Tag Archives: Kings of Leon

Songs With Memorable Bass Lines

 

Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”

Joy Division’s most well known song is icy and oddly enough, the closest the band ever came to being accessible. Ian Curtis’ singing is distant and sparse and the synthesizers in the background (which replicate Curtis’ harmony) only add to the eeriness of the song. The rhythm section however, takes no prisoners. Stephen Morris pounds his way through the song with an urgency in direct opposition to Curtis’ monotone vocals. Bass players usually tend to anchor the song, but on “Love Will Tear Us Apart” Peter Hook steers the song. The opening swirl of Hook’s bass pulls the listener in and prepares them for Curtis’ tale of desperation. As the bass bounces in and of the speaker, it becomes the only inviting sound in an otherwise chilling song.

Kings of Leon – “McFearless”

On the first few Kings of Leon albums Jared Followill proved himself to be the unsung hero of the band playing his bass like it was a lead instrument. Never one to be content in the background, Followill turns it up ever further on “McFearless” with a loud and fuzzy bass-line. Playing it more like a guitar riff, the bass propels the song into a distorted groove allowing Matthew Followill to try his best at sounding like The Edge, and Nathan Followill to give an unorthodox and frantic beat.

Sly & The Family Stone – “Thank You (Fahletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”

This absurdly titled song has one of the greatest bass riffs ever, and is sometimes considered to be one of the first funk songs. Larry Graham’s slap bass here is instantly recognizable, blasting in and out of the speakers in a hummable melody. What’s really amazing about Graham’s playing here is the space between the notes. While his playing is certainly the star of the show here, it never overshadows the rest of the song.

The Beatles – “I Want (She’s So Heavy)”

Paul McCartney is such a brilliant songwriter, it’s sometimes easy to forget how great of a bass player he really is. While the song is probably most famous for its ending, McCartney’s breaks in the middle of the verses are the stuff of legend. While the chorus and the ending are among the loudest stuff the Beatles recorded, the verses find them at their jazziest and loosest with McCartney taking the reins. Check out the lengthy instrumental section mid-way through the song for proof.

Modest Mouse – “Fire It Up”

“Fire It Up” is one of the standout tracks from Modest Mouse’s massively under-rated We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. Eric Judy’s bass takes center stage here providing a slick groove that Modest Mouse is not usually known for.  Whether or not the song is about weed or not, it’s hard not to get caught up in Issac Brock’s chants. The closest the band gets to be catchy since “Float On”.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – “Funky Monks”

Flea has written so many classic bass lines that it’s hard to pick one as his best. For me, this one has always stood out. It’s the perfect balance between his slap-happy bass of the early days, and melodic. It’s also one of the funkiest songs ever recorded by a rock group. Flea’s playing is so goo that John Frusiciante is forced to mimic it throughout most of the song. As the song draws to its conclusion, Flea’s takes over the song, forcing Frusciante and Chad Smith to the backseat.

The Who – “The Real Me”

This might be the finest bass performance in the history of rock. As Pete Townshend and Keith Moon thrash away with all of their might, Entwistle’s fluid and commanding playing destroys everything in its path no matter how hard Moon and Townshend try. What makes his playing so unique here, is its existence inside the rhythm while simultaneously acting as the lead instrument. Impressive stuff.

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Songs of Summers Past: Part 2

(Carrie became so inspired by my list last week, that she wrote up a list of her own.  Check it out.)

(Me, circa 2006.)

The Clash – “Rudie Can’t Fail” (Summer 2003)

For me, “Rudie Can’t Fail” is the highlight of London Calling an album on which every single song would be a highlight on somebody else’s album.   London Calling was one the CDs that I brought with me on for a summer semester in Italy.  I had been to Europe before, but these trips were either with family or organized.  Living in a small town in Northern Italy for 6 weeks meant plenty of down-time to explore the subtleties of Italian culture I would not have otherwise been exposed to.  Each Wednesday morning the town opened its streets to a market.  The linens, Catholic relics, Italian leather were a link to the old world.  With my headphones on, I used to wander around the streets for hours trying to soak up as much as I could.  With its reggae and third world feel, “Rudie Can’t Fail” was the soundtrack to my self imposed Italian education.  The lyricsm “I went to the market, to realize my soul cuz what I need I just don’t have,” never seemed so prophetic and exciting.

“King of the Rodeo” – Kings of Leon (Summer 2005)

For everybody who thinks of Kings of Leon based on “Use Somebody”, I urge them to listen to this song.  It’s an entirely different band.  Matthew Followill delivers one of his sexiest and dirtiest guitar riffs, while Caleb’s vocals are incomprehensible and boozy, yet strangely melodic.  The only lyrics that can be deciphered are “let the good times roll, let the good times roll”.   I became obsessed with Kings of Leon’s Aha Shake Heartbreak earlier that year, due to their opening slot of U2’s tour.  While U2’s show was perfectly rehearsed with little room for improvisation (not a bad thing, by the way), Kings of Leon came out as if their instruments were weapons in a bar fight.  There was a sense that anything could happen.  Aha Shake Heartbreak became my “go to” CD that summer, as I drove to and from my shitty job.   I probably broke the skip button as I kept placing “King of the Rodeo” on repeat.  I can’t understand the rest of the summer, but “let the good times roll” became something of a mantra.

“High Fidelity” – Elvis Costello & The Attractions

I had recently discovered the genius of Elvis Costello about a year earlier, and was quickly becoming acquainted with his back catalogue, in particular Get Happy!! and “High Fidelity”.   On an album full of great songs, “High Fidelity” is a masterpiece – the piano never sounded so violent and menacing and also poppy.  A great sing-along song for the summer at full volume.  I used to always say that I never liked to drink too much a show, as I wanted to remember to it all.  Sadly, this was not the case at the Elvis Costello an Allen Toussaint show.  My friend, and my brother started tail-gating hours before the show.  To the audience at Wolf Trap, which is actually an outdoor theater sometimes used for a rock show, we were heathens.  Wolf Trap’s BYOB rules did not suit us well.  And our cans of Budweiser and bag of Lays was a direct contrast to everyone else’s wine and cheese.   At one point, I remember sitting on a pair of steps with my head between my legs desperately trying not to get sick.  As I tried to come to my senses, I did manage to hear “High Fidelity” in the background.

“Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince (Summer 2010)

A while back, I looked at my girlfriend’s Ipod and was surprised to see “Let’s Go Crazy” on it.  I never suspected her to be a Prince fan.  Even more surprisingly, she had mistakenly downloaded a remix with an extended ending.  That purchase has always made me laugh and “Let’s Go Crazy” has become a song that we listen to quite often when driving.  She even knows the opening monologue by heart, which is even more hilarious.  Last summer while in Florida with her family, I bought a copy of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of Rock and Roll that led to a rather humorous (and sometimes tense) discussion with her father over which songs should and shouldn’t be included. It turned out to be a great bonding experience even if we disagreed on quite a few songs. He argued there were way too many Prince songs on the list (including “Let’s Go Crazy”) while I suggested that “Born to Be Wild” really isn’t that good, and was only included for nostalgic reasons.

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Dear Artist: I’ve broken up with you. Please Don’t Cry

NPR has a pretty funny feature on breaking up with your favorite band.  When you become obsessed with an artist, it’s inevitable that at a certain point you might shake your head and wonder what the hell they’re doing.  Here’s a short list of artist I’ve broken up with.

The Killers

 The Killers started out like a great hook-up that keeps going – their songs were fun, and they seemed to be ready for a good time whenever you wanted it.  Then they discovered Bruce Springsteen, and like many hook-ups that last too long – got serious.  They made the Springsteen-esque  “Sam’s Town”, an album which is easily the most hubristic album of the 2000s.

The Strokes


Despite my inclusion of The Strokes in the 10 Greatest Artist of the Last Decade, The Strokes and I had a pretty bitter break-up.  Is This It was loud, brash, and exciting.  They cared so much about not caring, that in the end, nobody cared.

Kings of Leon


The worst offenders on this list.  As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, I discovered Kings of Leon around 2005 or 2004, and they were the illegitimate children of the Stooges and The Allman Brothers.  The music had a country-twang, but was played at breakneck speed.  And then like The Killers, they too, got serious and needed somebody.  In a few short years they went from sounding like no one, to sounding like everybody else.

Lady Gaga


 Gaga’s antics didn’t really bother me until she decided to call herself a spokesman of a generation (or something like that).  You can’t declare yourself to be the spokesman for people or a group – they have to decide for you.  Even Madonna had a sense of humor – something Gaga should think about lifting as well.

What artists have you broken up with?

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The 10 Most Important Artists of the Last Decade: 6. The Strokes

(I apologize for the lack of updates, especially in the middle of a list, but I was sick for over a week.  So I promise, I’ll finish the remaining artists in a much quicker pace.)

I can’t remember when I first heard of The Strokes.  It was probably sometime in the summer of 2001 when they just starting to explode, and their debut Is This It was creating a firestorm in the rock world.  Although I like Is This Is It? now, I decided before I even heard The Strokes, I decided that they would be a band that would annoy me.  The hype surrounding them just seemed too much.  I had already experienced that with Nirvana, only to find out once you actually listen to the records and take away the the hype – the band was really just mediocre at best.

It wasn’t until 2003 when I actually first heard a Strokes song.  A friend of mine made me a Mix CD and it contained both “Last Night” and “Someday”.   While I found “Last Night” to be a pretty good song, it was really “Someday” that caught my attention.  Julian Casablancas sang in a way that felt disconnected and insincere, yet somehow still managed to connect with the listener even if his voice was buried in the mix.  Musically, I thought the song was really interesting.  It seemed like a ballad, but the beat was extremely fast and propelling.  One guitar played a single note repeatedly throughout the verses, and while the other almost veered out of control.  Not too long after, I went out and got Is This It? and quickly became hooked.  Two years later, I had discovered what everybody else already knew: The Strokes were the coolest and best rock and roll band in over a decade.

Looking back, it seems odd that this little album could have such a profound effect on the music world.  There are no grand gestures on the album.  Each song is a perfectly little garage-rock gem.  If anything the only criticism you could make about the album is that The Strokes tried a little too hard to be cool and sound like The Velvet Underground.

But The Strokes aren’t important because Is This It? blew up, or because they both looked and acted cool.  With Is This It? The Strokes proved in an era of boy-bands and stream-lined pop, that rock and roll could still exist – and that it was still vital.  There was still some life left it in it.  And ten years later, it still sounds as fresh and vital upon its initial release (even if I didn’t listen to it until years later.)  Modern rock had become stale, and with grunge artists seemed to take their work and themselves too seriously.  The Strokes bought back some of the fun back in rock and roll, by not caring.  Even if the Strokes were known for their partying image, they didn’t seem to care about that either.  “Fuck going to that party,” Casablancas would later declare, in “12:51” the first single off their sophomore effort, Room on Fire.

Though garage-rock had been around for decades, The Strokes were the ones that blew the door open for it to become mainstream just as Nirvana “broke punk” some ten years before.  Lo-fi suddenly became the new standard for young bands starting out.  Bands such as The Hives and Jet would never have gotten the attention that they did without The Strokes.  Even Kings of Leon, who came out a year or two after The Strokes were unofficially billed as “the southern Strokes”.

While Is This It? remains essential, The Strokes have yet to live up to its (and the audiences) expectations since.  I’ve yet to figure out whether they’ve tried too hard or too little since their debut.

On another note, I also think that any self-respecting hipster owes The Strokes a huge debt.  They made skinny jeans, ray-bands and a smug attitude popular outside of New York.

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Top 20 Concerts Part 2

I should note that some of these artists I have seen multiple times, so I will only list my favorite concert from each particular artist.  Otherwise the top 10 could easily include multiple repeats.

Pearl Jam (May 2006 – Camden, New Jersey)

I’ve seen Pearl Jam a total of three times over the past few years, and I have yet to see a bad show by them.  Pearl Jam treat their shows like every single one is a special event.  Eddie Vedder is the Pete Townshend of lead singers – jumping across the stage and doing guitar acrobatics that lesser men would like downright silly even to attempt.   The last time I saw them in DC in 2008, they only made it about a minute into “Evacuation” before the band stumbled.  In the old days, Vedder might have walked off screaming.  Instead the band laughed it off, and went on to the next show like nothing happened.

I realize that I probably might get shit on for including Pearl Jam on this list by some people I know.  I still think that the lady at the concession lying when she said that drinks were no longer being served at the “artists’ request”.

 

The New Pornographers (October 2007 – 930 Club, Washington DC)

Twin Cinema is easily one of the best rock-pop records of the 2000s.   On record The New Pornographers have a lot of energy, but live they are well-oiled machine.   Neko Case and Carl Newman remain the band’s not-so secret weapon united in harmony, but it’s amazing to see them pull it off so effortlessly on songs like “All The Things That Go Make Heaven and Earth”, and “Use It”.  And when the coda for “The Bleeding Heart Show” kicks in, you wish it would go on forever.

 

Kings of Leon (October 2005 – Sonar, Baltimore MD)

In 2005, Kings of Leon were down right sleazy.  Not like the pretty boys and rock- pop cons you know today.  If the whiskey soaked songs, and dank of Sonar weren’t enough, the show included girls dancing on poles between sets and a magic show.  You could feel the sweat flying from the Followills foreheads as they blazed through countrified-punk versions of “The Bucket” and “Slow Night So Slow”.  Appropriately enough, they closed with the aptly titled, “Trani”.

The concert was awesome, but things turned sour later on, including being stuck in a traffic jam with the gas-tank on empty, and a fall down a flight of stairs.  (Both incidents turned out to be ok, but the gas tank was a close-call.)

 

The Black Crowes (August 2007 – Sonar, Baltimore MD)

Another show at Sonar. This is not really a criticism, but The Black Crowes are the best Rolling Stones cover band with original songs.  It was an old-fashioned rock and roll show at its best.  I distinctly remember it being the hottest night of the year – it was so fucking hot, and the compressed venue of Sonar only made it worse.  But somehow, it only seemed fitting to see the Crowes that way.

The Pixies (December 2009 – Constitution Hall, Washington DC)

I ended up going to this show at the last minute.  I got a phone-call in the afternoon from a friend telling me that an extra ticket was available.  So off I drove to DC during rush-hour to go see The Pixies.  I was almost late because I got lost to my friends house on the way – even though I had driven there at least 5 times prior.

This show was part of The Pixies “Doolittle Tour”. Prior to this show, I had never seen a whole album show, and was curious about how it come off.  The songs off of Doolittle are short and concise, so even the duds (there are really only about 3 off of an otherwise great album) are over before you know it.  The big songs – “Monkey Gone to Heaven” and “Here Comes Your Man” got the most response, but it was on “There Goes My Gun” and “Vamos” The Pixies really came alive.  The former proved that even in his mid 40s, Frank Black can still scream like a motherfucker, and the latter included an extended feedback solo that peeled the paint off of the otherwise stale Constitution Hall.

 

 

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Kings of Leon: “Come Around Sundown” is the final nail in their coffin for me

Kings of Leon are now streaming their new album Come Around Sundown on their web-site.  It doesn’t come out until next week, October the 19th, but I’m just glad I got the chance to stream it.  It’s not bad, but it’s incredibly mediocre, which I find more offensive.  At least if the album was really terrible, I could laugh at it like I do with anything that Nickelback , Live, Daughtry or Creed puts out.

Kings of Leon used to be my one of my favorite “new” bands.  I’ve seen them about 5 or 6 times at various different places.  In 2004, they were a completely different band.  Their fabled beginning of being preacher’s sons hadn’t worn out its welcome.  You knew that these guys were probably got shit-faced every single night, and had a slew of girls waiting for them at the end of the show.  And they looked like they just crawled out of the hotel room – unshaven and unkempt – ready to unleash their Stooges meets The Band hybrid of garage-rock.

Their second album Aha Shake Heartbreak was a water-shed moment for rock in the 2000s.  It was different than everything else that was out there – everything about it was dirty.   The flower on the cover looked like a vagina, Caleb Followill spat out lyrics about passing out in front of models at a party due to whiskey-dick.  And the music was pretty with such intensity and fury, that you could practically smell the beer-sweat on the guitar strings.  Even the  slower songs even left a burning impression.

2007’s Because of the Times found them discovering new sounds and textures, but many of the songs still contained the furious pace of their first two albums.  When I first heard “Sex on Fire” I thought it was a pretty good single, but it didn’t prepare for how shitty Only By the Night would be.  It seems that Kings of Leon think that by adding open space and letting a song breathe equates to a fantastic song.

Come Around Sundown continues this trend.  Every song is mellow and laid-back.  But it lacks originality and emotion.  All of the songs seem to run into one another.  Guitarist Matthew Followill seems to think that The Edge is the only guitar player worth listening to.  (And while I love U2 and The Edge, that particular sound becomes trite and boring when imitated.)

I’m all for bands growing and changing.  But it doesn’t mean you have to mellow your sound and become like everybody else.  I never thought that one day I might confuse a Kings of Leon song with one by Coldplay, Snow Patrol or Keane.

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The Problem With The Edge

 

Back in 2008, when Kings of Leon released “Only the Night” I was a bit disappointed with the direction that the band seemed to be going in.  They had abandoned their dirty rock roots opting instead for a clean, shimmery clean arena ready sound.  Even “Sex on Fire” the album’s sole “rock” song was washed in delays pedals.  A band who spent three albums creating a distinct sound, suddenly sounded like everyone else.  And while Kings of Leon’s guitarists is pretty decent, it was clear he was learning tricks from a certain knit-capped wearing guitarist who’s made an entire career out of using delay pedals.

The Edge is very inventive and knows how to construct a song based on atmospherics that only enhance Bono’s bombastic singing.  The Edge wasn’t the first to create icy delays in rock song (it’s usually credited to Tom Verlaine of Television) but he certainly took it further than anyone else.  It’s a sound that has made U2 distinctive, and like it or not associated with The Edge himself.  Throughout the years, even The Edge has forgone his trade-mark style, looking for inspiration in distortion best seen on 1991’s “Achtung Baby”. 

Somewhere within the past decade almost every single up and coming band that wanted to be reach as many fans as possible seemed to copy U2’s signature sound.  It’s as if the guitar players from Coldplay, Snow Patrol, The Killers, among others each had a delay pedal and placed the settings on “Edge” and hit record.  Unfortunately none of these bands are as good as song-crafting or inventive as U2, and they all of their front-men lack the charisma of Bono.   These artists think that by aiming big and copying U2 they will be seen as a serious band with importance just like their heroes.  Too bad that their efforts just come off as flat and pompous.

Two years after “Only By the Night” Kings of Leon released the first single from their forth-coming album “Come Around Sun Down”.  I was hoping that they would opt for a stripped down sound in constrast to the sheen of “Only By the Night”.  Amazingly, they not only set the guitars to “Edge” again, but they also managed to bring in a choir.  When U2 played with a choir for a live version of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” at least you could tell they meant it.

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