Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sometimes You Kick: INXS Kick at 30

I think what makes the Kick album so dynamic is that we weren’t so much interested in what everybody else was doing as we on what we wanted to do," says Farriss. "It’s really that simple. Michael and I were extremely focused as songwriters, and the band was very intent on making a series of recordings that we could be passionate about. ~ Andrew Farriss

INXS's sixth album
Released October 19, 1987
Mercury Records
Top Hits:
New Sensation
Need You Tonight / Mediate
Devil Inside
Never Tear Us Apart
Copies sold to date: Almost 20 million

Personal Trivia:
  • Kick was one of my first two CDs (the other was The Joshua Tree). 
  • I would play Devil Inside at Pizza Hut in Ebensburg and my mom would shoot me a look every time the line it's hard to believe we need a place called hell would come on, as I was not allowed to sing that part.
  • I used to draw the Kick and INXS logo on all my paper bag covered school books. 

Kick was INXS's sixth studio album but, for many in the US, it was the first they had heard (and seen MTV generation) of the band. Their previous album and title song, Listen Like Thieves, was a gateway into what was coming next for the band, The sound is what will be coined as classic INXS:  Tim Farriss's infamous chords, Jon Farriss's tight drumming, Andrew Farriss's romantic keyboards, Garry Garry Beers amalgamizing bass,   Kirk Pengilly's sexy saxophone, and Michael Hutchence's soulful voice (among other things). This album fused the sound of their previous studio recordings. You can catch influences on each song, yet also see the steps forward towards creating a sound they would continue to hone on their seventh album, X.

As stated above, it was also the MTV generation. So when you think of Devil Inside, you don't necessarily think of the driving guitar, the speaker alternating percussion, or the bass that carries each moment of the song. No, you think of a caramelized Michael Hutchence in a gray suit and 80's white turtleneck. and perfectly tousled hair and a woman in a black dress walking on a bar.
Kick gave us many songs of our youth. New Sensation, Need You Tonight/Mediate, Mystify, Devil Inside, and of course, Never Tear Us Apart. The videos offered up a new way for us to enjoy this band from the land down under. Their sound successfully blended funk, soul, rock, and a new wave 80's sound that made them unique and not cliche. They didn't try to mimic U2, but did politicize on a few songs. Their dance-able tracks, sexy love songs, strong song writing, and colorful videos remain a hallmark of INXS. Thirty years after it's release, Kick remains one of the top albums of the 80's.

Guns in the Sky
New Senstation
Devil Inside
Need You Tonight
The Loved One
Never Tear Us Apart
Calling All Nations
Tiny Daggers

Saturday, September 30, 2017

To Be In You Eyes: The Verve Urban Hymns

 ..."an album of unparalleled beauty so intent on grabbing at the strands of music's multi-hued history." Melody Maker

It is safe to say that, for most people here in the US, The Verve will only be remembered for their Rolling Stone's Long Time sampled song, Bittersweet Symphony. Urban Hymns was British band The Verve's best selling album to date in 1997, with two other before it failing to make their mark on radio listeners ears (at least in the US). The album's sound is lucid, at time melancholy, and layered in rich sounds that allowed for a slight comparison to Oasis. Urban Hymns would be their last real glimmer of radio stardom. Infighting brought the band to disband, reunite briefly, only to call it quits again. 

What could have been we will never know, but thankfully we do have this one gem that brings back the memories of the 90's.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Goodnight Rhonda Lee and Hello Nicole Atkins

I first heard this Jersey native sing at Bonnaroo in 2008. After a long, hot Tennessee day of setting up our tent, I sat outside either This tent or That tent under a sky full of stars and heard her soulful voice. Her journey from Neptune City to Goodnight Rhonda Lee has been a busy one. It's also been a journey of taking music making into her own hands and also a journey of discovery. 
PMCarlson 2017

  ...because my records are old friends. I have trusted in them many times before. ~Darkness Falls So Quiet

You can pinpoint moments of inspiration in this diary-like album that sounds as if it was recorded in the golden-era of Muscle Shoals. Chris Isaak, Roy Orbison, Glenn Campbell, Spector's Wall of Sound, The Grateful Dead,
and The Band can be heard in the distance, but in the end, it's all Nicole's voice, soul, and self awareness that give each song it's power. At any moment, you're waiting for Candi Stanton, Julee Cruise, or Bill Withers to start singing along with her.

The music gods blessed us all when Chris Isaak convinced Nicole to "play her strengths" on her next album. Goodnight Rhonda Lee is full of her vocal talents and exudes a timeless sound. Nicole has always dabbled in soulful sound, but with Goodnight Rhonda Lee, she has fully committed to her strengths, which is foremost her powerful voice, but also her ability to channel vintage sound so effortlessly. 

What also makes this album an instant classic is that it really is an open book. It's about struggle, loneliness, failure, acceptance, and love. Songs like Listen Up, A Night of Serious Drinking, and Sleepwalking are just so damn good because of the truth that exists in the lyrics. I Love Living Here (Even When I Don't) gives us a love song to anyone's home. The magic lies directly with Nicole's ability to hit the powerful and raw notes at the most opportune and perfect time in songs. The slow build of A Little Crazy and Brokedown Luck explode with quintessence. 

Goodnight Rhonda Lee is a perfect example of an artist that can tell their story centered around inspiration and their own unique sound. Forgoing the mainstream, this album offers up 70's soul in a world drowning in computerized sound and meaningless lyrics. Thank you, Nicole. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Place Both Wonderful And Strange: Twin Peaks The Return

Never has a show impacted my psyche as much as Twin Peaks. As a teen, the odd, evil, eclectic, naughty, and quirky show on ABC challenged your moral and spiritual realm. When the show was confirmed to come back for 18 episodes, there was that flashback to what was, but knowing David Lynch, we were going to a place we had really never been. For me, I was hoping it would go the route of Trainspotting 2 in that we would be fulfilled in the mission but wouldn't be getting what we would expect. David Lynch has given us a gift of mind, body, and psyche, mixed with some electricity, nuclear detonations, and black coffee.

Looking back when Twin Peaks first aired, I had just lost my father. With the return, I had just lost my mother. It was odd timing indeed. And 1992 gave us the ABC Twin Peaks. Cable allowed David Lynch to go full throttle with better effects, nudity, swearing, and just all out Lynch. I thought I had it all figured out. Bob. Laura. Leyland. The Black Lodge. But no. 

Twin Peaks the Return offered up many visions and clues that, thankfully, due to some serious time in sensory deprivation, I can try to understand the workings of Mr. Lynch's storytelling. We didn't know which characters we would see again or what these new locations meant.

When we began episode 31, I admittedly teared up with those first bass notes from Angelo Badalamenti's Twin Peaks theme song. But from there, to paraphrase Agent Cooper, it's been both wonderful and strange. We had new characters to learn, a history that was seemingly started when the first nuclear test happened, a beautiful and ongoing tribute to David Bowie's character Phillip Jeffries (even as a tea pot - see photo below), and the continued partnership of Gordon Cole and Albert Rosenfield. We became attached to Agent Cooper's new family, Janey - E and Sonny Jim. And the plot thickens as to what happened to Deputy Brigg's (RIGHT? I just needed to see that written out) ... sorry, what happened to Bobby Brigg's father, Col (Judy) Garland Briggs?

And Lynch has made us work for whatever is in store for these last two episodes. The seed, tulpa, the arm, Naido, and let's not forget bloody Mary herself, Sarah Palmer. 

And while we did not see a lot of our 1992 characters, the vibe of the show is not the Invitation to Love-esque show it was. We've seen happy lives being lived, and some new but old romances being re-kindled in Twin Peaks to our squealing delight. We have the absurdities of Doctor Jacobi, Nadine, and Jerry Horne. We have the evil of the smoking man, Mr. Cooper, and the Cohen Brothers meets Tarantino mixed with Lynch inspired Chantal and Hutch love birds come assassins. And then there was this:

 Audrey has been an enigma this entire series and it got even more mysterious in the last episode. Is she trapped? Is she a tulpa? And what is the power of the Road House?

With only two episodes left, there is fleeting time to decipher so many mysteries or to meet our old friends.  

  • Diane
  • Conversations between Hawk and the Log Lady
  • The Convenience Store and Philip Jeffries.
  • The Blue Rose explained
  • Audrey's purple dance
  • The Music!!
Questions that remain 
  • Judy?
  • Is Audrey the sound trapped in the Great Northern?
  •  Will Julee Cruise close out the show (appropriately)?
  • Is Naido Diane? But still WHO IS JUDY?
  • Do we every find out what is in the White Room?
  • Oh, who really killed Laura Palmer, and does it really matter now anyway?

We are like the dreamer who dreams and lives inside the dream, but who is the dreamer?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Appetite at 30: Guns N Roses Appetite For Destruction

 Pitchfork writer Maura Johnston retrospectively reviewed it, rating it 10 out of 10, saying, The debut from Guns N' Roses was a watershed moment in '80s rock that chronicled every vice of Los Angeles led by the lye-voiced Axl Rose and a legendary, switchblade-sharp band.

1987 was a conundrum of music. We had INXS, U2, Metallica, Poison, and Motley Crue. Then out of the LA club scene came a sound that was different than anything else on the radio . The opening notes of Welcome to the Jungle, the first chords of Paradise City, and the unforgettable power of Sweet Child O' Mine ushered in a band that would scare our parents and made us all wish we could party like Guns N Roses. 

The first play through the cassette of course gave most of us youngins a surprise with its not suitable for radio songs like Mr. Brownstone, It's So Easy, and of course, Rocket Queen. It was shocking and dangerous and a perfect getaway from the safety net of pop rock and hair bands. 

Axl, Slash, Izzy, Duff, and Steven represented all the debauchery that LA could offer and lived up to the rock and roll lifestyle. The album is an amalgam of each member contributing to the debut album, now ranked as one of the best albums of all time. 

But what was it that made Appetite such a memorable album? It covers a wide spectrum of music influences, from punk to rock. It pushes boundaries (still). But in the end, no offense to the rest of the band members, it was the uniqueness of Axl and Slash. Axl's unmistakable voice and side to side sway delivered a performance that could not be matched. Slash's iconic hair and top hat only caps unmatched guitar solos.

30 years on and Appetite for Destruction still remains an iconic album for a generation that had yet to see the Berlin Wall fall and communism end. It was the Reagan era and the excess wasn't ready to be tossed aside. Guns N Roses gave us sex, drugs, and rock and roll with no apologies. 

Welcome to the Jungle
It's So Easy
Out Ta Get Me
Mr. Brownstone
Paradise City
My Michelle 
Think About You
Sweet Child O Mine
You're Crazy
Anything Goes
Rocket Queen


Sunday, July 9, 2017

May 18th ...

I give this blog post over to dear friend Jeff Buckner. His similar pain I felt with loss of David Bowie. Chris Cornell's sudden and tragic loss still stings. Why - so many ask. Jeff hits home with music. Music, to some of us, is family. They are an older brother, sister, lover, friend ... music can give you peace, make you think ... music can give you a friend in time of need. Thank you Jeff for sharing - may we all find peace soon with our losses, something I fear, Chris never found with the loss of Andrew Wood, Layne Staley, or Jeff Buckley.

May 18th

By Jeff Buckner 
Let's go back to May 18th, 2017. I had just awoken to the news of Chris Cornell passing. it hit like a thunderbolt, so unexpected, so quick, so much pain entered my heart. a sledgehammer to the soul. As much as I love music, really only two bands stand above the rest. Led Zeppelin and Soundgarden. Chris Cornell's music had got me through so many dark times. His lyrics we're jumping off the records into my brain into my soul..... his voice went through me like a supernatural being. I look up to many a musician, John Bonham, Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones, Bon Scott. But then there was Chris Cornell, there was just always something about his music and his lyrics and just the person that he was that appealed to me from a very early age. The character that he was, the swagger, the voice, the poet. Not since Jim Morrison had I heard another human being speak so beautifully in songs. And then to find out his death was from suicide. I mean this is Chris fucking Cornell that's why it's so deep! Every musical artist is tortured in some way. That's what makes their art so beautiful. But if Chris Cornell, a father of three a husband, a son, a brother, a Rockstar can be taken down by depression.... a disease that affects 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. That's beyond heavy, it hits home. This is a guy who had everything to live for and yet couldn't beat the demons Inside of his head. That's some heavy shit. Here we are almost 7 weeks later. I can't shake it, I can't get over it, it's a bereavement so fucking heavy. I lost a brother.... an older brother. Growing up all of my brothers were shit. Friends sucked. But there was always my music, there was always Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog, always Chris Cornell. 

I write this now in memoriam to a man I never personally met, but to a man who saved my life more than once. Continuing to do so each day I get up to listen to his songs, albums. So I guess, in short, thank you Chris Cornell for being a brother and a friend. 

Whenever Chris lost a friend, and he lost a lot of friends, he would make art for them in words and song. So I wrote this for him. Thank you for your beautiful gift of creating listenable art. Rest in Paradise, Chris Cornell.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Matt Reynolds: Pen & Paper

Suzy Perler Pen
Been Long Gone is a dream come true for South Carolina native and Dark Star Orchestra tour manager, Matt Reynolds. Juggling touring, writing, and recording an album is no small feat. What Matt captured, lyrically alone, is a masterpiece in our world of puzzle piece pop.

Until I heard Matt sing, I realized, I really didn't know Matt. Deep inside that southern soul is an outlaw countryman, instilled with tradition and honor who can write beautiful poetic lyrics.  He's also a man with a lot of talented friends. Been Long Gone has an army of musicians and producers to credit. From veteran producer Rob Eaton and musicians such as Rob Barraco, Duane Trucks, Jimmy Herring, and many many more, this album is made of songs that are layered perfectly, not one instrument overwhelming the mix. The songs are like a mature whiskey, strong but subtle with a lasting feeling. 

The lyrics in Been Long Gone are lamenting, thought provoking, and just damn beautiful. 
Some examples:

Pen & Paper Pt. 1 
Hates her world of drunken angels decension. Crazy at heart; psychotic premonitions. Sad lunatic, With a teardrop in the palm of your hand.   

Mighty River
Well I like to take bad news, with a spoonful of the blues. Winter days need a jazz guitar. shorter trips with longer rides, will the music man survive, Long enough to see his name up in lights? 

Each song has its varied sound, from true country, to something an outlaw would sing around a campfire after his heart's been ripped out. Pretty Girl, a song that begins with a muted trumpet that leads me to wonder if the reference to the 44 she uses and a nod to Howlin' Wolf (totally my own opinion).  

This album is truly a piece of art that you must listen to. While download or CD are nice, there is nothing like this on vinyl. The scratches and crackles suits the feel of the songs. Even if country isn't your thing, give it a try. Link conveniently below.

**Updated June 11, 2017 from original 12/12/15 posting:

Sadly, we bid Matt farewell. To keep his memory alive, his music can be shared far and wide. Thank you for all of the wonderful memories and your friendship, Matt. We love you forever.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

There Is The Moon Asking To Stay: 20 Years Without Jeff Buckley

(c) MerriCyrr
 He had a way of playing the most beautiful song you've ever heard and still with the way that he sang, create a bit of an uncomfortable edge to it if he felt like it - mostly with his voice. ~ Chris Cornell

It was during summer classes of my sophomore year  at college. During my daily ritual of drinking a diet coke and watching MTV News for breakfast, I heard the news. Kurt Loder was talking about some guy named Jeff Buckley that had gone missing. Erroneously, I first thought he meant Jeff Beck. Who was Jeff Buckley, I kept asking myself while trying to study for an exam on Canterbury Tales ... who the hell is Jeff Buckley.

Fast forward three years later and I am in the gym  at Macquarie University in Sydney when I hear it. It was a voice I had never heard and he was singing Leonard Cohen. I had not made the connection in my memory yet when they mentioned his name: Jeff Buckley.
I rushed to the mall and right into the record store (God I miss those). I went right to the B's and found a few of his albums and went to the counter. As the lovely lady was scanning my purchases she mentioned how sad it was that he died so young. Heartbroken, I took my purchase back to our flat as I began to listen to Grace for the very first time, clearly marking a moment in my life as before and after I had listened to Grace. Then I finally remembered where I had heard his name before. 

May 29th marks the 20th anniversary of when Jeff sang Whole Lotta Love while wading into the Wolf River for a swim. Three days previous, he had played his final show at Barristers in his new home city of Memphis. At 30 years of age, he left behind a gaping whole of need. With his first release Grace throttling him into celebrity and into a world where his heroes were praising him, there was now an emptiness of what could have been. 

(c) MerriCyrr
Twenty years on and Jeff is still somehow not as well known as many would assume. But those who are fans, were quickly caught up in the aura of Jeff and a bit of the mystique of who he was. While he fought those who tried to make the connection to his very absentee father, Tim Buckley, the physical and musical similarities were too obvious. Like many before him, he fought celebrity, playing under fake names just to play a show without being Jeff Buckley.

If you listen to Sketches, you quickly realize he was going to be like U2, changing his sound as he went along. Would it have been the one last nail in that red glitter coffin? I doubt it, but companies wanted Grace Part 2 and Jeff was not going to deliver that. 

Jeff Buckley was a complete package deal: looks, talent, and the equally talented musician father. His death rounded out and solidified what is now his mythic status. As of the music gods gave him back, he was found floating at the end of Beale Street on June 4th. 

The community of those who adore Jeff seems to grow slowly, but not at an Elvis level. In truth, it really is his life and not his tragic death that is celebrated. But to truly honor Jeff, we need to celebrate and remember his music. But not just Hallelujah. Listen to Mojo Pin, What Would You Say, or his glorious cover of The Way Young Lovers Do and appreciate Jeff for what he was: an artist. 

How do you want to be remembered?
Jeff: As a good friend. I don't really need to be remembered...I hope the music's remembered.

(c) MerriCyrr

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I Have No Disguise You Can See Through: The Loss of Chris Cornell

I never wanted
To write these words down for you
With the pages of phrases
Of things we´ll never do
So I blow out the candle, and
I put you to bed
Since you can´t say to me
Now how the dogs broke your bone
There´s just one thing left to be said
Say hello to heaven
It was his multi-octave voice that hit you first. Whether it was with Soundgarden, Audioslave, or Temple of the Dog, Chris' unmistakable voice enticed you. He could dance softly with it or he could pound the chords over your head and you would enjoy every minute. He was a mystery, those eyes, mesmerizing, looking at you, beyond you, to things unseen.
But the early days of grunge in Seattle and the 90's left Chris scarred. It wasn't just the drugs, alcohol, but slowly and maybe, it was depression. In 1990, Chris lost his roommate and dear friend, Mother Love Bone front man, Andrew Wood. Andrew's loss prompted Chris to start Temple of the Dog, inspired by a line in one of Andrew's songs. But Andrew's loss didn't seem to ever leave Chris. Similarly with the loss of Jeff Buckley, Chris seemed to live in the past with the loss.  

And people ask what was so special about Chris? Chris helped to usher in grunge - and was actually from Seattle. It wasn't like he jumped on the Seattle grunge band wagon, he formed Soundgarden in 1984, while hair metal and pop succeeded disco and punk. Six years and several band changes later, Badmotorfinger propelled Soundgarden to the charts and onto MTV. The 90's gave us the Singles song Seasons, Temple of the Dog, and his contribution to Alice's in Chain's Sap, Right Turn.

Chris was versatile, himself saying he could play Sydney Opera House one night and Voodoo Fest the next. While he gave us some heavy songs, we also got songs like Ave Maria or his cover of Prince's Nothing Compares 2 U.

Chris and his wife started The Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation  that"develops projects and programs with leading charitable organizations and partners to raise awareness and mobilize support for children facing tough challenges including homelessness, poverty, abuse and/or neglect." He looked out for others and spoke for those who didn't have a voice, including helping refugees.

It's hard not to play into the guessing game. Was he sick? Depressed? Back on drugs? How long had he planned That maybe the tease of In My Time of Dying was Chris saying goodbye. Many of us worship our musical gods and goddesses. These last few years have taught us that we need to get busy living - go and see your favorite artist. Dance with your partner. Take five minutes and be late for work to finish your favorite song. Just enjoy life. And also be a listening ear for anyone who may need help. 

 In my time of dying, I want nobody to mourn
All I want for you to do is take my body home.

Call 1-800-273-8255
Available 24 hours everyday and chat is available

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Ladies And Gentlemen ... The Revolution

 Once upon a time ... I ran away. Well, it was to my basement and my "apartment" was the top of the washer and dryer. I took with me my roller skates, a can of ABC's and 123's and my sister's Prince and The Revolution Purple Rain cassette

On May 3rd, at Webster Hall, I had my opportunity to really see Wendy, Lisa, Brown Mark, Bobby, and The Doctor. The audience was composed of a crowd that made Prince's dreams come true: no rules and no color, gender, or religious bounds. We were all there for two purposes...two love Prince and to sing with The Revolution. 

Thirty years on, and The Revolution is still has tight as ever. Kicking off with Computer Blue, every single person felt the energy that consumed Webster Hall. You could see the playfulness of the band members, how thankful they were for the crowd who sang every word and danced to every beat. 

While many thought, oh look, The Revolution is conveniently doing a tour...those people forgot that The Revolution is mourning a true friend. While it wasn't a memorial, it was a celebration in many ways. It was celebration of our youth and celebrating the memory of an icon who led us like a pied piper through so many.

I think so many of us just expected Prince to walk out on stage during Purple Rain ... that he would just materialize and grab Wendy's guitar for the solo. But of course he didn't. But that didn't stop any of us from dancing and singing and pretending it was 1987 again. 

 Set list Webster Hall May 3, 2017

Computer Blue
Take Me With U
Our Destiny/ Roadhouse Garden
Raspberry Beret
Erotic City
Let's Work
Paisley Park
Controversy / Mutiny
Sometimes It Snows in April
Let's Go Crazy
When Doves Cry
Purple Rain


I Would Die 4 U
Baby I'm a Star


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

You better run, you better take cover

The sign I saw every day

Seventeen years ago, I got on a plane for the first time and...flew to Australia. Seriously. Given the priceless opportunity to not only avoid a winter in Johnstown, but to travel to a place that seemed so exotic was the chance of a lifetime I could not turn down. (I must warn you all, I was in my Northern Exposure Maggie O'Connell meets Delores O'Riordan of The Cranberries phase - i.e. the haircut). Of course this life changing trip was filled with musical memories.
Day 1

Besides under anticipating how much I would miss all of my music (I survived on CDs and mixed tapes) I never knew how a land could enchant me so or how the people would renew my faith that there are some damn good people out there in the world.

Mardi Gras  Before and After
One of my first adventures was to attend the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. Yes, I came prepared with silver tank and Bono pants. Truth be told - this was not happening in Johnstown.

The theme song for that year was sung by Vanessa Amorossi: Absolutely Everybody. It will always remind me of Mardi Gras.

Byron Bay
Getting settled meant adapting to the sun, finding the right radio stations and of course, going on holiday! Traveling in a very cramped bus while sharing a single headphone, Santana will always be the drive along the Pacific Highway. I would love to go back to Byron Bay for the annual blues festival. It just might be the most enchanting beach I have ever seen.

When is Australia, you visit the Australia Zoo. In 2000, Steve Irwin was not as popular and gave reason to why there was not only one train to and from Taronga each day, but why the station agent called ahead to tell the zoo staff to come and pick us up.
Petting a kanga at the Australia Zoo

It was after this trip to the zoo that we went back to Brisbane (what would become the scene of the infamous fire extinguisher chase) and I maxed out the credit card on "new" old  music.  Please open this picture to see that, in all these years, I have not changed.
To support you while you do this, here is some INXS and a shameless picture of Patrick Rafter (whom I met on Manly Beach).

Rain Forest. It rains there.
One of the trips also taken during this time was to Fraser Island. Sand. Sun. Water. Okay and spiders. Besides finding out what they mean by rain forest, I remember lying in my bed one night when the flatmates were outside discussing the Southern Cross. I just kept thinking to myself - I am in Australia!

After our holiday, it was time to get back into studies. Which at time was just a lot of going to see Pulp Fiction, Trainspotting, and watching Ally McBeal. It was during one of these procrastinating moments that I discovered the man who would change my life. No, not Steve the construction worker on the 288. Jeff Buckley. It was in this continent filled with kind-hearted souls that I would hear the voice of an angel. It is an understatement to say that Jeff was someone that will never come our way for at least 50 years. He was gifted, soulful, fragile, revered and he was gone.  

One of the hardest things was to study for finals while the eucalyptus wafted in the air, the lizards scampered at your feet and while the wine box was still full. But I did it - and I passed. This allowed us the freedom to go see concerts (INXS and Savage Garden) and to do touristy things like visit the Olympic Centre and Fox Studios. Yes, I enjoyed the interactive set of Titanic on the backlot studios.

Oh but even with finals over, there was still the adventure home. The adventure included my layover in Fiji. The layover that occurred on the heels of a coup. Don't try this at home kids.

 With journals full of stories, no this is not all that happened. There was St. Patrick's Day, not so real shark attacks, a broken heart and the realization that I would never be who I was before I left the United States.

Men at Work - Land Down Under

Monday, March 6, 2017

Where Poets Speak Their Heart Then Bleed For It: U2's Joshua Tree at 30

Outside is America
Bullet the Blue Sky

1987’s Joshua Tree presented us 11 songs that forever changed the landscape of rock music. With Bono at the helm of lyrics, they departed from the sound they had developed on their first three albums with Steve Lillywhite. Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois took them a step closer with Unforgettable Fire, honing their sound and encouraging them to experiment, tossing in risky subjects and wearing their hearts on their sleeves. 

The band began exploring America around this time, physically, artistically, musically, and politically. Here is this great open land, filled with dreams and hopes, yet their leaders support those in other countries who oppress. In fact, the working title for The Joshua Tree was The Two Americas because of the bifurcation that existed within America (McCormick, 2006 U2 by U2). The Joshua Tree brought us a new sound, more harsher and marbled with American sounds and inspired by American words. Bono also explored drug addiction, love, and loss. 

Lyrically, this album is a gift. Each song could be its own poem, rife with inspiration of Bono’s travels to Africa, his affliction for the unjust, his obsession with words, and the unsettling loss of a dear friend. And as always, Bono, our modern day psalmist, always manages a Biblical reference or two. It's their nature and no act. The band was still pretty close to their religious roots. Remember, we almost lost the band to God. Besides being complex lyrically, balancing the haves and the have-nots, stylistically The Joshua Tree is layered with hard and soft notes, yelling and whispering, and iconic guitar riffs that will forever summon the 1980's.

Let's take a look back at each song and maybe learn some things about The Joshua Tree that you never knew before. 

Where the Streets Have No Name
The Edge, according to Neil McCormick, "wanted to conjure up the ultimate U2 live-song, so he imagined what he would like to hear at a future U2 show if he were a fan." Inspired by a trip to Africa where anonymity is standard and a conversation about living in Belfast where the streets have names and it matters which one you live on, Bono looks at this world of ours where we build things up and then tear them down. It's opening notes are recognizable immediately and the band could not have identified a more perfect song to open this iconic album. And now how about that video?

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
More than just Bono stumbling through the streets of Vegas, it's Bono soul searching again with some glimmer that a gospel choir might just appear around the corner. Bono's relationship with God is not a shy one and this song proves it. 
You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

With or Without You
Is it about a woman, about God, or about ... the press? We may never know. But this song did stir many an emotion. Building like Stairway to Heaven, this song hits you around 3:05 with a wail that will make many swoon and get weak. 
*Trivia, if you turn it up high around 3:46, you can hear The Edge whisper make her cry.
P.S. You can credit Gavin Friday of Virgin Prune fame for believing in this song...and you should thank him for humanity.

Bullet the Blue Sky
You probably never knew how rife with politics this song was until now. Again, you're welcome. 
Bono was not shy of his sentiment against America backing bullies in Latin America.This song is heavy. Heavy like what search lights and helicopters would sound like right? Bono said put El Salvador through an amplifier. And U2 is the only band in the entire universe that can get away with 1) a political statement 2) a biblical analogy and 3) referencing John Coltrane. This is a pretty heavy and highly critical song. It's also pretty fucking fantastic live. 
This guy comes up to me
His face red like a rose on a thorn bush
Like all the colors of a royal flush
And he's peeling off those dollar bills
Slapping them down
One hundred, two hundred
And I can see those fighter planes
And I can see those fighter planes
Across the mud huts where the children sleep
Through the alleys of a quiet city street
You take the staircase to the first floor
Turn the key and slowly unlock the door
As a man breathes into a saxophone
And through the walls you hear the city groan
Outside is America
Outside is America

Running to Stand Still
A song influenced by a line Bono had never heard and the ongoing drug issue happened across from where he lived, Running to Stand Still was one of those experiments. Lyrically, who knew the story of drug addiction could be painted so beautifully yet so painfully. The song builds, yearning, building, crescendo, and then slows into a harmonica ending...and will probably cycle again.

Sweet the sin
Bitter taste in my mouth
I see seven towers
But I only see one way out

You got to cry without weeping
Talk without speaking
Scream without raising your voice

You know I took the poison
From the poison stream
Then I floated out of here
Singing...ha la la la de day
Ha la la la de day
Ha la la de day

She runs through the streets
With her eyes painted red
Under black belly of cloud in the rain
In through a doorway she brings me
White gold and pearls stolen from the sea
She is raging
She is raging
And the storm blows up in her eyes
She will...

Suffer the needle chill
She's running to stand...


Red Hill Mining Town
A song about labor and social strife in the UK, Bono didn't take to preach the politics of it, however he looked at it from the side of love. The video by wonderfully talented Neil Jordan, plops a nice yellow canary in a cage.

In God's Country
Being Bono, when he could not figure out of this was a sang about America or Ireland, he compromised with himself and said It's about the Statue of Liberty. 
Set me alight
We'll punch a hole right through the night
Everyday the dreamers die
See what's on the other side

She is liberty
And she comes to rescue me
Hope, faith, her vanity
The greatest gift is gold
Sleep comes like a drug
In God's Country

Trip Through Your Wires
A beautiful love song in the stylings of Dylan, Trip Through Your Wires is a beautiful example of Bono's love for his wife, Alison. 

One Tree Hill
A poignant tribute for Bono's friend and roadie for the band who was killed in 1986. The use of New Zealand's famed One Tree Hill is a perfect honor for Greg who was of Maori descent. The lyrics are a stunning eulogy and a promise of meeting again. This song conveys sadness and the passion of loss. And Bono, so cunningly enough, works into the song Victor Jara, who died because of the songs he sang.

And in the world a heart of darkness
A fire zone
Where poets speak their heart
Then bleed for it
Jara sang, his song a weapon
In the hands of love
You know his blood still cries
From the ground

It runs like a river runs to the sea
It runs like a river to the sea

The last two songs on the album are based in violence. For Exit, Bono basically binge read super violent books about serial killers and tried to get into their mind. This song goes so well with Gloria in Rattle and Hum.

Mother's of the Disappeared
And from one violent extreme to the next, Bono visits the topic of The Disappeared. Many Latin American countries had violent overthrows and with it came violent disappearances of those who fought against the change and oppression. 
In the wind we hear their laughter
In the rain we see their tears
Hear their heartbeat
We hear their heartbeat

The terms legacy and iconic seem to follow The Joshua Tree around. Thirty years on and the album is certified classic. It ushered in a brand new sound and it solidified the standing of U2 as a band that defies standard. They don't shun political or social issues, they will gladly throw a Bible reference in for fun, and if you challenge them, they will put music on your iPod while you sleep.  

...this is just the end of something for U2. And that's what we're playing these concerts -- and we're throwing a party for ourselves and you. It's no big deal, it's just -- we have to go away and...and dream it all up again.
               Bono - Lovetown Tour December 30, 1989