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07-15-11 Footnotes
Show 295: Bob Mould, Brian Eno Review, Greg's DIJ
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1 Attention American music fans: Spotify has landed. The “freemium” music-streaming service, launched in Sweden in 2008, already dominates music streaming overseas. Not only does it claim 10 million (until now, mostly European) users, but of that ten, a significant 1.6 million are paying subscribers. So why did it take so long for Spotify to cross the pond? For years the service has been negotiating with the big four American record labels to overcome licensing hurdles, leaving the American field open to rival services like Rdio, MOG, and Rhapsody. Greg wonders: Will Spotify – with its vaunted 15 million track catalogue, free music, and free-ish subscription plans – be able to compete with these already entrenched services?

2 It’s not often that a major artist goes out of his way to urge fans NOT to buy his music, but that’s exactly what Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor did last week, telling his approximately 930,000 Twitter followers to “ignore” a reissue of 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine. “A record label bulls--t move repackaging the old version” Reznor tweeted. “Ignore please.” Reissues, Jim notes, are rarely the decision of the artists, who sign away rights to reissue material when they enter recording contracts. But as Greg observes, labels have something to lose too: this is exactly the kind of rip-off that earns them fans’ ill will.

3 Jim and Greg close out the news with two short items: Ja Rule was sentenced this week to 28 months in prison for failing to pay 1.1 million dollars in taxes. It’s yet another blow for a star who hasn’t been “living it up” since he started serving two years for criminal weapons possession last month. The New Jersey judge ruled that Ja Rule could serve the terms concurrently. And while we’re on the subject of downward slides, Border’s Books and Music just hit rock bottom. One of the few remaining large music retailers (anyone remember Tower?), Borders announced Monday that it would close its doors for good.

4 Like most breakups, band breakups can be agonizing and traumatic, but also opportunities for self-reflection and reinvention. This week Jim and Greg talk to Husker Du songwriter and guitarist Bob Mould about the breakup of his band - on the cusp of what many believed would be their mainstream breakthrough – and his subsequent reinvention as a solo artist. It’s a period Mould talks about in his new memoir, See a Little Light, though he rarely discusses it in person. Aside from being one of the most rousing live rock n’ roll acts around, Minnesota’s Husker Du was amazingly prolific. With Mould on guitar, Grant Hart on drums, and Greg Norton on bass, the band took punk velocity and pop craft to superhuman levels on a series of significant releases between 1984 and 1986: Zen Arcade, New Day Rising, Flip Your Wig, and Candy Apple Grey. But as Mould recalls, after the band’s move to a major label, personal relationships, competition, and addiction proved to be toxic. The crisis came after a disastrous 1987 performance in Columbia, Missouri, when Hart’s drug use brought the show to a halt. It was the period, Mould emphasizes, at the end of a very long sentence. The band broke up shortly thereafter. Bob also discusses his retreat to rural Minnesota, where he began experimenting with new instruments and alternate tunings. In 1989, he would re-emerge as a solo artist with another great album, Workbook.

Want more Mould? Listen to Jim and Greg’s 2008 interview with Bob here.

5 And now it’s time for everyone’s favorite Sound Opinions drinking game: How many times can Jim name-drop Brian Eno? But let it be known that these mentions are entirely warranted. Jim’s favorite Super Genius is out with a new record, Drums Between the Bells, a collaboration with the British poet Rick Holland. Eno has a been a major influence in the music world since the early seventies, first as a member of Roxy Music, then as a solo artist and ambient music innovator, and most recently as a producer for industry powerhouses like U2 and Coldplay. First to the plate to review Drums Between the Bells is Jim, who wants to set the record straight. He’s no slavish Eno devotee, though he’s championed the artist at his best. Unfortunately Eno’s best isn’t what Jim gets on Drums. The album is part ambient music – perfectly fine for what it is, but Jim misses the vocal gravitas that Eno himself might have brought to Holland’s poetry (instead, Eno has regular folks – non-actors and singers – speaking Holland’s lines). Jim gives Drums a Burn it. Greg agrees, calling the album’s vocals a little too dry. But he was intrigued enough by all the interesting rhythmic work on Drums to give the album a Burn it.

5 Bummed by what he sees as Common’s recent descent into mediocrity, Greg charts a craft for the desert island. He takes us back to the Chicago rapper’s glory days in the early nineties, when he released “I used to love H.E.R.”. SHE – if you haven’t already guessed it – isn’t a woman. She’s a metaphor for the golden age of hip-hop (H.E.R. stands for Hearing Every Rhyme). Common loved that scrappy city kid who grew up to be a beautiful Afrocentric woman in New York City, and he’s disappointed when she goes West Coast and gets corrupted by show biz. There’s more than a bit of irony here. As Greg reminds us, Common’s lament for classic hip-hop is a hip-hop classic.

Songs Featured in Show #295
LMFAO, “Party Rock Anthem,” Sorry for Party Rocking, Interscope, 2011
Nine Inch Nails, “Head Like a Hole,” Pretty Hate Machine, TVT Records, 1989
Ja Rule, “Livin’ It Up,” Pain Is Love, Def Jam, 2001
Hüsker Dü, “New Day Rising,” New Day Rising, SST, 1985
Grant Hart, “2541,” Intolerance, SST, 1989
Hüsker Dü, “These Important Years,” Warehouse: Songs and Stories, Warner Bros., 1987
Hüsker Dü, “Could You Be The One?,” Warehouse: Songs and Stories, Warner Bros., 1987
Hüsker Dü, “Something I Learned Today,” Zen Arcade, SST, 1984
Hüsker Dü, “Celebrated Summer,” New Day Rising, SST, 1985
Hüsker Dü, “Bed of Nails,” Warehouse: Songs and Stories, Warner Bros., 1987
Bob Mould, “Brasilia Crossed With Trenton,” Workbook, Virgin, 1989
Bob Mould, “Poison Years,” Workbook, Virgin, 1989
Bob Mould, “Sunspots,” Workbook, Virgin, 1989
Bob Mould, “See A Little Light,” Workbook, Virgin, 1989
Brian Eno, “Glitch,” Drums Between the Bells, Warp, 2011
Brian Eno, “Seedpods,” Drums Between the Bells, Warp, 2011
Common, “ I Used To Love H.E.R.,” Resurrection, Ruthless, 1994
Violent Femmes, “Telephone Book, 3, Slash, 1989
Wye Oak, “Civilian,” Civilian, Merge, 2011
Death Cab for Cutie, “Monday Morning,” Codes and Keys, Atlantic, 2011
Yes, “Fly from Here: Overture,” Fly from Here, Frontiers Records, 2011
Revolting Cocks, “Stainless Steel Providers,” Beers, Steers + Queers, Wax Trax! Records, 1990

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