Archive for The Black Keys

Ty Segall Is Ready For His Close Up

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on August 28, 2014 by johnbuckley100

As longtime readers of Tulip Frenzy are no doubt aware, we believe we are living in a Golden Age of Rock’n’Roll, thanks largely to the emergence of Ty Segall, Thee Oh See’s John Dwyer, and White Fence’s Tim Presley.  Ty is clearly the freshest platter o’ grass-fed beef in the steakhouse, a fuzz-tone wunderkind whose solo albums since about 2009 have shown artistic growth in a compressed time frame  that, it is not an exaggeration to say, exceeds that of previous saviors-of-the-genre like The Clash.  

You can never have too much garage-rock psyche mixed with Beatles chops, we always say, and over the past four years or so Mr. Segall has delivered the goods in spades.  Way we see it, the arrival of Ty in our summer sky was like the return of the comet that brought us the British Invasion, swept back into view with the Summer o’ Love, made a hasty swoop ’round the planet during the punk era, but then went back into the cosmos for a long and dilatory snooze before three wiseacres came out of the East bearing Frankenstein and Murine, announcing His arrival.

If you are getting the message we believe the sun never sets on Ty Segall’s full talent, yeah, we cop that plea.  So it is with genuine mixed emotions that we greeted the release this week of Manipulator, the 17-song opus Segall’s been promising to drop all these years.  There is a fantastic album contained within it, but going for the double-album glory has brought slightly mixed results.  Let’s offer up the good, bad, and ugly in the spirit of friendship and avuncular advice.

We imagine that Ty, a smart 27-year old who can hit for distance and for average, looked over at Dan Auerbach and the success he’s had with the Black Keys and said, hmmm.  Until the Black Keys hit it big, they were an interesting, authentic Ohio blues band with traces of soul.  Segall is an interesting Cali punk-rock demigod with traces of metal.  Objectively, there is no reason why the Black Keys should play sold-out shows at the Verizon Center and Ty Segall can’t.  Manipulator, then, is an album that is at once mostly true to Ty’s prior work while also a straightforward play for the radio programmer’s heart and soul.  Viewed as such it is a complete success.

That said, when the essential Ty Segall playlist is made up in, say, 2018, we bet we will put many more songs from Twins and Goodbye Bread, or rarities like “Children of Paul” on it than songs from Manipulator.  If “Green Belly” breaks wide open on XMU, or “Who’s Producing You” becomes the biggest hit on Beats Music, no one will be happier than us.  For the uninitiated, Manipulator is a fantastic album.  For those who believe that Ty lights up the night sky, yeah, we get it, and we hope it sells in the mega-millions.  And we’re left just a little bit disappointed — not by the first, say, seven songs, but by what shows up in the back nine, some of which is filler.  For the first time, as catchy as it is, a song like “Susie Thumb” seems slightly formulaic.  Unusually, in “The Hand,” he sounds just a wee bit generic.

But on the title track, on songs like “It’s Over” and “Feel,” the magic is there.  Oh brother, is it there.  We exult in it, and hope those listening for the first time — and we suspect millions will — are moved by this ‘un to press the music wide-eyed on all their friends and family, and then go explore the earlier, rawer albums, and the associated recs by Thee Oh Sees and White Fence that have been made better by the knowledge that Ty was out back, recording his new one in a cheap and scuzzy garage.


On How Apple And Technology Are Cultural Unifiers, Like Rock’n’Roll Once Was

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 10, 2012 by johnbuckley100

In the ’60s, while no doubt a lot of schlock went to the Top o’ the Pops, it was far more likely than it is today that the greatest bands sold the most records.  The Beatles, The Stones, Dylan, Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Creedence — they made the best records and they sold the most too.  Maybe this is looking backwards through gauze, but it seems that the anomaly, not the rule, is the case of The Velvet Underground — whose first record, released the same week as Sgt. Pepper’s, influenced perhaps more great music over time but ended up in the remainder bins.  They proved to be as much or more culturally relevant than any of the bands that sold 100x more records than they did, but theirs was a 1960s example that otherwise proves the rule.  Bands with great records but small followings became the norm as time went on, but it sure wasn’t the way things worked in those halcyon days when rock critics and the masses they might look down on all grokked to the same bands.

Flash forward to the ’80s and when asked what she thought of “alternative bands,” Madonna could sneer,”Oh, you mean unpopular music?”  By that time, it was axiomatic that the best bands were not the ones that sold the most records — that the bands that mattered were the ones with small followings, not large ones.  Sure, in those days and since, there were exceptions, and we cheered them on: U2, REM, Nirvana, Radiohead… well, we start to run out of examples of truly great bands that became arena sell-out huge.  Each of these bands at certain moments were both wildly popular with the masses and with critics.  But these are the exceptions, not the rule, not like things were in the 1960s when there was a commonality to what the elites thought was the best and what sold in the marketplace.

Flash to last night when The Black Keys played at the Verizon Center in Washington, and were awesome.  One of those happy moments when a band that is as interesting as any working band today could actually sell out an 18,000 seat hall.  As we looked around us, one thing was clear: virtually everyone texting his friend, or tweeting their experience, was using an iPhone.  This cut across obvious socioeconomic planes.  And it got me to thinking.  About how Apple’s products are the most desirable products for the elites who care about technology and what it can do, as well as for the mass of people who just want products that deliver.  Devices, not the music we play on them, are the things that unite us culturally today.  I mean, the closest thing I can think of to the excitement of waiting for the arrival of the new iPad is that feeling from long ago, when we were waiting for Exile On Main Street to hit the record stores.  I know I’m not the only who feels this way.

By the early 1970s, there was a gulf in popular culture, a delta between, say, bands like Big Star, who knocked the critics dead but sold 1000 records, and those huge bands, like say The Eagles, who churned out gold records.  In rock’n’roll, that gulf has not narrowed in 40 years, and seems to get wider all the time.  In contrast, when it comes to technology in general and Apple products in particular, the cognoscenti and the hoi polloi are as one.  Not everyone can afford iPhones, though the subsidy by the mobile operators do make it more possible.  Yet across the globe, the technology elites and the wealthiest people cannot buy a device that is better than the one that everyone else wants: an iPhone.  And there is something democratically pleasing about the arrangement by which Saudi sheiks and kids in Kentucky are using the exact same phone, and are equally thrilled to get one.

Is the famous counterculture acidhead and drop out Steve Jobs responsible for recreating one more aspect of ’60s idealism today: unifying the culture, not via common music, but through common use of technology and devices?

Black Keys Shove A Classic Out For Christmas, And Just Destroy Our Top Ten List

Posted in Music with tags , , on December 7, 2011 by johnbuckley100

Just as in certain polities, candidates run for At Large seats — no numbered district assigned to them, they represent the whole city or state — let’s just grant right now that the Black Keys’ incredibly infectious El Camino is such an obvious album for the ages, it clearly made Tulip Frenzy’s Top Eleven List of The Best Albums of 2011.  We’re just not assigning them a number.  I mean, we’re clearing out space for them, changing formats, so our previously published Top Ten List has been transformed into the Top 11 of 2011.  Yeah, that’s the ticket; we’re not moving anyone else down, but we are definitely expanding the category.  Couldn’t they have released it earlier, to make things more convenient for us?  Why are they playing to all the boys and girls’ Christmas lists, and not critics’ Top Ten Lists?  What misplaced values…

We assure you, this is the only thing El Camino has misplaced.  From Michael Carney’s desaturated photos of cars — like Stephen Shore filtered through the Hipstomatic app — to the sweet soul music of “Stop Stop,” from the T.Rex bones of “Lonely Boy,” to the sheer sleazy rhythms of “Gold On The Ceiling,” this is such a fun record, let’s just take the rest of the year off and listen to it maybe 50 times each day.  This is music Dan Ingram would have played on WABC back in the day, and our mono radio would have shorted out from how high the volume would be turned up.

Look, we’ve enjoyed Dan Auerbach’s singing and his great blues chops for years, but we’ve never really loved the Black Keys because two-person bands don’t swing.  Their music is constructed more than played.  But Messrs. Auerbach and Carney do something really smart on El Camino: they play fast.  They sound like a band, not a project.  And not just a band, they sound like the greasiest garage band in town, auditioning for Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets 16.  The last time a band transformed itself like this was when, after Peter Buck hung out with the Fleshtones and produced their Beautiful Light, REM came out with Monster.  Maybe you think the Black Keys have always been a garage band, but they’ve always played tempi about half the speed of what careens down the road in this filthy El Camino.

For a while there, it seemed like the Black Keys were the Tiger Woods of rock’n’roll — most of their money actually came not from playing, but from the uses to which their music was put by advertising agencies.  El Camino may move too fast to be captured by 30-second beer spots.  But there’s no question this will be the soundtrack of our lives for the next few months.  So welcome, guys, to the Tulip Frenzy Top 11 list.  When our friend texted us that we should wait until this album was released before locking in on the year’s best music, we were skeptical.  No more.

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