Earlier this month, 4AD released The Day of the Dead, a 59-song tribute to the Grateful Dead curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National. In keeping with the label’s roster and Dessner brothers’ musical pedigree, the album credits read like a who’s who of indie rock, with everyone from Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo to Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan to the National themselves putting their signature spins on the Dead’s seemingly bottomless oeuvre. Along for the ride is Bob Weir, singer/guitarist and co-founder of the Grateful Dead, whom the Dessners enlisted-– along with Scott and Bryan Devendorf, the other fraternal duo at the heart of the National-– as a part of their “house band” for the project. The result is a mixed bag, to be sure, but one that triumphs in the aggregate. “Already containing universes, the Dead’s songbook is what makes the set enjoyable as a whole, transcending the performers and their translations,” writes Laura Snapes of Pitchfork, further noting that the Dessners & co. “treat the songs as new standards (which they are), pairing them with vocalists.”  Continue reading “DAY OF THE DEAD”

On the Merits of Rap and Metal

On the Merits of Rap and Metal

Despite the seeming ubiquity of celebrity beefs in and among the Twitterverse, I don’t know if I can recall a more noteworthy instance of great artists shitting on other great artists (and, in this particular case, genres) in the last decade than this:

“What rap did that was impressive was to show there are so many tone-deaf people out there. All they need is a drum beat and somebody yelling over it and they’re happy. There’s an enormous market for people who can’t tell one note from another… Millions are in love with Metallica and Black Sabbath. I just thought they were great jokes.”

– Keith Richards

Keith Richards -– a man for whom tact, as proven by his entertaining-yet-occasionally-repulsive autobiography, comes as a secondary consideration at best –– has in a single breath dismissed two whole genres and at least three generations of culturally relevant music. He also managed to sneak in a few digs at his ostensible heyday-rivals, the Beatles, and longtime colleague, Mick Jagger. Say what you will about old Keef, but the man smack-talks with a real economy of words.

In reading the excerpts from his interview, I couldn’t help but see this moment as one of those rare double-binds that truly challenge one’s allegiances of taste. What you choose to listen to on a day-to-day basis -– which varies according to factors of mood, setting, present company, etc. -– matters little compared to what you would choose at the direct and permanent cost of something else: it’s like the “Desert Island Five” game with a “Save or Kill” twist added as a sadist measure.

Continue reading “On the Merits of Rap and Metal”

A great editorial on The Grateful Dead by a dear & highly respected friend.

Purposeful Idleness

Given the recent interest in the Grateful Dead (my favorite band) on display in the New Yorker article and the Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus, I thought it might be worthwhile to set down my thoughts, if only for future reference. Having never seen a Grateful Dead show myself (alas: Jerry died when I was 4), that might be an exercise in futility. It would seem that the recorded legacy of the Grateful Dead, extensive as it is, pales in comparison to “the thing itself”, real and in the flesh. My Dad saw the Dead a number of times. One of my professors at University followed them from show to show. My access to their musical adventures is removed; an academic and artistic interest at best and a neurotic obsession at worst. 

More than that, I have no great love for the culture of the Dead. As I mature through…

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