Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: chinese democracy

What a difficult list to compile. Especially since, glancing down at my iTunes running, there are 33,773 songs in my library. According to iTunes, it will take me more than 100 days of continuous listening (with no sleep, now I realize) to listen to them all. It’s rather extensive, and it’s the sort of collection that makes my taste in music suspect at best, beginning as it does with A-Ha (because any collection without “Take On Me” is incomplete) and ending (before it reaches songs without proper ID3 tags and lumps them all) with “Skin Up Pin Up” by 808 State/Mansun from Spawn: The Album (iTunes is the first organization system I’ve seen that puts numbers after letters, rather than before; if it did, the first songs would be by 1 Giant Leap or 12 Rounds). In between those few, there’s everything from Rick Astley, Belinda Carlisle, and Bon Jovi to all of Clapton, the Beatles, and Sinatra.

So it’s pretty expansive.

But expansive as it is, I tend to stick to some favorites. Lately it’s been a lot of Wolfmother (and Jet; what is it about Australia that inspires such great rock music from its bands?), Vanessa Mae, and, as always, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Also, Adam Lambert and Matt Wertz.

So there’s a lot. But I winnowed. I winnowed after I kept reading other lists that fawned over, like, Radiohead and such. I mean, has Radiohead ever managed to be as good as Pablo, Honey? They’re like Pearl Jam and Matchbox Twenty, with fantastic debut CDs but output that has gotten subsequently less terrific with each title. For me, anyway. Your listening may vary. Also, dear Rolling Stone: The Strokes and Wilco in number 2 and number 3 spots, respectively. No offense, but seriously? No wonder people debate the continued relevance of the magazine. I mean, how safe.

Why not stretch a bit? Why not reach for some choices few people would expect? Then again, this from a guy who doesn’t really enjoy any of those three bands. I know lots of reviewers fell over themselves to heap a lot of praise on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but there wasn’t a single song on it that made me want to listen to the CD again. I get the impression it’s all just, like, hey, everyone else likes it, so we should, too, but to cite one of the artists who earned a spot on my list by way of a great CD, “You don’t know what love is, you just do as you’re told.”

So, suspect taste noted, shall we? My top ten albums of the last ten years, in order:

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It’s worth remembering:

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Also worth remembering: that tomorrow is not so much a victory as an opportunity. That it is not nearly so much a culmination as it is a beginning. My greatest hope for the coming Obama administration is that it will help to remind us that the struggle hasn’t ended and may never be over, and that its burden is on our shoulders. That we shall not be lifted lest we lift each other up.

“Forgive that they teared down my soul
Bless them that they might grow old
A dream that’s forgotten may know
That it’s never too late.”
-“Madagascar,” lyrics by W. Axl Rose.

Just a little patience:

Is that not perhaps the greatest whistle of all time? Pretty rad.

That was mid-Guns ‘n Roses, wasn’t it? I have to admit I don’t remember; I was 2 in 1980, and my early childhood was spent loving Bon Jovi more than anyone else, ever. If Appetite for Destruction came out in 1987, I was all of 9 at the time, and I fear I was always more into books and reading than music, anyway. The first thing I remember about Guns ‘n Roses is dancing with Jennifer Harwood to “November Rain.” I was, like, 14, maybe?

Still, love them now. Chinese Democracy? I have to post a review of that one of these days; it immediately became one of my favorite CDs ever. “Madagascar” alone would have been worth two decades.

But I bring all this up because I found something yesterday. Just happened across it.

Now, you wouldn’t think something could be more awesome than Axl doing “Patience”. I mean, Guns became nearly as synonymous with his slithery-dance delivery as with his howl and Slash’s riffs. How often can you apply an adjective like “awesome” to a whistle? And even the lyrics are pretty good. I mean, they aren’t Roger Clyne-level good, but not everyone can be the poet laureate of peace, love, and Rock & Roll, can they be?

But say you wanted to improve on “Patience”. Say we wanted to make it cooler. Wouldn’t your first thought be to rock it harder? Mine would be. I mean, to make “Black Betty” cooler, Spiderbait had to race a vintage truck on a jet-powered drumkit.

Surprisingly, though, the answer, apparently, is to go backward. It makes sense if you think about it; “Patience” is all about yearning. It’s a sort of desperate song, and are strumming guitars and a band more known for hookers and blow than for its body of work really all that desperate?

(In some ways they are, actually. I’d venture few people are as familiar with desperation as Axl Rose. Which I don’t mean to deride him, mind. I think Axl’s a genius who’s had to work through a lot of shit)

I bring all this up, though, because yesterday, I saw this:

I mean, for real. Candles and a piano in what appears to be some kind of Beauty and the Beast-esque underground lair, with a pretty brunette singing “Patience” like she means it.

That’s Terra Naomi, of whom I’d never heard, sadly. Following to her website, seems she’s an independent musician building her audience and using really interesting ways to support herself (see the “Help Make My New Album” section of her website).

Over here, I made a plea for Chinese Democracy, the first new Guns ‘N Roses CD since the two Use Your Illusion records (bypassing The Spaghetti Incident?, a covers CD).

Apparently, the Rock Gods heard my plea, and Rolling Stone has a review of Chinese Democracy, which will be out in a couple of weeks. David Fricke uses “Was It Worth the Wait” to lead but never really gets around to his own question, so I will:

abso-fucking-lutely

Chinese Democracy is an epic, sprawling CD that epitomizes for albums what some dude once said about novels; that they’re long fiction with flaws. Chinese Democracy (from what I’ve heard) isn’t flawless, but what great art is?

And yes, I’ll call it art. It’s a term I usually eschew, because most of the time I think it’s pretentious at best and absurd at worst, but I think it’s excellent for what it is. It’s not Beethoven’s 9th, but it is, approximately, Rose’s 5th, and it is absolutely excellent for what it is. It’s loud and blunt and rocking with little restraint, and that’s very much why it’s magic.

via Chinese Democracy : Guns N’ Roses : Review : Rolling Stone

There are few things that excite me more than ambition. A lot of music critics complained that The Killers’ Sam’s Town was too Springsteen-esque/epic, and while I’d be the first to admit it is, in places, sprawling and messy, well, so is sex a lot of the time, and I think we can all agree ain’t nothing wrong with that. “Read My Mind” is one of my favorite songs in recent memory:

And now a new Killers’ CD on the horizon, comin’ up soon: Day & Age drops in late November (the 25th to be exact), and I simply can’t imagine I’m the only one totally looking forward to it.

I’m a bit late, I think, but I caught their video for the CD’s first single, “Human”, which, unfortunately, won’t embed, probably because Universal Music Group is being all greedy with their rights and such, so here’s a direct link to the YouTube video.

pay my respects to grace and virtue
send my condolences to good
give my regards to soul and romance
they always did the best they could
and so long to devotion, you taught me everything I know
wave good bye, wish me well.

Fuck yah.

So now there are two CDs that are going to make the world a better place: this one and Guns N’ Roses Chinese Democracy.

And Winter is going to rock.

Earlier this week, blogger Kevin somebody-or-other was arrested for posting and streaming 9 songs, all of which appeared to be near-studio perfect recordings of GN’R’s long-awaited 6th CD, Chinese Democracy, on his blog. He appeared in court on Wednesday morning, when his bail was set at $10,000. In June, after he streamed the songs on his website, he apparently told Rolling Stone:

I’m not so worried about that. It’s a legal grey area since it wasn’t for download, it wasn’t a finished product. We aren’t sure who owns the recordings. I feel like I might survive this.

And I’m sure he probably will, but one might wonder precisely how.

Apparently, the songs were only on his website for a little while before two things happened: first, it sounds like the host’s server crashed (which makes sense, because ZOMG NOO GNR!!!111!!!), and second, someone associated with GN’R asked the guy to take the songs down and erase the digital files, which he did (which was why he couldn’t supply the FBI with the original files when they later asked). So, really, no telling how many people managed to catch the audio stream at exactly the right time. In the meantime, after the songs were taken down at GN’R’s request, copies managed to make their way around the tubes. It was one of those copies a friend of mine convinced me to listen to.

I had mixed feelings about doing so. I’ve heard a few people call Axl names for suing the guy who posted them, but I just can’t help seeing the situation from Axl’s perspective: here’s a guy whose name is on two of the greatest rock albums of all time (Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion). I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to have to try to make a follow up to Illusion; both CDs are, first minute to last, terrific. I still listen to them all the time. And Appetite? It’s turbo-charged summer on vinyl, barbecues and beers and bonfires, the groin-tightening excitement of making out for the first time, knowing you want to use your body but having not a clue what you want to use it for. So he’s got both those albums under his belt, and now everyone’s been waiting for the follow-up for, what, like, 13 years or something?

Not to mention all the press he’s gotten in the meantime. People who have probably never actually seen him in real life, even on a stage, writing about his “neuroses” and “depression” and “erratic behavior,” and etc. And I’m not saying his behavior hasn’t been erratic at times, but I am saying I can totally understand why he’d want to become total recluse. With pretty much everyone scrutinizing your every move, would you want to leave your house?

I wouldn’t. I’d sit down in the studio and I’d spend a decade trying to write something better than what I had done before, and it would probably take that long, too, because let’s face it; what he’d done before was awesome. So Axl spends more than a decade trying to get it right, trying to get it better, and then some random dude posts the unfinished work on his random website.

Heck, I’d be pissed, too.

But, then, as a fan, man, do I want to hear what he’s working on. Which was why I had mixed feelings about listening to the songs; on one hand, I’m just dying to. On the other, I know that if they’re not out yet, there’s a reason they’re not out yet, and Axl probably doesn’t think they’re finished yet. And I’ll admit I ain’t musical enough to detect an extra note here or a more produced layer there, most of the time, but then again, I’m not cinematic enough to really know anything about lighting or whathaveyou, and I wouldn’t presume to try to view, say, Quantum of Solace before I sit down to watch it in a theater.

In the end, the GN’R fan in me won out, and yes, I listened to those 9 songs. I thought it’d be neat to do a review of them, but then I thought: as a writer, would I want someone to review an unpublished novel I didn’t feel I had finished revising yet?

Of course I wouldn’t.

Hell, I’m not even sure I should tell you that I thought they were awesome. The kind of awesome, in fact, that’s worth waiting nearly a decade and a half for.

So I won’t. I’m not going to tell you that I think it’s the best thing the man behind Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion (I & II) has ever done.

Not right now.

Maybe when it comes out.

In the meantime, I think we should all wish Mr. Rose luck in finishing what he’s started.

Soon.

(cross-posted to MightyGodKing.com)