R.E.M.’s “Accelerate” (2008) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-07-11 23:30:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  5 / 5 stars

Raw energy, often the domain of a young band, is that elusive intangible that surges and passes and that, even when it is present, cannot always be tamed.  Sadly, it can be lost in veteran bands, and replaced though it may be with the polished products that come with years of practice, it is a poignant loss.

On Accelerate, R.E.M. recaptures this element for the first time in years with some of the most engaging recordings of their career.  Considering that their discography stretches a quarter of a century across fifteen studio albums, it is significant to claim Accelerate as one of the strongest albums in the R.E.M. catalog.

And it is.

Barely passing a half an hour in length, Accelerate — true to its name — attacks numerous focal points in politics and society with distortion guitars and biting lyricism.  Somehow, the band manages to strike a balance across the eleven tracks, including slower, more introspective tracks like “Until the Day is Done” and “Hollow Man” in what is otherwise a full-on alternative rock assault.

A less seasoned band might have forgotten to take the time to breathe.

The aforementioned tracks are not the standouts, but they are the pillars of the album.  “Until the Day is Done” is a thinly veiled protest song, thumping out the thematic pulse of the album as a whole.  Michael Stipe sings of “an addled republic, a bitter refund” and warns that “the verdict is dire, the country’s in ruins.”

Written near the end of George W. Bush’s time in office, Stipe’s references are crystal clear.  How have we responded to our state of affairs?  “We’ve written our stories to entertain these notions of glory and bull market gain.”  He goes on to conjure an Orwellian society as he sings, “An easyspeak message falls into routine.”

This is a stark vision, punctuated as it is with the self-doubt of questions like “What have I done?” and “Where are we left to carry on until the day is done?”

Lest this album be represented as preachy or whiny, it stands to be noted that there is just as much self-reflection woven into these tracks.  Consider “Hollow Man,” a song which finds Stipe reflecting on “saying things I didn’t mean and don’t believe.”

The voice that Stipe takes on here is one quite familiar to many individuals in a modern age driven by so-called ideals of productivity and consumerism: “I’m overwhelmed, I’m on repeat.  I’m emptied out, I’m incomplete.  You trusted me, I want to show you I don’t want to be the hollow man.”  It might be easy to overlook the reflective aspects in Stipe’s lyrics amidst the more scathing remarks, yet the album’s greatest strength is its balance between pointing out external as well as internal inconsistencies and failings.

Taking this heart on one’s sleeve approach into consideration, these two tracks in particular, may serve to bring the remaining nine tracks even more sharply into focus.

R.E.M.'s "Accelerate" (2008)

R.E.M.'s "Accelerate" (2008)

“Living Well is the Best Revenge” is an excellent opening track; the instrumental components are reason enough to set this song on repeat, driven as it is by Peter Buck’s gritty guitar parts, Mike Mills’ frenetic bass line, and Bill Rieflin’s breakneck pacing on drums.  Stipe’s vocals set the tone for the other songs to come, spewing out lines about poison spinning into “the life you’d hoped to live” and lashing out with epithets like “you weakened shill.”  Likewise, “Living Well is the Best Revenge” serves up the first round of religious allusions, Stipe singing of lambs to slaughter, “sad and lost apostles,” and asking “the gospel according to…who?”

This is followed up by “Man-Sized Wreath,” which boasts lyrics on par with the best Stipe has ever written.  The song opens with a continued reference to the media (think: “camera three” from the previous track, in addition to numerous later lines), “Turn on the TV, what do I see?  A pageantry of empty gestures all lined up for me, wow.”  It would seem from these lines that the “man-sized wreath” is the metaphor for those news anchors and other television personalities who contribute their “empty gestures” to the “pageantry” of the boob tube.

Later, Stipe sings that our “judgement [is] clouded with fearful thoughts,” but by the end of the song, he asserts that “I am not deceived by pomp and odious conceit.”  This song could be a call to buck the system – “Throw it on the fire, throw it in the air; kick it out on the dance floor like you just don’t care” — or a tongue in cheek request to join in the “festivities” that so many seem so comfortable to be a part of — “Give me some…”

Either way, there is something quite sad about the way in which Stipe states, “I’d have thought by now we would be ready to proceed.”

It doesn’t get much darker than three tracks later on “Houston,” as they kick off the song with an opening organ barrage that sounds like a cross between industrial noise and a funeral dirge.  Stipe fires off with “If the storm doesn’t kill me, the government will,” although he quickly adds, “Gotta get that out of my head.”  For all his harsh words, there is still hope and beauty in the places that Stipe sings of — Texan cities: coincidence? — as he clarifies that the “meaning has not been erased.”

By “Mr. Richards,” the frustration lurking underneath “Houston” is directed at one man, to whom Stipe asserts, “You can thump your chest and rattle, stand in front of your piano, but we know what’s going on… we’re the children of the choir.”  This is a shift from the perspective of “Man-Sized Wreath” — whereas before it was Stipe against the world, now it seems that there is a sense of unity with his audience.  Mr. Richard’s “camp moved on” and “the public’s got opinions,” “we’ve begun to bridge the schism.”

Progress is being made.

Stipe is practically cheery by the next track, “Sing for the Submarine,” reassuring that “It’s all a lot less frightening than we would’ve had it be.”  Here, “lift[ing] up your voice” is the way to fight the machine: “we’ll pick it all up and start again.”  Still, the instruments and even Stipe’s vocal delivery belies the hope expressed in his words:  the drums plodding, the bass playing ominous, and the guitar haunting.

In “Horse to Water,” Stipe notes, “I could have kept my head down.  I might have kept my mouth shut…  You lead a horse to water and you watch him drown.”  This firmly establishes “Horse to Water” as a statement on the album as a whole, particularly with Stipe following up in the chorus by singing, “It’s not that easy.  I am not your horse to water.  I hold my breath, I come around, round, round.”

In the special edition lyric booklet, a full two page spread is devoted to the final line of the song: “this run around… IS BOUND TO POUND THE DAYLIGHTS OUT OF YOU.”  Bottom line?  The state of affairs that Stipe and company have cut a path through to expose and expound on are very real.  Earlier, on the title track, Stipe sings, “I’m not alone, a thousand others dropping faster than me,” so Accelerate is clearly an album that calls for community.

It is primarily an album that digs into the uglier aspects of our private lives and the least sunny undercurrents of our society, and yet does so with a sense of unabashed honesty and even, at times, levity.  Take the single “Supernatural Superserious,” which deals with identity via the metaphor of the “humiliation of your teenage station.”  “I’m Gonna DJ” is only the second outstanding end-of-the-world rocker that R.E.M. has cooked up, and it’s perfectly placed as the closing track.

It’s saying something when a song about the end of the world is a welcome, light respite from the topic matter of the first ten tracks.

Throughout, R.E.M. succeeds in handling the topic matter with the perfect sound and a fitting sense of the greater scheme of things.  Even the booklet is branded with the caption “This book will fall apart.”  Aside from the fact that they’re not kidding (seriously: it’s tied together loosely with some thin thread), this is a nuanced manner of adding to the overall theme of decay.

The chorus of the title track, itself situated at the heart of the album, says it best:  “Where is the rip chord, the trap door, the key?  Where is the cartoon escape hatch?  No time to question the choices I make.  I’ve got to fall in another direction.  Accelerate.”  The message seems clear enough, a call for change that is desperately needed.  Read this as you will, either as a personal statement or as an indictment of the nation.  Regardless, the determination to be realistic and forthcoming is a quality we all too often lack when faced when crises come creeping into our lives.

It is human to see “the future turned upside down” and it is oh so very Prufrockian to “hesitate.”

If I read Stipe right, hesitation simply is no longer an option.  The solution seems to be to change direction and… you guessed it: accelerate.

“Will It Grow” (Jakob Dylan Cover)

Originally posted 2010-03-15 19:24:13. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Jakob Dylan chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

I hope you enjoy seeing me with hair tonight, because as of Wednesday evening, it’s gone!  That’s right — I’ve decided to shave it all off.  Well, maybe “decided” is a strong word.  One of my colleagues, one who offered a great deal of useful advice during my first year teaching, asked me if I would join an English department team for this year’s “St. Baldrick’s” event.  I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to join in with my fellow English teachers, and as you may know, it isn’t all that often that someone asks me to join a team!  So, off goes the hair in the name of raising money to fight children’s cancer.  I’m currently at the bottom of the list of fundraisers on my team (listed online as $0, although I have raised about $65 from staff and students at school that will be added tomorrow).

If you’re interested in supporting this excellent cause, just CLICK HERE!

So, you may be wondering: what does this have to do with the Laptop Sessions?  Well, the answer should be clear if you read the title of my song choice tonight.  I thought “Will It Grow” would be a fitting question to ask on the eve of my head being shaved.  Of course, Jakob Dylan isn’t referring to hair, but I was able to add a bit more emotion to my interpretation of this track all the same.

“Will It Grow” was released in 2008 on Dylan’s solo album Seeing Things.  Since Jeff recorded “Something Good This Way Comes” prior to its release, I never felt the need to record a track from the album.  To be honest, I wasn’t as impressed with this album as I could have been.  Of all people, I should be able to appreciate a set of good acoustic performances.  That being said, it’s difficult to listen to an all-acoustic album from the front man for the Wallflowers — they’re such an incredible rock band!

Now, almost two years removed, I came back to Seeing Things by chance and thought it was a shame that I had never covered one of the tracks.  Not surprisingly, I found a set of chords online riddled with errors and transcribed for a capo.  I love capos as much as the next guy — and probably more! — but if it’s not necessary, I can’t see a good reason to use the capo.  Thus, I posted the chords here at the Laptop Sessions for those interested in a more straightforward, accurate description of how to play the song.  I can certainly understand how the errors may have been made, as I found it a bit difficult to pick up all the chord changes over the intricate fingerpicking.  Eventually though, I think I came to a fairly solid version of what Dylan originally intended.  I hope so — Jakob Dylan is one of my all-time favorite songwriters, so I took it very seriously.

In other Laptop Sessions news, I recently went through all the music reviews I posted previous to “The Weekend Review” series and added a rating out of five stars.  Why did I take the time to do this?  Well, initially I felt that ratings were arbitrary and that I really wasn’t qualified to make those sorts of judgments on music.  After all, I wouldn’t want someone assigning a low rating to the music I poured my heart into.  Still, the more I’ve been thinking about it, the more I realize how important the rating is to the review as a whole.  After all, half the fun of reading reviews is agreeing or disagreeing with the author’s rating.  Thus, how can I deny my readers (however few of them there are ;- ) the opportunity to think I’m right on, far off, or somewhere in between?  It was fun going back to these albums; most reviews I wrote before the Weekend Review were based on albums I loved, so that didn’t hurt.  And it reminded me of how much I enjoy holding to a weekly writing schedule.  It may be difficult at the time to carve out an hour or so on a Sunday to write, but it gives me a good reason to skim through my CD rack on Friday or Saturday to choose an album to listen to throughout the weekend.

Other than shaving my head, this week should be pretty normal.  I still have to get used to TNA Impact! being on Mondays.  It’s a great way to kick off the week, a relaxing night with friends and comfort food and wonderfully mindless television entertainment, but I do miss being able to look forward to Thursday nights.

Finally, I thought the new Locksley album was supposed to be out tomorrow, but it wasn’t listed on the Newbury Comics newsletter today.  Luckily, the White Stripes are releasing their first live CD this week — more and more, I’ve been growing fond of Jack White’s work, particularly with his side projects.  So, I’ll give it a shot and let you know…

See you next session!

“Hang On To Yourself” (David Bowie Cover)

Originally posted 2009-03-09 23:28:50. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For David Bowie chords and lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to a brand-new week and a brand-new set of sessions here at the best acoustic cover song music video blog in the universe!  Monday is my day, and as usual, I dug through the new release news to see what I could find to play.  I found a couple of options, but this one stood out to me the most…

David Bowie’s “Hang On To Yourself” was originally released on the 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.  Now, that’s an album title if I’ve ever heard one!  It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, as I know admittedly little about David Bowie.  But from a quick online search, I learned some interesting facts.  For instance, D.A. Pennebaker (better known for his documentary on Bob Dylan Don’t Look Back) recorded a concert film and titled it the same as the aforementioned album.  Also, “Hang On To Yourself” was apparently originally released (as “Hang Onto Yourself”) by David Bowie’s band called “Arnold Corns.”  He got the idea for the band name from the Pink Floyd song “Arnold Layne.”

So, amidst all this David Bowie trivia, you may be wondering what any of this has to do with new music Tuesday…

Well, it appears that David Bowie is releasing an official version of a live concert titled Santa Monica ’72.  For years, this was only available as a bootleg.  Then, in the mid-90’s, a former management company released it without Bowie’s authorization.  So, this has become one of those records that circulates through the underground, perpetually spreading from one fan to the next.  As of tomorrow, the official release will be on the shelves.

“Hang On To Yourself” is the first song on this live Santa Monica ’72 album, and I can see why!  It’s a peppy, rocking number with rapid-fire lyrics and a very brief running time.  What better way to kick off a concert?  While I haven’t heard the live version from 1972, I can only imagine what it would sound like…

That’s pretty much it for me tonight.  I had a very enjoyable weekend on all fronts…

…which means that I have lots of work to catch up on this week!  I’ll be working on entering grades by Wednesday morning, speaking to a group of sophomores at a CCSU “college to career” seminar Wednesday evening, and starting to work on my BEST portfolio after about a week and a half on hold for other stuff.  I know, I lead an exciting life!  :-)

I hope you enjoy my video, and I hope to continue to post new “extras” in the near future — I already have inspiration for new “Deep Racks Reports,” music reviews (check out my one-sentence reviews posted yesterday!), and other articles.  I also have to get cracking on some site work I signed up for a couple weeks ago and haven’t gotten to (sorry webmaster!).

Don’t forget to hurry back tomorrow for an all-new Jim Fusco Tuesday.  It’s certain to be “we-should-name-a-day-of-the-week-for-it” good…

See you next session!

Brian Wilson – SET LIST – 7/16/2008

Originally posted 2008-07-16 21:48:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Click here for the concert review!

The set list for Brian Wilson’s 7/16/2008 “Greatest Hits” show at the Warner Theatre in downtown Torrington, CT. A review of this great show will follow, so check back here very soon!

1.) Do It Again
2.) Dance, Dance, Dance
3.) Catch a Wave
4.) Surfer Girl
5.) In My Room
6.) Hawaii
7.) Don’t Worry, Baby
8.) You’re So Good to Me
9.) Then I Kissed Her
10.) Drive-In
11.) All Summer Long
12.) When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)
13.) Add Some Music
14.) Do You Wanna Dance?
15.) That Lucky Old Sun track (“I’m goin’ home…”)
16.) California Girls
17.) Sloop John B
18.) Wouldn’t It Be Nice
19.) God Only Knows
20.) Marcella
21.) I Get Around
22.) Good Vibrations

ENCORE
23.) Johnny B Goode
24.) Help Me, Rhonda
25.) Barbara Ann (Brian on bass)
26.) Surfin’ USA (Brian on bass)
27.) Fun, Fun, Fun

ENCORE #2
28.) TLOS track (“Southern California…”)

The venue really was excellent, boasting great acoustics and atmosphere. More on that when I post my review, but this is what it looks like from the outside:

Brian Wilson Live at the Warner Theatre! 7/16/2008