Friday, August 1, 2008

Struck By the Sounds

Rolling Stones - Shine A Light
I’m not sure why, but I was not over-enthusiastic to see this movie. I love some of Scorsese’s work (although I find some of it unbearable - what is it with gangsters hurting each other that is so compelling?), and I continue to love the Stones in concert even when they put out decades of crappy albums (to be fair I did like A Bigger Bang), but for some reason I just didn’t care about seeing the Stones run through their paces again. Now that it is out on DVD I somewhat reluctantly sat down to watch. The first sequence is somewhat irrelevant with manufactured angst between Jagger and Scorsese about the finer points of staging and filming the shows (at New York’s intimate and classy Beacon Theatre) and a ridiculous scene where Bill Clinton and his entourage make the four English lads stand up straight and act like proper gentlemen. Thankfully, this brief scene gives way to an explosive and visually stunning performance by band and director. For the most part, Scorsese stays out of the way and stays focused on the main course; Jagger and Richard. Each time I see the Stones I enter thinking about Jagger “What can the old goat possibly do to keep this interesting?” and I leave thinking “how does the old goat keep it so interesting?” The answer is; he is indefatigable in his desire to put on a good show. His physicality, for a man of his, or any age is breathtaking. There are a couple of points where he goes into a kind of frenzied primer of modern dance steps that are absolutely unbelievable. Not that he is Baryshnikov, but his energy, his perseverance, his singular melding of a visual component to his already impressive abilities as a songwriter and singer is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. In Rock and Roll Mick is THE frontmnan. There is just no other singer who can generate the excitement and illustrate his songs with his body the way Jagger can. Keith on the other hand, shows no sign of rehearsal or practice. Instead he shows signs of a Robert Johnson-esque pact with the Devil. He simply is the embodiment of a rock star. Someone who has given over mind and body to the riff. His every move and gesture demonstrates some kind of divine (or savant) connection to the music he plays. He misses plenty of notes and stops playing at times to just revel in the groove, but none of this has the effect of hurting the performance. Keith is all about the show and exhaling music as freely as he inhales nicotine.
The set list is just different enough to keep even tour hounds happy, with an extra dose of Some Girls era material and such rarities as “Just My Imagination,” “Lovin’ Cup,” “You Got The Silver” and “Connection” (the latter two delivered by Keith in some of the best footage of the movie). There are three guest spots with Jack White about to burst out of his skin with excitement, Christine Aguilera about to burst out of her clothes with sexuality, and Buddy Guy proving he is one of the few performers with the over-the-top energy of Jagger and the rock grok of Richard. It is an electrifying performance of Muddy Waters’ “Champagne and Reefer” and it is worth the price of admission alone. Throughout, the film is peppered with enticing bits of footage from throughout the Stones’ long and public history of misbehavior that add a touch of whimsy to the affair. As it ended with (what else?) “Satisfaction” it was hard to not wipe away a tear of recognition at this mightiest of all Rock bands. What an accomplishment - to play for 50 years and still be compelling to your audience. How many performers can make that claim?

Classical buyers -
With the death of Tower Records almost two years ago, we at Twist and Shout made a conscious effort to fill the gap that would be left when the only serious player in Classical music bowed out. I figured that the buyers would need a place to go, and that this was a very important gap in the world of music which needed to be taken seriously by someone. With that, we embarked on filling the holes (many) and trying to build a section that while not completely comprehensive (didn’t have a couple of million lying around) was interesting and representative of most of the important sub-genres. It was quite slow at first - trying to build awareness and customer support, but I was somewhat amazed when I recently looked at the figures and realized that Classical was now our 6th largest category on CD. As we have steadily built this clientele, I have made a somewhat unscientific study of the clientele that frequents the Classical section. The results have been surprising.

I fully expected the Classical section to be frequented by patrons over the age of 50 who were going to be hard to satisfy. This has turned out to not be the case at all. In fact, what I have discovered is that at our store, the typical Classical buyer is simply not typical at all. They are marked by their taste more than their age or appearance. It seems to me that most of the folks frequenting that section are SERIOUS about music. I have seen a number of Heavy Metal customers, Deadheads and Punks perusing the stacks of Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Gorecki and J.S. Bach. In addition there is a large contingent of professional musicians (Classically trained and otherwise) who look for inspiration in this section. Of course, there are plenty of the expected traditional Classical customers who generally don’t have much use for other types of music and want things to reflect that particular view (no loud music playing etc.). I actually have a great deal of respect for this type of no-bullshit attitude. When I go shopping, I often know what I am looking for, and wish that the retail world understood this and just got out of my way. The process of grocery shopping is so often fraught with misdirection and compromise that I sometimes wonder why I even bother. Possibly the most interesting facet of these customers is the sense of relief apparent when they do get what they want. To the Classical buyer, getting a particular piece of music is not a whim, it is a Grail quest that must be fulfilled in order for the world to be in harmony. I love this. Music is important. I often think it is THE most important thing in the world. It is the universal language that transcends the confines of words and in the language of emotions. UH did I get off track here? It doesn’t matter - it’s the blogosphere!

The Last Shadow Puppets - The Age Of Understatement

Looking for a substantive, fun album that reminds you of the kind of music made in the 60’s without being a slave to it? English band The Last Shadow Puppets have delivered a deliriously fulfilling album of pop, art rock and hook filled hits that is sure to fit the bill. Apparently they are all the rage in the U.K. but remain somewhat unknown here. A shame, because their album is so full of clever song craft and unexpected audio treats that it should be big everywhere. The songs rarely stray from standard structure but are consistently dropping brilliant flourishes of strings here, washes of psych guitars there, and (fab)ulous vocal flourishes throughout. I was immediately enthralled with the album and listened to it two or three times in a row and like it more with each turn. This has been a good year for old sounding new music. If you were excited by The Black Keys or Vampire Weekend this will also float your boat.

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