Don’t Follow

There are times that I enjoy writing a ton. The subject alone is my drug of choice. I’m addicted to learning about new bands and discovering new music. I scour the web in search of bands, blogs, and whatever I can get my hands on.

Tonight is not one of those times …

It is with a bitter sense of irony that my drug of choice leads me to the heart-wrenching news of Mike Starr’s untimely passing here in Utah. He–the original bassist of Alice in Chains–was found dead today in a house in Salt Lake of an apparent overdose on prescription drugs.

What saddens me the most is that he struggled mightily with this addiction, to the point where he had a spot on some celebrity rehab show to hopefully help him kick his addiction. Obviously, that didn’t pan out so well. Where was the love? the support? the help?

I know of one tweeter who I stumbled across while reading various twitter posts about how he and AIC’s music meant so much to so many. He specifically reached out TO HER to help her with her addiction. He tried to help others overcome their demons. This is the kind of soul that was taken from the earth today.

I’m not here to judge. It’s not my place to say how hard he did or didn’t try … mainly because a) it simply isn’t my place to judge, and b) I have no idea how hard he tried. But shit like this burns me up so much because ANY addiction is pure poison–be it heroin, pain killers … music ….. that which you cannot overcome has the potential to destroy you–physically, mentally, spiritually, psychologically … but beyond the self-inflicted is the pain that is felt by everyone within whatever spheres you find yourself. Or would find yourself, were you not so totally and utterly into whatever it is that weighs upon you.

Mike was taken from us way too early. 44 is a ridiculously young age. His talent on bass was undeniable. Want proof? Listen to “I Stay Away” off of Jar of Flies. One of my favorite bass lines of all time. Or “Would” and “Rain When I Die” from Dirt. Amazing bass lines. He PLAYED. He didn’t go all Les Claypool or Flea on his instrument; he made that bass purr and croon.

It’s sad. He was a hell of a bass player. I wish him well in the after life.

RIP, Mike.

 

Muse – The Resistence

It’s like my brother with a new Tragically Hip release: it’s a very slow, lingering, burning process.

It’s also how a long-lasting relationship maintains its fervor and ardor long after the initial burn has faded into abeyance.

I purposefully did not review this CD right out of the gate because of the relationship I have with Muse’s music. It wouldn’t be fair to my readers or to the band to give the CD one pass and review it. With some bands, you can do that. My initial listening to Alice in Chains’ “Black Gives Way to Blue” was a one-pass. It didn’t take me any time to see the musical genius behind their most recent offering.

Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme and Dominic Howard are true musicians. Their art is not something to be appreciated in the “Oh look … here’s a lovely mountain picture hanging above my hotel bed” kind of way. If there were a Louvre for music, their music would have a wing unto itself. It’s something to be drunk slowly. Sipped, as it were. Appreciated over a long, long period of time. They don’t write music; they compose it. And they do it with such finesse and precision that it simply wouldn’t be right to review their new CD without proper time to digest it.

And no–I don’t consider the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame a “Louvre.”

Having said that …

The layering on this is phenomenal. “Uprising,” the anthemic opening track, treats us to Wolstenholme’s thick, prominant bass playing and Dom’s driving drum beat. They start off the track with such energy that you can’t help but get up and move. Bellamy bounces between keyboards and guitar. I don’t know who “they” is supposed to represent–government? media? Whoever the phantom power is, they will not control us; we will be victorious. Hands down. If you don’t believe that by the end of the song, you’re not paying close enough attention.

As is so often the case with many Muse songs, the next track, “Resistance,” lulls you into a trance with some ethereal, soft keyboards, then flows effortlessly into the meat of the song with more of Dom’s bombastic drumming, Matt’s keyboarding, and Chris’ single bass lines.

I’m just blown away by the hooks on this CD. “Undisclosed Desires” has some deep, soul-shaking, bass synth on the chorus that just rocks your ears and has the capicty to turn your innie into an outie. If you don’t think so, get yourself a pair of high-end headphones and listen to this track. Mix in the plucked-strings sound that echoes throughout, layered with the rest of the keyboards and synth … whoa.

One of my favorite tracks is “Unnatural Selection.” It has this completely “Do We Really Need This/Hullabaloo feel to it musically. Lyrically, it’s pretty in-your-face, conjuring protests and rallies. “I am hungry for some unrest; let’s push it beyond a peaceful protest. I want to speak in a language that you will understand …” If you want to hear an amazing live version of this track, check out this site. Download the Admiralspalast show.

Here’s the thing with Muse. I might have said this before, and if I have, I won’t apologize because it’s absolutely true.

Muse is the new Rush. Both 3-piece bands that do more with those 3 pieces than most 5-pieces bands. Their “less is more” approach to music bears the unavoidable comparison. Most want to compare Muse to Queen, and while there is no denying the influence Freddy Mercury et al have on the band, Muse does it better with less. Sorry, Queen fans … that’s just my opinion, and you don’t have to agree with it or like it.

I won’t review each song. I’ve given you enough of a reason to get this CD. This has “stuck on a desert island” potential. Seriously. Soak in it. Drink it in slowly and deliberately. You’ll thank yourself. And me.   🙂

Links:

Official site

Great fan site

You My Friend, I Will Defend

For all you Layne Staley die-hards, I feel your pain on having to mull over whether to embrace or shun the new Alice in Chains CD.

May I throw a couple of names at you …

Brian Johnson.

Sammy Hagar.

Now, you can add William DuVall to that elite list.

They are not just back … they are poised to shake up the current music scene with an infusion of masterful musicianship that ONLY Alice in Chains can craft. Take notes, young ones … school is about to open, and you very well may need the lessons.

Jerry, Sean and Mike have a new friend. Will he ever replace Layne entirely? Of course not. Layne’s visceral, tear-you-apart-from-the-inside-out, gutteral growling style of vocals was his own. William DuVall has his own unique sound that will lend a new, diverse sound to AIC’s discography, if for no other reason than, moreso than any other AIC CD, Jerry and William trade of frontman duties with frequent regularity … and it totally and utterly works.

Second pass listen, and I have yet to hear a song that even hints at borrowing from their previous musical catalog. Granted, their previous catalog was 3 LPs, 2 EPs, and a couple of tracks scattered over some soundtracks, and some “Greatest Hits” CDs, so sure, there isn’t a LOT of material to compare and contrast (see Rush for a good reference of diversity in sound over a 35+ year career).

I stumbled across their first single, “Check My Brain,” about a month ago. I instantly skyped my buddy and asked him if he had heard it. He hadn’t, so he checked out AIC’s website. His immediate response was, “Damn … I don’t think I’ve ever heard an opening like that before. Ever.”  or something like that. Which is probably true. The closest I can think of is Eddie Van Halen with his drill at the beginning of “Poundcake,” off of For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

The opening track, “All Secrets Known,” says it all: “Hope, a new beginning. Time, time to start living. Just like just before we died. There’s no going back to the place we started from.” Literally. You can’t bring Layne back … all you can do is move on and start anew. Precisely what Alice in Chains have FINALLY gotten around to doing.

It’s been about 14 years between studio releases for these guys. You would think that there would have been more of a change in sound, but really … it’d almost be cruel to hard-core fans to abandon the sound that got them where they are now. Their raw, visceral edge that’s so prominent on CDs like Facelift or Dirt is amply evident on the new CD. This is the AIC CD for the rising generation, and it will more than cement the new fans as AIC hard-core legionnaires.

In a nutshell, Layne would be proud.

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