Category Archives: Music

Pattern matching


Here is another list of bands that have something in common, but this time I’m going to let you, dear reader, attempt to figure out what that is. These are all bands that have been active in the past ten years.

  1. Matchbox Twenty
  2. Blink 182
  3. Sum 41
  4. Eve 6
  5. Maroon 5
  6. Finger 11

If you’re in a band and you can’t come up with a name, just do what these guys all did: pick a random word and a random number and put them together. That’s called creativity.

Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles


For Father’s Day, Gail and the boys got me tickets for a show in Toronto called Rain: A Tribute To The Beatles, which we went to see this past Sunday afternoon. It was partially a gift for Gail as well, since just me and the boys went, so she had a day to herself. Given the events of the past few months, she hasn’t had a lot of time to herself, so it was nice to be able to give her a day to do whatever she wanted.

Anyway, I was a little concerned that we were paying quite a bit of money for a concert by a tribute band. Even if the band was really good, $100/ticket is pretty expensive for a concert. I saw a band called 1964 at Ontario Place a bunch of years ago (for free!), and they were pretty good as the early Beatles. But they were basically recreating a Beatles concert from 1964, and so they only played early Beatles stuff. Rain played songs from the entire Beatles catalogue, including many songs that the Beatles never played live. They changed costumes several times, and they had video screens to enhance the whole multimedia experience. It was much more than just a band playing Beatles songs.

The guys in the band kind of resembled the Beatles, though we were in the fourth row of the balcony so we weren’t all that close. I did notice that while they had video cameras showing the band, they never had close-ups of any one person. When they changed costumes, they changed hairstyles and facial hair as well. There were a couple of anomalies:

  • John Lennon has a full beard on the cover of Abbey Road, but the guy playing John did not have any facial hair while wearing his Abbey Road outfit
  • the guy playing Paul McCartney was not left-handed (though I imagine finding a left-handed musician who can play bass, guitar, and piano and sing like McCartney is rather difficult)
  • the guy playing Ringo was a decent singer. Obviously he didn’t do enough research.

During one costume change break, they played a few TV commercials from the 60’s which were quite funny; did you know that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble smoked Winstons?

The first half of the show consisted of songs from albums up to and including Sgt. Pepper and at least three different outfits for each “Beatle”. Ryan was a little disappointed that they did not play “Help!”, his favourite Beatles song. The Sgt. Pepper songs were done in full Sgt. Pepper costume, which was very cool. They finished the first half with A Day In The Life, letting that awesome final chord shake the floor for a while before bringing the lights up.

The whole second half consisted of songs the Beatles never performed live, the only exception being “Get Back”, which was recorded when the Beatles played live on the roof of Apple Records.  They did a bit of an acoustic set, playing “Girl” and “Mother Nature’s Son” (I was waiting for “Blackbird”, but no such luck), and shortly thereafter cranked the amps up to eleven to play Revolution. From the Abbey Road medley, the only song they played was “The End” – I would like to have heard “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight” as well.

Just before the show started, an announcement was made saying that no pre-recorded music was used during the show, but that’s not quite true. The band certainly played their instruments, but they made heavy use of the synthesizer for some songs. Parts of Strawberry Fields Forever and the orchestra swells and final chord in A Day In The Life would have been difficult to play live even with a synth, so I suspect there was either some sampling or at least those pieces were pre-recorded. Also, the seriously distorted scream at the beginning of “Revolution” sounded exactly like the one on the recording. The weirdest part was during Eleanor Rigby. The only instruments in this entire song are strings (violins, violas, cellos), none of which were played by anyone on stage. I’m sure they used the synth for this one too, but the weird part was that both “Paul” and “George” appeared to be pretending to play their instruments during the song. Seeing as how there is no bass or guitar in the song, I don’t know why they’d be doing this.

The three of us loved the show, and judging by the standing ovation at the end, the majority of the crowd did as well (one exception was the grouch sitting a few seats down from us, who never stood, clapped, sang, or even smiled through the whole show). It wasn’t the cheapest concert ever, but the musicians were really good, the music was obviously fantastic, and we really enjoyed ourselves, so it was a great day all around.

Top Ten Funny Song Lyrics


Not necessarily brilliant or insightful, just lyrics that always make me laugh. I left out comedy musicians like Weird Al or Jonathan Coulton (though I always laugh at “one bad-ass fucking fractal“). These are in no particular order.

 

  1. Paul McCartney, “Sally”
    When you’re away there are grey skies
    And when I’m away there are even more grey skies than the grey skies I told you about before
  2. Gin Blossoms, “Cheatin'”
    You can’t call it cheatin’, cause she reminds me of you
  3. ZZ Top, “TV Dinners”
    I like the enchiladas and the teriyaki too
    I even like the chicken if the sauce is not too blue
  4. A few self-referential songs, grouped together because they’re similar:
    1. Def Leppard, “Me and My Wine”
      You know I’d like to get to know you
      but I ain’t got the time, and I’m
      I’m finding it harder and harder
      to make this damn thing rhyme
    2. Alice Cooper, “School’s Out”
      Well we got no class
      and we got no principles
      [principals?]
      and we got no innocence
      we can’t even think of a word that rhymes
    3. Primus, “Mr. Know-it-all”
      They call me Mr. Know-it-all
      I am so eloquent
      Perfection is my middle name
      and whatever rhymes with eloquent
  5. Led Zeppelin, “Travelling Riverside Blues”
    Squeeze my lemon til the juice runs down my leg
    Squeeze it so hard I’m gonna fall right outta bed…
    I wonder if you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout

    The same lyrics are in “The Lemon Song” as well, but the funny part is Robert Plant wondering if we know what he’s talkin’ ’bout. Right Robert, that’s a tough one. I’m not sure I can see through the layers of complicated symbolism there.
  6. Tom Petty, “A Mind With A Heart Of Its Own”
    I’ve been over to your house
    And you’ve been sometimes to my house
    I’ve slept in your treehouse
    My middle name is Earl
    (Important note: Tom Petty’s middle name is indeed Earl)
  7. Autograph, “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Isn’t Me”
    Don’t remember any lyrics, I just like the title of this forgettable song from a forgettable band from the mid-80’s.
  8. Matchbox 20, “Long Day”
    I’m sorry ’bout the attitude I need to give when I’m with you
    But no one else would take this shit from me
  9. Dire Straits, “Industrial Disease”
    Two men say they’re Jesus
    One of them must be wrong
  10. Cake, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”
    The whole song makes me laugh. It starts off with a guy singing about what kind of girl he wants. He wants “a girl with a mind like a diamond“, “is fast and thorough and sharp as a tack“, “with a voice that is dark like tinted glass“, that kind of thing. Of course, he also wants a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket. Then it gets a little weird. Now he wants a girl “with uninterrupted prosperity, who uses a machete to cut through red tape” and someone who’s “touring the facility and picking up slack“. And who wouldn’t want a girl with “a smooth liquidation” and “good dividends“? Finally he gets really specific:
    At Citibank we will meet accidentally [“Meet accidentally!” yell the backup singers]
    We’ll start to talk when she borrows my pen…
    She’s changing her name from Kitty to Karen
    She’s trading her MG for a white Chrysler LeBaron

Top Ten Musical Ironies


  1. U2, “Pop” – Pop is, of course, short for “popular”, yet this was U2’s worst-selling and most critically disappointing album ever.
  2. The Beatles, With A Little Help From My Friends. The song is sung by Ringo Starr, who is a fine drummer but a crappy singer. (Actually, he’s not even that great a drummer – John Lennon was once asked if he thought Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world. John replied “He’s not even the best drummer in the band“, referring to Paul McCartney. But I digress.) He would never have been famous without a lot of help from his friends John, Paul, and George. The real irony is the first line of the song: Ringo sings “What would you think if I sang out of tune?”.
  3. Alanis Morrisette – Ironic – A song called Ironic containing no irony is itself ironic.
  4. Nirvana, Come As You Are – Kurt Cobain singing “I swear that I don’t have a gun” was the inspiration for this list.
  5. Various, Jingle Bell Rock and Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree. They use the word “Rock” in the title, but they are not rock. Not even close. As I’ve said once before, if Rrrrrandy Travis can sing Jingle Bell Rock without changing either his style or the song’s style, it’s not rock.
  6. Five for Fighting. The band name implies strength and toughness (dare I say truculence?), but all of their songs (that I’ve heard) can only be described as “soft rock” – in other words, wimpy and lame. More like two for unsportsmanlike diving.
  7. Yoko Ono. She doesn’t play any instrument – I’ve seen video of her pretending to play the keyboard (finger-syncing?) at a John Lennon concert as well as playing an electric keyboard that was not plugged in. Her singing makes Ringo Starr sound like Freddie Mercury. Yet she was married to one of the most talented musicians and songwriters of the rock era. And he thought she was supremely talented.
  8. John Mellencamp, Pop Singer. Apparently John “never wanted to be no pop singer, never wanted to write no pop song” but he is and he has. Several of them. Incidentally, if you ever get the chance to see Mellencamp live, do it. I’ve seen him a few times (and missed another concert a couple of years ago), and he always puts on a great show.
  9. Extreme, More Than Words. Sounds like a slow romantic ballad about true love (performed by a hair metal band, although that’s not the ironic part). This was even a popular wedding song in the early-mid 90’s. The irony is that is you listen to the lyrics, the idea of the song is not “I love you so much that I don’t have to say the words“, but “If you love me, you’d show me by having sex with me instead of saying the words.” Songwriters Nuno Bettencourt and Gary Cherone (aside: as soon as this article, containing that name, is posted to the internet, long-time Van Halen fans around the world will shudder and not know why) have admitted that the song is about sex. Likely not the kind of message you’d want to give at your wedding.
  10. Linda Ronstadt. She has certainly been successful for a long time, with Grammys and gold records and such, but at one point in the early 70’s, her backing band consisted of four guys named Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon. They went on to form The Eagles, who became far more popular than Ronstadt ever was.

Muse


My wife is a Twilight fan. She’s read all four books in the series several times each, and she’s watched the first two movies countless times each. Note that she’s not one of those nutty Twimoms that scream like a 15-year-old girl when Jacob takes his shirt off – she just likes the story. Or so she tells me.

Anyway, part of her nuttiness obsession interest in the series is the soundtracks. She has the soundtracks for each of the two movies as well as the score (i.e. background music) for the first. She plays these CDs frequently in the car when taking the boys places, so they are now very familiar with them as well (I must say, hearing a 7-year-old ask us to play Death Cab For Cutie or Linkin Park is very cool). One of the songs that immediately hooked them is Supermassive Black Hole by a band I’d never heard of called Muse. (Stephenie Meyer is apparently a big Muse fan – there’s a Muse song on the New Moon soundtrack as well.) If you’ve seen the first movie, this is the song that plays during the baseball scene. As an aside, they really should have worked on Alice’s pitching style – she throws like a girl vampire. Anyway, I liked the song as well, and soon picked up Muse’s 2006 album Black Holes and Revelations.

My first thought was that they were similar to U2, though heavier. It turns out that they toured with U2 last year, so I guess I wasn’t far off. But as I listened more, I realized that some songs were nothing like U2 at all. “Invincible” has a Tom Morello-like guitar solo, though it turns out that’s not that unusual for Muse. Not on every single freaking song like Rage or Audioslave, but guitarist-singer-songwriter-chief-cook-and-bottle-washer Matthew Bellamy does some pretty funky stuff with the guitar here and there. “Map of the Problematique” keeps sticking in my mind, though not like an earworm, just because it’s a very cool song. “Knights of Cydonia” is more prog-rock, and there’s almost an “epic” feel to it.

I got to really like this album, so in mid-January, I picked up a couple more: Origins of Symmetry from 2001, and last year’s The Resistance. These guys are all over the map – you could call them “alternative”, though heavier at times than a lot of alternative bands. You could also put them in the “progressive” category, but some songs are more guitar-driven rock than many progressive bands.They have quiet sections with just piano and vocals, and others where Bellamy is screaming over his own guitar. On the other hand, if you had told me that “United States of Eurasia” was an recently discovered Queen track from the late 70’s, I don’t think I’d even question it.

Muse is one of those bands (like CCR, Big Wreck) where one guy is the driving force behind everything – Bellamy sings lead vocals, plays (excellent) guitar and keyboards, and writes all the songs. This is not to say that the other guys aren’t contributors – they are both excellent musicians as well, though the bass is a little more hidden on Black Holes and Revelations than on the other albums. Bellamy has an interesting and sometimes powerful voice (check out “Micro Cuts” on Origin of Symmetry) with a pretty wide range, and he certainly loves his falsetto.

I would never have heard of this band or had a chance to enjoy their music if they weren’t on the Twilight soundtrack. I guess the moral of this story is that if you are a band that has a chance to get your song on a movie soundtrack, do it.

Star Wars In Concert


I’ve been a Star Wars fan ever since I first saw the first movie during the summer of 1977. When Gail and I started dating in early 1992, I found that she too was a big Star Wars fan, and immediately decided to marry her. Well, maybe not that second, and that may not have been the primary reason, but it was a significant contributing factor. Consequently, our kids are now big Star Wars fans as well, so when my friend Lisa sent me a link to a stage show called Star Wars In Concert [warning: web site plays music with no warning], I was immediately interested. When I showed Gail and the boys the trailer on the web site, they were excited as well. The show was this past Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, and we were definitely not disappointed.

Star Wars In Concert The show is a montage of clips from all six Star Wars films on a three-storey crystal clear hi-def screen, behind a full live orchestra performing the music from the films. For some of the music from The Phantom Menace, there was also a full choir behind the orchestra. What’s more, Anthony Daniels, the actor who played C-3P0 in all six films, introduced each segment, and James Earl Jones, the voice of Darth Vader, provided some voice-overs. When I read that Anthony Daniels would be narrating, I expected that he had recorded some stuff that would be part of the show, but was surprised that he was actually there. He only broke into the C-3P0 voice once, though his natural voice is similar enough anyway.

The music of Star Wars is not just pleasant sounds in the background of the movie; it is an integral part of the whole experience. The “Imperial march”, Luke staring out at the twin suns of Tatooine, the Jawa theme, the slow acoustic guitar when Vader/Anakin dies, Darth Maul’s haunting choir, even the cantina band songs are all so powerful, so meaningful, as part of the film experience that Star Wars without the music would be just another pretty decent sci-fi movie. My whole review of this show can be summed up in one sentence: Watching the movies on that screen with the music being performed live, right in front of you, was just unbelievable. The orchestra was amazing, and there were a couple of cameras on them as well, so we got to see close-ups of some of the performers in between movie clips. As a music fan and a sort-of musician myself, I love watching world-class musicians play, and these are some of the best. Daniels was very good with his introductions as well, even coming out at the end in a Leafs jersey with his name on the back. I’m sure he wore a Habs jersey in Montreal and a Flyers jersey in Philadelphia, but the crowd still loved it.

Gail is still kicking herself for not bringing our camera, but luckily Lisa brought hers so she and Gail took a bunch of pictures, one of which you can see above. Before the show, there were some memorabilia booths set up around the ACC, containing props from the films. We saw a Naboo backdrop next to a Queen Amidala costume, though the crowds around them were so thick that we couldn’t get close enough to take a picture – and since we hadn’t seen Lisa yet, all we had was my silly little camera phone. As expected, there were also little booths selling trinkets and shirts and stuff. I don’t usually go for the souvenirs at these shows since they’re way overpriced ($10 for a tiny little lightsaber thing that glows – you can probably also buy them at the dollar store), but we got the boys a $40 t-shirt each because we figured the show was so unique that they are unlikely to get the chance to see anything like it again. Plus the designs were cool – one is Darth Vader’s head made out of musical instruments, the other is Boba Fett’s head made out of musical notes and symbols.

Tickets were kind of expensive but it was a very unique show, and the boys loved it as much as we did. If you’re a Star Wars fan, and you get the chance to see this, do it.

Best. Workout music. Ever.


I went for a run this morning, and my iPod played an amazing selection of music for my listening and distracting-me-from-thinking-about-the-pain-in-my-legs pleasure. It started with Alanis Morissette’s Thank U, which is not a bad song, but I skipped it because at least half of my runs start with that song. It seems like the randomization of either the Nano or the Nike+ software really sucks for the first song – the first song is always one of about five, and it’s mostly Thank U. The rest, however, was great:

  • Neon Crossing, Our Lady Peace
  • Load Me Up, Matthew Good Band
  • Down to the Waterline, Dire Straits
  • Coming Home, The Tea Party
  • Beautiful People, Marilyn Manson
  • Gravity, Max Webster
  • The Trooper, Iron Maiden

Beautiful People is a pretty good song, but I don’t know much Marilyn Manson, so you can take them out of the equation. Other than that, each and every song is among my top 3 favourite songs by that artist.