve more deeply in the development of rock and where we possibly went wrong.

Tagged , , , , ,

A concert review…kinda…

Music is an amazing thing.  It brings about a wide range of so many emotions when you experience it; the joy in a rousing rock anthem to the beauty of a perfectly played piano solo to the anger from a song about political or social justice.  In his song called “Trenchtown Rock”, Bob Marley said “one good thing about music, is when it hits you, you feel no pain”.  My experience with music has been every bit as special and then some.

Over this past weekend, Philadelphia was literally the musical epicenter of the country.  We hosted three days of glorious music that won’t soon be forgotten.  For those who were lucky enough to attend either the Made in America festival or the Bruce Springsteen concerts at Citizens’ Bank Park, this weekend was a testament to the great power of music.

I personally was able to attend both Bruce Springsteen concerts at the ballpark.  With the shows averaging 3 hours and 40 minutes, fans sure got their money’s worth.  If I can be honest, I don’t know how that man does it.  I think it is quite obvious that he is not normal.  By that I mean he has achieved a certain amount of longevity that most would be jealous to attain.  In fact, Bruce Springsteen has more energy at 62 years of age than I do at 25.

The music of Bruce Springsteen brings about very polarizing responses.  Most people either absolutely love his music and will buy anything he releases or they literally could not be more disinterested to the point of disdain when you bring up his name.  You very rarely run into a person who is lukewarm on the subject of Bruce Springsteen.

There is one exception to that though, I have never met a person who attended a Bruce Springsteen concert and walked away unmoved.  And that is why I love music much.  One of my favorite past times is watching bands perform live.  Even if I don’t know anything about their music, I love to watch live music.  Hell, I have even gone and seen bands that I literally do not like and have come away with a new found respect for them if they can put on a good live show.

On Sunday night I was at Citizens Bank Park for night one of Bruce at the Ballpark.  It was a 33 song, 3 hour and 45 minute house party.  He opened the night with “Summertime Blues”, “Out in the Street”, “Sherry Darling”, and “Hungry Heart” and closed the night with “Thunder Road”, “Born to Run”, “Rosalita”, “Dancing in the Dark”, “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”, “You Can’t Sit Down”, and “Twist and Shout”.  This show included Bruce’s now trademarked mid-set forage into the crowd to gather sign requests, of which he played multiple songs that were requested.  The amazing thing is that he pulled a sign request out for Roy Brown’s “Good  Rockin Tonight”, a song he has played scarcely in the last 30 years; and after a quick consultation about the chord progression he yelled out 1,2,3,4 and went right into the song and the band played it without a hitch.  With 22 songs in between it seemed like this show was gonna go on forever.  The first of two shows was sold-out with a crowd in excess of 45,000 people singing, clapping, fist pumping, jumping, and chanting.

I was also at the show on Monday night as well, which was Labor Day.  This second show was a shortie, only 28 songs and 3 hours and 35 minutes.  Bruce played 14 different songs on Monday than he did on Sunday.  The second show had a much different feel and theme than the first show did.  Being Labor Day it seemed as though Bruce wanted to play a show for the working man.  He opened the show with an acoustic version of “Factory”, “Adam Raised a Cain”, “Streets of Fire”, “Prove it all Night”, and “Something in the Night” followed by a very strange and diverse set list which included songs from his very first album as well as the seldom played, “The River”.  It was this point in the show that brought it home for me; Bruce had taken a sign out of the crowd as a request from a young woman up front to play the song, “The River” for her husband.  It was a very emotional and touching point in the show, especially as they put video of her on the screen behind the band.  The band closed the show with the masterpiece epic “Jungleland”, “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”, and “American-land”.

All in all Bruce put on two amazing shows for one of the first towns that accepted him back in the 1970’s.

As I said before, going to see bands play their music live is one of my favorite things to do.  Nothing beats the raw energy, the spontaneity, the emotion, the joy, and the candidness of a live show.  In today’s world of tough economic times, foreclosure, unemployment, and just overall daily stress; sometimes people need an escape.  I find that no matter how tough the times are, how stressed out I am, when I go to a concert (especially a Bruce concert) I can stand there in my place and let all that stuff go for the 3 hours the band is on  stage and just be happy.

Tagged , , , , ,

9 Cool Album Covers

I was sitting at home a few days ago listening to some vinyl when I came across the Beatles “Revolver”.  Musically it is one of the greatest albums of all time.  But while I was listening I was looking at the album cover and its pretty bad-ass.  So, I decided to go through a few other records and pulled out Queen, The Who, and Pink Floyd, bands that had some of the most iconic albums and album covers of all time.  I decided to write about nine records that I think have awesome covers. Everyone else does lists that are the top ten and I want to be different so my list includes nine.  I am not giving a list of what I think are the top nine nor am I implying that these nine are the coolest.  In fact, I could probably write a list of fifty albums that I think are badass but nine seems like a good number so here I go…


Elvis Presley (1956) Elvis’ debut album!


This is the one that started it all.  For people who love rock n’ roll as I do, this cover should be the Holy Grail.  It’s simple, it’s profound, and it’s alive.  When I look at this cover I am drawn in, this guy is singing about something awesome and I wanna know what the hell it is!

Catch a Fire – Bob Marley (1973)


Okay, I am going to try and be as simplistic as possible here. This album cover art is a freakin lighter.  On the original production you could flip open the top portion to reveal the fire inside…the record “Catch a Fire”.  Most rock n’ roll from the 60’s and 70’s is characterized by smoking weed and Bob Marley and the Wailers were no exception.  Probably the stonerist of all stoner bands…I just think this is damn cool.  And to top it off, this was Marley’s major label debut.



Beastie Boys – License to Ill (1986)


Another debut album here.  You see the album cover from the front with the Beastie Boys logo centered on the tail of a large plane, the Def Jam logo slightly left which is positioned next to the alpha numerical “3MTA3” which reads EATME when viewed backwards. Then you open up the album sleeve and view the full picture only to see that the plane has crashed into a wall. The plane in the full picture looks similar to a joint or cigarette being extinguished.  It’s chaotic, slightly brutish, and unruly.  The perfect depiction of what awaits the listener of the album. It’s epic!



Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (1975)


First of all, for those of you who don’t know me, I am sort of a Bruce fanatic but that is not why this album ended up here.  Typically I am more of a fan of album art that doesn’t include the band or artist who recorded the album but this one is just too cool to not include.  Being Bruce’s third album, he still hadn’t quite been introduced to the world yet.  This album and cover did that and more.  At the front we see Bruce looking like he is about to crack up about something then you open to view the full picture and see him leaning on his saxophonist Clarence Clemmons with whom he is presumably sharing this laugh. The cover tells you all you need to know about Bruce and how he felt about his band.





Rage – RAGE (1992)


Another debut album by a controversial band Rage Against the Machine.  The album cover is a picture of Thích Quảng Đức who was a Buddhist monk who literally set himself on fire to protest persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government.  His martyrdom was fruitful in that it caused many Buddhists to rally around the cause and put pressure on other governments (specifically the U.S.) to withdraw their support of the dictatorial government.  The original photograph was so compelling and highly regarded that it won a Pulitzer Price and a World Press Photo of the Year Award.

London Calling – The Clash (1979)


I feel like I am over using this phrase but the album cover tells you all you need to know about the band.  It has elements of aggression and rebellion, along with the simplicity of the way the bands’ name is written in just white lettering across the top.  The album title is written in a parody of another cover on this list.  I find the parody interesting because of the choice of who they parodied.  In the late 50’s Elvis was enacting his own sort of rebellion and was breaking barriers in forging rock n’ roll.  Twenty years later, The Clash are on the scene and wreaking havoc.


Sgt. Peppers – The Beatles (1967)


The greatest album from the greatest band of all time; the concept for this cover was that the Beatles would be pictured with famous and otherwise inspiring people of their lives.  It was an interesting and expensive concept, but they’re the Beatles so they can do what they want.  The story goes that John Lennon wanted to have Jesus and Adolf Hitler included as well but was rejected; Hitler for obvious reasons and Jesus because of the backlash the band received after Lennon’s comments concerning the band’s popularity and Jesus’.

Nevermind – Nirvana (1991)


The symbolism on this album cover is palpable. It characterizes everything you need to know about Kurt Cobain and his band.  They are the ever incorruptible band who frequently voiced displeasure over a corporate society, especially in the music industry.  Nothing else to really write about this one except that it’s funny, it’s funny cause it’s true; and it’s sad, it’s sad because it’s true.

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd (1975)

I love this album cover, I find it interesting, compelling, and full of symbolism, symbolism I probably don’t even fully understand.  The guys in Pink Floyd were the ultimate artists.  The truth is, they probably have 4 or 5 album covers that are worthy of greatness, but this is my favorite.




To conclude, I give you my 9 cool albums covers.  Truth be told I left a lot of great ones out, I didn’t include any by Queen or Iron Maiden who both had classic album covers.  I left out the Rolling Stones and the Who and didn’t include any really contemporary bands.  I also could have made a list with just Beatles or Pink Floyd but I only included one from each.  The fact is, there are so many cool album covers to choose from.  And it’s just one of the many reasons that I love rock n’ roll!!!