Tam Johnstone is a FOB (Friend of Bullz-Eye) dating way back to 2002, when he released his first album under the name The General Store. His father is Davey Johnstone, who has served as Elton John’s guitarist since Madman Across the Water, and naturally, son was interested in music, but didn’t want to be a daddy clone. The General Store’s first album, Local Honey, is pure West Coast pop, with gentle slide guitar and breezy harmonies, as well as a countrified cover of the Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now.” The band’s second album, Mountain Rescue, was much more in the Neil Young vein.
And then there’s this.
Now recording under his own name, Johnstone is unveiling a completely different side of his musical personality. The lead track from his new album Fantastic Animals (this one just under Tam’s name), “We Are Animals” is a spot-on Adam Ant tribute – which makes sense, considering he’s spent the last two years in a cover band – and in fact bests everything Ant’s released since “Friend or Foe.” Tribal drums, check. Plucky acoustic guitar backed by heavy bar chords, check. High-pitched vocal, checkmate. Curiously, Ant himself is doing his first US tour in ages. He’d probably get a standing ovation if he played this.
Some of you may remember that this is the song we ran for last year’s pre-New Year’s Eve Friday Video column. What can we say: it speaks to us.
It’s sad that good time rock and roll music has been out of style for nearly a decade. Call it a generational thing, but all of these bands that whine about their feelings…they really did ruin rock music. We miss fun. Please come back, fun.
Happy New Year, everyone. Make sure you live to see the dawn of 2012. Of course, the Mayans say that we’re all dying at year’s end, but don’t you want to be there to see it happen?
We couldn’t have picked a better label boss for glam princess Kate Crash if we had tried (and we are using the word ‘princess’ very liberally here) – she’s signed to Joan Jett’s label, Blackheart Records. Two seconds into “Walk My Own Way,” and the comparisons are crystal clear. Crunchy guitars, giant dance-friendly drum riffs, and attitude by the truckload. Heck, just look at her.
We would totally hit that. The catch, of course, is that she’d probably hit us back, hard.
This clip is a fun old school-type guerilla video. We’d let Kate walk any way she wants, as long as it was in our direction. Happy holidays, everyone.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen some curious new pathways to success or, at the very least, fame. (They are not always one and the same, you know.) The most notorious one, of course, is the sex tape. Kim Kardashian may have a gigantic empire now, but it wasn’t long ago that she was just the daughter of a defense attorney and BFF of tabloid staple Paris Hilton. Then, one day, she had a thought: “I could make a videotape of myself having sex with a guy, then leverage my friendship with Paris for maximum exposure. What’s that, honey? You want to pee on me? Yeah, whatever, as long as it makes me famous.”
Then there is the path forged by one Brian Joseph Burton, whose debut album didn’t contain a lick of original production or content. Instead, he took the rhymes from Jay-Z’s The Black Album, and put them to the instrumental tracks from the Beatles’ The Beatles (aka The White Album), and poof, The Grey Album was born. And really, once you heard about this project, was there any question which song Danger Mouse would use to back up “99 Problems”? Hell to the naw. Of course it would be “Helter Skelter,” which is still one of the most hard-rocking songs ever recorded.
Have a good pre-Christmas weekend, everyone. May your problems be fewer than 99.
Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth” rocks on a number of levels, but here is our favorite level: while singer Courtney Taylor is clearly unhappy about the song’s subject turning to hard drugs, it’s the reason for them turning to hard drugs that has him so annoyed – he got into drugs because he thought it was the hip, trendy thing to do. “Shouldn’t you have got a couple piercings and decided, maybe, that you were gay?” Taylor pleads in the second verse. It’s a double-edged insult: his friend is both weak-willed and a trend-hopper. Actually, it’s a three-pronged zinger, because the friend is also out of touch with what’s cool. And heroin is definitely not cool. This song is, though. Love those tweaked out dancers, not to mention all of the prizes that await the “winner” of the game show. Puking! Flaming car! Death! Man, what’s not to love?
Oh, right, the puking, the flaming car, and the death. We’ll just listen to this instead.
For the record, the second level we love about this song is the backward snare drum hit in the breaks. That little bit is the biggest hook in the song.
If he weren’t so fond of dropping the word ‘motherfucker’ into his music, we would totally play these guys around the house more often. We refuse to spell their name in all caps, though. It looks as though they’re yelling at us.
Capitalization aside, we’ve been high on these guys since “Burn It Down” landed in our inboxes early last year – in fact, we were so eager to share that song in this column that we went with a homemade video of the song instead of waiting for the band to shoot an official clip – and the video for their latest single “Not Your Fault” is just too cool not to share. Half stop-motion a la Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and half Rankin & Bass-style claymation (including an abominable snowman), this video is a throwback in the best possible way. It’s nice to see bands still put some effort into their videos.
Behold, the societal plague of the 2050s: aging hipsters.
Actually, this Ontario quintet has some fun with the idea of an older guy getting his swerve on as he leaves his wife at home for the night, steps out with the band, shots are downed and, well, we all know that no good comes from multiple rounds of shots. Especially if you can’t pay the bill. Is the PBR reference innocuous, or a sly dig? We like to think it’s the latter.
Remember when bands used to smile for photographs?
While the video is cute, we would not be featuring it here if we didn’t really dig the song the clip is promoting. “Baby” beats Brooklyn-by-way-of-Madison garage poppers Locksley at their own game, deftly blending crunchy guitars with super-catchy melodic hooks. Singer Mike Veerman sounds a bit like Caleb Followill as well, which makes us wonder how much more we’d like Kings of Leon if they wrote songs this tight and fun.
Admittedly, this is not much of a happy hour song, but it’s Veteran’s Day – there aren’t a whole lot of upbeat songs about war veterans and what they endure in order to preserve freedom for the rest of us. Whatever your feelings about war, we should all thank our lucky stars that there are men and women who are willing to do the unthinkable so we can tweet from the safe zone about how miserable our meaningless little lives are. Just sayin’.
While we had our choice of songs on the subject, we went with Billy Joel’s “Goodnight Saigon” for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s one of his best songs, with an unforgettable climbing piano progression. Second of all, he describes the vibe of the soldiers like he was there. Unbridled enthusiasm and naivete became fear, panic and the kind of mental scarring that does not fade with time. He even brings in what are clearly Vietnam veterans to sing the simple but devastating chorus of “And we would all go down together.” Joel has written some enduring work, but this is his most powerful.
For those unfamiliar with this song, may we suggest that you hunt down The Nylon Curtain, the album from which it came, at once. (To make this easier, we included a link to the album on Spotify above.) It is, in our opinion, Joel’s best album by a country mile. Think of it as a giant tribute to the Beatles, and a dark, angry tribute at that.
We rarely miss an opportunity to promote a worthy band from Down Under (see: Midnight Juggernauts, Oh Mercy). Our latest entry is All Mankind, which produced a rather amusing search list when we put their name into a certain music site we frequent which shall remain nameless. The results were almost exclusively death metal bands, something All Mankind is decidedly not.
Look at those boys. Do they look like death metalers? Perish the thought, though the bassist does rock a Jason Newsted-style stance in the clip for their new single “Can You Hear Me.” Think Coldplay with a less polarizing lead singer, or Keane with guitars, and you’re close: the track boasts one of those mile-wide choruses that is begging for stadium love. The clip shows the band on the run from a couple of authoritarians, though why the Man would want to keep down a band like this is anyone’s guess. This song doesn’t want a revolution, and that’s all right.