Blog Posts by David Marchese

  • “Everything Has Changed”–A Rock Lifer Looks Back

    During his 35 years as pop music critic for the Los Angeles Times, Robert Hilburn saw rock mutate from countercultural force to mass artform to the fantastically indescribable thing it is now. During that time he had the chance to talk at length with artists who lived through and exemplified those changes, a diverse group that includes Johnny Cash, Kurt Cobain, and Jack White. Those experiences, and others, are recounted in Hilburn's new memoir, Cornflakes With John Lennon (Rodale), due out October 13.

    Speaking from his home in Sherman Oaks, California, I chatted with Hilburn about the massive shifts he's seen shake the music world.

    Boomers and Gen X and Yers: prepare to agree to disagree with what the dude has to say.

    What do you think has been the biggest change in the music industry since you started writing about music?

    Everything has changed. The American Idol-ization of the music business is probably the biggest thing. Someone at a record company told me recently that you can

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  • The Best Song In The World

    We hear songs we like all the time. Sometimes though, we hear a song that sets off a reaction in us that goes beyond mere liking. For whatever reason, whether it's the lyrics, the melody, or the singer's voice, a song can become an obsession. We play it over and over again. We make other people listen. We wish we'd heard it years ago. We love it.

    This column is about the songs that make us do those things. If it goes well I might turn it into a recurring feature. You'll let me know.

    Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Best Songs In The World.

    The first BSITW is "Burial" by Miike Snow, who is a band, not a person. Made up of American singer-songwriter Andrew Wyatt, who also plays in the New York City prog-glam outfit Fires of Rome, and the Swedish production duo Avant & Bloodshy, Miike Snow works a kind of hyper-emotional keyboard-driven dance-pop. You may have heard "Animal," a sort-of hit from the band's self-titled debut, which came out last May on Downtown Records. That song

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  • The Ten Best Bruce Springsteen Songs

    Happy Birthday, Boss! This week, Bruce Springsteen turns 60. He should be feeling pretty good about himself: the E Street Band is working its way to the conclusion of yet another triumphant world tour and despite the lukewarm reaction to Working On A Dream, released last January, the dude's face has long been carved onto Mount Rockmore. So to help celebrate the entrance into late middle age of New Jersey's favorite son, below is my list of the top 10 Springsteen songs. You can probably guess what's at number 1, but I think there are some surprises sprinkled in there too. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices in the comments section.

    10. "Brilliant Disguise": 1987's Tunnel Of Love found Springsteen addressing the twin challenges of mega-stardom (1984's Born In The U.S.A. was massively successful) and personal turmoil (his marriage was faltering). "Disguise's" subdued and questioning tone showed, brilliantly, a pop star standing at the crossroads, unsure of where to go.

    9.

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  • The Ten Best Pavement Songs

    I got tingles in all the right places when word started to spread this week that the long-defunct indie rock outfit Pavement would likely be reuniting in September 2010 for a benefit show in New York City. If it happens, rest assured--I will be there.

    This news is extra-exciting for me because I never got a chance to see the band play live before it disbanded in 2000. In the intervening years, the output of singer-guitarist Stephen Malkmus, guitarist Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg, bassist Mark Ibold, multi-instrumentalist Bob Nastanovich, and drummer Steve West (keep on truckin' wherever you are, original hippie burn-out drummer Gary West) has only grown in stature in the eyes of both myself and indie-dom at large. Anytime you hear a singer laconically throw together a string of words that takes three listens to truly grok, or a band ply deceptively ramshackle, sneakily emotional slacker rock, you have Pavement to thank. And the ubiquitous rock-crit term "angular" may as well have

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  • The Beatles Are Back

    This Wednesday, after months of anticipation, The Beatles: Rock Band as well as remastered editions of the Fab Four's catalog finally goes on sale.

    Which is to say: The band that never goes away is back.

    I started paying attention to the Beatles in the early '90s, 20-odd years after they broke up. Despite that, the group has always felt like a living--and ubiquitous--entity. My first Beatles memory? Probably hearing "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" used as the theme song for the late-'80s/early-'90s TV weeper Life Goes On. Then, the Live At The BBC album in 1994. The Beatles Anthology documentary and anthologies arrived in 1995, followed by a steady flood of biographies and anniversaries. Every decade, a mess of, "It was 20 (or 30) (or 40) years ago today" headlines. The 1 compilation in 2000. Paul McCartney tours. A Cirque Du Soleil show. And now, Rock Band and the remasters.

    The Beatles' inescapability has led me through various phases of engagement with their music. First came the excitement of

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  • The Ten Greatest Oasis Songs

    In a move that was probably more mildly surprising than totally shocking, songwriter-guitarist Noel Gallagher, 42, announced over the weekend that he was quitting Oasis, the world-beating Britpop band he formed with his younger brother, lead singer, and recurring nemesis Liam, 36, in Manchester in 1991.

    In a statement posted on the band's website, the elder Gallagher, declared that, "I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer." Given the two's long history of confrontation, it's hard to know how seriously we should take Noel--he's the boy who cried "brother."

    But it'll be a sad day if Noel's words stay true. As musically derivative and publicly obnoxious as the band could be, Oasis was a major force in music in the '90s, reviving British guitar rock and recording songs that, at their best, approached the pop-rock genius of the Gallaghers' beloved Beatles. So assuming no more new music is forthcoming, below are my picks for the ten greatest Oasis songs. Share your choices

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  • My Weirdest Concert Experience Ever

    Despite the constant updating of music-related websites and Twitter feeds and blog posts, sometimes there is actually nothing Earth-shattering going on. I feel like today is one of those days. So instead of writing about something newsy, I'm going to share the story of the weirdest concert experience of my life. It happened a couple weeks back at Lollapalooza.

    The story starts just after Depeche Mode finished its headlining set. I was walking away from the stage and back towards my hotel when a girl I'd never seen before ran up to me.

    "Are you Jewish?" she asked.

    It just so happens I am. So that's what I said. But by way of weirdness, I should add that I don't wear a yarmulke or tzizit or payis or a Star of David necklace or have a chai tattoo or display any other obvious signifier of Judaism.

    Anyway, after I said that she had correctly guessed my religion, this girl, who was wearing glasses, a white tank top, jeans, and had her shoulder-length brown hair tied back in a ponytail,

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  • Still Golden: Rock Didn’t Peak At Woodstock

    Last weekend marked the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. My mom says she was there, but can't remember anything specific about it (I suspect either she has either convinced herself she was there when in fact she was not, or she was there and had a really good time), so to get some perspective four decades after the fact, I did what any hardcore rock fan would do and watched a couple TV specials.

    During one of them, Woodstock: Now & Then, Paul Green--who through his School Of Rock teaches kids how to kick out the jams--said something about how, in watching footage of Woodstock, he was struck by the fact that performers as epochal as Janis Joplin, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, and the like were all making music at the same time--let alone at the same gig. Similarly, many of the festival attendees made comments about how the talent level of that that era would never be repeated.

    That kind of talk makes me jealous. Not because I wasn't alive to see Hendrix or the Sly & the Family Stone at

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  • The Most Ridiculous Band Names

    God love it, but rock 'n' roll could stand to be funnier. Given his name, I suspect Jay Reatard agrees. Next week, the Memphis snotball will release Watch Me Fall, his second album for the esteemed indie label Matador. Just like last year's Matador Singles '08 compilation, the new album is a bratty, grin-inducing gem. Over jittery guitars and whip-crack drums, Reatard sings about keeping tabs on romantic miscreants, fakers, and self-loathing in an insolent and inexplicably British accent. If Dennis the Menace grew up, gorged on the Buzzcocks, and started a band, it would sound like this.

    To mark the release of Reatard's new disc, I've listed my picks for the ten most ridiculous band names in rock. If you've got any good ones that I missed, share 'em in the comments section.

    1. Rainbow Butt Monkeys: This Canadian band used to put out mildly entertaining quirky hard rock. Then they changed their name to the mundane Finger 11 and became really, really boring.

    2. Butthole Surfers: Given

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  • Overlooked Already! 2009′s Most Underappreciated Albums (So Far).

    We're now well past the year's halfway point. Accordingly, some sites, including SPIN.com, have taken stock of the year's best albums so far. [Read SPIN's list here.] With that in mind, I'd like to give a shout out to five albums that likely won't appear on anyone's year-end list, but deserve a listen anyway. Have a look, then tell us about your 2009 favorites in the comments section.

    1. Astra, The Weirding (Rise Above): The Weirding is these shaggy San Diegans first album, but I have a suspicion they may have released something in a past life--10-minute-plus prog fantasies like "Ourobouros" and the title track recall the early '70s heyday of Yes and King Crimson with uncanny accuracy. But even with their virtuoso guitar solos and thrillingly labyrinthine song structures, Astra's songs have a focus--they explore, but never meander.

    2. Fruit Bats, The Ruminant Band (Sub Pop): There's nothing complicated about The Ruminant Band. And that's exactly its charm. Fans of the Shins will dig

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