Under New MGMT

“Time To Pretend” by MGMT

You don’t show up on Letterman wearing druid capes (or Gryffindor robes, whichever) and expect to survive without being confident that you’re kicking out a monster epic tune that’s going to have Apple and Verizon advertising execs waiting out in the hall afterward with blow and hookers to try to snare it for their next Gen Z “culture” TV commercial.

Paul Schaffer rarely books wild cards on the show. Usually if it’s not Bonnie Raitt or the ghost of Warren Zevon you can be pretty sure that the band featured is not going to be that far away from the curb. So when these tweens show up looking like ironic-shirt-wearing-goth-emo smart-asses you could almost hear a nation of 40+’ers give a collective sigh, roll their eyes and look for the remote.

Luckily, mine was under the cat.

Worthy of your iPod.
Download it for free on their MySpace or on iStore.

Don’t Call It A Comeback: The 20 Best Songs Of 2007

If I had to assign a lame soundbite title to 2007 musically, it would have to be “The Triumphant Return Of The Pop Rock Song” And by that I’m not referring to the newest Justin Timberlake dance ditty, but rather the well-crafted, under-5-minutes, thoughtful, evocative, hummable, rock type of alt-pop song. You know, like Radiohead used to write before they went all Radiohead and stuff. This movement has been gaining ground for a while and this year it really hit its stride.

This was again another year when it was agonizing to cut many worthy tracks. If I pussed out and did a top 100, maybe I could include them all. But I create these lists to be compiled and played on a single CD. So some big pants decisions had to be made, to quote my friend Nyde. Yes, best Springsteen album since Nebraska. Yes, Icky Thump. But I gotta call ’em as I see ’em. [Also: see the post about Songs Vs. Albums] I suspect by this summer the inclusion of the Kate Nash track (Foundations) will feel about as insightful as the year I thought I was the first and last person who would ever play Chumbawamba’s Tub-Thumpin. But ebb and flow, variety and dynamics and representing the lesser-known artists and so on…
The line between “rock” and “alt-rock” has never been thinner. These songs deserve more than to just be heard on Target commercials and CMJ CD Samplers. if these are “alternative” rock songs, then it’s only alternative to the drivel that most mainstream FM stations are fond of playing. These are all pop rock songs in my book.
And my book is: “Illusions:Tales Of A Reluctant Messiah” By Richard Bach, so you know – it’s all about the kick-ass Rock & Roll!
So then:

(In the order in which they appear on the Radioscooter Best Of 2007 CD. No ranking implied)

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1. Interpol – The Heinrich Maneuver / Our Love To Admire
Note to bands: Ensure your inclusion on year-end wrap-ups with at least one track with a bombastic intro. Fairly typical Interpol restating the modern breakup song with gusto. Some well-placed retro sounds including a blatant lift of the Echo & The Bunnymen orchestra synth stab from The Killing Moon.

2. Nicole Atkins – Party’s Over / Neptune City
A beautiful song from simply one of the absolute top 3 albums of 2007. Lush, retro while not seeming derivative, swirling opus to the Jersey shore.

3. Jesse Malin – Don’t Let Them Take You Down / Glitter In The Gutter
This was a tough call. Jesse’s sitting in the space that Bruce should have occupied but this year I tried to veer away from the absolute mainstream to introduce some newer, as yet non-icon status talents.

4. Brandi Carlile – The Story / The Story
It took a while (years) for me to give Brandi Carlile a chance for a stupid reason that I’m somehow eager to share with you. I kept hearing her name and thought she was an American Idol finalist. Turns out she’s um, not. When she finally gets to her belt zone in this song, you are right there with her for every bad mile.

5. The Arcade Fire – No Cars Go / Neon Bible
Sometimes a really great album doesn’t want to be cut up into bite size morsels. Happily, this isn’t the case with Neon Bible. This one was one of my favorite driving tunes.

6. Tegan & Sara – Call It Off / The Con
The most overlooked album of the year and my number one pick. Nearly a perfect pop album from the tortured queens of young love. Pick any track. Nothing but net.

7. The Shins – Phantom Limb / Wincing The Night Away
Yes okay, this track came out originally on an ep in 2006. But the actual album came out in 2007 and that’s how I’m looking at it. An achingly dear track that instantly makes you remember some dreamy, warm (and perhaps gooey) experience from your youth.

8. Feist – I Feel It All / The Reminder
(Play/Download/Lyrics/Band Website)
It was hard to resist putting the other Feist song on this list. You know – the “1,2,3,4…” one from the iPod iTouch commercials. But after selling my iTouch in complete frustration 6 days after owning it and retreating to the upgrade of the iPod 80GB “classic” I decided I didn’t need any more reminders of that misspent week.

9. Winterpills – Broken Arm / The Light Divides
If you took early Simon & Garfunkel and added some Mamas & Papas to a Pixies-esque rhythm section…you’d get like a darker, rockin’ version of the Weepies. Or – you’d get this Winterpills track.

10. Swati – 2 O’Clock In The Morning / Small Gods
Apparently, I loves me some angst-ridden female songwriters. Move over Cat Power, the bus is filling up. Nice desperation-drenched, red-eyed track.

11. Rogue Wave – Lake Michigan / Asleep At Heaven’s Gate
Borrowing an opening drum part from Kate Bush, this song delivers a lush, shins-like melodic journey through some late August Californian afternoon…in Michigan.

12. The New Pornographers – My Rights Vs. Yours / Challengers
Another contender for my album of the year pick. As a sideband project – they sound tighter and fresher than most of the member’s day-job bands.

13. Portatastic – Sour Shores / Be Still Please
Here’s the one that gets me kicked off the bus. Yes, a blatant 2006 track with no possible excuses other than I just plain missed it last year and had to include it this time. Sue me.

14. The National – Brainy / Boxer
These guys have become the critic’s darlings and while I still don’t see it as an album of the year shoe-in, there are some great tracks. Like this one.

15. Loney, Dear – I Am John / Loney Noir
This year was like part 2 of the Ikea Invasion and this sweet soulful Swede is one of the best of them. Indie folk from the heart.

16. Kate Nash – Foundations / Foundations
I hate anti-relationship, bravado/bitch novelty songs, so they don’t make the cut unless they can hold their own as a solid tune, which is rare. This one does. Just when you think you’ve figured out where this song is going to go, she kicks in a brilliant chorus which reflects genuine emotional vulnerability in a way most pop divas would never choose to go.

17. Okkervil River – Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe / The Stage Names
Like the Shins or The Killers or The Arcade Fire before them, these guys break down some conventions to deliver an amazingly fresh take on the same tired old chords as everyone else starts with. Probably the single of the year on my list.

18. Against Me! – Borne On The FM Waves Of The Heart / New Wave
Like a bat out of hell, this track will have you reliving those classic 70’s boy/girl call & response songs. Turn this one up and sing along with your significant other by the dashboard light.

19. Stars – Take Me To The Riot / In Our Bedroom After The War
Boy this list has a lot of retro pastiche songs on it…Think of them as “homages.” This one is no exception. Shades of Nowhere Girl, but in a good, less droningly annoying way.

20. Chantal Kreviazuk – All I Can Do / Ghost Stories
While scores of other piano playing indie chanteuses get heralded as the next Sara MacLachlan/Tori Amos/Elton John, Kreviazuk continues to quietly steal their thunder by being all that and a phenomenal songwriting bag of chips as well. Sadly, this studio track pales to her live version of this great love song.

The Perfect Mixtape

radioscooter destroyer

As a kid in the 70’s, like so many other adolescents going through the angst ridden, hormone laden splendor of puberty – I retreated into music as often as possible. And as my father was among the first wave of audio hobbyists in the neighborhood to own cassette recorders, I started making tapes of songs around 1970.

A lot has changed since that era. We didn’t have iTunes to buy songs for .99 cents. We walked into “Rags & Records” past rows of feathered roach clips and 4 ft. translucent blue water pipes to buy 45rpm records for .99 cents. We did however have peer to peer file sharing. Only it was called borrowing your friend’s copy of Destroyer to tape it. And we did have music downloading. It was called holding a microphone up to the radio.

As you’re growing up, music choices are less voluntary and more happenstance. Your parents play KDKA in the car and you hear Neil Diamond or Bobby Vinton, and it makes an impression. Your older cousins give you a stack of 45’s they don’t want and  Uriah Heep and Spooky Tooth make an impression. Your sister plays the Carpenters: Greatest Hits non-stop on the living room hi-fi. Whether these blossom into your favorite bands or not – they all make impressions on you. It continues into adulthood;  you  wake up to the clock radio playing Rich Girl by Hall & Oates, the TV plays you a bit of Nick Drake on a car commercial, you hear the Decemberists on Letterman… Und so weiter.

The soundtrack of our lives. Songs. Different songs, often from wholly divergent sources or styles, assembled through a balanced symmetry of chaos and personal choice.

That’s the Perfect Mixtape.

Sometimes fun, sometimes poignant. Something old, something new. Something borrowed, something bluegrass…

The curse and the blessing of our current musical futureworld is that there are a zillion more new songs available to us every day than ever before in history, not to mention the kerjillion older songs we just hadn’t heard yet. All at our disposal within the click of a touchscreen app.

My goal with this blog is to curate some of these collections of songs as moments in time. Playlist suggestions. Mixtapes.

The discussion lines are open.

I hope you like the songs.
I picked them out myself.

Just for you.

Shout Out Loud


I found the unused vintage KISS logo iron on transfer on ebay a year ago. Same one I had in 1975. Rainbow glitter. I found a black tee and washed it a few times with bleach to get it to the right shade of vintage off-black. Then I tried my best at simulating the mall iron-on transfer kiosk heat-press by putting the iron on super hot, laying the shirt on the floor and practically standing on top of it to apply the logo to the shirt. Did this a while ago and numerous washings have even started to lift up the corner of the vinyl transfer giving it the true retro look.

I wear it when I’m feeling particularly ratty, or particularly stylish. With jeans and a jacket – it’s da bomb.

I was wearing it one day when I was having lunch with my friend that owns a guitar store. As we were coming back to his store from the parking lot, I see a kid coming out of the music store with his Mom and dad. We were walking toward each other and still about 20 feet away. The kid looked about 13. He had this crazy head of permy looking hair, like that dude from The Strokes or those early photos of Dylan where he looks young, geeky,  vibrant, lucid and capable of cracking a smile.

The kid was with his parents. I don’t know if they were picking him up from lessons or shopping for guitars. He was walking with a bit of that ‘too cool to be seen with my folks’ slump, But not so much that you want to slap him for it. More like he’s just trying to distance himself a bit to be cool, but he’s respectful that they might be buying him his first Epiphone Flying V.

He’s wearing a 3/4 sleeve baseball tee with a more recent KISS design on it. As I see him and his shirt, he sees me and my shirt. His gaze meets mine and without breaking stride, widening his eyes or giving any other sign of acknowledgement – he simply cocks his index finger and thumb (gun fingers) at me and mouths silently “nice shirt.”  As we got closer I returned the gesture with a nod and an audible “right back atcha”  that mystified both his parents and my friend walking with me.

He could have chosen other ways to communicate the brotherhood of the shirt. He could have given the Clinton thumbs-up or the ‘metal-devil-horn’ fingers. He could have pointed it out to his parents “Look, there’s an old guy who likes KISS too Mom!” He could have. But he didn’t. The combination of the Sinatra-esque point along with the silence of the  ‘nice shirt’ comment launched him right over the rico suave barrier.

The kid is cooler at 13 than I ever got to in the height of my powers.
The world could use more of him.
Adolescent white teen suburban rockers who dig KISS and know the difference between seeming like you’re not with your parents and just being a prick.


Kill Rock Stars

cover_1901222122007There’s a one-panel cartoon I saw in a magazine a dozen or more years ago that has a sad, loser-looking guy sitting on the floor amidst a bunch of record albums and a woman going out the door and addressing him: “I’m going out to the store for a bit. Try not to identify with too many song lyrics before I get back.”

It’s funny because it’s true. It’s also almost impossible to avoid sometimes. It’s like EVERY song is EXACTLY what you are feeling. Oh my God.

I defy anyone who has ever felt any human emotion to put on the Decemberists “Picaresque” album and not find one song to identify with.

I’ve had some live Decemberists tracks from shows from 2002 and 2003 for awhile. To be honest – I was looking forward to getting out to see them, but maybe more for the solo drive to Columbus. I love the band but they didn’t sound THAT great live on the few tracks I had downloaded from other fans.

Well the THING happened between their constant touring for the last album and then the recording of this new one and this tour. That same thing that happened to the girl next door that one summer in 1977 when she went out a lamb and came back in September a Lion.  The band is now fan-fucking-tastic live. They are now better live than on studio album. They are now this tight, confident band that is treading on Smiths level transcendance circa 1986.

I highly reccomend you try them out. Picaresque is a beautiful album. But there are many amazing diamonds among the last 4 albums as well. The bonus is the name of their label – Kill Rock Stars.

The Decemberists are not for everyone. But then, neither am I.

RIYL: The Smiths, Robyn Hitchcock, The Beatles, Victorian and Elizabethan England, The Sea, Ghost stories,  Old unused words like ‘parapets’, ‘pantaloons’, ‘petticoats’, or ‘pinions’, Bands comprised of ex-theater and english literature majors.

No YOU had the wooden teeth…


From my sister’s Blog, “Liberus Lunaris”:

“My family agrees on two things: we all like Jesus Christ Superstar and we all like John Lennon. Two of my favorite all family outings were when we attended a local production of JCSS and when we went to the Rock n roll Hall of Fame and saw the Lennon Exhibit.

It was after the former when I realized how much the average person doesn’t know about musical theater when my brother, usually rather hip about artistic things, expressed surprise that the character of Herod would be interpreted as a Drag Queen. It’s a traditional theatrical convention almost as sacred as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest being played by a man…”


My family actually have agreed on many things in their history. One of them being my sister’s penchant for revisionist history. Well, I don’t think she will ever cop to it. But then – I really don’t think my Father liked Jesus Christ Superstar or John Lennon all that much either. And he never went with us to the local JCS performance. But her blog subtitle says “It’s not a lie – it’s a gift for fiction” and really – that’s how we all see it too. Lots of the facts are correct but sometimes she changes a detail here or there that others may have done or said. That’s the broadest, most diplomatic way I can paint it. We all (my family) have memories that exemplify God’s British style sense of humor.

I’ve been to three local performances of JCS. One in Indiana, PA in 1987. One in 1992 when Ted Neely and Carl Anderson revived it. And I know I went to at least one of them with my  family. I am 90% certain that the one she is referring to was the 1994 ‘official traveling Broadway’ version which was memorable for two reasons:

1) Dennis DeYoung played Pontius Pilate

2) They abandoned the hydraulic crucifixion stage.

Now, there are things you need to know about me and JCS. I LOVE Jesus Christ Superstar. I mean – forget  Madonna, Stevie Nicks and 60’s Brit Girl Go-Go-Boots Pop – my most secret musical pleasure is listening to JCS. The original 1970 British album recording. The BROWN double album with the gold graphic logo. Not the photo-cover movie soundtrack. And NOT the American Broadway cast version.   I listened to this album SO much – I can tell the difference in any of the recordings within the first 4 seconds of the ominous Overture’s drone cellos. I know all the words to all of the songs. I secretly rehearsed the Judas role when I was younger in hopes that our school would put it on and I would get the part. I can do it right now for you if you like.

I really, really like this album.

You can take all the general bad will, disdain and derision I harbor for live theater as a whole and musical theater as a subgroup and it wouldn’t equal up to the love I have for JCS. And as it turns out – there are understandable reasons for this.

First – The original British recording (Brown album) with Ian Gillian (Deep Purple) and Murray Head is the absolute only one worth listening to. The weird thing about JCS is that it was not  a musical first. It was released as a studio ‘rock opera’ album first. Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice, both nineteen at the time, created this opera and got the most amazing bunch of singers and musicians that could be found, coupled them with traditionally superior British recording engineers and made a transcendent rock album. Not an album done with the cast of a show already in existence or even planned.

ust – a rock album.

It was a hit. Then the show went to Broadway in 1971. Then BACK to London’s West End in 1972. Then the guy that played Pilate on the original brown album decided to direct it as a movie in 1973. The original brown album’s music and singing were so much better than any subsequent version because they had rock musicians doing it. It was supposed to be a “ROCK opera”. But, after that album apparently the cast decisions have been made based upon theater experience vs. rock chops. So in every version since we get overly emotive, loud, vibrato-filled performances where the only criteria for Jesus’ role was to be able to hit the high arena rock notes of “My temple should be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves!” (if there is any doubt here – witness the recent choice of Whitesnake’s  Sebastian Bach in the Jesus role. Then witness the reviews.) Don’t get me wrong – Ted Neely and Carl Anderson were fantastic too, possibly better than the originals. And of course Yvonne Elliman, as the single Kevin Bacon thread that made sure she got herself into EVERY version of the show including, I think, an Icelandic touring production – wasn’t bad either. But the instrumentation of every other recorded version blows. The secondary and tertiary characters’ singing almost all stink. The engineering and mixing all suck. So – if this makes you curious – only listen to the big gold logo brown album version. (which apparently has been digitally remastered as a big gold logo white CD version)

Conversely – I will sit through any live rendition of the show at all. Aboriginal touring cast? Sure. Eighth grade school for the deaf production? Sign me up. I don’t know why. I just love this show. And there is something amazing about the fact that both Ted Neely and Carl Anderson revived their roles like 4 times since 1972, the last of which was 3 years ago. Carl Anderson was slated to be doing Judas now, during this current tour but sadly died of Leukemia in 2004.

So – here was my family at this 1996 “revival” of the Broadway show with ex-Styx singer Dennis DeYoung as Pontius Pilate. Apart from the mixed signals that were being triggered in my brain from the ridiculous juxtaposition of  “I dreamed I met a Gallilean” being sung by the same voice that blasted “Rockin’ the Paradise tonight” in my headphones in 1975 – the show was pretty good. The only crap thing was when they got to the crucifixion scene – no hydraulic lift stage.

Now – my sister has thrown the gauntlet down that I am lacking in knowledge about ‘sacred theater conventions’ and I pray to all that’s holy that she is right and will stay right about that for the rest of my life. However, I do know a few things about theater. I know that even, nay especially in theater if a “sacred theater convention” comes into existence over the years then sure as Pooh Bear loves honey – there will be plenty of  fabulous, desperately-breakthrough directors that will strive to discard those conventions as if their lives depended on it.

“We’re doing CATS but with no music!”  “We’re doing an all black, hip-hop version of Annie Get Your Gun!” “We’re doing Hamlet except with all women!” and one of my sister’s favorites – “We’re doing the Wiz with an all-white high school cast!” (that one was real, it was 1979, I played the Wiz – seriously. Is there any wonder I am left with a bad taste for live theater?)

So while I NEVER would have been surprised by the idea of Herod being played as a Drag Queen – being as the original Mike D’abo part was supposed to have been Elton John on the album and then went to the movie version as a Benny Hill romp with Josh Mostel prancing around like Charles Nelson Reilly in Lidsville on fire like the freaking Ohio Players. However, a few productions of the show did NOT always take Herod over the top and this 1996 version we had seen seemed to have toned down much of the ‘spectacle’ aspect to the show (other than the aforementioned Come Sail Away flavor and I DID comment that I thought it was odd that THIS version was doing the Herod drag queen thing. Because THIS version couldn’t even keep alive the one true “sacred theater convention” that it really needed which was the damn hydraulic lifting stage for the crucifixion!! 

One last bit of JCS trivia that brings it all home. In July of 1971, after the original concept album was such a big hit – Weber and Rice were planning to take the show to Broadway but needed to debut the show in an arena setting  and still have it be sort of a ‘one-off’ tryout show to gauge the public’s acceptance. If it tanked – it might not have gone to Broadway. If it did well – it would arrive with much less trepidation from the producers. Remember this was the first time what was essentially a rock concert would be staged on Broadway. So they did a single, fantastic blowout show to prove what they had envisioned. Before London’s West End. Before Broadway’s Mark Hellinger Theater debut. The very first EVER live staged production of Superstar, personally directed and conducted by Weber and Rice themselves took place in July, 1971 in Pittsburgh at the Civic Arena for a crowd of 13,000.

God Bless Rock and Roll