.Dirty Work
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I am, admittedly and proudly, the go-to music nerd among my friends. Whether I am glowing over Billy Joel’s foray into heavy metal in the early 1970’s via his band Attila (or Billy Joel’s entire catalog for that matter) or my collection off 60’s bubblegum pop, I have always been able to make a case for music that my peers might otherwise find annoying, silly, or just plain bad. However, I am led to believe there might be something in the DNA of most of my generation that causes people to hate Steely Dan (pictured above), as pretty much any attempt to turn people on to them has been met with a force field-like rejection. I guess the tag of “jazz rock” doesn’t help their cause much, and their noted tyrannical approach to the studio might have something to do with it, but in terms of lyrical genius Steely Dan’s songwriting approach is the closest thing rock has to John Updike or Philip Roth. As Sasha Frere-Jones noted in the New Yorker, “The lyrics were generally jaded assessments of young women, the older men who coveted them, and other humans caught at their least flattering moments.”

I’d like to go one step further than Frere-Jones and say that for all intents and purposes, there is no band more misunderstood and misaligned than Steely Dan. Donald Fagan, Walter Becker and their revolving cast of brilliant musicians have been shat on by countless music fans for years, but in truth they are purveyors of some of the most well-read pop ever put on record. Becker and Fagan were naming their band after a strap-on dildo in Naked Lunch, 30 years before The Decemberists were singing about Myla Goldberg and being labeled “hyper-literate prog”.

All I’m saying is, give them another chance.

.Another Dance.

If you know me, you know about my infatuation with Leonard Cohen. If I was forced to name one musician I love the most, I would have to pick him. So, it made me giddy as a child with candy to see he is once again going on tour.

.Punks in the Beerlight.

Once bands started catching on to the equation that alt-country could equal big dollars, it seemed that every sad bastard that ever spilled a tear into his beer decided to formulate a way to play a new angle. Then Wilco became the American Radiohead, and the country thing spread like wildfire all across the musical landscape (even though I don’t think Wilco has put out anything close to a country album in about a decade). In the last few years, a resurgence in what was once dubbed “cow-punk” has become the newest way to act like suburban cowboys. What was started in the early 80’s by Gun Club, X, and Los Lobos as a mutation of the L.A. punk scene has morphed into a a genre that is redefining what we once called Americana. Bands like Lucero, and Against Me! have become massive both nationally and across the globe, gaining support from 13-year-olds everywhere and a stamp of approval from The Boss himself.
If I really had to guess, I would feel alright saying the band that might outpace them all will be the Providence band Deer Tick. If not simply for the fact that they seem to have all the right pieces to the puzzle, like being related to Hollywood stars (band leader John McCauley is cousins with Matthew McConaughey) and backing from a major media figure (Brian Williams really likes them), Deer Tick is just downright good. Their latest album, Born on Flag Day, seems to be one of those albums that comes at just the right time, as it looks to the greatness of the past and holds the optimism of a bright future. It’s well worth picking up, and if you need a quick introduction to what this band is capable of, here is a cover of The Stones’ “Dead Flowers” that would make their guardian angel (and fellow cover-er of the song) Townes Van Zandt bow his head in appreciation.

.Family Ties.

For about ten seconds in the post-White Stripes world, it seemed that that sibling rock was poised to take over. Countless duos claiming members who held citizenship to the same womb crept out of the woodwork, only to figure out that they could barely play with these people they claimed to have grown up with. The Fiery Furnaces – made up of Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger – came out of that boom with a louder band than just about anybody, and have continued to amass a catalog of weird pop ditties for the last six years. Their new record I’m Going Away is out, and it’s pretty superb. I’m not going to go into a review (read that somewhere else), but I will say you should check out the history of the duo on the Thrill Jockey site.

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