World Peace Is None of Your Business might be Moz’s angriest album yet. Full of bitter political cynicism and social commentary, the album has the feel of a knowing screed by someone who’s seen it all and whose attitude mostly feels justified. Whether he’s detailing the death of a beat poet (“Neal Cassady Drop Dead’s” “everyone has babies, babies full of rabies” line is priceless) or bemoaning the futility of human connection (“you fail as a woman and you lose as a man” he sings in “Earth Is the Loneliest Planet”), Morrissey’s in classic sardonic mode, while musically the band lays on touches of flamenco guitar, a digitized beat here and a harp there, to form a more lush version of the hard-hitting rock sound he’s employed for the latter half of his career. I can't say that I love the title tracks, in which Morrisey's frustration is understood, but its “each time you vote you support the process” seems insensitive to the places and people that have fought long and hard for this right. Still, it’s hard to resist when he’s in his finest form, on tracks like the extended “I’m Not a Man,” in which Morrissey places his militant vegetarianism and pacificism front-and-center as a new form of manhood, reminiscent of his classic line “it takes strength to be gentle and kind,” (from The Smiths’ “I Know It’s Over”) amid glittering synthesizers and glam stomp. For anyone who’s unfairly labeled Morrissey a miserablist in the past, World Peace shows Moz as an elder statesman with his fists clenched and plenty of piss ‘n’ vinegar left in his system. Also, don't forget—Morrissey just had one of his best albums, Vauxhall & I, re-released last month, get that shit.
Two of our favorite bands of all time — OutKast and Slowdive — are officially reuniting. OutKast announced it a couple weeks back, with news that the Southern rap legends will headline Coachella and play Governernor’s Ball in New York, though it seems likely we’ll see another Big Boi album before a new OutKast album (and we’re OK with that!). Meanwhile, shoegaze titans Slowdive yesterday confirmed rumors (that they themselves flamed) that they’d reunite, playing Primavera in Barcelona in May and “a couple of gigs,” including a show at Village Underground in London May 19 (better book your tickets now!), in order to raise funds for a new LP.
With those two reunions locked down, we thought we’d turn our attention from bands we liked that reunited to bands we’d like to see reunite.
This one seems a no-brainer. They exactly been quiet since they first broke up in 1991, from briefly “reuniting” onstage in 2002 to play three songs for their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, to David Byrne’s solo career (including a one-off album with St. Vincent), to the other members’ activity, including The Heads and Tom Tom Club. And the band seems more popular and prescient than ever. So, everyone’s still alive and working.
Crocodiles Stream New Song ‘Teardrop Guitar’
Shoegaze guitar fans, rejoice — San Diego’s Crocodiles have a new album coming out. Following last year’s fine Endless Flowers comes Crimes of Passion, due Aug. 20 on Frenchkiss. They’re already premiered “Crimes of Passion,” and now comes the melodic rush of “Teardrop Guitar,” a perfectly named slab of classic shoegaze, vibing early Verve and Ride while maintaining their own sense of scrappy rock ‘n’ roll grandeur. It’s streaming now at NPR.
Deerhoof Releases ‘Breaking Songs’ Video
S.F.’s Deerhoof has released a video for its track “Breakup Songs” from the album of the same name. It at first seems like a huge bummer — I worry that “Breakup Songs” is code for the band breaking up, though they’ve had an incredible run — and the video features a crow man seeming to bring death to plague-invested peasants. How this leads to a dance party? You’ll just have to watch.
I have been thinking about the early '90s a lot lately. I graduated from high school in 1992, and that was 20 years ago! So I have been all sorts of nostalgic this last year about my formative music years. I was born in the '70s. But I really grew up in the new wave '80s. 1984 - 1986 were really the years that I first remember getting obsessed with music. These are the early years of MTV and the years I fell in love with new wave and all things British. The B-52's and Berlin were probably the only bands that I loved that actually came from the United States. Most of my favorite bands and albums throughout the '80s and '90s came from England.
My favorite bands in 1984 are pretty much my favorite bands today. I can't imagine my life without New Order, Depeche Mode, The Cure, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Smiths, Human League, Pet Shop Boys, Ultravox, Talk Talk & Bauhaus. These bands have been a huge part of my life. My British obsession would only get bigger over the years. I got deep into shoegaze and dream pop in the early '90s. Which then led me into Britpop and British dance music in the mid '90s.
I have been obsessively making lists and CD compilations of each year of the '80s and '90s. I have made a playlist for each year and a list of my 10 favorite albums from each year. I will slowly be sharing these with you over the next couple of months. I am going to start with the early '90s since these are the years that have been on my mind the most lately.
It’s been a tricky thing to navigate Billy Corgan’s post-breakup of the original Smashing Pumpkins career. For every good to terrific release — from the unfairly maligned, Cocteau Twins-esque Machina and especially Machina II, to the too-short-lived Zwan and its sole release, Mary Star of the Sea, to his promising Depeche Mode as shoegaze solo debut, TheFutureEmbrace — there’ve been missteps — the largely underwhelming Zeitgeist (save a few choice crazy guitar tracks), the pretty bad American Gothic EP, tossed off digital singles. Of the newer songs, released after the departure of longtime drummer and sole other original Pumpkin Jimmy Chamberlain, I’ve only really liked a few. The psych-ballad “A Stitch in Time” knocks me on my ass when I hear it and leaves me hoping Corgan will continue pursuing more experimental territory, like he did to such success (at least in my mind, and that of a devoted cult) on Adore.
From what I’ve heard of Oceania so far, I’m cautiously optimistic. Though Pumpkins songs never sound the same on record as they do live, recent Pumpkins recordings have sounded increasingly stripped-down, which isn’t a problem, as long as the songs are strong. So just going by songs, then, the live tracks I’ve heard on YouTube from Oceania, as they’ve yet to release an official single from it, rock pretty hard, and do, as Corgan has alluded, sound like Siamese Dream, Gish and, actually, especially, Pisces Iscariot, their B-side album from the early era that’s at least as good as Gish. So far, opener “Quasar” reminds me a lot of “Geek USA,” one of my favorite songs from Siamese Dream —and ever, really — with its stop-start heavy riffage. The recording of “Panopticon” I heard has the kind of harmonic guitar playing that gives me goosebumps, kind of like Zeitgeist standouts “7 Shades of Black” and “Starz,” but with a better melody, like “Rocket.” “Pinwheels” aims for the heartstrings with its plinking keyboards and classic harmonic riff, sort of like a mellower “Today” or “Glynis,” one of my favorite Pumpkins B-sides.
So, we’ll see, fellow Pumpkins-heads. The album could end up being really awesome. Like most people for whom the Pumpkins are their all-time favorite band, or top 5 at least, I’ll definitely be getting it and there will be at least a few songs that renew my love for the band. But from what I’ve heard so far, this could be the return to form we’ve been hoping for.