What’s THAT Supposed to Mean?: Silversun Pickups, “Panic Switch”

Are you pistol-whipped? Do you release the glitch? Can you fall asleep with a panic switch? What’s THAT supposed to mean?

Quite by accident, this series has had much more to say about the expressiveness of music than the brilliance of lyrics. I’m OK with that. I majored in music, not poetry.

And this one comes from a strange place. Singer/guitarist Brian Aubert says (see the Songfacts link he and bassist Nikki Monninger were typing dirty words into a thesaurus with a computer voice, yadda yadda yadda, here’s a song about nervous breakdown.

At Genius, the contributors think the first verse depict a man trying to sleep but thinking of a failed relationship. The alarm clock and white noise machine aren’t helping.

SongMeanings has one interesting suggestion — it’s about an anxiety attack about the music industry, not a failed relationship.

Songfacts has one funny addition — Mitt Romney started using this song in his campaign, much to the band’s amusement. Rolling Stone confirms.

All interesting, and I still have no idea why someone having a nervous breakdown over a relationship of any kind would need a panic switch. Whom would the panic switch summon? Who would present a clear and present danger? Are they worried that a record company executive might come through the window, and the panic switch triggers an alarm in their agent’s office?

My best guess is that whatever situation is plaguing the protagonist here has created a fit of paranoia. Which makes it especially hilarious that Romney used it in his campaign.

The lyrics are fine. Deconstructing them too much surely misses the point. But what pushes this song into brilliance are the instrumental flourishes that convey a sense of uneasiness and anxiety more efficiently than any words could.

Monninger’s bass line is the key. Through the verses, she repeats a one-measure riff with a rhythm that is both steady and unsettled. Three notes are off the beat — if you use “1-e-and-a” to count 16th notes, they’re on the “a” of 1, the “and” of 2, the “e” of 3. Then she climbs back up to the top of the octave on “4-and-1.” The effect is like someone thrashing around between coherent and incoherent thought. The “4-and-1” is unrelenting, like a throbbing headache. (But it sounds so good!)

In the chorus, the bass line settles down to steady eighth notes, as if the protagonist has managed to catch his breath and assess the situation. But it’s not resolved. Aubert restates the opening guitar riff as Monninger goes back to the churning pattern of the verses.

The bridge adds a twist. The bass line, again, is steady eighth notes. But this is where Aubert repeats the phrase “I’m waiting and fading and floating away.” It’s as if the protagonist has managed to take stock and simplify the situation, and … it’s not good.

After restating the chorus, with a bit of backup vocals in the mix, Monninger and Aubert play the main riff together while drummer Christopher Guanlao — who plays a complex but subdued part through most of the song — thrashes wildly.

The song is a perfect showcase for a band that sometimes sounds like Smashing Pumpkins — high-pitched male voice, similar guitar sound — but has a unique style that lends itself to subtlety. Keyboardist Joe Lester plays synths that seem to have more buttons and knobs than keys, usually taking a complementary role while Aubert, Monninger and Guanlao serve as a quirky power trio, sometimes inverting the bass and guitar roles like Entwistle and Townshend in The Who. Guanlao has one of the strangest drum kits in music — nearly everything is to his left except a floor tom and a crash cymbal raised so high that he can barely reach it.

The video is a fairly typical sequence of quick cuts, but it also gives us a few glimpses of the band in action. Check out Guanlao’s left-hand alternation between the hi-hat and the ride.

So we still have a few questions. Who’s having the breakdown — the protagonist or the other party? Why is it “you” through most of the chorus but “she” in the last line? Have the sales of panic switches gone up as a result of this song, or have they dropped because references to the song now occupy most of the first page of search results for “panic switch”?

But Panic Switch is a compelling, relatable listen. And its clever instrumentation puts it several rungs ahead of most alt-rock angstfests.

Why Patent Pending Decided to Merge Two Monster EDM Tracks Into One Catchy Pop Song

A few years ago, the first mashups took the internet by storm. Soon, merging two songs to create one bangin’ track (or video, as was commonly the case) was a straight-up craze. Where bands had always gained notoriety for their covers, mashups made them their own breed of bonafide superstar.

For Patent Pending, one particular mashup was a way to shed light on the original versions of the songs. Their creation blends two recent megahits: Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Tiesto’s “Wasted,” both EDM staples at this point. PP frontman Joe Ragosta says, “It’s very common and very easy for people to overlook EDM music. We wanted to make these two songs rock so people who would much prefer rock to EDM could hear these tremendous melodies and catchy singalong parts it in a more familiar way.”

The band, whose signature sound also fits nicely in the whiny, Blink-182-ish pop-punk renaissance of the moment, doesn’t shy away from a challenge when it comes to either mashups or covers. In fact, on their new album, Other People’s Greatest Hits, they bravely tackle everything from Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” to Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”

Get a taste of Patent Pending’s catchy, flashy flair in their colorful video for “Wasted”/”Wake Me Up” in its Popdose premiere below!

ALBUM REVIEW: BIG STAR, “The Best Of Big Star”

So here’s the short version – Stax Records, in conjunction with Ardent, has finally released a sensible compilation of Big Star’s best moments – even though there have been several import editions of variations to this theme, this brand-new CD, The Best Of Big Star, is – for all intents and purposes – just that.  Now, I DO have my few questions about some of the choices (which I’ll get to, momentarily), but for anyone who has been curious yet never took the plunge into the Big Star canon,  this is the perfect primer.  It’s also an ideal way to pass the legacy/legend down to the younger generations who just don’t know.  This is a fine way to help anyone who hasn’t heard these remarkable songs begin to appreciate how vital; how important and how timeless Big Star and their music was/is/will forever be.

Big Star never had “hits” but for those of us who have been along on their magnificent ride, the hits are, indeed, here.  It’s also worthwhile to note that this CD has the special “single” edit mixes and the previously-unavailable on any album/compilation original 45 version of “September Gurls”, with the difference in pitch – 6 tracks in all that haven’t been heard in decades is enough to intrigue anyone.  But on one CD, you have “When My Baby’s Beside Me”, “September Gurls”, “The Ballad Of El Goodo”, “Thirteen”, “Back Of A Car”, “Thank You, Friends”, “Jesus Christ”, “O My Soul” and so on.  Sixteen songs in total; no filler.

Where my personal tastes dispute a few – and I do mean just a few scant choices – of the tracks are simple:  I would have rather had “Big Black Car” in place of “Take Care” (from 3rd); I would have chosen “Daisy Glaze” instead of “Life Is White” (from Radio City) and instead of “I’m In Love With A Girl” (also from Radio City), I would have picked “Try Again” (from #1 Record).  Am I nit-picking and splitting hairs?  Sure.  But it’s my preferences, that’s all.  THAT would have made it a truly “best of” in my mind – and with the flow of the songs.  On the other hand, “Back Of A Car” is on here and to me, that’s THE most perfect Big Star recording – those sparkling, glistening guitar notes;  the buoyant vocals – listen to how Jody’s drums “circle” the speakers during the second verse – I’ve listened to it endless times and still marvel at it.  Or the on-the-one perfection that is “When My Baby’s Beside Me” – still my favorite Big Star track (and probably 4th favorite song of all-time in the history of peoplekind).

With precise, heartfelt and accurate liner notes from noted Memphis author/music historian Robert Gordon, a tasteful digipak and sixteen magnificent songs for the ages, you cannot go wrong with this “best of”.  Because Big Star were the best of everything music had to offer – impeccable songwriting, other-worldly vocal harmonies, stellar musicianship and a sympathetic/experimental producer in the late, great John Fry to help pull it all together.  I’ve often thought, as I’ve aged and time has passed, that Big Star were as important as The Beatles.  They certainly are to me.  And that will never change.  Neither will the unadulterated beauty of their music.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – ESSENTIAL LISTENING

The Best Of Big Star is currently available

https://bigstarband.com/

 

Theater Review: “The New Bad Boys of Magic”

The estranged members of a magic act reunite on stage during The New Bad Boys of Magic, a one-act play now holding performances as a part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

Daniel Donohue and Eric Siegel star as Dan and Eric, two down on their luck magicians who work through their issues in the middle of one of Dan’s performances. They haven’t seen each other in years, and Eric’s appearance is a shock.

Despite the misleading promotional art for the play, Dan is hardly a “bad boy” of magic. On the contrary, he’s a swell kind of guy who has to make a living doing kids birthday parties. It wasn’t always so bad. When he and Eric were together, they were an act in Vegas. Unfortunately, Eric took to the bottle and now he’s a homeless drunk.

He barges in on Eric’s family friendly show, drunk and belligerent, and things quickly turn R rated. Over the course of an hour, they work through their issues, and actually perform some nifty tricks, making “The New Bad Boys” time well spent, if you like sleight of hand and edgy humor.

Donohue and Siegel are engaging actors, and they play their roles quite well. Donohue has a boyish charm about him that makes him quickly likable, while Siegel easily slips into the part of a complete asshole that can’t let go of his grudges. Their believable relationship is what holds the play together, despite its shortcomings.

Does Siegel play a good drunk? Not really. Maybe it was the nerves of opening night, but his version of an alcoholic comes across as play acting. Likewise, the exchanges between the actors felt stiff at times, as if they were still getting comfortable with the material. I suppose with more shows under their belts, the lines will sound more authentic and the illusion of whether you’re seeing a play or actual events will get pulled off more successfully.

Speaking of illusions, the magic tricks are great fun for the audience. The best involved a bottle of 151- proof rum and had some audience members gasping. On the flip side, a lengthy card trick that involved storytelling wasn’t quite as successful. The cards were difficult to see from my seat, and since the bit was so long, it was difficult to maintain enthusiasm.

I suppose the limitations of a tiny theater (I think it sat 50, maybe) may be a reason behind the difficulty pulling off this trick. But every magician knows they have to play the whole room, and the room I was in had a hard time following the trick. They might consider adding more and different tricks to replace this one.

On the same issue of their room, despite the tiny stage size, Donohue and Siegel need to use more of their surroundings. Too often, the stage direction was the two of them standing center stage, facing each other, shutting out their audience.  The confines may have been tight, but there was plenty of space considering they had limited props. Considering that the show’s director, Jonathan Hymen, is a veteran of Chicago theater, I hope they can work this out.

Nevertheless, the actors, both disciples of Chicago’s Second City, and whose work has appeared on TBS and Funny and Die, know how to entertain and make you laugh. The New Bad Boys of Magic is very funny, and if they can continue to pull off that trick, the other elements will fall into place.

The New Bad Boys of Magic play at the Hollywood Fringe Festival June 17 at 3:30pm, and June 24 at 10pm. All performances are at the Flight Theatre at the Complex, 6472 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90038.

Tickets are $10 and can only be purchased online, at www.hff17.com/4501, or by phone by calling (323) 455-4585.

Album Review: Styx, “The Mission”

You have to use a specific formula when you review a Styx album. Admittedly, critics haven’t always done so, nor have they needed to for a while. The last album of all new material, Cyclorama, came out in 2003. Between then and now, the band has released one album of cover songs, a series of EPs where the band covered themselves, and several tours. That Styx was able to finally make an album of new material is to be applauded. Many artists of their vintage don’t see the value proposition of making anything new, particularly when the next tour comes around and all anyone asks for is “Come Sail Away.”

Because of this extraordinary step, it is justified to give the band’s latest, The Mission, as fair a hearing as possible. Not that such should ever be doubted, but the band will forever have to deal with Kilroy Was Here as part of their legacy; an album that, even on the level of kitsch and novelty, withers under scrutiny. Thus, that specific formula has to be applied.

You can only measure Styx albums against other Styx albums.

Styx never has and never will produce something on the level of “All Along The Watchtower.” You might measure “Come Sail Away” against “Stairway To Heaven” on the basis of audacity, but even so, the former comes off as extremely broad when benchmarked against the latter. You can’t even really measure Styx songs against “Don’t Stop Believin’,” or “High Enough,” even though Tommy Shaw was/is a member of both Styx and Damn Yankees.

But if you match Pieces Of Eight against Edge Of The Century, or Paradise Theatre against Brave New World, you can make it work. Why is this necessary? Because, in order to sound like a proper Styx song, you need to balance three opposing personalities. First you need bombast and theatricality, as embodied by former bandmate Dennis DeYoung, whose stamp on the group is so indelible that, even after his departure, he still is regarded as the “voice of Styx.” Then you have a sort of “meat ‘n potatoes” version of rock, as personified by Tommy Shaw. Finally, you have James Young. Even though he’s never verbalized it, to our knowledge, Young always comes across as a guy who would have loved to have been a classic “rock weirdo” in the mold of an Alice Cooper, KISS, or even Marc Bolan. He straddles the fence between the other two band personalities in this way, and because he has acted as this unifying force, has needed to tamp down that freak flag that always feels just slightly out of frame.

So there you have it. It is hard for Styx albums to compete with other bands because there’s so much competition within its own ranks. You get either cohesion or breakdown when one of these forces shouts down another. But, you might interrupt: DeYoung is not in the band anymore. Isn’t this pattern broken? Not necessarily. Even though he’s been with the group for fourteen years, Lawrence Gowan is stuck with the unenviable position of not only being “the new guy” but of replacing an outsized musical presence such as is DeYoung’s. He has to bring drama without bring “the drama” or it just won’t sound like the band (a malady that took down Cyclorama at the knees).

That’s quite a preamble. Is The Mission worth the effort? Popdose’s Ted Asregadoo and Dw. Dunphy dare to compare.

Dw: As the opening suggests, you can’t measure Styx albums against, say, Journey albums, or Kansas albums, or U2 albums, or whatever. You have to see how they fit into the very specific thing they do and, by and large, The Mission is successful under those conditions. It sounds good, it sounds like the band you remember from the late 1970s, much more than what the band would become in the ‘80s.

Lyrics are still a sore spot with Styx, no matter who is writing. There’s no room for subtlety with them. If they’re singing about a mission to Mars, that’s not a metaphor. They’re going on a mission to Mars. This is particularly true with the song “Gone, Gone, Gone” which opens up the record proper (after “Overture”) which uses a lot of gung-ho, psyche-up language.

The song “Khedive” is mostly an instrumental, and the playing on it is pretty extraordinary. I was hoping that it would build into a massive crescendo of some sort, but it doesn’t quite pay off. The band sings “khedive!” at the end, which is the name of the ship on this mission to Mars. (Apparently, it means: “The title of the monarch of Egypt in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, nominally a viceroy of the Sultan of Turkey.”).

So up to this point, I’ve sounded fairly negative. What I want to put across is that while there are a lot of imperfections throughout The Mission, it is still very enjoyable. It feels, in terms of narrative, like Styx were taking a cue from Queen’s soundtrack to the Flash Gordon movie. Plus, there are two really good songs on here…good enough that they can fit seamlessly into the live repertoire, I think. “Locomotive” and “Radio Silence” really stand well on their own but are not — and this is important — singles. If people buy this record looking for a new “Come Sail Away,” “Renegade,” “The Best Of Times,” “Don’t Let It End,” or even “Show Me The Way,” they’re going to be disappointed.

You need to get to this album with low expectations, and afterward, you’ll be positively surprised. If you actually are expecting The Grand Illusion, Pieces Of Eight, or Paradise Theatre, you could be let down. But it’s definitely not Kilroy or Brave New World, that’s for sure.

Ted:  I think you’re absolutely correct in your view that this is not a singles-driven Styx album.  The Mission certainly hearkens back to their pre-Cornerstone or Paradise Theatre era when the band was writing songs that weren’t laced with backward looking romanticism. This is certainly a forward looking concept album, but you can’t have a mission to Mars without humans taking their cultural conditioning with them.  That certainly comes out in the lyrics. There’s kind Star Trek quality to the lyrics that make me think Gene Roddenberry would be happy with the whole “wagon train to the stars” vibe.  The sense of adventure, swagger, wonderment, and moments of longing are the stuff of Captain Kirk and the crew — but Styx handles it without the campiness.   

Personally, I love how “Overture” sets the tone with a classic Styx sound that’s both ethereal and melodic —  and then kicked it into high gear with “Gone, Gone, Gone.”  The latter song really rocks, has great Styx harmonies, and J.Y. Young’s playing is just flat out great. “Hundred Million Miles” is one of those mid-tempo numbers that’s a nice transition song to push deeper into the journey. It’s not proggy in feel (as the songs later in the album are), but it seems the band keeps with a standard song structure so the transitions from song to song aren’t as jarring.  

As a musician Dw, I’m curious to know your thoughts on the music on the record. I’m just a music fan, but you actually compose music. From my view, I think the band is both playing at a level I haven’t heard in a long time, and the music itself is just solid.  How ‘bout you?   

Dw: One of the best parts about the album is that they’re doing it as a rock band. The thing that sinks a concept album or a rock opera the quickest is when songwriters think they’re librettists. That’s when you wind up with singers, belting at the top of their lungs, “I’m so sad!” Then you’re really in trouble.

That said, I think the band left some money on the table.

I’m sure they’re gun-shy and don’t want to cross into Kilroy territory, but I felt like this story needed a couple more songs. Usually I’m asking for fewer, so it comes as a surprise to me. But I would have loved to hear a song that voices regret about leaving earth, something more personal and individual-driven. Like a voice of resentment that previous generations screwed things up so badly that such a mission was a necessity in the first place. That would have been a prime spot for J.Y. to rant and rave.

Or, perhaps, the child or other family member that harbors resentment that a parent is taking off and leaving them behind. Surely some people are going to be left behind while this “wagon train to the stars” does its duty.

Speaking of which, I’m reminded that Styx once did a song called “Why Me?” It would have been a fun turn to have a song called “Why You?” which voiced the frustration of those who were rejected from taking the mission. But maybe these could have flirted with Kilroy’s cheesiness, so perhaps it’s for the best that no such things are here.

Ted: If there’s glaring flaw in the record, it’s the last song “Mission to Mars.” For all the build up in the story, the conclusion fell flat. The song itself sounds a bit like a tack-on and lyrically it doesn’t do much to conclude anything.  So, while I really enjoyed the journey Styx took me on, the end of the ride seemed like a bit of a letdown.  From “Time May Bend” (which has many proggy elements),“Ten Thousand Ways,” “The Red Storm,” the rolling keyboards of “Khedive” and even the soaring quality of “The Outpost” it all seems to work as part of the narrative.  But once “Mission to Mars” comes on, I was kind of scratching my head and wondering, “That’s it?”

Dw.: Yes, “Mission To Mars” is a toothless coda. It feels hollow; a big, “Yay, we made it!” but for what value? As the opening section to, perhaps, a reprise of “The Greater Good,” now with more of a positive sentiment behind it, perhaps that would have made a more satisfying end. I think that would have upped the progressive feel to the whole thing a notch.

But I don’t want to linger too much on where the record falls down. It could have been much stronger, in my opinion, but it also could have been magnitudes weaker. When the album works, it works very well, and I think Styx is to be commended for all of those moments. For as fractious a group as they’ve been over time, and for the long period where they did not have new material, no one could predict they’d come up with something that hits more than it misses than this album.

Ted: During their heyday, Styx seemed more like a corporation than a band. From their VH1 “Behind the Music” episode, Tommy Shaw wasn’t masking how disillusioned he was when the band moved away from their progressive and hard rock roots to a hits driven band. And yeah, it’s easy to rag on Dennis DeYoung, but he did write most of their most memorable songs. But Shaw, J.Y., and even the Panozzo brothers were much more committed to Album Oriented Rock than Contemporary Hit Radio, so for this current incarnation of the band to go back to the 1975-1978 sound as a conscious decision was a smart move. At this stage of their career, Styx doesn’t need another ballad with the word “paradise” in it. They started as a rock band whose sound intersected with progressive rock — but was much more melodic — and that’s where their roots are.

On The Mission they really do get back to their roots in a way that’s not campy, ironic, or ham-handed. Given that the group’s last record of original songs was in 2003, it was a gamble to attempt something like this. They took their time (something like two years) and the songs are, for the most part, squarely in the best of the hard rock tradition. Credit goes to both Tommy Shaw and Will Evankovich who had the vision (and the songs) to make The Mission a satisfying return for Styx as songwriters, players, and a band. And on the production side, I’m very grateful they also created a sonic treat for music fans. In other words, the record sounds great!  

Radio City With Jon Grayson & Rob Ross: Our Super Sweet Episode Sixteen!

Radio City with Jon Grayson and Rob Ross:   – It’s Our Super Sweet Sixteenth Episode!

Ah, yes. Sweet sixteen. A time when adulthood is just within striking distance, but not quite yet at the place where you can be sent to fight wars on foreign soil, or pay taxes like the freeloaders you are. It’s a momentous occasion. But…where are the fireworks? Um, we were promised BLACK FOREST CHOCOLATE CAKE, not double-chocolate! And this pathetic techno the DJ is playing? NOT ENOUGH “OONTS,” YOU LOSER!!

S I G H ! !

Settle in for your listening pleasure while Jon and Rob discuss Zephaniah Ohora, Amilia K Spicer, Chantel Monte, some Beatles thoughts, a brief review of the Wonder Woman movie (and why Jon’s the only person in the world who didn’t love it), The Keepers on Netflix, terrorism in England, Kathy Griffin and Bill Maher and the death of courageous comedy, the cars that carried us while we listened to the music we grew to love. and so much more!

And…Trump.

 Radio City with Jon Grayson and Rob Ross Episode Sixteen

The podcast will be on the site as well as for subscription via iTunes and other podcast aggregators. Subscribe and let people know about Radio City, as well as Popdose’s other great podcasts David Medsker’s Dizzy Heights and In:Sound with Michael Parr and Zack Stiegler.

POPDOSE PREMIERE: Jordan Okrend Experience, “Dance By the Riverside”

Throughout music through the ages, songwriting has incorporated just causes, from civil rights to the environment. In that vein, Jordan Okrend and his Experience brings his own unique blend of timeless pop, rock, folk, and a touch of funk and jazz to the table. The singer/songwriter, who’s based in the musical hotbed of Asheville, NC, prides himself on creating songs that speak to every listener, everywhere. “The emphasis is on speaking to the human experience,” he says.

His new album, Dance By the Riverside, combines the best of old-school sounds with modern references, like social media and ghosting. Unlike someone who’s trying to be ultra hip and current, however, the cohesiveness of his writing makes it all work. And, of course, there’s the message and intent behind his work — and it’s an important, positive one. “I hope this album inspires and uplifts all who hear it,” he says.

Check out the video for title track from Jordan Okrend’s new album (out June 23) below — now making its Popdose Premiere!

Soul Serenade: The Marvelows, “I Do”

Sometimes the events of the day are overwhelming. There have been a lot of days like that lately. As I write this, a group of Republican members of Congress who were practicing for a charity baseball game were targeted by a shooter who wounded several of the people on the field, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. There will be lots of analysis of this event in the coming days but the bottom line is that it’s hard not to be concerned about the very future of this country.

And sometimes even music doesn’t help quell the anxiety, but writing about the music that I love is what I do, and to not do that today would indicate some sort of surrender to the powers of evil that are afoot in this world. I’m not quite ready to give up on hope just yet, and I hope you’re not either.

So let’s talk about the Marvelows this morning, a Chicago vocal group that laid one indelible single on the world in 1965. They got together in the late 1950s. The original lineup included Melvin Mason, brothers Frank and Johnny Paden, Sonny Stephenson, and Jesse Smith. The inclusion of Smith was particularly crucial to the group because it was his mother that suggested to the group that they look up an old schoolmate of hers, Johnny Pate.

Pate had recently scored a job as the head of Midwest A&R for ABC/Paramount Records. Working with Pate, the Marvelows recorded four songs for the label including “A Friend,” “My Heart,” “Hey, Hey Baby,” and “I Do.” It was that last song that secured the Marvelows a spot in music history. Ironically, “I Do” was written specifically to be used as a vocal warm-up for the group, but it turned out to be a #7 R&B hit and crossed over to the #37 spot on the Pop chart.

The following year, Smith left the Marvelows and was replaced by Andrew Thomas. At the time, there was a group on the west coast called the Marvellos. Seeking to avoid confusion, the Chicago group changed their name to the Mighty Marvelows, and released a second single, “In the Morning,” in 1968. It reached #24 on the R&B chart and was the only other charting single for the Mighty Marvelows. It wasn’t for lack of trying though. Other singles like “I’m Without a Girl,” “Fade Away,” “Your Little Sister,” “You’re Breaking My Heart,” and “Wait Be Cool” failed to chart.

ABC/Paramount released the group’s one album, The Mighty Marvelows, in 1968 but by the following year, the group was done, save for a brief reunion in 1974. The J. Geils Band covered “I Do” on their 1977 album Monkey Island, as well as on their 1982 live album Showtime!

DVD/CD REVIEW: THE WHO, “Isle Of Wight 2004 Festival”

Only two years after the long-dormant festival was resurrected, one of the bands who left a pretty timeless mark previously at the storied festival, returned to play another blistering set, this time, highlighting their own incredible career.  The Who returned to the U.K. stage for the first time since the death of bass player John “The Ox” Entwistle and took the Isle Of Wight Festival by storm for the first time since 1970.  As expected, their set was a deadly force of power, pop, rock, drama, theatre and downright unstoppable beauty (which 9 times out of ten, you can pretty much expect from a Who performance).  Aided and abetted by the stellar talents of Pete Townshend’s brother, Simon, on second guitar and vocals, session bassist/virtuoso talent Pino Palladino (the only man who could step in for the late and sorely missed Entwistle), thunder drummer Zak Starkey (taught to play by Keith Moon, so it’s only natural) and long time Who keyboardist Rabbit Bundrick (who has since left the band), this line-up constitutes the perfect balance of fleshing out The Who’s highly intricate sound without watering it down or making it less than dynamic.

The hits and concert staples are here, along with a few surprises and it’s a very healthy mix, spanning the band’s decades of being road (and studio) warriors.  Opening with the now-traditional “I Can’t Explain”, they tear into “Substitute” and on to “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” (which you wouldn’t normally expect – at least, not at that time) – a joy to see and hear them bring back into the fold, as it’s such an often-overlooked track.  High points from Quadrophenia include the triad of “The Punk Meets The Godfather”, “5:15” and “Love Reign O’er Me” (once again reminding you why Roger Daltrey is the greatest rock singer of all time).  A spirited run-through of “You Better You Bet” leads into the all-time anthem, “My Generation” and the Tommy section doesn’t disappoint with the thread of “Pinball Wizard”, “Amazing Journey”, “Sparks” and “See Me, Feel Me”/”Listening To You”.

If you’ve never experienced (and that’s the key word:  experience) seeing The Who live, it is absolutely essential that you do while there’s still time.  Even now – thirteen years after this show was filmed – they’re still out there, doing it.  Some nights may be better than others, but regardless, you will never be disappointed by them for the sheer energy and life they breathe into these songs and into their audiences.  I know – I’ve seen them many times over the years.  And this visual documentary is a perfect reminder of what Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and those songs can do for the human spirit.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

The Who – Isle Of Wight 2004 Festival is currently available

www.thewho.com/