Music


Beck

Beck Hansen had immediate success with his debut, Mellow Gold, when he sang his way into the hearts of the 90s slackers and college loafers all over, with his folksy hip-hop hit “I am loser Baby, so, why don’t you kill me?“, which still remains his biggest hit to-date. But what was more impressive was how he backed it up with Odelay, the album that revealed to the world that behind his penchant for experimental fusion of musical styles, the chords he strums seem to connect the right dots through all the genres.  It also killed any remote notion that existed at that time that he was a one hit wonder, proving once and for all that behind that anti-folk slacker drawl and beyond the deception of someone throwing everything but the kitchen sink at his music, there is a sophisticated artistry to his work.  Odelay proved that Beck was the real deal.

Devil's Haircut

Devil’s Haircut, a single from Odelay, is not only a catchy tune, but also for my taste, one of the coolest videos made, thanks to Mark Romanek, the acclaimed music video director of K D Lang’s “Constant Craving“, Michael Jackson’s “Scream” and Johnny Cash’s “Hurt“, to name a few of his many winners. The music itself is an ecclectic blend of delightfully weird lyrics(“a really simplistic metaphor for the evil of vanity” according to Beck), and a terrific mix of guitar riffs with drum beats and breaks in the midst of well placed background cacophony. You would have to try really hard not to enjoy this video.

Advertisements

Offspring - Come Out and Play

They say grunge is dead. It might be hard to argue against that proclamation listening to the music created now, but it still hogs a lot of my attention with Lithium being one of the most used XM radio presets in my car. Like any art form, pigeon-holing music into somebody’s perception of genres has never interested me. What matters at the end is if the artwork appeals to you. Sometimes the music grows on you, and sometimes it grabs you unaware and makes you sit up and notice. The 90s grunge explosion from the Seattle basements made an instant impression on me. Nirvana’s Nevermind remains one the top 5 albums of all time in my book and Kurt Cobain’s death such a crying shame.  I also liked Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and even the instantly-depression-inducing  Gin Blossoms. Most of them got their due recognition, some flamed out quickly, some ran out of material and ran out their course, but the one band I always thought was somewhat under-rated is The Offspring. Just like the way 70s punk rock, one of the widely acknowledged roots of Grunge evolution, flourished just beneath the mainstream music, Offspring’s punk pop blend with 90s grunge  flew somewhat under the radar.

For my money, “Come Out and Play“, from their album “Smash“, released in 1994, is their best song to this day and the middle-eastern sounding tabs that follow the well placed pauses in between are as addictive as those “Gotta Keep ’em Separated” interspersions within the song. While I don’t care much for the video which doesn’t do enough justice to the quality of music IMO, the song remains one of my favorites.

Here’s the acoustic version from the lead vocalist and guitarist, Dexter Holland, along with the You-Gotta-Keep-Em-Separated-rhyth-guitar-guy, Noodles.

FYC-The Raw and the Cooked

All the fine young cannibals

When I first heard about “Fine Young Cannibals” in early 90s, I didn’t take them seriously.. a fine young what..?

I understand the need to come up with a name that stands out, after all this is a music band we are talking about, but still, Fine Young Cannibals appeared too forced and disjointed.  What next? Bold Old Bastards?  I had no idea they had picked up that name from a little known 1960 movie called “All the Fine Young Cannibals“, an average romantic drama.  Nevertheless, they thought it was a cool name, and over the years, after thoroughly enjoying their music, especially the album “The Raw and The Cooked“, which withstood the test of time with flying colors in my mind, I’ve come around to accepting that Fine Young Cannibals is indeed a cool name, because damn it, they are a cool band!
..
Their most popular single remains “She drives me crazy“, an up-beat score with a distinctly buoyant rhythm supported by an instantly unique, appealing, and an equally soothing and gritty voice of their lead singer Roland Gift.  Everything about their music was different, including the video for this song.  Even with repeated over-exposure through the 90s, it never got on my nerves, which is saying a lot.
..
My favorite though is their “Good Thing” – another single from the same album.  Just a hint of retro soul, sufficiently brassy arrangements, a touch of southern rock, and a good dose of 80s beat with that unique Roland Gift voice again and you have a very underrated 80s classic. In fact, Fine Young Cannibals as a band are perhaps one of the most underrated 80s bands.  They haven’t split up officially, but they haven’t produced many albums.  They might not have been prolific, whether it is an indication of their range or their varied individual interests, but I am glad they didn’t trade quantity for quality in an attempt to just cash in on their initial success.
Here’s their Good Thing – riding the crest of that euro wave of  scooter revolution….

Tears for Fears - Mad World - 1982 original single

It takes a brave soul to pick a popular score and try to reinvent it and appeal to the audience who hold the original in high regard.  You are attempting to create something to compete with a product that is not only good but also holds a sentimental attachment with their audience for withstanding the test of time.  So I don’t begrudge the attempt, but you better make that reinterpretation exceptionally good, because it will be torn apart and shredded to pieces under intense scrutiny.

So logically, 99 times out of a 100, the remakes or remixes fall way short of the originals for me.  There are very few exceptions.  I can think of Mariah Carey’s remake of Jackson 5’s “I’ll be there“.  For my money, thats her best ever.. and even better than young Jackson’s original and thats saying a lot.  I can also think of the 10000 Mainacs’ “Because the Night.  I like it better than Patti Smith’s original version.. and then there was Michal Andrews and Gary Jules’ “Mad World”.

Andrews and Jules - Mad World - 2001 Soundtrack for Donnie Darko

Michael and Gary borrowed these wonderful lyrics from a Tears for Fears original single in early 80s to create a brilliant piece.  Released with the soundtrack for one of my favorite movies of the past decade in Donnie Darko, this one falls in the same category of a remake outshining the original.    It is also such a fitting finale to a gripping movie that manages to carry an intelligent presentation to the very edge, almost but not tipping over into my dismissive territory of trying-to-be-cool-but-bullshit weirdness, and pulling it back to connect the dots and touch the soul of the audience with this superb climactic song..

Here’s the original from Tears for Fears..with a distinct 80s touch..

Here’s the video of Andrews/Jules cover version..

All around me are familiar faces
worn out places, worn out faces

bright and early for their daily races
going nowhere, going nowhere

and their tears are filling up their glasses
no expression, no expression

hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
no tomorrow, no tomorrow

and i find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
the dreams in which i’m dying
are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
‘cos I find it hard to take
when people run in circles
it’s a very, very
mad world

children waiting for the day they feel good
happy birthday, happy birthday

made to feel the way that every child should
sit and listen, sit and listen

went to school and i was very nervous
no one knew me, no one knew me

hello teacher tell me what’s my lesson
look right through me, look right through me

I was just a little kid when I first heard this rendition from Balamurali Krishna over the airwaves of the All India Radio. The folksy tune, the simple but poignant lyrics and above all the phenomenal rendition of MBK blew me away.  Barely an instrument used other than his great voice, this just left me completely spellbound and a fan of his ever since.  While there are still a few curmudgeons who scoff at his penchant for improvisation, his magnetic voice, his impressive body of work, his contributions to the carnatic music for over half a century now, and most importantly the immense pleasure he has given to millions of music lovers through these years makes him one of the greatest Indian classical musicians of 20th century. Like many of the greats, as one can see from this rendition, he has his own inimitable style and just as the backdrop suggests in the video below, he is truly a living legend.

Lyrics, authored by Sadasiva Brahmendra (Telugu):

emi seithura linga?  emi sethura?

ganga udakamu techi neeku
linga poojalu chedamante
ganganunna chepa kappa engilantunnayi linga

akshayavula paadi techi
aripitamu chedamante
akshayaavula lega dooda engilantunnadi linga

tummi poovulu techi neeku
tushtuga poojjedamante
komma kommana koti tummeda engilantunnadi linga

mahanubhava
ma linga murthy
maha deva shambho

I have always been fascinated by the influence of music on people. In its most simplistic definition, it is nothing more than a sequence of sounds synchronized to please our ears. At its best, it moves us like few things can, invigorates us into an out-of-body experience. Its influence stretches beyond our receptive senses into our minds and bodies. It can spark off an impulse to dance, put you under an enchanting spell, fire you up for instant battle, jolt you into a revolt against wrong, cheer you up into a sunny delight, sadden you into a gloomy retreat, brighten up your invisible future, or put you on a path of nostalgic reverie. It also acts as an intangible bookmark that prompts you to open up those forgotten pages of your life that have been associated with it, whether it is by chronological alliance or an emotional binding or some completely inexplicable connection; similar to other art forms like a painting or a picture, but only invisible and much more impalpable. In this series of my random musical bookmarks, I want to highlight a musical piece in each post that might have evoked one such reaction in me.

Arrested Development :: Tennessee


Arrested Development

Arresed Development

The year was 1992, perhaps when the rise of alternative music gained momentum on its way to becoming essentially mainstream and thus no longer alternative, Arrested Development broke into the hip-hop music scene as an alternative hip-hop group with a captivating fusion of blues, rap, soul, and hip-hop, with socially conscious lyrics.

3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of..

3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of..

Branching off into an afro-centric path of love and harmony, a stark contrast from the then popularity of gangsta rap, they blazed through the air waves with their debut album “3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the life of..”, derived from the time it took the group to land a record contract.The track “Tennessee” hit the top 10 that year and triggerred a huge sale of this album, setting them on a path to immediate stardom. They won grammys and were in every year end top 10 list. Too bad they couldn’t sustain this success and split up after a couple of years into a relatively obscure solo careers. Tennessee was the height of their achievements and it still sounds as refreshing as in 1992 and remains one of my few personal favorites from this genre..

Lord I’ve really been real stressed
Down and out, losin ground
Although I am black and proud
Problems got me pessimistic
Brothers and sisters keep messin up
Why does it have to be so damn tuff?
I don’t know where I can go
To let these ghosts out of my skull
My grandmas past, my brothers gone
I never at once felt so alone
I know you’re supposed to be my steering wheel
Not just my spare tire
But lord I ask you
To be my guiding force and truth
For some strange reason it had to be
He guided me to Tennessee

Take me to another place
Take me to another land
Make me forget all that hurts me
Let me understand your plan

Lord it’s obvious we got a relationship
Talkin to each other every night and day
Although you’re superior over me
We talk to each other in a friendship way
Then outta nowhere you tell me to break
Outta the country and into more country
Past Dyesburg into Ripley
Where the ghost of childhood haunts me
Walk the roads my forefathers walked
Climbed the trees my forefathers hung from
Ask those trees for all their wisdom
They tell me my ears are so young
Go back to from whence you came
My family tree my family name
For some strange reason it had to be
He guided me to Tennessee

Now I see the importance of history
Why people be in the mess that they be
Many journeys to freedom made in vain
By brothers on the corner playin ghetto games
I ask you lord why you enlightened me
Without the enlightment of all my folks
He said cuz I set myself on a quest for truth
And he was there to quench my thirst
But I am still thirsty…
The lord allowed me to drink some more
He said what I am searchin for are
The answers to all which are in front of me
The ultimate truth started to get blurry
For some strange reason it had to be
It was all a dream about Tennessee

 

..a perfectionist with a passion and vision for film making.

..a perfectionist with a passion and vision for film making.

The accolades for Guru Dutt are far and many, so there is nothing I can add that hasn’t already been mentioned.

If you follow the history of Indian movies, especially hindi movies, it is hard not to notice how Guru Dutt’s work stands apart.  The angles of his shots, the cinematography, the closeups, the attention to detail, the precise camera movements, music that fits, songs that mean something and a storyline that is beyond the tedious banality of the shallow love stories and cartoonish villains that are all too prevalent in Indian movies even today, he was an idealist with a passion for film making and an interest in setting a high standard for it.

His life was enigmatic, short and sad, and his death controversial and an undoubted loss to Indian cinema.

Thanks to eratini84‘s posts, I compiled this youtube playlist of  this wonderful documentary on the life and work of Guru Dutt, titled In Search of Guru Dutt. You can also find this as an extra feature on the Kagaz Ke Phool DVD.

Next Page »