2010

Showing 11 posts tagged 2010

A.J. McLean - Have It All (2010)

If I had to pick, I’d say that A.J. is my favorite member of the Backstreet Boys. He’s definitely my favorite BSB singer: emotive, attention-grabbing, equal parts menacing and heartfelt. He could nail the nasty dance-jammers and tender ballads with equal skill, which is not something you can say for Kevin or Howie. I feel like he got pegged as the “bad boy” of Backstreet simply because, visually, he looked like a dude with a history: he was always wearing those glasses, that beard. He never looked particularly happy. There was something else going on with him, good or bad. Your eyes were drawn to him.

If I were to go out on a limb here - and forgive me for this, thanks - I would call A.J. the Dennis Wilson of the Backstreet Boys: the coolest and “baddest” member whose well-publicized personal issues masked some real, real talent. As much as I dig A.J., I wanted to adjust my expectations for his 2010 solo release Have It All. Nick and Brian’s albums weren’t my cup of tea, and I had no reason to suspect A.J.’s would be any different.

Oh, thank goodness I was wrong. So wrong! Have It All is fun, hilarious, goofy, catchy, exciting. Without any doubt, the best Backstreet Boys solo album, and among the best records related to anything Backstreet Boys.

Not unlike Welcome Home following Never Gone, Have It All at first listen feels like the Boys’ 2009 release This Is Us (which we will cover very soon, do not worry): modern end-of-the-2000s dance pop. But you can already feel the difference: lead track “Teenage Wildlife,” co-written once again by JC Chasez, feels glitzier and sillier than anything the Boys would record. Left to his own devices, A.J. hams it up a little more. More ad-libs, more howls, more yelps. The kinda stuff boring ‘ol Brian Littrell would never let him do. Get bent, dad!!

Have It All's best moments come when A.J. throws away any semblance of delivering a standard dance-pop record and starts doing whatever the hell he wants. “Gorgeous” is an excellent Prince homage; “Drive-By Love” and “What It Do” are cheeky cheese-rockers that are impossible to take seriously; “Love Crazy” is a sex-obsessed Motown parody. On the other side of the coin, “I Quit” is a better and funnier version of Unbreakable’s piano-pop, and “Sincerely Yours” and “I Hate When You’re Gone” are solid uncrappy ballads.

And then, right when you think it’s all over, you get the bizarro alter-ego club anthem “Mr. A.” “When I walk into the club, everybody shouts hooray. Hey!” Whistles, metal guitars, and a chorus that borders on pop-punk. A.J.!

The Backstreet Boys would never condone material this oddball, this corny, this crude. A.J. is the one Backstreet member who knows how to utilize the blessed freedom he’s been given: big enough to record a solo album with JC Chasez and Max Martin collaborators Carl Falk and Kristian Lundin (who, it should be noted, ended up working with One Direction just a year later), but one that nobody would listen to outside of Backstreet diehards. He could do whatever he wanted to, and he did.

If you’re looking for Backstreet Boys’ secret gem, this one is it. Yes, it’s completely over the top and some of the dancier tracks are less interesting, but who cares? I’d take that over dullsville Nick and Brian anyday.

Thank God for you, A.J. You sleazy, strange uncle. Carry on, brother.

Track

Don't Talk To Me

Artist

Ty Segall

Album

Daytrotter

Ty Segall - “Don’t Talk To Me” (GG Allin)

And here’s where I’ll end this week, which has been really fun for me. This blog was a good venue to get out all of my love for Ty Segall, which apparently, there’s a lot of that. But this man has done so much in about five years, and all of it is pretty great. This year has seen his most refined work to date in Goodbye Bread, and just before 2011 started, he did his most aggressive song to date.

His cover of “Don’t Talk To Me” is a searing, biting rendition of one of Allin’s tamer songs. He screams, and you can hear his hoarse rasp. He quiets down to give the big finish that extra kick. And if you’re listening to it on anything short of the highest volume, you’re cheating yourself.

The song was recorded during a Daytrotter session. When asked about it in an interview, Segall sort of brushed it off. He’d heard of Daytrotter when he heard Thee Oh Sees’ session, so he decided to go in and record one. He walked in, he did a handful of songs, and he dropped “Don’t Talk To Me” in the middle of it. That’s that.

And it’s a perfect punk song.

Thank you guys for reading, and if you haven’t already, in the very least, start listening to his albums.

Track

2 + 2 = ?

Artist

Ty Segall

Album

Trouble In Mind Record Store Day Split

Ty Segall - “2 + 2 = ?” (Bob Seger System)

When I talked to Segall for Paste in 2010, I was deeply curious about why he decided to cover a Bob Seger song, of all things, for his single on the Trouble In Mind Record Store Day four-way split. He told me that while he was hanging out with Bill & Lisa Roe, Trouble In Mind’s founders and co-heads of CoCoComa, they introduced him to the song and he loved it. (Unrelated: Jack White also cited it as his favorite Bob Seger song to Stephen Colbert earlier this year.) It’s a story that resonated with me—Bill & Lisa once ordered me to buy the Saints’ (I’m) Stranded when I ran into them at Reckless.

But thank God Bill & Lisa are such excellent curators, because obviously introducing Ty to early Bob Seger didn’t necessarily mean he would cover it, but it’s such a good fit. There’s so much menace in the song that ultimately gets lost when you read the name “Bob Seger.” It’s easy to forget that behind the beard and cheesy gusto, the guy could write a song.

Final thoughts on Melted

If Goodbye Bread was the album where Segall tried to get some footing as a lyricist, Melted is the album where he tried to figure out how to clean up his sound. Not that the grime goes away entirely—he still cranks the fuzz on “My Sunshine” and “Girlfriend”, but with the spare introduction of "Finger" and the acoustic climb of “Caesar”, he was clearly trying to shake free of the sonic confines he built with his earliest work.

The album’s also got some entertaining curiosities on it, like “Mike D’s Coke,” written and sung by one of the album’s mixers, Mike Donovan. (It’s a spacey advertisement for Coca-Cola.) There’s the quiet sunniness of "Bees", the paranoia of ”Imaginary Person”, and the echoing blues of "Alone". It’s all part of an album that, as he said, was “more fried out” than Goodbye Bread. And yes, “fried out” sometimes points to the fuzz, but it also sounds trippier and more psychedelic in places.

And although Goodbye Bread is often heralded as his lyrics album, Melted deserves some credit for the narratives he presents. Look at "Mrs.", a song with a story that’s so elaborate, its lyrics could stand up next to dozens of old country or folk songs. Even on songs with few or simplistic lyrics, like “Girlfriend”, he presents imagery that’s familiar, but not tired, and that takes finesse.

I know this is something I would say, since I’m the one writing a bunch of stuff about the album today, but you should really buy a copy of Melted. It’s great.

I’m really excited about tomorrow, when I’ll get into Lemons, an album that’s hugely different from both Goodbye Bread and Melted. Until then!

"Girlfriend" is a fuzzed out piece of garage chutzpah. The opening chords sound ominous and devastating, and even with hand claps, it sounds pretty intense. So intense, in fact, that in one unofficial video’s reading, three badass women in rubber First Lady masks catch a man presumably cheating on all three of them in the backseat of a car and decide to chop his head off. The correlations between the song and the video seem to be the words “girlfriend” and “car,” and the distortion on the guitars might imply an aesthetic of violence.

It’s not a bad video, but really, it’s off point. For a song that sounds huge and intense, there’s so much joy in it. “She said she loves me!” “She’s got a blue car, / She said I can use it!” “She don’t mind nothin’!” Okay, so maybe the last one could pose a potential problem (apathy isn’t always the best quality), but other than that, it sounds like a pretty good situation for the song’s narrator. Come on, he can use her car! (And I don’t think he’s talking about using her car to have sex with another woman, but hey, I’ve been wrong before.)

It’s unclear if the song has any autobiography to it, but who cares? What’s important to note is the musical elements of “Girlfriend” are ancient. In Pitchfork’s Best Tracks of 2010 list, Rob Mitchum said it quite well:

"The song’s mixture of power chords, bam-thwack drums, and lyrics about a girl is so time-honored it’s eligible for Social Security, but when it’s done well, it still gets the heart racing."

It does! On paper, it looks like Segall has taken a note from the Troggs’ playbook—caveman drums, loud guitars, “you make my heart sing.” But it works because of his raw, raspy elation, and it works because it’s such a specific, attainable image. It revels in the simple things that make life great: love and convenient transportation.

And MAN does this song sound good with the volume up.

It’s a little cleaner and you can hear more of what’s going on. It’s cool, it’s fun. You know how the last record, Lemons, was cool because it had that feeling it had, that grimy-thing, but I’ve been listening to a lot of The Pretty Things, really, really great recordings of stuff from the early ‘70s and late ‘60s, and I think it’s really difficult to record a great sounding clean record. Neil Young, his recordings were so awesome that it’s so difficult to make drums sound as good as they sound on a Neil Young record, or Beatles drums. That’s what we’ve been trying to do and there’s no way we’re ever going to get stuff that sounds that good but we’re trying to get a little bit cleaner, a little bit higher fidelity, while still keeping in the same vein as Lemons and other stuff. I’m excited about getting something a little cleaner.

Ty Segall talking about the production quality of Melted to Reax. Here, he talks about Neil Young’s production quality being an influence on Melted, where in other interviews later on, he cites Neil Young as an influence on his songwriting for Goodbye Bread

This is a great live video of “Sad Fuzz”, which among other things, serves as a sort of cool down after the bash of “Girlfriend”. The person behind those videos, "San Francisco Face Melter," has some great videos of other Bay Area garage mainstays, like Thee Oh Sees, Shannon & The Clams, the Night Beats, and Segall’s collaborator Mikal Cronin. Definitely worth checking out.

The song opens with a lethargic drag, but picks up with “Please don’t be sad, my baby, no,” and follows it up with a standard theme in rock songs: “You know you’re mine, / Oh yeah, you’re mine.” You’re mine. It’s the sort of thing that can be taken in two very different ways.

1) I’m here for you, you don’t have to be sad, because I’m going to take care of you.

2) The way Screamin’ Jay Hawkins said it.

And the brilliance of “Sad Fuzz” is that his tone stands firmly between those two things. The implied meaning is the one of comfort, the one that says “I love you.” But when his voice gets all raspy and he screams “Oh yeah you’re mine,” he sounds a little too excited.

That said, even if you’re trying to say, “Hey, I’m here for you,” I don’t think a lot of people take comfort in the implied ownership of a phrase like “you’re mine.”


Are you into masks a lot?
Totally!
Why’s that?
A lot of reasons. A: They look awesome. Halloween’s my favorite holiday. Ever! I love candy. So much that my teeth are really messed up now, probably. I’m a Sour Patch Kids addict. It’s messed up. But also, when you think about masks, the whole idea of masking your identity is really intriguing to me. Putting on a different personality. That’s really interesting to me.
Have you ever heard of the Internet phenomenon called Masking?
No, what is that all about?
It’s this thing where people make incredibly detailed and form-fitting latex masks and then film themselves on YouTube putting them on and taking them off and stuff.
That’s weird.
That’s weird?
That’s awesome! I would like to see a video of someone with them on and then taking it off, so as to fool the audience into thinking that all of a sudden they are ripping their face off, which is cool.
That’s kind of what it’s like, except the masks don’t look human.
Oh! I have seen this. It’s really bizarre faces and stuff, like a deer?
Or just, like a nothing. Like an alien.
I’ve seen something of like a dancing deer head. A blue deer dancing. It was really frightening! It was so real looking. Maybe we’re not talking about the same thing.
I don’t know. The Internet is a wild and inspired place.
Wild place.

- 'Sup Magazine, February 21, 2011 High-res

Are you into masks a lot?

Totally!

Why’s that?

A lot of reasons. A: They look awesome. Halloween’s my favorite holiday. Ever! I love candy. So much that my teeth are really messed up now, probably. I’m a Sour Patch Kids addict. It’s messed up. But also, when you think about masks, the whole idea of masking your identity is really intriguing to me. Putting on a different personality. That’s really interesting to me.

Have you ever heard of the Internet phenomenon called Masking?

No, what is that all about?

It’s this thing where people make incredibly detailed and form-fitting latex masks and then film themselves on YouTube putting them on and taking them off and stuff.

That’s weird.

That’s weird?

That’s awesome! I would like to see a video of someone with them on and then taking it off, so as to fool the audience into thinking that all of a sudden they are ripping their face off, which is cool.

That’s kind of what it’s like, except the masks don’t look human.

Oh! I have seen this. It’s really bizarre faces and stuff, like a deer?

Or just, like a nothing. Like an alien.

I’ve seen something of like a dancing deer head. A blue deer dancing. It was really frightening! It was so real looking. Maybe we’re not talking about the same thing.

I don’t know. The Internet is a wild and inspired place.

Wild place.

- 'Sup Magazine, February 21, 2011