Like most people, I like music. On this page, you'll find drivel about whatever artists currently capture my fancy. I update this page oh, about every 5 years or so!
The 60'sThe Doors
The Doors are maybe the only band from the 60's (they formed in '65 but didn't hit the big time till '67) that captured something relevant about the era, and have a sound that you can identify from that era, and yet do not seem dated. To me, they are as relevant today as they ever were, and the music just as darkly inspiring. It can be played alongside a lot of new "alternative" music, and not be out of place. Jim Morrison was consciously a shaman, understanding the emotional need for magic in a world increasingly ruled by logic. The Doors' magic is still needed, which is not, I think, a positive commentary on our culture, but it's why they're still relevant, not locked in time like most 60's bands.
The 70'sNeil Young
(I chose this picture because people have told me when I had a beard and long hair I looked like Neil Young when he had a beard and long hair. I can see it... Cool! But now that we're both beardless and short-haired, we don't look anything alike!)
It's tempting to say the 70's lacked good music, but it's not true. What is true, I think, is that as the 70's progressed, music became more of a business, more oriented to technology and the bottom line, and less oriented to the 60's drive for change, meaning, and Importance. A lot of music lost its soul. The most dramatic resulting fiasco was disco, which was an attempt to distill music down to just its essential, "scientifically necessary" parts. I hated disco then, and I hate it now. F***ing bread and circuses. It is the most soulless music ever produced. It is everything that made the Doors necessary, but Morrison was dead. Neil Young, however, was already huge in the 60's, for his work with Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and the start of his solo career. While the 70's disintegrated into polyester soullessness, Neil kept on a' wearin' those flannel shirts, and putting out tunes that told the truth about racism (Southern Man), drugs (Please Take My Advice), the decay of the family in America (Welfare Mothers), and even history (Cortez the Killer). When change started happening in the music world, when "New Wave" and "Punk" were building new music from a re-examination of the roots of rock, and Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger and Tom Petty started hitting big with their straight ahead rock, Neil reminded us that Hey, Hey, My, My (Rock and Roll will Never Die!) When I finally broke down in 1989 and bought a CD player, his "Decade" retrospective was my first CD purchase.
When I read reviews of 80's music nowadays, it seems to be popular to trash it. The 80's totally sucked in any socio-politico-economic sense. I'm here to tell you, the music was all it had to its credit. New sounds were being created, and there was constant innovation, and openness to innovation. REM, B-52s, Thompson Twins, Flock of Seagulls, Simple Minds, Crowded House, New Order, Midnight Oil, Motels, Eurhythmics, Springsteen, Def Leppard, and on and on. Even Madonna. Innovation everywhere (or in Madonna's case, innovation underwear). You didn't have to like it all, but it was all there for you to pick and choose. I think from around 83-84 to around 88-89 was a golden age in rock - even in spite of some of the schlock that came out of it (remember, there was plenty of schlock in the 60's too - in the 70's it was kitsch).
That U2 should be my favorite 80's band is no shock. They're damn near everybody's favorite 80's band, and many would pick them for the 90's too (I wouldn't). U2 was always at the forefront of innovative sound and honest expression, throughout the 80's. Darkly keening, brightly celebratory, sarcastically honest, the range of emotions and sounds was outstanding. To my mind, they may be the greatest rock/pop band ever. You can go back and listen to their first album, "Boy," nowadays, and think nothing of it - but there was simply nothing like it back then. To be honest, I didn't get it. I was rather out of the music loop as I finished college, became a father, and entered the "career" arena. It wasn't until later in the 80's, with the release of "The Joshua Tree," that I, like so many others, finally knew who these guys were. When I went back and got their earlier albums, I realized I'd been hearing and liking their radio stuff all along, just without knowing who they were. But I usually didn't like the albums on the first listen. They're so intense that I think it was too much to take in at once. But after a few listens, the albums would become indispensable.
The 90'sCatherine Wheel
Music in the 90's was spotty. There was some terrific stuff, and some terrible stuff. Catherine Wheel is at the top of the terrific stack. This was the first decade my favorite band wasn't a household name. I don't understand why not. Then again, this music is as intense as U2's, and I've needed a couple of listens for each album, before I "get it" and can't live without it. Now middle-aged, I felt lucky to have stumbled into such a great band when I was so much less in the music loop. My first exposure to Catherine Wheel was through a video of their single, "Show Me Mary." A lively, poppy sound with dark undertones. The album, "Chrome," was on the whole much darker than the single that made me buy it. Walls of rich angry guitar ridden by soothing/sad/scared/angry/frustrated vocals. It's a lot to take in, but this was no Nine Inch Nails, if that's what you're thinking. Melody was important to this band, and it's at the forefront. Though it can be loud like grunge, it's not grunge. Though it can have a pop sound, it's not of the shallow variety. "Texture" was the name of their first album, and it's as good a description as any of their sound - it's very layered and very textured musically and emotionally. It's strong guitar rock in which I seem to hear a lot of rock history, 60's through 90's, along with something uniquely their own and very nearly perfect. Simply a fabulous band. They may take over U2's spot on my all-time list!
The 00'sExperimental Aircraft
One of the byproducts of my fascination with The Catherine Wheel was an introduction to and appreciation of the Shoegaze movement of the late 80's, early 90's. It was never commercailly mainstream, but - wow, what good music! Experimental Aircraft is a band out of Austin, TX that has been compared to such Shoegaze greats as My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. Today, they would probably fall under the category of "Newgaze," a moniker that classifies bands making new music that owes much to the Shoegaze tradition. Experimental Aircraft has 2 CD's out and one on the way. The music is the most creative I've heard in a long time, very atmospheric and emotive, in keeping with the Shoegaze tradition. But it can also get very driven and supercharged, in keeping with some of the band members' liking for bands like Kiss. (If you're like me and hate Kiss, don't worry - they don't sound anything like Kiss. But they ARE a guitar-driven band, and they can really turn on the power.)
Special mention for the 00's is Kristen Hersh's new band, 50 Foot Wave, which is monster-super-charged, loud, proud, punky, poppy rock at its best, written and performed by America's Best Kept Secret and National Treasure - Kristin, along with her bassist from Throwing Muses, Bernard Georges, and one of the fastest, most powerful, driving, energizing, pure-fun drummers you'll ever hear, Rob Ahlers. But at this writing, 50 Foot Wave only has 20 minutes of material! Watch their web site for more to come - I can hardly wait!